How to Stop Being a Victim

There is a silent killer you don’t even know may be affecting you. It robs of you of your power and without you even knowing that it is happening.

It’s called Victimitis, and if you don’t train your mind to notice it, it can take over your life and relationships. Having a victim mentality will hold you back from achieving your true potential, success, and happiness unless you take control of your life right now!

Symptoms of Victim Mentality

Do you know someone who does one or more of the following?

  • Gets angry easily and is almost always offended.
  • Never takes responsibility for their actions.
  • Is quick to judge and criticize others.
  • Always justifies their actions as being triggered by external events.
  • Makes excuses for being unable to hit their goals.
  • Blames others liberally and complains about the world at large.
  • Expects a standard of others that they don’t hold themselves to.

We make a choice to become a victim when we don’t take responsibility for the way we act, the words we say, and the commitments we don’t keep. We do this because we have a need to feel significant, and it is mentally easier as a strategy to hold others accountable than to take accountability for our own actions or lack thereof.

Humans are hard-wired to look for the path of least resistance, so while it is easier to act like a victim, it leads to self-sabotage in the long run.

Maybe you’re a victim yourself or you know someone that you love or care for that has victim mentality. I’m going to show you how to stop being a victim and take control of your life.

How does victim mentality start?

We’ve all been hurt. The pain we carry from our past experiences often follows us throughout our life. This pain is a large component in shaping who we become, contributing to the limiting beliefs that hold us back from success and happiness. It often becomes part of our identity, which is why we hold on to it.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Wendy Mass

Taking control of your life does not mean denying the pains of the past or taking responsibility for circumstances you may have had no control over.

It means making a decisive choice to be 100% accountable for your destiny.

What are the benefits of being a victim?

All negative emotions have a short term benefit. Victimitis is no different. Adopting a victim mentality has the following benefits:

  • You don’t have to take any responsibility or personal ownership
  • You don’t have to take any action
  • You get lots of attention and sympathy
  • You get to feel right because everything is someone else’s fault

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
John W. Gardner

Being a victim has a high return on investment because it involves having to do very little to have the world serve us, instead of having to serve the world.

How to stop being a victim in your own thoughts

Change your mind

The first step to refusing to be a victim is to acknowledge that adopting a victim mentality is a choice. The key to changing your mind is to understand that even though this may have been a choice you’ve made in the past, it isn’t a choice you have to keep making.

Change your perspective

The next step is to accept that just like you are choosing to be a victim, you can use use the same powers of choice to choose to reject being a victim and take control of your life.

Make a choice to respond instead of reacting

Choose to control impulses that lead to erratic thoughts and actions that ultimately give away power over your emotions. Choose to instead be proactive, because while you cannot control what happens to you in life, you are in complete control of how you respond.

Being proactive gives you back the control you choose to give up when you’re reactive. Make a conscious decision in your own mind to stop being a victim by controlling the way you respond to your own feelings, and other people, situations, and circumstances in your life.

Have an attitude of gratitude

When was the last time you expressed how grateful you are? When you really think about it, you’ll see that just the fact that you are able to read this post on a computer, tablet, or on your smartphone already you gives you privileges that many millions of people in the world do not enjoy. When we trade expectations for appreciation, our entire world changes.

Avoid conditional apologies

Have you ever apologized out of spite to justify reacting in a way you should have never acted out in the first place? Here’s an example:

“I’m sorry but if you weren’t late, I wouldn’t have to yell at you.”

In the example above, the person justifying their reaction invalidates what could have been a genuine and emphatatic apology.

How to stop being a victim in your relationship

If you’re single, seeing someone, or in a committed relationship, victimitis is crucial to notice for your personal happiness for yourself and your partner.

Who is responsible for your happiness? Do you feel this is your partner’s responsibility? When you shift the responsibility for your own happiness to your partner, you’re setting yourself up for failure because you are giving away the control of the most important thing in your life: your happiness. Inevitably, this leads to a flood of negative consequences such a fear, anxiety, mistrust, and a host of other negative emotions.

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Your relationship with your partner is often more raw and blunt than it is with yourself or with your friends or co-workers. This is often why we hurt the ones we love the most.

There are a few lies we willingly tell ourselves. Do you identify with saying the following?

  • It’s your fault.
  • You ruined my day.
  • You’re not nice.
  • That’s not fair.
  • That’s just the way I am.
  • Deal with it.
  • You can’t do anything right.

We’ve all said something to this effect at some point in our relationships. I know I have. The key is to choose how to respond by being proactive instead of reactive. Try the following:

  • What can I do to make it right?
  • I’m sorry. How can I make it better?
  • I didn’t mean that.
  • Help me understand why you feel this way.
  • You’re being too hard on yourself.
  • We’re not aligned. How can we work this out?
  • I’m sure you don’t really mean that.

How to stop being a victim at work

Victimis Excusitis is a very real problem that robs people and the businesses they work in of real progress and meaningful momentum. Here are some telltale examples of victim mentality at work:

  • “It’s not my job”
  • “I did my part. I’m not responsible.”
  • “I was just following the instructions my manager gave me.”
  • “It can’t be done.”
  • “I’m sorry but we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

We all know someone at work who does not take 100% responsibility over their ability and to be effective and efficient, citing every reason other than themselves as to why “it can’t be done.”

