In a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, former U.S. President Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
The image to the right shows a 2×2 matrix using the two axis of Important and Urgent. This gives us 4 types of task:
Urgent & Important
Urgent & Not Important
Important & Not Urgent
Not Urgent & Not Important
In an un-disciplined person, category 2 tends to be completed before category 3. In a disciplined person, category 3 is completed before touching category 2.
Success is rarely Urgent
Jim Rohn gives one of the most powerful definitions of success:
“Failure is a few bad decisions repeated every day. Success is a few simple good habits practiced every day” Jim Rohn
There is a saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Health success is an apple a day. Failure is a donut instead of an apple each day. You can say “what difference does 1 donut make?” You won’t notice the damage today, you won’t notice tomorrow… but over a year: a donut a day starts to extract a price.
The urgent is often the result of avoiding the important.
By the time the painkillers are needed, it is too late for the vitamins.
Vitamins are important.
Practice Saying “No”
If you wish to spend more of your life on the important things, and less on the urgent things, there is a tool…
Warren Buffett’s definition of integrity: “you say No to most things”. If you are not saying No to most things, you are dividing your life up into millions of little pieces that are being given to other people’s priorities.
Learn to say “No”…
…without the word “no”.
The most powerful ways to say “no” do not involve the actual word “no”.
Another is to raise the cost of your “Yes”: If someone wants to meet for coffee, I say “yeah sure, I am free on Friday at 7am at my office in Sabadell [25 mlles away]”. If the person still wants to meet then it must be important. 90% end up not following up. The few that do, will come prepared and have done their research. They know what they want from me. They know whether it is worth their time.
Celebrities and Politicians have entire staffs dedicated to restricting access. Bono, the singer of U2, has 25 people who review requests for his time, his money, his attention in order to allow only the important requests to reach Bono himself. Barrack Obama has a whole White House staff whose mission is to ensure that he only spends time and energy on important things, that only he can deal with.
If you don’t start developing methods of saying “no” now, it will only get harder as you become wealthier, wiser, more famous, more experienced and more resourceful.
What urgent task will you say “No” to today?
Some other great posts on Robert Glazer’s blog Friday Forward:
I was watching a few Charlie Munger speeches recently – Warren Buffett’s partner in leading Berkshire Hathaway.
Charlie talks a lot about “Inverse Thinking”…
The Inverse Thinking Process
What is Inverse Thinking? Charlie says it is helpful to turn a question on its head. If you want to know what would improve the situation of India, ask what would make India worse? You can apply this to most situations: If you want to know what would improve your life, ask what would make your life worse? If you want to know what would improve schools, ask what would make schools worse?
Charlie does provide his answer to how to make life worse.
Charlie’s Recipe for a Miserable Life
His answer: The perfect path to a miserable failure of a life is combining:
Another of Charlie’s particular questions he asks himself is how to keep from fanatical ideology? He sees that human beings are so open to self-deception that we must (yes even you) all be on the lookout for our own beliefs that have become fanatical.
Charlie’s Recipe to Keep From Fanaticism
Can you state the arguments against your position as well as your opposition? If you can state the arguments against your position as effectively as the opposing camp, then you can allow yourself to feel that you are not being fanatical.
Charlie on the Danger of Perverse Incentives
Be careful about being in situations that motivate unhappy behaviour. Are the incentives in the systems in which you operate motivating behaviours that make you a better person, or a worse person. Be careful if you think your answer is “neutral”…
When I was 14 years old, my grandfather told me that “Success is earning more than your father.” This talk shares how my definition of success has changed over the next 3 decades of my life. My definition today… listen at the end of the speech.
Who is the first person that comes to your mind when you think about success? Who is that person? What is about them that makes you think of them?
Does it surprise you which person comes to your mind?
