Simplero Blog

The business of transforming lives, and life as a conscious entrepreneur

Calvin Correli

10 things I've learned about feelings

Dances with WolvesWhen I was in high school, I went to see the movie Dances with Wolves with my mom, my brother, and my aunt. It touched me deeply. After watching it I felt like crying. In fact, I desperately wanted to cry. It felt like there were tears right there beneath the surface, but I couldn't get them to come out. I hadn't cried for as long as I could remember.

When we got home, I went for a walk, alone, with our dog. It was night. Quiet. Nobody on the streets. I tried again to see if I could cry. It was too scary with people around, so maybe it would be easier if I were alone. It still didn't work. I never shed a tear.

It wasn't until years later, in Mexico in 1998, that I managed to cry. I got in touch with a deep, dark, painful part of me. It felt like there was some black awful part of me that if other people discovered it, they would immediately reject me. When I closed my eyes and really allowed myself to veer into it, I could feel it, I could feel the pain. It felt like such an important thing to get in touch with this pain, rather than keep running from it.

After I got home from that trip to Mexico, my girlfriend told me in no uncertain terms that she was not interested in me pursuing any feelings like that any further. Her father had died when she was young, and that had been very painful, and she had survived by just keeping her head above water, and never going there. I had no business thinking I'd experienced pain, no business feeling those feelings.

I convinced myself that she was absolutely right. My friends suggested that this was the most loving thing anybody had ever done for me. I agreed, and continued to bury my feelings for another decade.

Ten things I've learned about feelings

  1. They're meant to be felt. That's why they're called feelings. Your head has no part to play in this. What's required is the ability to feel feelings without being identified with them. Feel the anger, feel the fear, but don't say "I am angry", "I am afraid". Say "I feel anger inside me", "I experience fear in my throat and belly". Breathe into them. That allows them to move through you.
  2. You don't need to understand them. There may be a reason you feel the way you feel, but it's probably not what you think it is. In fact, that part of your brain that feels (right) doesn't have access to language (left), so it's always going to be a rationalization, an attempt to come up with a plausible explanation, rather than the true reason. If understanding helps you feel them, great, but you don't need to understand anything in order to feel them.
  3. You don't need to justify them. You have a right to feel whatever you're feeling at any moment. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Don't even try to justify your feelings. They're never about anyone else, anyway, so there's really no need. Feelings are facts.
  4. You don't need to tell a story about them. We have this desire to put a narrative on our feelings, to make them about outside events, about things that happened to us. That can be useful, sometimes, but don't overdo it. Don't attach too much meaning to your feelings. Just go "I feel anger," and notice that when you allow yourself to feel anger without identifying, it feels really good.
  5. They come in layers. Beneath one feeling lies another, which you'll only get to if you pass through the gates of the first one. Underneath anger lies sadness, and underneath the sadness lies hurt. And underneath the hurt lies fear. You can always trace things back to fear. Not that you have to, but it can be a helpful tool to know.
  6. Once felt, they're out of your system in seconds. That's how you know if you've fully felt them, or if there's still some part that's waiting to be felt. Remember: Always feel with understanding and love. 
  7. If they stay longer, or reappear regularly, you haven't felt them yet. See above.
  8. They live in your body, not your mind. No need to think about this. Just allow yourself to feel the sensations in your body, and communicate those sensations to your loved ones as simply and clearly as possible.
  9. They're what makes you human, what makes you come alive. So celebrate them. Don't run away from them. Allow yourself to go deeper and deeper into feeling.
  10. They're all good, even the bad ones. One of the best periods in my life was during my divorce when I would walk down the street and start to cry, with nothing triggering or prompting it. It was such a raw period in my life. Suddenly I'd opened up this whole new space for feelings to rise to the surface, and they sure did. They just kept pouring out. It was painful, but it was also raw and alive and real in a way that I'd never experienced before. I wanted it to be over with, but as soon as it was over, I wanted it back. There's no substitute for feeling fully alive. It's what we're here for.

What do you (not) feel?

Calvin Correli

What are you using your creativity on?

Today, I'm attending the 99u conference in New York. If you're not familiar, it's an annual conference (6th year) for creatives. The tag line is that it's not about idea generation, it's all about idea execution. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

I wanted to talk about creativity, and specifically what you use that creativity for.

When I signed up for this conference, something within me compelled me to sign up for the VIP option, which gave access to the speaker's lounge. I figured if just one important connection was made from this, it would be well worth the $1200 extra.

So today when I got there, I went upstairs to check out the VIP lounge, and it was completely empty. Later on it wasn't so empty, but it wasn't what I'd hoped it would be.

Immediately my brain started coming up with arguments for why it was a stupid idea to invest in a VIP ticket, and why that was self-evident. It had some great arguments.

And that's when I woke up and realized, I've done this many times before: Instead of using my creativity for something good, I unconsciously put it to work trying to come up with reasons to make myself wrong.

And let me tell you, that is not a very helpful or productive use of creativity.

