No One Size Fits All Approach

Mike Alberts Cohere Capital

So much of our success relates to the habits and systems that we are able to implement in our lives. It is a huge theme for us here on the Branch Out podcast, and to continue our exploration of this critical part of personal and professional development, we are joined by Mike Alberts from Cohere Capital to share his experience and learnings. Mike’s central message is around finding what works for you; he believes strongly that there is no one size fits all strategy, and the best framework will be found through a curious and adaptive approach. He argues for constant reassessment and rigorous practice of shifting and adjustment. We hear about Mike’s current routine, helpful changes he made in response to friction, and how he chooses to view supposed failures or disappointments. Our guest sheds some light on the power of journaling, how he fits in his exercise goals, and the best ways to respond to mistakes. He also gives us some great tips for parameters that can enable us to stay on track when something unforeseen comes along before diving into some deeper concepts of stoicism and staying motivated.

Key Points From This Episode

  • The potential for habits to stand in the way of success instead of aiding it.
  • How Mike rethought his morning routine to better suit his particular needs.
  • Putting helpful parameters in place to ensure getting all the essential things done.
  • The power of starting the day with wins and gratitude!
  • How Mike’s attitude towards gratitude journalling shifted over time.
  • Using a consistent approach to break in a tricky new habit that you want to adopt.
  • Allowing for mistakes and giving oneself the grace to miss a marker and then improve.
  • Reassessing and rearranging things in an honest and realistic way for your own benefit.
  • Motivation through the image of your ideal self to make it through the trickier days.
  • Recapping all of today’s great lessons about better personal habit building.



[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow, and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.

[00:00:20] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today’s guest is Mike Alberts, Vice President with Cohere Capital, a Boston-based growth focused private equity firm investing in middle-market businesses. Mike shares his thoughts on how there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to designing systems and habits for personal success. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:00:43] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn, search for Connection Builders.


[00:00:51] AD: Mike, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m looking forward to our conversation about habits and systems today.

[00:00:56] MA: Thanks for having me, Alex. Pleasure to be here.

[00:00:58] AD: So, talking to our listeners for a minute, Mike and I had a few conversations over the last couple of weeks and one of the key topics that came up as we’re talking about the power of habits, the power of systems, and how for many of us, especially those of us in the professional service world, to have a driven, motivated, we want to excel and accomplish things and we tend to be very systems driven, very goal oriented, wanting to set habits and routines and processes that really help us excel and get ahead. I believe there’s a lot of merit there. I think that’s really the key to success for many people, myself included.

But Mike was sharing a very good perspective and something I’ve been challenged with myself as well, when sometimes you set up habits and systems and routines that you think are designed for success, and you come to find out they’re actually getting in the way of your success.

So, with that, Mike, can you share some of your thoughts around that and some of your own experience that you’ve had and where habits have actually gotten in the way?

[00:02:01] MA: Yeah, absolutely, Alex. For me, I’ve been trying to figure out the right systems and routines and processes for myself for the better part of a decade. So, I’ve read plenty of books and what I’ve found is there’s really no one size fits all. To your point, I think a lot of high achievers have a tendency to plan out everything and set really high expectations for themselves, but often we’re thinking about the most ideal situation where we have 30 hours in a day, we can work 12 hours, have dinner with our family, sleep eight hours, watch Netflix, workout and you just can’t sort of cram that all together.

When you set these crazy expectations for yourself, you end up missing, falling short and then feeling worse. That to me, from a personal perspective, has happened a ton over my career, where I’ve said, “Okay. I’m going to wake up at 6 AM or what have you. I’m going to work out then I’m going to meditate, then I’m going to start work. I’m going to finish early, cook myself a healthy dinner, and life started gets in the way and things change.” So, you kind of have to adapt.

[00:03:13] AD: Let’s talk on that. So, you set these goals, I’m with you. I want to get up, I want to work out, I want to to meditate, I want to journal. I want to make myself a healthy breakfast. I want to make sure I follow up on every follow up I’m supposed to do. I want to get all my work done. And I’m going to be done by 3 o’clock. So, I can be at home and spend time with my family or whatever it might be. These overly lofty expectations and you structure your day out and say, “Okay, I’m going to get all of this done today.”

Then reality hits you, and you don’t get it, you don’t finish it all, you don’t even come close. What I hear you saying and what I have experienced in my own life is all of a sudden that reality check that you didn’t get it done at times, if you’ve set yourself up with maybe too many habits or too much expectation for the day, you feel like you’re in a worse place at the end of the day. And then that spirals into the next day and the next day and the next day. It starts to degrade your ability to stay focused on that.

