How to Get More Margin in Your Life

Margin is the space between your load and your limit.

Your load is all the things you’ve got to deal with on a daily basis - personal stuff, work stuff, family stuff, all of it. It all goes into one big bucket. No matter how good you are at compartmentalizing your life, each facet of your life affects all the others.

Your limit is just that - it’s what you can handle. How equipped you are to deal with whatever life might throw at you. How capable you are of managing things.

The margin in your life, which you can fill however you want, is what exists in between those two things (as long as your limit is bigger than your load). Having margin in your life is what lets you try new things, relax, develop yourself, develop others, and explore new opportunities.

So with two variables (load and limit) to manipulate, it stands to reason that the only two ways to get more margin in your life is to either increase your limit (how capable you are) or decrease your load (how much you’re directly responsible for). So what does that look like?

How to Increase your Limit

The Catch-22 of it all is that in order to raise your personal ceiling, you’ve got to spend some time investing in yourself - your skills, your mindset, your knowledge base, your network. But most of the time, doing those things requires that you have margin in the first place. When there are fires to put out and you’re on a deadline, no one really wants to see you reading a Tony Robbins book or spending the day at a networking event.

But just because you have other things that are urgent, it doesn’t mean that investing in your own growth is less important. In fact, it has to be done in order to be successful on a long-term basis. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about doubling down on your strengths and letting other people do the work you’re not best equipped to do. Figure out where you add the most value and stay in that lane. By doing that, you’re applying the most leverage you possibly can and also lightening your own load (which we’ll talk more about in just a second).

So take the time to make that connection with someone new and build your network. Set aside 15-20 minutes a day for meditation and getting the shit lined up in your head. Block an hour out in the morning to go to the gym. Make those things a non-negotiable because the amount of impact you’ll be able to apply later on in the day when you’ve actually given yourself some traction will more than make up for any time you “lose.”

How to Decrease Your Load

Outsource. Delegate. Hire. You may think you’re the only one who can do that thing you do as well as you do, and today that might be true. Particularly for entrepreneurs who run businesses as lean as they can, there’s a sense that they’ve got to have their fingers on everything the business does. Here’s how to make that go away:

  1. The next time you do whatever you’re going to delegate, write down every step you do as you complete that task. Yep, it’ll take you 3x as long this time, but don’t miss any steps.

  2. Hand it off to someone and stand over their shoulder as they do it. Edit your directions because they probably sucked the first time you wrote them down, and that will become plainly obvious when you watch someone try to follow them.

  3. Using your new directions, give it back to the same person and let them give it a shot on their own. Once they’re done, they need to report to you on the results and any difficulties they encountered.

  4. Iterate again, this time with their help.

  5. Give them a final process (which they now have some ownership in) and check back with them in what probably now seems like a ridiculously long time - let them handle things for a month or two without you even checking on it.

  6. Ask them how they’d change the process now that they’ve got some experience. Let them, as long as you both agree on what the overall objective and deliverable should look like. Keep checking in monthly (I’m going to make a bold prediction here and say that within a few months, they’ll have developed a process that’s better than what you were doing because this process is their baby where it was just part of your list of responsibilities)

  7. Repeat for as many tasks as you don’t want to do anymore.

It’s important to mention that each of these goals fairly quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. There’s only so much you can grow in a certain period of time. Beyond that point, reading another book, taking another course, hacking another process, won’t have much effect on your overall ability to execute your job.

And when you’ve handed off all the non-essential work you’re doing, it’s possible to find yourself with a massive gap between what you’re capable of and what you’re responsible for. In those moments, it’s time to take on a big project. Dream up a new initiative, try something bold, and fill that margin with challenging, meaningful, impactful goals.

Youth Doesn’t Have an Expiration Date

To stay young, be young at things. The 83-year old with fresh tubes of oil paint, a canvas wrapped in cellophane, and not a clue where to start is a young painter.

The 53-year old walking back into the gym for the first time in 20 years now that the kids have moved off to begin their own lives is a young athlete.

The 33-year old who lives the same monotonous routine every day, who spends Friday night on the couch and Wednesday morning in traffic and Tuesday night eating tacos is in the fast lane to growing old.

The one at any age who realizes they’ve got a way to fix a problem and serve a community in the world, and takes a shaky first step towards sharing it and selling it, they’re a young entrepreneur.

Be bold and break the seal on your next adventure. Pull the protective plastic sheet off of a new opportunity.

Grab a new notebook, open it wide so that the spine wrinkles and cracks, and write a sentence on the top line of the first page.

And no matter how much you hate that sentence - that first shaky step (that very well might land you on your ass), no matter how much work you have to do to fix it later, how many words you have to scribble out, don’t you dare touch that first sentence. Because it’s the beginning. It’s youth, in you, and on a page. Every time you do it.

