Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Grit

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is  Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. What you will read below will not do this book justice. You must read it yourself. This is one of the most important books ever written, and it will change the way you think.

Brief Summary of Grit:

The author, Angela Duckworth, is a psychologist who has dedicated her career to studying the idea of grit. In her book, she discusses why grit is essential to achieving your potential and uses her research and interviews with people who she says are grit paragons (athletes, business leaders, etc.) to help solidify her findings.

She starts her psychology career while doing a study on West Point. She tries to understand why only 1,200 out of 14,000 are asked to enroll and how out of those 1,200 only 1 of 5 cadets make it to graduation. What she learned was that the scoring system that West Point uses does not accurately predict who the best candidates are. She finds that what predicts the best candidates is who is truly passionate and willing to persevere through the grueling task to become a cadet. Her research tells her that our potential is one thing, but what we do with it is another. She goes on to explain that what makes you successful is not about how “smart” you are, but how gritty. 

Things I learned from this book:

Effort Counts Twice

Duckworth shares an equation that is “Talent x Effort = Skill, and Skill x Effort = achievement which means effort counts twice. She shares a countless number of interviews and research studies of “Grit Paragons” who prove her equation. This equation tells you that while you can be the most skilled and talented person in the world at your craft, you can still fail because you did not put in the effort. A pretty simple concept right? How many people do you know who have all the talent, but fail? 

What is Grit and how is it measured?

Grit is not just as simple as working really hard. It is something you develop over time and actually grows with age. There are two parts to grit: Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth explains that grit is about working on something you care about so much that you are willing to stay loyal to it and strive for the same top level goal for a long period of time. 

How do you become Gritty?

You work to improve and develop the 4 physiological assets below:

Interest

The foundation for achieving your potential is rooted in what interests you. Duckworth explains that it takes time to find out what you are interested in, and most of us give up too quickly on things. She discusses the motto “Follow your passion,” and believes that we should rephrase it to “Foster your passion” because it takes time to find out what you are genuinely interested in. 

Practice

Most of us practice our craft and spend time working on our own personal or professional development, but why do we fail to achieve the highest standards in our fields? Well, Duckworth explains that the grit paragons she interviews didn’t just practice they deliberately practiced. To them, every day was a new day to improve from yesterday, and they were relentless with being better than yesterday.

Purpose

Duckworth describes purpose as a critical aspect of grittiness. To have a real passion for something you have to first be interested in what you are doing, but to deepen your passion you have to feel your work is important not to just you, but others.

Hope

To Grit paragons, hope means that if I give today all the effort I have, then I will be better off in the future. Duckworth shares a compelling statement that when I read it made me think differently:

Instead of “I have a feeling tomorrow will be better” you must say “I resolve to make tomorrow better.”

How to create a culture of Grit at work and for your kids?

1. Create your own life philosophy

This revolves around building out your core values, your vision, your purpose, your end result. Once you do you should talk about them, and live them every single day.  Every conversation you have with your kids or employees is centered around these items. 

2.  Duckworth developed a concept that she uses in her family called the “Hard Thing Rule”

  1. Everyone in the family has to do something hard
  2. You have to finish what you start
  3. No one gets to pick the hard rule for anyone else

How has this book impacted me?

This book changes the way I think about success and how I achieve it. If I make a career out of doing something I genuinely love, practice really hard every day, believe that this is my calling, and know that if I put in a full effort that I will be better off in the long run… I will achieve my own definition of success. Duckworth shared with me how simple achieving success in life can be and it has nothing to do with how smart you are.

As a parent, I have no greater responsibility than to teach and guide my son to his potential in life. I am going to use the ideas, stories, and concepts I learned in this book to be a better parent and that impact is extraordinary. As my son enters school, he will be taught that his effort is more important than getting an A, B or C on his test. Twenty to thirty years from now I believe this book will make the world a better place.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Are you ready to become a Grit Paragon? May the choice be with you. If you have decided YES, Buy the book here and also check out her non-profit Character Lab to find out how she is changing the way we educate kids.

