If you struggle with procrastination, goal-setting, and generally moving ahead in life, the heart of your struggles may be your view of time. More specifically, that you look at it too linearly.
That’s the argument my guest today makes. His name is Steve Chandler, he’s a success and business coach, and the author of many books, including the focus of our discussion today — Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and Chaos. At the beginning of our conversation, Steve shares how he personally overcame years of failure and addiction to find a fulfilling life and career. He then explains why looking at time too linearly can lead to putting things off to the future, overwhelm and over-thinking, and perpetually trying to find more information before moving on an idea. He argues that we’re better served by adopting a concept of non-linear time management, which pushes us to approach life with a bias towards action, privilege the energy of “want to” over “know-how,” and act in the now. We then discuss other tactics and mindsets you can adopt to become a “time warrior,” including being creative rather than reactive, seeing life as a game, and serving people rather than pleasing them. We end our conversation with what to do when you feel like you don’t know what to do with your life.
- What was life like for Steve before he found his purpose?
- What is non-linear time management?
- Why do traditional approaches to time management sometimes cause procrastination?
- How we trick ourselves into thinking we’re taking action
- The decreasing value of more and more information
- Why you should re-read impactful books
- How and why to break big tasks into small, even microscopic steps
- Gamifying your to-dos
- Overcoming being behind on things (on a mental level, too)
- How people-pleasing gets in the way of our accomplishing things
- What’s the role of goals in non-linear time management?
- A time warrior knows what he wants to do; what if you don’t know?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
- Practice Productive Procrastination
- Use the Procrastination Equation to Get Things Done
- How to Finally Beat Procrastination
- The Productivity Project
- Wish You Had More Time?
- Right Now by Steve Chandler
- Do It Now!
- Meditations on the Wisdom of Action
- How to Get Unstuck
- My interview with Ian Bogost about gamifying mundane tasks
- Neal Stephenson’s take on social media
- Don’t Should On Yourself
Connect With Steve
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: If you struggle with procrastination, goal-setting, and generally moving ahead in life, the heart of your struggles may be your view of time, more specifically, that you look at it too linearly.
That’s the argument my guest today makes. His name is Steve Chandler. He’s a success and business coach and the author of many books, including focus of our discussion today, Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises, and Chaos. At the beginning of our of conversation, Steve shares how he personally overcame years of failure and addiction to finding fulfilling life and career. He then explains why looking at time too linearly can lead to putting things off to the future, overwhelm and overthinking, and perpetually trying to find more information before moving on an idea.
He argues that we’re better served by adopting the concept of nonlinear time management, which pushes us to approach life with a bias towards action, privilege, the energy of want-to over know-how, and act in the now. We then discuss other tactics and mindsets you can adopt to become a time warrior, including being creative rather than reactive, seeing life as a game, and serving people rather than pleasing them. We end our conversation with what to do when you feel like you don’t know what to do with your life. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at aom.is/timewarrior. Steve joins me now via clearcast.io.
Steve Chandler, welcome to the show.
Steve Chandler: Thank you, Brett.
Brett McKay: You are a successful business coach, corporate trainer, a success coach, but the backstory to how you got to where you are now is interesting. You’ve written about this throughout several of your books. You’re a late bloomer. This didn’t happen until mid-life. What was life like for you before you figured out what you were supposed to do with your life?
Steve Chandler: It’s a rather tragic tale, and I don’t want to leave your listeners depressed by hearing about what my life is like, so I’ll keep it short. I went through all kinds of confusion and failure. I was a bad student. I didn’t have any ambition. Didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got into, went to college and flunked out, and then went back and got into alcoholism and drugs, bankruptcy, all kinds of things that, just stirring the pot of negative adventure and crisis. This went on for decades. It went on until I finally got clean and sober when I was around 35 or 36, and then I had a blank slate because I didn’t have anything I really wanted to do. There was no calling. I had major self-esteem issues. I was just at a loss.
At that point, somebody gave me a book and said, “Why don’t you read this book?” It was decades ago, but it was by Napoleon Hill, and it was called The Master Key to Riches because one thing I did know was I had no money and I had a lot of debts, and that had become my major negative adventure in life. I read that book, and for the first time in my life, I got a glimmer of hope. Things turned around after that.
Brett McKay: What was it in the book that stood out to you that gave you that hope?
Steve Chandler: There was something in there that called to me about creativity, that somehow I got a feeling… I always loved creating. I loved writing, poetry, and things like that, so I liked creating with words. That was always a favorite thing of mine. I never thought I could make any money doing it. My degree from college was in creative writing and poetry, so I’m not going to set up a poetry shop and make a lot of money. I didn’t know what to do with that. But there was a sentence in that book that creativity can be applied anywhere and that it can be applied to creating money if you wanted to. If that was your issue or desire, you could apply it anywhere.
