Category Archives: Geek Peek

9 ways how hackers, innovators and icons accelerate success

“Once you stop thinking you have to follow the path laid out you can really turn up the speed” – David Heinemeier Hanson

In his book Smartcuts, Shane Snow endeavours to convince you that the fastest route to success is never traditional, and that the conventions we grow up with can be hacked. Crux of his endeavor is to show you that anyone—not just billionaire entrepreneurs and professional mavericks—can speed up progress in business or life.

He does so by taking examples and stories throughout history of overachievers who have applied lateral thinking to success in a variety of fields and endeavors.

By virtue of being on an assignment as a reporter for Fast Company, Shane had the unique opportunity to research, interview, dissect common patterns among rapidly successful entrepreneurs, tech companies and icons.

He’s put together success stories of how Jimmy Fallon reached stardom, DHH (Ruby on Rails) winning the World Endurance Championship (Racing) despite being the least experienced driver in the competition, David Karp’s (Tumblr founder) rapid rise and other fast-growing personalities and companies through research and interviews and dissected common patterns among rapidly successful entrepreneurs, tech companies and icons.

He’s identified nine patterns of lateral thinking, called smartcuts, across these stories, which he believes can be harnessed by anyone who seeks an edge for personal development or professional development.

He defines smartcuts as “shortcuts with integrity”. Where the dictionary definition of shortcuts can be amoral, smartcuts is about working smarter and achieving more—without creating negative externalities.

He categorizes the 9 smartcuts under 3 classes –

  1. Shorten (the path to success)
  2. Leverage (do more with less effort)
  3. Soar

Here’s a summary of the 9 smartcuts for kwick konsumption that can be applied for self or company alike. The more curious can read the stories, research and evidence of the excerpts below can be found in the book.

Shorten (the path to success)

  1. Hack the ladder

Smartcuts_hack_the_ladder

The ability and openness to swiftly switch directions tends to accelerate a company’s growth.

The fastest land animal in the world in the cheetah. According to behavioral biologists, the speed however is not the cheetah’s biggest predatory advantage. It’s their agility – their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly, that gives those antelopes such bad odds.

Business research shows that ladder switching, switching business models or products, while on the upswing, tends to accelerate a company’s growth and are more likely to perform much better than those that stay on a single course.

The 2011 Startup Genome Report of new technology companies backs this up – “Startups that pivot once or twice raise 2.5x more money, have 3.6x better user growth, and are 52% less likely to scale prematurely.”

Stubborness and tradition make for poor performance.

  1. Train with masters

Smartcuts_train_with_masters

A master can help you accelerate things, especially so when a master is not just a teacher but a mentor, someone who’s travelled the road herself.

Mentorship is the secret of many of the highest-profile achievers throughout history.

Business research backs this up, too. Analysis shows that entrepreneurs who have mentors end up raising seven times as much capital for their businesses, and experience 3.5 times faster growth than those without mentors. And in fact, of the companies surveyed, few managed to scale a profitable business model without a mentor’s aid.

However, the trick is to get the mentoring relationship right. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and the author of Lean In, dedicates a chapter in her book to this concept, arguing that asking someone to formally mentor you is like asking a celebrity for an autograph; it’s stiff, inorganic, and often doesn’t work out.

According to research, what works is “informal mentoring” where deep personal relationships are developed which transcend just advice on the formal challenges at hand to advice on other aspects of life. Both the teacher and the student must be able to open up about their fears, and that builds trust, which in turn accelerates learning. That trust opens us up to actually heeding the difficult advice we might otherwise ignore. The more vulnerability is shown in the relationship, the more critical details become available for a student to pick up on and assimilate.

  1. Get rapid feedback

Smartcuts_get_rapid_feedback

Tech startups have pioneered and evangelized this concept through their lean startup model where they release an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and improve it through iterations basis feedback. They live by the mantra “fail fast and fail often”

The tough part about negative feedback is in separating ourselves from the perceived failure and turning our experiences into objective experiments. But when we do that, feedback becomes much more powerful.

The same rule applies when giving feedback, especially personal feedback. Feedback that works is feedback that causes a person to focus on the task rather than on herself. The more you can depersonalize the feedback and lower the stakes and pressure of failing, the more likely is the person to take risks that force them to improve.

