Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Of The Unstoppable Sharapova

I'm listening to an interview with Maria Sharapova at the moment. She's impressive.
She talks about her pep talks between each shot and explains that she sees herself as water on a river that will get past the rocks or other obstacles eventually one way or the other.
She mentioned a match she was playing recently. She was in the third set and a game down . Her "self talk" was "I can't" "I can't do this". When she changed it to "I can" and "I will" and she noticed her body language changed immediately and she started winning points again.
She has been the highest earning female athlete for the past 10 years so she's clearly a great business woman as well as tennis player.
You can catch the interview on the Tim Ferris Show podcast. She has a new book out called Unstoppable.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part VIII

So I’ve finally finished reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss and just as I suspected at the beginning of the read it has become one of my favourite business reads of all time. I agree with Ferriss it is his best book by far and the others that came before it have been both plentiful and pretty good too.

What follows are my final favourite nuggets of wisdom. Thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts with me on this book

If I could only subtract to solve a problem what would I take away?
As Einstein once said problem solving is really about making sure you’re asking yourself the right questions.
Ferriss says “I’ve since applied this “What if I could only subtract …?” to my life in many areas and I and I sometimes rephrase it as “What should I put on my not-to-do list?

Am I hunting antelope or field mice?

The point Ferriss makes here is that the tiger that goes after field mice because they’re more plentiful and easier to catch than antelope will eventually die. For their bodyweight does not carry enough calories to justify the effort to catch and kill them. This is closely aligned to the advice not to be busy at the wrong things although of course Ferriss questions whether describing yourself as busy is at all advisable.

What about goal setting?

Type A personalities have goal pursuit as default hardwiring. This is excellent for producing achievement but also anxiety as you’re constantly  future-focused. I’ve personally decided that achievement is no more than a passing grade in life. It’s a C+ that gets you limping along to the next grade. For anything more, and certainly for anything approaching happiness you have to want what you already have.

How can I throw money at this problem?

Okay Ferriss is coming at this issue from a position of considerable wealth. But he argues if you can afford to pay someone to cut the grass then do it. For what you are really buying here is your own time. In the 10 minutes or 50 it would have taken to mow the lawn you could have been reading Pushkin, playing with the kids or chillaxing with your favourite coffee chatting to your soul mate.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part VII

Here are another 5 nuggets from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris.
Number 5 is particularly good. With every action there’s an opportunity cost. Do A and you can’t do B or Z at the same time. So it’s best to make sure A is what you’re good at.

  1.   Being Jaden = Death

To me being jaded is almost like being dead. Nothing impresses you because you feel like you’ve seen it all before and you go through life with dark glasses on.Be a skeptic not a cynic.

 2.   Challenging the “impossibles”

If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles” you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.

 3.   Can I create a product that will scratch my own itch?

Somewhere in his writing or podcasts Ferriss talks about when he decided to go into business for the first time. He checked his monthly expenditure to see what he was spending most on. He then set up his own business selling supplements online that were intended to help improve memory retention and quicken the brain. Brainquicken he eventually sold to a private equity company in London.

 4.   People don’t like being sold products but they do like being told stories. Work on the latter.

 5.   The importance of remembering what you’re good at.

If you lose $1,000 a the black jack table should you try to win it back there? Probably not. Humans are very vulnerable to a cognitive bias called “anchoring” whether in real estate, stocks or otherwise. I am no exception. I made a study of this and shortly thereafter sold my San Jose house at a large loss. Once my attention and mind space was freed up I quickly made it back elsewhere

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part VI

   I keep saying I'll document and publish just another 5 favourites from the book and leave it at that but more keep coming out me. Here's my latest five of the best :
  1.   Earn with your mind not with your time

So the argument goes there’s always someone out there who can out work you. Someone who is willing to sacrifice more of her/his life to gain competitive advantage over you. What you have to do is outthink the opposition. This takes time, energy and yes space to do quality thinking.

  2.   The importance of staying calm

The key in a restaurant and the key in any kind of high pressure situation I think is that 75% of success is staying calm and not losing your nerve. The rest you figure out, but once you lose your calm everything else starts falling apart fast”.

 3.   Start in the Middle

According to the book it doesn’t always make sense to start at the beginning. Start instead in the middle and work outwards.
It’s much easier. The Odessy, The Divine Comedy, Raging Bull are all great examples of middle start works of art.

 4.   Availing of every opportunity

Willie Walsh head of BA was once asked about the key to his success. He admitted to not being great at many things but always availed of every opportunity that came his way. According to ToTs “The big question I ask is “When I had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort?”.

 5.   Be clear that your ladder is leaning on the right building

Monday, 14 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part V

As I read through “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss I find myself constantly changing my mind in terms of the advice I rate the most. Here’s another five that are strong candidates for the top spots that merit not only prolonged contemplation but action and implementation too.

    1.   “Two is one and one is none”

This is a common expression among SEALS Jacko explains “It just means “Have a back-up” If you have two of something you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining “Better to have and not need than to need and not have.”

