The Two Meanings of “I’ll Do Better Next Time”

“I am an Intentional Learner. I know that I will perform as I practice, and so I practice well. I am not waiting for certification. My results are my certification.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

I have an image in my head of what it looks like to do an amazing job. If I did my homework with excellence it would look a certain way. If I studied for an exam with excellence I’d be able to do certain things with the material. If I completed this class project with excellence I’d be proud of the result.

But we don’t always work with excellence. Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes we’re lazy. Sometimes life gets in the way. And so we chase the outcome (good grade) without focusing on the process (learning something new, mastering a skill).

It turns out that you won’t do any better next time.

You can’t just visualize doing amazing things, you have to practice doing them. I can visualize dodging Floyd Mayweather’s right hook and countering with an uppercut for the knock-out… but we know what would actually happen.

If you practice mediocre, you will perform mediocre.

Meaning 1 (for wimps): “I’ll do better next time because this time I didn’t give my best effort and I knew it.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

I did everything I could to execute this job according to the image of excellence in my head. I saw this assignment as an opportunity to practice the skills related to a course, as well as to practice the art of learning. I saw this exam as an opportunity to test my skill at using the material in a new situation. I saw this project as an opportunity to create something amazing that I would tell stories about during job interviews.

But it didn’t come out as amazing as I was picturing. I know what I hoped it would be. But after giving it my best I have discovered that I need to improve my technique. I see the difference between what I made and what I hoped to make, and I can make a plan to close that gap.

Meaning 2 (for winners): “I’ll do better next time because this time my best wasn’t good enough. I will improve my best.”

Your degree doesn’t certify you.

Your results do. And results don’t happen overnight. You don’t go to bed mediocre one day and wake up excellent the next. Go practice! Go get results!

If you practice with excellence, you will perform with excellence.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you focus on improving your practice. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

36,500 Days and $2 million

“I am an Intentional Learner. I own my time and my money. I realize that both are finite and I decide how I spend them. I do not allow either to limit my future.”

Time and money feel infinite. When we misuse them, it’s easy to say things like “there’s always tomorrow to get that done,” or “there’s always next week’s paycheck.” Time and money feel like rivers we can dip into when we need more. Which is only partly true.

“You’re going to die.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Money is finite. Spend it wisely.

Let’s work an example. Pretend you earn the national average income over your career. That’s $50,000 per year. The average working lifetime is about 40 years which means your job will produce a total of $2 million. You get to spend $2 million over your life and then you’re out.

Except for interest.

You can turn that $2 million into more if you invest it. Great. Maybe you’ll even reach a point where the interest from your investments replaces the $50,000 (you’d need about $800,000 invested at 6%). Sweet place to be, your money now works harder than you do!

But $800,000 is a sizable portion of your total lifetime income. So is sending your kid to college and paying off your student loans and buying a house. Are you SURE you want to pay interest on that $40,000 sports car loan?

It’s not about the numbers. You could always increase your income, but you’d find ways to scale the outflow as well.

Time is even more finite.

There is no investment that earns interest to buy you more time. If you live to be 100 years old, you’ll have 36,500 days. 5,200 weekends. 100 Thanksgiving Holidays.

What are you doing today? 36,499. How about tomorrow? 36,498.

Is every day going to be the best day of your life? Hardly. But if most days aren’t good, what are you waiting for? Change!

  • If you’re in school, enjoy the fact that these are the only 1,460 days where it’s OK to not know everything. Find something to be curious about and study it because you want to, not because you’re required to earn a grade.
  • If you’re working, spend those precious days doing what matters to you. Take care of providing for your family. Invest, but also play.

I can’t tell you what matters. That’s for you to decide. But don’t spend your precious time and money reacting to everyone else’s agenda. Spend them on things that matter.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re asking questions that will guide you to finding what matters and achieving it. We’re sharing tactics that will buy you more freedom to spend your time and money the way that you feel is most important. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Participation Trophy

“I am an Intentional Learner. I believe that my life is my fault. I may have started from a different point than everyone else. My path may be easier or harder than everyone else’s. But I will not let my past dictate my future. I have the power to act and succeed, or to do nothing and fail.”

We’re obsessed with “fair.” And we should be. Any system that disproportionately favors one group over another is doomed to strife.

