The roots of violence: Rights without responsibilities.

I listened to Warren Rustand speak on Leadership to the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last week.  Warren is a man who has fit the experiences of several lifetimes into his own – he has been in public service, in academia, involved in not-for-profits and has been chairman or CEO of 17 organisations.

He spoke of the seven blunders of the world, a handwritten note by Gandhi that he gave to his grandson Arun on their final day together, not too long before his assassination. These seven blunders are the roots of violence.

  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice
  • Politics without principle

     An eighth was added by Ghandhi’s grandson:

    • Rights without Responsiblities.

    Number eight underlies the rest of Gandhi’s “blunders”. 

    The message from Warren’s session on leadership was that life comes with responsibilities.  If I see the future clearer than those around me, then I have a responsibility.  If I feel more confident about the situation, then I have a responsibility.  If I know more than those around me, then I have a responsibility.  If I have a comfortable life, a roof over my head and food on my table, then I also have responsibilities. 

    Scary. I can’t choose to opt out.

      Three pearls of Australian management wisdom

      I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday and sat in the crowd with my friend Maurice.  We watched Ricky Ponting and his Australia team score 267 runs against the Pakistan team on an overcast but warm day – perfect temperature for sitting outside.

      Maurice shared with me three pearls of wisdom that had been passed down to him by an early boss:

      1. Don’t polish turds
      2. Don’t boil oceans
      3. Hope is not a strategy

       You can put glitter on a turd, but inside it will still be a turd.  Life is too short to have any great success heating an entire ocean. If you don’t have any idea how you’re going to get there, it’s unlikely that you get there.

      We also talked about the best books we had read in 2009.  I am running low on fiction ideas.  Any thoughts?

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      Does meaning come from excellent execution or excellent execution from shared mission and vision?

      Should we focus on the ends to improve the means or focus on the means to improve the ends?

      Excellent people or excellent systems?  Photo Credit: kevin dooley

      On Monday I spent a couple of hours at IESE in a research seminar where Harvard Professor Julie Battiliana presented her research on professional and organisational identity in two Bolivian commercial microfinance institutions.

      BancoSol and Banco los Andes were both created in the early nineties in order to provide financial services to a large group of people that had never had access to banking services before.  They both target urban and rural poor who have no fungible collateral and need to borrow amounts under $1,000 to improve their incomes.

      When these organisations were started, they both faced an important foundational question: Who do we hire?  Who can sell our loans, evaluate customer capacity to repay, define terms, approve loans and (most challenging) collect on loans in arrears?

      BancoSol: Hiring Talent

      BancoSol took a strategy of hiring existing talent – they hired existing loan officers from commercial banks alongside social workers from existing NGOs.  The bankers would bring financial expertise and the social workers would bring the right attitudes towards the mission to assist poor who had no previous access to bank finance.  The employee induction and early training focussed around mission and values.  The CEO would regularly remind staff that they were doing “the most important work in Bolivia”.

      Banco los Andes: Build Strong Systems

      Banco los Andes bank took a very different strategy – they hired new graduates direct from college and put them through extensive process training.  The focus of the training was on following a strict process.

      A loan officer in commercial microfinance is a tough job – it requires the ability to be “caring but firm”. A typical day in the life of a Bolivian microfinance loan officer would be as follows:

      • Morning – (marketing) spend time in local markets making contact with stall keepers and traders
      • Afternoon – (sales) visit specific people in their place of work or home
      • Late afternoon – (collections) visit customers whose loans were in arrears
      • Evening – (review, approve) in the office preparing and approving paperwork

      One of these organisations became a great success and its company policies and procedures have become the basis for most of the world’s commercial microfinance organisations today.  The other had to make major structural changes and was stuck with intractable group identity conflicts.

      Which Strategy Succeeded?

      Banco los Andes with its strategy of hiring new graduates and training them intensively in operations was the success.  The intense focus on quality of execution allowed a pride and shared identity to arise in the staff of Banco los Andes.

      BancoSol never reconciled the bankers and the social workers and had two groups who identified more with “banker” or “social worker” than BancoSol.  The bankers thought the social workers were unprofessional “idiots” who didn’t understand commercial reality. The social workers thought the bankers lacked an ability to deal with customers as people.

      Building Systems

      My reflections as I sat and listened to this discussion about tension in organisations, professional vs organisational identity was that it is excellence in our work that allows true meaning and shared purpose to arise.  It is not enough as a leader to give nice speeches about mission and vision – there must be a relentless unwillingness to accept anything less than excellent execution.  It is not enough to sit in the tower and think, there must be a systematic getting out into the world and ensuring that processes are correct, quality is high and people are being held accountable for their goals.

      Its not what you do but how people perceive what you do

      I came across the concept of Personal Branding via the blog of Dan Schwabel about 6 months ago and have been a regular reader of his blog.  Some ideas have been percolating up through my unconsciousness and drifted into consciousness during a day skiing with my friend Javi. (Thanks to Ana, Piero and friends for inspiring the early morning start and a fine dinner in Andorra).

