Monthly Archives: November 2016

Trying vs Doing. And the winner is…

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda #MondayMorningWakeUpCall


Better than do… just be.

Doing wins hands up, hands down, hands over and around. In fact doing kicks trying’s ass till there’s no ass anymore.

Bernard Roth in his book The Achievement Habit explains it super succinctly. “There is a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. They’re two totally different actions. The difficulty arises when people conflate them. If you try to do something, it may or may not happen. If it does not happen, you might try using an altered strategy, and again it may not happen. Although this could go on indefinitely, usually it lasts until you luck out and succeed, get tired of trying, or get distracted by something else. Clearly this is a very unproductive way to go about your life.

If you are doing something, then no matter how many times you hit a barrier, or how frustrated your original strategy becomes, you intend to get the job done, and you bring to bear on it the inner resolve and attention necessary to fulfill your intention. Doing takes intention and attention.”

To demonstrate this in his class, the professor asks for a volunteer to come to the front of the room. When he is standing in front of him, he holds out a water bottle (or other object) and say, “Please try to take it away from me.” The volunteer will tug at the bottle—at first tentatively, because he’s older and looks weaker, and then more forcefully when he realizes the professor has it firmly in his grasp. Eventually he asks the student to stop trying.

The professor then asks the volunteer to listen carefully to his next instruction. This time he says, “Please take the bottle from me.” What follows is essentially the same action as before, with more force and maybe some twisting added. Sometimes he’ll decide to change tactics and ask me to hand it over. The professor always refuses.

Finally he asks the volunteer, “Do you have a younger sibling or cousin?” He then asks the volunteer to imagine that the professor is that younger sibling or cousin, they’re both kids, and there are no parents around. Furthermore, he tells the volunteer to imagine the situation has gotten very annoying, and it is time for him to reclaim the bottle from the professor. Then he repeats the instruction, “Take the bottle from me.”

Participants who get what he’s driving at simply whisk the object out of my hand, leaving him no time to resist. He is overpowered by their intention to take the object. They have manifested a dynamic, elegant flow of intention to do, which is in sharp contrast to their previous static, tentative attempt at doing. Even better, in taking the object they usually actually exert less force than they did before.

He uses this exercise to show that when you do, you are using intent, there’s an inner resolve; when you try, you are merely attempting.

Simply put, trying is ‘half-hearted doing’, a veil to hide indolence and disappointment.

Which doesn’t mean that all roads of doing leads to ‘success’ in whichever way you choose to define success. It rather means trying is ineffective. Don’t try your best. Do your best.

Reasons are bullshit!

Obviously the truth is what’s so. Not so obviously, it is also so what. – Werber Erhard #MondayMorningWakeUpcall

The problem with reasons is that they’re just excuses prettied up. Which in simple Sanskrit means, reasons are bullshit!

It just boils down to what is a high priority in your life. If it’s important to you you’ll find a way, if it’s not you’ll find an excuse. It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult. This is one of the 1st ideas Bernard Roth, the founder of Stanford’s course called “The Designer in Society”, a course, to encourage students to think differently about how they achieve goals in their lives-to get them to stop thinking wistfully about possibilities and start actually doing.

In the course, the professor often drives home this point through a sarcastic “That’s a goooood reason” response whenever a student offers an explanation, which leaves the students a bit embarrassed along with the student understanding that the reason is not really the reason.

But we are faced with a paradox: Reasons exist because if people didn’t explain their behaviour, they would seem unreasonable. We need reasons so we appear reasonable, yet when we use reasons we are not taking full responsibility for our behaviour.

In his book, The Achievement Habit, he explains his twofold approach to the problem: One for the external persona, and one for the internal self. Externally you use reasons in everyday conversation when you need to, and thus appear to be perfectly normal and reasonable. Internally you look at the reasons your external self offers, and question each of them. The internal self also looks at the reasons given by the people you are interacting with.  Simply by noticing how reasons are used, you can gain insight into your own behaviour and your relationship with others which can make you aware of which of your actions you might want to change.