But.

“Fair” doesn’t mean “same.” We wish it did, because “same” is easy. Everyone gets the same trophy, regardless of whether they win or not. That’s “same.” But is it fair? What if one team sits at home eating potato chips and playing video games while the other is eating veggies and putting in hours of exercise and practice? Do they deserve the same reward?

“Fair” is insisting that both teams follow the same rules, and then giving the winners the trophy. “Same” isn’t “fair.”

That’s just a game.

In real life, we try to give everyone the same opportunity. We feel a sense of injustice when the current rules, or the results of past rules now defunct, make it harder for some to succeed than others.

I’m very thankful for the statesmen who are trying to figure this out.

But it won’t do much for you.

Your life is happening. Right now. You can look at the deck that’s stacked against you and complain that your starting point is different than everyone else’s. You can mistake “same” for “fair.” And you’ll end up fighting that battle your entire life. You can sit on your hands, doing nothing and fighting for “fairness.”

Or.

You can take charge. You can realize that in some room on Earth, YOU are the privileged one with the advantage. You can decide that even if it’s harder for you, you’re going to reach out and grab your dream.

And when you reach it, and you stand among others who made it, you’ll know the score. You’ll have the power to make the path easier for those who follow in your footsteps.

The Intentional Academy is here to help you overcome the odds. We’re posting content daily to guide your growth. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Mind the Gap

“I am an Intentional Learner. I see a gap between what I learn in school and what I need to succeed. I don’t wait for the system to fix itself, I leverage its strengths and overcome its weaknesses.”

To succeed, you’ll need to develop skills in two categories: technical and professional.

Technical skills are those required to do a specific job:

CPA’s need to know how to run spreadsheets and navigate tax laws, engineers need to know how to predict the behavior of a system using the laws of physics.

Professional skills are those required to do ANY job:

Whether you’re a bar tender or a lawyer, you need to show up for work on time, with energy and focus, and know how to talk with people from a wide range of backgrounds.

Leveraging Strengths

  • You will never be surrounded by as many technical subject matter experts as when you’re in school. They come to work every day hoping to help someone grow; give theme the opportunity by showing up for class and office hours.
  • The community of like-minded and motivated students is your most important asset. Jim Rohn tells us that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. In college, you have the chance to spend a lot of time with excellent people. Plug in!

Overcoming Weaknesses

  • Colleges focus on teaching technical skills. Sure, we force students to take general ed courses to complete their liberal education (look it up, it has nothing to do with politics). But these courses have been de-emphasized in students’ minds: the typical attitude is that they are a waste of time and should be given as little effort as possible. Be different by finding value in these courses.
  • Colleges expect students to be adept at many professional skills but offer no formal instruction. Did you take a class called “Time Management and Productivity”? Seek out training and mentorship in all of the professional skills areas that you can.

The Intentional Academy is here to help you bridge this gap. We’re posting content daily to guide your growth. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Triple Down on What You’re Good At

I’m a magpie. I realize the reference is dated, but it fits perfectly. I’m a magpie. I see shiny things, I get excited, and I go after them. I don’t mean shiny things like fancy cars or watches or anything material at all. I mean ideas. Shiny, new ideas.

The problem with ideas is that I have a lot of them. Most of us do. And we don’t have time to pursue them all. You may not realize it, but you spend most of your life saying “no.” There are an infinite number of things you could be doing at this moment. You’re reading this post. Which means you’re not curing cancer, playing volleyball, or taking your future spouse on a first date.

Are you sure that you say “no” to the right things? More importantly, are you sure you’re saying “yes” to the most important ones?

I have a simple rule: triple down on what you’re good at. Fit the rest in if you can.

If you invest the majority of your effort focused on crushing the things you already win at, two things will happen: first, you’ll win. Second, you’ll get momentum to carry you through the learning process for the next thing you’re going to be good at.

Success breeds success. Get some!

This week has been full of exciting announcements for the Intentional Academy. Future goals for our content. Stories. VLOGS. But the most exciting one is this:

We’re working on a weekly Podcast.

Why? Because I’m really good at talking with students about life.

There’s a line out my office door of people looking for help with resumes, picking majors, finding internships, managing time, dealing with money and student loans, and getting on a solid career path. I’m not bragging, I’m recognizing a trend. And it’s no wonder I’m getting good at this: I spend an enormous amount of time reading, watching, listening, and practicing it.

