get out

January 27th, 2013

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Escape ladderi’m writing up a new course for Predictable Revenue, called “Energize Your People.”

yet sometimes, if you’re an employee, one of the people a CEO wants to energize…you can’t be and your only option is to GET OUT.

do you work at a company close to a toxic CEO, disrespectful executives or an unpleasant manager?   is anyone you report to regularly emotionally irrational, causing you endless anxiety because you don’t know when they’ll explode at you, or what their mood will be day-to-day?

maybe they make arbitrary demands, swear at you, publicly berate you, take you for granted, change the rules on a whim to suit their desires, or never respect your family or private life and time.

it’s in our nature to hope things will change…yet in the case of emotionally unstable people, nothing worth waiting for will change them.

hopefully at some point a personal or business cataclysm (or better, a series of them) happens to them and “forces” them to wake up and see the reality of how they treat other people, and they choose to become more understanding, respectful and thoughtful.

but even if that were to happen, it’s a process that takes YEARS to go through and “settle out into”…do you really want to be around while they go through it, and wait hoping the change actually sticks…or may not?

just get out.  figure out how to get out from your manager, or get out to another company, one at which people like yourself are respected.

no matter what your role is, what you’re learning, the prestige, money or benefits – none of it is worth working for energy vampires.

the only thing you can do is escape and find good people to work with.

the people you work with make a far, far bigger difference to your enjoyment and personal growth than the type of actual work you do.

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If I could share only one thing with you to make the biggest impact on your success, it would be to have you look closely at the people you spend your time with. You are a reflection of them and their attitudes and values – for good, numbness or toxicity – rub off on you!

After spending time with friends, family or coworkers – do you feel energized, powerful and inspired – or drained and exhausted?

The people you spend time with are like the soil to the dreams, business and life seeds you’re planting.

Optimistic, supportive, accepting people will help your Unique Genius bloom (along with your income, enjoyment and freedom).

Pessimistic, discouraging and judgmental people (including the ones we love) will crush your dreams, energy and success – or at least make it feel like you’re moving through molasses.

Valerie Young left a particularly insightful comment on why the people we love can be so discouraging: “The people who are least likely to support our dreams are the people who love us the most. Why? Because they love us. And taking chances like following a dream is scary to them and they want you to be safe.”


  • Which of your close friends, coworkers or family members are energy vampires that leave you drained? How can you limit your exposure to toxic or discouraging energy?
  • Which of them are inspirational and encouraging, and how can you spend more time with them?

It’s important to know this, because it has an enormouse affect on your own chances of enjoyment and success.

Don’t let people kill your dreams!!  Spend time with people that will support you, no matter how crazy you want to be 🙂

Dear Parents…

Parents are usually the first dream killers people experience in life (luckily, mine weren’t).

Did your parents support your aspirations, or discourage you from dreaming?  Please encourage your children’s dreams of what they want to be or do – even if those dreams aren’t ‘practical’.

A Quick PebbleStorm People Exercise

Here’s a simple worksheet (a sample from more upcoming materials) you can look through and print:

PebbleStorm People Exercise

Do You Agree? What’s Worked For You?

Has changing who you spend time with affected your business?

Sometimes it’s hard cutting off or limiting energy vampires – what’s succeeded for you?

Please leave a comment!

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This summer, a group of PebbleStorm entrepreneurs got together for a “Treasure Map Hike” in Topanga Canyon. We began the day with a guided visualization, then started hiking. Along the way we picked up pirate toys, new friends and great ideas!  Some lasting friendships and business partnerships have come from that one fun day.

The full Facebook photo album is on the PebbleStorm Fan Page.

Some people go straight for the enjoyment gold, some have to climb mountains before they get there (like me), and others wander through the desert, fight dragons and hike through volcanoes to get there.

If you’re a mountain climber or volcano-hiker and want some help…

Unique Genius Coaching – you can work like this too!

img_3768I am now doing individual coaching of clients.  I even have a client as far away as Copenhagen, Denmark. (Hi Simon!)

PebbleStorm is a community of people that have fun helping each other succeed – as you can see from the pictures and video below 🙂

In my own coaching, I help you get clear on what you are passionate about, how to find your Unique Genius, and show you how to make money from it in a way that aligns with your values and how you want work to make your life amazing!

Sign up for a “Let’s Get Acquainted Session” here.

And now…

And more fun 🙂

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It’s good to be back ‘online’ here!  I just returned from an amazing 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in North Fork, CA (near Yosemite).


There were 120+ other people there, evenly split between men and women and ages from 20s-60s., describes Vipassana as: “This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.”

