Non-action can be just as important as massive action
I’ve always been a supporter of the popular notion that “getting things done” (specifically, the right things) leads to incredible success. In other words, if you opt to do nothing (commonly known as laziness) than you will get nothing. Upon quick analysis this makes perfect sense.
But like many maxims, however, this notion that always taking action supersedes the opposite does not paint the full picture. It’s an oversimplification. Below are three excerpts from Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder that help shed light on the significance of timely inaction.
There is an element of deceit associated with interventionism, accelerating in a professionalized society. It’s much easier to sell “Look what I did for you” than “Look what I avoided for you.” Of course a bonus system based on “performance” exacerbates the problem. I’ve looked in history for heroes who became heroes for what they did not do, but it is hard to observe nonaction; I could not easily find any. The doctor who refrains from operating on a back (a very expensive surgery), instead giving it a chance to heal itself, will not be rewarded and judged as favorably as the doctor who makes the surgery look indispensable, then brings relief to the patient while exposing him to operating risks, while accruing great financial rewards to himself. The latter will be driving the pink Rolls-Royce…
The Chinese thinker Lao Tzu coined the doctrine of wu-wei, “passive achievement.”…
If you want to accelerate someone’s death, give him a personal doctor. I don’t mean provide him with a bad doctor: just pay for him to choose his own. Any doctor will do. This may be the only possible way to murder someone while staying squarely within the law. We can see from the tonsillectomy story that access to data increases intervention, causing us to behave like the neurotic fellow. Rory Sutherland signaled to me that someone with a personal doctor on staff should be particularly vulnerable to naive interventionism, hence iatrogenics; doctors need to justify their salaries and prove to themselves that they have a modicum of work ethic, something that “doing nothing” doesn’t satisfy. Indeed, Michael Jackson’s personal doctor has been sued for something equivalent to overintervention-to-stifle-antifragility (but it will take the law courts a while to become directly familiar with the concept). Did you ever wonder why heads of state and very rich people with access to all this medical care die just as easily as regular persons? Well, it looks like this is because of overmedication and excessive medical care.
Certainly something to think about. If we are truly committed to outcomes that generated the greatest benefit to all influenced by our decision then we may find ourselves reserving action more often than we once thought “right.”
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Opportunities are like buses…
This year has been chaotic for me — mostly in a good way. However, it’s presented a challenge that is always more difficult to deal with than expected: declining opportunities. And more specifically, declining “good” opportunities so you can make the most of the “great” ones. I stumbled upon the following idea/metaphor from author, Chris Guillebeau, and thought I’d pass it along for those in a similar situation…
“Business opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming.” -Richard Branson
The outside world is an interstate of business opportunity buses passing you by, waiting to be boarded or ignored. Some buses, though, are going too fast. Those buses left the station a long time ago, and there’s no hope in trying to flag them down.
Some buses are already as full as a West African bush taxi by the time they arrive — certainly cheap and interesting, but not usually an appealing choice of travel if you have any other options.
There is a fine line between jumping in while the window of opportunity is open and knowing when it’s best to let the window close. Do too much of either and you’ll end up in trouble. Say “yes” too often and you’ll end up overcommitted, exhausted, and a jack of many trades. Say “no” too often and you’ll end up living life reacting to circumstances and never creating.
It would be ignorant to give universal advice on HOW or WHEN to apply action or reservation, but commit to regular personal reflection and peak productivity and you’ll start to recognize patterns that work for you personally.
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The 3 tiers of personal & professional life – Where compensation & liberation collide
We’ve all heard of the “climbing the corporate ladder” but that is merely one metaphor in a larger system of upward mobility… not just in the economic sense (although that is part of it), but also in the sense of lifestyle freedom and flexibility.
I’ve come to recognize 3 important tiers or stages of both personal and professional life … where compensation and personal freedom collide depending on how one develops their UVP. In other words, these tiers show the correlation between one’s time and personal assets (knowledge & personality) and their compensation … and consequently, the type of life they lead.
Here are the tiers from the most restricting to the most liberating.
