Book Summary of ‘Topgrading’​ by Bradford Smart

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

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

He suggests that there are 3 huge problems:

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

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

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

Topgrading Myths

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Topgrading?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Topgrade?

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

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

The Key to Topgrading: The TORC Technique

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

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

There are two main benefits of this technique.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step #3: Recruit from your networks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step #5: Conduct telephone screening interviews

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

There are seven steps for doing this well.

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

Step 6: Conduct competency interviews

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

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

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

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

Step 7: Conduct tandem Topgrading Interviews

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

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

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

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

The three hours should look roughly like the following:

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

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

Step 8: Interviewers give each other feedback

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

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

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

Step 9: Write a (draft) executive summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 10: Conduct the reference calls

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

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

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

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

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

Step 11: Coach your new hire/promotion

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

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

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

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

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

Step 12: Annually measure your Topgrading success

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Book Summary of ‘Necessary Endings’​ by Henry Cloud

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

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

Endings: The Good Cannot Begin Until the Bad Ends 

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

Why We Avoid Endings 

Here are some reasons why we avoid endings.

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

The Real Reason 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prune with a proper purpose

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

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

Make Endings Normal 

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

Accept Life Cycles and Seasons

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

Accept That Life Produces Too Much Life 

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

Accept That Incurable Sickness and Evil Exist 

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

Getting to the Pruning Moment

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

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

The Big Change Motivator: Get Hopeless 

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

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

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

Resistance: How to Tackle Internal and External Barriers 

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

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

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

The Magic of Self-Selection 

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

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

Taking Inventory of What Is Depleting Your Resources 

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1 – Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 – Heuristics and Biases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3 – Overconfidence 

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

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

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

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

Part 4 – Choices

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

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

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

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

Part 5 – Two Selves 

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

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

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

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

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

Book Summary of ‘Best Self’​ by Mike Bayer

You are the common denominator to all areas of your life. Everything begins and ends with you being your best self. If you’re willing to do the work and admit that there is work to do, you can become anyone that you want. This summary will help you.

Our genes and our upbringing shapes who we are. Often, people stop learning and questioning themselves at a certain point and simply coast through life. That is not your Best Self.

Create your best and anti selves

No matter where you are right now, you can improve your life in powerful ways. Get a journal and do the following exercises:

Write Your Traits: Write down all the best traits or characteristics of yourself that feel authentic to you. These should all be positive attributes.

Create Your Best Self: Refer back to the list of traits and create your Best Self. Is your Best Self a particular gender? An animal? A mystical creature? Write a full description of your Best Self. Be sure to give some “life coach” qualities to your Best Self character so that he or she can help you look out with clear focus.

Express Gratitude: Expressing gratitude is a great way to connect with your Best Self. Think of ten things that you are grateful for and write them down. Nothing is too insignificant for your list.

In addition to our Best Self, we all have an Anti-Self. These are the sides of us that get triggered by negative things. Identifying your Anti-Self characters is a profound exercise that can help you reduce the amount of time you spend in your Anti-Self. If you know the traits to look out for, you can better control yourself.

Identify Your Anti-Self Traits: Write down the traits that you consider to be your character flaws. Think about the last time you acted in a negative way and write about what happened.

Create Your Anti-Self: Look at your list of traits and create an exaggerated version of that self. It’s healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves. Create a clear, complete picture of your Anti-Self so you can easily predict what might trigger him or her to influence your behaviour. The better you understand your Anti-Self, the easier he or she will be to control.

Five tenets for change

There are five tenets for change that will help you prepare yourself mentally for the process you’ll be undergoing. To get you into the right mindset for change, you must be committed to approaching everything with curiosity, honesty, openness, willingness and focus.

Think about the last time you felt truly alive. Think about what charges your authentic battery.  Look at your life and see if the things you are doing in your life match up with who you are authentically. If so, great! If not, that’s okay. You’ll get there.

On any journey, roadblocks are to be expected. Beware of the obstacles that may block you from success. Ask yourself: What are some of the fears that have held you back from making changes in your life?

Other people have overcome your same fears and you can too. Look at your list and identify any patterns. Now, test your fear. Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Is it factually true?
  2. Does it serve your best interests?
  3. Does it generate progress toward healthy goals?

This will help you find your rational, legitimate fear so you can create a plan that you can put into place to prevent that fear from becoming a reality. 

Rituals can be a powerful tool for overcoming fear and feeling confident. Practice positive affirmations. Create a morning routine that starts your day off on the right foot. Make a note of all the things you are grateful for. Think about a mantra that energises you and connects you with your core. Create a ritual around how you say it to yourself.

SPHERES

SPHERES is an acronym that looks at every area of a person’s life to help him or her identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Social Life

There are tons of benefits of socialising. Social interaction can induce feelings of happiness, combat depression and even increase your brainpower. Here are some tips for having positive social experiences.

  • Prepare a few pieces of information you can contribute to a new conversation.
  • Remain present and focus on the people around you.
  • Ask questions. People like talking about themselves.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Maintain open body language. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and remember to smile.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Give compliments.

Think about your behaviours that contribute to a positive social life. Think about your behaviours that are keeping you from what you want in your social life. Think about what you need to do to make your social life feel like a 10.

Personal Life

This section is about the relationship you have with yourself. Make sure you have an abundance of respect and compassion for yourself. Nurturing an authentic, positive self-image will affect all areas of your life.

Our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lives in response to occurrences within the body as well as external events. That means the way you talk to yourself can really change the way your brain functions. Make sure that your internal dialogue is kind, compassionate and encouraging. Often times, we are our harshest critics. Instead, treat yourself like you would a friend.

Pay attention to the thoughts that go through your head throughout the day. Look for common themes and tones in your internal dialogue. Is it generally positive? Or is it pessimistic? When we listen to what we say to ourselves, we can begin to rescript that conversation. The next time you notice a negative thought, imagine an alarm bell going off in your head. Then, choose a new message to tell yourself instead.

Self-care is about being compassionate toward yourself. Take deep breaths when you feel stressed. Try to spend at least 20 minutes exercising each day. Prioritise a healthy sleep schedule. Unplug from technology. Remember that each day you are alive is a gift and celebrate accordingly.

Health

Your Best Self wants you to do whatever it takes to preserve, protect and promote your physical health. If you are unhealthy, you can’t show up fully in any of your SPHERES. The most important piece of a healthy lifestyle is awareness. Close your eyes and take an inventory of your physical body. Now, think about your actions that affect your health. Do you smoke? Exercise? Eat processed foods? You don’t need to have perfect health. Instead, strive to be healthier than you are now.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there about nutrition. The simplest way to look at it is to view food as fuel for your Best Self. What you put into your body has a direct correlation to your output. Eat as many whole foods as you can. Try to keep your gut microbiome healthy with fermented foods. Find some exercises that you enjoy and do it daily. There are countless benefits of physical activity for both your body and your mind.

