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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Principles – Ray Dalio

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.

Back to Principles (the book)….

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.

Energy, Not Time, Is Our Most Precious Resource

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.

To that end, I’m rereading some notes from The Power of Full Engagement. The fundamental message: MANAGE YOUR ENERGY, NOT YOUR TIME.

  • 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.”

Objectives Before Activity

Today’s nugget is simple. It’s simple to say, simple to comprehend… and not simple to PRACTICE.

The nugget (excerpt) comes from Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. (This is a ‘must read’ for every teacher or coach.

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 and non-conscious processing.

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!

Identity and Work

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading about the intersections of meaning, value (creation), and work.

Today’s nugget is from Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

“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.”

Thoughts for Emerging Leaders

We. Need. Better. LEADERS.

This is the reason for StartingBloc.

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.

Three Types of Feedback

Thanks to Teju Ravilochan, CEO at Uncharted, for giving me a copy of Thanks for the Feedback. The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly you’re not in the mood).

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.

Also, when I think about the true professional (read: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals from Farnam Street)… the true professional seeks these all three types of feedback!

4 Hours of Deep Work Each Day

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport, is one of those books that is profoundly simple, yet compoundingly insightful. On the surface, the cover suggests it all: focus more and free yourself from all the distractions of a modern mobile, social world.

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.

By contrast.

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.

Culture of Health

To ‘Be For Impact’ is to have a very whole-person view… of impact… and of your own role (and vitality) in that impact. ‘Change the world’ is a common refrain in our sector but this begins by taking care of yourself.

Three years ago we asked ourselves, “What would it look like for our company to be completely and totally committed to health?” We launched THE SUMMER OF HEALTH. For 90 days we were ALL-IN in terms of supporting, incentivizing, and funding lifestyles of wellness, nutrition, and fitness.

That was a big success.

More than the impact it had on our team, the Summer of Health was a value (and a story) that catalyzed relationships beyond our team. I began to hear from readers that wanted to talk about HEALTH, first and foremost!

Health. Vitality. PERSONAL Impact. These are values that resonate for us and for others. So I wanted to share a quick update…

After the Summer of Health, we decided to adopt the commitment (and investment) as a permanent part of our culture and business model. We simply call it: CULTURE OF HEALTH.

Here are some selected stories from our team (as shared in our annual survey), almost three years in. The biggest words that come up again and again are PERMISSION and FAMILY.

  • “I’ve found it interesting how my efforts in the gym have spilled over into other aspects of my life. When I cook meals for us at home, I do so with my exercise and health goals in mind. These healthy meal choices affect my family as well as myself, and I think my enthusiasm for my gym routine has helped create a positive feedback loop where we work to support family members’ exercise goals.”

  • “I think one of the main things Culture of Health has given me is PERMISSION. Without having to worry about cost, I can do the kinds of self-care that I was probably hesitant to indulge in. A number of years ago I wrote down some dreams I had, and one of those included getting regular massages – not just once a year, but much more frequently – they are one of the ways I can fully relax and be taken care of. I’ve been getting massages every two months, and it’s such a great way to unplug, and basically do 90 minutes of meditation too (I struggle to do 5 minutes of meditation!). Having the same massage therapist has also meant she knows when things are out of whack with my body, and can give me a more holistic treatment.”

  • The family impact comes up again-and-again. “When I grew up we ate fast food and processed stuff. The Culture of Health has us thinking about nutrition. My kids are growing up with a completely different eating habit. That’s an impact that will last forever.”

  • “After reading It Starts with Food we [husband and I] decided to try the Whole 30. It then inspired my brother-in-law and his family. While the impact has been big on us, it’s been transformation on them. He’s down 60 pounds and going strong. I don’t think you expected to have the ripple impact through the Culture of Health but that’s what I’m seeing.”

When we first introduced the Summer of Health, we saw the loss of weight, energy spikes and the like. Then things started to normalize.

While that might seem bad, I think it’s simply normal and probably more ‘practically sustainable’. I’ve also notice the ‘normalized conversation’ changes. It moves from ‘diet and exercise’ to ‘environment, nutrition, and fitness’… and I hope we can continue to move forward toward ‘vitality’.

In my mind our overall ‘health and vitality’ went like this.

Overall, this continues to be the right move. On average it’s an incremental financial investment of 3% to 4% each year to our bottom line. The financial return is not a straightforward calculus — but it’s there. Moreover, the impact return is transformational (and generational).

We all want to impact the world. Hopefully, this post gives you a little PERMISSION to take care of yourself, first!