Life Advice from a 70 year old…

All taken from this post: 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known from Kevin Kelly, (thanks to my brother for sharing it with me a couple of weeks ago!).

Kevin Kelly was the founding editor of Wired. He reached 70 last year and shared 103 bits of life advice. I find these lists often are mostly cliche… but there is depth in this list.

This week’s video is me picking out the 3 bits of life advice that most resonate with me – and then sharing why these bits of advice are so important and relevant to myself.

3 of the 103 bits of life advice that I loved…

  1. Living with Paradox… and Mentors (at 2:20 in the video)
  2. Building A Life of Learning and Growth (at 5:33)
  3. Trusting People (9:35)

Living with Paradox… and Mentors

“Three things you need: The ability to not give up something till it works, the ability to give up something that does not work, and the trust in other people to help you distinguish between the two.”

I love this one for this paradox: you need to be stubborn enough to stick to things beyond where someone else might abandon… and you need to be flexible enough to stop doing something when someone else might really struggle with the “sunk cost”… the hours and effort already invested in the activity.

How do you develop this capacity? You don’t. You are too close.

The only way you can develop the ability to navigate this paradox is with the input and perspectives of others. It took me a long time of stubborn arrogance before I finally had to accept that other people have much better perspectives on my life than I do.

Building A Life of Learning and Growth

“Your best job will be one that you were unqualified for because it stretches you. In fact only apply to jobs you are unqualified for.”

Once you have mastered something, we need you to move on… to take on something more complex. If you stay doing a job that you are now completely competent in… you begin to coast… and then feel like you deserve more… and become complacent… and then you find yourself out of a job.

I am currently leading Vistage in Spain… and the team around me can tell you that I am not yet the “perfect leader”… I am a work in progress… I am learning a lot as we go. I am completely committed to the mission of the organisation, and working hard to build up my skills and capacities to be a good leader… but I’m not there yet.

Trusting People

“If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.”

I trust people as a general principle. It has worked out marvellously 99.9% of the time… but I have been let down, cheated and disappointed a number of times.

There is a saying “cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me.”

I have interviewed and hired hundreds of people over the last 20 years. I have accepted investment in my business, partners, employees… I have invested in others’ businesses and lent money to friends… and I’ve learnt that only behaviour counts… what people say they will do has no correlation to how they will act in future… what people have done in the past has huge correlation with how they will act in future.

If someone commits to pay you back $20 and then breaks that promise – it is a very inexpensive way of identifying someone not to trust in any way in future. While you might be wrong, there are 8 billion other people who are likely to be a better bet.

Indra Nooyi “Leadership in Times of Crisis”

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending an hour with the former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo as she spoke with the global Vistage community.

Indra Nooyi

The title of her talk was “Leadership in Times of Crisis”.

Indra shared her 5 “C”s of leadership in organisations:

  1. Competence – “you have to have at least one ‘hip pocket’ skill, a unique competence that you gain a reputation for delivering on…”
  2. Courage and Confidence – you need people to follow you. People follow confidence.
  3. Communications Skills – especially in tough times, the ability to convey a vision that people want to follow… with authenticity, sincerity and passion.
  4. Curiosity – things are changing fast… you need to be a Life Long Learner… you need to be hungry to keep learning and adapting
  5. Compass – an inner personal compass that points to your true north… no matter what… you never lose sense of what is 100% north, what is right for you. Only 100% integrity counts as integrity… if you lose your true north under pressure… you might as well not have a true north.

Sam Reese asked Indra how she was able to convince PepsiCo to make a big strategic change when she first stepped up into the role as CEO, a move away from financial metrics… towards sustainability, towards investing in people for the long term. Indra shared that she keeps with her a poem that was written on a wall in her childhood school. She shared three lines from the poem…

“For men may come,
and men may go,
but I go on forever”

The poem is about a river… and the nature of its permanence beyond that of men.

Indra shared that she saw her role as CEO to build a company that would go on forever… not just for this generation of investors… or managers… or customers… but to be part of building an enterprise with true permanence.

How should CEOs be Measured?

In response to this question, Indra shared three metrics:

  1. Develop People
  2. Enduring Investments
  3. A Strategy that Endures

Just like the river of the poem, CEOs should be building something that will endure beyond this generation.

Consistency… the key to Long Term Positive Impact

My Strava 2021 trophy collection

It is not what we do on our best day that will truly make an impact on the quality of our lives, it is the habit we can stick to on our worst day that will make a lasting difference.

