Paul Graham is founder of Y Combinator. Together with Tim Urban, Seth Godin and Derek Sivers these are true artists of the blog format.

“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

  1. How to do what you love?
  2. Good procrastination and bad procrastination
  3. The lies we tell our kids, and the lies that our parents told us… and how important it is once in your life to review this set of accepted lies before they mess up your life
  4. Beating the averages
  5. Money is not Wealth, and How to Create New Wealth (not take money from others…)
  6. Relentlessly resourceful
  7. How to Disagree (a ranking order of methods of refuting the other person’s argument)

Google Based Ranking of Paul Graham Essays

This is an interesting big of research – Colin Wright produced a ranked list of Paul Graham’s essays based on google pagerank.

23.02 Beating the Averages
19.84 Lisp for Web-Based Applications
5.56 What You Can’t Say
3.81 Revenge of the Nerds
3.72 The Roots of Lisp
3.66 The Age of the Essay
3.29 What Made Lisp Different
3.26 Why Nerds are Unpopular
2.81 Taste for Makers
2.77 Great Hackers
2.33 The Other Road Ahead
2.12 How to Make Wealth
1.91 Succinctness is Power
1.74 A Unified Theory of VC Suckage
1.73 The Word “Hacker”
1.67 How to Start a Startup
1.43 Hiring is Obsolete
1.39 Why Startups Condense in America
1.39 Programming Bottom-Up
1.35 Inequality and Risk
1.35 How to Be Silicon Valley
1.21 After the Ladder
1.04 How to Do What You Love
1.00 Good and Bad Procrastination
0.90 After Credentials
0.88 The Equity Equation
0.88 How Not to Die
0.84 What You’ll Wish You’d Known
0.83 A Plan for Spam
0.80 How to Be an Angel Investor
0.76 Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy
0.74 The High-Res Society
0.67 The Python Paradox
0.65 Ideas for Startups

0.64 Better Bayesian Filtering
0.64 Filters that Fight Back
0.61 Relentlessly Resourceful
0.61 The Future of Web Startups
0.61 The Hundred-Year Language
0.60 Why Smart People Have Bad Ideas
0.59 The Submarine
0.59 The Power of the Marginal
0.59 How to Fund a Startup
0.56 Why TV Lost
0.56 High Resolution Fundraising 
0.56 Being Popular
0.56 Stuff
0.56 Trolls
0.49 Why There Aren’t More Googles
0.49 The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups
0.48 The Top Idea in Your Mind 
0.48 Hackers and Painters
0.47 What the Bubble Got Right
0.46 Five Questions about Language Design
0.46 The Venture Capital Squeeze
0.45 Cities and Ambition
0.44 Startups in 13 Sentences
0.44 A Fundraising Survival Guide
0.44 The Hacker’s Guide to Investors
0.43 Design and Research
0.43 Two Kinds of Judgement
0.40 An Alternative Theory of Unions
0.38 Can You Buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.
0.38 Why to Move to a Startup Hub
0.35 Founder Control
0.35 Why to Not Not Start a Startup
0.34 What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Who are your favourite Bloggers? What are some specific blog posts that have really impacted your views on the world?

Would love to hear in the comments below…

This is a summary of the article on the HBR blog: “If You Want to Use Your Phone Less, First Figure Out Why” by Marcello Russo, Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, Gabriele Morandin

4 Common Reasons People want to Use their Phone less

Many of us would like to spend less time attached to our phones. But to make a real change, you need to understand why you want to use your phone less. You’ll have a better chance of succeeding if you identify exactly what is motivating you.

Here are 4 common reasons people want to unplug and the most effective tip for each:

  1. Improving Work or Home Role Performance – keeping their phones out of sight provided them with the greatest results
  2. Establishing a Personal Digital Philosophy – Setting rules had a tremendous impact for this group. The rules people came up with ranged from no smartphone “outside of business hours” to “no phones at the dinner table.” As one commentator said, “My cellphone is a helpful business tool — I control it, it does not control me.”
  3. Minimizing Undesirable Social Behaviors – disabling push notifications to avoid interruptions during business or social interactions was described as very effective.
  4. Putting Family and Interpersonal Relationships First – Tracking their personal connectivity behaviors was considered an effective way to gain greater self-awareness, which was then used as motivation to change unwanted behaviors. Similarly, reminding themselves of their life priorities was particularly helpful to commentators with a salient family identity. 

A big part of Vistage group meetings is working through a CEO’s challenges and helping them get clarity about how they can move forward with their business and their life.

We often find that the biggest obstacle to forward progress is not outside of us, but inside of us.

There are 4 fatal fears.