Re-sharing an old article of mine…
I wrote an article for myself in 2009 when I had faced 2 major setbacks. This was to remind me of what is important. I’ll share the article again here below:
17 Daily Habits for a Fulfilling Life
Conor Neill, February 2009
This is a compilation of habits that I have seen in the lives of people who have achieved things and felt satisfied and fulfilled with the way their life has progressed. I often get asked the question “is this for a book?”. I don’t know. I teach MBAs and often am asked over a coffee “what should I do with my life?” or “how can I be a success?” to which my answers are often in the form of questions – but this project hopefully will move me towards a better answer when asked these questions.
An entrepreneur friend recently commented to me an early conversation he had with a mentor “Alex, you have great potential”. “Thanks.” “Do you know what great potential means? You ain’t don’t nothing yet”. What does it take to turn potential into fulfilment?
I look forward to your comments, reflections, disagreements, personal experiences and outright criticisms.
Goal setting, Dreams – Goals – Actions
We know what we need to do to be successful, but why do so few people manage to sustain the habits of regularly dedicating time to the activities that will bring them success? Why do we sabotage ourselves?
A nice thought about something you might like to have is a dream. A dream written down and clearly visualised is a goal. A tangible, measurable step written down and committed to is an action. You will not achieve a dream if you don’t systematically work through the actions that lead to the goals that lead to the dream. Dream – have a book published. Goal – complete first draft of book by 31/1/2010. Action – write 1000 words on goal setting.
A writer is somebody who finds writing harder than anybody else. My brother Aidan – set a goal 60 weeks ago – publish a blog article every Monday before 9:00am – and has consistently met it except for 2 weeks – the week his son was born and the week his son was in hospital with a worrying stomach condition. How? He made a verbal commitment to many of his friends. He said to his wife that he would give her €100 every time he failed to publish by 9:00am. He has paid 3 times (once he published the blog 20 minutes late).
We need accountability partners (sadly we are less likely to cheat on our goals if committed to a friend than just to ourself). The top performers all have coaches; it is too difficult to sustain high performance without help.
Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers made popular the idea that becoming excellent requires 10,000 hours of practice. Your genes, your natural talent, luck becomes irrelevant when you achieve 10,000 hours. In what will you spend the next 5 years accumulating your 10,000 hours of practice?
Most people never accrue 10,000 hours in anything. Will you make the commitment to excellence, the commitment to mastery?
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret” Jim Rohn
Routine sets you free. Routines can break the tendency to procrastination (“quieting the lizard brain” Seth Godin).
Pomodoro technique – get a timer that clearly counts down 25 minute intervals. Take your to-do list. Prioritise number 1 important item. Estimate number of 25 minute intervals. Set the timer and work on the first timer. Any interruption, reset the timer to 25. At the end of a pomodoro take a proper 7 minute break. After 4 take a 25 minute break. How many pomodoros can you achieve in a day?
Self discipline has been shown to be an “expendable” resource. In order to have the greatest ability to maintain self discipline, we need to get enough sleep, face our anxieties, take time out to relax as well.
Fit mind and body (Energy)
Survey of centurions (people who live to 100) – two things in common:
they exercise every day and
they have a project which they must survive in order to complete.
“Sharpen the saw” Steven Covey
You only have one body – take time for repairs. Take time to strengthen it. Take time to rest it. Keep fit, play sport, enjoy walking, don’t wait for the heart attack to let you know that you need to eat healthy, keep fit.
“What on Earth am I here for?” Wrong Question – meaning is not to be found inside ourselves – “What do my parents, friends, family, society need from me? How can I best help others?
Jesus Christ once said, “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”
What drives you? Guilt? Resentment? Fear? Materialism? Approval? Social comparison?
The Arbinger Institute distinguish between two forms of emotional living – “In the box” vs “Out of the box”. “In the box” is reactive – your emotions are reactions to world and people around you. If someone is late to your meeting, you are angry. Out of the Box is that you are proactive about emotion – you choose the emotion that best serves the current moment. You don’t react to people, but seek to understand what is happening in their life, what they are seeking, what they are lacking.
Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of “quiet desperation,” but today a better description is aimless distraction. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere.
We are products of our past, but do not have to be prisoners of it.
George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Do you have a clear understanding of your values? Have you spent some time reflecting on what is important to you? Who are your role models that have lived these values in a strong way?
Why do many cancer survivors look back on the cancer as a gift? – they live the rest of their lives with a true understanding of how short a time we have and what is really important in the time we have. The unimportant drops away and leaves a powerful clarity and focus.
Communication in concise terms of your personal, company, project, goal vision. You are always selling. People sign up for vision, fun and principle.
“We die”. What will you do the last hour? Who will be there? Who will you want to speak to? What would you say?
In the book “Superfreakonomics” there is a chapter that shows a high correlation with the arrival of television and an increase in crime. The authors examine various hypothesis, but essentially find no link except a speculation that the arrival of TV also was the arrival of powerful advertisement campaigns that transmit the idea that “buy this product” = “get this life”. The purchase of a €2 coca cola is not the purchase of sugar, water and some cola flavour in a red can… No, it is access to a life full of exciting friends, fun parties and meaningful interaction. The purchase of a car is not the purchase of a vehicle to get from A to B, it is access to a lifestyle. You are not happy now, but the mere purchase of the right set of goods will transform your life into one of fulfilment. This leads to frustrated people. We believe the ads, but they are selling falsehood. No thing, no object, no achievement will fundamentally change how you feel about yourself – only you can decide to change how you feel about life.
Integrity – build trust, reliability (“Its a small world”)
Are values worthwhile because they provide a ROI or are they valuable only in that they allow you to sleep well every night? Warren Buffett – why is Integrity his number 1 criteria for selecting people in whom to invest?
Aristotle believed that if an individual did not internalise an ethical value system before the age of 12 they would never really “feel” the need to live their values.
Finances in Order
Delayed gratification is necessary. Nobody soaked in debt will ever be able to generate the focus to deliver impact in the important areas of their life.
The test that has most correlation with success in life is a simple test devised by psychologists. They bring a child into a room and sit them down. The child is presented with a sweet. The adult then says that they need to leave the room. The child is most welcome to eat the sweet, but if it is still there when the adult returns, the child will receive 2 sweets. 50% of children cannot resist temptation and eat the one sweet, losing the opportunity to double their outcomes. The children that don’t eat the sweet do not sit there staring at it – they have learnt to avoid looking at the temptation, they have learnt strategies to manage themselves.
Accumulate education => Accumulate capital => Generate income => Grow expenses inside the limit of passive income. Freedom = passive income > expenses. Slave = 90% income as salary. Keep expenses low, generate assets.
Balanced, enriching social life
Choose your friends. You will become who you spend most time with.
What is the most satisfying thing you can do for:
Happiness: It is all about shared experiences + intentional giving.
Unhappiness: it is all about comparing yourself to others, what you have, what you don’t have. What would you rescue from your house if you could only save one thing? (95% choose photos). Not plasma TV, not furniture.
Strong close relationships – Marriage, Family, Kids
Quality time vs time in the same room. Intimacy. Requires work to deepen relationships and maintain powerful connections. It does not happen automatically – we are not genetically prepared to establish deep intimate relationships.
Resilience (Head in the sky, Feet on the ground)
Healthy balance between Principles and Pragmatism. Get good at ignoring the little things. Don’t wrestle with pigs. You will get dirty, you will lose and the pig enjoys it.
Self Motivation, Self Esteem, Self Belief
You see what you are looking for. Ask the right questions. Change “why does this happen to me?” to “What am I grateful for today?”
Get good at motivating yourself. We are not computers – we are neurons floating in a sea of hormones and we need to be careful what hormones we let flood our brain – it will change what we see and believe.
“The only source of good knowledge is bad experience” Tom Peters
Climbing Everest, you will not always be going uphill. Sometimes there are periods of downhill, but it is a necessary part of the journey. Farmers don’t blame the winter – they accept that it will always come around and prepare to plant seeds in Spring.