The worst part of those with the victimitis virus at work is that they bring down others who try to be proactive by discouraging, patronizing, being sarcastic or cynical, and not contributing positively to working together as a team. Victimitis is the biggest cancer that holds back teams from being effective.

If you recognize this in yourself or a co-worker, it is imperative to regain control and ownership of your own actions at work.

“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”

Jocko Willink

Just like a plane has a limited runway to take off, so too do excuses have limited time to be tolerated within the workplace.

Empower yourself with this proactivity pledge

You can make a positive choice to stop being a victim right now and to start taking control of your life. Make the following pledges:

  • I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity;
  • When I want to be bitter, I will choose to get better;
  • When I experience a setback, I will be resilient;
  • I believe that being positive not only makes me better, it make everyone around me better.

A Timeless New Year’s Resolution

You and I have something in common. We will both have 24 hours to live every day, and another 12 months till we’re here again, on New Year’s Eve.

We’re both going to make a choice on how we live these days. We can either choose to let our days control us, or we can choose to control our days. Somedays, it will be Murphy’s law.

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. On other’s, we’ll feel like we’re on top of the world. No matter what happens, your choices will create the state of mind and being that you experience in the present, prepare for the future, and whether you hold on to the past.

I hope you’ll join me in starting your year with the following resolutions:

  • I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity;
  • When I am surrounded by pessimism, I will choose optimism;
  • When I feel fear, I will choose faith;
  • When I want to hate, I will choose love;
  • When I want to be bitter, I will choose to get better;
  • When I experience a challenge, I will look for an opportunity to learn and grow;
  • When I experience a setback, I will be resilient;
  • When I meet failure, I will fail forward, toward future success;
  • With vision, hope, and faith, I will never give up and will always move forward toward my destiny;
  • I believe my best days are ahead of me, not behind me;
  • I believe I’m here for a reason and my purpose is greater than my challenges;
  • I believe that being positive not only makes me better, it make everyone around me better;
  • So today and every day I will be positive and strive to make a positive impact on the world.

Inspired by Jon Gordon.

Slack Protocols to Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness at Work

Email overload is a very real problem at an organization-wide level. Slack folds together all the functionality of email, instant messaging, file sharing, and more into one system that’s actually fun to use. We use Slack for all internal and cross-team communication at PBS. We do not communicate with clients or 3rd parties on Slack.

Getting Started

Using Slack quickly improve team communication and workflow. Whether you and your team is already working in the office, or remotely, here are five directives to get you started fast and effectively.

  1. Adopt it today. Say “no” to all internal email that you are expected to read and respond to. Use this template: “I got your email. I won’t be responding to any internal-only email or texts but I am available on Slack. Let’s pick up the conversation there! Thanks!”
  2. Keep it direct. Use your first name as your username, unless there are multiple folks with the same first name. The idea is to have a one-name identifier. You can add your full name to your profile, along with your photo.
  3. Keep it tight. Only send messages relevant to the channel you are posting on. Ask yourself, does everyone on the channel need to know about my message before you post it. Conversation in Slack is about coming to decisions quickly or efficiently notifying a channel about a status or update (eg: company wide news, new client close, new tool that just came out, etc).
  4. Keep it focused. Use the channels that align with the way your business is structured (by department, group, function, etc). Adding additional channel = adding noise, unless the channel has longevity (i.e: it is evergreen). For a specific project you can add a channel, pull in Slack members and then archive the channel once the discussion is finished. Please note that inactive channels will be archived or deleted.
  5. Keep it central. Start pulling all the relevant conversations, files, action plans, and decisions into Slack. It’s all searchable so if you start using it almost exclusively, you’ll have access to most of the key elements of our business within a few clicks and taps. Make sure you integrate Google Drive into Slack via Slack’s integrations. This will allow you to share files within Google Drive directly on Slack (without needing to download and re-upload).
  6. Keep it everywhere. Download Slack to all your devices from the App Store or Google Play. You can use Slack via the browser interface if you want, but I prefer the Mac desktop app.  I also use the iOS app on my iPhone and iPad. Everything stays instantly synced between all my devices.

Download the Apps on your Desktop and your Phone

Turn off Email Notifications

Reduce duplication of messages and inbox overload by turning off email notifications.

  • In addition to sending you push notifications for activity that occurs while you’re offline, Slack can send emails to let you know of new mentions and direct messages.
  • To configure your Slack notification email preferences, go to and expand the Email Notifications section. You can choose to receive emails about missed messages once every 15 minutes, once an hour at most, or never.
  • Slack will send email notifications to the email address associated with your Slack account. To update your email address, go to and expand the Email Address section.

Daily Usage

Making Decisions and Assigning Tasks

  • Use Slack channels to discuss projects, tasks, or milestones. Once you have arrived at a decision and a timeline, the #DRI (directly responsible individual) must create your task/milestone in #Teamwork.
  • If a task takes longer than 5 minutes to discuss back and forth, stop slacking and start a hangout instead. You can start a hangout by entering /hangout within Slack. If you can’t hangout, call the person you’re chatting with. Here’s a novel idea… if you’re in the same building you may actually want to walk over and have a face-to-face conversation.
  • All future conversation about that task must continue in your project collaboration tool (Basecamp, Asana, etc).
  • Don’t use email to discuss tasks/milestones/etc.

