Much of my life, I have seen myself as an enthusiastic ideaman. I have more ideas per day than most people, I take the time to write a fair share of them down, I outline them into more than a fleeting thought, and I test them on friends and family all the time. Unfortunately, I have found that people rarely tell me one of my ideas stinks… even though I’m certain that some of them do. In most situations, true transparency is rare. In companies, where paychecks and promotions are on the line, transparency is exceedingly rare.
But what if your company could be transformed into an idea-meritocracy, instead of the all-too-typical top-down hierarchy? What if a company made decisions by truly collaborating, listening, and debating the ideas and perspectives of all, not just the few with formal power or excellent networking influence? What if people really communicated what they believed, what they thought, and voted on who they felt was more credible and believable?
It turns out that there is such a place — and it happens to be one of the most successful hedge funds over the last four decades. Please consider Ray Dalio’s overview of life at Bridgewater… how would these concepts change the destiny of your company, if they were implemented?
I find it fascinating. Technology is making the impossible, possible, when you have a visionary at the helm.
So then I stumbled into Jane McGonigal, a game designer who argues that gaming can play a role in avoiding the most typical regrets of the dying. I believe in questioning everything, so today, I’m simultaneously questioning her game-centric conclusions as well as my previous thinking, wondering if the time “spent” gaming might actually be more of a time “investment” than I ever appreciated. I don’t have a conclusion just yet — maybe I never will — but I suggest watching her excellent talk and thinking about it for yourself, especially if you have a kid that spends a lot of time gaming right now:
I sometimes hear people say that they are out of fresh ideas to overcome a challenge. When I later ask them about how much they read (books in particular), I invariably find that the answer is that they are heads down busy and haven’t cracked a book in months or years. I have yet to find a person that is both a) out of ideas and b) an active, avid reader.
I also have noticed that whenever I read, a multitude of ideas, often unrelated to the material I’m reading, flood my consciousness. I believe invention is rarely a net new construct on a blank sheet of paper. I believe invention and developing ideas is a matter of connecting the dots of your previous experience and understanding with new input that changes the perspective and creates new connections. The book is a catalyst that changes thinking and structures in your mind.
TV and movies don’t have this same positive effect because you don’t use your imagination, your mind’s eye, to visualize what you read in a book. Visual medium makes it too easy, letting your brain rest and just lay there on the couch. Brain research has shown that neural activity is less while watching TV than while sleeping. Bottom line, don’t be surprised if you have few new ideas while placated by the pacifier of television.
Try reading a quality book for 20 minutes each day for a month, while jotting down any fresh ideas that you have during those 30 days. I suspect you will find a remarkable difference. Build a lifelong habit of reading and learning: it will serve you well.
PS. Keep a log of TV time and reading time. Its a great reality check of time spent vs time invested.
We have often faced what seems like impossible problems. Unfortunately, 99.99% of people throw their hands up into the air and believe that impossible is impossible. But are they really impossible?
Mike Huckabee, in the recent Republican debate, sounded ‘pie in the sky’ to the 99.99% when he talked about curing the 4 diseases that are the primary expense of U.S. Healthcare, and the extraordinary effect it would have on our nation’s, our world’s financial and personal family outlook. I commend Mike because it takes leadership to help people change their question from “If we can cure Alzheimer’s to how can we cure Alzheimer’s…” — or insert another disease that has impacted your loved ones. More of our leaders must genuinely embrace optimistic leadership. JFK mobilized the nation to win the race to the moon. We need the same leadership and mobilization against disease.
Please watch Jennifer Doudna in this TED speech and then think about Huck’s call-to-action again. Perhaps he is just an optimist?
PS. Unfortunately, many diseases are not “just” genetic in nature (as though just genetic is easy, which right now, it is not) — Alzheimer’s included (see this Mayo Clinic synopsis). But, promising science, if used wisely, can make a positive impact. If we don’t set audacious goals, if we don’t believe it can happen, we will not figure it out nearly as quickly. Let’s elect leaders with vision, not politicians with egos.
The following video is worth watching: it is not about optimism per se, but I have found that if you have your black belt in optimism, nearly everything contributes to your self-chosen outlook.
