Tag Archives: Business

How I cut five hours a month off my routine

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I have a routine for how I do my work. Everything I do is regimented to a point. I have a routine and system for everything. However, those routines evolve over time. I get rid of some, refine others, and create new ones as well. Part of my system for running several directories is to give a welcome call to new members. I used to spend a long time on these calls. However, I realized that those who couldn’t give straight answers to questions didn’t do well on our outsourcing directory in the long run and did poorly on test questions indicating poor competency. So, I learned a shortcut. If people I called did poorly on basic questions, I learned from experienced (and tracking numbers) that they would do poorly in the long run. So, I ended the call with these people early. That way, I could spend more time with those who showed promise and future potential. The key here is not to spend less time but to invest your time in people who are worthy and end correspondence with those who aren’t.

If you want to rise to the next level in business, the most valuable skill you can learn is how to allocate your valuable time. If you can get the same result in 50 hours that another can get in 160 hours, you can use your remaining time to grow your business!

You don’t get to the next level in business by being in a hurry

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Some people think you get ahead by being in a hurry. Others think they can slack off and still do okay. The truth is that you need to work very hard, but not be in a hurry. I remember reading how Warren Buffet observed that it takes nine months for a baby to be born. You can’t use nine women working as a team to get a baby in one month. Certain things in business just take time. This doesn’t mean you should slack off during this time. You should work hard and let nature take its course.

I remember when I was twenty I was in a huge rush to get ahead in my life. But, at that time in my life I was a complete failure. I was mediocre in everything that I did. Now, in my forties, I am still far from perfect, but I work hard and am always driving to get ahead. However, I realize that success and getting to that next level is not something I can control the timing of. There are some years that are good years and other years that are slow. I try to learn from what I did during those good years and learn from mistakes as well.

On a converse note, many successful managers do less. They find ways to supervise the right people for each task that they need to have done. If they are overworked, they won’t have time for critical things or for putting out fires. Whether you work hard or work smart, the point is to be on top of everything and make sure quality work gets done. After that — just let nature take its course.

Jeremy’s 11 tips for better business decision making

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If you read my blog, chances are you are involved in a business of some sort. Unfortunately, most business people get caught up in the daily grind of overworking and have not enough time to make really good decisions. Warren Buffet is much wiser than this and works only 2 hours a day. That way he has plenty of time for last minute meetings, emergencies, and engaging in deeper thought about the decisions that really matter. But, enough about Warren, let’s talk about you. What techniques can you use to make amazing decisions?

Also see:
Bathe & meditate before making business decisions!

(1) Work Less
Most people work too much. As a business person, you make more if you produce more of value. But, a lot of the tasks you engage in are what I call “busy-work.” Many experts recommend finding a way to outsource your busy work to a younger employee or to someone else. That way your time will be freed up for more important tasks and decision making. As a manager or executive, your primary function is as a decision maker or a lead at important meetings and not to do menial tasks.

(2) Sleep More
What? This blog is crazy. What type if idiot is telling me to work less and sleep more? Me! If you are stressed out all the time running around like a rat on a rotary, you will be in a crazy state of mind. If you want to make good decisions you need to be well rested and in good physical shape.

(3) Eat Healthy Food; Diet Matters More Than You Think.
I recommend a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables (I bet you’ve heard that before) and regular exercise. Fruits nourish the body with lots of fiber and vitamins that you need for keeping calm and energetic. Additionally, they don’t have the same level of toxins that meats and processed foods have. Fruits are easy to digest too and easy on the liver and kidneys. Too much meat can make you feel heavy and sluggish! Your carbohydrates are best gotten from brown rice and oats which have many health benefits you can read about on the internet! Vegetables have fiber and minerals which your body desperately needs. Additionally, fresh or open-net salmon is high in omegas which is essential for your eyes and your circulation among other benefits. The details of your diet are up to you, but in most countries, the national diet is very unhealthy!

(4) Brainstorm Before Analyzing
Most bad decisions are made in a hurry. Other times, bad decisions are made with insufficient data. If you are new to making particular types of decisions, you won’t know how much information is necessary to make a good decision, and you will undoubtedly make a bad decision. If you are making a hiring decision, you need to compare dozens of qualified applicants before making up your mind. If you compare only three and pick from them, your pick is not likely to be optimal, and then when they quit you will be high and dry.