      The concept we discussed is that it does not matter how hard you work or how brilliant you are, but how others perceive your work or your brilliance.

      There are two types of people in the world:

      • Category One: this person works really hard and achieves a lot – but bosses and peers say, “yeah, but that was an easy client” “yeah, but he had an easy project”.  Category one people never really get the credit for the work that they are doing.
      • Category Two: this person works just as hard and achieves a lot – and bosses and peers say, “he always turns things around” “We knew that he would make the difference”. Category two tends to get more credit than is really due from those around them.

      I was lucky back in 1995 to begin my career with Accenture working on a project at Nationwide Buiding Society with the best manager that I have had.  Michael was a humble, smart and innovative consultant and I spent the first two years of my career working directly for him on a range of exciting, leading-edge projects at Shell, Nat West and the Labour party (pre-power).  He knew how to get the best out of me and keep me engaged and running at 95% (he was great at recognising somebody who was “coasting along” at 60-70% of their potential and saying “you are capable of better than this”; see David Maister on professionalism in Professional Services Firms).

      Due to his coaching and unwillingness to take anything but my best, I was rated the highest possible rating upon my promotion to consultant. The next 7 years at Accenture, I had it easy because when I showed up on a project, the senior Accenture people would say “you guys are lucky to get this guy, he is a ‘band one'”.  If the team that I was on did well, the senior people would say “great that we put Conor in there”. If the team I was on did poorly, the senior people would say “the objectives were unclear” “the project was over ambitious”.  It was like my own guardian angel.  I was incredibly lucky. I had done nothing to seek out a guardian angel, but found that I did have one. (It was also unfair many times when I was not at my best and was receiving credit for some Category One’s hard work).

      My reflections and discussions on the ski slope with Javi (who has great experience in Bain and Banco Santander) were that:

      • The first few months in a new company matter more than any other time in your career
      • The first boss really matter (each time you change company)
      • You can only switch from Category One to Category Two by changing company. It is almost imposible to re-position yourself once you have been “branded”.
      • The more senior we get, the less we can leave this personal branding process to chance

      Do you have a strategy to manage your personal brand? What can you do in the first 90 days? What type of boss would be your best first boss in each new company?  Are you currently in Category One or Category Two?  If you are in Category One when will you change job?

      How we fool ourselves brilliantly and how Dwight D. Eisenhower became President

      Most days are much the same. However, great changes in our world don’t come from normal days – they are driven by the extreme events, the outliers.  Something like 70% of all the drops in the US stock exchanges are due to 6 particular days of extreme share price drops. The course of my own life has not been a steady journey along a clearly defined route…  4 or 5 key days, 3 or 4 chance meetings – this is what has shaped the most important contents of my life so far and the trajectory for the future.  This blog post has been inspired by my reading of Nassim Taleb’s book “The Black Swan: The impact of the Highly Improbable“.

      I read the biography of Eisenhower in 2002 when I was studying for my MBA.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was the lowest ranked of his whole West Point class at the age of 42.  He had been passed over for promotion to Colonel twice and was now based on the island of Guam, in the middle of nowhere, and he did not get along with his boss.  Acording to his son, he was trying on pairs of jeans and getting used to the idea of civilian life. 

      On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese navy bombed the US Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbour, definitively bringing the US into the second world war. General George C Marshall coordinated the US response to the Japanese attack.  I recall reading that over the next 3 days, Marshall invited many generals, strategists, politicians so that he could brief them and then ask “how do you recomend we respond?” 

      One of Marshall’s administrative staff had been on a West Point course on military strategy led by Eisenhower. In a total cooincidence, Eisenhower was passing through Hawaii on his way to the US.  The guy on the administrative staff told Marshall that a certain general had not shown up for his appointment – and suggested that Marshall spend some time with Eisenhower instead. Marshall said ok and Eisenhower was shown in.  Marshall briefed Eisenhower on the Japanese bombing and asked “how do you recomend we respond?”.  Eisenhower’s response was “give me these 4 guys and 24 hours and I will give you my answer.” 

      The next day Eisenhower described to Marshall his plan, covering logistical response, political response, military response, communications response…  and Marshall said “Good.  Now do it.”  Eisenhower was promoted on the spot and given command.  This moment led to his appointment as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. His plans and execution allowed the allies to win the war. In 1953, he was elected President of the United States and won a second term in 1956.

      If Eisenhower had not been passing through the island of Hawaii on 8th December 1941, how would his life have turned out?  Who would have been the 34th President of the United States?  What would Dwight D. Eisenhower have accomplished in civilian life?  A factory supervisor?  Maybe a middle manager at GE?  Or is destiny so powerful that he would have found a route to Presidency through another path?  (I seriously doubt it).

