Book Summary of ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’​ by Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a remarkable man.

He was a prisoner in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany during WWII and lost his wife, father, mother and brother there.

Yet through all of the horrors he witnessed and the physical and mental suffering he endured, he was able to survive because of what he calls “the will to meaning.”

In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl recounts his experiences there and how we was able to use his theories – called logotherapy – to stay alive when most people were not.

In this summary, we’ll start off with a summary of his theories and then move on to how he was able to apply them during his time at Auschwitz and later at Dachau.

It’s one of the more powerful books I’ve ever read and I hope it has as big of an impact on you as it had on me.

Let’s get started.


Logotherapy is considered the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”, along with Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology.

At the core of his theories is the idea of will to meaning, compared to Freud who focuses on the will to pleasure and Adler who focuses on the will to power.

Essentially, the idea is that striving to find personal meaning in life is the most motivating and driving force in a person’s life.

“Logos” is the Greek word for meaning and so logotherapy involves helping a patient find personal meaning in their life.

Basic Principles

There are three basic principles of logotherapy:

  • Freedom of Will: Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Will to Meaning: Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • Meaning of Life: We have freedom to find meaning in what we do and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

Ways of Finding Meaning

According to Frankl, people discover meaning in life in three different ways:

  • Work: by creating a work or accomplishing a task.
  • Love: by experiencing something in life or encountering someone, through the quality of love.
  • Attitude: by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

Frankl gives an example in the book that illustrates his point perfectly:

“”Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him?

I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive without you?:”

“Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!”

Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her.”

He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.””

Now let’s move on to discuss how Frankl applied his own theories to survive the brutal suffering inflicted upon him in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Suffering and The Human Body

One of the things that struck me most about Frankl’s retelling of his experiences is his reflection on how tough and adaptable the human body actually is.

Upon entering the concentration camps, the prisoners were stripped of almost everything they held onto in their previous lives immediately.

Most of the people who had arrived at the camps did not make it past the first day. Those who looked sick or unfit for work were sent directly to the gas chambers.

Those who survived the first round of selections were about to find out what the human body and mind were capable of.

They were separated from their families, stripped and shaved from head to toe and any possessions they brought with them were taken from them. Then they were given a number which they had tattooed on their body.

Once they were in the camps they started to learn that much of what they thought they knew about the human body was not correct.

Here, Frankl recounts some of the punishment they had to endure:

“We were unable to clean our teeth, and yet, in spite of that and a severe vitamin deficiency, we had healthier gums than ever before. We had to wear the same shirts for half a year, until they had lost all appearance of being shirts. For days we were unable to wash, even partially, because of frozen water pipes and yet the sores and abrasions on hands which were dirty from work in the soil did not suppurate (that is, unless there was frostbite).”

Frankl goes on to recount that they were forced to live on very little sleep, very little food (a piece of bread and small portions of watery soup were all they got to eat), and work insanely hard day after day, week after week and for those who were able to find meaning in this unimaginable suffering, year after year.

Not to mention the mental suffering that was inflicted upon them. They walked around knowing that if they started to let their physical suffering show, they would be taken to the gas chamber to be put out of their misery. They knew that because they saw it happen daily.

(As a side note, it’s impossible to describe in a summary the full extent of the physical and mental horrors the prisoners would have endured. Find a book or do some research online to fully comprehend their experience.)

And yet, somehow, many of the people in the camps lived to discuss the experience. How? Why?

Frankl found that those that survived the experience somehow used the power of their minds to find meaning in the experience. If they held on to that, no matter how harsh and brutal the experience became, they could survive.

He tells a powerful story of how they knew that somebody had given up the will to live, and how they knew that, in quick order, that person would die.

If you were an exemplary worker, you would sometimes be given a reward of cigarettes. The cigarettes became a form of currency in the camps. You could trade in your cigarettes for extra servings of soup or bread and so, if you still had the will to live, that’s what you would do. A little extra calories went a long way in making you stronger and more fit for work, and thus, helping you stay alive.

Those who had given up would smoke their cigarettes and so, they knew that when they saw a fellow prisoner smoking, it wouldn’t be long before they were gone.

What allowed Frankl and many other prisoners survive was the will to live.

Let’s move on to cover the three different meanings of logotherapy and how Frankl used them all to survive.


One of the things that Frankl did during his time in the concentration camps was to rewrite a manuscript that was confiscated from him upon his entry.

Of course, this was no easy task. He mostly had to keep his ideas alive in his head because there was no way the Nazi’s would allow him to rewrite it in full. The would simply confiscate it again and likely put him to death.

He was able to write portions of it out on scraps of paper he kept hidden and often imagined himself giving lectures about logotherapy and how he used those principles to survive the camps.

Thus, even though his current circumstances didn’t offer him any hope of ever seeing beyond the barbed wire fences surrounding the camp, he found true meaning in the suffering he endured. He knew that logotherapy would have the ability to help thousands or even millions of people around the world overcome challenges in their lives and he needed to survive to tell his story.


One day, as Frankl was marching along with his fellow prisoners to their work site for the day, the person beside him whispered in his ear:

“If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

That led Frankl to think of his own wife and also to contemplate that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.

In the book he says the following:

“Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love. I understand how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”

Love, for Frankl, was the ultimate antidote to pain. We’ll explore in the next section the idea that, no matter how harsh our circumstances, we have the ability to choose our response to it. Responding to punishment with thoughts of love was for him the ultimate coat of armour.

Keep in mind that it wasn’t the hope that his wife was alive that kept him going – it was recalling the love he felt for her.

He explains:

“I did not know whether my wife was alive and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying.”

Our Attitude Towards Suffering

Let’s start this section with a quote from the book:

“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”

To put it simply, one day you will die and along the way you are likely to suffer quite a bit.

While none of us will probably endure the intensity of suffering that the poor souls in the Nazi concentration camps had to endure, we will all have periods of suffering in one form or another.

As Frankl tells us, in these moments we are faced with a choice. Suffering can either be a meaningful experience in our life, or we can let it turn into a bitter fight for self-preservation, forgetting our human dignity and becoming nothing more than an animal.

So what does it mean to “suffer well?”

Suffering well is an inner triumph. It was clear to every prisoner that life as they knew it was over. They were simply going to be worked to death in those camps, one way or another.

There was going to be no outward reward for “doing the right thing” for fellow prisoners. In fact, the only outward rewards were reserved for men who turned themselves into animals.

Those who were willing to beat their fellow prisoners were promoted to guards, which came along with larger food rations, more comfortable sleeping quarters and less demanding work.

However, that didn’t stop some of the prisoners from choosing to suffer well. Frankl tells stories of some prisoners walking around comforting the other prisoners, sometimes giving the weakest among them their last pieces of bread.

Their response to their own suffering, and how they found meaning in that suffering, was to find ways to alleviate the suffering of others, even if it was just for a moment.

Which means that, even in the darkest of our experiences, we have a choice in how to respond

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 for more information

Book Summary of ‘Confessions of The Pricing Man’​ by Hermann Simon

Peter Drucker once said the following:

“Profit is a condition of survival. It is the cost of the future, the cost of staying in business.”

As you’ll learn in the following 12 minutes, pricing is one of, if not the most, important driver of profits. Yet it receives very little attention.

Hermann Simon, one of the world’s most foremost experts on pricing, wants you to change that. He makes a very compelling case.

As he points out early in the book, excellent pricing drives profits and profits are what your business needs to survive.

What Price Actually Means

Simon has been asked thousands of times over the years what the most important aspect of pricing actually is.

If he needs to give a one word answer, he says that pricing is “value.” If he needs to elaborate, he says that pricing is “value to the customer.”

In essence, he is saying that the price a customer is willing to pay and thus the price a company can and should charge, is always a reflection of the perceived value of the product or service in the customer’s eyes.

This means that managers and business leaders essentially have 3 main tasks as it relates to price:

  1. Create value. This is where product creation and innovation come in.
  2. Communicate value. This is how you influence your customer’s perception of the value you create. It includes your unique selling proposition and your brand.
  3. Retain value. This is about what happens after the customer buys your product or service. Expectations about how long value will last (and your ability to deliver on that expectation) has an outsized influence on your customer’s willingness to pay the price you’ve set.

The Relationship Between Price And Profits

Most people know that if you increased your price and volume stayed the same, your profits would go up, but most people (including some really smart business people) don’t know just how much it could impact their bottom line.

Most companies in the world operate at margins that are between 1% and 3%. An industrial company with margins above 10% would be far above average. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule like Apple, but even their net margin stood at 21.6%. To drive the point home that most businesses are not like Apple, Simon points out that if the average company were as profitable as Apple, we’d live in a utopia beyond our ability to imagine.

To give you a concrete example, if Sony raised their prices across the board by 2% without seeing any drops in volume, it’s profits would increase by 236%. Walmart’s profits would increase by 41.4% with the same 2% increase in price.

While you’ll have to run the numbers for your own business to see what the impact might be, it’s clear that price is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal to make more money.

Most people look to improve their marketing and sales efforts when they want to increase their bottom line. Pricing has two advantages over sales and marketing:

  • Price changes usually can be implemented very quickly. Developing a new advertising campaign and waiting for it to have the effect you are looking for could take months or even years.
  • Price is the only revenue driver that you can employ with no upfront investment.

Different Ways To Set Prices

There are 3 different approaches you can use to set prices. One of them is the right way.

Using Costs to Set Prices

Many people use a “cost-plus” approach to setting their prices. There are a number of problems with this approach, even though it sounds like a reasonable thing to do. Here are two of them.

First, it has nothing to do with your customer’s willingness to pay. Second, even if it did, your customers don’t know what your costs are, so they couldn’t make their decision that way even if they wanted to.