(5) Analyze Yourself & Then With Another Business Person
I prefer to think up multiple methods and variations for methods of solving a business problem. After I think of all of those methods, I think them over for myself, taking notes on the benefits and downfalls of each system. I will often talk each idea over with several people who are good business thinkers as well. These talks can take over an hour at times, so be disciplined about this painstaking but critical process. A business process may involve multiple steps. Getting those steps in the correct order may not be easy. You need to figure out what can go wrong if a particular step is in a particular order for example.

(6) Create a Board of Mentors
It is difficult to schedule time with others to compare business ideas. However, the input of others could be quite valuable. If you are making a business decision that could be worth $50,000 in long term extra income, how much time should you put into that decision? In my opinion, a decision of that caliber could take months of refinement and perhaps more than 20 hours. Plan on spending that type of time with your board of handpicked advisors or consultants.

(7) Enjoy Nature
Go hiking, relax at the beach, and enjoy nature in all types of places. Nature is the best place to get your body balanced, get in shape, and reduce your stress. People who are stressed out cannot focus on deeper decision making activities. They will overlook critical factors and impatiently jump to conclusions. In fact, you might be better off having your most serious meetings at the beach after sunset — I kid you not!

(8) Refine your Decisions
In my experience, my best decisions were not made on the first attempt. It took me years to figure out what made my business tick, and even more years to implement optimal policies. Your first big decision on a particular business matter such as hiring, pricing, business process optimization, etc. will most likely be wrong. But, don’t cry! Decision making is hard, and requires refinement. As you gain more information and experience, refinements in your processes, pricing, interviewing and hiring analytics and processes will ensue! Whatever business decision you make, make it with the intention that more brainstorming, more analysis, and more discussions will need to happen on a regular basis until you have gotten things to the point where they don’t seem to be able to get any better!

(9)Use Alcohol With Care
Too much alcohol will dull your thinking. If you are going to make critical decisions, you need a clear head. On the other hand, a glass of red wine every day will relax you, and is considered to be healthy for your heart, reduces stress, and can help you live longer according to some researchers. The right amount and the right type of alcohol makes the difference.

(10) Think Outside the “Box-fice” & Bump Into People More
Most people cannot think outside the box. Your office is like a box and is good for cranking out routine work. However, if you need to think strategically, your office might not be the best place. Many people have their best thoughts while dropping in on a friend, bumping into someone at lunch, or driving on a road near the beach. Google understands this and they engineer their buildings to have more common spaces where people will bump into each other and have stimulating conversations about innovations and other topics. You need to mold your life to integrate this Google concept of bumping into people. Try to have more unpredictable activities, do unusual things, and talk to a wider circle of people about business issues. If you limit the people you talk with to a narrow circle of people, your thoughts and decision making will reflect that narrowness. But, if you expose yourself to new people (preferably thoughtful people,) as well as reading books by great thinkers, your thinking will evolve.

(11) Evolve Your Mind Over Time
Your current mental state might be fine, but to make even better business decisions next year or next week, you need to widen and refine the way you think. Reading books about great business people, widening your social circle, and thinking more deeply and intricately about business decisions will help your brain to become more adept at handling complicated issues. If you make it your life mission to become refined at making great decisions, you will evolve into that state. But, if you are constantly bogged down with busy work, stress, eat improperly and don’t go to the beach enough — you will just be another scatterbrain!

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What is an hour of your time worth?

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If you knew what an hour of your time was worth, you probably wouldn’t be wasting it reading this stupid article. Or maybe you would spend an hour per day reading my brilliant articles. Hmm.

Many of us work for an hourly wage, and others work for their own business where they can calculate their income and divide it by the number of hours they have invested in their income. However, the real value of an hour of your work is more complicated than the immediate result. There are several factors you must consider when making this valuation.

