The 5 Proven Paths to Failure

I am up in the mountains an hour from Barcelona with the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation local chapter.  the sun is shining. Yesterday we spent the day on a horse ranch called Hipica Can Vila working with the horses.  Today, we have had a full day with Jordi Vila-Porta, author of the recently published book: “Success” (“¡Exito!”).  He shared some fine thoughts:

The 5 proven paths to failure.

  1. I don’t know what I want
  2. I don’t know what to do
  3. I don’t know how to do it
  4. I don’t believe I can do it
  5. I am not willing to pay the full price (in time, work, effort, discipline)
At what point are you bailing out?
Other news…
The first of my 9 part series on “The Origin of Leaders” is now up at the excellent blog.  “Imagination: How to develop your most powerful human talent“. Have a read, would love your comments, reactions, thoughts and general link-love 😉  Have a great weekend

6 ways to really use a day

I had a shower this morning and in the moments of pause between shampoo and soap it hit me. Another day gone. Another shower. Another day beginning. Where are they all going so fast?  What am I doing with all this time?

My little late night brainstorm:  Six ways to make sure today is not another indifferent 24 hour step towards the future:

  1. Travel – get out and see something new. A new sight. 
  2. Teach – help another grow and learn
  3. Create – a product. A drawing with my daughter.  A YouTube film.  A Thai curry (with cashews).
  4. Connect – call and really talk to an old friend.
  5. Help – pick someone and really go out of my way to help them achieve something
  6. Write – words.  Might lead to a legacy? or an insane asylum…
This post was inspired by a recent post by Sean Platt at

"I just kept going" Scott Stratten on TED

I wrote about letting go of my iphone and blackberry over the summer, I think that the best way to find energy is to be present here and now and switch off my constant running, sprinting towards the future. Here is Scott Stratten telling this story in a much more powerful and personal way on TEDx (RSS: link to video on blog). This is worth 15 minutes of your time.

I have been writing an article on “the cult of busy-ness” for the last few weeks. I believe most business has replaced productivity and smarts with “busy-ness”. I listen to conversation after conversation that go:

“How was your week?”
“Terrible. Busy. So many emails… got to get urgent proposal out…”
“And you? good week?”
“Really busy. Too much stuff. Meetings… emails… my boss doesn’t understand…”

We need to break this cycle. It is killing us. It is killing intelligence and innovation and it is killing human beings.

The Mindful Entrepreneur

My short article “The Mindful Entrepreneur” was published in Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Octane magazine this month.  The story of why I got rid of the iPhone and Blackberry devices from my life last year and how I have reduced my use of email.

Have a great Sunday.  Going for a walk in Collserola park this morning.

Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.

The circle of Life. This is a guest post by Eric Ronning, father, husband and President of Channel Financial, a financial advisory business of which he is a co-founder.

Over to Eric...

The legacy of my Grandfather

I have been exploring many of the same topics you speak of in your writings for about 11 years now. As a youngster I came from a blue collar family that didn’t have much (from a material standpoint), but I did have a wonderful, loving and very supportive close family. However, I was a good student and was very driven from early on to “be somebody”. I did well in college, got a great job right out of school, and made tons of money at the time for a 20-something. Life was good, I was happy, and I felt like everything was on the right track. By all accounts my goals and aspirations at the time might not have been much different than many of the eager MBA students that you mentioned.


Then, my grandfather died. My grandfather was a carpenter his whole life in a tiny German town outside the twin cities. He was a terrific man by all accounts, but did not have a lot of material success and lived a pretty simple life. His funeral changed everything for me. That day, I arrived expecting family and a few others to be there to pay their respects. I was shocked at his wake as the line of people grew and grew and grew and eventually trailed all the way outside the chapel. Hundreds of people showed up. As I stood close to the casket with other immediate family to talk to these people as they made their way through the line, I was changed.

Many said: “I am a better person because of him”

Dozens of people, with all sincerity, made sure that I knew how lucky I was to have the grandfather I did. They told me how great of a man he was. They each shared stories of how he had gone out of his way to help them at one point or another in their lives. They told me how he had made them laugh. Many said: “I am a better person because of him”. “I feel fortunate that I had a chance to know him”. I knew that these sorts of comments were typical at a funeral, but it was the way that they said it and the sheer number of comments that really blew me away. This was clearly a man that touched a lot of people deeply in life, left the world a better place, and in all the right ways.

