4 things you need to know about executing on your ideas

Good ideas come to us all every day, passing by like clouds in the sky. However, a relatively few number of people manage to act on them effectively. 

We drive home from work, are struck with inspiration, pat ourselves on the back and move on. 

Our business, 3D Print Western is built upon turning out ideas on a daily basis, and below is a trick that helps us find success. 

1. Develop a low friction way to capture your ideas.

Inspiration can happen anytime and anywhere. And not long after it occurs, it can just as easily be gone. 

You need a quick and easy way to capture those fleeting gems. A few tools that I use  and keep with me at all times are Siri on my iPhone, and a notebook specifically for capturing ideas. 

Using Siri on your iPhone or iPad 

  1. Press and hold the “home” button on your iPhone or iPad. 
  2. Say “take a note”
  3. Siri will automatically place your dictation in your Notes app. 

My favorite notebook for capturing ideas

Rhodia is highly ranked and recommended amongst paper enthusiasts, which I am not. But if you scour the enthusiast websites for superior stationary – Rhodia is a recurring theme. 

For me, the paper quality is great, and I feel good knowing that technically astute paper aficionados have given it the thumbs up. 

2. Determine what your filter is for selecting ideas to execute on

Wired magazine co-founder and technologist, Kevin Kelly has a great filter that he uses when deciding on projects to embark on. 

Picture a Venn diagram with 3 circles intersecting. In order to embark on a project, the three criteria must be true:

  • Something that people need 
  • Something that I’m good at
  • Can or will anybody else do it

For the third point, you may have an idea that is marginally better than anything else that is currently available. But decide on a filter that makes sense in order to help you prioritize and vet which ideas to take action on. 

3. Begin with the end in mind and work backwards

As Einstein famously noted, if you can’t explain something simply you do not understand it well. 

Begin by describing your idea in great detail as if it has already happened. 

  • What does it look like? 
  • Who uses it?
  • How do they use it?
  • When and where do they use it?
  • Where do they buy it?
  • How do you sell it to them?
  • How do you make it?

If you cannot answer these types of questions, you will need to do some creative thinking in order to paint a clear picture for yourself. 

4. Decide on your first step

At our company we work in 2 week worlds using Sprints to break down larger projects. 

Once you have fleshed out your idea, you want to determine the first step, and lowest cost method to validate it as soon as possible. 

The best way to validate an idea is to see if someone would be willing to write you a cheque. If it is not an idea that you intend to monetize, decide on a different metric that would help provide quantifiable feedback for you. Give yourself a target of 1 month to get a website or Facebook page up and see if you can get anyone to take action.

Thanks to services like Shopify, Etsy, WordPress templates and Facebook storefronts, it is getting easier and easier for anyone to start a business or create a product or service for next to zero upfront cost. 

Whatever your big ideas, working through these 4 simple steps will help allow you to turn them into reality. 

Don’t think just do: the timeless wisdom behind the swoosh

When thinking about the landscape around managing oneself, there are two opposing ideas that I have found to be true:
1. My present self cannot be trusted to make the best choices in the present moment.


2. My present self knows what is best for my future self.

This odd dichotomy is a powerful insight if you can put it to your advantage. HBR published an article in 2012 titled, Your Problem Isn’t Motivation in which they identified one powerfully simple insight:

If you want to follow through on something, stop thinking. Or as Nike puts it, Just do it

Armed with this knowledge, there are two tricks that I employee strategically to help thwart my present self. 

1. Gamification of my habits

All of the mundane habits that I talk myself out of on a regular basis such as drinking water, taking my multi-vitamins, making my bed or stretching are all things that ideally I would not like to think about, but just do them on a regular basis. The trick I’ve found that works best is gamification (the application of typical elements of game playing e.g. Point scoring, competition with others).

Tracking stats and earning points for brushing and flossing, making my bed etc. is oddly enough the only prodding I need to build these habits into my daily routine. I’d recommend an app called Productive, although there are several others available out there.

