Your colleague humiliated you in front of everyone and you're angry. You want to get even. You can't concentrate on anything else but retaliation.
It's justified right? But is it helping?
You're angry at your neighbors refusing your planning application for a new building. You no longer talk to them.
Is it helping?
You're pissed off with your daughter because she didn't call last weekend, so you're short with her when you next meet.
Is it helping?
You don't talk to your partner that evening because he's home from work 3 hours later than he said he would be and you slaved over a meal.
Is it helping?
You sink into yourself and feel angry at the world for not realizing the brilliance of your breakthrough idea after the investors rejected your start-up pitch.
Is it helping?
One of your customers leaves you after citing a poor customer experience and you withdraw into yourself in a world of self-pity and denial.
Is it helping?
It's easy to react based on the external world around us. How we were slighted, how the circumstances were unfair, how the other person got a better deal.
But with all things considered, is it helping? Better to focus on what you can do to make the best of now. Better to see what possibility you can create to improve the circumstances. Better to maintain your own scorecard and standards.
The customer left you, ask them why. Take the objective feedback, and double down on your existing and new customers.
Your partner was late home. Forget the meal. Be the possibility for them to step back from the tough day they had.
The investor rejected you? Get feedback, they've seen hundreds of pitches. Alter your pitch, find more investors, go again.
When you react, ask yourself, "is it helping?" "Am I being helpful?" Because an attitude of win-win is what helps to improve the world.
Forget the Facebook moments, the Instagram posts of perfect lives, the LinkedIn swagger about the aren't-we-awesome-at-business crowd.
Forget the cheap praise, the "you've done enough" attitudes, the "you're-so-great" compliments.
Forget the jealousy, the low-blow shots, the gossip spreading, the "why is he doing that" murmurs.
Instead, maintain your own scorecard.
The external chatter, the well-intentioned praise, and the soul-destroying harm can do two things:
1) Convince you that you're better than you are
2) Convince you that you're worse than you are.
Instead, maintain your own scorecard.
This is a characteristic of how great people think. They hold themselves to high standards when others already deem their efforts enough. They keep trying when others mock or judge or critique. They use real, measurable feedback and compare where they are to their own internal scorecard.
Let the others judge and compare and seek recognition. Instead, build your confidence on solid, unshakable achievement.
“Don’t cross a river if it is on average 4 feet deep.” (Nassm Taleb)
Averages don’t show the underlying distribution.
If 100 people get on a bus and one is Bill Gates, he will massively skew the “average” net worth of people on the bus.
The average sales per consultant may be £200k. But what is the underlying distribution? Are there two or three top performers increasing the average? How do you identify more of them?
The average revenue per customer may be £100k. But do just a few customers make up the bulk of it? If so, what if one leaves? How can you identify and develop more top customers?
The average revenue per hour may be £100. But do some customers take up considerably more time (and cognitive resources) than others? Are the high fees masking 80% of the problems? What about the customers that create high revenue per hour? How do you identify and develop more of them?
The psychopath next door may be perfectly pleasant, on average. But the distribution of his behavior is that 99% of the time he is wonderful, and 1% of the time he goes on a psychotic killing spree.
Negative events can be masked by the illusion of averages. If the top customers or consultants leave, you're screwed. So don't rest on your laurels. Instead, work, work, work.
"The Iron Law of You. You think more about yourself than you think about me. There's a corollary to the Iron Law of You - the Iron Law of Me. I think more about myself than I do about you. That's just the way the world works."
It turns out Adam Smith wasn't just a world leading economist, but a pretty astute philosopher as well!
The world demands our attention like never before. Information and communication exchange can be almost instantaneous. We get frustrated when we don't get replies to our emails, text messages and voicemail's. Why isn't the world paying attention to me?!
The insight by Smith above is a lovely reminder that you are not the center of the universe. When you send an important communication to someone, maybe a business pitch, it might be the single most important thing to you at the time. To the respondent, well your message is just one of a huge number, tossed in the mix with everything else they have to complete that day.