This was a revelation to me. I didn’t think… I thought I had all these different weaknesses and personality flaws, character flaws that would never allow me to succeed at anything. That was my first glimmer of hope.
Brett McKay: I imagine this turnaround didn’t happen right away.
Steve Chandler: No. It happened in stages, which was good because I read a lot about people who have these enlightenment moments, people like Byron Katie or Werner Erhard driving across the Golden Gate Bridge and getting this flash of enlightenment on what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Then I had this enlightenment envy, like, “Oh, that’d be great if that happened.”
But fortunately, it happened in stages, one thing led to another. I got some… I was reading books by Nathaniel Branden in self-esteem because I knew at that time, or at least thought that was my biggest issue. I had horrible self-esteem issues. I read his books, and I got so excited by his books that I went out to see him in California and had some sessions and got connected.
One little thing led to another, and I got into coaching. I received coaching. I went to Landmark education, took classes. Little by little, I began to create who I wanted to be, and little by little, I saw that was possible.
Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about some of the ideas that you’ve been writing about and talking about for the past couple of years. The first book I came across by you was Time Warrior. Such a great name. It’s got this samurai on there, the cover. What I like about Time Warrior is that it intersects with a lot of the other ideas you’ve written about, and also, I think this idea of time management, and people feel like that’s an issue they’re struggling with. But what’s interesting about Time Warrior is you advocate for something that you call nonlinear time management. What is nonlinear time management? That’s kind of a weird concept because time we think of as linear thing.
Steve Chandler: Right. Yeah. It was created to be an attention-getting, weird concept, but what I meant by it was simply living in the inquiry of “can I do this right now?” Most people, and especially me and many of the, I would say most of the people I’ve coached or worked with, when something comes up that they want to do or someone ask them to do, and they know they’re going to do it, the first impulse is, “Where am I going to put this in the future,” or, “When do I have to do this,” or, “What’s your… ” if someone asks you for something, and the first response is, “What’s the deadline on that? When do I have to get it to you?” so that I can put it out there somewhere in my linear future.
Pretty soon, this linear future, this list of things that I have to get done, gets really heavy, and it weighs on my mind. I wake up in the morning, and I’m thinking, “Oh, my gosh. I’ve got overwhelm. I’ve got so much to do. I should’ve awakened two hours earlier to even get a start on it.” That’s kind of the linear approach.
The nonlinear approach is something I learned observing some really powerful people in business, watching the way they worked, and I would bring something up like, “Maybe that company could be a customer of yours.” I would watch this one business leader I admired, and he would say, “I think you’re right,” and he would grab the phone and call them. I would think, “Man, that is an unusual time management system he has,” or if I would say something about anything, he would say, “Well, let’s do it now. We’re here. We’re living in the now. Let’s do it now.”
That became something that was so counterintuitive for people that it looked revolutionary to me. I started doing it, and I started to helping other people do it. Sometimes, I’d be coaching somebody on the phone, and they would say, “I’m feeling so bad because I’ve put this off so long, and I need to write this letter of recommendation,” and I would say, “Okay, hang up the phone, write it now, and call me back when you’re ready to finish the coaching conversation.” They would say, “Are you kidding me? What do you mean? I’m here to be coached by you,” and I said, “No. I’m here to help you see that there are things you can do right now,” and that’s nonlinear. The now, this moment now is not linear. It’s here. It’s present. It is eternal, and it’s where everything great happens.
In fact, I wrote a book later after Time Warrior called Right Now. It’s a revolutionary portal to getting amazing things done. It sounds oversimplified. It sounds ridiculous, like, “Well, duh.” People would say, “What are your tips?” like in Time Warrior, one guy asked me, and I put it in the book, “What are your tips for dealing with procrastination?” My answer is, “Here’s what you do: Do what you’re procrastinating on. Do it.” That’s my tip. That’s what will work for you.
Then once you do that a few times, it creates a new neural pathway, what Napoleon Hill call cosmic habit force, which was his weird fancy name for just a new habit. The habit is can I do this now? Someone sends you an email and says, “Brett, will you write the forward to my book?” Now, you have an option of saying, “I wonder if I can do that right now? I’ve got the book. I’ve read it.” Most people don’t even look at that option, so that’s what I mean. That’s kind of a long answer to what is nonlinear time management. It’s utilization of the now.
Brett McKay: Right. That’s where the warrior metaphor comes in because you allude to the works written by Japanese sword warriors, what they’ve written about.
Steve Chandler: Yeah. That’s right. If they get attacked, they don’t say to their assailant, “Could we fight later?”