Being paid in exchange for time. ie: Laboring hourly in a job that does not involve highly developed skillsets or analytical thinking.
Being paid in exchange for knowledge. ie: Drawing upon a personal database of specialized (and perhaps rare) information and personal experience.
Being paid to make decisions. ie: Being responsible for key decisions that ultimately lead to the well-being of the business and everyone the business serves (customers) and also those who depend on it (employees). While similar to Tier 2, this tier requires more ‘systems awareness.’ It’s been said that conventional education (the passing of knowledge) helps people recognize the dots, but only experience shows one how to connect them. Tier 3 means than knowing where the dots are, it requires one to know where the next ones will be, connecting those dots, and then understanding how they are all working together and influencing each other. This type of decision making draws upon public and private information and personal experience combined with the constitution to cope with unparalleled responsibility. Since decisions included within this tier require time and immense amounts of mental RAM, a person operating in tier 3 often has one or more team members who help implement the decisions and the many sub tasks that follow.
Being paid for who you are. For many people, this description is indicative of national or international ‘celebrity’ status. Although it can certainly infer that, celebrity fame on a massive scale is not required to operate at this tier. Yes, one may be paid due to a name or reputation they have developed (an A-List movie star asked to give a keynote speech, for instance), but this tier also applies to someone with ‘expert’ status who may not be known by the public majority. Being paid for who you are is a delicate combination of knowledge and persona. Someone may not embody the public’s definition of ‘famous’ but they still may be sought after for their relative significance in a give space. Operating at this tier often leads to work that may involve consulting, coaching, guest lecturing, guest appearances, endorsing products, appearing at events, creating art, etc.
NOTE about Tier 3: The reason tier 3 has subcategories instead of each being a stand alone rung in series of 4 tiers is because both Tiers 3a and 3b infer a ‘peak’ in their relative field depending on one’s life path. In other words, one need not be a celebrity (or desire to be one) to be at the top of their own game. There are different paths that lead to either 3a or 3b, but with the exception of those born into fame, the majority of cases require at least some time investment in both tiers 1 and 2.
Everybody has different goals and values in life so these three tiers do not imply that one should or must move UP the tiers to ‘succeed’ in life. Each tier brings with it a different set of freedoms and responsibilities. Where an individual aspires to land among these levels is completely up to them. Being aware of these tiers, however, can help one appreciate where they currently stand and/or the direction they would like to move in based on their current skillsets and their relationship with time and lifestyle flexibility (however they define it).
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When regret is chosen
It’s not regret you feel when things didn’t work out after you had to make a choice based on the information, skills, and time you had available.
Instead, what you feel are the fumes of self-deprecation arising from a choice to focus on the unchangeable.
It’s not rational to focus unchangeable, but it’s still a natural (and learned) inclination.
This is why we must constantly remind ourselves of the following:
You can’t regret what wasn’t your’s to control in the first place.
Do what you can. Do it well. Aim to do better tomorrow.
Any feelings of “regret” beyond that process is, at some point, adopted by choice. They are not ordained by life.
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Is your life interesting and exciting enough?
Life is about as interesting and exciting as you perceive it to be.
Key word: Perceive
I know people who live incredibly adventurous lives and seem never to demonstrate (talk, body language, etc.) noticeable levels of excitement. I also know people who lead seemingly uneventful lives but talk and behave with a level adventurous fervor that would make Indiana Jones weak at the knees.
Many years ago, I learned that life isn’t interesting until you’re interested. I’ve since come to learn that the same is true when it comes to passion, adventure, and excitement.
Said differently: Excitement begets excitement. The momentum is yours to start or stop.
As Helen Keller put it: “Life is either a daring adventure… or nothing.”
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10 articles worth reading
There is a lot of information available online … and truth be told, it’s not all great stuff. There are some sources that are far more worthy or reading than others. Below is a collection of such articles put together by author, Dan Pink, who’s work I have always enjoyed.
Like Dan, I felt many of these articles were worth sharing. Below is an except from Dan’s newsletter:
One of the features readers have found most valuable is reading recommendations. So, in what will be a regular feature, here are 10 articles I’ve read recently that I’ve found intriguing enough to recommend to you.
