Your Personal Success System
Quick announcement before we dive into this week’s (long-ish) email: I’m hosting a free, live online workshop on Saturday 6th Jan 2024: The Feel-Good Productivity Annual Planning Workshop. It’s a live Zoom event, where I’ll be taking you through my favourite evidence-based reflection and goal-setting methods to help you reflect on 2023, and to use those reflections to help make 2024 the best year of your life. This is the sort of stuff that companies pay me $10k+ to do a 1-hour seminar for their employees for, and you get it totally for free in the form of a 2h live workshop.
There’s just one catch – it’s an exclusive event for the wonderful folks who have very kindly preordered a copy of my upcoming book Feel-Good Productivity. It’ll be super fun, and an amazing start to 2024. And we’ll be giving away a bunch of goodies exclusively for people who attend as well – templates, resources, discounts on software and a load more stuff.
I know most people don’t tend to preorder books, but it massively helps in terms of the reach and publicity we can get (and of course, my dream to hit the bestseller lists with the book 🤞). So as a thank you for doing me this solid and preordering the book, I want to blow you away with an incredible 2-hour workshop that you’ll hopefully walk away from thinking: “Whoah this was an INCREDIBLY valuable use of 2h of my life, and I had so much fun, and I learned a lot about myself, and I’ve set myself up to make 2024 the best year of my life”. That’s the goal anyway.
So, if you’ve already preordered the book, then THANK YOU – you’re amazing ❤️ Please could you fill out this form to secure your tickets for the live event. If you haven’t yet preordered the book, but you’re considering it, you can find all the links here 😜
And if you’d like to preorder the book but it isn’t available in your country yet, we’re working on it. We’ve secured the rights to sell the book in like 20+ countries, but because the publishing industry is weird, we have to get a book deal with local publishers in each country. And that’s another reason why preorders help: If loads of people in the US and the UK (for example) preorder the book, the publishers in (let’s say) Indonesia or Nigeria are more likely to say “whoah this book’s doing well, let’s make sure we’re publishing it locally”. So over time I’m hoping the book will be available everywhere 🙂
ANYWAY, let’s get onto the meat of this week’s email.
This week, I re-listened to my own podcast interview with entrepreneur, power lifter and writer Jodie Cook. This isn’t that weird – I often interview people for the Deep Dive podcast, take lots of action points away, and then completely forget everything I’ve learned a few weeks later. This is the classic Forgetting Curve in action that I’ve made YouTube videos about for years. But I find that re-listening to the interview helps me spark those connections and learnings again.
Anyway, in re-listening to the interview with Jodie, there were a bunch of useful takeaways. The one I want to share here is the Personal Success System.
Here’s the idea (apparently from Jeff Bezos, though I’m unsure of the exact attribution) – We all have a Personal Success System: A method for achieving success that’s worked for us in the past. And we all have different Personal Success Systems – ie: the “system” that brings me success might be very different from the one that brings you success.
To figure out what your PSS is, think back through your life and think of a few instances where you’ve been really proud of something you’ve accomplished. Once you’ve got some scenarios in mind, think back to what happened, what you did, to achieve that outcome. If you find any patterns in the data, you’re probably looking at your Personal Success System.
In Jodie’s case, her biggest successes in her life (her business, her book, her Team GB powerlifting career) came from roughly the following system:
- Figure out some audacious goal she wants to go for
- Do some research and speak to someone who’s achieved the goal to get a game-plan from them
- Work towards that game plan for 30 minutes each day
- After several months, success.
In my case, my biggest successes (my first business 6med, the launch of my YouTube channel, the launch of my Part-Time YouTuber Academy, the first draft for my book), roughly came from the following system:
- Have an idea for something that it would be cool to do. Generally, this idea comes away from my desk (eg: in a coffee shop as in the case for PTYA, in the mosque as in the case for 6med, and on a random walk as in the case for my YouTube channel).
