Falling Back on the Familiar: A Tinker Trap

A smartphone, an early cell phone and an old telephone on a white background, from right to left.

You ever think about your ex?

Sometimes people in happy marriages are still tempted to hook up with an ex-lover.

Most of the time, they don’t—the tradeoff just isn’t worth it.

But sometimes they do—and it always ends in ruin.

In the Tinker Phase, entrepreneurs have tasted success. They’ve got a working model that pays them well and creates free time. Their families are fed, rested and stress-free. Their gyms are changing lives and their coaches are making good careers.

But … those other gym owners are getting lots of clients!

But … those huge group classes in that other CrossFit gym look like fun!

But … other yoga studios don’t do this much PT!

Logically, we know we’re on the right track. Our metrics prove it. Our lifestyle proves it! Everyone around us is happier.

So why can’t we stop thinking about “the old way”—even when we know it was bad?


Back in the Day …


We get caught up in the past for a few reasons.

First, we tend to remember only the good parts of our history, and we reminisce with rose-colored glasses.

“Yeah, I was broke and exhausted. Yeah, the floors were dirty and people paid too little. Yeah, my best clients were chased away by all the muscle-ups in my programming. But our ‘Mess You Up’ T-shirts were so cool!”

We also tend to try and impress everyone instead of just the people who matter most.

“If I make more money, my friends will think I’ve sold out.”

“If I say that I have a mentor, the gym owners in the AOG will make fun of me!”

We’re wired to fit in, to please people—but some people want to hold us back. We can only please them by hurting our own progress.

Finally, we give our brains too much space to ruminate.

When we don’t have an emergency to solve, we feel like something’s wrong. Because solving problems is our job, right? So we start giving orders to our kids, telling our spouses exactly what to do all day, and thinking about our old flames.


Get Over the Past


Here’s how to stop yourself from pining for yesterday every time you hear “Don’t Stop Believin'” on satellite radio:

1. Get a really clear vision of the future. When my CFO told me “you can give away a million dollars every year if you build a net worth of $20 million,” I got super focused on that goal. That meant I stopped thinking about what other people were doing, stopped thinking about my grudges, stopped the envy and the anger and just got down to work.

2. Get an objective perspective. You’re not an impartial judge. Ask your mentor, “How am I doing?”

3. If you have time to think about the past, it means you have free time—and that means you’re at least a bit successful. Review your metrics and your personal journal for the last year. If you want to play the highlight reels in your brain, make yourself watch the whole tape.

4. Realize that you’re probably more successful than the people you’re comparing yourself to. They don’t know what you know.

5. Keep your mind busy by solving other people’s problems. Do puzzles and crosswords (seriously). Contribute knowledge to others in your niche but also to entrepreneurs in your city.

In the Tinker phase, you have to retrain your brain. Some of that retraining is in staying “future focused.” You must think about where you’re going instead of where you’ve been—or what your ex is doing right now.

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