Following The Competition

This means that you set your prices based on what your competitors do. This also sounds like a reasonable approach and is probably the easiest path to take, but it also has a number of problems associated with it. The most important being that it’s almost never the best way to set prices to optimise profits.

Market-Based Price Setting

The third and best approach to setting your prices is to take the market-based approach. This means understanding what your demand curve looks like, which is like a graph that shows the number of sales you would make at various prices, with volume on the Y axis and the price on the X axis.

In general, when the price goes up the volume goes down and vice versa. The goal with the demand curve is to find the price where you maximise revenue and profit.

There are four ways you can go out doing this:

  • Use your expert judgement. You can start to get a handle on your demand curve by asking yourself and your team how much volume you would lose if you increased your prices by 10%. Keep asking for different increases or decreases and you’ll end up with an approximation of your demand curve which will help you make pricing decisions.
  • Ask your customers directly. This would be a more accurate way to do it and you could use your email newsletter and a simple survey to accumulate large numbers of answers. However, be careful with this approach because just asking the question usually makes customers more sensitive to price.
  • Ask your customers indirectly. In the pricing field, an approach called conjoint measurement was created to get customers to make tradeoffs between price and value. They are shown many variations of products and price and are asked to rank order their preferences. You’ll probably want to hire an expert like Simon if you dig into this level of detail.
  • Use price tests. This is the most accurate way to get your answers because all of the other approaches are thought experiments. As behavioural science tells us, there is a large gap between what people say they will do and what they will actually do. Luckily, digital technology makes it fairly easy to run A/B tests and find out the actual answer to “how much does demand rise/fall based on different price points?”

Should You Price High or Low

Once you’ve determined your demand curve and how much people are willing to pay for your products/services today, it’s time to make a decision: which pricing approach is the best for you to take moving forward.

There are 3 main categories to choose from.

Low Price Strategy

This is where you price your product as low as possible to capture as much volume as you can. Thus, the focus of your business is around driving down the cost to produce your products and creating efficiencies.

You probably already know this, but there is only room for a couple of low-priced players in any market. If you are going to choose this approach and be successful with it, here are the factors that will help you do so:

  1. Begin with a low-price strategy from day one. Many times it requires a new and innovative business model.
  2. Be extremely efficient in managing both costs and processes.
  3. Guarantee adequate and consistent quality.
  4. Focus on your core product and don’t do anything that isn’t absolutely required by the customer.
  5. Have a high-growth and high-revenue focus. You’ll need to make up your lack of margin with volume. Economies of scale are your friend.
  6. Be tough and forceful in your purchasing.
  7. Have little debt. Instead, rely on self-financing or supplier credit.
  8. Exercise strong control over the entire value chain.
  9. Focus your ads on price.
  10. Don’t mix your messages: Almost all of the successful “low price–high profit” companies stick to an “everyday low price” strategy.
  11. Understand your role. Most markets have room for only a small number of “low price–high profit” competitors, often just one or two.

Luxury Goods Pricing

On the other end of the spectrum are luxury goods pricing companies. This is where there is little connection between the cost of production and the prices you set.

If you are going to choose this approach and be successful with it, here are the factors that will help you do so:

  1. Ensure your product delivers the highest level of performance. This goes for every dimension of your business, including the materials you use to the way you distribute your product.
  2. Ensure your product can deliver the prestige effect.
  3. Set your prices high because price is a quality indicator for luxury goods – the more it costs the more it must be worth.
  4. Keep your volume and market share within strict limits. If “everybody” has your product, you’ve lost the luxury game.
  5. Avoid discounts and special offers like the plague.
  6. Hire top talent in every part of your business. Every employee is an extension of your brand.
  7. Keep control of the value chain. There’s no room for B players.
  8. Understand that the primary factor in price setting is the customers’ willingness to pay. There is little or no connection to the “value for money” equation.

Premium Price Strategy

Finally we have the premium pricing strategy. This is where there is a direct connection between the value you deliver and the prices you set. This is where you try and create the optimal value in your market place and share some of that value with the customer.

In other words, you create a product that generates more value for your customers than the competition’s product and thus also charge a higher price.

While it’s almost impossible to give a general answer to the question of how much more a premium price is to a “normal” price, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind as you pursue a premium price strategy:

  1. You must provide superior value.
  2. The price to value relationship is your competitive advantage, unlike low-cost or luxury where the price is the deciding factor.
  3. Innovation is the foundation of your growth – you must continuously be searching out new value.
  4. Creating a consistently high level of product and service quality is a must.
  5. A strong brand is a must. Your customers need to understand what you stand for.
  6. A strong communication program is a must. Your consumers need to hear your story if they are going to understand your differentiated value.
  7. Shy away from special offers. Premium pricers offer discounts very infrequently.

Which price strategy is best for you?

For most companies the best strategy for creating strong profits is to use a premium pricing strategy. There’s certainly room for a couple of low-price and luxury producers in every market, but the high percentage play is to choose the premium route.

Specific Pricing Situations Explained

Now that we’ve covered pricing in general, let’s move on to some of the more specific applications and how to drive the profit needle even further.

Price Differentiation

Sometimes it makes sense to create different prices for different people, or for different situations. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Price bundling: you can often maximise profit by packaging together several products and charging a total price less than the sum of the individual products. If you’ve bought a car recently, you’ve seen this in action.
  • Price unbundling: in some situations it might make sense to do the reverse – unbundle what used to be packages into separate product lines.
  • Volume discounts: there are two ways to give volume discounts – one where the discount applies to the entire volume purchased and another where the discount applies to the incremental volume. The incremental approach almost always leads to higher volume.
  • Skimming: this is where you decrease the price of a previous version of your product when you release a newer version. Apple has used this approach with great success.

Pricing In Crises

Often times you’ll find yourself in a crisis where you need to make price cuts in order to survive. If you do, make sure you do it intelligently by keeping the following in mind:

  • make sure you use price-oriented advertising and additional communication to drive the desired increase in volume;
  • consider offering additional goods or services instead of lowering prices;
  • consider that maybe an increase in price is the right approach, like Panera successfully did in the 2008 financial crisis.

I hope you found this useful and please write me a review if you have any specific topics you would like me to write about.

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 for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Art of Possibility’​ by Benjamin Zander

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and is one of the most passionate communicators you’ll ever meet. Watch his TED talk on the power of classical music if you haven’t already.

His wife, Rosamund Zander, is a psychotherapist who is a genius in creating distinctions that create change in people’s personal and professional lives.

Together, they’ve written a book that will show you the power of possibility to create changes in yourself and others that you previously thought impossible.

Let’s explore the 12 practices for creating possibility.

Practice 1: It’s All Invented

You’ve likely heard the parable before, but it bears repeating:

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,


The other writes back triumphantly,


Basically, there are the facts and then there is the story we make up about the facts. We do this without noticing and our minds have a very hard time figuring out the difference between the two.

If the stories we make up about the facts are invented anyways, Zander suggests, shouldn’t we invent a story or frame of mind that enhances our lives and the lives of people around us?

When you come to this realisation, things start to change. You can become more creative. Solutions to problems that previous seemed unsolvable suddenly appear.

Ask yourself the following question:

What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see?

And when you’ve answered that one, ask yourself the following:

What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me other choices?

Practice 2: Stepping into a Universe of Possibility

Most people – almost everybody – wakes up in the morning with the unnoticed assumption that life is about the struggle to survive and that we need to get ahead in a world of limited resources. A world where success is measured in dollars and cents and other people’s definitions of success.

The alternative is to approach your business and life with the spirit of abundance. Where your approach to life is generous, inclusive and you engage the people surrounding you with your passion for life.

Here’s the major difference between the two world views. In the measurement world, you set goals and set out to achieve them. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.

Careful not to jump to the conclusion that this is a recipe for failure. As Zander points out, you are much more likely to achieve the traditional measures of success in the world of possibility than you are in the world of measurement, because you are focussed more on what “could be” rather than focussing on what you “don’t have.”

Ask yourself the following question:

How are my thoughts and actions, in this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

Practice 3: Giving An A

This practice is best explained by example.

When Ben Zander is teaching a class at the New England Conservatory of Music, he finds that his students carry a lot of stress and anxiety about their performances. Most of it due to their worry about their grades.

When you are teaching a class where creativity and being in the moment are key, that stress gets in the way. Big time.

So, to remove the stress, Zander gives everybody in the class an A before the semester even begins. In order to keep the A grade, the simply have to write a letter to him by the end of the semester detailing what they had done to earn the A, how they had grown throughout the year and what kind of person they had become.

For the students, this was transformative. They now had a bright future to live into, causing them to grow and develop in ways that they never thought possible.

This is kind of like the principle from How To Win Friends and Influence People – give people a fine reputation to live up to, but with a twist. As Zander says, this is not an expectation to live up to, it’s a possibility to live into.

Here’s the best part – you can do this with anybody in your life – including yourself. So give yourself an A. Give that coffee barista an A. Give your boss an A. And see them suddenly start acting like it.

Practice 4: Being a Contribution

Zander starts off this practice by describing the story of a young girl throwing previously stranded starfish back into the sea. A man walking down the beach stops to mock her by pointing out that the beach is littered with them and asks her what difference her efforts could possibly make.

Smiling, she says that “it certainly makes a difference to this one.”

Just as this girl invented a story where she was a contribution to the world, so too must we if we want to live in the world of possibility.

This practice, Zander says, involves inventing oneself as a contribution and others as well.

There are two steps:

  1. Declare yourself to be a contribution.
  2. Dive into life as somebody who makes a difference, with the realisation that you may not understand how or why right at this moment.

What this does is create a shift in our thinking – away from self-concern and towards a relationship with others. That’s where you are called to make a difference.

Practice 5: Leading from Any Chair

The conductor is not the only leader of an orchestra. No matter which chair you are in, in an orchestra or in a company, you can make a difference as a leader.

