When asked for a productivity tip, Warren Buffet once said something along the lines of, “It’s simple. I do one thing at a time and I don’t start something else until I’m finished with that one thing.”
If there is any one “secret” of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time….
Concentration is dictated… by the fact that most of us find it hard enough to do well even one thing at a time, let alone two. Mankind is indeed capable of doing an amazingly wide diversity of things; humanity is a “multipurpose tool.” But the way to apply productively mankind’s great range is to bring to bear a large number of individual capabilities on one task…
This is the “secret” of those people who “do so many things” and apparently so many difficult things. They do only one at a time. As a result, they need much less time in the end than the rest of us…
The people who get nothing done often work a great deal harder… the typical executive tries to do several things at once.
I’ve been taking some time off from writing/posting these past two weeks. The Fellers family welcomed our fourth(!) child, baby Kathryn (“Kit”) last week.
I’ll be working my way back into posting Daily Nuggets, but I wanted to share this nugget from Jim Rohn. Rohn is one of the ‘success author’ pioneers. He’s credited with inspiring Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, and many others.
Somehow, it became a ritual for me to rock new babies and reread all of Jim Rohn’s stuff. I find it inspirational, directional and centering. Rohn’s concept of ‘success’ is not limited to financial, or corporate. He focuses on success in terms of fulfillment and family. For this fourth-time new dad, I always connect with Rohn’s passages on parenting, in particular.
Here are two nuggets on Leadership – and Parenting:
Leadership is the great challenge of today [Jim Rohn writes… in the 1970’s], in all fields: science, politics, industry, education, sales. And leadership will continue to be among our greatest challenges in the future.
But I want to begin by recognizing one of the most challenging roles in leadership—parenting. Yes, one of the greatest challenges of leadership is parenting. Unless we take our children by the hand and strengthen the family foundation, the nation is shaky. Parenting is where it all begins.
My father had a simple little rule. He said, “Son, if you get in trouble in school, when you get home, it’s double trouble.” Does that method sound familiar? Double trouble at home if you get in trouble at school. A lot of parents are hoping someone else will exercise the leadership role—teachers or the church or the school or the community—somebody will take up the task of being the example of leadership. But this is a challenge for parents to take up themselves, to become leaders.
The Challenge of Leadership
So now, here’s what leadership is: The challenge to be something more than mediocre. It was said of Abraham Lincoln that when his mother died he was at her bedside, and her last words to him were: “Be somebody, Abe.” And if that story’s true, he must have taken it to heart. Be somebody. That’s a good challenge. Be somebody. Be somebody wise. Be somebody strong. Strength is attractive. Be somebody kind. All of the attributes of leadership are a unique challenge.
Leadership is the challenge to step up to a new level, a new dimension. Here’s what this new dimension has: opportunity and responsibility. But who wouldn’t want the responsibility along with the opportunity if it builds an extraordinary life? You wouldn’t want it any other way.
There’s a whole new level of leadership, a new method. Here’s what it is called: Leadership by invitation. Not leadership by threat. Not leadership by aggravation. Not leadership by intimidation—that shows the weakness of the leader or shows ego at work instead of skills. Leadership by invitation. Invite somebody to a better way of doing things.
Here’s what else it’s called: Leadership by inspiration. Inspire somebody to make the necessary changes to move up or to get the job done. As leaders, we inspire. As leaders, we entice. As leaders, we invite. Invite, entice, inspire, but not threaten.
Ray Dalio built Bridgewater into one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. He correctly predicted the 2008 financial crash, and he attributes much of his success to the life lessons he later encoded in the form of Bridgewater Principles. His new book on this subject was just published.
I’ll come back to his book in a minute. But first, I want to talk about the impact these principles have had on The Suddes Group.
After Dalio first published his principles for the public in 2010, I was one of the 3 million people (!!!) who downloaded and devoured them. Inspired by Dalio, I starting writing up Suddes Group’s Principles and first shared them with our team in 2011. TSG Principles have proven to be an effective way to encode and transmit lessons to our team.
Here are a few Suddes Group Principles:
#3. The best knowledge is built (and then owned) by the clients.
We can develop the coolest strategy… or the greatest message… but if it’s not ‘owned’ and internalized by the client, it will not have the full effect. Often, it will not even have a shelf-life!
Facilitating the learning for clients often takes more effort, but it is essential in order for us to have the intended impact.
#10. Do what you need to do for YOU to be able to sell the impact. (I Am Sold Myself)
We’ve developed a lot of systems and frameworks over the years. As much as a team member can and should rely on those ‘encoded lessons,’ each person must take personal responsibility for doing whatever it takes to be SOLD on the program impact (or vision).