Survive => Thrive. We are first generation that survival is guaranteed. We are first generation where thrive is the aim – and we don’t have any history or knowledge or family role models that can guide us in a world where you really can avoid most hardships.
The person who says “poor me” has clearly got low self esteem. The person who says “I am the greatest” is also likely to have low self esteem.
You are the best you in the world. You will be a terrible somebody else.
“The reward for conformity is that everybody likes you except yourself” Rita Mae Brown
It is only in the tough times that you reach into yourself and truly see what is important to you. In the easy times you lose yourself as you compare to everybody else – and lose clarity of what you will know is important when death is imminent. The sharpest steel is forged in the hottest furnaces.
Life is too short to not laugh regularly.
Be accessible and approachable.
Mentors and Advisors (Life Strategy)
Have a list. Find your way to ask them. Nick Luckock – “Apax doesn’t invest in first time entrepreneurs – they don’t yet know how much help they will need from others and how they can ask for it”.
The ideal mentor is someone who you respect, can connect with on a personal level, and who is willing to impart their knowledge. But don’t expect them to solve all your problems.
“A mentor’s role is to help you to make sense of your own experiences” Professor D Megginson
Talking to someone who’s been through a similar experience or has achieved something that you would like to achieve will be constructive.
Coach (Accountability and Balance)
Cormac and his personal trainer: “I only work with the best”.
“I have no time for people not prepared to do the hard work.” All Great Coaches…
Permission to hold me accountable for my own actions.
Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell all have two things in common – they have been leaders of their respective fields, and they each have a coach. The best in the world have coaches. Is it coincidence? We are not strong enough mentally to keep up the hard work and discipline over the long haul to reach excellence. We need people around us who hold us accountable and push us to stretch. Tony Nadal, the coach of Rafa Nadal, says that his role is to ensure “Effort and Commitment” – not tennis skills, not better strokes, not how to get fit.
Auschwitz – 1 in 30 survived the camp. Victor Frankl was one. Why did some survive and others not? It was not random. The prisoners received bread rations only sufficient to keep them barely alive, yet some prisoners would take half of their bread and give it to someone that they saw needed it more than them. Those that ate all of their bread survived a time. Those that shared their meagre ration of bread were able to truly live. You can take everything away from a man except his ability to choose his response to any given situation.
Victor Frankl developed the Logotherapy process to help people find the ultimate meaning for their life, to find “a why that can overcome any how”. There are three types of ultimate meaning:
A Unique Contribution
Finding Meaning in the Suffering Itself
Giving with intention, giving what is special to you.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill
Getting others to do stuff for you
“Leadership is Vision with bullying” Professor Brian Leggett
A vision without execution is idealism. Execution without vision is bullying.
Volunteer for charities, clubs. It is here that you will learn to lead. Create change = upset someone, connect people, lead people.
Reflection, Time to Think (Separation of Now and Future) “What have we learnt?”
Incremental improvement almost always wins.
Meditation – why? Does it really provide the impact that many of its proponents suggest? Commit to 10 days of self development activity every year.
“We’ll pluck significance from the least consequential happenstance if it suits us and happily ignore the most flagrantly obvious symmetry between separate aspects of our lives if it threatens some cherished prejudice or cosily comforting belief; we are blindest to precisely whatever might be most illuminating”. Iain Banks, Transition, Patient 8262.
A fulfilling life?
Impact = Self Understanding + Personal Habits + Social Systems
Life = Work + Social + Relationship + Logos (Meaning/Spiritual)
Success = Impact + Luck
Why worry? It should all come together in the end shouldn’t it? Life should naturally turn out well. I don’t like exactly where I am right now, but in a few years it will be better. Doesn’t it just happen like that?
I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres when I was 23 years old. It changed an idea I had about life. It scared me greatly.
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 Ioanna”. 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”.
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.
Never too Late to start
The positive thing is that it is never too late to start living the life we want. Life’s gutters are all in my mind. The past is gone Today I can decide to head a new direction, and the final destination changes. I only need change course by one degree and I may make a massive change in the new destination that I will reach and what will happen on the journey.
Jim Rohn says “It is possible to design and live an extraordinary life”. We measure life in hours, days, weeks and years – but this is not the right measure. Life is experiences. There are people that live 200 years of experiences in 40 years of life, and there are people who don’t live even a single year of experiences in 90 years of clock time.
“We die”. This is how the Cluetrain manifesto begins.
The human lifespan is 650,000 hours. One of those hours is your last hour. One of those days is your last day. This is an inevitability of life. We all will die. In that last moment, what will we have with us? Nothing. What will we leave? What will we remember? What will flash through our minds? What will it take so that in that moment, God turns and looks and says “now there is someone who really used the opportunity I gave her”?
Steven Covey says “Begin with the End in Mind”. Our end is a day where we face the end. No more opportunities. Our obituary will be written. What will it say?
Alfred Nobel had a unique view of his obituary while alive. He was one of three brothers. When Alfred was 55, one of his brother’s died. The newspapers 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 at the age of 55; and he really did not like it. He was the inventor and mass producer of dynamite. Reading his obituary 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.
Aristotle said “we are what we habitually do”. If something is important, you must do it every day. If you say, “I will take some time next year and do that” – you will never do it. If something is important and will be part of our legacy it needs to be done every day and become routine.
“Carpe Diem. Momento Mori.” Seize the day. Remember we must die.
In ancient Rome, the words “Carpe Diem. Momento Mori” are believed to have been used on the occasions when a Roman general was parading through the streets during a victory triumph. Standing behind the victorious general was his slave, who was tasked to remind the general that, though his highness was at his peak today, tomorrow he could fall or be more likely brought down. The servant conveyed this by telling the general that he should remember, “Memento mori.” This finds ritual expression in the Catholic rites of Ash Wednesday when ashes are placed upon the worshipers’ heads with the words “Remember Man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
“In the really great managers the common quality they have (in addition to intelligence, energy and integrity) is a passion for what they do.
They are not doing it for the money.
At least three quarters of the managers we have at Berkshire Hathaway are independently wealthy. They do not need to go to work in the morning. They go there because they they love what they’re doing. It is creative. I liken it to painting a painting. They are painting a painting that they see in their mind, never finishing, they get to keep working on it every day. They get to work on it in the way they want and they inspire others because that passion brings out an enthusiasm and a dedication in others.
If they were just going through the motions, sleepwalking through their jobs, they just wouldn’t get this engagement.
Inspirational Leaders are Fully Engaged
He brought up a very good question: how do you bring that sort of passion to the government?
Well certain leaders inspire people to go into government with that same passion for helping their fellow men through government. John Kennedy did it with the peace corps, he inspired many people.
An inspirational leader in any field, whether business or politics, will energise and attract people to put forth the kind of effort in a that you’re talking about. I hope we have one in the next President of the United States. I think I think you need a leader that that can cause people to think above where they’ve been thinking before; and bring out bring out energy and passion that they didn’t know was present. I get that in business maybe more than occasionally you get in the public service.
I don’t think you can write a manual or something about it.” Warren Buffett
Imagine you had the two hundred people you know best in the world sat in this room and i gave you this deal:
you come, today, come up here to me, you give me a thousand euros and you give me a name, and for the rest of that person’s life I will pay you ten percent of everything they make, every month, month after month, month after month.
Who would you choose?
Imagine that. Here in the room, if you look around the faces you see in this room -some good faces to bet on in this room- but if you put the two hundred people you know best from school, from university, through family connections,… Who of all the people you know, will be the one person that you would put on my paper and bring to me? Who would you bet on? I was asked this question seven years ago. The man in the picture is Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, at times the richest man in the world.
Warren Buffett doesn’t invent things;
Warren Buffett doesn’t sell things;
Warren Buffett doesn’t manage a company.
Warren Buffet takes one decision every day:
Would I bet on this person?
And the results would seem that he does this quite well. But seven years ago when he asked this question to a hundred and fifty MBAs. In my mind, three or four faces came to my mind…
Three or four faces…
And I hope as you’re thinking about this now
-Who would you bet on?- Some faces come to your mind. Some faces come to mind. People you know,
if you have this bet to make you choose them.
So let’s work a little bit on this.
If we’re gonna do this properly which we put together a process.
What criteria will you use in making this decision?
What criteria is your mind already using when it puts up a couple of faces in your mind’s eye?
What are you looking for when you see in someone the capacity have a massive impact in the world? I’m assuming you wanna do this bet well, because you do it well you can use that money for a lot of good causes.
What criteria would you use?
One idea -let’s go through some ideas- one idea: let’s get the two hundred people present in the room to bring their grades from school and university and we put them in order from the best to the worst grade and we choose number one.
The really scary thing is if I asked a group of twelve-year-olds they would laugh at the idea. Twelve-year-old already see the grades in school is not the criteria.
What are the criteria we’re using?
What about best friends? Patxi, I’ll choose you if you choose me! Best friends! Wonderful for friendship but a very dumb-way to take this decision.
What criteria would you use?
What criteria is your mind already using when it starts to put some ideas in your mind?
Who would you bet on?
So if grades from school isn’t it; best friends isn’t it; What would you use?
Now Warren Buffett takes this decision everyday, and Warren Buffett has three criteria.
But before I get into these three criteria of Warren Buffett
I wanna move to the world of psychology -I studied psychology- and to this day, from the beginning of psychology, there’s one test that above any other tests in life predicts future success on every measure: wealth, quality of relationships, grades in school, length of relationships, happiness, measured on every scale wether qualitated or quantitated
And the test is called the Marshmallow Test.
This here is a marshmallow.
The marshmallow test can be conducted on children three or four years old: the psychologist brings the child into the room and says “this is yours, this is yours to eat. I need to leave the room for a couple of minutes, when I come back if it’s still there you get two”.
And the psychologist leaves the room.
And the kid looks at the marshmallow: its his marshmallow! you can use it in any way you want.
So fifty percent eat the marshmallow; fifty percent don’t eat the marshmallow.
And the fifty percent that don’t eat the marshmallow go on to live lives that are qualitative and quantitatively better than the kids that do eat the marshmallow.
But you can go and look at this on Youtube.
You can go and see this experiment being carried out. And what is most illustrative is what the children do that don’t eat the marshmallow.
The kids that eat the marshmallow do something similar:
they stare at the marshmallow, they look at it.
The kids that don’t eat the marshmallow -can you imagine three-year-olds, four-year-olds? it’s kind of obvious- the kids that don’t eat the marshmallow: they put their head on their hands, they get up and stare at the wall, they look at their shoes.
Because at the age of three they’ve already realized how little power they have over themselves, over their own nature.
the diet fails in the supermarket, not at home. If I go to the supermarket and I buy chocolate, and that chocolate gets to my house, my willpower might get me through one day, it might be getting through the end of the week, it might get me to the end of the month, I might last a year…
But one day something bad will happen: I’ll come home tired my willpower will not be there and I will eat that chocolate.
The marshmallow test: the most powerful tool, on three or four-year-old children, to determine the quality of their lives the rest of their life.
Now, marshmallows don’t work on grown adults, so I wouldn’t recommend we use the marshmallow test to make your decision of who’d you bet on.
Let’s go back to Warren Buffett and his three criteria:
the three criteria of Warren Buffett.
And Warren Buffett makes this decision pretty damn well: sixty billion dollars of Net worth through deciding “would I bet on this person or not?”. And if you look at the structure of a lot of his deals he takes ten percent of all the future income of this person, of this team, of this company, on these three criteria.