Education

Once you discover topics that excite you, you will love learning. Even if you never liked school, your Best Self is thirsty for knowledge. Your job is to figure out what interests you on a deep level. Write down things that you’d love to learn about. Ask yourself why you aren’t currently spending time on learning these things. Then test your reasoning. Are your reasons valid or true? 

Commit to learning. You can do an online class or listen to podcasts. Education is the driver behind your evolution as your Best Self and an important part of that is learning more about yourself. Self-awareness is key. Check in with yourself frequently.

Relationships

The only person you can control is yourself, and if you show up as your Best Self at all times, your relationships will be healthy and fulfilling. In order to have meaningful relationships, you must start by answering this key question: what are your core values? When you are aware of your own values, you can identify people in your life whose values sync up with yours. Your values can change over time as your priorities in life change.

We learn how to give and receive love at an early age based on our bond with our family. If you did not develop secure attachment when you were young, you can learn to develop the right strategies in your adult relationships. This includes identifying your needs, engaging in healthy communication and setting healthy boundaries.

The media often tells us that something is wrong with us if we are single. That’s not true. Regardless of where you are currently in terms of intimate relationships, the most important thing to think about is whether you are able to operate as your Best Self within that relationship.

Employment

It is equally important to act as your Best Self at work as it is at home. If you can’t be yourself at work, then you are wasting valuable time in your life. Ask yourself: what would your Best Self love to do for work? What type of employment would make you feel like you’re using your gifts and doing your art in a way that is productive and rewarding?

Work isn’t just about money and doesn’t have to be something you dread. You can, and should, make your work fit into your overall authentic life. If you’re unhappy with your current employment situation, consider the possibility that the issue lies with you, rather than the job. Also consider the possibility that you’re trying to work in an industry that just doesn’t match up with who you are.

There are hard days in every career, but every day should not be hard. Make it your mission to create a rewarding career that is a reflection of your Best Self. It can be simple tweaks or it could be a whole employment overhaul. Choose to have an optimistic approach and things will begin to happen that align with that outlook.

Spiritual Life

Your spiritual self is the place within you from which all goodness and light radiates outward. It is where you form your integrity, values and how you treat other people. People tend to neglect their spiritual life, but faith can transform your life.

Here are some techniques for connecting or reconnecting with your spirituality:

  1. Create an intention around your spirituality.
  2. Find what resonates with you and feed your spirit with that type of content.
  3. Look for a quiet within yourself and spend this kind of time with yourself at least once a week.
  4. Keep your eyes open for signs being sent to you and be open to gifts the universe wants to give you.
  5. Take some time to acknowledge the positive things that happen.
  6. Talk to others about your spiritual journey.
  7. Be playful in your quest and have fun.
  8. Pay it forward.

The people you spend time with have a huge influence on your life and all of your SPHERES. The richness and depth of our life is defined by the connections we make with one another. We can achieve so much more together than we can alone. Take a good look at the people in your life and create a team around you that inspires you and encourages you to be your Best Self.

Using SPHERES to get what you want

Now that you have thoroughly examined each of your life SPHERES, you will have a better understanding of which areas are out of balance and are keeping you from your Best Self.

The first step to getting what you want is to understand what you want. So define your goals in terms of specific events or behaviours. Then, express it in a quantifiable way so you can mark your progress. Choose a goal that you can control and plan a strategy that will get you to your goal. Assign a timeline for your goal and create accountability for progress.

Goal acquisition should become a way of life for you moving forward. Keep working and live as your Best Self. We’re all on a journey. Choose to grow and life will open up to you in ways you can’t yet imagine.

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

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

Book Summary of ’12 Rules For Living’​ by Jordan Peterson

In life, there is a constant struggle between order and chaos.

As human beings, we crave order and meaning in our lives in order to help us deal with the chaos and uncertainty we face on a day-to-day basis.

In order to help us better deal with the realities of the world we live in, Jordan Peterson (Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto) gives us his 12 Rules For Living.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore those rules and how you can apply them to achieve the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Rule 1: Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

Peterson starts off the book by discussing lobsters and how the pecking order is determined at the bottom of the ocean.

Basically, they determine the pecking order by fighting each other. Except, most of the fights are determined before any punches (or claw slams?) are thrown.

When the lobsters come face to face, they size each other up. Most of the time, it’s clear who the more dominant lobster is.

As Peterson describes it, they are easy to pick out of a lobster line-up: they are a cocky, strutting sort of shellfish and they are much less likely to back down when challenged.

Of course, this is a metaphor for how things work in the real world for us. If you walk around with a straight back and your shoulders back, other people will view that as a signal of confidence. People conveying confidence get treated differently than people who convey weakness (slouched posture, shoulders slumped forward).

It’s a virtuous cycle, because the social reinforcement of being treated better will lead you to become more confident.

So, stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

As Peterson points out, most people are better at filling prescriptions for their dogs than themselves. I personally have a dog that is on two medications, one of which is for anxiety and he gets treated as good or better than anybody else in my family.

Why is it that we are willing to take better care of others – even animals – than we are ourselves?

The only answer, Peterson says, is that we don’t believe that we are worth helping.

This is a mindset we must change if we want to get the most out of our lives.

So take a look at your life and ask yourself some simple questions, starting with this one:

“What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly?”

Then, make a promise to do those things for yourself, no matter what.

Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.

This rule follows from the previous one. One of the best things you can do to help yourself is to make friends with people who want the best for you.

You can’t choose your family, but you can and should choose your friends.

Here’s a question that Peterson suggests we ask ourselves:

“If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend yourself?”

Instead, surround yourself with people who support you and want to see you succeed. You’ll push each other to do more and better things with your lives and you’ll be there to remind each other to smarten up if you become cynical or when you mistreat yourselves.

In short, good friends will make you a better person and because you want the best for yourself, from now on you’ll choose them carefully.

Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

This rule (like anything worth doing in life, really) falls into the bucket of easy to say, but hard to do.

Mass media has been giving us distorted views of what “the best” in every field looks like – standards of beauty, wealth, marriage, and so on – for decades.

These days we also need to contend with the constant stream of people posting only the best of their lives to their social media accounts, leaving us all with the distinct impression that it’s hard or impossible to measure up.

