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5 Things You Can Learn From Charlie Hoehn, the Former Personal Assistant of Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi and Tucker Max

5 Things You Can Learn From Charlie Hoehn, the Former Personal Assistant of Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi and Tucker Max

I first heard about Charlie a few months ago, though I was unknowingly enjoying the fruits of his work for a long time. Because among many other things he assisted Tim Ferriss with the marketing of Ferriss’ New York Times Bestseller “The Four Hour Body”, which helped me to get six-pack abs back in 2012.

Reading a post of his on Ferriss’ blog made me increasingly interested in what he did and how he did it. After watching his TEDx Talk I went from being amazed to becoming a fan. To give you an idea of what Charlie accomplished, get this: one of his first mentors was no less a person than Seth Godin. Charlie applied for a summer internship to work for Godin, was turned down, got the chance to do a virtual internship with 200 other applicants and simply outworked and outlasted nearly all of them. His work ethic got him promoted and he started to work as a virtual intern for Seth Godin. From then on his journey became even more impressive. He actively reached out and landed gigs with bestselling authors and accomplished entrepreneurs like Ramit Sethi, Tucker Max and Tim Ferriss.

After numerous successes and working himself to the verge of a nervous breakdown he quit working for others and started a company with Chad Muretta and Jason Adams. This resulted in an incredible financial success and on the first 10 days of the launch they made $2,000,000 in revenue. Once again, Charlie turned his back on this success. He started again to struggle with his own anxiety. He tried any number of things to overcome it. Finally he found a cure for it and captured this in his new book “Play it away”, which Tony Robbins calls “The cure to your stress”. Pretty impressive, huh?

Despite his success Charlie is incredibly humble and approachable. He took some time to talk to me about my upcoming TEDx talk and gave me some great input. We talked about mentors, relationships, fluoride in the US drinking water and Harry Potter. Here is what I’ve learned from Charlie:

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1. Everybody can be your mentor

Even though Charlie obviously had the chance to work with some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, he started out on a completely different level. His first “mentor” was a local videographer from his city. Charlie would drive an hour just to help the guy move around the equipment and therefore learn from him how to film. Later on he would even mentor Charlie on which rates to charge when he had his own clients. So before reaching out to superstars he used the opportunities that were already at hand to learn.

So look around in your own neighborhood. If you are young and inexperienced there are people literally everywhere from whom you can and should learn valuable skills.

Starting out with local professionals makes complete sense, because all young entrepreneurs want to have Tim Ferriss or Robert Greene as a mentor. Though it is obviously impossible for a handful of superstar mentors to train thousands and thousands of young entrepreneurs. So reaching out to professionals from your town is a great way to get started and build necessary skills. The skills you learn there can eventually be used to build something on your own or hustle for an apprenticeship under an expert of your field.

2. Add value and be generous

The question that poses itself is: “How do you actually set up a mentor/mentee relationship?” Charlie has a very straightforward answer for this: come in with a present or a clear idea of what you can do that adds value to your mentor’s business.

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Most people approach the luminaries of a field with their hands out, trying to extract something from them. Even just asking them out for a cup of coffee is, as Charlie states, by itself a very selfish act. First think about what you can bring to the table in this interaction. This can be something specific and elaborated, similar to when Charlie landed the gig with Tim by offering to make a video for his “about” section on his blog and setting up a forum for his readers. However, it doesn’t need to be that sophisticated. Charlie thinks it is enough to just rid the person of some menial work, like carrying around equipment for a videographer like he did when starting out. Obviously the more famous the person is, the more competition you have from other aspiring apprentices and it would be smart to come in with a clear and valuable suggestion of what you can offer.

Though even if you don’t want to engage in an apprenticeship-like relationship and just want to genuinely connect with people, Charlie thinks, it is essential to be generous. “Try to help everybody around you. Try to get in a position where you add value to people’s life or business.” This will eventually payback and people want you to be in their lives as friends, partners or as trusted advisors.

3. Be proactive

Another thing that I learned from Charlie is to be proactive. If you are a freelancer don’t wait for customers to come in, go out and pitch them. If you are an entrepreneur go out and talk to customers. If you are a young and inexperienced marketer go out and proactively pitch a possible mentor.

As a fantastic example of such proactivity he mentioned the web designer who is responsible for the website of Disney and Apple among many others. She didn’t wait for them to eventually find and hire her. She redesigned their homepage, then reached out to Apple and Disney saying that she would like to redesign the whole website if they were willing to hire her. So she actually approached them with a sample of what she was capable of, which was so convincing that they couldn’t help but hire her.

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Charlie literally mastered this proactive type of finding an employer or mentor. He calls this approach “free work” and not only covered this idea in a TEDx talk which has more than 100.000 views but also wrote a whole manifesto on this called Recession Proof Graduate, which helped thousands of others to find a job or mentor and includes very actionable ideas on how to go about this.

4. We are all winging it

Many entrepreneurs or young professionals get upset because they are not sure if they are doing the right thing or because they have no idea where they are heading. Charlie says that this is normal. Even the guys who seem like they have figured it all out are just winging it.

In addition to this insecurity, if we are doing the right thing, our ego always tells us that the stuff we are producing is not good enough. This constant chatter of our ego is not very easy to overcome, because especially at the beginning of your career your execution is gonna suck and you don’t have a plan where you are going.

As Charlie says, these are typical struggles of being an entrepreneur, everybody has this and you need to accept it. Period!

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5. Relationships matter most

As an entrepreneur it is fairly easy to spend days and days just sitting in front of your computer either in some coffee place or in your home office. Even if you might make a lot of money and successes are coming in, this is not the stuff that will make you happy. Charlie has been there! So he emphasizes the importance of relationships over and over again.

He is serious about this – whenever I watched Charlie doing career coaching he asked people about their psychological well-being and especially their connections to others. When he then offered them a solution for their career issues he often included a nice twist, which made them come into more contact with other people.

Looking at a lot of my entrepreneur friends I think most of us should follow Charlie’s advice more often when he says:

“Make it a priority to build a social circle and to have friends. At the end of the day deep and meaningful relationships is what will make you happy.”

 

Featured photo credit: Edward Druce via charliehoehn.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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