We’ve had team members:
Sit in an ER for two days to observe the traffic.
Travel to rural outposts to see how health evaluation happens in those communities.
Dig through aisles of dusty archives to find the perfect ‘historical funding story.’
#19. Never assume a client ‘already knows what he/she is doing (with respect to the scope of work)’. NEVER. (Repeat, a 3rd time, NEVER.)
My greatest mistakes have been when I’ve tried to skip part of our process… when I’ve thought, “He or she knows that already. I’m going to skip over that.”
Don’t assume. Work the process like an airline pilot working a pre-flight checklist.
I’m only half-way into Dalio’s book, but like any book in this format, there are gems and nuggets for the taking; you can choose what resonates most for you. I find the real meat to be in the commentary Dalio provides behind each principle. For instance, he shares this explanation on the distinctions between first-order thinking and second-order thinking:
By recognizing the higher-level consequences nature optimizes for, I’ve come to see that people who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects of second- and subsequent-order consequences rarely reach their goals. This is because first-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision-making. For example, the first-order consequences of exercise (pain and time spent) are commonly considered undesirable, while the second-order consequences (better health and more attractive appearance) are desirable. Similarly, food that tastes good is often bad for you and vice versa.
Quite often the first-order consequences are the temptations that cost us what we really want, and sometimes they are the barriers that stand in our way. It’s almost as though nature sorts us by throwing us trick choices that have both types of consequences and penalizing those who make their decisions on the basis of the first-order consequences alone.
By contrast, people who choose what they really want, and avoid the temptations and get over the pains that drive them away from what they really want, are much more likely to have successful lives.
This makes me think of the fear that some people have around fundraising. They are stopped by the ‘first-order thinking,’ instead of continuing to consider the second-order consideration: the impact it will have… the lives saved or changed.
We’re spending the day working with leaders from a social justice movement. Each leader wears 19 hats (with fundraising being only one of them). Whereas we can ‘teach’ fundraising, we’ve found it’s just as important to put this in the context of working effectively.
“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”
“Every one of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors has an energy consequence, for better or worse.” <--- Think about that! Our THOUGHTS drive our most precious resource! This insight is what leads to author Jim Loehr's next book: The Power of Story.
“Performance, health, and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy.”
“The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not.”
“The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become. The more we blame others or external circumstances, the more negative and compromised our energy is likely to be.”
“Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy–in companies, organizations and even in families.”
“To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”
Many practices begin with the thought, “What am I going to do tomorrow?” (or even this afternoon!). When you ask this question, you are starting with an activity, not an objective—with the action, not the reason for it. In the end, you can’t decide if an activity is the right one to do until you know why you’re doing it. Instead, start by asking what you are going to accomplish, and then ask what the best route to that goal is. When an objective is made first, before the activity, it guides you in choosing or adapting your activities. When it comes second, after you decide what you’ll do, it is a justification.
Tied to this, is the management system of OKR. Management (and measurement) by Objectives and Key Results. The system is more simple than it is innovative (and that’s a good thing). Here is a good article with a video about how Google manages by Objectives and Key Results.
Conscious processing can only handle about 120 bits of information at once. This isn’t much. Listening to another person speak can take almost 60 bits. If two people are talking, that’s it — we’ve maxed our bandwidth.
But if we remember that our unconscious can process billions of bits at once then we can *simply* learn to tap into the unconscious to unlock power, insights, and speed. We just can’t tap into that in our normal state.
You don’t need to be on drugs to access that state (although, that’s one way to do it…). Elite athletes do this with regularity. In his prime, Tiger Woods was literally accessing a different part of his brain for the unconscious performance at major tournaments.
Here is a quick fundraising application: Use the For Impact Presentation Flow and Altitude Framework (for your presentation). This gives you a road map for each visit allowing you t be present and listen (using those 160 bits!) Most people are trying to build a road map on-the-fly. To do that, they often sacrifice too much of their conscious processing!
I believe each of us can harness and process the unconscious in our work and daily life. There is so much science coming out right now that explains the ‘how’. We need not be concerned about the rise of machines if we learn to use the full capacity of the head on our shoulders.
NB: ever had a creative insight in the shower? This is because you’ve showered thousands of times. It’s not a conscious activity. That insight was the freedom of your unconscious mind to process, think!