At the time, my wonderful wife and I had just given birth to our first child, a daughter. My family is quite spiritual and believed that as old life passes away, new life is born. They asked me if I would be willing to hold up my new daughter for all in the church to see at a certain point in the ceremony. A symbol of new life. I agreed.

When the time came, I stood up in the middle of a packed church, extended my arms, and held my brand new baby daughter up as high as I could. The priest said, “as old life passes, new life is born”. Few in the church could hold back tears.

What matters? What doesn’t?

It was on that powerful day that I suddenly had a whole bunch of new questions. Questions that I had never really asked myself before. What will they say at my funeral? What was it that my grandfather seemed to do so right in life? What matters? What doesn’t? What and how will I teach all of this to my new daughter? What did my grandfather and grandmother do to be in a relationship where they loved and respected each other so much? Etc. etc. etc. etc. All seemed to be pretty simple questions that I would figure out with a bit of study and thought. Ha Ha!

As you might imagine, I’ve been trying to figure out the answers to those questions ever since. The more I learn the more questions I have. I’m fascinated with the study of psychology, philosophy, leadership, authenticity, and happiness. Can you be a great husband, father, son, friend, and business owner all at the same time? Or do the qualities and character that make you good at some of these roles, make you bad at others? It is an amazing quest!

I don’t know if they’ll be of any value to you, but here are a few of the resources and thoughts that have resonated with me over the past several years. None are perfect but offered me powerful knowledge:

8 resources that have helped

  • Ken Wilbur’s book “A Brief History of Everything” is based on Integral Theory and combines everything into one general theory. Interesting framework and concept.
  • Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near”. Completely changed my old linear view of life and where technology will take humanity.
  • Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. Seems like she wrote it yesterday.
  • Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis
  • Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principals
  • Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich
  • The Hudson Institute on Life Coaching teaches that life, and we as individuals, go through seasons, like nature. A cycle of renewal. All seasons are necessary to get to the next one. Know what season you’re personally in, and accept it. Winter is necessary for Spring to happen.  (more).
  • Brian Johnson is an entrepreneur and philosopher. He can be a bit over the top with lovey-dovey stuff for my personal taste, but his website is fantastic. He has read and summarized 100 of the great books and thinkers (many that you have quoted in your thoughts). I have read most of them. Well worth the $50 to get summaries of 100 great teachings.
    • Brian teaches that many extraordinary minds have been contemplating these same questions for centuries and this collective knowledge can be organized into 10 categories: Optimism, Purpose, Self-awareness, goals, action, energy, wisdom, courage, love, entheos.

The three core values of truly successful people

Lou Holtz (the American football coach) says there are three core values that he can find in successful people, and only in successful people:

  1. Trust. They always do the right thing.
  2. Commitment. They are committed to excellence.
  3. Caring. They care about themselves and others and show it.

These are just a few that come to mind. Lately I’ve been fascinated with the topic of how to be a good father, husband, son, and friend, and if being a good entrepreneur and business owner is compatible. All of these are my goal and purpose. How do you need to change your actions as you play each specific role, and can you do that while still maintaining authenticity and honoring your true character? The scary thing is that I feel like I’ve only met a couple of people in my whole life that I think have really managed to be good at all of these at the same time. So, it can be done! (but is far from easy).

Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.

A lifelong master student of Buddhism summarized all of their knowledge of this philosophy in 7 words:  “Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.”

Sorry for the ramble. Keep up the great work, good luck on your “journey”, and I really look forward to hearing what you have to say in your book.

Eric Ronning is President of Channel Financial. He is a sponsor of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Minneapolis chapter. 

Photo Credit: Geoff…

Five ways email is killing you. What did they used to do at work?

photo credit: Polandeze

I was inspired by Michael over at Box of Crayons blog in his post 5 ways email is killing you. He found a terrific article from PsyBlog. They’ve written a compelling article that sets out the ways in which email lessens our impact in the world, rather than supports it.

The original article actually sets out ten reasons – you can pick the reasons that resonate most for you.

Michael’s pick – #1, #2, #3, #4 and #6.
My pick – #2, #3, #4, #7 and #9

My maternal grandfather “Grandpa Ted” was a country bank manager in the Bank of Ireland in the 1940s through the 60s.  I often wonder what he could have done during the day.  No telephone.  No computer.  No email.  That is 80% of my concept of “work” today.