Check Recent Mentions

  • Missed that last question? Opening Recent Mentions in the Flexpane menu will give you one tidy list of every time someone has mentioned your name or one of your highlight words. Click recent ones to jump straight to the right point in the right conversation.

Easily Manage Unread Messages

  • When you want to come back to a message later, hold down the Option (Alt) key while clicking on it. That will mark it as unread and you can switch to another conversation with the peace of mind that comes from knowing Slack will keep your place. One “long press” (tap & hold) on a message in the mobile apps will give you a special menu that includes the option to mark as unread.
  • You have options when it comes to the default way Slack manages unread messages. Check the “Read State Tracking” option in your account menu:
  • And if you happen to want to mark things as read rather than unread, you can. Hit the Esc key to mark one channel as read, Shift+Esc to mark ALL as read. BOOM. DONE.


  • Get notified only if someone wants your attention
  • We use Slack to talk about everything, which means you can get a lot of notifications out of the box. Switch notifications to “only for Highlight Words and direct messages” to avoid distractions to your work-flow.
  • In preferences, select “only for highlight words and direct messages”
  • Disable badges for jibber-jabber
  • By default, Slack shows a (•) badge if there’s new messages in any room, which is super distracting as you switch through apps on your machine. If a message doesn’t mention your highlight words, you shouldn’t be notified.


Simplify, simplify, simplify. Channels in Slack should be closely aligned to teams by function (we call our’s pods) instead of topics. This is purposefully done to minimize noise created by multiple team members being part of multiple channels. It creates a structure where we are tightly aligned but loosely coupled (i.e: If you want to know what another pod is working on, you can quickly take a look at their channel). Refrain from creating topic focused channels because this creates more noise. Instead, use *topic-title* in the relevant channel you are discussing a message on.

Sharing Links and Resources on Slack

You can add searchable topics by starting your message in the following format: {podname}-{topic}-{typeofpost}. Here are some usage examples:

  1. *seo-citations-video*: Hey @channel, I found this awesome video about citations
  2. *content-interviewing-guide*: Hey @avi, check out this guide on 1 question interviews
  3. *finance-billing-resource*: @warren, you should review this billing resource before sharing with @ren

The following are defined type of post templates to use:

  1. tool
  2. guide
  3. resource
  4. video
  5. hack

You can create a quick breakout channel if the project you are working on will be finished in 2 weeks or less. As a channel creator it is your responsibility to archive the channel after the project is finished.

Direct Messages

  • Slack allows more transparency amongst your team. We get back the respect we give to our team-mates. Try to keep your DM’s to a minimum and choose to engage in public communication on channels instead.


Jump to any conversation

  • Slack’s “Quick Switcher” is the fastest way to open any conversation. Press ⌘+K, (Ctrl+K on windows; or ⌘+T as an alternative in the Mac desktop app) and the magic of autocomplete will have you flipping channels, DMs and Groups faster than you can say “:thumbsup:”

Find more shortcuts by using  ⌘+?(Ctrl+? on Windows) will reveal them all.  


Bots and Automation

Bots add a new level of fun to Slack and can automate repetitive tasks. Here are the one’s we use:

  • A daily standup tracker where users can answer what they did yesterday, what they are doing today, and what their blockers were.
  • A stripe tracker that notifies our #billing channel whenever a payment fails or gets refunded.
  • A 1:1 meeting bot that lets the team know when to book in their 1:1 with me. It has a link to my calendly account where they can view my availability and book me. It works like magic.
  • A bot that announces whenever we win a deal!
  • A bot for sharing curated RSS feeds within specific channels.
  • A bot that reminds our employees to ask their clients for reviews and testimonials every month.

We’re just getting started with what we can do. Eventually, we’ll be creating business logic to feed the right email notifications to the right channels to catch the right person’s attention.

I hope this guide helps you become more productive by structuring Slack usage for peak productivity at work. Have a unique tip that works for your workplace? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

The Happiness Formula

A pseudo-mathematical approach to being happier life, in almost every way possible.

Whether you’re a naturally happy person, or often find yourself unhappy despite having “success” in the form of having love, family, money, power, or fame, I will show you how you be happier than you are right now.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to earn more than $75,000 to be any happier, and the Harvard Grant Study found that the “warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on life satisfaction”.

So the question is, how can you create a life that moves towards joy, contentment, and happiness, and away from being unhappy, depressed, or purposeless?

The Happiness Formula


Maximizing your Freedom

Freedom is what you get when you have the unfettered ability to do what you want, when you want, and whom you want, without having to give up your passions, dreams, or interests for that of other’s.

It’s not about being selfish; it’s about being able to pursue your life’s purpose without worrying about everything else that’s keeping you from doing so.

