Eric Kraus


Life Principles

Inspired by two of my favorite books: Principles by Ray Dalio and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson, I am documenting my own Life Principles and Virtues. This will be a constant work in progress, but am sharing them [before perfect] as a public commitment and reminder to myself.


1. Never do harm to other people whether intentionally or indirectly (e.g. speaking of them negatively behind their back)


2. Remember that it is naive to think all that someone believes in is right and all that someone rejects is therefore wrong (this applies to self and others)


3. Judge others by what they do well. Judge yourself by your faults. 


4. Measure yourself by what you do, not by what you think or plan.


5. Always strive to find the right answer. Never take pride in being right.


6. Remember that the majority of statements are opinions. Be clear when sharing opinion vs. fact


7. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Surround yourself with people you admire, respect and can learn from. Avoid those that are negative or hurtful to self/others.

What Climbing Mt Rainier Taught Me About Setting Goals

In August, I had the opportunity to step foot on the 5th largest peak in the contiguous United States. How would I describe it? Epic.

Mt. Rainier is not only a difficult & technical climb, it is used as a training mountain for higher peaks of the Himalayas. Those who have reached the summit will tell you, it is both physically and mentally enduring.

So what grand lessons did I learn from this adventure? Lots. But the most analogous were those to my personal life and career, specifically around goal setting.

Read More …

Responsive Resolutions 2016

Here’s something new to try for 2016.  Instead of one big “new year’s resolution”, try creating 12 monthly “responsive” resolutions.

The Old Way

The challenge with trying to tackle one big resolution for a whole year is that it gets harder and less beneficial as the year goes on. Resolutions you start at the beginning of the year will rarely be the same goals you would end the year with. Life goes on and we change. So should our goals and commitments.

Responsive Resolutions

Responsive Resolutions seeks to fix the problems with year-long resolutions and the reason why many people start strong, but fade out over the year. With Responsive Resolutions, the focus is on smaller, achievable monthly goals that align to a longer-term vision or lifestyle change.

For example, a common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. However, a better long-term lifestyle change would be to “be healthy”. With that as the “vision”, each month you can create goals like working out, avoiding sweets, etc. It will be much easier to keep these commitments for a month which will keep your motivation up while not boiling the ocean for a whole year.

[tweet_box design=”box_01″ url=”” float=”none” excerpt=”‘A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow’ -George S Patton #responsiveResolutions”]”A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” -George S. Patton [/tweet_box]

3 Steps to Responsive Resolutions

1. Reflect on a long-term “Vision” or aspiration you want to aim for *

Where do you want to be in 1, 3 or 5 years? What does your career look like? Who are you friends with? What kind of physical health are you in? It is critical that you are emotionally connected to this vision in some way. If not, the chances of success are significantly reduced.

2. Reflect on the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Set the first month’s resolution

What do you need to start today? Really…today. Also, what do you need in order to set yourself up for other months down the road? Your first month doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t try to over do it. Start small and focus on commitment. Being successful is more important than being perfect.

Remember the Patton quote.

3. Do not over plan! Get started and adjust as you go

In the last week of each month, while reflecting on the success or failures of the current month, choose a new resolution for the next month. It is important not to pre-plan all 12 months of resolutions/goals ahead of time. Like the name implies, the idea is to be responsive to what is or isn’t working in your life and use the “agile” methodology to help hone in what you need at that time.

In the last week of each month, while reflecting on the success or failures of the past month, you then choose a new resolution for the next month. It is important not to pre-plan all 12 months of resolutions ahead of time. Like the name implies, the idea is to be responsive to what is or isn’t working in your life and modify what you need at that time to continue toward your vision.


* Pro Tip: If done well, you will never actually achieve your vision. What?!?  Over time, as you are accomplishing your goals and reflecting more, you should be continually evolving your vision. It will grow as you do.

I gained a lot from doing this activity last year, so I’m excited to share my journey again for 2016. I, and a few others, will be updating Twitter frequently with #responsiveResolutions hashtag.