Josh Luber’s talk will expand your thinking and appreciation for limitless possibilities. Human “logic” and cooperation is extraordinary, and the rise of interconnectivity and ‘big data analytics’ networks millions of minds together in surprising ways. If you work in marketing, this presentation is 5-star fascinating.
Yes, if you are wondering, I am a bit of a sneakerhead, although my participation is limited to the search for the perfect pair to wear, and not at full retail, if I can help it.
Are you up for a challenge in longevity? Why not author a few great quotes? One of the puzzles that I find truly interesting is what makes a quotation survive the test of time, thriving long after the person who authored it has passed away. Not many people out of the billions of people before you and I have had a quote survive at all.
It is a challenge in striking a cord with the reader or listener, capturing an essential truth, keeping it short and sweet, and having it go viral. Books and books try to solve “how a business idea goes viral” but no strategy or formula seems to be reliable as yet.
It stands to reason, then, that long-standing quotes must have something special, the right stuff that transcends generations, cultures, and languages. All this tends to fit in less than ten words that resonate. Its quite like the fact that all music stems from only a few available notes.
Who is on the all time all-star list of quotation authors? Top of the list must be Kong Fuzi, or as we know him, Confucius, the “latinized” version of his name that given to his legacy by Jesuit missionaries around 2,000 years after he lived.
Here are twenty-one quotes from Confucius. Twenty-one quotes that thrive today, more than 2,500 years later. Are there lessons to learn in twenty-one quotes that have survived 2,500 years and 125 generations of people? You betcha!
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.
If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of a year, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
Respect yourself and others will respect you.
When anger rises, think of the consequences.
He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
What the superior man seeks is in himself. What the mean man seeks is in others.
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
Have no friends not equal to yourself.
To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.
When you complain about something unpleasant you double it, when you laugh at it, you destroy it.
Forget injuries, never forget kindness.
Learn! Change yourself. Be wiser and live wiser today than yesterday.
Can you think differently? Really creatively? Can you ask “why am I doing things this way?” or “why am I doing this at all?” at a truly atomic level?
In many things — business, school, life — we seem stuck on rails, unable to stop doing things the way we have done them, the way they have been done for prior decades — even if we have many proof points that question whether we are on the right track.
One of my most obvious examples is managing public companies for results every 90 days. The “quarterly results squeeze” invariably results in a whole host of problems, including net margin compression, motivation destruction, loss of quality employees, loss of quality in general, investing only for the short-term, and all kinds of foolish wasted time and energy. Yet, almost every public company continues the sad practice unabated. It hits the company that is struggling hardest of all, which helps many good firms auger into the dirt, unable to pull up from the dive.
This TED video is a great test to see if you are able to think differentlyon a large scale. I believe Ricardo is a wise luminary who tests most people’s ability to take a leap of faith. I’m sure others will see Ricardo as flat out crazy.
I think his ideas, ideas that have actually been tested in his company and in education, should be considered, given the dismal results many of our current paradigms in business and education are delivering.
Most importantly, all of us have opportunities to do things differently, to question everything in our own personal sphere of influence. What is a topic in your like that you should ask “why” three times in a row on, and what can you try to do better, to do differently?
Please watch the video, and then decide — are you able to truly think differently, or are you cemented in the status quo? You are not on rails — you can, if you believe that you can. Choice is all powerful.
When given a challenge, we usually forget to sharpen the axe.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
– Abe Lincoln
Are you a student? If you answered no, I believe you have the wrong perspective. Our world is changing ever faster, and I believe you must be a student all the days of your life. Jim Rohn agreed:
Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.
Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.
The axe that I want to help you sharpen is your memory, and not by just a bit. I want to double or triple your ability to remember whatever it is that you want to remember, in a tenth of the time that it might take you now.
How? Learn (and practice (everything takes practice)) a proven technique from the ancient Greeks that has mostly been forgotten in the age of wikipedia. To start, please take less than an hour and watch these three videos, without distractions, without texting your friends, without checking your instagram, facebook, or e-mail. If you are not familiar with the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your iPhone, it is found under Settings / it is the 7th item down from the top on iOS 8.x.
Why invest your time? How much better would your life be if you could look at something just once and then remember it? How much time would you save? How much better would your social fabric be, if you remembered every person’s name when you met them, and the names of their spouse and kids too! What if you unfailing remembered the sports that the kids play and the schools that they go to, where the parents work, what they do, and what they are focused upon the last time few times that you spoke to them?
Why three videos? Because this is a new concept to most of us — and three times from three perspectives helps one learn and understand, when you are a newbee.
The effects of stress take their toll on us. One of the aspects about stress that is very obvious, however, is that some people seem to handle stress much better than average. In typical American fashion, a great number of people turn to outside substances, be it Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, alcohol, or others, to reduce the stress that they feel, at least for a bit of time.
I’ve always been a believer that a large percentage of stress can simply go away if you find the right balance of optimism, self-belief, control, and mental perspective. The basic idea that life is 10% of what actually happens to us, and 90% of how we choose to react and what we do next, has always resonated with me.
Steven Covey explained the 90/10 rule this way:
Imagine that your daughter knocks over your coffee onto your business suit at breakfast. You immediately yell at her for her clumsiness, she runs upstairs crying uncontrollably, which results in missing the school bus. Still steaming, you now wind up driving her to school, she fails her math test because she remains upset all day, you get stuck in traffic, you then speed, get pulled over by Officer Smith for a speeding ticket, are late for a meeting with a client, and your boss is less than pleased that your tardiness jeopardized a client relationship.
The alternative choice that could have been made was to smile, then tell your daughter that “it’s ok, mistakes happen, I have another suit upstairs…” and move forward in a positive fashion from the mishap. All the rest of those negative consequences could have been avoided by making a different choice.
The overall equation to preventing stress is bigger than just the 90/10 principle but 90/10 plays an important part. Below is a GREAT video by Dr. Mike Evans in Toronto, who discusses how we can learn to reduce our stress without chemical compounds. I highly recommend watching it today (full-screen is best):
Too often, one faulty thought enters the mainstream, is picked up as a soundbyte and disseminated by the media, and multitudes are affected by it. In this case, the thought was issued in 1966 by 32 year old Carl Sagan, when half the appliances in the USA were avocado and linoleum was in. The rest of the scientific community latched onto his quote and started doing math, coming to conclusions like the universe must be populated by thousands of planets that support intelligent life. Even today, “the math from the 60’s and 70’s” persists in many of our high school teachers.
As knowledge evolved, that math started to change. Here is an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this month. I don’t know if its 100% right (that’s hard to find) but it seems well worth considering.
I.M. Optimism Man
Preserved from the Wall Street Journal…
Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?
In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.
Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).
It seems like a difficult, mysterious question but, perhaps it is not. While not every person thinks the same while vibrant and viable, it seems that when your number is up, people of all races and religious beliefs have a lot in common as their personal end draws near.
It turns out, once a person truly knows that the jig is up, the final minutes for most of us are peaceful and reflective. Three overwhelming thoughts tend to dominate those who are taking their final breaths:
There is a need for forgiveness, for reconciliation for the things and events that a person may regret.
There is a need for remembrance.
There is a need to know that one’s life had meaning.
Am I making this stuff up?
No, not at all. Watch this succinct, powerful video from Matthew O’Reilly, an EMS professional that has witnessed the last breaths of many critically injured people:
So, here is my question to you:
Why not live your live now – all your life in fact – with:
forgiving and being forgiven,
avoiding as many situations as possible that could cause harm and cause regret,
accomplishing meaningful goals,
impacting people’s lives in meaningful ways, and
doing what it takes to take comfort in having a life that was indeed meaningful?
When you know what will matter to you in the end, it makes it easier to make the right decisions and put in your best effort, today.
I.M. Optimism Man
PS. When dying, no one wishes for more money, more time at work, more shiny cars, more bigger and bigger houses, more parties, more martinis, more time watching others (TV, Facebook, sports, celebrity news, you name it) instead of living. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Why do we spend some much of our lives on the less-than-meaningful agenda?
I have two teenage daughters so I’m truly conscious of how difficult it is to grow up in America’s totally faked “what is beauty” ideal. Every TV show, every magazine, every commercial seems to tell girls that they should not be happy with what God gave them and that they should strive for an ideal that is frankly, a mirage.
Here is a typical beauty shot:
Dove ran a series of commercials that exposes how contrived the concept of beauty has become in society. Please watch these two videos as a reminder, especially after looking at the picture above:
I hope all parents can convince their kids, and especially their daughters, that beauty starts from inside. What they see, far too often, is skin deep and unattainable without a lot of photoshop distortions.
I.M. Optimism Man
PSSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 2 and Part 3.
So this is interesting. We are awake about 16 hours per day. Only 14 hours are “alert and vibrant time” because there is always some wasted time, especially at the end of the day.
How you choose to invest (or spend, or waste) your time matters a lot. My philosophy is found in many of my posts, such as this one — Red Pill Clarity.
Enter Facebook and the other social media players that gain billions based on your engagement. The prediction (and charts) show that 2014 will be the year that the average active social media user will hit 4 hours of daily social media engagement. That is almost nearly a third of one’s day, and the new young moguls want more!
Lets not forget the great time killer of the last 50+ years – T.V. The average American watches T.V. 34 hours each week – that’s pretty much 5 hours each day. 500 channels of stuff and nothing good to watch, but watch we do.
Granted, we can assume there is overlap – people play on Facebook and Instagram while watching T.V. – but its a fair guess that 6 – 7 hours of a 14 – 16 hour day are chalked up to consuming shows, posts, and data that will not matter two weeks from now.
Face your own reality instead of the averages: I would simply suggest keeping a log of how much time you spend on social and T.V. for a month or two. Then consider what you could do, if you cut that time in half. How much better shape could you be in? What could you create?
I.M. Optimism Man
PS> I “get” that social media helps keep you socially connective and active. But too much of anything – Facebook, Snapchat, chocolate, weight lifting, basketball, even water – is bad for you.
I suggest understanding how much time you will allocate for Facebook (and other social media) and T.V. and then sticking to your decisions. Everything in moderation, and planning your use of time in advance, makes for genuine achievement.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
— Will Rogers
Another famous thought that we all can complete is…. “Don’t judge a book by ___ _________.”
Will is dead on right. Unfortunately, many people do judge books — and other people — by the cover. More specifically, people judge by their first impressions.
If you want to make an impact, if you want to influence people, if you want to leave a legacy by making a difference, first impressions matter. Second impressions matter too — you have to prove your integrity — but I believe first impressions matter most. What’s fascinating to me is that there appears to be a way that you can improve your chances through your body language.
Please watch this thought-provoking video by social psychologist, Amy Cuddy. Her research on body language indicates that we can change our own body chemistry and other people’s perceptions simply by changing body positions. If true, the potential is awesome for any stressful moment, such as walking into a job interview, or auditioning for a part, or in any situation where you consciously want to make a great first impression.
What a great lesson to teach your kid. He or she isn’t going to get this lesson in high school.
I spend my time trying to convince people on a daily basis that true business insight, real expertise, and competitive advantage can only be found in the details and specifically, how those complex details connect and interrelate. My competitors usually argue the opposite. They try to convince companies that summarized data stores and pre-canned reports are good enough. The reason is that my competitors’ underlying technology is not good enough to a) keep one true, integrated copy of the (big) data and b) allow any user to access and analyze that one true copy of data at any time.
This is not an easy concept for everyone to understand because most of us come from a long history of working from pre-canned, summarized, much of the value washed away reports. Its all we have had and we have gotten by — we did the best that we could with what we had.
I stumbled into this TED talk that illustrates the idea that “the true insight is always in the detail data” brilliantly, although that was not the goal these speakers had. This truth applies to any industry, for every industry is complex and ever-changing. It is well worth watching this short eight minute video — you will gain understanding:
The more the world architects for big detailed data and asks iterative questions of the detail data, the greater the advances we will see in our lifetime. Hail big data analytics! The world will be a better, safer place. We have only begun to invent.
I have always been proud of my situational awareness. I believe situational awareness is important for success. I also have realized that the human mind is more limited in certain ways than any of us know, yet our confidence in our abilities is often over estimated.
Watch this short video. It will make you think. When you understand your limitations, you can make better decisions:
I have a new resolution: I want to learn a few great tricks like this.