“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?” — Timothy Ferris

You can maximize your freedom by practicing Tim Ferriss’s DEAL methodology. In a nutshell:

  • Delegate: Take non-essential tasks and activities in your life and delegate them where appropriate. If you are an entrepreneur, this means setting up operations manuals and training for your employees, and if you happen to be an employee, check out FancyHands which allows you to have a virtual assistant for as little as $25/month.
  • Eliminate: Clean out the closet literally and figuratively. By practicing minimalism, you can cut out distractions and bloat in your life. This also reduces decision fatigue and conserves your attention to focus on projects that are essential.
  • Automate: There are four things you can do to automate your life right now. Sign up for and Sanebox to unsubscribe to all the junk mail in your inbox and also to triage incoming email. Automate your finances by setting up automatic bill payments and savings. Setup IFFT and Zapier to leverage technology that can connect everything from your email and your calendar to automating your home.
  • Liberate: What does your bucket list look like? How long have you kept ‘putting it off’ till the right time? There won’t be one if you can’t put the D.E.A in D.E.A.L into place. Liberation doesn’t have to mean moving to the other side of the world. It can mean something as simple as having the night off to enjoy reading a book or catching a movie because you’ve automated your bill payments. It can mean having a less stressful week, by not having to worry about ‘all’ your email because Sanebox only surfaces the most important ones. It can mean coming home to your laundry done and your clothes folded, because TaskRabbit took care of that for you. So the question is, wouldn’t you feel happier with all the extra time that you just earned back to yourself?

Be More Spontaneous

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

When was the last time you passed up an opportunity to hang out with friends, meet up with an old co-worker? You can be more spontaneous by just learning to say ‘yes!’ to the opportunities you come across in life, however small or large.

How does being spontaneous make you happier? 

Being spontaneous exposes you to more experiences that you would have otherwise said no to. This reduces regret and fear of missing out, increasing the propensity to find experiences that are new, fun, out-of-the-ordinary. As they say “variety is the spice of life”.

But I have too much going on. How do I make the time to be spontaneous? 

I hear you. I often feel the same way. So here’s how to ease into being more spontaneous.

  • Assess your routines to learn how to break out of them. You’ll need to note down the things you the same way every day from the moment you get up to the point at which you go to bed. These are things you’ll want to play with to mix things up and keep them interesting.
  • Reconnect with old friends and coworkers. Look at your Facebook friends list. Chances are you haven’t connected with 70%+ of them in over a year. A lot can happen in that time so shoot an old friend a message and invite them out to coffee, to a place of their choosing.
  • Give up a bit of control to expose yourself to new experiences. If you like planning everything down to the last detail this can be tough to deal with but it can also be pleasantly surprising. Start small by opting for the server or chef at a restaurant to surprise you with their menu recommendations. You’ll need to trust the gut of others, so why not have a delicious experience while you’re at it?
  • Stop putting off experiences and act on them today. Instead of planning something for the near future, ask yourself “is there any reason I shouldn’t commit to this right now?”. By asking the right question, you’ll open yourself up to new experiences instead of finding ways to justify delaying them.

Claim New Opportunities

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas A. Edison

Stop letting great opportunities pass you by. Making your mind up about claiming a new opportunity is more than half the challenge.

Be Fearless

“My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened.” — Mark Twain

95% of the things we worry about never happen. You are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for, so be fearless in pursuing your passions. Far too often, people choke and self-sabotage their potential for success because fear takes over. Don’t let this happen to you.

Exude Confidence

We can change our lives in the snap of a finger if we change our physiology, focus, and conditioning — Tony Robbins.

Confidence comes from your mind convincing itself of your worth in the world as opposed to people and tokens of achievement providing validation for that same self-worth. So how do you become more confident?

  • Change your posture. Stop slouching and sitting up straight.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Try looking a stranger in the eye for 30 seconds without breaking your gaze. The objective isn’t to be creepy.
  • Ask smarter questions. Refer to my post on asking “Why” more.
  • Make other people feel great. Thoughtful and truthful compliments only please.
  • Value your health. Get enough sleep and exercise.

Manage Regret

“In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.”
John C. Calhoun

Regret is past-tense decision-making, draining you of your positivity in this present moment, and possibly may haunt you at many moments in the future.

Your regrets are a part of you. It isn’t easy to forget them and there are often valid reasons why you shouldn’t. The moment when your regrets take a hold of you, debilitating your progress and hindering the ‘future’ you’re working towards is the moment in which you must learn to focus.

To regret is human, but to carry this regret is something we can all fight. Instead, balance the scales. Accept your regrets but do not let them define you.

Face Your Fears

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

Fear is real. Fear is incapacitating. Fear can be a very good motivator if you only choose to let it be so for you. Face your fears head on, and you might just find that you overestimated what you were so afraid of in the first place.

Rebel Against Conformity

“Don’t ever forget the moment you began to doubt transitioning from fitting in to standing out.” — Drake

My biggest fear in life is being mediocre. Conformity by definition pushes you to the average, and the average is in most cases, also mediocre.

You may face huge social pressure to conform, from your family, friends, co-workers, and society at large. Conformity is accepted because it is the safe option. It is the option that people are least likely to judge you by if you fail.

The best version of ‘you’ is the one where you get to be yourself in an authentic fashion. Keep associating with the people in your life who cheer you on in this endeavour, and away from those who keep telling you to fall in line.

Manage Expectations

You either manage your expectations or your expectations manage you. It starts out small, a co-worker or boss asks you to do something that you weren’t anticipating. You shrug your shoulders and hesitantly accept the ask. Compounded many times over, you now aren’t able to deliver on the most important and essential tasks because you’ve got ‘too much on your plate’. Learn to say “No” and always underpromise and overdeliver.

Ditch Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is the precursor to self-sabotage. You are capable and competent in more ways than you give credit for.

