Author T.H. White on learning as a cure for sadness:
“The best thing for being sad… is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
Yesterday, I had a coffee with my IESE Business School colleague Miquel Llado. We were celebrating his new book “Fall in Love with the Future” (available now in Spanish: Enamorarse del Futuro).
Miquel’s book shares valuable lessons on life and leadership from his career as CEO of Sara Lee, CEO of Bimbo, VP of Pepsico and his years of teaching at IESE. Miquel was elected Spain’s Best Executive 2000 by the Spain Business Association AED.
I’ve ordered 100 copies of the book to share with our Vistage CEO members in Spain.
Miquel shared a recent anecdote. A successful leader was sat in his office when a colleague came over to his desk.
Colleague: “Do you want my feedback?”
Leader: “No. I have no interest in your feedback. If I had listened to all the feedback that people threw at me all my life, I wouldn’t be a millionaire today.”
Miquel was shocked. All feedback is good feedback? or No?
Leader: “I am very careful about who’s feedback I am open to hearing. Not everyone’s feedback is useful… and many people have no idea what my actual objective is.”
Not all Feedback is Good Feedback (for you)
I heard this a few years back and I wrote it into my notebook at the time. “Evaluate feedback not on its face value, but on the quality of the life of the person giving you the feedback.”
If they have a life that inspires you, if they live to a set of standards and values that you aspire towards… then take the feedback seriously (whether it seems useful or not!).
How to Make Feedback Valuable
After I heard Miquel’s story, I thought “In my course we use feedback all the time, from everyone… is that something I should reevaluate?”
In my IESE courses, we make extensive use of peer feedback… from as many people as possible… but the first thing that the speaker must begin from is their statement of purpose. We call it Point X. “When I have finished speaking my audience will…” All the audience feedback is based on helping increase the power and the potency of the speaker’s words and actions towards consistently achieving that result.
If a speaker’s objective is “when I have finished speaking my audience will write their email address on a paper to commit to donate an hour to mentor an MBA student this week”… If nobody in the audience has written down their email, I am pretty harsh when feedback is “your speech was wonderful and I loved your story”. The purpose of speaker was not to be seen as wonderful. Their purpose was to get the audience to commit to giving 1 hour of their time. You can give an entertaining speech that totally fails to achieve its original objective.
In giving feedback, maybe I should be first interested in asking the person “What was your objective?” before I throw in my 2 cents. Often I have assumed their intent, but maybe I am incorrect.
When someone approaches me with feedback, maybe first I should ask “I’m intrigued, what do you think was my primary objective?”
Hitting the Bullseye
I shoot an arrow at a target and I miss. I ask a colleague for feedback. “I don’t like the colour yellow on your t-shirt… it is distracting” It is honest, sincere feedback, but it doesn’t help me hit the target next time.
This video is about paying attention in the process of learning, and trusting the process.
The Art of Learning: Attention without Judgement.
If I am judging everything, I am judging from today’s level of mastery… and blocking my progress. It is so difficult to remember that I don’t see more than what I am capable of seeing.
Shoshin is a chinese word that means “open mind” – a mind that is open to possibility rather than constantly analysing everything that is presented to me (through the prism of my current level of expertise).
There are many ways, many frameworks, many tips. Here I share one simple, easy to implement change that you can begin to use today.
Sometimes the best way to allow your team mates to ask for help is for you to ask for help first (and especially when you don’t necessarily believe that you need help). Allow others to have an impact on you, they will then open to allow you to have an impact on them.
This video is about learning the humility as a leader to ask for help, not when you need it, but at times where you don’t feel you need it – at times where you are not struggling, at the times where you would tend to just get on with it and solve it yourself.
I was on the road for 8 hours over last 2 days, lots of podcasts.
I listened to Tim Ferriss speaking to Jason Fried. Jason seems an interesting character – professes to have no goals as he learnt at a young age that setting and aiming at goals only served to detract from his joy of life. I don’t think his approach works for everyone, but I do think I have something to learn from his attitude of learning to enjoy and contribute rather than focus on task completion.
One sentence really hit me as he said it:
“In schools, you don’t learn to iterate. You complete the task, you hand it in, and you are done. In life, iteration is everything.” Jason Fried
When I heard this I repeated “iteration is everything” over and over for a few miles… because I completely agree. Why am I good at giving a speech? Iteration. I get to speak hundreds of times every year. Writing? this blog. I write hundreds of posts, edit them, improve them, republish them… each iteration is a slight improvement.
There is a story from Toyota in the 1980s. Globally they decided to implement an employee suggestion scheme, but they left it up to each national leadership team to decide how to implement the scheme.
In the US, the leadership decided to pay 2% of the value of the change once implemented. Imagine you are working on the factory floor of a Toyota plant in US. What type of ideas are you looking for? You will get 2% of the value of the change… big ideas, huge ideas!
In the US they received an average of 1.5 ideas per employee of which less than 10% were actually implemented.
In Japan, the leadership decided to pay $50 for every idea. Imagine you are there on the floor of the Japanese factories. What type of ideas are you looking for? Small ideas, little improvements, anything that slightly improves the efficiency or quality of life of the factory.
In Japan, they received an average of 55 ideas per employee, of which around 70% were implemented. Within 2 years the Japanese operations were so much more efficient that they took the new Japanese operations and re-implemented them around the world.
Iteration is Everything
All excellence is from iteration. World class musicians play a piece hundreds of times with small improvements (or just changes) with each iteration. Sports is repetitive. My speaking is repetitive.
What piece of old writing could you dust off and improve 1% and produce a new iteration? What skill could you focus 5 minutes each day on iteration? What animal have you always wanted to be able to draw… draw a bad version today and iterate every day for the next month…
This video is from Bilbao in front of the Guggenheim Museum. I was in Bilbao for the launch of Vistage in the region.
In my courses I often have participants who hate following standard processes. Sometimes this is a good thing. When you decide to break the rules, you better do your homework and preparation so that what you deliver is excellent. Too often, “creative” people break the rules of structure… but don’t do the necessary work to be excellent in delivery.
This video is from up in the French Pyrenees. It is about learning to ski.
It takes a few days of hard knocks to get to a level where you can even basically enjoy it.
The skills that turn out to be passions in your life, they will take time to develop. Many people give up after 1 day of frustration – they give up on skiing, they give up on speaking in public, they give up on learning a new language.
The easy stuff gets boring quickly. The harder skills can give a lifetime of enjoyment… if you can get through the initial pain.
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?
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.
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?”.
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