What matters most? What is your word for 2010?

Seth Godin asked a group of thought-provoking people to provide a word (and a 200 word essay) on what they’re thinking about as the new year rolls in. He’s turned that into a pdf called What Matters Now. Read more about the project at Seth’s blog.

I have embedded a version of the document hosted at Scribd.com.  Those viewing via subscription may need to click through to original post here.  I like page 32 “Evangelism”, page 50 “Change” and page 59 “Fascination”.  A good read that I found from the book is Tony Hseih “Poker” (Full article: Everything I learned about Business I learnt from Poker)

The PDF is free. You can view it in the embedded Scribd player above or you can download it here. Inside you will find articles by such writers as:

… and many others. Big thoughts and small actions make a difference. What is your big thought and corresponding small action(s) for 2010?  Feel free to write your word and 200 word essay in the comments…

Five and a half reasons why you should start a blog today

6 Reasons to Start Blogging Now

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret” Jim Rohn

  1. Clarity of Thinking – It will force you to become a better thinker and get clear on your beliefs. It will force you to read to gather material. It will force you to read critically as you ask “why?” “why not?” “why does she say that?” “is that really the answer?”
  2. Tom Peter says so – Tom Peters says “If you are not blogging, you are an idiot.” (here)  He is a guru. It must be true.
  3. Be Somebody – You have a much better answer for “what do you do?” “I am a writer”.  You are no longer a passive observer of life, you now participate in the creation of content and ideas. 5 years from now people will invite you to speak. 10 years from now you will have written enough material for a good book. 20 years from now your kids will think you were once smart.
  4. Fame – It is better than a diary. You might get some admiration and affirmation.
  5. Save Time – You can save time (in future) – if people regularly ask you similar questions, write your answers up in a blog post and refer people there.
  6. It is free and easy.
    1. Free: I use WordPress.
    2. Easy: One of the best starter guides is from Penelope Trunk. I must her reiterate her point on avoiding perfection (no typos).  Force yourself to hit publish after 30-45 minutes no matter what. Perfection is the enemy of creation. If you have a really bad error, just re-publish. Otherwise, let your users tell you and engage more.

1 reason why you should not create a blog:

  1. You will not make money from a blog.  Do not spend time reading “get rich quick” “teeth whitening” “best affiliate program” offers. You will create the blog and overcome procrastination only if you write about something about which you care lots and want to learn more.

A final note. Jim Rohn passed away last friday.  He was a great American philosopher. Out of his many great sayings, I will leave you with one: “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret”.

Further Reading on How to Blog

Why worry? It should all come together in the end shouldn’t it?

I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres when I was 23 years old.  It changed an idea I had about life. This scared me.

My Summary of the Book’s Story

The book tells the story of an lieutenant that is stationed on a Greek Island as part of the Italian occupation during the second world war.  He gets to know the locals and falls in love with the daughter of a villager.  They enjoy happy times together.

The Allied forces take back control of Greece, and the Italian army beats a hasty retreat.  Our lieutenant has to depart but he and the Greek girl promise that he will return after the war.

Three years later, the war ends, peace arrives and our lieutenant, after years in camps and on the run, finally can make his way back to the Greek island.  He travels to Greece, catches the ferry to island and walks towards the village.

He reaches the village in the late afternoon and is walking up the final stretch of hill up towards the centre of the village.  He sees a woman in the square, his Greek girl.  She is holding a baby in her arms.

The lieutenant turns and walks away, never returning.

He travels the world.  Each Christmas the girl receives a postcard from some spot in the world – always anonymous and with no return address.

After many, many years, the man decides that he cannot live without seeing the girl at least one more time.  He is now in his 60s.  He makes his way to Greece, catches the ferry and repeats his journey of 35 years before.  He walks to the village.

He is walking up the hill towards the square and meets a young local boy.  He asks “does Pelagia still live here?”. The boy says “I don’t know any Pelagia”.  The man reflects and thinks.  “She will be old now, 60.  She was the daughter of Iannis”. The boy responds “that bitter old woman?  She lives slightly outside the village” and indicates the house.

Our lieutenant gets to the door and knocks.  When the door opens, the girl who is now an old woman stands for a few seconds in shock and then hits him with all of her force and slams the door shut.  He knocks and knocks and finally she opens. “Why did you do this to me?  Why did you abandon me?”.  “I saw you with a baby, I thought you had a baby, thought you had married, had found someone else…  I didn’t want to stir up…”  “Why?  Why didn’t you ask?  It was my sister’s baby.  I was babysitting”.