There are no secrets or shortcuts to being happier. It takes focus, clarity, and commitment on a daily basis and it is almost always a moving target, unique to the eye of the beholder. But by practicing the aspects of life to maximize and minimize above, you have a greater chance of being happier than you’ve ever felt before.

What Your Boss Really Cares About

This is a post for every employee who is still trying to figure out their boss. I’m speaking from my experiences having been an employee at over 5 organizations before becoming a full-time entrepreneur.

Here’s what your boss really cares about:

1. Raise the alarm bell before there’s a fire

Your boss wants you to notify them when you or your team aren’t able to complete your tasks and meet your responsibilities on time and with a high degree of quality. Knowing that things are going sideways or falling behind earlier is almost always knowing about it after the fact when little can be changed. A good boss never blames the messenger.

2. Bring solutions instead of problems to the table

Great businesses don’t bury their problems. They encourage their employees to bring them forward. When you do, come with a couple of solutions as well to make it easier for your boss to choose, prioritize, and modify the desired solution if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, good bosses have a ton of work on their plate, and they’ll appreciate you immensely for bringing a couple of solutions to choose from rather than dumping problems on them.

3. Get to the point, fast.

Your boss has a limited amount of time to empower you to do your job better. Avoid long-winded explanations and get to the point. Remember, good bosses will appreciate your brevity.

4. Don’t make them repeat themselves

Bring a notepad or a laptop to every meeting. Your boss may talk fast and cover many points. The expectation will almost always be for you or another designated note-taker to record the minutes. It’s not that bosses don’t like repeating themselves, it’s more so that it proves you weren’t paying attention where you should have.

5. Come to meetings prepared with an agenda

Shorter meetings = better meetings, especially when you have an agenda to guide the meeting. If you booked the meeting with your boss, you’re in charge of the agenda.

6. Your agenda needs to have these three things

You must have a meeting owner, a desired outcome from the meeting, and decision-making parameters on how you hope to achieve the outcome.

7. Ask for shorter meetings

Bosses loves short, to-the-point meetings. Booking a 15 minute meeting instead of an hour with a tight agenda is a sure-fire way to delight your boss. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and the 45 minutes you’ve just given back to them in the day.

8. Go ahead, interrupt them

Good bosses are really good coaches. They don’t mind being interrupted for a mission critical issue or if you have a point that emphasizes the betterment of your team or company than your boss’ plan.

9. Know what type of communication is appropriate

  • Email is great for short to mid-form responses.
  • In person meetings are great for decision-making and brain-storming
  • A phone call or a virtual screen sharing session is the next best thing to an in-person meeting.
  • Any responses that need to be synchronous and to the point are best suited to instant messaging or through team-chat applications like Slack (we’re big fans at Powered by Search).

10. Your boss wants updates without being expected reply back

Over the years, I’ve heard many employees think that their bosses are rude because they do not reply back to emails. This is a fallacy. Your boss wants updates where appropriate and email is one medium which is conducive to this. Replying for the sake of replying is an invitation for a seemingly never-ending thread of responses.

11. Don’t make them guess. Clarity is your friend.

In all communication, be explicit about the purpose and context of what you are communicating. There is no place for ambiguity in a business. The little things really count:

  • Descriptive subject lines
  • Descriptive opening lines in emails
  • Describe subjects and objects in sentences instead of using pronous (he, she, they, etc.)

12. Don’t be a yes-man (or woman).

Good bosses want to hear your objective feedback and it is okay to disagree with them. Be mindful of the platform in which you do this, and it’s probably best done in private with them so that the two of you can debate the best solution and get on the same page.

13. Prioritize effectiveness over efficiency

Your boss probably doesn’t care about how ‘busy’ you are. They care about the results you’re driving from being occupied with executing on various activities. Tell your boss what you’re working on, when you’re aiming to finish the task, and what you’re hoping to achieve in terms of outcomes.

14. Trust your recommendations

Your boss wants to trust you and your recommendations. It’s why they hired you and why you continue to be on the team. Be confident in your recommendations and your boss won’t hesitate to let you run with your proposed solution.

15. Become a lynchpin

In most cases, your boss wants you to rise above and beyond the call of duty, solving problems and finding solutions you weren’t asked to find. This type of conscientious deliberation around how you can make your company more valuable in the market is what will make you a lynchpin in your organization.

5 Reasons “Why” is such a Powerful Question

Toddlers often have more clarity and curiosity in life than most adults. Categorically, they aren’t afraid of asking “why?” to seemingly every question that has an obvious answer.

It’s no wonder that asking higher quality questions leads to better outcomes in your personal and professional life. So the real question is why do we not ask “why” more? Why do we assume we already know the answer, and become more preoccupied with asking what, how, when, and who?

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” —Albert Einstein

So why is it important to stop asking the wrong questions? Why should you start with why? Here are 5 reasons to Start with Why:

1. What and How are Functional, Why is Inspirational

People, organizations, and teams who start with what they need to do, how they need to do it, and who needs to do it are short-sighted. They focus on plans, strategies, and tactics, missing the goal. Asking “why” is inspirational, it creates tightly aligned but loosely coupled teams, because while everyone on the team may be unique in their approach towards a solution, they are all on the same page regarding why they are seeking a solution in the first place.

