Stop Struggling With Your Nature: How To Be Productive, Profitable, Happy

Have you ever noticed that over the years, you tend to do pretty much the same things? What I mean is, if you’re a reader you remain one, if you’re a writer you tend to write, if you’re a procrastinator you tend to keep procrastinating, and so forth.

stockxchng-office-man-2-photo-by-wazari-2

I think one of the real tricks of success is to simply recognize these things you tend to do, and then find ways to make these tendencies support your success. In fact, I think most people are miserable because they fail to do just that. Instead of working with their tendencies in order to succeed (almost effortlessly), they identify their tendencies as the problem and vow to change.

That, my friend, is called swimming against the river. And while you may get credit for working your tail off while doing it, you’re not going to make much progress relative to the shoreline.

Case in point: for the longest time I was worried about my information addiction.

And make no mistake… I am an info-addict.

Just this morning, I read the six magazines I bought yesterday. Read part of a book. Checked out the over 1,000 new items in Google Reader. Watched a brilliant little video by Ed Dale over at the Thirty Day Challenge site. And sifted through 52 emails (it was early, and it’s the day after a US holiday, so email was light this morning).

I have dozens of PDFs in my “To Read” folder on my Macbook Pro. I have dozens more videos and audios to go through in my “To Listen” and “To Watch” folders.

And once upon a time I thought something was wrong with me because of this kind of behavior. So I struggled against it. I read books about it. I read articles about it. I listened to self-help material about it. Is anyone other than me seeing the irony yet?

One day I stumbled across an article by Dan Kennedy in which he detailed his working habits… and I was shocked to discover they were identical to mine (at least when it came to info-consumption)! And Dan saw it not as a weakness to be changed… but rather as a strength to be nurtured.

That was life-changing for me.

It gave me a way to stop struggling against my natural tendencies, and to embrace the way God made me. That tendency to process large quantities of unrelated information allows me to form connections between ideas, concepts, and methods that I would not possess if I limited my information intake. So now I structure my work and my routine in such a way that my behavior in this regard in strengthened, reinforced, and nurtured — and then put to profitable use in my writing.

I look for ways to channel that stream of information so that it’s not wasted.

For instance, I found this excellent piece by Chris Brogan on focused blogging just this morning. You can bet I will be implementing many of Chris’s suggestions in my own routine.

Another source of inspiration and information on effective ways to channel my own natural tendencies is at the blog of my new friend Brian Clark (we met in Vegas last week at a blogging/marketing get-together). Brian’s site, Copyblogger, is an excellent resource no self-respecting copywriter or blogger should ignore.

So what does this all mean to you?

In my experience, it means that if you find yourself fighting the same old battles (chronic lateness, procrastination, forgetfullness), you’ve probably unwittingly been holding yourself back by resisting your own gifts.

If you have trouble with authority, why work in a job when it’s clear you’d be happier as an entrepreneur?

If you are always late for appointments — why not just stop making appointments (Arnold Shwarzenneger reportedly refuses to make appointments with anyone, and he seems to be doing okay running the state of California).

And if you have tendencies that are frowned upon by others — for instance, sleeping during the day and staying up all night — why not look for a way to turn the tendency into an asset (for instance, by working via Internet with clients or companies in a different time zone… where suddenly YOU are the early riser!)?

My friends Frank Kern and Jason Moffatt are both self-admitted “lazy surfers”… yet they’ve managed to turn these personality “quirks” into a financial asset. Frank and Jason both market products and information to other people who are drawn to the very personal traits that would be frowned upon in most business settings.

Just because certain tendencies, behaviors and attitudes are not “acceptable” in one context does not mean those qualities are “bad”. It simply means — at least in my experience — you need to find a different context! And that decision — how you live your life — is (for most of us) entirely a choice.

(And to ward off the inevitable objections to my premise: yes, I recognize that there are behaviors and “tendencies” that are illegal, immoral, and unethical. That’s not what we’re talking about here, okay? Anything that falls into those three categories should be jettisoned from your life. ‘Nuff said on that.)

Now take a moment to think about this…

In what ways could your “limiting tendencies” become strengths?

How could your re-arrange your life to make it so?

If you can find positive, proactive ways to answer those questions, you just might find yourself more productive, profitable, and happy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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48 thoughts on “Stop Struggling With Your Nature: How To Be Productive, Profitable, Happy

  1. Hey man, thanks for the mention. I'm glad I finally got to meet you in Vegas!

    I struggled with this very issue as well, and since I've embraced who I am in the last three years, my business has exploded and I'm happier than ever.

