5 Takeaways from The Compound Effect

I just finished reading this fantastic little book called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. If you are a personal development junky, I highly recommend it. Hardy makes the case that we need to get back to good old fashioned hard work and consistency in order to be successful. We like to believe in fairy tales and applying a few life hacks to change our lives, however, the compound effect is about small positive habits and choices made over a long period of time which create big results. A pastor said it this way “It’s often the small things that no one sees that result in the big things that everyone wants.”

 Lust vs love

If you want success, help others get it. Anthony Robins opens with this in his message at the beginning of the book and Darren Hardy closes with it at the end. Many personal development and leadership books present this idea but at the end of the day we are all pretty selfish. As humans we are each trying to get ahead often at the cost of pushing others down. It is easy to view your field and work as a zero sum game. Someone else’s success takes away from your success. It is a battle between lust versus love. Lust is selfish and all about what I can get whereas love is about what I can give. If you can overcome this tendency toward lust and instead serve others, put others first, and help others succeed, you will stand out. This is also far more fulfilling in the long run. As Hardy explains, the person who goes against the norm is unusual and is the one who can achieve extraordinary results.

Choices

One of the questions Hardy raises is whether we are choosing our behavior or being a passive receiver in life. If I am honest more often I am a passive receiver. I fail to plan, to adapt, and often let life happen to me. It is essential to remember that we are each 100% responsible for our lives. Don’t point your finger to the world for the source of your problems but first look at yourself.

On a more positive note, one of the habits and choices I continually make is to be a reader. Over the past few years I have established the habit of reading in the morning before work. Sometimes I get discouraged by looking around and seeing colleagues or friends who appear just as successful but do not read. Thoughts go through my head of getting extra sleep or getting a few more hours at work for overtime instead of reading. This book helped remind me that the compound effect is at work in my habit of reading. It may not make a difference today, tomorrow, or this year, but over time I will gain wisdom and insight that cannot be manufactured.

Habits

One idea I have recently seen is linked with habits is integrity. High integrity is when your actions align with your values. What you do trumps what you say in every situation. When your habits and actions conflict with your values you will be unhappy, frustrated, and it will ultimately lead to self-delusion. I can tell my wife I love her but unless I plan a date my actions do not communicate this truth.

Another point about habits is awareness of what we think about and where our time is going. Our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts. We often see what we are looking for and create our own reality. I realized my habit of looking at work emails early in the morning and late at night was creating a reality of stress and anxiety. I decided I needed to break this habit to end this cycle of stress and anxiety. Since then I have turned email notifications off from my phone and no longer use my phone to check work emails. 95% of the emails I will likely get between 5pm one day and 8am the next can be handled the next day. For the other 5%, if it is urgent I can be reached on my cell phone. I want to be mentally and physically present when I am home. Often when I am reading and responding to work emails at home I am not mentally present. So far this has been working for me.

Momentum

Momentum is important to maintain habits but requires the discipline of a predictable routine. One of the ideas that Hardy shared was to bookend your day. Bookending your day means controlling how it starts and how it ends. As we all know, anything can happen during the day and your plans can be crushed, however, we have the ability to control the start and finish. For starting my day I like to read, journal, and meditate. I try not to allow the concerns and worries of the day to encroach on this time which is why it has been helpful to turn off email notifications from my phone. Hardy describes what he calls a “calibration appointment” in the morning which consists of 15 minutes of looking over his 1 year, 5 year, quarterly, monthly, and daily goals. While I have not been going through these for myself every single day, I did take the time to think through some of my goals. For me this goes back to our thoughts and how our life moves in the direction of our thoughts. If I don’t consistently remind myself of my goals I tend to forget about them. I become what I described earlier as a passive receiver just drifting through life. I find I need to remind myself of my goals so that I can pursue them daily and adjust them as needed. As this book conveys, I will not be able to achieve most of my goals in a day but through consistent habits and choices and the power of the compound effect, over time I can achieve my goals.

Influence

I am 100% responsible for what I feed my mind. I control who I spend time with, the environment I put myself in, and what I choose to dwell on. That last one of what I choose to dwell on has become painfully apparent to me. When I have a bad call with a client at work or experience a setback do I choose to mull over it and tell my friends or spouse about it when I get home? When I feel like someone has done me wrong do I choose gossip about it and replay it over and over in my head? What I ultimately learn over and over is that I give power to these negative experiences when I choose to talk about them and think about them. This can be hard to come to terms with emotionally because like many others my inclination is to be a victim. Being a victim is far easier because I do not have to take responsibility. However, in order to experience the compound effect in a positive way I need to take responsibility of what influences my mind and my habits.

