This episode, we have another incredible guest on the show, Rory Vaden. Rory is the bestselling author of Take the Stairs and Procrastinate on Purpose, an award-winning entrepreneur and business leader, a self-disciplined strategist, co-founder of Southwestern Consulting and—bonus points—a Nashvillian.
Matt: Rory, welcome to The Science of Success.
Rory: Hey, thanks, Matt. It's good to be here.
Matt: We're very excited to have you on. So, Rory, tell us a little bit about your background and how you became fascinated with self-discipline and self-improvement.
Rory: Yeah. Well, I grew up around... A lot of my story I talk about I was raised by a single mom who sold Mary Kay cosmetics. So, I grew up around success and sales and leadership principles, and it means I know more about makeup than I do about cars. So, I kind of had that exposure when I was little, and then when I was in college, I worked for a company called Southwestern Advantage and ran my own business selling educational children's reference books, 14 hours a day, six days a week on straight commission, paying all my expenses all the way through college door-to-door. Did that for five summers and made about a quarter million dollars in the five summers in college and graduate school doing that, and then entered into the world of business and entrepreneurship, and then started Southwest Consulting. Actually, I did a thing called the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters, and that launched my speaking career, and then started Southwestern Consulting with some business partners. Just had our ten year anniversary, and we started with four of us and we now have 115 team members that make everything happen. Moved to Nashville six years ago and dreamed one day of being on The Science of Success podcast with Matt Bodnar, and here we are!
Matt: Nice. Well, that's awesome. That's an amazing story. That's quite a few reference books to sell door-to-door.
Rory: Yeah. Yeah, well, it was, and it was amazing training, and that's really where I got exposed to a lot of the principles of success and self-discipline and just really what it takes to make a business successful, and I'm very grateful for that opportunity, and I'm actually speaking tonight at an event where there will be several hundred students who are about to go sell. It's the new class of this summer's students and I'm going to go talk to them a little bit, so it'll be fun.
Matt: That's awesome. Well, one of the things that I'm a huge fan of, and I know you've talked a lot about, is sort of the distinction between effectiveness and efficiency. Can you tell us a little bit about... A lot of people might think those are kind of the same thing. What's the difference and why is that difference important?
Rory: Well, actually, yeah. So, efficiency, as I think Dr. Stephen Covey said, is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. And Procrastinating on Purpose, the first sentence of the book says "Everything you know about time management is wrong." And one of the things that we challenge... Effectiveness is kind of around the idea of prioritizing and focusing first on what matters most, but what we have found in recent years is there's this emergence of a new type of thinker that we call a multiplier, and multipliers don't care so much about efficiency or effectiveness as they do about efficacy, and efficacy is different. Because if efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things, efficacy is simply about producing results. And multipliers don't even care so much... It's not so much about the right way or the wrong way. It's about what is the way that produces results, and that is what they really care about. So, it's not about quantity of time or even quality of activity. It's simply about what produces the maximum result, and that word is efficacy.
Matt: Fascinating. So, when you say that everything we know about time management is wrong, could you extrapolate on that a little bit more?
Rory: Yeah. So, there's two major differences that we have discovered, and Southwestern Consulting, so what we do is one-on-one coaching, and we have about 1,600 active clients right now that we work with one-on-one, you know, talk through the daily challenges of their lives, and helping them get to the next level, particularly in sales, sales leadership, and time management. There's two major differences in the way that multipliers think, compared to everybody else. The first one is that... I was actually with my business partner on a Saturday morning, and he has this... at the time, this little two and a half-year-old girl, baby girl named Haven, and we were having an International Leaders Planning Retreat, and it was like a big meeting day, and so we're leaving Dustin's house early in the morning or whatever, and Haven comes running down the hallway and she runs and she grabs ahold of Dustin's leg, and she looks at him and she says, "Daddy, where are we going?" And he looks at her and says, "Oh, you know, I'm sorry, baby Haven. Daddy actually has to go to work today." And her eyes well up with tears and she says, "No work today, Daddy. Please no work." And, in that moment, Matt, I realized two things. The first is that I'm not ready for children quite just yet. [Laughs] But the second one is that everything I had ever been taught about time management was all tips and tricks, tools and technology, calendars and checklists. It was all logical. But looking at Haven in that moment, I realized that today, time management is no longer just logical. Today, time management is emotional, and our feelings of guilt and fear and worry and anxiety and our desire to feel successful and valued, important, those things actually dictate what we actually spend our time doing, as much as anything in our email list or in our to-do list or on our calendar, and yet most of us have never had any formal training on managing those emotions, and most of us aren't even cognitive or consciously aware that emotions are driving our decision making. And so, that's the first major difference, is that today, time management isn't just logical. It's emotional, and Procrastinating on Purpose is really the first book that focuses on that emotional aspect of managing your time.
