Book Summary of ‘Be Fearless’​ by Jean Case

There are five things that are consistently present when transformational breakthroughs take place, but the underlying secret is simple: be fearless. Whether you’re working at a start-up, finding yourself at a personal crossroads or looking for inspiration to make a life-altering change, the “Be Fearless” principles can provide guidance on how to take that next step. And the moment to do so is now.

Part One: Make a Big Bet

The best – and only way- to begin any project is to start where you are. This often begins with the question, “Why not me?” Every new venture will have challenges and roadblocks, but if you break it down into chunks and start where you are, you can slowly move forward with any big idea. Launching a Big Bet doesn’t require a large budget, proven expertise, or the underpinnings of a large company or organisation. All it requires is the ability to assess what you have now that you can leverage in your current situation to advance your idea. Start there.

To make a better world, we have to take bigger risks and make bigger bets. If you’ve ever had a bright idea you wanted to take forward but some voice inside you said, “I could never do that,” check yourself. Big, audacious ideas become a reality by taking a thousand small steps. What often seems impossible at the start becomes more plausible with each new action taken toward the goal.

Making a Big Bet can sometimes start by changing the way people – and oftentimes you yourself – think about the potential for one person to make a difference. The most common trait that Big Bets share is that they often fly in the face of conventional wisdom, or defy belief before they are proven. Great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, including those the world would sometimes count out. Burst through assumptions and achieve your dreams.

Many Big Bets happen as a result of either watching where trends are headed or deciding to start a new one and while there is no such thing as a crystal ball, many Big Bets were executed because someone boldly envisioned a different future – one not yet seen by others – and pursued it. Peek around corners to see the kind of future you want to build and tune out those who don’t share your vision.

Now go, make your Big Bet. Define your objective and then chunk it down into manageable parts. Every idea starts with a first step forward. Focus on your true north, the goals that propel you forward.

Part Two: Be Bold, Take Risks

You can’t necessarily do everything, but you can always try. Get uncomfortable. Make a list of things you’ve always thought about doing, but resisted because of a fear you wouldn’t excel. When you take risks, you experience a greater richness to life. Fearless individuals are not unafraid – they simply have the ability to overcome their fear. You may experience failure or disappointment, but you can always get right back up and keep going. Nothing extraordinary comes from the comfort zone. Be bold, step into unfamiliar territory and try new things. The hardest part is the first step forward, but you can always try.

Few people are inclined to run toward risk. Most people want to minimise or eliminate it. However, if we substitute the term “research and development” for “risk-taking,” risk becomes easier to stomach. Risk is part of the process of discovery. Not only is it valuable to experiment early and often, but it is essential to advancing an idea or initiative. Embrace the concept of constantly trying new things and figuring out different ways to solve old problems. In the process, shift your mind to recognise that the risks we take represent our own version of necessary R&D – part of the process toward great achievement.

Innovation and iterative development often go hand in hand; it’s effective to take ideas that have already been tested and bundle them with new insights and a fresh team. Big innovations benefit greatly from smaller, incremental breakthroughs. There’s always room for new thinking, even in some of the most traditional sectors. Pick up where others left off.

For many people, regrets in life aren’t tied to things they have done, but to those things they wished they had done but did not. There’s a power to seizing the moment; if you choose a more comfortable path instead of acting, you may regret it deeply. When you consider getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new to advance your Big Bet, make a point of writing down the downside of not taking the risk.

Greatness doesn’t come from the comfort zone. Embarking on an experiment whose outcome you can’t predict takes courage, but that’s where the magic happens. Start with small bold actions and advance steadily. Progress often means borrowing lessons from others who have tried before you. Look at successes and look at failures. Remember, it doesn’t take a genius to accomplish something great. Be a good sponge and go from there.

Part Three: Make Failure Matter

If you examine the life of anyone who has achieved something extraordinary, you’ll find a story of failure somewhere along the way. The question each of us must ask ourselves is whether in the face of failure we would try again. Failure is inevitable. Maybe you haven’t failed yet, but you will someday. And when that happens, fail fast, fail forward, make it better and then go do something really great. Failure becomes a positive when you do something with it.

Rejection is painful, but it can spark creativity. Many of the people we admire most built their successes on top of failures because those failures sparked great turnarounds. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job co-anchoring the local news. A teacher once said Thomas Edison was “too stupid to learn.” Steve Jobs got fired from Apple in 1985. Extraordinary leaders and high achievers have failed on their own paths to success, sometimes multiple times. So the next time you fail, remember that you are failing in the footsteps of giants.

For those who are made to feel “different” in society, the fear of failure can be particularly paralysing. This sense of disenfranchisement can be used as a force multiplier, since you have “something to prove.” Perhaps you feel the burden of what others will say if you stumble, especially if you think your failure could play into the bias that exists around who is and who isn’t expected to do something great. Many people beat the odds and achieve great things, regardless of where they came from. You can too.

Every life has many chapters. New opportunities sprout out of disappointments. Timing and outside factors can play a big role in the success of an idea – and also in its failure. It’s important to be clear headed about the realities of taking the risk to start something new. Sometimes failures happen not because an idea is bad, but because the execution is wrong. The key is identifying the potential for failure early on so that you can course-correct before it’s too late. It’s important to have an honest discussion about what’s working and what’s not, and to tap others to help you identify what’s wrong so you can make necessary adjustments along the way. A failure early on doesn’t have to be fatal. Look at the long view and keep a healthy perspective about the future.

Every great innovator has failed, but only the truly great among them find ways to apply the lessons of their failures to propel them forward. Ask yourself if failure, or the fear of failure, is getting in your way. It’s human nature to want to hide your failures because they feel embarrassing. Instead, you should announce your failure and use the opportunity to say what you’ve learned and to reaffirm your commitment to your goal. Perfection is a myth. In reality, the road to success is a long journey, with peaks and valleys and boulders in your path. There’s nothing you can’t overcome.

Part Four: Reach Beyond Your Bubble

Studies show that we all have biases. If you seek to be a change maker, you have to broaden your understanding of the world. Eliminating blind spots in our mindsets and our organisations can feel daunting, but it can also represent a powerful opportunity to broaden our perspective and may lead to new and novel solutions. Often, the very nature of being in a bubble means you don’t know you’re in it. It takes intention and effort to shake loose from complacency. Seek out those with different perspectives and backgrounds as you take forward your Big Bet. The ability to work with and understand people who are not like you is part of the secret to success.

For this reason, it’s helpful to build unlikely partnerships. Great organisations, products and movements have been advanced by the collaborations between people who are quite different from one another and who complement one another’s skills. Sometimes, to be seen and heard, you have to bring along a totally unexpected ally. In an era when so many people retreat to their corners, the fearless change makers have to walk out into the centre of the arena and beckon all the others to join them.

To change the way we interact with the world, we have to change the way we see each other. Diversity makes companies more productive and prosperous. If we democratise entrepreneurship and build more inclusive businesses, we will strengthen our economy and make sure that anyone from anywhere has a fair shot at the American dream. This means being fearless in disrupting the status quo – not just in business but all across our culture. Change happens when people think of diversity not just as a nice thing to have but, as data have revealed, as a smart strategy to maximise performance.

When you’re planning a project or movement, it’s important to examine a spectrum of potential allies to avoid relying on the ‘usual suspects.” When individual powerhouses join forces, the result can be dramatic. Leverage partnerships for growth. We are better together. 

We all have unconscious biases and blind spots that skew the way we view the world. The only way to overcome them is to make a deliberate effort to see and experience what we don’t know. As you launch your Big Bet, surround yourself with people different from yourself so they can bring different perspectives. Be intentional about planning your alliances. Step outside your comfort zone and use diversity to build something stronger.

Part Five: Let Urgency Conquer Fear

Urgency can be a good thing. When your back is against the wall, when options are limited, when time is not on your side, a certain clarity can set in, bringing with it a boldness you might not have known you had. We often have a choice about how to respond to urgency. We can look away and let complacency take hold, or we can use these moments and let urgency conquer fear to make a difference.

Any company – or person – is capable of stepping into the centre of a crisis and making a difference. It’s easy to think of first responders as bold and rash, but anyone can be a first responder to a crisis they witness. Jump into crisis and respond with action.

Don’t overthink or overanalyse. Just do it. Studies show that the more time you spend collecting information and making choices, the more hesitant you become and the more likely you will be to stick with the status quo and ignore better options. Urgency can be a powerful motivator to fearlessly get in the arena. It is up to you to let the urgency of the moment conquer your fear and drive you forward.

The first step to greatness is deciding to be the one who doesn’t just let life happen to you. You are responsible for the kind of impact you have on the world. Pick your arena and get started. People become heroes not because they are blessed with extraordinary powers, but because when they see the urgency, they choose to act. Choose to be among those who step forward. Go change the world.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Multipliers’​ by Liz Wiseman

Through their style of management some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. They focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room. This in turn has a diminishing effect on everyone else. Other leaders use their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. They apply their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them.

The second group of leaders Wiseman calls Multipliers. Multipliers are genius makers. Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort and collective intelligence. 

Wiseman uses Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. as an example. When Cook was COO and opened a budget review in one sales division, he reminded the management team that the strategic imperative was revenue growth. Everyone expected this, but they were astounded when he asked for the growth without providing additional headcount. The Apple leaders entrenched in the logic of resource allocation and addition argued: 

  1. Our people are overworked. 
  2. Our best people are the most maxed out. 
  3. Therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources: the Logic of Addition. 

Cook, on the other hand, was speaking the logic of multiplication  

  1. Most people in organisations are underutilised. 
  2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership. 
  3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment. 

Multipliers apply the logic of multiplication.

Multipliers are hard edged.  

Multipliers expect great things from their people and drive them to achieve extraordinary results. They are beyond results-driven; they are tough and exacting. Indeed, Multipliers make people feel smart and capable, but they don’t do it by being “feel-good” managers. They look into people and find capability, and they want to access all of it and utilise people to their fullest. They see a lot, so they expect a lot. 

The Five Disciplines of the Multiplier 

Discipline 1. Attracting and Optimising Talent 

Multipliers are Talent Magnets; they attract and deploy talent to its fullest, regardless of who owns the resource and people flock to work with them because they know they will grow and be successful. The Four Practices of the Talent Magnet:

  1. Look for Talent Everywhere 

Talent Magnets are always looking for new talent and they look far beyond their own backyard. Multipliers cast a wide net and find talent in many settings and diverse forms, knowing that intelligence has many facets. In their quest to assemble the finest talent, Talent Magnets are blind to organisational boundaries. They see multiple forms of intelligence everywhere. Talent Magnets live in a world without hierarchical or lateral restrictions. Instead, they see talent networks. 