      According to Taleb in “The Black Swan”, the human mind suffers from three ailments when it comes to looking back and understanding history, or even the events that shape our own personal history:

      1. The illusion of understanding:  Plato, Newton, many scientists have discovered simple rules that predict the way the universe works.  I have a preference for simple formulae that predict behaviour. I love to generalise from my experience. The world is more complicated (or random) than the simple models we would like to use. Nando Parrado talks about the biggest decision in his life being the choice of seat 9B on an airplane 36 years ago (see my previous post on Nando Parrado here).
      2. The distortion of hindsight: we underplay luck in our analysis of the past.  We seek hindsight validation of why Google is number 1, why Starbucks has 14,000 stores and another Seattle coffee shop is still just that, why one person becomes rich whilst another becomes poor – and we latch on to the simple models that we then try to generalise and apply. Each case of success is due to a massive quantity of luck (well discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”), combined with some decent input ingredients (that are well worthy of study and copy).
      3. The overvaluation of authoritive people: they know lots about the past… but the future is not going to be just like the past – yet we shut down our brains and listen blindly when “the expert” walks into the room. They are the type of people who would say that there is no such thing as a purple cow. You will not see what you are not looking for, especially if you do not believe that it could exist. (watch this 60 sec video first – and tell me how many passes of the basketball are completed by the white team).

      So, if prediction of the future is impossible, should we close down business schools, history courses, cancel company strategy planning sessions? 

      I would say “no way”. 

      I love a quote of Winston Churchill on planning: “The plan isn’t worth the paper it is written on; however, the process of planning is priceless”.  We don’t have plans because they necessarily turn out just so – we have plans so that a team of people have shared goals, ideas and passions.  They may exceed their plan or fail miserably in following their plan – but the fact that they work together as a team is important.  The chances of success without a goal is very low. The chances of success with a goal and a bit of luck are greater.

      My other conclusion is that the worst thing that business schools can create are “experts”.  If a professor runs a class as if they and they alone have the answer then we are failing. If an MBA comes out feeling that he or she is an “expert” then we have failed.  If they come out with integrity, ideas, the ability to inspire, motivate and work well with other people, perserverance…  then we have succeeded.

      My final question… how do I get more luck?  Happy Christmas and I wish you all a healthy, happy and fun 2010.

      Five and a half reasons why you should start a blog today

      6 Reasons to Start Blogging Now

      “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret” Jim Rohn

      1. Clarity of Thinking – It will force you to become a better thinker and get clear on your beliefs. It will force you to read to gather material. It will force you to read critically as you ask “why?” “why not?” “why does she say that?” “is that really the answer?”
      2. Tom Peter says so – Tom Peters says “If you are not blogging, you are an idiot.” (here)  He is a guru. It must be true.
      3. Be Somebody – You have a much better answer for “what do you do?” “I am a writer”.  You are no longer a passive observer of life, you now participate in the creation of content and ideas. 5 years from now people will invite you to speak. 10 years from now you will have written enough material for a good book. 20 years from now your kids will think you were once smart.
      4. Fame – It is better than a diary. You might get some admiration and affirmation.
      5. Save Time – You can save time (in future) – if people regularly ask you similar questions, write your answers up in a blog post and refer people there.
      6. It is free and easy.
        1. Free: I use WordPress.
        2. Easy: One of the best starter guides is from Penelope Trunk. I must her reiterate her point on avoiding perfection (no typos).  Force yourself to hit publish after 30-45 minutes no matter what. Perfection is the enemy of creation. If you have a really bad error, just re-publish. Otherwise, let your users tell you and engage more.

      1 reason why you should not create a blog:

      1. You will not make money from a blog.  Do not spend time reading “get rich quick” “teeth whitening” “best affiliate program” offers. You will create the blog and overcome procrastination only if you write about something about which you care lots and want to learn more.

      A final note. Jim Rohn passed away last friday.  He was a great American philosopher. Out of his many great sayings, I will leave you with one: “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret”.

      Further Reading on How to Blog

      Networking 101. Nine habits to develop and deepen your Network.

      Strong personal networks don’t just happen. They have to be carefully constructed. This post is a summary of my recent research and personal opinion on how you can grow and strengthen your connections.

      Why is developing a strong diverse Network important? It will give you three powerful benefits:

      1. Information – fast access to private information (including job openings and business opportunities)
      2. Skills – Access to diverse skill sets (in diverse geographies)
      3. Power – The ability to influence and get your ideas implemented

      A number of  academic studies have shown correlations between strong, diverse networks and success in commercial ventures. Networks determine which ideas become breakthroughs, which new drugs are prescribed, which farmers cultivate pest-resistant crops, and which R&D engineers make the most high-impact discoveries. In a 1998 study of innovations Randall Collins of the University of Pennsylvania showed that breakthroughs by Freud, Picasso, Watson and Crick, and Pythagoras were the consequence of a particular type of personal network that prompted exceptional individual creativity. In the words of Linus Pauling – “the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas”.

