How to Build a Remarkable Business: Looking at the “Why”


The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.

Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With The Why” explains in his TEDx talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” that people do business with you because of your values and belief systems, rather than your Unique Selling Proposition (What is a USP?) and excellent customer service. Gaining the heart and soul of your client as well as ongoing brand loyalty goes all the way to the core of your business. Instead of just offering the services that they need (What) or even exceeding their expectations by anticipating needs (How), Simon explains that loyalty is based on the belief system of your company.

Customer loyalty goes beyond excellent customer service, a unique product or even providing the right solution; it goes  to the reason behind why your business exists and why you want to work with your clients.

The Golden Circle

  • Why – The real meaning behind why you do what you do. It’s your purpose, cause or belief and answers the questions “Why does your organization exist?”, “Why should anyone care?”, “Why do you get up in the morning?”
  • How – This is what makes you unique, your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Proprietary System
  • What – These are the services or products you sell

Having clients who connect to your purpose and reason for business is what builds lasting relationships. People will join you and your organization because you answer their ‘pain points’ but they will stay with you because they believe in working with you and believe in your reason for business. This deeper meaning is what really stands out in the market place.

His model of What, How and Why is called the Golden Circle, and the definition below is from Simon’s website,

Golden Circle
The model that codifies the three distinct and interdependent elements (Why, How, What) that makes any person or organization function at its highest ability.

Based on the biology of human decision making, it demonstrates how the function of our limbic brain and the neocortex directly relate to the way in which people interact with each other and with organizations and brands in the formation of cultures and communities.

The concept is fully explained in Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, published in 2009.

This week is a shorter blog, but I highly recommend watching this video (on 2x or 3x speed with Enounce is a great way to save time).

Tell me, What is your why?

Utilizing the Reticular Activating System in Your Marketing

Understanding the Reticular Activating System can help you get more clients – ideal clients – more easily!

What is it? And how can it do that? The reticular activating system plays a part in your  transition from sleep to wakefulness as well as your attention (essentially your mental states of sleep to wakefulness). This means that it can play a part in your ability to learn, your motivation, self-control, your ability to set goals and your inhibitions.

The reticular activating system helps control the transition from relaxed wakefulness to complete alertness and focused attention.

The Reticular Activating System in Marketing

How can you use the reticular activating system to your benefit? How does the reticular activating system play a part in your marketing strategy? This system not only helps you focus your attention by screening out background noise, you can use it to train your prospects to think of you at precisely the right moments that you want them to.

The reticular activating system sorts out the important information that you need to pay attention to versus the unimportant stuff that can be ignored.

You can program your prospective customers and ideal clients to think of you by setting in their mind the correct trigger words. No, not as a brainwashing trick – just a way to allow you to get their attention above all of the other noise going on in the world.

The best way to utilize this is by applying it to very specific phrases that will trigger them to think of you.

For example, I would say, “if you hear a business owner, CEO, VP of Marketing or VP of Business Development say, ‘I need a logo or marketing materials for my new business.’ ‘I need a website that is custom built for our needs.’ ‘My website is not getting enough traffic.’ ‘People visit my website, but no one stays or interacts on it.’ then please have them talk to Alyssa at”

The Reticular Activating System in Every Day Life

Have you ever walked into a store and forgotten if you locked your car? Or suddenly ‘woken up’ (mentally) and realized that you can’t remember the last 5 minutes of your drive? This is an example of when the reticular activating system shuts down. Daydreaming, or thinking about something other than your current task, shuts down your reticular activating system and this keeps you from remembering.

A large part of learning is about being engaged. If your brain is not engaged, you will fall back into a daydream mode and have difficulty retaining the information. An example of this may be a lecture where the teacher is not engaging you enough and your brain switches into a relaxed mode where it is not actively looking for information. Have you ever been reading a book and thinking about something else so you’re halfway down the page but didn’t comprehend what you read? Again, your daydream mode shut off the reticular activating system.

The reticular activating system sorts out the important information that you need to pay attention to versus the unimportant stuff that can be ignored.

Engaging this part of the brain in teaching and in marketing (where you are teaching your prospects to look for you) is extremely important to helping others retain information and notice you.

Stand out in a world of too much noise and distractions by making it easy for your ideal clients to find you.


I first heard about the reticular activiating system, specifically, from Rick Silva of B2B Gathering before. I’ve heard of and considered this concept before but having a name to connect it to helped in my research of understanding the concept.