I think you’d shared with me your morning routine in particular was one that you had to really reflect on and shake up. You want to share a little bit about what that looked like, what was getting in the way, and how you had to rethink that a little bit?

[00:04:20] MA: Yeah, absolutely. I think it sort of comes down to a lot of us try to develop routines to solve for things that we want to achieve or things are maybe difficult for us. And we want to make it not so difficult, right? And part of that can be working out. So, if my routine is every morning, I’m going to work out at 5 AM. After I do that for 30, 40 days, it becomes a little bit more like clockwork, just like brushing your teeth. But it takes time to get there and unfortunately, you have sort of fits and starts and that was a big part of it for me, where I really wanted to develop a more fitness routine, I signed up for some races and things and I wanted to kind of dig into my training.

[00:05:06] AD: Hold on, some races and things. Let’s be clear about what you signed up for.

[00:05:11] MA: Fair enough, Alex. Well, okay, so I have an absolutely fantastic and badass fiancé who’s a great athlete. She encouraged me to sign up for an Ironman with her, something that neither of us had ever done and I was very excited to do something with her. But I looked at my schedule, as someone that works a lot and works very hard. I had to take a hard look and say, “Okay, do I have time for this?” And I’ve already signed up for it. So, I need to make time.

What I did was say, “Okay, I’m going to wake up at 5 AM, I’m going to get my workout done. And then I’m going to have breakfast and still be at my desk ready to get on calls and look at deals.” What I found was, I sort of didn’t love waking up at 4:30 or 5. And during those workouts, all I was thinking of was, “Okay, my inbox is full of stuff. I’ve got some deals to review. A call of the day I need to review. I have some really important projects to get processed.” And a lot of times, that would mean the next day, I’d say I’m just going to skip the workout, just start working. I sort of spiraled.

So, I took a step back and said, “All right, I need to reassess my goal here. I shifted to what’s the biggest problem for me, and I believe everything’s highly personal. But for me, it was that my mind was in work, the minute I woke up, and that’s pensively, the minute, I go to bed as well.

[00:06:41] AD: That’s a different problem for a different conversation.

[00:06:46] MA: It’s definitely a deep problem. The good thing for me is, I really love what I do. I love the people I work with. So, it’s a good situation for me. So, I sort of shifted and said, “Okay, maybe I’m still waking up at 5 AM. But I’m taking a cup of coffee, and I’m getting at my desk and maybe knocking out some work first.” So, I started to do that and I found that I’d sit down on my desk, get a couple hours of work done, and then I’m energized, because I’ve knocked a bunch of things off my to-do list of the day, I’m already being productive, and then I can take a break from having a really hard work session to get a nice workout in, and then still be back to my desk during hours where I’ve had phone calls with people or meetings.

So, I think the big takeaway from that is, it’s okay to set high expectations and goals for yourself. But you have to understand that not every goal and routine fits in a perfect box. And for me, it meant not working out right away when I wake up and then getting some work done and then shifting it. Some people are nighttime people, right? Maybe they need to work out at night or maybe they need to do all of their really tough thinking activities at night. So, reassessing and making sure that you understand what works for you is really important.

[00:08:03] AD: What I want to point out there that I think is interesting, for most of us, myself included, I think the natural reaction is I need to get up and work out if I’m going to force myself to do it. I personally, for myself, have found, especially if I’m trying to build a fitness habit, if I didn’t get it out of the way in the morning, it just wasn’t going to happen. Like 4 PM rolls around, there’s not a chance I’m going at that point. It’s hard a chance in the morning, it’s a much harder chance as you get later in the day, right?

That said, your point of, well, I was finding that I’d get up. I would do my workouts. But I was thinking about work. My head wasn’t there. My head wasn’t all into it because I was a little wound up about some of the things in my plate. As with you, I tend to wake up and I feel fresh and my brain is kind of running at maximum capacity, I think, especially after that first cup of coffee, and I’m feeling good to go. My mind does, at times, kind of jump right into wanting to do things, into your point. So, you’ve sat back and said okay, “Well, I’ve identified that. I’ve realized where doing that it’s preventing me” or maybe not preventing, you’re still getting to the gym, but you’re not all the way there. You’re not all in. Your head is not there, your head is somewhere else, and you’re just thinking about the other stuff you need to knock out.

