How Not to Be Lonely at the Top

Isolation is the worst enemy. Collaboration is a path to success. OK, so how to actually get out of isolation as an entrepreneur?

There are four ways to do that, which I practiced myself and saw working. Plus, they are no secret, they were around for thousands of years, and they have been always working – because humans are social animals!

1. Accountability Setup.

Get one person, just one, to keep you accountable for specific venue, goal or project. The most important thing in this method is consistency. If you are to meet once a month for an hour, do it once a month – every month. If you are to call each other every morning at 8 am, put it in your calendar and stick to the schedule.
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Three Collaboration Success Stories in My Business

In the first article in the How to Beat an Isolation as a Business Owner Series I explained how isolation turns smart business owners into morons. Today, read about the other side of the coin: success stories of collaboration in business.

I have an aesthetic taste of a brick and I didn’t know that. When I started my author career, my Fiverr designers created covers for my books according to my guidelines… and they were absolutely terrible!

While working on my third book, I’d already connected with other authors in Facebook groups. When I shared a mock cover for my next book, one guy from the group took pity on me and made a much better cover for me, for free. Then, he revamped covers for my first two books.
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The Worst Enemy of Entrepreneurs (no, it is not the IRS!)

Photo by Startup Stock Photos in

Freelancers, solopreneurs, and business founders face the same enemy, and it is mostly invisible: isolation.

Isolation is the enemy of excellence.” – Aaron Walker

You are alone with your thoughts all day long. Even if you have a team, there are some limitations to what you can share with them.

Will they stay with you, if you admit you are not sure how you will pay their salary next month?

Wouldn’t the upcoming downturn in your industry scare them off to look for a job elsewhere?

So, you ponder those worries and issues alone, in isolation.

Small Business Administration says that problems with cash flow is the #1 reason why small businesses get out of business. I dare to disagree. Behind 95% of bankruptcy cases lurks isolation.
Entrepreneurs are human beings, and human beings are designed to thrive in a pack, not in isolation. Thus, alone, they do all kinds of stupid things, which they wouldn’t have committed, if they could share their burdens with others.
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How to Experience a Divine Productivity Miracle

Divine Productivity Miracle

Photo by RODNAE Productions

On Wednesday, the 11th of May, I had only half an hour on a train to work for myself.
I still cling to my day job, working 10 hours a week. It provides about 10% of my overall revenue. 90% of my livelihood depends on the things I’m personally responsible for: my writing, coaching, and my book advertising business.

After I was done with my day job’s tasks, I had a call with my VA. After the call, I had less than two hours to work on my tasks. Then, I had a 2-hour long coaching training, and an after-hours department party to attend.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Not a big deal, right? Actually, a huge one. In the beginning of May, I’ve been bombarded with new inquiries. New coaching client, new book advertising client, a past customer who wanted to work on a new book, a recurring customer who suddenly dumped a couple of book projects on me to be finished in a week, another customer who needed help with formatting…
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4 Things to Do when You Lost a Battle for Productivity

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

I’ve just had a strange week. I had perfect circumstances to be highly productive — I rested on a weekend at the PwC’s (my employer) getaway; my wife started a new job and she was away from home between 10 am and 7:20 pm (she is one huge distraction when at home); I had dealt with the urgent minutia of my business and had brain power to spare on the bigger-picture tasks.

Yet, I fumbled through the days barely doing anything. I took a couple of naps practically each day. I wasted my time on news websites and social media chasing a dopamine high. I did household chores. Basically, I distracted myself to oblivion.

I just didn’t feel like working, and I could do nothing about it. I felt helpless.

The Mental Struggle

To add insult to the injury, I totally failed to remedy the situation. In fact, I made it worse.

I wasn’t productive, so I tried to force myself to do something, usually to no avail. Then, I felt guilty about my actions and my inability to improve. The guilt trips sent me chasing after anything that could give me a dopamine high — reading books, reading news, and watching funny videos. But all those activities actually wasted my time, so I felt even less productive. I beat myself even more, my guilt increased, and I was chasing for another dopamine boost…

Have you ever been caught in such a vicious cycle? You are a human; I bet you have been.


