Stable self illusion

We tell ourselves a story about the stable self illusion. This illusion involves telling ourselves that our personalities are stable over time. They were formed long before today and won’t change for the rest of our lives. All attempts at change are, thus, useless.

But, that isn’t true. The longest running psychological study (63 years!) just released results that confirm that. Just as our physical traits change over time, our personality becomes virtually unrecognizable.

One study doesn’t a strong conclusion make. So, here’s a different question – how many of your friends behave in exactly the same way they did ten or twenty years ago? What about you?

Everywhere I look, I see change – both conscious and unconscious. Our environments and company constantly shape and mold us. We tend to associate that shaping and molding to kids. But, those of us who enjoy studying human nature know that we don’t really grow up.

Telling ourselves that we can’t change is our way of letting us off the hook. We can, and we do.

The best part of this story is that it isn’t too late to move toward our aspirational self. We can start today.

The best habit

The best habit is the one that’s slightly better than your current one. And, yes, this applies to diets, exercise, reading, sleeping and everything else you can think of.

This is because sticking to your better habit is way more important than attempting a radical change that brings you back to your old ways.

When attempting difficult change, revolutionary change feels very tempting. And, for extreme cases (e.g. getting off an addiction), revolutionary change is probably the only option. After all, desperate times call for desperate measure.

But, for all other changes, an evolutionary works much better. It isn’t as exciting. But, it is many times more functional.

Big changes are small changes applied consistently over time.


HT: Ken

5 books that might change your mind – 2016 edition

Here are 5 books I read this year that might change how you see the world –

1. The Accidental Superpower by Peter ZeihanIf you haven’t considered the world from a lens of geopolitics, The Accidental Superpower will likely blow your mind. I found the first half of the book particularly powerful. It included a view of the history of super powers from the eye of geopolitics. And, despite having read a similar view on history in another book, this was beautifully synthesized. Following that, Zheihan explains what’s going on by focusing on population demographics. Again, fascinating. The second half focuses on prediction. And, prediction is very hard. So, I took that bit with a helping of salt. After reading the book, I did wonder why we don’t teach geopolitics at school. I guess it flies against the face of our general narrative about what makes super powers. Geopolitics contends that it is all about geography.

(Note: There’s another geopolitics based book “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman. Friedman was Peter Zheihan’s former manager.)

2. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly: Kevin Kelly talks technology in a way only he can. He takes twelve verbs that technology has impacted (cognifying, sharing, updating, etc.) and takes them to their logical end. In that process, he gives us a view into what our future might be. It is powerful.

3. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight: One of the most beautiful books about entrepreneurship I’ve read. It isn’t a manual in the way “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” is. Instead, it is a story from the heart of Nike’s legendary founder. It feels authentic and real while also being It is not just about the fact that it is beautifully written (it is), it feels authentic and real. Phil Knight takes us on a journey where he impresses upon us the strength of his belief that the world is a better place when we run with great shoes.

He makes mistakes and a couple of very questionable ethical decisions. Yet, we find it in our heart to forgive him. Somehow, he makes us feel the desperation that drove him in that moment. And, he then goes onto teach us how mission driven businesses are built. He explains that a business is about money just as living is about pumping blood. You need both. But, life and business are about a lot more than that.

And, while you are at it, I’d recommend picking the Audible version. Norbert Leo Butz does a fantastic job.

4. The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias. An oldie, but a goodie. At its heart, it is really simple. Andrew Tobias explains that a penny saved is actually a lot more valuable than a penny earned since Ben Franklin didn’t have to deal with taxes in his time. So, save a lot more than you earn. And, once you do that, develop a simple approach to investing. Of course, he patiently lays out all the ways we can do that. But, this book isn’t so much about investing as it is about a mindset.

5. Daring Greatly by Brene BrownBrene Brown brings her research on shame and vulnerability together in this beautiful book. It is fascinating to learn that women have about 10 shame triggers. And, appearance and body image top the list followed by parenting. Men, on the other hand, have one very powerful trigger – showing weakness, or in her research’s terms, “being a pussy.” She also inspired my theme for 2017 – engagement. She wisely pointed out that we spend too much time asking questions like – “Am I being good/perfect?” Instead, we should ask – “Am I being engaged? Am I paying attention?” No good comes from seeking perfection. ”
(Quick note: The audio book narration didn’t work for me in this case.)

Here’s the Amazon list.

Books that almost made this list:
The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck is a classic. The first half of the book was incredibly impactful. I especially loved his definition of love.
Peak by Anders Ericsson is the ultimate guide to deliberate practice research from the master himself.
Deep Work by Cal Newport rails against our distraction filled work environments and presses us to think deeper about depth in our work.
Persuadable by Al Pitampalli beautifully explains why it is important that we change our mind.
And, finally, Einstein by Walter Isaacson has a life lesson about not taking ourselves and our world seriously in addition to the expected lessons on curiosity and perseverance.