As Peterson points out, we are all unique individuals, dealing with unique sets of circumstances in distinct stages of our lives. Because of that, there is no definitive bar that you need to compare yourself against.

Instead, compare yourself to something that you have direct control over – where you are today compared to where you were yesterday.

If you don’t like what you see, make some changes. Today. Not tomorrow.

Rule 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

Nobody likes to think of their children as doing things that make people dislike them and getting a parent to admit – even temporarily – that they don’t like their kids, is almost impossible.

However, it’s true that sometimes your children do things that would make other people dislike them. This is easy to prove. Think back to a time when somebody else’s child was throwing a tantrum, and you thought “I would never let my child act like that in public.”

Peterson gives us sound advice here. Talk to your partner about what you like and dislike about your children. Once you’ve clarified those things, make your children behave like you expect them to.

You love your children, and if you are being honest, there are things that they do you dislike. If their actions have that kind of effect on you, imagine the effect they’ll have on people who don’t love them like you do.

This exercise is ultimately doing your children a huge favour.

Rule 6: Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticise The World

When things go wrong in your life, take 100% accountability for the results.

It’s easy to blame your circumstances or other people for the bad things that happen to you.

This principle has nothing to do with what is fair and just – this is a principle about what works.

Get to work finding the things in your life that you know you should stop doing, and stop doing them. Make peace with your estranged family member before you give other people relationship advice. And so forth.

You can use your own standard of judgement here, and for heaven’s sake don’t waste time questioning things that you know are wrong. Just stop doing them, immediately.

Keep on going until you have your house in perfect order, and then, and only then, turn your attention to criticising the outside world.

The point, obviously, is that it’s more helpful to fix yourself than try to fix other people or circumstances.

A great side benefit is that it’ll help in creating the right level of humility in your life.

Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

When we focus only on doing what is expedient in the moment, we transfer bad outcomes to our future selves, or even worse, other people.

When we pursue what is meaningful, we often find ourselves doing the exact opposite – giving up something today so that something better might be attained in the future.

Meaning emerges when our impulses are regulated, organised and unified.

The ultimate meaning is to strive to make the world a better place. Not just for you, but for everybody.

Peterson suggests that when we do this, we’ll experience ever deepening meaning. It’s not happiness, or bliss, but something different.

It requires courage and sacrifice to pursue what is meaningful over what is expedient.

Rule 8: Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie

Why not lie?

That’s the question that Peterson poses at the heart of this section.

Why not lie and distort the truth to smooth things over with people, to avoid conflict or hurting people’s feelings?

Because when we do, things fall apart.

He’s not only talking about the lies that we speak out loud, but also the lies that we live out.

He asks us to imagine going to engineering school because our parents want us to, even though we don’t want to.

We start telling ourselves that, yes, in fact, I did want to be an engineer after all. Those little lies require other little lies to prop it up, until eventually, one day, everything falls apart.

Instead, try telling the truth. Be the person you want to be.

Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Here is my favourite line in the whole book:

“You already know what you know, after all – and, unless your life is perfect, what you know is not enough.”

Another way to think about this is that instead of walking around trying to show everybody how much you know, walk around in a continual search for things you don’t.

Quite often the person sitting across the table will surprise you with a golden nugget of wisdom you can take away and use to get better results in your life.

The most effective way to listen is to summarise what people have said to you and ask them if you have understood properly. Sometimes you’ll hit the nail on the head, sometimes you’ll need a small correction and other times you’ll miss the point completely.

The only thing that’s sure to happen when you follow this rule is that you’ll learn something valuable.

Rule 10: Be precise in your speech.

Being precise helps you in many ways.

First, it ensures that you are properly understood. The less you leave for interpretation, in most cases, the better. This is really helpful, for instance, when you are talking about things that are bothering you in a relationship.

Second, being precise about defining problems you are facing turns chaos into something you can deal with.

For instance, Peterson suggests that if we had cancer, we’d want to know exactly what kind it was, where it was, and precisely how we would get it treated. This is the same approach, he suggests, that we should use for any problems we have in life.

Third, being precise in what you want out of life is the best way to ensure that you get it. Once you are precise about what you want, you can go out and get it, correct course when you aren’t making progress and ultimately end up at your destination.

Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.

This section is about how parents these days have become over protective, because we want to protect our children from danger.

As long as you take the right precautions – like wearing a helmet when you are skateboarding to avoid turning your brain into mush – it’s ok to push the limits to see what you are made of. Even if you happen to skin your knees.

We need our children to push their boundaries to see what they are made of. It’s the only way to grow.

We might also consider taking on this advice for ourselves, too.

Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

Finally, we need to learn to appreciate the small things in life when they come our way.

Life is tough and much of it consists of figuring out how to get through the suffering.

If you are paying attention, even on your worst days, you just might find some magic. Like, as Peterson points out, a little girl dancing on the street because she is dressed up in a ballet costume. Or when you unexpectedly encounter a friendly cat on the street.

Then, even if it’s only for a few seconds, you’ll understand that moments like those make everything else worth it.

Hope you enjoyed this summary. Leave 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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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.

*Perfectionism:*

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.

*Numbing:*

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?

Lots.

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

Book Summary of ‘Venture Deals’​ by Jason Mendelson and Brad Feld

There are many ways to get funding for your new business. You could try and get a loan from a bank, get paying and profitable customers from day 1 or approach family and friends for some seed capital.

However, in many instances, and for many reasons, you might want to consider raising money from a venture capital firm.

As the authors of Venture Deals point out, fundraising is an incredibly complex topic, made even more complicated by the fact that you’ll probably only go through the process once or twice in your entire lifetime.

Being smart about how you do it, and avoiding the many pitfalls that might come back to haunt you later on, is critical.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore what venture capital is and how to approach it once you decide it’s the path you want to take.

The Players In Venture Capital

If you’ve seen The Shark Tank or Dragons Den, you get the gist. VCs are people who make bets on companies in return for a percentage of the equity in a company. Most of the VCs expect to see a return on their money in 5-7 years, usually in the form of a distribution from the sale of your company.

Venture Capital Firms

When you approach a venture capital firm, you are likely to be introduced to a number of people and it helps to know who is who. We’ll start from the least important and end at the most important:

  • Analysts are at the bottom of the ladder and they crunch numbers and write memos to give to the more important people.
  • Associates don’t make decisions on who to fund, but they do a lot of the legwork when sourcing and structuring deals.
  • Principles and Directors have “deal responsibility,” which means that they are decision makers in the process. However, they usually need formal sign-off on a deal from the people at the top of the food chain, who are…
  • Managing Directors (or General Partners) make the final decisions and typically sit on the boards of the companies they invest in. These are the people who will make the most important decisions.

