277: Keys to Exceptional Goal Achievement with (100% Bucket List Completer!) Danny Dover

By March 23, 2018Podcasts

 

Fascinating achiever Danny Dover shares how we can unlock similar achievements in our own careers and lives.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How and why to set binary goals with zero wiggle room
  2. How to eliminate distractions, ruthlessly yet tactfully
  3. Approaches to rediscover your motivation

About Danny

In 2010, Danny Dover assigned a deadline of May 25, 2017, to his life. He was tired of hearing about other people’s exciting lives and decided to jump-start his own by taking steps to actually live as if the end was in sight. He tattooed his deadline on his butt and made the sole purpose of his life to complete his Life List (a list of more than 150 life goals). While pursuing his list, he inadvertently became a minimalist in order to gain the necessary focus to create a more meaningful life. This seemingly small change in mindset (which he later detailed in the book The Minimalist Mindset) dramatically changed his life for the better.

As of 2017, Dover has completed his entire Life List (which included living alone in the wilderness for a month, traveling to nearly 100 countries, mountain climbing in Antarctica, becoming a best-selling author, etc.)

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Danny Dover Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Danny, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Danny Dover
I am so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy. Well, I think we’ll have a great chat here so I’m excited as well. First of all, I’d love to hear about the tattoo on your butt. What is the scoop here?

Danny Dover
This comes up more often than I had imagined before I got this, or when I got this. Okay, so if you rewind about 10 years of my life, I was in a really, really, really rough spot. I was dealing with depression among other things, and I realized, very frankly, that I had really no choice but to find a better life for myself or perhaps a better way to word it now, say building a better life for myself.

I knew I was a procrastinator. I knew that with depression I had very, very little motivation, so I decided that I need to make this thing very real, something very permanent, and something very important to me, meaningful. And so I got a tattoo with what I imagined, at the time, would be the deadline for my life, so this was May 25, 2017, and, again, I got this done about 10 years ago.

And very, very slowly I got started on rebuilding my life a little bit, on making some strides and, as I’m sure we’ll talk about, on working on a list of 150 goals that I have for myself before that deadline.

Pete Mockaitis
So deadline for your life, you mean, to do all the items on your list prior to that date?

Danny Dover
That’s correct. Now, you got to remember, I was in a real dire side of my life and so I was taking this very morbid direction and a very serious direction. But in hindsight, I can look back and say…

Pete Mockaitis
Hind? Ho, ho, ho, zing.

Danny Dover
Hiny-sight. That was exactly what I needed then, so it did the job. I came up with this idea that it seemed like a good idea to follow this general advice of, “Live as if the end is in sight.” But, of course, none of us know when that time is going to be. And so I said, “Well, what if I just picked a time…” or a date in this case, “…and have that be my trajectory,” and kind of draw a line in the sand or a tattoo on my butt, if you will.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s cool. And so, then, you had a healthy list of 150 life goals. Can you give us an example of a couple of them that were the most challenging and transformational?

Danny Dover
Sure. And I should give a little context on where this list came from. When I was in this little part of my life, I asked people around me what were some of the favorite stories from their lives, and some of these were accomplishments, some of these were people they’ve met, some of these were relationships they had. And I took their stories that they told me and made those the items on this life list.

So some of the odder ones, the more challenging ones, well, first, just this wasn’t specifically a bucket list then, but it was inherent to the list. I had to come up with ways of paying for this. And perhaps even more difficult, or at least equally difficult, I had to figure out, “How am I going to create a lifestyle where I can do these things as far as time goes?”

Because if you’re going to make money, that means you’re selling your time to somebody else, usually. And so I need to find a nice balance there where I could do these things. So let me give you some examples here.

So, visit every continent. These were more specific, but go to roughly about 100 different countries, get multiple patents, complete many, many meaningful tasks a year, and each of these had smart goals associated with them, so each of them were very specific, but in this list they’re not. Run a marathon, do astronaut training, go to the Olympics, Super Bowl World Series, create a profitable business, live in the wilderness alone for a month, so on and so forth, 150.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s so good. Now I want to touch base on what you mentioned there with smart goals. So, that’s kind of how actually I got my start in speaking as I was presenting at this conference called HOBY, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, which I still do. It’s a lot of fun, very sort motivated, fun, high school sophomores assembling and having a transformational sort of a weekend experience.

And so I do talk about smart goals because I was a goal-setting enthusiast. Some people are a little down on smart goals, saying, “That’s actually not the optimal way to establish goals given our psychological understanding given dah, dah, dah.” But, hey, you’re a living proof, you had 150 of these and you knocked them all out, and all of them had a smart goal associated with it. Can you unpack, first, the acronym, and second why you think this is a good way to go?