And you just kind of simply turn that on its head and said, “Okay, I’m going to get up. I’m going to do a little bit in the morning, not going to work an entire day when I first wake up, but I’m going to get up and I’m going to knock a few things out. I’m going to get my inbox caught up. I’m going to catch up on the stuff from the day before. I’m going to make sure I’m in a good place. And once I feel good about it, then I’m going to go and do my fitness, then I’m going to put my time into that.” That’s a delicate balance of making sure that the fitness still happens.

What do you do to make sure that still fits in there? Because I like that way of thinking. I do and I get, it’s going to be different for everyone. You’ve said it already. No one size fits all. You can’t put this in a perfect box. This is something that everyone’s going to have their own approach. But for someone that’s like you that wakes up and says, “Hey, I think I might be better off to work a little bit and then do fitness”, how do you make sure the fitness still happens, and that you don’t get pulled into the vortex of work, and all of a sudden, it’s 5 PM and you’ve done nothing but work?

[00:10:13] MA: That’s a good point. I think for people like us who do like what we do, but also get really deep into our work, I sort of have to set parameters for myself. And that parameter for me, it didn’t work in the beginning. So, first step was wake up, work out, then get to the office. That wasn’t working for me. Second step was wake up, do some work, work out, then get to the office. And that also wasn’t working because I would dig into all these interesting projects. The cool part about 5 AM is not a lot of people are bothering you.

[00:10:48] AD: No emails.

[00:10:49] MA: No one’s calling you, no one’s emailing, and you get excited about a project or you get excited about something or get really deep into reviewing a deal. I guess in my case, and you look up and it’s nine o’clock in your calls for the day are starting their meetings for the day you’re starting. What I sort of did was set parameters for myself to say, “Okay, these are the types of tasks I’m going to devote to the morning.” And I don’t mean to jump to another topic. But I think knocking out the tough stuff in the morning for me works out really well.

So, as I mentioned, I absolutely love my job, I’m energized every day, I love the people I work with. But there are tasks and things about my job that I just don’t love. You got to do them, but I don’t love them. But every job has that. And so, I would find myself letting those tasks sort of build in my inbox over time. And at the end of the day, saying I’m sort of too tired, I don’t want to do it. I’ll do it later. So, I try to build a routine every day that when I get to my desk, I’m hammering out those tasks right away, whether that’s in my case, negotiating an NDA, or marking up a document, or putting some administrative work on my calendar –

[00:12:05] AD: CRM database work.

[00:12:07] MA: There you go. Absolutely. But it’s perfect because you can sort of set a timer for yourself and say, “I need to chip away at this. I’m going to spend an hour or two in the morning.” And so that is how I made sure I was still getting to my workout, because I was doing the tough stuff in the morning, getting it out of the way. So not only was I going into my workout feeling energized, because I just did the hardest tasks of my day, or at least started them. But it’s sort of a draining activity anyway, I want to get to that workout to step away for a second. That’s how I did it.

[00:12:42] AD: I like to setting parameters or setting a timer. I think especially when you point out this idea of admin work is a great word for it. It’s the stuff that we all have to do, but no one likes. And again, I’ll use the CRM database work, because I think many of our listeners can resonate with that. If you’re not using a CRM, you certainly should be. I mean, for those of you that actively use a CRM, you know how absolutely awful it is to enter every single bit of information. It has to get done. I say awful in the sense of it, okay, it’s not terrible, but you have to do it. It’s not the most stimulating work you’ve ever done. It’s typing notes, it’s keeping up on things or clearing out some of those emails, or you said, marking up an NDA. I’m glad that’s not where I spend my time today know how I know.

I remember some of the pain behind that. I was sitting on the other side of table. So, it’s probably guys like you making my job hard because you were marking them up. But no, the point I’m making is that, okay, you’ve got this work, you’ve got stuff that you have to do. We all have that. Identify that. So, step one, identify that. Spend some time and think about what is it that is difficult, and I’m a big believer in trying to eliminate, try to delegate, and then if you can’t, and you have to do it, then you do the work. And sometimes, that’s easier said than done. But inevitably, there’s going to be a pile of things that you have to do. And as you said, it’s the stuff that piles up in your inbox. That’s another great way to look at it. Those emails that are like four weeks old, and they’re the only ones that ever hang out in your inbox that long, and you’re like, “Oh, I got to do something about that.”

So, you do that and what you’ve done effectively here is you’ve said, “Okay, I’m going to put” I’ll just use an example, “I’m just going to put an hour into it. So, I get up at 5. By 5:30, I’m sitting in front of my desk. From 5:30 to 6, I’m going to do these tasks.” And and I know, I think there’s some psychological benefits there. I can even just, putting myself in that position right now thinking about it. I’m getting things done that I know I need to do, I’m feeling a little energized in the morning, I’m ready to put some time and I know it’s an hour.