Leverage (do more with less effort)

  1. Take advantage of platforms

Smartcuts_take_advantage_of_platforms

Platforms are layers of abstraction in business and life that can allow you to multiply your effort. They are tools and environments on which you can build your ideas allowing you to bypass the initial or foundational hard work that’s already been done.

As an example, Isaac Newton attributed his success as a scientist to “standing on the shoulders of giants”—building off of the work of great thinkers before him.

You can build on top of a lot of things that exist in this world.

  1. Spot and ride waves

Smartcuts_spot_and_ride_waves

Luck is often talked about as “being in the right place at the right time.” But like a surfer, some people—and companies—are adept at placing themselves at the right place at the right time. They seek out opportunity rather than wait for it.

Spotting and riding waves is about developing conscious pattern recognition.

This explains how so many inexperienced companies and entrepreneurs beat the norm and build businesses that disrupt established players. Through deliberate analysis, the little guy can spot waves better than the big company that relies on experience and instinct once it’s at the top. And a wave can take an amateur farther faster than an expert can swim.

In business, fast followers can often benefit from free-rider effects once the first movers take on the burden of educating customers, setting up infrastructure, getting regulatory approvals, and making mistakes—getting feedback and adjusting.

The way to predict the best waves in a proverbial set is established by researchers Fernando F. Suarez and Gianvito Lanzolla, who in Academy of Management Review explain that “when market and technology growth are smooth and steady, the first mover gets the inertia and an advantage. When industry change is choppy, the fast follower—the second mover—gets the benefits of the first mover’s pioneering work and often catches a bigger wave, unencumbered.”

  1. Find superconnectors

Find_superconnectors

Which is easier—making friends with a thousand people one by one or making friends with someone who already has a thousand friends? Which is faster—going door to door with a message or broadcasting the message to a million homes at once?

This is the idea behind what Shane Snow calls superconnecting, the act of making mass connections by tapping into hubs with many spokes.

Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, who coined the term superconnector however warns that “The number one problem with networking is people are out for themselves. Superconnecting is about learning what people need, then talking about ‘how do we create something of value.’”

Soar 

  1. Create momentum

Smartcuts_create_momentum

Momentum is simply progress. A sense of forward motion regardless of how small. And this is done best with the concept of enabling lots of “tiny wins”.

The forward motion, however small, builds up potential energy, which then helps amplifying the momentum multifold when unexpected opportunities arise.

  1. Simplicity

Smartcuts_simplicity

The best products often demonstrate that simplification often makes the difference between good and amazing. Steve Jobs has probably been the face for this concept. From the Magic Mouse (mouse with zero buttons) doubling Apple’s mouse market share overnight, to Apple’s ipod winning the MP3 war with breakthrough simplicity, both in physical design as well as communication (1000 songs in your pocket), Steve Jobs has reason enough to refer to simplicity as “the ultimate sophistication”

Geniuses and presidents strip meaningless choices from their day, so they can simplify their lives and think. Inventors and entrepreneurs ask, ‘how could we make this product simpler?’ The answer transforms good to incredible.

Caveat: As Einstein has said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”

  1. 10X thinking

Smartcuts_10X_thinking

10X thinking is moon-shot thinking. It’s making something 10 times better rather than 10% better.

According to Steven Teller of Google [x], “the crazy thing is it’s often easier to make something 10 times better than it is to make it 10 percent better.”

He explains that “The way of going about trying to make something new or better often tends to polarize into one of two styles. “One is the low-variance, no surprises version of improvement. The production model, if you will. You tend to get ‘10 percent,’ in order of magnitude, kind of improvements. In order to get really big improvements, you usually have to start over in one or more ways. You have to break some of the basic assumptions and, of course, you can’t know ahead of time. It’s by definition counterintuitive.” Incremental progress, he says, depends on working harder. More resources, more effort. 10x progress is built on bravery and creativity instead. Working smarter. In other words, 10x goals force you to come up with smartcuts.

It’s what according to Peter Thiel enables zero to one transformation and why such thinking can reap better rewards.

While this is easier said than done, the good news is that lofty thinking is what makes people surprisingly willing to support big ideals and big swings. Although just because you’re righteous doesn’t mean people will support you. You have to motivate them. You have to tell provocative stories. This explains brands like Red Bull and Whole Foods that manage to convey their values so loudly; they tell good stories. This explains Gaga, Alexander, and other revolutionary types; they tell fantastic stories. This explains why Elon Musk the geek brushed up on speaking skills and started talking big. This-is-the-future-of-mankind big. He did television appearances and magazine interviews. He told the world he was going to die on Mars.