Matt: I think that's critically important, and we've talked a lot on the podcast about looking at limiting beliefs and fears and that kind of stuff. What are some of the big fears that hold people back from being able to multiply their time?
Rory: Yeah. Well, the subtitle of the book is actually The Five Permissions to Multiply Your Time. It very easily could have been called The Five Fears that Prevent People from Multiplying Their Time. And there's more than five, but one example is guilt. The first of the five strategies is in the focus funnel, which is the framework for the book, is eliminate. And we call it the permission to ignore. It's giving yourself the permission to develop the confidence to say no to things, because most of us try to go through life never saying no, and I was one of those people. I like to say yes. I'm a people pleaser. I want to make everybody happy. Until one of the multipliers said, "Rory, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard," and I was like, "Okay, jerkface." But they explained and they said, "You have to realize that you're always saying no to something. Any time you say yes to one thing, you are simultaneously saying no to an infinite number of others," and that was a huge breakthrough for me. That's something that we call the significance calculation, which is the second major difference, and we can talk about that in a minute. But the fear is the fear of missing out or feeling guilty, and so we get asked to do things and we pressure ourselves, or we allow other people to pressure us into doing them when we don't really want to do them but we feel like we have to or we should, or we're afraid of missing out. And so, that fear causes us to take on things and accept things and overcommit in a way that has a negative long-term impact, both on our emotional stability and our psychology, as well as our productivity and our ability to get results.
Matt: And I think that's something that, personally, I definitely struggle with, is, you know, when to say no and how to say no. What are some ways that you can say no to people in a way that you're not being rude to them or disrespectful or disruptive? Or is that just a fear that you just have to get over and be confident in your ability to say no to things?
Rory: Yeah. Well, mostly it's a fear. Mostly we associate telling people no with being mean and we don't want to be mean, so half of the battle there is the realization that you can say no but still be nice. And so, you make a game out of it. We do it. We try to make a game out of being the nicest no that anybody ever got. A big part of what I do these days is I speak, and over the years, my speaking fee has gone up pretty dramatically, and so now we get people who are... you know, it's just awesome, because they'll come to us. They invite us to come speak but maybe they don't have the budget to afford it, so we only have a certain number of dates that we can take to be out-speaking, and so we can't take all of them, and if we have to tell somebody no, we put together a little care package. You know, it's like, thank you so much for the compliment of requesting us. Sorry it's not able to work. Here's some things... We put quote books in there and some magnets and some different things, and then we always try to point them in the direction of, "If you were looking for a message like me, here's maybe some other speakers that you should check out that you might like, and they might still help you accomplish that objective." So, you know, it can be that, or it can just simply be with language. One of the phrases that I love, and I don't know when I started using it, is just, "Thank you so much for the compliment of asking me." It's flattering to be asked. I want to able to say yes to you. Unfortunately I have a stack of previous commitments that are not going to allow me to do this with the appropriate level of focus and dedication it really deserves, so for that reason I'm going to have to decline, but I really wish you the best and here's a couple ideas. Or, you know, we try to always give people some resource or direction to the extent that we can for whatever their next step might be. But it's not so much about the tactical part of it as it is the mental realization that you can say no and still be nice.
Matt: That was great. I think that's a very, very good way to phrase it, and that's something I think I'll definitely be using. I think that there's a lot of advice out there, too, that you should say yes to everything and take every meeting and blah blah blah, and I think that on the road to success, there's a flipping point where you switch from needing to say yes to everything needing to say no to more and more and more things so that you can really focus in on the highest value, biggest impact things.