2. Find People’s Native Genius 

People’s first reaction to hearing someone describe a genius of theirs can often be bemusement. You know you’ve hit a genius nerve when they say, “Really? Can’t everyone do this?” or “But this is no big deal!” Finding people’s native genius and then labeling it is a direct approach to drawing more intelligence from them. 

3. Connect People with Opportunities 

When leaders connect people’s natural passions and native genius to big opportunities, those people are used at their highest point of contribution. Are there people on your team who could lead a revolution if they were unleashed on the right opportunity? Are there people on your team who aren’t being used at their highest? 

4. Remove the Blockers 

You only need to pause temporarily to see the high cost of destructive genius. Leaders most often know who the blockers are, even if it is themselves. The most common mistake they make is waiting too long to remove them. Is it possible that your smartest people are impeding the smarts of your organisation? And is it possible you are waiting too long to remove the blockers? 

Discipline 2. Creating Intensity that Requires Best Thinking.

Multipliers establish a unique and highly motivating work environment where everyone has permission to think and the space to do their best work. Multipliers create the conditions where intelligence is engaged, grown, and transformed into concrete successes. They liberate staff from the shackles of restrictive practices. Multipliers are liberators. Key Practices of the Liberator:

  1. Create Space and the Right Environment

Everyone needs space. We need space to contribute and to work. Liberators don’t take it for granted that people have the space they need. They deliberately carve out space for others to be able to contribute. But space isn’t just a spatial concept. Liberators create space for others to contribute and share ideas.  They do this using their ears. Liberators are more than just good listeners; they are ferocious listeners. They listen to feed their hunger for knowledge, to learn what other people know and use it to the organisation’s knowledge and benefit.

2. Demand People’s Best Work 

Liberators make sure a standard is set.  They make sure everyone knows what good is and at the same time make sure that nothing else is acceptable.  They defend the standard. Setting the bar at the right level encourages best efforts from the teams and a common and understood goal to attain. Liberators distinguish between best work and outcomes.  Best work can be performed yet outcomes not achieved. To a Liberator this is not failure this is a catalyst to learn from mistakes or sub-optimal performance. A change to admit and share mistakes in open, blame free lessons learned sessions.

Discipline 3. Extending Challenges. 

Multipliers act as Challengers, continually challenging themselves and others to push beyond what they know. How do they do this? They seed opportunities, lay down challenges that stretch the organisation, and, in doing so, generate belief that it can be done and enthusiasm about the process. The Three Practices of the Challenger:

  1. Seed the Opportunity 

Multipliers understand that people grow through challenge. They understand that intelligence grows by being stretched and tested. So, even if the leader has a clear vision of the direction, he or she doesn’t just give it to people. Multipliers don’t give answers. Instead they begin a process of discovery: they provide just enough information to provoke thinking and to help people discover and see the opportunity for themselves. One of the best ways to seed an opportunity is to allow someone else to discover it themselves. When people can see the need for themselves, they develop a deep understanding of the issues, and quite often, all the leader needs to do is get out of their way and let them solve the problem. 

2. Lay Down a Challenge 

Once an opportunity is seeded and intellectual energy is created, Multipliers establish the challenge at hand in such a way that it creates a huge stretch for an organisation. They extend a clear and concrete challenge. Then they ask the hard questions that need to be answered to achieve the challenge, but—most important—they don’t answer them. They let others fill in the blanks. 

3. Generate Belief 

By seeding the opportunity and laying down a challenge, people are interested in what is possible. But this isn’t enough to create movement. Multipliers generate belief—the belief that the impossible is possible. It isn’t enough that people see and understand the stretch; they need to stretch themselves. Multipliers make people believe in themselves. Like the best sports coaches they can pump up people to believe they “are the greatest”.

Discipline 4 Debating Decisions 

Multipliers operate as Debate Makers, driving sound decisions through rigorous debate. The decision-making process they foster contains all the information the organisation needs to be ready to execute those decisions. The Three Practices of the Debate Maker:

  1. Frame the Issue 

There are four parts to a well-crafted frame:  

  1. THE QUESTION: What is the decision to be made? What are we choosing between?  
  2. THE WHY: Why is this an important question to answer? Why does the decision warrant collective input and debate? What happens if it is not addressed?  
  3. THE WHO: Who will be involved in making the decision? Who will give input?  
  4. THE HOW: How will the final decision be made? Will it be made by majority rule? Consensus? Or will you (or someone else) make the final decision after others provide input and recommendations? 

When a leader has framed the issues well, the rest of the team knows where to focus. 

2. Spark the Debate 

After framing of the issue, Multipliers spark the debate. Wiseman suggests there are four elements of a great debate. A great debate is:  

  1. ENGAGING: The question is compelling and important to everyone in attendance.  
  2. COMPREHENSIVE: The right information is shared to generate a holistic and collective understanding of the issues at hand. 
  3. FACT-BASED: The debate is deeply rooted in fact, not opinion.  
  4. EDUCATIONAL: People leave the debate more focused on what they learned than on who won or lost. 

In facilitating debate, Multipliers create a safe climate for people’s best thinking. They do it by removing fear. They remove the factors that cause people to doubt themselves or their ideas and the fear that causes people to hold back. Yet they continue to press for advancement. They ask the questions that challenge conventional thinking. They ask the questions that unearth the assumptions that are holding the organisation back. 

3. Drive a Sound Decision 

Multipliers may relish a great debate, but they pursue debate with a clear end: a sound decision. They ensure this in three ways. First, they reclarify the decision-making process. Second, they make the decision or explicitly delegate it to someone else to decide. And third, they communicate the decision and the rationale behind it. 

Discipline 5. Instilling Ownership and Accountability.

Multipliers deliver and sustain superior results by setting high expectations across the organisation. They serve as Investors who provide the necessary resources for success. In addition, they hold people accountable for their commitments. The Three Practices of the Investor:

  1. Defining Ownership 

Investors begin this cycle by establishing ownership up front. They see intelligence and capability in the people around them and they put them in charge.  Clarifying the role that the staffer will play as owner actually gives them more ownership, not less. When people are given ownership for only a piece of something larger, they tend to optimise that portion, limiting their thinking to this immediate domain. When people are given ownership for the whole, they stretch their thinking and challenge themselves to go beyond their scope. The staffer then understands the nature of their involvement and when and how you the leader will invest in their success. 

2. Investing Resources -Teach and Coach 

When leaders teach, they invest in their people’s ability to solve and avoid problems in the future. This is one of the most powerful ways that Multipliers build intelligence around them. Instead of jumping in, the Investor provides a backup. When leaders define clear ownership and invest in others, they have sown the seeds of success and earned the right to hold people accountable. Multipliers believe the best way to learn is through experience.  They perform the role of sensei – the organisational Mr. Miyagi – building and using intellectual muscle memory to organisational advantage,

3. Holding People Accountable 

A Multiplier leader knows how to keep accountability with his people. He is fully engaged, but he does not take over. He lets people be self-determining but retains a tight rein. He expects complete work and won’t tolerate omissions or shortfalls.  That said, a multiplier respects natural consequence. The multiplier is aware of the wider influences and constraints and is sympathetic to outcomes if these detractors have an effect.  Through their multiplying abilities, the feeling of care and trust arising creates an increased desire for the staffer go the extra mile and push harder to succeed.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of “The Daily Stoic”​ by Ryan Holiday

Among most people, Stoicism is either unknown or misunderstood. This summary seeks to restore Stoicism to its rightful place as a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry. The philosophy asserts that virtue (meaning the virtues of self-control, courage, justice and wisdom) is happiness, and it is our perceptions of things – rather than the things themselves – that cause most of our trouble. 

Stoicism teaches that we can’t control or rely on anything outside our “reasoned choice” – our ability to use our reason to choose how we categorise, respond, and reorient ourselves to external events. There are three critical disciplines: Perception (how we see and perceive the world around us), Action (the decisions and actions we take – and to what end) and Will (how we deal with the things we cannot change, attain clear and convincing judgment, and come to a true understanding of our place in the world).

Whatever you’re going through, Stoicism can help.

Part 1 – The Discipline of Perception

January – Clarity

The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realise they are fighting an unwinnable battle.

Carry these reminders with you every day, in every decision: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control. Get clarity about who you are and what you stand for.

Serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility – other people, external events, stress – you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you hide, but if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.

February – Passions and Emotions

We don’t have to be puppets to our emotions. We are in control. Next time you feel anxious, ask yourself, “Is my anxiety doing me any good?” Impulses are going to come, and your work is to control them. Think before you act. If you don’t control your impulses, you may be the very source of the disasters you fear. Many of the things that upset us are only in our imaginations. They are like bad dreams and should be treated as such. The thing that provoked you wasn’t real. 

Don’t think that happiness will come at some point in the future. The yearning for more, better, someday is the enemy of your contentment. Eagerly anticipating a future event ruins your chances at happiness here and now.

March – Awareness

We begin our journey into philosophy when we become aware of the ability to analyse our own minds. Cultivate the ability to judge yourself accurately and honestly. Look inward to discern what you’re capable of and what it will take to unlock that potential.

Self-awareness is the ability to objectively evaluate the self. It is the ability to question our own instincts, patterns and assumptions. Don’t rush to conclusions about anything. Be aware of everything that’s going on so you can make the right decision.

Your mind is your most prized possession. Maintain control of it. Ego and self-deception are the enemies of the things we wish to have because we delude ourselves into believing that we already possess them. We must keep the ego away.

What you take for granted, others wouldn’t even think to dream of. Remember that you’re blessed with the capacity to use logic and reason to navigate situations and circumstances. You are always the one in control of your mind and your feelings. You can always decide to love and accept what’s happening around you.

April – Unbiased Thought

Be wary of what you let into your mind. We’ll inevitably be exposed to bad influences at some point, but we should not allow them to penetrate our minds. We have the ability to decide what we allow in. Take a beat to consider your own thoughts. Trust your instincts, but verify. Put your impressions to the test to avoid making a move on mistaken or biased ones.

Expect to change your opinions. We are not as smart and as wise as we’d like to think we are. Honour what you do not know and fight your biases and preconceptions. If you want to learn, be humble. Be willing to learn from anyone and everyone, regardless of their station in life.

Opinions are often shaped by dogma, entitlements, expectations, and sometimes, ignorance. If we can weed them out of our lives, we will feel less upset and angry. Things are neither good not bad. They just are.

Part 2 – The Discipline of Action

May – Right Action

An archer will not hit a target without first aiming. Spend some time thinking about what your priorities are. Then, work toward that and forsake everything else. It’s not enough to wish and hope. One must act – and act right. You only get one shot at today. And then it is gone and lost forever. What will you manage to make of today before it slips from your fingers and becomes the past?

