Ego is the Enemy of Creativity: How to Drop Ego to Ensure A High-Performance Team

I have this habit to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time alone in running the business in its first few years. As a young entrepreneur, my ego was fed with the idea of having a business of my own. The unwelcome, small voice of my subconscious whispers that I am the man and I made it but in reality, I have not.

Back then when I was managing the company in full speed and full control, I set my perks and spent things that benefit my needs and not the company. I was doing it without carefully assessing the performance of the business.

I wonder, maybe this ego was one of the major reasons why I failed several times. That ego blocked my creativity. I was too full of myself and the know-it-all. I don’t show it though but deep inside I know.

But the failures showed me the way. They shook my head so I gathered my wits. The thing is, these are impulses. You have to have a strong sense of being emotionally mindful with massive actions to stay humble and be creative.

It was 2011 when I welcomed the idea that for me to be able to grow, I need a high-performing team.

I need to let go of the big ego so I can perform and be creative.

I have to go back as a student and be willing to learn.

I then welcomed a partner to help me out in sales. A met a guy in his 60s, a little aggressive and big-headed but he makes sense. I learned a lot from him, especially in a sales negotiation.

With him, we were able to grow our revenue by 100% year-on-year. We were the A-Team in sales. But I had to allow myself to be in his wing, follow his calendar, be his driver and enable him to dictate the pace in sales. I even titled him as the Managing Director of the company. I forget entitlement.

By 2015 when I allowed the company to try one more notch of a challenge. I met a foreign angel investor that I have always been grateful for. I used the investment to grow further in sales and product. But one of the major moves that I made was to hire a CFO.

I had to let go of a big chunk of ego again by allowing an outsider to manage and control the expenses. I had to place the company’s mission above me. I let go of the perks as I was questioned with almost every business decision that I make. I knew I have to empower them and be professional.

It’s not about me anymore, it is about the company, its clients and its employees.

The growth momentum becomes inevitable that eventually, we hired a COO, department managers, and groomed team leaders. I even gave up my own office at one time to accommodate them.

Accountability as a leader becomes higher that I need to keep my own KPI and find myself responsible for transferring my knowledge to the team.

To this day, I keep myself in check of my ego on my actions and every communication that I do to our team and our clients. Because if not, then the ego narrows vision, makes us vulnerable and corrupts our behavior.

Strengthen your self-esteem and stay humble.

Are You Bored? Try Reading Books

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”  This is a great quote from George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones.

The first-ever book I’ve read was The Godfather during high-school. Growing up, I was never tagged as a book reader until I had that book. From there on, I never stopped looking for something to read every time I pass by a bookstore. I shifted to ebooks, Kindle, Audible and now even Blinkist, a curation of bestseller books in a shortened form.

To me, if you complain that you are bored but you don’t read, then you have no right to complain.

But some books look interesting to read at the beginning.  In many cases, I stop in the middle because maybe the content was not what I expected or the writing was crappy.

So today, I am thrilled to share with you the books I finished reading and I recommend. Most of them are inspirational and mind-opening for us to pursue creativity and innovation.

This list is in random order. Items with the asterisk are highly recommended:

  • Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  • The Everything Store (Jeff Bezos and the Age of the Amazon) by Brad Stone*
  • Shoe Dog (Nike Story) by Phil Knight*
  • The Airbnb Story by Leigh Gallager
  • Unf*ck Yourself by John Bishop*
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • Principles by Ray Dalio*
  • Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time*
    Drive by Daniel Pink
  • Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuck
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
  • Sales Management: Simplified by Mike Weinberg*
  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath
  • The CEO Next Door by Tahl Raz, Kim Powell, and Elena Botelho
  • Built to Last by Jim Collins*
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins

My Top 5 Mood Enhancing Questions in the Morning

Taken in Pasay -April 2018

Today, I am introducing “Curated List” found at the top menu of this blog.  As I document things in my life thru this platform, I’d like to share some creative content on different topics that might be valuable to the readers.

Here are the top questions I ask myself in the morning when I wake up that makes me get energized in the morning.  I follow-through by doing frequent check-ins through the rest of my day.

  1. What are the three things I am grateful for?
  2. What are the three important tasks that I should focus on today?
  3. What’s my energy level today? (1-10) Why?
  4. What’s my enthusiasm level? (1-10) Why?
  5. What’s my mood? Why?