“When we define ourselves by our work, by our dedication and effectiveness and willingness to go the extra mile, then it’s easy to see rest as the negation of all those things. If your work is your self, when you cease to work, you cease to exist.”
StaringBloc is a leadership program that identifies and supports emerging leader through Institute-experiences, fellowships, and community. This community now includes some 2500 change-makers in 56 countries.
I spent Friday with 140 StartingBloc Fellows in New York City sharing some of our For Impact Frameworks on messaging, clear thinking, and resource generation (PR, talent, and funding).
Here are some follow-up thoughts for the StartingBloc fellows (and other emerging leaders):
Always seek community and mentorship.
As a StartingBloc Fellow I have faith you will do this. My note is to underscore the importance and purpose.
“A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.” – Alan Kay.
Alan was one of the creators of the famous Xerox PARC – a center for silicon valley innovation. His observation was made in the context of what happens when you assemble a diverse and supportive community. Ideas accelerate.
With respect to mentorship… we all need a sounding board. Find someone in whom you can confide, who will push and support you.
You’re not crazy. (Or, maybe I should say, we’re ALL crazy.)
Some burning purpose lives inside you. Life is a journey where we discern this purpose. There are many road maps, but only you can build your roadmap. That’s maddening and terrifying. And normal.
Think of frameworks as tools, not tests.
Kristine shared Polarity Thinking, we (The Suddes Group) then shared the Altitude Framework (WHY/WHAT/HOW). I observed a frenzy of thinking and – at times – visible ‘weight.’ These are tools to help, not tests to complete.
“Create more value than you capture.” – Tim O’Reilly
This is a quote on my wall. As StartingBloc Fellows, you get this already. I just like the way Tim says it, so I’m noting it here.
To the newest members of the StartingBloc community, if we can ever support you in any way, JUST ASK.
Anyone that’s ever let a comment consume the mind will benefit from the tools in this book. [Raises hand: I’ll be the first to say that I yield too much mental energy to negative feedback.]
Here is a gem from the book that not only helps us process feedback but also helps create more effective feedback: Three types of feedback.
“Feedback comes in three forms: appreciation (thanks), coaching (here’s a better way to do it), and evaluation (here’s where you stand).”
Appreciation is fundamentally about relationship and human connection. At a literal level is says, “thanks.” But appreciation also conveys, “I see you,” “I know how hard you’ve been working,” and “You matter to me…”
Appreciation motivates us — it gives us a bounce in our step and then energy to redouble our efforts. When people complain that they don’t get enough feedback at work, they often mean that they wonder whether anyone notices or cares how hard they’re working. They don’t want advice. They want appreciation.”
When you ask your boss for more direction, you’re asking for coaching. Coaching is aimed at trying to help someone learn, grow, or change.
Evaluation tells you where you stand. It’s an assessment, ranking, or rating. Evaluations are always in some respect comparisons, implicitly or explicitly, against others or against a particular set of standards. Evaluations align expectations, clarify consequences, and inform decision making.
Having coached hundreds of development professionals, social impact leaders, and employees, I don’t believe you can ‘scale your coaching style’ without the discerning use of these feedback types.
Freeing ourselves from distractions is in the category of ‘simple, not easy’. And here is where the book offers real insight: HOW to make this work for you.
Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
Newport likens Deep Work to the work you achieve when you’re in Flow State. In fact, he seems to suggest that Deep Work and Flow State are one-in-the-same, just described from two different lenses.
Shallow Work is: Non-cognitively demanding and logistical – style tasks, often performed while distracted . These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
Newport says we have about four hours of ‘Deep Work’ in us each day. He examines literary giants, creative types, and other great thinkers. All of their schedules support the theory; many wrote for a very short / concentrated time.
Further, he overlays Dr. Anders Ericsson’s research (popularized in Outliers and The Talent Code). Ericsson says it it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in anything. In looking at virtuoso musicians, Ericsson observed that they compiled about four hours of ‘deep practice’ each day (for 50 weeks per year x 10 years).
I’ve found the ‘four hour threshold’ be instructional as I approach each day. I know my brain will probably be able to kick out about four hours of deep work. That could be four hours in the morning. It could be four one-hour blocks throughout the day. However I block my ‘deep work’, I also have a realistic parameter to work with: I know I’m probably not going to get six hours of good deep thinking in a day, so I had better plan accordingly.
Think about your ‘flow state’ – the work you do where time disappears. In sharing this with others I’m noticing most of us start out with about 3-4 hours of ‘Deep Work’ PER WEEK (not per day). See if you can identify your deep work and maximize your time for your greatest value and contribution to the world.