    Digesting huge amounts of information and then taking the time to process it (also known as thinking) is a huge part of what drives my business. I used to feel guilty about it until I finally realized that this is my “work” even though it doesn't look like it to others (and doesn't feel like it to me).

  2. Hi Ray – I can relate completely with your comments/suggestions. I love to read, learn, study and apply new ideas to improve marketing methods.

    The trouble can creap in for those of us who are not yet as succesful in Internet Marketing as you are and those who are relative novices, (I don’t like the term newbies).

    The danger is that we enjoy the learning part so much that we put too much time into it and not enough on applying the new knowledge and ideas to improve our online marketing. This has happened to me a lot in the past and I have had to discipline myself to limit my “eating up information” to just a small amout in order to get things done.

    Having reached the level of success you have, you and Frank and Jason can afford to surf the waves or surf the net, books or magazines and still gain higher levels of success because success breads success and you can afford to go with the flow.

    This is not to be critical of anyone, (I admire your abilities and what you’ve accomplished). I simply offer my personal experience to suggest that those who still have not reached their goals need to strike a balance between learning and doing.

  3. Thank you Ray. It was also nice to see mention of Ed Dale’s name here also. Was a moderator for awhile at the Thirty Day Challenge, and greatly appreciate his ethics and information, as I do yours.

    A ‘limiting tendency’ of mine now that I’m a F/T IM’er, has been with the time management. The difficulty has primarily been with limet-setting with family & friends, and not having many hours sidetracked in the process. Living alone, I appreciated your comments and example of working during the night. Along with reiterating that I now have ‘official daily hours at work’, it may be a great assist.

    Again Ray, thank you for all Ray. This is a needed ‘nudge’ & ‘time-out’ here to pull this out of the abstract more and reinforce a plan of action.

    Sincerely,
    Richard Mosely

  4. Hi Ray – I can relate completely with your comments/suggestions. I love to read, learn, study and apply new ideas to improve marketing methods.

    The trouble can creap in for those of us who are not yet as succesful in Internet Marketing as you are and those who are relative novices, (I don't like the term newbies).

    The danger is that we enjoy the learning part so much that we put too much time into it and not enough on applying the new knowledge and ideas to improve our online marketing. This has happened to me a lot in the past and I have had to discipline myself to limit my “eating up information” to just a small amout in order to get things done.

    Having reached the level of success you have, you and Frank and Jason can afford to surf the waves or surf the net, books or magazines and still gain higher levels of success because success breads success.

    This is not to be critical of anyone, (I admire your abilities and what you've accomplished). I simply offer my personal experience to suggest that those who still have not reached their goals need to strike a balance between learning and doing.

    • This is a challenge for most people: Earl Nightinggale said, “successful people consistently do the things failures don't like to do”.

      There does come a time when we need to exercise that little thing called “discipline”.

      Most of us know when that moment is; when it comes we need to have the personal integrity to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.

  5. Thank you Ray. It was also nice to see mention of Ed Dale's name here also. Was a moderator for awhile at the Thirty Day Challenge, and greatly appreciate his ethics and information, as I do yours.

    A 'limiting tendency' of mine now that I'm a F/T IM'er, has been with the time management. The difficulty has primarily been with limet-setting with family & friends, and not having many hours sidetracked in the process. Living alone, I appreciated your comments and example of working during the night. Along with reiterating that I now have 'official daily hours at work', it may be a great assist.

    Again Ray, thank you for all Ray. This is a needed 'nudge' & 'time-out' here to pull this out of the abstract more and reinforce a plan of action.

    Sincerely,
    Richard Mosely

    • Yep — that ol' time management thing is a real bugaboo, ain't it?

      In my experience, it comes down more to ACTIVITY management.

      “What will I choose to spend my time on in this moment?”

      That's where a lot of “time management” systems fail, because they fail to address the crucial issue of personal integrity in the moment; what we need, I think, is a way to anchor ourselves to what is truly important to us — and that will drive our behavior in the moment.

      Most of the time.

      😉

  6. Ray, you just switched on a major lightbulb for me! (and it wasn't an energy saver!)
    I'm just about to head off for a six week work stint on a Russian Island where I'll have plenty of time to 'restructure' the way I do things. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one with those habits.

