The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Business

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​It was 1955 and Disneyland had just opened in Anaheim, California when a ten-year-old boy walked in and asked for a job. Labor laws were loose back then and the boy managed to land a position selling guidebooks to visitors for $0.50 a piece.

Within a year, he had transitioned to Disney’s magic shop where he learned tricks from the older employees. He experimented with jokes and tried out simple magic routines on the visitors. Soon, he discovered that what he loved was not performing magic, but performing in general. The young boy set his sights on becoming a comedian.

Once he entered high school, he started performing in small clubs around Los Angeles. The crowds were small and his act was short. He was rarely on stage for more than five minutes. In one case, he literally delivered his standup routine to an empty club.

It wasn’t glamorous work, but there was no doubt he was getting better. His first magic routines would only last one or two minutes. By high school his material had expanded to include a five minute skit and then a ten minute show. At the age of 19, he was performing weekly at clubs for twenty minutes at a time. Of course, he had to read three poems during the act just to make the routine long enough, but still. He was improving.

He spent another decade experimenting, adjusting, and practicing his act. He took a job as a television writer and, gradually, he was able to land his own appearances on television shows. By the mid-1970s, he had worked his way into being a regular guest on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.

After nearly 15 years of work, he broke through to wild success. He toured 60 cities in 63 days. Then 72 cities in 80 days. Then 85 cities in 90 days. 18,695 people attended one show in Ohio. 45,000 tickets were sold for his 3-day show in New York. He catapulted to the top of his genre and became one of the most important comedians of his time.

His name was Steve Martin.

Comedy is not for the faint of heart. It is hard to imagine a situation that would strike fear into the hearts of more people than failing to get a single laugh on stage. And yet, Steve Martin worked at it for 18 years. In his words, “10 years spent learning, 4 years spent refining, and 4 years spent in wild success.” His story offers a fascinating perspective on motivation, perseverance, and consistency.

Why do we stay motivated to reach some goals, but not others? Why do we say we want something, but give up on it after a few days? What is the difference between the areas where we naturally stay motivated and those where we give up?

Scientists have been studying motivation for decades. While there is still much to learn, one of the most consistent findings is that perhaps the best way to stay motivated is to work on tasks of “just manageable difficulty.”

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.

Martin’s comedy career was a perfect example of what The Goldilocks Rule looks like in the real world. Wanting to improve your life is easy. Sticking with it is a different story. If you want to stay motivated for good, then start with a challenge that is just manageable, measure your progress, and repeat the process.

Your Abilita consultant, with many years of experience in the industry, has that same motivation and dedication. This helps to ensure they get things right and provides you with the confidence you are looking for when hiring a consultant.

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Learn Things Faster with the Feynman Technique

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The Feynman Technique, developed by Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, helps you understand, recall and explain anything using concise thoughts and simple language.

You can use this model to quickly learn new concepts, shore up knowledge gaps, recall ideas you don’t want to forget, or grapple with complex subject matter. To adopt the Feynman Technique, follow these 4 steps:

1) Identify the Topic 

Pick something you want to understand and start studying it. Write down everything you know about the topic. Add to that page every time you learn something new.

2) Teach it to a Child

This forces you to make it really simple. When you write out an idea from start to finish in simple language that a child can understand, you force yourself to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas.

3) Identify Your Knowledge Gaps

If you cannot find the words to describe your concept in layman terms, revisit problem areas until you can explain the topic fully. Go back to the source material and re-learn it until you can explain it in basic terms. Highlighting knowledge gaps will help you when you collect and organize your notes into a cohesive story (which is the next step.)

4) Simplify and use Analogies

Organize your notes into a simple story that flows. Use analogies and simple sentences to strengthen your understanding. Practice reading your story out loud. Pretend to tell the story to a classroom of students. Get to the hypothesis in as few words as possible. Avoid clunky, verbose language.

For a brief video outlining the Feynman Technique, click here. These concepts can be used anywhere and anytime. Learning is not only about remembering something difficult, but it is about making things easier. By forcing yourself to make something easier, you will remember it better!

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How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “2-Minute Rule”

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Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do — you have the talent and skills to accomplish them — you just avoid starting them for one reason or another. The 2–Minute Rule overcomes procrastination and laziness by making it so easy to start taking action that you can’t say no.

There are two parts to the 2–Minute Rule…
• Part 1 — If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.
Part I comes from David Allen’s bestselling book, Getting Things Done. It’s surprising how many things we put off that we could get done in two minutes or less. For example, washing your dishes immediately after your meal, tossing the laundry in the washing machine, taking out the garbage, cleaning up clutter, sending that email, and so on. If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, then follow the rule and do it right now.

• Part 2 — When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.
Can all of your goals be accomplished in less than two minutes? Obviously not. But, every goal can be started in 2 minutes or less. And that’s the purpose behind this little rule.

The most important part of any new habit is getting started — not just the first time, but each time. It’s not about performance, it’s about consistently taking action. The 2–Minute Rule isn’t about the results you achieve, but rather about the process of actually doing the work. I can’t guarantee whether or not the 2–Minute Rule will work for you. But, I can guarantee that it will never work if you never try it. Anyone can spare the next 120 seconds. Use this time to get one thing done. Go.

