Books read in 2021

Currently Reading January 2022…

The books I have read during 2021

This is basically an extract of my amazon kindle content, with a few notes.  List in reverse order of date read (the first on the liist is the last book I read in 2021…)

Favourite reads of 2021: The Magus, Four Thousand Weeks, A Gentleman in Moscow, Dark Matter, Falling Upward…

Previous Year Reading lists

The most Powerful Paradoxes of Life

I loved this twitter thread from Sahil Bloom on life’s great paradoxes. I believe that developing the mental ability to deal with the existence of paradox is an important part of becoming wise.

Sahil’s initial tweet…

What is a Paradox?

A paradox is two seemingly opposite things that seem impossible but are actually both true.

I’ve been interested in paradoxes for the last decade. In 2008 things fell apart for me and I needed to change my mental approach to life. Not everything is in my control. Paradoxes have something of the zen koan idea to them. The harder you think about them the more lost you get – you can only approach these ideas through intuition or acceptance. Part of a mature, wise approach to life is acceptance that I control very little in life, but I that cannot let that sense of powerlessness lead me to apathy.

Sahil’s List of Life’s Paradoxes

The most powerful paradoxes of life:

1. The Persuasion Paradox

Have you noticed that the most argumentative people rarely persuade anyone?

The most persuasive people don’t argue—they observe, listen, and ask questions.

Argue less, persuade more.

Persuasion is an art that requires a paintbrush, not a sledgehammer.

2. The Effort Paradox

You have to put in more effort to make something appear effortless.

Effortless, elegant performances are often the result of a large volume of effortful, gritty practice.

Small things become big things. Simple is not simple.

3. The Wisdom Paradox

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einstein

The more you learn, the more you are exposed to the immense unknown.

This should be empowering, not frightening.

Embrace your own ignorance. Embrace lifelong learning.

4. The Growth Paradox

Growth takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you ever would have thought.

Growth happens gradually, then suddenly.

When you realize this, you start to do things differently.

5. The Productivity Paradox

Work longer, get less done.

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

When you establish fixed hours to your work, you find unproductive ways to fill it.

Work like a lion instead—sprint, rest, repeat.

6. The Speed Paradox

You have to slow down to speed up.

Slowing down gives you the time to be deliberate with your actions.

You can focus, gather energy, and deploy your resources more efficiently.

It allows you to focus on leverage and ROI, not effort.

Move slow to move fast.

7. The Money Paradox

You have to lose money in order to make money.

Every successful investor & builder has stories of the invaluable lessons learned from a terrible loss in their career.

Sometimes you have to pay to learn.

Put skin in the game. Scared money don’t make money!

8. The News Paradox

The more news you consume, the less well-informed you are.

The Taleb noise bottleneck: More data leads to a higher noise-to-signal ratio, so you end up knowing less about what is actually going on.

Want to know more about the world? Turn off the news.

9. The Icarus Paradox

Icarus crafted wings—but flew too close to the sun, so they melted and he fell to his death.

What makes you successful can lead to your downfall.

An incumbent achieves success with one thing, but overconfidence blinds them to coming disruption.

Beware!

10. The Failure Paradox

You have to fail more to succeed more.

Our greatest moments of growth often stem directly from our greatest failures.

Don’t fear failure, just learn to fail smart and fast.

Getting punched in the face builds a strong jaw.

11. The Hamlet Paradox

“I must be cruel only to be kind.”

Hamlet

In Hamlet, the protagonist is forced to take a seemingly cruel action in order to prevent a much larger harm.

Life is so complex.

The long-term righteous course may be the one that appears short-term anything but.

12. The “Tony Robbins” Paradox

In investing, the willingness to admit you have no competitive advantage can be the ultimate competitive advantage.

Strong self-awareness breeds high-quality decision-making. Foolish self-confidence breeds nothing of use.

Be self-aware—act accordingly.

13. The Shrinking Paradox

In order to grow, sometimes you need to shrink.

Growth is never linear.

Shedding deadweight may feel like a step back, but it is a necessity for long-term growth.

One step back, two steps forward is a recipe for consistent, long-term success.

14. The Death Paradox

Know your death in order to truly live your life.

Memento Mori is a Stoic reminder of the certainty and inescapability of death.

It is not intended to be morbid; rather, to clarify, illuminate, and inspire.

Death is inevitable. Live while you’re alive.

15. The Say No Paradox

Take on less, accomplish more.

Success doesn’t come from taking on everything that comes your way.

It comes from focus—deep focus on the tasks that really matter.

Say yes to what matters, say no to what doesn’t.

Protect your time as a gift to be cherished.

16. The Talking Paradox

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Epictetus

If you want your words and ideas to be heard, start by talking less and listening more.

You’ll find more power in your words.

Talk less to be heard more.

17. The Connectedness Paradox

More connectedness, less connected.

We’re constantly connected, bombarded by notifications and dopamine hits.

But while we have more connectedness, we feel less connected.

Put down the phone. Look someone in the eye. Have a conversation. Breathe.

