Why Should I Read | The Richest Man in Babylon

If you’re like me, you too have tried to “get into” a finance course or personal finance book. You may be  realizing, like I am as well, that a failure to learn good financial principles compounds throughout your life and that not knowing what you’re doing is an incredibly bad idea.

Last week we talked about why stories drive change. This book, The Richest Man in Babylon by George S Clason, presents useful financial principles in story form. I won’t reprint the stories here, so you’ll have to settle for a quick bullet-ed list of the “7 cures for a lean purse.” The audiobook version is $1.95 and only 4 hours long too!

This book was published in 1926 a few years before the great depression. Clason was the owner of a prominent map company and applied the principles he writes about throughout his life.

This small paperback is the seminal work on personal finance and entrepreneurial thinking. These lessons address topics such as avoiding debt, seeking out mentors and protecting assets. The short, allegorical book struck a chord with Depression-era readers, who clamored for its easy-to-read financial advice and wisdom on building wealth.

This book is concise, it delivers financial principles in story form, and it provided a basis for many authors and speakers of the 20th century as they wrote books and delivered seminars on financial success.

You may actually prefer a change of pace from the dry financial tomes that tell us how to pay down debt, buy a home, invest in stocks or other strategies like flipping houses or starting a business. Then the stories of Arkad, Dabasir, and Sharru Nada  set in the exotic gardens of Babylon or the deserts of the Middle east will be a welcome change of pace.

Babylon from above

NASA photo of Euphrates River, along which Babylon grew up.

If that sounds interesting, and you want more than these 7 quick points to overcome being broke we are going to cover, then go get this book on amazon for 4 dollars for a paperback or 1.95 on audiobook.

Think about this for a second, Og Mandino, one of the most successful personal development speakers and authors of the 20th century called this book the greatest text on personal finance and thrift of all time and it’s 1.95 on amazon. The problem isn’t lack of information, people, it’s lack of implementation.

Another personal-achievement expert, Brian Tracy, explained in his book Getting Rich Your Own Way that Clason’s message, despite its age, is still valid today. “The book is a primer on financial success because its principles are simple, direct and effective,” Tracy says.     Pulled from Success Magazine, April 13, 2011

Here are the seven bullet points on overcoming a lean purse from the Richest Man in Babylon.

  1. Set thy purse to fattening
    1. Specifically, hold 10% of your income for your own future.
  2. Control the expenditures
    1. Live on 90% of your income or less and don’t deviate from the budget.
  3. Make thy gold multiply
    1. Straightforward, don’t let it sit there, invest wisely. Parable of servants matt 25.
  4. Guard thy treasures from loss
    1. Invest only where the principle is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable, and where you earn reasonable interest. Also seek counsel from wiser heads when investing.
  5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment.
    1. Own your home. Here’s the thing, I take issue with this one to some extent but in almost all cases it’s better to own if you can do it without debt.
  6. Insure a future income
    1. Provide in advance for your family and/or retirement
  7. Increase thy ability to earn.
    1. Build your capacity, study and become wiser and more skillful, and act as though you respect yourself.

Those are the 7 cures for a lean purse from The Richest Man in Babylon. The audiobook is 4 hours long and costs less than a cup of coffee. If you can’t handle some Thees and Thous don’t bother, but with experience comes wisdom and many experienced individuals highly recommend this book.

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Why Should I Read | Switch

“Many people try dieting religiously, but only stop eating in church.” -Zig Ziglar

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is the second book from brothers Chip and Dan Heath. Published in 2010, the book starts in a movie theater popcorn bucket, visits malnourished children in Vietnam, pulls out tree stumps in Miner county South Dakota, and even goes drilling for oil with BP.

Why all these stories?

This book takes it’s own advice and lays out a path for individuals seeking to create lasting change in themselves or their own organization. The reason for stories is apparent through each of their three main points.

