Weekend Briefing No. 204
Welcome to the weekend. Hello from Cambridge, MA. This is the 6th year I’ve started my year teaching Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship at Harvard Law School. I consider it a pretty significant honor to be teaching future change makers. A side benefit of starting the year in Boston is that I have personal time to reflect and set intentions for the year.
In the last couple of years I’ve been learning two key things about personal growth: 1) Change is hard. 2) Change only comes when your calendar consistently reflects your priorities.
With that in mind, I offer you a briefing focused exclusively on personal growth.
2,200 – A taxi passenger - who may have been slightly overserved - took a 380-mile cab ride from Denmark to Norway on New Year’s Eve then bailed on the $2,200 fare. Ouch. The cabbie called the cops and they found the passenger sleeping inside his home. He was then forced to settle the bill.
80 – 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February.
2 – North Korea is engaging in diplomacy, the outcome may be that their winter Olympics team can compete in the games hosted in South Korea. But how big is the team? Turns out… it’s 2 people - pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik.
Just Say No
If you don’t set your own priorities, someone else will. Do you want to live your life beholden to other people’s priorities? If not, we need to learn the art of saying no. “A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” So said Mahatma Gandhi. Saying no is incredibly challenging for high achievers because it’s socially awkward and we think that we are either overly-optimistic or hubristic enough to think that we can say yes to everything and perform well at everything. Saying “yes” when we should be saying “no” can seem like a small thing in the moment. But over time, such compromises can create a life of regrets. Harvard Business Review (7 minutes)
F*ck It Bucket
Life can be overwhelming. Not everything is worth worrying—or even thinking—about. To file away “the trash,” 81-year-old Don Nelson, a retired president of a security-systems company in Falmouth, Mass., has created a mental bucket. He sorts his information by addressing issues that are important—his wife’s decline from Alzheimer’s or charity work, for example. Everything else? “F--- it and into the bucket.” What’s in there? Everything political that is harsh and nasty. News of tragedies that are upsetting but he can’t change. And sports. “Give it a try,” says Mr. Nelson. “It’s like cleaning your mental closet.” I think this is a simple and helpful technique to align your mental energy with your priorities. Wall Street Journal (2 minutes)
Pain + Reflection = Progress
I’ve been really impressed with Ray Dalio’s book Principles. One of the biggest takeaways is a methodology for letting pain be our teacher. Pain+ Reflection = Progress. When we’re in the moment of pain, we tend not to reflect. But after that moment of pain, whenever anybody makes a mistake, there’s probably a message there. Most of us don’t hear that message because it’s uncomfortable to sit in the pain and/or embarrassing to look back at mistakes. However, if we do take time to reflect, in a quality way about what we would do differently in the future that would have prevent that mistake, you’ll come out with a principle. Write down the principle and then operate it in the future. Learning is often disguised as pain, if we examine that pain we just might emerge with wisdom. I’ve been playing around with a way to log these learnings in a simple google sheet and have learned from the process thus far. Check out this interview starting at 12:01 and 23:21 to learn more. Tim Ferriss Show (6 minutes)
Calendar > To Do List
The likelihood of me getting anything done goes up significantly when I put something on the calendar. On a regular calendar, things that get represented are meetings with other people. The things that don’t get represented are the most important things, the deep work that will take 30 or 100 hours. Exercising or meditation. Calling your mother. Playing with your kids. When you have a way to represent things easily like meetings and you don’t have a good way to represent the important things, the things that are represented will be carried out and the things that are not represented will not get carried out. And as a consequence, your life will be filled with things that might not fit with your agenda. So, the real question is how do we get the representation of our lives to fit our real objectives? The Mission (5 minutes)
As we enter the new year, you may be contemplating how to make resolutions that you can actually keep. I feel you. I’ve never stuck to a budget, workout regimen or spiritual practice. I stumbled on to a system that works for me. By intentionally creating a set of complimentary healthy habits, I built a positive feedback loop generating consistent momentum that improved my health, wealth and spiritual practice. I call this stacking habits. I’ve been implementing it (semi-consistently) and it’s had a positive impact in my life. I thought I’d share it with you. I hope it’s helpful. Medium (7 minutes).
Once we reach some base level of competence at any skill, we practice that part over and over and shy away from the parts that might make us better. Stopping here is a hallmark of amateurs. The only way to get better at a task is through deliberate practice. The idea is simple: instead of avoiding pain, you dive in. How? First, use the mental model of Galilean Relativity to switch perspectives and see yourself through the eyes of others. This will allow you to recognize the areas that you need to improve. Recognizing these areas is necessary if you want to improve. Second, set aside time for dedicated focus on the specific area you want to improve. Farnam Street (7 minutes)
One Simple Question
One Salt Lake City couple had unreal expectations about love, and their relationship soon unraveled over petty power struggles. Years later, it had gotten to the point where they barely acknowledged each other. They loved each other but couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Then, one day while taking a shower, the husband broke down and cried. He had an epiphany: He couldn’t change his wife, but he could change himself. The next morning he asked his wife a simple question: “How can I make your day better?” It was a matter of humility. The question was first met with anger and spite, but he made a commitment to continue to ask every morning. Slowly over time, they began having meaningful discussions on what we wanted from life and how we could make each other happier. It didn’t solve all their problems. It’s not that they never had conflict again, but the nature of their fights changed. They’d deprived them of oxygen. They just didn’t have it in them to hurt each other anymore. Read his first-hand account. Richard Paul Evans (13 minutes)