Rory: Yeah. It absolutely is. It's very often a case of what got you here won't get you there. It's an example, though, of how everything about time management is wrong, because we hear that very thing, right, that you have to be saying yes, you have to be out there always taking on everything, and, according to multipliers, what's more important than having a to-do list in the next generation is having a not-to-do list. So, it's having clear clarity about the things that you do not do, and that becomes more important, because as you become more and more successful, as your star rises, whether that's inside of an organization or inside of an industry or just kind of in general with public popularity and influence, more and more opportunities come your way and you have to be really clear about the things that make sense and the things that don't, which ties in to multiplying time. For us, we actually have created a scoring system, basically, or a new way of thinking that helps people evaluate what tasks they should do and they shouldn't do, based on a calculation we called the significance calculation.
Matt: So, tell me a little bit more. What is the significance calculation?
Rory: Yeah. So, it's based upon the history of time management theory, and early time management thought, which we call era one thinking, was very one-dimensional. It was all about efficiency. It was managing your time by doing things faster. Well, then a book came out called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Amazing book written by the brilliant late Dr. Stephen Covey, and he changed the world. The book sold 25 million copies and it was just a game-changer, and Dr. Covey introduced era two time management thinking, which is prioritizing your time. And he taught us, rather than just trying to do things quickly, is that you should focus first on what matters most, and you should prioritize certain activities, and he created this two-dimensional scoring system that he called the Time Management Matrix. Well, in the Time Management Matrix, the Y axis was importance and the X axis was urgency, and importance... you used those two criteria to help you score and you realized not all tasks are created equal. And it was so powerful. It was huge for all of us, because it helped you realize that, hey, item number seven on your to-do list should actually be bumped up to number one, and that concept is really powerful. The limitation of that, as the world has evolved, and a lot of people don't realize this. That book was written in 1989.
Rory: Think about how different the world was in 1989.
Rory: Right. I mean, there's no cell phones, no internet, no Google, no Facebook, no social media, none of that. None of the stuff that we have today. Well, you can't solve today's time management problems using yesterday's time management thinking. The next level of results always requires the next level of thinking, and so, what we noticed is that these multipliers, these top one-percenters, these ultra-performers, that we call them in Take the Stairs, which was our first book. Their thinking has evolved to something where they include the significance calculation. And while importance is how much does something matter, and urgency is how soon does something matter, significance is how long is this going to matter. In other words, how is this going to play out over time? And the significance calculation changes everything. Absent the significance calculation, we tend to live in a world of urgency. Significance is the natural counterbalancing force to urgency, and what I mean by urgency as a practical example is most of us live with a 24-hour paradigm. Most of us wake up and we say, what's the most important thing I have to do today? But that is not the question that multipliers ask. Multipliers, when you make the significance calculation, you break free of that one day, 24-hour paradigm, and they instead are thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next day. So, while most people ask the question,
"What's the most important thing I can do today?" multipliers are asking the question, "How can I use my time in a way today that creates more time tomorrow? What are the things I can do right now to create more time or more results in the future?" And, based on that question, they choose a different set of tasks than most people would. Again, let me give you a practical example of this, Matt. So, if I ask the average person off the street, I say, "Hey, do you have two hours open in your calendar today where you could set up online bill pay?" People would be like, "No. Are you kidding? I don't have two hours open in my calendar. I don't remember the last time in my life when I had two hours open in my calendar." So, they would say, "No, I don't have time to do that. I have more important..." They would say, right, "I have more important things to do." Well, a multiplier would look at that and go, well, wait a minute. If I spend two hours today setting up online bill pay, and I don't really have the two hours. Of course, there's other things I could be doing with that two hours. But, if I take two hours and I set up online bill pay and that saves me 30 minutes every month from paying my bills, then that means in just four months' time, I will have broken even on that investment and every month thereafter I will be getting something that we introduce, a concept in the book, called ROTI, which is return on time invested. So, every month for the rest of your life, you're getting this ROTI. It's creating time in the future that you wouldn't otherwise have. I mentioned there's five permissions in the book. The first is eliminate. The second one is kind of related to what we're talking about here, which is automate the permission to invest. And what we realize is that automation is to your time exactly what compounding interest is to your money. So, just like compounding interest takes money and turns it into more money, automation takes time and it turns it into more time. None of us have time to set up a better system today. None of us have time to create a better technology. None of us have time to migrate over to completely different software than we've been using. It's never convenient to do that. But the people who have explosive growth are the ones who are constantly doing that. Not constantly, but they're regularly evolving in that fashion because they know that those things create more time in the future. So, the way that rich people think about money is almost exactly the same way that multipliers think about time.