I wasn’t my usual productive self, nicknamed Mr. Consistency. What the heck happened? Well…

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

— James Clear

The above quote is from the Atomic Habits book, in which James Clear argues that our environment has much bigger influence on our behaviors than we care to give it credit. We overestimate the influence of our willpower and motivation and severely underestimate the influence of the external factors.

I examined my week and found several external factors dragging my productivity down.

Lack of accountability.

My daily accountability partner went for a 3-day vacation.

Change of a daily rhythm.

My wife stayed at home for the last few years. She usually was waking up between 9 and 10 am, when I was already engaged in work. This week, she was on her legs at 8 am, so when I finished my morning ritual, I engaged into interactions with her. It delayed the moment of starting my work. I’m the most productive in the morning. I felt like I was catching up with my workload for the rest of the days.


The older I’m getting, the more influence the weather has on my physical wellbeing. I don’t know if it has to do with my volatile circadian rhythm or with my ultra-low blood pressure (110/70 is my norm and it can get even lower). This week the weather was terrible, gloomy, dark, and we had a few rapid air pressure changes. It surely contributed to my aptitude for naps.

Random distractions.

One day, I had my car’s check-up in the morning. Then, I recalled I haven’t paid the tax for it yet, and I spent a couple of hours on chasing the IRS with all the legal mumbo-jumbo.

Bad habits.

Give me the good fiction book and I will sit down and read it to the end. Thus, I avoid them. However, my wife asked me to return her books to the library when she was at work. While packing them, I opened one of them — a Jack Reacher novel… and you know the rest of the story. Two hours were gone.

The same happened a few times a day with my favorite YouTube series and with reading news websites.

Feeling unwell.

Apart from the coma attacks, I suffered other symptoms — brain fog, mental exhaustion and unusual hunger pangs. It might have been my system fighting off COVID — I experienced similar symptoms in the recovery phase — or just the symptoms of overall exhaustion. I do try to take care of myself, but if I err, I err on the overworking side of things.

So, it appears a lot of external factors coalesced together, and their alliance went through all of my productivity routines like a hot knife through butter. I was caught off guard. I simply had no chances against my environment.

Avoid the Vicious Mental Cycle

I have several ideas, but the most important is this one. All the others practically come back to avoiding a mental meltdown and self-beating. I know it’s easy to say and much harder to do. So, let’s get over some things you actually can do.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

1. Summon Help.

Lack of my daily accountability was the crucial issue for me. And it is for most of us — well, it’s more crucial to most than me! As far as I know, I’m on the extreme side of the introversion spectrum. I like being alone, and I’m pretty good at dealing with a multitude of tasks with sheer willpower.

Yet, my productivity went down the drain without my accountability partner. And I know it’s not an accident because he was on a longer vacation at the end of August, and I experienced a drop of productivity as well.

We are social animals to the core, even the introverted ones. This is a fact. Accountability works for us, period.

I had a mastermind call on Thursday. My buddies asked me about my output, and I admitted my struggles. They asked me some follow-up questions. Thanks to that interrogation, I was able to logically think about my lack of productivity instead of being stuck at beating myself up. My accountability partner was back on Friday, and the last two days of the week were much better for me than the first four.

When you feel stuck, when you feel low, summon help. Talk to your spouse, friend, mastermind — anyone. Just get out of your head. When you are alone, it’s incredibly hard to get the perspective.

2. Be Gracious to Yourself.

Again, I’m in the extreme camp here. I judge myself very harshly. And I draw way too much self-value from my output, so when my productivity decreases, I tend to be even harsher.

Of course, giving yourself some grace works better when you are too harsh to yourself. If you have been a lazy bum for most of your life, it won’t do you much good. But for self-tormentors like me? It’s golden.

So what, I had a weaker day? There will be the next day? So what, I felt worse than usual and napped more? When you hit some real limits of your body, you’d better pause and take care of yourself. A breakdown, whether physical or mental, will have much more serious consequences than a lost day or week.