2. Schedule your to-do list into your day

My day is broken into a combination of meetings and free time. When that free time comes up, I can be my own worst enemy, picking away at multiple projects 5 minutes at a time so that I feel like I am not losing traction. “Present me” knows that this is not a good practice for future me. As a results, I schedule time in for my projects, as well as micro time-blocks for responding to e-mails and knocking off all 5-minute tasks. 

In this mode, the only thing left to do is to stop thinking and start doing. Put your mind at ease knowing that your past self has already prioritized and laid out the best path for you. Now all there is left to do is follow. Brilliant for our monkey minds.

As with everything in life, it pays to keep things simple. And simple planning and scheduling in advance for all that your future self needs to accomplish is the best method I’ve found.  

These two apps may change your life

My iPhone is less cluttered with apps these days as I’ve been slowly distilling its contents down to the essential few. 

It’s easy to get trigger happy with all the promises offered by those shiny boxes in the iTunes or Android Store. 

As Spider-Man would likely tell you about your smart phone, with great power comes great responsibility. I try to use mine as a platform and a means to help elevate my capabilities and state of mind. Two of the best apps I’ve found that help me to achieve this are The Five Minute Journal and Productive. 

1. The Five Minute Journal. The paperback version of this product was my favorite gift to hand out this past Christmas due to its simple little layout. They follow the haiku-like constraints of starting your day off with a quote, followed by:

  • 3 things you are grateful for
  • 3 things that would make the day great
  • A daily affirmation
  • For the evening you submit 3 amazing things that happened during the day
  • And one thing that would have made the day even better

What makes their app such a standout is their elegant and thoughtful use of the available technology to help improve the daily journaling experience. 

Each day you can upload a photo to append to your entry. These can later be viewed in a calendar mosaic to help you recall the days when reviewing past entries. 

2. Productive. This is simply a habit tracking app that had been recommended to me a half dozen times.  

Why this app is a must have for me is that I’ve programmed it to poke and prod me into doing good things regularly. 

The app politely nags me into doing everything I know I should be. It gently asks me to brush and floss my teeth every morning, after suggesting that I make my bed. Before leaving for work it ensures that I’ve taken my multivitamins and drank a full glass of water. 

Every time I oblige my robot philanthropist, I get rewarded with a delightful chime and reassurance that my day is about to go perfectly. 

I don’t know why it’s taken an app to get me to run stairs every evening. But it’s working. My hamster paw is hitting that lever every time to receive my next reward. 

3 Things Triathlon Can Teach You About Agile

This June will mark 4 years since I took on the audacious challenge of completing my first full Ironman triathlon in the South of France. To this day, I don’t know how I managed to cross the finish line albeit in a tortoise-like time of nearly 14 hours. 

It still feels like a fluke that I completed the task, and I don’t put myself in the category of the true Ironman athletes that seem to have this epic race down to a fine science.

Breakdown of the race

The race which takes place in Nice, France every year in June breaks down as follows:

The swim

You begin with a 3.8km open water swim starting from the beach in the Mediterranean. They have it structured so that you complete two giant loops. 

The bike

The bike course runs 180km with an immediate 3,600 ft ascent into the Alps followed by a quick descent back into the city. 


The run

The race is completed with 4 laps along the Promenade in Nice totaling 42.2km.

As mentioned previously, I am a complete amateur when it comes to challenges like this one. But the lessons learned which I apply daily in the business world are priceless. 

1. Focus on small daily habits without losing sight of the big picture
We operate 4 businesses comprised of selling and servicing various equipment, as well as a 3D Print manufacturing business. Very few days in our world are the same, and it makes for a very dynamic environment to work in every day. 
Our primary tool that we use to help execute daily, and meet our clients’ ever changing needs is an agile approach sometimes referred to as scrum. All this means is that we work in 2 week sprints, focusing on projects that will deliver maximum value in the marketplace. 