And a booklet from the retreat continues:

What Vipassana is not:

  • It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
  • It is neither intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
  • It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
  • It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

What Vipassana is:

  • It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
  • It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
  • It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

How I benefit from regular meditation

Even before this retreat, I’d been meditating for about a year (simple observation of my breathing, not Vipassana) because:

  1. Meditation enhances my ability to focus. It creates mental ‘space’, helping me distinguish “activity” versus “productivity”. Ever feel like you’re so busy doing ‘stuff’, but when you look back, none of it felt like it mattered?   It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working to climb that mountain…if you’re climbing the wrong mountain.
  2. It opens up my creativity – I’ve had some great ideas come through!
  3. It enhances my happiness and contentment
  4. It’s enjoyable – calming and relaxing, like a mental massage 🙂  

How I got started with meditation – slowly; babysteps!

I started about a year ago, after beginning to work with an Ayurvedic nutritionist (which is also when I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol). I started with just a few minutes at a time in the morning, and slowly built from there.  Even now I don’t meditate every day.  For the past six months, it’s been about 3-5x per week, for 10-30min, and slowly getting more consistent over time.  I am increasing that now after the retreat.

Attitude makes all the difference

I’ve found my attitude makes a huge difference.  When I started a year ago, meditation felt like more of a chore, as if my conscious was a mom saying “eat your peas, dear”.  OK ok…grumble, grumble.  However, once I got the hang of it and stopped resisting, I began to look forward to it as an enjoyable, relaxing mental space, like a mental spa break ☺ Do you look at going to the spa as a chore?  The kid grew up and realizes they not only like peas, but even looks forward to meals full of them!  (Please ignore this analogy if you don’t like peas as an adult.)

I heard about Vipassana from a friend about three years ago, and even though I wasn’t meditating at the time and had no idea what Vipassana was, I immediately had a feeling of “I want to do that!” (someday).

The retreat: 10 days of silence to calm the mind and enable the study

It’s called “Noble Silence” – no communication during retreat with other students or the outside world, either by voice, glance or gesture.  The purpose is to calm the mind, to enable one to really learn and apply the technique. You can see ask the teachers questions, and their is instruction, so it’s not totally silent.  I found the silence actually very easy, and it did make the practice easier to learn.

Walking into the retreat, and leaving behind iPhone, camera, etc., and knowing I wouldn’t have access to email or my phone for 10 days, my mind immediately calmed down…


How it went & what I got (including an unintended addiction)

We had a suprisingly busy schedule, beginning at 4am, of meditation, breakfast, meditation, lunch, meditation, evening tea break, meditation, and then evening discourses. I was asleep by 9:30p each night. During the long meal breaks, I’d nap or take walks on the walking paths.  The food was amazing!  I became addicted to Celestial Seasoning’s “Bengal Spice tea“, a form of chai without black tea or caffeine. Yum!!  Don’t worry, caffeine addicts – they had instant coffee there too.

Although some people had a really tough time in the first couple of days with the silence and hours of meditation, I found it was surprisingly easy; a piece of cake.  I had some tough days (Day 8 was a low one for me), but it was all worth it.  I was surprised that it was harder physically than mentally for me, because I wasn’t used to sitting like that for so long.  Many other experienced meditators brought their own cushions and backrests. For novices like me, the Center had a ton of cushions and benches there for people to try out and use. It took 3-4 days to figure out my ‘seating system’.

Here are some of the specific things I got from the retreat:

  • A practice that will increase my happiness, calmness and awareness in all situations in my life
  • Clarity/confirmation that what I’m doing with PebbleStorm is exactly what I should be doing with my life
  • A GREAT image for PebbleStorm, using a tree to illustrate four levels of happiness, and how PebbleStorm helps people tap into the most enduring, meaningful forms of happiness.  It’s only sketched in pen now, I’ll have to play with it before I’m ready to post it here.  First a Sun, now a tree…I sense a trend here in using natural images in addition to my circles…
  • A shift in my thinking of the balance of buddhism/happiness thinking and capitalism in PebbleStorm (a topic for another day).  I used to think it was 50/50, but really the mix is more like 80% buddhism/happiness and 20% capitalism. By the way – if you’re unfamiliar with buddhism, its core isn’t religious at all, though sects have added rites and rituals. It is simply a system to help people achieve lasting happiness (“enlightenment”).

Did I mention the 10-day retreat was free?  It’s 100% donation-supported.

And by the way, the course is free.  Yes, lodging and TASTY meals for 10 days.  They do ask for a donation at the end, “to pay for others”, but it’s by no means required and there is really no pressure at all.  The entire worldwide organization, in 120 countries, runs on a donation and volunteer basis.  This is how strongly people feel about how Vipassana has impacted their lives!