Brett McKay: Yeah, and so going with this idea of procrastination, it seems like your idea is that this traditional approach of time management where you put things in this linear order, that causes procrastination because you have the ability to put it in the future and put it off thinking that “one day I’ll get to it,” but then you just keep putting it off, putting it off once it comes up.
Steve Chandler: Yeah. Yeah. It becomes a habit. After a while, it becomes really absurd. Someone comes up to you and says, someone in your family says, “Can you I’ve me a hug?” and you say, “How about later tonight I’ll give you a hug?” You just say that automatically because you’ve created the habit of putting everything in your future, and the next thing you know is your future does not look like some place you want to go.
Brett McKay: What do you think the source of putting stuff off? Why do people do that instead of just doing the thing now? What’s going on there you think?
Steve Chandler: I think people, after a while, do not have admiration for action. They don’t value action. They value thinking and trying to decide whether things are worthy of doing. They value the thinking part. After a while, they don’t value action like they did when they were kids.
One of the great things bat your site is there are a lot of things, a lot of podcast, a lot of articles about action that can be taken on certain issues. Move your body, and you’ll be healthier. It’s a very what I would say there’s a lot of thoughtful material, but there’s also a real bias for action. We were designed to move and create. We weren’t designed to overthink everything.
Brett McKay: Yeah. The action, and I think too, I’ve noticed this in my own life, and then just interacting with other people, readers, is that the thinking and the creating to-do list, they’re sort of like pseudo actions. It makes you feel like you’re doing something, but you’re not actually doing anything.
Steve Chandler: Yeah, that’s right. That’s a good insight. I mean, it’s better than nothing. It’s better to start putting things on my calendar or on my to-do list instead of trying to remember them. That’s better. It’s a better step. It is a form of action, but you’re right. It also is a form of postponing action.
Brett McKay: Then another way that people postpone action, I’ve seen this in my own life, is that okay, you know what you want to do, you figure out what you want to do, but instead of just getting started, you look for more information. You’ve written a lot about this, this idea of know-how versus want-to.
Steve Chandler: That’s right. “I don’t know how to do this,” and, “I need to reach this person in this company, but I don’t know how to get to him.” This “I don’t know how to” becomes a habit. “I don’t know how to do it really well yet, so I’m not going to do it, or I don’t even know how to do it.” Well, how to do things, it’s not a mystery how to do anything. You can get it on the Internet. You can find coaches. You can get free tutorials on how to anything, so the how-to is not missing. The desire to get into action is what’s missing.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and you gave this example, you were working with a client who was writing screenplays, and she was saying on the phone, “I don’t know who I need to talk to to get these in the right hands,” and you were like, “Well, I do,” and she’s like, “Oh, you do? How do you know?” It’s like, “Well, I’m just Googling it right now, and here’s the thing you gotta go do.”
Steve Chandler: Yeah. That’s it. I found stuff, and I googled “what do I do with my screenplay” because that’s what she was asking me. Then about five really great articles showed up on here’s what you can do, here’s the step you can take, here’s who to send it to first. She was just stunned, like… because it took her out of the world of “I don’t know how to,” which is where she began to inhabit that world by habit. That was just a habitual, like our brain has these neural, neuronal, or however you say it, pathways that get developed, and they become automatic.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I get asked a lot about how do you start a podcast, how should, get started with a podcast? I’m just like, “Well, you just get started,” and then you figure out the… I think what people are really looking for, they’re looking for how can I start a podcast that will be successful right away. That’s not going to happen, but you just get started, and then start figuring stuff out as you go.
Steve Chandler: That’s right. That’s exactly it. Surprisingly, or maybe not, most people don’t know that. Even so-called successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, they don’t realize that. They’ll say, “How do I have a better relationship with my business partner?” I’ll say, “Bring them in the room. Let’s go.” He’ll look shocked, like, “Oh, wait. I’m not ready. I don’t know how to talk them. I don’t know what the right script would be. I haven’t told you what our issues are.”
It’s everywhere, and it’s what gets between a person’s creative desire to create something, a relationship, a book, a podcast. What stands between them and their very healthy creative desire is the “I don’t know have enough information yet, I don’t know how to do it perfectly, I don’t know how to do it right,” or even “I don’t know how to do it.”
Brett McKay: I think this probably comes from school, being in public education because I feel like when you grow up in America, at least, there’s like a treadmill you get on, these boxes you’re supposed to check. You go to get your college degree, or your high school degree, check, get your college degree, check. Then people, they want to take part in a creative activity, whether it’s start a business or become a novelist, and they’re looking for the check box, but there isn’t a check box, and they have to start figuring things… that’s a hard transition to make.