Take pleasure from your actions – in taking the right actions – rather than the results that come from them. Our ambition should not be to win, but to play with our full effort. In this, we will always find contentment and resilience. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do the right thing. Today is the day we can start to be good. If you focus on doing the right thing at the right time, you can make your own good fortune and you won’t need to wait for luck.

Don’t spend much time thinking about what other people think. Think about what you think. Think instead about the results, about the impact, about whether it is the right thing to do.

June – Problem Solving

Obstacles are a part of life, but if we keep a backup plan, nothing can thwart that. Life is not easy or fair. You come from a long line of ancestors who survived unimaginable adversity, difficulty and struggle. You’re capable of what they were capable of. You always have a choice: focus on the ways you have been wronged, or use what you’ve been given and get to work. Get active in your own rescue. Stop seeking a scapegoat.

There are two kinds of people in this world. The first looks at others who have accomplished things and thinks, “Why them? Why not me?” The other looks at those same people and thinks, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

There is no shame in needing help. You don’t have to face everything on your own. If you need help, just ask. People want freedom, happiness and the respect of their peers. All of that is right in front of you, in the choices you make. There’s no need to take the long way to get there. 

Hold yourself to a high standard, but not an impossible one. And forgive yourself if and when you slip up.

July – Duty

The Stoics believed that every person, animal and thing has a purpose or place in nature. Your job is to be good. Do your job, today and every day. We cannot be of service to ourselves, to other people, or to the world unless we get up and get working. Rise and shine, and get going.

To what are you committed? What are you doing? More important, why are you doing it? Examine these questions and discover what your duty calls you to do in life. Once you discover it, you’ve moved a little closer to fulfilling it.

Everyone is the master of their own affairs. You have to live your life in such a way that it doesn’t negatively impose on others and you have to be open-minded enough to let others do the same. We are made for cooperation with each other. Your purpose is to help us render this great work together. People are depending on you. Take pride in your work, but remember that it is not everything.

August – Pragmatism

We tell ourselves that we need the right setup before we finally buckle down and get serious. It’s far better that we become pragmatic and adaptable – able to do what we need to do anywhere, anytime. The place to do your work, to live the good life, is here.

There is plenty that you could do right now, today, that would make the world a better place. There are plenty of small steps that would help move things forward. Don’t excuse yourself from doing them because the conditions aren’t right or because a better opportunity might come along soon. Do what you can now.

We are never going to be perfect. Our pursuits should be aimed at progress instead of perfection.

Part 3 – The Discipline of Will

September – Fortitude and Resilience

Misfortune leaves us with a better understanding of our own capacity and inner strength. It is empowering because you know that in the future you can survive similar adversity. If things take a bad turn today, don’t worry. This might be one of those formative experiences you will be grateful for later.

Even under the worst torture and cruelties that humans can inflict on one another, our power over our own mind and our power to make our own decisions can’t be broken – only relinquished.

If you spent one day a month experiencing the effects of poverty, hunger, complete isolation or any other things you might fear, it would start to feel normal and no longer so scary. If you do it while things are good, it will toughen your soul for occasions of greater stress. If you can get used to having and surviving on less now, it would not be so bad if you are ever forced to have less.

October – Virtue and Kindness

Here is where you are right now, and it’s as good a place as any to let virtue shine and continue to shine for as long as you exist. Remember that we are woven together and that each of us plays a role in this world. Almost every situation is made better by love – or empathy, understanding, appreciation – even situations in which you are in opposition to someone. Always love. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

You always have the choice to respond with kindness. You always have the choice to be truthful. You can choose to endure. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to be kind to others. Goodness isn’t something that simply shows up. You have to dig it up inside your own soul, and you make it with your own actions.

November – Acceptance

It is easier to change our opinion of an event than it is to change the event that has passed. We must accept rather than fight every little thing. Indeed, we can actually enjoy what has happened, whatever it is.

Events are objective. It is only our opinion that says something is good or bad. Decide to make the most of everything. Whatever happens to us, wherever we fall on the intellectual, social or physical spectra, our job is not to complain but to do the best we can to accept it and fulfill it.

We can’t control the external, but we do control our attitudes and our responses to those events.                                     

December – Meditation on Mortality

We have an irrational fear of acknowledging our own mortality. We avoid it because we think it will be depressing. In fact, reflecting on mortality often has the opposite effect. If you were suddenly told you had one week to live, what changes would you make? Use today. Use every day. Make yourself satisfied with what you have been given. We all face the same end. Death is a radical equaliser. In death, no one is better and no one is worse. All our stories have the same finale.

Even if today was your last day on earth, would there still be plenty to be grateful for? Give thanks. 

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Topgrading’​ by Bradford Smart

You’ve heard it many times before – your most important asset in your company is your people. Yet, most companies struggle with hiring and promoting the very best people at every salary level.

This, Bradford Smart suggests, is what separates the highest performing companies from mediocre companies.

He suggests that there are 3 huge problems:

  1. Dishonestly by weak candidates who get away with lying on their resumes and “faking it” in their interviews;
  2. Insufficient information uncovered during the interview process that allow candidates to be selective in what they share about themselves;
  3. Unable to verify what information is uncovered because most reference checks are useless.

Fortunately, there’s a cure, and it’s called Topgrading. Follow this process, and Smart suggests that you’ll quadruple your hiring success and ability to spot and promote high performers.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore the 12 Topgrading Hiring Steps and how you can use them.

Topgrading Myths

Before we get to the steps, let’s quickly review the top 3 myths about Topgrading so that you don’t accidentally dismiss some of the information below as irrelevant to your business (or skip this summary altogether).

First, Topgrading is not only for big companies. This is a hiring process that can work inside of companies of all shapes and sizes.

Second, Topgrading is not about getting rid of C players. Ideally, Smart suggests, underperformers will fire themselves for failing to accomplish what they committed to.

Third, Topgrading is not about rank and yank. Jack Welch famously had his managers force rank all of their employees each year and fire the bottom 10% of performers. This IS NOT what Topgrading is about.

Now that we’ve covered what Topgrading is not, let’s move on to what Topgrading is.

What Is Topgrading?

Topgrading is about filling at least 75% of the positions in your organisation with A Players. You do this by hiring and promoting people who turn out to be high performers at least 75% of the time.

Smart says “at least 75%” because no CEO or manager gets there and says “well, that’s good enough.”

Which brings us to the question of what an A Player actually is.

Smart defines it as “someone in the top 10% of the talent pool available.” B players make up the next 25% of talent available, and C players make up the bottom 65%.

The most important factor when it comes to “availability” is compensation level. Meaning, you want to find the A players for the particular role you are hiring and at the compensation level you are offering.

Rather than paying more for A Players, Smart suggests you focus on getting A Players for every job, with the salary you can afford.

The most important competency of an A Player is resourcefulness, which means they get much more done than B or C players with the same amount of resources available to them. It’s a combination of energy, passion and analytical skills all wrapped up into one.

Why Topgrade?

There are plenty of reasons you should consider following to Topgrading process. Here are a few of them:

  • In a team full of Bs and Cs, your A players will spend too much time preventing and fixing problems of low performers;
  • Topgrading companies get disproportionately better talent for the money they spend;
  • A players are talent magnets.

The Key to Topgrading: The TORC Technique

The key concept that makes the entire Topgrading process work so well is the TORC Technique. It’s your truth serum for interviews.

It stands for Threat of Reference Check and it lets your candidates know, at each step of the hiring process, that the final step in the process is for them to arrange personal reference calls with their former bosses.

There are two main benefits of this technique.

First, it scares away C players, saving you a lot of time and energy during the interview process.

Second, it ensures that everything they tell you throughout the interview process will be as close to the truth as you are going to get, because they’ll understand that you’ll be fact checking everything they say.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move into the steps.

Step #1: Measure your baseline success hiring and promoting people and your costs of mishires

The first step in the Topgrading process is to determine your baseline for hiring success.

Start with the people you’ve hired over the past three years, and then label them a high-performer or a mis-hire.

From there, estimate the % of your past hires that are top performers, and the % of your past hires that you’d classify as mis-hires.

Next, complete the exercise again for the people you’ve promoted over the last few years.

Then, to bring the pain of your hiring mistakes home, calculate the cost of these bad decisions based on the number of hours you’ve wasted on the mis-hires, along with the costs of replacing them. The research Smart has done shows that misfires cause an average of 300 additional hours worked on top of the cost of finding their replacement.

Now that you know the actual costs of poor hiring practices, you’ll be much more likely to do something about it.

Step #2: Create a clear Job Scorecard (not a vague job description)

The next step is to create a Job Scorecard so that everybody knows what A Player performance looks like.

It should include the measurable accountabilities for the first year, the numbers they need to achieve and the ratings they should achieve in core competencies.

When it comes to the core competencies for the job, Smart suggests that most people list 5-10, when in reality there should be up to 50, especially for management jobs. He also suggests that you should colour code them in the following way, based on how easy they are to change through coaching, training and experience:

  • Green = relatively easy to change;
  • Yellow = hard, but doable;
  • Red = very difficult to change.

This allows you to identify the competencies you absolutely need to see demonstrated before somebody is hired and determine which competencies can be trained after they are onboard.

Step #3: Recruit from your networks

Now that you have your Job Scorecard, you are ready to start recruiting. The most effective and cost-efficient way to do this is recruit from your networks of high performers that you and your team know personally.

There are two types of networks. The first network is the A Players that you’ve worked with. The second network are the Connectors that you know can introduce you to more A Players.

Smart suggests that every manager on your team build and maintain lists that contain at least 20 A Players and 10 Connectors. In fact, he suggests that this should itself become a Job Scorecard accountability.

To motivate your team to keep on top of it, pay “bounties” when they refer high performers.

Step #4: Screen candidates with the Topgrading Career History Form and Topgrading Snapshot

C players know how to write A Player resumes, so they are mostly a waste of your time when it comes to identifying high performers.

The Topgrading Career History Form helps solve this problem by including information that a resume doesn’t include, like:

  • full compensation history;
  • the true reasons for leaving previous jobs;
  • estimates of boss ratings for performance;
  • likes and dislikes;
  • honest self-ratings of competencies; and
  • a self-appraisal,

Those types of questions, along with the Threat of Reference Check, cuts through the clutter by proving honest, complete and verifiable information.

Step #5: Conduct telephone screening interviews

The next step, rather than doing an in-person interview, is to do a telephone interview. Why? Because you can usually weed out weak performers quickly over the phone, saving you hours of time for each job you are hiring for.

There are seven steps for doing this well.

