I'd love you to leave a comment and tell me the answer to this question: Who is the most enthusiastic person that you know? 

Thanks, Conor

Last night, I asked a retired inspector of schools: “What makes a great school?”

His answer… “Music.”

He said that infallibly he would find a thriving musical scene in every great school that he had visited.

When you are surrounded by enthusiastic people, you are willing to take risks and learn; brave tries are celebrated. When you are surrounded by cynics and apathetic people you don’t take risks and any effort at bravery is laughed at and mocked.

On Friday I attended the YouTube Creators day in Barcelona. It struck me just how powerful a room full of enthusiastic people can be. There was no cynicism and no apathy. All efforts at Learning, trying and courage to take risks were celebrated.

Making movies #YouTube

A post shared by Conor Neill (@cuchullainn) on

PS My own answer is: Florian Mueck (http://www.florianmueck.com/florian/)

Last week, my 13 year old niece Natia asked me: “what is the most important lesson you have learnt in your life?”

Natia was clearly quite serious (and had thought about her own answer), so I took a few minutes before responding. The video below explains my answer to her question.

How would you answer this question? What’s your lesson?

Leave it in the comments below 😉

Life is much better today than ever before.  I guess the challenge is that we have improved all of the lower parts of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but lost a lot of the institutions and connections that helped people explore the higher elements of meaning, connection, significance and self-transcendence.

Check out the improved quality of life over the last 200 years…

  • Extreme Poverty: from 94% to 10%
  • Basic Education: from 17% to 86%
  • Literacy: from 12% to 85%
  • Vaccination: from 0% to 86%
  • Child Mortality: from 43% to 4%

Thanks to my brother for sharing the infographic 😉

This is a story about a lost tribe in Papua New Guinea.

They were brought to the city of Singapore and shown skyscrapers, airports, factories, supermarkets, homes and life. When they were on their way back to their mountain village, they were asked: “What is the most incredible thing you have seen during your days in Singapore?”.

Watch this video to hear their answer…

If you are reading this via email, the video is here: The Story of the Wheelbarrow: We are blind to anything beyond our imagination

This video comes from IESE during the Executive MBA (EMBA) intensive week in Barcelona. Florian Mueck, John Zimmer, Tony Anagor and Tobias Rodrigues all share wisdom on:

  1. public speaking
  2. hand gestures
  3. giving constructive feedback and
  4. the powerful pause

The Guests on this Week’s Video:

Getting out of your Comfort Zone.

I’m on a Sunday hike with Florian and his son Alvaro. We’re on our way toward the restaurant for lunch, when we find the river is overflowing and the foot bridge is under fast flowing water…  What do we do?

Are you waiting for permission? For the important things in life, there is nobody who can give you the permission that you need.

There comes a moment when you must commit even though you lack clarity.

“If you knew how to achieve it and could guarantee success: it is a task, not a dream” Alden Mills

Useful Links:

Why are Experts so often poor Communicators?

Here is why…  If you are reading this via email, check out the video on the blog: Why are Experts so often poor Communicators?

This is a video about Experts and Fakes, Charlatans and Gurus. I share a 2×2 matrix looking at the 4 types of skill/communication ability.

I also discuss the idea of “craftsmanship” – where one person does all of the parts of a job from idea to execution and the special type of innovation that can come when one single individual understand how all the elements of the work flow together.

There are 2 types of teachers

  • a) the teacher who is great at teaching beginners,
  • b) the teacher who is a guide for advanced students and experts. A great “beginner teacher” is often not a great “advanced teacher”.

Check out Rich Mulholland’s video about “craftsmanship”:

Chris Brogan’s recent post had a section that said “you are at one of these 5 places in your life”

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The 5 Places of Life

  1. You know your goal and you’re going after it.
  2. You know your goal and you’re stuck and can’t find your way there.
  3. You know your goal and you are letting distractions win.
  4. You don’t know your goal and you’re miserable.
  5. You’ve given up on your goals and you’re miserable.

Recipe for Today:

If in state 1)

Enjoy it.  (Find someone you can help.)

If in state 2)

Find a Mentor. Ask someone who has already had success about how they overcame this obstacle.

If in state 3)

Use the Pomodoro Method.

If in state 4)

Ask a few friends (not the cynical ones) what they think you are good at and what they think you should work on

If in state 5)

Move your body: Go for a walk.

PS if you can’t decide which state you are it, you in state 4.

Find a goal. Aim at it.

Let me know a) which place you are at and b) the goal you choose in the comments below 😉

Two Approaches to Life

My friends live their lives in one of two contrasting ways:

  1. Guided by a Long term Vision for their Lives
  2. Take Opportunities as they come

In the short term, the opportunists made great early progress.  I have one friend who changed job every 1-2 years in the investment banking industry.  Each job change achieved an increase of 30-50% in salary.  Problem: he is now stuck and has no serious chances of moving up to the really senior ranks.

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Another friend in investment banking has stuck it out in the same bank for 14 years.  He didn’t take each opportunistic head-hunter call looking to get him to switch jobs.  His salary languished behind our opportunistic friend.  Today he is moving into the senior ranks of the bank and has enormous political support to take job choices that improve his work-life balance.

