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My secret weapons — tools, groups, activities

I’m friends with many entrepreneurs. Oftentimes we talk about what services we use, what products we have, and the routines that allow us to be more successful.

For example, there’s a recent obsession with morning routines. I do have a morning routine but it’s focused around my kids, which surprises some of my entrepreneur friends. I wake up no later than 6:45 a.m., get my 7 year old from her bed and carry her to my wife’s bed. I may do the same with my 4 year old.

Then I head downstairs, make coffee, let the dog out, and prepare the kids’ breakfast. Then I head back upstairs and get ready to walk the kids to school. After that walk, I run a two-mile route home — the route we take to school is about three-fourths of a mile. Then I start working from home. Eventually I drive to my office.

I’ve been experimenting with waking at 6 a.m. and working and journaling a bit before I wake the kids. I am trying to organize my life to start at 5 a.m. (Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo, inspired me to wake up earlier and work while others are sleeping.)

I have many other tools, groups, and activities that help me as an entrepreneur. Here are some.

My MacBook. Some people swear by Macs. Some swear by PCs. I love my 13-inch MacBook Pro. I bought it two years ago. I like the 13-inch form factor and I purchased the most expensive one in that size. This laptop accompanies me all over the world. It enables me to build my business. I’ve thought about making compromises on my computer, such as buying a less expensive model, or migrating to a PC. For me, it just doesn’t make sense.

One key accessory is a big monitor. Everywhere that I spend a lot of time I place a nice monitor and hook the MacBook up to it. I run a dual monitor setup: the 13-inch monitor and the external model of at least 24 inches. I’ve thought about buying a 30-inch or larger monitor, but that would be too unwieldy.

Hand in hand with my MacBook is my iPhone. Part of the value here, as non-technical person, is that I don’t want to think about how my computer equipment works and how it meshes with my phone. Apple’s “it just works” mentality has been helpful to me. In fact, I wrote this on an iPhone sitting in a train station in China! I am editing it on my Mac.

Evernote. I’m word oriented. I have a premium subscription to Evernote that lives on my MacBook and iPhone. Evernote allows me to coordinate written work between the two. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best solution for me to coordinate back and forth. I also use Evernote to compose social media posts and even emails if I am in an airplane or away from the Internet.

Paper notebooks. Another recent upgrade I’ve made is the use of small notebooks from MUJI, a Japanese retailer. My preferred notebook has 36 pages, on graphing paper. I retain information better if I use a pen and paper versus typing it. Further, if I’m talking with someone, it’s much more comfortable for both parties if I write the notes with a pen and paper — not bang away on my computer or peck at my iPhone. An iPhone or laptop creates separation between me and whomever I am talking to.

In my notebooks, I list on the first page my goals for the next several months. I refer back to that page often, to keep my goals paramount. On the last page, I record insights and frameworks that I’ve read and seen.

Training. Another weapon is Sandler Training, from a company called Market Sense in Austin, Texas. FringeSport has added employees to our sales team recently. We initially offered whatever sales training I had from school or prior experience. But since I’ve started going to Sandler Training, the improvements have been like night and day.

I’m sending my sales reps to Sandler, too. I retain a personal coach at Sandler for advice on building my sales team and for improving my skills a sales person and leader. It’s been amazing. It’s not inexpensive, but the benefits have been huge.

I’ve also been using resources from Digital Marketer, which offers online (and in-person) training. I’m signed up for a service called Digital Marketer HQ that teaches digital marketing to my employees and me.

Podcasts. Another big influence has been business-oriented podcasts. My favorite is from The Tropical MBA. I am a friend with the hosts and owners of the podcast, so perhaps I’m biased. But, for me, it’s one of the most consistently valuable and awesome podcasts.

Forums and groups. Tied in with The Tropical MBA podcast is the Dynamite Circle, which is a private forum and group for location-dependent entrepreneurs. While I’m not truly location-independent, I do travel extensively and I find this forum to be one of the more valuable groups that I belong to.

Speaking of forums and private membership groups, the eCommerceFuel forum is excellent. It accepts entrepreneurs only from six and seven-figure ecommerce companies. It has been extremely helpful for my mindset.

I have also recently joined a local Toastmasters chapter. I should have joined 15 years ago. Toastmasters is cheap, fun, and valuable.

Finally, I have been a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization for four years. EO has helped me to be the entrepreneur and businessman that I am today. If your company has at least $1 million in revenue and you could benefit from a monthly, structured, face-to-face gathering with other seven-figure entrepreneurs, I strongly urge you get in touch with EO.

Books and subscriptions. My Kindle is amazing. I have a very low barrier to buying books. If I hear about a book that I should read, I buy the Kindle version because it costs usually no more than $20, often less. Kindle books are wonderful investments.

I’m generally not in favor of subscription services for personal pleasure, but Spotify has been awesome. No matter where I am in the world, I download songs on Spotify. This enables me to travel and feel a sense of belonging, especially because on Spotify I have a number of playlists saved. Some are mine. Some are from my friends. Some are from people I don’t know. I often listen to playlists from my gym, Atomic Athlete, in Austin, Texas. It makes me feel a bit at home.

Other physical items. I’ve been aspiring to minimalism, both in travel and at home. I have a GoRuck GR1 rucksack (backpack) that’s been my constant worldwide companion for five years. I call it my “Go Bag” — less in a survivalist, the-world-is-about-to-end sort of mindset and more of an everything-I-need-is-here mindset. I travel the world with just this backpack, for weeks at a time.

It takes me 30 minutes or less to pack for every trip. For example, I’m in China as I write this. I did not pack for this China trip until after I put my kids to bed on the night before I left. I had no anxiety about that. It took me 25 minutes to pack.

Another simplification measure is that I wear basically the same thing every day. Well, not exactly the same thing as some of my friends who are pretty hardcore do, but I wear a t-shirt and shorts or jeans almost every day. It’s not very fashionable, but it works for me, especially because I’m pretty fit — I own a fitness business, after all — and it enables me to avoid spending time on clothes and outfits. I’ve found that the fitter you are, the better you can make any outfit look.

I’m always trying out new mindfulness practices. A lot of people in my life benefit from meditation, but it has not stuck for me yet. One thing that has been good for me is daily journaling. I’m on a bit of a spiritual journey, and so I’ve been experimenting with prayer — not mediation but prayer — and that’s been interesting.

Goals. Setting goals has been a huge, secret weapon. Ask someone who has a bunch of goals that she has actually written down and she likely has action plans for them. She’s probably hit at least some of them if not all. Talk with people whose lives are less dynamic and ask them about their goals. They likely have vague goals, but they haven’t written them down, and they probably don’t have action plans for achieving them.

Goal setting is very important for me. I use Evernote for this. I have multiple notes based around goals, and I review them monthly. One is my goals sheet, which includes goals for my entire life, as well as annual goals. There’s a yearly action plan, which is how I’m going to achieve those goals. Then I also have an annual review, where I write down what I’ve accomplished, or not. I am considering quarterly reviews of my life goals.

Just do it. Here’s a funny one that’s caused me some emotional stress over the years. If something feels good and it’s not hurting you or others and it’s helpful, just do it. As a silly example, I like to get my hair cut every two weeks. There is some frugal part of me that has fought this desire for years, but now I’ve finally given in. I like getting my hair cut every two weeks. Who cares? I’m blessed and lucky in that I can afford it. It’s not a great expense, and I always feel good with freshly cut hair.

Did any of my “secret weapons” resonate with you? What helps you to be successful?

Peter Keller
Peter Keller
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