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.

I loved this twitter thread from Sahil Bloom on life’s great paradoxes. I believe that developing the mental ability to deal with the existence of paradox is an important part of becoming wise.

Sahil’s initial tweet…

What is a Paradox?

A paradox is two seemingly opposite things that seem impossible but are actually both true.

I’ve been interested in paradoxes for the last decade. In 2008 things fell apart for me and I needed to change my mental approach to life. Not everything is in my control. Paradoxes have something of the zen koan idea to them. The harder you think about them the more lost you get – you can only approach these ideas through intuition or acceptance. Part of a mature, wise approach to life is acceptance that I control very little in life, but I that cannot let that sense of powerlessness lead me to apathy.

Sahil’s List of Life’s Paradoxes

The most powerful paradoxes of life:

1. The Persuasion Paradox

Have you noticed that the most argumentative people rarely persuade anyone?

The most persuasive people don’t argue—they observe, listen, and ask questions.

Argue less, persuade more.

Persuasion is an art that requires a paintbrush, not a sledgehammer.

2. The Effort Paradox

You have to put in more effort to make something appear effortless.

Effortless, elegant performances are often the result of a large volume of effortful, gritty practice.

Small things become big things. Simple is not simple.

3. The Wisdom Paradox

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einstein

The more you learn, the more you are exposed to the immense unknown.

This should be empowering, not frightening.

Embrace your own ignorance. Embrace lifelong learning.

4. The Growth Paradox

Growth takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you ever would have thought.

Growth happens gradually, then suddenly.

When you realize this, you start to do things differently.

5. The Productivity Paradox

Work longer, get less done.

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

When you establish fixed hours to your work, you find unproductive ways to fill it.

Work like a lion instead—sprint, rest, repeat.

6. The Speed Paradox

You have to slow down to speed up.

Slowing down gives you the time to be deliberate with your actions.

You can focus, gather energy, and deploy your resources more efficiently.

It allows you to focus on leverage and ROI, not effort.

Move slow to move fast.

7. The Money Paradox

You have to lose money in order to make money.

Every successful investor & builder has stories of the invaluable lessons learned from a terrible loss in their career.

Sometimes you have to pay to learn.

Put skin in the game. Scared money don’t make money!

8. The News Paradox

The more news you consume, the less well-informed you are.

The Taleb noise bottleneck: More data leads to a higher noise-to-signal ratio, so you end up knowing less about what is actually going on.

Want to know more about the world? Turn off the news.

9. The Icarus Paradox

Icarus crafted wings—but flew too close to the sun, so they melted and he fell to his death.

What makes you successful can lead to your downfall.

An incumbent achieves success with one thing, but overconfidence blinds them to coming disruption.

Beware!

10. The Failure Paradox

You have to fail more to succeed more.

Our greatest moments of growth often stem directly from our greatest failures.

Don’t fear failure, just learn to fail smart and fast.

Getting punched in the face builds a strong jaw.

11. The Hamlet Paradox

“I must be cruel only to be kind.”

Hamlet

In Hamlet, the protagonist is forced to take a seemingly cruel action in order to prevent a much larger harm.

Life is so complex.

The long-term righteous course may be the one that appears short-term anything but.

12. The “Tony Robbins” Paradox

In investing, the willingness to admit you have no competitive advantage can be the ultimate competitive advantage.

Strong self-awareness breeds high-quality decision-making. Foolish self-confidence breeds nothing of use.

Be self-aware—act accordingly.

13. The Shrinking Paradox

In order to grow, sometimes you need to shrink.

Growth is never linear.

Shedding deadweight may feel like a step back, but it is a necessity for long-term growth.

One step back, two steps forward is a recipe for consistent, long-term success.

14. The Death Paradox

Know your death in order to truly live your life.

Memento Mori is a Stoic reminder of the certainty and inescapability of death.

It is not intended to be morbid; rather, to clarify, illuminate, and inspire.

Death is inevitable. Live while you’re alive.

15. The Say No Paradox

Take on less, accomplish more.

Success doesn’t come from taking on everything that comes your way.

It comes from focus—deep focus on the tasks that really matter.

Say yes to what matters, say no to what doesn’t.

Protect your time as a gift to be cherished.

16. The Talking Paradox

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Epictetus

If you want your words and ideas to be heard, start by talking less and listening more.