I know it’s just an hour, that’s all I need to do, is just put an hour to, as you said, chip away, chip away at some of those tasks. I know once I put that hour in, I’m going to get to go to the gym and I’ll be excited. I feel like I’ve gotten some stuff done and I enjoy going and doing my fitness. So, this is something I’m now looking forward to and I’ve now chopped away an hour a day working on those things. And all of a sudden, you don’t have that big buildup of admin like tasks that starts to pile up on your plate. Is that a fair way to think through it?

[00:15:04] MA: It’s a very fair way and you took the idea and put it in such a nice succinct package. This is why you’re good at what you do, Alex.

[00:15:13] AD: It’s my job. The thing about it is, for me I’ve found that starting my day with wins is highly effective and my good friend and mentor, Logan Loomis told me when I start my day, he said, “Try out this prospect of gratitude.” And Alex, you and I have talked about this before. I know you do the journaling. When I do get to my desk, I’ve also started to and this is all very recent, I’ll sit down and I open up my notebook and I’ll write down three just great things from either that morning or the day before. Now, it’s usually around 5 AM. So, it’s the day before, but it could be the avocado that I picked this morning is ripe, or the coffee is particularly good this morning, or last night, I had a really nice chat with a friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while.

For me, again, it’s all very personal. For me, it’s not I have a good job, or I have this or have that. It’s little things right there that you can sort of get excited about. And so, I start my day with that quick win. I’ve been spending some time with this book called The Daily Stoic. And then I’m immediately going into this really hard work that I that I don’t love. But I’m going to do anyway, the weird part is, I’ve started to kind of love that time of this is my hard work time. This is the time when I knock out the things that I usually put off, just a couple months of doing that it almost makes that hard work less hard and it sort of makes makes it just again, because it’s a part of your team. That’s just what you do.

[00:16:51] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.

[00:17:00] AD: It’s interesting. So, for our listeners, it’s certainly not anything Mike and I talked about beforehand, but I get up early, and I’m a gym guy in the morning. I get up, I go and I journal and then I head to the gym and it’s one of the first things I do. I do it pretty much seven days a week. It’s really important to me to get up and do that. What I do, do every once in a while and this is maybe every other week or so when I have a bulk of work piling up or if I have for example, a 7:30 AM board meeting, something that that I know is going to take up time that would interfere with my traditional gym pattern in the morning, I will carve out a morning that I get up and I’m in the office at 5:30, 6 o’clock in the morning, and knock out an hour or two of work, do what I have to do and then hit the gym mid-morning or early afternoon.

As I shared earlier, I have found that if I don’t go to the gym in the morning, it’s much more challenging. Now that I have an established habit, I don’t have a problem shaking it up every once in a while. I’m saying this as I’m thinking aloud, and as we’re talking through this, you’re 100% right of for myself, I feel really good when I knock those tasks out. I feel like I’ve gotten those done. For the work I do today and where I’m at, I don’t necessarily have that amount of admin tasks on a daily basis that I’m knocking out. But to your point, everything’s different everyone. There’s no one size fits all. But just the thought process alone of, “Hey, I know I have difficult tasks, whatever the rhythm of those are, there is merit to let’s get them out of the way. We’ve got to get these done. I know these are challenges. There’s no alternative. They have to be done.” So, I’m going to get up, knock them out, and then the small wins. That all kind of leads to that small win. I feel good, I feel great, and I’m ready to tackle it.

I want to go down a slightly different path here, talking about gratitude and some of that habits. I think that’s actually a really important component of designing some of your systems and habits for success. Your thought process of just starting out with a little bit of gratitude, a little bit of, “Hey, I’m thankful for this.” As you said your avocado was great, or your coffee was great, right? Whatever it might be for the day, but you’re acknowledging something small that you’re grateful for. What have you seen in that? What what has been just in your experience doing it so far, where have you seen that the beneficial in kind of the way you start your day or that the way you approach things?

[00:19:17] MA: Yeah, I was not a believer in the beginning. I thought it was silly. Every morning, I would sit down and I would write the same things. I’ve got a great fiancé or I have good friends, something that – these are all great things. I feel very blessed and lucky to have nice friends and have an amazing fiancé, and all these things, but I just felt like why am I writing this stuff down? And it almost got back to our earlier conversation of it was making me feel like I wasn’t doing it correctly. I was failing the gratitude.