Project Zero-Phone-Use: The Ultimate To Do List

todolist.pngAccording to a study, an average cell phone user touches the phone 2,167 times a day or equivalent to 2.5 hours.  Then there’s also a study that continually checking their phones results to a higher level of stress compared to people who spend less time interacting with their gadgets.

Some of us use the phone simultaneous with when we are talking to someone or even driving, which is worse.  Yes, there are benefits in multi-tasking, but the drawbacks outweigh those benefits.  It not only results in more anxiety or stress but a half-baked product of your work.

With this, I wonder, how can one person reduce the number of times they touch his or her phone?  If you’re a businessperson and you are managing all aspects of your company, it is given that you will be overwhelmed with so many tasks.  So if one can develop a system to automate some and minimize friction in executing your work such as checking your to-do list on your phone, then you’ll be more effective and efficient.

Over the years, I’ve been in constant research, trial and error on how to achieve that “nirvana” of doing my todo list.  I tried so many tools from Remember The Milk, Google Inbox, Google Tasks, Google Keep, Jira, Basecamp, Post Its, a physical notebook and Trello.  But I always end up with obsessively checking the tasks on hand and non-stop looking at my phone.

I even have a separate phone with me in the morning so that I won’t be tempted to glance at the notifications of my work phone.  I may seem calm from the outside, but my mind is pounding with stressful thoughts and anxiety.

Just recently, I thought of an experiment to minimize the number of times I will touch and view my phone and use a smartwatch or only the phone notification to glance at quick pings and IMs.

The main objective is, how can I be able to reduce the use of my phone while still be productive and efficient?  So this is what I am going to do at work in the next coming days:

1. Classify my activities.

    * a. Email checks and work planning using a laptop

    * b. Face-to-face meetings

    * c. Manage IMs

2. For activity a)., I will block one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon to reply to emails using my laptop.  Then I will use Google Keep to set tasks with due date reminder notification that will require me to do another activity, for example, a phone call or proposal review.

3. Use Google Calendar to set events for face-to-face meetings.

4. Classify IMs, using a smartwatch with cellular data can eliminate the use of a phone.  You can even leave your phone at home with the latest smartwatches such as Apple Watch.

    * IMs answerable by yes or no, use a reply/msg template to make a quick reply.

    * IMs that require a discussion, I can use a smartwatch with a wireless earphone to call instead of discussing over text if it’s urgent, or just call them after my current task.

To paint you a picture further, here’s a sample day for me:

7am – 8am – I will block this hour to reply to emails, messages, and set reminders to place a call in a specific time of the day.

7:45am – a watch Google Keep notification will pop-up telling me to start the sales meeting at 8am showing the list of things to discuss.

8am – 10am – focus on the sales meeting while glancing over quick IMs and apply item 4 above.

9:45am – a watch notification will pop-up telling me to wrap up and start driving to my a meeting outside the office.

10am to 12pm – sales call outside the office while glancing over quick IMs on my smartwatch.  Will reply using templates and/or set reminders via the watch to call back.

12pm to 2pm – lunch and do item 2 above – check emails using a laptop and re-arrange Google Keep tasks.

1:45pm – a watch notification will pop-up telling me what to do next…

And the cycle goes on and on.

With this “algorithm,” I might be able to reduce the time significantly in using my phone, if not entirely eliminate them instead of constantly checking and replying emails, msgs and attending to tasks real-time.

The smart way of using your phone this time is when you want to read an ebook peacefully on the bed, listen to podcasts or engage in social media when you are not in work mode.

If this experiment is successful, then I will try to share my experience with you via a vlog.

Stay tuned.

10 Practical Guideposts on Innovation

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I wrote this for myself.  I am obsessed with it.  I can’t help but be obsessed with solving every problem or every inefficiency that I see.  I know these guideposts will help me when I need it.
 
I started this blog a few months back to help me have a platform to do my research about innovation and creativity.  Over time, gradually, I started to understand its basics and intricacies.
 
I failed a couple of times but when successful, I fell in love with the products or solutions that I develop.  I get motivated every time I hear business challenges internally and that of our clients.  I’ve also seen what innovation looks like at every stage of our business and in life.
 
1. Innovation Never Stops.  Problems and challenges never stop therefore you should never stop innovating.  Do not tolerate problems that you see, queue it in your to-dos, prioritize and work on each of them.
 