You’ll find more power in your words.

Talk less to be heard more.

17. The Connectedness Paradox

More connectedness, less connected.

We’re constantly connected, bombarded by notifications and dopamine hits.

But while we have more connectedness, we feel less connected.

Put down the phone. Look someone in the eye. Have a conversation. Breathe.

18. The Taleb Surgeon Paradox

Looking the part is sometimes the worst indicator of competency.

The one who doesn’t look the part has had to overcome much more to achieve its status than the one from central casting.

If forced to choose, choose the one that doesn’t look the part.

19. The Looking Paradox

You may have to stop looking in order to find what you are looking for.

Have you noticed that when you are looking for something, you rarely find it?

Stop looking—what you’re looking for may just find you.

Applies to love, business, investing, or life…

20. The Constant Change Paradox

“When you are finished changing, you are finished.”

Benjamin Franklin

The only constant in life is change.

Entropy is reality.

It’s the one thing you can always count on—the only constant.

Embrace it—be dynamic, be adaptable.

21. The Control Paradox

More controlling, less control.

We have all seen or experienced this as children, partners, or parents.

The most controlling often end up with the least control.

Humans are wired for independence—any attempts to counter this will be met with resistance.

22. The Fear Paradox

The thing we fear the most is often the thing we most need to do.

Fears—when avoided—become limiters on our growth and life.

Make a habit of getting closer to your fears.

Then take the leap (metaphorically!)—you may just find growth on the other side.

More from Sahil’s blog:

  1. The Power Business Writing Guide: His most viewed article of 2021. A guide to writing more effectively at work.
  2. The Cold Email Guide: One cold email can change your life. A guide to sending better cold emails.
  3. Principles of Effective Storytelling: Storytelling is a powerful, underrated business and life skill. A piece on how to do it better.
  4. Principles of Life: An honest, open reflection on the core principles I want to teach my son as he grows up.
  5. How to Win (without talent or luck): A playbook for winning at life.

Follow @SahilBloom for more threads on growth, business, and decision-making.

If you liked this post, you will also like Finding Balance between Ambition and Peace of Mind, External vs Internal Success and Agonizing over Decisions.

“Every opportunity is attached to a person. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity — including one that has a financial payoff — you’re really looking for a person.”

Entrepreneur and investor Ben Casnocha, Source: James Clear’s (excellent!) weekly newsletter
meeting Verne Harnish 😉

My life is an example of this quote in action. The most transformational opportunities in my life have come to me through people. I would not be teaching at IESE without Brian Leggett opening the door for me… not just to teaching, but even to the idea that I might be able to teach. I would not be involved with Vistage without Verne Harnish.

In both of these cases, I didn’t even know that the opportunity even existed. I was not looking for the opportunity. It took the vision of the other person to see a path for me that I would never have seen myself.

The power of people luck is that others can often see an opportunity that you cannot see yourself.

Return on Luck (especially People luck)

meeting Jim Collins 😉

I had the privilege to meet Jim Collins a few years back in San Diego. A powerful idea that Jim has shared is “Return on Luck”. Over several years, Jim and his team investigated the hypothesis that “successful people/companies are just luckier”. They defined what it would mean for a life event to be considered “luck”:

A luck event is one that meets 3 criteria:

  1. not predictable
  2. has consequences
  3. outside of my control

Jim and his team looked at successful and unsuccessful companies, and leaders, and identified every luck event that had occurred.  They found no difference in the absolute number of luck events.

Successful People & Companies are not Luckier

There is no difference in the absolute number of luck events in the lives of successful or unsuccessful companies or leaders.

However, Jim and his team did find a difference in what happened after the luck event… Once luck happens… how do you respond?

Jim calls this “Return on luck”. Once a “luck event” has happened, there is a big difference in how successful and unsuccessful companies and leaders respond.

The luck event happens… then what?  You meet the girl of your dreams and say “Nice to meet you” or you say “I want a coffee, will you join me?”  You meet a key person in the company you dream of working for… what do you do with this moment?

When something lucky happens in your life, do you seize it and take action?  Are consistently getting prepared for future luck events in your life?

Dwight Eisenhower taught military strategy for years at West Point… when he accidentally got the chance to present his ideas to General Patton after Pearl Harbour, he had been practicing for years how to present a military strategy. He turned a chance meeting into a promotion to general, and then on to President of the United States.