Not all venture capital firms are created equal, and just like they will be doing due diligence on whether or not to fund your company, you should be doing your due diligence on them.

Here are some questions that you’ll want to ask:

  • Who are you talking to in the firm (referring back to the descriptions above)?
  • What process do you need to go through to get the investment approved?
  • Who else have they funded?

Then, armed with the answers to those questions, go talk to the people they have funded in the past and ask them a lot of questions about what it was like to deal with them.

Angel Investors

Angel investors are typically high net worth individuals who are active in the seed stage of venture capital. These people can range from professional investors, to other successful entrepreneurs, to family and friends.

Angels will typically take a more passive role in the investment, viewing their investment as a lottery ticket that will hopefully one day pay off.

Lawyers

If you are going to do a deal with a venture capital firm, make sure to find a lawyer who has a lot of experience in the area.

Like most areas in the law, you’ll pay a higher per-hour fee for their work, but you’ll ultimately end up paying less overall for better quality work. Mistakes up front in the venture capital process can cost you millions of dollars on the back end.

There are other players in the space that we don’t have time to cover formally like how to deal with syndicates (make sure that all members agree that the lead in the syndicate speaks for the whole), mentors (don’t give them equity), and formal advisors (maybe give them equity).

How To Raise Money

Now that you know the lay of the land, it’s time to cover how to actually go about raising money.

How much should you raise?

The first step is to determine how much money you need to raise. You’ll do this by looking at your monthly burn rate (how much your bank account balance will decrease each month) and determining how long you’ll need in order to get to (a) cash flow positive or (b) your next funding milestone. Add on a few months to that number and that’s how much you should be raising.

You should be approaching the VCs with a specific number and not a range.

Most VCs will not give you the entire amount you are looking for, which means you’ll usually need to find multiple investors in order to generate the full amount.

So, keep in mind that the more of your funding round you already have committed, the easier it will be to close further investors.

Your fundraising materials

VCs get pitched by companies every day, so you’ll need to make sure that you create a pitch that they can digest quickly, while making your case in the strongest way possible.

Here are some things that you should consider creating:

  • An elevator pitch that contains a few paragraphs that you can email to investors if they ask for it.
  • An executive summary of your pitch, which includes information on your product (the problem it solves), the team (why you are the one to solve it), the market (how big of an opportunity is it?) and the financial projections of the business. Keep it between one and three pages.
  • A business plan that shows you grasp the financials of your business. A couple of points here. First, they are not interested in revenue projections, because these are always wrong. Second, make sure you show a grasp of your big ticket expenses and that your funding request has taken them into account properly.
  • A presentation that walks the VC through all of the above during an in-person meeting. Make sure that the slides are well designed and that your presentation includes 10 slides or less.
  • A demo that allows the VC to see your product in action. The demo should tell the story of how it solves your end customers’ problems. Watch the VCs very carefully as they use the product.

The Term Sheet

If all goes well in the pitch process and the due diligence process, you’ll need to get a term sheet created that determines the two most important factors of any deal – the economic terms (who gets what when the company is sold) and the control terms (who controls what in the operations of the company).

The Economics of the Term Sheet

There are a number of items to be aware of when it comes to the economics of the term sheet.

Valuation

The most obvious item is how much the company is worth, which will determine how much equity the investor is getting for their share of the investment.

There are two valuations done here. A pre-money valuation is the company’s agreed-upon worth before it receives the financing and the post-money valuation is the value immediately after receiving the financing. Obviously the statement “invest X at Y valuation” has very different meanings based on whether Y is pre or post money. Make sure everybody is on the same page.

Option Pool

Typically, investors will want to see an option pool of stock that is reserved for future employees you’ll try and get to join your company. This means that you’ll be giving up more equity in the company than just the equity going to the VC.

The VC will typically want to see it in the 10-20% range and will want this to come out of the pre-money valuation so that their % of the company is not diluted in the process.

Liquidation Preference

In many situations, the company is sold for less than the valuation in the funding round. To account for this, they will want to see a clause determining who gets what out of the proceeds.

Typically, the investors will own preferred stock and ask for a clause stating that they’ll get back X times the amount of money they invested (usually X=1) before common stock holders are compensated.

Pay To Play

This is a clause that states that an investor has to participate in a future funding round at a pro-rata basis in order to continue to keep their shares preferred shares. If they don’t participate, their preferred shares get turned into common shares.

Anti-Dilution

Another clause a VC will likely want to see is an anti-dilution clause, which means that if a future funding round is raised at a lower valuation, the total amount of their ownership of the company does not go down.

There are many examples of how these terms could play out in the book that you’d be wise to read in full before going down the VC path.

Control Terms of the Term Sheet

Just like in the previous section, there are a number of things you’ll need to be aware of when it comes to the control terms of the agreement.

Board of Directors

Many VCs will demand a board seat as part of their investment. In a younger company, a typical board configuration might look like this: Founder, CEO, VC1, VC2 and outside board member.

The founder and CEO seats are from inside the company, the VC seats are from the VCs, and the outside board member is there to resolve any disputes between the two.

When the company grows and the board matures, you’ll typically see 7-9 seats with the additional seats coming from the outside and usually in the form of experienced executives from the same domain.

Protective Provisions

These types of provisions are designed to give the VCs the ability to block certain company actions that would harm their interests in the company.

Some examples would include changing the company by-laws, selling the company, paying dividends, purchasing major assets and changing the stock option plan.

When you are negotiating these terms, try and get all of your investors to agree to the same protective provisions and try and stay away from the term “materially” because it is usually a legal rabbit hole (as in, nobody knows exactly what it means).

Drag-Along Rights

These provisions allow a majority shareholder to force a minority shareholder to join in the sale of the company, as long as the minority shareholder gets the same price, terms and conditions that the other sellers get.

In the beginning, this clause will be protecting the founder, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you are negotiating this on behalf of the company, which in the future might have a different majority shareholder (it’s not uncommon for founders to give up the majority of their equity in future funding rounds).

Other Terms

There are other terms that will likely be in the term sheet that you should be aware of, including:

  • Dividend provisions: these are more common when dealing with private equity transactions. VCs typically aren’t looking for dividends from their investments.
  • Information rights: these clauses will determine what information the VC has legal access to and what timeframe you have to deliver it to them when requested.
  • Right of first refusal: these clauses give the VC the right to participate in future rounds. You should only give this to major investors.
  • Founders activities: unless you are a very experienced founder, there will be a clause in the agreement saying you need to focus 100% of your time on the company (i.e. you can’t treat it as a part-time job).