If you are doing some type of work, are you learning from it? Are you learning skills that will affect the long term success and growth of your career? Or, are you just doing mindless tasks over and over the entire hour? If you are paid $15 per hour, but are learning, then the value of your time would be in excess of $15 per hour. Although it is hard to evaluate the exact long term value of the educational benefit, consider how much extra money you will be making twenty years ago if you continue learning and rise in the ranks vs. if you don’t. You might find that the value of your time might be worth more like $40 per hour when learning is factored in. Although the benefit from the learning might roll in slowly over time, the benefit could be worth hundreds of thousands if you continue learning. You can compare that value to what your money would do in the stock market if you took a higher paying job that didn’t include any learning.

I feel that my work time is worth $70 per hour based on what I am making now. Of course if I can learn to be a little more sophisticated, my time might become worth $400 per hour very quickly. I keep telling myself that in order to feel better along with multiple pats on the back. However, if I am doing something that involves stress, it really drains me and affects my mood for days to come. For stressful work, I would not want to do it unless it was worth more like $200 or more per hour as it is so distressing!

Long Term Benefits
If you are building a business and cementing ties with mentors, customers, or building a good system, you might not get paid big bucks right away. But, if you pour your love into that business, and keep it going, eventually your hard work might pay off. It is analogous to planting a tree. You might work for years growing the tree before the fruit comes, but when the fruit comes, your revenue will be generous. Base your hourly value on the harvest which might not come right away. Making this type of valuation has to be adjusted for opportunity costs, risks, and other factors. It is not easy to make long term assessments. However, the mark of a capable business person is exactly his ability to do exactly this!

Multiple Tasks Multiple Values
I do all types of things every day. I try to calculate the value of each task. I learned that each task I do has a vastly different value which is why I cut down on doing certain tasks and increased my time investments in the more valuable tasks. Of course, since I run a business, sometimes the payoff doesn’t come right away, but when it comes, it can be a landslide (which is a good thing unless you live in Malibu.)

Does your downtime make you a better business person?

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Does your time taking a walk, or sitting by the beach making you a better business person?
Does your daily Zen-out time meditating make you a better thinker or more centered?
How about your refreshing road trip experiences, or your time chatting with friends?

Many business bloggers seem to think it does.

Imagine how you would be if you never had any fun and you just glued yourself to your computer. Your eyes would start having flashes, your health would go to hell, and you would go crazy. Man was not designed to just work, work, and more work. And man cannot live on bread alone! Studies have shown that people who work too much or sleep not enough have lowered efficiency at work, and make worse decisions. But, people who apply themselves at work, and then refresh themselves regularly will make better use of the hours that they do spend working.

Putting refreshment aside, how about inspiration? Sometimes inspiration comes while you are taking a walk. Or you’ll talk to someone and in the middle of that chat you’ll have an ah-ha moment where your next huge business idea comes from. Meditating can clear your brain so the next big business idea will have room to come in. A long road trip will leave you coming back in a completely new state of mind ready for new thoughts as well. Reading what other people are saying can be a huge source of inspiration in business as well, although they probably write in a way that is more targeted to a general audience rather than to your specific needs.

As entrepreneurs and CEO’s we are responsible not only to work, but to come up with new ideas. We need to solve serious problems. We need to think quality thoughts. The difference between a business person who makes $100,000 per hear and 10 million per year is not the hours they put in. It is the quality of their decisions and their inspiration that make the difference. The higher quality business person makes decisions so good that they revolutionize entire industries — or in Steve Jobs case — entire species!

So, work hard, and then take that trip, talk that talk, walk your walk, and Zen your um… what rhymes with Zen? Hmm. Okay, and Zen your universal entrepreneur consciousness! These things will make you a better business person. Sometimes it is good to think about business when you are on a long trip. Since you will be in a different environment, the thoughts will be different which could be critical to finding the right ideas. Or sometimes it is better not to think about business, but to think about other things. When you come back to the office, you will have a fresh slate to work with.

On a final note, sleep is not properly understood by human beings. Your mind does amazing things filing your thoughts while you are sleeping. You might come up with your best idea ever while asleep. It could come in a dream. Or your guardian angel might transmit an amazing thought to you while you are snoozing. It has happened to me more than once!