How do you do this?

As Zander points out, there are many ways to lead. You can energise the rest of the orchestra by showing your newfound appreciation for the tasks of the conductor. Or you can, almost immediately, change your mind about somebody and view them as somebody who desires to be a contribution.

There’s a quote from a student at the Walnut Hill School in the book that I think summarises this practice best:

“Today was exceptional in that I learned leadership is not a responsibility – nobody has to lead. It’s a gift, shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters. It’s in the eyes, the voice, this swelling song that warms up from the toes and tingles with endless possibilities. Things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love, and give it everything.” Amanda Burr

Practice 6: Rule Number 6

This practice is very straightforward: Don’t take yourself so g–damn seriously.

Or, in other words, lighten up a bit. When you do, it releases yourself from your ego and all of your self-limiting beliefs.

Even better, you’ll find that if you put this practice into play, many of the other people in your life will start to do the same.

In the process, your true self (what the Zanders call the ‘central self’) comes out, and the world seems to be a lot more cooperative with your demands.

Principle 7: The Way Things Are

This practice is all about being present to your reality.

Most people approach their reality in one of two ways.

Some people practice accepting things they way they are. This is a resigned state that leaves you powerless to take action and change your circumstances.

Some other people try and achieve some higher plane of existence so that they can transcend negativity. This is simply ignoring the way things are, which also leaves you powerless to take action and change your circumstances.

There is a third way, and that is being present to the way things are, including your feelings about the way things are.

This practice is a search for reality, and it requires us to distinguish between our assumptions, our feelings and the facts.

There are three questions to ask yourself in this practice:

  1. What is here now?
  2. What else is here now?
  3. What do I want to do from here?

What this does is create the conditions for possibility. You can imagine multiple solutions to your problem, which is ultimately the only way you are going to change your circumstances.

Practice 8: Giving Way To Passion

In his wonderful TED talk, Ben Zander tells the story of the “two buttock” player. He noticed that one of his students sat straight as a rod on his piano stool, seemingly more concerned with his posture than the music he was playing.

Zander encouraged him to become a “one buttock” player, where the wave of music would flow through him, causing him to sway and eventually lift one buttock off of the piano stool.

This is a perfect metaphor for our lives. Most of us (including me) are far too concerned with how we look than letting ourselves go in the moment.

Here’s the key – most people are attracted to people with a zeal for life. This type of passion is contagious. There’s a voice in your head telling you that other people will think you are crazy for being a “one buttock person,” when in reality you’ll find that people will want to follow you wherever you go.

There are two steps to this practice.

  1. Notice where you are holding back, and let go of the barriers that keep you separate and in control. Let the passion surge through you.
  2. Participate wholly.

You’ll be amazed at the possibilities that show up in your life when you do.

Practice 9: Lighting a Spark

This practice is all about helping others find their passion and creating possibilities in their lives.

Sometimes, people will say no to your crazy ideas, no matter how much passion you put into your communication.

This practice has four steps:

  1. Imagine that people are an invitation for enrollment. People want to believe in possibilities – imagine that they are inviting you to enrol them.
  2. Be ready to participate – willing to be moved and inspired.
  3. Offer what lights you up.
  4. Believe that others are eager to catch the spark.

Practice 10: Being the Board

This practice involves taking 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life.

The Zanders suggest that we declare “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.”

This approach is much different than the one that most of us take most of the time – to decide who is to blame for our bad circumstances.

Instead, the question we want to ask ourselves is “how is it that I have become a context for that to occur?”

Ignoring the awkward language, the idea here is simple – the only thing you can control in any situation is yourself. By eliminating the automatic reaction of focussing on things and people outside your control – which offer no hope of possibility – you focus on yourself which immediately opens up new possibilities to change your circumstances.

The metaphor here is that rather than viewing yourself as a piece on a chess board, you view yourself as the board itself.

It’s a powerful approach to life.

Principle 11: Creating Frameworks For Possibility.

This practice is about setting frameworks that create environments that create possibility.

The Zanders quote Martin Luther’s “I have a dream” speech to set the tone.

Dr. King was creating a world of possibility for the millions of people who would hear his message.

Your role as a leader is to do the same – to create a framework of possibility that those around you want to help create.

There are three steps to this practice:

  1. Make a new distinction in the realm of possibility. For Dr. King it was “equality of opportunity… of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character,” among other things. What world of possibility are you opening for people around you?
  2. Enter the territory. Embody the person you would need to be if that possibility were true, today.
  3. Keep the possibility alive by continually distinguishing what is on and off track.

Principle 12: Telling the “We” Story

This principle is all about moving from “us and them” to “we.”

As the Zanders point out, history is basically one long record of conflict between an Us and a Them. Nation against nation, one political party against another, labour against management and so on.

However, in almost any situation, we have more in common than we do differences and when you focus on the WE, things immediately change and new possibilities emerge.

So ask yourself questions like:

  • What do WE want to have happen here?
  • What is best for US?
  • What is OUR next step?

Make that your default stance and you will be living in a world of abundance and possibility.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s book 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 for more information

Book Summary of ‘PsychoCybernetics’​ by Maxwell Maltz

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon. As he was treating his patients, he noticed something very interesting.

Many of his patients left his care not only with a new face, but a new life. Suddenly, with a scar removed or a facial feature changed, their entire personality changed. Immediately.

Other patients he treated showed no change in personality at all. They continued to feel inadequate, and continued to act and behave as though they still had an “ugly” face.

It was if, Maltz recounts, as if personality itself had a “face.” As he began to research this, he uncovered what would later form the outline of this book.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as I take a look at how self-image is the key to your potential in your business and in your life.


Maltz tells us that one of the most important discoveries of this century is the discovery of the “self-image.” It’s the mental blueprint we carry around of ourselves – your belief of “the kind of person” you are.

It’s something you might not even be consciously aware of, but it directs your every waking thought and action.

Most of these beliefs come from our past experiences. Our successes and failures over time build up a detailed picture of who we think we are, and then, on day, we treat it as fact.

There are two things about your self-image that are important to understand.

First, all of your actions, feelings, and behaviour are consistent with your self-image. You will always act like the person you believe yourself to be.

Second, your self-image can be changed. And as soon as you change it, you can have a new life.

Your Creative Mechanism

Maltz suggests that we each have something inside us he calls a Creative Mechanism. It’s a goal-striving machine that works automatically and impersonally to achieve whatever goals you put in front of it.

The most powerful thing it works on, without you even knowing it, are the mental pictures you present it. Which means that the key goal of this mechanism is to fulfill whatever self-image you have of yourself.

Tell yourself you are a failure and this mechanism will get to work to make sure you are a failure. Tell yourself you are a success and it will get to work to make sure you are a success.

Here is the key idea from the entire book: your self-image prescribes “the area of the possible.” You can only achieve in your life what you believe you can achieve.

This is one of those blatantly obvious statements that also has the ability to completely change your mindset about something.

The rest of the book is about how to change your self image, so you can enlarge your area of possibility and thus change your life.

The Success Mechanism

The first insight into the “success mechanism” is that it is something that you use, not something that happens to you. You have control over what you direct it to do.

There are 5 basic principles you need to understand about it how it works.

  1. It must have a goal or a target. It operates by steering you toward a goal that is already in existence.
  2. It operates on end goals, regardless of whether or not you have the means already figured out.
  3. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Much like a torpedo finds its target by making hundreds of small adjustments along the way, so will you in the pursuit of your goals.
  4. Success is achieved by keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. Remembering your past successes and forgetting your past errors keeps you pointed in the right direction.
  5. You need to figure out how to let your mechanism do its work and not force it by too much conscious effort.

Imagination and Success

If you are in control of the thoughts you bring to mind, the thoughts you bring to mind determine your self image and your self image determines what is possible for you to do, it follows that you are in completely control over your destiny. Or at least in what is possible for you to accomplish.

That’s because you will always act and fee in accordance to what you believe to be true about yourself and your environment.

Science now knows that there is very little difference between an imagined experience and a real experience. To your mind, they are one and the same.

So, Maltz challenges us, if what we imagine to be true can ultimately drive what believe to be true, why not just imagine yourself being successful?

Multiple studies have shown that people who mentally rehearse themselves successfully completing an action (like free throws in basketball) ultimately end up performing at the same level as people who have actually practiced.

Here’s the point – until you can literally see yourself achieving your goal in your mind, you won’t allow yourself to do what is necessary in order to achieve it. You need to see it to believe it.

This is why visualising success is so important. You are literally changing your self image in the process, which changes your behaviours and actions, which ultimately is the only thing that’s going to get you from where you are today to where you want to go.

Dehypnotise Yourself from False Beliefs

Whether you like it or not, life is full of failures. How you deal with them makes all the difference.

You can either learn from your failures or you can let them define you. Along the way, it’s likely that you’ve picked up some negative beliefs about yourself because of your past failures.

That generates, in one way or another, a feeling of inferiority in those areas of your life. It’s important to note that there’s a distinction between inferiority (which implies a truth about you) and the feeling of inferiority (which does not).

The problem, Maltz suggests, is that we constantly compare ourselves to somebody else’s “norm” and when we do that, we always come out second best.

Here’s the insight – you are not inferior, any more than you are superior. You are simply you. There is nobody else on this planet that is in your exact circumstances, in the same stage of life, with the same surroundings, as you and as Jordan Peterson suggests in 12 Rules for Living (see one of my earlier book summaries), the only reasonable bar to hold yourself to account to is the one you set yesterday.

The key to letting go of your negative beliefs about yourself is that you do it without effort. Any effort you make resisting a negative belief only serves to reinforce it. You simply need to “let it go” and replace the old belief with a new one.