1. Want to Learn How to Think? Read Fiction – Pacific Standard explains how literature opens our minds to ambiguity and thereby sharpens our thinking.
2. Gigawalk Does Temp-Worker Hiring Without Job Interviews – BusinessWeek profiles a company that’s developed technology designed to “find good workers without ever engaging in personal interactions.” Big Data meets HR.
3. Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report – This isn’t an article per se. It’s a 117-slide deck from the smartest Internet analyst on the planet. But if you’re interested in the future of technology, it’s a must-read.
4. Why Men Work So Many Hours – In HBR, Joan Williams insightfully dissects the real reason why most workplace flexibility programs haven’t fully taken off.
5. How to Escape Bad Decisions – Adam Grant explains why we so often escalate our commitment to poor decisions – and provides four ways we can avoid the trap.
7. Can Government Play Moneyball? – In The Atlantic, a former Obama and former Bush official show that we often have no idea whether government programs are actually effective.
8. Why Stage Parents Push Their Kids – Time magazine on new research showing that – yes, indeed – Tiger Moms and Little League dads are living out their own personal demons rather than helping their kids.
9. Clayton Christensen: Still Disruptive – The Economist interviews the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma about education, disruption, and the perils of relying too heavily on data.
10. You Have 25,000 Mornings As an Adult. Here’s How to Not Waste Them. – Lifehacker rethinks your mornings and offers 9 smart rules to make them better.
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Understanding vs Mastery
Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird recently wrote a rather simple and short, but very practical book on the topic of Effective thinking and problem solving titled, 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. As it is described on Amazon, the book “presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies.”
I found many of the ideas in the book very similar to the conclusions I came to at the end of my college career allowing me to run 3 businesses and travel internationally during semesters with a full-time student load and still graduate Magna Cum Laude. The right approach and frame of mind can change the trajectory of the learning curve.
As friend, Ben Casnocha describes the first element in the book, seeking a deep understanding, “Don’t face complex issues head-on; first understand simple ideas deeply. Clear the clutter and expose what is really important. Be brutally honest about what you know and don’t know. Then see what’s missing, identify the gaps, and fill them in. Let go of bias, prejudice, and preconceived notions. There are degrees to understanding (it’s not just a yes-or-no proposition) and you can always heighten yours. Rock-solid understanding is the foundation for success. Make mistakes: Fail to succeed. Intentionally get it wrong to inevitably get it even more right.”
Below are some excepts from the book as they relate to creating a deeper understanding of a subject:
You can understand anything better than you currently do. Setting a higher standard for yourself for what you mean by “understanding” can revolutionize how you perceive the world.
The most fundamental ideas in any subject can be understood with ever-increasing depth. Professional tennis players watch the ball; mathematicians understand a nuanced notion of number; successful students continue to improve their mastery of the concepts from previous chapters and courses as they move toward the more advanced material on the horizon; successful people regularly focus on the core purpose of their profession or life. True experts continually deepen their mastery of the basics.
The fundamental difference between the true master and the talented students clearly occurred at a far more basic level than in the intricacies of complex pieces. Tony explained that mastering an efficient, nuanced performance of simple pieces allows one to play spectacularly difficult pieces with greater control and artistry.
A transformative but challenging personal policy is to never pretend to know more than you do. Don’t build on ambiguity and ignorance. When you don’t know something, admit it as quickly as possible and immediately take action—ask a question.
Simple suggestions, yes, but very “effective” as the title of book suggestions. Of course, as always, knowing and doing are very different things. When it comes to applying these thoughts to one’s life, there is no better way then to create environmental reminders (which is why I created Maxims4Mavericks) triggering new patterns of thought and then making a candid personal assessment of progress at the end of each day. Committing to this for 3 weeks will result in a change of mindset and hopefully, a clearer, more effective way of approaching life.
