There are 3 primary drivers of results in life:

  1. Your luck (randomness)
  2. Your strategy (choices)
  3. Your actions (habits)

Nice tweet from James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits.

There is a fourth driver of Results

4. how I respond to what happens

I am reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life at the moment. I love the depth and the conviction that comes across from Jordan’s writing (and his youtube videos).

One of the things that really stuck with me from the early chapters was Jordan’s sense that Heaven and Hell are here with us on earth… and that our response to the events of our life can allow them to truly become Hell.

He shared a story of an old man dying of cancer in a hospital. This is tragic. What makes it hell is what is happening between the adult children of the man in the hospital room as he lies dying. There is a bitterness between them and an anger about how the inheritance will be split. The response of these adult children is to make life worse for each other.

Life is Tragic. Humans can make it Hell.

Old man dying is a tragic part of life.

His children fighting over the inheritance is how to turn tragedy into hell.

There is no situation so bad that we cannot make it worse with our own reaction to it. Do we learn from the event, or do we allow it to push us into an emotional state where we make life worse for others because of our own feelings of hurt and anger and desire for revenge.

What makes for a meaningful human life? Who and what are the most important for you? Leo Tolstoy addresses these questions in his 1886 short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The Book by Tolstoy

This is a book that I give away often. It is a short book, just over 50 pages long. It can be read from start to finish in a couple of hours.

I share this book with students, friends, employees… anyone who is searching for a more meaningful approach to living their life.

Read: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy

The Death of Ivan Ilych, published in 1886, is a short story by Leo Tolstoy, considered one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s.  The Death of Ivan Ilych tells the story of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia and his sufferings and death from a terminal illness.

If you have read the book, would love your reflections on the book in the comments below.

If you have not read the book, get a copy (amazon | free pdf) and find a couple of hours to read the story… then come back here and let us know your reflections.

3 Reflection Questions for The Death of Ivan Ilyich

  1. What are the specific factors that lead to Ivan’s life transformation?
  2. What purpose does Ivan discover for himself?
  3. What does Ivan’s transformation mean for you and your life?

The newspaper is full of other people’s problems. Do they bother you?

The world is full of people who don’t know what you expect from them. Does it bother you when they don’t do what you expect?

How can you have a good day when you give 8 billion people control over your state of mind?

It is an active choice to allow my state of mind to be affected by another’s action. I need to decide upon an ideal expected action. I need to compare their actual action to my imagined ideal. I need to allow myself to get angry, resentful, distressed and bothered about their failure to live up to my ideal.

I can change the whole world, or I can be very careful about how I set my expectations of other people.

Choose carefully what you allow to bother you.

Rule 6 “Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world”

Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

If you allow everything to be a problem, you give yourself a powerful excuse to do nothing about the few things you can actually improve right now.

Further Resources on Becoming Intentional

As we are coming up to the end of 2019, here are a couple of resources to become more intentional about what matters to you in 2020:

Thanks to Dan Sullivan’s recent podcast for this idea… Why Irritation affects your success if you’re not paying attention to it.

These are my notes from reading the short article Strategy and the Fat Smoker by David Maister.

David Maister

As we come up to the season of new year’s resolutions, I took some time to reflect on what it takes to make change happen in our lives, and in our businesses.

David Maister is a former Harvard Business School professor, expert on the management of professional service firms. He is best known for writing “The Trusted Advisor” together with Charles Green.

The problem is that many change efforts are based on the assumption that all you have to do is to explain to people that their life could be better, be convincing that the goals are worth going for and show them how to do it. This is patently false. If this were true, there would be no drug addicts in the world, no alcoholics, no bad marriages: “Oh, I see, it’s not good for me? Ah, well then, I’ll stop, of course!” What nonsense!

David Maister, Strategy and the Fat Smoker

Why We Don’t Do What We Know We Need to Do

We don’t make most changes because the benefits come later, whereas the pain (of self discipline) comes immediately. This is not a good deal for the emotional, instinctual part of us as human beings.

For many of the important habit changes:

  • the benefits don’t come next week or next year… but in a couple of decades.
  • dabbling or trying a little gets you nothing… only full commitment over a long term gets the results.
  • Short term results are often detrimental to long term success… Short term extreme weight loss is always long term catastrophic.

Strategy is Fundamentally about Commitment

The necessary outcome of strategic planning is not analytical insight but resolve.

David Maister

The essential questions of strategy are these:

  • Which of our habits are we really prepared to change, permanently and forever?
  • Which lifestyle changes are we really prepared to make?
  • What issues are we really ready to tackle?

Strategy as Commitment

Any weight loss plan that is based upon a temporary change in diet is destined to fail. Any corporate or organisational change that is about a short term push is destined to fail.