The Power of Rational Thinking

There’s a belief, Maltz says, that rational and conscious thinking has no power over unconscious processes or mechanism and that in order to change negative beliefs you need to spend a lifetime in a couch uncovering nasty secrets from your childhood.

However, this simply isn’t true. Your success mechanism is completely impersonal and has no will of its own. It’s only task is to work on the things that you put in front of it and you can do this with rational thinking.

In fact, you can think of your conscious thought as the “control knob” of your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind only works on the data you feed it – the ideas, beliefs, interpretations and beliefs you consciously give it.

You’ve likely heard the saying “act as if.” Unfortunately it usually comes in the form of somebody telling you that you can become a millionaire if you “act as if” you are a millionaire.

Regardless of whether or not that saying was co-opted by marketers preying on fragile egos is beside the point.

Here’s an example to prove the point. Let’s say you are nervous about public speaking and you are dreading an upcoming presentation you need to make. It’s within your control to say to yourself, “I’m the kind of person who enjoys public speaking and those butterflies in my stomach are a sign that I’m excited. Not only that, but I perform at my best when those butterflies are there.”

Ideas are changed, Maltz says, not by will, but by other ideas.

If the only mental picture you have to operate on is “I’m a bad public speaker and I’m nervous and afraid I’m going to lose my ability to speak,” your unconscious mind gets to work making it a reality.

Instead, you can replace that image with a different, better, one.

Sometimes it’s hard to break old habits and because you are so used to the old mental picture, it will still rear its ugly head from time to time. You can use rational thought to battle these thoughts too.

For instance, let’s say that you still have the belief that you are a bad public speaker. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there any rational reason for such a belief?
  2. Could it be that I’m mistaken in this belief?
  3. Would I come to the same conclusion about some other person in a similar situation?
  4. Why should I continue to act and feel as if this were true if there is no good reason to believe it?

Truly wrestle with these questions and you’ll almost always find that you are not dealing with facts, but with some irrational belief you have about yourself.

Freeing Your Creative Machinery

One of the things that your mind is great at is generating ideas. It does it by forming connections between previously disconnected ideas in your mind and putting them together in creative ways.

In order to be creative, though, you need to ensure that you produce the right environment. It’s no different than how a poet or a musician needs the right environment if they are going to create their best art.

Maltz tells us that there are five rules to ensure that you free up your creative machinery in order to do it’s work.

  1. Do the worrying before you place your bet, not after the wheel starts turning. That’s a roulette metaphor for those of you keeping score at home. Once an event is out of your control, worrying about the outcome is a waste of time. Do your worrying up front instead.
  2. Form the habit of consciously responding to the present moment. Your creative mechanism can only work right now – it doesn’t work in the past or the future. Focus your attention on the information that is in front of you, right now.
  3. Try and do only one thing at a time.
  4. Sleep on it. If you’ve ever woken up with a solution to a problem that seemed impossible the night before, you know why this is important.
  5. Relax while you work.

You’ll notice that all of these rules add up to creating a relaxed and distraction free environment for your mind (both your conscious and unconscious) to work creatively on whatever it is you want to work on.

Ingredients of the Success Type Personality

Finally, as we wrap up this summary, let’s cover what Maltz calls the ingredients of the “Success-Type,” which, not surprisingly, uses an acronym that spells SUCCESS.

These are the things you should consciously try and create in your day to day life to keep your success mechanism working towards your biggest goals.

S: Sense of direction. Your success mechanism needs to be pointed in a direction. Pick one.

U: Understanding. To deal effectively with a problem, you must have an understanding of its true nature. Be willing to see the truth, no matter how good or bad it might be. You can consciously eliminate bad beliefs, but you can’t eliminate bad facts, no matter how much mental power you think you have.

C: Courage. You need to have the courage to act out on your new beliefs.

C: Charity. Successful people have some regard for other people’s needs and interests.

E: Esteem. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to work building up an adequate self-image.

S: Self-Confidence. Confidence is built on an experience of success. Remember your past successes so that you can create more of them in the future.

S: Self-Acceptance. You are human and will make mistakes. Accept that. You are not your mistakes. You must correct them and learn from them, but you are not them.

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 for more information

Book Summary of ‘Daring Greatly’​ by Brene Brown

Brene Brown starts off her book Daring Greatly with the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The rest of the book deals with what it means to be in the ring and dare greatly.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore why daring greatly is such short supply these days, and what we can do to create more of it in ourselves and the people we lead.

**The Problem: A Culture of Scarcity**

Why don’t we have more “people in the ring?”

Brown suggests it’s because we live in a culture of scarcity, which has three distinct components. Here are some questions to consider to determine whether or not you are working in an organisation where there is a culture of scarcity.

1. Shame

Is fear of being made fun of used to manage people and keep them in line? Is the self-worth of the people who work with you connected to achievement, productivity, or compliance? Do you often find people blaming each other for problems? Is name calling an acceptable norm?

2. Comparison

As Brown points out, there’s a difference between health comparison and unhealthy comparison. Is there constant comparing and ranking of people at your company? Are people judged only by narrow standards and not recognised for their unique contributions to the team?

3. Disengagement

Are people afraid to try new things and take risks? In meetings, is it easier for you and others to stay quiet in meetings rather than share stories, experiences or ideas? When you do share, does it feel like nobody is paying attention or listening carefully?

If you answered yes to some or all of those questions, it’s likely that you are participating in a culture of scarcity.

Why are so many organisations like that? It has a lot to do with how we perceive and view vulnerability in our culture.

**Myths of Vulnerability**

Daring Greatly requires us to be vulnerable, which means that we leave ourselves open to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

There are 4 myths of vulnerability that have led us to, as a culture, view it as something to be avoided at all costs.

*Myth 1: Vulnerability is Weakness*

To speak up when we don’t understand. To do push to the edges of our ability to see what we are truly made of, even though we will most likely fail. To share when we are struggling with something so that we can get help.

Unfortunately, in our culture, those things are considered weaknesses. You are supposed to hit your goals, know the answers, and keep a positive attitude at all times.

However, only the strong can admit when they are struggling and push themselves to the limits of their abilities, exposing themselves to certain and constant failure.

Brown knows this from her research, because when people describe what vulnerability feels like, they describe things that look an awful lot like strength instead of weakness:

– Asking for help

– Saying no

– Starting my own business

– Helping my wife with cancer prepare her will

– Saying “I love you” first

– Trying something new

– Getting pregnant after three miscarriages

– Waiting for the biopsy to come back

– Exercising in public when I’m out of shape

*Myth #2: I don’t do vulnerability*

Brown starts off this section with a great quote from Madeleine L’Engle:

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

It’s easy to tell yourself that you “don’t do” vulnerability – that’s for other people. That’s for children.

But, of course, there’s no way to avoid it in life. As Brown says, we don’t do vulnerability, vulnerability does us.

*Myth #3: Vulnerability is Putting it All Out*

Vulnerability is not oversharing, talking to everybody you meet about your feelings and posting emotional messages on Facebook.

Rather, it’s sharing your feelings and experiences with the people who have earned the right to be in your inner circle. Vulnerability is something to be shared with people you can trust.

As Brown points out, trust is something that is built “one marble at a time,” which is a reference to a concept she calls “The Marble Jar.” Basically, trust is not a single grand gesture, but something that gets built by small and consistent deposits over time – like remembering somebody’s birthday, keeping secrets when you are asked to, and sensing when somebody is sad and asking them why.

*Myth #4: We Go at it Alone*

We live in a culture that celebrates individual achievement. However, vulnerability isn’t one of those things you want to do by yourself.

You’ll need somebody by your side to help pick you up and dust yourself off. You’ll need people that will let you try on different ways of being as you get used to expressing yourself in new ways.

Vulnerability is a team sport.

**Understanding and Combatting Shame**

What’s standing in our way from becoming more vulnerable?

Shame. It’s the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

It’s the silent killer of hopes and dreams, because it’s the biggest killer of creativity and innovation.

Let’s say that you’ve written an article, designed a product or created a piece of music and you want to share it with your friends or colleagues.

When your sense of self-worth is tied up in how your project is received, one of two things happen:

1. Once you realise (consciously or subconsciously) that your self-worth is tied to how they respond, you are unlikely to share it. Or sand off all of the rough edges of the idea to make it more likely not to be rejected.

2. You do share it fully, and when the reception isn’t what you had hoped, you are crushed. Your shame tells you that it was a bad idea to share your ideas and that “next time we’ll know better than to share our ideas.”

Brown tells us that there are three things that we need to know about shame.

1. We all have it. It’s one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience and the only people who don’t experience it have no capacity for human connection.

2. We are all afraid to talk about shame.

3. The less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives.

What do we do to combat shame as it shows up in our day to day lives?

1. Recognise shame and understand what triggers it in you. Shame comes along with some physical signs, which only you’ll be able to spot. When it happens, examine what happened immediately before the feeling. What events or messages triggered the shame?

2. Practicing critical awareness. Do a reality check about the events or messages that triggered it. Are the expectations you placed on yourself reasonable and attainable?

3. Reaching out. Share your story with the people in your circle of trust.

4. Speaking shame. When you are connecting with that person, talk not just about the event but also how it makes you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in that moment.

**The Vulnerability Armory**

When we were children, we found a lot of different ways to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. From being hurt and disappointed.

We used our thoughts, emotions and behaviour as weapons and how to make ourselves blend in or disappear.

As adults, we have to let go of that baggage so we can be ourselves again. It’s the only way to “be in the arena.”

Here are some of the vulnerability shields we might have used in the past and how we can replace it with Daring Greatly to finally let them go.

*Foreboding Joy:*

It feels safer to feel nothing or wallow in our negative thoughts than it does to be happy and risk being seen. Too much joy equals pain.

The antidote for foreboding joy is gratitude for the happy moments and joyful events in our lives.


