Be careful of Lazy thinking

We have a wonderful capacity to mess up our lives through lazy or fantasy thinking. We make blanket black and white statements… rather than seeking the shades of grey.

“I hate my job” -> what parts exactly?

Life is richer than black and white. You don’t hate every single part, activity, person in your job… be really specific – what do you like, what do you not like.

Solve the solve-able problems. If you don’t like something find a way to do less of it. Find someone who enjoys it. If you do like something, find a way to do more of it. Spend more time with the people who give you energy.

I love the approach of “Design Thinking”. Stay with your curiosity and take time to get the question correct. How do I improve my job, make a greater impact, feel like I am doing meaningful work, while being paid well, and enjoying my social life and with a family that is supportive of each other… you need messy questions to start to clarify what constraints, what changes, what problems you will stick with.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Serendipity

Definition: finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Last weekend, I asked my family a question: “what is your favourite word?”

My wife had 3 favourites. One of those words is “serendipity”.

Side note: My 6 year old had one favourite word. “Love”. She is a genius IMHO.

This week several events occurred where I found that the word serendipity was the clearest expression of how the important people and important opportunities have come into my life.

I’m on the train to Madrid this morning, and stopped to reflect on why this word came up and why it is so relevant.

What is the difference between serendipity and luck?

…from the Merriam Webster dictionary

“There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” “success,” and “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual”). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.”

Serendipitous Opportunities

I didn’t have it on my bucket list to do an MBA, it was someone else’s dream and they brought me along. Teaching was not something I ever imagined doing, and Brian Leggett opened that door for me. IESE now plays a huge part in my life and a huge contribution to my feeling of belonging in Spain, to contributing to society, and to developing my own reputation. Serendipity.

Vistage was not something I was looking for. I had no strategic plan that was looking for Vistage 10 years ago… I had a coffee with a friend, Verne Harnish, and he said “I think I have something for you”… and he gently pushed and encouraged me until I made a concerted effort to look at what the opportunity might mean for me. He did not just say “check this out.” He pushed me. I will always appreciate his encouragement.

EO was not something that I was looking for – I went to a lunch with a VC to get them to invest in my business… and Christopher invited me to a learning event… which led me to a 17 year participation as a member and a leader in EO.

How to Maximize Serendipity

Human relationships are the foundation of serendipity.

The more people that know who you are and what you stand for, the better.

Writing this blog and sharing my weekly youtube videos are my most powerful tools to let the world know what I stand for.

Publish content (blogs, podcasts, videos, articles) regularly. Don’t try to be an expert, publish what you are learning. Let people know what you are building, what is important to you, what sort of future you are looking to create.

People will discover you. They get a sense of what interests you. They become a global radar guidance system for you that raises your Serendipity Quotient.

Life Advice from a 70 year old…

All taken from this post: 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known from Kevin Kelly, (thanks to my brother for sharing it with me a couple of weeks ago!).

Kevin Kelly was the founding editor of Wired. He reached 70 last year and shared 103 bits of life advice. I find these lists often are mostly cliche… but there is depth in this list.

This week’s video is me picking out the 3 bits of life advice that most resonate with me – and then sharing why these bits of advice are so important and relevant to myself.

3 of the 103 bits of life advice that I loved…

  1. Living with Paradox… and Mentors (at 2:20 in the video)
  2. Building A Life of Learning and Growth (at 5:33)
  3. Trusting People (9:35)

Living with Paradox… and Mentors

“Three things you need: The ability to not give up something till it works, the ability to give up something that does not work, and the trust in other people to help you distinguish between the two.”

I love this one for this paradox: you need to be stubborn enough to stick to things beyond where someone else might abandon… and you need to be flexible enough to stop doing something when someone else might really struggle with the “sunk cost”… the hours and effort already invested in the activity.

How do you develop this capacity? You don’t. You are too close.