For the last 2 years, I have joined a strava monthly 100kms run challenge every month. I have achieved it every month except february 2022.

One important lesson I have taken from this 2 year journey: the day I really don’t feel like going out and running… but somehow I get out and run anyway… these runs make the biggest difference to my life.

Consistency… on the hard days

Once or twice a week I wake up and really do not feel like putting on my sports gear and running… I wake up tired and with low energy… and all I want to do is sit in a comfy seat with an extra coffee. These days a run really shifts my energy.

Some reflections on Consistency in life

My friend Julio recently shared with me a story from his swim training. Some days the coach has them racing to have the quickest time overall. However, sometimes the coach has them swim 8 times 100 meters… and the winner is not the fastest overall… the winner is the one with the least variation between each of the 100 meter times. This training is to really encourage a focus on consistent swimming speed… not fast when you are fresh… and slowing as you tire.

This story reminded me of the importance of consistency.

On the Tim Ferriss podcast last week, I heard him speak with Neil Gaiman, the author. They spoke about habits. Neil said that the best writing is the same writing day over and over again; same place same time same process… no changes between one day and the next… an extreme focus on repeating the same day.

The other idea I loved was Neil Gaiman’s one writing rule for himself. When he is at his writing desk, he allows himself to do one of two things: write, or do nothing.

This rules allows his inner saboteur a choice… he doesn’t “have to” write.

Neil has learnt that the “do nothing” choice can be appealing in the short term… but it always becomes more and more boring… and writing begins to be more interesting than continued “doing nothing”.

How do you create consistency in the important habits of your life?

In my leadership programs I share 6 areas of life where you need to have good habits if you wish to live a fulfilling life.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the audience”

Lee Child is the multimillion selling author of the Jack Reacher series of novels.

When Lee was 14, his drama school teacher changed his life. “It is not about you, it is about the audience”.

In a recent episode of the High Performance Podcast, author Lee Child spoke of the impact his drama teacher had on him… and how this focus has shaped his whole life.

His greatest fear as a writer? To waste a reader’s time.

This is a lesson that I share with all participants when I teach in IESE Business School. The difference between mediocre speaking and great speaking is the shift from “what I want to say” towards “what they need to hear”. When you focus on the other, you move towards greatness as a communicator.

“No one is coming to save us”

Conor with Nando Parrado, survivor of the Andes crash

In 1972, a plane carrying rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the high Andes. 25 passengers survived the crash… and then found themselves trapped high on a glacier. Initially they waited for search parties to arrive. On day 10, they heard on the radio “the search has been called off”. This day they realised that if they were to survive, they had to rescue themselves.

A lesson from the Andes

“No one is coming to save us”

Carlitos Paez

You can see my notes from Nando Parrado’s speech that I heard twice back in 2009: Reflections on Nando Parrado, the real hero of the film “Alive”

More on the Survivors of the Crash in the Andes

Nando Parrado’s book “Miracle in the Andes” was how I first came across the story of the crash and the 72 days trapped in the high Andes.

The movie “Alive” (1993) shares the story of the crash and how the group handled the challenges up in the high mountains.

The Tyranny of Convenience

Convenience makes things easy… but what is easy is not always whats most important, valuable or effective.

We choose between the options we see, not all the options… we’ve got to be increasingly careful that we don’t choose the path that is just easiest to see.

Convenience food… is not health food.

Tech companies work to make things “convenient” – but easy to begin is not the same as fulfilling or important for me.

Here’s the linkedin job post for Vistage Chair that I mention.

Here’s the original “The tyranny of convenience” article over at the NY Times.

Looking under the lamppost

photo credit: sketchplanations

A person out walking at night comes across a man searching down on the floor under a lamppost.

The man on the floor says he lost his keys.

“Did you drop them here?”

“No, I dropped them over there, but the light’s better here.”

Sometimes we can find ourselves working, or searching, or staying in the places where we find it easier rather than the places that are optimal for what is truly important or fulfilling to us.

Hard Choices

Hard choices are unavoidable: it is best to make them consciously.

Don’t let convenience be the deciding factor in what to focus on and what to neglect in your life.

Convenience makes things easy, but easiness is rarely what’s most valuable.

The real measure of your life management technique: does it help you ignore the right things.