  1. Review the Topgrading Career History form.
  2. Tell the candidate that you’d like to ask them some questions and tell them you’ll be asking them to arrange personal reference calls with former bosses.
  3. Describe your company and the position.
  4. Invite them to ask questions about the job.
  5. For their last two jobs, ask them about success, failures, their boss’ appraisal of performance and their reasons for leaving.
  6. Ask two questions each for three critical competencies.
  7. If you are going to go through to the next step, explain the rest of the hiring process.

Step 6: Conduct competency interviews

In this step you’ll be creating a competency interview guide. It includes four questions about each competency (remember, management jobs should include up to 50 competencies), along with culture-fit questions.

To give you a flavour of what these questions might look like, here are two competency questions for change leadership:

  1. In what specific ways have you changed an organisation the most (in terms of direction, results, policies)?
  2. What is an example in which you think you could have done a better job of change management?

The goals of this interview step are to determine whether or not you want to continue the process with the candidate and to allow them to ask further questions – A Players will always have a lot of questions.

Step 7: Conduct tandem Topgrading Interviews

The Topgrading Interview – which uses a trained tandem partner setup – is the most powerful hiring tool in the entire system.

You use two interviewers instead of one because it helps get insights from different points of view, tones down individual biases and helps ask better questions. There is one primary interviewer who asks most of the questions and a secondary interviewer who takes most of the notes.

It is a chronological interview starting with the candidate’s school years, progressing through the first job all the way to the present moment.

The interview typically takes three hours to complete (for a management position), which is why the previous “weeding out” steps are so important.

The three hours should look roughly like the following:

  • Opening chitchat: 10 minutes.
  • Education: 20 minutes.
  • Work history: 155 minutes.
  • Plans and goals: 10 minutes.
  • Self-Appraisal: 15 minutes.
  • Competency questions: 30 minutes.

For more detail in what goes into this part of the process, the book includes an interview guide.

Step 8: Interviewers give each other feedback

Immediately after the interview is over, take a few minutes with your interview partner to get and give feedback.

Specifically, using the interview guide you develop on your own (or using the one provided in the book), go through each step of the interview and find areas where you could have done a better job.

Smart suggests you do this because most people are not good at interviewing, and so part of the Topgrading process is to be deliberate at getting better at it.

Step 9: Write a (draft) executive summary

After you’re done giving each other feedback, it’s time to write an executive summary by reviewing your notes and rating the candidate on the competencies in the Job Scorecard.

Most people jump to doing the reference checks before writing any kind of reports, but Smart suggests that would be a mistake for a number of reasons:

  • The analysis sometimes leads to asking more questions before going on to reference checks;
  • The analysis you’ll do in writing the summary will help you determine which reference checks you’ll ask them to arrange;
  • The analysis will help prepare you for which specifics you’ll probe the reference check about.

To help you perform the best possible analysis of the candidate information, here are some key principles that you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Look for patterns. The patterns you identify across their career, and across 50 competencies, is what will allow you to see where they’ll likely be in the next three years.
  • Assume that at some point strengths become weaknesses, because in times of pressure we tend to overuse them.
  • Understand that recent past behaviour is the best predictor of behaviour in the near future.

If you decide you want to move forward to the next step after you’ve created your executive summary, ask the candidate to set them up.

Step 10: Conduct the reference calls

Ideally, you’ll do the reference calls with all of their bosses from the last decade and also one or two people from the current place of employment.

Here are some of the questions you’ll want to make sure you cover:

  • What are (the candidate’s name) strengths? Weaker points?
  • How would you rate their overall performance?
  • Why did they leave?
  • After telling them about the job they are applying for…how do you think they will fit in such a job?
  • What would be your advice to me for how I could best manage them?

After doing all the calls and finalising your executive summary, decide whether or not you want to give them an offer.

If they accept, you are on to the next step.

Step 11: Coach your new hire/promotion

Congratulations, you’ve hired yourself an A Player. Now that they are on the team, it’s time to start coaching them.

As Smart points out, A Players not only accept immediate coaching and feedback, they expect it. When this coaching and feedback is delayed, two big problems arise:

  • If they feel like they are not getting the support they need during on-boarding, they may give up and quit.
  • You delay their productivity and development.

There are a few simple things you can do in order to make sure the relationship starts off on the right foot.

  1. Review your executive summary with them, going over every strength, weak point and every developmental suggestion you made.
  2. Ask them to create an Individual Development Plan based on your recommendations.
  3. Ensure that the individual development plan includes quarterly reviews.

Step 12: Annually measure your Topgrading success

Finally, this step closes the loop on the Topgrading process by measuring the hiring success and the costs of mis-hires.

In particular, if Topgrading isn’t used across your organisation, you’ll want to compare the instances where it was used against the instances where it wasn’t used.

If your experience is like most companies you’ll find a dramatic increase in your success ratio and a dramatic decrease in costs from mis-hires.

Conclusion

Topgrading is a lot of work and might even seem like overkill if you are used to freewheeling the hiring process.

However, as Smart points out, even if you only create a Job Scorecard, use the Topgrading Career History Form, do the Starter Topgrading Interview and do the reference checks, you’ll be much further ahead and hire more top performers than you ever have before.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Necessary Endings’​ by Henry Cloud

Henry Cloud sets out the argument that in your business, the tomorrow that you desire and envision may never come to pass if you do not end some things you are doing today.  He states there are different kinds of endings and learning how to tell one from the other will ensure some successes and prevent many failures, ending the pain and turmoil that your business may now be encountering. 

There are reasons why you may not see the endings that are right in front of you, and reasons why you have been unable to execute the ones that you do see but feel paralysed to deal with.  However, following Cloud’s advice, there is hope for us all if we invoke necessary endings.

Endings: The Good Cannot Begin Until the Bad Ends 

In business, endings are necessities for a turnaround or growth. Businesses must let go of product lines or areas of business whose day has passed. To sustain their companies’ current levels of health, business leaders must shut down yesteryear’s good ideas or strategies to have the focus to take their organisations to tomorrow. Sometimes it means that employees have to be let go too. We need to bring things to an end, but it’s hard, isn’t it?

Why We Avoid Endings 

Here are some reasons why we avoid endings.

  • We are afraid of the unknown. 
  • We fear confrontation. 
  • We are afraid of letting go and the sadness associated with an ending. 
  • We have had too many painful endings, so we avoid another one. 
  • When they are forced upon us, we do not know how to process them and we sink or flounder. 
  • We do not learn from them, so we repeat the same mistakes over and over. 

The Real Reason 

Something about the leaders’ personal makeup gets in their way. 

We are not prepared to go where we need to go. We do not clearly see the need to end something or we maintain false hope. As a result, we stay stuck in what should now be in our past and it is not only the endings that we must proactively execute that are problematic. There are also the endings that are forced upon us, endings we do not choose but that we cannot work through very well either. As a result, we remain in pain or stuck. 

When we fail to end things well, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that keep us from moving on. Yet endings are a part of every aspect of life.

Pruning: Growth Depends on Getting Rid of the Unwanted or the Superfluous 

Definition – Pruning: A function of cutting away to reduce the extent or reach of something by taking away unwanted or superfluous parts. The areas of your business that require your limited resources—your time, energy, talent, emotions, money—but are not achieving the vision you have for them should be pruned. Examples are:

  • If an initiative is siphoning off resources that could go to something with more promise. 
  • If an endeavour is sick and is not going to get well.
  • If it’s clear that something is already dead. 

The pruning moment is that clarity when we become responsible for making the decision to either own the vision or not. If we own it, we have to prune. If we don’t, we have decided to own the other vision, the one we called average. 

Jack Welch’s standards illustrate many components of pruning. Being number one or two in the market clearly demonstrates the reward of clipping some of the buds that are alive and growing, but are not the ones that will make it to the top.  His “fix, close, or sell” standard addresses the second ending above: there will always be sickness. Our responsibility is always to “embrace the negative reality”. The “fire the bottom 10 percent” mantra is a clear pruning idea that encompasses all three categories—good but not best, sick and not getting well and long since dead. 

Prune with a proper purpose

You can’t prune toward anything if you don’t know what you want. You have to figure out what you are trying to build and then define what the pruning standards are going to be. That definition and those standards will bring you to the pruning moments, wherein you either own the vision or you don’t. 

Sometimes people equate the concept of pruning with cutting expenses or “reducing head count”, but cutting costs is not what pruning is about, and when someone says that, they are thinking more like a manager than a leader. We are talking about defining what the business is going to look like and pruning everything that is keeping it from realising that vision—be it good, bad, or dead. 

Make Endings Normal 

Make endings a normal occurrence and a normal part of business, instead of seeing it as a problem. Then and only then can you align yourself well with endings when they come. It has to do with your brain and how it works. 

Accept Life Cycles and Seasons

Your seedling business is launched – Season 1. Your business takes root – Season 2. Your established business grows rapidly – Season 3.  Your mature business normalises – Season 4. It is fairly easy to see different actions are necessary at each stage both to progress and transform from one season to another. However, without pruning, Season 5 may well lead to “shark jumping”  if you are not handy with your business secateurs.

Accept That Life Produces Too Much Life 

The truth is that high-functioning people have many, many relationships, and many, many activities. That is a good thing, but it is also true that the high-functioning people who have extensive networks and relationships that really work well are also very, very good at not having some, as well. They prune them. Smart companies prune their customers, focusing on those who deliver the most profitability with the fewest resources. 

Accept That Incurable Sickness and Evil Exist 

Some people are not going to change, no matter what you do, and others have a vested interest in being destructive. Accept it and it will get easier to take the necessary steps to make an ending. You will go from being in shock or in denial to asking yourself the right question: what am I dealing with here? Similarly, some businesses, strategies, visions, tactics, or products are too sick to recover and need to be scrapped. Don’t keep beating the dead horse, or worse, riding the one with the broken leg. Call it quits, wave the white flag, and go forward. 

Getting to the Pruning Moment

Not only is facing reality one of the biggest requirements of success, it is also a significant step in arriving at the pruning moment. Fully embracing reality is not only the “Aha!” of the pruning moment, it is also the fuel that can give one the courage to execute the difficult decisions. It can empower you to do what is otherwise difficult. 

Getting past denial to the “full embrace of reality” has enormous energy and power to move you into the actions you might have been avoiding, past the avoidance that might have been keeping you stuck. After the initial shock and discouragement, seeing the bare truth that what we are doing is leading nowhere will get us to change something. 

The Big Change Motivator: Get Hopeless 

Hope is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. With hope, we can endure almost anything and certainly more than if we don’t have hope to begin with. In short, hope keeps us going and that is the problem.  Hope is always about holding on when it looks bad and being able to hold on sometimes for a long time. 