A worldwide non-profit driven by genuine, passionate commitment

Both the practice itself and the non-profit organization teaching it at more than 120 centers around the world are fascinating.  Run by volunteers (even teachers aren’t paid), it’s a worldwide, well-oiled machine. The retreat ran like The reason the organization works so well is because of people’s passion for the benefits they receive from Vipassana…and they want to help others receive the same benefits.

Now: integrating it to my (daily) life

They recommend, as a minimum, an hour of meditation in the morning, and an hour in the evening.  Rather than start out strongly and probably have some discouraging breakdowns in the practice, personally I know I’ll be more successful with a gradually building practice (this is me – what you need to be successful might be very different). It’ll take me some time to figure out my routine and to really make it a part of my daily life. For the next three months, I’m going to do it as much as possible, at least once a day, but realize that I have some experimentation to do.  Especially since I’ll be traveling and moving quite a bit between San Francisco, Los Angeles and Buenos Aires…and any kind of travel plays hell with my routine.

“I could never meditate, my mind is too busy/I have ADD…”

I’ve heard this from so many people.  If your mind is so agitated, isn’t that exactly why you should work to tame it, to put it to work for you rather than being at its mercy?  Jumping into a 10 day silent retreat might be too much at first, but there are plenty of ways to try it out in smaller steps.

A 3-minute practice and simple steps you can try

Please Leave A Comment!

Do you practice?  What works for you?  Leave any suggestions in the comments!  And I’ll share updates on my practice monthly as it builds.

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Patience messages on my wall

October 5th, 2008

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I have a bunch of reminders up on a wall near where I work.  I believe that PATIENCE is a vital part of making money through enjoyment.  The “urgency addiction” we’ve all been trained to believe is so important just gets in our way of 1) creating a truly unique, resonant dream business, and 2) our enjoyment in creating it.

Do more by doing less – 80/20 rule

It’s not the quantity of stuff that you do that matters, it’s the quality or resonance of what you do. 80/20 rule: 20% (or less) of what you do will create 80% (or more) of the results.  So focus on finding the 20%!

Patience is important in helping you sift the “gold from the fool’s gold.”  It’s easy to come up with a bizillion ideas for your business – blogs, products, features, events, content, lead generation ideas…blah blah blah.  Time, even a few days or weeks, helps you sift through the ideas worth doing from the ideas to leave behind.  What would really be meaningful to customers?  What kind of dream business do you really want to create?

It’s tempting to think “if I just get more of these ideas done, it’ll help my business, right?”  But – you and your business, no matter how big it gets, will never have the capacity to execute on all your ideas. Even if you become a billion-dollar company. So instead of trying to do MORE, focus on finding the idea nuggets, the diamonds in the batch, that will truly make a difference (which takes patience).

It’s quality of experience, not quantity of features or marketing programs, that draws customers to you. For example, customers won’t care, use or consume most of the features, content and marketing efforts you produce.  Before doing much marketing, be patient in tuning your business, testing your product/packaging/messages. Do you still have to ‘push’ people into buying, or do people connect with it and come to you?  If you still have to push or pester people to get their attention or to buy, it’s a sign you haven’t tuned your product or messaging enough yet.  When people get excited and say things like “I want that!” or “That is so cool!”, then you know it’s time to start investing more in getting the word out!

Create ideas, but then sit with them to see which ones truly deserve your attention, and then pick out the few best ones.  Do more by doing less.

Impatience steals your enjoyment

Impatience = unhappiness.  “I’m not happy with what I have, so I need to get these other things, fast.”  Impatience implies a need to be somewhere else, a dissatisfaction with what you have. So by definition, when you’re feeling mpatience, you’re enjoyment and happiness is less.  How can you smell roses when you’re moving too fast even to see them?

Patience creates time

When you realize that most of what you do (80/20 rule) isn’t a true contributor to your dreams and success, and that patience is one way to help distinguish “activity” from “productivity”, then consider that patience creates time for you.

How long will it take to create your dream business?

It’ll be years, not months. For a normal new business that isn’t based on consulting, it usually takes 2-3 years to get to self-sufficiency.  So if you’re always impatient, thinking “if I just get to that next goal…”, you’re going to be unhappy for quite awhile 🙁

Focus on enjoying the ride – find ways to make money through enjoyment, including enjoying the path of creating your business 🙂

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I was in San Francisco last week, and last Sunday my sister hosted a potluck dinner at her house, with about eight of us – including my mother 🙂  (Mom, did you enjoy it??)

