Category Archives: Avoiding All or Nothing Traps

Now, that doesn’t mean I lost my intensity. It doesn’t mean that I never end up out of balance. But my short session with Dr. Horne brought great clarity to the fact that it’s not worth giving up the things that matter most for the things that matter least.   This insight was part of what helped me see the Zig Zag Principle as a far better way to approach life.  Now, as I zig and zag from goal to goal, I will still put intense effort into achieving my dreams.  But at each turn, I’ve established a reward that for me inevitably includes my family (your approaches, of course, may differ).  And for each goal I pursue, I will set up guardrails that will determine the amount of time and effort I am willing to invest. There are not many ways to succeed without going out of balance for a period of time.  The key is to realize that you are going out of balance for a short period and then bounce back and take some time off to enjoy your life. 

My philosophy involves having a line of balance.  Many people think you achieve this line of balance by being at work exactly at 8 a.m. and leaving within minutes of 5, by getting eight hours of sleep each night, and by controlling life with a rigid schedule.  I don’t live my life that way. At times I live my life extremely out of balance. I’ll work so crazy hard that I think I’m going to die, and then I’ll cross over and go for a cruise where I sleep eighteen hours a day. Then I’ll charge back across the line and spend some incredible family time, then I’ll go work my guts out again and literally not sleep for a couple or three weeks while I start another new business. Then I’ll spend a month in the Himalayas with my family. The way I define balance is not to try walking the perfect line, but to cross that line of balance as frequently as possible.  This is the final form of zigzagging I would suggest.

Added to my own bad example of charging straight toward a goal is the example of an individual who completed his MBA program the same time I did.  He was a charismatic and brilliant man.  He had everything going for him—far more than the rest of us, really.  During school and after we graduated, he was fixated on the same path I was on.  He was going to the top and he was going to succeed at all costs. I guess the only real difference between us is that I am fortunate enough to have a wife who has helped me become grounded and remember what really matters in my life. (Sometimes she has had to beat me over the head, but I count that as a form of help.) 

This man was relentless in his pursuit of wealth.  He racked up frequent flier miles and spent even more time away from his family than I did.  He did whatever it took to get to the top, and he got there.   In fact, by some measures, he has achieved a level of success I might have been envious of at one point in my life.  But now, as I look back over my life and this man’s life, I see some significant differences. He has been married and divorced multiple times.  He has had more flings than I can count with my hands and my toes.  He has no relationship with his children; in fact, they will not even talk to him.

I look at him, and I am so grateful that Dr. Horne took the time to counsel with me—and then put me on a transatlantic flight to think about what he said.  As a result, my son Nathan, who would not let me touch him because he did not know who I was, now calls me his hero.  Success is not worth heading over a cliff or getting so out of balance that we lose control.  Everything in life requires balance.  The best skiers cross that line of balance as often as possible as they race down the hill.  But they know how to keep their momentum and stay upright through the race, rather than crashing and burning.

A key to maintaining our balance in life and in business is not getting so tightly wound up and so intense that we do not get in a rhythm, or what the best athletes call flow.  In his book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who has worked with many of the world’s greatest golfers, talks about the mindset the best golfers have to get into. When golfers are playing at their peak, Rotella says, they are only using a part of their brain while the other part is shut down.  It is almost as if they are in a trance.  Things just come naturally to them.   They are relaxed, and they let the intuitive and creative part of their brain do the work.  That is flow.

Many of us, on the other hand, get so stressed and uptight that we create our own failures.  Our stress then creates a form of reverse psychology, similar to what happens when I’m golfing and see a water hazard off to the left.  If I allow myself to think (which Rotella would suggest I not do!), I tell myself,  “Don’t go left into the water.” And, just like that, the ball invariably ends up going left right into the pond.  The same thing is true as we pursue our beacons in the fog. If we get fixated on the things we think we can’t do or if we get consumed with the possibility of a little error or failure, we get wound up too tight.  And that actually translates into negative behaviors that undercut our efforts.  

Building Your Guardrails


Building Your GuardrailsThe guardrails you create must be closely aligned with the values you set in chapter 3.  You need to have people in your life who will tell you out when you are out of bounds.  I have a good friend who was a successful and well-known college basketball coach until he got embroiled in some politics and lost his job.  We were talking not long after that, and he shared what I consider to be a very profound insight.  He said, “Rich, when I was winning championships, everyone laughed at my jokes.  Now they only laugh when my jokes are actually funny.”  You need someone in your inner circle who knows you and who you trust to tell you if your jokes are funny or not. 