*Note, I am going to relate each of their three main points to the reason why stories are helpful. However, there is much more depth to this book. Please click this sentence to read an excellent overview of this book on Derek Sivers site, he gave Switch a 9/10*

The brothers Heath begin their excellent treatise on change with an imaginative analogy. They equate the three principles of change within our own minds and environments to a “Rider,” an “Elephant,” and a “Path.”

First a quick explanation. The authors refer to the rational, conscious part of our brain as “The Rider” and the emotional, subconscious part of our brain as “The Elephant.” It follows, then, that “The Path” refers to our surroundings and habits.

So why stories?  “In almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE (p.106).”

Without stories, life is a series of spreadsheets, bytes, and data points. The realm of machines, efficiency, and errorless judgement.

But we don’t work like that.

Consider this, on the market currently there’s an alarm clock named Clocky that chimes, and then scampers around the room. At 5:45am you need to haul yourself out of bed and hunt Clocky down. I do the same thing, when I actually want to wake up to my alarm, I put my alarm clock on the far side of my room. alarm clock

“Clocky is not a product for a sane species. If Spock wants to get up at 5:45 a.m., he’ll just get up. No drama required (p.6).”

If we didn’t need stories, we could ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE like Spock and do the logical thing.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Sorry, unlikely to happen.

You and I need to SEE-FEEL-CHANGE in order for it to last, and we can use the Rider Elephant and Path to our advantage.

The Rider excels at analyzation and logic but is usually powerless against the Elephant. (Ever been offered a freshly baked chocolate cookie the day after you vowed to eat healthy?). Because of this, we can use our Rider to identify or SEE what’s going on but have to move on to the other two parts to get our act together.

The Elephant, extremely powerful and able to make us FEEL in exceptional ways, nevertheless doesn’t do a great job of thinking through what’s next. For example, social media is increasingly designed to elicit a FEEL response without a lot of follow up. (ever tried to have a logical conversation in Facebook comments?). Stop trying to think with your emotions.

Here’s the kicker, both of those formulas end in CHANGE. 

Yet if us humans try to “Spock” our way to life change we’ll keep hitting snooze because we spent all our time in analyzation, thinking with our emotions and the change we end up with won’t be what we set out to accomplish, it will be whatever comes just a little bit easier.

If we tell good stories, we can recognize and SEE the opportunity, we FEEL connected to the solution because of the story we are telling ourselves, and the CHANGE that results can be more in line with our original intent.

Our lives are designed to fit into narratives, and as human beings we recognize and connect to stories. You and I can use this to our advantage when we want to make change. 

Go check out the book, this is just one aspect of change. 🙂

Best of luck getting out of bed on time, friends! (Plus, Clocky won’t tell stories about you if you decide to rely on him).

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Why Should I Read | Bringing Out the Best in People

The Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us on this island or lose the war…

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: “This was their finest hour.”

With these words, Winston Churchill, the stodgy has-been who somehow was given the Prime Ministership, galvanized an entire nation huddled in their homes awaiting bombardment. Through his thunderous voice booming across the airwaves, Churchill instilled a will to survive and an unshakeable spirit in the people of Britain.

Dr Alan Loy McGinnis distills principles of great motivators down into 12 principles recorded in his book Bringing Out the Best in People. Each of these principles has tremendous potential for application and one blog post can hardly do justice to even one of them.

Here is the full list of 12, but realize there are four indexed pages of names at the end of the book… Each name represents a story of how that person exemplified one of the principles somewhere in the book. So go read the book!

12 Rules for Bringing Out the Best in People

  1. Expect the best from people you lead.
  2. Make a thorough study of the other person’s needs.
  3. Establish high standards for excellence.
  4. Create and environment where failure is not fatal.
  5. If they are going anywhere near where you want to go, climb on other people’s bandwagons.
  6. Employ models to encourage success.
  7. Recognize and applaud achievement.
  8. Employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement.
  9. Appeal sparingly to the competitive urge.
  10. Place a premium on collaboration.
  11. Build into the group an allowance for storms.
  12. Take steps to keep your own motivation high.