Conclusion

There is a lot to think about and consider when raising money from a venture capital firm. Spending the time up front getting the details right will save you a lot of time and money in the future.

If you are seriously considering going down the VC path, I strongly suggest you buy the book and take a deeper dive into the details.

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

Book Summary of ‘Rethinking Positive Thinking’​ by Gabrielle Oettingen

Rethinking Positive thinking is about what you want out of life and how to achieve it.

The author, Gabrielle Oettingen, has been studying this topic for over twenty years and has an interesting and startling conclusion: that the obstacles that we believe get in our way from achieving our greatest goals can actually help us accomplish them faster.

Basically, her research shows that merely dreaming about the future makes it less likely that you’ll achieve your deepest desires and dreams.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore why this is the case, what you should be doing, instead.

What Is Positive Thinking

Let’s start out at the beginning by defining what positive thinking actually is.

Martin Seligman – the founder of the positive psychology movement and the author of Authentic Happiness – defines positive thinking as beliefs or expectations about the future that are based on past success.

Notice the part about “based on past success,” which much of the literature on positive thinking wilfully ignores. You can’t just sit in your chair, think nice thoughts, and expect your dreams to become true. This sounds too obvious to mention, but many of the most popular books on positive thinking will teach you just that.

Seligman had performed plenty of studies that showed a direct correlation between positive expectations when the condition of past success was present.

That led Oettingen to conclude that there are two types of optimism worth studying – positive expectations based on past experiences of success and the more free-flowing thoughts that we might simply call desires.

So, Oettingen decided to test out that theory using a wish that a good portion of the population makes every year on or around New Year’s Eve: to lose weight.

She performed a study involving twenty-five overweight women who were enrolled in a weight loss program. She had some of them think about successfully completing the weight loss program and had others think about the struggles they would invariable face along the way.

Surprisingly (but not to us, since we already gave away the punch line in the introduction), the women who fantasised about their success lost on average twenty-four pounds less than the women who imagined their struggles.

This study was performed back in 1991 and nobody in the psychology community wanted to dive any further, because so much attention and effort in the general population focussed on the power of optimism.

Undaunted, Oettingen continued her deep dive into the subject and performed study after study that showed the same thing – that unwarranted optimism doesn’t help people achieve their goals – in fact, it gets in the way.

The Upside of Dreaming

As Oettingen points out, not all positive dreaming is bad. There are certain situations where it actually helps.

The first situation is when the tasks are simple. The simpler the task, the more your positive fantasising helps. Why? Simple tasks don’t present many obstacles from achieving them. If I fantasise about how good it will feel to finally clear out the garage, I can just get to work and get it done without much hassle.

The second situation where it helps is when you are waiting for some result that is out of your control. For instance, if you are waiting anxiously for some medical test results to come back, positive dreaming will help get you through that time in a much more peaceful and calm manner. Basically, you can use positive dreaming to relax.

The third situation it helps in is allowing you to explore potential wishes without requiring you to make a commitment. This is helpful when you are determining what you actually want – as long as you realise where the benefits start and stop.

The Downside of Dreaming

Now that we’ve covered the upsides, which are much less numerous than you might have hoped, let’s cover the downsides.

There are three main reasons.

The first is a consequence of one of the benefits we mentioned in the previous section – that you become relaxed when you fantasise about the future. That relaxation will help you get through a difficult or tedious set of circumstances, but it will not help you actually achieve the content of your fantasy. That’s because your mind is fooled into believing that you’ve actually accomplished it, and thus leaving you with less drive to actually make it happen. Bummer.

The second reason follows from the first – that positive fantasies make you especially unfit to handle hard tasks that require concerted effort. That’s because your fantasies rob you of the energy required to do difficult tasks.

The third and final reason is that your positive fantasies lock you into a cycle of dreaming, without ever exploring whether or not your dream is feasible – which, of course, would require more energy than you have right after the fantasy.

Mental Contrasting

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Oettingen started looking for a better way to help people reach their goals and dreams and found it in what she calls Mental Contrasting.

It’s a fairly simple process – right after you have the positive fantasy about whatever you want to achieve, you immediately jump into visualising the challenges and obstacles that you’ll face in achieving it.

This would short-circuit the negative effects that your fantasy might otherwise have (relaxing you and sapping you of the energy you need), and get you into action on eliminating the obstacles.

So, she set about pulling together an experiment that would see if this hypothesis was true.

She brought together 168 female students at universities in Berlin, asked them all to think about a goal they wanted to achieve, to create a list of benefits of achieving the goal, and a list of obstacles they would face along the way.

Then she separated them into four groups:

  • The first group thought first about the benefits of achieving the goal and then the obstacles they would face;
  • The second group only thought about the benefits of achieving the goal;
  • The third group only thought about the obstacles that got in their way; and
  • The fourth group thought first about the obstacles they would face, and then the benefits of achieving the goal.

The results were in one sense disappointing, and in another sense very exciting.

The disappointing part was that only some of the people who used the mental contrasting method showed significant improvements energising towards accomplishing their goals.

The exciting part was that the people who showed the improvement were the people who actually believed they could do it. This means that the method only gets people energised towards accomplishing goals that have a high chance of success.

Why Mental Contrasting Works

Mental contrasting works for a number of reasons:

  • It gets your unconscious brain working on your obstacles. What you do by using this method is create a link between your goal and the obstacles you think you’ll face.
  • It gets your brain thinking about the behaviours required to overcome the obstacles. This means that when you think of your goal, you’ll also think of what you need to do in order to overcome them.
  • You do a better job of processing negative feedback. When you expect there to be obstacles, they become less daunting – they are now just “one more thing” to overcome to achieve your goal.

Implementation Intentions

While Oettingen was doing her research on mental contrasting, her husband, Peter Gollwitzer, was performing research on an equally fascinating topic called implementation intentions.

In it’s most basic form, an implementation intention is a plan detailing exactly how and exactly when you intend to take an action – in this case, how we plan to achieve our goals and overcome our obstacles.

There have been multiple studies in multiple fields that all confirm the same thing – that having an implementation intention significantly increases the odds of completing a task or reaching a goal.

The most famous study in the implementation intention literature focussed on exercise. In particular, three groups of people were asked to exercise at least once in the following week. At the outset, they were given different instructions:

  • The first group was the control group and they were simply asked to exercise the following week.
  • The second group was given a motivational speech highlighting the benefits of exercising and the dangers of not.
  • The third group was asked to make an implementation intention – to tell the interviewer exactly where and when they would work out.