Steve Chandler: That is. You’re right. You’re right. We get conditioned and habituated to giving way too much value to information and no value to transformation, to change inside of me, and so I need more information.
Brett McKay: How do you make that transition from knowing to, from information to transformation?
Steve Chandler: I think the first step is waking up to the distinction between the two, to realizing that there’s a big difference between information… like I can watch videos on how to swim. How do I move my arm in the water? How do I cup my hands? How do I kick my legs? I can watch those, and I can read books on how to learn to swim, and I can keep feeling I don’t have information yet because I’m not ready to go into the water. But transformation occurs from jumping into the water.
Brett McKay: Well, that’s a very Aristotelian idea. Aristotle had something that quote along the lines that you become a carpenter not by reading about carpentry but by actually doing carpenter things, and then you become a carpenter-
Steve Chandler: Yeah. That’s it.
Brett McKay: … by doing those things.
Steve Chandler: The reading about it is fine too. I don’t want to set that aside because a lot of my greatest breakthroughs have come from reading other people’s books, but the question is are you going to incorporate what you’ve read? In one of my groups that I run, we have a saying called once for information, twice for transformation. If you get a book that you love that really moved you or inspired you, why would not read it a second time, and this time, go through and read it even more slowly, and this time, I’m reading for transformation. I’m reading to have it drop into my system so it becomes a part of how I operate instead of just great, new information I’ve just read, and I was inspired by it, but three weeks later, I forgot all about it, and I’m looking for a new book.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s the, you can get on that treadmill where you keep reading and more and more stuff, like, “This will be the book that’ll change my life,” but if you never actually take that stuff and put it into action, it’s not going to do anything.
Steve Chandler: Yeah. It’s like Bruce Lee’s observation. He said, “I don’t fear the guy who has learned a hundred kicks. I fear the guy who has learned one and worked on it, just worked on his one.” That’s the opponent I fear.
Brett McKay: Okay, so just to clarify, you’re not saying that looking for information is bad. The trick is, is to take that and then take action on it as soon as you can.
Steve Chandler: That’s right. That’s it. What can I use if I’m reading for a better spiritual life or a better physical life, more strength, more flexibility. I can read people’s books about it, but I want to move it in to my system, to my operating system. That’s when a book really becomes powerful.
Brett McKay: Another reason that people put things off that you write about is that the project they want to do just seems to big. It’s like, “Well, I’ll start a podcast or start a business,” and then, “Well, man, that’s just a big thing. I’m just going to put that off to the side, maybe look for more information,” but you say you need to be a warrior and just cut that into little small pieces, and then just take the next action.
Steve Chandler: That’s right. What’s the next smallest action I can take in that direction? If I get the idea I’m going to start a podcast, what’s my next action if I’m going to do that? Well, it might be Google how do you create a really well-attended podcast, how do you create a successful podcast. You know we’ll find it there. There’ll be a lot of different opinions, but you’ll find the opinion that calls to you. That’s next step.
Now, once you’re there, you want to know what’s my next small step? You just go from small step to small step, and before you know it, you’ve got a great podcast, but you didn’t think of it like this has to be great, it has to reach thousands of people for me to be okay, and I don’t know how to do that, so I’m not going to start until I have enough information.
Brett McKay: This can also, you can, this cutting things into small pieces alleviates a lot of anxiety about problems you might encounter. Take debt for example. That’s something that a lot of people struggle with, and it causes a lot of anxiety because it’s probably this huge number that they’re thinking about at bed before they fall asleep. But once you just decide, “What’s one thing I can do tomorrow first thing in the morning that will take me towards paying off this debt?” well, then it becomes much more manageable, and you feel less anxious.
Steve Chandler: Yes, that’s right. That’s it exactly. Let’s say I owe this organization X amount of money, and I’m scared about that. I mean, I don’t know how to, what to do about it, I can’t come up with all that money. Well, one small step is to communicate and get into a relationship and say, “Listen, I acknowledge I owe you this money. I want to promise you that it’s my full intention to pay it. Here’s what I can pay you right now,” and that’s a step in the right direction. Anyone can take that step. No matter how big the debt is, you can take that step. That step feels good. It’s like, “Okay, I am now active in the project of dealing with my debt. I’m taking action.
Brett McKay: Then once you take that action, the interesting thing about action is it acts as a flywheel. It builds momentum, so you’ve taken that one step there, and then it motivates you to take more action later on.