Until I started saying what are just little things that are good? I woke up and I sprung out of bed, just the little stuff, and it sort of change my perspective. On the days that I wake up, and I don’t feel good. I’m tired. My body’s sore. I’ve got a million things to do, maybe something’s going wrong with a friend or whatever it may be, I kind of go to those gratitudes and it just starts me off in a better light. Because no matter the situation you’re in, you can always find some light to sort of latch on to.

I think that that puts me in a more positive mindset for the day. But I do want to make sure I say you were having this conversation about all these things are going well, for me, it took me a long time of things not going well and not working, these routine routines that weren’t working for me, for me to get to this point. And I can’t stress enough that there’s just no one size fits all. Just like there’s no one size fits all diet. There’s no one size fits all workout routine. These little gratitudes work for me and put me in the right headspace.

[00:21:03] DA: I wholeheartedly agree with that. I want to ask you, you said it was very hard for you in the beginning. This is asking specifically around your gratitude practice. But I think this is broadly applicable to any new habit you’re forming. And some of the words you’d said there as well, what is this doing? Am I doing it right? Is there any value in this? I think those are the thoughts that we all tend to have when we start some new habit that we know is good for us. What was some of that battle, that internal battle, and what did you do to overcome that?

[00:21:31] MA: Yeah, so consistency was the thing that I kept harping on, trusting the process, and trying to be consistent, because for me, for a while, I was just so focused — I really love process. I love systems. I love checklists and to-do lists, but I’m always striving to more systems oriented and process oriented. I’m always trying to be better. I don’t necessarily cut myself slack at all. So, maybe one morning, I forgot to do the gratitudes and I’m 20 days in and the day blew up, something happened, you have to be willing to sort of adapt and say, “All right, well, I didn’t get the gratitudes done at 5 AM like I wanted them to do. I did them at 6 PM or I did them at a different time or I thought about them.” You sort of have to amend and reassess as you sort of go through.

So, what helped me was cutting myself some slack and saying, “You know what, this isn’t going to be perfect. You got to make small steps. You got to do this Steph Curry model, what was it we had like the jar and the pennies.” Putting a penny in the jar every day, it takes a really long time to develop that and the sad part is, in our sort of current society, where it’s instant gratification, you got to be the best today, we got to be CEO at 25. That’s sort of not realistic and I think being consistent and making sure that while you’re being consistent, you’re cutting yourself some slack. That’s what worked for me.

[00:23:05] AD: Consistency over everything else and I believe that to be very true in many aspects of success. I talk in a lot of my work revolving around networking in particular. I talk around the importance of just being consistent in everything you do. Do it again and again and you want to succeed in networking, well network a lot over time, and you will succeed. That’s the ingredient is consistency. But that applies to every habit, anything you do, anything and the consistency matters more than anything. What’s really important that you brought up though is you have to trust the process. You have to trust that you’re doing the right things. And we’ll get into that in a minute of how do you know if you’re doing the right things. But cut yourself some slack, give yourself some grace, understand that it’s not going to be perfect.

I’ve shared a little bit this with you before, Mike. But I have, as some listeners might know I’ve mentioned this in a few other episodes, I have six habits that I try to do every day. I want to get up, I want to do some kind of activity, some kind of fitness, I want to stretch, I want to meditate, journal, I want to learn something new, and I want to spend time in some level of spirituality. Those six things are really important to me. And what I know and I’ve done my own process of assessing what’s important to me, I said, if I do these six things every day, day in, day out, over time, I will be a better person at the end of the day.

There are a lot of days that I get through all six and let me tell you, it was one hell of a battle to get myself trained to be able to do that. I’m still still battling it. It’s not perfect. I certainly miss stuff. I miss stuff pretty darn consistently and there are some habits that I’m more consistent than others. The point I’m making behind all of this is recognizing that if I were to say, “Okay, I want to do all of these.” I’ve got three days in a row that were perfect, but then I miss one and I beat myself up too hard. “You screwed that up. Come on, you broke that straight gear. You mess that up.”

Well, what does that do? What headspace does that put me in? Where is my way of thinking around that? It doesn’t get me anywhere. Instead of saying, “It’s important to be consistent. I miss this. Bummer. Why did I miss it? What got in the way? How do I make sure I don’t miss it tomorrow?” Much different way of thinking about it, but I think all too often, we have a habit of i or I know at least I do. I’ll set a system or a habit or a goal for myself and say, “Well, I’m going to do this,” and if you miss it, you’re like you’re beating yourself up.

“You’re supposed to do this or you broke the streak, well now streak is done. My big one, eating if you’re trying to eat healthy, “Well, I’ve already had a slice of cake, I might as well eat the rest.” And that’s that negative, that, “Oh well I’ve done it once, who cares now?” That’s the opposite of the consistency. The consistency is saying. I didn’t do it perfect but I’m going to pick myself back up and keep doing it. I think that’s fundamentally important to any success but especially as you’re talking about habits and building routines is giving yourself that grace.

[00:25:45] MA: Yeah, by the way six is big. I mean that’s huge.

[00:25:51] AD: Hard, it’s really hard.

[00:25:52] MA: Yeah, you’re not going to hit it every day. I associate a lot to exercise right now because it’s such a big part of my life, but some days your body is not working right and I’m not as in shape as when I was in college of course, and sometimes I miss workouts and I’ve got a workout plan that I’m following right now with the coach for this Ironman, is sort of similar in the beginning of it, if I missed a workout because maybe work ran long.

Actually, I have a good example, one day we had a board meeting, the board meeting was going really well, and we just ran long and I wasn’t able to get my workout in that night because I had a bunch of follow ups to do. I sort of beat myself up about it. Like, “Gosh, I got to get these workouts in.” And I took a step back and said, you need to understand that just some days it’s not going to be perfect, but mistakes, taking a step back sometimes helps you take a step forward.

To your point, kind of assessing did I miss this past, did I miss this project, did I miss this new routine I’m building, because life happens and that’s okay. Now, did I have all the time in the world and I just didn’t feel like it and I missed it, that’s okay too. It’s okay.

[00:27:10] AD: It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen.

[00:27:12] MA: Yeah, it’s going to happen. I think this — high achievers and hard charging people and maybe I guess people on the other side of the spectrum that maybe aren’t as hard charging, we’re all going to make mistakes and trip and fall and that’s okay.

[00:27:29] AD: I like what you said taking a step back to take a step forward. Let’s talk about that for a minute because underlying all of this is designing the right habits, the right systems, the right approach to things, and identifying when what you’re doing isn’t working. The key there is to step back. If you want to step forward, if you find yourself tripping and not being able to move forward and the example underlying all this, let’s use fitness as an example. If I say I’m going to go to the gym every day or I have a fitness plan I’m going to follow, and I find myself missing it one day, I need to give myself a little bit of grace for it and say, “Okay. We’ll do it again tomorrow. I miss it tomorrow. Then I missed it the next day. Okay, well now I’m missing it a bunch. Now, I’ve identified.”

Instead of those, saying, “Oh, come on. I got to get better. You’re screwing this up. You’re a failure. You’re not meeting what you said you would. You step back and say, “Well, why not? What’s happening? What’s really getting in the way? Why don’t I want to go? Why am I not doing what I said I would do? Is it because I’m trying to do it at the wrong time? Is there some mental block? Am I trying to do too much? Am I going to the wrong gym that’s too far to travel?” There are so many variables there that if you just keep beating yourself up about it, you don’t know. So, you have to step back from it and look at your habit, look at your system, look at it. And just like you described in your morning gym, you had to step back before you could step forward, right?

[00:28:50] MA: Absolutely. I think that a lot of times when you’re taking a step back to reassess, it’s being really honest with yourself to say, “Am I making excuses for myself? Am I deciding that work is going to get in the way of cooking dinner at night? So, that’s why I’m ordering out instead of cooking. Am I just deciding that my body doesn’t feel like running today when I haven’t run in a couple of days?” Or what have you. By all means, I am the person that always falls back on the work. Well, I have work, so I’m going to skip that workout. I’m going to skip that meal, what have you.

I think it’s being honest with yourself to say, “Hey, hold yourself accountable a little bit here. You missed the task a of couple days because you got sucked into work, there’s still time to change. It’s not like you lost those days or you lost that week.” But I think, for me, a lot of times, obviously even now, sometimes I just make excuses for myself and I have to take a step back and say, “Hey man, that’s not a good excuse. If you really want to make progress, you do things differently, and I don’t mean to ramble on this but there’s sort of a, I forget exactly how he said it, a friend of mine once said, when you’re sort of looking at the routines and things that you’re building, think about the person that you are striving to be, and how would they deal with that?

So, the absolute perfect Mike Alberts in my own mind of myself, wakes up and does his gratitudes, does his Daily Stoic, gets his hard work done, and does a work out. So, when I wake up in the morning, and I don’t feel like doing the gratitudes, or I don’t feel like working out, I think to myself, “Well, the person that you want to be does that.” And that sort of helps me. I don’t know if that’s applicable.