When the results came in, they found the following:

  • In first group, 38% of people exercised.
  • In the second group (the motivation group), 35% of people exercised.
  • In the third group (the implementation intention group), 91% of people exercised.

Fascinating, right? Study after study has shown that our traditional thinking on the topic – that people simply needed more motivation – is simply not true.

Rather, if you determine exactly what you need to do and exactly when you will do it, the resulting improvement is dramatic.

WOOP: Putting It All Together

Excited by the findings in both mental contrasting and implementation intentions, Oettingen found that the combination of both of them together was even more powerful than either of them on their own.

The original name for this newly combined method was MCII – not a terribly catchy name. She found that when she explained the method using plain English, that it spelled out WOOP – not a real word, but much more catchy nonetheless.

WOOP stands for:

  • W = Wish
  • O = Outcome
  • O = Obstacle
  • P = Plan

Here’s how it works in practice, which is something you can do anytime you have a wish or a goal you want to accomplish.

First, grab a blank piece of paper. On it, write down your wish or goal in three to six words.

Second, identify what you believe the best possible outcome of achieving that goal will be. Try and keep it short – between three and six words is best.

Third, let your imagination lead the rest of the exercise by writing down every obstacle you think you’ll face on your way to achieving that goal.

Lastly, for each of the obstacles, write down one specific action you can take for overcoming them. Make it in the form of an implementation intention by naming the time and place you believe the obstacle will happen and what you will do when it does.

Then, get to work!

Conclusion

WOOP is a powerful process you can use get better at achieving your hopes and dreams.

The benefits are many, including the fact that it will force you to be hyper-realistic about your goals and be action-minded in your approach to achieving them.

This might be less exciting and sexy than other books that tell you that you can use the power of your thoughts to manifest whatever you want in your life, but you are going to enjoy the outcome much, much more.

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

Book Summary of ‘10% Happier’​ by Dan Harris

Dan Harris originally wanted to title this book The Voice In My Head Is an A-hole.

Throughout his career as a journalist and reporter, he – along with most of us – found that the voice in his head started as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning and then, pretty much all day long, it heckles us with thoughts of the past and the future, much to the detriment of whatever we are doing in the present.

Though he didn’t find the path to enlightenment, he did find that a number of things he did – when done together – made him about 10% happier.

Where does 10% come from? Basically, what you are about to learn made Harris a much happier and more productive person, but he didn’t have a transformational experience that led him to a state of 100% bliss. So, finally, to explain why he now spends so much time focussing on mindfulness and practicing meditation, he says it’s because it makes him 10% happier. A totally unscientific number, but one that completely explains why he does what he does.

If you can quiet the voice in your head for the next 10 minutes, join me on a journey towards becoming 10% happier in everything you do.

The Voice in Your Head

One of the defining moments in Dan Harris’ career was when he had an on-screen meltdown. After years of nailing his on-screen time at ABC, he had a full-blown panic attack in front of millions of people.

It was the culmination of years of stress caused by the endless chatter in his mind. How many stories did he have on the air that week? What was the state of his relationship with his boss (the legendary Peter Jennings) right now? What else did he have coming up that might catapult him ahead of the other people vying for the plum jobs that were soon to open up?

That was his first step on the path to discovery. That in order to prevent that from happening again – which would surely be the end of his on-air career – he would have to find a way to quiet the voice is in his head.

He started to read books that he never would have even glanced at before, like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. He was intrigued enough about the ideas in the book that he tracked Tolle down for an interview.

The problem, Tolle said, is our ego. The ego is our inner narrator and it is never satisfied. No matter how many creature comforts we accumulate, how many gourmet meals we consume, or how many rungs we climb on the career ladder, it always wants more.

One of the biggest problems our ego presents is that it is a comparison machine. It is always comparing itself to others. That explains why we are always measuring ourselves agains the looks, wealth and social status of others.

Finally, and perhaps worst of all, it does all of that while thinking about the past and the future. As Tolle points out, we “live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation.”

Which is a real problem, because the only time that we ever have, in the literal sense, is now.

The biggest insight that Harris pulled from his time researching people like Tolle and scientists doing rigorous research on the human mind, was that your brain can be trained.

Happiness, therefore, is a skill.

Mindfulness

Once you get on the path to finding happiness, you almost always find your way back to the idea of mindfulness and thus, the precepts and ideas of Buddhism.

According to Buddha, we have three natural responses to everything we experience in our lives – we want it, we reject it, or we zone out.

Butter tarts – a fine Canadian dessert hard to find south of the border? Want it. Flies in the house because somebody left the front door open? Reject it. The latest celebrity gossip? I zone out.

Everybody has their own ways of reacting to things, but they all find themselves neatly into one of those three buckets.

However, there’s a fourth option beyond judging an experience that is even more helpful – mindfulness. Here’s a formula that one of the mindfulness teachers taught Harris, neatly tied together by the acronym RAIN: Recognise, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification.

To walk through this process and see how it works, let’s pretend that you’ve just had a stressful experience, like getting turned down for an important promotion at work.

R: Recognise

The first step would be to admit that you’ve just had a stressful experience and you are in the midst of all of the emotions that come along with it.

A: Allow

The next step is to “lean in” to the experience. The goal with mindfulness isn’t to detach ourselves from the world, but to be fully present to it. Don’t resist the experience or emotions you are feeling. Let them happen.

I: Investigate

In this step we start to pay attention to how the experience is affecting us, in the moment. Start by examining your body. Is your face flush? Is your head throbbing? Is your breathing short and shallow? Almost every emotion comes along with clear physical signs – your job is to get familiar with them.

N: Non-Identification

In this last stage we consciously bring to mind the fact that just because right now we are angry and jealous at being passed over, it doesn’t mean that we are angry and jealous people.

Once you’ve gone through the RAIN cycle of truly being present to your experiences and feelings, you can finally let it go and move on to experience whatever comes next – like getting back to work so that the next time a promotion comes up, you get it.

As Harris continued his journey of discovery, he started to go deeper and deeper into what helped him become a happier and more productive person.

He boiled what he learned into 10 principles he calls The Way of The Worrier.

The Way of The Worrier

TWOTW #1: Don’t Be a Jerk

One of the great things about Harris’ job is that he gets access to interview people that most of us would only dream of breathing the same air as.

One of the people on that list is the Dalai Lama and one of the biggest lessons he learned from him was that putting ourselves first was a natural human tendency.

