I recently heard Sadhguru share 3 ways that people approach life and work:
Idiot – these people don’t enjoy what they do each day
Smart – these people have created a life where they do enjoy the activity and the people that they spend time with each day
Genius – these people have learnt to love what they have to do. They know how to connect all important activity to their personal purpose and make it feel meaningful.
A couple of comments on youtube suggested that this was an “arrogant statement” and that not everybody has had access to education and opportunities. I don’t believe any of these 3 approaches are necessarily only accessed through formal education… in fact I see many well educated people from wealthy backgrounds who really struggle to get out of the “idiot” category.
Another comment on youtube suggested that we each operate at these 3 levels in different areas of our lives… it may be that you are a genius in health and exercise, but an idiot when it comes to personal finances… or a genius in your professional career and an idiot as a family member.
The route to genius involves having clarity on your purpose and a set of practices or rituals to connect necessary action to that sense of meaningful purpose.
What do you think? Where do you operate most of the time?
“On many occasions I have seen presenters who thought that displaying a great memory was more important than punching home a well-crafted message.”
This is a guest post by my father Terry Neill. It is an edited version of 2 emails that I was cc'ed into recently.
Christmas 2019. We were in St Patrick’s cathedral (where Jonathan Swift was Dean) waiting for the start of the service.
A friend of one of our friends stopped by. I was introduced. He said “Oh I remember you for a terrific after dinner speech at the Strollers Club last year” , and then he said – with a laugh – “Even though it was all written out.”
I remembered the occasion. Speaking at the Strollers dinner was an important event for me. They invite excellent speakers. You have to be at your best – and funniest.
In every similar circumstance, I have a script. I know I will be nervous (it’s a source of energy). Opening and closing need the right words with the right cadence. Every punchline must have the words in exactly the right order. As the chair thanked me, he felt the need to tell the audience that “Terry had it all written out”. It was hard to know whether it was compliment or criticism. I suspected the latter.
For me, having the script means I can focus on ‘the theatre’ …. The pauses … the ‘chapter headings’ …… the changes of pace … the key repetitions …. The body language ..the big points of emphasis ….. the build up to punch lines …..
There is a prevailing belief amongst after-dinner speakers that using a script or notes of key points is ‘un-macho’. Often times, the memory failed and key messages got lost or forgotten – or stories fell flat as the punchline got mangled.
We have to get over the embarrassment of being prepared. With some few – irritating – exceptions, ‘winging it’ is always high risk. In my experience, every great speaker or presenter is always superbly prepared – and practised. Notes or full script are a matter of individual choice. I regard them as a measure of professionalism and as evidence of a commitment to excellence.
Golfers will know that Gary Player was/is one of the great sand bunker players. When he was asked why he seemed so lucky, he said “It’s amazing. The more I practice, the luckier I get”.
It often happens that the unplanned, informal moments provide the most powerful opportunities to deliver a message or make an impact. I know that a newly appointed CEO is generally not ready to listen – as they, usually over optimistically, take on the challenges of their new role. My role as a consultant required me to be well prepared to communicate, when that CEO was prepared to listen – which could be anytime.
In about 1997, I stepped into an elevator on a high floor of the Rhiga Royal hotel in New York. I recognised the one person in the elevator was Marvin Bower – the founder of McKinsey & Co. He said good morning. I said ‘good morning Mr Bower’. He was surprised … and asked me what I did …. ‘Accenture’ (in those days Andersen Consulting). He said tell me about your firm. I had the 3 lines and he said ‘have you time for a coffee’.
I was late for my meeting, but got to spend nearly an hour with one of the great icons of professional services/consulting. I hope that his opinion of Accenture rose as much as my opinion on him and McKinsey.
I was on a zoom call today with Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. Here’s my lessons from the call…
How do we learn Entrepreneurship?
The best way of learning entrepreneurship: play boardgames… Settlers of Catan is good – there is trading, there is ambiguity, there are multiple strategies. Chess is good but no ambiguity… we all know all the information all the time. Monopoly is too simple… roll dice, buy everything… not really learning to make strategic decisions. Poker has the aspects of taking decisions under ambiguity that are so important as an entrepreneur.
Sun Tzu on entrepreneurship: no business plan survives contact with the market. Entrepreneur needs a plan, but needs to know what is truly important in order to rapidly and flexibly change the plan based on market response.
Entrepreneur is open minded that if I can’t make it work today, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work… maybe in a year or two things have evolved and you now have an important business.
How do you do so much?
“I choose great CEOs.”
Why can Elon Musk do so much?
Poor competition. Electric cars and Space exploration… very difficult… and there was no serious competition. That allowed Elon to do hard things in parallel.
If there is strong competition… you’ll need to focus.
The Role of Entrepreneurship
Society needs entrepreneurship – creative ideas getting tested, and what works growing. If nothing new can start, society is stagnant. Ask for permission in Europe vs Ask for forgiveness in US and China. Experimenting on the edges of banking is illegal in EU, but allowed Paypal to begin in US.
What was Hard in starting LinkedIn?
On founding Linkedin – “professional” social networking was resisted strongly at the beginning. Initial tagline: “We are friendster, but for business”. Journalists “oh yeah, you are the job seeking application.” It was a real struggle and lots of people thought I was mad.
As a CEO in an early stage company, you are focussed on building the product, extending the product.
