With Scott Ford, CEO at Cornerstone Wealth Management, Blogger of “How to Live a Steve Jobs Life – On Your Own Terms”
Steve spoke with Scott Ford of Cornerstone Wealth Management to get some tips on how aspiring entrepreneurs can become both financially successful and personally happy. Scott penned an article, “How to Live a Steve Jobs Life—On Your Own Terms” stressing the need for careful planning, focus, and finding a balance with your work life and personal life.
Steve Jobs: Learning to Focus On What’s Really Important
As Steve Jobs famously said in his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, “If you don’t set priorities for yourself, life will live you, not the other way around. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life…Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
It should go without saying—but often needs to be repeated—that it’s vital to focus on what’s really important in your life. A good way to help yourself maintain your focus is to write out your major goal for each week and the top six priorities for each day. Having something like that written out in front of you helps protect you from getting distracted and off track in your life.
IQ Grower: Getting Your Values Straight
Scott and his co-author, Ron Carson, created the IQ Grower process (IQ here stands for Implementation Quotient) as a direct response to Jobs’ philosophy, to help entrepreneurs achieve their financial and personal goals.
The first part of the process is getting clear on what you value. Sometimes it takes a crisis to realize what those things are. It did for Scott when his six-month-old son was diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening disease. “That is a bit of a Steve Jobs moment. You realize just how short life can be.”
Following that experience, he developed what he calls “the six pillars of life”. (Your own six pillars are the six fundamental things that are most important to you.) Scott’s pillars are spirituality, family, health, career, philanthropy, and finances.
Think about what your six pillars are.
The Difficulty Of Balance
It’s important to be very clear on what you value and what is motivating you to start whatever business or entrepreneurial startup you venture into. Everyone struggles with balance in life. It’s critical to set real priorities for what you’re doing with your life. The IQ Grower process helps you get clear on your priorities and establish a way to better balance your time and energy so that your business venture will be successful. Learning what needs to be focused on and when is key to your success.
The Transition From Planning To Doing
Making the transition between planning to do something and actually doing it is another area where most people struggle. As an entrepreneur, this can be devastating to your venture. Finding the discipline to put plans into action is crucial.
The things you need to focus on every day can change from one day to the next. That’s one reason why it’s important to actually write them down, so that you can make them real and give them the attention they deserve, based on how important they are to completing whatever it is you want to accomplish.
What Deserves Your Time And Energy
In Scott’s book, The Sustainable Edge, he explains that focusing on your unique talents and strengths is the best use of your energy. Try asking your friends and family what they think you do well, what you are really good at. Since they know you intimately, they can often give you perspective and maybe help you see things about yourself that you may not have noticed. Sometimes we struggle to see what our own strengths and weaknesses are.
It’s also a good idea to focus on what makes you feel especially happy and fulfilled. You might be good at something but get no real joy or satisfaction from doing it. In order to be successful—in life or business—we need to do the things we are good at, but we also must make sure that those are the things that bring us that joy and satisfaction.
To get more tips for personal and financial success, take a look at Scott’s book, Financial Jiu-Jitsu: A Fighter’s Guide to Conquering Your Finances.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: I was attracted to a piece by my next guest entitled, “How To Live A Steve Jobs Life On Your Own Terms”. The author is Scott Ford, Founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management Group, and I’ve got him with me today. Hi, Scott, welcome to the show.
Scott Ford: Hi, Steve, thanks for having me.
Steve Pomeranz: In Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, he said, and I quote, “if you don’t set priorities for yourself, life will live you, not the other way around. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” And he continued, your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition because they, your heart and intuition, somehow already know what you truly want to become. So, Scott, no one wants to wait to hear their death sentence before figuring this stuff out, right?
Scott Ford: Sure, so I would say on that same note, I couldn’t agree with Steve Jobs more, and I actually had a bit of a similar experience. So I’ll give you a little back story. But you’ve likely heard it stated, when it’s all said and done, there’s a lot more said than is actually done.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Scott Ford: And so, we created—myself and partner and co-author Ron Carson—the IQ Grower process. And IQ, instead of standing for Intellectual Quotient, it stands for Implementation Quotient for that very reason.