Here’s an example of what makes PebbleStorm, including these kinds of events, so gratifying for me…below’s an (unsolicited!) note from Erin-Marie Driscoll, a budding entrepreneur:

“Hi Aaron!!
Thanks again for hosting the PebbleStorm event tonight. I am totally re-energized and now have a few more reserves of courage to move forward with my dreams! I really can’t thank you enough. It was great to hear from other people about their experiences, discuss the process and ideology of PebbleStorm/ entrepreneurship and to have the enthusiastic support from those in the group! This is exactly what I needed to move forward, and I am truly grateful for that.

How can you tap into your talents and enjoyments, to create something that adds this kind of value to other people?  And then create a business around it?  That’s what I’m here, through PebbleStorm, to help you do.

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People can enjoy the process of what they do, and/or enjoy the outcome of what they do. Examples of the difference:

Process – > Outcome

  • Write -> Publish book
  • Prepare for a presentation -> Give presentation
  • Sell -> Receive contract & check
  • Code software -> Use or share software
  • Paint -> Show painting
  • Write songs -> Perform songs
  • Create marketing programs -> See programs work
  • Customize car-> Show or sell custom car

This Enjoyment Map is a tool to help you think about and isolate the kinds of work in which you enjoy both the process of working and the outcome.

Step 1

List out a set of discrete situations, such as:

  1. A bunch of projects from work over the past few months
  2. A list of clients over the past year(s)
  3. A set of tasks or time blocks over the past week

Step 2

Plot them roughly on a matrix of “Enjoyed The Process” vs. “Enjoyed The Outcome”:

Step 3

How can you figure out how to enjoy both the process AND the outcome 80% of the time?

What was it about the “Yay!” work in the upper right corner that was special or different from the other work? Who was it with? On what? How was it done? Why did it matter? Where was it? When was it?

How can you either a) leave the other stuff behind to focus on finding more of the Yay! work, or b) change the way you work in general to create conditions in which you can move the other kinds of work towards that upper-right corner?

Personal example

I’m always practicing being aware of what it is about how I work or what I produce that makes it more enjoyable. I really enjoy writing long-hand notes and sketching in my notebooks. I also like blogging, but not quite as much as plain old writing and sketching. But – I find that sketching pictures, with the intention of posting them here, makes even blogging more fun 🙂 Even with my sales blog!

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When I tell people about PebbleStorm, a common question is “how will it make money?”

It’s a good question.

And I have no idea.

And I don’t care (yet) – both because I already have income, and I’m doing what I LOVE in a way that excites both myself and other people (notice – it has to excite ME in addition to others!).

As it takes off organically, the business model will come naturally. Trying to force it to generate revenue too early would harm its true potential in these early, delicate stages. Sure, I have lots of ideas/intentions on how it’ll happen – events, sponsorships, a book/books, workshops, getting paid in equity or a percentage of revenue for companies we help found or grow, subscriptions, etc. – but I’m leaving myself totally open for whatever makes the most sense at the right time. It’ll come with patience.

Making it easy to be patient!

Why make life hard on myself? I have another source of income to allow me to not care about when PebbleStorm starts generating revenue. Last year, I started BlackBox Revenue with a partner who also is, Erythean Martin. BlackBox helps b2b companies with sales forces create predictable revenue (Cold Calling 2.0 presentation).

Klia Bassing & “Visit Yourself”

Sometimes it makes sense to quit a job and your source of income to start a new company – but often it doesn’t! Klia Bassing is an entrepreneur in Washington D.C. who started a ‘bring meditation classes into the workplace’ company, I love it!

We talked a few months ago. She’s working on the business full-time, and it’s still early enough that it wasn’t bringing in enough income to sustain her indefinitely – she was using up her savings. I suggested getting a part-time contracting job to give her some breathing room while the business continued to make progress. A few days later, after digesting this, Klia wrote back:

Klia Bassing: “It was shocking to think about taking a part-time job because I had it in mind that that would be “failing”…going backward in a business that used to support me entirely (but in an unsustainable way, with me as the only teacher/service provider). After a bit of grieving, the clouds cleared and going back to consulting at the World Bank–or wherever–a few days a week just felt like self-care of my financial and mental well-being.”

Jealously guard your enjoyment

Why kill yourself? Why not find ways to make starting a company easier on yourself, so that you love it and stay EXCITED about it…and so that your excitement will infect others? Creating growth through consistent excitement and enjoyment is a much surer path to success (now and in the future) than growth through bitter, unhappy, unyielding determination.  If you’re stressed and unhappy, it will reduce your creativity and motivation and leave a bad taste with your clients or business partners.  Jealously protect, love and nurture your enjoyment of your work!