3. Plan.

I’m always, and I mean ALWAYS, more productive when I take five to fifteen minutes in the morning to go over the list of projects and tasks in my mind and write them down.

I haven’t done it in this ill-fated week. It is so powerful, I should do it even at 2 pm, or whenever I had realized I’m not my usual optimal self.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

— Benjamin Franklin

Plan. Planning shaves off 20% of the time spent on long-term projects. If you set your intentions first, you are much more likely to follow up with them than when trying to just power through your day.

Planning doesn’t have to be very elaborate. What works best for me is just jotting down a few tasks in my notepad. Then, I cross them off as I’m going.

4. Be Humble.

Part of being gracious for yourself is a deep understanding — and accepting — that you are just imperfect, like all the human beings. Don’t believe in the curated reality of perfect Instagram photos. Nobody is perfect, it only looks like it.

If not my pride, I could recognize so much sooner that I was too weak to face my environment. Instead of self-beating, I could have engaged into self-compassion, or just give myself internal permission to indulge for a few hours. But I didn’t, and I simultaneously chased the dopamine and chastised myself for doing it.

You are a human being. You will have some weaker days. Prepare for that. Accept that.

Hide your pride in a pocket. Summon help. Plan. Cut yourself some slack, when it’s needed.

Just don’t beat yourself up into a pulp. That’s the least productive thing you can do.

Originally published at Medium.

3 Roles of a Friend in Good Habits Formation

I can see at least three ways friends can support forming good habits right away. Probably, there are more.

1. Role Model.

Human beings are mimicking machines. We mimic without thinking, unconsciously. So, if your friend has some good habits you are in a much better position to adopt similar habits.

This is the one real hack when it comes to developing habits: spend more time with people who already have those habits. You will absorb their behaviors in a background mode, no conscious effort required. Putting some purposefulness into following your friends’ habits will accelerate the process, but it’s not necessary.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

This “function” of friends with regard to developing habits is highly overlooked. We understand that others can teach us something, give us tips, observe us and correct; but we don’t even think we are becoming like them simply by being around them.

2. Encourager.

Most people are not naturally good at celebrating their own wins. BJ Fogg, the expert in behavior design from Stanford University, considers a celebration of your habits the most important aspect of swift and solid progress:

“I would train you in celebrations before teaching you about the Fogg Behavior Model, or the power of simplicity, or Anchors, or recipes for Tiny Habits.”

In other words, he would train you in celebrations before anything else. That’s how crucial it is.

So, the next best thing a friend can do for you to form good habits is reminding you about the celebration.

“Have you done your exercises today? Man, that’s awesome! I’m so proud of you!”

A good friend should be looking for your right behaviors like a hawk and catch you “doing good.”

3. Accountability Partner.

I personally trained over 100 people in developing habits. About 80 of them barely needed my advice. They just needed someone to watch them and keep them on track.

There are different statistics about this phenomenon, but one thing is sure- you have MUCH higher chances for success if you report your progress to an accountability partner (the range was easy from 20% to 80% more chance for success).

Just the awareness that you need to tell somebody if you did your new habit or not makes you many times more likely to follow with the new behavior.

And this is what forming habits is about – consistent repetition.

Be a good friend. Instill habits that you would like your friends to follow. Encourage them like crazy. Keep your friends accountable for their progress.

The Reality of The Slight Edge

Change takes time. Your mind does not really comprehend the flow of time. That’s the main reason why you struggle.

You live in the current moment. When you go back to past thinking about certain events, you don’t treat it like history, but you re-live it once again. That’s why you still hold on to old traumas.

When you dream about the future, you expect it to materialize right now. Or, very, very soon.  This is the only time horizon in the future that kids (and your subconscious) understand.

But the change takes time. The true power of The Slight Edge in my life laid in conveying this point through my thick skull.
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How Long Does It REALLY Take to Improve Your Life?