      I have developed a list of nine habits to develop and deepen your personal network

      1. Be deliberate
      2. Get good at approaching and engaging people. Seek common ground. Be sincere. Don’t overwhelm. Be relevant.
      3. Don’t wait till you need it. You need to always be open to meeting and connecting to new people (perhaps not during a romantic date, but almost everywhere else).
      4. Be systematic.  Keep a list of your current/future 250 most important relationships 20 AA, 30 A, 100 B and 100 Cs.  One of the experts on developing deep relationships is Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Who’s Got Your Back“. He talks about developing your RAP or Relationship Action Plan here.
      5. Get good at “pinging (birthdays, promotions, changes, relevant news stories, useful tips, even forwarding this blog post…)
      6. Carry business cards. Always.
      7. Go Multichannel. You must be physically present at events and meet people face to face, but in parallel there are some excellent tools that make it easier than ever to grow and strenthen your network online (Linkedin (for business network) and Facebook (for personal network) being the leading examples). Is your profile up to date?  Are you using recomendations effectively? This is a great guide to building your personal brand on Linked in, and this is a guide for Facebook both from Dan Schwabel author of the Personal Branding Blog.
      8. Send handwritten notes
      9. Treat it as a two way street.  Share and receive.  Ask “how can I help this person achieve one of their goals in a way that nobody else can?” or “what can I do for them?”.  Invite them to an event.

      I was in the IESE cafeteria recently and a friend mentioned a study by an INSEAD professor on the power of secondary connections.  The premise of the work being that your life will be shaped more by accidental connections and loose connections that the core 20-50 people of our networks (I would love to find the source – any ideas please respond in comments). One example of this might be founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates. It just so happens that his mother was on United Way board alongside the head of IBM – and possibly was a factor in allowing the unknown and tiny Microsoft to be allowed to bid to develop the PC DOS operating system.

      And now for the difficult bit…
      How do you get someone who doesn’t know you to feel comfortable talking?

      Take the initiative in creating a welcoming impression. How another person perceives you is determined by a number of things you do before you speak. I have taken this list of steps from Keith Ferrazzi.

      1. Smile. It says, “I’m approachable.”
      2. Good eye contact. You don’t need to stare, but studying the weave of the carpet is a real put off.
      3. Unfold your arms. Crossing your arms can make you appear defensive and signals tension.
      4. Nod your head and lean in. You just want to show that you’re engaged and interested.
      5. Physical contact. Touching is a powerful act. Most people convey their friendly intentions by shaking hands; some go further by shaking with two hands. Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Who’s Got Your Back” suggests breaking through the distance between you and the person you’re trying to establish a bond with by touching the other person’s elbow. It conveys just the right amount of intimacy, and as such, is a favorite of politicians. It’s not too close to the chest, which we protect, but it’s slightly more personal than a hand.

      Where does a leader get their energy from? Ken Blanchard says "Begin the day slowly."


      I was priviledged to attend a small gathering to listen to Ken Blanchard and then join him for lunch this week thanks to Alberto Cabezas (co-founder of Claction online marketing) and the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation.  Ken Blanchard is the author of “The One Minute Manager” a simple but brilliant story about management that has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.

      Ken’s talk covered a whole range of stories from his life. He is clearly a keen observer of life and people.  After some wonderful stories from his life, Ken said “well I suppose you would like to know what the role of a Leader in the current uncertain times might be?”.

      3 Things Leaders Do in Times of Crisis

      Ken said that there are three parts to leading well in uncertain times:

      1. Be a Bearer of Hope (Focus attention on the good stuff)
      2. Treat people as Business Partners (If you are losing sleep over the numbers, make sure everybody is losing sleep over the numbers)
      3. Have a Servant Leadership heart (who’s in charge? customer or supervisor? – it should be the customer at the top of the pyramid)

      I will not cover what he talked about around the details of these three areas – much of this can be found by searching for Ken Blanchard (on Google, YouTube or Bing).

      I listened to Ken going through the roles of a leader, the type of behaviours that a leader can carry through…

      My question to Ken was what happens when, as a leader, you wake up one morning and think “I’m tired. I’ve been a bearer of hope, I’ve pushed, I’ve communicated…  but today I’m tired…  it’s somebody else’s turn to push today… to be the motor today.  What do you recommend?  What do you do to keep strong as a leader?”

      Ken’s answer was “Solitude.  Begin the day slowly”.

      Start the Day Slowly

      In my case, the alarm goes off, I jump up head downstairs, put coffee on, cereal in a bowl, TV on, check email and messages on my Iphone…  and straight into the problems and crisis of the day.

      When Ken’s alarm clock goes off in the morning, he wakes up.  He sits on the side of his bed with his hands, palms down, resting on his legs.  He takes a few minutes to listen to what thoughts are passing through his head, what worries him, what his body is telling him.  After 10 minutes of listening to himself, he turns his hands over, palms up, and reflects on what he wants to be grateful for at the end of the day.  The hustle of the bustle of the day still takes its toll, but starting the day slowly gives him the strength to do what he knows is right.

      (This morning I had big plans to start the day slowly, but hit snooze and ended up in a rush… tomorrow for sure I will get my slow start)

      The world’s best presentation

      I was reading a post at Andrew Dlugan’s blog “Six Minutes” and came across the World’s best presentation.