How it works:

The teams

We work in cross functional self-managed teams of 4-6

Sprint planning

At the start of each two week sprint, we select and define a handful of stories which have been prioritized and defined, and which we think we can accomplish within that two week period. 

Daily stand-up meetings (these are the swim strokes)

Following that we meet every morning, same place, same time for no more than 15 minutes to check in on daily progress. 

These daily meetings are the swimming strokes where we try daily to perfect our technique, minimize effort finding that path of least resistance (often through automation, and leveraging already proven methods). 

Sprint retrospectives (This is where you sight your course)

At the end of each sprint, we review the work that has been completed. We have been following this method for nearly two years now, and in that time I have observed a common area where teams struggle. They focus on the daily swim strokes, but forget to look up at the target, see if anything has changed, reposition based on new information and course correct. 

If you focus, just on “Getting things done” every day, but forget to pick your head up and reorient yourself often, there is a very good chance that you could be swimming in the wrong direction. 

2. Don’t underestimate the importance of morale

Hopping on a bike for 7 hours after a 3.8km swim is a hard thing to wrap your head around. I can’t imagine completing this task without having a solid mindset in tact. 

The only way, I could overcome this challenge was to keep my attitude in check, focusing on gratitude, and a little bit of dishonest self-talk. Mantras like “I feel amazing” or “this road is gorgeous” or “man am I lucky to be biking in France” got me through 7 grueling hours in the mountains. 

The same holds true in our workplace. We start our meetings off with a positive focus, sharing good news or small wins. Another way that we keep our morale in check is through peer driven micro-bonuses. Our teams each receive 50 points every month which can be spent on team members when they demonstrate any of our core values. Points can then be used to  buy things like Amazon gift cards or company swag. (We use a tool called bonus.ly – definitely worth checking out)

Cultivating a positive mindset helps get us through any challenge that comes our way.

3. Focus on progress not perfection

9 hours into the race I dismounted off my bike, and wearily changed into my runners to take on the last part of the race which was the marathon. I can remember seeing people on the side of the course in stretchers getting treated for exhaustion and feeling envious of them getting to lay down. At this point of the race, I probably drank a liter of Coke just to keep myself conscious. There was only one tactic that kept me moving forward, and that was to focus on one step at a time. 

Every step forward represented progress, and I knew that if I could continue putting one foot in front of the other, eventually I would make it. 

The same is true in business. Many days are going to be a challenge, and in the moment your goals may seem completely unlikely and irrational. As a result, we keep our daily goals small and focus on progress not perfection. If you’ve taken one step forward it’s been a good day.

Top 5 Hacks for Multiplying your Effectiveness

I recently wrote about decision fatigue and how it can get in the way of our progress. 

One of the hacks that I’ve been working with is the idea of identifying what Dan Sullivan calls Multipliers; that is, specific activities or projects that will move you towards multiplying your effectiveness. 

Every quarter I identify five “multipliers” that will help me get one step closer to my 25 year vision. 25 years because it creates a filter for me to focus only on the activities that will have enduring value – a radical concept in the west where we live by quarterly earnings reports.  

Although this 25 year mindset may seem radical here in the West, in Japan it is embedded in their culture. I discovered this while studying international business in Tokyo during my University days. Toyota is a perfect example of this mindset where they demonstrate the long game through their relentless pursuit of continuous improvement coined “Lean Manufacturing”. More evidence of this mindset can be seen simply by looking at the top 10 list of oldest companies.


In my own personal pursuit of multipliers, I’ve recently become aware of the power of what I would call “mini-multipliers”, more commonly referred to as  automation. Computer engineers have been aware of the powers of automation for years. But until recently, people like myself who are inept when it comes to coding have been on the outside. 

Enter tools like Zapier, Workflow and IFTTT that are changing all that. The following is a list of the top mini-multiplier/automation tools that I am currently using to help multiply my effectiveness.