You Don’t Sell What You Think You Sell

IMG_1192.PNG

You sell one of these 30 things. That’s because these are the only things people want to buy. And the more of them you sell, the more you use in your messaging, the better you’re probably doing.

 

Your entire business has a theme - the things you make people feel and what they associate with you and what they say when they talk about you. Like how Harley Davidson sells the freedom to rebel against what society expects. Dave Ramsey sells the idea of financial peace. Chubbies sells the ability to make the most of the weekend. They aren’t selling motorcycles, financial planning courses, and shorts. At least not really.

 

There can be sub-themes within that, which basically say, “here’s what [topic] looks like through the lens of my theme.” And when you can do that, like Apple has, it frees you to create new things that further your mission and serve your tribe.


No one bats an eye when Apple, a computer company, makes a phone. Or a watch. Or headphones. In fact, we assume they’ll be awesome. If Apple came out with a car or a backpack or a line of living room furniture tomorrow, people would be out the door to buy them. Because Apple’s offering isn’t “good computers.” It’s simple, elegant products for people who like to express themselves and challenge the status quo. And Apple has gotten so good at it that they’ve become the status quo.


So for your product and your service, you have to ask yourself - “what do I want people to feel when they talk about my brand?”


“What transformation am I going to take people through? Who are they now and who will they be when I’m done with them?”


“What’s the story people tell themselves, ABOUT themselves, because they’re someone who uses my stuff?”

Finding Your Perfect Niche

Brain Dump First

Write down a list of all the stuff that you're awesome at. No judgment, no editing, just brain dump. Ask your friends if you need to. You're probably taking some stuff for granted and are undoubtedly more awesome than you think you are.

Do Your Research

Is this profitable? Do people actually buy this thing? Go look on Google. Search your ideas and look at all the paid offerings that show up in the first page results. Who are they, what are they offering, and how much are they charging? Make a list. Do the same with Amazon. What's for sale and how many people are buying? We're just proving that people actually want what you do.

Feel Your Customer's Pain

How painful is this problem? If I break my arm, I don't give a shit how much it costs to get it re-set, put in a cast, and fixed. It's a huge pain point. How much people pay is directly related to how hard they're hurting. When you know who you're serving and how much they're hurting, you also know almost everything you need to about how to speak to them and serve them.

Scope the Competition

Can the people you want to serve actually pay you for what you do? If you have competitors, people who sell essentially the same thing, the answer is undoubtedly yes. You also have an opportunity to shake things up in that world and present a fresh alternative. Look at what your competitors are doing, what people are engaging with, and then think about how you'll do things better, do things differently, and add more value than your competitors are.

Listen and Adjust

If you're just getting started, you'll find your unfair advantage really fast. And when you dive headfirst into that and aren't set in your ways but are set on listening to what your audience wants, you can't help but grow fast. There's room for everyone, so don't let yourself believe that just because someone got there first, you can't make moves.

Test Everything

Finally, it's time to test. Experiment with EVERYTHING in the beginning. You have no audience yet, so you have nothing to lose. Once you start to have people follow and subscribe you, there will be certain expectations on you. Right now there are none. If you're consistent over time and adjust course as people tell you what they want more of, you can't lose. You never know what's going to work until you put things out there.

Test with free content to see what resonates - any feedback is good feedback, even no feedback. If people aren't engaging, it's probably not what they're looking for. Or, it's delivered in a way that doesn't speak to their pains. Test with pre-sales of a product you're building to get capital to reinvest or with a beta group of users who can figure it out along with you. There's no bigger mistake than thinking you know what your customers want without asking them or listening to what your testing tells you.

How to Be Unbeatable in Business

There is exactly one way to make sure you never lose, and that’s to keep trying over and over.

To get rejected and move to the next one.

To lose and play again.

To fall and rise again and again, as many times as it takes.

If cauliflower can figure out how to turn into fucking pizza, you can figure out how to get paid for that thing you like to do.

And you can do it by creating something totally rad and supporting other people who create rad stuff too.

That's about all there is to it - do awesome stuff that you love to do.

When you do that, it's really easy to keep going for a long time. And when you never give up, and you keep working hard for a long time, caring a lot, being kind, and getting disgustingly good at whatever it is you do...

You're unbeatable.

The 80/20 Rule for Entrepreneurs

20% of your work will give you 80% of your results.

Which means that most of the things you do, most of the things you think you "have" to do, aren't really all that big a deal.

They just don't matter that much.

Here's the 20%:

*Get really clear on who you want to serve and what you can offer them.

*Get really clear on how you want to be seen in the market.

*Engage consistently with those people where they spend their time (online and in person) by entertaining, educating, and inspiring them.

*Spend most of your time, especially if you're just getting started, offering to help. (That's called selling, by the way.)

*When someone takes you up on your offer, be ridiculously good at what you do and how you make them feel.

*Make it easy for them to tell their friends about you.