We use perfectionism as a shield by telling ourselves we’ll avoid shame once we get it perfect. Which, of course, we never do.

The antidote is to have compassion for yourself and a sense of worthiness, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.


A glass of wine before going to sleep, occupying all your free time with Netflix and anything else you use to escape from reality on a regular basis.

The antidote is to get in touch with your feelings and to learn how to deal with difficult emotions. It’s the only way to reliably deal with stress.

**Daring Greatly for Leaders**

So, what does all of that have to do with you being a better leader?


Through her research, Brown has spoken to thousands of people from all walks of life. As she was asking herself (and the people she was interviewing) what they would want to say to their leaders about the topic of vulnerability, they had this to say, which Brown calls the Daring Greatly Manifesto:

To the CEOs and teachers. To the principals and the managers. To the politicians, community leaders, and decision-makers:

– We want to show up, we want to learn and we want to inspire.

– We are hardwired for connection, curiosity and engagement.

– We crave purpose and we have a deep desire to create and contribute.

– We want to take risks, embrace our vulnerabilities and be courageous.

– When learning and working are dehumanised – when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform, we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas and our passion.

What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us and learn from us.

Feedback is a function of respect; when you don’t have honest conversations with us about our strengths and our opportunities for growth, we question our contributions and your commitment.

Above all else, we ask that you show up, let yourself be seen and be courageous. Dare Greatly with us.

So, if that’s what your people want to see from you, what’s the solution?

Brown calls it “sitting on the same side of the table.” Basically, it’s a set of rules to tell you how to be present when you need to give feedback to one of the people under your charge.

Here’s how you know that you are ready to give feedback that creates the environment for Daring Greatly:

– You are ready to sit beside them, rather than across from them;

– You are willing to put the problem in front of both of you, rather than between you.

– You are ready to listen, ask questions and admit that you might not fully understand the issue;

– You what to acknowledge what they do well instead of focussing on their mistakes;

– You want to recognise their strengths and figure out how to use them to find and implement the right solution;

– You can hold them accountable with blaming or shaming them;

– You are willing to own your part of the problem;

– You can genuinely thank them for their efforts;

– You can talk about how resolving the challenges will lead to their growth and opportunity;

– You can model the vulnerability that you want to see in them.

If you are ready to do all that as a leader, you are ready to Dare Greatly.

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 for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Relationship Edge’ by Jerry Acuff

The Relationship Edge is a reminder that business always has, and always will be, about building relationships.

In this summary, we’ll learn what a valuable business relationship actually is, and how you can go about building them.

The payoff for following the principles you’ll learn in this summary and book are huge. Most importantly, you’ll have a systematic way to engage with people with whom you don’t naturally connect – people you meed for the first time, people you don’t know well, and people you haven’t connected with in a very long time.

What is a valuable business relationship?

Of course, it’s not enough to just build a relationship, because everybody . What we are talking about here are valuable business relationships.

The most valuable relationships, Acuff tells us, have lots of AIR – Access, Impact, and Results.

Access is exactly what you think it is. People will take your calls, answer your emails, and believe that any time with you is time well spent.

Impact means that you have you have an opportunity to influence the relationship in a positive manner, and vice versa.

Last but definitely not least, there’s results. Without it, you don’t have a great business relationship, you have some rapport or maybe a even a friendship. But not a successful business relationship.

When we have a valuable business relationship, people are proactively doing things to help each other succeed. It seems simple, but like in any pursuit, if you don’t focus on and master the basics, you’ll never succeed.

So that’s what a valuable relationship looks like, but that doesn’t tell us how to build them.

Building them includes mastering a conscious, systematic and routine process – having the right mindset, asking the right questions, and doing the right thing.

Of course, the process of building a relationship doesn’t happen overnight, and it will typically progress through six stages that Acuff calls the relationship pyramid.

The relationship pyramid

Here are the six stages, starting from the bottom of the pyramid and ending at the top:

  1. People who don’t know you by name;
  2. People who know you by name:
  3. People who like you;
  4. People who are friendly with you;
  5. People who respect you;
  6. People who value a relationship with you. This last step is your goal with any relationship you want to build to the highest level.

In any relationship you have you’ll probably recognise it at one of those stages. Before we move on to discuss how we can start moving up the pyramid, there are a few points to keep in mind.

First, movement up the pyramid doesn’t have to be sequential. You can’t skip any of the steps, but you can jump through multiple steps at once.

Second, it is a lot easier to move down the pyramid than going back up. Trust is a big issue in relationships, and once it’s gone, it’s tough to get back. So remember to continuously nurture the relationships that already have at the top of the pyramid.

Lastly, this process won’t work on everyone. Sometimes people just won’t want to have a relationship with you, no matter how hard you try. You need to learn to identify those situations, and move on when it it’s clear that you are up against a dead end.

Now let’s move on to the tools you can use in building a valuable business relationship.

Having the right mindset

Think well of yourself

As Acuff says in the book, to build any successful relationship, you must think well of yourself. If you can’t see yourself having a relationship with a high powered executive, you can’t have a relationship with a high powered executive.

Without the belief that you are capable of building relationships with the people you want to business relationships with, you won’t get very far.

Once we’ve got over that hurdle, we can move on to…

Think well of others

Zig Ziglar has a quote that is often repeated, and it’s worth repeating again here:

You can get everything you want in life if you simply help enough other people get what they want.

In order to do that, you need to have a genuine desire to help other people. If you don’t, the entire process of continuing to build relationships is going to burn you out, quickly.

Why? Because as Acuff says, relationships are built over time, and time is one of the most important elements of relationship building. Spending time with people is just part of the deal. The more time, the better.

Things that will make this better and easier for you when you spend time with people include:

  • having a natural curiosity about others;
  • focussing on others instead of yourself;
  • appreciating and understanding the other person’s points of view;
  • having a desire to make people feel important;
  • listening to other people because you want to hear.

For some people this just comes naturally. But it can also be taught. In the next section we are going to talk about asking the right questions, which will help you uncover information from people that will help you make a stronger connection with them, which will help you think better of them, which will make you want to spend more time with them, which will ultimately end with you building the relationship you want to build.

It all starts with…

Asking the right questions

The best way to make connections with people you are building relationships with is to find out what they treasure. As Acuff points out, if you know what and who people treasure, and you act on that information to show you know you care – they are much more likely to tell you want they need professionally.

The best way to find out what people treasure is to ask them questions. Lots of them.

Asking the right questions

Acuff lists out 20 questions you can use to get the ball rolling with anybody you meet:

  1. What do you do when you are not working?
  2. Where did you go to school (and how did you choose it)?
  3. Where did you grow up and what was it like growing up there?
  4. What was your high school like?
  5. What do you enjoy reading when you have the time?
  6. How did you decide to do [whatever it is they do for a living] for a living?
  7. Tell me something about your family.
  8. Where is your favourite place to vacation?
  9. What kind of vacation would you like to take that you have not taken?
  10. What community associations, if any, do you have time to be involved in?
  11. What sports, if any, do you enjoy participating in?
  12. What sports do you enjoy watching?
  13. If you could have tickets for any event, what would it be?
  14. How did you decide to settle in this area?
  15. Tell me something about yourself that would surprise me?
  16. What things would you really want to do more of, but don’t have time for?
  17. What challenges/issues in your work might I, or my company, be able to help you with?
  18. What is the most frustrating thing about being in your business these days?
  19. In your opinion, what two or three qualities make a top-notch [insert your job role here]?
  20. If all work paid the same and you could go around again, what would you do?

Of course, these are just some of the questions you can ask the people you meet.

If you want to create more questions, or make it easier to remember those 20, remember the acronym FORM. It stands for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation (as in what motivates them in life). Asking questions about those things will always get you to uncover the things that they treasure.

Asking these questions right

Once you have the right questions to ask, you need to make sure you ask them right.

There are two things you need to do in order to expect the questions to uncover anything of substance.

First, you need to create an atmosphere of comfort and safety. People will often feel more safe if you are open and share with them as well. For instance, after you ask somebody where they are from and they answer, you can respond by telling them where you are from and something about why you moved there.

Another technique for making people feel comfortable is to ask their permission to ask a question. For instance, you might say something like the following:

“Before I talk about my product, I thought it might make sense for me to ask you a different kind of question. Do you mind if I ask what you enjoy reading when you have the time?”

As Acuff points out, almost nobody will answer “no” to the permission question, giving you the ability to continue asking personal questions and building the relationship on a personal level.

The second thing you need to do is ask good questions. A good question doesn’t suggest an answer, and invites the person to answer openly and honestly.

When you transition from personal to business questions, the best questions are the one that gets your prospect to think differently about an issue than they did before.

Doing the right thing

As Acuff points out, relationships aren’t built on your mind-set or the information you gather, they are built on your actions. Ultimately, you don’t build them on what you say, but on what you do and how you do it.

One way to show that you value a relationship is to give inexpensive, unexpected and thoughtful gifts based on information they have shared with you. Let’s say that somebody told you that they really enjoy a particular author’s work. And let’s say that you happen to be at a conference where that author is presenting. You might suck it up and stand in line to get an autographed copy of the book to send to them.

But as Acuff points out, gifts like golf balls, pens or coffee mugs with your logo on them don’t count. Neither do things like dinner or taking somebody out golfing. Those things don’t show any special thought or care for the person you trying to get closer to – those are expected on thoughtless gifts.

Other things you can do to show you care about them is remembering important dates like their birthday or wedding anniversary, important family names, or special interests the person might have.

Being alert for when something relating to those things pops up, and acting on it in a timely manner, will go a long way in building the relationship.

Another thing that most people value highly in a business relationship context is access to people they view as important. So if you know somebody that the other person respects and looks up to, find a way to connect them to that person.