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Today We Are Rich

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence by Tim Sanders.

Brief Summary:

Tim Sanders was an early stage member of Broadcast.com (think Mark Cuban), and he was a former executive at Yahoo! Today, he is an international speaker, consultant, and author. In his book, Tim shares with us his personal story of moving back home to live with his grandmother while he was going through some hardships. While back home, he learns from his grandmother the 7 principles of “confident living.” He shares personal stories about each principal and how they can be used step-by-step to overcome obstacles to become more confident and achieve your full potential.

Things I learned from this book:

Feed the mind

This is one of the easiest things to do but yet so difficult. Tim simply explains that we must reduce or eliminate the things in our lives like social media, news, and friends that gives you negative thoughts. No surprise here, but by doing this it will increase your overall happiness and positivity. Tim was way ahead of his time considering I read this book about 7 years ago which makes social media look like an infant. As we enter 2018, it is more vital than ever to try to eliminate the crap out of your mind. Here are some tips I learned from Tim:

  • Write down everything you read, listen to, and watch. You will be shocked at how much unnecessary crap you are wasting your time with.
  • Once you have seen all the crap, you can start reducing it one by one. For example, cut people out of your life who are negative, and delete friends on social media who are constantly creating drama and creating negative thoughts in your head.
  • Spend your time reading books, editorial pieces from credible authors, and watching credible shows which discuss solutions instead of problems. 
  • Avoid waking up and looking at your email or social media. The first thing you see every morning should be something positive.
  • Keep an ongoing journal in your mind or on paper of successful things that happen and use that as a way to combat negative or self-doubting thoughts.

Move the Conversation Forward

To me, this is an essential skill to have and the #1 principle you must be able to master. I personally took this principle as the idea of how to take a conversation with yourself or someone else and find the good in it. It reminds me of the many times, we get caught up in a conversation and drown ourselves in the problem instead of looking for a solution. I see so many people do this and it creates a downward spiral that leads to taking no action.  

Tips from Tim about how you can continue to move the conversation forward:

When processing the information it comes in four ways, and you should frame every bit of information:

  • Good – Either for you or for someone or something you have an interest in
  • Neutral – No direct effect on you or one of your interests
  • Get Busy – Adversity you need to respond to
  • Bad – A irrevocably negative effect on you or one of your interests

Use Willis Carrier’s (Founder of Carrier – Air Conditioning) advice to move the conversation forward:

  • Define the worst case scenario
  • Accept it as survivable
  • Make a good goal of beating it

Always be Prepared

  1. Become an expert in your craft:

A few easy ways to do this is to read books in your field, network with other individuals in your field and find a mentor or mentor an individual who works within the same industry. How many people do you know do any of those three things? To be honest, I know very few people.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice:

Run through the presentation as it actually will be. Every detail of the presentation should be precisely the same when you are practicing. From the setting to the running through the entire presentation it should all be done as if you were presenting live.

  1. Expect the unexpected:

Something I have learned time and time again is that nothing goes according to plan. We should always prepare for “objections” or potential challenges we will run into and assume the worst case scenario. It is very important especially for sales and business. I know personally that I have fallen into this trap thinking a call would go one way and I was not prepared for the objections that came up. Though my reps don’t like when I seem pessimistic on a deal, I am just trying to prepare for all scenarios so we can win the deal.

How has this book impacted me?

One of the particular ideas expressed in this book, “move the conversation forward”, really moved me. Ever since reading it as a young professional it made me rethink the way I communicate with others and the ways I talk to myself subconsciously. Over the years, I have been trying to understand and learn as much as possible about the human mind and how we can control our thoughts. It has led me to a philosophy called Stoicism that I now consider a big part of my life professionally and personally.  

