Consistency… the key to Long Term Positive Impact

My Strava 2021 trophy collection

It is not what we do on our best day that will truly make an impact on the quality of our lives, it is the habit we can stick to on our worst day that will make a lasting difference.

For the last 2 years, I have joined a strava monthly 100kms run challenge every month. I have achieved it every month except february 2022.

One important lesson I have taken from this 2 year journey: the day I really don’t feel like going out and running… but somehow I get out and run anyway… these runs make the biggest difference to my life.

Consistency… on the hard days

Once or twice a week I wake up and really do not feel like putting on my sports gear and running… I wake up tired and with low energy… and all I want to do is sit in a comfy seat with an extra coffee. These days a run really shifts my energy.

Some reflections on Consistency in life

My friend Julio recently shared with me a story from his swim training. Some days the coach has them racing to have the quickest time overall. However, sometimes the coach has them swim 8 times 100 meters… and the winner is not the fastest overall… the winner is the one with the least variation between each of the 100 meter times. This training is to really encourage a focus on consistent swimming speed… not fast when you are fresh… and slowing as you tire.

This story reminded me of the importance of consistency.

On the Tim Ferriss podcast last week, I heard him speak with Neil Gaiman, the author. They spoke about habits. Neil said that the best writing is the same writing day over and over again; same place same time same process… no changes between one day and the next… an extreme focus on repeating the same day.

The other idea I loved was Neil Gaiman’s one writing rule for himself. When he is at his writing desk, he allows himself to do one of two things: write, or do nothing.

This rules allows his inner saboteur a choice… he doesn’t “have to” write.

Neil has learnt that the “do nothing” choice can be appealing in the short term… but it always becomes more and more boring… and writing begins to be more interesting than continued “doing nothing”.

How do you create consistency in the important habits of your life?

In my leadership programs I share 6 areas of life where you need to have good habits if you wish to live a fulfilling life.

Redefining Failure

“Living Safely is Dangerous”

Nietzsche

What is your relationship to success and failure? I have been reflecting these recent weeks about how I respond to “failure” – when things do not turn out as I hoped or wished.

The video below shares my thinking about a better way of approaching failure in our lives.

How I let failures derail me…

I let small failures easily put me in a state of frustration and stop me making progress (and then checking social media and seeking out other simple distractions).

I take small setbacks incredibly personally.

I’ve been reflecting on why I let these small failure events have such an effect on me.

I realised that I was telling myself that all setbacks are bad.

This is not a great story to tell myself. A new story is that failures are a sign that I am working towards important goals. A lack of setbacks would be a demonstration that I am only working towards easy, unimportant goals that don’t push me to grow as a person.

Essential Meaning of failure: (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

  1. a lack of success in some effort
  2. a situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
  3. an occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done

Choose to Take Responsibility

Welcome to 2022.

A couple of weeks back I shared something that my father said to me over and over again when I was young. “It might be their fault, but its your problem”. His point was always to take responsibility for what you yourself can actually control in any situation. Robbie van Persie shared a similar conversation with his son recently on the High Performance podcast. This sparked my recent video from Seville…

High Performance interview clip with Robbie van Persie

I came across the High Performance podcast when they interviewed Dan Carter, the great New Zealand rugby fly-half (the equivalent of a quarterback in american football). I have listened to many of their episodes over the last couple of months as I travel or go for walks. I love a couple of things about this podcast – the way the two hosts Jake and Damien play off of each other, are each so curious and passionate about the human side of performance and the guests that join them on the podcast.

I loved this bit of the High Performance Podcast interviewing Robbie van Persie… on taking responsibility for what you do control. Here’s the video clip:

The High Performance Podcast youtube channel.

Reflecting on 2021, Clarifying 2022

It’s the start of 2022. One tool that I would recommend that you download and use is this 3 page pdf that will help you do a review of what happened in 2021 and what is important for you in the coming year: 3 Page pdf Annual Review: Reflect on the Past, Clarify the Future.

It will take you between 20 minutes and an hour to work through the set of questions. It will help you get clarity on what is important and how to dedicate your energy in 2022.

The 54 Skills Vital to the Future of Work (McKinsey)

Sustainability, AI and Digitalisation are three important strategic concerns for all businesses. Covid has accelerated this process of transformation. Some jobs will disappear, and new types of jobs will be created. What skills will keep us valuable?

A recent McKinsey report looked at the human skills that will remain in high demand as organisations adapt to the requirements of a sustainable and digital world.

What are the skills that will keep you gainfully employed in future?

