Preparing for the Future (not Reacting to the Past)

Last night I drove home from the Costa Brava. This is a 90 minute drive. I spent 89 minutes looking at the road ahead and about 1 minute using the mirrors to see what was behind me, and what was in the lanes next to me.

Driving while looking mostly in the rear view mirror is dangerous.

Do you know where many people spend their time looking while driving their life?

Looking in the Rear View Mirror

Income statements, balance sheets, project status reviews, current account balance, kilos overweight… These are all backwards looking indicators. They describe the past and the effect of past action.

These are useful indicators for Levels 1 to 3 on Jim Collin’s 5 Levels of Leadership. They are terrible indicators for a leader that aspires to Level 5 Leadership.

What are the forward looking indicators in your business and in your life?

Driving while Looking Forwards

Gratuitous photo of me & Jim Collins at Vistage Chairworld

As we drove yesterday, we were listening to a conversation between Jim Collins and Tim Ferriss (it is excellent: I highly recommend that you find 2 hours to listen to their conversation about life, disciplines, purpose and the essence of a well lived life).

Jim Collins’ Important Concepts for Life & Business

Jim Collins shared many of the concepts that he has been working on for the last 30 years:

Three things struck me from this conversation:

  1. Clarity of speaking comes from consistently writing your ideas down
  2. Excellence is the fruit of a conscious decision and commitment to long term disciplines (that are not easy for anybody)
  3. Evidence matters (especially in living our own lives)

Clarity of speaking comes from consistently writing your ideas down

How to Speak Clearly?

I love Tim’s podcast. He is interested in exactly the same range of questions that I find myself interested in. He asks good questions and pushes his guests to be specific, to give examples, to be clear. He doesn’t invite people who are not experts, and he doesn’t let them away with generic, vague concepts… he pushes them to get clear.

Both Jim and Tim have spent a lot of time writing.

As I develop the next iteration of my programs at IESE Business School, I realise that the biggest growth step that I can develop for my participants is to push them to think clearly. I believe that the only way to check whether you can think clearly is to learn to write clearly… and great writers know that great writing is the result of multiple processes of editing.

The big gap between most people becoming great speakers, is to first become clear thinkers.

Social media and rapid meetings and political correctness has allowed lazy thinking to become normal.

Excellence is the fruit of a conscious decision and commitment to long term disciplines (that are not easy for anybody)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


Jim’s first question to Tim (I love how Jim immediately took control of the conversation, rather than just react to Tim’s questions): “What was the topic of your senior thesis at Princeton?”

It turns out that Tim has been studying, investigating and writing about the same general concepts for years. How do humans learn? and the more specific: How do the most effective human learners actually approach learning?

Tim is no overnight success. He’s been committed to learning in the same general themes for over 20 years. Jim is no overnight success. He’s spent the last 30 years committed to learning in the same few general themes.

Evidence matters (especially in living our own lives)

Poor data leads to poor decisions.

The person that each of us is most capable of manipulating is ourself. In their conversations, Tim and Jim reiterate the importance of evidence.

Very often, an accepted truth is the barrier to your next step of growth. One small, well intentioned, bad habit is costing you more than all the good habits you have invested in.

Often the members of a Vistage group play an interesting challenge role in calling out “The Elephant in the Room” – where they see you reliving a repetitive delusion that is damaging your progress in work, relationships and life.

We can fool ourselves better than anyone. Often the delusion is blatantly obvious to everyone, except me.

More Jim Collins…

I’ll leave you with one of the few video recordings of Jim Collins that are available publically:

One response to “Preparing for the Future (not Reacting to the Past)”

  1. Another good post, Conor, leading to thinking (writing) and acting. Two interesting men indeed. 1′ out of a 90′ drive seem little to be looking at the rear windows, but maybe I change lanes and break more often ! The anology works though!
    Some points resonated with me right now, as I finished a book this weekend that interprets reality as surfing the waves and taking into account how energy works. Both arrive to very similar statements. The same way Jim Collins take companies as a way to study human systems, this book does it with energy and surfing. Here are some analogies (sorry if it gets too long but I just finised the book!):

    -#5 level leaders have in common humility, and energetically speaking, outer intention is much more likely to become a reality when not giving that much importance to the goal. Giving too much importance generates excess potential that is brought to balance by a setback, and that will explain in part why the ego approach of some leaders and people prevents them from being #5 and from real success.
    -when simplicity occurs (from a state of not importance, just the attitude of ‘going to buy the press), things are clear. We just go with the flow.
    -vocation and values work because it is where inner intention (ours, in our mind) and outer intention (the universe’ one, the others’one) meet, so universe sort of collapses agreeing to it.
    -be of service, useful, not only successful, as success, the real one (abundance felt state, serenity) arrives as a subproduct of being useful, the same way when you are yourself you do not hook up to negative energetical pendulus and you’ve got 100% of your energy.
    -whenever you want, you can switch your life-line, it is a matter of choice, and the past is really backwards.

    So it was comforting and uplifting to listen about the same concepts from different life’s interpretations, even at a leaders’ ecosystem.

    Thanks for this post!

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