2. Be Brave to Start Again.  If the product or solution does not work, cut the losses and do not be afraid of starting again.  The company 3M has this process of keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t work.
 
3. Find Your Inspiration.  In music, you need inspiration to come up with songs.  In writing, you find inspiration from books you read on life experiences.  In business, you get inspiration from your mentors, competitors, and innovators.
 
4. Don’t Worry if You Can’t Figure Out Your Niche Yet.  When I started the company, we didn’t know yet what to build.  We built our first product (accounting software) from the people around us who happened to be accountants.  All I want at the time is to innovate.
 
5. Be Patient.  I know I said not to be afraid to start again, but you have to find that balance in re-doing and being patient.  It takes time.  If you are building a product, build your minimum viable product (MVP) and iterate.  On the first year, start, research, and learn everything.  Just Do.  On the 2nd year, try to network and make friends with people who are your possible clients or partners.  Year three, try to start making money, but not profit yet.  Year four, profit and year five, scale up.
 
6. There are no shortcuts.  This is related to number 5, but just to emphasize further, there’s no life hack, or overnight success, for innovation. It takes time.
 
7. Stick with the Purpose.  More than money and profits, the product or innovation that you do should have a purpose, a mission and vision.  It can be as simple as innovating your to-do list.  Being efficient in your to-dos will help you focus and be efficient in managing time.  So in effect, you will have the time for other important matters or time to spend time with your family.  That’s the purpose.
 
8. Start Today.   Don’t wait for tomorrow, or next week to innovate.  Be mindful of the problems in front of you, then look for solutions now.
 
9. What If I Want to Invent Something Weird?  Maybe a flying car, or underground tunnel?  Do item 5 then number 2.
 
10. What If I Keep on Failing?  Do a routine every morning to listen to positive affirmations from YouTube.  List down three things you are thankful for.  Exercise.  Then repeat from number 1. 
 
Hopefully, these  will be useful to you as it was, and will always be, to me.

Learning How to Learn

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I’ve been pondering about learning in the past days and thought of my process of learning as early as my college days.  Being creative requires a lot of time learning about things in all aspects of art, music, writing, photography, and business innovation. 

So I asked myself, what are the building blocks of learning?  I did some research and came across Dr. Barbara Oakley, a former US Army with a rank of Captain and the author of the book, “Learning How to Learn.”

Here are some excerpts:

· The brain creates synapses when you learn something new. And sleep helps you and your brain cell regenerate to speed up the learning process.

· Most of the time, we procrastinate when we try to learn about something. The main reason is because of anxiety of learning something new. My personal technique when I procrastinate is the 5-second rule of Mel Robbins. It works for me. Once you start, it will eventually lead to satisfaction.

 · Chunking – just like programming which you do the coding per function or method. Chunking is the art of grouping concepts such as chapters that form part of the entire subject.

 

· Exercise – it is a very effective way to learn better on top of sleep.  It helps your brain maintain the neurons that help stimulate learning.

 

A little over a decade ago, I started a blog, “Create Things Now.”  It was all about creating, creating music, photos, animation.  I learn something by chunking them into blog posts.  One example is a post about writing a song.  

The first time I did it, I researched on the practical formula for writing a song.  I started off with a title, then lyrics, then chord progression, and melody.  Then I researched about recording and mixing, and came across GarageBand, LogicPro, mixing and mastering.  

I eventually shutdown my blog for some personal reasons but now that I am back in blogging and business, my experience from my research led me to not hire a sound engineer when recording voiceovers for marketing videos that I produce.

 

So here’s my practical suggestion as your takeaway:

1. Choose a subject that you want to learn about and that you will use eventually. If you want to impress someone, say a friend who has a piano at home, then learn how to play the piano.

2. Just start. Buy a basic piano or a keyboard, go to YouTube and learn from tutorials. Pick out the songs you like and learn how to play them. Do it in chunks, start with the intro, have a break, then on to the verses. 

3. Schedule your learning session once a day, once a week or once a month. It doesn’t matter as long as you stick to it and make it a habit.

I am writing this because of my recent goal to come up with a presentation video about Hilsoft products, hence the photo in this blog.  I researched sample videos online, retrieved my old Fuji camera with tripod, set up my mic/GarageBand for the audio, bought a green paper for background graphics (just like in the movies) for later use in editing.  Then I chose to set up in our conference room because of good lighting by the window.