My friend Jolmer, co-founder of investment firm Triple Partners once told a story about asking his father “what did you do at work before email?”.

What did you do at work before email?

His father’s response was “Read the newspapers and company updates. Think about the implications.  Meet colleagues for lunch.  Discuss. More thinking.  Dictate a memo. Go home.”

Imagine all the patterns he might see in the world that are invisible to somebody who’s day looks like “Wake. Check email on blackberry. Shower. Check blackberry over breakfast.  Have a coffee.  Drive (sending 1 email while waiting at traffic lights).  Arrive at work.  Say hi to receptionist.  Turn on computer.  Check email.  Lose track of time.  Colleague says “lunch?” “No. have to finish something.”  Rush out to buy a sandwich to eat at desk. Check blackberry while in queue to buy sandwich.  Return to desk.  Open word to write a proposal.  Eat sandwich.  Start writing.  Remember a to-do that requires an email to be sent.  Switch to email.  Send email.  See that 11 new emails have arrived. Attempt to resist temptation to read them.  Fail.  Read them.  Enter time warp until dark outside.  Head home.  Check email on blackberry.  Work on laptop at home because proposal didn’t get finished while actually at work….  Dream of blackberries…  then a chilling nightmare – you are sitting on a toilet and not having a paper to read or a blackberry to check and actually have to spend 3 minutes listening to the noise inside your own head!!!”

And we call email a “productive technology”.

Productive Technology?

How about you?  Would love your comments.  Do you agree with Michael’s top 5 or mine?  What is the most outrageous email checking activity that you have ever seen?  People walking across busy streets while totally focussed on a blackberry keyboard?  Will the iPad make this situation worse?

Do it anyway.

This was written on the wall in Mother Teresa‘s home for children in Calcutta and is widely attributed to her.  It is often given the title “Do it anyway“:

Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

The words seem to be based on a poem by Kent Keith, but much of the second half has been re-written in a more spiritual way by Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa, Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (Gonxhe meaning “rosebud” in Albanian) was born 1910, in Üsküb, Ottoman Empire (now Skopje, capital of the Republic of Macedonia). Her father, who was involved in Albanian politics, died in 1919 when she was eight years old. She left home at age 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto as a missionary. She never again saw her mother or sister. Agnes initially went to the Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland to learn English, the language the Sisters of Loreto used to teach school children in India. She arrived in India in 1929, and began her novitiate in Darjeeling, near the Himalayan mountains. She chose the name Teresa after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.

There were 5 ancient Greek philosophies of happiness

At the risk of gross oversimplification, there were five Greek philosophies of happiness.

  • Socrates – only the poor, those who have nothing to lose, can be happy.
  • Aristotle – you have to be born rich to be happy (in reality healthy, wealthy, good family, good friends).  Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics introduced the good life.
  • Epicurus – remove all causes of pain to be happy (don’t spend time with irritating people or doing annoying things). “Pleasure is the absence of suffering”.
  • Stoicism – life is about suffering. Happiness is to accept the obstacles with serenity.  Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium.
  • Hedonism – happiness is spending time doing what gives you pleasure. The basic idea behind hedonistic thought is that pleasure is the only thing that has intrinsic value. 

In reality, the ancient greeks had no word that exactly matches our current word “happiness”.  The closest term from their language was Eudaimonia.  Aristotle says that eudaimonia means ’doing and living well’.  What is interesting to me is that I view happiness as a state – but the greeks had no word that represented a steady-state happiness – only an active form of happiness that required behaviours in line with a set of virtues.

Some useful resources:

How not to waste a life. The real responsibility of parents and schools.

This week we decided where my daughter will go to school – potentially for the next 15 years. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what criteria are important in selecting a school and this blog is a summary of 3-4 months of that reflection.

To Prepare One for Living

How do you best waste a life?  Quite possibly the worst thing in the world is “what could have been” – the waste of human talent.  How do parents or schools contribute to allowing a child to waste their potential, to live a stressed life, to be unable to connect to others, to constantly feel that there is “something missing” in their life?

I believe that we are the first generation that really doesn’t face any risks to our survival (other than the “run over by bus” end).  We have endless choice and the perception of a classless, meritocratic society.  There is a widespread assumption that financial, relationship, social success is because of the innate goodness of one or the innate poorness of another.

In a world where survival is pretty much guaranteed, what is required in order to thrive as a human being?  In this blog post I want to think through the aspects that are most difficult to change later in life that are key to a fulfilling life – and argue that the role of parents and schools is to develop these habits during the 18+ years of early development and school.