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH]
Scott Ford: We want to help entrepreneurs close the knowing-doing gap and candidly wanted to help ourselves with that.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Scott Ford: So one of the biggest things to the IQ Grower is the first part of it, which is getting really clear on what you value most. And slightly like Steve Jobs, I had a traumatic experience myself in 1996. My son, Jacob, at six-months-old, was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus. And you have two main arteries, and before you’re born there’s an artery connecting those two. After birth, it closes off from those two for most all of us. Well, it didn’t for Jacob, and it was a loud heart murmur. One thing led to another, he ended up at University of Maryland at six-months-old needing surgery to put a stent in to close that off. And when it’s your son in a diaper hooked to an IV—that is a bit of a Steve Jobs moment.
You realize just how short life can be. And I promised myself with that realization, I really wanted to make a difference and live a life that was meaningful and fulfilled and full of purpose. And at that time, I developed what I call the six pillars of life. And so six pillars for me are spiritual, family, health, career, philanthropy, and finances.
And I want to help entrepreneurs do the same. So first off, I’ll say, Jacob’s fine, surgery went great. He’s actually just had his 20th birthday and is back home from deployment. He’s in the US Army and he just got back last week. So spending some time with him, as we speak, so that’s great news. But to Steve Jobs’ point, and even to my story, it doesn’t take that kind of moment or occurrence to actually find your real purpose and find meaning in life. So we developed the IQ Grower process, and the first part of that is to get real clear on why you’re here, what’s your purpose, and being fulfilled and balanced?
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, so you’re looking kind of at the 10,000-foot view bringing that down to earth by step by step by step. Once you have kind of discovered what’s important to you, what are some of the daily activities you can actually implement to get you towards these goals?
Because we all get distracted, especially this day and age when there is so much to distract us, it’s very hard to stay focused on what’s important. What are some tools that you can teach us to use?
Scott Ford: That’s so true, Steve, and I mentioned getting real clear on what was meaningful and what I valued most in ‘96. The bad news to that story, I did a very poor job being balanced and actually living like that. So when I would look and I would look at what I valued most, and I just mentioned the six pillars, I would go back and look at the end of my week and I wasn’t living that at all. I mean, at the end of the day, what matters is where you’re spending your time.
Which means what’s on your calendar is what your real priorities are. No matter what you say, what gets on your calendar as an entrepreneur, that’s your real priories. And for years, though I was congruent that these were what were most meaningful, I wasn’t really living it. And I was like, how do I fix that? So part of the IQ Grower, it’s a one-page document, by the way, which can be downloaded from our website free, just have at it. And basically, it helps you get clear on what’s most meaningful. But then on the left side, it helps you get clear on how to stay balanced. So this is what I do every week. So I know my six most as far as what I value most. I then for the quarter, prioritize, and say what’s out of balance? What do I need to focus on most?
And then for my daily routine, I’ll list and I’ll use a Planner Pad. This is a company you can get. You can use whatever you want, but I use a Planner Pad for my calendar, and I list at the top spiritual, family, health, all of my pillars and things that I want to work on that week for that. Then I’ll list my six most important things for the day. So here we are Friday, I had my six most important things I want to accomplish that I wrote down the night before in order of priority. Then they trickle down onto my calendar. This has been really instrumental and effective for me to close that knowing-doing gap to know what’s valuable, but then how do I implement it? And this has been really helpful for me.
Steve Pomeranz: So how did you make the transition between this idea of doing the planning and actually sitting down every day with the proper discipline to put down your thoughts, plan for the next day ahead? Especially after a day, let’s say, when you’ve worked a really long time, you’re extremely tired, other things have taken up your time? How did you get the discipline just to sit down and do that every day?