    Thanks for the insight!

  7. I actually find it hard to begin working without doing at least a bit of reading first.

    I used to battle with it. but I found out that if I “indulge” myself with reading I get to the point where I'm a bit tired of reading and than my “work concentration” goes way up.

    Admittedly, sometimes that little bit of reading can last 4 hours, but given that all the advances I made in my business is because of my tendency to read marketing stuff, I've stopped worrying about it.

    Have a lovely weekend

  8. Hi Ray,
    I am a fan of yours and have been reading and trying to learn from some of your stuff for a little less than a year now.

    I think this is great! I especially like the comment on embracing the way God made you. Recently, I have found out that I am an info-junkie as well- but I love info in some focused categories: marketing; web design; living a life of purpose (God given), and building informational businesses online and off-line. I used to struggle with it, but have recently embraced how God made me to be a blessing to others. The more I go with these tendencies, the easier it is to learn more about what I love doing and was created to do!

    Many blessings- I hope to get to meet you some day. A good friend of mine (and Christian brother) said he had lunch with you about 2 years ago at an Internet Marketing Conference and led me to your sites!

  9. As a fellow information-junkie, I can definitely relate. Thanks for absolving what could otherwise be considered addictive behavior.

    One thing that I have found extremely helpful after taking in a lot of information is to mentally “flip the switch” and focus on output, rather than input. As soon as I get a great new idea or insight, I challenge myself by asking, “how quickly can I put this into action?” Inevitably, it's putting all those great ideas into practice that ultimately creates value for my clients and makes all the difference.

    Thanks for challenging those limiting beliefs!

    Best,

    David Blaise
    http://www.sledgehammermarketing.com

    • David,

      This really relates to the earlier discussion in this comment thread about “discipline”.

      I like your approach: “how quickly can I put this into action?”

      I have a similar policy about information products that I buy. I don't vow to completely and perfectly implement every facet of any particular program: but I do have a policy that when I buy a home study course, I must immediately put ONE major strategy or tactic into motion (before I buy or study any other material).

      I think now I will add an element to that policy — namely, asking myself “how quickly” I can put that thing into motion.

      Great stuff, David!

  10. Ray – Excellent post. I once read that professional Chinese ping-pong players aren't encouraged to address their weaknesses, but only to strengthen their strengths… which makes them some of the best ping-pong players in the world.

    I, too, am an info-junkie of sorts, but not necessarily your garden-variety Internet marketing info-junkie.

    Just like you can eat too much cake, you can read too much about “making money on the Internet.” Instead of getting sick to your stomach, you get sick to your brain.

    So I like to read a variety of genres: marketing, copywriting, politics, health, economics, theology, the Bible, fiction, classic literature, poetry (just finished a collection by Billy Collins), biographies, etc.

    What I like about reading so broadly is that it allows for serendipity — stumbling on insights I may have never discovered if I had stayed within my chosen career-space.

    -Ryan M. Healy

    • Ryan,

      That's an important distinction that I didn't make in my post: reading and consuming information is important to me, but I am also discriminating (I don't consume “crap”, and a LOT of “make money on the Internet” stuff is just that).

      I also agree with you that reading broadly is important.

      My marketing and business reading spans different industries and categories (radio, financial, publishing, tech, real estate, management, manufacturing, automotive, telecom… just to name a few).

      I also read a lot of philosophy, science, psychology, and fiction and history (side note: as a writer, I find that all this helps — but nothing seems to feed the ol' Muse more than good fiction and history).

      And it was Jay Abraham who illuminated the idea for me that once you begin making those links and cross-pollinating ideas and concepts from one category to another, the “happy accidents” start coming fast & furious.

    • Ryan, thanks for the ping-pong example. And I agree with you on the serendipity effect of reading a diversity of materials/genres/subject matter).
      Plus I love Billy Collins' poetry too. I find that reading (and writing!) poetry really nurtures my lateral thinking abilities…

  11. Hey Ray,

    This is a very powerful insight that forms one of the core principles in coaching someone to their own greatness. We are taught in school to address weaknesses and move every area up to some minimum skill level — the whole standardized testing thing forces us into that mode, for instance.

    Instead, when we focus on our strengths, we can finally soar. Our weaknesses are sometimes flip sides of our strengths, so accomodating, not eliminating, them is the answer. It's also ok to look for people or systems to fill in for our weaknesses, if that really does help us function in our strengths.