All Strategic changes must be seen as a fundamental lifestyle commitment based on the type of person or organisation you want to be.

An aspirational vision that is not based on a willingness to suffer the short term pain to change is a dangerous waste of time, and a dangerous loss of credibility.

There is no business benefit in claiming to pursue a goal that everyone can tell you don’t have the guts to pursue.

David Maister

Only say you will do what you are really committed to doing.

6 Required Actions to Make Strategic Change Happen

If strategy is not about a To-Be future state, but about a set of disciplines that I or we as a team are willing to fully commit to, what is required for successful strategy?

What gets people on the program?

  1. It is a permanent change in Lifestyle – Stay away from temporary fixes
  2. You must change the scorecards – Measure what matters, incentivise what matters
  3. Leadership lead by example – You can’t expect others to change if you don’t change
  4. Principles over Tactics – make the changes because they are right in themselves, not because they lead to different results
  5. People must Volunteer – Each person must make a personal commitment
  6. People must get on or get off the Bus – Help those who are unable to make the personal commitment to find a place where they can be successful as they are today

Ideology is the Only Long-Term Strategic Differentiator

Is there a “way of doing things” that is particular to you or your organisation?

The most successful organisations have an ideology. There is a McKinsey way, a Goldman Sachs approach and a Bain philosophy, to take only three examples of firms with strong ideologies, clear strategies and the financial success to match.

At these firms, if you don’t subscribe to the ideology, you don’t stay and argue or act as a silent dissenter. You walk. Or, eventually, you’re asked to walk.

David Maister

I am now thinking about what is “the Conor way of doing things” and “what is the Vistage way of doing things”… some end of year reflection.

Be Trustworthy

As a leader, there are big disadvantages of saying things that you have not got the discipline to do. Be careful that your words are followed by actions.

As human beings, we accept the influence mostly, if not exclusively, of those we trust, and being trusted is mostly about true trustworthiness, not technique.

David Maister
Trust

Further Resources

It is a trade off.

Charlie Munger said in a recent interview: “if you take lots of heroin, you’ll be very happy over the next 3 weeks… but the long term impact is catastrophic”

How to balance short term enjoyment with long term fulfillment?

Reflection in this video is on this balance between habits for the long term vs rewarding action in the short term: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”… but there is always a donut just next to the apple. (Go straight to 0:45 in the video to go direct to the key message).

What apples are you eating today?

How to live a fulfilling human life?

Abraham Maslow was the first psychologist to look specifically at what it takes to live a healthy, fulfilling human life. Prior to Maslow, psychology was focussed on dealing with mental illness and abnormality. Maslow suggested that to be happy, it is not sufficient to just remove sadness.

The 6 basic Human Emotional Needs

Maslow, Victor Frankl and Tony Robbins have developed the idea that there are 6 specific emotional needs that must be met in some way by each individual human being in order for life to have a sense of fulfillment.

These 6 needs must be met in a specific order… You can’t seek variety if you don’t have any safety; you can’t seek growth if you don’t have connection and significance.

  • 1. Safety & 2. Variety
  • 3. Connection & 4. Significance
  • 5. Contribution & 6. Growth

Video: The 6 Emotional Needs of Human Beings

Humanistic psychology

Maslow investigated the ingredients of positive mental health and developed Humanistic psychology. This approach to mental health is guided by the idea that we all possess the inner resources for growth and healing.

The basic principles behind humanistic psychology are simple:

  1. Here and Now is Everything – How you are right now is how you are in life; how you interact with me now shows how you interact with everyone.
  2. You are Responsible – To be mentally healthy, individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions.
  3. You are Worthy – Each person is worthy. I can take negative action, this never stops me being inherently worthy as a human being.
  4. You Need Growth – The ultimate goal of living is personal growth.

The Journey to Fulfilment

A Fulfilling Life or Transcendence is not a state that one attains, but a constant state of becoming. Self-Actualisation is a continual process of becoming rather than a perfect state one reaches of “happy ever after”.

No matter how learned or wise you become, if you stop the journey… you lose the sense of fulfilment. This is a journey, not a destination. This is life’s great pilgrimage.

You can’t copy someone else’s fulfilling life and expect personal fulfilment… your journey will be different than every other human being. If you find yourself following another’s footsteps… be careful.

If you liked this post, you will also like 17 Daily personal habits for a fulfilling life and The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People.

IESE Business School Professors Mireia Gine, Yago de la Cierva, Mike Rosenberg, Mireia de las Heras and Javier Diaz-Gimenez share 5 important business trends for 2020.

What are the Business Trends for 2020?