False hope can ruin everything. If we realise this, we can find a real way that will work, one rooted in things as they really are, to get what we desire. It is imperative that you give up hope if your hope is not hope at all but just an empty wish. To hold on to “hope” when what you really have is merely a wish is to fail to grasp reality. Here are seven factors to help you determine whether you can have hope that tomorrow will be any different from today.

  1. Verifiable Involvement in a Proven Change Process – Is there in some sort of change process that you can verify a sustained commitment to? 
  2. Additional Structure  – By and large, people do not change without new structure. 
  3. Monitoring Systems – How do we know this is all happening? 
  4. New Experiences and Skills  – People change not only because of new information, but also by gaining new experiences that teach them what they need in order to make the future different. 
  5. Self-sustaining Motivation  – How do you know when to have hope for the future of someone’s changes? Look at the degree to which you are having to drive the process
  6. Admission of Need – To have hope that people are truly going to change they must see that they have a problem and own the problem. 
  7. The Presence of Support – Change takes place when we are surrounded by people who support our desire for change and growth.

Resistance: How to Tackle Internal and External Barriers 

Getting unstuck is a big felt need and for good reason. Many times we are stuck because of incompatible wishes. Here are some examples:

  • I want to get the team moving, but I don’t want to have to deal with the conflict that it is going to bring up. 
  • I want the margins that we need, but I also love the old product line that has the lower margins. 
  • I want a high-performer in this position, but I want Suzy’s people skills. 
  • I want to meet with the team regularly, but I want to work from home. 
  • I want to have the highest performance in the company, but I also want time at home with my kids. 

To win, we have to give up some things for others. So if you feel resistance about executing a certain ending, figure out what two or more desires are in conflict, admit to yourself that you can have only one, and then ask yourself this question: Which one am I willing to give up to have the other one? 

The Magic of Self-Selection 

In getting to a necessary ending, many people do not want to be in the position of being the bad guy, rejecting someone or saying that person is not “good enough”. It makes them feel bad and is a horrible dynamic in a relationship. 

Self-selection is a better way. What it does is set a standard for what you want, regardless of what individual you are dealing with. Then the person gets to choose whether she wants to meet that standard or not. She self-selects. When we establish a standard, we have drawn a line in the sand for people to deal with. Whether or not they will is up to them. It is unknown and hopeful because sometimes they do. Other times, they don’t. Either way, the pruning has happened, and you did not reject anyone. 

Taking Inventory of What Is Depleting Your Resources 

If you are doing something that is using you or your resources in a way that is depleting you or damaging you, you can’t keep it going. The reason? In short: you will run out. Some examples:

  • A CEO or boss drives his people toward a strategy that stretches them past their abilities to keep going, so they get depleted and lose heart. 
  • A business owner pushes herself day and night to get her startup going and begins to get sick more and more. 
  • A CEO or manager allows a toxic employee to make the culture negative for others, to the point where the entire staff becomes demotivated as time goes on. 
  • A business initiative has a great start, but costs are greater than planned and the cash burn grows faster and hotter. 
  • A business keeps hoping for a profit and takes on more and more debt, always thinking that the turnaround is coming, even as debt grows. 

All of these scenarios are examples in which continuing to spend yourself or other resources diminishes or does damage to you or them. That is not sustainable long-term, which means that you are on a path to an end of something, a part of either you or your business and not by choice. That is a fact that you cannot ignore. 

Conclusion

Cloud suggests we become business gardeners, pruning the dead wood of our businesses. Ending the inertia that consumes resources: time, money and energy.  Pruning gives substance to new growth and new growth brings fresh life into the enterprise. Get snipping!

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Factfulness’​ by Hans Rosling

This book introduces a new way of looking at our world and how to understand it. It presents global patterns and trends in poverty, wealth, population growth, births, deaths, education, health, gender, violence, energy and the environment. Many people think that the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless today than in the past, but actually, the world is improving. Our brains evolved to crave drama and it causes misconceptions and an overly dramatic worldview. Instead, we should base our worldview on facts. 

In this summary you’ll learn ten human instincts that cause erroneous thinking and how we can learn to separate fact from fiction when forming opinions. 

The Gap Instinct 

We have an instinct to divide things into two distinct and often conflicting groups with an imagined gap in between, such as good vs. bad or rich vs. poor.  We often talk about ‘them’ and ‘us’ or ‘the West’ and ‘the rest.’  It may have been easy to label countries as ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ in the 1960s, but this method is outdated today. The world has changed, but the worldview hasn’t. 

Today, most people live in the middle. There is no gap between developed and developing, between rich and poor. We can’t simplify the entire world into two categories. Instead, we should put them on 4 different levels – 1 being the most extreme poverty, and 4 being the most developed. 

The gap instinct is strong, but there are three common warning signs that trigger our gap instinct:

  • Comparison of averages often show big gaps, when in reality, the groups overlap instead. 
  • Comparison of extremes does not show the (often) majority of people that are in the middle. 
  • And when you live on Level 4, everyone looks much further beneath you. 

The Negativity Instinct 

We also have an instinct to notice the bad more than the good. Most people think that the world is getting worse. This happens for three reasons: the misremembering of the past, selective reporting by journalists and activists and tendency to respond with feelings instead of facts. People generally feel uncomfortable saying that the world is getting better because there are still bad things going on.

The solution to the negativity bias is to hold two truths at the same time – the world can improve and still have problems. Things can be both bad and better. Another thing that helps is to constantly expect bad news. Media and activists rely on drama to grab your attention. Remember that dramatic stories get reported more frequently. Finally, look at the past without rose-colored glasses. The evidence of the past is unpleasant, but we can’t ignore how things really were. 

In reality, things often improve gradually, which means it is less noticeable and less noteworthy. You don’t always hear about the improvements.

The Straight Line Instinct

This misconception is that a line will continue in a straight, linear direction without changing. In reality, there are many factors that affect an overall trend. For example, if a baby grows seven inches in its first sixth months of life, you can’t assume that it will continue growing seven inches every sixth months for the rest of its life. Trends don’t just continue along straight lines. 

The best way to control the straight line instinct is to remember that curves come in all shapes and sizes. Remember that straight lines are much less common than we think. Any two connected points look like a straight line, but when you add a third point you can draw accurate conclusions. 

The Fear Instinct

When we are afraid, we don’t see clearly. We tend to generate worst-case scenarios. Critical thinking is quite difficult when we are afraid. Our fears are hardwired in our brains for evolutionary reasons. Fears of physical harm, captivity and poison once helped our ancestors survive so perceptions of these dangers trigger our fear instinct. This makes us systematically overestimate these risks. 

The media knows this and uses it to grab our attention. Although the news often broadcasts the dangers of our world, the truth is that the world has never been less violent and more safe. Natural disasters still occur, but they kill so many fewer people today because people can afford to be prepared. Plane crashes, murders, nuclear leaks and terrorism kill less than 1% of the people who die each year. 

40 million commercial passenger flights landed safely in 2016. Only ten ended in fatal accidents, but those were the ones that journalists wrote about – a mere .000025% of the total. Remember that what you hear about has been selected precisely because it is scary. When something scares you, ask yourself how dangerous it actually is and how much you are exposed to it. 

The Size Instinct

We tend to get things out of proportion. We overestimate the importance of a single event/person that is visible to us and we overestimate the scale of an issue based on a standalone number. For example, it is easy to assume that doctors and hospitals save children’s’ lives because that is what we see. However, data shows that almost all the increases in child survival rates are achieved through preventative measures outside hospitals. More children now survive because they don’t get ill in the first place.

Like most instincts, the media uses the size instinct to their advantage. They make any given event, fact or number sound more important than it is. 

To control the size instinct, you must compare. Never believe that one number on its own can be meaningful. You can use the 80/20 rule to keep things in proportion. Another tool for controlling size instinct is division. Often the best thing we can do to make a large number more meaningful is to divide it by a total, such as total population.

The Generalisation Instinct

People automatically categorise and generalise. It happens unconsciously. We need categories to structure our thoughts. This necessary and useful instinct can alter our worldview:

  • It can make us mistakenly group together things, or people, or countries that are actually very different. 
  • It can make us assume that everything or everyone in one category is similar. 
  • It can make us jump to conclusions about an entire category based on one unusual example. 

The best way to beat this instinct is to travel. Travel to new countries and visit real homes if you can. 

Be sure to question your categories. Look for differences within and similarities across groups. Beware of the “majority.” Majority only means more than half, but that could mean merely 51%. Beware of exceptional examples. Don’t let one conclusion make a point about an entire group. Stay open to the possibility that your experience might not be “normal.” Beware of generalising from one group to another. 

The Destiny Instinct

The destiny instinct is the idea that innate characteristics determine the destinies of people, countries, religions or cultures. It’s the idea that things are the way they are for inescapable reasons and that things will never change. It makes us mistakenly believe that any gaps that exist are unchanging and unchangeable. Recognise that many things appear to be constant because the change is happening slowly, but that doesn’t mean change isn’t happening. 

The destiny instinct makes sense from an evolution standpoint. Historically, humans lived in surroundings that didn’t change much. And claiming a particular destiny for a group can help in uniting that group around a supposedly never-changing purpose. However, societies, nations, religions and cultures are not like rocks. They move and grow and change. 

Societies and cultures are in constant movement, but it often happens so slowly that we cannot notice it. Don’t confuse slow change with no change. Keep track of gradual improvements. Even an annual change of only one percent adds up over time. Stay open to new data and be prepared to keep updating your knowledge. If you are tempted to claim that values are unchanging, try comparing your own values with those of your parents or your grandparents. You will almost certainly see radical change. 

The Single Perspective Instinct

We tend to focus on single causes or solutions, which are easier to grasp and make our problems seem easier to solve. However, that leads to a misunderstanding of the world. Instead, recognise that a single perspective can limit your imagination and remember that you will get a more accurate understanding of a problem if you look at it from many angles.

Constantly test your ideas for weakness. Be curious about new information that doesn’t fit. Rather than talking only to people who agree with you, seek out people whose ideas contradict yours and use them as a great resource for understanding the world. Remember that experts are only experts in their own field. A trusted doctor doesn’t necessarily know a lot about worldwide poverty. 

Look beyond numbers. Data has its limits. Whenever possible, look for real life proof of concepts. Always beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. The world is a complex place and our problems – and solutions – reflect that. 

The Blame Instinct

The blame instinct is the instinct to find a clear, simple reason for why something bad has happened. When something goes wrong, it is natural for us to think that it must be because of some bad individual with bad intentions. We like to believe that things happen because someone wanted them to. Otherwise, the world feels unpredictable, confusing and frightening. 