Steve Chandler: That’s right, like I don’t feel like going for a run today, but I’m going to put on my shoes and put on my running shoes. I’m going to go out the door. I’m going to start my run. That’s all I have to do. I might start running real slow, but after a while, like you say, the flywheel starts to activate. The momentum inside you starts to build, and you don’t have to force it. Next thing you know, you’re flying down the road really enjoying your run. You’re thinking, “What was I thinking? Why was I so resistant to this run?” Well, that’s giving too much value to my thinking and not enough value to doesn’t matter what I was thinking. When I want to run, I’ll just go out and run.
Brett McKay: The other thing too that you make a point of is that, it’s one of the issues of you have these big problems or big projects that you’re wanting to accomplish, and there’s this tendency to think, “Okay, I’ll take an action, but it’s gotta be a big action,” but it doesn’t have to be, right?
Steve Chandler: Right.
Brett McKay: It can be super, super… like don’t denigrate small steps because you do that every day, you’re going to make progress.
Steve Chandler: Yes. Absolutely. I want to repair a relationship. I might bring her a flower and say, “This is for you. I wanted you to have it. I want this relationship to be better. I’ll do what it takes. I’m a work in progress.” Anyone can do that. That’s a step in the right direction. That hasn’t repaired the whole relationship like I’m thinking I have to do, and that’s the problem with this overthinking that we’ve gotten into in our society is we overthink everything so much, it’s very hard to decide what to do next, and we end up doing nothing or distracting ourselves on Netflix until we feel like doing something.
Brett McKay: I want to go back to this idea of problems that come up in life. Something you’ve written about is that whenever you encounter a problem, the first thing you need to do is capture it. What do you mean by that?
Steve Chandler: Well, not be afraid of it, not see it as scarier than it is. I want to capture it for what it is and put it in front of me, what’s really here, what really needs to be done. Now, given this situation, what needs to happen? That has captured the problem, put it in front of me, and allowed me to look at right in the eye and allow myself to say, “Okay, I see what it is. Now I’m going to ask what needs to be done,” and that way, the problem no longer lingers in the back of my mind. Most people have their problems lingering in the back of their mind, like, “I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to think about that.”
Brett McKay: I mean, this would be as simple as just writing the problem down. I think the interesting thing too is you might figure as you write it down that the problem that you thought was a problem is not really the problem.
Steve Chandler: Yeah. Yeah. That’s often happens. The more I look at it, the more I return to my own power. I had a coach once who changed my relationship to problems because he would never say… if I brought a problem in to him, and he was coaching me on my business, he would never say, “Oh, gee. This is a real problem. How do we solve it?” with all the focus on the problem like the problem had all the power. He would say, “Okay, given this situation, which I declare to be neutral, not horrifying, not scary, I’m not going to label, it’s neutral, it is what it is, given this situation, what would you like to create?” That was a completely different orientation to me because it would return me to my own creativity and show me that that was always the solution.
Brett McKay: Well, it sounds like that paradigm shift gets you out of a reactive mode to a proactive mode.
Steve Chandler: That’s right. It does. It opens your mind. It opens your access to divine intuition, creativity. If you put it in a religious context, it returns you to spirit. It allows divine intervention to occur. It opens your mind to better solutions because now, in a lighthearted open way, you’re seeing more possibilities.
But the more I have labeled my problem as really serious, really awful, really bad, really unfair to me, “This is really a terrible thing… ” like for example, I have some people who I’ve worked with who are getting divorced, and the first thing they say is, “This is going to be a typical bitter divorce. This is going to be difficult for me, for my wife, for my kids. I know this is going to be horrible,” or even something simple like, “We’re going to move to another state.” I know making a move is inherently stressful. It’s one of the great stressors in the world.
If I enter that adventure of moving, which is neutral, it’s just something to be done, and I’ve already labeled as stressful, overwhelming, a terrible hassle to go through, and then I talk to other people, and they say, “Oh, man. You’ve got a divorce coming up. I’ve been through one of those,” or, “Oh, man. You moving? Oh, man, all the boxes and all the negotiation. I don’t envy you,” and people get support for their victim status, and now they approach it like a victim. If I’m thinking of myself as a victim, and I’m approaching something that needs to be done, my energy will be low, my mood will be low, and my creativity will be nonexistent. My imagination will not be there. My spirit will be low. How efficient, how effective am I going to be?
Brett McKay: Well, another mind trick, I don’t want to call it mind trick, another shift you can make to a problem, or a different way to approach a problem that’s more positive, is you talk about this in Crazy Good, your book, to think of it as a game.
Steve Chandler: Absolutely. It’s a game. I can make a game out of anything. I used to work in factories, and I had a friend there. We were working making these little parts for the automotive industry. Just for the fun of it… because we were young, and we were still in touch with our playful spirits. We hadn’t talked ourselves out of those while growing up like most people do, we would make a game of it and say, “Okay, I’ll race you. I’ll see how many pieces I can make by the top of the hour, and you see how many you can make,” and we made a game of it. It was really fun. You can make a game of anything because that’s just a viewpoint you take.