Here are some other resources I looked at to expand my understanding:

Reticular Activation System – Follow the Yellow Brick Road (how to use it in dealing with others)
What is the Reticular Activating System? (how to use it in marketing)
The Reticular Activating System – Your Automatic Goal Seeking Mechanism (how to use it in goal setting)
The Reticular Activating System (How it influences your learning ability)

Case Study of A Company Rebranding: 3-Keys Communications

Over the last few weeks, my company 3-Keys Communications has been slowly rolling out our new brand identity.

The first step in our rebranding was creating a logo that represented our name and encompassed the essence of the company. 3-Keys Communications was formed through the merging of my business partner and myself so we also needed to take into account our different specialties and areas of expertise. Our reason is that together we are stronger than the sum of our parts alone.

The Message

3-Keys Communications’ purpose is to help our customers grow by developing an effective message, delivering it to the right people at the right places and using the best medium for their purpose.

Our tagline, “Solutions for Growth” encompasses the idea that we focus on the right tasks to help your business grow. While we are labeled as a graphic design firm, web design firm or print company, we are really a communication agency that understands these different areas and knows how to use each element most effectively. Our designs and implementations work across each platform and are tailored to the specific requirements of each. Like a business consulting firm, we identify the results you want to achieve and the best ways to achieve them. Each solution is custom built for your specific needs.

The 3-Keys Communications Logo

Our logo image is a play on the concept of growth, represented by leaves, and the keys referred to in our company name, while the typography is clean, modern and fresh. The 3 is very legible, yet slightly playful as it overlaps the word ‘Keys’.

3-Keys Communications Logo

Ideally, the next step would to be launch a new website, newsletter template, stationery, Facebook cover photo and any other online media simultaneously, however, for various reasons we have rolled this out in a soft launch in two stages. Stage one is in the visual points of contact on the Facebook page and in client communications.

3-Keys Communications, Do You Know Someone Who Needs a Website?

This 3-Keys Facebook timeline photo was created for the marketing concept of targeting the reticular activating system, where you prime or prep your audience to think you you when they head certain words or phrases (more on this next time). By listing out the questions or complaints that your target market has, you are priming your target to be more aware of you when they actually hear those pain points.

The Website

Our website is still in progress because there are several quite complex elements being created to ensure that the user experience that combines an innovative and interesting & effective design with marketing strategy. We hope to launch the website in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, enjoy the taste of the new brand that we do have available.

Using The Marketing Pie to Grow Your Business

This is the second part of a two-part series on The Marketing Pie, which looks at all the different elements of marketing and breaks them down into sections that can be approached a few at a time. Read part one of Looking At The Marketing Pie.

The Marketing Pie: Speaking, Online Marketing, Teleclasses & Workshops, Article Writing
The Marketing Pie - Pt 2: Speaking, Online Marketing, Teleclasses & Workshops, Article Writing


Speaking is one of the best ways to reach a large group of ideal prospects at one. Unlike a webinar, email or personalized video, you are live and in front of your prospects and are able to direct all of your personal energy and effort at them.

In order to maximize your speaking engagement, you need to seek out your target market and discover when they hang out in crowds.

  • Is there an industry or association conference or seminar they are at? Try to arrange a speaking gig on a topic that will be of interest to them.
  • Are your power partners running an event for your ideal target market? Find a way to connect and team up with them.
  • Is there a strong need for your topic or service? Start running your own teaching events, no matter how small they start out.

Speak at networking groups, toastmasters, Chamber of Commerce events, associations, industry conventions and seminars. You want to be seen everywhere so that in the end your ideal clients come to you because you are everywhere they turn.

One thing to remember, you must provide valuable content and minimize your sales pitch, but make sure you do have a compelling or irresistible offer to galvanize them at the end of your speech.

Online Marketing

One of my favorite methods of marketing is online marketing – making your website work for you. Nothing is better than getting a lead through your website because you built it correctly months ago.

Online marketing involves getting traffic to your website, turning that traffic into leads, nurturing those leads and then turning those leads into customers. It doesn’t stop there; once you have customers, ask for reviews from them to help you get more customers (all online). Some of these items run into other areas of marketing and that is the beauty of it, everything ties in together.

One of the first things you need to do is get traffic to your website. This happens through organic (on-page) SEO and paid or off-page SEO.  Organic SEO involves optimizing the content and keywords on your page for the items your ideal clients are searching for in order to show up in the first page of Google search results. This includes items such as Title and META tags.

Content is king and this means not only having the correct, relevant content, but also fresh, new and constantly changing content. New content can come in the form of a blog on your website where you create entries based on the information your customers are searching for or new pages and images as well.

Off-page SEO includes link building, which is leveraging other websites to show that your website is of value and interest to others. When other pages link to your website correctly and are about similar topics, it tells Google that your page is of interest and relevant to others as well and helps you rank higher.