You can also remain alert to major events in their lives. Things like a marriage, promotion, or a negative event like a serious illness or business downturn stand out here. When it comes to the negative major events, most people turn away. If you are genuinely trying to build a real relationship with these people, being there for them in good times and bad are opportunities to bring you even closer.

Pyramid Hopping

Building relationships takes time and work. But sometimes there’s a path to accelerate the process, and it’s called pyramid hopping.

This is when you actively pursue contacts by leveraging the relationships you have with people on your Relationship Pyramid.

The higher you are on someone’s Pyramid, the stronger the endorsement you are likely to get when her or she introduces you to the person you are trying to connect with.

As Acuff says, it’s the difference between “I don’t know him very well, but I’ve been in some meetings with him and it seems like you two might have something in common” and “You need to meet Jerry because he can help you.”

Just like everything else to do with relationships, it works better if you have a strategy. The heart of the strategy involves three steps.

First, you need to uncover who has you at the top of their pyramid. You should have a pretty good sense of this already. But to be clear, it doesn’t include every one of your 500+ LinkedIn connections.

Second, you need to uncover who is at the top of those people’s pyramids. Those are the people you’ll most likely get a strong introduction to. This typically requires asking them specifically who they know in a particular field that you want an introduction to.

Third, when you ask for the introduction, you need to be as specific as possible about what you are asking for. The more specific you make your request, the more likely it is that you’ll get the introduction you are looking for.


As we continue to dive deeper into technology and tools designed to help us create connections with people, it’s easy to forget that we still need to build real relationships with people based on principles that work.

Building and maintaining meaningful relationships has always been, and always will be, critical to your success in business or your career.

So, as we wrap up today, think about one specific action you can take to climb your way to the top of the relationship pyramid with just one of your contacts. Do that, and then keep doing that every single day for the rest of your life.

Eventually, you’ll get to exactly where you want to go.

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

Book Summary of ‘The Leadership Gap’ by Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal has seen it all in her years as an executive coach. She’s spent countless hours in boardrooms, executive suites and corporate jets. She’s helped leaders navigate both success and failure.

Through her work she has identified the one thing that separates the best from the rest – great leaders have the ability to rethink who they are. Many leaders get stuck because they rely on what has worked for them in the past, even when it is no longer working. Great leaders, on the other hand, are open to learning and growing to better serve the people they lead.

In her book The Leadership Gap, she introduces us to a system of seven archetypes that will help view yourself objectively so that you can identify the gaps you face as you work towards greatness.

You’ll see parts of yourself in each of these archetypes. We shift between them depending on the situation.

But you’ll also recognise yourself in what Lolly describes as leadership gaps. These gaps sometimes lead us to the “shadow side” of our leadership archetypes, ultimately holding us back from becoming successful.

Once you are able to see yourself objectively, you can start to create a path forward. That’s exactly what we’ll explore as we introduce you to each of the seven archetypes.

The Rebel

The Rebel is somebody who sees something that isn’t right in the world, and then does everything in his power to correct it. In a business context, you’ll notice them overcoming huge roadblocks to save project, or in extreme cases, a company.

When we think of rebels, we think of people like Rosa Parks and Elon Musk. They seem to ask themselves, “how can I push the envelope?” in every situation.

The rebel’s strength is self-confidence, backed up by competence. As Lolly points out, confidence alone is not sufficient. You need both in order to become great as a rebel leader.

The rebel’s leadership gap is self-doubt – in most cases, the irrational kind. Almost every high achiever faces some degree of self-doubt. After all, they are trying to do what other people would not, or could not, do.

When self-doubt creeps in, it leads to the leadership gap archetype called The Imposter. It’s the never-ending sense that somehow you will be “found out.” It’s the need for perfection, when you know that perfection is impossible. It’s comparing yourself to others, when you know that there’s always somebody better, faster and stronger.

Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this gap and find your inner rebel when you need it most.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  2. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect.
  3. Make a list of your accomplishments to remind yourself that you are indeed capable of great things.
  4. Create an inner circle for support.
  5. Assess your skills and work on strengthening the skills that cause you to doubt yourself.
  6. Constantly remind yourself of the cause you are working towards. Self-doubt has a habit of disappearing in the face of a worthy cause.

The Explorer

The Explorer is somebody who knows when to rely on their analytical mind, but also when to rely on their intuition. In particular, they use their intuition to test the boundaries of what is known, and how things are currently done.

When we think of explorers, we think of people like Jeff Bezos, Sarah Blakely and Neil deGrasse Tyson. They seem to be always asking themselves, “what can I discover?”

The explorer’s strength is intuition. Intuition is knowledge based on experience, stored deeply in your brain, and available quickly on demand. Most people commonly refer to this as listening to their gut, but as Lolly explains, it’s a little more complicated than that.

The explorer’s leadership gap is manipulation. When people trust your intuition as a leader to guide them, it’s a slippery slope to use it to get whatever you want. Sometimes this leads to using intuition to manipulate others to gain their control.

When this happens, we end up with leadership gap archetype called The Exploiter. They will set themselves up as the expert in a situation even when they are not. They will withhold information from others, and they will often make threats to get what they want.

When you find yourself slipping from the Explorer to the Exploiter, there are a number of things you can remind yourself of to get you back on track:

  1. Look for opportunities to praise instead of prey. Don’t take advantage of other people’s weaknesses.
  2. Don’t make others give up something in order to serve your own self-interest.
  3. Mean what you say and say what you mean. The Exploiter will often say things other people want to hear, but aren’t quite true.
  4. Leverage your qualities as an Explorer – the power of self-assurance, the ability of persuasion, the capacity for decisiveness, and the quintessence of preparedness.

The Truth Teller

The Truth Teller is somebody who believes he owes it to the people in his life to be honest, open and sincere at all times. He will the tell truth when it serves others, even when he runs the risk of offending people.

When we think of truth tellers, we think of people like Ronald Reagan, Indra Nooyi, and Winston Churchill. They seem to be always asking themselves, “where should I speak up?”

The truth teller’s strength is candor, which one of the hardest things we can do. A research study at the University of Massachusetts showed that 60 percent of adults can’t complete a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. So, somebody who can speak the truth in all areas of their life is a rare bird indeed.

The truth teller’s leadership gap is suspicion. Truth tellers can easily succumb to the suspicion that those around them aren’t telling the truth. Then, little by little, it becomes easier to justify not telling the complete truth yourself.

Ultimately this path leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Deceiver. Deceivers are remarkably charming (it’s easier to be charming when you’re not restricted to the truth), they are emotionally manipulative, and wonderful at distraction. They are also notorious blamers and never take accountability for their actions.

If you find yourself identifying as a deceiver, here are some ways to get yourself back on track:

  1. Learn to be flexible. Deceivers tend to see the world in black and white.
  2. Communicate everything – the path to the deceiver often starts with withholding information, not outright lies.
  3. Look for solutions, not blame. When you create a culture where solutions are rewarded and mistakes aren’t punished, the truth can be told by everybody – including you.
  4. Model your own high standards – don’t tolerate liars and cheats.

The Hero

The Hero is somebody who takes action while others sit on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to step up. They act in spite of overwhelming odds and opposition. They are willing to put their careers (and sometimes lives) on the line for a shot at greatness.

When we think of heroes, we think of people like Justice Anthony Kennedy, Malala Yousafzai, and J.K. Rowling. People like this seem to always be asking themselves, “where is courage needed?”

The hero’s strength is courage. Science doesn’t yet understand why people take on heroic tasks, but we do know that it’s an activity that has distinct characteristics. It is performed in service of others in need, voluntarily, with the recognition of the risks, and without expectation of external gain.

The hero’s leadership gap shouldn’t surprise us – it’s fear. A hero in one situation can be paralysed by fear in another. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “fear defeats more people than anything in the world.”

Fear can lead to the leadership gap archetype of The Bystander. Why? It’s easier to watch things unfold rather than take action. What you don’t realise is that when you are a bystander to an injustice, you make it easier to rationalise being a bystander as well. It’s contagious, and it’s destructive.

If you find yourself tempted to be a bystander in a situation that calls for action, you can close the gap by doing the following:

  1. Create a bias for decisive action. As Susan Jeffers says, feel the fear and do it anyways.
  2. Stand tall, literally. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities have shown that practicing the “power pose” for a few minutes increases testosterone and lowers cortisol, making it more likely you’ll take action.
  3. Remind yourself that you are in control. You ultimately decide whether or not you take action

The Inventor

The Inventor is a visionary, constantly inventing new products, or improving existing ones. An inventor typically refuses to settle for anything else than excellence. They are experimenters, knowing that small bets pay off in big wins. They are also willing to fail in order to pursue those wins.

When we think of inventors, we think about people like Walt Disney, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Blake Mycoskie. They seem to be always asking the question “how can we make this better?”

The inventor’s strength is integrity. As Lolly says, in order to have integrity you need to know who you are, you need to know what you stand for, and you have to know what your code of conduct is. When an inventor has integrity, there is no stopping him.

The inventor’s leadership gap is corruption. Every single day you’ll face opportunities to let your integrity slide. The seven deadly sins – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony are good places to start.

Once your integrity starts to slip, you are on your way to becoming the leadership gap archetype The Destroyer. Instead of making the world better with their ideas, product and companies, they serve their own purposes and make things worse.

Here’s what to do to close the gap if you find yourself tempted to let your integrity slip:

  1. 1. Look for the good, not the bad. A destroyer tends to focus on the negative in any situation, which makes it harder to stick to your code of conduct.
  2. Set high personal standards, and avoid the temptation to cut corners, even when others aren’t looking.
  3. Get to know yourself. Integrity is created and maintained through constant self-examination.
  4. Honour your commitments.
  5. Take responsibility when you fall short on your commitments.