“You need to get a critical mass of people who give a fuck.”

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.

2 tips to making better decisions

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” 
― Peter F. Drucker #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Decision_making

Better decision making is directly linked to better productivity. Duh!

We don’t need anyone to tell us or even remind us that indecisiveness and consistent poor decisions can not only effect professional growth but also impact personal life undesirably.

However, we could do with a couple of tips, backed by scientific research, on how we can learn to make better decisions.

In his new book Smarter Better Faster, Charles Duhigg just does that (apart from talking about seven other ideas linked to productivity, book summary coming soon). Here are excerpts from his research and conclusions on better decision making.

To make better decisions…wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…

  1. Envision multiple futures (probabilistic thinking):

Probabilistic thinking is thinking of the future not as what’s going to happen, but rather as a series of possibilities that might occur, holding contradictory scenarios in our mind simultaneously. Then add probabilities of each of these future outcomes and take an average. By pushing ourselves to imagine various possibilities, some of which may be contradictory, we’re better equipped to make wise choices

Warning: We’re not accustomed to thinking about multiple futures since we live in only one reality, so it takes a bit of conscious effort (it can also be unsettling for people because it forces us to think about things that may not come true or we don’t want to envisage)

  1. Develop our Bayesian instincts (intuition)

We can develop our Bayesian instincts (intuition) by studying statistics, playing games like poker, thinking through life’s potential pitfalls and successes et al, fundamentally, seeking out different experiences, perspectives, and other people’s ideas. By finding information and then letting ourselves sit with it, options become clearer

Warning: Making good predictions relies on realistic assumptions, and those are based on our experiences.

So how do we get the right assumptions? – By making sure we are exposed to a full spectrum of experiences. Our assumptions are based on what we’ve encountered in life, but our experiences often draw on biased samples. In particular, we are much more likely to remember our successes and forget about our failures (We hardly notice empty restaurants, don’t experience empty cinema halls and more likely to read about the success of a unicorn startup, etc). However, accurate forecasting requires exposing ourselves to as many successes and disappointments as possible. Many successful people spend an enormous amount of time seeking out information on failures. If we pay attention only to good news or only to bad news, we’re handicapping ourselves

The people who make the best choices are the ones who work hardest to envision various futures, to write them down and think them through, and then ask themselves, which ones do I think are more likely and why?

And of course, you’ve got the option of not making a decision. After all, not making a decision is also a decision.

15 tips to achieve excellence in any discipline

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.” – Josh Waitzkin #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Art_Of_Learning_Book_Summary

Learning is an art, not fart

Few people can be the best in the world in one discipline. Even fewer can achieve this rare repute in 2 different disciplines. Josh Waitzkin is one such wonder who has become world class in 2 distinctly diverse disciplines, chess and Tai Chi.

Josh won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994. He is the only person to have won the National Primary, Elementary, Junior High School, High School, U.S. Cadet, and U.S. Junior Closed chess championships in his career. The movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is based on his early life.

Added to his chess accolades he also holds several US national medals and a 2004 world champion title in the competitive sport of Taiji Push Hands (Taiji Tui Shou).

Josh however believes that what he is best at is not chess or Tai Chi – what he is the best at is The Art of Learning, and his book by the same name is the story of his method.

Here’s my interpretation and summary with excerpts of the key points to his method. Feel free to adopt, adapt and apply to become the best, or better than the rest of your circle of musicians, dancers, designers, actors, athletes, scientists, writers, philosophers and professionals, whichever your chosen discipline.

  1. LAY A FABULOUS FOUNDATION

Josh’s first lesson with Bruce, one of his earliest teachers, was anything but orthodox. They hardly studied chess, it was more about getting to know one another, to establish a genuine camaraderie.

Bruce’s core focus in the first months of study was that he nurtured Josh’s love for chess, and he never let technical material smother his innate feeling for the game.

Despite significant outside pressure, his parents and Bruce decided to keep Josh out of tournaments until he had been playing chess for a year or so, because they wanted his relationship to the game to be about learning and passion first, and a competition a distant second

  1. LOSE TO WIN

Entering the ‘Primary School National Chess Championship’ when Josh was 8, he was the ‘man to beat’. However, he lost in the finals to a little known rival and was devastated at coming so close to winning his first national championship and then letting it go.

