Extreme Ownership

There are so many ways to consume information in our world today. If you have a desire to learn something new on a particular topic there are virtually no legitimate excuses to fail to seek it out. One of the ways I consume information is through podcasts which is how I originally heard about Jocko Willink and his book Extreme Ownership (co-authored by Leif Babin). I was listening to a podcast and Willink was the guest. He mentioned his book Extreme Ownership and it was a classic case of “That sounds like a good book. Maybe I will read it someday.” As time went on, Willink was the guest on two other podcasts I consistently listen to, an old friend recommended the book to me, and so I decided it was time to read this book. I do not regret that decision as the book is full of practical leadership principles that I have been able to apply at work and in my personal life. Willink and his co-author Babin use their experiences and stories as U.S. Navy Seals in Iraq and as leaders of a leadership consulting company, Echelon Front, to communicate leadership principles. The stories and principles flow well and develop the cohesive concept of Extreme Ownership. The book is completely full of valuable information so I will just highlight a few of the concepts that stuck out to me.

Extreme Ownership

“As individuals, we often attribute the success of others to luck or circumstances and make excuses for our own failures and the failures of our team.” I personally find it very easy to live life as a victim and feel like the challenges I face and failures I experience are no fault of my own. I often go a step further and blame them on things outside of my control. That approach is easier to emotionally accept than taking ownership. The concept of extreme ownership described in this book requires self-awareness and humility, both of which are not developed overnight. I have caught myself in mid-thought multiple times over the past few weeks when I realized I was slipping into a blaming mindset. I find myself wanting to blame failures on a team member at work, someone who did not follow through, or someone else’s poor judgement. The truth is victimization is far less rewarding in the long run than accepting responsibility, identifying the direction to go, and executing. I am striving to practice extreme ownership but I am definitely a work in progress.

“When a leader sets such an example [extreme ownership] and expects this from junior leaders within the team, the mindset develops into the team’s culture at every level.” We cannot expect what we do not express. What we express will not be taken seriously if it is not backed up by example. No matter how willing I am to uphold a culture of ownership, unless I model it, I will not be able to affect any spheres of my influence. To create a culture of ownership and taking responsibility, I have to set the example. I have to admit it is a lot easier for me to recognize where others should take responsibility than to do so myself. I am realizing everything hinges on my initial reaction to failures or breakdown in communication. Is my first reaction to point the finger and try to determine where others dropped the ball or is it to look at myself first, figure out how I contributed to the problem, and then take responsibility?

No bad teams, only bad leaders

“…it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable – if there are no consequences – that poor performance becomes the new standard.” Ultimately the poor performance of any team can be attributed to the leader. Again, this is not easy to accept but it is true. The leader is in charge of setting expectations, following up, and coaching to maintain performance. Whatever is being tolerated will become the standard and it is the leader’s job to set the expectation. John Maxwell says “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This principle is definitely easier to talk about than to put into practice. I know this idea is true intellectually but I often fall back into a mindset of blame. I am learning that leadership is rewarding but it is hard. Being a leader is not always glorious and when you are doing a good job it can be taken for granted, whereas when you fail you attract attention. This is why it is important to enjoy your work, develop good relationships with your team and enjoy them, and figure out ways to celebrate success. In the same way that we each have to accept responsibility when practicing extreme ownership, we also have to take responsibility for celebrating our wins.

Prioritize and Execute

“Even the greatest of battlefield leaders could not handle an array of challenges simultaneously without being overwhelmed. That risked failing at them all. I had to remain calm, step back from my immediate emotional reaction, and determine the greatest priority for the team. Then, rapidly direct the team to attack that priority.” I recently went through a season at work of feeling overwhelmed. I felt there were just too many tasks to complete like keeping up with engineering tasks, juggling multiple projects, keeping up with dates & deadlines, phone calls, emails, questions from team members, and other people to talk to. I learned through that season that I need to rely on my team and trust them to take on some of the load, I can’t tackle all the tasks in front of me at once, and that I need to be ok with everything not being complete at the end of the day. The strategy recommended in this book is a helpful one: remain calm, avoid the initial emotional response, and determine the greatest priority and execute.