The Navigator

Navigators know where to go, and they know how to bring people with them. They have a way of making the complicated simple, and the simple understandable. Even more importantly, they know how to navigate themselves.

When we think of navigators, we think of people like Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. They seem to be always asking “how can we get to where we need to go?”

The navigator’s strength is trust. They trust in their own ability to lead, and they also know how to build trust in those around them. Trust allows people to open up without the fear of being hurt. To take the appropriate risks without the fear of reprimand.

The navigator’s leadership gap is arrogance. When you have a high level of trust in your ability to navigate an organisation towards success, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know it all. “I’ll just tell people what to do and they’ll do it” is something you might find a person like that saying.

This path ends up with the leadership archetype of The Fixer. As Lolly says, a fixer is a navigator that nobody trusts. The fixer feels the need to help save people from themselves instead of leading them. They micromanage.

Here’s what you can do to close the gap if you find yourself slipping into the fixer role:

  1. Learn to fix the fixer – start with fixing yourself.
  2. Be mindful of boundaries – don’t let yourself get swallowed up in other people’s challenges. Give them the opportunity to fend for themselves.
  3. Pay attention to communication, commitment, competence and character.
  4. Demonstrate trust by honouring, admiring, and appreciating those around you.

The Knight

The Knight is a loyal protector and defender with unwavering beliefs. Knights will stand beside you and serve you before they serve themselves.

When we think of knights we think of people like Mother Teresa, Herb Kelleher and Jill Abramson. They always seem to be asking themselves “how can I serve you?”

The knight’s strength is loyalty. Loyalty expert James Kane tells us that there are three specific things that determine whether or not we feel a sense of loyalty to another person, brand or organisation: (1) a sense of trust, (2) a sense of belonging, and (3) a sense of purpose. A knight taps into all three.

The knight’s leadership gap is self-serving. As human beings, we have a bias to serve ourselves first. One of the manifestations of that is to rationalise that what’s good for you is also good for others.

This often leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Mercenary. They have a lack of dedication to the cause, inadequate loyalty, and usually a shortage of competence.

Here are some ways you can get back on the path of the knight:

  1. Realise that thinking about serving others first is what ultimately leads to the highest levels of success.
  2. Pay attention to how people respond to you.
  3. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
  4. Get to know the people around you – it’s easier to serve people you connect with.
  5. Be honest with yourself. You can’t expect loyalty from others if you don’t model it yourself.


Being a leader is tough, and you will almost always find yourself in times of darkness. But as Desmond Tutu once said, “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

In those situations, you now have the tools to choose the light over the darkness by choosing the leadership archetype that the situation demands.

The rebel, explorer, truth teller, hero, inventor, navigator and knight are all inside you.

Make your choice, and make it a good one.

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

Book Summary of ‘Instant Influence’ by Michael Pantalon

Would the ability to influence your customers, your work colleagues, your partner or even your children be valuable to you? Michael Pantalon wrote the book Instant Influence to do just that. He gives us a scientifically supported method that gets people to take action because they want to. In fact, it’s even possible to use the Instant Influence methodology on yourself. Spend the next few minutes with me exploring how you can be a master of influence.

Can you motivate anyone in 7 minutes?

Have you ever found yourself wondering why the people in your life won’t change, despite the numerous logical reasons you’ve pointed out to them? As it turns out, that type of persuasion rarely – if ever – works. As Pantalon tells us, people change because of their own reasons. That’s the secret sauce of Instant Influence –it helps people discover their own justification for doing something, even something they thought they didn’t want to do.When someone genuinely doesn’t want to change, change won’t happen. But even the most reluctant of us has a tiny spark of desire to change hidden within. Helping us find that spark can literally transform our lives.


People take action when they hear themselves say that they want to. Get someone to tell you why and action to change is almost sure to follow. Pantalon uses this notion at the heart of his Instant Influence method and he extends it with the following four assumptions:

1. We are free to choose how we behave. 2. Other people can threaten that freedom by attempting to impose control. 3. We tend to react very negatively when our freedom is threatened, making us more resistant to the control being applied. 4. Our freedom can be restored by asserting self-determination and taking control ourselves.

The key point is how we frame our attempt to influence. We need to take the frame of our focus not our own. Our influencing conversation must contain statements such as:

“This is your choice, not mine.”

“It’s completely your decision.”

“You’re free to do whatever you want”

“I can’t make this choice for you – it’s up to you.”

All of these give power back to the influencee, brightens the spark and gives ignition to change.

Pantanlon’s Instant Influence method consists of six progressive steps leading to change. In challenging situations we may need to move through each stage. In other cases – having created the spark – the influencee takes control and accelerates the process themselves.

But let’s move step by step.

Step #1: Why might you change?

The first challenge we must meet is how to put the influencee in a position where they are able to visualise themselves in the desired situation. In most cases you will have identified what you want to change and what the desired outcome should look like. It’s not news to your family member who doesn’t have a healthy diet that continuing down that path might lead to health problems.

So you need to phrase questions in such a way as to challenge the influencee to see themselves in that scene. Instead of focussing on the negative behaviour, Pantalon suggests we look for desirable behaviour close to where we want to get to.

He suggests asking questions such as:

Why are you doing …..? (Where the focus is close to the target) for example, “Why did you choose salad today” for someone who wished to lose weight. Follow up with “Why would you do more?”

Pantanlon suggests we could focus on the past and ask: “Why have you ever[done the thing we’re talking about]?”

There are some questions we need to avoid especially as we have identified, those which sound like orders:

Why don’t you…? Why haven’t you…? Why wouldn’t you…?

Pantalon then suggests we use a technique psychologists and counselors call reflection. Reflection is the process of repeating back, or echoing, what the other person has just said, as if you are holding up a mirror to his words. We need to reflect back even the tiniest spark of motivation to help the other person see more clearly what it is he already wants. Having kindled the spark we need to give it more oxygen.

Step #2: How ready are you to change?

The next step starts with the deceivingly simple question: on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means “not ready at all” and 10 means “totally ready”, how ready are you to make that change? The goal of Step 2 is to help you and the other person gauge their motivation.

Pantalon suggests we don’t attach too much importance to the numbers. A low number doesn’t mean that they’re not likely to take action, nor does a high number mean that they are likely to take action. What’s important isn’t the number but the process of thinking about why they might want to do something.

We then move quickly to…

Step #3: Why didn’t you pick a lower number?

This is where the technique gets interesting. Why would someone who they think is trying to encourage them to do more ask why we didn’t do less? If somebody picks a low number, this will usually stop them in their tracks. Then they’ll start thinking of the reasons why they didn’t choose a “1” instead of a “3”.

This is where the person starts to uncover some real reasons why they are ready to change. The critical part is that the reasons for change are coming out of their mouth and not yours. They are no longer being told what to do and will now feel like they are ready to make a change because they want to. This is incredibly powerful stuff.

Step #4: Imagine you’ve changed. What would the positive outcomes be?

Here’s where we start to crystalise the benefits of change. We can suggest that the change has already happened and encourage the person to visualise the change in detail. Ask them what would be different in their life. What would they be able to do now that they’ve changed that they couldn’t do before?

If you feel like things are going really well, you can even ask them to give a deadline of when you think the change would be complete. Pantanlon’s research has shown that people are far more likely to change if they think of the upside of changing, rather than the downside of not changing.

Step #5: Why are those outcomes important to you

In step 5 we are getting close to visible change itself. But before then we need to once more take the frame of the influencee. Pantalon asks us to ask them to dig deep for reasons to make the change. The familiar Five Whys technique is of value here. Ask, “Why are those outcomes important to you?” and for each answer ask why.

By the time you’ve got to the fifth why, you’ve most likely reached a true personal reason, close to the heart of the influence. Don’t be surprised if they become emotional at this stage. It’s sometimes quite a journey. Invariably, the answers move almost magically from the practical and impersonal to the heartfelt and deeply personal.

Again, the technique of reflection is valuable. The influencee needs to hear back how you understand how they’re hopeful, what they want, why they want it and how they truly believe things could be better.

Step #6: What’s the next step, if any?

The final step no longer looks at the whys, but turns to the hows. “What’s the next step, if any?” Adding those two little words – if any – is another way to reinforce the other person’s autonomy: it’s still up to her to decide whether there will be a next step.Now you are ready for one final action.

Ask their permission to meet again after an appropriate time has elapsed to review progress and to re-commit to the change. As stated, it’s likely that all six steps may not be necessary. Taking a structured approach to encourage change can often be the trigger for the influencee to take control themselves.

Influencing yourself

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about influencing others, but you can also use the Instant Influence technique to influence yourself. Here is Pantalon’s self-influence process:

Identify a change you’d like to make or an action you’d like to take. Formulate it in terms of behaviour, not results.

Write down the first Instant Influence question (Why might I change?), and then write down your answer. Move on to the next step, writing down your answers until you reach Step 5.

When you get to Step 5, write “Why?” then answer. Repeat four more times so that you’ve asked and answered the “five whys.”

When you reach Step 6, choose a small, manageable step, and pick a time that you will check back in with yourself to review your progress and choose a next step.

Advice for applying the method

Start small. Keep looking for smaller and smaller beginning steps until you find one that feels safe or that you can at least visualise doing.

Allow for the possibility that any problem might have many different solutions.

Focus on action, not decisions. We often focus too much on the how when we really should be looking at the why. But sometimes the how is the problem, and acquiring skills may be all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.

Don’t judge or self-censor. Just be open to the process.

Prepare to be surprised. You will almost certainly learn something new about your own reasons for wanting something.

Trust the process. You may find yourself taking action almost without realising it, so don’t feel you need to force yourself.

Have you consulted an expert? Experts may be able to identify whether the problem is one of skill or will.

Motivation is like a seed that sprouts and begins to grow while still underground. We may know it’s there, but we don’t always trust that one day it will break through to the light.