The moment I saw that, I stopped. Who knows if it was a brilliant move or a stupid move. Maybe tomorrow will bring some awesome connection. Maybe the experience will bring some other value, such as this blog post. Or maybe I'll copy the concept with my own conference when I put one on. Or who knows.

The important point is, it's not worth pursuing for even a split second.

Much better to put my creativity to use writing great prose or code or coming up with reasons why I'm awesome or why the world is a wonderful place or ways to make my wife or my employees or my customers exceptionally happy or a million other things.

What are you using your creativity on?

Calvin Correli

Drop the To-Do List: Introducing the Today List

We all have to-do lists. And there's always way more on it than we can possibly do. Often it ends up being the list of things we never actually get done. It becomes a nagging reminder of all that we should've done but didn't.

Another problem is that life offers us the opportunity to rediscover who we are on a daily basis. Each morning when you wake up, you are literally not the same person that you were when you went to bed. Every moment is new. Life invites you to ask yourself who you are today, who you want to be today. The problem with to-do lists is that they were written by the person you were yesterday. Or before. They keep you locked into your identity, and prevents you from discovering yourself anew.

Exit the To-Do list.

Enter the Today List.

The Today List is a list that you write each morning of the most important things you want to get done that day. Or at least work on that day. I prefer to keep mine on paper, on a yellow 5x8 inch pad.

There's something wonderful about pen and paper, and about having to physically write out each item from yesterday that's still relevant today. Forces you to think about it. It also automatically limits you to a reasonable number of items. And it gives you that wonderful visceral feeling of striking things out, and of crumbling up the list when you're done with it.

Give it a try. I've been using this method for years, and I love it very much.

What's your favorite productivity tip?

Calvin Correli

Managing overwhelm

One of the reasons so (relatively) few people succeed in business is that it's complicated. Business is not just one thing - it's the integration of hundreds of little things, that all need to be done just so, in harmony.

You've got to have a great product. You've got to market it. You must close the sales. You must have good customer service. You must continue to nurture your relationship with your customers. You must continue to improve your product. You must balance the books and make sure there's enough money to pay the bills. You must hire really great people. You must serve and lead those people. Oh, and you must make sure that you get enough sleep, exercise, and that you also have time for leisure. You must build your network. You must continue to learn and grow.

It's a lot of stuff, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Like you're standing below it all, trying to hold everything together, like it's an inverted pyramid on top of you, and you're trying to keep everything in balance just so.

In the beginning, I figured that it was just a matter of reaching a certain size. That it would be easier as the company grew. But that's not true. As the company grows, there are more things to keep track of, more things that can go wrong, the fall if things break can be a lot harder, and you can't be as on top of everything as you could when you were just starting out.

So what's the solution?

The solution is to realize that you're not in charge. That a power higher than yourself has this all figured out.

A while back, I saw this written on a blackboard in chalk:

"No, God did not go on vacation and leave you in charge!"

I think the key to surviving this madness is trust. Trust in other people - both your customers, your employees, your suppliers and other vendors. But also trust in a higher power. The Universe. God. Whatever you want to call that power.

When you were an embryo, you weren't googling for a course or a book on how to divide the cells. You weren't stressing over whether you were celldividing and growing new limbs and organs at the right pace. It all happened automatically.

We can't solve the feeling of overwhelm at the level from which it originates. That doesn't mean we won't try. We'll create systems. We'll ensure we have a financial buffer. We'll worry about what could go wrong and try and protect against it. But none of this really works. It helps for a little bit, but it doesn't address the deeper fallacy, which is believing that if we don't hold it all together, it's going to fall apart and break.

I don't believe in a Christian god or any other religious god. But I do believe there's a higher intelligence at work, a universal consciousness of which we're all a part, that makes trees grow, dolphins sing, and wounds heal.

The more we can surrender our worries and our overwhelm to that higher power, the more expanded and relaxed and resourceful we'll be, and the more energy we'll have to actually do the things we feel called to do, in a focused and powerful way.

So whenever you catch yourself being overwhelm, allow yourself to feel it, rather than trying to numb it out with coffee or sugar, and then surrender it to whatever that higher power is to you.

Calvin Correli

Love your competitors

Have you ever had the experience of having a panic attack as your response to discovering a new competitor? You feel like "oh shit, I'm doomed, I'm sure they're much better than us, we can't compete, we're going to be fucked".

I certainly know that feeling, and I've seen it in others. Sometimes it feels like it would be so much better if the competitors didn't exist, and we could have the market to ourselves.

Of course, that's not how the world works, and it turns out that's a good thing.

Did you know that the word "competitor" comes from the latin root "competere" which means "to strive together". It's a friendly thing, where we come together to strive to each be better together. We support each other, we challenge each other to be as great as we can be. Competition is healthy.

I learned this from Dov Seidman, author of the book How, who spoke at the Conscious Capitalism conference a few weeks ago.

Conscious Capitalism as a movement was started by John Mackey, the founder and CEO (now Co-CEO) of Whole Foods, a $18 billion company. Whole Foods' fiercest competitor through the years was always Trader Joe's. And guess who's now the CEO of the Conscious Capitalism? That's right. It's 17-year Trader Joe's President Doug Rauch. Just because they've been fierce competitors doesn't mean they can't be good friends.