Brett McKay: Yeah, we had a podcast guest a while back ago named Ian Bogost. He is a media studies professor, philosopher, kind of talks about video games, but he talked about this idea of turning problems into games. The example he gave to me that I thought was really interesting because it’s a boring thing, he had an issue in his neighborhood. I think he had to go to the zoning committee and go to city council meetings, which is really boring and tedious, but instead of approaching it that way, it’s like, “Oh, that’s just a game. These are little things I gotta do,” and it actually made the process more pleasant because instead of seeing these things, these processes he had to go to as tedious red tape, he thought of it as like, “Well, this is just like I’m playing a video game, and I gotta do these things to get to beat the big boss.
Steve Chandler: Yeah, that’s great. That returns him to his innate creativity and to his innate playful spirit that he was born into, but most people talk themselves out of that. They do it by labeling everything before it even occurs. They don’t even have a conversation with somebody. They label them, “Oh, that person is a toxic, white male. That’s the label I’m going to put on him based on what I read that he just wrote, so that’s all I have to think about, and so that guy’s an idiot. He’s evil. He’s dangerous.” There’s no dialogue. There’s no way to create a good agreement with things that you’ve labeled already.
Brett McKay: Another thing you talk about in the book is this idea… because we talk about overwhelm, and the way you overcome overwhelm is you just cut things into small pieces and just start taking action, but there’s this other idea that people who practice linear time management is like I’m getting behind on stuff or this is a bottleneck. How does a time warrior view getting behind on tasks or even failing or bottlenecks?
Steve Chandler: Well, I can only do what’s in front of me at the moment. If I’m behind on something I’ve promised, that’s good information. I want to realize that, so I want to change my game so I can catch up, but I don’t want to just live in the repeated thought, “I’m behind. My life is a race against time if I take a vacation.” This happens to a lot of men in business. People recommend, “You need more balance. You’re burning yourself out. You’re too focused on your business. Your relationships are not going well. Because of that, your health is not good.” They recommend take a vacation, sit by the beach,” and they think, when they get by the beach, they think, “I’m behind. Every day I’m at the beach, I’m falling further behind.”
In their mind, it’s the linear race against time. “I’ve gotta get to some place in the future to be okay.” It just becomes habitual thought pattern. People think they’re behind on things they’re not behind on. They’re doing a podcast and they, “I only have 2,000 subscribers, and so I’m way behind what Brett has done.” Well, yeah, but you’re way ahead of where you were six months ago. This labeling, or “I’m behind” is optional.
Brett McKay: Well, and I think another thing too is a lot of things we think we’re behind on, those tasks, like we actually don’t need to do them. We just think we need to do them, but we don’t need to do them.
Steve Chandler: That really happens a lot with men in business, especially in a smaller business where they just simply don’t delegate. They think, “Only I know how to do this really well.” They think they’ve got all these things to do when, in reality, there are many things they don’t have to do that they think they have to do, or there are many things that if they gave them to someone else, if they ask for help, “Do you mind doing this? Could you do this for me? I really trust you to do a good job on this. Would you mind doing it? Can you do this?” all of a sudden, they’ve delegated everything, and they’re just sitting there. It’s like, “Oh, my god. I never knew I could do this.”
Brett McKay: Yeah, I have a friend who he’s a small business owner. Something he does every now and then is for a week, he’ll just not do anything because then he’ll see the stuff that he thought was important, like actually, if he doesn’t do it, doesn’t hurt anything. Then he actually discovers that, “Okay, actually, I don’t have to spend that much time on that stuff, but here are other things that I can focus my time on that will actually provide more return on investment.”
Steve Chandler: Yeah. That’s great. That’s a great example.
Brett McKay: Another thing you talk about in the book that causes a lot of people overwhelm is this idea of pleasing people. We’ve had guests on the podcast who’ve talked about people-pleasing. It’s an issue. How do you… What’s your take on overcoming the tendency to please others, and how does pleasing others get in the way of accomplishing what we really want to accomplish?
Steve Chandler: Well, if I’m… It’s kind of like being back in high school and thinking being popular is really important, even if I’m not popular with everybody, if I’m popular with whatever little group of clique I want to identify with, and so I end up trying to please people by how I talk to them. I flatter them. I try to get them to be a friend of mine. My whole life becomes about trying to please people and get them to like me, but what I’m leaving out of the equation is something much more powerful, and that is serving people, and actually, instead of wanting to be liked by absolutely everybody, serving the people that I am committed to serving and allowing myself to be respected for the service I create for people in the world.