2. Asking Why Eliminates Confusion

The best way to get context in any situation is to ask “why” a lot. Asking why eliminates confusion caused by pre-conceived assumptions, which are fueled by lack of knowledge, or more dangerously, partial knowledge. To err is human after all, so asking “why” defines a clear path and brings everyone on the same page. This doesn’t just extend to teams though, introspectively you can ask yourself “why” you are following your own life’s path in your day to day life, work, and relationships.

3. Asking Why Gives Your Endeavours Purpose

Do you ever feel like you’re working “hard” but not getting where you want to be life? Asking why is a great way to remind yourself of the size of the prize you are pursuing.

4. Asking Why Separates Achievement and Success

Have you ever felt luke-warm about an achievement? Perhaps you got a raise, scored that difficult deal, or just joined a new role, but you didn’t feel happy or successful? Achievement is defined by the “what” you need to do, and that’s not always aligned with the “why” you need to do it. This is precisely the saying “you gotta do, what you gotta do” is counter-intuitive. Instead, focus on “why” you must do anything at all, and you’ll realize that maybe you need to change direction to feel truly successful.

5. Asking Why Positions You to WIN

In business, good consultants and salespeople ask the customer what their needs are, when they want to generate results, and who’s involved in making it happen. Great consultants and salespeople start with “why” instead. They provoke their customers and clients to think differently, constructively challenging them to questioning them to question their assumptions, and ask “why” themselves. This is the difference between professionals who position themselves as an Authority vs. those who just offer a Commodity.


Inspired by Simon Sinek’s wonderful book: Start with Why

Persistence vs Perseverence

[stag_intro]What 5 years of looking in the rear-view mirror of a rapidly growing digital marketing agency taught me.[/stag_intro]

It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.”— Seneca.

I dreaded going into work. The environment was so toxic that you could feel the tension in the air. Business was great but the powers that be decided to turn the tables on me by re-writing my role. Work just wasn’t fun anymore. The last straw came when my boss told me to “never start a business” because I’d be a “terrible manager” and because “fax machines were expensive”.

“You’ve got to be shitting me”, I thought. So I quit. The decision wasn’t hard.

I felt relieved. Then I felt sick. What should I do next? Was I going to fall on my face and become a victim of my own self-fulfilling prophecy?

Screw that.

I decided to give it a go. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d work on building a business for 6 months and if I failed, I could have easily gone back to getting a job.

Fast-forward 5 years into my journey, I’m proud to be at the helm of one of Canada’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies. There’s a lot of learning left to acquire and many more mountains to climb, but I’m at peace knowing that my journey is going along the right path.

PS: Happy 5th Birthday Powered by Search!

I’ve never been the type to give up at anything, perhaps to a fault. The last 5 years have taught me that no matter how good or bad things are, having perspective, patience, and viewing the world on an even-keel are virtues that lead to positive outcomes.

There’s a thin line separating those who persist versus those who persevere.

Persistence is a skill whereas perseverance is a virtue. Sticking to your guns and doing the same thing over and over again without learning from your mistakes is a recipe of disaster, nay, insanity.

We learn by making mistakes. I’ve made more than my fair share. Hitting road block after roadblock, pummelling into the proverbial brick walls that hinder progress, the difference between persistence versus perseverance started becoming clearer.

If I had to have a conversation with myself 5 years ago on October 5th, 2009, here’s what I would have said to myself:

1. Strive to be amongst the top 5% in the world at one thing. Find your niche and own it.

I’ve been a digital marketer since early 2006. In a sea of opinions within the #SEO industry, I picked a niche no one was talking about — Enterprise Local Search. While all the other Local SEO’s were talking about optimizing single-location businesses, I chose to focus on strategies to rank 10, 100, or 1000+ locations.

Do you work in an industry that isn’t nascent or growing? Saturation is a blessing. The obstacle is the way. Find a way to be at the top of your industry by identifying pain-points and figuring out creative ways to solve them. How do you do that? Ask your boss, your co-workers, and your clients how you could make their work and life easier, better, and more meaningful.

2. You can Out-compete your Competition by Out-Caring Them.

We still regularly compete with corporate giants in the digital marketing industry who have more resources, budget, and sales-people than I do. 2 out of 3 times when it comes down to it, we win. Not because we’re cheaper or have more brand klout, but because we out-care the competition.

3. Punch Above Your Weight Class.

3 days after I incorporated my company, I was asked to speak to an audience of 1000 people on how to generate leads using social media.

I was worried. I didn’t have a deck, and the biggest audience I’d addressed at the time may have been about 100 people. This was 10x the size. Visualizing that many people in their underwear would have been a visceral overload (and not in a good way).

In hindsight I’m glad I was up to the challenge. That speaking gig lead to our first enterprise client (still working with us 5 years later). Someone at the event who represented a professional speaker’s agency approached me after and booked me for another speaking opportunity. Two weeks later, their competition booked me into other speaking opportunities as well.

Sometimes you just have to bite off more than you can chew to know how much you can really achieve.

4. It will be Hard. Startup Life Can Suck.

Stress and depression are real facts about building a company one brick at a time. I’ve struggled with bouts of depression and weeks where stress is through the roof. It’s not pretty, but it is worth it.

On a layover at Atlanta airport after a client pitch. That day was 18 hours long. The deal took 5 months to close after, but it was well worth it!

There are days where it is Entrepreneurshit. Suck it up and continue shipping. It will get better but if it doesn’t get help.