 2.   Single Tasking as a Superpower

In a world of distraction single-tasking is a superpower. Much of today’s Internet/Social media is designed to distract the viewer. Throw them something to claim their first 5 seconds and you’ve likely got them for a good few minutes. These minutes add up and waste huge amounts of time. The person who can concentrate routinely throughout the day by managing and eliminating distraction enjoys a significant advantage over others.

 3.   The importance of not judging

What ToTs says about not judging is insightful.
“And I think ultimately, sometimes when we judge other people, it’s just a way to not look at ourselves; a way to feel superior or sanctimonious or whatever. My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say “I love you” before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better”.

 4.   Planshopping

Apparently, this is one of the latest trends in New York. But are we ever guilty of it too? My guess is at least once or twice. And yes it’s nasty.
“Planshopping” is deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are and then picking the one most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it, in other words treating people like menu options or products in a catalogue.

 5.   Putting your thoughts on paper

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer putting your thoughts on paper is the best way to develop ideas and review and improve your thinking. The benefits of even 30 minutes a week of scribbling can transfer to everything else you do

Friday, 11 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part IV

For anyone interested in how business ideas develop and get traction “Tools of Titans” is packed full of nuggets. Here are my top five 

1. Ask yourself what do you believe that others think is insane?
It is essential to get lost and jam up your plans every now and then. It’s a source of creativity and perspective. The danger of maps, capable assistants and planning is that you may end up living your life as planned. If you do, you cannot possibly exceed your expectations.

2. What conventional wisdom was shunned?.

Scott Belsky says “I avoid using a past success as a proxy for the future. After all, the dirty little secret is that every success was almost a failure. Timing and uncontrollable circumstances play more of a role and any of us care to admit.
“Perhaps the greatest lesson from the past is how important it is to be inspired by things that surprise us. When I come across a quirky business model in an unpopular space, I try to find a fascinating thread worth pulling. I challenge myself to stop comparing what I learn from the past. If you only look for patterns of the past you wont venture very far.”

3. The importance of crazy ideas.

Peter Diamandis “ I talk to CEOs all the time, and I say, “Listen the day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea. If it wasn’t a crazy idea, it’s not a breakthrough; it’s an incremental improvement. So where inside of your companies are you trying crazy ideas?”

4. A problem is a terrible thing to waste

This is highly related to the “scratch your own itch” thread that pops up throughout this book. Peter expands : “I think of problems as gold mines. The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest opportunities.

WHEN 99% of people doubt you, you’re either gravely wrong to about to make history

5. The importance of defending yourself against the priorities of others

Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-Player even if you have A-Player skills. To develop your edge initially you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others. Once you reach a decent level of professional success, lack of opportunity won’t kill you. It’s drowning in “kinda cool” commitments that will sink the ship”!

“Ours is a culture where we wear our ability to get by on very little sleep as a badge of honour that symbolizes work ethic, or toughness, or some other virtue – but really, it’s a total profound failure of priorities and of self-respect”

 “Follow your dreams”. It’s impossible to do without self-knowledge, which takes years. You discover your dream (or sense of purpose) in the very act of walking the path which is guided by equal parts choice and chance”.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part III

1.   Systems v Goals”

What the book says about systems v goals is fascinating.

“This involves choosing projects and habits that, even if they result in “failures” in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably succeed” over time, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects”.

2.   “Specialising” and how to be really successful

The book states that capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no-one else has your mix. At least one of the skills in your mix should involve communication either written or verbal.

According to the theory it doesn’t make sense to be really good at one thing and to aim to be a gold medal Olympic skier. The chances are you’ll be good but 9th in the world 23rd or 48th. But become very good at three skills weave them together and you’ll be unique in the market place.

3.   Impostor Syndrome

Amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic. Don’t be afraid to do what you’re not qualified to do.

This reminded me of when the Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed for Desert Island Discs. He had been a bishop for no more than a year before being appointed to Archbishop. He said on the first day in my new post I felt such an impostor. When asked how he felt two years later he replied “Still an impostor!”

4.   Not accepting the norm

The biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time”. Not accepting norms is where you innovate, whether it’s with technology, with books, with anything. So, not accepting the norm is the secret to really big success and changing the world.”

5.   Compassion

“No matter what the situation may be, the right course of action is always compassion and love” I love this. It's hard to do but such good advice.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Of Google's Anti-Diversity Memo

So it seems at least one person in the Google empire doesn't think that diversity is actually something to be cherished or strived for. According to the BBC today one employee posted on Google's internal communication system the following :

"the abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership".
Apparently, he claims, he’s had many messages of support from colleagues since making the comments.

