Tools You Can Use - Getting Started, Getting Unstuck, and Becoming More Efficient

This week we’re switching things up and launching our first TOOLS, TIPS a and TRICKS episode. We’ve been trying to think of an efficient way to respond to the questions that have been coming in from listeners - and thought we would try this on for size.  

The most common question we’ve been asked is “how do you even get started?  I’m committed to a cause but not sure where to begin.” There are so many ways to begin, but here are three quick steps that come to mind:

Step 1: I’d read  “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for” by Roy Spence.  

Roy does a great job of speaking to “how to fall in love with the problem” and letting that drive the arenas in which you innovate.  If you’re an organization that’s been around for awhile, it will help you return to that original problem and help inspire the next innovation.  If you’re a new organization, it will help you get off on the right foot.

Step 2:

Read “Jobs to be done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation” by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman and David Farber.  This is a great tool and roadmap for understanding the jobs your customers need help with.  It’s outcome based innovation at its best and a staple on my bookshelf. 

If you want to start with the originator of this methodology, Read  “Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice” by Anthony Ulwick.  If you want to read the person who popularized the movement, read “Competing Against Luck” by Clay Christiensen.  Christiansen’s Milkshake story remains one of my favorite.  Who would have thought that 40% of all Milkshakes are purchased in the early morning?  Why people purchase them is what’s totally fascinating.

Step 3:

Catch “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.  Eric started the Minimally Viable Product movement and his book does a great job of how to test your ideas in the real world before leaving your day job.  It’s straight-forward, practical, and... a little in your face.  Super practical, however, and the final step to engage in after you’ve identified your problem and the jobs your customers want to be done.

Next question:  “If I wanted a sense of what a start-up might look like…and the things I might expect - what should I read?

We’ve got two books for you:

1) "The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz.  It reads like a compendium of blog posts, but Ben doesn’t pull any punches and talks about the stark world of leadership and what it can entail. Besides, any book that starts every chapter with quotes from 90s hip-hop has to be awesome.

2) “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone.  This is Amazon’s story and Brad does a great job of speaking truth about what it takes to succeed.  I think most social innovators believe that the reason for their existence should be enough for people to get excited about their product or service.  While Amazon may not be a social enterprise in the traditional sense, this story will give you a sense of what it takes to make a big impact.


Next Question: “Any recommendations on how to get “unstuck?”  I’m stuck in a job that I don’t find fulfilling and want to get started on something more meaningful.

Love this question, but I also understand the overwhelming feeling being stuck can create inside one’s self…. and the unshakable fear…. that the clouds of malaise may never lift.   I think my single favorite book on this subject is “Let Your Life Speak,” by Parker Palmer.  With a wisdom that can only come from experience, Palmer speaks with a raw authenticity that is rare and of profound service to its reader.  It’s a short book, but don’t let that fool you.  Hal Cato mentioned this on his episode - so we know it's a winner!

The other book that’s been helpful to me in this regard is “Pivot” by Jenny Blake.  Jenny started up Google’s internal global coaching practice and has a ton of very practical tips on how to make your next pivot.  Whether it's considering financial implications, honing your ideas, or teaming up with a mentor - Jenny does a good job of covering the bases.  She also has a great Podcast - with episodes you can pick and choose from based on your immediate questions.


Next Question:  What is your favorite tool these days?

SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!  Lately, I've been really impressed with the suite of software that Adobe has been generating.  Right now I’m diving head first into Adobe Illustrator.  I always thought that the tool was too complicated for novices like myself, but my tip is to download the application - which you can get pretty reasonable on a subscription basis - and then head over to Adobe Stock where you can search for infographic templates.  When I’m pulling together presentations, I’ll purchase a template that is closest to what I’m trying to portray and then edit it directly in illustrator without having to start from scratch.  If I run into trouble, there are a ton of quality YouTube videos on any feature you want to learn more about.  There is a learning curve, but you’ll start to get professional-grade presentations which help set your story apart.

Final Question:  What’s one efficiency trick you can share?

In the end, life is all about prioritization...but if I have to pick an efficiency trick would be maximizing your audio time.  If I’m running, driving, or in an airport, I’m almost always listening to a book or podcast.  The combination of exercising and listening to a book always generates new ideas for me and helps produce practical improvements I can usually apply to what I’m working on.  Leveraging audiobooks in contexts where I’m waiting around for one reason or another helped me finish an extra five or six books last year.

The other two big life hacks I’m a fan of are sleep and meditation - but we can cover those on a future episode!

If you’d like more tips and tricks on a regular basis, join our email list at Just click on “Join The Tribe” when you hit the website.  We’ve got a pithy newsletter that goes out every two weeks and includes a number of things on what we’re reading, doing, and listening to. Be sure to check it out.