His learning was that confidence is critical for a great competitor, but overconfidence is brittle.

He took a break and at a ripe young age of 8 questioned everything and decided to come back strong with a commitment to chess that was about much more than fun and glory. It was about love and pain and passion and pushing himself to overcome… and the following year he went on to become National Champion.

  1. DEVELOP THE CORRECT APPROACH TO LEARNING

The wrong approach: The entity theory of intelligence – Children who are “entity theorists”… that is, kids who have been influenced by their parents and teachers to attribute their success or failure to ingrained and unalterable level of ability, see their overall intelligence or skill level at a certain discipline to be a fixed entity, a thing that cannot evolve. Example, kids or people who are prone to saying “I am smart or talented at this”.

The right approach: The incremental theory of intelligence (learning theorists) – Children or people who are more prone to describe their results with sentences like “I got it because I worked very hard at it” or “I should have tried harder”. A child with a learning theory of intelligence tends to sense that with hard work, difficult material can be grasped and step by step, incrementally, the novice can become the zot (master)

Dr. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of developmental psychology, has shown that when challenged by difficult material, learning theorists are far more likely to rise to the level of the game, while entity theorists are more brittle and prone to quit. Hence the advice to parents and teachers (and even to yourselves) to praise the effort and not the outcome.

The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long term learning process.

  1. LOVE THE GAME

After Josh won his first National Championship, his chess life started gathering momentum. His passion for the game fueled a long ride of unhindered learning and inspired performance. From nine to seventeen, he was the top ranked player for his age in the country.

However, there were plateaus, numerous periods when his results leveled off while he internalized the information necessary for his next growth spurt, but he didn’t mind. Josh’s had a burning love for chess which helped him push through the rocky periods with a can-do attitude.

  1. ATTAIN YOUR SOFT ZONE: “LOSE YOURSELF”

Like all regular mortals, Josh had to deal with distractions in his game. This was compounded by the fact that from a very early age he had to stay focused under intense pressure on a game that could sometimes last as long as six to eight hours. A catchy tune could be enough to haunt him for days and throw him off balance.

In 1993, at sixteen, Josh had travelled to India to participate in the World Junior Chess Championship in Calicut. He was finding the surroundings difficult to acclimatize to and was struggling to find his flow in the first round match. Somewhere during the course of the match, he did find it and immediately after, there was an earthquake. While the earthquake shook everything, including his opponent, Josh experienced a surreal synergy, pure thought and awareness of a thinker. When play resumed he immediately made his move and went on to win the game.

The incident was the launching point of his serious investigation of the nuances of performance psychology. Staying calm amidst an earthquake had helped him reach and discover a higher state of consciousness. By systematically training yourself, you can do this at will.

The soft zone is the initial step along the path of achieving your state of creative flow. The nature of your state of concentration determines the phase of your reaction to the task at hand whether it be a piece of music, a legal brief, a financial document, driving a car, anything.

Through performance training, you first learn to flow with whatever distraction comes. Then you learn to use whatever distraction comes to your advantage. Finally you learn to be completely self-sufficient and create your own earthquakes, so your mental process feeds itself explosive inspirations without the need for outside stimulus.

With systematic training you can learn to flow (lose yourself) with the distractions and embrace the difficulties that come your way, no longer letting them affect you detrimentally.

  1. BE COGNIZANT OF THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Games, deals and life battles are lost because of a shift in psychological advantage. The crucial trait that needs to be developed is regaining presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error.

This is usually a hard lesson to grasp for all competitors and performers. The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction.

Musicians, actors, athletes, philosophers, scientists, writers understand that brilliant creations are often born of small errors. Problems set in if the performer has a brittle dependence on the safety of absolute perfection or duplication. Then an error triggers fear, detachment, uncertainty or confusion that muddies the decision-making process.

  1. FIND YOUR NATURAL VOICE

There was a period when Josh was training under a Russian Grandmaster who urged him to become more conservative stylistically. While Josh found this approach interesting, the effects of moving away from his natural voice (a creative, attacking player, who loved the wild side of chess) as a competitor disturbing. His strengths were moving out of reach and chess no longer felt like an extension of his being. This also resulted in his performance being uneven and, at times, self-defeating in competition

Josh believes that one of the most critical factors in the transition to becoming a conscious high performer is the degree to which your relationship to your pursuit stays in harmony with your unique disposition.