What do you think of this idea?

Like it? Disagree with it? Share your thoughts below.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

Any athlete will tell you, practicing more won’t necessarily make you any better. Just the same, working more hours won’t necessarily improve your quality: “Work smarter, not harder”, they say. Real quality comes from analyzing process, learning from and improving mistakes and rehearsing good behaviors. This is why athletes have a coach…and we need one in our personal lives too.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”

If there’s one single thing I retained from my high school years, it would be a quote from my band instructor, Mr. Robinson. He would drill into our heads a mantra that still has so much applicability today. Every day during practice he would tell us, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.”

a lesson from golf

A golf swing is a great analogy for life. We all have personal flaws. For those who don’t hit the ball perfectly each time, you’re just like me. I have a very predictable, yet frustrating, slice off of the tee-box. Some tell me to just “play the slice”, but that’s really just reinforcing my handicap. Every spring, I am determined that I’ll fix the slice. So, I head to the driving range as soon as the snow thaws and buy 2 or 3 buckets of balls. I take a couple swings and see where I’m at. If not good, I change something (grip, stance, backswing, etc) and take a few more swings. After hundreds of balls and some of the goofiest grips, stances, etc, I still have the same slice. “Ah, better luck next year”, I say.

The reason why I can’t improve is pretty simple. Despite all my crazy adjustments, I am practicing bad form.

don’t practice bad habits

If you have bad habits, or habits that prevent you from achieving your goals, stop them as fast as you can. Every day that you practice those rituals, you further cement them into your routine. Introducing a new habit (e.g. working out) is hard, but stopping an existing habit (e.g. smoking) can be even harder. Even harder than making these changes is sometimes realizing what needs to be changed. This is why you need a coach.

get a coach

Before starting a self-improvement regimen, get a coach. All professional athletes have a coach. Why not have one for your personal life? An athlete may be excellent at what he/she does, but a coach offers a third-party perspective that cannot be seen by an athlete themselves. Sometimes being too close to the problem IS ‘the problem’. This is my golf swing problem. As much as I read about what I should do, I am too close to the problem. I need a coach.

For your personal life, a mentor or even a community of like-minded people can offer observations and help continually evolve your swing. Once you have a coach, you can start to experiment with guidance you receive.

experiment. but with guidance

There is no right way to improve your personal life. There is no single process, advice or phone app that can help every person. It’s very important to try a number of things and record how they work or don’t work. If you’re giving journaling a shot, this is an excellent writing prompt. Give each experiment at least 3-4 weeks to work. Don’t experiment with more than 1 or 2 things at a time. It will be hard to determine what is/isn’t working with too much going on. Report your learns back to your coach and repeat the feedback loop.

Perfect is not a reality that should be feasible

If you are investing in improving your life, you should already be the type of person that realizes it will never be “perfect”. And that’s ok.

What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.”

Self-improvement is a continuous cycle of goal setting, hard work, reflection and refined goal setting. “What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.” So getting as much feedback and self-reflection on the what part will pay dividends as you get started.

And, next year, I WILL fix that slice. I promise.

How To Come Up With Great Ideas

Whether you are a professional in a career, a student working on a thesis or boot-strapping entrepreneur looking for the next big thing, producing a stream of new ideas may be something you struggle with. You often hear people say, “But I’m just not good at coming up with ideas”. Regardless of the purpose, the process is pretty much the same for everyone: Practice.

We all possess this amazing tool for creativity, our brain. It’s true that some people are better at ideas than others. It doesn’t come from some innate power where ideas just come to them. It comes from their approach and practice toward problem solving.

Here are some suggestions to rev up your own creative engine.