Next time you feel upset or frightened of a competitor, realize that they're there to support your growth, to challenge you to be better tomorrow than you are today. It's not about beating them. It's about unleashing even more of your potential.

Calvin Correli

The Focused Company

Last night I visited the offices of Basecamp and got a chance to speak with founder Jason Fried, the founder. If you're not familiar with Basecamp, they're the company behind the wildly successful project management tool by the same name, and was previously known as 37signals.

Before the recent name change, they were a serial software company. They had several products - Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire being the most prominent ones. The feeling was that they'd keep creating new products. That was their thing.

When they chose to change change their model to be a one-product company, to focus exclusively on Basecamp going forward, to stop developing Highrise and Campfire, and to stop creating new products, it took most of us by surprise. It fucked with our view of them, our of the world, even. I bet I wasn't the only one who double-checked the date to make sure it wasn't April 1st.

I asked Jason about the change, and in particular, about which percentage of revenue had come from Basecamp. The answer: 87%. Mind you, the other two products were still million dollar businesses, but Basecamp simply dwarfed the others by an order of magnitude.

There's a couple of lessons I've taken from this.

First, it makes a lot of sense to focus all of your effort on one thing. You can pour all of your energy and creativity into it. This is what you think about in the shower, when you fall asleep at night, when you wake up in the morning.

More importantly, even if you're as good as 37signals/Basecamp, with excellent design, development, and marketing skills, and with a huge and responsive audience, your choice of product and market will have a huge influence on your revenues.

If you do the math, Basecamp is doing 10-20x the revenue of those other products. Not because Basecamp is better, but because the market for project management software includes every single business and every single individual in the world, which is a large number. In contrast, Highrise is only really relevant for companies that have a high-touch sales process. And Campfire is only for companies that have semi-nerdy distributed teams that are not too large.

Tony Hsieh talks about the same concept in his book, Delivering Happiness. After selling his first company, he spent some time playing poker. What he realized that the number one most important decision affecting your winnings in poker is to choose the right table to play at. You want a table where the stakes are high, and the players are less skilled than you. If the people at the table are playing for low dollar amounts, you can win all night long, and it still won't amount to much. If you sit at a table where they play for a lot of money, but they're much better than you, you're going to get creamed.

In the info marketing industry, it's common to do a lot of different products. The thinking seems to be that the more products you have, the more you'll be able to sell, because there'll be something for every price point and need. And while that may theoretically be true, it's also true that it confuses your customers, it dilutes your attention, and it makes the perception of each individual product less powerful. In practice, it's rarely so.

Marie Forleo has chosen a one-product model, and she's killing it. She used to do a mastermind group, a live event, and some other high-priced top-tier products. Now, as far as I know, she only does B-School, which is priced at $1999, and is only on sale once per year.

Last year there were about 6,000 new customers. That's a cool $12 million right there. This year, it looks like the number is about 9,000, or an $18M pay-day. Sure, probably about 30% of that money goes to affiliates, but it's still a solid business with just a single product.

It means you can focus all of your efforts on making the product and the experience and the marketing super extra awesome, and just in general have a great time.

Getting to a place where you have so much excess money and time that you can become a race car driver like Jason Fried's co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, or have lots of time to create amazing weekly content, like Marie Forleo is doing, sounds like a worthy goal to me. Not overworking myself with meager financial results.

If you were to focus and have just one single product, what would it be?

Calvin Correli

Turning fear into flow

A while back, I asked Gay Hendricks, what is the number one piece of advice he would give me? His answer: Find those pockets of fear, and turn them into flow by breathing into them. That phrase took on a new meaning for me last night.

I was lying in bed, having trouble sleeping. A couple of things transpired. An old painful sadness came up, which caused a bump in my relationship with my wife. Plus I had to get up at 4.30 to catch an early morning flight to Chicago.

So I laid there, allowing myself to feel that sadness like I normally would. But this time, I felt inspired to ask myself the question "what if this is really fear? can I breathe into it and turn it into flow?"

I tried it, and boy was it powerful. It felt like there was a whole layer of fear-based structure around that feeling. Layers upon layers, in fact. I breathed into it, allowing it to dissolve into flow, and it gave me such a rush of energy in my whole body. I kept breathing into it, and the rush kept going.

It feels like yes, there's sadness, there's pain. But the structure that really holds that old emotion in place is the fear. The fear that it's going to stay. The fear that what it's claiming is true. The fear that I won't be okay, ever. The fear that I'm on the completely wrong track. The fear that I'm fundamentally broken in some way that I'm not even entirely aware of. Once that fear is dissolved, the emotion can move.

I'm not sure how long this went on for. It wasn't like I then fell right asleep - it was quite a rush.

Eventually, I did fall asleep, though. Then at 3.30, my puppy started barking at some sound, and I couldn't sleep after that. So I got about an hour of sleep.

But screw all that. I learned a lesson for life. This is such a cool new tool, I'm going to keep playing with it.

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