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Colin McCann on Productivity, Taking on an Ambitious Project, and the Power of Beliefs – Cracking Creativity Episode 31

Colin McCann is a web developer who is trying to revolutionize the way we view productivity. In this episode Colin talks about his take on productivity and how he approaches his goals, taking on such an ambitious project, and how beliefs can have a huge impact on self-improvement.

Here are three things you can learn from Colin:

Big Risks Don’t Need to Be Made with Snap Judgments

Just because you are doing something drastic or daring, doesn’t mean you have to do it on a whim. Before Colin thought about quitting his job, he saved up enough money to make the jump. He lined up his finances so he would have the freedom to work on his project without worrying about how he was going to pay for things.

If you want to take a risk, don’t make it a blind risk. Make sure you have everything lined up and planned out. Get all your ducks in a row before taking that leap.

Break Things Down Into Small Steps

Instead of approaching projects like this great big thing you need to tackle, approach them like many small tasks that can be conquered. When you are trying to accomplish any goal, figure out what the next small task is.

When you keep tasks small, your brain can focus on the task at hand. Otherwise, you can get bogged down by the enormity of it. Break each task into bite sized pieces. This allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment as you make your way towards your goal.

Believing in Yourself is the Best Way to Self-Improvement

Self-improvement is all about your beliefs. Before you can better yourself, you must believe in yourself. Your beliefs are not accidental, they are the result of everything you do.
If you want to make improvements in your life, you have to believe you are capable of making them. Once you do, everything becomes easier. We may not be conscious of it, but our beliefs shape who we are and how we approach each day.


  • about Colin
    • idea for his project came from desire of finding a tool he thought should exist
    • couldn’t find anything that suited his needs, so he quit his full-time job to work on it
    • thought about quitting his job a year before he did
    • wasn’t emotionally engage in his work and it wore down on him
    • has never regretted leaving a job he wasn’t satisfied with
  • 3:00 knowing when to quit when something isn’t working
    • when he decided to quit, his belief in his ability to find work was stronger than his fear of leaving
    • knowing when to leave is like falling in love, you know it when you know it
    • there’s no external signal, it’s more of a gut feeling
    • he learned to trust his gut
  • 5:40 planning that goes into quitting your job
    • already had his resignation drafted
    • the morning he decided to quit
    • made a point to think about everything he would need that they would lock down
    • also saved up money during the year he was thinking about quitting
    • big decisions don’t need to be made in snap judgments

“Just because it’s a risk you’re taking doesn’t mean it has to be a blind risk that you’re taking.”

  • 8:38 supporting himself while his project isn’t making money
    • has freelance work set up
    • does enough contract work to pay the bills
    • the importance of putting the effort in up front
    • do the best that you can with communication, over promise and over deliver with your communication
  • 10:32 amount of time he spends doing contract work vs. working on his own projects and how he plans his day
    • spends at least a couple hours a day working on his own project
    • likes to break up his day to be productive
    • stalling is a problem of perspective and clarity
    • breaking tasks down into bite sized pieces
    • keeping tasks small allows your brain to focus on the task at hand
  • 13:09 how he found out he liked programming
    • parents wanted to sell stuff online
    • as business grew, they called on him to build what they needed
    • found passions as he discovered skills
    • loves how computers can execute what you tell them to
    • the ability to rapidly and faithfully re-produce an end result
    • unreleased interview with Steve Jobs – talked about how computers can mimic thought process

“Passion, I’ve come to find, is something you sort of discover along the process.”