Affirm the influencee’s right to say no. Affirm their ownership of the decision.

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

Book Summary of ‘Make It Stick’ by Marc McDaniel

The first line in the preface of Make It Stick says it all:

“People generally are going about learning in the wrong ways.”

There is plenty of research done by cognitive psychologists to show that most of what we’ve learned about learning turns out to be wasted effort at best, and harmful at worst.

In this summary we are going to cover (a) what learning is, (b) what doesn’t work in learning, and (c) multiple strategies for making your learning more effective.

Your journey to making your learning “stick” begins now.

What Is Learning?

The definition the authors give for learning is this:

Acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.

Then they go on to explain their three immutable aspects of learning:

  1. To be useful, learning requires memory, so what we’ve learned is still there later when we need it.
  2. We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives. Just like we can’t advance through middle school without some mastery of language arts, maths, science, and social studies, we can’t advance in work without mastering job skills and how to deal with difficult colleagues. Then, in retirement (if you ever end up retiring) you pick up new interests you need to master. You have an advantage in life if you continuously learn.
  3. Finally, learning is an acquired skill, and the most effective strategies are often counterintuitive.

Learning Is An Acquired Skill

Learning is most definitely an acquired skill, and in order to develop it, you need to believe that you can do it. Carol Dweck calls this the Growth Mindset in her fantastic book Mindset, which you should most definitely read.

Every time you learn something new, you actually change your brain. This is called neuroplacticity, which is a scientific term that describes the lasting change to the brain throughout your life.

So while it’s true that some of your intelligence is determined by your genes, it’s also true that you can learn to become a more effective learner.

How well you learn, which will become an increasingly important skill in the next ten years, is completely within your control.

Understanding this, along with understanding how to deal with failure (where the most important learning occurs), will determine the trajectory of your life.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to what doesn’t work in learning.

What Doesn’t Work

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

– a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain

Before we move into what works about learning, we have to unlearn a lot of the things we thought we knew about learning.

The strategies that most people use in order to get through school with passing grades are often the least effective strategies if your goal is to actually learn the material.

The first ineffective strategy is rereading. The strategy most people employ when studying for their tests are to reread the notes they took in class along with the books that they read during a course.

The authors point out that rereading has three strikes against it:

  1. It’s time consuming;
  2. It doesn’t result in durable memory (you’ll forget what you reread shortly after rereading it)
  3. It often involves a kind of self-deception, where you feel a growing familiarity with the content, which you mistake for mastery of the subject.

For those reasons, you should stop using rereading as one of your strategies.

The second ineffective strategy is called massed practice, which is the single-minded, rapid-fire repetition of something you are trying to burn into memory. The most common application of this strategy can be found in students cramming for an exam the night before.

As the authors point out, these strategies will make you feel like you are mastering these subjects, but you are not. For true mastery of a subject, those two strategies are a waste of time.

In addition to those two ineffective strategies, there’s a commonly quoted theory that people have a learning style that they learn best through.

For instance, some people are auditory learners and some other people are visual learners, and so on. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing there is no empirical research that backs up that claim.

However, there is research that suggests you’ll learn better when you engage as many of your senses as possible when you are learning.

Now that we’ve got what doesn’t work out of the way, let’s move on to what does.

What Works #1: Retrieval

Practicing retrieving new learning from memory is the primary study strategy to replace rereading.

As you are learning something, instead of just highlighting things you want to remember, pause periodically and ask yourself questions like:

  • what are the key ideas?
  • what terms or ideas are new to me?
  • how do the ideas relate to what I already know?

This works much better for a few reasons.

First, it eliminates the reliance on the sense of mastery you’ll feel because the subject matter is familiar.

Second, you find out what you actually know. If you don’t actually understand how the knowledge might connect with other knowledge you have, you haven’t really wrestled with it and fully understand it. And now you’ll be armed with where you don’t quite understand the subject, and can go back and deepen your understanding.

Third, it forces you to understand the central precepts of what you are learning rather than on the peripheral items.

As the authors point out, your brain is not a muscle that gets stronger, but the neural pathways in the brain do get stronger when you retrieve from your memories – which is what you do when you quiz yourself.

When you start doing this for the first time it will feel awkward and frustrating. It’s also likely that it won’t feel as productive as rereading your notes.

What Works #2: Space Out

Your learning is much stronger when the retrieval practice is spaced out. So, in addition to testing yourself shortly after you learn something, you’ll continue to test yourself on the knowledge over time.

In order to put this into practice, you’ll need to overcome your natural inclination to focus on one subject and work on it until you’ve “mastered” it.

Your intuition will tell you that you are making progress, which will reinforce your belief that your strategy is working.

However, you’ll fail to see that almost all of these gains are coming from your short-term memory, which will quickly fade over time.

Instead, by spacing your retrieval practice, you’ll be able to retrieve the knowledge more readily, in more varied settings, and apply it to a wider variety of problems.

You know, in a way that is actually useful to you as you try strive to accomplish your goals in our business and life.

Again, this way of learning is going to feel more awkward and difficult than cramming. But when you are reconstructing what you learn from your long-term memory, you are strengthening your mastery of the topic.

What Works #3: Interleaving

Interleaving is the practice of two or more subjects or skills during a single session.

Here’s the example the authors give in the book. Suppose you are trying to teach new employees a complicated new process that involves ten procedures.

The typical way of doing this is to master procedure 1, repeating it until you seem to have it down, and then move on to procedure 2, and so on.

Interleaving practice would suggest that you practice procedure 1 a few times, then switch to procedure 4, then to 3, then back to 1, and so on.

Doing it this way will feel slower than ploughing through the procedures one by one, and you’ll notice a difference, but the goal isn’t for you to have the topic in your short-term memory, it’s to master it and implant it into your long-term memory.

The research shows unequivocally that for mastery and long-term retention, interleaving practice is the way to go.

There’s another benefit that both variation and interleaving bring to the table that aren’t immediately obvious. It allows you to extract the underlying principles or “rules” that differentiate types of problems, further allowing you to be more successful at picking the right solutions in unfamiliar situations.

Which has to be the point of learning, right?

What Works #4: Elaboration

Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know.

There are many ways you can do this, but the most powerful way would be to explain it to somebody else in your own words, while connecting it to other material you already know.

As an example, reading these books and summarising them is my way of implementing this practice into my learning journey.

Another powerful form of elaboration is to find a metaphor or visual cue for the new information. For instance, when teaching the structure of an atom, many science teachers will use the metaphor of the solar system, with the planets orbiting the sun, just as electrons spin around the nucleus.

This technique is extra powerful because there’s no known limit to what you can learn if you make elaboration a cornerstone in your learning strategy.

What Works #5: Generation

Generation is an attempt to answer a question or solve a problem before being shown the answer or the solution.

After growing up in a school system that only rewards having the right answer in the right way, this technique might strike fear in your heart.

This is what happens in experiential learning – you set out to accomplish a task, you run into a problem, you look for information that will help you solve the problem, and then use that information to solve it.

This has the added benefit of helping you uncover the difference between what you thought the answer would be, and what it actually was. I’ve found that this helps create humility, because the answer is almost never what you expect it to be.

What Works #6: Reflection

Reflection is the act of taking a few minutes to review what has been learned in a recent class or experience, and then asking yourself some questions:

  • what went well?
  • what could have gone better?
  • what might you need to learn for better mastery?
  • what strategies might I use the next time I encounter this problem?

What Works #7: Calibration

Calibration is the act of aligning your judgments of what you know and don’t know with objective feedback so you can avoid being carried away with illusions of mastery.

For instance, airline pilots have gauges and dials in the cockpit that let them know critical things like whether or not they are on the right course to reach their destination, and whether or not the airplane is level.

Without objective feedback on what you know and what you don’t know, there’s no way to figure out where you need to improve.

What Works #8: Mnemonic Devices

Finally, mnemonic devices are tools which allow you to organise large bodies of information in a way that makes it easier to recall.

For instance, the book Made To Stick (a classic marketing book by Chip and Dan Heath) uses the acronym S.U.C.C.E.S. to help us remember what makes marketing messages stick: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional stories.

While you won’t likely be forced to recall information in the real world like you do on a test, and very little of what you do in your work will require you to make split second decisions (and thus prevent you from referring to notes you might have made on a subject), the more information you can store and recall in your brain, the more creative and innovative you can be in your solutions.

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

Deliver + 1

In the last post we talked about how to figure out what your customers want out of a positive shopping experience. Today we’ll talk about the concept of Deliver +1 and how this concept can take your customer service to the next level. I’ve decided to split up this post so the next one will cover the 1% Rule.

Consistency is the key to any great customer service experience. If you want to take your satisfied customers to Raving Fan status, you have to go above and beyond the average customer service experience.

There are three ways to develop consistency:

Avoid offering too many customer service options.

We sometimes get so caught up in giving customers what they want we get away from our original vision. Instead, stay true to your vision and offer one or two solid customer service techniques that will set you apart from the competition.

You need to fine tune the current systems you are using before you can add anything to the mix. There’s nothing worse than launching a new program when you haven’t even worked out the kinks of an old system.

Put solid systems into place.

Once you know what you’re going to offer, you need to have a system in place to execute it flawlessly every time. This system needs to consist of the right people in the right roles and responsibilities and technology that guarantees a positive experience every time. Emphasis needs to be placed on the results, which ultimately is the satisfaction of the customer.

Good training is the key.

Once you have your system in place you need to train people to use it properly and efficiently. This helps your people deliver the results your customers are looking for. While, training is essential for the system to work and for all your people to work together cohesively, appreciation will go a long way.

I hope this has given you a look into what you need to do in order to have a quality customer service system in place. If you need help, try our FREE test drive and gain access to a wealth of resources, tools and coaching.

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