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.

 

 

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.

year in review pdf tool

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:

In golf, one poor shot can trigger a state of mind that leads to a run of poor shots. I hit my drive into the bunker. In frustration, I try a more difficult shot than I should, and put it in another bunker. I then try and hit it extra hard to reach the green in 3… and leave it in the bunker.

Chess international master Josh Waitzkin says that the moment when a chess player really loses the game is when they think they are ahead, and after a move they realise that maybe their position is not so strong.  The next move will be too aggressive because they are anchored on the emotional sense of being ahead.

A professional learns to forget the past and play the shot or the move that they have in front of them.   An amateur compounds the error.

One poor shot does not ruin a golf round… unless you let it.  

The same occurs in life.

Do you let one mistake lead to three more?  

On a diet… one biscuit leads to 3 more? …that’s how to screw it up.

Do you tend to let one mistake lead to 3 more?

 

Some things require patience.

“Don’t just do something, sit there” 

Some things can’t be rushed.

Sometimes patience is necessary.  

I have a metaphor I use as an entrepreneur at challenging times in life. If you are travelling on a boat along a river, if the river is going the other direction, you are better pulling the boat to the shore and resting.  Paddling against the tide is exhausting and the tide is stronger than you.  

This requires that you have the ability to be patient.

Some things that cannot be rushed:

  • great relationships
  • trust 
  • mastery 
  • wisdom

What else can you think of that cannot be rushed?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

 

 

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?

There are two modes of dealing with our life:

  • Living in Fear – the mode of seeking “Freedom from” and seeking validation for our past decisions
  • Living in Confidence – the mode of clarifying “Freedom to” and making choices as a responsible being.

Over the last 7 months, I have noticed that I have slipped into the living in fear mode. I knew what I didn’t want, but not what I did. I was waiting to see how the world would work out rather than committing to creating my own clear path.

I share these two modes in the video.

Stay safe.

This post is a summary of the MIT Raising Teens report which is available on the MIT website (links provided below the post).

“An extraordinary body of research exists on the powerful ways in which parents and families make a difference in the lives of teens. Yet, little of this knowledge has been reaching the media, policymakers, practitioners, and parents.”

Dr Rae Simpson, Director of the MIT WorkLife Center

The 10 Tasks of Adolescence

There are 10 major adjustments that need to happen as a child moves through adolescence towards becoming an adult.

  1. Adjust to maturing bodies and feelings – Teens are faced with adjusting to bodies that as much as double in size and that acquire sexual characteristics, as well as learning to manage the accompanying biological changes and sexual feelings and to engage in healthy sexual behaviours. Their task also includes establishing a sexual identity and developing the skills for romantic relationships.
  2. Develop and apply abstract thinking skills – Teens typically undergo profound changes in their way of thinking during adolescence, allowing them more effectively to understand and coordinate abstract ideas, to think about possibilities, to try out hypotheses, to think ahead, to think about thinking, and to construct philosophies.
  3. Develop and apply a more complex level of perspective taking – Teens typically acquire a powerful new ability to understand human relationships, in which, having learned to “put themselves in another person’s shoes,” they learn to take into account both their perspective and another person’s at the same time, and to use this new ability in resolving problems and conflicts in relationships.
  4. Develop and apply new coping skills in areas such as decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution – Related to all these dramatic shifts, teens are involved in acquiring new abilities to think about and plan for the future, to engage in more sophisticated strategies for decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution, and to moderate their risk taking to serve goals rather than jeopardise them.
  5. Identify meaningful moral standards, values, and belief systems – Building on these changes and resulting skills, teens typically develop a more complex understanding of moral behavior and underlying principles of justice and care, questioning beliefs from childhood and adopting more personally meaningful values, religious views, and belief systems to guide their decisions and behavior.
  6. Understand and express more complex emotional experiences – Also related to these changes are shifts for teens toward an ability to identify and communicate more complex emotions, to understand the emotions of others in more sophisticated ways, and to think about emotions in abstract ways.
  7. Form friendships that are mutually close and supportive – Although youngsters typically have friends throughout childhood, teens generally develop peer relationships that play much more powerful roles in providing support and connection in their lives. They tend to shift from friendships based largely on the sharing of interests and activities to those based on the sharing of ideas and feelings, with the development of mutual trust and understanding.
  8. Establish key aspects of identity – Identity formation is in a sense a lifelong process, but crucial aspects of identity are typically forged at adolescence, including developing an identity that reflects a sense of individuality as well as connection to valued people and groups. Another part of this task is developing a positive identity around gender, physical attributes, sexuality, and ethnicity and, if appropriate, having been adopted, as well as sensitivity to the diversity of groups that make up American society.
  9. Meet the demands of increasingly mature roles and responsibilities – Teens gradually take on the roles that will be expected of them in adulthood, learning to acquire the skills and manage the multiple demands that will allow them to move into the labor market, as well as to meet expectations regarding commitment to family, community, and citizenship.
  10. Renegotiate relationships with adults in parenting roles – Although the task of adolescence has sometimes been described as “separating” from parents and other caregivers, it is more widely seen now as adults and teens working together to negotiate a change in the relationship that accommodates a balance of autonomy and ongoing connection, with the emphasis on each depending in part on the family’s ethnic background.