[00:30:47] AD: I liked that a lot. What she said there, that I want to latch on to, I thought was really interesting. Think about the person you want to be and how they would deal with it, how they would react to it, not just what they would be doing. Not just, well, I know that the Alex Drost that I want to be would do this. So, I’m going to beat myself up because I’m not living up to who I want to be. But rather saying, “Okay, the Alex Drost that I want to be, how would they deal with this challenge? How would they deal with not hitting the goal that we had set?”

And I think you’re very right there and that comes back to taking that step back. And then, really, truly addressing what is the internal dialogue? How are you talking to yourself about that? And that’s something that, frankly, an episode and all in its own, but it’s the challenges around internal dialogue. I think the voice in our head drives so much of what we do and it’s very easy to get caught up in the negative self-talk or the negative thoughts and negative just in this like, “Well, I should be doing this”, and comparing yourself and not thinking you’re good enough and thinking you haven’t lived up to it.

The tough part, the dichotomy, that we all have to balance in our minds is, you also said that you have to hold yourself accountable. You have to really ask yourself, “Am I making excuses?” Because success also comes with that. And so, that’s where there are these two different sides of the thought. One side is, “Hey, I need to hold myself accountable. I need to get up and do this. But the other side is I need to give myself some grace and understand that things won’t always be perfect.” And that’s where I think, underlying all of the systems creation, habits creation, looking for routines and where a lot of people that I’ve worked with, and I know even in my own experience, the difficult part becomes there isn’t, as you said, there’s no one size fits all. There’s no perfect answer, it’s going to constantly evolve. This isn’t a onetime thing. Life is going to change, things are going to happen, and it’s going to constantly look different and there’s always that dichotomy to balance. There’s always the balance between hold yourself accountable and give yourself grace.

The more you think about that, take the time to step back and address that and really become aware of your internal dialogue and reflecting on your own thoughts, that’s going to help you get much better at balancing that dichotomy, balancing those differences of thoughts, and keeping yourself moving forward, while also not writing yourself so hard that you break yourself down. No simple answer to it. No one size fits all. I think that’s really the key to truly building the right habits and routines at the end of the day,

[00:33:11] MA: You hit the nail on the head and sometimes the difficulty is there is no shortage of literature. There is no shortage of gadgets out there. I mean, I’ve tried them all. I’ve done hour classes, the time cubes, whiteboards. I even at one point was tracking everything that I did in 30-minute increments for a whole day and I did it for a week. I realized that 30 minutes in my day was just tracking what I was doing. And I was like, “Wait, 30 minutes a day per week?”

[00:33:39] AD: Times 365.

[00:33:42] MA: Yeah, that’s too much, right? So, for some people, waking up and doing work right away is not going to work. You have to understand from yourself what’s going to work and you have to try some things out. Unfortunately, looking on LinkedIn, and looking on Instagram or other social media platforms doesn’t help because you see a lot of things that people are doing seemingly, right? And so, I think it’s just important to constantly reassess, constantly sort of change things around and make sure it’s working for you.

[00:34:11] AD: I could not agree more. What a great way to kind of wind down, constantly reassess. I think that’s a great theme for the entire show. Might even be the title here. Well, see.

[00:34:22] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:34:30] AD: Let me give a little bit of a recap here, Mike, and tell me if I miss anything. But we started off, we talked about no one size fits all. When we’re creating habits, it’s really important to recognize that Mike and I can get on here and talked about all the habits we have and there’s merit to hearing what other people are doing. There are tons of systems out there and there are merits trying different systems, but recognize that there is no one size fits all and what works today, will likely not work tomorrow and meaning that things will evolve, life will change. People start families or they have career changes or COVID happens. There are all sorts of things that change our routines and whatever you’re doing, will have to evolve. So, addressing and just knowing that it’s not going to all fit in a perfect box, there is no one size fits all, I think is a really important mindset to just start with.

Secondly, you’d mentioned and we talk specifically around your morning routine, and some of those admin-like tasks that you need to get done. And those tasks that are sometimes difficult to get through, like, “I’m going to set parameters for myself, I’m going to set a timer, and I’m going to get up, I’m going to start my day to knock out these tasks so that I feel good. So, I feel like I made progress. Then once I feel motivated, I’m going to head to do my fitness routine and that way, I’m starting my day with some small wins, and I’m getting some stuff done. So, I feel good going into the day.” I think that’s a really important concept.