Matt: I love that analogy and the comparison to compound interest. Compound interest is such a powerful phenomenon and it really translates into a way of thinking about, you know, if you apply the same principle to your time, you'll be able to multiply it.
Rory: Yeah. Absolutely. And it's a new way of thinking, and you have to give yourself permission, because if you don't give yourself the permission to invest the time and the money to set up that system, you will always fall victim to whatever's latest and loudest. You will always be victim to the urgent, and there's a term that we coined in the Take the Stairs book that really captures this, and it's part of what really popularized our work in the media, was this phrase that we call priority dilution. And so, priority dilution is the new procrastination, because priority dilution, even though it has nothing to do with being lazy or apathetic or disengaged like classic or traditional procrastination, it's the same net result as a procrastinator, which is that we leave the office at the end of the day with our most significant priorities left unchecked, not because we're lazy but because we allow our attention to shift to less important but perhaps more urgent tasks. We're constantly fighting fires, and the result is we only have linear growth for the company versus exponential growth. Multipliers are the people who make that significance calculation. They're willing to take the hit in the short term, the same way that wealthy person is going, "You know what? I'm not going to buy a new car this year. I'm instead going to invest that money, and ten years from now I'll buy a car that's ten times as nice." It's the exact same mode of thinking. It's just that instead of about money, it's about time. And what Procrastinating on Purpose does, you know, I think the idea isn't really novel. It's just the power is bringing it into your consciousness and having a nomenclature and semantics and a visual, which we use this thing called the focus funnel, to codify the way that this thinking happens, because even multipliers themselves do most of this on an unconscious level. They don't know they're doing it. What we do, because we're around them all the time, and I interview them on my podcast—I do a weekly podcast also and I share the stage with a lot of these authors and thinkers and amazing people or whatever—is I started to realize there's these certain patterns that were shared. So, we put that together in a book and that's making a big impact.
Matt: So, you've mentioned the five permissions, and we've talked about a couple of them already. What are the others?
Rory: Well, yeah. That's a lot to get into in a short period of time.
Matt: Fair enough.
Rory: And, in fact, if you go to procrastinateonpurpose.com, you can watch a free webinar. It's a one-hour webinar and it's completely free, and it walks you through the entire framework. It shows you the visual of the focus funnel, explains how these multipliers think. But basically, at the top of the funnel, if you have all your tasks coming in, the first question is, "Can this be eliminated?", which is the permission to ignore. If it can't be eliminated, then it drops down into the middle of the focus funnel, which is automate, the permission to invest. So, can this be automated? If it can't be automated, then it drops down to the bottom of the funnel, which is, "Can this be delegated?" And delegation is a really core focus because, at that point, you know a task must be done. The question is, must it be done by you? And if it can be done by somebody else, then you should have them do it. The problem is that most of us... Like, if you asked the average small business owner, you say, "Hey, are there tasks that you're doing every day that you could train someone else to do?" Most people would say, "Well, yeah, of course there are." And you say, "Well, why haven't you trained them to do it?" And they'd say... well, one or two things. They would say, "I either don't have the time to do it, like, it's just faster for me to do it myself," or, "They won't be able to do it as well as I can." Again, those are actual emotional rationalizations that we make in a split decision, like an instant. And if you actually break those down and you look, so let's look at the one about... You know, it's faster for me to do it myself. And one of the things, Matt, that we encourage and we try to teach our coaching clients is what we call the 30x role. So, the 30x role suggests that you should spend 30 times the amount of time it takes you to do a task once on training someone else to do that task for you. So, let's just say you have a task that takes five minutes, as an example. The 30x rule suggests, then, that you should spend 150 minutes... So, 30 times five. 150 minutes training someone how to do the task. And this is where I lose people sometimes, because they go, "Rory, that is so stupid. Why would I spend 150 minutes—that's two and a half hours—training somebody to do a task that I could just do myself in five minutes?" Well, the answer is, it never makes sense to do that unless you make the significance calculation. In a world of urgency, in a 24-hour paradigm, it never makes sense to trade two and a half hours for five minutes. It just doesn't. However, if you make a significance calculation and you look at this over just one year worth of time, you'll realize that if you spend five minutes a day on the task, well, if there's 250 working days in just one year, then over the course of one year, you're going to spend 1,250 minutes on that task. So, now the