8 most productive ideas linked to improving productivity

“Never mistake motion for action” – Ernest Hemingway #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

‘Productivity’ is often interpreted in different ways by different people. One person might spend an hour exercising in the morning before heading off to work consider the morning productive while another might use that time meditating and a third might consider an extra half hour of sleeping in productive.

Charles Duhigg, in his latest book, Smarter Faster Better, defines productivity, simply as, “the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.” Smarter_faster_better_book_summary

And in his attempt to deconstruct why some people are more productive than others, his conclusion, through extensive research, is that “productivity is not about working more or sweating harder. And it’s definitely not a product of spending longer hours at your desk or making bigger sacrifices. Rather productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways.”

His book Smarter Faster Better explores eight ideas that seem most important in expanding productivity and is about how to recognize the choices that fuel true productivity through these eight ideas.

Here are the eight ideas, and the choices you can make around them, to help you become smarter, better and faster at everything you do (if you apply them).

  1. Motivation
    1. You are more likely to be motivated if you are given the opportunities to make choices that provide you with a sense of autonomy
    2. If you can link something hard to something that you care about, it makes the task easier. Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge
  2. Teams
    1. Teams need to believe that their work is important
    2. Teams need to believe that their work is personally meaningful
    3. Teams need clear goals and defined roles
    4. Team members need to know that they can depend on one another
    5. Most important, teams need psychological safety. To create psychological safety, team leaders need to model the right behavior
  3. Focus
    1. To be able to stay focused and calm amidst chaotic environments, develop the ability to build mental models, envision what will happen before hand. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next.
      1. Think through what will occur first? What are potential outcomes? How will you preempt them? Telling yourself a story about what you expect to occur makes it easier to decide where your focus should go when your plan encounters real life
    2. “The key is forcing yourself to think. As long as you’re thinking, you’re half way home”
  4. Goal-setting
    1. SMART goals need to be combined with ‘stretch’ goals
    2. SMART goals force people to translate vague aspirations into concrete plans.. it’s the difference between hoping something comes true and figuring how to do it. However, they can cause
      1. Person to have tunnel vision, to focus more on expanding effort to get immediate results
      2. You get on a mindset where crossing things off your to-do list becomes more important than asking yourself if you’re doing the right things
    3. Stretch goals are defined as “If you do know how to get there, it’s not a stretch target”. Numerous studies have shown that forcing people to commit to ambitious, seemingly out-of-reach objectives can spark outsized jumps in innovation and productivity.
      1. Stretch goals serve as jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking rather than the tunnel vision of SMART goals
      2. Important caveat to stretch goals: If a stretch goal is audacious, it can spark innovation. However, it can cause panic and convince people that success is impossible because the goal is too big. There is a fine line between an ambition that helps people achieve something amazing and one that crushes morale

5. Managing Others

  1. Push decision making to whoever is closest to the problem
  2. Lean and agile management techniques tell us employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision-making authority and when they believe their colleagues are committed to their success
  3. People need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them

6. Decision Making

  1. Envision multiple futures (probabilistic thinking) to make better decisions and
  2. Develop your Bayesian instincts (intuition)

7. Innovation

  1. A method to jump-start the creative process – taking proven, conventional ideas from other settings and combining them in new way is remarkably effective. Most original ideas grow out of old concepts and the building blocks of new ideas are often embodied in existing knowledge (previously known ideas mixed together in different ways…in a manner no one had considered before) especially transferring knowledge between different industries or groups
  2. Be sensitive to your own experiences. Pay attention to how things make you think and feel. That’s how we distinguish clichés from true insights. (Steve Jobs – “Best designers are those who have thought more about their experiences than other people”)
  3. Create a little bit of chaos. A little disturbance can jolt us out of the ruts

8. Absorbing Data

  1. You can absorb data better by forcing yourself to do something with the new information you’ve just encountered
    1. Write yourself a note explaining what you just learned
    2. Figure out a small way to test an idea
    3. Graph a series of data points onto a piece of paper
    4. Force yourself to explain an idea to a friend

So move over citius, altius, fortius and make way for smarter, faster, better.