Need a serious dose of inspiration today? Today on the #ProductivityGiants series we talk to Sean Stephenson, an entrepreneur, and speaker who has overcome extreme challenges and has inspired millions of people around the world.
Dr. Sean Stephenson was born with a rare bone disorder that stunted his growth and caused his bones to be extremely fragile. He was expected not to survive past birth – but he did, and fought for his quality of life. His message of hope and perseverance has been heard at live events all over the world, and his book, Get Off Your “But” , has been translated into over a dozen different languages. Sean also works as a board-certified therapist, and doctor of Clinical Hypnosis.
As you can see – Sean chose to rise above the issues life presented him with and made something seriously great out of himself. We loved hearing about Sean’s secrets to productivity and why maintaining friendships helps him be his most successful. Read on for motivation:
What do the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
The first 90 minutes is usually carved out just for myself. Sometimes I’m connecting to Mindie, my wife, and we’re just in conversation, planning things out. Or, I go right into my personal growth rituals, things like listening to an audio program, working out, going for a walk in this park that’s behind our home, sitting down at a local coffee shop and journaling and just dumping out what’s in my brain, or reaching out to dear friends and having good connections with them. It’s usually focused on recharging my spirit before I touch anything in business.
What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?
Well, I think productivity for me has more to do with energy than it does time management. I have something called a consistency calculator. It’s just a notebook. It’s got graph paper in it and it’s got all my self-care rituals and my business care rituals in it, and it’s got all the days of the month as well. I’m able to mark off what I’m working on and make sure that I’m clearly on the path to making sure that my energy is solid, my confidence is protected and my vision is clear.
Are you able to share anything that you do for self-care?
Things like spending time in nature, journaling, exercise. If I can’t get a full workout in, I make sure to do at least 300 situps. I’ve found that that is a great way to just get something done for my body. Things in my business are being on podcast interviews, going in networking meetings, writing my email list, putting out social media content, spending time with friends.
A lot of people look at friends as a side thing that they do when they have time. I put my friends as one of the highest priorities in my life because everything I’ve ever built in my life pretty much came through a friend. When I’m hanging out with my friends, I actually feel like I’m working because I’m getting introductions, I’m learning things and I’m expanding the way I operate my business because I pretty much only hang out with entrepreneurs.
How often do you check your inbox?
Well, the good news is a few years ago I stepped away from email. I hired a full-time executive assistant that checks my email now. I might, just out of voyeurism, look into my own email box again, but pretty much everything is sorted and dealt with first before it’s discussed with me. That doesn’t mean I ignore my emails. It means that only the things that are pertinent for me to handle are ever brought to my attention.
I used to be horrible at email. I would be months behind schedule, and I would have them all starred and I’d have all this stupid filing system for getting back to, but then meanwhile four months would go by until I got back to them. Whereas now, having the executive assistant, something doesn’t go through the cracks and get ignored for more than a brief period of time. It’s never ignored, but it’s dealt with within 24 hours.
What have you become better at saying no to?
Oh, I’m a lot better at saying no in general, but I’m really good at saying no to people who are draining, negative and toxic. I used to keep these people in my life because we had history or I loved them, and I felt like, “Well, you know, not everybody’s perfect,” and so I would keep people around that were very draining to my energy. Last year, I went over to Kenya in Africa and I had a massive transformation in my own personal world, and seeing the importance of why I’m on this planet. When I came home, I cleaned house. I literally removed myself from every single negative person that I had been associated with.
What’s the biggest hindrance to your productivity? How do you combat it?
I think the biggest things that hinder my productivity is doing things outside of my unique ability. You know, there’s a great entrepreneurial coach, Dan Sullivan, and he talks about this concept of unique ability. What are you amazing at? What brings you good energy, and what could you do for the rest of your life and not be drained by it? That’s your unique ability. Things like getting up on stage and making people laugh and cry as a speaker, as a comedian, those feed that energy that I feel like makes me productive.
