Mindsets, Muscles and Tools
There are three things that can speed up your development, both in your personal and professional life.
They don’t cost very much, and they can make you happier and more productive.
By giving them clear names you can determine which of the three you need in any given moment, rather than wasting your energy on the wrong approach.
They are Mindsets, Muscles and Tools.
Mindsets are the perspectives or ways of seeing the world that allow you to grow.
A limited, outdated or unhelpful mindset will prevent you from growing, even if someone gives you all the right tools.
Changing your mindset is hard to forecast and hard to engineer, but these “Aha!” moments of clarity are incredibly valuable.
People often describe these shifts as “something just clicked”.
Muscles are formed through repeatedly doing something difficult, which gradually becomes easier over time.
You notice when someone has good prominent muscles, and you might tell yourself a story about how that person is made differently to you.
The unflattering truth is that you probably have a similar number of muscle fibers as them, they’ve just trained theirs over time.
In other words, you might be 10,000 push ups away from strong muscles.
You can’t be given muscles, nor can you install them overnight, you have to work for them.
We have no equivalent of liposuction, you have to put in the time and watch your technique.
Tools help magnify your power.
Good luck pushing a nail into a board with your arm, but the addition of even a small hammer makes it easy.
We may not have supernatural powers, but with tools like ladders, bridges, keys, cutlery, plumbing and shovels, our abilities are massively enhanced.
That said, the wrong tool for the job is useless, and the knowledge of how to use a tool well makes a huge difference to the results and how hard you have to work.
The tools I use in my work are the same; simple, portable, designed to focus your energy and intelligence, helping you to either achieve a result you couldn’t get before or to get a good result with far less effort than before.
Genuine change comes through a combination of all three: the right mindset, trained muscles and the right tools for the job.
If you’re missing one of the three, you won’t see exceptional results.
For example, I can teach you how to structure your personal finances, and set you up with great bank accounts and habits.
However, if you have the mindset of “I am bad with money” then you’ll constantly undermine your own efforts.
Someone can change your mind about customer centricity (focus on solving their problems rather than pushing your own agenda onto them) and give you useful tools for describing customer preferences.
If you refuse to start building muscles around conducting experiments, testing new ideas, talking to people in the real world and analysing feedback, those tools and mindsets won’t get you very far.
A book can change your mind and persuade you to take action, but if you don’t have the right tool for the job, you’ll end up with a mess of blurry data that doesn’t mean very much.
Your energy is quickly wasted, and you’ll feel flat about your lack of clear results.
A classic example is when entrepreneurs get inspired to try Facebook as a growth platform, bungle their first campaign and claim “Facebook doesn’t work”.
The real issue is that they didn’t understand the tool.
What I like about naming these three is that it makes it easier to spot your gaps.
Do you feel like you haven’t actually changed your mind?
Do you know what to do but aren’t putting in the work?
Do you have the right mindset and energy but are missing the right tool?
This is a great conversation to have with your coach, because accurately diagnosing what’s missing makes it easy to find the solution.
Examples of mindset shifts
“We can do good and make money at the same time”
“There’s a noble reason why people buy from us, and there’s the real reason why people buy from us”
“We don’t have to be cheap in order to be popular”
“Just because I built this business doesn’t mean my customers will see my products and services as ‘homemade’”
“My first job out of university won’t be my dream job, it just has to be a good starting point”
“The first ten years of my career are an apprenticeship”
“I’m deciding to prioritise earning/learning”
“The aim of my art is to have the opportunity to make more art in the future”
“We can grow by serving and delighting customers, not by twisting their arms”
“The aim is to pay lots of tax, but no more than necessary”
“Our margins are what power our business, giving us freedom and choices”
“Our social impact comes from what we actually do, not from being a not-for-profit”
“Running tests makes us stronger, and saves time and energy in the long run”
Examples of building muscles
Vigilantly monitoring and maintaining your margins.
Actively listening to your customers.
Making friends with other groups, refusing to speak negatively about your competitors.
Naming and cutting out jealous thoughts.
Running experiments in the market.
Ensuring you have frequent down time.
Removing yourself from situations that are bad for your mental health.
Putting yourself into situations that makes you uncomfortable in a good way.
Committing to creating content for your website and social media channels, even when you don’t feel like it.
Risking embarrassment in order to try out something new.
Testing several options at once, without too much scepticism or sentimentality.
Sticking with things when they’re hard, because you believe it will pay off in the long run.
Quitting something because you don’t see the situation improving in the long run.
Examples of helpful tools
A clear Vision and Mission
One page websites
Theory of Change / Logic Models
Your results may vary (as will your friend’s results)
This is why it’s tough to give blanket recommendations about books, courses, mentors and case studies.
What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you, because we had different needs.
Some of the podcasts I listen to will drive you mad, because they’re helping me develop a new mindset while what you needed was a practical tool.
I’ll rave about the host, and you’ll think they’re all talk.
Talk was what I needed.
Vice versa, there are great toolboxes out there that have been worth thousands of dollars to me over the last few years, but only cost $50 to buy.
I would only recommend these tools to a select few, because the tool without the mindset or the muscles isn’t particularly valuable.
That said, when you hear a number of people recommend something, it’s worth investigating for yourself, even if you don’t know if the gold is in the mindset, muscles or tools it recommends.
Great starting points
Once you’ve thought about which of the three you need, there are some tricks for getting started.
Firstly, look at the talented people in your industry.
What do they believe which you don’t fully understand?
What mindsets do they seem to think are crucial, and how can you start evaluating them for yourself?
Where have they put in the hours over their career?
What was the grunt work that elevated them to their current position?
Where did they “cut their teeth” and learn the craft?
What tools do they use to present and assess their ideas?
Next, look at the talented people in different industries.
What worked for them?
What were their turning points or moments of inspiration?
Where did they put in their hours?
What’s your equivalent of their approach?
I personally love learning from advertising directors, sports coaches, fashion designers, graphic designers, architects, artists, behavioural economists, etc.
The insights you get from these great people are inspiring, because you start to draw parallels and interesting ideas you’d never have seen in your own field.
Finally, I’d talk to a trusted advisor about which of these three you need next.
This only works if the person understands your situation well, and if you’re happy to hear a surprising answer.