The 5 Basics of Parenting Adolescents

What role do parents play in helping teenagers make these 10 adjustments?

The Raising Teens Project identified 5 significant ways in which parents can influence healthy adolescent development:

  1. Love and Connect – Offer support and acceptance while affirming the teen’s increasing maturity.
  2. Monitor and Observe – Let teens know you are paying attention.
  3. Guide and Limit – Uphold clear boundaries while encouraging increased competence.
  4. Model and Consult – Provide continual support for decision making, teaching by example and ongoing dialogue.
  5. Provide and Advocate – Provide a supportive home environment and a network of caring adults.

This post is a summary of the MIT Raising Teens report that can be found here: MIT Raising Teens. Learn about the 5 Basics of Parenting Adolescents here.

If an oyster keeps all the sand out of his shell, he lives a life of comfort. At the end of his life, you find a dead oyster… in an empty shell.

If a grain of sand enters the oyster’s shell, he loses his life of comfort. In order to protect himself from irritation, the oyster will begin covering the sand with layers of nacre. Layer upon layer cover the grain of sand until the pearl is formed.

When an oyster is bothered by a grain of sand, it creates a pearl.

If the oyster lives this uncomfortable period in their life, at the end of his life you find more than a dead oyster… you find a pearl.

Don’t wish for less problems.

Our problems allow us to create our pearls. When we remove challenge from our life, we remove growth from our life.

If you liked this post, you will also like Notes from Cicero and 4 Steps to Stop Self-Sabotaging.

I am listening to Mandy Hickson sharing her life story with Vistage this morning. Mandy was the second ever female pilot flying combat missions for the British military. She shared her dream as a young girl of flying fast jets, and all the obstacles that she needed to overcome to make that dream come true.

Every Pilot has a Blind Spot

Mandy shared that a pilot cannot see their “6 O’clock”… directly behind you. There is no physical way that you can see what is directly behind you.

That is why you fly with a wingman.

A wingman flies 3/4 of a mile off your wing. This way they have a very clear view of your 6 o’clock. They can see what you cannot see.

We can only see 360 degrees with the help of the people around us.

According to legend, King Solomon shared this with a sultan who requested a sentence that would always be true, in good time and in bad. His answer:

This, too, shall pass

We are in quarantine here in Spain. A state of emergency. We are now in week 9, and happily there have been some relaxing of the lockdown over the last 2 weeks. Exercise and kids going out for a walk are now allowed.

When times are good: this too shall pass.

When times are difficult: this too shall pass.

Change is the only constant. Our ability to adapt is the question.

What I find hard: Letting go of the visions that I have had for this year… summer adventures, growth of our business, conferences that I love speaking at around the world… It is hard to let go of that life that I had planned and accept the life of Zoom calls and homeschool.

This last week I have hit a patch of unfocussed, unmotivated… a sense of groundhog day… days losing sense of which day it is and what happened last week or yesterday…

How are you coping? What’s going well? Where are you stuck?