HT: Ben Casnocha
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On getting advice when you’re stuck
Just some simple, candid, and helpful advice on getting advice (and feedback) when you feel stuck…
One day when you are feeling stuck someone will give you a piece of advice – or maybe an opportunity. At the time you will reject them, vehemently. Watch out for those moments. Those are usually the moments where you heard exactly what you needed to hear, or had the chance to learn exactly what you needed to learn. Why? Because when you are well and truly stuck, your options are restricted to what lies in your comfort zone. But your answer is not there. The road to where you want to be, at those moments, lies outside your comfort zone, and it won’t look quite like you expected (if it did you’d have found it already). – Marianne Cantwell
You can learn more about Marianne here.
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What is your growth ratio?
It can be difficult to identify and measure our growth in many areas of life — but if you’re not attempting to do so, chances are you’re leaving a lot of talent, energy, performance, happiness, and even income on the table. For this reason, I really enjoyed Scott H Young’s perspective and suggestions about how to become better at “growing.” His article is titled, What is your growth ratio? He begins by stressing the importance of becoming more observant through some basic, but intriguing questions:
“The trajectory of your life in a lot of areas can be defined by a growth ratio:
1) The amount of exercise you need to sustain your health, versus improve it.
2) Percentage of new knowledge learned to total time reviewing/studying.
3) Time spent upgrading your skills to the next tier, versus time spent preventing older skills from simply becoming obsolete.
4) New life experiences versus routines.”
I admire the simplicity and inescapable candor that these questions can offer someone who is genuinely curious and committed about improving themselves and their life.
If you find these questions interesting, it’s worth reading the full article: http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2013/06/03/growth-ratio/
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Why I decided to upgrade to a DVR
“No, I’m going to pass on the HD box and DVR, thank you.”
“Are you sure?” responded the Fios cable guy on the other side of the phone.
“Yes, I don’t want to waste money on something I never use/do” I proclaimed.
I declined channel package upgrades, HD cable boxes, and most certainly, the DVR option.
I started with the most basic cable plan. Very few channels. No HD cable box.
Then, when seasons changed I realized I couldn’t watch the Lakeshow. I upgraded my channel selection.
Realizing how painful it is to watch sports in standard definition, I also called Fios to purchase an HD cable box. The Fios rep encouraged me to get the DVR. I immediately declined repeating my statements told to the original Fios rep. Unrelenting, he continued to pitch me. Finally, it was the free promotion for 90 days that hooked me. I guess I am a sucker for promotions after all.
This past week I installed my new DVR cable box and set a select few shows to record. It’s difficult to describe how much I appreciate the ability to watch “live” cable TV on my own schedule. In the still infrequent times I watch TV, I’m not spending a large chunk of that precious time watching commercials.
If you value your time as I do, then eliminating wasted minutes is an ongoing and very worthwhile pursuit. There is also strangely simple sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing you’re circumventing a time trap. Even though I don’t watch much TV I know that when I do I’ll be getting the most out of my time spent doing it. It’s because I don’t watch TV often that I want to ensure when I do it’s a quality experience.
Now, I’m secretely waiting for the next person to ask me, “Why do you havae a DVR?”
My response will be very different than it would have been months ago. In fact, it will be the opposite…. “I have a DVR because I don’t watch much TV.”
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The little things don’t matter if…
In the area of the professional performance, mastery, and quality results, there is a lot of talk about about focusing on “the little things” to ensure they are done right. “The Devil is in the details.” “It’s the little things that make the big things come together,” we’re told.
It’s often good advice, but it’s also partial advice.
Even if you are excellent at detail work there is absolutely no guarantee of success — not because the little thing are unimportant, but because it’s more important to ensure that the every little thing is moving you closer towards BIG things.
In an effort to do the little things really well, it’s easy to become obsessive and concurrently blind to the larger picture and overall direction. The sail maker still needs a rudder.
It’s important to do good work, which is often a series of smaller actions, but it’s also equally important to bear in mind that doing something well does not make it important.
Start on the big picture THEN work on details. Success never works in reverse. Its okay to knuckle-down, but keep your head up to keep your bearings in check.