 Alex Mendozian is a teleseminar trainer.  We had discussed the possibility of working on a project together.  Before we began, he called me and said, “Rich, I have some good news and some bad news.  I’d really like to work with you.  That is the good news.  The bad news is before I do, I need to have an intervention in your life.”  I pushed back, thinking, “What is he talking about?  I don’t have a drinking or a drug problem!”  He continued, “Yes, you need an intervention!”  He then got my wife and his executive assistant on the phone and explained he was having this intervention because I had to quit saying “Yes” to everyone and everything.  Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

Sometimes, in your zeal to reach your beacon in the fog, everything seems possible.  It’s a time when you’re generating a lot of ideas.  It’s a time when, out of necessity, you need to fire, fire, fire, and then aim.  I refer to this part of zig number 1 as the time I have to weave gold out of straw.  During this time I may not have a lot of resources, and I may find myself holding things together with duct tape and bailing wire. As I’m trying to get something to work that will generate cash, I find myself saying, “Yes, yes, yes, no; …yes, yes, yes, maybe.”

Once I get to the next zag, I have to create systematic and organized processes so I can hire employees and teach them how to make the business work.  During this time, I find myself saying “No” about half the time.  Part of that involves learning the discipline of delegating and letting others do the work for me. 

Getting to the third zig demonstrates that I have achieved success by reaching cash creating an organization that is working.  Now I need to scale it.  This is a much more controlled phase of the process because I do not want to destroy what I have just created.  I finally have all of the gears meshing, and I now need to figure out how to scale the business so it will generate income independent of my direct involvement.  During this period, I find myself needing to say “No” far more often. 

Another guardrail you need to put in place is identifying and empowering those people in your life who will help you say “No” and who will let you know when you are heading out of bounds.  For me, those people include my wife and my executive assistant, both of whom are excellent at letting me know when I am crossing the lines I’ve established.  My children will sometimes even tell me when I am out of line—and I’ve learned to listen.  My business partner is another person I make sure I listen to.  Unfortunately, it’s rare that your subordinates will point out when you’re heading toward danger.  Some see things quite clearly, but many are either making sure they look good in your eyes, or they are afraid of your reaction.  If one speaks up, listen, unless it feels like they’re stoking your ego. 


Don't crash the guardrails!


Don't crash the guardrails!Remember, as you’re zigzagging, to look for dangers or pitfalls that are in your way.  There have been lots of times when I’ve been skiing on a run I thought I knew well, only to spot a rock or bare spot that has reared its ugly head. By remaining agile and in control, you can avoid whatever obstacle is lurking. 

In the current business Curtis and I are working on, we began by setting our goal and then laying out our zigs and zags.  Our first two zigs were clear, but our third zag was way off in the distance.  As we hit profitability and then began working on adding resources, it became evident that our initial plan did not have as high a probability of success as several other opportunities we had uncovered as we were working through our first two zigs.  So, we adjusted, which you should always keep as an option.

What you do not want to change, however, is the present target you are shooting for.  Keeping control of your zigs will help you stay focused on that target, rather than turning hither and yon whenever the urge presents itself.  In my experience, if you begin thinking beyond three zigs, you will actually lose sight of the path you are on.  It will probably take you more than three zigs and zags to get to your final beacon in the fog, but only look out at three at one time.  As you complete each goal, take a minute to celebrate, but then climb a tree and look out above the fog toward your beacon, making certain you are still on course.  Then set another zig that will lead you in the direction you need to go.

A common question I hear is, “If I am making money, why do I want to make the next turn?  Wouldn’t it be better to just keep making money?”  I have seen many examples of people who just kept chasing cash.  Often, these are small, family-owned businesses where mom and dad are working day and night.  They make enough money to cover their expenses or maybe to live comfortably; but by not adding resources, they never seem to be able to enjoy life away from the shop.

I have a neighbor who owns a candy-making business.  He is the only one who knows how to make the candy.  His wife works in the front, taking orders and keeping the books.  This is a very labor-intensive business that requires this couple to work every day.  They’ve lamented to me on many occasions that they never dare take a day off to go on a vacation or to enjoy their life because they are afraid of what their absence will do to the business.  Just think what they could do if they would go to the next zig, document their processes, hire a few employees, and grow their company, even just a little.  When people won’t make the turn after hitting zig number 1, they get stuck—even though they may have a bunch of cash.