1. Zapier

Zapier is like a magic genie that integrates with a massive list of applications allowing for near infinite possibilities.

  •  Send my teams weekly, quarterly and monthly e-mail reminders for a variety of projects and reporting requirements
  • Automatically add e-mails that I star to a to-do list in Trello (my to-do application)
  • E-mail shipping instructions to our shipper/receiver automatically when a 3d printed part has been marked ready for shipping

2. Workflow

Similar to Zapier, Workflow is a mobile application that can be programmed to perform numerous chains of events with the push of a button

  • Send my wife flowers with the push of a button (I’m not joking). When I push a button it sends an e-mail with specific instructions which I’ve created an email template for
  • Order a pizza. On those Fridays when we decide to treat ourselves, I’ve programmed a button that sends a request for our two favorite pizzas to the restaurant in our neighborhood. I push the button on my phone and 15-20 minutes later they are ready for pick-up

3. Fiverr 

Are you impatient with Excell or require some quick artwork at a bargain? Fiverr is an awesome resource connecting you directly with the crowd. I often get spreadsheets cleaned up and formatted, illustrations, whiteboard videos etc. for a fraction of the price that a local design house would charge. 

4. Numerous

Is an app that organizes a feed of all the numbers that I want to track in one place. I can track:

  • The price of Crude Oil (which is up to $38.75 today!)
  • A countdown of the number of days until my daughter’s birth
  • # of days until the next SpaceX launch
  • Temperature in Edmonton
  • Charge level of my Tesla
  • # of likes on Facebook business pages
  • Current Net Promoter scores for our business

5. Evernote

This is my lifeline for all documents in my life. Picture a digital filing cabinet that you don’t need to organize. Evernote is powerful, and can read PDF’s and handwriting. I simply scan in all of my documents and files, and Evernote makes them a breeze to find through intelligent searches at any time from anywhere. 

Have a list of mini-multipliers that are helping you elevate your game? Send me any of your suggestions or recommendations.

Our evolving relationship with Artificial Intelligence

I was recently attending a technology conference and took home a nifty high-tech prize; Amazon’s Echo home speaker.

Now this isn’t your ordinary everyday speaker. Far from it. This speaker thoughtfully developed by Amazon employs what I consider AI (artificial intelligence) on steroids. Much like Siri, Alexa (that’s the speaker’s name) conveniently listens in on all of your conversations, just waiting for the chance to be helpful.

To engage Alexa into performing a seemingly endless list of Watson like tasks, simply speak her name followed by your request.

Alexa, what is the weather like today in Seattle?

Alexa, who won last night’s Oiler’s game?

Alexa, add Gluten Free Cheerio’s to our shopping list

Alexa, play Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

And she keeps getting smarter. Using something called Machine Learning, Alexa learns how I talk over time.

So, this has me thinking. If Alexa is on at all times listening to our every kitchen conversation – how should I feel about the obvious trade off of privacy being compromised? Amazon has ingeniously crafted a benevolent Trojan horse designed to soak up every facet of my personal life with exceptionally acute, long-range microphone technology.

Not that I have anything to hide (except for my secret stash of salt and vinegar chips), but how quickly I’ve adapted and accepted what not too long ago would’ve vehemently opposed as an invasion of privacy in its most extreme form. With the current controversy in the news between Apple and the US Government, there are clearly many layers in the ¬†evolution of our privacy.

Futurist and prolific inventor, Ray Kurzweil recently made a revelatory prediction that within the next 10-12 years, the majority of us would be allowing AI to continually read our e-mail, listen in on our conversations and be “on” 24/7 to satisfy our every whim. When I first heard this claim, I quickly identified myself as one in the opposing camp. Yet here I sit in my kitchen with Alexa listening to me type while offering up the soothing ambience of Miles Davis in the background.

When it comes to opening up your home to technologies like Alexa, is it something to be feared or embraced?