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Building a Foundation for Life Without a Job
The entrepreneur’s life is often a sexy sell. We hear about the freedom, the control, the money… but the journey of successfully making this stigma part of your everyday life? Well, that’s a very different story.
It’s usually more about sacrifices and hard work than glitz and glamour — although it certainly can be at times if you do things right.
I don’t feel the topic of working for yourself is is addressed candidly enough, often enough. It’s not an easy life path. No, this not merely opting for a pessimistic view, it’s a matter of approaching the goal/lifestyle in such a way that doesn’t create let-downs and burn-outs. Being someone who has worked for myself my entire life, I found the advice from blogger and entrepreneur, Steve Pavlina, to be right on the money. Below is a piece from Steve that will help anyone currently working for themselves or aspiring to do so.
Enter Steve Pavlina:
Building a Foundation for Life Without a Job
I know many readers are interested in alternative ways of supporting themselves that don’t require becoming corporate slaves. I’ve gone about 20 years without a job now, so let me share some observations and insights to help you succeed on this path.
Adopt Realistic Expectations
I’ve seen many people try to support themselves without a job, usually by starting a small business. They typically last 6-12 months at best and then go back to full-time employment working for someone else.
On the one hand, we could say those people gave it a good shot, and it didn’t work out. But in my view, they weren’t really serious about it to begin with. If they were prepared to give up during the first year, they didn’t understand the level of commitment necessary for this approach to work. Almost everyone gets lousy results during that first year. What matters is whether you keep going or quit.
If you try going jobless for a year and then give it up, that’s dabbling. Now there’s nothing wrong with dabbling. It’s fine to try something without making a true commitment to it… if you only want short-term results and don’t care to build anything that lasts. I dabbled in chess. I dabbled in marathon running. I dabbled in macrobiotic cooking. Those were short-term interests. Is your interest in living without a job short-term as well, or are you wanting to follow this path for many years to come?
It’s hard to succeed here with less than a full commitment. There’s so much to learn and figure out. It’s not as easy as it appears on the surface. The people promoting this as something fast and easy are for the most part, disingenuous. More often than not, this path is slow, plodding, and gradual.
I’d expect nearly everyone to still look like they’re failing by the end of their first year… and the second…. and the third too. This is normal to see.
I lost money for my first 5 years straight. It was only in the 6th year that I finally got a positive cash-flow going. This isn’t unusual.
You may be incredibly brilliant and have everything working beautifully by the end of the first year, but I’d bet against you. The first year is mostly a learning experience.
Clarify Your Desires
Some people avoid jobs because they dislike working for someone else. Some want to generate some quick cash on the side. Those are okay motivations to get you started, but they don’t have much staying power. If that’s all you have going for you, I suggest you stick with a regular job.
It’s important to dig deeper and get clear about why you really want to live without a job. A job can give you a stable income for a while, you may get to work on interesting projects, and with a good company you can learn a great deal. Jobs are obviously very popular. Most people don’t like them, but they still come back to this solution again and again, so they must find some value in it.
If you’re going to avoid having a job, then why is it? What do you want instead?
For many people the answer is some variation on freedom. There are different forms of freedom though: freedom from and freedom to. I think both are important to clarify.
Without a job you won’t have a boss telling you what to do. You won’t have to commute to work. You won’t have a limit on your vacation time. You can be free from the hassles of traditional employment.
For many people this much is already inspiring. But on the other side, take time to consider the proactive ways in which you could use this newfound freedom. You’ll have more direct control over your time. You can use that time however you see fit. While other people are going to work, you can do something entirely different.
A lot of my motivation comes from the “freedom to” side. I love traveling, and having a typical job would likely get in the way of traveling where I want to go, when I want to go, and with whom. I especially love road trips, and I don’t necessarily want to pick a return date in advance. For instance, my upcoming trip to Berlin is open-ended. After the conference I’ll be doing a road trip with friends through Germany and Holland, but what happens next is still unscheduled. I might pop over to the U.K. and visit London, or I might go somewhere else. I’ll return to Las Vegas when I’m ready. That kind of freedom is one of my favorite benefits of being jobless.