      SlideShare recently concluded their World’s Best Presentation contest, and the winner was Dan Roam’s American Health Care presentation. [If you are reading this via subscription, you may need to click through to view it below.

      This is the world’s best presentation as voted by the users of the slideshare site. I think that it is brilliant and an inpiration for how to make ideas simple and get them across graphically and powerfully. This is not a presentation for public speaking, but something that can be read standalone.

      View more documents from Dan Roam.

      17 Daily personal habits for a fulfilling life

      I have been teaching MBAs for 12 years and I am often asked over a coffee a question on the general theme of “what should I do with my life?” or “how can I be a success?” to which I feel hugely under-qualified to provide answers.

      I have spent time reflecting on my own life (not a great source of wisdom) and speaking with lots of friends, colleagues and wise-seeming individuals (a great source of wisdom).  I have compiled a list of 17 daily habits that are common to the people who reach the end of their life, look back and say “I would be happy to do much the same again”.

      I was hesitant to share this material as I feel unqualified to talk about it (only half way through the average human lifespan, not yet a billionaire).  I showed it to my father a couple of days ago, only to discover the next day that he had passed it on to the boards of 3 global companies, some successful authors, some highly successful people… and they came back saying that this was inspiring and “challenging stuff”. I thank my father for doing what I was scared to do – share this stuff.

      17 Daily Habits for a Fulfilling Life

      The full document (8 pages) is available if you want here on Google Documents.

      1. Goal setting (Dreams to Goals to Actions)
      2. Time Management
      3. Fit mind and body
      4. Personal vision (What on Earth am I here for?)
      5. Integrity – build trust
      6. Personal finances in order
      7. Good social life
      8. Strong relationships with partner, family and kids
      9. Resilience (Head in the sky, feet on the ground)
      10. Self motivation
      11. Self acceptance
      12. Fun
      13. Attracts and uses mentors and advisors
      14. Is open and seeks coaching
      15. Giving with intention
      16. Gets others to do stuff
      17. Sets aside time for reflection

      I would appreciate your reactions in the comments (here) and this really is a work in progress to which I would love to see how we use the web 2.0 tools (facebook, twitter, linkedin) to collaborate and develop this material.3 Most Recent Blog Posts

      1. Don’t Make This Mistake: Good Intentions but No Actions
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      3. How To Handle The Painful Aspects Of Leadership During Economic Recession

      I have another question – how do you get people to change their habits?  Some of the early readers of this material said “really enjoyed reading this piece, but it is a bit like january resolutions-the new diet is a great idea but it is very hard to stop eating the things we like”.  If it is not a book, if it is not a course, if it is not new year’s resolutions… what does it really take to allow someone to reach an aha moment and implement change in their life (I need this answer more than most for my own life, I might have this list, but every day I am challenged to find the discipline to live it).

      Update: TEDx Talk on this Subject…

      In April 2013 I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the TEDx University of Navarra “Shaking the Ordinary” event.  The speech is now up on YouTube:

      Goal setting, Dreams – Goals – Actions

      We know what we need to do to be successful, but why do so few people manage to sustain the habits of regularly dedicating time to the activities that will bring them success?  Why do we sabotage ourselves?

      A nice thought about something you might like to have is a dream.  A dream written down and clearly visualised is a goal.  A tangible, measurable step written down and committed to is an action.  You will not achieve a dream if you don’t systematically work through the actions that lead to the goals that lead to the dream.  Dream – have a book published.  Goal – complete first draft of book by 31/1/2010.  Action – write 1000 words on goal setting.

      A writer is somebody who finds writing harder than anybody else.  My brother Aidan – set a goal 60 weeks ago – publish a blog article every Monday before 9:00am – and has consistently met it except for 2 weeks – the week his son was born and the week his son was in hospital with a worrying stomach condition.  How?  He made a verbal commitment to many of his friends.  He said to his wife that he would give her €100 every time he failed to publish by 9:00am.  He has paid 3 times (once he published the blog 20 minutes late).

      We need accountability partners (sadly we are less likely to cheat on our goals if committed to a friend than just to ourself).  The top performers all have coaches; it is too difficult to sustain high performance without help. 

      Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers made popular the idea that becoming excellent requires 10,000 hours of practice.  Your genes, your natural talent, luck becomes irrelevant when you achieve 10,000 hours.  In what will you spend the next 5 years accumulating your 10,000 hours of practice? 

      Most people never accrue 10,000 hours in anything.  Will you make the commitment to excellence, the commitment to mastery?

      Calendar Management (Pomodoro Technique, Rhythm); Self Discipline

      “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret” Jim Rohn

      Routine sets you free.  Routines can break the tendancy to procrastination (“quieting the lizard brain” Seth Godin).

      Pomodoro technique – get a timer that clearly counts down 25 minute intervals.  Take your to-do list.  Prioritise number 1 important item.  Estimate number of 25 minute intervals.  Set the timer and work on the first timer.  Any interruption, reset the timer to 25.  At the end of a pomodoro take a proper 7 minute break.  After 4 take a 25 minute break.  How many pomodoros can you achieve in a day?

