These are my notes from the words of an Indian spiritual leader called Sadhguru, which I found positive, generous and calming. I had never heard of this man a few days ago… but have found his voice and his words a source of inspiration and clarity over the last 6 days.

Here’s the livestream that I am watching: Sadhguru Livestream 22 March

Being Human… in times of Crisis

When the situation is serious, you do not need to become serious. We do not choose to become frivolous, but we choose to be responsible.

When you become dead serious, you are dead before you are dead. When you lose your laugh, you lose everything. If you stop laughing you will make no difference to the progress of the virus. If you act serious, you will not stop a single infection.

Are you a Human Being or a Human Creature?

It is in these times that what kind of a human being you are matters. It matters all the time, but in normal times all sorts of fake people can pretend. It is when crisis hits that what type of human being you are really matters.

This virus is not being carried by mosquitos or rats. It is being carried by us.

Are we human beings or are we human creatures? If we are human beings we choose to take responsibility to not pass this virus on to the next person.

Human Beings are the Agents of this Virus

We are the vector of this virus. We are the agents who carry.

Many of us may be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. We may think “what difference do I make?”

We could not notice it, but we could be giving it to someone who is at risk.

What type of human are you? Are you fit to be a being? A human being. The most fundamental thing is that you know how to be. You know how to choose. You know how to act intentionally.

Today, by not doing anything… you have done something great for the world.

Do Something Great: Stay Home and Do Nothing

Meditation gurus have spent thousands of years telling us to sit down, sit still and do nothing. A little virus is teaching us faster than all those hundreds and thousands of meditation gurus.

Social distancing is not building walls around us, around those close to us. It is being aware and careful of the manner of transmission of this virus.

What steps can we take to ensure the safety of our community?

  • Keep our distance – don’t be an agent of transmission for the virus, stay home, wash hands, don’t shake hands
  • Strengthen our physical system – eat well, sleep enough, take physical exercise
  • Strengthen our resilience – reduce our stress, find peace and calm
  • Use this to become better human beings…
    • stop what weakens you,
    • stop meeting with those that don’t want the best for you,
    • strengthen your relationships with those that do want the best for you,
    • begin the projects and habits that you in 20 years will look back with gratitude upon the you of march 2020 and thank your previous self for beginning during that time of crisis.

Have a wonderful Sunday

I’ve done a few livestreams myself over the last few days. I’ve got two more coming up…

…like today with COVID-19/Coronavirus affecting all aspects of our daily lives across the world.

When there is a huge range of possible impacts in the short, medium or long term, how can leaders prepare and respond?

Scenario Planning

Today, it is impossible to predict the impact of COVID-19/Coronavirus on our societies, our people, our future cash flows. Leaders cannot abdicate responsibility and say that they cannot decide because there are too many unknowns.

In the current context, business leaders need to lead with a number of specific actions:

  1. Set company policy and make sure all employees know this policy. This policy should cover at minimum what is covered in my recent post COVID-19/Coronavirus – How business leaders should respond?
  2. Communicate daily what you are seeing, what you are expecting, who is involved, what it means…
  3. Scenario Planning
    1. Best Case – What is the best case we might possibly expect and how will we respond if the situation pans out in this way?
    2. Worst Case – What is the truly worst case we might face? What actions can we take today that can prepare us for dealing with this? What cash reserves will we need? What will we do with suppliers, customers, banks, employees in this worst case? Are there any actions that can reduce the impact? Can we survive this worst case? (“You can only learn from the crisis that you survive” Jim Collins)
    3. Other Cases between best and worst – What will happen under these scenarios? How can we prepare plans and our people to perform under these conditions?

It may be helpful to have separate people/teams working on response plans for each of the scenarios.

IESE Business School is working on 4 possible Scenarios and teams are putting in place the technology, the training, the support systems in order to allow for any of these 4 scenarios to be supported. As of yesterday, IESE has moved to scenario 3… All classes delivered online for at least the next 2 weeks. All travel stopped. All marketing activities with on campus visits stopped.