    A lot of energy is wasted in trying to fix weaknesses rather than developing strengths. Obviously we will get a LOT farther faster developing our strengths, by definition, than fixing our weaknesses.

    When I finally embraced my weakness enough to hire out work that I CAN do very well, but don't do it fast enough (and for some unknown reason really procrastinate on), I finally stopped being the bottleneck on every project.

    This one shift will do more to set people free into productivity than almost any other.

    Sarah

  12. Ray!

    Two thoughts on this my man:

    “It gave me a way to stop struggling against my natural tendencies, and to embrace the way God made me.”

    This is the way I look at it, my supposed “weaknesses” aren't really that — they're all part of my God made “being” and God don't make no mistakes 🙂

    And, Ryan,

    “I once read that professional Chinese ping-pong players aren't encouraged to address their weaknesses, but only to strengthen their strengths… which makes them some of the best ping-pong players in the world.”

    I believe this. In fact, in taekwondo I got much better at sparring (competitive fighting like boxing, full contact Olympic style) when I saw that all the guys on U.S. team weren't “all around” fighters — they had one kick or technique they could nail ALL the time though — and they won consistently with that…

    That was enough for me to know I needed to just focus on my good kicks, strengths, etc build on those and find ways to minimize having my weaknesses exploited and otherwise just forget about them 🙂

    I believe it's the same in business as well 🙂

    With Love 🙂
    Caleb

  13. Hey Ray,

    Like a lot of others here, I also love information. But I don't consider it a downfall. I
    also have stacks of unread books, folders, etc.

    But I also have stacks that I have read and learned a lot from. I don't feel like you have
    anything to worry about. Unless you are spending so much time you can't get
    your work finished.

    A downfall I have is shyness.

    I just wonder………….

    Thinking about your post, I wonder if I could use this in some way….

    I am sure there are tons of others who have this problem and I could always start
    a forum or blog about ways to overcome it.
    With others who are the same, I could probably get over it by sharing and speaking
    about it with them.
    Heck, it could be the start of a new business. Maybe?

    I don't know, you just got me thinking about it and it seems
    logical:-)

    Thanks,
    Tammy
    (from coal country)

  14. Love your post, Ray. That's definitely the way I “work” too.

    I find that when given ample imput of the sort that interests it (with lots of variety), and also given lots of time to “process,” my brain comes up with very interesting results 😉

    My bedside reading stacks (and those elsewhere in my living space) are huge and I'm continually adding stuff (and cycling some either out or to shelves).

    It's great to read examples of very successful folks who have the same tendencies
    and use them as inspiration.

    There IS room for tweaking though. And that's where I agree with the proponents of “doing.” I'm starting to add targeted modules of doing right into the reading where it fits, and it seems to make things even more effective. I think this is all part of learning — experimenting with what works for me and what might work even better.

    About scheduling… Thanks for the Arnold example. How does he DO that though? I'd love to find out more! Coz that's definitely one of my weakest spots.

    Thanks 🙂

  15. Whilst I am still wondering myself in how I can get it into my life, I found your thoughts inspiring. I do share your believe that in a long run it will make my life easier, happier, meaningful.

    However, it needs a lot of courage to reset existing routines. For example, if my nature against the company's policy I would have to either take the pain the whole lifetime or get off and start my own little business – with all of its consequences.

    • In my experience, we have to deal with consequences anyway… so why not make them conscious rather than simply settle for how things currently are?

      Is there something you can do that will make the world better for you and for others at the same time? Then do it! (At least, that's my opinion).

  16. I have found that this approach works well with the physical side of things too, so I try to plan activities that need a lot of concentration and focus in the morning when my mind is naturally the sharpest (for other people this may be another time of day) and less stringent thinking activities later in the day when I'm a little tired. Also paying attention to your bodies signals and mixing in some physical activity or exercise when you feel in need of it helps a lot too.

    Tom Kelly
    http://www.artofdogtraining.com

  17. Thanks for the great post. This concept can make a profound difference in the happiness and success that people have in their lives.

    Denis Waitley said “Natural talents begin to blossom early, but they get nipped in the bud by what I call ‘the parent, the peer group and the professor’ who tell us we should be concentrating on something like computers that will earn us money, instead of chasing this crazy passion of ours, and the talent in that passion, which may be the key to riches untold.” ~ quoted in the book 'The Passion Test'

    I've always believed that if you can find a career that fits your personality and purpose, your life will be a lot happier and more successful too. If you love learning, try to incorporate that into your life. If you like travel, photography, gardening, sports, or whatever it is, find a way to fit it into your process.