Make Convenience work for You

Do not underestimate the power of convenience: Increase the convenience of what’s important to you. If writing more is important, leave a notebook and pen on your table. If watching less TV is important, put the remote control far away from the sofa. If drinking more water is important, have a bottle on your desk.

Freedom is not an Empty Calendar

What is freedom?

What is it to achieve freedom in life?

I spent many years thinking that “an empty calendar is freedom”. Recently a coach had me rethink this perspective… an empty calendar is dangerous… it puts my life in the hands of my “lizard brain” 😉

What are you aiming at? Are you working towards a life of “no obligations” or towards a life of “fulfilling obligations”?

The Courage to be Rubbish

I get requests for advice from people starting youtube channels.

My first piece of advice is “make bad videos”. When you are starting out, don’t aim for good… aim for done. If you make 1 “bad” video a week for 52 weeks… you will make many bad videos, but you will accidentally create a few good ones, and at least 1 excellent one.

Don’t wait for excellence. Have the courage to make rubbish videos.

The Iterative, Experimental Approach to Progress

I was reminded of this idea of The Courage to be Rubbish by a podcast conversation between Greg McKeown and Bob Glazer, the host of the Elevate podcast.

Greg shared a story about the Kremer prize. This is a prize that was established in 1959 where Henry Kremer put up money as a prize for “Human powered flight”. It was 18 years before the prize was claimed.

There were many approaches by people seeking to win the prize – most involved lots of careful building with delicate and expensive parts… and then a test flight… mostly ending with a crash.

Paul MacCready, the eventual winner of the Kramer prize, approached the prize in a different manner. He saw that if he could make the cost of “failure” extremely low (in both damage to his own body and damage to the kit and to his finances) he could incrementally improve his system over many many iterations.

Crappy test… and iterate… and repeat. He had to repeat many times, but slowly started to improve the parts and his own skill. It was more of an “evolutionary” approach to design. It took many iterations, a lot of experimentation, a lot of steady slow improvements… and then he won the prize.


Gossamer Condor in flight, By Laura Bagnel

The Gossamer Condor approach to Youtube & blogs…

Make a bad video, with the kit you have right now. The phone in your pocket has more than enough quality to make a first bad video.

If you keep making videos, you will get better.

Focus on what makes it easy to keep making videos, not on making great videos.

This idea doesn’t work where there is a high cost of failure. Youtube videos, blog posts… they have a very low cost of failure. If they are bad, few people watch.

Further resources on Blogging and Youtubing:

Redefining Failure

“Living Safely is Dangerous”

Nietzsche

What is your relationship to success and failure? I have been reflecting these recent weeks about how I respond to “failure” – when things do not turn out as I hoped or wished.

The video below shares my thinking about a better way of approaching failure in our lives.

How I let failures derail me…

I let small failures easily put me in a state of frustration and stop me making progress (and then checking social media and seeking out other simple distractions).

I take small setbacks incredibly personally.

I’ve been reflecting on why I let these small failure events have such an effect on me.

I realised that I was telling myself that all setbacks are bad.

This is not a great story to tell myself. A new story is that failures are a sign that I am working towards important goals. A lack of setbacks would be a demonstration that I am only working towards easy, unimportant goals that don’t push me to grow as a person.

Essential Meaning of failure: (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

  1. a lack of success in some effort
  2. a situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
  3. an occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done

Set Goals of Character and Ability, not of Achievement and Status

I’ve felt that I’ve been more anxious about life over the last week or two… and have been reflecting in my journal about what might have triggered these negative thoughts.

As we begin the new year, I’m in a mix between anxiety about setting goals and feeling an urgent need to rapidly get started on actions in the new year… and not being able to reflect and enjoy time away with family. I found myself struggling to relax and was overusing my mobile phone… a typical sign of anxiety in my case.

This video is a reflection on 2 ideas I came across about different mindsets to take into setting goals and ambitions in one’s own life. I haven’t figured out (yet) how to make them work, but I see that anxiety about the future is inevitable if you play the “high achiever” game… and that’s the game I’ve been playing on and off over the last 48 years. What’s the new game? Not clear yet… But step one: is set goals of character and ability, not achievement and status.

The book I mentioned in the video is Living in a Real Time World by Jim Selman, and the Canadian Psychologist is Jordan Peterson.

If you liked this post you will also like Video: 4 ways to handle Anxiety and My notes from today’s Sadhguru Session for EO.

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