Part of really succeeding in a powerful way in this society is to drop away all this desire to be liked and to be approved of and all that, and change the focus to what would really serve this person, what would really help the person? I want to stay focused on things like that.
Brett McKay: What would be an example of a situation where you’re pleasing someone, but you’re not serving them, or at least in pleasing one individual, you’re not serving other people in the bigger purpose you’re trying to accomplish, which that individual’s a part of?
Steve Chandler: Well, so there was a leader that I was working with, and he was allowing people to show up late for his meeting. The other people in the meeting would roll their eyes like, “Oh, my gosh. These people are dragging in late,” but he was afraid to not have these people like him, so he would just say, “Oh, come on. Can’t you try a little harder?” or, “This meeting started at 8:00. You knew that, right?” “Okay, okay. Hey, didn’t mean to get on your case.”
He would just be trying to please everything. He had an open-door policy, so he wasn’t getting anything important done because people were coming in his office and saying, “Hey, can you help me with that?” or, “Can I share some thoughts with you?” or, “Can I run something past you?” and he would always say, “Oh, yeah. Sure. Oh, yeah. Okay.” Then at the end of the day, he found out that three really important things he never got to.
He began to learn to say no. He put a little sign on his door that would say “occupied” or something like that, or “do not disturb,” and he would have two or three silent hours where he was working on the important things. Then he would open his door, or he would say, “If you have something to talk to me about, let me know,” and we’ll meet at a certain time.”
There was another leader I was working with, and he would answer every single email as it came in, or anybody who posted anything, and he thought, “I have to please these people.” Then he would lose his whole day, and he’d have to stay late to do the important things, but he felt like, “I can’t afford not to please everybody,” but what he woke up to was he developed a policy that said, “I don’t look at my emails until 4:00 each day, so if you have some emergency, something you really absolutely need my attention on, come see me or call me; otherwise, just know that your email won’t even be looked at until 4:00, and that’s the way I’m going to operate.” People were fine with that. They thought, “Oh, okay. That’s how he works. I’m going to send him an email, and I realize he’s not going to answer it right away.”
Those little things where we think we have to please everybody with every little thing has us be dishonest… has us end up resenting these people. Someone says, “Will go to the ballet with me?” and I say, “Oh, okay.” Then I hate the ballet, and I hate going. I resent the person, and I feel like I’m falling behind instead of saying, “I really don’t like the ballet.”
Brett McKay: No, I… There is an example, it’s a novelist. Can’t… I think it’s Neal Stephenson. He’s a sci-fi writer, but he wrote this thing about social media. He’s not really active on social media because he says, “If I were to do that, it takes away time from the thing I’m really good at, which serves people, like why people follow me in the first place is like, write novels.” He has a very light social media presence.
But there’s a lot of people who are creative types, they feel like they have to be there on social media all the time talking with their readers and promoting stuff, but that’s time that they could be spent writing their next-
Steve Chandler: That’s right.
Brett McKay: … their next book.
Steve Chandler: Yeah, and nothing wrong with it. If you’ve made that clear choice, and you’ve said, “This is what I really want to do. I love being on social media. I really enjoy interacting with my readers,” then that’s fine. Some writers and public figures are really good at that. They enjoy it, and it’s a conscious choice, but then most people think, “I think that’s what I’m supposed to do,” or, “I think that’s part of being an author is you have to do that.” They’re doing all these things they think they should do, and they’re missing the element of choice that’s available to them.
Brett McKay: All right, so be intentional about your actions, your choices.
Steve Chandler: Yeah.
Brett McKay: What’s the rule of goals in nonlinear time management because the thing about goals is that they tie you to the future, but do you still think goals are a useful tool?
Steve Chandler: They can be. Now, if they don’t serve me… If I put a big goal on my wall, I’m going to make a million dollars next year, and every time I look at the goal, I think, “Oh, man. That’s so unattainable. That’s not me. I have no idea how I’m going to do that,” that I get discouraged when I look at that goal, then that goal is not serving me. Goals are something you and I create to serve us. If a goal serves me, like I want to have five conversations tomorrow, and that goal serves me, because if I put that down, I put five boxes down, I check them, and I get my five conversations, that goal served me. It served what I’m up to.
If a goal is of service like a GPS inside you, I want to make sure I make a certain amount of money or I want to make sure I talk to my mother who’s in a nursing home, I want to make sure I talk to her every week, so I put a goal, “I’m going to talk to her every week,” that’s my goal, that goal serves me. It doesn’t oppress me or make me dread the future. Make sure if a goal is not serving you, if it’s not a really nice GPS that keeps you on your path or it’s not something that inspires you and says, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to be an Olympic Gold Medalist, and every time I see the gold medal I’ve put on my wall, I get inspired,” then goals are fine. They’re acts of creation that can be very inspiring, but they’re not necessary. They’re not like, “Oh, I don’t have any goals. There’s something wrong with me. I need to set goals.” Not necessarily.
