I was an optimist for the first 40 years of life… and I’m working hard to change… Optimism is good for happiness, but not for taking disciplined, difficult actions that make a positive impact on your future.
Check out the video above, filmed in Seville next to the Cathedral.
Over 15 years ago, a book was written by Eduardo Ponset called “the formula for happiness”. I don’t remember the formula, but I do remember something that had great importance for me.
One of the elements of the formula was a “B” for “busqueda” – the spanish word for “searching”. The feeling you get when you are making positive progress towards a meaningful goal. Eduardo said that it was key to happiness.
Around the time of publishing, the author of the book was interviewed on local television. He shared a story about his little dog. Each day the author arrives home to his building, and must climb several flights of stairs up to his apartment on the 2nd floor. As soon as he enters the main door of the building, his dog starts to get excited… he hears some barking. As he climbs the stairs, the dog gets more and more excited.
As Eduardo gets to his door, and then opens his door… the dog is crazily excited, jumping all around and tail wagging wildly.
His dog knows that food is coming.
Eduardo enters the kitchen, opens the cupboard where the dog food is kept. The dog is at the door of the kitchen (he knows he is not allowed into the kitchen itself). The dog is jumping, barking and wagging in the doorway.
Eduardo fills the dog’s bowl with food, walks to the sitting room, places the dog’s bowl on the floor.
The dog sniffs his bowl… calms down… and then goes and lies down on his dog bed.
Where did all the excitement go?
The joy is in the pursuit, not in the attainment of our goals.
Set Goals for Direction, not for Destination
Set goals to get you moving. Don’t worry too much about the exact details… if the goal gives you a sense of which way to head… it is enough. Once we are in movement towards a goal, we start to learn, resources start to become visible, help comes our way… and a sense of clarity comes to us.
In the video I compare this to the life of a shark… a shark needs movement for water to flow over its gills… and to breath. If a shark stops swimming, its gills stop working… and it begins to suffocate.
A human is similar in that positive movement in the direction of our goals brings us clarity. We stop moving, we lose clarity.
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…
Living with Paradox… and Mentors (at 2:20 in the video)
Building A Life of Learning and Growth (at 5:33)
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.
“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.
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending an hour with the former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo as she spoke with the global Vistage community.
The title of her talk was “Leadership in Times of Crisis”.
Indra shared her 5 “C”s of leadership in organisations:
Competence – “you have to have at least one ‘hip pocket’ skill, a unique competence that you gain a reputation for delivering on…”
Courage and Confidence – you need people to follow you. People follow confidence.
Communications Skills – especially in tough times, the ability to convey a vision that people want to follow… with authenticity, sincerity and passion.
Curiosity – things are changing fast… you need to be a Life Long Learner… you need to be hungry to keep learning and adapting
Compass – an inner personal compass that points to your true north… no matter what… you never lose sense of what is 100% north, what is right for you. Only 100% integrity counts as integrity… if you lose your true north under pressure… you might as well not have a true north.
Sam Reese asked Indra how she was able to convince PepsiCo to make a big strategic change when she first stepped up into the role as CEO, a move away from financial metrics… towards sustainability, towards investing in people for the long term. Indra shared that she keeps with her a poem that was written on a wall in her childhood school. She shared three lines from the poem…
“For men may come, and men may go, but I go on forever”
The poem is about a river… and the nature of its permanence beyond that of men.
Indra shared that she saw her role as CEO to build a company that would go on forever… not just for this generation of investors… or managers… or customers… but to be part of building an enterprise with true permanence.
How should CEOs be Measured?
In response to this question, Indra shared three metrics:
A Strategy that Endures
Just like the river of the poem, CEOs should be building something that will endure beyond this generation.
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.
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 1972, a plane carrying rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the high Andes. 25 passengers survived the crash… and then found themselves trapped high on a glacier. Initially they waited for search parties to arrive. On day 10, they heard on the radio “the search has been called off”. This day they realised that if they were to survive, they had to rescue themselves.
A person out walking at night comes across a man searching down on the floor under a lamppost.
The man on the floor says he lost his keys.
“Did you drop them here?”
“No, I dropped them over there, but the light’s better here.”
Sometimes we can find ourselves working, or searching, or staying in the places where we find it easier rather than the places that are optimal for what is truly important or fulfilling to us.
Hard choices are unavoidable: it is best to make them consciously.
Don’t let convenience be the deciding factor in what to focus on and what to neglect in your life.
Convenience makes things easy, but easiness is rarely what’s most valuable.
The real measure of your life management technique: does it help you ignore the right things.
Make Convenience work for You
Do not underestimate the power of convenience: Increase the convenience of what’s important to you. If writing more is important, leave a notebook and pen on your table. If watching less TV is important, put the remote control far away from the sofa. If drinking more water is important, have a bottle on your desk.
I get requests for advice from people starting youtube channels.
My first piece of advice is “make bad videos”. When you are starting out, don’t aim for good… aim for done. If you make 1 “bad” video a week for 52 weeks… you will make many bad videos, but you will accidentally create a few good ones, and at least 1 excellent one.
Don’t wait for excellence. Have the courage to make rubbish videos.
Greg shared a story about the Kremer prize. This is a prize that was established in 1959 where Henry Kremer put up money as a prize for “Human powered flight”. It was 18 years before the prize was claimed.
There were many approaches by people seeking to win the prize – most involved lots of careful building with delicate and expensive parts… and then a test flight… mostly ending with a crash.
Paul MacCready, the eventual winner of the Kramer prize, approached the prize in a different manner. He saw that if he could make the cost of “failure” extremely low (in both damage to his own body and damage to the kit and to his finances) he could incrementally improve his system over many many iterations.
Crappy test… and iterate… and repeat. He had to repeat many times, but slowly started to improve the parts and his own skill. It was more of an “evolutionary” approach to design. It took many iterations, a lot of experimentation, a lot of steady slow improvements… and then he won the prize.
Gossamer Condor in flight, By Laura Bagnel
The Gossamer Condor approach to Youtube & blogs…
Make a bad video, with the kit you have right now. The phone in your pocket has more than enough quality to make a first bad video.
If you keep making videos, you will get better.
Focus on what makes it easy to keep making videos, not on making great videos.
This idea doesn’t work where there is a high cost of failure. Youtube videos, blog posts… they have a very low cost of failure. If they are bad, few people watch.
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