 Everyone’s situation is different in significant ways; but  as you create your own set of guardrails to control your zigs and zags, here are some common elements to include:

1. A Financial Number – How much money are you willing to spend on each zig?  If you do not hit your goal within this budget, you are not profitable and may have to check your idea off as a failure.  Do not throw good money after bad chasing losing bets.

2. An Allocation of Time – How much of your time are you willing to dedicate toward each individual zig?  I like to spend 65 percent of my working time on the current zig.  I then spend 25 percent and 10 percent planning out the next zigs and zags that I will take.  If I’m spending more than that, I reassess.

3.  Duration of Time – How long are you willing to work on this venture before hitting your financial target?  Are you going to chase cash for a month, a year, or ten years?

4. A Financial Target – How much profit do you want to make before heading toward the next zig?  How much will you need in order to pursue the next zag?


Strengthen your business by strengthening your marriage!


Strengthen your business by strengthening your marriage!Have you ever thought how closely connected success in your business and success in your marriage are?

I have, and I am convinced that when I am happy at home, I am more creative at work. I have more energy. I am definitely more productive, and I seem to make more money.

My dear friend Dino Watt and his wonderful wife Shannon pointed out this powerful concept to me recently. They have a company called the Business of Marriage where they help people learn to strengthen their marriage without sacrificing business success.

In short, they take the best systems and practices used by successful companies and help you infuse them into your marriage. This will help you have more love, passion and fun in your relationship. It’s really a unique concept that is revolutionizing the traditional way to overcome your marriage challenges, and it aligns perfectly with Zig Zag Principle number 10: avoiding the all-or-nothing trap.

And now Dino and Shannon have just released a FREE four-part video series called Marital Revolution, and we want to give you access to it. Just click here to see what it is all about. You can thank me later.

You need to act quickly though because they have only given me permission to send out this information until midnight on November 22nd. So don’t wait! I can’t believe they are giving away this much content, some of which their mentoring clients have paid up to $5000 to learn.

I’m watching the videos, too, so come learn with me how to strengthen your marriage and your business.


Take a look outside this weekend. If you’re on the east coast, it’s possible you’ll see some of hurricane Irene! As hurricane Irene slides up the coast and people prepare to sit out the storm, I can’t help but think of how important it is to pay attention to the changing weather in your businesses to avoid getting caught unprepared in a hurricane.

Checking on the industry’s weather is vital for you to keep your business out of a hurricane like Irene. But just like some people don’t believe a storm could really be that bad, some entrepreneurs find themselves ignoring evidence that it’s time to get out of a business before disaster hits. They choose to stubbornly hold on to their enterprise and trust that rain won’t hurt them.

This is another danger of plowing straight through to your goal: you don’t stop to make sure what you’re doing is going to keep you out of danger of losing your business or money. But when you zig zag to your goal, you pause to look ahead and think about where you’re going. You make sure your market is still around. You are able to react to changes in competition and demand. You avoid potentially devastating hurricanes.

I hope and pray for the safety of everyone who has to batten down the hatches and deal with hurricane Irene this weekend. I hope everyone in its path was able to either get out of the way or sufficiently prepare for what comes, and I hope you can also learn to watch out for hurricanes in your business.

Today I took a young man named Landon Swenson and my dear friend Ellis Taylor up golfing at one of my favorite golf courses, Wasatch State Park. The outing was in celebration of Landon leaving for a couple of years to serve an LDS mission in the Philippines.

As we started out the day I had a beautiful fairway drive. I got up on the drain three feet from the pin. Then I got a little awkward and ended up missing the three foot birdie putt. That mess up got embedded so deeply in my mind that throughout the rest of the day, every single three-foot putt was a mess.

Each time I got wobbly kneed, crooked, and started thinking, “Don’t miss it, don’t miss it!” Then…panic! I ended up missing almost every three-foot putt that I had today. By the time I got done I had counted seven putts. I put in an incredible round, but I couldn’t hit the easiest shot that there was.

As I thought about this, I realized how frequently I have done that in business. Sometimes I have a straightforward, simple task to do in business, something I just need to finalize it and put it to bed, but I over think it. I get too stressed out. I get too tied up in it, and I end up over-contriving and jimmy-rigging the thing until it ends up a failure.

When you are in business, go with your gut intuition. Don’t put every little thing through too much brain processing. When you have something difficult, go forward with confidence. You will have a much higher probability of success and you won’t miss all your three-foot putts.