But listening has always been key. I consume more content through podcast than all of the other forms combined. Why? Time. I can listen to a podcast in the car. On the train. At the gym. When I run an errand. Every time my wife asks me to run out and pick something up from the store, I come back a better person.

This is the first of the new projects the Intentional Academy is rolling out. We’ll keep you posted on the progress. We’ll teach you how to access the episodes when they are released. Most importantly, we’ll address the issues and questions that you have.

In the meanwhile, go all-in in the things you’re good at and enjoy the victories!

Do you have a question you’d like answered? Leave a comment or send an email to tony@tonyferrar.com.

We Interrupt this Broadcast…

Thursday is my “deep work” day. I don’t go to the office. I only check my email once. I sit at the kitchen table, headphones blasting the soundtracks from my favorite movies (the music from Braveheart and Harry Potter is pretty great by the way). I do all of the work that takes long batches of deep focus.

That’s because every other day of the week is mayhem! My class schedule this semester is… let’s just say ambitious. The longest stretch of uninterrupted time at my desk this week was 30 minutes. That’s enough time to check some email, post lecture notes, update grades or deal with adminsitrivia. That’s about it.

Today’s deep work task:

finish grading an exam I gave my class two weeks ago. Only one problem:

I’m at home and that stack of papers sits on my desk at the office, forgotten after a mad rush of requests came in at the last minute yesterday.

I gave my word. Those exams will be graded tomorrow. Which means my deep work day is dead. I’ve got 2-3 hours of walking, catching trains, and waiting ahead of me as I go pick up that stack of exams and bring it back home.

Now what? Download some extra episodes from Netflix to kill time on the train?

Hardly. I’m thinking of all the creative projects that I can work on that don’t require an internet connection. I just got 2ish hours of time to work on small, but important ideas that never make the top of the list on “deep work” day.

Make plans. But be ready to pivot. I can’t wait to see what happens during my long commute to my kitchen table today.

And yes. The tests will be graded.

Coming Soon. The Intentional Academy: VLOG

ave you ever had a ‘life changing’ experience? Maybe it was a religious retreat. Or a summer camp. Or a medical crisis. Maybe you experienced a disaster. In the blink of an eye, you know you’ll never be the same.

Your life changes in the days, maybe even weeks that follow. You do more of something you promised yourself you’d do more of. You do less of something you promised yourself you’d do less of. But it always seems to fade. A month later, your life looks like it did before.

Why? Momentum.

The amazing thing about being a person is that you can decide to change in an instant. Think of something that needs to change in your life. Are you tired of putting it off? Commit. Right now. Ready? Bang. You just decided to change.

But…

Your decision to change doesn’t actually change anything. That’s why you can find so many books, blogs, podcasts, courses, and coaches dedicated to “affirmations” and “habits.” You’ve got work to do, implementing a new behavior (or rooting out an old one).

The Intentional Academy wants to support as you do this.

We’re all about the follow through. One of the best ways to stay on fire, to keep yourself moving forward, is to see the dream in action. Regularly.

We’re shifting to a new format for these daily videos. We’re going to be capturing moments throughout the day, little experiences of intentional living, and assembling them into a daily vlog. The lessons are in there, but you’ll get to see them in action. You’ll get a behind the scenes view of what we’re all about.

Here’s a preview of where we’re headed:

(or just search for “YouTube Intentional Academy”)

Take look, go ahead and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We’ll be posting regular content there soon. We’re learning: filming, editing, final production – all new skills for us. Have thoughts? Let us know. Want to help? We need it! Reach out.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

Coming Soon. The Intentional Academy: Stories.

Have you ever been completely lost during class? You’re in the room. You’re listening. But you find yourself just sitting there with no idea what the professor is talking about. Do you raise your hand and ask for help?

Usually, the answer is “no.”

Why not? Fear.

We are hard-wired to resist standing out. The lions eat the member of the herd that stands out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in the mood to be someone’s lunch.

So we put on our scholarly face, scribble down some notes that we hope will make sense later, and leave the room defeated. The second you’re in the hall, you and your classmates begin the discussion:

“Wow that was hard. I was totally lost.”