The blame instinct makes us exaggerate the importance of individuals or of particular groups. This instinct steals our focus and blocks our learning because we stop looking for explanations elsewhere. It stops us from efficiently being able to solve the problem or prevent it from happening again because we don’t focus our energy in the right places. 

It’s almost always more complicated than simply one individual making a mistake. It’s almost always about multiple interacting causes – a system. We should look at systems instead of looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. Resist finding a scapegoat. Look for causes, not villains. 

The Urgency Instinct

The urgency instinct makes us want to take immediate action in the face of a perceived imminent danger. This instinct makes us stressed, amplifies our other instincts and makes them harder to control, blocks us from thinking analytically, tempts us to make up our minds too fast, and encourages us to take drastic actions that we haven’t thought through. 

Urgency is one of the worst distorters of our worldview and contributes to high levels of stress and anxiety. However, there are five global risks that are worth worrying about: global pandemic, financial collapse, world war, climate change, and extreme poverty. These are problems that we should address collectively. 

To control the urgency instinct, take small steps. Ask for more time and more information. Be wary of predictions about the future and drastic actions. 

Hopefully now that you know how difficult your instincts can make it to get the facts right, you’ll be able to recognise the truth. You’ll be curious about learning information and open to changing your opinion if you discover new facts. Today, reliable data is easily available for almost every subject. Now that you have a fact-based worldview, you can see that the world is not as bad as it seems – and you can see what we have to do to keep making it better.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Can’t Hurt Me’​ by David Goggins

Regardless of your upbringing or the cards that life dealt you, you have the capacity for greatness. David Goggins shares his story to illuminate a proven path to self-mastery and empower you to face reality, hold yourself accountable, push past pain, learn to love what you fear, relish failure, live to your fullest potential and find out who you really are.

Goggins was raised in Buffalo, New York in a nice, suburban neighbourhood. On the surface, his life looked like the American Dream, but in reality, it was a nightmare. His father, Trunnis Goggins, built one of Buffalo’s first roller skating rinks and David spent every evening working the concession stand or renting out skates. When Skateland closed at 10pm, he would clean the rink with his brother and mother for a few hours before falling asleep on the office sofa.

Trunnis cheated on his mother frequently and was physically and emotionally abusive, but she had no independent means whatsoever, so she couldn’t leave him. He often beat David and his brother, too. Finally, a neighbour encouraged his mother to plan her escape. She got a credit card in her name and left Goggins. She took David and his brother to her parents’ house in Indiana, where they lived for the next six months.

He enrolled in second grade at a local Catholic school, where his teacher spent extra time with him because he was struggling with the lessons. David and his mother moved into their own place. His brother, Trunnis Jr., went back to Buffalo within a few months to live with his dad.  

Challenge #1: Get a journal and write about the current factors that are limiting your growth and success.

When David was in fourth grade, his mom met Wilmoth, a successful carpenter. Soon, they got engaged. He became a healthy father figure, but a few weeks before they were supposed to move to Indianapolis with him, Wilmoth was tragically murdered. David and his mom decided to move anyway.

David cheated his way through his first year of high school and started playing on the freshman basketball team. He hung out with a bad crowd and they soon moved back to Brazil, Indiana, where he experienced bullying and racism. One day, his notebook had a death threat written on it, but even the principal wouldn’t help him. When someone vandalised his car with racial slurs, the principal was, again, at a loss for words.

David decided to enlist in the Air Force after graduation, but he failed the ASVAB, the standardised test that the military uses to assess your knowledge and future potential. He almost failed out of high school, but he decided to get his act together. He set goals and held himself accountable. During his senior year, all he did was work out, play basketball and study. He failed the ASVAB again, but finally passed the third time he took it. 

Challenge #2: Write all of your insecurities, dreams and goals on Post-Its and put them on your mirror.

David joined the Air Force, but struggled immensely with the swimming tests because he didn’t learn how to swim as a child. The Air Force doctors found the Sickle Cell Trait, which was believed at the time to increase the risk of sudden, exercise-related death due to cardiac arrest. They gave him the option to drop out and he took it. He served out his four years in the Tactical Air Control Party instead and always felt ashamed. He buried his shame in the gym and at the kitchen table and gained 125 pounds.

One day, he saw a Navy SEAL commercial and decided he wanted to join. He called all the active duty recruiting offices until he finally found a local unit of the Naval reserves that was willing to take him. He needed to lose 106 pounds and score at least a 50 on the ASVAB, and after months of training and studying, he did it.

Challenge #3: Write down all the things you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Now go do one of them.

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training was six months long and divided into three phases. The first phase is physical training, the second phase is dive training and the third phase is land warfare training. Hell Week is the third week of training and it tests your physical and mental endurance. It was one hundred and thirty straight hours of unimaginable pain and exhaustion. Above everything else, Hell Week was a mind game.

This is when David developed the Taking Souls concept, the idea that you can find your own reserve power to overcome every life obstacle. Take inventory of your mind and body. List out your insecurities and weaknesses, as well as your opponent’s. Master your weaknesses and use your competitor’s vulnerabilities to your advantage. Never forget that all emotional and physical anguish ends eventually. 

Challenge #4: Choose any competitive situation that you’re in right now. Work harder on that project than you ever have before.

Hell Week is designed to show you that a human is capable of much more than you know. Remembering what you’ve been through and how that has strengthened your mindset can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass weak impulses to give in so you can power through any obstacle.

But even the strongest mind can’t heal broken bones and Goggins was eventually sent home from training due to a fractured knee. He spent the summer rehabbing his knee and decided to return to training for a third time. Before he left, he got his ex-wife pregnant.

He went back for his third training, committed to finishing for himself and his future family. His shins developed fractures and his knee was still healing, but he pushed himself and made it through and graduated.

Challenge #5: Choose any obstacle in your way and visualise overcoming or achieving it. 

After Operation Red Wings went horribly wrong, Goggins wanted to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit to help surviving family members. He found a race called Badwater 135, an ultra marathon, and called Chris Kostman, the race director. Kostman said he had to run at least one 100-mile race as a prerequisite. That’s how Goggins ended up running the San Diego One Day with only three days’ notice and zero training.

After seventy miles, he collapsed. Covered in blood and diarrhea, he returned to the race, thinking of all of the times he overcame odds and tasted success. He pushed through, and even ran an extra mile. If he could run 101 miles with zero training, imagine what he could do with a little preparation.

Challenge #6: Write about the obstacles you’ve overcome in life and let your past victories carry you forward. 

When Goggins told Kostman that he finished the race, he was unimpressed. So Goggins signed up for a second 100-mile race, the Hurt 100. It covered 24,500 vertical feet. It was brutal, but he finished that race too and Kostman accepted his Badwater application.

Most people give up when we’re around 40% of our maximum effort. Goggins calls this the 40% Rule. There will always be challenges that will tempt us to give up, but you can slowly tap into your reserve 60 percent if you understand the power of your mind.

He trained hard for the Badwater race even though his body was worn down. He ran, hiked, sweat and suffered through 135 miles and completed in fifth place. After the race, he realised that there is always more to be done. Life doesn’t have a finish line.

Challenge #7: Push past your normal stopping point. Push beyond your 40%.

Ultra racing was all about heart and hard work and Goggins became hooked. After Badwater, he entered an Ultraman triathlon in Kona, Hawaii – 6.2 miles of swimming, 261 miles of biking and a double marathon.

He was two minutes behind first place when the front tire of his bike blew. He somersaulted over the handlebars and landed on his right shoulder. Nothing was broken except the bike. He didn’t have a spare tire, so he had to get the back up bike that he brought, which set him back 20 minutes. He planned to make up lost time during the running portion, but his body didn’t agree. Ultimately, he finished second place. He got good publicity because of the races and thus the Navy was getting good publicity. He joined the recruitment division in 2007 and started speaking on behalf of the Navy SEALs. 

One day, he was called into a meeting with Admiral Ed Winters, a two-star Admiral and the top man at Naval Special Warfare Command. He asked for help enlisting more black people in Special Forces. He started traveling around the country, speaking to over 500,000 people at high schools and universities. Throughout, he continued running ultra races.

Suddenly, he started having heart problems. Doctors found that he had an Atrial Septal Defect, which meant that he had a hole in his heart. Three days later, he was in surgery, but it didn’t change much. He needed a second heart surgery.

Challenge #8: For one week, take detailed notes about how you spend your time. In week two, build an optimal schedule. By week three, you should have a working schedule that maximises your effort without sacrificing sleep.

When Goggins was twenty-seven years old, he moved to Malaysia for SEAL Qualification Training. After his first evaluation, he started studying the other branches in the military and read up on their special forces. He went to Army Ranger School and was appointed first sergeant in command. He graduated from Ranger School in 2004.

He went straight from Ranger School to Coronado, California to meet up with his second platoon. He trained his men hard, but his Chief and OIC told him that he needed to give them a break. He eased up, except a guy named Sledge, who trained with Goggins every morning at 4am.

Challenge #9: Find a way to stand out, repeatedly, until you stand-alone. Continue to put obstacles in front of yourself, because that’s where you’ll find the friction that will help you grow even stronger.

After his heart issues finally got taken care of, Goggins went back to being a SEAL. He based in Honolulu in a unit called SDV, SEAL Delivery Vehicles. Then, in 2012, Goggins tried to break the world record for most pull-ups in a twenty-four-hour period. He went on The Today Show to raise publicity and money. After 2,500 pull-ups, he gave up. He had failed. Reflecting on what went wrong, he returned to Honolulu and began training again.

The second time he tried, he developed rhabdomyolysis, a phenomenon that happens when one muscle group is worked way too hard for way too long. His muscles were shutting down and his skin was peeling off. He had failed again, but he was determined to try again. On January 20th, 2013, he broke the world record with 4,030 total pull-ups. 

Challenge #10: Think about your most recent and most heart-wrenching failure. Write about the good things that happened. Write about the things you can fix.

At thirty-eight years old, his physical health was finally catching up to him. For reasons no doctor could figure out, he was dying. At his lowest point, he found clarity. All of the rage that he’d ever had at the world – for being teased, abused and harassed – evaporated. He let it go.

When he noticed some knots in his neck, he remembered a fellow SEAL member who healed his injuries through stretching. So he decided to give it a shot. The more he stretched, the more his condition improved.

He retired from the military as a Chief in the Navy in 2015 and became a wildland firefighter in Montana. The most important conversations are the ones you have with yourself. When obstacles get in your way, challenge them with one simple question – what if?

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Atomic Habits’​ by James Clear

A habit is a routine or behaviour that is performed regularly and in many cases, automatically.

In the long run, the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our habits. This summary includes a step-by-step plan for building better habits – cue, craving, response and reward – and the four laws of behaviour change that evolve out of these steps.