  • Purpose is on the boardroom agenda, it is no longer sufficient to “turn a profit”
  • Social Intelligence is the key type of intelligence
  • Work and life integration will become more important to attract and retain talent
  • Consistency is the most important element of leadership.
  • GDP becoming obsolete as a measure of overall economic activity, we need to include sustainability over the long term into our measure.

Great leaders have high levels of self awareness. One element of self awareness is a good understanding of how human beings differ in terms of personality. The big 5 personality traits can be remembered with the acronym OCEAN.

OCEAN

Trait descriptions and impact on job performance.

  • Opennessinventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious; Openness is positively related to proactivity at the individual and the organizational levels and is negatively related to team and organizational proficiency.
  • Conscientiousnessefficient/organised vs. easy-going/careless; Conscientiousness is positively related to all forms of work role performance.
  • Extroversionoutgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved; Extraversion is negatively related to individual task proficiency.
  • Agreeablenessfriendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached; Agreeableness is negatively related to individual task proactivity.
  • Neuroticism sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident; Neuroticism is negatively related to all forms of work role performance.
Personality Test

If you want to get a quick analysis of your own levels on each of these traits, Cambridge University provide a 3 minute test: Mini-IPIP Big 5 Personality Test

Do you want to know what I am?

Conor’s Big 5 Personality Traits

Here are my results from the Cambridge University test taken 2 December 2019.

Understanding Personality: The 12 Jungian Archetypes

How to begin vlogging on YouTube

This is based on my last 5 years of youtubing (now at 185,000 subscribers, over 17M video views) and over 11 years of maintaining a regular blog here at www.conorneill.com. My advice to you…  point 5 is by far the single most important tip.

8 Tips for Vlogging Success

  1. Do it with a primary intent to learn and build connections… Do not do it with the intent to make money, to sell… 
  2. Be yourself and have an opinion; don’t be brochureware; blog as yourself, not your position or role: CEO, entrepreneur or professor.
  3. Share what you are learning, not what you are an expert in (if you are an expert, share the expertise where it will get you more credibility – Forbes, HBS, IESE, etc)
  4. Get a notebook and add video ideas everyday… every story, every question, every quote that strikes you as interesting should go into this notebook.  I use Evernote to capture these ideas as it is both on my iPhone and my Mac. I often get ideas when running and can quickly add a note (while I run… If I wait I will forget the idea).  Lists are a good structure for my videos – 3 ways to improve X, 4 ways to identify Y.
  5. Become consistent… all successful YouTube channels have a consistent publishing routine – weekly, bi-weekly (most effective for channel growth), etc.  Best to share once a week, than to upload 3-6 at a time.  Often I get the video camera set up and hit record… and wait for a few seconds or minutes for an idea to come… Once the camera is recording, you are going to make something.  Don’t wait until you are 100% clear on the video idea before you hit record.  You can always delete and re-do.  Publishing a bad video makes next week easier… publishing a video you think is excellent makes next video harder…  Consistence is much, much more important than one excellent video.
  6. Use the camera that you have now… an iphone is excellent. For youtube Audio is much, much more important than video quality – so become expert in audio before investing massively in video cameras.  First purchase beyond mobile phone should be lavalier microphone and quality audio recorder. Here is the kit that I use https://conorneill.com/2018/11/06/conors-camera-audio-kit-for-vlogging/
  7. The most important metric (to get YouTube algorithm proactively supporting your channel) is Watch Time in first 48 hours – build an email distribution list and generate views in the first day after publishing.  Watch time is total time of viewing… a few viewers watching the whole video is more important than hundreds who only view the first 20-30 seconds
  8. Switching on advertising on your videos seems to give them a boost…. I don’t fully understand this phenomenon but I have seen that when I allow advertising on old videos they get a renewed boost from YouTube. I switch on ads once videos have been online for 6-8 weeks. No data to support this… but there is something happening here.

If you liked this post, you will also like 13 Ideas if you are thinking about blogging and How to get paid to Speak. Also you might sign up for my 10 week Speaking As a Leader program to get practice and tips.

Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

“Sometimes, what you already know gets in the way of what you need to Learn”

George Gan

One of the hardest challenges I face as a teacher of successful leaders is their own knowledge, and confidence in their own knowledge. I spend quite some time at the beginning of a program developing an agreement between myself and the participants about how we remain open to risk, to attempt, to iterate drafts rather than aim for perfection. When I only have 1 hour, it is hard to convey this attitude to learning… and I often lose a couple of smart people because I go too quickly into something that they cannot see how it is immediately relevant to their current situation and challenges.

If you are a teacher, how do you help students open their minds to new ideas? How do you help leaders raise their own awareness?

If you liked this post, you will also like The Wheelbarrow Story and The Art of Learning: Attention without Judgement