McKinsey surveyed over 18,000 people across 15 countries to identify 54 key future-proof skills, which are grouped into 4 categories:

  1. Cognitive – Problem Solving, Planning, Structured communications, Mental flexibility
  2. Interpersonal – Influence, Relationships, Teamwork
  3. Self-Leadership – Self awareness, goal setting
  4. Digital – Data literacy, Computational thinking

The 54 Future-Proof Skills

The rest of the report identifies 54 “distinct areas of talent” – which McKinsey calls DELTAs. These each have an attitudinal and a skill element, so they are something beyond a basic skill. I include the infographic below directly from the McKinsey report:

The Mindset required for Future Employability

In addition to the 54 skills, McKinsey outlined 3 aspects of a Mindset that will be key to future employability:

  1. Contribute – add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines 
  2. Digital – operate in a digital environment 
  3. Adapt – continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations 

The Impact on Job Satisfaction

There are a few different graphs shown in the full McKinsey report. I found this particular one interesting – the “DELTA”s that most correlate to Job Satisfaction… I would suggest they go farther than just job satisfaction and correlate with overall life satisfaction.

The top 10 Skills for Job Satisfaction

How will you be working on improving your competency in the top 10 skills for Satisfaction?

  1. Self motivation and wellness
  2. Coping with Uncertainty
  3. Self Confidence
  4. Sociability
  5. Programming literacy
  6. Energy, passion and optimism
  7. Understanding biases
  8. Empathy
  9. Integrity
  10. Grit and persistence

If you enjoyed this post, you will also enjoy The Zig-Zag Path to your Dream Job and What will future jobs look like?

How to Stay Sane in Uncertainty

A month ago it felt like the Covid virus was losing its capacity to disrupt our well made plans… but along comes Omnicron and the maths change again.

We are living in the era of predictable unpredictability. All plans are flexible and adaptable.

It is a state of existence that puts great pressure on our mental well-being.

Predictably unpredictable

For two years we have lived with shifting regulations around masks, tests, travel restrictions, lockdowns and vaccine certificates. As new variants arise (and that process is guaranteed) these regulations come and go… leaving us all living in permanent limbo.

We have canceled our own travel plans at Christmas. It almost feels a relief to have clarity, even as we and our kids accept the loss of the imagined joys of Christmas presents and time playing with cousins.

A decade ago online shopping, distance learning, home office and video conferences were the stuff of sci-fi and a few techie nerds. Today they are our lives. The advances in how we use technology to allow hybrid classes in IESE and hybrid meetings in Vistage have amazed me. I believe that the rapid acceptance of technology to facilitate communication, work, teams, advances in new organisation structures, crypto (as a store of value and with NFTs as a means to distribute equity, ownership, trust or revenues over a large group) is going to open up some massive steps forward for humanity.

Healthy Humans Need Meaning

We get a lot of the meaning in our lives (in the west) from activity, from progress against plans, from the feeling of forward momentum. We can find meaning in other ways. If we are to stay sane in times of unpredictability, we need to find meaning in other ways. A daily gratitude list – “3 things I am grateful for” is a very powerful meaning and mindset shift. Setting 10-20 year goals is another way of keeping a sense of meaning (and progress) even in the face of short and medium term unpredictability.

What are the activities, conversations, focusses that give a sense of meaning to your own life?

Great Strategy without Great People is nothing

Ideas + Capital + Talent = enduring great business.

Ideas are everywhere, nothing special about an idea.

Capital is plentiful for those who have proven themselves. Today there is so much capital sloshing around looking for moderate returns.

The Scarce Resource…

Talent, true talent… is rare.

Talent isn’t potential. Talent is systematic repeated high performance over years or decades. This is extremely rare.

Potential talent looking for capital will not find it. Capital doesn’t invest in testing talent… capital invests in proven talent.

How do you become “proven talent”?

That is the question.

Improving your Strengths or Improving your Weaknesses

You cannot win the marathon by sprinting.

The winner of the 100m in the Olympics might also win the 200m, but will never be competitive in the 10K… or marathon …or rowing, or judo…

Gold medal athletes focus on their strengths and work to amplify their strengths. Usain Bolt doesn’t spend training time trying to improve his long distance capacity. He works on his start, on acceleration, on sprinting and finishing. He works on his strengths.

Recently I’ve felt a lot of pressure to spend time on areas that for me are weaknesses. I am writing this blog post mainly as a reminder to myself to stay strong, and accept these weaknesses. As a leader, I am responsable for making sure there are people and systems around me so that our business doesn’t have weaknesses… but it is not me that should spend time in areas where I am weak.

Dan Sullivan on working on your strengths

If you work throughout your life on improving your weaknesses, what you get are a lot of really strong weaknesses.

Dan Sullivan

In order to do well in school, you need to get good grades in all the subjects. If you are good at sports when you are 12 or 15, you are probably the best at most of the sports you try.

I did well in school. It became painful for me to not get good grades… in any subject… even the ones that I really didn’t care about.

In business (and professional sports), you do well by being really good in one subject. In order to be excellent, you need to deliberately choose to be bad in almost everything else.

I am good at some things, I am not good at lots of things. A lot of the people around me are great at letting me know what I’m not doing so well… I have to stay mindful in order to not get drawn into trying to spend effort improving my weaknesses.

Stephen King says “I was lucky. I was born only good at one thing. Imagine how hard it is for people who are good at 2 things… or what is truly difficult… being good at most things.” (I paraphrase as I can’t currently find the original quote)

Are you working on your strengths?