IESE is maintaining the capacity to go back to on-campus teaching, and is maintaining regular communications to employees, to faculty and to students via email, a blog and internal messaging tools.

I heard a tough question this morning (on a podcast).

“Who is the least reliable person you know?”

A powerful reflection… stop and have a think. Is it a friend? Is it a brother? Is it a parent? Is it you… to yourself?

We live in a time of great uncertainty… coronavirus… globalization… robots taking our jobs… a way to bring some certainty to your life and the life of the people you care about… is to be deliberate in keeping your promises.

What impact does it have when someone is not reliable? What impact does it have in your own life when you don’t keep the promises that you make to yourself? Today? In a decade?

Thanks to Tony for pushing me to reflect deeply on the nature of friendship… and to the podcast this morning for a reminder:

We are seeing growth in COVID-19/Coronavirus infections around the world. Some facts about the disease.

  • Unlike the flu, very young people do not seem to be at any increased risk from COVID-19.
  • Risk appears to ramp up for people over age 50. Mortality rates are 0.6% to 1.5% in general population, 80-85% of cases are mild (which is the big problem because you are infectious, but able to go out in the world).
  • The big risk is rapid spread and the collapse of hospital facilities in local regions. All efforts are directed towards slowing the spread of infection so that we don’t see a huge number of critical cases all needing hospital beds at the same time. This is what happened in Wuhan and led to the higher fatality rates in that region.

How it affects me?

As a business leader in Spain I find myself struggling to take reasoned decisions around the COVID19/Coronavirus outbreak that is spreading through the world. Over the weekend all of North Italy (16M people) went into quarantine. Last night Madrid closed all schools.

I have a training event coming up late March for our leadership team. A Vistage Chair will be travelling over from the US to run the 3 day event. Should we go ahead with the event? Should we cancel? How can I approach this decision and find a balance between emotion and reason, short term safety and long term impacts.

I find it very hard to get myself emotionally centered and make a reasoned decision. If I read the news for 20 minutes, I feel like the whole world is coming to an end… markets crashing… supply chains in grave danger…

Then I look into the illness… how serious is it? Clearly nobody wants an illness of any type… but we are lucky that this wake-up call to the global health system is not highly lethal. This crisis will prepare us and potentially mitigate or reduce the impact of a future more lethal strain that spreads widely.

How should a Small Business CEO respond?

First, leaders need to communicate regularly… I would suggest a daily update about what company policy is and what scenarios we are looking at, also what we don’t know. Even if that communication is “we have nothing new to communicate today, but we are paying close attention to what is happening” it is an important signal of leadership.

Establish and communicate Company policy – every company needs to establish a company policy that at its very least recommends the following:

  1. If you are sick, or have flu-like symptoms – do not come to work. Stay home and contact your local medical services.
  2. Wash hands regularly. Don’t touch your face. This disease (and many others) is passed from hands to mouth and nose.
  3. Wipe down work areas regularly. Shared desks, computers, personal mobile devices can gather and share the virus.
  4. Reduce physical contact as much as necessary at this time. Handshakes and kisses are out, fist pumps or elbow nudges are the replacement gesture.
  5. Encourage video conference over travel and face to face meetings. Many companies have temporarily banned any meeting of 20 or more people.
  6. Put plans in place now for remote work – think through now how the business could operate in a full quarantine.
  7. Liquidity – can you establish lines of credit, sources of financing that can get you through the next few weeks and months. As Jim Collins says “we can only learn from a crisis if we survive the crisis”.
  8. School closures? – How can employees respond if their schools close and they are at home? What is your policy? Case by case basis?

Personal and Family

Get your own house and family in order.