The second criteria of Warren Buffett:
Energy is health and a bias to action:
healthy people, people who don’t get ill often, people when they get a cold there back to work tomorrow cuz they recover quick, they sleep well.
Bias to action: people have a tendency to take action over thinking about action.
Energy is about vitality and a bias to action.
The third criteria of Warren Buffett:
But not chess intelligence, not business school intelligence, not sitting in a room for four years designing a strategy intelligence.
He’s talking about adaptive intelligence: when you’re running down the street and a lamp post is coming towards you, adaptive intelligence is the intelligence to see the pattern, see the lamp post coming and change your course just enough but instead of taking it in the forehead you take the blow on the shoulder and you keep moving.
So number two: energy.
Number three: intelligence.
But without number one Warren Buffett and I would rather you were dumb and lazy.
Without number one you’ll be a danger to yourself.
Without number one you’ll be danger to your family and to society.
Number one, Warren Buffett’s number one criteria…
Number two is energy. Number three, intelligence. But without this those two are dangerous.
Number one is integrity.
But integrity is that you say no to most things.
Integrity is really about an alignment between what your calendar says you do and what you say you. And if you say yes to most requests, if you can’t think of the time you said no in the last day, in the last week, your life has been divided into thousands of little pieces and spread amongst the priorities of other people.
So to live an integral life, to live a life true to your own values means that you say no very often.
Integrity, energy and intelligence.
Do they seem like good criteria?
Do they seem like good criteria?
They worked for Warren Buffett… They seem like good criteria?
Did you use these criteria in taking this decision? in choosing the one person to own ten percent of all their future income?
These three seem like good criteria for me, I use them, I often use them.
They seem like good criteria. Now, there’s a person in this room that without paying me a thousand Euros, without doing anything different, without raising your hand, without moving, you owe more than ten percent: you own one hundred percent.
The person in this room that you don’t have to pay money, you don’t have to go to me, you don’t have to speak to anyone, and you will own one hundred percent of everything, month after month, after month.
So I very much hope that you each day work very hard to maximize integrity, maximize energy maximize intelligence.
Because if you bet on someone else for ten percent, I damn well hope, you put everything you can into maximizing these three in your own life.
And given that we got a few minutes, How about some tools?
I’ll leave you with some tools: one tool to maximize your intelligence, one tool to maximize your energy, one tool to maximize your integrity. And you can put these into action right now.
Intelligence: write stuff down.
If you write down ideas you’ve had today, if you write down people you’ve met, describe things that are going on, six months from now you won’t be the intelligence of one moment: you’ll be the accumulated intelligence of six months of ideas, six months of things written down, six months of people’s quotes.
When I was fourteen years old my biology teacher made us write down five minutes everyday, whatever we wanted. I remember day one. Pen touched paper: “This is stupid, What are we doing?”
Day two, again: “This is stupid. What are we doing?” Day three: “He’s still doing this!”
Day four: “Strange thing happened to me on the way to school today…”.
Day five: “My brother said something to me this morning…”.
I’ve written everyday of my life since I was fourteen years old. I know where I was every day of my life since I was fourteen: I know what I was thinking, I know what I felt like, I know who I was with.
Start writing down your life, it’s the most valuable resource you have: your own life. But so few people take the time to document it. Write your life down, describe the marshmallow.
Energy: high-performance athletes. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last five years interviewing the high-performance athletes of Spain: Josef Ajram, Kilian Jornet, Miquel Suñer.
Josef Ajram: ten times he’s competed in the Marathon des Sables. Two marathons a day, six days across the Sahara.
And Josef tells me: he finishes because he never thinks about more than fifteen minutes ahead. He runs for fifteen minutes he stops, has a drink, another fifteen minutes, another fifteen minutes, his mind never goes beyond fifteen minutes.
He says “anybody can run for fifteen minutes”.
He’s run the Marathon des Sables because he’s never, ever, let his mind see more than the next fifteen minutes.
Miquel Suñer swims open water, without a wetsuit, across the english channel. No wetsuit! Forty two thousand strokes to leave the english coast over to france.