We also call these “Core Self-Limiting Beliefs”. They are learnt. We are not born with these fears. There are only 2 fear that we are born with: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Every other fear has been learnt. (This does not make them less real or easier to deal with).

These 4 fears will drive a grasping towards something that will never fill me. If I am looking for completion outside of myself, I will never scratch my itch. I need to learn to be able to sit with my fear and anxiety and accept it and accept that I am human and imperfect.

  1. Fear of Failure “I Need Success”
  2. Fear of Rejection “I Need Acceptance”
  3. Fear of Emotional Discomfort “I Need Emotional Comfort”
  4. Fear of Being Wrong “I Need to Be Right”

Each of the fears can be accepted and allowed to exist within me. They will never go away. They will always be there, but I can accept them and not allow them to direct my actions and my words.

I have a lasting interest in how people make good decisions, especially when many people are involved, and many people are affected by the decisions.

Currently reading the book “Crucial Conversations“. Towards the end of the book, there is a section on moving from a dialogue towards concrete actions. The authors say that there are 4 methods of decision making.

The 4 methods of decision making:

  1. Command – One person decides. It might be the main authority figure, or that individual might delegate the power to decide to another specific individual.
  2. Consult – A person given the power to make a decision first consults widely before making a decision. Note: you can listen to someone’s opinion without taking on an obligation to use that opinion in your decision.
  3. Vote – The group votes.
  4. Consensus – we negotiate a position that everyone can agree to. This can take a long time, and can lead to many compromises on the decision being agreed.

When choosing which way to decide there are four questions to ask:

  1. Who cares? – Don’t involve people who don’t care
  2. Who knows? – Don’t involve people who cannot add value.
  3. Who must agree? – Who could block the implementation later on if not part of the decision process today?
  4. How many people must be involved? – The fewer the better.

If everybody is responsible, nobody is responsible. Great teams assign clear individual responsibilities and hold people to their commitments.

This list was put together by my father, Terry Neill, in the 1980’s as a reminder for himself and those around him about the nature of good leadership, and the easy pitfalls of Non-Leadership. He led businesses through good times and through tough times and I can see the positive impact he has had on many who worked with him.

He was recently cleaning out some papers in his office and found this and shared it with me and my siblings. I find it simple and clear. Leadership is not easy, but it is necessary in all areas of our lives.

You don’t need Power to lead

You do not need to wait for power, nor permission nor position to decide to act like a leader. You decide to take responsibility and begin. You realise that each of your actions make a difference. You are connected to many people and your actions have impact. You will affect more than 1,000 people over the course of your life. If you have a positive affect on them, they in turn are connected to more than 1,000 people and your leadership will ripple out and touch over 1,000,000 lives. These 1,000,000 lives are connected out to 1,000 in their turn… and your small daily actions of leading and taking responsibility to make things better will ripple out to a billion people. Your actions matter.

The differences between Leaders and Non-Leaders

by Terry Neill, partly based on “Search for Excellence

LEADERSNON-LEADERS
Carries water for peoplePresides over the mess
A coach appealing to the best in each person; open door; problem solver and advice giver; cheerleaderInvisible – gives orders to staff – expects them to be carried out
Thinks of ways to help people be more productive, more focused on practicval goals and how to reward themThinks of personal awards, status, and how he or she looks to outsiders
Comfortable with people in their workplacesUncomfortable with people
Wants anonymity for self, publicity for practice of othersThe reverse
Often takes the blameLooks for a scapegoat
Gives credit to othersTakes credit. Complains about lack of good people
Gives honest, frequent feedbackInfo flows one way – into his or her office
Knows when and how to deal with non performers or unfair clients’ comments or pressuresDucks unpleasant tasks
Goes where the trouble is – to helpInterrupts people in crisis and calls them to meetings at his or her desk
Has respect for all peopleThinks operators, clerical staff etc are lazy, incompetent ingrates
Knows the business, and the kind of people who make it tickThey’ve never met him or her
Honest under pressureImprovises, equivocates
Looks for controls to abolishLoves new controls
Prefers eyeball to eyeball instead of memosPrefers memos… long reports
StraightforwardTricky, manipulative
Admits own mistakes. Comforts others when they admit themNever makes mistakes. Blames others. Starts witch hunts to identify culprits
OpennessSecrecy
Little paperwork in planningVast paperwork in planning
Arrives early. Stays lateIn late. Usually leaves on time
Common touchStrained with shop or office floor
Good listener‘Good’ talker
Simplistic on organisation valuesGood at demonstrating his/her command of all the complexities
AvailableHard to reach from below
FairFair to the top. Exploits the rest
DecisiveUses committees. Makes accountabilities opaque
ModestArrogant
Tough – confronts nasty problemsElusive – “the artful dodger”
PersistantOnly when his/her goodies are at stake
Simplifies (makes it look ‘easy’)Complicates (Makes it look difficult)
Tolerant of open disagreementIntolerant of open disagreement
Knows people’s namesDoesn’t know people’s names
Has strong convictionsVacillates when a decision is needed
Trusts peopleTrusts words and numbers on paper
Delegates whole important jobsKeeps all final decisions
Keeps promisesDoesn’t – unless it ‘suits’
Thinks there are at least 2 other people who would be better at his/her jobNumber one priority is to make bloody sure no one remotely gets near to being a threat
Focused to the point of monomania on values and ethical principlesUnfocused except on self
Sees mistakes as learning opportunitiesSees mistakes as punishment opportunities
Does ‘dog work’ when necessaryAbove ‘dog work’
Consistent and credible with the troopsUnpredictable. Says what he thinks they want to hear