Google’s head of diversity, Danielle Brown was quick to respond :
"Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate,...we are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

It will be interesting to watch the debate now on social media to see the reaction to the internal spat outside of Google. Whether certain genders or indeed ethnicities for that matter are genetically better suited to certain types of work or careers is a complex question. Whether the question merits attention at all however, might be more complex still. Many would argue that irrespective of genetic make-up every component of a company the size of Google should have a diverse spread of gender, ethnicity and minorities groups for it’s this mix that gives each team the very strength it needs to secure competitive advantage over its rivals. Team diversity so the argument runs will contribute to better problems solving and a more accurate understanding of the market the organisation is attempting to reach.

Our own work encouraging employees to understand and practise equality and diversity in the work place is available on our website.

Oh and today 8 August there's been an update the author of the memo has been fired! James Damore is no more it would seem.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part II

Following on from my last blog here’s another five nuggets from Tim Ferris’s book Tools of Titans.

I realise as I wade through this book it is fast becoming my favourite self development/business book of all time.

Here we go :

1.Failure is Overrated

What I found in the book about failure is really interesting.
One of his interviewees says this :

“I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn at all because the failure was overdetermined. You will think it failed for reason 1 but it failed for reasons 1 to 5. And so the next business you start will fail for Reason 2 and then for 3 and so on.
“I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralising to people in the long run and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy”.

2. Understanding Competition

The book talks about taking the right perspective on the time you have to work at a business. It notes there will also be someone somewhere in the world who can outwork you - often many people.

“So I think every day, it’s something to reflect on and think about “How do I become less competitive in order that I can become more successful”.

In short the book argues that you have to work out how to work more cleverly than others rather than longer.

3. Generating Ideas

At P238 there is pure wisdom about how to generate new ideas. It claims you should actually sit down and list really bad ideas and to try to find as many as possible. Eventually, you’ll realise that a few in amongst them are actually very good and some may be grounding breaking and of a type that could make you a fortune.

4. Generating Ideas Part II

James Altucher talks about focusing on the creative parts of the brain and giving it a regular work out. Ferris states “James recommends the habit of writing down 10 ideas each morning in a notebook. This exercise is for developing your “idea muscle” and confidence for creativity on demand so regular practice is more important than the topics.

I like this a lot.

5. No Need to Explain your Nos

The world doesn’t need your explanation on saying No. Altucher says :

"I don’t give explanations anymore, and I’ll catch myself when I start giving explanations like “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it. I just say I can’t do it”.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans

I'm reading Tim Ferris's "Tools of Titans" at the moment and plan to share my learning via a number of blogs in the coming weeks.
For anyone unfamiliar with Ferris he is in his own words a human guinea pig. He tests out all sorts of ideas and theories on himself from how to get a six pack, to how to learn a language quickly, right through to how to avoid depression and remain motivated to get the most from each day.
His first book was the 4Hour Work Week and proved a seminal work and an international bestseller. Many bestsellers later he has published this year "Tools of Titans" which he claims is his best book to date. I agree.

His fame and success from book 1 has opened up all sorts of opportunities for Ferris. It's clear that he now has access to more or less anyone he wants to interview so the tips in this book really do come from those at the top.

Here are my top five learning points to date :

1. "Busy" means "Out of control"- Here it is straight from the book :

Every time people contact me, they say, “Look, I know you must be incredibly busy…” and I always think, “No, I’m not. Because I’m in control of my time. I’m on top of it. Busy to me seems to imply out of control.
TF Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m busy it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position so I've forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy”. I have no right to complain. Instead, if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to re-examine my systems and rules.

2."Busy" Part II. Here it is straight from the book again :

In fact, you need just one rule : What you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well does not make it important.

If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put them on a Post-it note :

Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions

3.Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person

I'm trying to practise this. I get what he is saying here but very occasionally and particularly when a person is talking at me, about himself and about one thing at length I question this advice.

4.Getting into your Body Everyday

It's clear Ferris believes there's an art to getting into your body every day. He calls its priming. Get it right and you set yourself up to maximise your day.
A few techniques he mentions include :

# Cold water plunge cold shower 30 to 60 seconds
# Breathing exercises
# “Breath Walking”
# Ten minutes “meditation”

This consists of three sections :

First part – feeling totally grateful for three things, such as the wind on my face, the clouds I’ve just seen. I don’t just think gratitude I let gratitude fill my soul. Because when you’re grateful there’s no anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time and there’s no fear.

Second part – Total focus on feeling the presence of God, however, you want to language that for yourself. Feel the inner presence coming in healing everything in my body, in my mind, in my emotions, my relationships, my finances. I experience the strengthening of my gratitude of my conviction of my passion

Third Part - Focusing on three things that I’m going to make happen, my three to thrive”. See it as though it’s already been done, feel the emotions etc…
And as I’ve said always there’s no excuse not to do 10 minutes. If you don’t have ten minutes you don’t have a life

5. Journaling/Writing

Morning pages he claims are “spiritual windshield wipers”. Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes”.

Even if you consider yourself a terrible writer, writing can be viewed as a tool. There are huge benefits to writing, even if no-one including yourself ever reads what you write. In other words the process matters more than the product.

Top stuff Tim. Top stuff.