Search Engine Marketing includes items such as Pay Per Click ads where space can be bought at the top of Google searches, on other websites, and valuable real estate space such as the side of Facebook. Organic SEO can take a while to build up and produce results while paid search results kick into place instantly.

Once users are on your site, you then need to convert the traffic into leads. Read more about Irresistible Offers.

Examples of Online Marketing

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Blogging
  • Local Search
  • Online reviews
  • Pay Per Click (PPC)
  •  Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Teleclasses & Workshops

Teleclasses and workshops are similar to speaking in that you reach a larger audience at once, but they go into greater detail. At these events, you offer training and an introductory taste to your services so that your ideal clients can gain a better understanding of your value and want to learn more from you or want to receive more help.


Articles are about creating fresh and new content, both on and off your website. On-site content includes blogs while off-site content can be e-zines or articles that you write and then link to your own website (link building).

By answering commonly asked questions or providing valuable information, you are also building up your reputation as an expert in your field. These articles can appear on websites that are more frequently scanned by Google and receive more traffic than yours and allow you to gain access to new potential clients.

Do you have an example of how you have been able to tie together several of these elements? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing


While sales and marketing are both essential for business growth and work towards a similar goal of bringing in new customers, they are very separate areas of business that can commonly be confused. As, I prepare to hire a sales person while still running the marketing strategy of the company myself, I am now working to define the exact difference between sales and marketing.

The marketing process is broad and includes all of the following:

  • Discovering what product, service or idea customers want.
  • Producing a product with the appropriate features and quality.
  • Pricing the product correctly.
  • Promoting the product; spreading the word about why customers should buy it.
  • Selling and delivering the product into the hands of the customer.

Selling is one activity of the entire marketing process.

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

I discussed marketing several times in my previous blog, What is Marketing? Why is it Important? Marketing and sales work together to close a sale through multiple contact points and interactions.

Marketing is the message you send to persuade your target audience that you offer the solution they need to solve their pain. It prepares your prospect for a sale, raises their awareness of your product or service and compels them to take action to connect with your company. Marketing activities supports sales efforts and include advertising, networking, branding, direct mail, online marketing and more. Marketing usually occurs before the sales process and can even continue afterwards, to encourage future sales and referrals.

Sales is the personal interaction between people in the form of cold calls, meetings, and even networking (selling at a networking event is not appreciated…). Ideally your marketing strategy is delivering a constant stream of warm leads for your sales people to follow up with. Sales is the act of persuading a customer to buy and closing the sale through these personal interactions.

Below is a guest article by Chip Doyle on the differences characterized by sales and marketing.

Sales vs. Marketing — Marketing Always Changes

Guest blog, written by Chip Doyle

[Chip is with Sandler Training and teaches people how to sell without sounding like a salesperson.]

In 2005, I wrote an article outlining the differences between marketing and selling. Many of my clients were making the mistake of doing marketing after the conversation with a prospect had started. Salespeople were missing out on valuable opportunities to sell in a consultative way and even overwhelming the prospect with irrelevant information. One of the key differentiators in that article defined marketing as one-way communication designed to foster interest in a product or service. Conversely, selling was defined as a 2-way communication designed to allow the prospect to do 70% of the talking.

Seven years of technology has changed that. Marketing is no longer a one way communication. And done properly, tech savvy marketing can even get customers and prospects to do most of the talking.

“Marketing always changes but selling stays the same.”

Selling is primarily about real time conversations between two or more people. As long as you are selling to homo-sapiens, the fundamental motivations to buy and the skills to obtain purchase commitments will remain the same. People may go about selecting a consultant, a cloud based storage system or a box of cereal in a different set of steps, but people buy emotionally and justify their decisions intellectually.

Marketing always changes. Most marketing techniques exploit human psychology but their delivery is a function of the available technology. Barnum and Bailey established trend-setting practices like sending promoters by train, in advance to future circus sites to pass out flyers, set up billboards and even foster rumors of the incredible shows that were coming to town. Radio and television dramatically influenced the delivery and content of marketing. Do you remember when fax machines were used as a means of connecting with prospects? You may receive unwanted texts on your cell phones now. Websites and social media are overtaking previously successful methods like phone books and even newspapers.

As the technology advances, we now have a unique opportunity to change the previous assumptions about marketing. Whereas 2 way communications were only possible in sales, 2 way communications are now possible in marketing.

Good salespeople speak only about 30% of the time in a sales situation. The customer speaks the remaining 70%. I’m no soothsayer, but could the future of marketing lead to communication where the customer does most of the talking? Google reviews, Yelp, YouTube and Facebook are examples of where the customer does the talking. How often do you read the reviews of a product or service before deciding to buy?  Companies now actively solicit your reviews of your purchases to post with their product offerings. Advertisements are now even directed towards us based on the questions we ask (aka search history).