Danny Dover
Well, perhaps, surprisingly I agree with some of the research that you just referenced.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Danny Dover
I don’t think that smart goals are necessarily the best way to do it for everybody, but I think the general concept, which I’ll talk about in just a second, seems like a better path than what I was doing before – smart goals.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Danny Dover
So, before it was smart goals, my goals were very broad and it wasn’t clear if I completed them or not, and there’s lots of wiggle room. With a smart goal, I don’t even know if I know the acronym off the top of my head, but I think it’s specific, measurable, actionable, I don’t know what the R is.

Pete Mockaitis
Realistic?

Danny Dover
Realistic, thank you. And timely or time-based. And I don’t care so much about getting the specifics and nailing it down, but what I care about is making a goal that fulfills these general accomplishments. It is binary decision, “Have I completed this or have I not completed this?” And there was absolutely no wiggle room. It is either a yes or it’s no. There’s no, “Well, maybe,” or, “Yes, but…” that doesn’t exist.

So what I’m really going for is a binary thing, and the tool that I used for that is smart goals but I’m not really religiuos about obsessing about making sure I hit each of those letters. As long as it’s binary I’m happy.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so I’d love it if you could maybe give us an example of how you binarialized – we’re inventing a word, Danny.

Danny Dover
Sure. I think you did. I guess you get credit for that.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s a joint creation. You made binary. Some accomplishments or goals are tricky when it comes to sort of like an emotional thing or about some happiness or like a relationship thing in terms of if you want to have a good or better relationship with a spouse or a great friend. So could you give us an example of maybe something that started fuzzy and how you made it smart or binary?

Danny Dover
Yeah. So let’s take chess, which actually ended up in the hindsight, hiny-sight, if you will.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Danny Dover
Ended up being one of my least favorite items I did on there. But, originally, when I wrote it down it was not a very good goal as far as being smart. It was, “Learn to play chess well,” I think is what I wrote.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Danny Dover
And in order to do that, and in order to make this binary, you need to add more attributes to it. So what I first did was researched, okay, “How is chess set up? How is it measured? What does the Bell curve look like?”

Pete Mockaitis
Those ranking are insane, bro.

Danny Dover
They are insane. Oh, yeah, some people… there’s a problem actually with this. I’ll go into it as kind of an aside. So in order to look at distribution of a chess players, you look at places like chess.com, or this was what I chose. But people who spend all their time playing chess for fun tend to be very good at chess, and so the Bell curve has shifted than what it would be for the average human being. So it’s actually made the challenge quite hard.

So there’s multiple chess ranking systems, there is, I believe, is Elo is how you pronounce it, and Glicko-2, too. So I chose Glicko-2, it looked like, for my research, that that was going to make more sense for my goals. I found what the center of Bell of curve was, I wanted to be slightly above average which would be well because I was taking into account this bias that the people who were on chess.com playing this were the ones who play chess all the time are like quite good, and so I wanted to beat the average.

And I believe the number was 1550 on the Glicko-2 is what I had to beat. I’d have to look at my notes but I believe that was it. So I played chess until I was able to beat 1550 on the Glicko-2, if I’m getting my numbers correct.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Danny Dover
It was terrible.

Pete Mockaitis
I mean, I was going to say that. I think that would take a long time based on my progress in the game of chess.

Danny Dover
Yeah, so chess is really interesting. I love it as an analogy, and I love it as a concept for explaining strategy. But what I found, for my personal taste, is that the way to get good at chess, which is just rote memorization, is trying to understand lots and lots of different permutations and memorizing that is just not a fun endeavor for me, not to say that it can’t be great for other people. Clearly, a lot of people get a lot of joy from it, but not for me.

What I thought I was going into was a game where you would get broad strategy, but what I found, to master it, at least my understanding from the teachers and mentors I worked with, it was more about memorization and then general rules based off of trends that you start to see. And that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, maybe that’s why I didn’t get that far. It’s like I learned the lesson.

Danny Dover
And maybe that’s why I didn’t get farther. I mean, any subject that we take in this kind of very quantitative way is going to be, there’s going to be lots of side cases.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And so I’m intrigued there, so then that’s the idea, is you’re shooting for, it needs to be binary such that there is no wiggle room. I know that I have to achieve it by this date or I have not.

Danny Dover
Correct. So it was 1550 on Glicko-2 by a specific date. I had the overall deadline on May 25, 2017, but when I went through each goal on this list, each of this list items, I signed a sub-date so a deadline that I gave myself earlier, so.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow. That’s so cool. Now, I think that others would suggest, I guess, the smart goals doubters would say, you know, “Hey, you need to be kind to yourself and not sort of put yourself in a position where the results or the performance is somewhat beyond your control. And you got to focus in on what you can do, your actions and the process.” What’s your response to that kind of vibe?

