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.

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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.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

This book gives very practical and helpful ways to fight against the worry and anxiety that tends to creep into life. The information is well organized and each chapter ends with a rule that summarizes the entire chapter in one sentence. I found this extremely helpful to aid in remembering the ideas from the book. In the past I have read and thoroughly enjoyed How to Win Friends & Influence People, another book written by Dale Carnegie, and this book was not a disappointment. I was just surprised I had never heard of it and had to rely on Amazon’s suggestion based on other books I have ordered or viewed to make me aware of it. Here are a few of the helpful ideas I got from the book.

  1. The Anti-Worry Technique

In the book Carnegie provides a 3 step anti-worry technique that I have been using against my own worries and stresses and find very effective.

  1. The first step is to analyze your worry or anxiety honestly and reduce it down to the worst-case scenario. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen?
  2. Once you have determined the worst that could happen, reconcile yourself to accept the worst, if you needed to. Could you keep going on in life if the worst outcome came true?
  3. After you have figured out the worst that could happen and reconciled in your mind that you could accept it if you needed to, spend your time and energy figuring out how to make the situation better. What is within your control to improve the situation?

I often sabotage my productivity and concentration by worrying and stewing over problems without actually addressing them appropriately. This 3 step technique has provided me with the framework to address my worries and anxieties in a helpful way.

  1. Act the way you want to feel

We often assume that our actions follow our feelings, however, it is actually the other way around. Our feelings follow our actions. This means we should act the way we want to feel.

Emerson said: “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

Marcus Aurelius said: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

Norman Vincent said: “…you are not what you think you are; but what you think, you are.”

William James said: “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”

Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”

Personally it is far easier to believe that I am at the mercy of my feelings. This way I do not have to take responsibility for my actions when they are a result of my negative feelings. The truth is I am in control of my feelings because I can control my actions. I am in the process of learning that to feel joyful I must act joyful, even if I do not feel happy. The arena that we win or lose is in our thoughts. Your life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts.

  1. How to stop worrying about criticism

When people criticize you remember it is often a compliment in disguise. Criticism from others means you are doing something worthy of attention. Human nature is to criticize those who are better educated or more successful than ourselves. As the saying goes ‘No one ever kicks a dead dog.’

Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized, anyway. You’ll be ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” Look at the facts, make a decision to do what you feel is right, and let the criticism roll right off you like water off of a ducks back.

Realize that everyone does foolish things now and again. Instead of stewing over these foolish things or arguing against them, learn from them. Often criticism has a kernel of truth. Instead of fighting against criticism, use it in whatever way you can to help you get better and thank your critic for their helpful feedback. As Eleanor Roosevelt also said, “Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The Talent Code

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The information in this book by Daniel Coyle was tremendously helpful to me. I anticipate this book will be on my list for the top books I read in 2018. Coyle writes a lot about talent, where it comes from, how a membrane called myelin plays a role, and how anyone can build talent if they understand how it works. As I read the book I discovered multiple ways for me to apply the concepts immediately. Something I have learned is that we do not change by thinking about change but by action, and so I always appreciate books that have ideas that are easily applicable.

Here are some of the main thoughts I found helpful:

  • To build talent you have to enter into what is called deep practice. Deep practice happens when you struggle at the edge of your abilities, make mistakes, and correct them. It requires you to slow down and address your mistakes rather than glossing over them.
  • Our memory is less like a tape recorder and more like an infinite scaffold. The more our brain fires certain circuits, the more obstacles and difficulties we face and overcome, the more scaffold we build. The more scaffold we build, the faster and easier we learn.
  • The sweet spot is where you find the “…optimal gap between what you know and what you’re trying to do.”
  • The myelin revolution:
    • Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers.
    • Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.
    • The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

      “Skill is myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows according to certain signals.”