As part of this lifestyle, I like to work when I’m inspired to work. I feel inspired often, so this approach works for me. If I’d rather be doing something else, I’ll give myself full permission to do that something else instead of working. Then when I’m ready to work, I work.
What’s your reason for letting go of a job? What would you want to do with your life if you knew you didn’t have to show up to work for someone else each day?
If you can’t come up with something that stirs your soul, don’t quit your day job. The people I know who are happiest on the jobless path are generally clear about why they’re doing it.
Build a Moat Around Your Work
In the beginning you may see lots of struggle and challenge when you try to go it alone. But if you stick with it and keep learning and growing and don’t give up, the odds are that you’ll figure it out eventually.
Many of your early actions will create lasting benefits for years to come. Every client you add, link you gain, or contact you make can still produce dividends many years later. But you lose those benefits if you cut out early. Staying power is key.
If you stick to your chosen field long enough, it gets harder to fail with each passing year. More people will be aware of your existence than when you first started. You’ll have a bigger toolbox of strategies. You’ll have more clients and customers. Your skills will increase. You’ll have more chances for fortunate opportunities to land on your plate. And you’ll be competing against people with increasingly less experience than you have, relatively speaking.
One of my goals for each business I started was to develop a big moat around my work. For this business that moat consists of my website traffic and the community that’s interested in what I have to share. Individuals within this community come and go, and my level of personal engagement with them changes over time, but the community is always there in some fashion. Having such a moat makes it hard to fail. In fact, to kill my business I would basically have to drain that moat somehow; otherwise there will be too many people encouraging and supporting me on this path.
If you can build a moat around your business or lifestyle, you’ll be established as a fixture in your field, and you’ll find it hard to fail. But when you first start on this path, your moat is probably very small, perhaps consisting of just a few friends and family members — an in some cases, not even that.
This moat idea applies to income as well. I still earn passive monthly commissions from business deals I set up years ago. It’s hard to fail when you keep getting paid for work that was completed long ago. Even if some income sources are relatively small, they add up over time. I’m glad that instead of chasing short-term deals several years ago, I favored moat-building deals that would generate passive income year after year. That way I don’t have to keep chasing new business just to pay the bills. The bills are covered by this safety net of passive income.
Now hopefully this all makes sense logically as to why it works, but I’m also suggesting that you apply this kind of strategy very deliberately. It takes time to build a solid foundation and to create a moat around your work. If you quit after a year, you won’t be around long enough to see those long-term benefits add up. A year is nothing. Quitting during this time means you’re taking your moat-in-progress and draining it. Then you’ll have to start all over again with an empty moat. Good luck with that.
To thrive on this path, you need to balance your work intelligently. Do what you must to pay the bills in the short term, but still invest in long term moat-building strategies that may not pay off for years.
My favorite moat-building strategy is to create and give away lots of value for free. I’ve been doing that for years by writing and publishing free articles, and I do a lot of speaking for free as well. If you add up all the time I’ve spend creating and giving away content for free, you might find it ludicrous — it would add up to many years of my life. And I was already using this approach for many years before I started blogging. The key is not to be stingy with your freebies. Give away your best ideas for free. Then challenge yourself to top them.
How you build a moat depends on your particular path. But generally it takes years to build a good moat. That’s why it’s unwise to quit within the first year when your moat is still just a baby. Try committing to 5 years as a minimum if you really want to make progress.
The funny thing is that once you have a strong moat, it can be hard to shake it even if you want to. I shut down my computer games business in 2006, and I still get letters from old fans, including requests to update my old games for new platforms like tablets and smart phones. Although that old moat has shrunken considerably, it’s still there. This is another reason why it’s important to make a committed choice. You may have to live with your moat for many years to come, possibly even for the rest of your life, so if you’re going to commit, commit to a field you truly love.
The jobless path can be challenging, but it certainly has its rewards. Creating a sustainable lifestyle that you enjoy and that serves others is an achievable goal — if you’re willing to maintain a long time perspective and stick with it.