Another quote from the book said “Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously.” I had to learn that to be an effective leader I cannot do everything myself and do it all at once. I have come to the conclusion that being busy with no margin is not a badge of honor for a leader; however, this is generally the perception people have. We tend to think that the busier you are the more important you must be. I am learning to set priorities and delegate. Another book I recently read called Getting Things Done by David Allen recommended a strategy involving 3 D’s:

  • Do It
  • Delegate It
  • Defer It

Overall Extreme Ownership helped me identify areas of weakness in my leadership and personal life. The content itself was formatted well making it easy to follow. The principles from the book are not just vague concepts but leadership principles which can be readily applied. I will definitely be recommending this book to fellow readers in the future.

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Redefine Your Win

The Tension

Have you ever felt that you are falling behind your peers? People out there who are your age or younger are going out and becoming entrepreneurs, becoming successful consultants, or gaining some sort of platform. They are reading and learning more than you. Ultimately this makes you feel like you need to do more or put in more effort to develop yourself.

I feel this tension a lot. I self-impose pressure and an expectation I have to read an entire book in one sitting and ingest all the information to be successful. There are all these blogs I need to write. Am I working out and running enough? Should I spend more time with my wife? Am I spending enough time with my friends? Am I living a balanced life? I do not have all the answers and I suppose if I did it would take all the surprise and excitement out of life, however, this tension I feel is something I have thought a lot about. Thinking about this tension has revealed some principles to me and I have been trying to apply them to my life.

Comparison

I often read about people like Mozart who composed incredible symphonies and think to myself “how can I get as good at my craft as they were at theirs?” It is easy to forget that it took something like ten years before Mozart produced what we now admire from his work. The same thing is true about Bill Gates, Bill Joy, the Beatles, and plenty of others (check out Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell). Not to mention that these people’s priorities were not the same as mine are. Am I willing to put everything aside, pursue my craft relentlessly, and become the best if it costs me my marriage? It is likely no one ever frames it that way in their minds but we see it happening all the time.

My Win

The truth is I feel as if I have lost if I am not able to finish a book quickly, hammer out a good blog post, or feel like I am not learning enough. What if I redefine my win? What if my win is to learn one new thing when I sit down to read or listen to a podcast? I win if I can learn something new that I can immediately apply to my life or share with someone else. This takes the pressure off. It makes it fun and sustainable. And I’m not beating myself up for all the things I’m not doing, but providing structure and framework for what a win looks like in what I choose to do.

Little by Little

I love this quote from John Wooden, “You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.” Growing, learning, and getting better is not a sprint but a marathon. Like Tim Ferriss mentions in his book Tools of Titans, “…deliberately set a low bar for a ‘win’.”

This change of perspective of what I need to accomplish each day to be effective and win has been helpful. I have begun to look at the priorities in my life like marriage, work, church, & other relationships and define what a win looks like. I believe this change in perspective will help relieve the tension I often feel and help me succeed in the long run.

Ego Is The Enemy

Like many of the books I read, I picked up and read Ego Is The Enemy after hearing about it from multiple sources. I first heard about it from a friend about 8-9 months ago. Last weekend an acquaintance mentioned it and this time the topic struck a chord with me. I have found reading books based on inspiration in a particular season of life is the best way to find the most useful applications. This book did not disappoint me.

Ryan Holiday conveniently splits the book into 3 parts: Aspire, Success, and Failure. He shows how ego can destroy us in each of these phases. Holiday also weaves in stories from historical figures, currently successful people, and his personal life to illustrate the points he makes.

Aspire

Passion

Aspiring is all about the journey from obscurity to success and what you do to get there. Passion is typically seen as a good trait. We recognize it in people who tell us all about the things they intend to accomplish, often very convincingly. However, when it comes to showing actual progress there often isn’t any. Why? Because you can be busy with intentions without actually accomplishing anything. This is what Holiday calls the “passion paradox.”

I am no better. I fall prey to this all the time whether it is imagining to myself all the books I will read, telling my friends about all the miles I will run, or telling my co-workers about all the work I plan to complete. Passion tends to cause us to overestimate what we can accomplish in the future but underestimate what we can accomplish right now. We always seem to have far less time than we imagined.