I can Screw it All Up in One Moment of Stupid Assumption

Before I read this book I had the idea that life was like a 10 pin bowling alley when it is set up for a kid’s party.  They put foam into the gutters so that all of the balls will reach the end and take down at least a pin or two.  After reading the story, I realised that life does not have this foam protection.  Life has big gutters, and it is quite possible to put my life into the gutter and not hit a single pin.

Life with Intention

Steven Covey says “Begin with the End in Mind”. Alfred Nobel had a unique view of his obituary while alive.  He was one of three brothers.  When Alfred was 55, one of his brothers died.  A french newspaper confused the brothers and the next day’s edition came out with an obituary of Alfred.  He had the unique opportunity of reading his own obituary and he really did not like it.  He was the inventor and mass producer of dynamite.  Reading his obituary (the creator of death and destruction) was the inspiration to change his life and leave a different legacy.  Today we have the Nobel peace prize – because Alfred was so gutted to see that his legacy was going to be death and destruction that he spent the rest of his life creating the greatest current symbol of peace.

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!)

Lean Startup. Erik Ries. The one presentation that I would not miss as a startup

“This is probably the one presentation that I would not miss as a startup out of all the presentations ever made.” Ville Vesterinen on ArcticStartup.com.

You can watch Eric’s video presentation below.

[Those viewing via subscription may need to view original blog article to see video]

Great video from Seth Godin. How to finish your projects.

A great presentation from Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain.

[Those viewing via subscription may need to click through to original blog post]

I love Seth Godin’s blog and entire philosophy on life.  He regularly talks of the importance of people being responsible for the consequences of their actions.
In this video Seth talks about breaking the chains of procrastination and becoming a completer of projects.  The difference between the want-to-bes and the people that make things happen in this life. I recently had the pleasure of a training session with Victor Kuppers.  He eloquently put the difference between the “chusqueros” and the “cracks” is that the “chusquero” knows the answer, the “crack” also does something about the answer.
*chusquero = derrogatory spanish term for a person; *crack = highly positive spanish term for a person

Weekly roundup of great ideas out there on the web #1

In the spirit of Tom Peters, I am posting a weekly roundup of some great ideas rather than a well thought through blog post this week.  I am now feeling sad to see Ireland lose to France 1-0 in the World Cup Qualifier.  We need a good performance in Paris next week.

Five big lessons from Small Shop Keepers.  I love this simple reflection on some key elements of building a successful business. Too many MBAs and first time entrepreneurs focus on the business plan, raising capital, the “exit” and not enough on the day to day operational details that are key to building a great business.
Another one on small shop keepers – The worlds greatest soda shop (and soda shop owner).  (Take 8 minutes and watch the video – it is inspiring). As you will have learnt from our small shop keepers – if you are small, you must own a niche – and the guy at the end of this link has to be the most passionate and knowledgeable soda drinker in the world.  This link came to me via Seth Godin’s blog post Everyone is Clueless.
I am reminded of a great book when thinking of “owning a niche”.  The advice from the best marketing book that I have ever read – the only statement that you can “sell” as a marketer is “We are the leader in X” – the decision for marketers is “What X?  What category can we dominate?”.  Humans have a salesperson bullshit filter that immediately blocks any statement like “our product has the best blah, blah” – we are immediately cynical – but somehow the statement “Bertoli olive oil, leader in Italy” enters without a blip.

The genius of screwups.  A great blog post from Daniel Coyle on the need for leaders to create an environment in which “falling forward” risks must be rewarded if exceptional performance is desired.  Jack Welch, John Chambers, Jeffrey Katzenberg are all quoted with pithy stuff about the need to encourage people to try new things.  In the words of Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks “If you don’t make failure acceptable, you can’t expect [movies that are] original and unique.”  This follows a line of thinking that I have been discussing with my friend Bill Treasurer, author of Courage goes to Work.  (I am working with Bill on a future Advanced Courageous Leadership seminar, any thoughts on the program are most welcome).

Beyond Excellence – S.W.P. “Seriously Weird People”.  Tom Peters suggests reaching out to some Seriously Weird People when you have a new idea or start a new business.  Keep reaching until you find a couple of people who are so far out that they more or less speak gibberish – it may be gibberish, and probably is gibberish – but perhaps, once or twice in a lifetime, it will be someone and some approach that  amounts to a blueprint for doing the work of 10,000 people with 10 people.

The value perception of books will tend to zero.  Google has its Digital Library project and is scanning through the entire human catalogue of written material to make it available digitally.  Amazon has launched the Kindle 2, a device that truly starts to make reading eBooks a pleasure – and almost better than the real thing.  Given these trends, authors and publishers will need to come to terms with a world in which the value perception of the digital content, just as in the world of digital music, tends towards zero.  It may take 10 years or 10 months, but authors will need to become like rock stars – it will be the concerts and public community events that are the future important revenue streams.  A book will just be like a nice business card.