This may seem like a daunting list, but McGinnis reminds the reader on p. 16: “Motivators are not born – they are made. And they are almost always self-made.”

While some may possess several of these traits naturally, they can all be learned and implemented with increasing effectiveness.

Let’s explore the first of these twelve.

I promise in the beginning of this week’s video that we’ll discuss someone you have never heard of before.

That’s right, there’s almost no chance that you’ve heard of John Erskine before. Go ahead, Google him.

The thing is, you’ll have to go to the end of the second page of hockey player results to reach a result about this John Erskine.

While Google may pass him over for someone who has a twitter account, former U.S. president (and former president of Columbia University) Dwight D. Eisenhower called John Erskine the greatest teacher Columbia ever had. Teaching in the english department he was also a concert pianist, author of 60 books, and was described as having a defiant optimism.

His bullish view of the future became apparent when he would often tell his classes, “the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best government are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by [you].”

That kind of inspiration caused one of the most powerful men on the planet to call him, “Columbia’s greatest teacher.”

That sums up in a certain sense principle #1. “Expect the best from people you lead.”

Another way to look at this expectation principle other than simple sanguine predictions is the idea of necessity and building on people’s innate desire to succeed.

In one of the toughest experiences of my life, I realized the power of these points.

I was working on a campaign to elect the next governor of Texas. At 3 weeks to election day, our campaign manager got all of the staff on a call and announced that the final two weeks would be entirely filled with phone calling. She expressed her sincere belief that we could reach our individual call goals and reminded us of the stakes of the election.

After getting off the call, I realized that to reach my goal I would need to make over 1,000 calls every day myself within my districts. I knew at the rate I had been calling I couldn’t do that. After a brief period of fuming, I began figuring out how to change process so that I could hit my goal.

phones

Our Campaign Manager sincerely expected the best of each of us on staff. I knew that we had to figure out how to make enough calls to voters unlikely to vote if they were not contacted and I had an intense desire to win.

Her belief coupled with these other factors motivated me to change my process, work longer hours, and stay at the office later during those last two weeks than I thought possible several days prior.

The study of becoming a great motivator and an effective leader is the pursuit of many lifetimes. Towards the end of the book McGinnis oversimplifies in an elegant way his view of the two things one must possess to be a successful leader: “1) an astute knowledge of what makes people tick; and 2) a spirit that spreads excitement and energy to other people” (p. 161).

I personally think that is far to simplistic but it wouldn’t be a great book if I agreed with everything, right?

I’ll leave you until next week with this thought from Zig Ziglar:

“Motivation is like a shower, you might not notice if you don’t have it every day, but those around you sure will!”

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Why Should I Read | The 5 Love Languages

This past week I heard the song “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake. It’s playing right now as I write this post. It’s a catchy tune, upbeat lyrics, and a great summer jam. The problem is that most people fall in love and expect that this song is going to describe the rest of their lives with this amazing person they have found.

Dr. Gary Chapman states in his immensely insightful book, The 5 Love Languages, that the “in love” feeling will change after roughly two years.

There are several paths after that transition though. If we go down what we’ll call the “Hollywood” route, a couple will simply move on and try to find the next person that can give them that same rush they experienced first. If we go down what we’ll call the “Roommate” route, a couple will stay together but having never transitioned into lasting love they lose the spark. At the other end of the spectrum, a couple can learn how to emotionally fulfill each other in ways that speak loudly to their partner and the relationship matures and blossoms in ways that are unfathomable to others on different paths. We’ll call that couple the “Lasting Lovers.”photo-1426543881949-cbd9a76740a4

So what makes the difference?

Chapman lays out a framework for understanding the reactions of others to our efforts at love. He states that there are five primary “Love Languages” that people receive and give love through. Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Giving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Before we give a quick overview of these, I think that the entire mindset can be summed up in two quotes from the book.

Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving.