Take note, I learned in chunks—set lighting, video editing—from my blog 10 years ago. If I did it, so can you!

Creative Ideas to Habit Stacking

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How many times did you say yes to someone and then forget about it the next day?

How many times were you successful in meeting your New Year’s resolution?

Why do we always say we don’t have time to do something?

I would guess that we would say “many times” to all these questions.

If you’re reading this, I want you to take a moment and think of your daily habits and action.  These habits and action have brought you to where you are now, and most of the time, you were not aware of it.

We are used to our routine of waking up, taking a shower, brew coffee and go to work.  By end of the day, we go home, turn on the TV and/or browse Facebook and YouTube.  Deep inside we want to do something else, probably plan for a vacation, pursue a hobby and all that, but we are too stuck to our routine to do so.

Once we imagine the effort required to do such things, then we’d rather go for small rewards of sleeping, Internet surfing or unconscious eating.

Success Comes From Small Actions

Not so long ago, I learned about habit stacking that resulted to good productive results.  I was so discontented with my life for a while because I was so frustrated in pursuing things that I love.  I was always in a hurry and not taking small steps and actions to gradually meet my goals.

Putting up big goals at once is so stressful.  But starting with small habits or routines to achieve them is one creative way to build on them as you realize its importance day-in/day-out.

Create habits that uniquely matches your life or what you want from it.  Try to set habits for short term goals, mid term and long term.

This a broad topic so I’ll try my best to give ideas by sharing with you my own habits at the moment.  In all honesty, since I did this, I was able to balance my body chemistry and have a healthy mind.

I hope you can get something out of it.

Morning

5 min – I wake up and brush my teeth right away.  Doing it gives me a quick boost out from sleeping.

15min – I sit down and meditate.  I used the Calm app for guidance. It clears my mind.  This habit gives a long term effect on a balanced mind.

15min – I listen or say affirmations.  These affirmations are my fuel in starting my day with positivity, gratitude and getting ready from whatever challenges I will encounter for the day.   This keeps me going and motivated throughout my life.

60min. – I follow a daily workout towards my goal to finish a marathon this year.  I just downloaded a program online and follow it. The thing that excites me in working out is the podcasts that I follow especially about business and technology in Spotify.  Overall long term health benefits plus learnings and ideas you get from Podcasts.

15min.  – Journaling.  I usually log whatever feelings I have– anxieties, worries, excitement and it keeps me sane.  Also, it gives me a different perspective on things, enabling me to find solutions from time to time.

15min. – Check my emails and messages.  I only do these once I have done all my habits above.  My notifications are normally turned off and check them only 3-4 times a day by batch.  By doing this, you get to keep focused on important things for the day.

This is my morning routines, I usually wake up around 5am and my day is already complete when I have done all these before I go to work.

Lunch

60-120min. – I always look forward to writing and engaging online.  I usually write these kind of posts with my after meal coffee in a Starbucks outside the office.  Writing is one of the things I love and who knows?  I might just write an epic article about something that might turn out as a book.

Writing also clears my mind as I get ready for my next meetings in the afternoon.  It’s took me a while before I learned that lunch time is my best time to write.

I tried writing early in the morning and late in the evening and it always didn’t work for me because normally I was always excited to workout in the morning and am too tired at night.

Try to find what works for you.

Night

60min. – my first activity after work is to connect with my loved ones.  I usually eat dinner with them, call/Skype them when they are away or just basically sit down, listen and talk.

An hour of undivided attention and small actions like these lead to improved relationships.

60-90min. – There’s a little guilt about this, but I do watch Netflix or play PS4 from time to time.  To me, this also gives me a good transition from work to life.

60min. – I read about current events, ebooks or learn about a certain topic.  Right now, I am reading Crushing It by Gary Vee and studying about podcasting.

30min. – My last habit for the day is to prepare my workout attire in the morning. When I have trouble sleeping, I meditate again and visualize my ideal day the next day.

Weekly

I also have a hunger for creating art.  It can be either photography, music or sketching.  Right now, I was able to convince my daughter to sing and record songs for me every Saturday while on her summer vacation.  Again, it can be an epic product that I can share or probably monetize later on.

I do biking and long runs as well on weekends.

Others

I also have the a habit of taking down notes and reminders.  When I commit to someone that I will get back to them, I have a note to remind me to do it.  This gives you credibility and and dependability.