About Terry Neill

Terry Neill

Father of 4 wonderful children and Grandpa to 9 grandchildren.

In his 30 year career with Accenture/Andersen Consulting he was based in Dublin, Chicago and London. He was Chairperson of Andersen Worldwide and Accenture; and was worldwide managing partner of the Change Management Practice.

He returned to Ireland in 2005 and was a Director of Bank of Ireland Group, UBM (the world’s biggest events company) and CRH plc. He is chairperson of the National Council of Wexford Festival Opera.

He is a maths/physics graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He was for 13 years a Governor of London Business School, where he had also gained his MBA. He is a member of both the Board of Trinity Foundation and the Trinity Arts & Humanities Governance Board.  He was chairperson of Co-operation Ireland (GB) and Camerata Ireland, Barry Douglas’s all island chamber orchestra.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you will also like What is Leadership? and 17 daily habits for a fulfilling life.

This is an interview with John Zimmer, one of the leadership communications coaches who joins me regularly at IESE Business School for various programs. This week we are teaching the Executive MBA program.

John has a wonderful blog: Manner of Speaking. Four of the top posts at his blog are:

About IESE Business School

IESE Business School

IESE Business School is a global business school offering MBA and Executive Education programs. Ranked #1 in world by FT, four years in a row (2014-2018). IESE has locations in Barcelona, Madrid, New York, Munich and Sao Paulo.

The Mission of IESE Business School

The mission of IESE is to develop and inspire business leaders who strive to make a deep, positive and lasting impact on the people, companies and society they serve.

“We want to educate leaders to whom we can entrust the future of business and society. For this reason, we develop the integrity, spirit of service, professional excellence and sense of responsibility of all those who take part in one of our programs.”

IESE Business School

IESE Business School activities are centered around three management axes:

  • global mindset
  • general management approach
  • people-centered vision, with the ethics and social responsibility that entails. We believe that companies are, above all, communities of people who work better in atmospheres of respect and trust.

How to improve your life: make better decisions.

If you take better decisions, you improve your life.  How to take better decisions:

  1. Improve your data
  2. Focus on what is Important (with Frameworks)
  3. Get other brains involved

Improve your Data

Feelings are not a good guide in complex decisions. Only evidence and the perspectives of people who have gone through similar decisions is good data for your decisions. Everyone has an opinion, not all opinions have value.

What data are you putting in front of you as you begin the process of deciding?

Focus on what is Important

The famed Eisenhower prioritization matrix has two axis:

  • level of importance,
  • level of urgency.

This gives 4 states:

  1. important & urgent
  2. Important & not urgent
  3. Not important & not urgent
  4. Not important & urgent

Zone 4 is deadly.

Stay out of Zone 4. Zone 2 requires the greatest discipline, and has the greatest long term payback.

You have to know where you are going. If you don’t have goals, you’ll drift into shit you don’t enjoy doing.  You’ll not build anything.  You’re headed down a dead end.

What are your lifetime goals?  Do you have them written down? Who do you want to be when you are older?

Imagination is the greatest human talent. It is vital to use your imagination to visualize your desired future. An architect doesn’t begin to build until the house is finished (on paper).

Get other brains involved

I was with the Arbinger Institute last week.

The biggest problem with human beings: Self Delusion.

We have such a huge need to see ourselves as being right, that we will ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Mastermind groups, peer advisory groups (EO, YPO, Vistage), mentors and coaches are vital to hold a mirror up to you and call out flawed thinking processes.

The person we find it easiest to lie to: ourselves.

Be careful. The question is not whether you are deceiving yourself, the question is where are you deceiving yourself.

How do you take decisions?

What do you do well? What do you not do so well?