  • Plan for looking after kids at home if schools shut down Can you remote work or create flexibility to do your work from home?
  • Plan for the (unlikely) event you and your family can not leave your home for 2 weeks quarantine. Get in food and drinks for a 2 week stay at home.
  • Make sure your family has 2-3 months of medicine. If a loved one is taking a medicine or drug regularly, you may want to ensure a few months extra supply.

3 Important Reasons For Optimism

1. The disease is mild in most people who get it. At least 80%, most likely more, will only have flu-like symptoms.

2. Children seem particularly protected from severe coronavirus disease. Many of the sniffles and colds kids experience are due to existing milder coronavirus strains, possibly giving them partial immunity to this more serious new threat.

3. There has been extraordinary global cooperation from doctors and health officials. This is a level of globalisation that I am proud to see our leaders and doctors capable of.

Reliable Information Sources

I will continue to update this post as we learn more about effective response to COVID-19/Coronavirus.

There are 3 reasons why a human being makes a change in their habits. If you want to effect a change in your life, or help another with a change that they say they want to make in their life – there are 3 levers that can increase the likelihood that change happens.

The 3 Reasons we Change

  1. Pain – When my perception of current pain is visceral, then I will make the effort required to change. Someone can be in great pain but be unaware of the degree to which they are suffering. If I help myself or other become fully aware of the current pain, change can begin.
  2. Vision – When I can see with extreme clarity where I want to get to, it is more likely that changes will happen. If I have a vague sense of where I want to go, nothing will change. As I make that vision clearer and clearer, more and more believable… change will begin to happen.
  3. Fear of Future Consequences – When I can see the future pain that is coming if I do not change, and I feel it viscerally as if it was a current pain, change can begin to happen. Often I know that there are future consequences, but I haven’t truly taken the time to visualise and feel how bad it will be.

If you want someone to change, including yourself, don’t tell them what to do. Help them feel the current pain, see clearly the vision or feel the future consequences. This is how we help change happen.

The most important part of leadership?

Ensuring that the team, the organisation, the institution, the vision and mission can live on after you.

It is hard to let go of the ego part of you that enjoys being “needed”. It is difficult to accept that there needs to be a future beyond you. If an empire cannot go on beyond the ruler, this was not a great ruler.

Alexander the Great… was great at conquering and winning battles… but so totally failed to prepare for life beyond him that his children were murdered soon after his death and his five generals spent the rest of their lives fighting over the succession to his empire.

Will my organisation live on beyond my time as leader? I hope so…

Will your organisation live one beyond you?

The 3 areas you can mess up if you are to fail at Leading yourself and others:

  1. Relationships
  2. Self Awareness
  3. Openness to Change

Check out the video below to understand what it means to not mess up on relationships, self awareness and openness to change.

What is Leadership?

An effective leader is a person who:

  1. Creates an Inspiring Vision.
  2. Motivates People towards the Vision.
  3. Executes on the Vision.
  4. Builds a team to Achieve the Vision.

Read about how to do each of these 4 steps: What is Leadership?

If you liked this post, you will also like A truly compelling vision and 17 Personal Habits for a Fulfilling Life.

Managers and Leader are very different animals.

Management is about Control.

Management controls 1 of 3 things:

  1. Quality
  2. Time
  3. Money

Management is always about tradeoffs. If you want quality, you have to sacrifice time or money. If you want fast, you have to sacrifice quality or money. If you want cheap, you have to sacrifice quality or time.

Leadership is about People

If you push people, you don’t know which way they will go. If you use your power to tell them how to act, you will create a push back.

If you can learn to pull people, they will follow.

Power comes when people freely give you their support.

If you take that power and reflect it all back to them, they give you more. If you use the power for yourself, they give you less power. If you give people back the power that they entrust to you, more and more comes to you. You get to use this power for a Just Cause, something bigger than yourself, a Vision of a better world for all of us.

“Leadership is the most valuable commodity on the planet and it is the rarest commodity we have”

Bob Davids

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…

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.