Start mental exercises 

  • Write problems down on a piece of paper or at the top of a page in OneNote, Evernote, etc. This will help you keep track, but also being clear on the problem you are trying to solve will help you focus better.
  • Start journaling. Fiction writers do this to break through writer’s block. If you’re stuck on developing a problem statement journaling can help. The goal is to get your mind working.
  • Make lists of things you like/dislike about your personal life, job, etc. This can help spark new ideas or vet out potential solutions. See below for more on this.
  • Read Quora for trending questions. Add filters to narrow on your interests.
  • Review Google Trends for things people are searching for
  • Use a random idea generator to give you a topic to think or write about
  • Be open to ideas that are related but not relevant to what you are seeking. These “tangents” are often the thoughts that spark other ideas that get you want.

Have dedicated “thinking” time

  • Do it early in the day. You are likely a better thinker at 6am than you are at 6pm after a crazy day. Much like a runner feels the best before a race…don’t try to dedicate time to creativity after you’ve just run a mental marathon.
  • Dedicate at least 10 minutes to thinking. Daily. It’s only 10 minutes. Depending on the type of method you use, meditation can be great tool for this as well.
  • Uninterrupted time will serve you better than trying this with kids running around or emails/IMs distracting you.

Make lists, diagrams and other notes to spark ideas

Topics can include anything from world issues to common challenges encountered while preparing a meal at home. I often experiment with diagraming these topics. I’ve found The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking incredibly helpful for generating ideas and example diagrams. Each page of the entire book is a different strategic model. It’s really easy to skip around and try different ones out.

Don’t just think. Do.

One of my favorite quotes: “Starting a business is like choosing lunch.  Picking nothing is guaranteed to leave you still hungry.  Picking ‘something’ is better than nothing.  It’s not about being right, it’s about being.” – Seth Godin

I think the same applies to getting started with anything. It’s better to start thinking today than to wait for ‘the perfect idea’ to come along tomorrow.

After a short amount of time, you will be amazed at the new ideas that your exploration brings to you. As you get better at it, managing all the new “tangents” will be more difficult than generating them. It’s best to have some type of “Icebox” to let your ideas chill so they aren’t a distraction. I use OneNote  which allows me to quickly create a new Page and toss in a few bullet points about the idea to build on later. I have also had good experience with the Werdsmith app, but found it’s rich editing capabilities lacking.

Good luck and happy ideation.

Month #10 – Be More Social

At the beginning of 2015, a few colleagues and I set out to beat the odds of failure of creating one big “New Year’s Resolution”. Our plan was to create twelve smaller Responsive Resolutions that were easier to achieve and built upon one another. Each month we would work on that one thing and at the end of the month, use learnings from our experience to inform what the resolution would be for the next month, and so on. Goal: A full year of continual learning and growth.

We started off with a lot of success. I had success with resolutions like Journaling and  Meditation.  However, like most new habits, I failed at keeping the rhythm going. I lost the monthly review of what I needed in my life and the goal setting for the next month. Why?

The interesting thing about struggling to keep this habit was that it had nothing to do with the value/benefit I was getting from the activity of self-reflection. In fact, I still did that for myself quite often. It was just the structured activity of picking a new goal for the next month that was gone. In someways I felt like I was still doing it, but just not calling it out.  I believe calling it out is still important.

For the months that I was successful in setting goals… I have still kept many of those. For example, I started this post at 5:15 AM. Getting up early and working is still one my happiest/most productivity parts of the day. Another resolution that I have kept and couldn’t live without: Journaling.

So, I thought I would spend this morning’s journaling session sharing about this reflection on the Responsive Resolutions journey and my thoughts for the remainder of the year ahead. Because I believe being intentional with your actions is important, I am also resurrecting my Responsive Resolutions, starting with October.

Month # 10: “Be More Social”
With all of the things going on “at work” and outside, I want to focus October on being more active on social media. Whaaa?! Who ever says that?  I don’t mean life tweeting every moment of every day. I want to be more engaging with content that I post and content I generate.

I’ve created a personal page on Facebook as an additional platform to engage with people on. Looking forward to October being a solid kickstart for that.