Fourteen, fifteen-degree water; the cold seeping in with every stroke. How does he do it?
Because his mind is never further than stroke, stroke, breath; stroke, stroke, breath. Hour after hour, swimming, but he’s never allowing is mind to go anywhere beyond: stroke, stroke, breath.
With the marshmallow: deal with one marshmallow at a time, one marshmallow at a time.
What’s the next step? Do not let your mind jump forward and see the biggest thing. Alpine climbers see the next inch.
Ranulf Fiennes, oldest man from europe to climb Everest: failed three times; on his last attempt his wife said “Ranulf, climb it like the horses”.
He looked at her: “What you mean like the horses?”.
She’s an animal trainer: “A horse has no concept of the finish, a horse runs until it collapses. Climb everest one step at a time. Ask yourself one question: “can I take one more step?” “Yes!” take it. “No!” pause. “Yes!” take it, “Yes!” take it.
And on one of those steps he stood on the summit.
Energy: deal with next unit, one marshmallow at a time, one marshmallow at a time.
Integrity: Do you know how a child spells love?
How does a child spell love?
This world is full of good intention… But, the way you see if an executive really is behind an initiative you open their diary and you count the hours.
If you say your parents are important to you, open the diary and show me the hours.
The coherence between a diary and your values is where integrity begins.
And it’s kind of horrific when you start to count, when you start to look and start to become aware of where your time goes… So little of my time really goes to the things that I know and I mean to do. So often I slip off into facebook and what was supposed to be a minute, is an hour, and then lunch comes.
But those minutes, once you start to get the minutes dedicated things that matter…
And the truly important thing to remember about the marshmallow test is that there’s hundreds, and thousands, and millions of marshmallows in your life: hundreds of little decisions, minutes after minute, day after day that all sum up.
And success in life is not one massive good decision, not one marshmallow not eaten;
and failure, is not one marshmallow eaten, or one poor decision.
Failure is repeated bad decisions;
success, is repeated, consistent, good habits.
We so underestimate what we can achieve in a year and so overestimate what we can achieve in a day. A page a day and you have a book in a year: you’ll never write a book in one day.
But this time, once you started dedicate the time right, I had the privilege is spending a day with Kilian Jornet -probably Spain’s top athlete, ultra man- when I met him he just finished running the Lake Tahoe Rim Run: 288 kilometers, 19 kilometers of vertical ascent and he run it in 36 hours.
What the hell goes through a man’s mind as he runs for 36 hours?
But when he runs, do you know what the other competitors say about Kilian?
“He looks like he’s enjoying it”.
The other runners are suffering and they’re looking down:
Killian is running touching the leaves as he runs past, smelling the smell of the forest, feeling at the end of the track beneath his feet.
He runs for thirty six hours because he’s absolutely there, his mind is nowhere else but in the run, in the path, in the forests, feeling completely alive.
But when you do get your diary too much up to your values, getting your life one hundred percent present, and experiencing every little piece,is what took Killian to be #1 in the world in the hardest sport in the world.
So the lesson, rule #1 for success -and I brought a few for all of you to see if you can achieve it- the rule for success: when you have a marshmallow don’t stare at it.
The diet doesn’t fail because of weakness of will, the diet fails because the chocolate is there.
If you want to stop watching television take the batteries out of the remote.
If you want to do more exercise, put your running shoes next to the door.
It’s small, small changes…
And when I come back five years from now, and I ask: “Who did you bet on?
the answer that I want:
Yo mismo! (Spanish for myself)
When I come back ten years from now, the answer that I want is “Yo mismo!”
And twenty years from now, I want you to have written stuff down;
I want you have dealt with one step at a time;
I want you to make sure your diary aligns completely, you say “no” to the things that don’t fit with what’s important to you.
And twenty five years when I come back here I will look out on the most successful group of people, because they’ve lives their lives fully.
Who would you bet on?
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