Last night I drove home from the Costa Brava. This is a 90 minute drive. I spent 89 minutes looking at the road ahead and about 1 minute using the mirrors to see what was behind me, and what was in the lanes next to me.

Driving while looking mostly in the rear view mirror is dangerous.

Do you know where many people spend their time looking while driving their life?

Looking in the Rear View Mirror

Income statements, balance sheets, project status reviews, current account balance, kilos overweight… These are all backwards looking indicators. They describe the past and the effect of past action.

These are useful indicators for Levels 1 to 3 on Jim Collin’s 5 Levels of Leadership. They are terrible indicators for a leader that aspires to Level 5 Leadership.

What are the forward looking indicators in your business and in your life?

Driving while Looking Forwards

Gratuitous photo of me & Jim Collins at Vistage Chairworld

As we drove yesterday, we were listening to a conversation between Jim Collins and Tim Ferriss (it is excellent: I highly recommend that you find 2 hours to listen to their conversation about life, disciplines, purpose and the essence of a well lived life).

Jim Collins’ Important Concepts for Life & Business

Jim Collins shared many of the concepts that he has been working on for the last 30 years:

Three things struck me from this conversation:

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

Clarity of speaking comes from consistently writing your ideas down

How to Speak Clearly?

I love Tim’s podcast. He is interested in exactly the same range of questions that I find myself interested in. He asks good questions and pushes his guests to be specific, to give examples, to be clear. He doesn’t invite people who are not experts, and he doesn’t let them away with generic, vague concepts… he pushes them to get clear.

Both Jim and Tim have spent a lot of time writing.

As I develop the next iteration of my programs at IESE Business School, I realise that the biggest growth step that I can develop for my participants is to push them to think clearly. I believe that the only way to check whether you can think clearly is to learn to write clearly… and great writers know that great writing is the result of multiple processes of editing.

The big gap between most people becoming great speakers, is to first become clear thinkers.

Social media and rapid meetings and political correctness has allowed lazy thinking to become normal.

Excellence is the fruit of a conscious decision and commitment to long term disciplines (that are not easy for anybody)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle

Jim’s first question to Tim (I love how Jim immediately took control of the conversation, rather than just react to Tim’s questions): “What was the topic of your senior thesis at Princeton?”

It turns out that Tim has been studying, investigating and writing about the same general concepts for years. How do humans learn? and the more specific: How do the most effective human learners actually approach learning?

Tim is no overnight success. He’s been committed to learning in the same general themes for over 20 years. Jim is no overnight success. He’s spent the last 30 years committed to learning in the same few general themes.

Evidence matters (especially in living our own lives)

Poor data leads to poor decisions.

The person that each of us is most capable of manipulating is ourself. In their conversations, Tim and Jim reiterate the importance of evidence.

Very often, an accepted truth is the barrier to your next step of growth. One small, well intentioned, bad habit is costing you more than all the good habits you have invested in.

Often the members of a Vistage group play an interesting challenge role in calling out “The Elephant in the Room” – where they see you reliving a repetitive delusion that is damaging your progress in work, relationships and life.

We can fool ourselves better than anyone. Often the delusion is blatantly obvious to everyone, except me.

More Jim Collins…

I’ll leave you with one of the few video recordings of Jim Collins that are available publically:

Stop Doing Stuff that Doesn’t Serve

168 hours in a week.  24 hours in a day.  I haven’t done the math to work out how many in a year or a lifetime, but however large the number, it is still finite.  It is limited.  We get so much, and no more.  This leaves you with a choice.  My friend Verne Harnish is fond of saying “we can do anything we want, but not everything”.  He is in great company:

  • “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Warren Buffett
  • “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” Tim Ferriss, author of the best-seller ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’
  • “Prioritization is as much about what we choose not to do as what we do.” Jonathan Becher, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP

Creating Your Not-To-Do List

My own notebook right now
My own notebook right now

You already have a to-do list (Come on, you are reading this blog…  you must have a list somewhere in front of you?)  It may not be enough.  In my workshops I ask people to create a do more and do less page.  Big sheet of paper, top of the left side write: “Do More” and top of the right side write: “Do Less”.  What tends to go on “do less”?  TV, facebook, attending meetings with no agenda.  What tends to go on “do more”?  Lots of great stuff.  It is a powerful exercise.

Tim Ferriss argues that there are 9 habits we must eliminate to free up time for more important activities:

  1. Do not answer phone calls from people you don’t know
  2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night
  3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time
  4. Do not let people ramble: “Small talk takes up big time.”
  5. Do not check email constantly
  6. Do not over-communicate with low profit, high maintenance customers
  7. Do not work more to fix being too busy
  8. Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7
  9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

Check out the original list by Tim here.

What’s on your “Do Less” list?  Any clear “Do More” ideas?