Jim says that the most valuable type of luck is People luck… and knowing how to create a Return on People Luck is transformative.

How to be open to people luck? How to create a return on People luck? These are my questions…

Ingredients to increasing people luck:

  • Meet more people
  • make a better first impression
  • share your life vision in a way that others wish to help
  • bring opportunities into other people’s lives (introduce them to others, think about who and what you know that could help others, ask good questions to find out what they are seeking)
  • thank anyone that helps you (written note better than an email)
  • have a blog, youtube channel, articles, posts on linkedin that consistently clarify who you are and where you are going
  • join organisations where great people bring interesting opportunities (business schools, Vistage, EO, YPO, Rotary)
  • speak on stages at conferences
  • what else?

Ingredients to increase return on people luck:

  • learn who they are – ask better questions – become deeply curious
  • be trustworthy (the trust equation)
  • become better at demonstrating your appreciation
  • create more opportunities that you can offer to others
  • what else?

3 Recommendations from Jim Collins:

  1. Seek clarity. Clarity of speaking comes from consistently writing your ideas down
  2. Choose Excellence. Excellence is the fruit of a conscious decision and commitment to long term disciplines (that are not easy for anybody)
  3. Seek Evidence. Evidence matters (especially in living our own lives)

If you liked this post, you will also like Stand in the Traffic and Fully Committed: Success comes from Putting 20x More behind your Opportunities.

Earlier this week I was part of the 6th International Coaching Symposium at IESE Business School.

In the afternoon we heard from a panel of board members and senior HR leaders as they shared their experiences with coaching and integrating coaching into the development systems of their companies.

I had the opportunity to ask the panel a question.

I asked “What are 1 or 2 leadership capabilities for the post-Covid future? and what role can coaching play in developing these capabilities?”

What are the Leadership Capabilities for the post-Covid Future?

Here’s the set of capabilities that the panel shared with the audience:

  • Awareness of myself – strengths, weaknesses, and how to be in a resourceful mindset; clarity in where I currently stand and where I want to be.
  • Acceptance of what I can and cannot be/do – and the vulnerability to honestly admit it
  • Communication
  • Active Listening (really seeing body language and all indicators that something more is going on)
  • Trust and Respect (especially for diverse people and viewpoints)
  • Personal Growth as part of any leadership role (you develop yourself outside the company as well)
  • To support the development of others
  • To believe in the potential of others
  • Growth mindset – an attitude of constant learning “the more you learn, the more you realize how important it is to learn”
  • Asking the right questions
  • Connecting the dots – Understanding the broader Context & reframing our own context -creating with diversity… reframing competitors as collaborators.
  • Emotional Intelligence (understanding political, social, status, ambition aspects of human interaction)
  • Managing Difficult Conversations

Would you add anything to this list? What will it take to lead in a global, fast-moving, hybrid, connected, uncertain world?

The participants on the panel were Amanda Egan, Global Head of L&D for Web Summit, Helena Herrero, President & CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise for Spain & Portugal, Marieta del Rivero Independent NED to Cellnex Telecom & Gestamp Automotive, Jorge Becerra Urbano, Emeritus Senior Partner & Senior Advisor of Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Well done Sebastien Brion for facilitating and Dr Estibalitz Ortiz & Prof. Alberto Ribera for organising the event.

If you liked this post, you will also like How to Have a Coaching Conversation and The Greatest Coaching Question of All Time.

A company has only one ultimate decision maker: the CEO.

The CEO is the only person in a company without peers. No other individual holds such a full and final responsibility for the company. The CEO is the most powerful and sought-after title in business, more influential than any other. The CEO takes the company’s biggest decisions. These decisions account for 45% of a company’s performance.

This power and influence comes with a heavy burden.

The role of CEO can be all-consuming, lonely, and stressful. Just 3 out of 5 new CEOs live up to expectations in their first 18 months… and many CEOs struggle with their quality of life (health, family relationships, friendships) in the face of the pressures they face.

photo of woman wearing eyeglasses

I run Vistage in Spain. Vistage is the world’s leading CEO coaching organisation. Over more than 60 years, Vistage has worked closely with CEOs to take and implement better decisions which enhance their performance and increase their quality of life.