      Self discipline has been shown to be an “expendable” resource.  In order to have the greatest ability to maintain self discipline, we need to get enough sleep, face our anxieties, take time out to relax as well.

      Fit mind and body (Energy)

      Survey of centurions (people who live to 100) – two things in common:

      1. they exercise every day and
      2. they have a project which they must survive in order to complete.

      “Sharpen the saw”:  You only have one body – take time for repairs.  Take time to strengthen it.  Take time to rest it.  Keep fit, play sport, enjoy walking, don’t wait for the heart attack to let you know that you need to eat healthy, keep fit. 

      Personal Vision

      “What on Earth am I here for?”  Wrong Question – meaning is not to be found inside ourselves – “What do my parents, friends, family, society need from me?  How can I best help others?

      Jesus Christ once said, “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”

      What drives you?  Guilt?  Resentment?  Fear?  Materialism?  Approval?  Social comparison?

      The Arbinger Institute distinguish between two forms of emotional living – “In the box” vs “Out of the box”.  “In the box” is reactive – your emotions are reactions to world and people around you.  If someone is late to your meeting, you are angry.  Out of the Box is that you are proactive about emotion – you choose the emotion that best serves the current moment.  You don’t react to people, but seek to understand what is happening in their life, what they are seeking, what they are lacking.  

      Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of “quiet desperation,” but today a better description is aimless distraction. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere.

      We are products of our past, but do not have to be prisoners of it.

      George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

      Do you have a clear understanding of your values?  Have you spent some time reflecting on what is important to you?  Who are your role models that have lived these values in a strong way?  (What do you really want?)

      Why do many cancer survivors look back on the cancer as a gift? – they live the rest of their lives with a true understanding of how short a time we have and what is really important in the time we have.  The unimportant drops away and leaves a powerful clarity and focus.

      Communication in concise terms of your personal, company, project, goal vision. You are always selling.  People sign up for vision, fun and principle.

      “We die”.  What will you do the last hour?  Who will be there?  Who will you want to speak to?  What would you say?

      In the book “Superfreakonomics” there is a chapter that shows a high correlation with the arrival of television and an increase in crime.  The authors examine various hypothesis, but essentially find no link except a speculation that the arrival of TV also was the arrival of powerful advertisement campaigns that transmit the idea that “buy this product” = “get this life”.  The purchase of a €2 coca cola is not the purchase of sugar, water and some cola flavour in a red can…  No, it is access to a life full of exciting friends, fun parties and meaningful interaction.  The purchase of a car is not the purchase of a vehicle to get from A to B, it is access to a lifestyle.  You are not happy now, but the mere purchase of the right set of goods will transform your life into one of fulfilment.  This leads to frustrated people.  We believe the ads, but they are selling falsehood.   No thing, no object, no achievement will fundamentally change how you feel about yourself – only you can decide to change how you feel about life.

      Integrity – build trust, reliability (“Its a small world”)

      Are values worthwhile because they provide a ROI or are they valuable only in that they allow you to sleep well every night?  Warren Buffett – why is Integrity his number 1 criteria for selecting people in whom to invest?

      Aristotle believed that if an individual did not internalise an ethical value system before the age of 12 they would never really “feel” the need to live their values.  Aristotle separates the ingredients of a Person of Integrity into two levels, the first level are two virtues that are the foundation of all the rest.  The foundational virtues are:

      1. Courage and
      2. Self-Restraint

      The edifice of credible character is then built of the following lived virtues:

      1. Generosity
      2. Magnificence
      3. Greatness of Soul
      4. Balanced Ambition
      5. Gentleness (concerning Anger)
      6. Friendship
      7. Honesty
      8. Charm
      9. The Absence of Shame – Aristotle has a hard time with this idea, expressing that shame is a force that is necessary in youth to hold them back from overstepping bounds, but as wisdom develops with age an individual must remove the shackles of shame.

      Finances in Order

      Delayed gratification is necessary.  Nobody soaked in debt will ever be able to generate the focus to deliver impact in the important areas of their life.

      The test that has most correlation with success in life is a simple test devised by psychologists.  They bring a child into a room and sit them down.  The child is presented with a sweet.  The adult then says that they need to leave the room.  The child is most welcome to eat the sweet, but if it is still there when the adult returns, the child will receive 2 sweets.  50% of children cannot resist temptation and eat the one sweet, losing the opportunity to double their outcomes.  The children that don’t eat the sweet do not sit there staring at it – they have learnt to avoid looking at the temptation, they have learnt strategies to manage themselves.

      Accumulate education => Accumulate capital => Generate income => Grow expenses inside the limit of passive income.  Freedom = passive income > expenses.  Slave = 90% income as salary.  Keep expenses low, generate assets.

      Balanced, enriching social life

      Choose your friends.  You will become who you spend most time with.

      What is the most satisfying thing you can do for:

      • €10?
      • €100?
      • €1000?

      Happiness: It is all about shared experiences + intentional giving. 