If you liked this post, you will also like Managing Oneself and Meaningful Contribution.

Deleting Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my phone

On returning from the summer holidays, iPhone Screen Time showed that I had used my phone for over 4 hours a day.

I hated this idea. That 4 full hours each day in some way were glued to a small screen. There is plenty of facetime calls and zoom calls… but a large portion has become the mindless scrolling down through instagram in particular.

I immediately deleted instagram, facebook and twitter from my phone. I left some of the other apps that were getting a lot of use: WhatsApp, Chrome, Linkedin, Chess.com, YouTube.

It has been a week without Instagram, facebook and twitter. I have not noticed missing anything. I got a couple of emails from instagram saying “you have 3 new messages” – but I can still see instagram when I am at my laptop so it is not that I have left completely.

This week’s iphone usage…

Screen time this week is down 27% from last week (and down over 45% from my peak distraction week!)

It is still pretty high.

…and it is such a powerful distraction.

I pick up my phone to do 1 thing – make a call, send a message… and then spend 10-20 minutes doing a cycle through a couple of apps… I am addicted to deliberate distraction.

I tell myself that I have discipline. I have spent a lot of the last decade working on using time intentionally and effectively… and I am not able to cope with an iphone.

I worry for humanity.

If this distraction were making us kinder, better, more informed, more worldly-wise then this would be a gift. These distractions are not making me kinder… if anything more impatient and rude to those around me.

I have decided that I have a problem. I am addicted. I do not have intentional control over my usage of this device.

It has so many useful features that make my life better – the camera and video in my pocket, google maps is brilliant, facetime with family has been wonderful during Covid times, whatsapp allows coordination of groups and meetings… I will not be getting rid of the iphone.

I will be honest with myself and say that I am not in conscious control of my usage and I need to set limits for myself.

I don’t like admitting it, but I guess this is an addiction.

I don’t like the idea of being controlled by a little device.

…but I am not capable of using it… it uses me.

Stress, Pressure and Focussing on What you Actually Control

It has been a busy summer of high performance – in particular the Tokyo Olympics. There were 2 interviews with athletes that really struck me for the perspectives they were taking towards their performance and results. The video below shares these two healthy mental approaches to life.

Pressure vs Stress

The first interview was with US swimmer Caleb Dressel. The journalist asked how he coped with the pressure. His answer “Pressure… there is nothing wrong with pressure… there is something wrong with stress” (just after winning gold in 100m freestyle.)

Performance vs Results

The second interview was with GB rower Helen Glover. She had retired… and then came out of retirement to train for the Tokyo Olympics. She and her partner had just finished 4th in the final. The journalist said “you must be so disappointed to finish 4th… so close… but no medal. Helen’s answer “this was our best performance. I am extremely happy with our performance today. We were close to a personal best.” Her performance is under her control… the results of the race depend on other factors.

These two interviews reminded me that I have been distracted recently and paying more attention to (and worrying more about) results, not focussing on my own daily contribution.

Pressure is a good thing, it helps us grow. Stress is not.

Limiting Beliefs

This is a list from Vered Kogan, Vistage Chair.

Lots of our coaching work in Vistage involves helping leaders identify limitations in their beliefs that restrict their opportunities for personal and professional growth.

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

A limiting belief is an opinion about the world that stops you seeing some potential paths or resources that could help you achieve something that is important to you.

A limiting belief is something you have learnt in the past… it may have been helpful in the past… but today it is limiting your capacity for positive action.

Here’s a list of Limiting Beliefs

  • I’m not good enough  
  • I’m not making enough progress
  • I don’t know where to start  
  • I can’t do it…I’ll never change
  • I can’t depend on most people  
  • I won’t have time to do things I enjoy
  • I don’t have the right skill sets  
  • I’m just not lucky
  • I’m not smart/experienced enough  
  • I’m too old/young
  • I shouldn’t want more in my life  
  • There’s never enough time
  • There’s a right way to do things  
  • What would people think?
  • I’m too scared  
  • It’s too hard. I’m overwhelmed.
  • I don’t have enough resources  
  • What if I change my mind?
  • I might do it wrong  
  • I don’t have a choice
  • I’m a fraud  
  • I’m not very creative
  • I’m not very sociable/outgoing  
  • There’s nothing I can do about…
  • What if they reject/don’t like me?  
  • It’s someone else’s fault

How to Weaken a Limiting Belief

  1. Identify a limiting belief
  2. Ask yourself, “What negative or unwanted consequences have I already experienced as a result of this limiting belief”?
  3. Ask yourself, “What positive outcomes and transformations might I be able to experience if I’m willing to let go of this limiting belief”?
  4. Weaken the Limiting Belief
  5. Cross Out the Limiting Belief
  6. Replace it with a NEW Belief
  7. Strengthen the NEW Belief

Learn more about overcoming Limiting Beliefs from Vered Kogan:

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