question is a little bit different. The question isn't, "Should I spend 150 minutes to save five?" It's, "Should I spend 150 minutes to save 1,250?" Well, the answer is just as obvious, but it's the complete opposite of what you originally thought. The only thing that has changed is your perspective, what we call the significance calculation. And if you were to evaluate that investment of time the way that you would evaluate a financial investment, so now I'm investing 150 minutes, I'm saving 1,250, so really, that's a net gain of 1,100 because I have to spend the 150 training, so the net gain is 1,100. So, I invested 150 minutes. The net gain was 1,100. If you divide 150 into 1,100, that's a 733% ROTI, return on time invested. And we think the next generation of cost savings for companies is not going to be about saving money. It's going to be about saving time, because people say time is money. Time is not money. Time is worth way more than money is. So, when you look at delegating, most of us don't have time to train someone to do it for us, right? Because we're living in a world of urgency. Well, multipliers go, "Well, I don't care how urgent it is. I'm going to take the time to train this person to do this right, and then I'll never have to worry about it again," and that longer calculation changes everything. So, what it really comes down to with delegate is not that you don't have time to do it. What it comes down to is the more emotional thing, you don't think they'll be able to do it as well as you can. Again, though, if you make the significance calculation, you realize that might be true once. Like, the first time they do it, yeah, it's not going to be as well you could do it. Maybe the second time, maybe the third time, maybe the fifth time, maybe the hundredth time, but at some point in the future, they're going to be able to master that task just like you were, and they'll probably be able to do it even better because they're going to have a higher level of specialization and focus, because they're not pulled in as many directions as you are. So, delegation. The third permission is the permission of imperfect. You have to give yourself permission to say, "Yeah, this is going to be a little bit messed up for a while, for a short term, but the value in the long term is worth it," and it's the significance calculation that provides the foundation and the basis for being willing to accept that short-term permission of imperfect.
Matt: That's so critical. I see so many people struggle with an inability to delegate, primarily because of a fear tied to they're not going to be able to do it as well as I can.
Rory: Yeah, and that's an emotional thing. Like, it's a perfectionism fear. Like, it won't be good enough. That is emotion at the subconscious level dictating you that you're going to do it. And not only dictating you, but trapping you. It's trapping you into doing that all the time, which means that you're restricting your ability to grow individually, and certainly to grow your organization or whatever your cause is, because you're imprisoned, you're handicapped by this idea that you have to do everything. And if you're talking about entrepreneurs, until an entrepreneur gets past that thought that I have to do everything, they're going to inhibit the growth and the possibility and the potential for everyone around them.
Matt: So, what is one piece of homework that you would give our listeners to kind of implement some of these ideas into their lives?
Rory: Well, so, there's two things. So, first of all, I would say don't be silly. Like, give yourself permission to spend an hour and watch. Go to procrastinateonpurpose.com and watch this and get the education. We're making it available for free for people, so go and do that. That one hour will have a return, I am sure, of thousands, if not tens of thousands of your time. But the other practical thing to do is, okay... The whole premise here—make sure that we're clear—is very simple. You multiply time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that give you more time tomorrow. That's the whole premise. So, what I would say is, make a list, because you probably have had these ideas kicking around in your head. You're like, yeah, you know what, I probably should reorganize that thing, or we probably need to update this software, or we really need a tool that does this, or this process needs to be improved. You know, we should really create a series of talking points for that customer service issue. I really should hire a person to do this. I find that I'm doing this one thing over and over and over again. And that's a great place to look, by the way, is things that you keep doing over and over and over again. Make a list of those things and ask yourself, okay, what are the things that I could do today that would create more time tomorrow? How can I eliminate, automate, delegate, and then there's two other permissions, which you can get into in the webinar. And just develop clarity around those things, and that's half the battle is just bringing it into your consciousness, the power of this idea.
Matt: Well, Rory, this has been fascinating, and I'm sure the listeners are going to have some very actionable insights here, especially if they check out that webinar. That will let them multiply their time. So, I wanted to say thank you very much for being on The Science of Success and sharing all of these insights.
Rory: Oh, yeah. It's my pleasure, Matt. Thank you so much for having me and remember, success is never owned. Success is only rented, and the rent is due every day.