Brett McKay: Well, this leads nice into my next question, which is this. A time warrior, the way you’ve been describing, he knows what he wants to do, and then he does it. He doesn’t let know-how or the lack of know-how get in the way. He just starts taking action. But you have to know what you want to do. What if you don’t know what you want to do with your life? Maybe someone’s like after you sobered up, you didn’t know what you wanted to do. How did you figure that out?
Steve Chandler: Well, the answer is to choose. Let’s say you’re sitting in a restaurant, and the waiter comes by, “Do you know what you want?” “No. I don’t know yet. Can you give me a few minutes?” Now, would I sit there all night saying, “I still don’t know what I want,” and starve to death? Eventually, I would choose. Let’s say I don’t know what to do as a profession. I’m going to choose something and go there and see how that is. The fact that I don’t know what to do doesn’t mean I can’t choose and get into action. I never had this thing where I want be a coach, I want to be a corporate trainer, I want to be an author. I never had that. It was just next choice, next choice.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s a good, I think that’s good advice, particularly for young people, again, who are out of college, they’re trying figure out what they want to do. I get a lot of questions about that. It’s like, “I don’t know what to do.” They’re like, “Well, I’m… ” just do something. Just because you do that one thing doesn’t mean you have to stick with that forever. You can do other stuff after that, but you gotta get started doing something.
Steve Chandler: That’s right. Choose something from the menu, and see how that goes. From there, you’ll be able to see more clearly. I’ve had clients who chose the law school. “I’m going to be a lawyer. My parents really want me to be, and I don’t know what else to do,” so they go to law school, and first year of law school, they realize, “I really don’t want to do this. I really understand this now. I understand what’s required, but there’s something else from here that I see that I’d rather be doing, and I’m going to go do that.”
Now, that might not be the perfect thing, but that’s better than law school. Then that can show them something else. Just choose and get into action. Get something going for yourself. Choose the thing that looks best for now, and don’t have it be “is this the right path for me or the wrong.” Have it be “seems to work for me right now.” Have that be an okay category. “Seems to work for me right now.”
Brett McKay: Well, that’s my exact story. I went to law school because that seemed like a good career path, but during my first year of law school, I realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I stuck with it. It was during this time that I started The Art of Manliness as a hobby, that wasn’t a job option yet. It wouldn’t be viable option until I graduated, so in the meantime, I remained 100% committed to my studies, trying to get the best grades, doing internships. Like you said, I just did what seemed like the best option at the time until other possibilities emerged. What that does is not only does, doing something, it’s going to open up other paths, you’re going to start seeing stuff as you take that action, but also creates that habit of just taking action and doing something instead of just being just paralyzed by indecision.
Steve Chandler: Yeah, that’s right. It does. It starts to develop that habit. Michael Jordan, if you asked him in high school what does he always want to be, he wanted to be a baseball player. That was his dream, “I want to play baseball.” Turned out, he was very good at basketball, and so he followed that. “This seems to be working for me at the time.” Then later in his life, he went back and tried to do his dream of baseball, but just go with what’s available.
If I’m sitting in a restaurant, and I’m in a Mexican restaurant, and I want some kind of fancy French meal, it’s not on the menu. I’ve gotta go with what’s there at the time. Look at your options, make a choice, get into action, and don’t fall prey to these people, these motivators and dream merchants who say, “It’s really important that you have a big, big dream and you live your dream and that you find the perfect profession, the perfect calling for you, and you go pursue it.” That ends up with a lot of heartbreak and stress because that’s just so not necessary.
Brett McKay: Well, Steve, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about your work?
Steve Chandler: Stevechandler.com. Everything’s there.
Brett McKay: Everything’s there. Well, Steve Chandler, thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Steve Chandler: Thank you, Brett.
Brett McKay: Like I said, it’s Steve Chandler. He is the author of the book Time Warrior. It’s available on amazon.com. You can find out more information about his work at his website stevechandler.com. Also, check out our show notes at aom.is/timewarrior where you find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The AOM Podcast. Check out our website at artofmanliness.com where you can find our podcast archives as well as thousands of articles that we’ve written over the years. If you like to enjoy ad-free episodes of The Art of Manliness Podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Go to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code MANLINESS to get one month free of Stitcher Premium. After you signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS, and you start enjoying ad-free episodes of The AOM Podcast.
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