Scott Ford: It took time, and then I was challenged. So actually, my co-author, Ron Carson, was in my office from Omaha and in Maryland. And in a meeting, he asked what my six most were for the day. This is back in 2010, 11 area. And I had been on and off of that to your point of not implementing it every day. And I didn’t have it. I had it in my head but I did not list it down for whatever reason. And you just fall in and out of habits. And from that point on, not sure what the trigger was except for him asking me and me realizing, if he can do it, I can do it. I literally have not missed the six most days, vacation and all. We were on vacation last week. It’s part of living a balanced life.
And it’s not always six, maybe it’s three, maybe it’s two. But the point is what do you want to focus on that day in order of priority? And it just hit me that if I want to live a meaningful and balanced life and that’s really my calling, I need to do this and I need to do it every day. And I don’t want to look at it as discipline necessarily, even though it is, but it’s just more of a habit. Discipline just sounds more painful, and setting up a new habit and routine is what I’ve done. And it’s just worked really well for me,
Steve Pomeranz: So, Scott, as I mentioned before, I’d like to bring this down into really thinking about specific ways that we can think about specific things that we can do. On page 18 of your book, The Sustainable Edge, you list a number of factors of things to think about, things to write down. Tell us about those.
Scott Ford: Sure, the start on page 18, what are your unique gifts, and question two, what do you do extremely well? I had a colleague and friend and coach, Dan Solomon, years ago say if you work on your weaknesses, at the end of the day, you’re going to have some really strong weaknesses.
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH]
Scott Ford: And I think he’s spot on and couldn’t agree more. So I believe it makes a lot more sense to focus on your strengths. Challenge people have, including myself. How do you know your strengths, how do you know your unique gifts, and how do you really know what you do extremely well? And I’ll give you two ideas that have been helpful for me. One would be to send those closest to you, whether it’s friends, family, relatives that know you best. And just let them know that you’re really trying to simplify your life in this complex world.
And one way to do that is by focusing on strengths, so you’re asking them via letter or email or even potentially taking them out to lunch. But I think in writing makes it more meaningful and a little bit more depth to it makes them think through it a little deeper. What would you say my unique gifts are? What would you say I do well or extremely well? And again, make it clear you’re not trying to get a pat on the back and a boost up to feel good. You’re really just trying to get some outside perspective on what someone else views as being uniquely you.
Steve Pomeranz: At what point do you sit and you think, well, what gives me the greatest feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment?
Scott Ford: Yeah, so it’s a good question. I think that’s part of it. Sometimes it takes time. I have two young children, 23 and 20, and they’re trying to find their way. And I just had a conversation with my son last night. My counsel to him was take your time. It’s taken me a while to get clear on what my unique abilities and gifts are, so just have vast, broad experiences if you’re young, and don’t rush it. Take your time, no need to be in a rush for it, and that was my experience.
When I look back, some of it started coming to me of always being an entrepreneur and wanting to serve entrepreneurs. And why it didn’t hit me before I don’t know, because I started in middle school doing birthday parties, magic parties and doing magic shows for children’s birthday parties. Even though I was a young man in middle school, my parents would drop me off and I’m charging 50 to $75-
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH]
Scott Ford: An hour to do the show and I just loved it. And part of it was being I was controlling my destiny, I was entertaining. And I just love being an entrepreneur and so that’s who I feel like I’m here to serve. But it took me a long time to really get clear on that.
Steve Pomeranz: It takes many iterations for a young person to decide, they need to try numerous things before they can perhaps hit on something. I think it’s the lucky or the rare young person that can actually know very early on what it is that they want to do. Scott, unfortunately, we are out of time. I’d like to continue this further another time. But, for those of you who are interested in learning more about this and really kind of getting the information that Scott has presented here, you can go to the website thesustainableedge.com, thesustainableedge.com. And you can read this all for yourself. And don’t forget that to find out more about Scott and to hear this interview again, join our conversation at stevepomeranz.com Scott Ford, thank you so much for joining us.
Scott Ford: Thanks for having me, Steve. [MUSIC]