How Long Does It REALLY Take to Improve Your Life?Changing one’s life is a lengthy process. We are so impatient. We dream about overnight success or a one-week life change. Somehow, it’s so easy to forget that your lifespan is measured in decades. One night or one week is only a tiny fraction of your life.

So how long does it really take to improve your life?

The results vary, as they say. They are three known methods to change one’s behavior:
-an epiphany
-a change of environment (what surrounds you)
-a change of habits

Here comes the triple discovery about epiphanies:

  1. An epiphany changes human life the most quickly, sometimes in a heartbeat or within a few minutes.
  2. Epiphany stories get an insanely disproportionate amount of media coverage.
  3. An epiphany is impossible to engineer.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the stories of grandparents who dramatically changed their lifestyle and improved their health because their sweet little grandkids told them not to die too soon. Or the stories of addicts who met Jesus. Or stories of people who had a near-death experience and came out of that totally different.

A moment of decision, one short event and they turned their lives around.

I’m sure you’ve heard such stories because they got extremely heavy media coverage. They draw attention. They spark interest. They sell. Thus, just about every single “epiphany story” is covered. They are a no-brainer for media outlets.

And it tricks you into thinking that an epiphany is a way to improve your life.

It’s not.

The one thing the media doesn’t mention when covering those stories is that every single time an epiphany is happening TO the person. Nobody has ever engineered an epiphany. It’s impossible.

In my opinion, it takes a higher power to create an epiphany. For materialists, it takes an absolutely complex, random set of circumstances to make an epiphany happen. You know, almost as the complex set of circumstances, as a completely random creation of the universe with a myriad of metrics and laws that make a human life in this universe possible.

Anyway, you cannot create an epiphany. You can only hope it will happen to you one day. And it’s a poor strategy for taking control of your life.

A change of environment can be relatively fast. For example, you move to another country to get a new job and your life accelerates like crazy. Or you get married, move out of your parents’ house and start a family. Or you get pregnant and your pregnancy motivates you to improve your life in a way that has always eluded you.

The triple discovery about the change of environment:

  1. It’s not easy to engineer either.
  2. Your mindset always stands in the way.
  3. Hence, it doesn’t happen as often as we tend to think.

How often do you change a job, move to another city/country, or get married or pregnant for the first time in your life? Much more often than experiencing an epiphany, but still not very often, right?

Such major life shifts have also a tendency to happen to us. I changed jobs because I was fired. Our first kid wasn’t planned. Ha, ha, nor either of the two following kids.

Here is the thing: the longer you live, the harder is to introduce a significant change of environment. When I decided to improve my life at the age of 33, I had been married for 12 years, had three kids, a 35-year mortgage and a full-time job. I simply could not leave my old life behind.

People get married, have kids and change jobs all the time, and a life change does not follow those events. Why? Because no matter how your environment changes, you take your old mentality with you every time. Your personal philosophy is the same and it only MAY shift in new circumstances.

But one of our internal brain mechanisms is RAS that filters out everything around and provides to your conscious mind only a deliberately curated ‘press releases’ of reality. In other words, you are always looking for facts and arguments that confirm your existing philosophy. And you don’t change much.

Hence, the significant improvement of life as a result of changing what surrounds you is not common. It happens, but it doesn’t happen every time.

Change of Habits

On the other hand, if you follow the route #3 – changing your habits – it happens every time. In his book, “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg tells a story of some research. Scientists were interested in the reason behind changing one’s life… Some people are able to improve their lives and others aren’t? What’s the factor that explains it? What’s the first cause?

They started with normal bias, they were looking for tracks of enlightenment or change of surroundings. They thought that a sudden conversion, death in a family or some other tragedy may be good explanations for the change in human behavior. They interviewed people who were able to bring their lives back on track and they were amazed by the discovery of the first cause.

It was a change in habits. In fact, often it was a single new habit that started the avalanche of improvement.

What I conclude is that routes #1 and #2 are only shortcuts to changing one’s habits. If you convert because of enlightenment and join a religious order your daily life is much different from it was. If you move to another country, you lose many of your old habit triggers and it creates space for building new habits.