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com. James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

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The Myth and Magic of Deliberate Practice

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In recent years, the study of hard work has developed into a scientific pursuit named “deliberate practice”- focused and effortful training as the recipe for success. To demonstrate an example of deliberate practice, here is a little-known story about how Joe DiMaggio acquired his exceptional ability to become one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.

As the story goes, a journalist was interviewing DiMaggio at his home and asked him what it felt like to be such a “natural hitter.” Without saying a word, he dragged the reporter downstairs. In the shadows of the basement, DiMaggio picked up a bat and began to repeat a series of practice swings. Before each swing, he would call out a particular pitch such as “fastball, low and away” or “slider, inside” and adjust his approach accordingly.

Once he finished the routine, DiMaggio set the bat down, picked up a piece of chalk, and scratched a tally mark on the wall. Then he flicked on the lights to reveal thousands of tally marks covering the basement walls. Supposedly, DiMaggio then looked at the journalist and said, “Don’t you ever tell me that I’m a natural hitter again.”

We love stories like this—stories that highlight how remarkable success is the product of effort and perseverance. To maximize our potential, we need to know when deliberate practice makes the difference between success and failure and when it doesn’t.

The Deliberate Practice Myth

The myth of deliberate practice is that you can fashion yourself into anything with enough work and effort. While human beings possess a remarkable ability to develop their skills, your genes set a boundary around what is possible.

Experts have discovered that our genes impact nearly every human trait including short-term memory to mental processing speed to willingness to practice. Some researchers have estimated that our genes account for 25-35 percent of differences in performance.

So where does this leave us?

While genetics influence performance, they do not determine performance. Do not confuse destiny with opportunity. Genes provide opportunity. They do not determine our destiny. It’s similar to a game of cards. You have a better opportunity if you are dealt a better hand, but you also need to play the hand well to win.

If you can’t win by being better, then win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it much easier to stand out regardless of your natural abilities.

The Magic of Deliberate Practice

Sun Tzu, the legendary military strategist who wrote The Art of War, believed in only fighting battles where the odds were in his favor. He wrote, “In war, the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won.”

Similarly, we should seek to fight battles where the genetic odds are in our favor. If you aspire to maximize your success, then you should train hard and practice deliberately in areas where the genetic odds are in your favor (or where you can overlap your skills in a compelling way).

Deliberate practice is necessary for success, but it is not sufficient. The people at the top of any competitive field are both well-suited and well-trained. To maximize your potential, you need to not only engage in consistent and purposeful practice, but also to align your ambitions with your natural abilities.

Regardless of where we choose to apply ourselves, deliberate practice can help us maximize our potential—no matter what cards we were dealt. That is the magic of deliberate practice. It turns potential into reality.


This article was originally published on JamesClear.com. James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

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Tips for Managing Stress During the Holidays

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Stress is a natural part of our daily lives. It can be triggered by pressure to meet deadlines, too many time demands, illness, or other serious life changes.

During the upcoming holiday season, here are some steps that can help you learn to better cope with stress:

  • Set priorities: Decide what must get done and what can wait.  Learn to say no to new tasks if you are overwhelmed. Plan ahead to avoid last-minute shopping or other stressful situations.
  • Learn when to say no: Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
  • Stick to a budget: before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
  • Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work responsibilities or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
  • Volunteering your time to help others is a great way to lift your spirits and broaden friendships.
  • Take a breather: make time to do relaxing activities you enjoy, such as outdoor activities, listening to music, watching a movie or reading a good book.
  • Avoid dwelling on problems: focus on what you have accomplished, not what you have been unable to do.
  • Don’t abandon your healthy habits: get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes per day of moderate walking can help boost mood and reduce stress.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous 2017.

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The Domino Effect

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The Domino Effect states that when you make a change to one behavior it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.

Many of the habits and routines that make up our daily lives are related to one another. There is an astounding interconnectedness between the systems of life and human behavior is no exception. The inherent relatedness of things is a core reason why choices in one area of life can lead to surprising results in other areas, regardless of the plans you make.

The Domino Effect capitalizes on one of the core principles of human behavior: commitment and consistency. This phenomenon is explained in the classic book on human behavior, Influence by Robert Cialdini. The core idea is that if people commit to an idea or goal, even in a very small way, they are more likely to honor that commitment because they now see that idea or goal as being aligned with their self-image.

The Domino Effect not only creates a cascade of new behaviors, but often a shift in personal beliefs as well. As each tiny domino falls, you start believing new things about yourself and building identity-based habits.

The Rules of the Domino Effect

The Domino Effect is not merely a phenomenon that happens to you, but something you can create. It is within your power to spark a chain reaction of good habits by building new behaviors that naturally lead to the next successful action.

There are three keys to making this work in real life. Here are the three rules of the Domino Effect:

1. Start with the thing you are most motivated to do. Start with a small behavior and do it consistently. This will not only feel satisfying, but also open your eyes to the type of person you can become. It does not matter which domino falls first, as long as one falls.

2. Maintain momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish. Let the momentum of finishing one task carry you directly into the next behavior. With each repetition, you will become more committed to your new self-image.

3. When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks. As you try new habits, focus on keeping them small and manageable. The Domino Effect is about progress, not results. Simply maintain the momentum. Let the process repeat as one domino automatically knocks down the next.

When one habit fails to lead to the next behavior, it is often because the behavior does not adhere to these three rules. There are many different paths to getting dominoes to fall. Focus on the behavior you are excited about and let it cascade throughout your life.

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com. James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science‐based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

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