The only way you can develop the ability to navigate this paradox is with the input and perspectives of others. It took me a long time of stubborn arrogance before I finally had to accept that other people have much better perspectives on my life than I do.

Building A Life of Learning and Growth

“Your best job will be one that you were unqualified for because it stretches you. In fact only apply to jobs you are unqualified for.”

Once you have mastered something, we need you to move on… to take on something more complex. If you stay doing a job that you are now completely competent in… you begin to coast… and then feel like you deserve more… and become complacent… and then you find yourself out of a job.

I am currently leading Vistage in Spain… and the team around me can tell you that I am not yet the “perfect leader”… I am a work in progress… I am learning a lot as we go. I am completely committed to the mission of the organisation, and working hard to build up my skills and capacities to be a good leader… but I’m not there yet.

Trusting People

“If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.”

I trust people as a general principle. It has worked out marvellously 99.9% of the time… but I have been let down, cheated and disappointed a number of times.

There is a saying “cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me.”

I have interviewed and hired hundreds of people over the last 20 years. I have accepted investment in my business, partners, employees… I have invested in others’ businesses and lent money to friends… and I’ve learnt that only behaviour counts… what people say they will do has no correlation to how they will act in future… what people have done in the past has huge correlation with how they will act in future.

If someone commits to pay you back $20 and then breaks that promise – it is a very inexpensive way of identifying someone not to trust in any way in future. While you might be wrong, there are 8 billion other people who are likely to be a better bet.

Stand in the Traffic

The title of this blog comes from a session in a course that Professor Paris de l’Etraz teaches about Life. I met Paris at a dinner in Madrid 4 years ago hosted by another inspiring teacher.

Stand in the Traffic: I love the simplicity of this life strategy.

Whatever you want in life, there are places where opportunities are flowing… and there are places where opportunities are not flowing. Abundant places… and stagnant places.

Stagnant: There are very few opportunities passing the person sitting on their sofa watching Netflix.

Abundant: There are many more opportunities passing the person out there in the world engaged in conversation… on a university campus, in industry conferences, in associations, online via youtube and blogs and writing articles.

If you have any idea what you are looking for…

If you have any idea about the types of things that you want to come into your life, the next step is to ask yourself “Where is the traffic?” Where are relevant people, resources, ideas, activity flowing?

Go stand there.

Put yourself where opportunity will pass you by.

If you are at an industry event and it is coffee break time, where do you stand?

If you stand by the wall with your mobile phone in front of you… you are not “in the traffic”.

If you stand by the coffee machines or the food service area, all the traffic will pass by you.

If you know how to smile and ask a few questions “hey, how are you doing? what brings you here? what has impressed you so far?”… now you can engage with the traffic.

Where should you be putting yourself more often?

PS the traffic is not just a physical location… my blog, my linkedin newsletter and my youtube channel are all ways of “standing in the traffic”

More Lessons from Paris about Life

Check out Paris’ TEDx talk on how Uncertainty affects the Professional Mind.

Subtraction

Addition

More, more, more… more projects, more goals, more connections… is the path to overwhelm.

Subtraction

Less, less, less… less projects, less goals, less connections… is the path to focus and renewal and energy.

I heard Mathew McConnachy in an interview yesterday. He said that back 10 years ago he was a movie actor, he had a production company, he had a music label and was promoting two artists… and he realized he was spread very thin… he was getting a C in everything. He shared a moment where he received a phone call from his team in the production company… and when he saw the caller id… he went “ugh” and he didn’t want to answer.

He immediately called his lawyer and said “I need to close these businesses down”.

I loved his metaphor that you can’t get As on everything in life. If you have no strategy for focus, for subtraction, you will spread yourself so thin that you guarantee that your best grade is a C+…. and there may be areas in your life where that is painful to you.

Learning to Subtract

There is so much out there on how to focus, how to have discipline, how to make progress…  

There is a lot less help on how to Subtract:

  • Letting go of things.
  • Closing chapters.
  • Saying No.