The Canvas Strategy

The canvas strategy is all about making other people look good and be good by providing support for them.

“Find canvases for other people to paint on.”

“It means you’re the least important person in the room – until you change that with results.”

“Say little, do much.”

“…the person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.”

My struggle with this is that I often want recognition and reward now. It is hard to sit back and let someone else take credit for my idea. My ego causes me to think short-term rather than planning for the long run. As Holiday says “Let others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal.”

Work, Work, Work

So what should we do? Henry Ford said “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” My ego wants the fact that I aspire, plan, and have great ideas to count toward success. This doesn’t work. I have to sit down, delay gratification, and put in the hours. This isn’t sexy and popular in the short term but pays off in the long run.

Success

Always Stay A Student

“An amateur is defensive. The professional finds learning (and even, occasionally, being shown up) to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.”

As soon as you believe you already know everything, you stop learning anything new. To maintain success and excellence we have to continue being a student. It can be easy to fall in the trap of believing you have arrived. But what got you there? Unless your success is a flash in the pan, it took hard work, effort, and persistence over a long period of time. This effort does not end once you become successful. This point also reminds me of Carol Dweck’s work and book Mindset which delineates between 2 different mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. With a fixed mindset we feel our intelligence is fixed and are obliged to prove how smart we are. Someone with a growth mindset knows they have deficiencies but strives to learn and grow. They don’t need to prove how smart they are because they are in the process of “becoming.” I personally don’t always get this right and often fall into a fixed mindset, however, I am applying this to my life and want to cultivate being a learner.

Managing Yourself

“As you become successful in your own field, your responsibilities may begin to change. Days become less and less about doing and more and more about making decisions. Such is the nature of leadership.”

Although I have received a few promotions, I would not say I have arrived in my field of engineering. I still have a lot to learn with regard to technical skills and will always be honing my leadership skills. I have definitely found the quote above to be true. Before I was given the opportunity to take more responsibility, I would be given a task or direction, and could focus solely on that thing. I did not have a lot of influence in the office so I was rarely interrupted and I was not communicating directly with clients so my phone calls were few. As time has gone on, however, I have gained more influence, built more trust, and taken on more responsibility. These days I may have 4-5 things going on at one time and be delegating work to the younger engineers. If I don’t learn to cope with this effectively as time goes on, it will be very easy to become overloaded. I am learning to steer the ship and delegate the other tasks.

Failure

We are all bound to fail at some point. We can do everything right and still get into trouble. Since we all fail, it’s not so much a matter of if it comes, but when it does, how do we respond? Holiday points out that often when we fail we lack the ability to examine ourselves and figure out what behavior led to our failure. We have to learn to invest our time and energy into habits and patterns that will fix our trouble, not lead us to make the same mistake later.

I found Holiday’s book very helpful and practical. I appreciate the way it is organized in a very simple way and easy to follow. If we are honest, pride and ego are traits that we all struggle with on some level. I found that after reading this book I walked away with tools to fight the ego that so often crops up in my life and hinders me from making an impact and being successful.

Blink

It can be difficult to distill a book into a few main ideas. I find it particularly difficult to distill Malcolm Gladwell’s books because of all of the stories and anecdotes interwoven throughout the book. For me, this style is what makes him an expert storyteller; however, it makes it difficult to pull out main ideas without retelling all of the stories.

The basic premise of Gladwell’s book Blink is to investigate how people make decisions and judgments. We basically rely on 2 different strategies to make sense of situations: conscious and unconscious. The conscious strategy relies on logic, knowledge, and works slowly, whereas our unconscious strategy happens quickly and under the surface. In general we tend to think that to make good decisions we must gather as much information as possible and take as much time as possible to reach the best decision. Gladwell shows that this isn’t always the case and that decisions made quickly can be as good as those made slowly.

Thin-slicing

Thin-slicing is a persons ability to unconsciously recognize patterns in situations and behaviors in a very short amount of time or slice of an experience. An experiment that Gladwell references to illustrate thin-slicing involved developing a “personality workup” on 80 college students and then seeing how closely their friends could measure their personality in a questionnaire versus complete strangers. The strangers were only allowed 15 minutes to look around in the college students’ dorm rooms. On the whole, the strangers were a bit more accurate. This experiment shows that you can often learn a lot more from a private space than from the image people display. By only being exposed to a “thin slice” of an experience with the students, the strangers did not have the distractions or confusing and irrelevant information that comes along with knowing someone personally.

Rapid Cognition Gone Wrong

Although thin-slicing and first impressions can often reveal more than we imagine, there are times when rapid cognition leads us in the wrong direction. The example that Gladwell provides is president Warren Harding. The impression people got of him was that he was handsome and distinguished-looking, therefore, he must be intelligent and a man of integrity. Gladwell describes Harding’s path to presidency but the general idea was that he advanced not because of his political or leadership abilities but because he looked like a good president. The general consensus from historians is that he was “…one of the worst presidents in American History.”

The truth is that our first impressions and snap judgments are driven by our experiences and environment. The only way to change our impression on race, for instance, is to change the experiences and environment we live which creates a negative impression.

Effective Rapid Cognition

It is true that rapid cognition can lead us astray due to our previous experiences, but it is also true that sometimes it is a person’s experience and intuition that allows them to make a good decisions in a high stress situation. Gladwell mentions Gary Klein’s study of nurses and firefighters who often have to make decisions under lots of pressure. There simply isn’t enough time to systematically and logically go through all the data. These decisions have to be made quickly and are often based on experience. Good decisions made under high pressure are not random but stem from good training, following rules, and doing rehearsals. Someone inexperienced without a lot of training that is forced to make a decision under high stress will confront more information than his or her unconscious is comfortable with and this is paralyzing. The trick is to eliminate all the extra information and focus only on what is important.

High Stress Effects on Decisions

Good decisions can be made under high stress situations; however, there are limits to this. Gladwell mentions a former army lieutenant named Dave Grossman who argues that the best performance occurs when a person’s heart rate is in the range of 115-145 beats per minute. What happens above this range? Gladwell uses stories of high speed police chases and shootings to illustrate this idea. When a cop is in a fast-paced, high stress, situation after a high-speed chase it is easy to understand how they wouldn’t be in the optimal mindset for decision-making. Cops in these situations tend to display “temporary autism” and lose their ability to take in details. Their thinking narrows, their mind becomes very rigid, and all additional evidence or factors don’t register in their mind. This tends to lead to low-quality intuitive reactions, which rely on stereotypes, bias, and prejudices.

In this book Gladwell gives a very thoughtful presentation how people think and make decisions. He shows how thin-slicing and rapid cognition can lead to effective decisions which cut out all the clutter. On the other hand, he also shows how high stress situations can have disastrous effects on our decisions. If you want to read good stories interwoven with thoughtful information that will make you think, this is the book for you.

Give and Take

Recently I have found myself questioning whether you can truly get ahead in your chosen career without using people and manipulating them. It can sometimes feel like those individuals who use power and manipulation continue to take strides forward while those who live with character, integrity, and honesty get left behind. I mean all you have to do is check out Robert Greene’s book The 48 Laws of Power to see how many successful people in history have used manipulation and tricks to get what they wanted at the expense of others (one example is Law 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit). I found myself asking friends what they thought because I’m never quite sure if I’m just being pessimistic and need some perspective. In light of this, reading Give and Take couldn’t have come at a better time. Adam Grant shows how givers tend to make up the top of the success ladder and how matchers and takers can often be at a disadvantage. This book was very helpful, especially in this particular season of my life and I hope you can gain some value out of the few main ideas I pulled out.

Takers, Givers, & Matchers

Whenever we collaborate with people at work we are constantly deciding how much value we will add. Are we trying to take more than we give or are we trying to contribute to others with no thought as to what we will gain in return? Grant defines takers as people who want to take much more than they give. They do not care about the interests of others. For takers, we are all in a competition and they want to win, which often means self-promotion with no thought to others. On the other side of the spectrum are the givers. While takers are self-focused, givers tend to think about others in terms of what they need. Givers are always looking for ways to give with no thought as to what they will get in return.

“If you’re a giver, you might use a different cost-benefit analysis: you help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal cost.”