There’s no one right way to create better habits, but this summary describes an approach that will be effective regardless of where you start or what you’re trying to change. 

The Fundamentals

Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. However, the difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. The effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.

We often dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter, but over your lifetime, these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be. 

Habits are a double-edged sword. Bad habits can cut you down just as easily as good habits can build you up. Your habits can compound for you or against you. Productivity, knowledge, and relationships positively compound. Stress, negative thoughts and outrage negatively compound.

An atomic habit is a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1% improvement. They are little habits that are part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.

There are three layers of behaviour changes. The first layer is changing your outcomes, such as losing weight, publishing a book, or winning a championship. The second layer is changing your process, such as implementing a new routine at the gym, decluttering your desk, or developing a meditation practice. The third and deepest layer is changing your identity, such as your worldview, your self-image, or your judgements about yourself and others.

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. In order to become the best version of yourself, you must continuously edit your beliefs and upgrade and expand your identity. Habits can change your beliefs about yourself.

A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible. Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

The Four Laws of Behaviour Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are:

1) Make it obvious.

2) Make it attractive.

3) Make it easy.

4) Make it satisfying.

 The 1st Law – Make It Obvious

Over time, the cues that spark our habits become so common that they are essentially invisible. Our responses to these cues are so deeply encoded that it may feel like the urge to act comes from nowhere. Therefore, the process of behaviour change begins with awareness.

Before we can effectively build new habits, we need to get a handle on our current ones. This can be difficult to do, but there are two exercises that can help. Pointing-and-Calling is an exercise that involves verbalising each of your actions in order to raise your awareness from a non-conscious habit to a more conscious level. Once you’re aware of your habits, keep a Habits Scorecard and mark whether the habit is negative, positive, or neutral.

Habits are easier to start if you have an implementation intention, which is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOUR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]. Habit stacking is another exercise that can help. The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Small changes in context can lead to large changes in behaviour over time. Every habit is initiated by a cue. We are more likely to notice cues that stand out, so make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.

Gradually, your habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behaviour. The context becomes the cue. It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.

You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it. Once the mental grooves have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely. That means you must reduce exposure to the cue that causes bad habits.

The 2nd Law – Make It Attractive

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming. Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. When dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act. It is the anticipation of a reward – not the fulfilment of it – that gets us to take action. The greater the anticipation, the greater the dopamine spike.

Temptation building is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy involves pairing an action you want to do with an action you need to do. The formula is: After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].

Social norms are extremely powerful, and they determine which behaviours are attractive to us. We tend to adopt habits that are praised by our culture because we have a strong desire to fit in. We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe) and the powerful (those with status and prestige).

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behaviour is the norm, and you already have something in common with the group. The normal behaviour of a tribe often overpowers the desired behaviour of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than right by ourselves.

Every behaviour has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive. Your habits are modern-day solutions to ancient desires (ie the desire to connect and bond with others results in the habit of checking Facebook).

Your habits are caused by the prediction that precedes them. The prediction leads to a feeling. You can break a bad habit by highlighting the benefit of avoiding it to make it more unattractive to you.

Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

The 3rd Law – Make It Easy

The most effective form of learning is to practice. Focus on taking action – the amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.

Human behaviour follows the Law of Least Effort. We will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work. Therefore, you are more likely to succeed if you create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.

Reduce the friction associated with good behaviours. When friction is low, habits are easy. Increase the friction associated with bad behaviours. When friction is high, habits are difficult.

Habits can be completed in a few seconds but continue to impact your behaviour for minutes or hours afterward. Many habits occur at decisive moments – choices that are like a fork in the road – and either send you in the direction of a productive day or an unproductive one.

The Two-Minute Rule says, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do” so break your habits down into bite-size chunks. Standardise before you optimise. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.

Committing to habits will increase your future behaviour. The ultimate way to lock in future behaviour is to automate your habits. Prime your environment to make future actions easier. Automate your habits. Invest in technology and onetime purchases (like buying a better mattress or enrolling in an automatic savings plan) that deliver increasing returns over time.

The 4th Law – Make It Satisfying

Humans are more likely to repeat a behaviour when the experience is satisfying. The human brain evolved to prioritise immediate rewards over delayed rewards.

The Cardinal Rule of Behaviour Change says, “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.” To get a habit to stick, you need to feel immediately successful, even if it’s in a small way.

The first three laws of behaviour change increase the odds that a behaviour is performed. The fourth law increases the odds that the behaviour will be repeated.

One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress. A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit – like marking an X on a calendar on days you did it. Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress 

Don’t break the chain. Do your best to keep your habit streak alive. If you do miss a day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible. Never miss twice in a row.

We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying. An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.

A habit contract can be used to add a social cost to any behaviour. It makes the cost of violating your promises public and painful. Knowing that someone is watching you can be a powerful motivator, so use social interactions to motivate behaviour change.

Advanced Tactics

The secret to maximising your odds of success is to choose the right field of competition. Pick the right habit and progress will be easy. If you pick the wrong habit, it will be a struggle.

You cannot change your genes, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favourable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavourable circumstances. Habits are much easier when they align with your natural abilities. Choose habits that best suit your genes.

Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work, they clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.  

The Goldilocks Rule states that your motivation will be at its peak when you work on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, not too easy. Just right.

The greatest threat to success is not failure, but boredom. As habits become routine, they become less interesting and less satisfying so we sometimes get bored. Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It is the ability to keep going when it isn’t exciting that makes the difference. Create a schedule and stick to it, regardless of your motivation levels. 

The benefit of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.

You can master a habit by narrowing your focus to a tiny element of success and repeating it until you have internalised the skill. Then use this new habit as the foundation to advance to the next frontier of your development. Each habit unlocks the next level. Keep building.

Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time. Try not to cling to an identity – it makes it much harder to grow beyond it.

Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine. If you make habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying, you will be more likely to stick to them. If you keep making tiny changes, you will discover remarkable results. 

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’​ by Daniel Kahneman

We make hundreds of decisions each and every day, starting from the moment we wake up…

  • Should I hit the snooze button one more time? 
  • What am I going to have for breakfast? 
  • Should I check my email before I get out of bed? 
  • How long should I brush my teeth for? 

Before we’ve even left the bedroom we’ve made a significant number of decisions. Many of these decisions are not made consciously. For instance, which leg do you put into your pants first when you are getting dressed? You’ve probably been doing that the same way, every day, for the better part of your life, but you probably had to mimic the motion of putting your pants on in order to figure out the answer. 

Other decisions are made consciously. For instance, what’s the answer to 23 x 18? To get to an answer, most of us would have to pull out a pen and paper (or the calculator on our smartphone) to figure it out. What’s the point? 

In business and in life, we are constantly asking other people to make decisions, and we know very little about the way our brains work in order to make them. If you want somebody to decide to use your products and services, shouldn’t you know how their brain works?

In this summary, you’ll learn that the brain has two “systems” for making decisions and why those decisions aren’t always made the way you thought they would. Daniel Kahneman – a world-renowned psychologist and researcher – wrote an entire book on the subject of these two systems. In it he describes how we can use them to make better decisions and help others make decisions in our favour. 

Part 1 – Systems

As Kahneman describes it, you have two systems for making decisions. The role of System 1 is to maintain and update a working mental model of your world. That model is constructed by associations between ideas, circumstances, events, actions and outcomes that co-occur together. This system works automatically and quickly. Here are some examples of System 1 in action:

  • detecting that one object is further away than another
  • figuring out the answer to 2+2=?
  • driving a car on an empty road
  • putting on your pants in the morning.

These items do not require a significant amount of your attention, and it’s likely that you could do many of these things at once. You could probably tell me the answer to 2+2 if I asked you while you were putting your pants on in the morning, for instance. These are things that we might say we are able to do on “autopilot”. 

In fact, one of the defining characteristics of System 2 is that it cannot be turned off. As Kahneman points out – if you are shown a word on a page that is in a language you understand, you will read the word unless your attention is 100% on something else. Kahneman describes the role of System 2 as the slow, analytical way of thinking. It allocates attention to effortful mental activities that demand it. Although there are many functions that operate within System 2, each of those functions require your attention to complete, and are disrupted when attention is drawn away. Here are some examples of System 2 in action: 

  • focussing your attention on a particular person in a crowded and noisy room;
  • figuring out the answer to 23×18=?
  • finding Waldo
  • comparing two similar products for overall value.

These items do take a significant amount of your attention, and you are most likely only able to complete them if you give them your full attention. You most certainly wouldn’t be able to figure out the answer to “23×18=?” if you were also trying to compare two similar products for overall value. 

One of the defining features of System 1 and System 2 is their relationship to one another. System 1 continuously makes suggestions for System 2 – impressions, intentions and feelings. System 2, for the most part, accepts the suggestions of System 1, and only kicks into high gear when System 1 does not generate an answer. For example, you were probably able to answer “2+2=?” without “really thinking about it.” However, when you looked at “23×18=?” you didn’t have an automatic answer at the ready, and System 2 started to kick into gear. System 1 is excellent at creating stories to form coherence of information. When information is scarce, System 1 jumps to conclusions.  This bias is so frequent that Kahneman coined the acronym WYSIATI – what you see is all there is. 

Part 2 – Heuristics and Biases

System 1 is not prone to doubt, but it is System 2’s job to pick up System 1’s slack. Our brains are lazy and like to look for patterns. In fact, we often see patterns where none exist because we are uncomfortable with the belief that most of what we see in life is random.

We cannot deduce accurate information from small samples, even though our imagination likes to come up with stories that support it. We pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability. 

The anchoring effect is a phenomenon that occurs when the first number we see in a particular situation sets the tone for all future numbers. The estimates stay close to the number that people considered – hence the image of an anchor.  Any number you see will have an anchoring effect on you, and if the stakes are high, you should mobilise your System 2 to combat the effect. 

A heuristic is a mental shortcut. The availability heuristic is the process of judging frequency by “the ease with which instances come to mind.” For example, if you watch many spy movies, you will be more sceptical about conspiracies in the real world because your mind will have an easier time accessing examples. This is why many people believe the world is more dangerous and violent than it actually is – the media gives disproportionate attention to unusual events. 

Heuristics are incompatible with logic and play a large role in our judgements. The ease with which instances come to mind is a System 1 heuristic, which is replaced by a focus on content when System 2 is more engaged. Multiple lines of evidence converge on the conclusion that people who let themselves be guided by System 1 are more strongly susceptible to availability biases than others. 

System 1 is capable of making extreme predictions. Often these predictions are irrational because System 1 doesn’t need evidence to jump to conclusions. 

