The Magical Power of Flipping a Routine on Its Head
To make a breakthrough, ask yourself, “What if I did the opposite?”
Long before Tim Ferriss became the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek and the host of a wildly popular podcast, he had a day job selling enterprise technology — and he was struggling at it. He knew that if he wanted to stay employed, he would need to change his sales strategy. Except he had no idea how.
Then one day, as Ferriss writes in his book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, he noticed something: All of his colleagues were making their sales calls between 9 a.m and 5 p.m., the same hours potential clients were likely stuck in meetings and racing to get their projects done. So he asked himself, “What if I did the opposite?”
He decided to try an experiment. For 48 hours, he would make sales calls only from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m. Then, for the rest of the day, he would focus on sending cold emails.
The results? “It worked like gangbusters,” Ferriss writes. “The big boss often picked up the phone directly.”
Thrilled by this outcome, Ferriss recalls in Tools of Titans, he began performing more experiments at work that started with the question “What if I did the opposite?” He asked himself: “What if I only asked questions instead of pitching? What if I studied technical material, so I sounded like an engineer instead of a sales guy? What if I ended my emails with ‘I totally understand if you’re too busy to reply, and thank you for reading this far,’ instead of the usual ‘I look forward to your reply and speaking soon’ presumptive BS?”
Shaking up his practices paid off. In the last quarter of his job, Ferris writes that he “outsold the entire L.A. office of our biggest competitor.”
I’ve read plenty of productivity advice in my life, but after I came across this particular piece of wisdom, I kept thinking about it. A friend of mine once told me, “If you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve gotten.” And I believe it’s true: Sometimes, in order to make breakthroughs, we need to flip our habits, routines, and rituals on their heads.