There are so many ways to check those boxes and get those things done. You don't need to chase the next shiny object every time one pops up.

It's easier said than done.

It's fun to come up with new logos and write mission statements and business plans and have people pat you on the back for that stuff.

But if you're trying to build a BUSINESS, you don't have to overcomplicate it. In fact, you should have a hell of a lot of fun with it.

Content Mistakes to Avoid

1 - Not having a plan.

Don't wing it. Please sit down and write out what you're actually trying to accomplish with the stuff you're posting. Otherwise it's just noise. Are you trying to generate sales? Make offers. Are you trying to build your audience? Add value and ask for shares (Tap the paper airplane and share this in your story). Figure out what a win looks like and then win.

2 - Not tracking your results.

Based on what your win looks like, what numbers do you need to know to see if you're moving in the right direction? Figure that out, and then you can actually evaluate.

3 - Not posting native to the network.

Don't act the same on Instagram as you do on LinkedIn. Unless you'd like people to completely ignore you on the one you're screwing up.

4 - Putting your head in the sand.

When people comment, answer. When people don't get what they need from you, make it right for them as much as you can. Don't ignore the problems. Address them.

5 - Talking to the wrong person.

You have an audience of one. One person, your ideal customer, that person you'd most like to serve. When you turn the camera on, you're not talking to the camera, you're talking to them. Act like it.

6 - Being sketchy.

You post 3 times a day for 5 days and then you disappear for 2 weeks and then you post once and then you're gone for 5 days before the next one. You're unreliable, and people don't want to spend their time with unreliable people. Be where you said you would. Be consistent.

How to Reach Your Perfect Customer

1) Figure out who you're trying to reach and what they need - what are their glaring problems that you can help with? What's keeping them from reaching their goal?

2) Figure out how you'd like to position yourself, your brand, in their eyes. Branding is hard, but it's simple - it's what people say about you when you're not in the room. Your reputation. List out all the adjectives that you'd like people to use to describe you.

3) Figure out how their needs and your branding intersect to create an unfair advantage. Are you the lowest cost? The fastest? The most fun? Do you get them there in a socially or environmentally conscious way? It isn't enough to define who you are and who they are. You have to answer the 'so what' question.

4) Figure out where your perfect customer spends their time - and then start spending your time there. Once your positioning is defined, interact, engage, add value, and start to act in all those ways you want to be perceived.

5) Figure out what you can offer them to make it a no-brainer for them to do business with you. Orthopedic surgeons don't spend time worrying about what color their add to cart button is. They don't set up complicated sales funnels or try to lure you in. When you have a broken arm, you go to them because they're the only ones who can fix your problem. That needs to be you.

6) Figure out how to deliver AWESOME service. Once people are doing business with you, amaze them with how much you help. Do the stuff that doesn't scale. Treat them like family. Give a shit.

Congratulations. You win now.

You Have Permission to Suck

It takes a lot of courage to be new. To be bad at it. To struggle, and keep struggling.

It takes patience, and it takes determination, and it will make you better.

It’s lonely, though, and frustrating, and awkward, and you just feel clueless.

So many new business owners (and established ones) avoid it. Avoid being bad at stuff. Avoid the hard parts where you’re running on wobbly legs.

So they don’t do the things they know they should do and they focus on the stuff that’s more fun, more interesting, easier to show off to the people who you want to pat you on the back.

They order a new book on Amazon because if they can just read ONE MORE book about how to do that one thing then that’s when everything will fall into place.

They make sure their fonts are right on their website and the blocky sans serif is just the right weight to complement the scripty serif that will really set things off. That’s what my customers have really been looking for, right?

They sign up for new subscription services or watch another YouTube video that tells them the same thing the last one did, which is what they should be doing, which is not complicated - but it is hard as hell.

They need to try to sell and be told no until they get told yes.

They need to help someone.

They need to get feedback that maybe they’re close to the perfect offering, the perfect service, the perfect product, but they’re not there yet.

Then they need to iterate. They need to refine. They need to try again.

But that’s hard and it’s painful and they’re going to take a few punches to the jaw before they get it right.

But more importantly than any of that is that it’s necessary.

You have to fail more times than the other people will even try.

And you don’t have to get it right the first time. You have lots of tries.

In fact, if you did nail it right away, you probably didn’t reach high enough.

Try again. Try better. Fail again. Fail better.

Allow yourself to be a beginner, and get to work.

Love you.

Hey. Have fun.

Have fun.

With your business.

With your friends.

With your customers.

With your ads.

With your weekends.

And your weekdays.

Have fun.

With your craft.

With your purpose.

The ones who are having the fun, who are unapologetically authentic, who don't take themselves too seriously.

They're the ones who get to play the long game.

They don't deal with the burnout.

They don't get caught up with hustle and grind.

They don't work 18 hour days.

They sleep at night.

They can't tell when work stops and play starts.

Because it all ends up looking about the same.