Other resources: Past lists of “5 books” – 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011. Book reviews here and book notes here.

Happy reading!

Low flame

When we try to make changes in our lives, we often try to make changes on high flame. Making changes on high flame involves putting a lot of heat on something and expecting near instant change. When we do this, we forget that a lot of great cooking gets done on low flame.

The classic high flame approach is the new year’s resolution. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves in the month of January and expect instant results. The downsides are obvious – we often walk away feeling burnt from the experience.

The low flame approach is a much slower, longer term approach. It involves consistent heat over a long period of time. If you follow the low flame approach, building a strong culture in your organization will not revolve around a culture and values push. It will involve a steady set of initiatives over a long period of time. Similarly, there is no big product launch, only a consistent iteration on your minimum viable product.

The biggest benefit of adopting a low flame approach is when we’re making changes in our personal life. The best way to get fitter is to eat healthier and fit regular exercise into our weekly schedule. This never happens easily. Changing our schedule involves a lot of slow tweaking over time. While we might be able to force a change every once a while, we need to slow down, observe ourselves and allow time for the momentum behind the change to build up.

Slow, consistent, thoughtful, long term – there’s a lot of power in the low flame approach to change.

Leadership and consistency – The 200 words project

Essayists like Ralph Waldo Emerson who shaped the 19th century view on leadership defined it around heroic consistency of message – no matter what the evidence. So, political campaigns are now lost the moment a candidate switches views on a topic. While political candidates are often guilty of changing views based on when it suits them, we also end up punishing those who’re changing it because of better data.

The greatest leaders, however, have always been incredibly persuadable.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, was a notorious flip flopper who changed his views on the civil rights movement as new data presented itself. Sadly, the 2012 “Lincoln” movie made no mention of this inconsistencies –Pulitzer Prize winning historian Eric Foner lamented the absence of his hallmark of greatness – his capacity for change and growth. Even black scholar and activist W E B De Bois, who was often critical of Lincoln, admired his always critical and flexible brand of leadership.

As Jeff Bezos says – people who were right a lot of their time were often people who changed their mind. Perhaps we should revisit our responses when we see our leaders change their point of view based on sound evidence?

Abraham Lincoln is the greatest figure of the 19th century. He was to be admired not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet he triumphed. Out of his contradictions and inconsistencies, he fought his way to the pinnacles. And his fight was within as well as without. – W.E.B De Bois

leadership, consistency, change, flexible


Source and thanks to: Persuadable by Al Pitampalli

Go backward or go forward

In a huge step forward for 3D printing, Airbus unveiled the world’s first 3D printed aircraft earlier this month. The aircraft was tiny and windowless – yet, it was the star of the show.

In a survey of folks in the aviation sector in Germany, 70% of the respondents believed that airline parts would be 3D printed in airports by 2030.

Can you imagine the number of jobs that will be lost when that happens?

When faced with a proposition as scary as this, we have a choice – we can either focus on moving backward or focus on moving forward.

Focusing on moving backward would mean lobbying government to put all sorts of restrictions and tariffs to stifle innovation in 3D printing. It would mean doing everything in our power to keep the status quo or even reverse it if at all possible. This is the corporate version of fundamentalism and is one most incumbent companies practice. If this is your approach of choice, good luck.

Moving forward, however, would require us to embrace the scary idea that 3D printing will not just take away jobs in airline manufacturing but in many other industries. There will be millions of people displaced. The solution to this problem will not be obvious now. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. One thing is clear, however – we will only get there if we accept that change will occur whether we like it or not. It has its way of forcing its way through.

We can choose to either ride the wave or be drowned in it.

To have a shot at change

To have a shot at retaining employees, you have to first accept they will leave.

To have a shot at making the sale, you have to accept that the customer may have no real need for your product.

To have a shot at exercising regularly, you have to first accept that it won’t happen unless you intentionally find place and energy for it in your schedule.

To have a shot at maintaining deep relationships, you have to be willing to let those you love go.

To have a shot at success in your project, you have to be willing to accept that it might not work.

To have a shot at becoming a better person, you have to first accept that your natural instincts will likely not lead there.

It feels easier to hold onto ideas that pre-suppose success and change – as if they were so easy. The keyword in that sentence is to “hold on.” Holding on always feels easier. Letting go is hard. But, to be able to lead change, we need to be able to accept change ourselves.

Again, the counter intuitive shows us the way – the first step in being able to change is accepting things as they really are and not as we want them to be.

change, accept reality