Causes trump statistics. There is a big gap between our thinking about statistics and our thinking about individual cases. Statistical results with a causal interpretation have a stronger effect on our thinking than non-causal information. However, even surprising statistics will not change long-held beliefs or beliefs rooted in personal experience. Kahneman explains that performance results tend to normalise to the average value, a tendency referred to as regression to the mean. 

Part 3 – Overconfidence 

Our brains continuously attempt to make sense of the world and we often look for explanatory stories to do so. When recounting the past, we often construct a convincing story based on a compelling narrative and not on fact. For example, Google is one of the most profitable companies in the world. You may assume that they succeeded because of a chain of good decisions, but the truth is that luck played a very big part of their success. The ultimate test of an explanation is whether it would have made the event predictable in advance. Most of our favourite stories do not pass this test, but it gives us an illusion of understanding that makes us feel better. 

System 1 is designed to jump to conclusions from little evidence, and our overconfidence of our opinions reflects the coherence of the story that System 1 and System 2 construct for us. Yet some of our most important beliefs have no evidence at all. System 1 doesn’t need much evidence to jump to radical conclusions and make significant predictions. We hold a lot of confidence in our opinions and our judgments, yet that confidence mostly comes from cognitive illusions. Even experts make mistakes because the world is unpredictable. However, coherence makes us feels good and therefore it is important to remain confident in our decisions. 

Another illusion that makes us feel better is the illusion of validity, which is the belief that our abilities, and nothing else, are what determine the final outcome. In fact, according to research, the accuracy of experts is generally matched or exceeded by a simple algorithm. When making decisions, the use of formulas is always better than relying on human intuition. This may be because experts try to think outside the box and consider complex combinations in making their predictions when simplicity is better.  

You can apply this knowledge to tasks such as interview procedures. First, select about six traits that are prerequisites for success in this position. Next, make a list of questions that can reliably assess those traits and rank it. Score each answer and resolve that you will hire the candidate whose final score is the highest, even if there is another one whom you like better. You are more likely to find the best candidate if you use this procedure than if you make a choice using your intuition. 

Part 4 – Choices

Most people don’t like taking risks and will avoid it whenever possible. In most cases, when given the choice between gambling a value much higher than expected and being sure of an expected, lower value, most people will pick the lower value. This is because people want to know the outcome and avoid the risk. Utility depends on changes from one’s reference point.

Losses hurt more than gains and our motives follow that. For example, this could be why people don’t set high-achieving goals. If you set a lofty goal and never reach it, you experience a loss. If you set a low goal and reach it, you achieve a gain. When a sure loss is guaranteed, we are more likely to seek out risk. 

When we make choices that stray from our default behaviour, we are more likely to regret them. However, if you do an unusual thing and get a good outcome, you will feel happier than doing your typical behaviour and getting the same outcome.  A fear of regret is a motivation behind many decisions that we make. 

When we evaluate a decision, we’re prone to focus on the individual instance rather than the big picture. In order to avoid exaggerated caution induced by loss aversion, think of the decision as one of many. Single evaluations activate the emotional responses of System 1, whereas comparisons involve a more careful assessment, which activates System 2. 

Part 5 – Two Selves 

We have an experiencing self and a remembering self. The experiencing self is the one that enjoys pleasure and feels pain moment to moment. The remembering self is the one that reflects on past experiences and uses that to make decisions. We like to think that we make our decisions with our best interests at heart. However, our decisions are significantly influenced by our memory, a function of System 1, which as evolved to represent the most intense moment of an episode of pain or pleasure and the feelings when the episode was at its end. We are predisposed to remember the bad parts and often use those memories to make future decisions. 

Most people are indifferent to their experiencing self, only caring about the memories collected in order to fuel different narratives. Therefore, we derive more pleasure from peak highs with a short duration than moderate highs over long duration.

The word happiness doesn’t have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Well-being means different things to different people because people have difficult values. Furthermore, it’s difficult to properly assess overall life satisfaction. System 1 focuses on current mood, while System 2 suffers biases and heuristics.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information

Book Summary of ‘Willpower Doesn’t Work’​ by Benjamin Hardy

Willpower doesn’t work. We all know the feeling of setting big, exciting goals, but falling short despite hard work. After enough failure, it’s easy to conclude that you are the problem. But what if it was not your fault?

Willpower is the power to exert your free will against internal or external obstacles. According to psychological research, your willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with use. Therefore, by the end of a strenuous day, your willpower muscles are exhausted and you’re left with zero self-control.

If you need to exert willpower to do something, there is an obvious internal conflict. It means your desire for your goals isn’t strong enough and you aren’t invested in yourself and your dreams. It also comes from a challenging environment that opposes your goals.

To achieve a goal you need to make a committed decision by:

  • investing upfront
  • making it public
  • setting a timeline
  • installing several forms of feedback/accountability
  • removing or altering everything in your environment that opposes your commitment.

Rather than relying solely on your own internal strength, true commitment involves building external defence systems around your goals.

For example, if you want to eat healthy, remove all unhealthy foods from your house. If you want to be more motivated, take on greater responsibility and increase the stakes for both success and failure.

You can design your worldview by shaping your external inputs:

  • the information you consume
  • the people you surround yourself with
  • the places you go
  • the experiences you have.

You must proactively shape your environment to have the life you want so you can subsequently shape your thoughts and behaviours.

Part 1: Your Environment Shapes You

Historian Will Durant spent four decades studying the history of the world and concluded that great leaders did not shape history. Instead, he found that difficult situations created great leaders. He found that necessity creates more greatness than intelligence or vision. He said that the ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded.

In our individualistic culture, we often believe our environment is separate from us. The truth is that our environment shapes everything we do and think. Your environment has a direct and measurable impact on the rest of your life, unless you actively change it. Most people live small because their environment doesn’t require them to become more than they currently are.

Goal-setting and attitude change only work for a small subset of behaviours, such as giving a public speech, because it is something you rarely do, thus it requires your conscious attention.

Every environment has a set of written or unwritten rules and it shapes how you think, act and behave. In one experiment, a group of fleas are placed in a jar. When there is no lid on the jar, the fleas can easily jump out. However, when the lid is on the jar, the rules of the environment change. Quickly, the fleas become trained not to jump so high. Three days later, when the lid is removed, the fleas remain at the lowered height and do not jump out of the jar.

The same is true for you. Who you are and what you can do in one environment is very different from who you are and what you can do in another. You are always acting in a role and the roles are typically fixed. You act a particular way because of the rules of the situation you are in. You can change your patterns and change your roles by altering your environment. If you remain stuck in the same roles and patterns, it doesn’t matter how much willpower you exert – you will always be confined within the limiting context of your role.

When you’re in an enriched environment, your desired behaviour is automated and outsourced. When you’re in an ordinary environment, you must remain conscious of what you’re doing and thus you require willpower to act in desired ways.

Part 2: How to Make Willpower Irrelevant

Peak experiences are deeply moving, and it is often in these moments that we have our best ideas and can truly assess what we want in life. These experiences happen when we connect with ourselves. Peak experiences happen during periods of rest and recovery. Schedule “disconnected days” for relaxing, thinking and learning.

Resting and recovering will actually increase your productivity. Only those who truly detach – mentally, emotionally and physically – can reattach when they start working again. After you are rested, you will return empowered and energised. Journaling is a key part of resting. Take an honest look at your life, how far you’ve come, and where you’d like to go. This will help you stay connected to your “why.”

It is important to have a daily environment to help you stay on the right path toward your goals. You need to continually check in and make course corrections to ensure you’re going in the direction you want to. The best way to do this is to begin each day with a morning routine to put yourself into peak state.

You should journal every morning to set the tone for your day. Write your goals down daily to deepen your own sense of belief and desire in those goals. Success happens when you take twenty steps in one direction. Most people take one step in twenty directions.

Elimination is the fastest path to progress and forward momentum. In order to transcend your current environment, remove the excess baggage that is keeping you where you are. Get rid of the physical objects you don’t need, distractions, people that don’t inspire you and your short-term memory.

If you’re stuck doing automatic behaviour, change your default option and your behaviour will change too. People often take the first choice given to them. Our environment prompts behaviour, so to break unconscious habits, change your environment.

Act consciously and do everything with intention. If you know ahead of time what you’ll do if you veer off course, you’re more likely to stick to your habit. For example, you can make a plan such as ‘if I enter the kitchen and want to eat a cookie, then I’ll drink a glass of water instead.’ You must replace an addictive behaviour with another behaviour, so implementation intentions are crucial.

Part 3: Outsource High Performance and Success to Your Environment

If you want to achieve your goals, you must determine which environments produce the best outcomes. You can optimise your environment by structuring it with forcing functions, which are self-imposed situational factors that force you to act and achieve what you want. For example, you can leave your phone in the car if you want to be present with your loved ones. Instead of relying on your willpower, you can remove the option altogether.

You can set up external defence systems around your goals too. For example, if you leave your laptop charger at home, you will be more motivated to work hard during the few hours you have until your battery runs out.

You can use social pressure to hold you accountable to your goals. Again, it’s not willpower that drives you, but external pressure. If you create consequences for failure, you will work much harder.

If you put yourself in higher pressure environments, you are more likely to thrive. Set tight deadlines for yourself and commit outwardly so you can’t back down. Compete above your skill level so you can learn from your opponents. Compete in public so there is more pressure to succeed.

Learning through doing is far more powerful than reading a textbook. Context-based learning often involves immediate feedback on your performance so you can get better, quicker.

Hire a mentor or a coach to help you. Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make and you will see huge returns.

Keep implementing what you learn until it becomes unconscious. To turn a skill to automaticity, you must first master the skill. Then, make your training progressively more difficult. Add time constraints so you are forced to work quickly. Finally, practice it with intentional distractions to encourage the automatic response.

Set up your environment to optimise for productive work. The best creative work requires a blend of intensely tight focus for one to four hours, followed by a relaxed mind in a different environment. Work according to your personal energy levels instead of the social norms, such as nine to five. Switch up your environment to keep your brain active.  Provide yourself with mental breaks throughout the day and take a short walk. If you can rotate and alternate your working environments, you will have more energy and focus.

Every environment has its own set of rules, but these rules are not absolute. Shatter the traditional rules and replace them with new and better ones. If you play by the same rules as everyone else, your results will be average. You must reshape the rules of your environment to thrive and the best way to do that is through new connections. Collaborate with people with different worldviews and you will come up with unique ideas and strategies. 

You are not bound by your past, but you should honour it. The more sense of history you have, the more context you will have around yourself and the more sense of control you’ll have over your life.

Don’t let your success go to your head. Remember that you are not the cause of your success. Instead, you are the product of your changing environment. Stay in a continual state of humility and gratitude.

Willpower is not an effective approach to personal change. Outsource your willpower to a goal-enriching environment and you will flourish.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click here for more information


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