All Posts in “Work”

Build Your Own McDonald’s

I watched The Founder for the first time last night. It is the story of how Ray Kroc built McDonald’s from one restaurant owned by the McDonald brothers into an international powerhouse. Like Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Ray is made out to be a bit of a villain in the movie. A lot of movies create extra drama to keep butts in seats, but no matter if the drama is true or false there are lots of entrepreneurial insights in the movie, and one, in particular, I want to focus on in this post.

Ray was a 52-year-old milkshake mixing machine salesman before he joined with the McDonald brothers to franchise their restaurant in 1954. 52!

He was living a quality middle class life traveling and selling milkshake mixers. You would have had no idea that he was setting up to make hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three decades. But, by simply by doing what he did well, he opened himself up to opportunities.

He learned how to sell and practiced for thousands of hours. He drove around the country and saw thousands of restaurants and learned about the issues in the market. He worked with thousands of business owners and opened himself up to all sorts of opportunities.

Ray was able to realize the opportunity with McDonald’s, because of his experience selling mixers for a decade. The McDonald brothers had hit on a great idea and build a successful business, but they didn’t have the capacity or the desire to take their business to a national level. Ray sold them on it; then he sold franchisees on it; then he sold investors on it; then he sold more and more and more franchisees and built a hamburger empire.

Ray’s story is a great contrast to the anxiety young wantrapreneurs face today. He didn’t set out at twenty to disrupt the food service industry and chase after investors, funding, and TED talks. He learned how to sell, learned how to create value, and always exercised his entrepreneurial streak. He was able to seize the opportunity with McDonald’s because he knew the food service industry so well and he knew how to sell.

The lesson from Ray’s story is, instead of sitting around waiting for philosophical insight about which industry you can disrupt, start working on something. Start creating value for others, start learning, and keep your eyes open for opportunities. Remember that odds are you will be working for 40, 50, or 60 more years and you have a ton of time to learn and encounter great opportunities.

Trust that by doing what you are doing now very well, you are gaining skills that will help you take on bigger and better opportunities when they appear. Don’t fixate on building McDonald’s, trust the process and work day by day to build your own version of McDonald’s.

Creating a New Standard

When you start something new, you have a grace period where what you are doing is compared to an inferior alternative.

Take Uber for example. I am old enough that I was able to experience years of horror relying on taxis to get around. I can recall the sketchy and unfriendly drivers, outrageous prices, long wait times, and inability to get a taxi on a busy night.

Every time I get into an Uber or a Lyft I am grateful for this solution that frees me from the pain of taxis. But, as time goes on the new solution becomes the new standard.

People in their early twenties that grew up in major cities have probably only taken a few taxis in their lives. For them, ride-sharing is the norm and the expectation.

Every time they get in an Uber they aren’t enthralled by how much better it is than a taxi, they are comparing it to the driver they had the day before who had free mints and water. They are comparing it to the Lyft they got last weekend with the upbeat and fun driver and the lower price.

Uber and Lyft can no longer get away with being twice as good as a taxi; they need to be consistently great and better than their competition. They have created a new standard.

This is true of building anything. At first, the opportunity exists because of inferior competitors, but when you create something better the expectations and standards rise. This is not a bad thing; it is a marker of your success and a helpful push towards greatness.

Uber’s success created a whole generation of people who won’t tolerate the scams, shenanigans, and poor service in taxis. They demand excellent transportation and are quick to give feedback when they don’t get it. They expect excellence and consistency, and as a result help Uber and Lyft create more value.

It is nice to have customers that love what you are building, but a necessary step on the path to greatness is creating a standard of excellence and having customers that expect nothing less.

Learning To Work and The Great Divorce (Day Two

This is the second of 12 days I’m posting my daily blogs on

17 years of school trains you for a world that doesn’t exist.

Throughout school and college, you are in a finite work environment. An arbitrary world with a constrained workload. If you have too much to do, the school has overworked you and is responsible for you bad results.

The total amount of “work” is fixed at a “reasonable” level and the things you work on are assigned, never chosen. Year after year, you learn how to get a finite amount of assigned work done, but you never learn how to work in an environment where you have to choose the work, and there are countless options.

Many intelligent people do well in school and learn to thrive in this environment with limited assigned tasks. With a hard deadline, a defined task, and clear grades for success they can work a handful of projects. But when they are thrown into a more dynamic environment where they need to exercise judgment and choose from countless options they are paralyzed by fear.

They don’t know how to define what is important, so they think they should do almost everything. As a result, they don’t finish what they want to get done. For anyone who has worked in almost any job, this is a common feeling. There is always more you could do, and you need to get comfortable with pushing yourself to do the best you can do without sacrificing in other areas.