So don't get worked up. Practice patience. Remember that the respondent has a million things to deal with, just like you. In the mean time, how many people are screaming with anxiety because you haven't dealt with their important request? How many people are creating stories of worry and fear and rejection? Can you help any of them today? Go do that while you're waiting.
'But the best advantage is the fact that those who have acquired the habit to commend their enemies is that they do not have hostile feelings and do not feel envious because they are jealous of their relatives' or friends’ success, and are removed from envying their good fortune.' (Plutarch)
Fire burns you, but it can be a source of light and heat too.
When your enemies slander you, when they scream at you or are sly with you, when they gossip about you or wound you; you have two choices:
You can either hit back, clouded with rage. You can fuel the fire and struggle and toss mud and smear the both of you. You can have stress coarse through your veins, you can lose sleep, you can work yourself up, you can respond in a petty tit for tat exchange.
Or you can learn. You can practice grace and poise. You can display virtue and balance. You can be kind, calm, and generous, taking adversity in your stride.
Don't respond in anger, instead be a man of virtue.
Remember, when someone treats you poorly, it doesn't degrade you, it degrades them.
Learn from the exchange. Are there any truths in the accusations? Can you adapt in the future? Are you acting with courage? With patience? With clear thinking?
Imagine then, who you are, your character, when you respond to slander with grace, to anger with objectivity, to a loss of control with a steady nerve, to grandeur with humility, and to underhand tactics with courage.
Your responses forge, craft and refine your character, preparing you to overcome ever harder adversities. All the time whilst your enemies work themselves into a perpetual cauldron of entitlement and rage.
Grace and poise, always.
I kept six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who
Good Questions Trump Smart Answers.
If you want to get to the heart of a matter, ask questions.
Approach problems from different angles - ask why, why not.
Consider the different perspectives - ask what if.
Try to falsify your conclusions - do your best to prove yourself wrong.
An example for you - try to establish the principle behind the following sequence. You can propose the next number in the sequence as many times as you want. You can only propose the principle once:
2 4 6 8 10
What do you think? Are you Mr Smart Answers or Mr Good Questions?
Person A - Mr Smart Answers:
- Is the next number 12?
- The principle is that the next number is the previous number + 2.
Person B - Mr Good Questions:
- Is the next number 12?
-Hmm, it could be that the sequence goes up by 2, but I haven't tried anything else yet. Is the next number 13?
- Okay, perhaps it is that the next number has to be greater than the previous number. But I haven't tried a lower number, let's test it. Is the next number 5?
- Cool. You can't go backwards. Let's test to see if you can stay the same. Is the next number 13?
- Right, the principle is that the next number in the sequence has to be greater than the previous number.
That is correct
Sometimes the obvious answer isn't the right one. Sometimes it is. Sometimes there are dependencies and second order effects, sometimes there aren't. To get to the heart of the matter, start by using our faithful friends - who, what, where, why, how, why not, what if.
When you meet someone, they often make a judgement about you in seconds. They spend the rest of the conversation fooled by confirmation bias, finding bits here and there to reinforce their judgement.
You do it too. And so do I. It takes a really skilled human to understand they are judging you and then to remove the judgement.
With practice, you can do it. The first step is acknowledgement.
Of course, this has implications for when you meet someone. Like a job interview. Or a business pitch.
And you thought your skills mattered most!
People subconsciously care about 2 things when they meet you:
Translated: How warm are you? How competent are you?
Of these two, by far the most important factor is trust.
Why? Evolution. Thousands of years ago, only the paranoid survived. Figuring out if you might kill me is far more important than knowing if you’ve got shelter building skills.
So, when in a meeting, pitch or interview - trust trumps competence.
With trust, your skills are a strong suit, and you can put them on the table.
Without trust, your skills are threatening. Nobody likes to be threatened.
And how do we build trust?
By being present. By being passionate, enthusiastic, authentic, confident and captivating.
Remember, trust precedes competence when winning someone over in a meeting, pitch or interview.
Want to learn more? Check out the fantastic TED video by Amy Cuddy on Power Poses.
1. "The wine which is poured out first is the purest wine in the bottle, the heaviest particles and any cloudiness settling to the bottom. It is just the same with human life. The best comes first. Are we going to let others drain it so as to keep the dregs for ourselves?" (Seneca)
If you can, do the things that interest you early. Don't wear out your body and mind in the hope that someday you can do the things you want to do. Don't do 40 years of drudgery in exchange for a comfortable retirement and pseudo-safety. Not in today's age, not when opportunity is every where.
Instead, save the best years for yourself. Work on what interests you, get good at it. Have fun.
I’m not a lean startup expert. Not in theory, not in practice. I’ve read the book by Eric Ries. I’ve read articles by Steve blank. I like the build-measure-learn feedback loop concept.
I like it because the approach borrows from the scientific method. Find a problem. Make a guess about it. Compute the consequences of the guess. Compare the consequences to experiment or observation.
If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.
In lean startup methods, if the guess is wrong, we are told to change the guess, pivot the problem, or give up.
The use of the scientific method is analogous. In reality, making and testing guesses is subjective. It’s messy. It’s open to more interpretation than proving or disproving something concrete, like a law of physics. And so it is not a guaranteed road to success. In truth, there is none.
Over 3 years ago, my good friend Tendayi Viki recommend the book REWORK to me by the guys who make Basecamp (awesome Project Management App).
REWORK is advice on building, running, and growing (or not growing) a business, based on the experiences of Jason Fried and David Heiner Hansson (founders of Basecamp). The key insights I took from the book have had a dramatic impact on the way I approach work, especially around the planning fallacy, mass and agility and removing constraints.
Below Are The Quotes That I Found Helpful From The Book - Enjoy!:
Over the last few years, I've made it a priority to read a lot of books. Not just any books, but those that teach you Worldly Wisdom.
What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.
Books are the great leveller. They give you access to the musings of the most talented people of not just today, but throughout history.
Want to learn about investing? Legendary investors Ben Graham, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have penned their thoughts. Want to learn about dealing with uncertainty, read anything by Nassim Taleb. What to learn about Stoic Philosophy, read any of the classics by Seneca or Marcus Aurelius.
Yes, books are the great leveller and have become incredibly important to me over the last few years.
How to read a book is also important. That’s been covered in detail over at Farnam Street Blog and you can read about it here and here.
Learning From and Relating To What You Read
When I read a book, I'm always scribbling in the margins, always writing down my thoughts, thinking how it may relate to knowledge I already have or experiences that I'm going through. I'm not a special snowflake here, most curious people will be scribbling in the margins. In fact, it's termed "Marginalia" and has been done throughout the centuries by various historical figures including Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde.
In the ‘Hard Thing About Hard Things’, Ben Horowitz recounts that his old boss, Jim Barksdale was fond of saying, "We take care of the People, the Product, and the Profits - in that order."
Therefore, great company culture and hiring the best people is massively important to the success of your organisation.
Hiring is an art in and of itself and so is attracting the smartest people to your organisation. No longer will a job advert alone will suffice.
10 time management tips, 25 ways to allocate resources, 67 ideas to focus attention, 3000 ways to confuse the hell out of you.
There are so many books, articles and blogs on time and resource management, that after drowning in the sea of data you end up worse off than you started. Should you do it this way or that? Precious time and energy resources wasted ensuring you’re best using your time and energy resources!
Surely there is a simpler way? There is.
Accounts production and audit have effectively been commoditized and are subject to the forces of supply and demand.
Access to cheap accounts production software is widespread. With effective software, accounts production learning curves are lower, making access and understanding easier.
The internet has fast-tracked globalisation. Today, you can go online and outsource your accounts production to countries where labour is cheaper. The standard is just as good, the labour is cheaper. In fact, a number of accountancy firms take advantage of this.