It was a hard choice when I was young.  I worked for Accenture for 9 years.  Every year I watched peers leave to join competitors for 30-50% increases in salary.  I had offers and I thought about leaving.  In the end, I valued flexibility over salary and used my network in Accenture to live in London, Chicago and Sydney.

Case: Henry Kissinger and US Foreign Policy

I finished reading Kissinger’s biography by Niall Ferguson before the summer. The central debate in the book: Was Kissinger:

  1. an idealist hit by impossible problems? or
  2. a realist who responded as best he could to opportunities?

Remember the 1960s?  I don’t…  only through my history courses and books.  I highly recommend a Coursera course with Professor Philip Zelikow: The Modern World, Part 2: Global History since 1910.  It is one of my 3 favourite MOOC courses that I have studied over the last 5 years.  Prof Zelikow is passionate and engaging.

Kissinger’s Major Criticism of US Foreign Policy: 100% Opportunist

Kissinger’s criticisms of the Kennedy and LBJ presidencies was that they were pragmatic opportunists, but there was no overall vision of what they stood for. The Soviet Union (at the time) stood for fairness, and the US argument was that its economic policies would make citizens wealthier.

It was a lost argument.

People were not inspired to fight in order to improve their economic situation. This was not a psychologically motivating appeal.

Kissinger identified freedom as the value that the US most espoused. He felt that the foreign policy decisions should be taken in the framework of whether the individual decisions improved individual freedom – not on a case by case basis.

Opportunism leads to a Dead End

Those who know why they are fighting will win over those who don’t.

The Vietnam war was militarily un-winnable, and Ho Chi Minh was always a step ahead of what the US were interested in negotiating.   He understood that the US would always be short term and opportunistic. He was fighting for a cause, the US had got themselves into Vietnam bit by bit by bit and then found themselves stuck fighting for a cause that didn’t exist.

I’m no history or politics expert, but I would suggest that the US role in the world from the end of the Vietnam war up until 2000 was largely positive.  The recent decade has seen the US fall back into an Opportunistic foreign policy – George Bush’s photo opportunity driven foreign policy was the start of a collapse in Visionary and values driven US foreign policy.  Trump is here because the political consensus had gradually become what is politically easy, not what is right.  The increasing polarization of the US political system makes it hard to establish a long term vision.

Only a life led towards a vision based on your own set of values can lead to work you love in the second half of your career.  A life led entirely on the basis of opportunism will inevitably take you towards a dead end (or Trump).

How do you Establish a Framework for your Life?

Kissinger began by identifying the most important value that he believed represented the US culture: Freedom.

What is your single most important value?  

Is your life showing this?  Is the majority of your time going to your most important value?  Are you spending your money on your most important value?  Are you building friendships and mentors that support your most important value?

You need a coach or a mentor to help you work out your vision, framework and how to take the tough decisions to orient your life around this vision.  I have never seen someone do it alone.

One of my favourite examples of a powerful personal Vision comes from Cameron Herold. He calls it his Vivid Vision. You can read his updated 2016 Vivid Vision Statement here.

“Leadership is about communicating with people, uniting them behind a shared mission and values, and mobilizing energies toward accomplishing the mission or purpose of an Organization.” Peter Drucker

Leadership is a means to an end–the mission it serves is the end.

People who accomplish great things have a combined passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.

In “Leading Change”, John Kotter outlines 6 aspects of a good vision
statement:

  1. Imaginable. It needs to paint a visual picture of the desired future in the minds of those who read it.
  2. Desirable. It should appeal to the people that are striving to reach it and the customers they are serving.
  3. Feasible. While aspirational in nature, it needs to articulate a realistic and achievable future purpose.
  4. Focused. It should provide concentrated direction to those following it.
  5. Flexible. By being broad in scope, it allows for modifications due to the dynamic nature of the business environment.
  6. Communicable. The vision statement should be easy to articulate to others.

We need to be careful about taking the easy path and not the right path.  We need people that practice it in their own lives, and we need to reward leaders who practice it in the public arena.

If you liked this post, you will also like Freedom is not Fun and Meaningful Contribution.

 

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Overlooking the White House

I was in Washington DC the last 6 days teaching on the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Leadership Academy 2016.  We had 28 leaders from all around the world – China, Nepal, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Canada, Germany, Australia, USA, UK.  The White House was being prepared for the inauguration of the next US President.

Christophe Magnussen is an inspiring entrepreneur from Germany. We made a short video up on the roof of our hotel, overlooking the winter evening sky of Washington DC.

Interview with Christoph Magnussen

If you are seeing this by email, here is the video: Interview with Christoph Magnussen

Christoph has some great tips on entrepreneurship and productivity over on his youtube channel.  I like the work he puts in to making the videos engaging and fast moving.

The Key to a Killer Keynote Talk

Here, Christoph took some time with another Leadership Academy attendee, Rich Mulholland from South Africa to discuss how to become a better keynote speaker:

If you are seeing this by email, here is the video: Interview Rich Mulholland

Don’t waste time in meetings

If you are seeing this by email, here is the video: Don’t waste time in meetings

If you can’t sell, you can’t lead

If you are seeing this by email, here is the video: If you can’t sell, you can’t lead

How to effective work Remotely

If you are seeing this by email, here is the video: How to effective work Remotely