In his experience the greatest of artists and competitors are masters of navigating their own psychologies, playing on their strengths, controlling the tone of battle so that it fits with their personalities. He has found that in the intricate endeavors of competition, learning, and performance, there is more than one solution to virtually every meaningful problem. We are unique individuals who should put our own flair into everything we do.

  1. HAVE A BEGINNER’S MIND

Josh was at the zenith of his chess career when he left to pursue Tai Chi. The accolades he had earned in the chess arena meant nought in the Tai Chi arena. He was a beginner, a child learning to crawl all over again. Without the openness of a beginner’s mind to learn and an egoless attitude, it would have been impossible for him to scale the zenith in Tai Chi as well.

Even at the pinnacle, mastery is a constant learning experience. When aiming for the top, your path requires an engaged, searching mind. You have to make obstacles spur you to creative new angles in the learning process.

  1. INVEST IN LOSS

Josh transitioned from a world class chess competitor to a novice Tai Chi artist. During his initial days of training he got smashed around particularly by another more experienced training partner, Evan. But soon a curious thing began to happen. First, as he got used to taking shots from Evan, he stopped fearing the impact. His body built up resistance to getting smashed, learned how to absorb blows, and he knew he could take what he had to offer. Then as he became more relaxed under fire, Evan seemed to slow down in his mind. He noticed himself sensing his attack before it began. He learned how to read his intention, and be out of the way before he pulled the trigger. As Josh got better and better at neutralizing Evans’ attacks, Josh began to notice and exploit weaknesses in Evans’ game, and sometimes he found himself peacefully watching Evans’ hands come toward him in slow motion.

Not much different from fighting life’s battles with the universe I guess.

Great professionals are willing to get burned, invest in loss, time and again as they sharpen their swords in the fire… and of course, they don’t give up on the way to becoming The Greatest

  1. EMBRACE ADVERSITY

During the All Kung Fu Championships Finals in 2001 Josh had broken his hand. He didn’t show the injury, instead he fell into the rhythm with his opponent’s attacks and quietly fought with one arm. The National Championship was in 7 weeks. Against all odds of recovery, he trained with one hand during this period while his other hand recuperated before the championship which he went on to win

He says that in the finals, his broken hand made time slow down in his mind and he was able to reach the most heightened state of awareness in his life.

He says, “If I want to be the best, I have to take risks others would avoid, always optimizing the learning potential of the moment and turning adversity to my advantage.” And “let setbacks deepen your resolve.” Throughout his career he sought out opponents who were a little stronger than him which made losing a part of his regular experience and helped maintain a healthy perspective even while he was winning all the championships

He says, “The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”

  1. MAKE SMALLER CIRCLES: DEPTH BEATS BREADTH

While honing his Tai Chi techniques, Josh focused on small movements, sometimes spending hours moving his hand a few inches, then releasing it back. Practicing in this manner he was able to sharpen his feeling for Tai Chi, he could translate it onto other parts of the form, and suddenly everything would start flowing at a higher level. The key was to recognize that the principles making one simple technique tick were the same fundamentals that fueled the whole expansive system of Tai Chi Chuan

The essence of this learning principle is to plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick

This principle applies to all fields. Players and professionals tend to get attached to fancy techniques and fail to recognize that subtle internalization and refinement is much more important than the quantity of what is learned.

  1. SLOW DOWN TIME

Once Josh’s broken hand healed and the Nationals were over, the question on his mind was: how can I make time slow down without breaking a limb, recreate the control and experience of All Kung Fu Championships Final?

Focus on a select group of techniques and internalize them until the mind perceives them in tremendous detail. After training in this manner, you can see more frames in an equal amount of time, so things feel slowed down and you can control the situation better to your advantage

  1. DICTATE THE TONE OF THE BATTLE

One of the most critical strengths of a superior competitor in any discipline—whether we are speaking about sports, business negotiations, or even presidential debates—is the ability to dictate the tone of the battle.