My business karma improved – an interesting example about my outsourcing directory

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I remember the frustration I went through two years ago when I first started calling the members on my outsourcing directory. So many of them couldn’t speak English. So many didn’t answer. So many of them were difficult with me. Things have changed. The change started from within me. This is actually very spiritual, and reflects a lot of what my guru has been telling us for years.

In the past, I was desperate to have a directory with tons of listings. Critical mass of quantity mattered a lot to me. As I went on, I realized that to maintain any type of quality on my directory, I would need standards that would weed out more than half of my followers. It bothered me so much to undo hundreds of hours of work getting rid of listings we had put so much sweat equity into putting online.

But, in the long run, I wanted quality. After all, if you were an American, would you hire someone who refuses to answer question, who babbles, or who doesn’t even answer their phone? Or worse, the people who put you on hold without asking permission — and then you wait on hold forever only to call them back and be put right back on hold.

The interesting thing that happened is that I removed 65% of the listings on our directory for quality reasons. Most of the remaining listings were moved to the bottom of the list because they lacked quality communication skills. We have 1750 listings now instead of 4400 of the original listings. Instead of just putting listings online now, I call them. But, this time around, everyone I called answered their phone and spoke passable English which is a huge improvement over my luck two years ago. It seems that it is not my luck that improved, but my karma which improved by me improving it by deciding to have standards and sticking to my guns!

Prioritizing: What should you be doing less of?

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Men, we need a plan! What do we need to do more of?
Forget about doing more. Let’s do less!
Less? Yes less!

Too many things!
In business, you can’t really focus on what is important if you are doing too much or too many things. I have read hundreds of blog articles on this topic, and I have found this to be true in my life. So, I created a pecking order of all the tasks I do, how valuable I estimate them to be on an hourly basis and which ones are time sensitive. Whichever is either not time sensitive, or not that critical goes at the bottom of the list or gets outsourced. But, how do you create such a priority list.

Every day, a busy manager might do twenty different types of things.
There are emails, interviews, meetings, sales calls, order processing, accounting, other paperwork or more. You basically need to make a list of absolutely everything you do. Additionally, there might be certain tasks that can be broken down into smaller sub-categories.

Let’s say you do a lot of interviews.
You might be able to have an assistant do a pre-interview, right down the dialogue, and forward it to you. That way you will know exactly what happened, maybe even see a video of it, but scan it at your leisure. That way you can conserve your time for those that make it to the second interview. You could also reduce the time of first interviews from forty minutes down to ten. Ask a few quick questions and then on to the next interviewee, and make the lucky ones come back for round two. It sounds a bit like speed dating. But, honestly, most people are not good fits for your company and there is no point in talking to them for more than a few minutes. For me, I can size a person up in less than two minutes which is why I crafted what I call, “The 2 minute rule.”

How about emails?
No two emails are alike. Can you break down your emails into several categories? Some might be general inquiries, others might be thought providing, while others might be unusual. Perhaps you should just not answer the less important emails in your box. And perhaps an assistant should do the routine ones leaving you to do the tough stuff. You’ll never have a well managed schedule unless you have slightly more time than you have tasks.

Phone calls?
I am in the process of breaking my phone calls into groups. The calls to important clients will be one group, the call list of customers who didn’t answer my introductory call will be yet another group. I’ll out source the third group which is intro calls to low-level clients. This way I can save 15 hours a month in my schedule and write more blogs about saving time!

Make your list
Make a list of all of the tasks you do. Then, break them down into subtasks. Experienced managers are very saavy about itemization of tasks and breaking things down. Sometimes you might need six different people to do a task that can be broken down, and you might get the optimal person for each stage in the process. How you do it is up to you, but without breaking things down, you will never figure out what needs to be done. Then, figure out what is least important and either outsource it, or do it at the end of the month if you are sitting around with nothing to do. But, do the less important stuff last — if at all. That way you can focus on priorities.