The great news… this blog has made it into Six Minutes’ list of the top Public Speaking Blogs (at number 80, but we are only 3 months old so time, tenacity and a little bit of quality content will get us up there soon).

The 90 10 rule. How John messed up a perfectly good day.

I have a monthly tradition of meeting for a 9:30am brioche and coffee in the best brioche place in Barcelona (cannot reveal the secret location) with my french-hungarian friend and entrepreneur Andre Vanyi-Robin (of Bestv and Entrepreneurs’Organisation).  We met yesterday.  The brioche was good.

Andre told me a great story about the 90 10 rule.  Neither of us know the actual source of this rule, but it comes with a great story.  Anybody who can point us to the source will be greatly appreciated.

The 90 10 Rule
10% of life are things that happen to us.  We have no control over these events.  90% of our life depends on how we react to the things that happen to us.  We can have total control over our choice of reaction to the things that happen to us.

Imagine this situation: Breakfast time at home and John and Suzie and their daughter Sally are sitting at the table. Sally turns quickly and knocks the coffee all over her father John’s shirt.

Scenario 1)

John curses and says “how could you be so clumsy! Now I am going to have to change this shirt.” He then turns to his wife and says “how could you have left the coffee so close to the edge of the table!”.  He storms upstairs to change his shirt leaving behind a daughter in tears and an angry wife.

He is now leaving home 5 minutes later and the traffic is terrible.  Sally is in the back of the car and totally ignoring him.  He drops her to school where she is now late and pissed off.  He reaches work angry and his boss says “lets review that important document we need to deliver today”…  John has left it at home in the rush.  He had left it out on the table to do a final review first thing in the morning, but the chaos at home meant that he rushed out without picking it up. His boss is frustrated because this is an important opportunity and John has to return home to pick up the document.

That night the house is a tense angry situation with nobody talking to each other…

Why did John, Suzy and Sally have a bad day?

1) because of the spilt coffee?
2) because of Sally spilling the coffee?
3) because of the traffic?
4) because of his boss and the important meeting?
5) because of John’s reaction to the spilt coffee?

Scenario 2)

Sally spills the coffee and looks shocked and concerned.  John looks at his shirt, pauses, and looks at his daughter “Oh no I will have to change this shirt.  Don’t worry, I have another one upstairs.  You need to be a little bit more careful, but its only a shirt”.  John hugs Sally and goes and changes his shirt.  John comes downstairs to find his wife is going to take their daughter to school and he has 10 minutes to review his document. He makes a couple of good notes and gets in his car.  There is traffic, but he is focussed on the way he will present the document to his boss and practices the presentation out loud in the car.  He arrives at work, enters bosses office, delivers a well thought through presentation.  That night he reaches the house and everybody is sitting at dinner sharing their day.

Two different scenarios began the same but ended very different.  They ended different not because of 1) or 2) or 3) or 4)…  but 5) how John chose to react to something that happened to him.

10% of life is stuff that happens to you.  90% depends on your choice of reaction to what has happened to you.

P.S. For those readers in Barcelona, we have a fantastic event on Friday 6th November at 15:30 – Nando Parrado will be sharing his story of survival in the Andes 36 years ago after his rugby team’s charter aircraft crashed in the high Andes.  I wrote about my reflections on his story 3 weeks ago in my blog here. Information on the event is available on the IESE website.

Networking 101. Nine habits to develop and deepen your Network.

Strong personal networks don’t just happen. They have to be carefully constructed. This post is a summary of my recent research and personal opinion on how you can grow and strengthen your connections.

Why is developing a strong diverse Network important? It will give you three powerful benefits:

  1. Information – fast access to private information (including job openings and business opportunities)
  2. Skills – Access to diverse skill sets (in diverse geographies)
  3. Power – The ability to influence and get your ideas implemented

A number of  academic studies have shown correlations between strong, diverse networks and success in commercial ventures. Networks determine which ideas become breakthroughs, which new drugs are prescribed, which farmers cultivate pest-resistant crops, and which R&D engineers make the most high-impact discoveries. In a 1998 study of innovations Randall Collins of the University of Pennsylvania showed that breakthroughs by Freud, Picasso, Watson and Crick, and Pythagoras were the consequence of a particular type of personal network that prompted exceptional individual creativity. In the words of Linus Pauling – “the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas”.