Danny Dover
It’s complicated. So half of me says, “That’s right. You should be kind to yourself,” and that not enough people are kind to their self in a meaningful way and for long periods of time. And I think you can cause a lot of damage by not being kind to yourself.

The other part of me says that, “If you want to be a person who lives an extraordinary life, then you’re going to have to take action that is extraordinary,” just by definition. And so I was a person who had given myself this big goal, this entire life list, and I said that I’m going to make this the meaning of my life, that’s why I was so serious with the tattoo, and so that is going to require extraordinary steps.

So, now, is that the right thing for every single person to do? No, but I think this general idea of trying to create some meaning or importantly, or worded better, choosing a meaning for your life, I think that is a really good idea and I think that does apply to everyone. Now the difference will be in the meaning that you choose and the execution you choose to pursue.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m curious to get a sense for, you said you made that the purpose of your life and it’s like sort of decided this is very important. And then you stuck with it. Like are there any sort of master keys that others who have fallen off the wagon for their goals can do there?

Danny Dover
Maybe. I hope that by discussing this topic, some other people will be able to skip some steps that I took, that ended up not being useful. So I spent a lot of time at the beginning of this journey, or really let’s say when I got about a third of the way through, because at the beginning I was doing nothing. I had no motivation. I barely get out of bed.

But as I slowly progressed, very slowly, I started doing more research on happiness, and how do you measure that, and what do you look at. And there were studies I read about measuring the different brain chemicals, which we can go to as an aside. I think they’re all kind of crazy. There’s different ones like measuring facial expressions and wrinkle depth to see how much you smiled, that kind of stuff.

And there’s all these kind of studies I read and there’s lots of other ways people went about it from like how do you act or you’re perceived by people or how you perceive other people, to kind of more psychological perspective. At the end of the day, I realized it just doesn’t matter. We don’t know. We really don’t know what we’re talking about when we’re talking about measuring happiness or quantifying happiness because it means different things to different people in different contexts.

So what I realized is that if I’m going to battle these very, very, very big problems in life, these big questions of, “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life?” I’m not going to find a binary answer. I’m not going to find something that’s like specific and measurable. I’m not going to find a smart answer to this.

Instead, what I’m going to find is that we don’t know. It just so happens that we’re here on this floating rock. You might as well just choose a purpose, just make your own decision, and what you’re going to find meaning, or what I found meaning from, as a result of that decision, is just pursuing it. Waking up every day and having a mission, even if it’s not the mission that was granted you by some extra like spiritual being.

Even if you have that choice, you made that choice, then you can find your own meaning in that, and that’s what happened to me. I think you can do that in lots of different ways. It doesn’t have to be a life list. But, for me, the key was just choosing something and fully committing myself to that decision. That’s what really made a big difference in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing and I guess I’m wondering. You didn’t waiver and decide, “You know what, actually there is another mission that’s going to be the thing,” and sort of back and forth, teeter-totter, wobble. It’s like, “Nope, this is the thing,” and it stuck. Any sense for what made it stick?

Danny Dover
Well, first, the push for me to make this big decision was just I didn’t really have any other choice. I mean, nothing was working in my life so I needed to make a bold change or I was going to be stuck or even worse. So I had a large reason to push me to do this.

And then the second part of it was, well, I had created this tattoo that I had told some people about and then I eventually kind of writing about this kind of a year later, maybe a little longer, and so I had public peer pressure in a positive way. So positive peer pressure and people reading this and asking me, “How is it going?”

And so put this out here and I had these feedback loops in place that kind kept pushing me forward. So were there days that I waivered? Sure. There absolutely were, but I had chosen this mission and it was very clear what needed to be done and it was a matter of trying to figure out how to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. Well, so then, I’m curious now, in order to do that it takes some discipline associated with prioritization and saying no to alternative things. What are some of your best practices there?

Danny Dover
Well, okay, this is a big topic. I’m glad we’re going into it. So let’s talk about, in order to answer this, let’s try to talk about high achievers. So we’ll choose one aspect of high achievers, and I want to be clear, there’s lots of different ways you can achieve things, but one aspect of that would be people who have a lot of money, so let’s say billionaires, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Danny Dover
And billionaires are unique not because – well, they are unique because they have a lot of money, but that’s not the part I care about. What they’re unique in is they have a lot of power. So I think there’s a lot of evidence that these people, in many cases, really are able to change the world. It seems like they are modern-day superheroes who are the people who have this much power. So billionaires being one example of that.

Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld has a funny quote on this, he said, “When men are growing up and reading about Batman, Spiderman, Superman, they see these not as fantasies. They see them as options.” And I always really identified with that. I always thought that was funny.

So if you look back like last year, there was something like Forbes, I think, I’m quoting this from. There’s 2,043 billionaires on the planet in 2017, and that number rises roughly every year by 200, it depends on how the stock market does. So we have 2,000 plus billionaires who are with us right now, and none of them are Batman. This pisses me off. What the heck is going on here?

Pete Mockaitis
That we know about.

Danny Dover
That’s true. Maybe Batman would be smarter and just not actually show us. So we do have heroes who are billionaires. We have Bill Gates who professionally, I dislike him. But from what his impact on the world with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is actually amazing. He’s probably the prime example of someone who’s saving the world.

We have someone like Elon Musk who’s trying to save the world by leaving it, or at least getting humans off of it. So we do have these people who are like superheroes in our modern world so it’s exciting and it’s interesting.

So what I did, trying to understand this stuff, was start to study them. So lots of autobiographies and biographies, and really, I like those kinds of book in particular because they’re based in the real world and they’re people who have the same limits as all of us, meaning time, but they’re still able to achieve things.

And what I noticed was that, yes, there are definitely specific factors that applied to each of them specifically within the context of how they grew up and all that. But, generally speaking, what all these people who I have read books about, had in common is they had luck which I define as opportunity times preparation. You don’t really get to control opportunity per se but you certainly can control preparation, so it’s the multiplying the two where you really get luck.

And then habits, which is, this is part of my long answer in answering your original question here. Habits, I think, are what superheroes and billionaires and other people who are successful in other ways are different than the rest of us. So I started looking very seriously into that, and there’s a whole bunch of books on the topic, and they’re fine.

But what I’ve started to realize and what I really ingrained in myself is that it’s habits, not ideas, that are the programming language of human beings. And so I took this and I very seriously studied this concept. So I studied artificial intelligence, trying to mine this a little bit, trying to understand what breakthroughs are being made there, and can I apply this to myself.

And I found one that I thought applied quite well. It’s this idea of recursive self-improvement. So this is stolen from the field of AI, but I try to apply it with habits. Recursion, if you’re not aware, if you don’t have a development background, is a method that calls itself. And so you can be very, very powerful in a very, very small instruction base, or very, very small amount of code.

So in a human’s life it seems like this would be a habit that calls itself. So a habit that improves on itself. The most straightforward example of this would be something like speedreading. If you can speedread, and you really could keep your retention high, then you would be better at self-improvement because you’d be able to input more information into yourself, and then you’d get better at everything essentially if you’re reading the right stuff.

So in this way it would be recursive in that it would be a habit that was making you better at self-improvement, so improving that self-improvement.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, so sort of like a loop of sorts.

Danny Dover
It’s a very specific kind of loop.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’re saying, if this is fair, you tell me, that it gets real powerful when – like the speedreading example – is that you are improving your ability to improve yourself and, thusly, there’s kind of a, I’m thinking like compound interest here.

Danny Dover
Yes.

Pete Mockaitis
But there’s like a growing effect when you’re growing the thing that does growing.

Danny Dover
Exactly right. So like a billionaire is going to know the advantage of compound interest, right? That’s probably how they became a billionaire, at least in many, many cases. And so I wanted to apply this concept of compounding interest to people, to humans, so take away from finance entirely. And I realized that there’s certain habits, these ones I’m calling recursive self-improvement habits, that get more powerful as you develop them and they make other parts of your life better.

So speedreading is one kind of example although there are some problems here. The other ones that I’ve seen that I think are more beneficial are diet and exercise and, say, personal finance, friends, your network, your family, and things like focus. If you can get better at those core, I think other people, there’s like a Venn diagram here with what I’m calling recursive self-improvement habits, and other people call it like keystone habits.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Okay.

Danny Dover
So there are these ones that if you can get really good at these then it makes everything else much, much better. And so I doubled down on this concept. So you would ask me, “Well, how do I measure these things. How do I prioritize things? And how do I persevere with these things?” Well, this is exactly how I prioritize things.

I take what I believe to be these recursive self-improvement habits and I draw what’s called the goal-map. This is cool. I’ve actually never talked about this publicly before so this is something I’ve actually been doing for years.

So what I do is I outline what are the most important skills that I want to be working on in my life and then every quarter map the projects that I am doing to those, and I realized that if my projects are not aligning with these specific habits then I’m not going in the direction that I want. So let’s do a concrete example of this.

For me, these are diet, exercise, personal finance, family and friends. There also could be something like, if you go through traditional like definitions I’ve read of job satisfaction, it would be something like autonomy or competence, relatedness, maybe creativity impact. I think these broad categories and then I map all my projects to them.