Month #5 – Meditation

I have been practicing some form of meditation since the beginning of 2015.  It has been part of my #ResponsiveResolutions (12 monthly resolutions instead of 1 yearly) project, which I’ve regretfully not been consistently blogging about.  On the topic of meditation though, I’ve learned a lot about my own personal practice and about myself in general.  It’s an interesting topic and journey, and it is something I think everyone could benefit from.  Here’s what a typical Q&A conversation goes like.

Why did you start?

To be honest, I started exploring the topic because of the hype I’ve read about it.  It seems like every successful business executive to entrepreneur attributes some level of their success to daily meditation.  A little bit of curiosity and some research later, I was in…and hooked.  As I mentioned in the intro, every month I am exploring a new ‘habit’ to modify.  This was a habit that would also strengthen my (desired) habit of waking up earlier and investing in myself.

What are you learning?

There are three major learnings that I have gathered from this journey.  Absolutely most critical: you need to make meditation a ritual.  You also can’t expect it to be perfect out of the gate and, journaling can help you learn about yourself and adapt meditation to be more successful for you.

Make it a Ritual

First things first was to figure out ‘when’ I could find the time to meditate.  I thought about doing a mid-day meditation…trying to break the stress of the day in half.  I quickly concluded that this would be a hard ritual to keep.  My next choice would be to do it in the morning.  At the time, my morning rituals would consist of sleeping until 7am, helping get the kids up, feeding the pets, showering and taking off for rush hour traffic.  I knew if I tried to fit in even 15 minutes of quiet time for myself — it likely wouldn’t work either.  Luckily I was already keeping a monthly resolution to get up early (5am).  Meditation felt like a perfect way to help strengthen that ritual and also give it purpose.  Obviously, 5am isn’t required for this.  Setting your morning alarm for 20 minutes earlier is all that would be needed.

Shoot First, Then Aim and Adjust

My research warned me there was no ‘right way’ to meditate.  It’s a little bit of the old saying “you get what you put in”.  Unfortunately, this means a little trial and error and some patience is required.  It will take some time to find out what works for you.  So, you should go in with a commitment of at least a couple weeks.  Experiment a little.  First try to force yourself to think about nothing.  Focusing only on breathing is a good way to do this.  Also, experiment with thinking about just one thing. In both cases, as your mind might wander, bring it back to your focus.

Write About It

I wrote another post completely dedicated to Journaling.  I think this is absolutely critical.  It doesn’t need to be a lengthy saga about the experience.  It could just be a few sentences in a Field Notes notebook or anywhere for that matter.  I like small physical notebooks because they are simple and can go anywhere with me.  Write about what you are thinking after meditation.  This will help you tune in to the output of the meditation.  Something quick and dirty, no more than 5 minutes time.  Also, very important: always re-read your written thoughts…often. This will help you discover about yourself and will help you fine-tune your practices.

Specifically, What do you think about?

This is the #1 question, but I saved it for last.  Every day is a little different for me.  Some days, I just want to “stop thinking”.  I wake up and my mind instantly starts going.  A colleague of mine often says, “sometimes you need to slow down to speed up”.  This slow-down practice helps me enter the day, usually with a journaling session, with clear mind.  Other days, I want to focus on a specific topic.  Usually, I’m trying to drill something into my head or explore that topic for alternative ideas.  For example, I may focus my session entirely on how I need to be more patient in my life.  Or, how I am going to deliver difficult feedback to a family member.  Another day, I might just think about what I NEED to get done for the day.  In any of the cases, I have learned to enter my meditation session with a specific goal in mind.

Big Take Aways

Be intentional about using your “me” time.  No matter what you do during your “meditation”, it will benefit you best if you set goals, dedicate time to think (or not think) about it and measure your progress along the way.

Benefits of Journaling

Journaling has become a valuable tool in many successful people’s toolboxes. But if you haven’t had a chance to give it a try, you may wonder, “What are the benefits of journaling and how can I use it as a tool to help me accomplish my goals?”

For one of the months for my Responsive Resolutions, I decided to try journaling every day. I had heard of the benefits of journaling from colleagues, but had never actually spent the time to commit to it. However, I was willing to suck it up and try it, at least for a month.