Although applying the compound effect isn’t easy to accomplish, it isn’t very complicated. It’s all about discipline, consistency, and a focus on the long term rather than the short term. As Hardy explained near the beginning: our problem isn’t a knowledge problem but an application problem. We know what we’re supposed to do but fail to do it. I encourage you to try some of these principles, see what works, and watch how the compound effect can change areas of your own life.

Atomic Habits

I heard about Atomic Habits from a podcast I frequently listen to. The idea that you can change your life by implementing a few new habits sounds very sexy. Everyone desires something whether it is money, power, status, praise, approval, to lose weight, or be less stressed. The book title may give the same impression, but the reality that James Clear presents is very different. Clear shows how it is the 1% improvements that are not noticeable in the short run that change you in the long run. Can one small habit change your life? No, but consistently applying the right habits over time and adding new ones can transform you through small changes. That is why I love the meaning “atomic” from the title of the book. In one sense it is the smallest unit of matter but in another sense it is something with extreme energy and power.

Identity

One of the points which Clear makes is that we focus too much on the results, goals, and outcome we want instead of focusing on our identity. Start with your identity and work backwards from the results that you want to the type of person who gets those results. First decide the type of person you want to be and then prove it to yourself through small wins. Clear states “Many people walk through life in a cognitive slumber, blindly following the norms attached to their identity.” Instead of blindly following the norms, face life head on, decide who you want to be, and implement habits to become that person.

The steps

The crux of the book is defining what a habit is. Clear defines a habit as having 4 parts:

  1. Cue – our brains are constantly looking for rewards
  2. Craving – the desire to change our internal state
  3. Response – the actual habit
  4. Reward – the reason for our habit, satisfaction

Clear also develops the 4 laws of behavior change:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

In order to break bad habit we must do the opposite:

  1. Make it invisible
  2. Make it unattractive
  3. Make it difficult
  4. Make it unsatisfying

My habit

As I read the book I came up with a number of new habits I wanted to implement and a few bad habits that I want to break. However, I realized if I try to accomplish all of them at once I will probably accomplish none. The single habit I landed on is my exercising. At the end of 2018 I trained for and ran a full marathon. Once I got into the habit of running it became “easy” for me to just look at my schedule and run the allotted miles for that day. Ever since I finished that race I have struggled to maintain an exercise rhythm since the goal I was training for is gone. I have a foggy notion of what I would like to do but until I make a concrete plan nothing will change. When Clear described how we must associate a time and location with our habit, things changed for me. I wrote down 5-6 workouts that meet my current fitness goals and wrote this statement in my notebook: I will do my pre-determined workout at 6pm in my garage after I get home from work. This is no longer foggy. I know what I am going to do, when I am going to do it, and where I will do it.

Action vs Motion

Another idea that helped me was the idea of action versus motion. Motion is the planning, strategizing, and learning that go into the habits we want. Motion can make you feel that you are getting a lot done but really is a form of procrastination. Action is the actual behavior that delivers and outcome. In order to master a habit you have to get in the repetitions. I find this happens a lot with my reading. I love to read, learn, and share what I have learned with others. However, there are many things that I read which I should put into practice but until I do so they remain motion. Someone told me it is ok to sharpen the sword but at some point you have to use it.

Don’t miss habits twice

Clear points out that when we are developing new habits in our lives we should never miss a habit twice. If you miss it once you can call it an accident but if you miss it twice you are starting a new habit. This concept is extremely important when habits get difficult like when you are tempted to miss a workout on days you don’t feel like working out. On those days when you follow through with the habit you reinforce the type of person you are. You string together and unbroken chain of performing the habit. It is like the brick layer who lays one brick each day with the goal of building a wall. If he consistently lays bricks each day, after many days he will have the wall. If he stops laying bricks because it’s too hard, he doesn’t feel like it, or he is not seeing any improvement, all he will have is a couple of bricks but no wall.

Atomic Habits provided me with a framework of how habits work, how to implement good habits, and how to overcome bad habits. James Clear does not pretend that there are any quick fixes and any good habits we want will come through long term thinking rather than short term thinking. He provides many insights on how to make the process easier & more effective. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve themselves, especially to people who feel stuck in their current routine and habits and know they need to change.

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.

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.