18. The Taleb Surgeon Paradox

Looking the part is sometimes the worst indicator of competency.

The one who doesn’t look the part has had to overcome much more to achieve its status than the one from central casting.

If forced to choose, choose the one that doesn’t look the part.

19. The Looking Paradox

You may have to stop looking in order to find what you are looking for.

Have you noticed that when you are looking for something, you rarely find it?

Stop looking—what you’re looking for may just find you.

Applies to love, business, investing, or life…

20. The Constant Change Paradox

“When you are finished changing, you are finished.”

Benjamin Franklin

The only constant in life is change.

Entropy is reality.

It’s the one thing you can always count on—the only constant.

Embrace it—be dynamic, be adaptable.

21. The Control Paradox

More controlling, less control.

We have all seen or experienced this as children, partners, or parents.

The most controlling often end up with the least control.

Humans are wired for independence—any attempts to counter this will be met with resistance.

22. The Fear Paradox

The thing we fear the most is often the thing we most need to do.

Fears—when avoided—become limiters on our growth and life.

Make a habit of getting closer to your fears.

Then take the leap (metaphorically!)—you may just find growth on the other side.

More from Sahil’s blog:

  1. The Power Business Writing Guide: His most viewed article of 2021. A guide to writing more effectively at work.
  2. The Cold Email Guide: One cold email can change your life. A guide to sending better cold emails.
  3. Principles of Effective Storytelling: Storytelling is a powerful, underrated business and life skill. A piece on how to do it better.
  4. Principles of Life: An honest, open reflection on the core principles I want to teach my son as he grows up.
  5. How to Win (without talent or luck): A playbook for winning at life.

Follow @SahilBloom for more threads on growth, business, and decision-making.

If you liked this post, you will also like Finding Balance between Ambition and Peace of Mind, External vs Internal Success and Agonizing over Decisions.

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?

Errors of Omission: What are you not doing that you should be Doing?

Warren Buffett often says that he is less scared by the errors he has made than by the sheer enormity of all the opportunities that he never even saw as they passed him by.

Your progress in life is far less linked to whether you execute perfectly on the things you actually act on, and far more linked to whether you are able to see great opportunities as they pass you by.

In psychology we define 2 types of error:

  • Type 1 – poor execution and
  • Type 2 – never even seeing the opportunity to act

Our psychological makeup has us much more worried about the type 1 errors – because we are fully aware of them. We should be much more worried about the type 2 errors, because they are the ones that make the biggest impact on our trajectory through life.

How to find Opportunities (increase your Luck)

“Every opportunity is attached to a person. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity — including one that has a financial payoff — you’re really looking for a person.”

Entrepreneur and investor Ben Casnocha, Source: James Clear’s (excellent!) weekly newsletter
meeting Verne Harnish 😉

My life is an example of this quote in action. The most transformational opportunities in my life have come to me through people. I would not be teaching at IESE without Brian Leggett opening the door for me… not just to teaching, but even to the idea that I might be able to teach. I would not be involved with Vistage without Verne Harnish.

In both of these cases, I didn’t even know that the opportunity even existed. I was not looking for the opportunity. It took the vision of the other person to see a path for me that I would never have seen myself.

The power of people luck is that others can often see an opportunity that you cannot see yourself.

Return on Luck (especially People luck)

meeting Jim Collins 😉

I had the privilege to meet Jim Collins a few years back in San Diego. A powerful idea that Jim has shared is “Return on Luck”. Over several years, Jim and his team investigated the hypothesis that “successful people/companies are just luckier”. They defined what it would mean for a life event to be considered “luck”:

A luck event is one that meets 3 criteria:

  1. not predictable
  2. has consequences
  3. outside of my control

Jim and his team looked at successful and unsuccessful companies, and leaders, and identified every luck event that had occurred.  They found no difference in the absolute number of luck events.

Successful People & Companies are not Luckier

There is no difference in the absolute number of luck events in the lives of successful or unsuccessful companies or leaders.

However, Jim and his team did find a difference in what happened after the luck event… Once luck happens… how do you respond?

Jim calls this “Return on luck”. Once a “luck event” has happened, there is a big difference in how successful and unsuccessful companies and leaders respond.

The luck event happens… then what?  You meet the girl of your dreams and say “Nice to meet you” or you say “I want a coffee, will you join me?”  You meet a key person in the company you dream of working for… what do you do with this moment?

When something lucky happens in your life, do you seize it and take action?  Are consistently getting prepared for future luck events in your life?

Dwight Eisenhower taught military strategy for years at West Point… when he accidentally got the chance to present his ideas to General Patton after Pearl Harbour, he had been practicing for years how to present a military strategy. He turned a chance meeting into a promotion to general, and then on to President of the United States.

Jim says that the most valuable type of luck is People luck… and knowing how to create a Return on People Luck is transformative.