What is the purpose of school?  I will use some thoughtful answers from teachers at The Fischbowl “The purpose of education is to appropriately prepare our children for their future.” or “The purpose of education is to make the world a better place” and A teacher writes “to prepare one for a living”. One of my favourite bloggers, Seth Godin has a list of 27 objectives for school.  My father says “its from the Latin, educare: to lead out”

I feel that these definitions leave out some important aspects – a better place for whom? For each child?  For parents?  For the wealthy patrons of government, banks and corporate?  We can categorize thinking 5 levels to which schools could purport to be making the world a better place:

5 Levels of Purpose for School

  1. To keep children off the street (conversely, to provide employment to teachers; or to give a few hours of peace to parents)
  2. To prepare children to enter the workforce (to provide fodder for the robber barons, to create a legion of obedient wage earners)
  3. To prepare children to be good citizens (to understand and follow the norms of civilized society, to not rob, cheat or otherwise make the world worse for others)
  4. To assist human unfolding emotionally, socially, intellectually and physically
  5. To develop the unique strengths of each individual and prepare them to thrive and have a fulfilling life

I think there are clearly examples of all five levels in place at all levels of formal education.  We have university professors that see their role as a teacher taking them away from more valuable research time;  Secondary school teachers who spend more time thinking about strikes and the unfairness of the unequal rises in private sector pay over the last quarter century.  Exam systems that serve to divide children into passes (successes) and fails (destined to McDonalds) without looking to help each child get an ‘A’ in their own personal exam. Schools which develop students that are fantastic at following the 23 steps to get an ‘A’, but completely collapse when they come out into the real world where there is no clear set of steps to develop a career, life, relationship or social life.

I have seen some interesting stuff on how parents and schools can weaken their children’s ability to thrive by inappropriate praise over at NY Magazine, “How not to talk to your kids” (definitely worth a read for parents).  Praise and coaching should be directed at aspects that a child has control over (hard work, solving problems, patience, working in a team, overcoming frustration) and not at things outside the child’s control (their looks “you are beautiful”, their intelligence “you are the smartest”).

The Habits of a Good Life

I think there are habits for a fulfilling life and personal competencies that are very difficult to change, and some that are much easier to change.

Easy to Change Harder to Change Hardest to change
  • Education
  • Communications
  • First impression
  • Goal setting
  • Self Discipline (hard work, completing projects)
  • Judgement (decisiveness, understanding consequences)
  • Excellence standards
  • Resourcefulness
  • Likability
  • Persuasiveness
  • Stress management
  • Integrity
  • Energy
  • Passion
  • Ambition
  • Tenacity
  • Intelligence
  • Physical aspects (height, build, looks)

My answer is that school should serve to develop the human competencies that will be hard to change later on in life – and parents and teachers need to praise, coach and help children develop these disciplines.  I will outline three that I now believe are key to the purpose of school:

Develop the discipline of hard work.

“The real happiness comes from the work you’ve put into winning. If it’s too easy, it means nothing to you.” Rafa Nadal

Nothing feels worthwhile without real hard work. Not what looks like hard work to others, but what you personally know is long-term, disciplined, difficult, challenging hard work.

Finish what you start (completer/finisher).  Only start what you mean to finish (judgement).

Nothing is worse than a life lived with 100 half-finished projects. The hardest part of a project is the last bit – finishing it. Saying “this is it”, “this is me” is tough – but if I don’t get my projects finished I will continually be the guy who could have been.

Passion and Tenacity.

Jim Rohn has a speech called “The Ant philosophy” – ants will never quit – you put an obstacle in their way and they will search for another route… for as long as it takes.  This is a great philosophy not just for ants, but for people as well.

We need it from our parents and our early school. It is incredibly difficult to change integrity, passion, energy, ambition and tenacity if we don’t have it nurtured during our early years (Aristotle viewed age 12 as the limit for really incorporating ethics and values).

We decided upon Betania Patmos for my daughter’s (potentially) next 15 years of schooling.  I think I have said “you are beautiful”, “my princess”, and “you are so smart” at least 1000 times to my daughter in 2 and a half years…  I hope my newfound wisdom and the support of the teachers at Betania Patmos can help my daughter overcome the challenge of having me as a father! (but she is beautiful, smart and my favourite princess!)