April 25, 2012

I have Met the Enemy…and He is Us

It’s been three weeks since I’ve started my new adventure.

I’ve been investigating some business ideas.  And I’ve been enjoying a little downtime.

One new learning has emerged very quickly — the biggest challenge to making things happen is yourself.

When I had a regular job it was easy to stay disciplined.  I had to be at work at 8:30am each day.  I had one-on-on meetings with my direct reports.   People had expectations of me.

I wake up now and each day is a blank slate.  It’s easy to goof off, to surf the internet, to read a novel.  It’s easy to waste time.  Boy is it easy.

Once I realized this last week I took some time to think about and write down some long term goals.  Starting a business was one goal but there were also personal goals such as learning to scuba dive and to visit Australia.

When I had my goals written, I asked myself “What habitual actions do I need to take every day to achieve these goals?”  To support my “starting a business” goal, I wrote down “brainstorm and research business ideas.” Then I wrote down habitual or discrete actions for each of my goals.

Like John C. Maxwell says, “Success is not made in a day.  Success is made every day.”  I realized I needed to structure my time every day.  So I scheduled time for regular activities that support my goals in Google Calendar.  For example, from 9-11am each day I “Research Business Ideas.”  I have a separate list on specific research topics.

I still find it challenging to follow the schedule because there’s no one around to put pressure on me if I don’t follow it.

I have met the enemy, and he is us.


  • Hang Le

    I’m fighting with my enemy-myself quite regularly, anh Chris. I usually struggle to discipline myself doing what is good for me. I like the definition of discipline from Brian Tracy “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you
    feel like it or not”

    Maybe sometime I will text you to remind you to follow your schedule :-), and it will help me if you remind me too.

  • “Success is not made in a day.  Success is made every day.”   I  like this and this is ” what success really look like”

  • Giang

    When I was in corporate job, I felt like i was a clock…Being at office at eight something, making phone calls to customers (make sure at least five per week), sitting in Monday meeting at 10am and 4pm sharp (sometimes questioning what were the outcome of these meetings),…

    Now I enjoy some flexibility in my schedule, I feel it good. I had some day awaking at mid of the night with a business idea, I had to grab a note to write it down before it vanished in the air next morning. And just like that, my mind continued thinking about pros and cons of that idea until it’s morning.

    In the long run, I must be very disciplined to make sure I reach the ultimate goal. It’s a well-run business.

    In the mean time, I have spent every minute to do things I would not have time to do when the business get more serious.

    Just some sharing, wish you be always firm, decisive and enjoyable with your journey. 


    • Great idea of keeping a notepad nearby, Giang.  I find if don’t write down an idea immediately it vanishes.  I’m stealing that one.

  • I really like this blog. It’s my problem also. I always tell myselft I have to build the will power muscle everyday. I think this post on HBR also terrific aricles about habits. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/02/nine_things_successful_people.html

    • Lol – yes, discipline is *exactly* like a muscle.  Exercise it every day and it gets stronger.  Don’t exercise it and it gets weak and flabby.

  • Distraction & procrastination are, imo, the biggest issues on human productivity. That’s why “GTD” & “7 habits” and hundreds of productivity books are selling in millions years after years. :)

    Can’t wait to see your new venture shaping out. It’ll be great for your readers if you can share how ideas evolve and pivot, together with how you deal with challenges at your new venture. 

    Personally, I hope it’s related to jobs/career/recruiting industry since our company is struggling with that when we need to recruit many senior and mid level positions. So do many companies I know. Most classified jobs sites in VN are quite “behind times” and wasn’t an effective recruitment/job-seeking tools anymore. I had high hopes for Cyvee & Caravat, but unfortunately, they turned out not so well. Still, I personally believe a more social platform is the way to go for jobs/recruitment market.

    Anyway, if you don’t go that route, I still hope it’s at least online-related, since you’re great at it already, and I’m always super excited to see new internet ventures get built. Congrats again & good luck!

    • Great idea – I’ll definitely be posting about my experiences throughout the process.

  • Jessica_mccleary

    I know in my experience, the work is always there, especially once you start it. My biggest problem is finding the downtime, and taking time off.  This week I had 3 days off, and I probably worked 3-4 hours each of those days.  Not really days off.  Balance is hard but the most valuable thing you can bring to your business and your life.

    • Hey Jess!  Your comment reminds me of what another entrepreneur friend of mine said: “Every work day is a weekend, and every weekend day is a work day.”

      I guess scheduling time for personal life is necessary.  How’s your biz?

      • Jessica_mccleary

        Biz is good, I have 2 stores now and trying to figure out ways to grow without adding a 3rd store.  Trying some social media stuff to increase fan base, and online orders.  The biggest thing I am trying to learn is how to delegate so that I am not the one taking trash out at the end of the day or worrying about change in the drawer.  Its funny how the small things take so much time!  Your friend was right… my busiest days are Saturday and Sunday which makes a social life difficult and the worst is feeling guilty when I take time off.  I miss your other blog on life in Vietnam, hope life is treating you well and hope to see you one day soon.

        • Ooh, you need to read “One Minute Manager” about how to manage people and delegate. Very simple, clear and easy read. I can’t recommend enough for anyone who manages others.

          I have a few new blog posts in mind for my other blog detailing experiences here. Will get around to it.

  • tomosaigon

    Personally, having a good partner who keeps you disciplined, where you can bounce ideas off each other, makes all the difference in the world. I’ve tried sitting around and brainstorming business ideas by myself and feel I could sit there forever and still never feel like I’ve produced the idea to take the next step with..

    • Great point Tomo. It really helps to brainstorm with and get energy from others.