Making Lists

Doing little things every day is what differentiates those who live well and those who don’t.

In fact, I’d go on a limb and a say that does with the consistent good habits are those who achieve extraordinary success.

I think we misunderstood the message from the heavens on who the world really belongs to. It doesn’t belong to the geek, the meek or to the intelligent, it belongs to the disciplined.

And, reminders and lists are the salt of the earth when it comes to helping us be disciplined, and as an extension, live well.

Go on then. Make those lists.

Work Hacks Wednesdays: Plan Tomorrow’s Work Today

It’s a very simple thing to do – spend 5 minutes at the end of the day to plan out the big rocks for the next day.

It’s all about starting the next day with “small wins.”

How do you set yourself up for small wins? As an example, do the hard work of backing your car into the drive way so you can just drive out in the morning.

Planning tomorrow’s work is similar to backing the car as you can show up in the morning and just get going.

Make it frictionless. Make it easy to notch up small wins. The big wins will show up soon enough.

N and o

It’s amazing how powerful these 2 letters are, together.

In combination, they have..

.. shot down many a great idea.

.. killed many a great initiative.

.. caused rejection paralysis in human beings all over.

.. resulted in many singles wondering if they would ever find a partner.

.. infused fear, which has crippled action, time and time again.

The idea that pops straight to mind is one of rejection, of worthless-ness, of disappointment. The word i.e. the two letters in combination, implies none of that, of course.

So, the next time, we hear a “No”, let’s remember to separate the idea from the word. We hear a million words in any given week.

Why let one stop us from doing great things?

Taking control of our lives

Let’s face it – there are very few events we actually control. For the most part, life just happens to us. And we spend a big chunk of our time reacting to these events.

That said, there are big parts of certain constants we actually do control.

For example, we don’t control what others think of us at work. But, we do control how we go about doing work. Or, we don’t control what our final exam papers look like. But, we do control how we prepare for it.

It’s easy to get into one of two modes of thinking –

“I don’t control anything.” So, who cares, right?

“I have too many choices.” Do I play politics, back stab that colleague, pretend I was working at 2am on Monday morning? Cue decision paralysis.

We have a penchant for complicating things. Let’s keep things simple – work hard, study hard and as Steve Martin would say..

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’

Best wishes for a good week.

On The 5 Habits of a Craftsman

This week’s book learning is part 3 of a 5 part series from ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ by Cal Newport. (Parts 1, 2)

We spoke of the “craftsman mindset” as the best way to build career capital. Today, we will take a deep look at the 5 habits of a craftsman –

1: Decide what capital market you are in. There are 2 kinds of markets –

Winner-take-all: One killer skills with a few winners all over the world (e.g. hollywood script writer)

Auction: Diverse collection of skills. Here, there are many different types of career capital and each person might generate their own unique collection (e.g. CEO of a Fortune 500 company)

2: Identify your capital type. Ignore this if you are in a winner-take-all market as there’s only one type of capital. (i.e. be amongst the top 10 script writers in the world to make it in Hollywood)

For an auction market, however, seek open gates i.e. opportunities to build capital that are already open to you. Open gates get us farther faster. Skill acquisition is like a freight train: Getting it started requires a huge application of effort, but changing its track once it’s moving is easy. (e.g. keep moving upwards in an organization and then laterally instead of trying to move laterally and start from scratch)

3: Define “good”. Set clear goals. For a script writer, the definition of “good” is clear – his scripts being taken seriously.

4: Stretch and destroy. Deliberate practice – that uncomfortable sensation in our heads that feels like physical strain, as if neurons are physically re-forming into new configurations.

5: Be patient. Look years into the future for the payoff. It’s less about paying attention to your main pursuit, and more about your willingness to ignore other pursuits that pop up along the way to distract you.

While the craftsman mindset can be applied to most kinds of work, Cal also indicates three disqualifiers for applying the craftsman mindset. These are jobs that

1. …present few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable.
2. …focus on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world.
3. … force you to work with people you really dislike.

Over to principle #3 then. Coming up next week..

Here’s to developing the 5 habits of a craftsman this week!


Want to finish that bar of chocolate? Play that extra hour on the play station? Wear that expensive dress and go for a fancy dinner?  Curl up in your bed and just read a book in quiet?

Go for it. Don’t think twice.

Tomorrow, we can go about worrying about all of life’s little problems – our waist lines, crazy projects, bosses and plan.

Tomorrow, we will exercise, work, and study.

Today, we will indulge.

Tomorrow, we will do.

Today, we will just be..

Self control is so incredibly critical to long term happiness. But it’s nice to let go once a while and give in. The key is once a while of course.

Inspiring folk waiting to meet you..

Networking is a flawed concept. If we really want to leverage people, it’s got to be thanks to deep relationships. And building deep relationships requires both time and fit. If we are getting to know people just because it’s useful for us to get to know someone, that’s neither deep nor sustainable.

But, that’s how networking is done. Go to a big get together, hand out business cards hoping that something clicks. It’s pretty desperate, but we didn’t have any better way..

The internet has, of course, exposed the flaws of this approach. We don’t need the random hit approach anymore. There are many inspiring folk who have significant online presences – a blog, an active twitter feed etc.

I realize this as I reach out to people I have never met for Real Leader interviews. Thanks to the internet, we suddenly have the means to build relationships with some truly wonderful people. Of course, like all good things, it takes a bit of work. But it’s more possible than ever before. My experience with a whole bunch of relationships built almost entirely online is the depth of trust in these relationships. I realized that last weekend when I met a reader of this blog in person, at home, for a couple of hours to review her resume.

There are so many inspiring folk all over the world waiting to meet you. You just have to reach out.

Now if that isn’t an inspiring thought..

When Heathrow Express redeemed themselves..

I wrote about when the Heathrow Express disappointed me. It’s only fair I write about when they redeemed themselves.

I asked an official if there was time to buy a ticket yesterday morning. He told me not to worry and just get in. He managed to get another family in as well. As soon as we got in, he got us tickets with a big smile on his face. No extra charges – the norm is that you pay 5 pounds extra if you buy tickets on the train. He went out of the way.

2 observations

1. People working in companies often forget that companies are just a collection of individuals. What you do really does make a different, no matter how far removed you are from the customer. There’s probably a customer somewhere “feeling” the dedication and care you have put in.

2. This friend had to go against company policy (not charge us 5 pounds) to do something a normal human being should do. That’s telling, isn’t it?

Work Hacks Wednesdays: Discuss, Propose or Announce

There are 3 reasons why meetings are necessary –

1. Discuss i.e. we have an initial concept, idea or draft and we’d like to pick your brain. And your input is welcome. (Small groups are ideal. Large groups probably mean a facilitated workshop.)

2. Propose i.e. we have made a tentative decision after discussion/debate. We are letting you know so we have you bought in. Your input is welcome, for tweaks, in our proposal – massive ground shattering thinking or suggestions are not.

3. Announce i.e. this is our decision. Thanks for your agreement (i.e. shutting up and dealing with it.)

Running meeting is part art, part science. Understanding the purpose of the meeting is a big part of the science. Sticking to the purpose is a large part of a successful meeting.

It descends to chaos if the purpose is not clear i.e. when an announcement is made open for discussion, for example..