    I remember one time I was talking to Dan Kennedy about us both being learning junkies. I published a newsletter at the time, (Dan still does), so I had to do tons of research all the time to find stuff to write about. We both agreed that the research and learning part was not really “work” and that we enjoyed it.

    Dan added that you have to use self-discipline to get all the reading and studying done in an alloted time each day, and also get your other work done. That is an important point, especially now when the Internet can eat up many hours of your day before you realize it. It is easy for people to get caught up in studying and never get around to “doing.”

    One small step that people can take is to create a website about their hobby or something they love. Then they can subscribe to all of the rss feeds and the print magazines in their niche, attend trade shows and conventions, meet people who share the same interests, etc. That way, any time they spend learning about their niche can never really be wasted time.

    Have fun,

    Mark Nolan

  18. Very nice post! Many thanks! I find that I'm an info-junkie too. I download everything that I find interesting. I completely agree that as I read/listen/watch the content, my mind is building associations that would prove to be useful if not immediately then down the road.

    Shannon

  19. Hi Ray. You couldn't be more right about making sure that you work the way you're built to work. Being yourself and doing more of that is a lot in line with the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and the other books in that vein that teach us to pay close attention to the best parts of us, and compensate in other ways for the not-so-best parts.

    Great post!

  20. Awesome Ray! I had more than 1 “A-ha” moment reading this article! Thank you for your insight and wisdom!

  21. Hi Ray,

    From a fellow reader, learner, info-addict. Great thoughts! I think the idea of not trying to change who God has created you to be but going with it is HUGE!

    Good on you, Buddy

  22. I completely agree Ray,

    I have about 35-40 ebooks on my desktop right now that I need to read. My plan is that every once in awhile instead of reading a physical book, I'll take a week or so and just read the ebooks everyday for 30-60 minutes.

    I agree with what Brian said – “Digesting huge amounts of information and then taking the time to process it (also known as thinking) is a huge part of what drives my business. I used to feel guilty about it until I finally realized that this is my “work” even though it doesn't look like it to others (and doesn't feel like it to me).”

    I feel the same way!

    Jeremy Reeves
    http://www.controlbeatingcopy.com

  23. Ray
    Great stuff. I agree people should play to their strengths
    When they do they can connect to others to build out their
    team,
    John Assaraf once said, find others who play at things
    you don't like to do, so you can devote more of your time
    to things you are gifted at.

    To Your Success,

    Larry Benet
    The Connector

  24. Reading this made me feel so much better! This exactly mirrors what I've been thinking during the past month that I've taken the leap into freelancing. I've had trouble with workplace anxiety (anxiety runs in the family), and it was like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    On one hand, I could have a traditional 9-5 job which I excelled at, but I'd be plagued with stomach problems and feeling uneasy which would make it hard to dedicate my attention to long-term career goals. On the other hand, I could leave but then what would I do about making a living? I've always known that I have the drive and potential to do something great, and I've fought against how I am, thinking that it was a weakness, wondering why I had to be different from everyone else who doesn't get anxious or who feels a 'normal' 9-5 is an easy way to be.

    Perhaps there are other opportunities available to someone like me. So now I've taken a leap off the deep end into freelancing. It's going to be a big learning experience, but I really hope it can work out. I have more at stake than a desire for freedom. It's my health! Thank you for posting this and helping to affirm my feelings that instead of fighting ourselves, maybe we need to embrace our differences and find ways to listen to ourselves and how it plays into our careers.

  25. Ray,

    My info-addiction is so bad, I sift through old magazine racks in the dentist office or friend's houses and ask to borrow them. I have stacks of magazines and books. I download every free ebook that is offered, subscribe to nearly every RSS I come across, and bookmark nearly every blog I surf.

    But I never read the magazines, the RSS, the books, the blogs, and rarely revisit a website (and if I do, I just type the URL and don't even use the bookmark). I'm too busy finding more to add to the “To Read” folder.

    I know I have a problem, but I can't control it. What can I do?

  26. I have found I work better at the same time of the day each day. And I have found that if I try to push myself to work at other times, I just don’t get things done!
    I also can’t work for someone younger than me, which is why I am much better at working at my own pace, running my own business.

  27. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout
    of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 images.

    Maybe you could space it out better?