Finding time to journal was actually relatively easy. I decided to keep my first month’s resolution of waking up at 5 am – which on a side note, has been a game changer for my productivity. I now have plenty of time to get a work out in, write, read or now journal before the craziness of the day begins.

Related: How to Wake Up Early – Tricks to Getting the Most Out of the Day

“Writing about myself always seemed superficial”

I’ll admit I was a bit of a skeptic with the idea of journaling. Writing about myself always seemed superficial. I never fashioned myself as a guy that kept a “diary”. I already spent a lot of time reflecting on my personal life, work, goals, etc. Writing them down almost seems redundant to me.

What I found was kind of interesting.

Benefits of Journaling

“…the things I am reflecting on are always within my control”

The process of journaling wasn’t so much about writing, as it was planning. I was learning a lot about myself, as I would expect, but it was the increase in productivity that really caught my interest.

Over the course of reflecting on success/mistakes of the past and setting new goals for the future, one thing always stood out in my mind: the things I am reflecting on are always within my control.

“Why am I not doing anything about it?”

So, naturally my reflection of these thoughts was, “Why am I not doing anything about it?”  THIS is where the magic happens. Inevitably, this reflection caused me to take some action, even if it is only to add an item to my task list. I don’t beat myself up over anything, but taking some action to improve the future ensures I am always growing.

My journaling has drastically shifted away from free-form writing or prompt/question and answer to more of a goal review and task planning for the day. Here’s a quick look at the structure and benefits of journaling I am seeing in my daily life.

Journaling Outline

Time To Complete: 10 minutes


Each journaling session starts out with a list of things I have completed or failed in the day(s) since I wrote last. This can be anything noteworthy, planned or unplanned. The goal is to acknowledge accomplishments, which is often a step that we over look and call out mistakes for further reflection.

Benefit: This is my way of measuring productivity and creating focus on personal growth. Reviewing the last few journal entries also gives me the opportunity to make sure no Must-Do tasks are getting left behind.

Must Do

After I review the pervious journal entries and get my Completed list done, I transition into my must-do list. As the name describes, this list is designed to reflect on the things I must do that day. Often these task items were already on a task list somewhere, but by journaling about them first thing in the morning, I am mentally moving them to a fresher part of my brain. And if I know I can’t complete something in the given day, I move it to my longer-term digital task list.

Benefit: This prevents me from filling up my Must Do list with with items I can’t complete and gives me much better focus for the day.


The third list I create is a “learn, share or give” list. This list is a catch-all for anything that I want to accomplish, but is not a Must Do item and doesn’t really fit the category of a task. It includes things like ideas for learning or sharing information and goals toward giving back to others. Sometimes i use this space in my journal to do a diagram about a problem I want to solve or an idea I want to explore.

Benefit: This area achieves the advantageous of free-form writing and I can often generate new ideas from just a few minutes of time reflecting.

I highly recommend The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus. Each page is a different diagram that you can model to make decisions as well as explore different ideas, alternatives, etc. I use this weekly for new ideas on ways to tackle problems or make decisions.

The benefits of journaling are really personal. It can be an outlet for thoughts or simply a way to better plan your day. Whatever the benefits, I encourage you to give it a try and experiment. Often it takes some trial and error, as it did for me, to find the sweet spot.

Responsive Resolutions

Happy New Year.

I’m kicking off 2015 with a blog post around self-improvement.  We talk a lot in the Responsive Org about continuous improvement through small, adaptive changes.

“Continually evolve based on the success/failures/learnings from previous runs”


Making it personal

I was inspired by a colleague that is applying this theory to his personal life.  Steve Nguyen wrote a blog post about making 12 monthly resolutions instead of one big (bound to fail) “new year’s resolution”.  I decided to do the same. And for the first month, Steve and I have challenged each other to wake up at 5am.

I’ll be documenting the journey on Twitter: @erickraus  and on Storify.