I learned from an analysis that my newsletter and my Facebook account are my priorities. So, I started putting a lot more emphasis on both, and the results have been amazing. My Facebook clicks are up twenty fold, my SEO optimization has broken all time records, and my newsletter is growing steadily as well giving us countless clicks and increased business. I have figured out my priorities. I will continue to improve my skills at prioritizing. I wish you the best of luck too. Oh, and put reading my blog at the top of your priorities list. You will learn to think in new and exciting ways if you read my work!

Hiring people who help your customers “open up” can work wonders

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If you talk to your clients about business, that is good. But, to really have a good relationship with them you need to really interact with them and figure out what they really want. You can sell much more to them if you really understand them. But, you might not be the best person to chat with them. It might make sense to hire someone with a really good personality who is sharp to feel them out. If you hire Janice and Janice talk to your clients one by one for a few minutes, or maybe up to twenty minutes, she might get more of their feelings to surface than you because of her personality, or how she talks to them. Her gender might be a factor as people interact differently with men than they do with women.

Having a source of information about your clients might be useless unless you can also figure out what to do with the information. If Clint wants you to get back to him more often and you don’t do it — the information is useless. If Mary wants monthly progress reports, you wasted your time hiring Janice unless you act on that tip.

Smart businesses know they need to customize their offerings to their clients. Each client should be treated differently. Some hotels keep databases on what their clients like. When I call Choice, they know I want a single king, non-smoking room and no newspaper. They know I like the second floor, and they know I do not like room service. They know I am single and have no pets other than the spirit of my departed cat who comes to visit me in spirit form during my dreams. The bottom line is, how smart is your business, and how well do you know your customers? Find phone staff that can help them open up, and you might know a lot more about them.

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Business is always hard, but don’t despair

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Business is never easy.

I heard two Chinese Americans talking over a year ago about business. They agreed that if it were easy, that everyone would do it. I think they were talking about Real Estate business, but what they were talking about applies to anything in life. Nothing in life is easy, especially not business. My father always used to say that business was a “know-nothing” profession. This is true in his case, because he knows nothing about business. I think he meant that it didn’t require any “real” knowledge like book knowledge or scientific knowledge.

The type of skills and knowledge that you need for business are not taught so much in schools. Sure, during your MBA, they will talk a lot about many higher level business concepts. But, if you are starting a business from scratch, you need more nuts and bolts knowledge which schools typically don’t know how to teach and probably don’t want to either. Too pedantic!

People who are young and new to business often make many mistakes. Here are a few.

(1) They choose the wrong partner.
In business, it is hard to choose the right partner. Everyone is the wrong partner. If you have no skills or money, you will not attract the right partner. So be your own partner. 99% of partner relationships experience serious problems. One partner loses interest, or they don’t want to do particular tasks, or they don’t want to work as hard, or they just aren’t that talented. You might have more serious problems if a partner is stealing from you. It is common for a partner to want to sell out early. The fact is that no two people are ever completely on the same page which is why partnerships generally don’t work — even if they are close family members. As a general rule, try to do it yourself, and team up with others in a way where you are not dependent on them. You can hire them as a consultant, subcontractor, or they could have an investment relationship with your company as well. That way if it doesn’t work out you can easily replace them.

(2) Quitting your day job
Don’t be in a hurry to quit your day job. I have quit my day job several times, and the time I waited a long time was the best time. Sure, you’ll be busy, but businesses have ups and downs and take time to get stable. If you quit prematurely because you made money the previous month, what about next month. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Take your time, and develop your skills and client base first. I’m talking about taking a few years even. Go slow and steady — be stable!

(3) Trying to predict
As a young entrepreneur, you will be likely to have big dreams and huge predictions. The reality is that you don’t know what is going to happen. Thinking positively translates into thinking wildly unrealistically. Picture yourself succeeding, but be careful of assuming that things will go one way or the other. You don’t know what is going to happen, even if you have been in business twenty years! Sometimes even when you do a good job, growth is slow, and often you might end up in a new direction due to market conditions. Expect the unexpected. Business is like life — unpredictable. Business planning consequently doesn’t make sense to me. It is good to have a formal written direction, but you need to change course a lot in business, so try to be flexible in your thinking. Accept change.