So how do you deal? Take your pick: Surround yourself with common-minded peers, meditate, and maintain a journal to count your successes to balance your failures.

5. You Can’t Scale Giving a Shit.

Like most first time CEO’s, I’ve been challenged to grow from a Maker to a Manager. We’ve scaled quite a bit and then some, starting as an army of one and now pushing 50+ bright, passionate, and curious marketers.

Training our team of 6–7 back in 2012.

Revenues grew from a few hundred thousand dollars to mid-single digit millions in the same time period.

Initially, I wanted a company of no more than 10 people. Then it was 15, then 22. Our merger changed that and before I knew it we had over 50 amazing team members and over 200 clients.

There was only one-reason we grew the way we did…without a sales team, without recruiters, and without funding — We all gave a shit about our team, our clients, and our community.

6. Money isn’t Everything. Be a Good Steward of your Industry.

There are hundreds of different ways to get bigger, faster, with less work, and by cutting corners. But what is your legacy? Do your peers respect you or loathe you? Or worse…they don’t even know who you are, or what you stand for.

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want. — Zig Ziglar

We spoke at local accelerators, started our own meet-up, organized our own conference, planned agency foosball tournaments, and I even taught SEO at a college.

Inboundcon 2013. Our 1st ever annual conference.

We spoke for free, arranged meet-ups for free, and broke even on our annual conference.

Why? Because it was the right thing to do. And because it was a lot of fun doing it.

Perseverance is persistence applied towards positive outcomes. The last 5 years have been fun, not so fun, and everything in-between. But without a doubt, it was worth it and as long as it continues being that way, I’m in this for the long-haul.

The next 5 years will bring different learnings, new challenges, and I will be a different version of “me” by then. No matter what’s around the pike, I’m looking forward to living in the present, and giving those who played a pivotal role in the journey thus far my very best.

Deconstructing Motivation: 7 Things I’ve Learned in the Last 7 Years

[stag_intro]People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar[/stag_intro]

The struggle is real. It’s just so much easier to “do nothing” even when there is so much that need’s to get done. To combat overwhelm, a to-do list is simply not enough. Prioritization and the 80/20 rule aren’t either. What you really need is that inner fuel that keeps pushing you harder, like a motivational high that gets you in the zone.

What separates highly motivated people from those who struggle to find their own personal motivation? Over the past 7 years of my professional career in marketing here’s what I’ve found works:

1. Set the Right Rewards

Big goals need big pay-offs. By setting the right rewards or incentives before you begin your work you’ll know exactly what you’re working towards when you finish. I like to set bigger goals for myself because I typically get bored doing mundane things. It is important to map mundane tactical activities to a larger goal that has a prize worthy of striving for. Whether it’s that great steak-dinner at the end of a long work-week, or a weekend getaway because you finished that overdue project, setting the right rewards are a great way to fuel your motivation.

2. Dose Yourself with Dopamine

Chemicals play a huge role in influencing our moods and overall physical and mental drive. When pursuing certain activities such as exercise, listening to music, or chewing gum your brain releases Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a pivotal role in how motivated you are. By leaving a breadcrumb trail of linked dopamine releasing activities, your brain can be conditioned to produce more dopamine.

You can hack your dopamine levels by getting enough sleep, eating foods with tyrosine (such as bananas), and by getting enough daily exercise. Dopamine is a fascinating neurotransmitter and I will likely do a follow-up post diving further into the topic.

3. Set Micro-Goals and Milestones

Feeling like you start out the day motivated but lose steam along the way? You’re not alone. Setting micro-goals that map to your ultimate goals is a great way of “chunking” your tasks down into manageable pieces. I like to set 2 hour sprints for tasks during the day and then typically chunk the beginning, middle, and end with breaks in between. Take short breaks after each sprint to refresh your mind before refocusing on your to-do’s again. In many cases the break can be your micro-reward for each sprint.

4. Focus on the 80/20 Principle

Billionaires and the those in poverty have one thing in common: We all have the same 24 hours in each day. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle essentially states that inputs and outputs in life are not distributed evenly. In other words, the 20% of things you choose on will influence 80% of your overall outcomes.

I have this terrible habit of overcrowding my whiteboard with to-do’s. To prevent prioritizing activity over action, I typically take a photo of the white board with my iPhone and then erase every task on there till I have only 2-3 tasks left over. Tim Ferriss advises to select the 2-3 tasks that are so important that they will render all the other tasks un-important for the rest of your day. This is a phenomenal approach to focus on the quality of output vs. volume of output.

5. Be Manic about Reducing Distractions

Studies show that it can take between 30-45 minutes to refocus on your task at hand once your train of thought and focus is interrupted. Based on this you can regain over a quarter of your day simply by reducing distracting and batching similar tasks together. I’ve started using an app called Freedom that effectively blocks out the internet (and thus most distractions) when completing my most important tasks. Reaching Inbox Zero is a dream for many but learning to condition yourself to not look at your email constantly is an entirely different challenge. Give yourself a head start by doing the following:

  1. Unsubscribe from every newsletter that you haven’t read in the last two weeks. Use to make this easy.
  2. Turn off all your alerts and notifications from your email, social media networks, and especially on your smart phone.
  3. Batch your email by setting up auto-responders. Check it once between 11am-12 and again between 4-5pm. Checking and responding to email is usually a high-volume, low-creativity oriented task that is best suitest to your lowest points of productivity every day.