      Unhappiness: it is all about comparing yourself to others, what you have, what you don’t have. What would you rescue from your house if you could only save one thing?  (95% choose photos).  Not plasma TV, not furniture.

      Strong close relationships – Marriage, Family, Kids

      Quality time vs time in the same room.  Intimacy.  Requires work to deepen relationships and maintain powerful connections.  It does not happen automatically – we are not genetically prepared to establish deep intimate relationships.

      Resilience (Head in the sky, Feet on the ground)

      Healthy balance between Principles and Pragmatism.  Get good at ignoring the little things.  Don’t wrestle with pigs.  You will get dirty, you will lose and the pig enjoys it.

      Self Motivation, Self Esteem, Self Belief

      You see what you are looking for.  Ask the right questions.  Change “why does this happen to me?” to “What am I grateful for today?”

      Get good at motivating yourself.  We are not computers – we are neurons floating in a sea of hormones and we need to be careful what hormones we let flood our brain – it will change what we see and believe.

      “The only source of good knowledge is bad experience” Tom Peters

      Climbing Everest, you will not always be going uphill.  Sometimes there are periods of downhill, but it is a necessary part of the journey.  Farmers don’t blame the winter – they accept that it will always come around and prepare to plant seeds in Spring.

      Survive => Thrive.  We are first generation that survival is guaranteed.  We are first generation where thrive is the aim – and we don’t have any history or knowledge or family role models that can guide us in a world where you really can avoid most hardships.

      The person who says “poor me” has clearly got low self esteem.  The person who says “I am the greatest” is also likely to have low self esteem.

      Self Acceptance

      You are the best you in the world.  You will be a terrible somebody else. 

      “The reward for conformity is that everybody likes you except yourself” Rita Mae Brown

      It is only in the tough times that you reach into yourself and truly see what is important to you.  In the easy times you lose yourself as you compare to everybody else – and lose clarity of what you will know is important when death is imminent.  The sharpest steel is forged in the hottest furnaces.

      Fun

      Life is too short to not laugh regularly.

      Be accessible and approachable.

      Mentors and Advisors (Life Strategy)

      Have a list. Find your way to ask them.  Nick Luckock – “Apax doesn’t invest in first time entrepreneurs – they don’t yet know how much help they will need from others and how they can ask for it”.

      The ideal mentor is someone who you respect, can connect with on a personal level, and who is willing to impart their knowledge. But don’t expect them to solve all your problems.

      “A mentor’s role is to help you to make sense of your own experiences” Professor D Megginson

      Talking to someone who’s been through a similar experience or has achieved something that you would like to achieve will be constructive.

      Coach (Accountability and Balance)

      Cormac and his personal trainer: “I only work with the best”.   

      “I have no time for people not prepared to do the hard work.”

      Permission to hold me accountable for my own actions.

      Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell all have two things in common – they have been leaders of their respective fields, and they each have a coach.  The best in the world have coaches.  Is it coincidence?  We are not strong enough mentally to keep up the hard work and discipline over the long haul to reach excellence.  We need people around us who hold us accountable and push us to stretch.  Tony Nadal, the coach of Rafa Nadal, says that his role is to ensure “Effort and Commitment” – not tennis skills, not better strokes, not how to get fit.

      Giving

      Auschvitz – 1 in 30 survived the camp.  Victor Frankl was one.  Why did some survive and others not?  It was not random.  The prisoners received bread rations only sufficient to keep them barely alive, yet some prisoners would take half of their bread and give it to someone that they saw needed it more than them.  Those that ate all of their bread survived a time.  Those that shared their meagre ration of bread were able to truly live.  You can take everything away from a man except his ability to choose his response to any given situation.

      Victor Frankl developed the Logotherapy process to help people find the ultimate meaning for their life, to find “a why that can overcome any how”.  There are three types of ultimate meaning:

      1. Serving others
      2. A Unique Contribution
      3. Finding Meaning in the Suffering Itself

      Giving with intention, giving what is special to you.

      “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill

      Getting others to do stuff for you

      Leadership is “Vision with bullying”. 

      A vision without execution is idealism.  Execution without vision is bullying.

      Volunteer for charities, clubs.  It is here that you will learn to lead.  Create change = upset someone, connect people, lead people.

      Reflection, Time to Think (Separation of Now and Future) “What have we learnt?”

      Incremental improvement always wins.

      Meditation – why?  Does it really provide the impact that many of its proponents suggest?  Commit to 10 days of self development activity every year.

      “We’ll pluck significance from the least consequential happenstance if it suits us and happily ignore the most flagrantly obvious symmetry between separate aspects of our lives if it threatens some cherished prejudice or cosily comforting belief; we are blindest to precisely whatever might be most illuminating”. Iain Banks, Transition, Patient 8262.

      • Impact = Self Understanding + Personal Habits + Social Systems
      • Life = Work + Social + Relationship + Logos (Meaning/Spiritual)
      • Success = Impact + Luck

      A fulfilling life?

      Why worry?  It should all come together in the end shouldn’t it?  Life should naturally turn out well.  I don’t like exactly where I am right now, but in a few years it will be better.  Doesn’t it just happen like that?

