Be careful of Lazy thinking

We have a wonderful capacity to mess up our lives through lazy or fantasy thinking. We make blanket black and white statements… rather than seeking the shades of grey.

“I hate my job” -> what parts exactly?

Life is richer than black and white. You don’t hate every single part, activity, person in your job… be really specific – what do you like, what do you not like.

Solve the solve-able problems. If you don’t like something find a way to do less of it. Find someone who enjoys it. If you do like something, find a way to do more of it. Spend more time with the people who give you energy.

I love the approach of “Design Thinking”. Stay with your curiosity and take time to get the question correct. How do I improve my job, make a greater impact, feel like I am doing meaningful work, while being paid well, and enjoying my social life and with a family that is supportive of each other… you need messy questions to start to clarify what constraints, what changes, what problems you will stick with.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Days vs Years

Our emotional experience of life can depend on the time horizon we choose to look at our lives.

If you look at the progress of your life each day, there are many wild swings.

If you look at the progress of your life over longer time horizons, the wild swings blur into the background and a more steady sense of progress emerges.

Which lens are you using to look at your projects? and your life?

Serendipity

Definition: finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Last weekend, I asked my family a question: “what is your favourite word?”

My wife had 3 favourites. One of those words is “serendipity”.

Side note: My 6 year old had one favourite word. “Love”. She is a genius IMHO.

This week several events occurred where I found that the word serendipity was the clearest expression of how the important people and important opportunities have come into my life.

I’m on the train to Madrid this morning, and stopped to reflect on why this word came up and why it is so relevant.

What is the difference between serendipity and luck?

…from the Merriam Webster dictionary

“There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” “success,” and “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual”). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.”

Serendipitous Opportunities

I didn’t have it on my bucket list to do an MBA, it was someone else’s dream and they brought me along. Teaching was not something I ever imagined doing, and Brian Leggett opened that door for me. IESE now plays a huge part in my life and a huge contribution to my feeling of belonging in Spain, to contributing to society, and to developing my own reputation. Serendipity.

Vistage was not something I was looking for. I had no strategic plan that was looking for Vistage 10 years ago… I had a coffee with a friend, Verne Harnish, and he said “I think I have something for you”… and he gently pushed and encouraged me until I made a concerted effort to look at what the opportunity might mean for me. He did not just say “check this out.” He pushed me. I will always appreciate his encouragement.

EO was not something that I was looking for – I went to a lunch with a VC to get them to invest in my business… and Christopher invited me to a learning event… which led me to a 17 year participation as a member and a leader in EO.

How to Maximize Serendipity

Human relationships are the foundation of serendipity.

The more people that know who you are and what you stand for, the better.

Writing this blog and sharing my weekly youtube videos are my most powerful tools to let the world know what I stand for.

Publish content (blogs, podcasts, videos, articles) regularly. Don’t try to be an expert, publish what you are learning. Let people know what you are building, what is important to you, what sort of future you are looking to create.

People will discover you. They get a sense of what interests you. They become a global radar guidance system for you that raises your Serendipity Quotient.

Life Advice from a 70 year old…

All taken from this post: 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known from Kevin Kelly, (thanks to my brother for sharing it with me a couple of weeks ago!).

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…

  1. Living with Paradox… and Mentors (at 2:20 in the video)
  2. Building A Life of Learning and Growth (at 5:33)
  3. 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.

Trusting People

“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.

Consistency… the key to Long Term Positive Impact

My Strava 2021 trophy collection

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.

Some reflections on Consistency in life

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 my leadership programs I share 6 areas of life where you need to have good habits if you wish to live a fulfilling life.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the audience”

Lee Child is the multimillion selling author of the Jack Reacher series of novels.

When Lee was 14, his drama school teacher changed his life. “It is not about you, it is about the audience”.

In a recent episode of the High Performance Podcast, author Lee Child spoke of the impact his drama teacher had on him… and how this focus has shaped his whole life.

His greatest fear as a writer? To waste a reader’s time.

This is a lesson that I share with all participants when I teach in IESE Business School. The difference between mediocre speaking and great speaking is the shift from “what I want to say” towards “what they need to hear”. When you focus on the other, you move towards greatness as a communicator.

Freedom is not an Empty Calendar

What is freedom?

What is it to achieve freedom in life?

I spent many years thinking that “an empty calendar is freedom”. Recently a coach had me rethink this perspective… an empty calendar is dangerous… it puts my life in the hands of my “lizard brain” 😉

What are you aiming at? Are you working towards a life of “no obligations” or towards a life of “fulfilling obligations”?

Redefining Failure

“Living Safely is Dangerous”

Nietzsche

What is your relationship to success and failure? I have been reflecting these recent weeks about how I respond to “failure” – when things do not turn out as I hoped or wished.

The video below shares my thinking about a better way of approaching failure in our lives.

How I let failures derail me…

I let small failures easily put me in a state of frustration and stop me making progress (and then checking social media and seeking out other simple distractions).

I take small setbacks incredibly personally.

I’ve been reflecting on why I let these small failure events have such an effect on me.

I realised that I was telling myself that all setbacks are bad.

This is not a great story to tell myself. A new story is that failures are a sign that I am working towards important goals. A lack of setbacks would be a demonstration that I am only working towards easy, unimportant goals that don’t push me to grow as a person.

Essential Meaning of failure: (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

  1. a lack of success in some effort
  2. a situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
  3. an occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done

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.

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.

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