Subtraction and the Mid Life Crisis

Here’s a recent video of mine where I speak to this challenge – and how the need to subtract becomes most acute in “mid life” from 35 to 55 years old.  Before 35 you tend not to have enough skill, reputation, competence…  you need to be open to almost all the opportunities that come your way.  At 35 if you have developed competence and a positive reputation, you will start to be overwhelmed by opportunities.  If you don’t learn a new skill – Subtraction – you will grow to become a bitter and frustrated old person.

If you liked this post, you will also like Meaningful Contribution or The ABCs of a Fulfilling Life: Action, Belief, Curiosity, Discipline, Energy and Friends.

You Don’t have Time to Figure Everything Out on your Own

Life is too short to figure everything out on your own. 

Humans spend the years from birth to 12 learning how to survive.  Our parents have a vested interest in helping us develop the Stop there: we merely survive. 

We live in a highly complex society.  There is intense competition for status in whatever hierarchy you compete in. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to compete or not, society and humanity are designed to compete for resources.  It is not those born strong that rise to the top of status hierarchies in today’s human society.  It is those who learn to use their capacities most effectively and adapt quickly to changes in the environment.  

There are two ways we learn to make positive progress in this society – 1) our own experience, or 2) through the experiences of others.  Our own experience is a slow and expensive way of learning. 

If I am to choose to learn most effectively, through the experiences of others, I must learn the art of meaningful conversation. Through my work with Entrepreneurs’ Organisation forum and Vistage groups I have worked extensively over the last 15 years on creating the type of meaningful conversation that allows one to learn from the experiences of another.

I’m sharing 4 ideas that I took from Jordan Peterson’s book the 12 Rules for Life when I read it this year.

“Your current knowledge has neither made you perfect nor kept you safe”

Your knowledge is insufficient. You must accept this before you can converse philosophically, instead of pushing opinions, convincing, oppressing, dominating or joking.  

“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

It is necessary to respect the personal experience of your conversational partners. You must assume that they have reached careful, thoughtful, genuine conclusions (and, perhaps, they must have done the work that justifies this assumption). You must believe that if they shared their conclusions with you, you could bypass at least some of the pain of personally learning the same things (as learning from the experience of others can be quicker and much less dangerous).

It takes conversation to organise a mind 

“people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds.” The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche.    

“Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own” 

They say Aristotle was the last man who knew everything there was to know. Since the time of Aristotle (over 2300 years ago) society has become too complex for any one individual to know all that is known.  

When I was in school, I took huge value in solving from first principles. I would prefer to solve mathematic problems from first principles and avoid using formulaic recipes that allowed you to shortcut to a solution.  This was symptomatic of my whole approach to life. If I hadn’t figured it out myself, I didn’t value the knowledge.  There is a heroic valor to this approach, but it is dumb heroics.  

If you liked this post, you will also like How do I become a better listener and 50 Questions for better Critical Thinking.

Check out the full list of books I read in 2020.

 

 

Reflect on the Past, Clarify the Future

The best leadership book is not one that you can buy.   It is your own life, if well documented.

Do you take time to document your life?  Do you take time to look at your past year and get clear on where you are, and where you are going?

Last year Covid-19 brought a lockdown to over half of the world’s population.  Covid changed our plans, it changed our businesses and it shook up our world.  If we are to take something valuable from this year, it is important to take time to reflect on how the experience of Covid impacted you.

2021 is going to start without much change… the vaccines are coming but we will still have 6 months with restrictions on our movement, on our businesses, on our travel plans.  I am not going to wish you a “wonderful 2021”. I am going to wish you the energy and clarity to handle the challenges that 2021 throws at you as the best version of yourself.  That is my 1st January wish for you.

How to Reflect on the Last Year

In this post I will share a set of questions to structure a reflection on the past year, that might help clarify how to make changes in how you approach the coming year.