- Get super excited about the idea and devote practically 100% of my spare time and effort into executing it in 1-2 weeks
- Get super involved in the details of executing the idea: eg: creating the website myself, writing the landing page myself, writing the first draft myself, figuring out the curriculum myself. I’d sometimes get help from others, but mostly I’d be the one driving the project and coming up with how to make it work.
- Launch the thing without overthinking it, and iterate to improve it over time.
Jodie’s Personal Success System is based on consistency. Mine’s based on intensity. She devotes 30 minutes of meaningful progress to her project everyday for months. I devote all my waking effort to it for 1-2 weeks. Both systems work. But I suspect Jodie’s method would be less effective for me, and my method would be less effective for her. That’s why it’s a Personal Success System – your system is unique to you.
So my first takeaway from hearing about this was: “Oh yeah, I should figure out my own Personal Success System”. Hence what I’ve written above – the sprint-based approach, which I’d never really thought about before Jodie prompted me to think about it.
But my second takeaway is: “Huh, I don’t seem to be following my own Personal Success System very much”.
I’m a huge fan of James Clear, who often talks about how consistency is more important than intensity. Slow, consistent progress on a project or habit over the long-term is what leads to compounding results. And that’s definitely true. For some things.
But I think in my case, when it comes to taking a project from zero to one, I’ve had much more success with an intense, sprint-based system. My first-draft sprint for Feel-Good Productivity led to me writing 50,000 words in a week. For context, it had taken like 2 years to write the first 10,000 before I decided to experiment with the sprint method.
Our first cohort of the Part-Time YouTuber Academy was built within like 2 weeks of having the idea. No overthinking, just pure action. That was my first attempt at selling an online course, and it brought in $350,000 of sales in its first week, and blossomed into a $3m/year asset over time.
And when I started 6med, my first business (running in-real-life courses to help students study for their medical school entrance exams), I had the idea while my mind was wandering during evening prayers at the mosque during Ramadan in 2013. I rushed home as soon as the prayers were over, and spent the rest of the night, and the next week, assembling the website, e-commerce functionality and course materials. We got our first sale a few days later, and 6med blossomed into a 6-figure business that funded my medical school degree, and also laid the foundation for my YouTube channel.
So thinking about my Personal Success System made me realise: “Whoahhhh all this good stuff came from intense sprints”.
Which makes me think: “Damn I should probably do more sprints when trying to create stuff”.
Eg: We’re working on a productivity online course to be released sometime next year. But we’ve been working on it for many months now. My team has done interviews with a load of potential customers, understanding everything about their productivity and personal development struggles. We’ve done copious competitor research to make sure our course can be the best on the market. We’ve gone through dozens of iterations of the landing page for the course to make sure we have a Grand Slam Offer.
But does all of this work over time really make for a better course? I hope so… but I’m not sure. What if I just devoted myself to just focusing on making an amazing productivity course, using the system I myself use, and making the course as authentic and helpful as I can make it, without all the overthinking and analysis? What if I were to use my own Personal Success System to bang out a v1.0 in 1-2 weeks, and then my team and I can always refine that over time based on feedback? What’s stopping me from doing that?
I think fundamentally what’s stopping me from doing that is I hadn’t considered it as a viable option until I had the conversation with Jodie, and by then we were already many months into the development of the course. The interview gave me a “Merlin’s Beard!” moment. I’d assumed that the “right” way to build a course (or anything really), was to really take our time with it, focusing on consistency rather than intensity. But my track record suggests an alternative approach might be better.
This is all a very long-winded way of saying: If any of this resonates with you, I’d encourage you to figure out what your own Personal Success System might be. And I’d encourage you to ask yourself whether you could be shifting one of your ongoing projects to align more with that system, rather than what you think you “should” do.
Feels like a pretty game-changing insight for me, at least. And because the point of this email is for me to share the things I’m thinking about and learning in almost-real-time, I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here 🙂
Have a great week!
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