As a CEO in a late stage company, your entire focus is on scaling up the business. What will accelerate our growth?
Why has half of the NASDAQ come out of Silicon Valley?
Region of 3 million people… why so much impact?
“There is a learning network. There is an intense local learning of how to build these tech business and scale them up. “
Today Silicon Valley, there is so much money going into the area that so many ideas can be tried and tested… and the entrepreneurs share their experiences. It is like a “Cambian explosion” of tech business.
Reid wrote Blitzscaling to share the best ideas from Silicon Valley out with the rest of the entrepreneurial world. These are the techniques by which the technology companies of the future are being built.
Early Investor in Facebook and AirBnB. Lessons?
Being contrarian and right is a wonderful place to be as an investor and as an entrepreneur.
Facebook – “its for college kids with too much time on their hands…” well, I think there is something important here. Contrarian… and right.
Yahoo offers $1B… should we sell? what is upside, what is the downside? we didn’t have a business at the time… but I believed there was something big and we would be able to find a business. Contrarian… and right.
AirBnB – we are the market for space. Liked the founders. First meeting: lets get down. to business… I know I am going to make an offer to invest, lets work together on the big questions. Contrarian… and right.
Big thing at AirBnB – taking control of the full experience… not just the web design. Dirty windows = bad. Clean windows made such a positive impact on airbnb rental locations. The founders really worked on designing the whole experience.
“Every challenge is a design challenge” AirBnB
The future of work?
“Crisis always begets opportunity.”
Phone calls will become video calls
Remote is a real option. Some companies have gone completely virtual and will never go back.
Co-working will be important.
Travel… for 1 meeting? we can zoom.
Look at Entrepreneur, Market, Product
The most important: look at the entrepreneur. A good entrepreneur will find a market and will find a product. A great market and a great product… but doubts about the entrepreneur… we won’t invest.
Whats the most important human capability for the next thirty years?
The Ability to Pay Attention
To hold your attention on what you decide is important. to stay focused as it becomes boring… and to stick with something through boredom to the insights that only emerge on the other side of boredom.
Today I am waiting to receive my first dose of the Covid vaccine. The Barcelona conference center has been turned into an industrial scale vaccine delivery system. It’s well organized and I am impressed.
Line for vaccines. A thousand people. Nine hundred face down to their screens. Fifty reading a book. Fifty looking around and seeing where they are, what’s happening and who else is here.
50 years ago information was scarce. That made it give power to those that had access.
Today information is so abundant that it gives little power. It is so abundant that it has created another scarcity: The scarcity of attention.
What is the true cost of an hour scrolling on Instagram or Facebook? The life I could have lived, the deep conversation I could have had, the goals you didn’t pursue, all the actions you didn’t take… all the possible yous you could have been… had you attended to those things.
“Attention is paid in possible futures forgone” James Williams.
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.
The title sounds a bit “salesy”… but that is what the video is about.
My friend and colleague at Vistage, Harry Marsland, shared with me one of his secrets to build a successful marketing agency in the UK. He has 5 questions that he would ask to his favourite clients each year:
Harry’s 5 Sales Questions to Double your Business:
What do we do that you Like?
What do we do that Not like?
What could we Do more?
What should we Do less?
What will it take for you to double the business you give us?
I first met Dandapani at an Entrepreneurs Organisation event in Istanbul in 2012, I have since met him in Boston and then helped bring him to Barcelona to spend a day with our Entrepreneurs’ Organisation chapter.
Dandapani teaches some simple but highly important lessons about awareness and our mind, and how to be intentional about your life… and in particular your energy.
Winning and social approval is not the motivation of the gold medal athlete. They do it to learn more about themselves. Winning or losing is not so important, it is about knowing who you are. Failure is like an enhanced moment to learn who you truly are.
Your life now is a manifestation of where you direct your energy or a sum total of where you have been investing your energy.
There’s people in your life that boost your energy. There are those who are energy neutral. Be kind and detached from your energy vampires. Give the work back to them.
How to Improve your Concentration
Dandapani tells us that there are 3 steps to practice that improve our concentration:
Finish that which you begin
Finish it well, beyond your expectations
Do a little more than you think that you are able to do
Use these 3 steps in every area of your life: from making the bed in the morning, to tidying the kitchen, to reading to your child, to writing emails, to writing blog posts…
Further Resources on Dandapani’s lessons
Check out my previous videos and blog posts that were inspired by Dandapani:
It is more valuable to be resourceful, than full of resources. It is more powerful to think in terms of possibilities, rather than what you could do with what you have now. Our imagination is an incredible gift, if we use it to imagine… not to find excuses.
“Poverty is not about a lack of resources, it is about a lack of dreams”
When times are difficult, it is easy for our mind to shrink back to our limitations. It takes a deliberate effort to shift our patterns of thought back towards possibilities. It is important for our spirits to remember our dreams. As a friend of mine says “If you have a dream and you know exactly how to achieve it, you don’t have a dream… you have a project” (Alden Mills).
In the video below, I share a pattern I have seen repeated in the language used by resourceful people.
Victor Frankl and the Source of Purpose
I often recommend people to read Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl tells us that purpose is not something to be found outside. Purpose is not something written on a tablet for us to find in the environment. Purpose is something we decide to have.
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor Frankl
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