Ron’s Short Review: Deep, difficult book but with great power. Here is just one quote “Why do we remember the past and not the future? Do we exist in time, or does time exist in us? What does it really mean to say that time ‘passes’? What ties time to our nature as persons, to our subjectivity? What am I listening to when I listen to the passing of time?” Ready for some deep thinking? Jump in.
I’m a big fan of Biblical teachings, ancient philosophers and adages. All for the same general reason, they each speak of truth and frameworks. Most of my ancient philosopher exposure is through Aristotle. To me, he provides frameworks that help me view the world from a certain perspective.
Frameworks are important to our brain because it is either lazy or doesn’t have enough capacity to process all the information it’s receiving every day—probably some of both.
By using frameworks, we can help ourselves and others gain a perspective on the world around us that helps us cope and move forward.
Aristotle was a student of Plato and Socrates. But these guys lived around 2,500 years ago. I began to wonder, where have all the philosophers gone or why have we not had one in 2,500 years?
But then I was listening to a Billy Joel song and realized that I had not been looking in the right places for philosophers.
Now with the wisdom of years, I try to reason things out
and the only people I fear are those who never have doubts.
Save us all from arrogant men, and all the causes they’re for.
I won’t be righteous again.
I’m not that sure anymore.
“Shades of Gray”
And take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s all right; you can afford to lose a day or two
And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get half through
Let’s take a line from each of these songs and think about what Billy is saying:
“The only people I fear are those who never have doubts.”
“You can get what you want, or you can just get old.”
Why would a person never have doubts? They must be so sure of they’re view of the world (or situation) that doubt never creeps into their thinking, evaluation or decision making. As Billy says, that’s someone to fear! They just can’t accept that someone would have a different perspective that might be valid. Jordan Peterson’s Rule No. 9 from his book, “12 Rules of Life” says “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.” Someone who has no doubts is not likely to assume someone else knows what they’re talking about unless that someone else agrees with them. That’s scary!
In the second song, Billy is not talking about being selfish. In fact quite the opposite. He was writing words about being useful, doing meaningful work, maintaining dignity instead of just growing old and doing nothing. What state is your life today? Are you just growing old or are you doing meaningful things? This is not about being old, it’s about growing old. Everyone one of us is growing old from the start. Do something meaningful. It’s a lot more fun.
And then there is my favorite modern day philosopher, George Carlin. During one of his comedy routines, he said,
Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
If people are not going at the same speed as you, they’re either an idiot or a maniac. If you think about that a minute you realize two things:
- You’re either an idiot or a maniac to everyone else around you.
- You’ll only be exposed to idiots and maniac because you never see the person going at the same pace as you. You’ll never pass them, and they’ll never pass you. You’ll never be exposed to “normal.”
Pay attention to philosophers, both ancient and modern. They have a wonderful way of observing the world.
My wife has an interest in home decorating ideas and shares many of them with me.
One of the interesting trends I’ve seen lately is bookshelves. How do you arrange your books? Of the three methods I’ve seen, two of them seem crazy to me and one of them I just don’t understand. The two that seem crazy are:
- Wrap all your books in plain brown paper and put them on the shelf to give them a uniformed look. Finding a book is obviously not the point. It’s simply using books as a decorative tool. I don’t think of books that way.
- Turn your books around and put the binder to the back and leave the ends of the pages facing out. Once again, it gives an interesting aesthetic and visual effect of different paper textures, thickness, and colors, but why are you storing books if you don’t use the books, trigger a memory from the books, or go back to a book? Again, that just seems crazy to me.
The third one, I just didn’t understand, but I’ve experienced some interesting learning.
- Arrange your book by the color of its cover.
All the blue books are in one area of your bookshelf, all of the green books are in another area of your bookshelf, all the yellow books are in another area of your bookshelf. Again, it adds some architectural texture and color to the room, but at least you can see the spine of the book and read what the book is about. But for me, I would look at that and say, “I can’t find anything. How would I find a book on the shelf?” I tend to arrange mine by title or subject matter so that I can go back to them later.