And if you have job, well, so anybody who has a job is going to have to do some projects that don’t align with these, but you can know you’re doing the right direction, you can know you’re pointing the right way if most of the projects you’re or most of the hours that you’re spending are building up these kind of recursive self-improvement habits. These ones are going to get better over time and superpower you, like they give you these superpowers.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. That’s exciting. I’d love to dig deep into one of them. Let’s talk about focus because I think that’s highly applicable for professionals who have a lot of things coming at them from a lot of places. So how would you recommend starting to grow your capacity to focus such that it’s recursive and building on itself in becoming all the more awesome?

Danny Dover
Well, the most recent book I wrote, it’s called The Minimalist Mindset. It’s entirely about just focus. Focus is a very, very big topic. And funny enough, I think it’s one that doesn’t get enough attention even though we’re in a world where it’s very hard to focus and like there’s more need for focus than ever.

The way to become focused is to figure out what it is that you want to be focused on first, so prioritizing as we just covered. I use this tool called the Go Web but you can use any kind of prioritization system that you want and that works for you, and then being ruthless about eliminating distractions or anything that is not serving you.

So if you want to have extraordinary results, again, you have to really be persistent about being ruthless of eliminating any avenues you might have for failure. So this could be as simple as a clean desk. I mean, that’s the kind of advice I hear on like every podcast including yours. Your last guest, I think, spoke a lot about this and did a nice job on it.

But it’s also making sure you don’t have too many things on your plate, too many responsibilities. It’s about saying no and then consistently doing it which is hard. This reminds of a Steve Martin quote, “Perseverance is great substitute for talent.” I think that is a great way of looking at it. If you can just persistently say no to things that are not important and have an eye and understanding of what is important in your life then you’re setting yourself up on a very, very good path for potential success by however you want to measure that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to hear a few more things              that are great to eliminate, you know, one is clutter from a desk, another is many, many commitments. Are there sort of particular commitments or distractors that are particularly pernicious?

Danny Dover
Yeah, so this book I wrote called The Minimalist Mindset is a book about minimalism. And minimalism is usually applied to things, so this would be like having less clothes so that you don’t have to spend your creative energy picking out clothes in the morning, right? And that’s how minimalism is usually looked at, which is I think a good idea.

But I think the real beauty of minimalism is it applies to everything. So this could apply to your friendships, this could apply to your email, this can apply to your car, it can apply to anything you want. So I want to go give you an example that’s not the common one. So I’m going to avoid email just because that comes up in lots of podcasts episodes. Inbox Zero is a great way to do it. I’m looking at a tool called SaneBox. There’s a Cliff Notes version of how I got my email under control.

But let’s try to do something like priorities because that ends being the hardest one from a professional perspective. Let’s kind of dive into that a little bit. So what’s happening with a job, from my understanding, is that what you’re trying to do is trade time for money. And in doing so, if you’re working for somebody else, which almost all of us are, be it a client, be it a boss, then you are helping them achieve their dream rather than you necessarily achieving your dream. And you have to do this to start this when you don’t have a lot of leverage professionally because you need money and you need to pay your bills.

But I think it becomes very tempting to continue to prioritize all the things that your boss or your clients are prioritizing so that you can get more and more money so you can upgrade your lifestyle, so you can kind of go down this path. And, again, that works for everybody. But, for me, as a minimalist, I eventually got to a point where I had enough career capital, enough leverage where I could say, “You know what, I’m doing okay and I’d rather focus on these other things that I’ve already established as important in my life.” So, in my case, my life list.

So I was able to take these things that I had a focus on and then realizing kind of take a step back and be like, “Well, whose dream do I really want to accomplish here? Is it help my millionaire boss get more money? Or is it that I want to have more flexibility and freedom in my life, and in my family and friends’ lives?” And so I kind of took a turn there and started to persist in those directions, making things work that way. And that kind of is a rabbit hole as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’d love to hear, as you’re being ruthless, as you’re saying no to things, any pro tips on how to do that in the kindest or best way possible?

Danny Dover
Yeah, this is a very hard thing, and I want to make sure that that part is clear, that saying no, I think people gloss over how difficult that is, but a lot of times it’s saying no to like your significant other or saying no to someone who has a lot of professional leverage over you, that’s very difficult.

The only ways I found to do this is to create scripts so that’s as easy for you and reflexive for you as possible. If you’re very clear on what the direction you do want to go in, it gives you this motivation to do these uncomfortable things of saying no to people you may really legitimately care about.

