Learning to Love ZERO
Last Year Is Gone
Happy New Year! The good news is that last year is gone and anything that didn’t work well or go well is now in our rear view mirror. The bad news is the good stuff is kind of gone also and for most of us, we have to start from scratch, from ZERO. I flew 115,000 miles last year and made Executive Platinum on American Airlines, which comes with fun perks like upgrades, line privileges and mileage multipliers. But, I woke up and last year’s travel achievements were all gone and all my miles were archived into my Million Miler Balance.
Of course, when I kicked off the New Year in my office I found last year’s revenue was gone also. On the very same day American Airlines said, “You are nobody again,” our company financials said the same thing.
I started working when I was 11 delivering the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in my neighborhood at 5:30 in the morning and have worked continuously since (46 years give or take). This ZERO thing hits me every year. I have learned to love ZERO.
Start This Year at ZERO
If you start your year at ZERO, here are some things I have learned about ZERO that I hope will be of benefit to you and please, pretty please with sugar on top, share yours.
The first thing you will do or will be asked to do is to set goals for the week, month, year or quarter. Here is where I depart from the traditional approach. The textbooks say you should set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time Based. Okay. That is surely one way to proceed and company constituents need to work together and this can drive organizational results. It can also lead to “measurementitis,” which is an inflammation of the measurement gland that causes you to emphasize measurement over action and change.
Learning to Love ZERO: Suggestions
But, I am writing about you as a human being trying to change. Setting a weight goal and getting on the scale every day may work for you. Setting a revenue goal and measuring it every day may work for you. If setting a goal and measuring it every day is working for you, then do it and I wish you well. You are a rare species of mechanical discipline. But if, on the other hand, you are more normal like me and have tried that from ZERO strategy and that has not worked, here are some suggested alternatives:
Little Wins. When I have succeeded at change and seen change work in others, it has started small. The smaller the better. Bad habits form on the installment plan and develop over time. Undoing them takes the same process. Little Wins give you confidence and momentum to get off of ZERO and into orbit. Do something right now. You want to lose weight? Cut out one thing tomorrow. You want miles, book a flight today. You want customers, book an appointment. But start with something easy in the first week and month.
I know folks who think you should do the hardest work first and every time I see them they are complaining about how hard everything is and they are unbearable for the entire year. You build success by making it a habit. I disagreed with how the Dallas Cowboys played the Eagles last week, resting good players and essentially throwing the game away. Good for their bodies, bad for their winning habit and souls.
Start and Keep Moving: the M word. Success in moving off of ZERO is all about the big M: MOMENTUM. Classical Mechanics taught us that objects in motion stay in motion and objects at rest stay at rest. So, once you start moving, keep moving. Maintain continuous motion. If you find yourself sitting and thinking about what you should do next, you are wasting time. Do something.
We had a nasty tough High School basketball coach in Upstate NY named Mr. Hess. He drove us crazy because he would jump, yell and scream if he saw us standing around on the court. “Get a job,” he would yell at you. Eliminate the blank space in your day, week, month. If you don’t know what to do, go to your boss, peer, assistant and ask them.
Keep your momentum, stay in motion, and your results will show it.
Lose Yourself. Focus on anything but yourself and you will find your best self. Put your boss, superiors, peers, co-workers, employees, subordinates and customers first. You will wake up one day thinking about yourself and find what a cool person you have become and how much everyone respects and likes you. This is very hard because we wake up every morning in our own skin and look in the mirror and say, “Hey, you are the coolest cat I know.” As a result, it does seem like it is about us. But get over yourself.
Stay Busy. I don’t know about you but the most successful people I know are the busiest people I know. I have a really smart entrepreneur friend who asked me to do something and I said, “Hey, you know how busy I am.” And he said, “Cash, if you want something done right, give it to a busy guy.” I had to think about that for a bit. What my friend was saying is that the reason someone is busy is because people want them doing their things. I worked in a big law firm and was so busy I worked straight through the night on several occasions. I didn’t realize, or feel at the time that this was a compliment!
Pick up a New Hobby. Picking up a new hobby accomplishes several things. First, it will be fun to try something new. It is so good for your brain to learn a new language, learn a musical instrument, sing and dance. And, you will have to make time for it which will make you more efficient in everything else. You will be a more interesting person to others and you will meet new people. Do this in your first couple weeks of ZERO.
One thing I try to do each year (will start again this year) is pick an author and read all of their works. My favorite year I read everything Mark Twain wrote. Another year it was Shakespeare.
Plan your Rewards. Plan your fun and trips for the year now. Plot them just ahead of when you are supposed to meet your goals. Did you ever notice that when you get a new apartment or house that you tend to throw a party early on which forces you to get settled and done? Many of us do that. That is our psyche pushing us in non-conscious ways.
Now, Make It Happen!
The New Year is a beautiful time. Welcome to ZERO. Now, start moving toward your first win and make it a Little Win, and then keep moving, keep the MOMENTUM going. ‘Get a Job,” and get busy. Find a new hobby or pick an author to dig into and absorb. And most importantly, take a break from worrying about yourself and encourage, help, support and champion someone else.
Have a great year!
Managing Snowflakes and The Success Hackers Guide to the Galaxy are titles for books that are in process, and titles of essays already published. I reserve all rights to those terms in this context.
Cash Nickerson, email@example.com
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