P. 82

While in the context of giving gifts, this short sentence sums up the sacrificial and active role that Lasting Lovers experience. While the Roommates wonder why the feeling faded and Hollywood looks for the next ecstatic experience, the Lasting Lovers take action and are others focused.

A tender hug communicates love to any child but it shouts love to the child whose love language is physical touch. The same is true for adults.

P. 110

Notice the distinction here? When you speak the right love language, you are directly connecting with the individual who you are aiming at. Someone may appreciate the encouraging words, but if they yearn for you to help with the laundry then your time is better spent in that activity.

The Five Love Languages

The Lasting Lovers learn their lover’s language (apologies for liberal alliteration). In all seriousness though, when one can identify their partner’s, or anyone else’s love language, they can target their actions to fill the other’s emotional needs.

A common Roommate response in the book to Dr. Chapman letting them know of the love languages is, “but that love language doesn’t come naturally to me.” Dr Chapman would respond with a 100% sincere and loving “So?” Refer back to the quote from page 82, if the spirit of love is giving, it would follow that you conform to the person you are serving in love.

One quick note, the use of the term “Language,” is extremely intentional. While one can interact with someone of a different language the meaning is often lost and there is certainly no nuance or meaningful conversation taking place. In order to fully experience a different culture one must experience it within the native language. The same goes for fully loving another individual. In order to truly experience life with them and find a life full of nuance and meaningful connection, it is imperative that you learn their language.

Check out the book for a full treatment of these languages.

Words of Affirmation. Words of Affirmation are sincere, delivered in appropriate tone, and usually come as compliments or encouragement.

Quality Time. Quality Time is time spent with the other person while fully present. Phones, TV, and other distractions almost completely annul the time as being “quality.” Quality conversations and quality activities are the two most common forms of this language.

Giving Gifts. A gift is a visible representation of one’s love for another. We can observe many “Hollywood” couples (literal hollywooders and figurative) trying to impress their partner with increasingly extravagant gifts. However a gift need not be expensive to express love. Although you shouldn’t get a washer for a wedding ring, some expressions of extravagance are signs of love 🙂

Acts of Service. This love language is one that can seem especially foreign to those that don’t receive love in this way. One may think, “Really? Doing my wife’s to-do list is an act of love?” But this expression of giving speaks just as loudly as any of the others to those that crave this love language.

Physical Touch. Many times men will assume they have the love language of physical touch because their affinity for sex is so strong. The love language physical touch is more than simply sexual attraction or actions however. The implicit touches such as a hand on the shoulder or a quick hug transfer an emotional depth that is far different than simple sexual desire to the person who’s love language is physical touch. Check out the story in this week’s video to hear about an example of that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PFTKJ_eDIE

So where does a couple diverge from the tingly feeling and embark into Hollywood, Roommate life or find Lasting Love? The answer lies in identifying your opposite’s love language and speaking it in ways that they receive.

Chapman says to identify your spouse’s love language you answer three questions in the context of his relationships. (from pg. 175)

  • How does he most often express love to others?
  • What does he complain about most often?
  • What does he request most often?

In answering these questions you will begin to unearth the nuanced emotional framework of your spouse. This is a lifelong pursuit of intimacy. This knowledge is NOT common, guard the emotions of your spouse; these languages can be spoken with incredible benefit or devastating consequences.

I write this as a single guy, I am bit envious of you who are married reading this as well as looking forward to a lifelong partnership in the future.

Love well, friends.

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Why Should I Read | Crucial Conversations

You’ve been asked by your boss several times to have expense reports in on time. It’s been on the agenda at 3 monthly staff meetings now. He has given several “office lectures” about punctuality. You’re on top of things this month, and got it in by the deadline. Two days later you see the boss slip an expense report into accounting. What do you do?

Crucial Conversations can sneak up on you at any time.

Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler define a Crucial Conversation, as “any conversation between two or more people where emotions run strong, opinions are varied, and the stakes are high.