      I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres when I was 23 years old.  It changed an idea I had about life. It scared me greatly. 

      The book tells the story of an lieutenant that is stationed on a Greek Island as part of the Italian occupation during the second world war.  He gets to know the locals and falls in love with the daughter of a villager.  They enjoy happy times together.  The Allied forces take back control of Greece, and the Italian army beats a hasty retreat.  Our lieutenant has to depart but he and the Greek girl promise that he will return after the war.  Three years later, the war ends, peace arrives and our lieutenant, after years in camps and on the run, finally can make his way back to the Greek island.  He travels to Greece, catches the ferry to island and walks towards the village.  He reaches the village in the late afternoon and is walking up the final stretch of hill up towards the centre of the village.  He sees a woman in the square, his Greek girl.  She is holding a baby in her arms.  The lieutenant turns and walks away, never returning.  He travels the world.  Each Christmas the girl receives a postcard from some spot in the world – always anonymous and with no return address. 

      After many, many years, the man decides that he cannot live without seeing the girl at least one more time.  He is now in his 60s.  He makes his way to Greece, catches the ferry and repeats his journey of 35 years before.  He walks to the village.  He is walking up the hill towards the square and meets a young local boy.  He asks “does Pelagia still live here?”. The boy says “I don’t know any Ioanna”.  The man reflects and thinks.  “She will be old now, 60.  She was the daughter of Iannis”. The boy responds “that bitter old woman?  She lives slightly outside the village” and indicates the house.  Our lieutenant gets to the door and knocks.  When the door opens, the girl who is now an old woman stands for a few seconds in shock and then hits him with all of her force and slams the door shut.  He knocks and knocks and finally she opens. “Why did you do this to me?  Why did you abandon me?”.  “I saw you with a baby, I thought you had a baby, thought you had married, had found someone else…  I didn’t want to stir up…”  “Why?  Why didn’t you ask?  It was my sister’s baby.  I was babysitting”.

      Before I read this book I had the idea that life was like a 10 pin bowling alley when it is set up for a kid’s party.  They put foam into the gutters so that all of the balls will reach the end and take down at least a pin or two.  After reading the story, I realised that life does not have this foam protection.  Life has big gutters, and it is quite possible to put my life into the gutter and not hit a single pin.

      The positive thing is that it is never too late to start living the life we want.  Life’s gutters are all in my mind. The past is gone Today I can decide to head a new direction, and the final destination changes.  I only need change course by one degree and I may make a massive change in the new destination that I will reach and what will happen on the journey.

      Jim Rohn says “It is possible to design and live an extraordinary life”.  We measure life in hours, days, weeks and years – but this is not the right measure.  Life is experiences.  There are people that live 200 years of experiences in 40 years of life,  and there are people who don’t live even a single year of experiences in 90 years of clock time. 

      “We die”. This is how the Cluetrain manifesto begins.

      The human lifespan is 650,000 hours.  One of those hours is your last hour.  One of those days is your last day.  This is an inevitability of life.  We all will die.  In that last moment, what will we have with us?  Nothing.  What will we leave?  What will we remember?  What will flash through our minds?  What will it take so that in that moment, God turns and looks and says “now there is someone who really used the opportunity I gave her”?

      Steven Covey says “Begin with the End in Mind”.  Our end is a day where we face the end.  No more opportunities.  Our obituary will be written.  What will it say? 

      Alfred Nobel had a unique view of his obituary while alive.  He was one of three brothers.  When Alfred was 55, one of his brother’s died.  The newspapers confused the brothers and the next day’s edition came out with an obituary of Alfred.  He had the unique opportunity of reading his own obituary at the age of 55; and he really did not like it.  He was the inventor and mass producer of dynamite.  Reading his obituary was the inspiration to change his life and leave a different legacy.  Today we have the Nobel peace prize – because Alfred was so gutted to see that his legacy was going to be death and destruction that he spent the rest of his life creating the greatest current symbol of peace. 

      Aristotle said “we are what we habitually do”.  If something is important, you must do it every day.  If you say, “I will take some time next year and do that” – you will never do it.  If something is important and will be part of our legacy it needs to be done every day and become routine.

      “Carpe Diem. Momento Mori.”  Seize the day. Remember we must die.

      Legend has it that a slave would follow a Roman General on a victorious procession through Rome, his height of glory, reminding him that he is mortal.  In ancient Rome, the words are believed to have been used on the occasions when a Roman general was parading through the streets during a victory triumph. Standing behind the victorious general was his slave, who was tasked to remind the general that, though his highness was at his peak today, tomorrow he could fall or be more likely brought down. The servant conveyed this by telling the general that he should remember, “Memento mori.”  This finds ritual expression in the Catholic rites of Ash Wednesday when ashes are placed upon the worshipers’ heads with the words “Remember Man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

      P.S. If you liked this post you might also like The complete guide to personal habits: 158 reflections on being your best self and 9 Reasons why you are Stuck.

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