But for the school-bred perfectionist, they are faced with a daily feeling of failure that they don’t know how to handle. Guilt seeps from the edges as an occasional signal, to be a dominant emotional experience. Guilt, fear, and anxiety dominate their day to day experience, their confidence drops, their results suffer, and eventually, they break and quit or are fired.

They retreat from complex work into more basic roles that limit the need to make decisions. Fleeing from complex work creates a lot of peace and ease, but in the long term, it creates dissatisfaction, pain, and envy.

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Gap and Gain

Dan Sullivan’s Multiplier Mindset podcast has been one of the most valuable assets for me this year.

I’ve written a few times about his 4 steps to a breakthrough idea (here and here), which has probably been the most impactful idea I’ve picked up. But right behind that is the concept of the gap and gain.

To put it simply, focusing on the gap is comparing your progress to an ideal that is moving further into the distance. The gain is comparing your progress to your starting point.

If you focus on the gap, you will be disappointed and frustrated. If you focus on the gain, you will be motivated and confident.

Having an ideal in mind is not a bad thing. To succeed, we need to have a vision of for the future that we are working towards. That future ideal is a great motivator, but it is a terrible measuring stick. If you fixate on it and compare your progress to an unrealistic ideal, you will feel regular disappointment and find yourself losing confidence day by day.

Instead, you should still embrace the ideal and work towards it, but when you measure your progress, you should always pause and look back to where you started.

I often use the gap vs. gain model as a tool for reflection at the end of the day. I make a list of the gap, the things that happened (or didn’t happen) during that day that are on my mind as non-ideal.

Then I write a list of the gain. All the things big and small that went well and helped me make progress to becoming a better version of myself.

It is a small and quick exercise, but the simple act of drawing your focus to the things that went well at the end of the day can make a dramatic change in how you feel the day went and how excited you are to get back up and go back to work the next day.

You Don’t Like Your Job Because You Suck at Your Job

The working for the weekend, Mondays suck, I just want to win the lottery attitude, does not come from the external environment in which people work, but from the lack of self-esteem that people derive from their work.

They complain about their manager, their coworkers, their company, and all the external issues that make them want to leave, but the real reason is that they do not feel proud of the work they do.

They feel guilt, shame, and fear around their work and are looking for a way to escape. Instead of improving their skills or perspective so they can approach their work with more confidence, they pull the escape hatch and look for a new opportunity.

But the exact same issues will inevitably repeat in the next opportunity until they confront the reality that the reason they are unhappy is not that their job isn’t good, but that they aren’t good at their job. 


Why Businesses Hire

A business will hire anyone they believe will make them more money than they cost. It is as simple as that, but most people think about employment and jobs in a complex and abstract way.

People talk and think about jobs like they are things. Like you can possess one, lose one, or like you need to go get one from someone. So they go to job boards looking for the people who are giving away jobs. They go through the societal rituals that are expected of job seekers. But they are making a fundamental mistake–because jobs are not things, they are abstractions.

Getting lost in this abstraction causes a lot of pain and confusion. Seeing past the abstraction lets you see the countless opportunities you have available to you.

A job is an abstraction to describe a relationship between one person and another individual or group of people that agree to a certain type of ongoing trade. To get a job, you don’t need someone to create it and give it to you; you simply need to convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.

Resumes, interviews, degree requirements, and references checks are tactics to help businesses measure their confidence in your ability to make them money. But at a fundamental level, all that you need to do to get a job with any business in the world is convince them that you are going to make them more money that you will cost.

What you cost is more than just your salary though. There are employment taxes, legal risks, and training costs on top of the money you are paid. Businesses need to be confident in your ability to make them money over the long-term to enter into an ongoing relationship with you. That is why references, previous work experiences, and projects you’ve completed are valuable. They show that you can actually create value.

When you see jobs for what they truly are, the world opens up to you. Like Neo learning to play with the rules in the Matrix, you can see the path forward to countless opportunities. You simply need to increase your ability to create value and your ability to convince others that you can create value.

Forged Not Built

The most valuable skills and capabilities are not built in advance, they are forged through experience.

We like to think that we can build new capabilities before we are actually challenged to put them into action. This the big theory behind the school system. It will help you build skills that will make you’re ready to enter the real world.

But that is not how reality works.

Real growth happens when you throw yourself into the fire and let your environment shape you.

If you struggle with procrastination and organization, it is natural to think that you shouldn’t take on new responsibilities until you’ve improved to a point where you feel confident in your ability to get things done. This is the idea that you should build your capabilities in organization and productivity before you take more on.

But if you don’t have the extra responsibilities pushing you to your limit, you will never have the motivation to make a change.