An enlightenment and the change in your surroundings don’t change your life directly; they change your life because they lead you to change your habits, thus the improvement of your life.

And changing your habits takes months, not days. Developing a single habit takes more than a couple of months on average. That is, according to the only widely quoted study from the European Journal of Psychology about this subject. I think this study is overly optimistic because it was skewed toward success in laboratory conditions. In a real life, it takes even longer.

And yes, a single habit. Every expert says that it’s exponentially easier to develop one habit at a time than two.

Conclusion: you need at least a few months to improve your life.

Of course, assuming your new habit has the life-changing capacity. It is one thing to start a private journal and write for five minutes a day, and another to start writing a book for two hours a day and then actually publish it.

Usually, a single habit is not as influential and you need a synergy of several habits to convert it into a significant improvement of your life.

How long does it REALLY take to improve your life?

Exercise is a keystone habit, one of the two discovered by scientists looking for the first cause of permanent change in an individual’s behavior. A keystone habit is a habit that leads to a cascade of other positive actions. In other words, it leads you to develop more good habits, even without your conscious decision and seemingly without all the effort connoted with developing a new discipline. Brian Tracy explained it most aptly:

“Keystone habits are habits that have a multiplier or a domino effect in your life.”

If your intention is not set at the improvement of your whole life and if the scope of the habit is short of life-changing capacity, even introducing a keystone habit won’t help you improve your life fast.

It took me about seven years.

In 2006 I returned to my habit of doing a single consecutive series of pushups to the point of failure. I just wanted to lose some weight.

Exercising was still a keystone habit and I developed more good habits without conscious reflection or much effort. In a few months, I coupled my morning workout with my morning prayer and that solidified both of the disciplines.

A few years down the road I started using to-do lists and checklists to subdue the chaos of my daily responsibilities. I bought a pull-up bar and started doing pullups and chin-ups almost on everyday basis. At the beginning of 2012, I finally modified my diet into something healthier than the donuts I was so fond of.

So I got 3-4 new good habits thanks to my exercise habit. They emerged spontaneously, exactly like a keystone habit works.

The Improvement Process

But it took me six long years to arrive at this level. It also prepared me for the message of The Slight Edge. You see, I always thought success was something grand, thus out of my reach. In his book, Jeff Olson explained that success is a few simple disciplines repeated over time.

I was skeptical like hell, but I had a few experiences from my own life when I followed some small disciplines and succeeded. The most prominent and fresh one was my pushups habit. I didn’t lose weight, but my strength increased. My performance climbed over 300% in those six years. This experience made me think that maybe Olson wasn’t a self-help idiot guru and maybe I can succeed in my life.

A year later, in August 2013, I had dozens of new daily habits and I started a new career; I became a writer.

It took me seven years since starting my first habit to get out of the life of a quiet desperation and actually doing something to improve my life.

That’s LONG! But still only 18% of my lifespan as of today.

And it took me FIVE more years to truly improve my life, not only myself.

In the last five years I beat hundreds of fitness records, published 13 books, bought our first home, started an online coaching practice, passed a few exams and obtained a few professional certificates, wrote over 1,750,000 words, doubled my income, published over 1,000 answers on Quora, sold tens of thousand copies of my books, changed a job, started a book advertising business, downsized my job to halftime… My life not only improved, it exploded.

However, a few most impactful things from the above list happened in the last TWO years and the most significant ones – downsizing my day job and the success of my Resurrecting Books service – happened in the last year.

And let us never slacken in doing good; for if we do not give up, we shall have our harvest in due time.
– Galatians 6: 9

It took me so much time to get where I am now. The journey was exhausting. If someone told me in 2006 that it would take me the next twelve years to “arrive” where I want to be, I don’t think I would have decided to go through this process.

I remember how discouraged I was just two years ago. I had been on this journey for four years and it seemed like my efforts barely brought any fruits. I was stuck in my day job. My book sales dwindled to about 250 copies a month. My marriage was in shambles. I was out of steam. I had to draw from my salary to pay for the services needed for my side hustle. My bank account balance didn’t bring optimism.

