“Second order thinking” is a big part of Paul’s approach. Second order thinking is looking for non-obvious rules that improve decision making, efficiency and quality of life. Check out the Python Paradox for an example 😉
Paul’s Essays that have most Impacted My Approach to Life
I have this blog. It has been going for over 10 years. Above all other benefits, writing blog posts helps me clarify what I think.
I published my first post on 25th January 2009. It was a paragraph from a book I was reading that I thought was valuable advice. I have written ideas on something 1-2 times every week since January 2009. There are 1,025 posts (not including this one).
I also have a youtube channel that today has a much wider audience than my blog, but it is the blog that has helped me get clarity and sharpen my ideas. Writing is the power tool in clarifying your ideas.
In 2009, I decided to take writing seriously. Stephen King says “A writer is a producer of words.” If you produce words, you’re a writer. If you don’t produce words, you are not a writer.
Every day my coach would ask me “how many words did you produce today?” It was brutal. There is no denial. There were days when the answer was 20… or less. I started to become highly aware of self sabotage.
Self Sabotage is the Most Dangerous Obstacle
The world will put countless obstacles in your path but none will be as big as your own self-sabotage.
The 4 Destructive Self-Sabotage Mindsets:
Distraction – How to overcome? Focus. The Pomodoro technique.
Emotional Impulsiveness – How to overcome? Acceptance.
Arrogance and sense of Entitlement – How to overcome? Faith, Hope and Love.
Fixed Mindset – How to overcome? Focus on process, not outcomes. Appreciate effort and learning, not outcomes. Love problems, for they truly help you grow as a person.
I’ve done a lot of sales over the last 16 years. I was bad at the beginning, but step by step have learnt how to sell.
There are always 3 big questions in the mind of any buyer that you must be able to address if you are to move forward with a contract.
The 3 Big Questions in the mind of the Buyer:
Why buy Anything?
Why buy from you?
Why buy now?
Often I see salespeople and entrepreneurs have wonderful, powerful, clear answers and evidence for questions 1 and 2… but the buyer says “I agree the product is good, I agree you are a solid company… call me back in 2-3 months when we have got through this busy period…”
This response is worse than a simple No. A simple No, you close the opportunity and you move on.
In Vistage, we say “Great leaders ask great questions.” The most important question: What’s my purpose?
The 2 Ingredients of Purpose
Your purpose is about solving problems that are meaningful to yourself. Two phrases are key in this sentence:
solving problems – whilst you can get momentary happiness from experiences, only improving quality of life for other beings gives rise to lasting fulfilment
meaningful to yourself – if you don’t enjoy the journey, you are going to give up quickly. If you give up, you will not solve problems. You must be selfish in this respect. You must use your own unique combination of talents and desires in a way that is satisfying to you personally
The path of the purposeless one is beset on all sides by distraction and other people’s priorities. Modern western society gives us the greatest freedom of action of any civilisation in history. This freedom is dangerous without defining how you will use it.
The greater the freedom, the more important to clarify your own purpose.
“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me… “
“Freedom from” – the removal of obligations: I save enough money to not have to work in a job that is not meaningful
“Freedom to” – the creation of a purpose: I actively exercise my power of will to choose to pursue a meaningful purpose
Being highly efficient in pursuit of what is fundamentally unimportant is a terrible life path. I know several people who are brilliant at tactics, but lack any coherent life strategy. They are lost.
Nobody climbs Everest by accident. It was a dream and a plan and part of the meaningful activity of life for a decade before the summit.
How do you begin to answer: What is my Purpose?
Write something down. Anything.
What do you want to do during your life? Bucket list, problems you want to fix, experiences you want to have, how you differ from others, how you relate to others, teachers that made a difference…
Write them all down.
That’s step 1.
My friend David Tomas and I went to a 3 day workshop with Dr John DeMartini about 10 years ago called “Master Planning for Life“. For 3 straight days we sat in silence in a room in London and we wrote a plan for our life. Mine is 150 pages of word document. It is exactly what I described – a big list of every place I ever wanted to go, every thing I ever wanted to learn, every person that matters, every teacher that impacted me, every dream I have… and a set of financial plans that would allow me to make it happen.
I haven’t done everything that is in the document. I get demotivated and forget to review it often. I have days where I ask myself “what is it all about?”
I have this document as a map and a compass that can get me back on track.
You have to write it down.
…and then you iterate it many, many, many times. You come back to it regularly and add things that are even better and delete things that don’t resonate any more.
After 100 iterations you have something that can re-motivate you about why you are here.
After 1,000 iterations you should start to have something that really reminds you what is important and how to use your time.
Is there a shortcut?
…of course not. This is too important an aspect of your life to cut corners. Imagine if you just copied someone else’s purpose document? You’d end up living a great life, for them.
…and iterations are vital – because often what you think is important or meaningful when you are young turns out to not quite be the experience you expected.
Put it where you will see it often
It is not the writing down that matters. It is the iterating and repeatedly reminding yourself of what you think is important.
The problem is not that you don’t know what matters to you and what activities are most important – it is that you forget or get distracted so often.
I’ve just returned from a few days in Athens, visiting with my daughter. She became a big fan of greek myths and legends from her reading of the Percy Jackson series of books.
As we walked around the Acropolis area, the Parthenon and the ancient Agora of Athens, I reflected upon the elements of civilisation that we still owe to the Ancient Athenians. So much of our politics, our sense of right and wrong, our organising principles of social life come from this small city state that had its peak 2,500 years ago, between 480BC and 320BC.
This video comes from the Acropolis and from the Agora of Ancient Athens.
So much history in this place. Many later cultures copied rather than innovated from the Greek culture. Rome copied the culture, but improved on the military and civil organisation.
Another Greek Video, from Delphi
Earlier in the week we did a day trip up to the ruins of Delphi. Check out the video I made when visiting the location of the ancient Oracle of Delphi.
I am in Athens this week with my daughter. On Friday we drove to Delphi to visit the ancient ruins. For over one thousand years, during the time of the Greek city states, Delphi was the center of the Greek world.
Delphi became famous far and wide between 700BC and 400AD for the Oracle. The Oracle would answer your question. You could bring only one question to ask, and the Oracle would reply. The responses were cryptic. Kings and Emperors came to ask how they would fare in battles.
As we travelled to Delphi, we reflected on what one single question we would bring to be answered.
What would be the question you would bring? If you could get clarity around one single question about your life, what would that question be?
This video is about superman. When superman was first developed as a comic book character, he was so strong and powerful that he overcame all obstacles easily. It was only when the authors made him weaker that the stories became interesting.
In our own lives, it is not the easy path that makes for a meaningful life – it is the hard path, and having to become a better, stronger, more resilient, more resourceful person that makes for a meaningful life.
David Brooks has career success, but in this TED talk he shares how he found himself empty. 5 years ago, his wife left, his kids had moved out… and he discovered he had nothing to do outside of work. He had mid-week friends, but he had no weekend friends.
Success in career is not success in life.
Individual happiness is transient and empty.
David’s 2 antidotes:
Commit to People. Achieving individual freedom is nice, but the our life needs committed connection to others… to not be free.
Chase Joy not Happiness. Joy comes when our ego dissolves in the pursuit of something bigger.
“Suffering breaks some people, and breaks some people open”
This post-divorce loneliness crisis led David to explore a deeper way of connecting to others. He began to lose his individual freedom in order to commit to other people.
Our society is in the midst of a social crisis: we’re trapped in a valley of isolation and fragmentation. How do we find our way out?
“Joy is not the expansion of self, it is the dissolution of self.”