Here’s a quick analysis (not scientific nor complete) of poor ways of listening. I am guilty of #1 and #2, I can enjoy #3… but I really hate #4. (#2 is my Achilles Heel).

The 4 Categories of Poor Listening

  1. Knows it Already
  2. One Upper
  3. Gossiper
  4. Black Hole

Knows it Already

As you get half-way through your sentence, the Knows it Already already knows what they think you are going to say. They are now preparing their response rather than listening to the rest of your words.

One Upper

Whatever you have done, they have done it… but twice as well, or twice as big or twice as impressive. You share that you went on safari last year and saw 2 elephants. They went on safari 2 years ago and saw 4 elephants, 10 lions and millions of other animals.

  • I give thanks to Florian Mueck for helping me recognise and reduce my tendency towards “One Upping”

Gossiper

Whatever you share, they will share something negative or comparative about other people who are not in the room.

Black Hole

Life is shit.

“All my daughter really wants from me is a few minutes of my undivided attention… the richer people get the more money they spend trying to “

Dorothée Loorbach

I am bad with money

It has taken me many years to admit this to myself. It was only by admitting it that I have been able to take the steps to put my family on a path to financial freedom.

I have a long standing belief that if I am a good person and do good work, the “money thing” will sort itself out. This has proven to be a poor approach to a well balanced life.

I still have had a lot to learn about my relationship to money. Many of the lessons shared in this video resonate with my own (poor) relationship to money. I am so optimistic that the future will be better that I don’t hold myself to the discipline of saving and investing my money. It has taken several business failures and a clear objective reflection on my poor money decisions to start to accumulate money over the last few years.

10 lessons about money from Dorothée Loorbach

Dorothée was “successful” in her job and made a lot of money… and then she spent it all… until she was broke, unable even to bake her little daughter a birthday cake. She had to face her own flawed beliefs about money and how they were damaging her ability to live a life that matters.

The 10 Lessons on Money from the Video

  • 4:49 #1 Money is important
  • 5:55 #2 Money equals time
  • 7:00 #3 Money equals value
  • 8:03 #4 What people say doesn’t matter
  • 9:49 #5 What people say matters
  • 10:58 #6 It’s really simple
  • 11:33 #7 It’s not that easy
  • 13:05 #8 Being broke sucks
  • 14:35 #9 Stay Broke
  • 15:54 #10 Money is not important

What are you beliefs about money? Are they having a positive impact on your approach to life?

This is a 30 minute interview I conducted with Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of a 250,000 employee global company. He shared insights about the role of the CEO:

  1. How to get the CEO role
  2. How to be a good CEO
  3. How to end your time as CEO and
  4. What to do next.

Watch the Interview

View on YouTube: The Job of the CEO

About Waldemar Schmidt

Waldemar Schmidt

Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of ISS, a 250,000 employee global facilities services business.

Currently on the Boards of 28 companies, London Business School Advisory Board, Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Executive in Residence at IMD.

Author of 4 books including “The Job of the CEO“. Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.

Highlights from the Interview

  • 1:49 What is the Job of the CEO?
  • 3:18 Know Products, Numbers, Customers
  • 4:30 Management and Leadership
  • 5:35 Taking Good Decisions
  • 12:40 The Calendar of the CEO
  • 15:07 What do you do after being a CEO?
  • 16:45 Why did Waldemar step back from the CEO role?
  • 18:10 Advice to a 55 year old ex-CEO
  • 19:55 Networking as a CEO
  • 21:18 How to Build Relationships with top Head Hunters
  • 23:20 130 dilemmas that CEOs will face in life and business
  • 23:50 The worst enemy of great leadership: Arrogance

Further Resources

The Job of the CEO – Book Contents

  1. the Job of the CEO
  2. Characteristics and Skills of Great Leaders
  3. Examples of Successful CEOS’ Education, Nationality and Career Paths
  4. Self-assessment Tests
  5. Reflect, Evaluate and Decide Whether the Job of the CEO Is Right for You
  6. Planning Your Career if a CEO Career Is Not Right for You
  7. the Essence of Career Planning
  8. Career Planning
  9. Your Personal Brand
  10. How to Work With Executive Search Firms
  11. Your Pre-CEO Jobs
  12. How to Manage Your First CEO Job
  13. How to Manage Your Next CEO Jobs
  14. How to Manage Your Dream CEO Job
  15. How to Successfully Exit From Your Final CEO Job
  16. Decline or Revival?
  17. What Do You Do if You Lose Your CEO Job?
  18. Retirement or a New Career?
  19. How to Manage Your Second Career
  20. How to Manage Your Third Career
  21. How to Manage Your Work-life Balance
  22. How to Deal With 130 Critical Career and Job Issues

Buy the Book

Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.