  • Myelin is a phospholipid membrane that wraps around nerve fibers.
  • Myelin fundamental principles:
    • The firing of circuits is paramount – myelin does not respond to ideas or feelings about doing something, it responds to action. Myelin responds to action that is repeated.
    • Myelin is universal – “one size fits all skill.” Myelin does not care what circuits are being fired. You could be firing your circuits for ball control in soccer practice or for holding your hands correctly to play the violin, myelin does not care. Myelin does not care who you are but what you do.
    • Myelin wraps – it doesn’t unwrap – once you insulate a skill with myelin, you cannot un-insulate. Habits are hard to break because you cannot really break a habit but have to change them by repeating different behaviors.
    • Age matters – your ability to build myelin around skill decreases the older you get. This is why many world-class experts started so young.

      The theory of skill: deep practice x 10,000 hours = world-class skill

  • Although talent appears to be predestined, we have a lot more control than we imagine over what skills we develop. We have a lot more potential than we imagine but it can only be unlocked through deep practice.
  • The three rules of deep practice: Chunk it up, repeat it, and learn to feel it.

One of the things I came to realize while reading this book is the amount of passion you have to have to engage in the deep practice. This passion is necessary to become world-class. The reality is that you cannot just spend lots of time doing something but you have to spend effortful time on the edge of your abilities, which is uncomfortable. I have started to ask myself some questions. What are the things that I am passionate about? What are the circuits that I want to strengthen and myelinate? Are there any changes that I need to make in how I use my time? Are there things I need to stop, start, or continue doing? I often struggle believing that I have enough time to devote to the things that excite me but the truth is I have time for what I schedule. World-class athletes, musicians, actors, and writers have the same amount of time in their day as me. The difference between us is what we choose to do with that time. Am I using my time to pursue what I am passionate about and will help those around me in some way or am I wasting my time? I would love to answer that I always use my time wisely but the truth is I sometimes waste it. This book has helped remind me how important it is to be wise with my time.

This book has also helped me in regards to my profession. As an engineer I often have to learn steps to a process or calculation. One of the joys and an area to grow as I advance in my career is getting to train and teach newer engineers the same steps and processes. Like most jobs, we always have deadlines and clients who are waiting for our recommendations, so time is always a factor. When it comes to training a newer engineer in this setting there is a potential for frustration. When I teach a new engineer a calculation but the first or second time they try it and they make a mistake, it is easy to gloss over it and correct it myself without spending time with that engineer to make sure they understand the concept they are missing. I am learning to apply what Coyle wrote about in regards to deep practice which is to slow down and address the mistakes to ensure that the correct circuits are being reinforced. I try to think of the time spent as an investment into the engineer to help them be better in the long-run. There is more to life than meeting deadlines and I want to have a positive impact on those around me. I am constantly fighting against the curse of knowledge. The more I know about a subject the harder it is to imagine what it is like to not know. I have to remember that there was a time in the past that I did not know or understand how to perform this particular calculation and need to be gracious. Also, I heard someone say that teaching something enables you to learn something twice. You learn it once on your own and a second time when you teach it. I need to see this as beneficial because the act of teaching and coaching is reinforcing the circuits in my brain and helping me insulate them with myelin.

While reading this book I found it easier to focus on how to myelinate interests and passions I already have such as reading, engineering, and writing this blog. However, just as important is thinking about what habits and thought patterns have been firing the wrong circuits too often, giving them too much power. One that I landed on is worry and anxiety. The list of things to be anxious about is long and probably varies from person to person, however, there are probably some common items on the list like finances, social issues, and health. I have been trying to implement a particular routine in the morning that helps start my day and get my thoughts going in the right direction, however, I have found that worry often derails me. I have the habit, like most people in this day and age, of looking at my text messages and emails as soon as I receive them. Many times this habit has removed my mind from my peaceful morning routine of reading and meditation to worry and anxiety. I am coming to realize just like practicing chess or repeating a golf swing, by letting myself get caught up in worry at the same time and with the same triggers every day, I am insulating the circuits for worry and anxiety. I cannot blame this on anyone and need to take responsibility and begin to build new habits. One of the simple steps I have taken to avoid this habit during my morning routine is to place my phone in a place where I cannot see it or hear it. If I am going to be using my computer to write or play music, I make sure not to open my email. I know I do not have enough discipline to see an email enter my inbox or see a text message alert on my phone and not check it out. It can wait. I am still in the process of changing this habit but I am grateful for this book to reveal this to me.

In this book Coyle writes a lot about skill & talent, how to develop it, what role myelin plays, and much more than a blog post can do justice. I enjoyed this book so much it will likely be on my list for the top books I read in 2018. A big reason I enjoyed it so much is because of how much I could apply to my own life. I would recommend this book to anyone.

Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument

My church has a code or set of values that we seek to understand and apply in our lives. The eighth value is “We eat the fish and leave the bones.” I found myself applying this principal as I read this book. Just because someone has published books, has done a lot of research, has an extensive amount of knowledge, and has delivered content which is true, does not mean that I need to apply everything they teach. This was the case as I read this book by Robert Greene The 48 Laws of Power. Although I thought all of the history and stories he provides in the book are very interesting, I cannot apply all of the laws to my own life because some of them go against the values that I hold as most important.

In the preface of the book Greene makes a very good point as to why it would be worthwhile for anyone to read this book. “Power is a social game. To learn and master it, you must develop the ability to study and understand people… An understanding of people’s hidden motives is the single greatest piece of knowledge you can have in acquiring power.” Although I may not be willing to make use of all of these laws personally, I can definitely use them to understand what may be driving those around me. I can use these laws to recognize deception and manipulation in those I encounter, even if I am unwilling to practice those same laws. I can use and apply what I find to be helpful and leave the rest.

Law number nine I found to be especially helpful. I may write another blog post about some of the other laws but for now wanted to focus on law nine. Law nine is “Win through your actions, never through argument.” Here are some of the main points from this law:

  • “It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”
  • Everyone believes that they are right and arguments rarely change another person’s mind. Arguments only make others feel insecure and inferior in what they believe. “Learn to demonstrate the correctness of your ideas indirectly.”
  • When you win through your actions you display power because you can prove your point without offending others.
  • In an argument you may communicate something completely unintended. People will interpret what you say based on their own feelings and insecurities.
  • “When aiming for power, or trying to conserve it, always look for the indirect route. And also choose your battles carefully. If it does not matter in the long run whether the other person agrees with you – or if time and their own experience will make them understand what you mean – then it is best not even to bother with a demonstration. Save you energy and walk away.”

This law also agrees with an idea from one of my favorite books How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I recommend this book all the time and actually have the audiobook on my phone so that I can listen to it whenever I want. In the section called How to win people to your way of thinking, Carnegie makes similar points to those made by Greene. For Carnegie the way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it completely. One of the quotes from Carnegie’s book which I particularly appreciate is “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” The problem with an argument is that if I hurt someone’s feelings or pride it is very difficult to maintain their goodwill. Since leadership and success have a lot to do with influence, keeping a person’s goodwill toward you is very important. I will not have much influence over someone who harbors negative feelings because of how I have made them feel in the past. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Another realization I have had about arguments has to do with how they make me feel. I often get into arguments at work where I feel that my position is very logical and makes sense. However, when the other person criticizes my position and does not see my logic, I can easily get frustrated. This frustration often contributes to me letting my emotions get the best of me. It can take me lots of time after an argument to “cool down.” This time is wasted. I am not able to be efficient and productive as I stew over the point that I was trying to make. How can someone hold an opposing view? Don’t they see the logic of my perspective? How can they ignore my justification? Continuing to think about an argument and these questions does not really help me progress. In fact, if anything, this habit holds me back.

As I have learned about how arguments make people feel, it has helped me work on changing myself. I want to learn to avoid arguments more often, to let things go, and perhaps most importantly not be so defensive and sensitive. As Greene’s law points out, it is always better to show others the truth of your perspective rather than argue with them. Although I have a long way to go in regards to this law, I am very happy to be moving in the right direction.