You know you’ve done this. Don’t deny it. Isn’t it funny how much braver we are in the hall?

Sometimes, an amazing thing happens in class. Someone stops the professor to ask a question. And this encourages someone else to ask. And someone else. And it snowballs into a useful discussion in which everyone (professor included) learns something.

When we struggle, we convince ourselves we are alone.

Wrong! There are over 7 billion people alive today. While the circumstances of every person’s life are unique, the problems we face aren’t. Yet we’re all sitting silently in class, wishing someone would ask the first question.

This is your invitation to raise your hand.

We’re expanding the Intentional Academy content to include real stories from real people. We want you to contribute. Reach out, right now to share your story. We’ll guide you through, we’ll do the hard work.

Tell your story, it may just change someone’s life.

Want to contribute? Send me a message! tony@tonyferrar.com, or DM on social.

Coming Soon: The Intentional Academy. Reimagined.

The number one request I get from my students is to show more examples in class. I get caught up in talking about theories – because they make sense to me. The reason they make sense? I’ve seen countless examples and then applied the concepts myself.

The Intentional Academy came into being in much the same way.

I had some issues in my life. I learned the theories and mindsets to fix them. Then I got to work. But I was supported by real people sharing real examples along the way. I rarely went back to study the theory – but I consumed hours upon hours of story-filled content to keep me going.

It’s time to bring the theory of Intentional Learning to life.

Over the next few weeks you’re going to see big changes to our content and our format. We’re going to focus on what it’s really like to live and learn according to the Intentional Learner’s Manifesto (repeated at the end of this post for your convenience). We’re going to shift from one-way speeches to conversations. We’re going to focus on answering your questions. And we’re going to share stories of real people who are implementing these ideas day in and day out.

In the meanwhile, we’d like to invite you to play a role in building this community. Consider sharing this with someone who needs it. Leave a comment. Ask a question and we’ll answer it.

Have a great day!

An Intentional Learner’s Manifesto

I am an Intentional Learner.

I see a gap between what I learn in school and what I need to succeed. I don’t wait for the system to fix itself, I leverage its strengths and overcome its weaknesses.

I believe that my life is my fault. I may have started from a different point than everyone else. My path may be easier or harder than everyone else’s. But I will not let my past dictate my future. I have the power to act and succeed, or to do nothing and fail.

I own my time and my money. I realize that both are finite and I decide how I spend them. I do not allow either to limit my future.

I learn to add incredible value, not to make grades. I add value by meeting people’s needs. My grades are a reflection of my performance, not the reason for it.

I affirm that my ability to breathe does not entitle me to an income. My ability to create something that changes a person’s life leads to payment proportional to the impact. I am not paid by the hour, I am paid by the outcome.

I may not know my dream yet, but I know where my current path leads. I am not burying my head in the sand, hoping that if I follow the herd good things will happen. I embrace the future I see for myself, but I hold it loosely. I am in the business of opening doors.

I know that I will perform as I practice, and so I practice well. I am not waiting for certification. My results are my certification.

This is my time. This is my money. This is my career. I am an Intentional Learner.

Midterm Rehab – Sustained Focus Makes Life Easier

The thing about being behind is that you can’t catch up by doing more of what you’ve been doing.

You’re behind because the current strategy isn’t working. Yet we often tell ourselves that we’ll “sit down for a big workday this weekend and get caught up.”We promise ourselves that we won’t get behind again, if we can just catch up this one time.How many times have you made that promise already? The reason you keep breaking it can be found in the old adage:

Rome wasn’t built in a day (even if the work was behind schedule).

You simply can’t master differential equations in a day.

You can become an excellent journalist in a day either. You grow over time, which requires forcused effort applied over time. Not for a day.

Think back to your last “catch-up day.” Was it pleasant? Did you enjoy cramming? I doubt it. So when you finished you breathe me a sigh of relief and put your feet up for a day or two. You’ve just built a false image in your mind of what work looks like: a long miserable grind. No wonder you keep putting it off.

Since your approach isn’t working, what’s the worst that could happen if you tried mine? Take smaller bites, but take them every day. You’ll find joy in the process, make more progress, and avoid the cram days.

Want more? Join the Intentional Academy for free with the form on this page.