As it turns out, the Dalai Lama taught Harris, practicing compassion towards others will actually make you a happier person. Scientists performing brain scans showed that acts of random kindness towards others registered more in the brain like eating chocolate than fulfilling an obligation.

So, don’t be a jerk. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will make you happier.

TWOTW #2: (And/But . . .) When Necessary, Hide the Zen

The Sufi Muslims have a saying: “Praise Allah, but also tie your camel to the post.” In other words, while there are plenty of practical reasons to be nice to other people, don’t let the world walk all over you.

This is harder than it first might seem. Combining a true inner peace while still getting things done in a cutthroat environment takes practice.

TWOTW #3: Meditation

Meditation has been linked to a ridiculously long list of benefits and is now being used to treat major depression, drug addiction, binge eating, stress among cancer patients, and ADHD.

The easiest way to get yourself on the mediation path are to follow the instructions that Harris was given when he first started.

First, sit comfortably, ensuring that your spine is relatively straight.

Second, notice what you feel when your breath goes in and out. Focus on one spot like your nostrils or chest. If you find yourself getting distracted easily, use a mantra like “in” and “out.”

Finally, whenever your attention wanders (as it inevitably will) forgive yourself and bring it back. What you are essentially practicing is (a) noticing when you are not being present, and (b) brining your attention back to the here and now so that you can be present.

Even doing this for a few minutes a day will make a noticeable improvement in your life.

TWOTW #4. The Price of Security Is Insecurity—Until It’s Not Useful

Some things are worth worrying about, and some things are not. Harris tells us that separating them from one another is one of your key tasks as you start your journey to become 10% happier.

This is where he departs from the wisdom of some of the gurus he learned from, and where you might find solace in the fact that you don’t need to spend your life in a state of bliss in order to benefit from mindfulness and mediation.

When you find yourself worrying about something, stop and ask yourself this simple question: “Is this useful?”

For instance, in business you are wise to be worrying about how to generate more customers or lower your costs when you need to generate more profit. Worrying about things that aren’t important and you can’t influence are things that you can leave to the chumps.

TWOTW #5. Equanimity Is Not the Enemy of Creativity

The quest towards happiness will not make you a blissed out zombie. There’s a myth that all creative people find their biggest inspiration in melancholy.

There’s no current research on this one way or the other, but an equally strong case can be made that once you are freed from useless worrying, you can channel your creativity more often and more effectively.

It’s a lot easier to come up with creative solutions to problems when your head isn’t filled with worry and dread.

TWOTW #6: Don’t Force It

Somewhere on your journey you’ll find yourself finding time for purposeful pauses, and realise that not everything can be solved through constant, unrelenting pressure.

Just like you can’t open a jar when all of the muscles in your body are tense, you can’t solve every problem in your life through sheer force.

TWOTW #7: Humility Prevents Humiliation

When the voice in your head isn’t busy worrying you to death, it’s busy telling you how great you are.

This causes you to make just as many bad decisions as worrying about things you can’t control. As a leader, this can very easily get in your way of producing the results you want to achieve.

So whenever you find yourself thinking those types of thoughts, follow the RAIN process and let them flow right through you.

TWOTW #8: Go Easy With The Internal Cattle Prod

The third main job of the ego (beside worrying and telling you how great you are) is to beat you up with self-criticism.

Many people are driven by their inner cattle prod, thinking that it’s the only way to achieve greatness in their business and life.

However, Harris points out that the people training in self-compassion mediation are more likely to do things like stick to a diet and quite smoking. Why? They are much better at bouncing back from missteps.

A much better approach is to learn from your failures than beat yourself up with them.

TWOTW #9: Non-attachment to Results

Have you ever found that life doesn’t always work out the way you think it should?

This is about coming to the realisation that striving for results is fine, but that the final outcome is out of your control. Do everything you can to succeed and then be fine with letting the chips fall where they may.

This ensures that when you fail (as you inevitably will), you’ll be able to dust yourself off and get ready for the next round.

TWOTW #10: What Matters Most

This entire list becomes a lot easier when you are crystal clear on what you want in your business and life. Instead of just following your ego – which always just wants “more” – get your head straight on what’s most important to you.

What do you really want?

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

Book Summary of ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’​ by Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen is an expert in innovation, a professor at Harvard Business School and a former student there.

In the beginning of the book, he recounts how many of the people from his graduating class went on to very successful careers at very large companies, earning for themselves in the process very large incomes.

However, he found that many of those same people didn’t enjoy their work, had very poor relationships with the most important people in their lives and some of them were even in jail.

Personal dissatisfaction, family failures, professional struggles and even jail – not the things you expect of graduates from the most prestigious business school on the planet.

Christensen wanted to make sure that future graduating classes at Harvard didn’t succumb to the same fate, and so he started spending the last few days of his class discussing how to avoid it.

He writes three simple questions on the board to guide the discussion:

How can I be sure that:

  • I will be successful and happy in my career?
  • My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?
  • I live a life of integrity – and stay out of jail?

And as you might have guessed, these are the things that we’ll cover here today in this summary.

Let’s get started.

What To Think vs. How To Think

Christensen starts off the book by telling a story about a visit he made to Intel and it’s then CEO Andy Grove.

Christensen had just released his first book, The Innovator’s Dilemma and Grove wanted him to come to Intel and explain the theory to his executive team. When he arrived, Grove informed him that he only had 10 minutes because “some stuff had come up.”

“Tell us what your research means for Intel, so we can get on with things.”

Christensen said that he couldn’t do that, because he knew very little about Intel. The only thing he could do, he said, was explain the theory and then help walk the team through the thinking so they could figure out the implications on their own.

Grove reluctantly agreed and they went on to very quickly come up with the strategy for going after the bottom of the market and launched the lower-priced Celeron processor.

The analogy here applies to your own life. Your goal in finding help – whether it’s through books, courses, or any other kind of personal development – shouldn’t be to blindly copy what another person did in a particular circumstance.

Instead, your goal should be to understand the theory that led them to that conclusion or action, so you can see how it applies to your specific set of circumstances.

With that being said, let’s move on to the theories that can help you be successful in your career, have great relationships, and stay out of jail.

Finding Happiness in Your Career

Finding success and happiness in your career isn’t about making the most money or having the most prestigious title. Nor is it about having the next five years of your life nailed down to the minute, or flying by the seat of your pants.

There’s a delicate balance between being deliberate and being open to new opportunities. Let’s explore some of what science knows about the topic.

Motivation and Hygiene Factors

Christensen tells us that it’s impossible to have a meaningful conversation about happiness without an understanding of what makes us tick. As it turns out, most human beings don’t understand the true nature of their motivations – and thus, themselves.