The web has dramatically evolved and influenced how marketing is done. Originally the internet was a repository of information and reference. 99% of internet users were readers, not contributors. (I remember explaining to new entrepreneurs that they needed to invest in a website for their company even if the return on investment was not imminently clear. 7 years later I have to convince young entrepreneurs that they shouldn’t do ALL of their marketing and sales solely through the web.)  But 2 way communications changed rapidly on the web. Small businesses and even individuals started to create their own web pages. Portal and social sites were created to elicit feedback and content from people that didn’t even have websites. (I know this sounds boring but it was considered a breakthrough at the time.) Wikipedia built an entire site based on contributions from readers/users. Instant messaging alerted others of “my status” and soon social media websites like Facebook became popular because even grandmothers want to see their grand-daughter’s status. And now we base our buying decisions on reviews posted on Yelp or Amazon as the division between “readers” and “contributors” quickly blurs. Readers are now the contributors and the 2 way communication is at an all-time high when it comes to marketing products or services.

Prospects don’t believe salespeople or marketing people.

Any sales expert will tell you that prospects must talk themselves into the purchase. All the salesperson can do is direct the conversation with questions that cause the prospect to recognize their own need and the urgency to address it. None of us trust salespeople and the more they tell us what to do, the greater our resolve to do the opposite. OK, maybe you trust a couple of salespeople but they’ve done something to earn that trust and odds are they are not the pushy type that spend lots of time presenting slide decks or telling you the price goes up on Friday. People don’t trust marketing messages either. Marketing execs can say it runs faster or protects more but when Josephine Public says she tried both systems but XYZ does indeed run faster and the competitor’s system didn’t protect her system, that is marketing gold. And technology now provides the opportunity for companies to capture marketing gold automatically.

I’m old enough to remember the essay contests that breakfast cereal companies would run. They would award a free trip to Hawaii for the whole family to the person who wrote the best description of why they love their cereal. Marketing execs knew it would motivate thousands of people to spend hours writing intimate details about why they loved their cereal. Those marketing execs also knew that each person that devoted hours to this task, reiterating to themselves that XYZ cereal was the most wholesome breakfast was highly unlikely to go to the grocery store and suddenly try the competitive brand. Psychologists call it Congruent Behavior. But you don’t need a PhD to understand that anyone who writes passionately about their purchasing behavior is more likely to follow through in a similar fashion later. And now marketers have the opportunity to exploit Congruent Behavior in an automated 24/7 fashion.

Marketing will continue to evolve and change as technology enables new strategies and capabilities. I expect to see an enormous transformation of marketing over the next 7 years away from company messaging and one-way communication to interactive media and a “conversations” between customers and prospective buyers. Salespeople will always be necessary with complex, expensive purchases, anything requiring customization, special services or “high impact” purchases. (Do you remember when you bought a cell phone in 1989? That was an expensive sale that required consultative salespeople…) But as always, superior marketing will greatly assist the sales efforts of every company’s sales efforts no matter what they sell. What do you think? Questions to ponder and comment:

  • What is the next trend in 2 way interactive marketing?
  • How will 2 way interactive marketing affect salespeople?
  • Will marketing ever completely eliminate the salesperson?
  • What are the new social media trends and who are the companies best exploiting those trends?

Productivity – High Performance Academy Style

Productivity is one element of high performers who engage in activities that are effective and efficient. Read my post on Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Academy

High performers generate heightened and sustained levels of clarity, energy, courage, productivity and influence.

Clarity – Your vision. Define it and then generate it.
Energy – Don’t let it dwindle. You must generate your own energy.
Courage – Be bold and make decisions. Don’t take too long to make decisions as you could miss out on opportunities.
Productivity – Get stuff done, but make sure it is the right things that you are getting done.
Influence – High performers have a different level of influence on the people they interact with. They influence people, society and the world.

In the High Performance Model, productivity is about focusing your energies on meaningful endeavors – getting the right things done for your own agenda. To ensure you are engaging in the right activities, first you need to plan out your end goals. What do you want to achieve in life? From a final end goal, you then work backwards writing down the tasks and steps to be completed to achieve this goal.

High Performance in Daily Life

Staying productive and on task each day can be a challenge when you are constantly putting out fires and managing urgent (but not important) tasks. You need to design your own schedule each day rather than letting other people’s agendas interrupt your day. To help with the challenge of staying productive on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis,  I have taken what I learned from Brendon Burchard’s seminar and tied it in with the brain science trainings from Cahaya Mind, to create a productivity guide for each morning. It includes three big picture goals I am targeting and the steps involved to complete those goals.