How to be open to people luck? How to create a return on People luck? These are my questions…

Ingredients to increasing people luck:

  • Meet more people
  • make a better first impression
  • share your life vision in a way that others wish to help
  • bring opportunities into other people’s lives (introduce them to others, think about who and what you know that could help others, ask good questions to find out what they are seeking)
  • thank anyone that helps you (written note better than an email)
  • have a blog, youtube channel, articles, posts on linkedin that consistently clarify who you are and where you are going
  • join organisations where great people bring interesting opportunities (business schools, Vistage, EO, YPO, Rotary)
  • speak on stages at conferences
  • what else?

Ingredients to increase return on people luck:

  • learn who they are – ask better questions – become deeply curious
  • be trustworthy (the trust equation)
  • become better at demonstrating your appreciation
  • create more opportunities that you can offer to others
  • what else?

3 Recommendations from Jim Collins:

  1. Seek clarity. Clarity of speaking comes from consistently writing your ideas down
  2. Choose Excellence. Excellence is the fruit of a conscious decision and commitment to long term disciplines (that are not easy for anybody)
  3. Seek Evidence. Evidence matters (especially in living our own lives)

If you liked this post, you will also like Stand in the Traffic and Fully Committed: Success comes from Putting 20x More behind your Opportunities.

How to overcome your Fear and Get Important Stuff Done

This week’s video was inspired by a recent conversation that I hear with Dan Sullivan on the Strategic Coach podcast. He spoke about 2 elements of overcoming fear and beginning to make significant progress on the really important project in your life.

In the video, two thinking tools to overcome fear and take action:

  1. Visualisation
  2. “Catastroph-ization”

Resources mentioned in the video:

About The Zander Letter

As a teacher, Zander faced with the same problem every year for 25 years… students so worried about their grades that they did not take creative risks.

Benjamin Zander tells his students that their grade for the year is an ‘A’.

There is one condition. Students must write a letter to him within 2 weeks of starting the course. The letter must be dated from one year in the future. In this letter students are to state what they did to achieve the ‘A’ grade, and to write about the person they have become by the end of the course.

In writing their letters, Zander tells students to “place themselves in the future, looking back, and report on all the insights they acquired and the milestones they attained during the year, as if those accomplishments were already in the past. Everything must be written in the past tense. Phrases such as ‘I hope,’ ‘I intend,’ or ‘I will’ must not appear.”

Zander encourages students to also reflect on their mindset over the coming year: what thoughts and beliefs they hold about themselves. What types of thoughts will they be thinking in their journey towards deserving the A grade?

If you liked this post, you will also like How to ask Great Questions (and Listen Actively) and Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life

On Staying Young, Being Resourceful and Hiring Great People

Three ideas that resonated with me this week:

  1. On staying young – make friends with people younger than you
  2. On being resourceful – seek out and challenge yourself with constraints
  3. On hiring great people – the hiring machine… what would you search for?

This video was made at Kilkea Castle where I have had the privilege of teaching on the Timoney Institute Advanced Leadership Program this week.

If you liked this post, you will also like Resourcefulness. Shifting to a Growth Mindset and A Lesson in Hiring Top Executives: The 4 Key Attributes.

13 Vital Leadership Capabilities for the Post-Covid Future

Earlier this week I was part of the 6th International Coaching Symposium at IESE Business School.

In the afternoon we heard from a panel of board members and senior HR leaders as they shared their experiences with coaching and integrating coaching into the development systems of their companies.

I had the opportunity to ask the panel a question.

I asked “What are 1 or 2 leadership capabilities for the post-Covid future? and what role can coaching play in developing these capabilities?”

What are the Leadership Capabilities for the post-Covid Future?

Here’s the set of capabilities that the panel shared with the audience:

  • Awareness of myself – strengths, weaknesses, and how to be in a resourceful mindset; clarity in where I currently stand and where I want to be.
  • Acceptance of what I can and cannot be/do – and the vulnerability to honestly admit it
  • Communication
  • Active Listening (really seeing body language and all indicators that something more is going on)
  • Trust and Respect (especially for diverse people and viewpoints)
  • Personal Growth as part of any leadership role (you develop yourself outside the company as well)
  • To support the development of others
  • To believe in the potential of others
  • Growth mindset – an attitude of constant learning “the more you learn, the more you realize how important it is to learn”
  • Asking the right questions
  • Connecting the dots – Understanding the broader Context & reframing our own context -creating with diversity… reframing competitors as collaborators.
  • Emotional Intelligence (understanding political, social, status, ambition aspects of human interaction)
  • Managing Difficult Conversations

Would you add anything to this list? What will it take to lead in a global, fast-moving, hybrid, connected, uncertain world?

The participants on the panel were Amanda Egan, Global Head of L&D for Web Summit, Helena Herrero, President & CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise for Spain & Portugal, Marieta del Rivero Independent NED to Cellnex Telecom & Gestamp Automotive, Jorge Becerra Urbano, Emeritus Senior Partner & Senior Advisor of Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Well done Sebastien Brion for facilitating and Dr Estibalitz Ortiz & Prof. Alberto Ribera for organising the event.

If you liked this post, you will also like How to Have a Coaching Conversation and The Greatest Coaching Question of All Time.

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