I have developed a list of nine habits to develop and deepen your personal network

  1. Be deliberate
  2. Get good at approaching and engaging people. Seek common ground. Be sincere. Don’t overwhelm. Be relevant.
  3. Don’t wait till you need it. You need to always be open to meeting and connecting to new people (perhaps not during a romantic date, but almost everywhere else).
  4. Be systematic.  Keep a list of your current/future 250 most important relationships 20 AA, 30 A, 100 B and 100 Cs.  One of the experts on developing deep relationships is Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Who’s Got Your Back“. He talks about developing your RAP or Relationship Action Plan here.
  5. Get good at “pinging (birthdays, promotions, changes, relevant news stories, useful tips, even forwarding this blog post…)
  6. Carry business cards. Always.
  7. Go Multichannel. You must be physically present at events and meet people face to face, but in parallel there are some excellent tools that make it easier than ever to grow and strenthen your network online (Linkedin (for business network) and Facebook (for personal network) being the leading examples). Is your profile up to date?  Are you using recomendations effectively? This is a great guide to building your personal brand on Linked in, and this is a guide for Facebook both from Dan Schwabel author of the Personal Branding Blog.
  8. Send handwritten notes
  9. Treat it as a two way street.  Share and receive.  Ask “how can I help this person achieve one of their goals in a way that nobody else can?” or “what can I do for them?”.  Invite them to an event.

I was in the IESE cafeteria recently and a friend mentioned a study by an INSEAD professor on the power of secondary connections.  The premise of the work being that your life will be shaped more by accidental connections and loose connections that the core 20-50 people of our networks (I would love to find the source – any ideas please respond in comments). One example of this might be founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates. It just so happens that his mother was on United Way board alongside the head of IBM – and possibly was a factor in allowing the unknown and tiny Microsoft to be allowed to bid to develop the PC DOS operating system.

And now for the difficult bit…
How do you get someone who doesn’t know you to feel comfortable talking?

Take the initiative in creating a welcoming impression. How another person perceives you is determined by a number of things you do before you speak. I have taken this list of steps from Keith Ferrazzi.

  1. Smile. It says, “I’m approachable.”
  2. Good eye contact. You don’t need to stare, but studying the weave of the carpet is a real put off.
  3. Unfold your arms. Crossing your arms can make you appear defensive and signals tension.
  4. Nod your head and lean in. You just want to show that you’re engaged and interested.
  5. Physical contact. Touching is a powerful act. Most people convey their friendly intentions by shaking hands; some go further by shaking with two hands. Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Who’s Got Your Back” suggests breaking through the distance between you and the person you’re trying to establish a bond with by touching the other person’s elbow. It conveys just the right amount of intimacy, and as such, is a favorite of politicians. It’s not too close to the chest, which we protect, but it’s slightly more personal than a hand.

Where does a leader get their energy from? Ken Blanchard says "Begin the day slowly."


I was priviledged to attend a small gathering to listen to Ken Blanchard and then join him for lunch this week thanks to Alberto Cabezas (co-founder of Claction online marketing) and the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation.  Ken Blanchard is the author of “The One Minute Manager” a simple but brilliant story about management that has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.

Ken’s talk covered a whole range of stories from his life. He is clearly a keen observer of life and people.  After some wonderful stories from his life, Ken said “well I suppose you would like to know what the role of a Leader in the current uncertain times might be?”.

3 Things Leaders Do in Times of Crisis

Ken said that there are three parts to leading well in uncertain times:

  1. Be a Bearer of Hope (Focus attention on the good stuff)
  2. Treat people as Business Partners (If you are losing sleep over the numbers, make sure everybody is losing sleep over the numbers)
  3. Have a Servant Leadership heart (who’s in charge? customer or supervisor? – it should be the customer at the top of the pyramid)

I will not cover what he talked about around the details of these three areas – much of this can be found by searching for Ken Blanchard (on Google, YouTube or Bing).

I listened to Ken going through the roles of a leader, the type of behaviours that a leader can carry through…

My question to Ken was what happens when, as a leader, you wake up one morning and think “I’m tired. I’ve been a bearer of hope, I’ve pushed, I’ve communicated…  but today I’m tired…  it’s somebody else’s turn to push today… to be the motor today.  What do you recommend?  What do you do to keep strong as a leader?”

Ken’s answer was “Solitude.  Begin the day slowly”.

Start the Day Slowly

In my case, the alarm goes off, I jump up head downstairs, put coffee on, cereal in a bowl, TV on, check email and messages on my Iphone…  and straight into the problems and crisis of the day.

When Ken’s alarm clock goes off in the morning, he wakes up.  He sits on the side of his bed with his hands, palms down, resting on his legs.  He takes a few minutes to listen to what thoughts are passing through his head, what worries him, what his body is telling him.  After 10 minutes of listening to himself, he turns his hands over, palms up, and reflects on what he wants to be grateful for at the end of the day.  The hustle of the bustle of the day still takes its toll, but starting the day slowly gives him the strength to do what he knows is right.

(This morning I had big plans to start the day slowly, but hit snooze and ended up in a rush… tomorrow for sure I will get my slow start)

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