Check out this week’s video at 0:45 for a fun story about one of my past experiences being totally unprepared for a crucial conversation.

Later on in the video I give one main idea and two quick points for getting you out ahead of the mass of people who find themselves in crucial conversations.

There are a plethora of situations that these world-class researchers have analyzed and give ideas for handling. But this main strategy and two applications will put you in good stead in many of them.

The main idea is this: Keep dialogue and the flow of meaning alive.

The word “Dialogue” from Etymology.com has this history:

dialogue (n.)Look up dialogue at Dictionary.comearly 13c., “literary work consisting of a conversation between two or more persons,” from Old French dialoge, from Latin dialogus, from Greekdialogos “conversation, dialogue,” related to dialogesthai “converse,” from dia- “across” (see dia-) + legein “speak” (see lecture (n.)).

In my video, I state a different etymology of this word, based on the original greek roots of the parts of the word.

In order to make the free flow of relevant information the path of least resistance we need to start with ourselves and be aware of our style under stress. There are a number of ways that people try to throw you or themselves off the path to dialogue but you can be prepared. Go read the book for full strategies but here are two to start with.

First, “Learn to Look.” Within this strategy we will look at two tangents that you need to look for that take you away from dialogue: Silence & Violence.

Within Silence, people intentionally leave out or withhold information from the pool of meaning. The three most common forms of this are masking true intentions, avoiding sensitive subjects, or withdrawing from the conversation altogether.

Within Violence, one tries to force meaning into the pool. This generally comes through trying to controlling others, labeling them something derogatory, or attacking them verbally.

Second, “Make it Safe.” There are five parts to making it safe, and you’ll have to go read the book to get them in detail. In summarizing them, I looked back to last week when we went through Tribes by Seth Godin and took a page from his book. He states that leaders when communicating with their tribe and bringing them together either choose to “lean in” or “lean out.” Making it safe for the person you are in conversation with could mean leaning in by determining the true issue or it could mean leaning out by stepping out to clear the air.

You’ll have to go read the rest of the book to get through mastering your story, exploring paths to reconciliation, taking action with others and by yourself.

Until next week, keep reading!

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Why Should I Read | Tribes

For those of you that don’t know Seth Godin, go type “seth” into any search engine, and he’s the first result.

But, for anyone who has been even remotely connected with the marketing world of the twenty-first century, the name Seth Godin is probably not new.

The concept of “Tribes” in the current era has also made it’s way through the cycle of introduction, fads, and then, rather than fading away, it is now part of the lexicon of business jargon.

The book, written in 2008, makes sweeping declarations about the opportunity available for individuals to lead a tribe. Some people criticize the book for making these generalizations as it seems they would like more of a textbook approach to leadership.

Seth Godin, rather than responding to his critics, makes it a point of his to define leadership as those people who are willing “to do things that might not work.”

This is at the core of the book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us. The idea is that a tribe leader doesn’t create the tribe, she merely provides a way for those with shared interest to communicate and coalesce.

While I totally disagree with Godin on certain worldview issues, I believe he has one of the best minds on building trust and attention in the marketplace of ideas. At the end of this article there will be a couple links to some long-form interviews with Seth Godin. If you are at all interested in building a group of people or an audience, you owe it to yourself to pay attention to what this man has to say.

In this week’s video, we talk generally about assumptions and specifically about “Sheepwalking.” The book, and the article just linked, defines “Sheepwalking” as: “the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them a braindead job and enough fear to keep them in line.”

Enough fear to keep them in line.

Ever thought you’d like to try something great at work but didn’t because you might get in trouble?

Ever thought about starting a blog to share your ideas but didn’t?

Ever wanted to start your own business but decided it was too risky?

Our culture, and our education systems are designed to churn out individuals who can work a job optimized for the industrial age. The problem is that we ceased to live in that age back in the early 90s.

As I was writing this article and trolling through Seth’s blog & Google results (If you’re not subscribed, try it! It will make you think every day), I found this video from him given to a group of kids at a TEDxYouth event. I am going to go watch it, and I’d encourage you to as well.