Thank you Steve. Some excellent advice for serious about
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Don’t bother asking, “What am I good at?”
What do you tell a student or professional who is unsure about what direction to take with their career? Personally, I don’t think I would agree with most conventional responses. However, I do think author Cal Newport does a very good job answering this question. Enter Cal:
“If you lead a student believe that making the right job choice is what matters for career happiness (whether you’re choosing based on “passion” or identifying “what you’re good at”), you’re setting them up for confusion when they don’t feel immediate and continuous love for their work.
[So] My advice to a student … is the following:
Pick something that you wouldn’t mind investing years in mastering. If you already have some skills, then it might make sense (though is by no means necessary) to start there, as you already have a head start on mastery, but you should still expect years of deliberate improvement before deep passion can blossom for your work.”
As Cal also says, “In Choosing a Job: Don’t Ask ‘What Are You Good At?’, Ask Instead ‘What Are You Willing to Get Good At?’”
*If this topic applies to you personally, you may enjoy his recent book that I just finished reading: So Good They Can’t Ignore You.
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The lost advice about how to (truly) get better
If you want to get better at anything then you need to get better at getting better.
This is not redundant rhetoric.
Essentially, it means identifying and improving upon the best METHODS of practice not the HOURS of practice.
If you don’t have the best recipe then the time spent preparing it won’t matter much. Along the same vein, opting to practice what you enjoy (without sources of objective systems and sources of feedback) may not be the most productive path to mastery.
Mastery also requires more than effort and arduous sacrifice. It requires a fixation with ROI.
One most account for every minute spent working towards a goal. Where is it going? What are the driving forces behind those allotments of time? What is the ratio between various tasks? What contributes most to the outcome? How do you know?
Truth be told, these questions cannot be answered without systems in places. Correction: These questions cannot be answered accurately without systems in place. Relying on assumptions, self-discipline, and personal opinion will send you astray. This is why reviewing reports of all kinds often leads to many “Wow” “Really?” “Ah-ha” moments. Our perception of the world (and especially ourselves) is full of inescapable, inherent biases.
Those who are serious about getting better are also serious about learning the nuances that positively make them better — the actions that lead to measurable improvement. It’s not enough to “do.” Sorry Nike. We must do the right things. Those “correct” things can differ depending on natural talent and personal goals, but there is only one way to be sure you’re efforts are maximized… measurement.
Peter Drucker, legendary management consultant and author, once said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Alan Mullally, as CEO turning around the corporate giant, Ford Motorcar Company, said, “The data will set you free.”
Personally, I like combining the two ideas: “What gets measured gets mastered.”
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What books should you be reading? Textbooks?
I love reading — well, let me be clear… I love reading books that interest me. Fortunately, for learning purposes, I have a propensity to consistently opt for non-fiction works (not that fiction is in any way “bad”).
Lately, however, I’ve started to lose interest in many books in the genres I’ve always loved: Business, Psychology, Motivation, etc. The content is beginning to appear like a rehash of the last book I just read. Yes, I am somewhat fussy in my analysis of a “good book.” For the most part, I am seeking to extract nuggets of tacit knowledge, which seems to be more and more difficult after a establishing a foundation about a given topic over more than a decade.
Then I stumbled upon an intriguing article that shed new light on books I used to loathe in school: Textbooks. More intriguing than his claim “read more textbooks” are the supporting ideas about how to learn in general. Below is the first part of the article, but I feel it gets much better as it progresses.
I think I will take the author up on his suggestion. What about you?
Enter Scott H Young:
Why you should read textbooks
Okay, file this piece of advice in the pile that nobody is going to follow (even though they probably should): you should read more textbooks.
Let’s assume for a second that you’re one of the few people who does read to learn more about the world. Let’s also assume that you’re interested in topics that are heavily researched: finance, health, nutrition, science or psychology. This probably eliminates most people, but I’m guessing as a reader of this blog you’re more inclined to such intellectual pursuits.