Four fricking years of hustling like crazy for very little reward.

But I didn’t stop.

So how long does it take to improve your life?

Your whole life. This process never ends. If you want true satisfaction from life, you need to keep progressing. You will never “arrive.”

Say farewell to the illusion that you will ever be fully content with your life. Nope. The whole joy comes from improving, not from improvements. Life is a process, not a destination.

Accept that it will take years or decades to improve your life. It’s normal. Stories of overnight success are abnormal. They are carefully curated in media so the long journey seems like overnight success or they are simple aberrations.

Don’t aim for overnight or overweek success. Overdecade success is much more likely, doable, durable, lasting, and frankly – more enjoyable.

Change takes time. Suck it up. Keep going.

How to Become Successful in Life?

The Slight Edge Report Year SixThe dictionary definition of success is: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Which is bullshit. Accomplishing anything doesn’t make you a success. You must also enjoy getting there or you will be miserable 99% of the time. Then, you must be prepared to pay the price for success.

If a gold medal in gymnastics at Olympics is your goal, that’s great. But when your joints will be in pain for the last 5 decades of your life, your satisfaction of achieving that goal must overpower the pain, or you will be miserable.

My favorite definition of success is:

Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. – Jim Rohn

First, it makes you a success from day #1. If you put the first step on the path to your daily disciplines, you are already a success. And you are a success all the way to the final destination, including the final outcome.

Second, it makes success attainable for common mortals. I used to think that success was a gold medal at the Olympics or running a multimillion-dollar company. I was clearly unable to reach any of those goals so I didn’t even try. Thanks to Jim Rohn’s definition of success, I made an effort.

Third, it’s the most sterling way to actually “accomplish an aim or purpose.” Daily disciplines and habits spare you a lot of brainpower and decision making. You can utilize them in other areas of your life or to magnify your focus on your goal.

When you show up every day, you can’t help but improve. And you show up every day because you enjoy the process. It’s not too easy, it’s not too hard. Your skills and experience grow with every day of practice. You feel your progress.

If a runner starts a marathon, consistently put his feet in front of one another and heads in the right direction, he must reach the finish line eventually.

So, in summary – you can’t get success in life WITHOUT solid daily habits. I attest to that with the experiences I’ve had in the last six years of my life.

My Story

I was aimless and discouraged before I decided to give Jim Rohn’s definition of success a try.

We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation. — Jim Rohn

I was motivated by desperation. I didn’t really believe that I could reach success by practicing daily habits, but no other avenue to success was available to me. So, one day I sat, wrote down several goals for all areas of my life (health, finance, relationships, spirituality and so on) and brainstormed 15 daily disciplines that could help me reach those goals.

Soon, I discarded five of those habits. They came from the wrong place or weren’t aligned with my values. I diligently practiced the remaining ten. Six of them are still part of my daily life.

After a month of practicing speed reading my reading speed almost doubled. That gave me an ounce of belief into this way of achieving success.

It has never let me down since then.
How to become successful in life
I lost excess weight, made new friends all over the world, became an author, bought a house, beat hundreds of personal fitness records, became a life coach, passed a few exams and got a couple professional certificates for my day job, overcame my shyness, wrote over 1.75 million words, published hundreds of articles online (on my blog, Quora, Medium, blogs and magazines), changed jobs (35% salary raise), sold tens of thousands copies of my books, started a book advertising business, my wife quit her job and I transitioned into half-time work.

And it’s just a tip of the iceberg.

And none of my initial daily disciplines took more than 10 minutes a day.

Your Story

Do you know what you want to accomplish in regard to your finances, health, spirituality, relationships, career, self-development, happiness? Great, write it down.

You don’t know? Reflect on your values and priorities and come up with something. Write it down.

Then brainstorm simple daily disciplines that will meet these criteria: What’s one simple, single, easy-to-do activity can you do, day in and day out, that will have the greatest impact to that outcome?

Write those disciplines down.

Execute them consistently.

Every. Single. Day.

You are a success.