Think about your ambitions. Go lead a Tribe. Don’t be held back by the fears supplanted into your mind on top of your dreams.

Interviews with Seth Godin:

With Tim Ferriss: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/02/10/seth-godin/ (Long but AMAZING)

With Chase Jarvis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xMxAZhgVvU 

With Gary Vaynerchuk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D65-9sz7V0g (Shorter than the others, Gary probably swears 😉 )

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Why Should I Read | Start with Why

Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.  – Start With Why p. 6

If you enjoy TED talks, you’ll enjoy Start With Why. Simon Sinek’s explanation of “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” through the “The Golden Circle” and “The WHY” is the third most watched clip in TED’s history with 26.7 million views.

For a group of over 26 million people to spend 18 minutes doing the same thing is remarkable. In comparison, the new Game of Thrones premiere on HBO brought 10.7 million viewers together and broke the HBO record.

Sinek brings out many of the same points in his book and is able to expand and apply the concepts that he touches on in this video. A phrase you’ll hear repeated throughout is that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” 

In this week’s video, I start off with the now-famous newspaper ad Ernest Shackleton put in an early 1900s London newspaper:

Men Wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

 Sinek argues that an ad like that brought together individuals who were united by their burning desire to overcome, to face long odds, to survive. When Shackleton assembled a team of overcomers like this, they set off to traverse Antarctica.

ice wave

But the expedition was ill-fated, the Endurance, was crushed in the ice before they ever reached the southern continent. Yet the men were undaunted. Shackleton led his intrepid band across the frozen sea 828 miles to Elephant Island. During this ordeal not a single explorer perished.

Their incredible stamina and their undying perseverance speaks to the intensity of their desire to overcome. ice hikers

Sinek says that individuals who are able to tap into this well of inner strength and fortitude of individuals have accessed their “WHY.”

In fact, we are designed with our limbic brain and through our subconscious minds to attach to certain values and actions in a way that generally cannot be accurately described in words. Usually we can find a logical reason for the way we act, but in general we act on our “gut” feeling. (p.53-64)

This gets us closer to the central premise that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The “WHY” of an organization or movement, according to Sinek, is usually embodied by an individual. Someone like Steve Jobs, who made everything he did about challenging the status quo, inspired a company that disrupted several industries.

You’ve never waited in line for the next Dell product or heard of people that did, have you. apple store

People, when asked why they bought Apple products, could come up with any number of seemingly logical explanations but in many cases it was because they resonated with the “WHY” of challenging the status quo. It was a certain type of person who sat outside the Apple store for the next model iPhone.

They could have gotten a similar phone with nearly identical specifications from a different brand or just waited a week and got an iPhone later, but they were busy buying the “WHY” of Apple. The “What” had to trail behind.

This doesn’t mean that companies or individuals can tap into a “WHY” and then run rampant. Several weeks back we took a look at Sam Walton. He embodied customer service in his retailing, and every action that Walmart took while he was alive was to serve people. This built their business into one of the largest companies in the world, but after Walton passed away, the corporation lost the “WHY.”

Today, if you go to Walmart, you’ll find a very different store than the ones described in Made in America.

You and I have the opportunity to tap into this well of motivation as well. We are well supplied throughout history with individuals who found their “WHY.”

Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi identified their why and inspired a movement that went far beyond their personal influence.

Sinek encourages you and I to inspire rather than manipulate, and I agree with him.

Start with your Why.

Just don’t get shipwrecked in Antarctica.

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Why Should I Read | Outliers

What is the question we always ask about the successful?

We want to know what they are like, what kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top.

Outliers, pg. 18

Malcolm Gladwell is an author who typifies Mark Twain’s exhortation to be a “prodigious noticer.” While Twain used his prodigious noticing power to point out humor, Gladwell takes stock of common assumptions and everyday opinions.

As an author, Gladwell, asks “why” in a way that is entertaining and informative.

The American archetype is an individual who is a “self-made man” or someone who “overcame the odds.” This book takes a closer look at the assumption that we hold regarding success. Gladwell comes right out and says it bluntly, “People don’t rise from nothing” (pg 18). He states that one’s background, family upbringing, and environment have much to do with later success. This is a fascinating aspect of the book, and I encourage you to go check it out.

This revelation doesn’t lift the burden from individuals who desire success though. There is still a threshold of mastery one must overcome to even consider becoming an outlier in a certain area.

 Through the stories of people like Bill Gates and the Beatles, Gladwell points out that people who are massively successful had the opportunity to put in ten thousand hours of practice in their field of endeavor before they became massively successful. A study by K. Anders Ericsson of violin students at the Berlin’s elite Academy of Music, demonstrated this trend in 100% of the students there. All of the students tested were already in the top level of music school, but yet were separated into three groups. “Group A” were potential world-class soloists, “Group B” were merely ‘good,’ and “Group C” were unlikely to play professionally and were headed to be public school music teachers.

violin pic

Ericcson’s researchers discovered that by the age of twenty, all  of the elite performers had logged ten thousand hours of practice time. The merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers roughly four thousand.

Here’s where things got crazy for me as I was reading this portion of the book. From pg. 39

The striking thing about Ericcson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.

They work much, much, harder.

According to neurologist Daniel Levitin, “No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.”

Levitin states that this concept of ten thousand hours holds true across a multitude of disciplines: writers, basketball players, master criminals, chess players, etc.

That idea is extremely empowering when one gets right down to the base premise:

If you will put in your ten thousand hours, you will become a master at what you have chosen to do.

I remember reading this concept when I was 18, and thinking to myself, “I have a several chunks of ten thousand hours available to me if I live a regular life span.” And it’s true for you as well, if you desire to completely master a topic, within ten thousand hours of practice you can achieve that goal. I can look at my  grandfather who is a master at farming strawberries. You could ask him any question regarding the fruit, and he would be able to tell you all about the relevant process. This knowledge comes from owning a strawberry farm since 1976.

There are a number of other topics housed within our assumptions about success that Gladwell deconstructs throughout the book. Yet without mastery in a subject, one is unable to capitalize on their latent advantages of culture, upbringing, and environment.

Overall, this book is massively fun to read due to the plethora of stories Gladwell uses. Hockey player birthdays, Jewish lawyers of the 1970’s, Asian math abilities, and the smartest men in the world are just the beginning.

So what have you put ten thousand hours towards?

Have you seen this week’s video?

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Why Should I Read | Eat That Frog

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day.


According to Brian Tracy, “eating frogs” is a fun way to refer to overcoming procrastination.

Frog 2

There are 21 practices outlined in this book. All of them are immediately practicable for those interested in being more effective in the time that they have.

Do you fit this description?

If so, you may be looking for the “5 Easy Steps to Get More Done.”

I know I’ve clicked those articles before hoping there was some shortcut.

However, the one habit that could outshine all the others in the book may be the toughest of them all.

Here it is, start every work day by doing the most difficult task first.

Why?

Implementing this habit rids your day of procrastination.

As an interesting aside, the psychology of procrastinating is a fascinating topic. Here are two links, first to a fun Ted talk (Instant Gratification Monkey!), and second, a PsychologyToday article titled 10 Things to Know About Procrastination.

So to develop this habit, Tracy says there are seven steps that combine to maximize your capacity to scarf down that big, ugly frog first thing in the morning.

  1. Written List. This is a pre-emptive habit, ending your day or week by writing down what needs to happen the next time you start gets your subconscious mind aware of the next challenge to be faced.
  2. Reprioritization. The list you have has a number of first priorities, identifying them, and  using the 80/20 rule to identify what is the highest value for the effort. This is the first point in this week’s video.
  3. The choice. Select a single task that is among your highest priorities and has the most serious potential consequences from either getting it done or being left undone.
  4. Assembly. Still the day or week before, you’ll want to gather the information or tools you’ll need and put them where you can get started right away the next morning.
  5. Workspace. The final preparation piece beforehand, you clear your workspace so that it is only you and your frog.
  6. Discipline. This aspect is simply a willpower exercise, but if it is the first challenge of the day, your willpower hasn’t been depleted yet by distractions.
  7. 21 days. Tracy writes that if one will do these 7 steps every day for 21 straight days you will literally double your productivity in less than a month.

The way in which this chapter of the book ends is certainly motivating to me, and I hope it is to you too.

Develop the habit of doing the most difficult task first and you’ll never look back. You’ll become one of the most productive people of your generation.


So what frog are you going to eat?

Frog 1

Have you seen the video on this book? Click Here.

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Why Should I Read | The Fifth Discipline

Have you ever been scalded in the shower?

If you’re like me, you’ve pushed the handle all the way down to get the water to “heat up faster.”

I tend to get impatient and hop in the shower while it is still freezing cold, which generally results in me pushing the handle even further towards that red “H.

As soon as I get done gasping from the cold, I feel two drops of perfect temperature splash on my face before the water gushes out at what seems to be 170 degrees.

AHHHH!!

shower hand

Quickly pushing the handle back to cold, I try to avoid the streams of water, until the water gets back to frigid again. Then it’s a delicate dance of adjustments of the handle until I find the happy medium between skin-burning steam bath and ice cubes hurtling out of the shower head at me.

The lag time in the shower controls, and my groggy, early morning endeavors to adjust it with limited feedback is a great example of a system in play. Not only that, it demonstrates a system where the components are independent and the cause does not immediately turn to effect.

Peter Senge wrote The Fifth Discipline so that individuals who encounter problems in their organizations would first of all have the tools to understand what he calls “dynamic complexity” and be able to overcome challenges through the five disciplines, culminating in the final one, “Systems Thinking.”

The topic of “Systems Thinking” is what ties the five disciplines together into a full theory of the the “Learning Organization.” I know a number of engineers with a specialty in systems engineering and they have been immersed for years. For the rest of us, the concept of thinking of the world not as a series of unrelated events but a dynamic and complex system is a deep subject.

This one minute video from Peter Senge deftly sums up “Systems Thinking” in two words, connections and consequences. 

So why is this concept new to many? First of all, most of our traditional education process was based around the word “Analysis.”

Analysis:

  1. detailed examination of the elements or structure of something, typically as a basis for discussion or interpretation.
  2. the process of separating something into its constituent elements.

Nary a complex whole in sight! We constantly break things down to their base in order to learn them, and that is appropriate in many cases.

For example, remember learning to read? Breaking down ideas to their words and letters, learning them, then working your way up to ideas.

How about learning to drive? That’s a complex whole if there ever was one. Our society approaches it by teaching us first to learn specific functions, taking tests in a classroom, learning the various signs that we may encounter.

I’m not arguing that these methods are not effective, but they are a certain way of understanding processes. If we are to understand vastly complex systems, say the climate or changing the economy, we need to move beyond isolating a single action and assigning it undue weight during consideration.

Immediately on pg. 7 of the book Senge states of our situation as humans: “we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system, and wonder why our deepest problems never seem to get solved.” He goes on, “Systems thinking is a conceptual framework… to make the full patterns clearer, and to help us see how to change them effectively.”

This idea of “Systems Thinking” goes well beyond business dilemmas, though that is what is covered in the book. I gave a quick overview of the five disciplines here in this video:

As covered in the second half of the video, there is a correct way and a less effective way to interact with systems. The natural effects of a system must be dealt with when trying to fix the situation.

If you’re highly interested in “Systems Thinking,” I strongly recommend this book. If you’re marginally interested in this topic, congratulations for reading this far! Here are a couple links that may be of interest.

How have you noticed systems at work in the world?

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