When I’m not productive is when I’m doing things that I’m not equipped to do. You know, if I’m the one that’s trying to create an opt-in page and I’m the one that’s doing the technical stuff and I’m putting together slides or handouts, that just kills my productivity, because it’s outside of my unique ability and therefore extremely draining.
When you lose focus, what do you do to regain it?
I lose my focus every day. It’s about setting up your environment to know who you are – I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I’m paid to be a broken record. If my self-care is on point, if my business care is on point, I have a great amount of focus. If I’m working in my unique ability, I never get distracted when I’m doing something that recharges me.
I used to have the belief that to be important, you have to have every minute of your day scheduled with something to do, and I was exhausted. Great, I felt important, but I was miserable, and now I don’t hold that belief. I feel that one of my most enjoyed assets is my free time, and I covet my free time and I use it wisely so that when I do have to show up, put on the work boots and do what I do best, I’m ready to go.
What have you learned from your failures? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
I love the question. I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned from failure is that failure is a judgment call, that really ultimately what people deem as failure is did it hit the target, but so what? Most of the time we don’t hit the target, and we have to course-correct and get back out there.
I’m a trainer of NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, and in NLP they talk about how there is no failure, there is only feedback. You only get feedback from your environment and the projects that you’re working on to tell you, “Okay, that didn’t work, let’s try a different approach,” whether it’s getting in shape, making a ton of money, finding love. Whatever it is you want, if you shift your mindset that there is no failure, there’s only feedback. I think that’s why I love hanging out with a lot of marketers. You know, the outside world might think that they’re sleazy or, “Oh, they’re always sending me advertisements and offers,” but I love marketers because these people, they test everything, and they don’t take it personally.
If they send out an email and nobody likes it, they figure out how to change it so that they do like it. If they create a product and nobody wants to buy it, they change the offer so that people do want to buy it. You know, marketers are always thinking that everything’s just a test. You don’t have to take it personally. NLP people believe that everything is just feedback. Me personally, I think we’re learning every step we take, so as long as I’m getting out of bed and I’m going after my day, I’m going to learn.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I would say making sure that my environment is always empowering. You know, like seven years ago, as an example, I lived in Chicago. I hated the weather. It was freezing cold in the winter, it was muggy in the summer. It was not an empowering environment, and I felt like I had to be there because my family was there. I had a lot of excuses about why it would be hard to move, but then Mindie was like, “We can live anywhere in the world. Let’s go somewhere beautiful, where it’s warm and blue skies,” and we moved, and that shifted. That was probably one of the best decisions of my life, was moving physical locations to a place where I feel alive and vibrant.
What bad advice do you hear often?
If you build it, they will come – that’s totally not true. If you create something, all you’ve got is another project on your hands. You need to sell the shit out of it. You need to market it. You need to let people know about it, and then there’s not even a guarantee that they’re going to show, but it’s a much better chance than if you’re not out there promoting it. This idea that you just need to put it out there and build it and they will come is not true. You have to promote, promote, promote, and don’t take it personally when your promotions don’t crush it the first few times.
What book has changed your life and why?
I read The Four Agreements and it radically shifted my life, because it’s just four simple truths. I could reread it every quarter. Also, One Small Step by Dr. Robert Maurer – it’s just about how you only get overwhelmed when you try to eat the whole elephant in one bite. You’ve got to break everything down into little steps and take your time, and over time, you will be further down the road than you imagine.
What is the most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?
Joining Genius Network, which is a networking group run by my mentor Joe Polish. I spend $25,000 a year just to attend a few meetings, but I am around people who think big, play big, are inspiring, are focused on their dreams. It’s helped me tremendously for building my company, developing my revenue, but more importantly, it is introducing me to incredible friends. You know, people might laugh and say, “Why are you paying $25,000 a year to meet friends?” Well, because you get what you pay for. I meet incredible people that are committed to big goals.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you want to create a lucrative speaking business and get your message out on a live platform, join my Facebook group. I would also recommend my podcast on how to develop your lucrative speaking career. It’s just called The Sean Stephenson Show, and it’s on iTunes and it comes out every week.
Follow Sean on Twitter.