Ask yourself where you get information about these topics. Blogs? News? Popular non-fiction books?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these sources. Some blogs and popular non-fiction books are crap—but many are not. Sometimes sacrificing empirical rigor can also be useful if the content is more pragmatic or impactful.
But if you do care about a subject, it probably makes sense to read at least one general textbook on it. That textbook may not fill you with the detailed knowledge of a PhD, but it can give the foundation for evaluating many other ideas.
The value of reading a textbook (or, better, doing an online course) is that it gives you a baseline for examining other aspects of that field. Taking one physics course would be enough to know why perpetual motion machines are scams.
Similarly, if you’re going to read books on the financial crisis, political blogs or start investing money—maybe it makes sense to have read one book on basic economics. I find it baffling that people have complex economic and political philosophies but haven’t learned concepts like supply and demand.
Read the full article here.
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Should I go to business school?
Should you go to business school? Is an MBA worth it?
Depending your life goals, I would have to say “no” under most circumstances.
If you’re already motivated and have the skill sets in place that make you an attractive candiate for a top business school, then you already have what it takes to complete the gaps in your knowledge and make a successful business career. Get out there and do it. Stop delaying.
Here’s a short article from a friend of mine, Dale Stephens, in the Wall Street Journal on the topic:
A Smart Investor Would Skip the M.B.A.
Imagine that you have been accepted to Harvard Business School. The ivy-covered buildings and high-powered faculty whisper that all you need to do is listen to your teachers, get good grades and work well with your peers. After two years, you’ll emerge ready to take the business world by storm. Once you have that degree, you’ll have it made.
But don’t kid yourself. What matters exponentially more than that M.B.A. is the set of skills and accomplishments that got you into business school in the first place. What if those same students, instead of spending two years and $174,400 at Harvard Business School, took the same amount of money and invested it in themselves? How would they compare after two years?
If you want a business education, the odds aren’t with you, unfortunately, in business school. Professors are rewarded for publishing journal articles, not for being good teachers. The other students are trying to get ahead of you. The development office is already assessing you for future donations. Administrators care about the metrics that will improve your school’s national ranking. None of these things actually helps you learn about business.
Read the full article here.
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Who should I work for?
There are many questions out there I encounter again and again and again. But there are few answers to those questions that I care to share. Sometimes the reason I don’t pass the advice along is because I disagree with it, but mainly it’s because the feedback simply isn’t “complete.” There may be nuggets of wisdom, but the content has been purged of ill-tasting truth — the parts that help fill in the blanks when it comes time to apply the advice and/or adapt course in flight.
My friend, Charlie Hoehn, however, does a good job giving the whole truth, so with no more further ado I’d like to share a piece of his recent musings…
Enter Charlie Hoehn (an excerpt from his blog):
“Who should I work for?”
I get this question a lot from people who have read Recession Proof Graduate. Most of them have no clue what type of person they want to work with, so they usually do one of two things:
- Send offers to work for free for every company in their industry (HORRIBLE idea)
- Approach authors with free work
#1 is idiotic. You should not approach anyone unless you’re intimately familiar with their business, and are a genuine fan of their work/products. Doing free work isn’t about doling yourself out for slavery; it’s about selectively working with pros who can grant you hands-on learning and invaluable experience, in a field that’s meaningful to you.
#2 is also ill-advised. Even though approaching authors worked out for me and Ryan and Ben, I generally don’t advocate targeting the author niche. Writers are interesting people, but they typically don’t make much money. Most of them won’t be able to pay you once the free work comes to an end. Unless it’s an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, there are better uses of your time.
What I suggest in the e-book is approaching successful entrepreneurs. No matter what you’re interested in — photography, architecture, cooking, fashion, etc. — the people in your field who are earning the most are all successful entrepreneurs. They were all able to turn their skills into viable businesses, and have found ways to make their passion profitable.
It’s fine to work with a brilliant inventor or a gifted artist, but if they know nothing about sales or marketing or running a business, they are going to have a really tough time sustaining their hobby. And you will run the risk of never making money with them. You need to get your foot in the door with people who know what the hell they’re doing..
Read the full post here.
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