Instead, if you throw yourself into a context that pushes you to your limits, you will find that you don’t even think about Facebook, YouTube, or other forms of social media. Once you feel the pain day to day of being disorganized you will find it enjoyable and easy to invest time in implementing an organization system.

This applies too much more than organization. If you want to truly learn something, put yourself in a context where you will have to learn it or else you will fail spectacularly. In that context, you will forge the skill from experience instead of being unsuccessful in trying to build it in preparation.



How to Learn What You’ve Learned

Learning from experience teaches you a lot, but it is easy to miss the lesson if your head is buried in work. If you’re not conscious it’s easy to take deep and valuable lessons for granted.

Taking lessons for granted is dangerous because it means you are undervaluing educational opportunities. You may not be aware that you are learning things that will be very valuable to you in the future, and as a result you may give up or quit, letting valuable knowledge and experience slip right through your figures.

The way to avoid this trap is to build a habit of reflection. To build in time for reflection about the ways you are learning, growing, and improving. Some ways that I find most productive are:

  • Journalling: Every evening (or morning) take 3 minutes and write out a list of lessons, big and small, that you learned during the day. This small act of writing out lessons learned shifts your perspective will help you realize what you’re learning, and will generally make you happier, progress=happiness
  • Coaching: There are many forms of coaching, but finding someone to regularly talk to and reflect on your work is extremely valuable. Like journaling, it helps draw your attention to progress your making but has the added benefit of another person’s perspective, questions, and suggestions.
  • Walking / Meditating: Taking time to be present and free of inputs allows you to gain perspective on your work and life in general. It helps you zoom out and realize that big stressors aren’t that big in the big picture and it helps you see the value and blessings in your life that you may be overlooking.

If you are feeling stuck and like you’re not growing, it may because of your enviroment, but it may just be your perspective. You may overlooking the progress your making and the value that you are getting from simply showing up and grinding day in and day out. A simple change in perspective to notice the things you’re learning can makte all the difference in the way your day feels.

Three Morning Actions to Make Your Day More Productive

Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of momentum in work. How taking action early in the day it makes you more productive later in the day.

It’s not a new idea–people have been talking about the benefits of morning routines for ages–but it is easy to forget in our day to day lives. It is easy to stop thinking about how important our small decisions are each day, and develop habits like checking social media first thing in the morning.

Taking control of your morning is the best way to ensure that you consistently produce and feel good during the day.

Over the past three years I’ve experimented with a ton of different morning activities, but here are three quick time investments that consistently set me up for productive days.


Meditating in the morning creates a feeling of space between you and your day. If you have a lot of responsibilities on your plate, it can feel like the day is on top of you when you wake up in the morning. As a result, it is easy to get lost in emails or non-urgent tasks that come up and draw your attention away from your most important work.

Taking 5, 10, or 15 minutes to sit and meditate makes the day feel immediately more manageable. It allows you some space to approach it, instead of feeling the pressure right away.


If you work at a computer there is a good chance you have tension on your back and body. It might be in your upper back, maybe in your neck, or maybe in your legs. But you likely feel tense and uncomfortable during parts of the day. This tension is a distraction and an influence on our emotional experience of the day. Taking a few minutes to stretch in the morning is not only physically relaxing, it is mentally relaxing as well. It helps you work with ease throughout the entire day, and feel less stressed during moments of intensity later on.

Stretching is also a great use of small break time during the day. In physical labor, taking breaks to sit down an relax make sense. But when you work at a desk the opposite is true. Instead of using your break to physically relax, you should use it to be physically active. This will get you out of your head and into a more relaxed and productive state of mind.


Momentum is key to having consistently productive days. I have not found a better way to consistently and reliably build productive momentum for my days than writing a blog post. Some days I have urgent morning tasks that prevent me from writing until the evening, but I’ve found that increase in productivity in my first few hours of the day quickly balance out the time needed to blog. Even when I’ve got lots to do, taking 15 or 20 minutes to write out an idea, gets me on a roll and ready to cross items off of my to-do list.

Masters of Scale Notes: Episodes 1-4

I recently started listening to the first season of Masters of Scale, Reid Hoffman’s show where he interviews founders and CEO’s from a number of different industries, including Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Eric Schmidt (Google).

Reid builds each episode around a theory, and the well-produced episodes usually feature more than just one guest to build the argument and counter-argument to that theory.

You can also check out the full unedited interviews on the podcast feed, and there is a ton of value in those episodes. I really like the approach of building a shorter edited episode around a theme, while also putting out the raw interviews so you can dive deeper. The full interview with Brian Chesky is especially good.

Here are my notes on the first four episodes: