Changeless and change

The more changeless our core, the easier it is to confront change.

Clarity on who we are and what we stand for inspires the ability to be agile and flexible in response to a new context.

That in turn enables us to learn from new situations and change how we operate.

(H/T: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

The Cory Muscara thread

Cory Muscara shared a fascinating thread with insights from his time meditating with Buddhist monks. Here are a collection that resonated –

A sign of growth is having more tolerance for discomfort. But it’s also having less tolerance for bullshit.

Procrastination is the refusal or inability to be with difficult emotions.

Desires that arise in agitation are more aligned with your ego. Desires that arise in stillness are more aligned with your soul.

Your mind doesn’t wander. It moves toward what it finds most interesting. If you want to focus better, become more curious about what’s in front of you.

The moment before letting go is often when we grip the hardest.

You don’t find your ground by looking for stability. You find your ground by relaxing into instability.

There is no set of conditions that leads to lasting happiness. Lasting happiness doesn’t come from conditions; it comes from learning to flow with conditions.

Real confidence looks like humility. You no longer need to advertise your value because it comes from a place that does not require the validation of others.

Your mind doesn’t wander. It moves toward what it finds most interesting. If you want to focus better, become more curious about what’s in front of you.

There are 3 layers to a moment: Your experience, your awareness of the experience, and your story about the experience. Be mindful of the story.

One of the deepest forms of peace we can experience is living in integrity. You can lie to other people about who you are, but you can’t lie to your heart.

Monks love to fart while they meditate. The wisdom of letting go expresses itself in many forms.

You can’t life-hack wisdom. Do the work.

Thank you for sharing, Cory!

That last one gets to the difference between reading these, thinking about them, and copying my favorites over. It will take a lot of work for these to truly be “learning.”

You can’t life-hack wisdom indeed.

The 7 Habits again and less is more

I re-read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People over the winter break. I do this every couple of years. And just like in past re-readings, I marked many pages for further reflections and writing here in the coming weeks.

A good friend’s biggest reflection for 2022 was the idea “less is more.” He shared that he learnt to focus on fewer things, spent time with fewer friends, and appreciated the importance of re-reading fewer books. Life had gotten busier in 2022 and he found himself content with the focus on less vs. the pursuit of more.

I found myself reflecting on this idea as I re-read the 7 Habits. I’m glad I chose to re-read it instead of attempting to find something new. I needed its wisdom more than I realized.

Every time I read the book, I’m reminded of just how profound a compilation of human wisdom is. Stephen Covey repeatedly states that he just played the role of synthesizer. And that’s very true – it draws from cultures and texts all over the world. However, it also illustrates the power of good synthesis. It is exceptionally well done.

There are so many ideas that stick. Start with your own character. Private victories before personal victories. There’s a space between stimulus and response. Integrity is making and keeping commitments. Begin with the end in mind. You can’t talk your way out of a problem you’ve acted yourself into. Put first things first. Think win-win. Seek to understand before being understood. Sharpen the saw.

Each of these ideas are simple to read, difficult to internalize, and take years to master.

I expect to keep writing about them as I attempt to learn them and make them part of how I operate.

Less can indeed be more.

And simple is hard.

“Tell them I’ll fix this”

A decade ago, Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired – and thus called time on a trophy-laden career. Since then, the club has gone from manager to manager with many false dawns and little to show in terms of success.

There was some optimism at the start of the season as the Board finally seemed to hire a competent manager – Erik Ten Hag. But the season started in questionable fashion with an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at a smaller club called Brentford (I shared a Ten Hag story after that defeat – a turning point in the team’s fortunes).

That week, United were actively negotiating with Real Madrid over the transfer of their star defensive midfielder Casemiro. Madrid had bought a promising young midfielder themselves and 30 year old Casemiro had no interest in playing second fiddle.