(4) Lack of critical skills
One of the reasons so many entrepreneurs fail is that they lack critical skills. I believe that if you have the conviction, you’ll find a way to make it even if you lack a lot of skills. But, it takes time to develop skills, and you also need to focus on it. Instead of focusing purely on making money as fast as possible, try to focus on the skills you are worst at and really work on those for a year or so. In the long run you’ll need those skills. I’m talking about five, ten, and twenty years after the fact. Try to think long term without predicting a particular outcome. Regardless of outcome you will need skills. What type of skills am I talking about?

You need industry specific technical skills, analytical skills, you need to pick good locations or market segments to target, you need hiring and firing skills, marketing skills, accounting, and time management skills too. This is a lot for one person to master. So, work on your skills one by one. I’m bad at hiring, so I am working on that more this year. You can’t really expect big success in business unless you have attained functionality in your basic business skills — all of them. Even if you hire others to do particular tasks for you, you won’t know if they are doing a good job or not if you are severely limited in your own skills.

(5) Lack of experience hiring people
I covered this point in a previous section, but I’ll mention it again. You can’t survive in any type of business if you are not good at hiring people. How you determine who is good is up to you. But, it is complicated. Some people are smart, but not reliable. Others are kind, but not punctual. Some are boring, but get the job done, while others have bad attitudes. You might find someone perfect who can only work ten hours a week. How do you choose from all of these diverse characteristics? You choose by trying people out and seeing what happens. Your choices ideally should be ones that are good for the long run, not the short run!

(6) Willingness to work non-stop
As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to work non-stop for a goal that you might never achieve. I worked three years on my first serious business as an adult before breaking even. I worked 55 hours a week as a mobile notary and 15 hours a week building my online directory business. It paid off big, but boy did I commit to it when it wasn’t paying off. I had unbreakable passion and fanaticism about what I was doing. If I had lacked that drive, I never would have made it. If you are considering being an entrepreneur. Consider this point before you devote your life to your business. If you don’t have the drive, when the going gets rough, you might crack. You might have it fine in the beginning of your business and then have problems years after, or like most, you might have most of your problems the first five years. Personally, I always have problems. It is my drive that gets me through them — not my brains!

Business is hard, but don’t despair. It is meaningful when you get your reward. You earn your freedom and you make big money if you do it right. I make it a practice to go to five-star restaurants from time to time to remind myself that I worked hard and made it. Maybe I should remind myself in more ways. But, after my rewards, it is back to the computer for more work! If you succeed, you need to keep that success alive by keeping the ball rolling!

Why can’t you just press a button and become rich?

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Who says you can’t?
Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if they could just put a label on that one magic button?

I struggle daily to figure out how to run my business more efficiently, and I am always coming up with new ways to refine my techniques. But, I remember one day back in March of 2003. For some reason, my website just took off after three years of it being very slow. I can’t figure out why it all happened so fast. Business is like that. I wrote another blog article long time ago about the Chinese bamboo tree analogy. You water it daily for several years and nothing happens, and then all of a sudden it grows ten feet in one day.

The thing you need to remember about business, is that most of your day will consist of busy-work. As you grow, the next step in business is to find more refined, efficient, and effective ways of doing that busy work. Next, you find others who will do it for you and you manage them. But, in your course of daily activities, there will be some small changes that you make to the way you do things — or perhaps a few major changes. You will make a change, just like all the other changes you made, but that change will be the magic button that makes you rich.

You will press a lot of other buttons, but those ones are not the magic one(s). The problem is that the magic button isn’t properly labeled. But, there is good news. There are smaller magic buttons that can do less powerful magic in your business. I just discovered a new technique for using Google+ that gets me double the followers with the same amount of effort. That is a sort of small magic button. It took me three months to figure it out, but then — voila! I discovered another magic button for managing one of my directories. I was removing low quality listings, but found that I didn’t have enough listings. I was removing them, and then calling the service provider, and adding them back on. Now, I lowered my standards for what listings I would keep and eliminated a lot of the “duplicated” work. I just made my life a little simpler.

See if there are some smaller magic buttons in your life in addition to looking for the big one. Meditate on finding what that big button might be. If you don’t look for it you won’t find it because it is hidden amongst thousands of other buttons.