So for professional, I’ll do an email script, so I’ve written up a very polite way of saying no that says basically the idea is that, “Currently I have too much responsibilities on my plate. I want to make sure I give everyone my all with those. I’m happy to meet with you or I’m happy to work on your project…” whatever the context is, “…but it has to be after I finish my current obligations. I don’t like being this busy, and so I’m taking active steps to make sure that’s not the case going forward”

So I have a written out email that already says this. I’ve massaged all the wording so that this is crystal clear and that’s what I’ll send. And it’s just for me, it’s two keystrokes. I run a Mac and you can just build this. It’s built into the operating system to do shortcuts with texts. So I think I just typed in, “Nob,” so nob I think is the word and it does that on my email, and then I hit send. And then I go on the next thing.

If it’s a significant other, it’s a lot harder. It’s working with your family and your friends so they can understand what it is you’re up against and what it is you’re trying to achieve so they can understand why you’re prioritizing things you are rather than just saying no. It’s giving them a fuller understanding of the why you’re saying no and let them know that the no is a temporary no so you can pursue this other thing so that you can make everybody’s life – so this would be your friends, family – make everybody’s life a little bit better.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very nice. So, let’s see, I had all these things I want to hear from you, and I think we’ve covered a good bit. When it comes to habits, you’ve focused in on here’s something that’s worth developing as a habit and we’ve said no to a lot of other things in order to make that happen and to dig deep because it is recursive and has great cool accumulative effects.

What are your perspectives on getting that habit to really stick in terms of, “I am embarking upon this. I want this to be a habit in my life”? What do I do to ensure that I can make that happen and not fall off the wagon?

Danny Dover
Well, the first thing I do is I put it out there into the world that I’m working towards this habit. So be it weight loss or be it exercise or be it Inbox Zero or whatever it is. Put it out in the world so that you have this positive peer pressure working for you. You could also word this as working against you. But it works in your favor because people are going to check in on this.

From then, I make sure that I have plans for your bad days because there’s nothing I found that I can do to eliminate bad days or days when you don’t have motivation. And so I pre-plan some simple alternatives to make sure I do my full prep.

So if this is exercising, this would be saying, okay, if you’re having a bad day, or today you’re traveling or it’s going to be really hard for you to do a run, for example, then what I’m going to do is I’m going to have this exercise, put into notes on my phone so I know exactly what it is. I’m already have looked at what all the positions are so that I know this, so there’s nothing to stop me there, and then I’m just going to do it in the clothes that I’m wearing. So this wouldn’t be a run, this would be something like a series of like jumping jacks and pushups and sit-ups that kind of thing, where you don’t need equipment.

So I pre-plan for bad days and I make it crystal clear on what I’m going to do on days where I don’t have the option of doing what I’m supposed to be doing. So that example was with exercise. You could also do this with, say, email or you could do this with kind of any other area in my life as I pre-plan for them.

And the last one here is rekindling what it is that inspired me to start this to begin with. So this is almost always YouTube videos for me. So what I’ve realized is that I can get into to, say, Day 20 of doing a new habit, be it exercise or be it, right now, I’m learning to base guitar. And what I found is that like Day 1 and 2 are easy basic, like kind of easy because you have a lot of motivation. Day 3 is always really hard because your motivation is a little bit low, and you don’t really have that willpower as strongly as you did the first two days.

And so what I found is that I go on Day 3 or Day 4, I’ll go re-watch that initial spark that made me be inspire to do this job to begin with. So, again, I said this is usually YouTube videos, sometime this will be a conversation with a friend or whatnot. But then I’ll do that again like 10 days later so that works out to Day 13 or Day 14.

And then any other times I stumble past that point where I’m not going to make it to a true ingrained habit, usually depending on the research or who you’re reading, is like Day 22 or Day 30. I make sure that I get those re-boost of the original inspiration source, multiple times at point when it’s particular important.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing that you can often pinpoint the original inspiration source. I’m curious, are there particular YouTube channels that you’re watching. Where are you going to pack such a punch?

[00:33:03]

Danny Dover
We’ll come back to that a little bit. So it’s important to note that sometimes watching this same video over and over again is not going to quite do it. Although there are some videos which I’m happy to share with you on the show notes, that really every time I watch them really get me going again. But it’s more like I’ll find a particular, with the base guitar I’ll find a particular artist. I really like Flea, and re-watch some new stuff that he’s done or stuff that I haven’t seen is really a better way of saying that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So understood. So the source of inspiration there. Now if you want to create habits of focus, for example, and you are seeking a source of inspiration, I’m wondering if a video would, what video would do it, it’s like, “Check out that guy,” not looking at his face, but it seems to be I’m fired up. What would it be?