  • 15:42 people/influences that caused him to create program
  • 19:39 how those people helped form the tool he is creating
    • felt no idea was right for him
    • saw a lot of overlap of ideas
    • Ramit SethiSeagull Theory – once instance is a fluke, multiple instances and you might be onto something
    • creating a glossary of ideas and using them within his program
    • didn’t have a direction at first, but is trying to find a map
      • what does it mean to be a good human, lead an authentic life, live by your values/principles, how do people define it, etc.
      • led to more direction in research
  • 23:11 features of Colin’s tool
    • a way to get a handle on his life
      • most people are bad at making lists
      • ex: mom’s bday gift
      • multiple active projects and organizing the roles in his life
      • needed to get clarity and control
    • task management is good for what to do that day, but nothing was good for planning the future
      • wanted to integrate everything to work on his future self
      • ex: building a house in the future
  • 26:55 what he wants to do with his future
    • always in a state of flux based on who he is right now
    • trying to build a solid foundation of health
    • generate wealth through delivering value (through the app)

“Everything good that can happen in my life through my actions is going to come from a perspective and a place of power and strength and vitality.”

  • 29:57 how to prevent yourself from adding too many things
    • trying to focus on three most important things in his life
    • most of your thoughts only fall into 10-15 categories, he’s trying to find a place to organize them
    • trying to create a place so you don’t have to organize these thoughts in your head

“It’s much easier, much more fluid to be creative and introspective and really leverage the mind for its human potential. It’s not very good at remembering stuff. But it is quite good at creativity and coming up with new things.”

  • 33:46 people testing his tool and some feedback he has received
    • people have helped to steer the direction of it
    • has gotten good and positive feedback
    • got feedback for three things interface which helped make the tool better
  • 36:11 listening to suggestions and weighing them with his own ideas
    • has to listen to his own intuition
    • contrasting his vision with what people are telling him
    • has to have faith or belief in his vision
    • “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” ― Henry Ford
    • Apple’s spin on the faster horse analogy
    • Elon Musk and his vision for Space X/Tesla
  • 39:17 achieving everything he has planned
    • has already completed framework for all the pieces will fit together
    • hiring help for the straight forward elements that need to be completed
    • has already seen a lot of benefit from what he’s finished
  • 41:48 what he has learned through creating this tool
    • gym as an example of being who you are
    • it becomes easier and easier to create that identity as you take small actions towards it
    • little things add up to who you are and what you believe about yourself
    • you have to actively create beliefs
    • most powerful force for self development is belief in oneself
    • beliefs aren’t accidental
    • if you’re making something new, you have to talk to a lot of people about it
    • you have to get feedback and see where you’re going wrong

“Everything becomes easier to do when it’s in alignment with who you believe you are.”

  • 45:51 getting started on ambitious projects
  • 48:05 his most authentic self and what it will be in the future
    • your most authentic self is supremely subjective
    • the version of you that’s most alignment with dreams and visions, that’s not afraid to take risks and be uncomfortable
    • live every day in total alignment with your truest beliefs
    • the best version of you that you can envision
  • 50:54 why most people settle
    • it is hard to keep pushing
    • society is built around comfort and entertainment
    • Elon Musk as an example of being your authentic self
    • even when you seemingly have it all, you can still be unhappy if it doesn’t align with your authentic self

“There’s a lot of societal incentive to be comfortable, to fit in and your authentic self very much may not want to do that.”

  • 52:35 how to start becoming your authentic self
    • start small and simple
    • vision mapping and future projections
    • projecting your future state and trying to achieve it
    • come up with list of timelines and number of contexts(relationships/health/lifestyle, etc.)
      • pair up those two groups to build a map
      • as you build map, you brain can’t help but fill in the gaps
      • 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey
        • begin with the end in mind and work backwards
  • 57:00 morning routine
    • most important part of morning routine happens the night before
    • lay out the things you need, coffee grounds and clothes ready
    • write the three most important things you want to get done
  • 59:25 books, podcasts, resources
  • 1:01:58 creative people
  • 1:03:45  definition of creativity

“[Creavitivy is] the ability to look inside yourself and find things that haven’t been shared yet or the ability to re-combine ideas in new and interesting ways.”

  • 1:04:25 being more creative
    • play, play with ideas, concepts, experiment and have strong sense of wonder
    • he likes art that juxtaposes different ideas
    • don’t be too judgmental, be willing to explore
    • be curious, have fun, and play

“I think the true heart of creativity is play.”

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