Reading

We Spend 95% of the Time Thinking About Ourselves and Our Own Story

“When we are not engaged in thinking about some definite problem, we usually spend about 95 percent of our time thinking about ourselves.” – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I’m not sure how to tell you to use this nugget – I just know it’s very insightful.

Related: In The Power of Story, Jim Loehr writes:

“The human brain, according to a recent New York Times article about scientists investigating why we think the way we do, has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes ‘whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random’ and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause-and-effect logic.

Stories impose meaning on the chaos. They organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”

Here are some ways I’ve processed and coached around this recently:

  • As a speaker or leader.  I promise you no one else is over analyzing your work or your presentation to the degree you are – especially when things go bad.  You’re spending 95% of your whitespace-thinking trying to align your world in your head… how you did with a presentation or how you are doing in your role.  Other people have reactions to your work but they don’t dwell on it — they dwell on themselves. They can ‘let it go’; you should too.
  • As a human being.  Now that you’ve read this, take note of how often you’re making sense of your own life, your own narrative.  What if we can shift it to something more like 50/50!?  I believe we can! Or, at least, we can direct our 95% toward more empathetic thinking.
  • On a visit.  Whomever I’m sitting with is spending 95% of their time working on their own narrative!  What’s the narrative!? (Discovery! Discovery! Discovery!) I want to listen and then tie to that!

 

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General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis on Professional Reading

You’re never too busy to read.

This eloquent letter from Marine General Mattis is wise, direct and incontrovertible – I’ve never read anything better on reading:

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
 Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
Going forward, I will print and share this letter with every graduate as ‘some of the best life advice I can give.’

I’m reminded also of Charlie Munger’s observation, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.”

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