With technology and the internet, together with access to labour all over the world, the supply of accountants that customers have access to is vaster than ever. This price competition is driving down fees and margins.
A number of firms have adopted cloud accounting technology in order to provide a more “value-added” service, allowing a closer relationship with their clients. Although this is a logical step, we will see now how it succumbs to the “Red Queen Effect.”
You have a sales pitch with a potential new client. Lovely, well done for getting this far. Let’s not mess up. Structuring your pitch is key. You see, it’s not just about cramming in all of the facts, figures, features and benefits into as few PowerPoint slides as possible, reading them word for word, and hoping for the best. You could have the most feature rich, problem solving, value for money product or solution known to man, but without the right delivery, it won’t matter one bit. Facts alone won’t sell.
“What interests us most vividly at the time is, other things being equal, what we remember best.”
It’s a human misjudgement, an error of cognition, a bug in the system. We can’t help it. If John told you an entertaining story full of imagery and laughter, that’s what you will remember. You associate John with comedy and laughter, which, if they are traits that you value, will obscure your judgement when selecting a service of which John is one of the options.
When a business looks to improve, discussions usually centre on what can be added.
More often than not, this results in the suggestion of “something new” that will help the business.
If this “something new” has been suggested by someone of importance, you will be surprised how quickly the creation of data and charts by team members who rely on the recognition of that someone important manages to show that this “something new” will produce a positive ROI for a company; such is the power of authority, liking and social acceptance bias.
This is not an effective way to improve the performance of a company.
All energy tends to spread, to become dispersed, if not hindered from doing so.
In physics, the scientific measure of physical energy flow from being concentrated to being spread out is known as “Entropy.” We can use it as an analogy in business and life.
Ah, the meeting. It’s in the hall of fame. A mainstay of the majority of businesses small and large. You could pick a handful of companies right now and be confident that at least one of them will be having a meeting.
With so many occurring the world over, they must be a good thing, right? Get 10 or 20 people in a room and hammer stuff out. Get things done. Move things forward. Everybody important. Everybody busy. The meeting, the meeting, that wonderful thing.
Meetings are bad for reasons stemming from psychology to economics.
You do not make observable progress in any activity – in a work project, in understanding a topic, in learning a new skill; in a linear, step-by-step fashion. But that doesn't mean stuff isn't happening that you can’t see, so don’t sweat and keep going.
It’s like a kettle boiling. Nothing, nothing, nothing and then bam! Excitement, bubbling, steam! You don’t see the progress for the first couple of minutes, but you do see the rapid progress when it all comes together at the end.
That doesn't mean stuff isn't happening though. All the time, molecules are heating up, they are getting more excited,
It’s in almost every business text book, it’s shouted from business rooftops, and it will be drummed into you by business mentors and lecturers alike - You need a business plan. You should predict what you will be doing in 5 years. You need charts - pretty, non-lumpy, perfectly linear charts that project year-on-year growth across the board in a systematic way. Every year should be like the last. Cash flow will be perfectly managed. Sales will grow as customers remain perfectly happy. You will continue to do in 5 years what you have dreamed up today. And you will know this and develop this with such precision that even the most business plan loving jargon speaker will find no flaw in it. Congratulations, all will be a formality from here, you have your business plan.
Can you predict if it will rain next week? Even with sophisticated mathematical models we are often far off the mark. Can you tell me the next set of lottery numbers? I thought not. Can you even tell me how many sales you will make next quarter? Check your “prediction” against actuals and shock yourself.
Accept this and accept it fast. Sometimes, you just get plain unlucky. Shit happens. There are so many things happening all the time, so many variables at play, the system is so complex that at some point in time something bad will happen to someone for no reason. Statistically it has to happen. It would be strange if it didn't. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Don’t take it personally. You haven’t been singled out. For every setback, you need to get back up. Don’t get into the destructive mind-set of “bad things always happen to me”, or “I’m just unlucky.” This is not true, it’s not real, it’s just your state of mind.