First, let’s dispense with the idea that making a certain amount of money is going to make you happy. This is what Frederick Herzberg (an expert on motivational theory) would call a hygiene factor – something you need to get right, but it isn’t enough to get you to the happiness finish line. It’s necessary but not sufficient.

Other hygiene factors include a safe and comfortable working environment and good working relationships with your colleagues.

To put it bluntly, hygiene factors won’t do anything to make you love your job, they’ll just stop you from hating it.

Second, there are things that will truly and deeply satisfy you. These are the things that Herzberg calls motivators. Things like challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. These are things that are happening inside of you rather than things that are happening to you (like salary and titles).

So, whenever you are contemplating a move in your career, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the work meaningful to me (note: it needs to be meaningful to you – that other people find it meaningful doesn’t matter here)?
  • Will the job give me a chance to develop?
  • Will I learn new things?
  • Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement?
  • Am I going to be given responsibility?

Those are the things that will truly bring you happiness and a feeling of success.

Balancing Calculation and Serendipity

When should you be open to new experiences and when should you stick to a deliberate plan?

There’s a tool in business called “discovery-driven planning” that asks you to list all of the assumptions you’ve made in creating a plan of action, and ensure that they have been properly taken into account. For instance, any sales forecast is going to assume some things about their customer retention and renewal rate.

Before you take a job, you can use this approach by carefully listing out what others are going to need to do or deliver so that you can successfully achieve what you hope to in a role. Are there any factors that aren’t in your control? Are there any items on the list that have a low probability of occurring? These are the things you need to be on the lookout for.

Aligning Your Time, Money and Energy

Once you start to get a clear picture of what success and fulfilment looks like for you, you have to ensure that you put your time, money and energy towards those pursuits.

One of the mistakes that humans often make is to unconsciously allocate resources to the things that yield the most immediate and tangible accomplishments.

As an example, many people prioritise things like a promotion, raise or a bonus over things that require long-term work to see a return, like raising good children.

Be on the lookout for that tendency in your own decision making so that you can balance every part of your life.

Which brings us to the next section…

Finding Happiness in Your Relationships

Christensen tells us – rightfully so – that the relationships we have with family and close friends are going to be the most important sources of happiness in our lives.

Putting them on the back burner – no matter how important something seems at the time – is a big mistake. By the time we realise that there are serious problems in a relationship, it’s often too late to repair them.

Here’s how to ensure that it never gets to that point.

Relationships and Time

Here’s the most important principle to remember about your relationships:

Don’t sequence your life investments.

Good relationships need consistent attention and care. There will always be an ebb and flow of how intense that attention can be, but it must always be there, never running on empty.

There are two forces that will work against you here.

First, it’s tempting to invest your time, energy and money into things that give you an immediate payoff. Like that promotion at work, or that next big project that needs your full attention for weeks at a time.

Second, your family and friends will almost always be supportive of you. After all, they are human and fall into the same short-term thinking that you do.

You must guard against this, and put in the time and effort into the things that will help nourish those relationships on a regular basis.

Which brings us to the next section, where we explore what those things should be.

What Did You Hire That Milkshake To Do?

One of Christensen’s more popular theories about innovation is Jobs To Be Done.

As the story goes, a very popular fast food restaurant hired Christensen and his consulting firm to figure out how to sell more milkshakes.

The restaurant had tried to do it on their own, but had failed. They were asking what they thought were good questions – how can we improve our milkshake? Make it chocolatier? Cheaper? Chunkier? etc. Sales and profits remained flat.

But Christensen’s team asked a different question – “what job arises in people’s lives that causes them to come to this restaurant and “hire” a milkshake?”

They found that half of all milkshakes are sold in the morning, the people buying them were almost always alone, it was the only thing they bought and they did it through the drive-through.

As it turns out, those early morning customers had a long and boring commute ahead of them and they wanted something they could hold in one hand, wouldn’t make a mess and would last a long time. Milkshakes ticked all the boxes.

Improving the milkshakes from there was easy – making it last longer and adding some fruit pieces to create the element of surprise every once in a while were they keys.

Jobs To Be Done in Relationships

If you want to find the key to strong and healthy relationships, you need to figure out the jobs that need doing in their lives.

These things will vary from relationship to relationship and the key is to listen to the other person deeply to find out.

In the areas of your life where you can choose your relationships, you’ll want to look for somebody who you want to make happy – somebody you find yourself wanting to sacrifice for.

As Christensen points out, if falling in love is the ultimate understanding of each other’s jobs to be done, then what cements that commitment is the extent to which you each sacrifice themselves to make it happen.

When It Comes to Children

Not all of you reading this will have children, but many of you do or soon will.

We all want to give our kids the best opportunities to succeed in life. It’s up to us as parents to impart the same wisdom that we are learning from Christensen so that they can find success themselves.

In order to accomplish that, we need to equip our children with three specific things:

  • Resources: these are the time, money and energy resources they have at their disposal.
  • Processes: these are what your child does with the resources they have.
  • Priorities: these are the things that your child will focus on and devote their resources and processes to.

Of course, none of this comes naturally to them – they’ll have to put together the right string of experiences in order to get the most out of life.

Children need to learn how to solve difficult problems on their own – just like they’ll have to do when they grow up. Make sure your children are challenged and when the challenges arise, be there as a parent to help them work through them.

You can think of your role as a parent as putting together the “courses” of experience that will help prepare them for the world that will be waiting for them as adults. Figure out what skills they’ll need in the future, and then set up the right experiences and challenges for them.

Here are just a few things that they’ll encounter that will be great teaching moments for you:

  • dealing with a difficult teacher;
  • failing at a sport;
  • learning to navigate cliques at school;

These are experiences that will prepare them for the real world. Your job is not to figure out a way for them to avoid those types of situations, it’s to prepare them for how they should deal with them when they (invariably) come up again in the future.

Staying Out of Jail

We end this summary by looking at what it takes to stay out of jail, or at least to lead a moral and good life.

As Christensen points out, all of us are very confident that we’ll do the right thing when we find ourselves in the big “moments of truth.”

However, life usually doesn’t work that way. These “moments of truth” are usually not “moments” at all, but a long string of everyday decisions that accumulate over time.

The trick to avoiding going down the wrong path is to avoid the “just this one time” approach to decision making.

Following your own personal rules (or principles, or core values, or whatever you want to call them) 100 percent of the time is a lot easier than 98 percent of the time.

Christensen ends the book with a powerful line, which is exactly where we’ll end this summary:

Decide what you stand for and then stand for it all of the time.

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information


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