The following post draws heavily from a recent McKinsey article “The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs“.

The Biggest regret of CEOs

despaired woman touching head in room

I spend time with hundreds of CEOs each year. They are good people and they want the best for the good people around them. This makes it extremely personally challenging for them to deal with underperformance. They like the people around them. They want to give them lots of opportunities. They feel that it is a personal failure when someone close to them repeatedly underperforms expectations. They give more time. They allow for environmental factors. They wait and hope.

The single biggest regret of CEOs is not dealing quickly with underperformance.

In my work with CEOs through Vistage, over half of all of our work is about the current and future performance of the people and teams that surround the CEO. We challenge CEOs to stop waiting for underperformance to fix itself.

The Differentiator between Great and Good CEOs

According to McKinsey, the distinction between good CEOs and the great CEOs is the ability to focus.

binocular country lane filter focus

Great CEOs place “big bets”. They focus on the top 3-5 most important initiatives. They dedicate 90% of their time, energy, resources to the 5 most important projects. They say “no” often. They don’t allow their time to fill up with many different activities and different priorities.

The Good CEOs avoided this level of focus. Their prioritisation of what is truly important is less clear. They are involved in many initiatives. They allow their agenda to fill up and try dedicate a couple of hours each week to the most important projects. They try to fit the important initiatives in around their “day job” of running the company.

The Great CEO has delegated the running of the company to an effective leadership team. They have made themselves unnecessary for operating the company today, so they can dedicate themselves to building the company of the future.

Jeff Bezos says that he spends 5% of his time running the company, and 95% of his time building the future company.

The Job of the Great CEO (according to McKinsey)

What specific behaviours can make current CEOs most effective? This is a summary of the McKinsey article linked above.

The Great CEO’s job has 6 main elements.

  1. Setting the Strategy
  2. Aligning the Organization
  3. Leading the Top Team
  4. Working with the Board
  5. Being the face of the company to external stakeholders
  6. Managing one’s own Time and Energy

1. Setting The Strategy

Objective: Focus on Beating the odds…

  1. Vision: reframe what winning means, where do we want to be in 5, 10 or 15 years?
  2. Strategy: make bold moves early
  3. Resource allocation: stay active, top performers actively & quickly move resources to their strengths

2. Organisational Alignment

Objective: Manage Performance and Health

  1. Talent: match talent to value
  2. Culture: go beyond employee engagement
  3. Organisational design: combine speed with stability

3. Leading the Top Team

Objective: Put dynamics ahead of mechanics

  1. Teamwork: show resolve
  2. Decision making: defend against biases
  3. Management processes: ensure coherence

4. Board Engagement

Objective: Help directors to help the business

  1. Effectiveness: promote a forward looking agenda
  2. Relationships: think beyond the meeting
  3. Capabilities: seek balance and development

5. Being the face of the company

Objective: Center on the long-term “Why?”

  1. Social purpose: look at the big picture
  2. Interactions: prioritize and shape
  3. Moments of Truth: build resilience ahead of a crisis

6. Managing one’s own time and energy

Objective: Do what only you can doceo

  1. Office: manage time and energy
  2. Leadership model: choose authenticity
  3. Perspective: guard against hubris

If you liked this post, you will also like The CEO’s Guide to Boards and The CEO’s 7 Leadership Laws During Times of Uncertainty.

Photo credit: fauxels on Pexels.com, Liza Summer on Pexels.com, SplitShire on Pexels.com

As an entrepreneur, a CEO or business leader, one of your most important roles is to build a leadership team. Who do you need in the team for long term success?

Who is on your Leadership Team?

The video below clarifies the 8 profiles that are necessary for a business to start, scale up and become a long term great company. This is a tool I have shared with many Entrepreneurs over the years, and finally I got around to making a YouTube version.

The 8 Roles needed for An Entrepreneurial Dream Team

  • Visionary
  • Mechanic
  • Marketer
  • Networker
  • Manager
  • Banker
  • Investor
  • Baron (Cash Controller)

Further videos and posts on building an effective team

I recently heard Sadhguru share 3 ways that people approach life and work:

  1. Idiot – these people don’t enjoy what they do each day
  2. Smart – these people have created a life where they do enjoy the activity and the people that they spend time with each day
  3. Genius – these people have learnt to love what they have to do. They know how to connect all important activity to their personal purpose and make it feel meaningful.