6. Commit to your Goal Publicly.

Publicly declaring your goal can effectively make you try much harder to achieve it. No one wants to be embarrassed in front of their peers for being unable to meet their goals. How about if you put money on the line? Check out GoFuckingDoIt to publicly commit your goals, pick a friend to become a goal supervisor, and pay up a bet in case you don’t complete your goal. It’s a bit like a swear jar… only better.

7. Focus on Attention instead of Time.

The amount of attention you have in a day directly influences the value of your time spent on various activities. By focusing on your attention on tasks that require higher levels of creativity and brain work you’ll not only be able to achieve more, you’ll enjoy and appreciate the process. Each day is divided into 24 equal blocks of 1 hour blocks, but your attention typically peaks at certain points of the day (like the morning or very late at night) but troughs at other points (in the afternoon when you need a caffeine fix).

Embracing these 7 ways to hack your motivation will not only allow you to do more, but enjoy yourself in the process. How do you hack your own motivation? I’d love to hear more from you in the comments.

How to Deliver the Perfect Client Pitch

If you work as a consultant or for an agency, you probably spend a fair amount of time being remarkable, convincing, and irresistible. Of course, not all days turn out that way, and I have had a number of client pitches that could have gone better. What matters most is being able to learn from mistakes, and perfecting pitch techniques as you go along. In my opinion, it’s not enough to just deliver a seemingly good pitch on the surface, but rather to read between the lines and peer into your audience’s thoughts.

Key Pitch Indicators

1. Overtones

We recall only about 50% of information that is delivered to us, 24 hours after processing and segmenting that information. Coupled with a lack of motivation, this is a key reason most people never create actionable plans – they simply can’t remember every relevant piece of information that they need to succeed. Similarly, in a client meeting, one can expect that the client won’t recall everything you talk to them about.
SEO, by its very nature involves a fair number of technical points in any discussion, and this is most likely what the client will not remember. Therefore, its important to have the right meeting overtones which a client can recall at any point because they can relate to what you’re telling them. These include:

  • Key Metrics They Understand – ROI, Brand Awareness, Recall : Not Clicks, Page Views, Bounces.
  • Case Studies of Past/Present Clients – Success that can be replicated for them.
  • Timelines & Budgets – Impart actionable strategies, and associated investments.

2. Undertones

Parts 2 & 3 relate to being able to read between the lines and really ‘read’ the client as you present. Things to observe include body language, inquisitiveness, lack of interest, and anxiety. The undertone of any meeting involves the direct perception of what is being said. In normal relationships, people always focus on what is coming out of their mouths, rather than how what other parties perceive what they are saying. In a client meeting, it’s imperative to read the client as they process what you are imparting. Some take aways a client perceives from a meeting that is going well includes:

This Guy/Girl Knows His/Her Stuff – Specialization is key to the success of any capitalist economy, and successful businesses understand that the value of their time in doing what they do best, while outsourcing the rest.

Glowing Recommendations – Case studies and testimonials help create trust and confidence in your skills. A colleague of mine name drops a lot during meetings, not to show off, but to reference all the good things his clients have to say about him. After all, who doesn’t want to work with the best, or have the best working for them?
You Will Take Care of Me and My Interests – The intangible value of positioning oneself as a thought partner to your client is paramount to building long-term profitable relationships. No contract, pricing attractiveness, or real business value can beat the trust that a client can place in you to ensure that their interests take precedence over your own in servicing them.

3. The After Taste

Much can be said about the after taste of any meeting. Looking back at many of the meetings you might have been part of in your career, you probably won’t remember all the details, but are sure to remember how you felt after a particular meeting. By following steps 1 & 2, here is the ideal emotional recall that a client has after a great pitch.

The Warm Fuzzy Feeling – Man, that was a great meeting, wasn’t it? So we’re really going to this? Damn, I’m pumped about getting started. Those are all emotions that a client can feel after a great pitch.

Sign Now Because Time is Money – Nobody likes wasting time and opportunities, especially when you know you’re losing business to competitors. Instilling a sense of urgency will entice a client to sign earlier than later.

Anger & Testosterone – Strong A-type clients feel like they have a new weapon in their arsenal after understanding the potential of capturing market share from their competitors. I’ve had many an experience where the client has said ‘Dev, let’s blow them out of the water…’. This can work in your favour, as long as you set reasonable expectations for results with your client.

How to Bring a Little Joy in Everything You Build.

[stag_intro]You could have the slickest new toy, with the biggest screen, the fastest software, and beautiful user experience…and it wouldn’t matter unless you make your product memorable. [/stag_intro]

[stag_dropcap font_size=”50px” style=”normal”]M[/stag_dropcap]emorable. Not just because it is the greatest thing since sliced bread or because it saves you hours every day or because it just freakin’ works, but memorable because it brings you joy every time you experience it.This is not about user experience in it’s traditional sense. This is about maximizing user happiness.

The smallest things can make the difference. The Kindle had me at hello.Not because it has that beautiful paper-white display or that it is light as a feather; but because it greeted me within the first few seconds of my experience with a simple: “Hello Dev. Welcome to your Kindle”. Falling in love after was easy.

Too many companies build for the masses. Instead, build to optimize happiness for “one”. Just one user at a time.