Danny Dover
Well, in that case it could be that video is not the best way to do it. I’m certainly open to that. But if I was trying to do focus, I might look at something that someone has accomplished as a result of their focus and focusing on that. So that could be a great business person or a great sports star and their highlight reel, something along those lines, or spending some time with someone who I really admire who does a great job with their family and to see how it is they’re focusing on their children and just watch that again. I mean, maybe that’d be an offline example that is better applied here.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s cool. That’s cool. And then I’m almost seeing, in my mind’s eye, I’m picturing just sort of like a pulled quote and a graphic of the person’s face, and them sort of articulating that sort of decision or philosophy whether it’s entrepreneur or someone that you’re looking up to, like they have attributed their success to a thing.

Danny Dover
I’m reading the book Black Swan right now and it seems to be at this point in the book that the major thesis is saying that some things that happen to us are very random, and very often humans do not take randomness enough and do account when they’re looking at back at their college life.

So one of the key examples, I don’t remember if it’s from this book or from something else that I read, Steve Jobs looking back at his life, and he does the famous commencement speech which is a great YouTube video. I bet you more than half of your listeners have watched that. But what he’s failing to do is understand a lot of the other things that happened in his life that he didn’t have any control over, any responsibility over but also helps him enable these.

So, yes, he’s certainly used some habits to make these things occur, but it also just so happen that he was born during a time when computers weren’t even possible to develop, and there’s also ripe given the marketplace for it. Those are the things that he didn’t have any control over. So these ae kind of the exceptions that break the rule, and I think humans overly attribute their own amazingness to their past accomplishments.

So I’m trying now, I’m reading this book. I’m trying to apply that to my life as much as possible. You can do things that open up opportunity for you but you’re not going to be able to control those opportunities and how they play out. You’re only going to be able to prepare yourself for the potential for an opportunity.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. You know, it’s not sort of “if this then that” kind of direct line of “because Steve Jobs did not check his email” I don’t know “early in the morning, then if I don’t do that I, too, will achieve his results.” But, nonetheless, it seems like that theme associated with identifying the patterns that you want to model or the spark of inspiration that is compelling for you will push you, even if, hey, even if we’re deceiving ourselves a smidgeon along the way to get there.

Danny Dover
Yeah, I mean, I’d be this role of randomness is a very positive thing in my life so if you want to say that like the habits that you’re doing and the opportunities you’re trying to present for yourself or you just throwing spaghetti on the wall, then by all means throw more spaghetti but just acknowledge that even if…there is going to be a degree of randomness to this.

And I find this is a nice thing because if I fail at something and it seems like I was doing everything right, it makes me realize, “Hey, you know what, the world is actually much more complex than I understand. There are other things that play here. It doesn’t mean that I’m a failure because I fail at this particular thing. It just means it didn’t happen this time.” So I see this, the role of randomness, as a very positive thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Okay. Cool. Well, Danny, tell me, anything else you want to cover before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Danny Dover
I do. I want to talk about mistakes that I’ve seen lots of my friends make professionally, and then I think they can be very valuable if people were able to get better at it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Danny Dover
So the most common professional mistake that I’m seeing with friends and family members and other people like clients that I have is that they’re not showing the right kind of value to the right people. A lot of people that I work with or have worked with in the past try to demonstrate their value by putting in lots and lots of hours.

And while in some, like especially the taxing emotions for most of my time has been that can show value – it doesn’t necessarily show the value to the right people, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the right things done.

So what I’ve tried to do instead is really hyper focus and work these people to make sure that they’re demonstrating the right kind of value, so understand what their goals are from their boss which, actually I found is they can just ask their boss and that enlightens people a lot. They work on something, and I’ve done this many times, I’d work on a project for six months, nine months, and while my boss thought that it was interesting or good, I didn’t realize that it was not the thing that was most important to them or that it would solve their bigger hanging problem.

And just by having that simple coffee conversation with them, asking them what their biggest problems they run into, now I can understand what the right value is. And then showing this to the right person. So it’s easy to show value to your boss because they’re checking on you and they’re making sure you’re providing value for the business.

But what turns up to be more important is to show value many times to your boss’ boss because they’re going to be ones who are going to be – information about you is going to be new because they don’t see you every day, and they’re probably the ones who can make decisions that are going to impact you in a way that you’re able to leapfrog in your career as opposed to just move up incrementally.

So what I’ve been doing with that is sending out, and I have an email script for this, but a polite way of trying to have a very casual coffee with your boss’ boss, if that applies, or just with the head of the company, the CEO or whatnot, and just trying to understand their problems and then demonstrating that you have some value without stepping toe on the toes of anyone who you’re directly working for and just saying, “Hey, I’m here to help. I’m interested in what is you see as good employees. I’m interested to see where you think the company is going. I’m interested to see what your priorities are with everything just so that I can be on the same page with you and help eliminate kind of silos that kind of stuff.”

