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.
I heard a recent Jordan Peterson video where he expounded on the concept “Choose your Hard”. This video has some of my reflections on the choice. Choosing hard today makes a difference. Not choosing hard is a choice… and it has consequences.
Competence – you can only be trusted as competent if you clearly understand the limits of your competence. The great danger of experts is they forget the limits of their expertise – “it is better to trust a man of 130 IQ who thinks he is 125 IQ, than to trust a man of 180 IQ who thinks he is 200 IQ” Warren Buffett
Inverting – if you want to make life better, think of what you would do to make life worse. Charlie was an aviation meteorologist during WWII. His task was to give weather briefings to pilots. His role was unclear until he thought of the inverted perspective “if I wanted to kill pilots as a meteorologist, what could I do? Flying with iced wings, flying in conditions they will be unable to land.” This really clarified for him the important aspects of his role in keeping pilots alive. In our own lives, asking “how would I really make my life worse?” can be a valuable perspective on what really matters.
Collector – be a collector. How many collectors do you know who are unhappy? Identify things or experiences that you enjoy collecting and become a curator of your collections.
Integrate ideas between domains – most people focus on details within the idea (especially academics), few people look at the interaction between big ideas. That’s where there’s not much incentive in academics, but it’s very interesting for investing money.
Occam’s razor- go for simple… with a proviso that was initially shared by Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not more so” Einstein. Anywhere there is a “lollapalooza result” (Charlie’s term for a hugely positive and rapid outcome)… look for a confluence of causes. Academic experts find one cause. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There are rarely just single causes for high impact outcomes.
The problems of Social science– all chemists can answer “where do the rules of chemistry not apply?” In the high temperature plasma state. how many social scientists can answer “if you want to sell more should you raise or lower the price?” Where does this rule not apply? 1 in 50 will say “luxury goods!” Many social scientists forget to think of the exceptional cases.
Rajesh Setty shared some wisdom with me last year. One thing out of many that I remember was this idea: the most valuable compliment you can hear from another person.
I had the privilege of reading a draft of Rajesh’s newest book over the last month and I have written a recommendation that hopefully will appear when the book comes out later this year. Here’s some of his books and manifestos available as pdfs https://rajeshsetty.com/resources/books/
What is the best compliment you can hear?
How to Become worthy of this Compliment?
Be interested in them – help them get clarity on who they are and what they want, their strengths and passions
Connect people – put people in contact with others that share common passions, experiences
Let them help you – let them see that I have changed myself because of their impact on me
“The most valuable compliment is: I wish I had met you 10 years earlier”
Game of Thrones is back for its final season this week. This video comes from the beautiful city walls of Ávila, about 100kms to the west of Madrid in Spain.
I used to think that it was enough to be good at your job, and to be nice to people… and money, success and power would come. How wrong I was. The Game of Thrones makes it clear: if you have something of value, someone stronger will take it from you. You must be strong or be protected.
The secret to a good life? No, just a simple reflection on the nature of things. The important gestures you can make each day that really make an impact on others over the long time, are often so small that they are easily forgotten each day… but over 10 years the presence or the lack of a couple of small gestures makes a huge impact on your relationships and what you can have achieved in life.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
This video comes from the beautiful location of Villa Ottoboni, on the outskirts of Padua in Italy. I had the privilege of teaching an interactive workshop on “The Psychology of Leadership” with the Ambrosetti organisation today.
This is a guest post by Tobias Rodrigues who will be collaborating with me next week in the IESE Executive MBA intensive week in Barcelona. Tobias broke his foot this summer - and learnt some surprising lessons about himself, his family and what it means to be dependent on others.
Over to Tobias…
39 Days, 11 Hours and 30 Minutes of Bandage
On June 29th at 10:30 pm, while I was out enjoying an evening jog, I tripped and broke the 5th metatarsus (the main bone of the pinky) of my right foot. On August 8th at 10:00 am the cast was removed.
The following are seven things I learnt during those 39 days, 11 hours and 30 minutes of self-induced dependency.
1. Not getting in the way is already a great help
Performing everyday activities took a little longer and was a bit more complex to carry out. In practice, this often meant it was harder for those around me to go about performing their own everyday activities.
Using a cast helped me learn to consider beforehand whether I would be of greater help staying out of the way instead of getting in the middle and making things messier. Often, the best way to help was just not getting in the way.
The Lesson: Though I may want to lend a helping hand with my advice or expertise, it is wise to first ask whether this will actually make things better. At times, staying still or silent is the best option.
2. Accepting dependence is tough
I also got used to the idea that some things I would just not be able to do on my own. For ex., I could not walk around with our daughter, Irene. For five weeks, I was a “sitting daddy” and relied on others to attend to many of Irene’s needs.
The Lesson: Life is a circle of interdependence: though autonomous, we rely on others and the services they provide for large amounts of our happiness.
3. Accepting restriction is also tough
Not being able to take a walk, run, swim or shower normally were tough for me. I even had dreams where I’d be walking and then noticed in shock that I still had the cast and shouldn’t be putting my foot on the ground.
The Lesson: One the principles we use in my conflict resolution seminars is that a conflict with no solution is a solved conflict. Accepting my limitations proved to be a challenge. Once accomplished, it’s also a blessing.
4. Non-empathetic remarks are scary
It wasn’t on purpose. In fact, they were not even aware of it. But the truth is that, in an attempt to be sympathetic, some people would tell me their own stories of broken bones. And they didn’t spare the dramatic details:
“My cousin broke his foot and had a cast for THREE months!!”, “I also broke my foot and it never really healed. It gets sore when I run and hurts on rainy days.”, “Be careful with the doc’s advice. Sometimes it makes things worse!”
The Lesson: My experience tells me it is not empathetic to share your ”horror” story with someone who is going through one of their own. They don’t need to hear the ups and downs of your experience. It doesn’t help cope.
5. Vulnerability introduced me to nice people
On the other hand, people were very kind. Just an example, when my wife, Claudia, Irene and I travelled on vacation, we anticipated a stressful and rough ride. Not true.
The services for passengers with mobility constraints were great. At every airport, we were assisted with great effectiveness and extreme kindness, at no extra cost. I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those who helped us.
The Lesson: A cast taught me that vulnerability can bring out the best in those around us.
6. Love makes loved ones endure
Another aspect was that my wife had extra work on her hands. As the days went by, I could see the fatigue growing, and an increasing effort was required to endure. But she endured. And then she endured some more. My love for her has grown.
The Lesson: I am fortunate to have seen that love fuels faith and strength in tough times.
7. Life withers and dies when trapped
Finally, the day I had the cast removed I noticed that my right leg was very thin. Even some of the hair on my leg had died (of asphyxiation?) and fallen off.
The Lesson: This made me think about how we, as humans, are not built to be trapped. Whether a relationship, the past, a job or even a dream, whatever imprisons us, weaken us and eventually kills the life in us.
I am glad to share that Tobias is back walking and running again. His leg is getting stronger and the local soccer teams are keeping a close eye on him. Next week Tobias works with me as a coach at IESE Business School. By the way… Tobias regularly runs a highly rated conflict management workshop. Check out future sessions here.
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