Recently we visited one of our daughter’s homes. She has an artistic mind and taste. Her bookshelves were arranged by color. I had to admit that it looked very nice, but when she and I had a chance to sit down and talk one evening, I admitted to her that I couldn’t find anything on that bookshelf. “Why do you choose to arrange it by color?” Her answer to me was that “When I think about a book, the first thing I remember is its color, it helps me find the book quicker.” I had never thought about that.
I spent a day with a colleague the other day who is just tremendously successful and respected. One of the conversations we had was about certain books we had read, and I almost had to chuckle, when every time I would bring up a book he would say, “Did that book have a green cover with yellow writing?” Or, “Was that a blue book?” Or, “Was that the black book with the gold print on it?” For one of them, I had to say, “I believe there were two editions. One of them was green and one of them was black with gold.” But that helped him recall a particular book.
The point here is, that we all recall things in different ways and for very different reasons. In general, the business world assumes, and I want to emphasize the assumes, that we recall things through rational logic. But it doesn’t happen that way. To build great teams we must understand and honor what triggers people’s thought and recall. We must allow people to throw out things like, “I think of this in that way,” Or, “I recall this because of that color or that experience or that situation.” Some will think logically and rationally, but not everyone does and great teams honor that. They begin to understand that even the best of people recall and think about things in very different ways.
Accepting the differences opens the door for great dialogue on very tough issues. When we begin to see the whole kaleidoscope of how we see
- the future or
- what’s going to work and what isn’t
I’ll probably share with you a blog post soon about the value of nutmeg. That doesn’t mean anything to any of us, but it’s a very powerful lesson in life.
So, as you’re building a great team, make sure you completely honor the fact that different, very highly-skilled, very intelligent people all recall and think about things in different ways. This is what makes for robust teams and robust dialogue.
This post may have fit well with the recent Balancing Act series. There is an interesting point between fear and excitement. Staying balanced can be healthy. Too much fear is detrimental to your health. Too much excitement with little regard for fear can be fatal. The Darwin Awards are built on this last premise. The Darwin Awards give the highest honor (tong-in-cheek) to those who remove themselves from the gene pool by doing really stupid things.
Fear and excitement produce the same physiological effect. The body can’t distinguish between the two so the brain has to make a judgment. Should I be fearful at this moment or simply excited?
If you haven’t seen anything by Jordon Peterson lately you should look him up. He’s saying things that create a lot of reaction mainly because they are simply the truth that people don’t want to hear. In his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, rule number 8 is “Tell the Truth – or, at least, don’t lie”.
The truth about fear is that lies are intended to avoid fear while actually creating it. Jordon says
Taking the easy way out or telling the truth – those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life. They are utterly different ways of existing.
Existing in a world of lies leads to fear.
Someone living a life-lie is attempting to manipulate reality with perception, thought and actions so that only some narrowly desired and pre-defined outcome is allowed to exist.
When you don’t open up to the truth by listening to others (His Rule 9 is: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t), you begin creating a world as only you see it.
Peterson goes on to say:
If you betray yourself, if you say untrue things, if you act out a lie, you weaken your character. If you have a weak character, that adversity will mow you down when it appears, as it will, inevitably. You will hide, but there will be no place left to hide. And then you will find yourself doing terrible things. Willful blindness is the worst sort of lie.
You can pick up Peterson’s book if you want to see his other 10 rules for avoiding chaos. They are all good and some are surprising.
In my work I’m always trying to help leadership teams behave calmly in the chaos or at least make sense out of is so that fear doesn’t take over. One of the better mental models that I turn to is Aristotle’s Levels of Happiness. The highest level, Level IV, I believe creates great teams. The first element of Level IV is Truth. Speaking it. Discovering it. Acting on it. Teams that seek the truth by listening (with the intent to understand) to each other avoid the fear and chaos of dealing with lies.
One last quote from Peterson’s book:
You can use words to manipulate the world into delivering what you want. This is what it means to “act politically.”
Don’t act politically. It leads to fear. Act truthfully. It leads to happiness.
Elle Kaplan, the CEO & Founder of LexION Capital recently published an article titled “How To Use The Reading Habits of Billionaires To Radically Improve Your Intelligence and Success”
I’ll let Elle explain the science and research behind the correlation with intelligence and success but the two quotes that captured my interest were from Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. Old school, new school if you will.
“Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” —Warren Buffett
When asked how he learned how to build rockets, Elon Musk simply said “I read books.”
I can’t guarantee that reading books will turn you into a rocket scientist, but I do know it radically increases your knowledge and gives you great new frameworks and perspectives, helping you understand the world around you better. As far as the success part, I’m not sure but it does make you happier and science does show that if you’re happier, you are more successful (but that’s another blog post coming soon).
If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you know that I have a reading section with quick summaries of the books I’ve been reading. But like many things, it’s good to look back over the year and reflect on what you’ve covered and enjoy the accomplishment.
Besides the 20 novels, and other non-business non-fiction books that I’ve read this year, here is a recap of the business-related books read in 2016:
- Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions
- Think to Win: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking
- The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
- How Adam Smith Can Change your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
- The Future Arrived Yesterday: the Rise of the Protean Corporation and What it Means for you
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way you Lead Forever
- Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help
- Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate and compete in the knowledge economy
- A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of Quick Fix
- The Drama Triangle and Break Free of the Drama Triangle
- Bo’s Lasting Lessons
- Presence, Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges
- Idiot Brain: What your head is really up to
- Life in half a second: How to achieve success before it’s too late
- The Management Myth: Debunking the modern business philosophy
- Designing Your Life: How to build a well-lived joyful life
One of the questions I’m often asked is “How do you think up such good questions?” (Another book you’ll find in previous years is A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) People find power in the ability to ask good questions that spark new perspectives.
Actually, I don’t think up good questions. Good questions are a result of reading, thinking, contemplating and wondering, not spur of the moment ideas. Curiosity is a very powerful leadership technique. I find the more I read the more curiosity I seem to have.
Read more! It will likely increase your intelligence, it may increase your success and it will most assuredly increase your happiness (which we know scientifically will increase your intelligence and success!)
Ron’s Short Review: Of the two books on Strategic thinking/planning I read this month (See The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning) this one hit the nail on the head. Great guide for thinking through today’s ever-changing business climate.
In the last post, we talked about rigid, proud leadership and how that affects a company. But what about a humble leader? How do they meet their responsibilities and yet be open to the guidance of their direct reports?
They take a much different approach.
Humble leaders are not so self-absorbed as to think that they don’t need to listen and be open. Their spirits are not critical because they are always open and scanning their employees, customers, and systems for new and better ideas. Following are some qualities of humble leaders.
A humble leader:
- is teachable
- never shuts the door on educating themselves
- remains open themselves to the ideas and concepts of others—including their followers
- enriches an organization and helps it stay ahead of the competition.
A teachable leader is open to personal and organizational change. This kind of leader is quick to understand that old routes are not always the best or the fastest. Conditions change.
Research from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) shows that people can optimize their personal abilities as well as turbocharge their organization’s adaptability and response to competitive challenges when they are committed to learning. According to researcher Ellen Van Velsor:
If things are going to continue to change, the one thing companies need above all else is people who have the ability to learn.
(See also “Learn or Die” by Edward Hess in my Reading List.)
To be teachable, one must devote a significant amount of time to learning.
A humble leader is flexible. An old proverb reminds us that “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Many of us have spent our time trying to be in control, but a humble leader learns how to be effective without being in control. Humble leaders know that they cannot control people or circumstances. The irony is that the more they loosen their grip, the more they gain. The more flexibility—rather than control—that they can build into themselves, the more they succeed.
A humble leader welcomes change. Change often equals growth. But not change for the sake of change. A humble leader needs to discern the right change, a skill that is developed by being open and teachable.
Humility leads to personal openness, teachability, and flexibility. Humility casts fears aside and frees leaders to energize and build their organizations toward common goals and vision. Humility is the fertile ground where the seeds of trust sprout.
Being humble and teachable means learning to trust others and their opinions and instincts. It means listening with the intent of learning instead of simply responding. It means seeking personal development from every situation, experience (both good and bad), and transaction.
What in your life do you need to let go of so you can become more humble?
Have you shared your vision with your colleagues? Have you asked them to participate? If not, why haven’t you?
Whom in your organization can you mentor—develop to his or her full potential?
What can you do to improve your listening skills?