A couple of comments on youtube suggested that this was an “arrogant statement” and that not everybody has had access to education and opportunities. I don’t believe any of these 3 approaches are necessarily only accessed through formal education… in fact I see many well educated people from wealthy backgrounds who really struggle to get out of the “idiot” category.

Another comment on youtube suggested that we each operate at these 3 levels in different areas of our lives… it may be that you are a genius in health and exercise, but an idiot when it comes to personal finances… or a genius in your professional career and an idiot as a family member.

The route to genius involves having clarity on your purpose and a set of practices or rituals to connect necessary action to that sense of meaningful purpose.

What do you think? Where do you operate most of the time?

Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin and first COO of Paypal

I was on a zoom call today with Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. Here’s my lessons from the call…

How do we learn Entrepreneurship?

The best way of learning entrepreneurship: play boardgames… Settlers of Catan is good – there is trading, there is ambiguity, there are multiple strategies. Chess is good but no ambiguity… we all know all the information all the time. Monopoly is too simple… roll dice, buy everything… not really learning to make strategic decisions. Poker has the aspects of taking decisions under ambiguity that are so important as an entrepreneur.

Sun Tzu on entrepreneurship: no business plan survives contact with the market. Entrepreneur needs a plan, but needs to know what is truly important in order to rapidly and flexibly change the plan based on market response.

Entrepreneur is open minded that if I can’t make it work today, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work… maybe in a year or two things have evolved and you now have an important business.

How do you do so much?

“I choose great CEOs.”

Why can Elon Musk do so much?

Poor competition. Electric cars and Space exploration… very difficult… and there was no serious competition. That allowed Elon to do hard things in parallel.

If there is strong competition… you’ll need to focus.

The Role of Entrepreneurship

Society needs entrepreneurship – creative ideas getting tested, and what works growing. If nothing new can start, society is stagnant. Ask for permission in Europe vs Ask for forgiveness in US and China. Experimenting on the edges of banking is illegal in EU, but allowed Paypal to begin in US.

What was Hard in starting LinkedIn?

On founding Linkedin – “professional” social networking was resisted strongly at the beginning. Initial tagline: “We are friendster, but for business”. Journalists “oh yeah, you are the job seeking application.” It was a real struggle and lots of people thought I was mad.

As a CEO in an early stage company, you are focussed on building the product, extending the product.

As a CEO in a late stage company, your entire focus is on scaling up the business. What will accelerate our growth?

Why has half of the NASDAQ come out of Silicon Valley?

Region of 3 million people… why so much impact?

“There is a learning network. There is an intense local learning of how to build these tech business and scale them up. “

Today Silicon Valley, there is so much money going into the area that so many ideas can be tried and tested… and the entrepreneurs share their experiences. It is like a “Cambian explosion” of tech business.

Reid wrote Blitzscaling to share the best ideas from Silicon Valley out with the rest of the entrepreneurial world. These are the techniques by which the technology companies of the future are being built.

Early Investor in Facebook and AirBnB. Lessons?

Being contrarian and right is a wonderful place to be as an investor and as an entrepreneur.

Facebook – “its for college kids with too much time on their hands…” well, I think there is something important here. Contrarian… and right.

Yahoo offers $1B… should we sell? what is upside, what is the downside? we didn’t have a business at the time… but I believed there was something big and we would be able to find a business. Contrarian… and right.

AirBnB – we are the market for space. Liked the founders. First meeting: lets get down. to business… I know I am going to make an offer to invest, lets work together on the big questions. Contrarian… and right.

Big thing at AirBnB – taking control of the full experience… not just the web design. Dirty windows = bad. Clean windows made such a positive impact on airbnb rental locations. The founders really worked on designing the whole experience.

“Every challenge is a design challenge” AirBnB

The future of work?

“Crisis always begets opportunity.”

Phone calls will become video calls

Remote is a real option. Some companies have gone completely virtual and will never go back.

Co-working will be important.

Travel… for 1 meeting? we can zoom.

Investing Guidance

Look at Entrepreneur, Market, Product

The most important: look at the entrepreneur. A good entrepreneur will find a market and will find a product. A great market and a great product… but doubts about the entrepreneur… we won’t invest.

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.

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.