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. All right. Well, now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Danny Dover
Yeah, I’m a big fan of quotes so I have lots of them, but the one that has been resonating with me lately is one that my bartending instructor gave me years ago at a bartending school, he said, “Everything that we are is revealed by how we play.” That really struck me because I think a lot of people spend a lot of time, myself included, overthinking things. I do this probably worse than anybody. But when your shields are down, it’s when you’re actively playing that I think your true essence really shows itself. And I’ve been trying to remind myself of that more and more.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Danny Dover
Favorite book. Hands down it’s The Alchemist. It’s the only book I re-read every year. The Alchemist is really a beautiful wonderful story.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Danny Dover
Gap tape. So gap tape is very much like duct tape but it doesn’t leave residue and it doesn’t melt in high temperatures. Of course, if you put it on the sun it would but generally speaking it doesn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
So this is for like your studio setup?

Danny Dover
Yeah, I mean, but I travel with this so there’s been lots of times when – you can use tape for anything, right? But this’ll be that I’m fixing some clothes. This will be patching a tent. This will be earplugs. I probably shouldn’t have done that but I have. I mean, gaff tape is just solves all kinds of problems that know has such an expansive way of solving problems. So, yeah, gaff tape, you can buy it on Amazon or anywhere.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite habit? Of all these we’ve discussed, is there on you think is evermore key for you?

Danny Dover
Boy, I mean, I don’t have a specific habit but I would say a general good direction going is to read more autobiographies. So if you want to make that into a smart goal it would be read, say, 15 autobiographies by December 31, 2018.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. And is there a particular nugget you share that seems to really connect and resonate with folks who hear them repeat it back to you?

Danny Dover
Yes. Okay, so this has to do with the human eyeball. This is something that comes back to me, and I haven’t heard people say it to me verbatim, but I’ve heard them express this same idea so I like it. So if you look at the human eyeball from an evolutionary standpoint, how we got it to where it is now, there’s at least one interesting thing about it, but I’m sure there’s many.

The typical men’s eyeball compared to the typical women, I want to make it clear that, of course, there’s going to be some variations here so I’m making a very big jump here by just saying that men versus women. But it’s more complicated than that but I’m going to.

So men’s, if you look at their eyeballs, it’s developed in a way where the visual perspective is relatively laser focus when compared to a typical female eyeball for humans, whereas women’s are very, very broadly focused. And so it’s unclear exactly what’s the reason for this but the best guess that I’ve heard from an evolutionary standpoint is that men developed narrow visual focus for hunting.

It’s very important to know exactly where the animal is and have that laser focus, whereas women’s evolutionary spent a lot of time taking care of children, and children are running around all over the place, and there’s lots of things going on at the same time so having a broader focus would be something helpful there.

And I like this from a humor perspective because it explains perfectly well why man checks out a woman, it’s very obvious. But when a woman checks out a man it’s not quite as obvious. But where I actually find value in this is that this is a really beautiful vivid picture of understanding alternative perspectives.

It’s very easy to get caught in your head where you believe that everybody lives in the same world as you. But with this example, it’s not that only do people think differently from you, which is kind of obvious, but it’s also a bit, in this example, half the population is going to see the world differently than you, and they’re going to experience the world differently from you because visual, your eye, is such an important sense for how you experience the world.

So I really like this idea of understanding how just that small subtle change can really make a vastly different world from different people’s point of views.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Danny Dover
Go to LifeListed.com in the About page there, so lifelisted.com/about. It’s got all the contact information, much more information about my story.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Danny Dover
Sure. If you’re interested in learning more about focus and an alternative way of trying to develop that in your life, check out my latest book The Minimalist Mindset. You can find it any bookstore or on Amazon.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, Danny, thanks so much for chatting here, and I wish you luck with the subsequent goals that you are establishing for yourself, and it seems like you’ve got a heck of a track record so it’d be cool to see what unfolds here.

Danny Dover
Well, thank you, and thanks to all the listeners for spending time with us today. We both really very much appreciate it.

4 Comments

  • Rob Campbell says:

    Where are the links to the inspirational YouTube videos that were supposed to be shared in the show notes?

    I always need inspiration!

  • Blair Fotheringham says:

    Hi Pete,

    Great episode!

    Do you have any information about the prioritization tool “the Go Web” that Danny mentioned?

    • Danny Dover says:

      Hi Blair,

      I appreciate your interest! My explanation of my Goal Web method was an exclusive to this show! This isn’t a topic I have discussed publicly before so this podcast episode currently contains all of the information that is available about it. 🙂

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