Either the evening before, or first thing in the morning, fill out this daily planner to keep your schedule on track for your greater agenda. Inboxes are a huge distraction, so unless you are in customer service, plan out who you need to contact before you start going through your emails. Make a list of people you need to contact and who you are waiting to hear from and approach these tasks first thing in the morning (they should be related to your big picture goals or revenue producing tasks). Instead of reading all your emails, just search for messages from the particular people that you are waiting to hear from. Don’t let your inbox, and other people’s agendas , control your day. Check email only during certain time periods.

Next, plan out your monthly, weekly and daily tasks that are all focused on achieving the big picture goals mentioned earlier in this article. This is the hardest part but also the best way to stay on task. First you create your monthly tasks and determine what needs to be achieved to move forward, then you choose weekly tasks that are working to fulfill your monthly goals. Finally, create daily tasks based on the people you need to contact and the weekly goals that you need to complete. By breaking these long-term goals into smaller, more manageable tasks, and tracking yourself and your activities, you can work to increase your productivity.

Our brain can only process 4 complete tasks a day and ideally you should only fill out 4 tasks for the month, week and year, however, I have added an extra line for more space and in case anything turns up.

Fill out this form to Request a Copy of the High Performance Academy Daily Tasks worksheet.

[contact-form-7 id=”386″ title=”HPA Daily Tasks”]

Brendon Burchard on Productivity

Hear directly from Brendon Burchard about high performers and productivity.


Using Referrals to Grow Your Business

Understanding A Referral System

Referrers to your company are often called your unpaid sales force; they work to promote your business because they love what you do and value your services – all without expecting any sort of compensation. Any business should be working to maximize the leverage they receive through their referral network.

Your referral network can include clients, power partners, networking group members, friends, family, neighbors, associates, past co-workers, essentially anyone who knows you and recommends your services or products to others.

The providing of a referral can be done directly, in a conversation, an email, a passing of your business card, or it can be offered indirectly through public review sites such as Yelp, Google+ Local, Angie’s List and more.

Referrals are essential to every business because they help build up your reputation before the prospect has even met you. A referral is also called a warm lead, because they are a potential customer who has shown interest in your products or services, but has also already received a positive review that has given your business credibility or at least a headstart against the competition.

This leads into another topic that I will have to discuss later…how do you ensure that you get referrals? Delivering outstanding customer service, under-promising and over-delivering, are just a few ways to ensure that you have raving (happy) fans and a strong customer support base.

Referral Marketing Handout

Below are some examples of free and inexpensive advertising methods, created by Elizabeth Rupp, of Office Spots.

Free Advertising Methods:

  • Posting on
  • Facebook Fan Page
  • LinkedIn
  • Cold Calls
  • Cold Emails
  • Newsletters

Inexpensive Advertising Methods:

  • Networking (Chambers, Ind Groups)
  • Tradeshow Booths
  • Promotional Items (ie Pens, Mugs, etc)

Definition of ‘Referral’

A person or business steered to a business by an existing customer. For example, a person who needs repair work on a vehicle is referred to a particular mechanic by a satisfied customer of the mechanic.

Definition of ‘Sales Lead’

A prospective consumer of a product or service that is created when an individual or business shows interest and provides his or her contact information. Businesses gain access to sales leads through advertising, trade shows, direct mailings and other marketing efforts. They can also purchase sales leads from third-party companies. A sales lead is not a sales prospect, meaning that further qualification of the lead is necessary to determine intent and interest.

Definition of ‘Power Partner’

Power Partners are people who can easily refer to you because:

  • They believe in you and your product or service
  • They have a ready made referral (customer) pool to refer from
  • They are willing to share their power partners with you
  • They have a desire to be of service
  • They also want to receive referrals
  • They understand the power of networking
  • They understand the value of word of mouth advertising
  • They are willing to make a personal and business commitment to you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Up until now I’ve received almost all of my clients and business through referrals. How do you receive your business – do you advertise or is it all word of mouth? Do you ask for referrals? Do you tell other people what an ideal referral for you would be?

Getting More Done with Less Stress – Increasing Your Willpower in Business and in Life

Guest blog by Sunil Bhaskaran, Chief Innovative Strategist,

Willpower – a Problem and an Opportunity for You

One of the top things that people report as a personal weakness is their lack of self control i.e. their ability to withstand distractions or impulses.  This has become ever more critical today with the vast and almost endless series of distractions.  One study [1] showed people (men and women) spending a quarter of their waking hours resisting desires.  The most commonly resisted desires included the urge for leisure and playing instead of doing a piece of work.  The urge for sex was interestingly found to be just a little ahead of other distractions like checking email, social networking sites, website checking, watching TV etc!   When people tried to resist a desire, they succeeded only 50 percent of the time.