Cultivating the last 2 principles help to control the intention of the opponent by being able to zoom in on very small details to which the others are completely oblivious

Josh’s experimentation with intentionality began during his early chess years. Even as a seven-year old boy in scholastic tournaments, he sometimes lured his young opponents into blundering by 1) making a move that set a trap and then 2) immediately groaning and slapping his head. This over-the-top display would usually inspire a careless moment of overconfidence from his opponent which Josh would be quick to capitalize on. Over time, Josh gradually honed the art of mastering the ability to read his opponents by reading subtle nuances like breath patterns and blinks of the eye. The more you can understand a series of movements more deeply, in more frames, with more detail, the better you can manipulate your opponent’s intentions without him realizing what happened, thereby dictating the tone of battle.

  1. BE A MASTER TO YOUR EMOTIONS, NOT A SLAVE TO THEM

Anger. Fear. Desperation. Excitement. Happiness. Despair. Hope. Emotions are part of our lives. We would be fools to deny such a rich element of the human experience. But, when our emotions overwhelm us, we can get sloppy. If fear reduces us to tears, we might not act effectively in a genuinely dangerous situation. If we seethe when someone crosses us, we may make decisions we come to regret. If we get giddy when things are looking up, we will probably make some careless mistakes that turn our good situation upside down.

Josh often had to encounter opponents who would cheat, right from chess opponents who would try to distract him by going even as far as kicking him under the table or martial arts opponents who would play dirty. After losing the first few times to them he figured that getting angry was getting him nowhere. The first step was to recognize that the problem was his. That there would always be creeps in the world and he had to learn how to deal with them with a cool head. Getting pissed off would get him nowhere in life.

Once he recognized this he continually nurtured his mental resilience, arguably the most critical trait of a world class performer. He looked for ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable, not by denying his emotions, but by learning to use them to his advantage.

Once you are no longer swept away by your emotions and can sit with them even when under pressure, you will probably notice that certain states of mind inspire you more than others. For some it may be happiness, for others it may be fear.

  1. CULTIVATE THE POWER OF PRESENCE

After intense periods of practice and competitions, especially during his chess years, Josh with his family, would often head off to the sea for a break, no matter what was happening in their lives. The boating life was a wonderful training ground for cultivating presence and the release of control. He learned at the sea that virtually all situations could be handled as long as presence of mind is maintained. On the other hand, if you lose your calm, when crisis hits seventy miles from land, or while swimming with big sharks, there is no safety net to catch you.

This also ties back in to mastering the ebb and flow of stress and recovery. The physiologists at LGE had discovered that in virtually every discipline, one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line. This is why the eminent tennis players of their day, such as Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras, had those strangely predictable routines of serenely picking their rackets between points, whether they won or lost the last exchange, while their rivals fumed at a bad call or pumped a fist in excitement.

The more you can let things go, the sharper you will be in the next drive.

In every discipline, the ability to be clearheaded, present, cool under fire, is much what separates the best from the mediocre.

In the end…

We cannot calculate our important contests, adventures, and great loves to the end. The only thing we can really count on is getting surprised. No matter how much preparation we do, in the real tests of our lives, we’ll be in unfamiliar terrain. Conditions might not be calm or reasonable. It may feel as though the whole world is stacked against us. This is when we have to perform better than we ever conceived of performing. Josh (and many other great minds like mine J) believe the key is to have prepared in a manner that allows for inspiration, to have laid the foundation for us to create under the wildest pressures we ever imagined.

Feel free to adopt, adapt and apply these tips and methods to your own professional and personal life to be better prepared.

Rise

Rise #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Sometimes just one word is enough to move a person or even a nation. Other times and most others, need long verses in the form of a song a 100 miles long sung by a pop star, to help them rise and win their much sought after prize.

In this case it’s Katy Perry singing for the 2016 Olympics (and I suspect for you and me)

“Rise” by Katy Perry

I won’t just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can’t write my story
I’m beyond the archetype

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
‘Cause my roots they run deep, oh

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins
I know it, I know it
And I will not negotiate
I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform

When, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time”
But still I rise

This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in
Think again
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise

I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos
So I call on my angels
They say

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in your veins
You know it, you know it
And you will not negotiate
Just fight it, just fight it
And be transformed

‘Cause when, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time”
But still I rise

This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in
Think again
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise

Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Oh, oh, oh, oh
You know it, you know it
Still rise
Just fight it, just fight it
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise