Whats the most important human capability for the next thirty years?

The Ability to Pay Attention

To hold your attention on what you decide is important. to stay focused as it becomes boring… and to stick with something through boredom to the insights that only emerge on the other side of boredom.

Today I am waiting to receive my first dose of the Covid vaccine. The Barcelona conference center has been turned into an industrial scale vaccine delivery system. It’s well organized and I am impressed.

Line for vaccines. A thousand people. Nine hundred face down to their screens. Fifty reading a book. Fifty looking around and seeing where they are, what’s happening and who else is here.

50 years ago information was scarce. That made it give power to those that had access.

Today information is so abundant that it gives little power. It is so abundant that it has created another scarcity: The scarcity of attention.

I am reading a book gifted to me yesterday by a good friend. “Stand out of our light: Freedom and resistance in the attention economy.” The book is a thoughtful reflection on how mobile phones are impacting our lives… sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse… but often with us being unaware of the price we are paying with our attention.

What is the true cost of an hour scrolling on Instagram or Facebook? The life I could have lived, the deep conversation I could have had, the goals you didn’t pursue, all the actions you didn’t take… all the possible yous you could have been… had you attended to those things.

“Attention is paid in possible futures forgone” James Williams.

The title of this blog comes from a session in a course that Professor Paris de l’Etraz teaches about Life. I met Paris at a dinner in Madrid 4 years ago hosted by another inspiring teacher.

Stand in the Traffic: I love the simplicity of this life strategy.

Whatever you want in life, there are places where opportunities are flowing… and there are places where opportunities are not flowing. Abundant places… and stagnant places.

Stagnant: There are very few opportunities passing the person sitting on their sofa watching Netflix.

Abundant: There are many more opportunities passing the person out there in the world engaged in conversation… on a university campus, in industry conferences, in associations, online via youtube and blogs and writing articles.

If you have any idea what you are looking for…

If you have any idea about the types of things that you want to come into your life, the next step is to ask yourself “Where is the traffic?” Where are relevant people, resources, ideas, activity flowing?

Go stand there.

Put yourself where opportunity will pass you by.

If you are at an industry event and it is coffee break time, where do you stand?

If you stand by the wall with your mobile phone in front of you… you are not “in the traffic”.

If you stand by the coffee machines or the food service area, all the traffic will pass by you.

If you know how to smile and ask a few questions “hey, how are you doing? what brings you here? what has impressed you so far?”… now you can engage with the traffic.

Where should you be putting yourself more often?

PS the traffic is not just a physical location… my blog, my linkedin newsletter and my youtube channel are all ways of “standing in the traffic”

More Lessons from Paris about Life

Check out Paris’ TEDx talk on how Uncertainty affects the Professional Mind.

What matters most in the gym? The hours you spend or the reps on the weights?

In the areas where you must be highly competent to succeed in your role: are you accumulating hours or reps?

Do you just do your job or do you spend time practicing the important skills that make you effective?

By practice, I mean “deliberate practice” – setting an intent, taking action, getting feedback, reflecting on original intent vs actual result, seeking new approaches… and repeat the cycle.

Thinking about writing is not writing. Publishing an article and listening to reader feedback is how to do reps.

Thinking about exercise is not exercise. Lifting the weights, pushing through discomfort, sweating… is exercise.

Thinking about difficult conversations is not having difficult conversations. Having challenging conversations (for you and for the other) and seeking productive conflict is how to do reps.

Thinking generates hours, but does not generate reps.

Be careful of equating hours (or years of experience) as competence.

How do those who are successful go on and make a truly lasting impact?

  1. Focus (no athlete wins 100m and marathon)
  2. Time horizon (Jeff bezos handstand)
  3. Habits (little habits every day > big decisions once a decade)
  4. Love the Process/Plateau (bamboo – it doesn’t always look like progress)
  5. Connected Relationships (communications, trust)

Check out the longer discussion of these 5 elements in the video below…

If you liked this post, you will also like Success Lessons from Kung Fu Panda and The Simplest Definition of Success.

The title sounds a bit “salesy”… but that is what the video is about.

My friend and colleague at Vistage, Harry Marsland, shared with me one of his secrets to build a successful marketing agency in the UK. He has 5 questions that he would ask to his favourite clients each year:

Harry’s 5 Sales Questions to Double your Business:

  1. What do we do that you Like?
  2. What do we do that Not like?
  3. What could we Do more?
  4. What should we Do less?
  5. What will it take for you to double the business you give us?

I first met Dandapani at an Entrepreneurs Organisation event in Istanbul in 2012, I have since met him in Boston and then helped bring him to Barcelona to spend a day with our Entrepreneurs’ Organisation chapter.

Dandapani teaches some simple but highly important lessons about awareness and our mind, and how to be intentional about your life… and in particular your energy.

Video summary from Eugene Wong on LinkedIn

Wisdom from Dandapani

  1. Winning and social approval is not the motivation of the gold medal athlete. They do it to learn more about themselves. Winning or losing is not so important, it is about knowing who you are. Failure is like an enhanced moment to learn who you truly are.
  2. Your life now is a manifestation of where you direct your energy or a sum total of where you have been investing your energy.
  3. There’s people in your life that boost your energy. There are those who are energy neutral. Be kind and detached from your energy vampires. Give the work back to them.

How to Improve your Concentration

Dandapani tells us that there are 3 steps to practice that improve our concentration:

  1. Finish that which you begin
  2. Finish it well, beyond your expectations
  3. Do a little more than you think that you are able to do

Use these 3 steps in every area of your life: from making the bed in the morning, to tidying the kitchen, to reading to your child, to writing emails, to writing blog posts…

Further Resources on Dandapani’s lessons

Check out my previous videos and blog posts that were inspired by Dandapani:

How to be Resourceful

It is more valuable to be resourceful, than full of resources. It is more powerful to think in terms of possibilities, rather than what you could do with what you have now. Our imagination is an incredible gift, if we use it to imagine… not to find excuses.

“Poverty is not about a lack of resources, it is about a lack of dreams”

When times are difficult, it is easy for our mind to shrink back to our limitations. It takes a deliberate effort to shift our patterns of thought back towards possibilities. It is important for our spirits to remember our dreams. As a friend of mine says “If you have a dream and you know exactly how to achieve it, you don’t have a dream… you have a project” (Alden Mills).

In the video below, I share a pattern I have seen repeated in the language used by resourceful people.

Victor Frankl and the Source of Purpose

I often recommend people to read Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl tells us that purpose is not something to be found outside. Purpose is not something written on a tablet for us to find in the environment. Purpose is something we decide to have. 

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor Frankl

If you liked this post, you will also like How to find Purpose and Self Belief: The Hero’s Journey and There are no They.

Charlie Munger on uncommon sense…

Competence – you can only be trusted as competent if you clearly understand the limits of your competence. The great danger of experts is they forget the limits of their expertise – “it is better to trust a man of 130 IQ who thinks he is 125 IQ, than to trust a man of 180 IQ who thinks he is 200 IQ” Warren Buffett

Inverting – if you want to make life better, think of what you would do to make life worse. Charlie was an aviation meteorologist during WWII. His task was to give weather briefings to pilots. His role was unclear until he thought of the inverted perspective “if I wanted to kill pilots as a meteorologist, what could I do? Flying with iced wings, flying in conditions they will be unable to land.” This really clarified for him the important aspects of his role in keeping pilots alive. In our own lives, asking “how would I really make my life worse?” can be a valuable perspective on what really matters.

Collector – be a collector. How many collectors do you know who are unhappy? Identify things or experiences that you enjoy collecting and become a curator of your collections.

Integrate ideas between domains – most people focus on details within the idea (especially academics), few people look at the interaction between big ideas. That’s where there’s not much incentive in academics, but it’s very interesting for investing money.

Occam’s razor- go for simple… with a proviso that was initially shared by Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not more so” Einstein. Anywhere there is a “lollapalooza result” (Charlie’s term for a hugely positive and rapid outcome)… look for a confluence of causes. Academic experts find one cause. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There are rarely just single causes for high impact outcomes.

The problems of Social science– all chemists can answer “where do the rules of chemistry not apply?” In the high temperature plasma state. how many social scientists can answer “if you want to sell more should you raise or lower the price?” Where does this rule not apply? 1 in 50 will say “luxury goods!” Many social scientists forget to think of the exceptional cases.

Update… a summary of this post in a #shorts video

More on Charlie Munger’s thinking process

Charlie Munger’s Inverse Thinking Process

Short term Happy vs Long term Fulfilled

Addition

More, more, more… more projects, more goals, more connections… is the path to overwhelm.

Subtraction

Less, less, less… less projects, less goals, less connections… is the path to focus and renewal and energy.

I heard Mathew McConnachy in an interview yesterday. He said that back 10 years ago he was a movie actor, he had a production company, he had a music label and was promoting two artists… and he realized he was spread very thin… he was getting a C in everything. He shared a moment where he received a phone call from his team in the production company… and when he saw the caller id… he went “ugh” and he didn’t want to answer.

He immediately called his lawyer and said “I need to close these businesses down”.

I loved his metaphor that you can’t get As on everything in life. If you have no strategy for focus, for subtraction, you will spread yourself so thin that you guarantee that your best grade is a C+…. and there may be areas in your life where that is painful to you.

Learning to Subtract

There is so much out there on how to focus, how to have discipline, how to make progress…  

There is a lot less help on how to Subtract:

  • Letting go of things.
  • Closing chapters.
  • Saying No.

Subtraction and the Mid Life Crisis

Here’s a recent video of mine where I speak to this challenge – and how the need to subtract becomes most acute in “mid life” from 35 to 55 years old.  Before 35 you tend not to have enough skill, reputation, competence…  you need to be open to almost all the opportunities that come your way.  At 35 if you have developed competence and a positive reputation, you will start to be overwhelmed by opportunities.  If you don’t learn a new skill – Subtraction – you will grow to become a bitter and frustrated old person.

If you liked this post, you will also like Meaningful Contribution or The ABCs of a Fulfilling Life: Action, Belief, Curiosity, Discipline, Energy and Friends.

Happy Saint Patrick’s day.

There is an old Irish toast that I find poetic and moving. I’m sharing it here today on the occasion of Saint Patrick’s day. 

It is all the more touching given that we have travelled few roads and met few distant friends in the last 12 months due to the Covid pandemic.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

The Origins and Meaning of the Poem

Celtic literature contains a strong connection between spirit and nature. The wind, the sun and the rain are important images in celtic story. I like the idea that spirituality is not abstract but deeply connected with the earth and nature and our surroundings. In my life, looking at high mountains and looking at sunrise or sunset over the sea are some of the most spiritually uplifting experiences.

In Irish, the first line is “Go n-éirí an bóthar leat”. It is more literally correct to translate as “May you succeed on the road”, the French equivalent of which is “bon voyage.”