But again, you have your way of doing it, everyone can find what works for them. The important part is that you’ve started your morning off in a way that helps you feel like you have some small wins. And on top of that, you’d mentioned the gratitude journal and in spending time again, expressing what you’re happy for, what went well. But you’d also mentioned that that was a really difficult habit to get into at first. And I’m sure it will continue to be difficult from time to time as you continue it, because it’s very easy to just say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know if this is working, what is this doing, I don’t have time for this, I don’t have time for that.” It’s a constant excuse, right? Everyone has that.

Underlying all of that, is if you want to be successful, you want to really design habits for success, it does come down to being consistent. You have to trust that process, you have to be consistent, and you have to focus on doing it day in and day out. But also balancing the fact that you have to cut yourself some slack. You have to recognize that you won’t do it perfect every day and you can’t beat yourself up just because you don’t successfully do it that day. Rather, and I really like the statement, take a step back to take a step forward. The point there being that when you find yourself not accomplishing what you were hoping to accomplish or your challenged with meeting the goals you set for yourself, take a step back and ask yourself what’s going on, and this is where balancing that internal dichotomy between, am I making excuses? And do I need to hold myself accountable? Or am I just have unreasonable expectations for what I’m doing? And that’s a constant balance that you have to play, and you have to constantly be focused on it.

But to really make that happen, you have to be able to take that time back, assess it, address it, look at that, know that that’s not a one time process. That’s not something you’re going to do once and be done. It’s going to be a continual process and the real key to being successful is knowing, “Okay, when it happens, I’m going to find the time. I’m going to identify that, become aware of the challenge of my habits, step back so that I can address it. So, then I can take that step forward.” I think that’s a really important part.

And then lastly, I thought this was a really great statement. Think about the person you want to be and ask yourself, how would they react to this? How would they deal with this? How would they think about this? Not only how would that person be, not only the person you want to be, not what habits will they have, now how will they live, because that’s important. That’s helping you understand what you’re trying to build in your day, but also, how would they deal with it when they don’t hit what they’re trying to achieve. What does that internal dialogue look like? Are you talking positively to yourself?

Are you being graceful with yourself? And are you also holding yourself accountable enough to make sure that you’re still moving forward? And again, it’s a balance, there’s no easy answer. Our number one theme today is certainly no one size fits all and know that there isn’t a simple answer. But if you keep working at it, if you keep thinking about it, if you make this a priority, over time, it gets better. Over time you improve. Over time things just get better again and again. And if you do that for a lifetime, then I don’t know. I think the answer is things just keep getting better, which you can’t complain about.

So, Mike, anything I missed there? Any other details you want to add in on that?

[00:38:54] MA: No, you nailed it. That’s a great recap. It’s been a really fun conversation, Alex. Thanks so much for having me on.

[00:39:01] AD: No absolutely. So, for our listeners this week, I want to do a pretty simple call to action. So, in the next seven days, I want you to find 30 minutes a time and just ask yourself what habits have you said that you want to do for yourself or what routines do you say you want to do that you don’t do. Just write down the list, what they are, and then it should be a pretty quick exercise. We all have all these things that we say, “Oh, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. I’m going to eat healthy. I’m going to go to gym.” And usually, it does revolve somewhere around fitness for I think for most people, that’s a big core of it, because it’s a hard part of life.

But I want you to find 30 minutes to think through that. But the really important part of the exercise is once you’ve gotten a few bullet points down of the habits that you want to have, but don’t, ask yourself and really just reflect on this in the back of your mind. Why? What’s getting in the way? What’s the real reason I’m not getting those done? Hopefully out of that, you’ll find some clarity that will help you rethink how you’re approaching things, and whether that be you need to hold yourself a little bit more accountable and put your feet to the fire of it or maybe you just need to purely rethink how you’re approaching something. But it all starts with you. You have to to identify where that gap is and carve that time out, identify that gap and then think on it. I’m sure I’m sure you’ll find some good ways to evolve your habits, to achieve the growth that you’re looking for.

So, with that said, Mike, for our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?

[00:40:22] MA: So, LinkedIn is definitely the best way. You can find me on LinkedIn. But on my LinkedIn, it has my email address, which is [email protected] Feel free to reach out.

[00:40:34] AD: Awesome. We’ll make sure that’s linked in the show notes as well. Mike, as always, thank you for your time and contribution to the show today.

[00:40:41] MA: Yeah, thanks again for having me, Alex. This has been fun.


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