Many – me included – wondered why Casemiro would be interested in Manchester United. Sure, Erik Ten Hag seemed promising. But we’d just experienced a disappointing decade. The chances of a turnaround were slim. Then there was the embarrassing Brentford performance unfolding in front of everyone’s eyes. Club officials were justifiably worried that Casemiro would turn them down after seeing that.

We now know that the story went differently. Casemiro was watching the game from his home in Madrid. He then texted his agent – “Tell them I’ll fix this.”

~5 months later, I think it’s fair to say he has.

Time will tell if Erik Ten Hag manages to turn United’s fortunes around. His start has certainly been very promising. And time will tell if Casemiro goes on to become the club legend he looks set to become. Again, things look promising.

Regardless, though, I thought it was a telling moment that spoke to his self-belief.

This builds on my notes from day before yesterday about Messi and Mbappe – great players come alive in the most challenging of circumstances.

Perhaps that is the truest indicator of our skill level – our ability to come through when the going gets tough.

Change and the 2 questions

When organizations go through change, it is natural to ask 2 kinds of questions –

(1) How can I survive/come out ahead? (self-preservation)

(2) How can we survive/come out of ahead? (team/organization-preservation)

Both questions matter. However, the difference between a reaction and a professional response in healthy organizations is consistently choosing the “we” over the “I.”

The difference always shows.

Reflecting on Messi and Mbappe

I was reflecting on the recent football/soccer World Cup Final in Qatar. Argentina vs. France turned out to be among the best – if not the best – world cup finals ever.

If you didn’t catch it, it went from Argentina leading 2-0 in the 77th minute to France bringing it 2-2 within a space of 6 or so minutes. Argentina then scored 1 in extra-time only for France to equalize right at the end of extra-time. 3-3, then penalties, and then an Argentine victory.

However, a big part of the story was the genius of two players – Lionel Messi for Argentina and Kylian Mbappe for France. In this biggest of games, Messi scored 2 and Mbappe scored 3.

In some ways, it wasn’t surprising to see these two players steal the show. They’re the best in the world for a reason.

In other ways, however, it was still incredible in a game with more pressure and a weight of expectations than any other. Both teams likely had a game plan to deal with them – they had to have. And they still managed to rise above all of that – well above all of that – to bring their best.

I played competitive table tennis for a short period growing up. I learnt the game when I was older – so, my window to play competitively was short. By the time I started (~9th grade), kids who’d grown up playing had many years of practice and competition experience. But I played just enough to learn a few things about competitive sport.

One of the most valuable things I learnt from this experience was the difference between playing well in training and playing well in competition. It takes an absurd amount of practice to play anywhere close to way you’d play in training. Normally, it is not even close.

When you’re inexperienced, 9/10 performances in training show up as 5/10 performances in competition. As you become more experienced, the gap narrows.

I can only begin to imagine how hard it must be to show up the way Messi and Mbappe did in a world cup final.

It made me reflect about how I show up when the going gets tough / when the stakes are high. And it reminded about an idea from NBA All Star Damian Lillard – “If you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody.”

Messi and Mbappe do the work. There’s no doubt about that.

We can too.

Don’t aim for the moon

One of the biggest changes I’ve made in my attempts to build new habits over the years is to not aim for the moon.

Looking to start an exercise or reading or healthier eating routine? Don’t aim to do it all 7 days of the week.

Instead, go for something that you’d consider achievable. Start with 2-4 days instead.

Reaching for the moon assumes we’ll end up with 3-4 days by shooting for all 7. But the effect is often the opposite. We end up doing nothing because we get discouraged.

Starting with something on the other hand gives us something far more important – momentum. Once we have the momentum, we can work our way up.

Don’t let perfect stop you from getting started.

Get started. Build momentum. Win.

When the best leaders walk into a room

“Two things happen when the best leaders walk into a room. The people who work for them straighten a little, making sure that everything’s perfect – and they smile, too. That’s how we were with Floyd.” | Will Guidara on working with the late Indian chef Floyd Cardoz in “Unreasonable”

This stayed with me. It is a wonderful way to think about the effect good leaders have on people they work with.