You can begin to imagine the impacts of lost time, productivity, money.. hopes, goals and dreams due to a lack of self control.

But there is hope!

If there is a problem or challenge, there is usually a corresponding opportunity – the opportunity may be for you to increase willpower for both yourself and for your business teams and hence elevate your competitive edge in business.

Solution Part One

The solution begins with awareness and understanding.

The research of Dr. Roy Baumeister (one of the world’s most cited psychologists/researchers) has shown that willpower is biologically limited and has to do with glucose in your bloodstream. The food that you eat gets converted into glucose that is carried around the body via your bloodstream.

Here are two things to understand about glucose and the brain:

  1. Glucose in your blood stream gets used up every-time you make a decision or switch from one task to another i.e. the level of glucose in your blood stream drops every time you decide something or switch from one task (e.g. checking an email) to another (e.g. getting your sales presentation complete for this afternoon).
    1. Glucose is used by your entire body: your brain uses up about 20 percent of the caloric input of food.
    2. The brain monitors the level of glucose in your blood stream. If it drops too fast, it shuts down parts of the brain that are used for decision making, control of impulsive actions, task switching, memorizing, recalling memories and understanding.
  2. NOTE: it is not the lack of glucose that shuts these parts or functions down – rather the brain detects a lowering of the glucose level. So restoring glucose levels by eating more can only help to a certain extent and of course is subject to other risks: overeating, diabetes etc.  The solution is thus certainly not merely to eat more to restore brain function.

A couple of conclusions here:

  1. If you spend a lot of time, moving from one menial or unimportant task or project to another – making decisions, switching tasks furiously, recalling and storing memories, trying to understand the issues: then you are burning up precious available resources for projects that are unimportant – resources that could be diverted to more important and critical projects.
  2. One of the important functions of the brain that gets reduced when the brain detects a lowering of glucose levels is the function of resisting impulses (e.g. distractions to work).
  3. So if you are spending a lot of time resisting doing something or switching from one menial task to another, you are burning up precious resources that can be diverted to more important tasks and projects: tasks and projects that can put even more money.. and satisfaction back into your pocket.. but also you are reducing your ability and function to resist impulses or distractions.

Steps to resolve this and increase willpower:

  1. New Awareness

    Just like an Olympic athlete builds muscles and better performance with better awareness of their biology,  your awareness of the biological limitations of willpower over different time frames (hours, days, weeks months and years) will help frame an understanding of what it really takes to make a goal or dream come true for you and for your team.  Building a system of journaling and tracking what you do over a day for several days for 1 – 2 months builds up this awareness.  The awareness builds up the case in your mind for the adoption of new habits.  Building this awareness together with someone else e.g. a boss, a mentor, a coach, a team member – helps considerably towards building new and more effective habits.

  2. New Habits

    Based on observations done in the author’s consulting business, it is easier to create new habits than to change old existing ones.  The brain is extremely plastic (a neurological term meaning that the brain is very quick to learn new things and to make new connections pertaining to new ideas and concepts).  Some of the latest research indicates that it takes about 90 days or slightly more of consistent practice to learn a new habit and have strong new connections in the brain that represent this new habit.   These new habits include

    1. Prioritizing doing what are the most important projects i.e. the projects that put the most money and satisfaction back in your pocket and
    2. Putting the other projects and activities lower in priority

    This may involve scheduling higher priority activities at your peak brain performance times (typically but not always early morning or late evening).  The trick is to schedule these activities so that you are more likely to get these done rather than the distracting lower priority items and the other distracters like social media, watching emails, watching videos on the internet, etc.

  3. Upward Spiral 

    From our observations of our clients over the last 10 years, we have seen that when people have a long to do list (over four items), they typically (on an average) get none of these done.  But if they have less than four, they get about 50 to 75 percent done on their projects by 2 pm in the afternoon (assuming that they start their work at about 9 am).  The interesting thing is that this success gives a ‘shot in the arm’ and gets people motivated even more to get more done for the day; leading to what we call an upward spiral in energy, peace of mind and deep satisfaction.

    One important sub point in this is that the clarity of purpose by identifying clear, do-able, non-conflicting, win-able specific and finite outcomes, gives people an additional chance of success for the day; the identification of goals with a collaborator (e.g. your team or a coach) on a daily basis accelerates this process tremendously.

