How to outsource your blind spots

Updated to Business, Productivity on December 29, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

Let me ask you a question.

What are you worth?

I mean if a client called today, or you added a dollar value to everything on your list – what price are you putting on your time?

When I moved offices 7 years ago I had in mind the new location would double as a film studio. I bought studio lights and set up a tripod. I even had a daughter help paint one wall green with the thought of shooting “green screen” videos.

For two weeks, I messed around with angles, screens, lighting, and sound. I even brought in a pro videographer to help with set up. In the end the sound was horrible, lighting sucked (note: when you have a skylight, but no windows, good lighting is impossible) and it took more time to move office furniture than to record the video. In short, my plan for an office/studio was fading to grey.

You see I know a little about video – I can even edit a basic video without screwing it up completely. But that doesn’t mean I should be doing it.

Maybe you understand basic accounting – that doesn’t mean you should do your own bookkeeping.

Just because you know how Facebook works doesn’t mean you should be doing all your social media.

Or because you’re a whiz at Excel doesn’t mean you should be updating charts for tracking sales.

In the words of “The E-Myth Revisited” author, Michael Gerber, you need to “Work on your business, not in your business.”

Working on your business

I can summarize Gerber’s often-quoted book in one sentence: You’ll never leverage your talents if you do all the work yourself.

Until the baker risks hiring that first employee, she’s caught in an Economics 101 formula of trading hours for dollars. Put another way, she can only increase sales by either: working more hours (not a great strategy), or increasing prices.

At 5:00AM, with your arms covered in flour, the solution isn’t usually obvious or easy.

“Hey!” you think, as you start kneading another cold slab of dough, “I know – I’ll take what puny profit I get every month and give it to someone else!”

Even if you finally hire someone (after weeks of painful interviews and reference checks), chances are you’ll respond to their first goof-up by either: a) micro-managing, b) withholding feedback, or c) taking over the job.

Better yet – do all three, but keep paying them. It’s the new leadership trifecta!

As much as delegation seems like the holy grail of business growth, it’s a bugger in reality. The main challenge is you got where you are by being good at “doing”. And people who are great at “doing” are often lousy at letting go.

The trick is to choose your battles.

From doing to delegating

Once I realized my 227 square foot office (in metric that converts to 3 pints) was hopelessly insufficient for filming I was forced to outsource. I’ve never looked back.

I would still prep my notes, plan the shot and do the filming. But none of the rest.

Now when I need more one-off videos, or to create the full slate of videos for the BOSS program (there were 26 videos in BOSS16), it looks like this:

  1. Map out all videos using either mind mapping software, or drawing using Penultimate (which is a completely intuitive way to capture ideas) on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil.
  1. Prep each video on a full-size flip chart sheet (big text only!).
  2. Iron a fist full of shirts (I switch shirts to add variety about every 3 videos).
  1. Tape the first flip chart to the camera tripod, find my position, sound check, and start rolling.

Unless I’m introducing a new program and need it perfect, I plan for single-takes—I leave in all the “human” moments.

That’s it’s it! When I’m done, I roll up my flip charts, tuck shirts under my arm and head back to my office. Most days I can crank off a dozen 5-15 minute videos in under 2 hours.

Videotaping was a blind spot – I didn’t know I needed help, because I was doing it myself.

Find your blind spot

The trick is to step back and identify your blind spots – especially when nothing is broken. I wouldn’t think about launching a large-scale video project without professional help, but that blind spot was pretty obvious – I didn’t have the location or equipment to do it myself.

Other, more subtle examples include:

  • Sending invites to organize a team/client meeting, training session, or retreat.
  • Surveying clients to measure customer satisfaction or plan future product launches.
  • Daily promotion of your content on social media. That’s what BlogWorks does so well …just saying.
  • Handling client requests or complaints.
  • Setting up appointments and avoiding that annoying email back-and-forth.

There are dozens more, like: editing, client service, website updates, data analysis (like survey results), graphic design, child rearing and hunting Wildebeests.

A big change we’ve made as we grow our small team is to think in terms of task, routine, or role.

Task, routine, or role

A common newbie outsourcing mistake is to hire an assistant when what you really need is to get a few tasks off your hands. The system I’ve developed is to outsource single tasks in one way, and repetitive routines in another, and only if I need an ongoing relationship to outsource a role.

I go into more detail on how this works, how to create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and how to find the talent, in this post.