Here is a 3 page pdf worksheet that will guide you through a reflection process on the past year.  I would recommend you print out the pages and carry them with you for a while.

PDF Tool: Reflection on the Past Year

The best results come when you go through the questions a couple of times over a few days.  I often tell EO or YPO forums and Vistage groups that I want to see dog ears on the pages, and different colours of ink… even a coffee stain… showing that you have taken the pages out several times in preparing your end-of-year reflection. The 19 questions will help you think deeply about what contributes to your fulfilment, what detracts and what lessons you can actively take into the coming year.

Writing in a journal

I am asked in classes “what is the most important habit to learn to speak well?”  My answer is writing each day in a journal.  Capture your life.  Capture your dreams, your frustrations, your questions, the people that helped, the people that made things more difficult…  capture it all.  My biology teacher, Mr Matz, always said “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory”.

Warren Rustand taught me to start the day with “10-10-10”.  Ken Blanchard taught me to “start the day slowly”.  Eric Matz (my biology teacher, when I was 14) taught me to write stuff down in a journal every day.  Each tool involves taking time at the beginning of the day to reflect on what is important and get clear on who you want to be.

In our executive development programs at IESE Business School we make specific time in the program each day to reflect.  Learning happens when you go through an experience, but is multiplied if you take time to reflect on the experience (and share your reflections with colleagues who share your path).

I’ve written several posts on how to approach writing in a journal:

Getting Clear on Where are you Going

If you know where you are coming from… the next thing to get clear: where are you going.  How to clarify a vision for yourself, both personally and professionally:

How to Make People Feel Good about themselves

I’ve had some tough days this year.

I am not alone.

Covid is a physical disease, but the wider impact will be on the mental health of the billions who have been hit by the economic shutdown.

Who do you feel is struggling to keep things together?

Every single one of us has incredible power to lift up the spirits of the people that are around us. It requires a choice. It is harder when you are struggling yourself. It is important. The people around you need your leadership.

How can we help those around us feel good about themselves?

In the video, I share 3 ideas.

  1. Ask Questions
  2. Let them help you
  3. Shine a light on their strengths

Who needs your attention today? Who around you would benefit from a few minutes of facetime or skype or a phone call?

The best compliment you can receive… (thanks to Rajesh Setty)

Rajesh Setty shared some wisdom with me last year. One thing out of many that I remember was this idea: the most valuable compliment you can hear from another person.

I had the privilege of reading a draft of Rajesh’s newest book over the last month and I have written a recommendation that hopefully will appear when the book comes out later this year. Here’s some of his books and manifestos available as pdfs https://rajeshsetty.com/resources/books/

What is the best compliment you can hear?

How to Become worthy of this Compliment?

  1. Be interested in them – help them get clarity on who they are and what they want, their strengths and passions
  2. Connect people – put people in contact with others that share common passions, experiences
  3. Let them help you – let them see that I have changed myself because of their impact on me

“The most valuable compliment is: I wish I had met you 10 years earlier”

Rajesh Setty

If you enjoyed reading this post, you will also like Listening with your Eyes and What is the best advice you have ever received?.

Living a Purpose Driven Life – inspired by Dandapani

MIT Endicott House

I was in Boston to teach on the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation EMP (Entrepreneurial Masters Program) this week. MIT Endicott House is one of the most beautiful locations for leadership retreats and programs. I brought my drone to capture the scenery around the main buildings. You’ll see the drone shots right at the beginning of the video below.

Why Do We Need to Clarify our Purpose?

Dandapani in Barcelona, 2016

Dandapani was one of the speakers at the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Masters Program event this week at MIT Endicott House, outside of Boston. Dandapani spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, meditating with his guru on the purpose of his life.

Dandapani spoke about the importance of consciously deciding what is important and what is not important in your life. Why?

Because life is finite.

More from Dandapani

Dandapani on Instagram (he takes great photos) https://www.instagram.com/dandapanillc

“How to Concentrate”, Dandapani at TEDx

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