  4. Getting into the Flow 

    Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a world renowned researcher into performance and what is referred to as the flow state has indicated that the right combinations of challenge and skill lead to people operating at a high or flow state. Some people refer to this state as ‘The Zone’.  When you are in ‘the zone’, you are energized or centered and indirectly more able to resist distractions etc.Working with limiting your tasks and projects typically lowers the challenge level to a level matching your skills.  As you observe daily your challenge levels for your tasks and projects, you can begin to gauge where your skill and challenge meet just right; as you gradually over each day increase your skill and challenge just right, you are more likely to get to the flow state.  The practice is to debrief daily with your team or coach or manager on where your skill and challenge are for that day in each of your projects.  The analogy is like someone training to be an Olympic athlete – when you first start training, you must start at your current abilities and then gradually but surely increase the challenge and your skill periodically.

  5. Breakthrough as a Lifestyle

    In our observations of our clients, as we work with them daily, we observe that as they increase their skill and challenge over time, their willpower increases, their abilities to resist distractions goes up and there is greater satisfaction and greater results over time.  This is not an overnight phenomenon – it takes practice over time and patience with yourself.  This is indeed the biggest obstacle for most clients – their need to be perfect quickly – an impatience for quick success.  The biggest gift to yourself is patience – patience for your own success gives you the patience to train others – crucial for a sustainable and vibrant business.


Sunil Bhaskaran

Mentor, Coach, Author & Speaker

Having owned and run several businesses himself, Sunil speaks, trains and mentors from his own real-life experiences. Sunil began coaching and training people in 1989; and he has been in high demand as a mentor, private coach and keynote speaker for more than 20 years. His “Brain Performance Program” has made a profound difference in the bottom-line of thousands of business people worldwide. Additionally, Sunil has designed leadership, diversity, and accountability trainings for the corporate world at companies like Cisco, Comerica Bank, Compass Cares, to name a few.  For more information on his programs utilizing brain science, please go to

[1] Research by Dr. Roy Baumeister: German Beeper Study

Willpower is a Muscle: Ego Depletion and Decision Fatigue

I survive on willpower alone for many things; neither caffeine nor energy drinks affect me or keep me awake. Many all-nighters in college were done through sheer willpower alone and I’m proud of my ability to overcome obstacles based on my inner strength. However, as I get older, I notice that lack of sleep catches up on me more easily and late night decisions are harder to make. Many of my late nights are actual a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle because it is easier to stay awake then stop what I am doing, get up and get ready for bed.

For this reason, it was very interesting to discover that willpower is actually a finite resource that diminishes throughout the day – through each decision you make!

Self-Control and Willpower Can Be Depleted

A 1996 study by Roy Baumeister tested participants’ willpower by forcing them to eat radishes over chocolate chip cookies, after tantalizing them with the smell of the freshly baked treats. After the food experiment, participants were then given a second test using a persistence-testing puzzle. Those who were forced to choose the radishes over the cookies made fewer attempts and were far less interested in solving the puzzle versus a control group who did not make the food choice. Those who had to resist the cookies and eat an unappealing vegetable instead were too tired to engage in another difficult task. They were too tired because of the previous conscious control of willpower.

“…self-control is a general strength that’s used across different sorts of tasks  — and it [can] be depleted.”

This proved that self-regulation is not a skill to be mastered or a rote function that can be performed with little consequence. It’s like using a muscle: After exercising it, it loses its strength, gets fatigued, and becomes ineffectual, at least in the short-term.

The Chocolate and Radish Experiment that Birthed the Modern Conception of Willpower

Making Decisions Requires Energy

Studies have found that willpower is linked to our glucose levels and with each decision we make, these glucose levels decrease. Blood glucose is believed to be an important part of self-control.

Enforcing self-control causes glucose levels to decrease – each decision made throughout the day depletes glucose supplies and a lack of self-control is linked to low glucose levels, or glucose cannot be reached quickly by the brain (such as when insulin is low or insensitive).

Willpower, or the ability to show self-control, can be depleted by acts of self-control as well as making decisions and choices, executing plans, and exerting initiative.

Alcohol also reduces glucose throughout the body and is known to impair many forms of self-control. (The Physiology of Willpower)

Freud first posed the idea of “ego depletion” (Roy Baumeister’s term) with his hypothesis that the self (or ego) transfers energy to perform mental activities and that these stores of energy are finite.

A study by the University of Wurzburg tested willpower and found three things:

  1. People spend 3-4 hours a day struggling on whether or not to resist a particular desire
  2. Frequent episodes of denial made it increasingly likely an individual would give into temptation
  3. Glucose levels influence the ease with which an individual approaches each struggle of will

Glucose Levels Affect Willpower and Mental Focus

The discoveries about glucose help explain why dieting is a uniquely difficult test of self-control — and why even people with phenomenally strong willpower in the rest of their lives can have such a hard time losing weight. They start out the day with virtuous intentions, resisting croissants at breakfast and dessert at lunch, but each act of resistance further lowers their willpower. As their willpower weakens late in the day, they need to replenish it. But to resupply that energy, they need to give the body glucose. They’re trapped in a nutritional catch-22:

  1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower.
  2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.