Then there are the matchers, who end up behaving somewhere in between takers and givers. Matchers want to maintain equality in what they give and get, they want their dealings to always be fair and want to receive as many favors as they give.

Throughout the book Grant shows how givers can be successful and shares the stories of a wide range of successful givers like entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, comedy writers, teachers, health care professionals, consultants, and politicians. In order to get the full benefit of these stories, you will have to read the book, however, there were a few other ideas from the book that I found helpful.

Seeing Potential

One of Grant’s examples of a successful giver is C. J. Skender who teaches accounting for Chapel Hill and Duke University. He is very popular among his students and has an extraordinary ability to recognize and pull out talent. As I read about Skender, however, I began to see that he doesn’t really possess supernatural abilities of recognizing talent. This is exactly Grant’s point. Skender is very passionate about helping his students and always sees the best in them. He believes in their potential and there is a lot of evidence that supports the idea that what we expect from someone and express to them becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“He isn’t unusual in recognizing talented people; he simply starts by seeing everyone as talented and tries to bring out the best in them. In Skender’s mind, every student who walks into his classroom is a diamond in the rough – able and willing to be mined, cut, and polished. He sees potential where others don’t. Which has set in motion a series of self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Givers don’t look for talent first, instead they look for people with grit (passion & perseverance) and seek to motivate them. As givers invest in these gritty people the potential they see in them often becomes a reality. At work it is often one of my responsibilities to teach, train, and mentor new or young engineers. I often struggle with motivation for this since it takes me away from my own work and the return on my invested time is not always quickly noticed. However, by reading Skender’s story I have begun to see coaching & mentoring in a different light. I want to be better at speaking to the potential in people rather than letting my preconceived notions become self-fulfilling prophecies. This is easier said than done.

Powerless Communication

Most people who want to be successful in life realize building influence is important. According to Grant there are basically two ways to gain influence: establish dominance or earn prestige. Take a guess which way takers get influence? Takers usually gain influence through dominance, which means using powerful and authoritative verbal and nonverbal communication. This is all about establishing a strong physical and dominating presence. The problem is this is a zero-sum game because the more dominance and power I show, the less there is for anyone else.

Earning prestige, on the other hand, means earning respect and admiration from others without being dominant. There is no limit to the amount of respect and admiration we can give. Grant describes a totally different approach for this called powerless communication, which entails speaking less assertively, asking questions, and relying on others input. On the surface this approach sounds like it wouldn’t work, however, Grant goes on to show how effective it is in areas like presenting, selling, persuading, and negotiating.

Grant shows how questions are effective for communication, especially when others are skeptical of your abilities or knowledge. By asking questions and listening you can build trust and credibility. He shows how powerless communication is effective when working closely in teams because it encourages members to speak up and share. Although takers may appear to be more effective leaders because of their dominance, this often discourages team members from speaking up and sharing ideas. When givers practice powerless communication they create psychological safety and allow members of a group to voice their thoughts. Soliciting advice and input from the group would seem like a weakness for a taker (making it appear they don’t have the answers) but this turns out to strengthen a team.

Reading this book came at a perfect time for me. I have been struggling through the question of whether you can be successful if you are focused on helping and adding value to others, rather than focusing on your own success and reputation. I found the explanation of takers, givers, and matchers to be helpful in building some framework for me to model my own leadership and influence. Focusing on identifying passion and perseverance in young engineers rather than innate talent will help me be a better mentor and coach. Using powerless communication will encourage my team members to share and open up while also building influence and trust. I hope these highlights add value to you as well and together we can work on applying them to our lives.

The Man In The Mirror

Have you ever been reading a book and began to get the feeling the author was writing specifically to you about your particular situation? In that moment you feel as if the author is tapping directly into your thought life and discussing what they see there. This is exactly what happened to me a few times while reading The Man In The Mirror. There were at least 2 sections of the book that it felt like Patrick Morley was speaking directly to where I am at in life. Admittedly, this book has a narrower audience for men who want to answer the question “Why do men think the things they think, say the things they say, and do the things they do?” It is for men who want to learn to grow in their faith. I throw that disclaimer out just so you are warned. Personally, I found it very helpful and hope it will add value to others as well.

Although this book has lots of quality information, if I were to distill it down to the two most helpful ideas for me it would be the idea of finding significance and how to prioritize & use our time.

  1. Significance

We all want our lives to have significance and meaning. We all want to be successful and seek glory on some level, but what actually provides significance to our lives? Our memories are short. When we base our significance on fame and worldly accomplishments, we choose something that will fade with time. Some of us seek significance through power, but enjoy it while it lasts. When you retire no one will call you anymore.

“We often only spend our energies to satisfy ourselves, rather than to serve others. Significance is not possible unless what we do contributes to the welfare of others.”

“Does what I am about to do contribute to the welfare of others in a demonstration of faith, love, obedience, and service to Christ?”

“Accumulating wealth, power, influence, and prestige are self-gratifying but will not satisfy a man’s need to be significant in a lasting way.”

“The secret of job contentment is not getting what you want but redefining what you need.”

As these quotes from the book reveal, it is difficult to attain satisfaction & significance in life through selfish ambitions. True lasting significance only comes through serving & helping others. This truth hits home to me as a husband and future father (we plan to have children in the future). Honestly I am guilty of spending lots of my time and energy thinking about how to be more successful. Whether this is at work, in my friendships, or at church. I love to read books about leadership and listen to podcasts about how to develop myself. However, at the end of my life none of this knowledge will matter if I lose my marriage. It won’t matter if my kids don’t want to speak with me. I don’t want to seek success at work at the cost of spending time with my kids and wife. I realize there is a balance; there is a time for work and for play. The bills need to be paid. However, when it comes to priorities and how I want to make decisions about where I spend my time, money, and efforts, I need to have a framework for what my priorities are. These thoughts from Morley’s book have helped me with that.

  1. Time

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

My goal shouldn’t be to attain greatness but to be faithful with the time given to me. Defining the purpose of my life through a personal mission statement helps prioritize my life. The decision of what I stand for has already been made; I just need to apply it to all situations. The purpose of my life can be summed up in Jesus’s words in Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I am often looking for tips and techniques of how to be more productive and effective with my time. The truth is I don’t need tips and techniques but a strategy. This is exactly why priorities help because they give me a strategy to live my life by. We can all be successful as long as we do the little things in a single direction.

There is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. Most of us don’t just want to be efficient with our time but effective. We don’t want to be successful at work and in our careers but let family life deteriorate. However, if we don’t examine our priorities and make some changes, that can be exactly where we are headed. I am thankful to learn the difference between efficiency and effectiveness and learn to not mix them up.

This book has revealed to me a number of areas in my life, which I need to examine. Not only did it reveal some areas for growth, but gave helpful action steps. I love to read books, which are not only interesting but also applicable to my life. This is why I read books and write this blog: to hopefully provide some insight and application that adds value to others. For this reason I would definitely recommend this book, especially to men who may feel stagnant in their careers, marriages, or friendships.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

I first learned about Marshall Goldsmith when he was a guest on the EntreLeadership podcast and quickly decided I would read one of his books. What stuck out to me about his interview on the podcast was when he described his purpose in life and what motivates him. He said his purpose in life is not to prove himself smarter than others but to provide positive value to other people’s lives. This struck me as something that I also strive for but often fall short of and I wanted to learn more. A few weeks later I found Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There sitting on my bookshelf at home. It turns out my wife had a copy from years ago! I grabbed the book off the shelf and began to read it. Here are a few of the helpful ideas I got from the book.

  1. Changing behavior

“People will do something – including changing their behavior – only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”

The fact is that I cannot make anyone change unless they choose to change. I cannot convince anyone to change unless that change aligns with the values they hold. I am learning that I see the world not as it is, but as I am. I see the world through the lens of my own experiences.

On the other hand this has shown me that when I continuously fail to change my own behavior, even though I know I need to change, it means I need to look deeper. Is it because I am not fully convinced of the value of the change? How do I link the change to what motivates me? A good illustration of this idea happened recently in my home. For weeks my home office has been a mess of unpacked boxes as we just moved into the house. I do not love to unpack and organize my things; however, my wife loves the house to be organized and looking presentable. I do not love to unpack but I love a clean and organized work space. I realized the motivation to unpack and organize my office came from the fact that I love my wife and want to please her and I value a clean working environment. I had to link the mundane task of unpacking and organizing to a deeper value that truly motivates me.

  1. Interpersonal behavioral habits

Goldsmith outlines 21 behavioral habits in his book that we have all probably been guilty of at one point or another. The trick is picking the right ones to begin working on. Here are the four that stuck out to me as the ones I need to work on the most:

#2 Adding too much value – when we feel the need to add our own opinion to every conversation or discussion.

#12 Making excuses – when we express our behavior as fixed trait so that people will excuse us. If we set low expectations for ourselves they become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you fight for your limitations you get to keep them.

#16 Not Listening – this habit is very disrespectful to others. It sends the message “I don’t care about you”, “I don’t understand you”, and “You’re wasting my time.”

#21 Goal obsession – when we are so focused on achieving our goal we do it at the expense of our larger mission.

The habit of goal obsession is the behavior I have been working on changing recently. I love to read and learn from books. I have certain goals and ways to measure those goals based on how many words per minute and how many books I want to read. When I am reading a book in the morning and my wife or someone else interrupts me, how do I respond? My goal is to read, learn, and grow so that I can be a better communicator, leader, and serve others better. When I get interrupted by someone it is often a chance to display the same behavior I am trying to grow in. I should not obsess over the goal of reading a certain amount at the expense of ignoring people around me.

  1. Feedback

“It’s my contention – and it’s the bedrock thesis of this book – that interpersonal behavior is the difference-maker between being great and near-great, between getting the gold and settling for the bronze.”

In order to develop better interpersonal behavior, we need to receive feedback. We know we need to change, we know we need feedback from those around us to know what to change, but we don’t always know how to get the feedback. Goldsmith writes about three forms of feedback: solicited, unsolicited, and observation.

Solicited feedback – we ask people for their opinion and they give it. This is hard because in general people don’t want to give this kind of feedback and we don’t want to hear it. It’s best to get this kind of feedback confidentially so that no one is embarrassed and we don’t get defensive. Instead of asking “What do you like about me?” ask “How can I do better?” The first question is basically asking a person how they feel about you, which if you think about it is irrelevant for enabling you to be better.

Unsolicited feedback – Every once in a while we get feedback which we did not ask for, but that truly opens our eyes to how the world sees us. These experiences can be painful and uncomfortable; however, they often reveal how the world actually sees us and can motivate us to change. There is a disconnect between the way we see ourselves and the way the world sees us. Often those around us have a more accurate perspective.

Observational feedback – People and situations are giving us feedback all day long but whether we pay attention or act on it is another matter. People are sending us feedback through their eye contact, body language, and response time. It is up to us to observe these moments, accept them, and act on them. Here are five ways Goldsmith gave for observational feedback to be used:

  1. Make a list of people’s casual remarks about you. At the end of the day rate each of them as positive or negative and see if any patterns emerge.
  2. Turn the sound off. In a meeting or interaction, pretend you’re watching a movie with the sound off. Concentrate only on how people present themselves physically.
  3. Complete the sentence. Pick something you want to get better at and list the benefits for you and those around you if you accomplish it. For example, if you want to take better care of your body and eat better you will…live longer, feel better, set a better example for your family, etc. As the benefits become more personal and less expected, that’s when you know you have hit on something that you need to fix.
  4. Listen to your self-aggrandizing remarks. We all have heard friends boast about some quality they think they possess when in reality the opposite is true. A friend may claim they are always on time, when the truth is they are always late. What do you boast about? Observe yourself and you may find out that a strength you claim is actually a weakness.
  5. Look homeward. If you want to change certain interpersonal behavior, it is good to get feedback from your colleagues. However, if you don’t believe them, take the same questions for feedback home and see what your family thinks. This will ensure feedback from those who truly want you to succeed and have no agenda.

I am very thankful I found this book on my shelf at home and took the time to read it. I learned a lot about changing behavior, common behavioral habits that many of us need to break, and how to get feedback. I hope you can also get some value from my three takeaways.