How to Increase Depleted Willpower Glucose Levels

Get More Sleep – Studies show that those who are better rested have more willpower than tired people.
Eating – Eating helps restores glucose levels. An interesting point: Hungry people are more likely to give into the need to be cranky and impatient rather than use their willpower to resist such urges. For those who are dieting, rather than resist food, eat small meals throughout the day.
Positive Mood Experiences – Being put into a positive mood by pleasant experiences, socializing with friends, watching a movie, etc can all help improve depleted willpower levels.
Exercise It – Like a muscle, willpower can become depleted, but it can also be exercised to increase its strength.

Further Blog Articles on the Topic of Ego Depletion

Understanding the Dangers of Ego Depletion – by Tim Ferris
Willpower: How to Improve Your Personal Self Discipline


Focus on Gratitude For A Better Life & Greater Productivity

Balance in business and in life is very important. Therefore, while this is a business-focused blog, I intend to cover topics of all areas of life as they relate to business and being a business owner. Part of maintaining balance and happiness in your life is through gratitude.

This topic is important with many high performance coaches, life coaches and motivational speakers. Two of our bi-weekly networking group members recently went to a Tony Robbins event (where they walked on fire!) and came back with this powerful topic of Gratitude.

Essentially gratitude is about putting everything into proper perspective. Your day may have been bad, but things could have been worse. Gratitude is not about minimizing your pain, fear, loss or troubles but about understanding and accepting what you have, and then moving forward in spite of it; look at the silver lining.

Gratitude is about putting things in perspective so that you can move beyond obstacles to lead a more productive and fulfilling life.

Gratitude has many different forms or ways to view it, including:

  • Celebrating your achievements
  • Appreciating others, being appreciated and feeling like you matter
  • Being present when with others by giving them your full attention

Celebrate Your Achievements

Each day is a struggle for a bigger goal, but if you don’t stop to appreciate what you have achieved and accomplished you will just burn yourself out. If you always push forward without taking the time to stop and celebrate what you have done, you are not celebrating yourself or showing gratitude towards yourself.

Appreciate Others

This is a topic covered in-depth by Dale Carnegie, Steven Covey, Guy Kawasaki, Tony Schwartz and more.

Whatever else each of us derives from our work, there may be nothing more precious than the feeling that we truly matter — that we contribute unique value to the whole, and that we’re recognized for it.

The single highest driver of engagement, according to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson, is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.

Why Appreciation Matters So Much

Be Present

Brendon Burchard is a strong advocate for being present and in the moment to ensure that you have a full life that is shared completely with others.

The greatest gift is to be present.

I don’t mean being half-present, but fully focused on the other person with your whole body and mind as if there was nobody else in the whole world. I’m sure we are all guilty of being half – or even quarter-present.

How to Be Present For Others

Carrying on a conversation without being fully present leaves the other people feeling unappreciated, unimportant and upset. By engaging fully and taking the time to appreciate your time with this person, you will not only engage them on a deeper level but also feel better.

How Can You Show Gratitude?

To address this, we answered these questions in two stages.

  1. What is stressing you out? What are you grateful for about it? (What is the silver lining?)
  2. What do you do in your daily life to show gratitude?
How do you show gratitude in your daily life? Or what could you do to show gratitude daily?
  • Write in a gratitude journal – It helps put each day in perspective, even if the only things you can write are basic things, “I woke up”, “The sun is shining”, “It is a warm day”.
  • Show affection – Let others know that you care by taking the time to be with them.
  • Keep in mind the other point of view – Don’t make judgements about other people. They may be having a bad day and acting out of character when they cut you off in traffic or shove in front of you at line.
  • Spend time with others – Have a ‘no electronics night’ where you spend the evening just playing board games, talking and spending time in the company of others. It’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with. (This is my personal motto in life.)
  • Don’t assume – Other people have things going on as well and may be dealing with personal problems or trauma that you know nothing about. Don’t assume you know their perspective or current frame of mind.
  • Focus on the things you can control – You cannot control other people’s actions so don’t waste your energy or time trying. Focus on what you can control and have a more productive day.
  • You are what you do – What you think, what you do, what you say are all a reflection of who you are. You become what you focus your time on so be sure to focus on the positive and what you are grateful for.
  • Breathe, align, let go.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff – Stop worrying about the little things when they are unimportant. Don’t wait for a traumatic life changing even to bring around this change either.