I read this book twice in my life: once as an early professional, and again as a sales leader. I personally use three of the seven principles discussed in the book every single day and I credit them to a lot of the early success I’ve had in my career. The best part is that the principles can be implemented by anyone and when they are, they can change your life and your career.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Buy “Today We Are Rich” here and check out Tim’s other books, all of which are great. If you are not a book reader but enjoy great content, follow Tim’s blog here: http://timsanders.com/blog/

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Giraffe’s Can’t Dance

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Mondays, I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s Book is Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. It is currently in the top 5 most sold fiction books on Amazon.com. 

Brief Summary:

A giraffe named Gerald is nervous because the annual Jungle Dance is today, and he is not confident in his ability to dance. He sees all the other animals do amazing dances, and when it’s his turn the animals all start to laugh at him because he is a giraffe and giraffes can’t dance. Quickly, he scampers off and believes that they are right, and he’s useless. While gazing at the moon, he runs into a cricket who tells him, “sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” With the help of the cricket, Gerald hears for the first time the music in the jungle surrounding him.

Before he knows it, he is dancing. All of the animals start to catch word of Gerald’s dance moves. They can’t believe it; Gerald is the best dancer they’ve ever seen! They ask Gerald how he got so good at dancing. He says, “We all can dance when we find music that we love”.

Things I learned from this book:

  • Less is more. This book is 30 pages, and it has a very powerful message. We tend to overthink when it comes to whether or not we can do something. The message of the book is to do what you love, and you can do anything.
  • When we were newborns and toddlers we were fearless; thinking positively was the only option, and curiosity flowed through our veins. We spent hours reading books like Giraffes Can’t Dance but somewhere along the way, we forget the messages that were the foundation of our existence. It’s hard, but we need to get back to that beginner’s mindset: be curious, think positively, have fun, and don’t be afraid to fail.  
  • “We all can dance” is similar to “we all are unique”. We just need to start to focus on what we love and find passion in.
  • It is OK to be different. It does not mean that you “can’t” do something. It means you just have to find your own way to do it.

Other things I learned from this book:

Find your Music:

We are all unique. It is the best part of being human. If we were all the same, the world would be a strange place. Imagine if we all danced the same way, how strange would that be? Gerald sees all the other animals dancing in certain ways, and feels like he can’t dance. What he does not realize until the end of the book is that he can dance, he just has not found music that “interests” him.

A great way to start to find your “purpose” is thinking about what interests you. You will spend hours, days, years learning and exploring these interests. This repetition and practice will lead you to find out precisely what you are most passionate about. If someone asked me how to find their purpose I would ask them what they are most passionate about.  Let’s start there.

Be Yourself:

We tend to want to go with what is “cool” or “popular” instead of doing what you really want to do. We fear that others will think we are  “lame” or “dumb” or “not cool”. Gerald feels this way in the book when he goes to the Jungle Dance. He feels like he has to be able to dance like the other animals or he won’t fit in. In due time, he realizes that he can dance however he wants.

If we live our lives living by someone else’s standards, we will ultimately regret the life we lived. As I have discussed in my previous posts, if you feel different that’s OK. We are all different. Don’t waste time worrying about the opinions of others.  It is similar to what the cricket told Gerald when he said, “sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” To me, this means to be you. Do what you love and create your own path.

How has this book impacted me?

If you want to reach your potential, start with doing something you love. For some people, they fail to do this and they wake up one day realizing that most of their life has been wasted in things they don’t truly enjoy. As juvenile as this may sound, don’t follow others because it seems like the cool thing to do or because everyone is doing it. Believe in yourself and your own unique story. I love sales, leadership, and seeing others achieve things they thought were not possible. I have always been interested in these things, so I started to read about topics in these three areas. Soon enough, I began to become incredibly passionate about it and launched a blog.

It seems like it can’t be that easy, but it is. Think about this, you just learned something from a CHILDREN’S BOARD BOOK. So, just like Gerald taught me, anything is possible. Giraffes CAN dance.  

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Time to find your music. Buy the book here!

 

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Creativity, Inc

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Mondays, I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. If you are a leader of a team or company you should definitely read this book, but anyone can benefit from reading it. In many ways, we are all leaders.

Brief Summary:

Ed Catmull is the Co-Founder of Pixar and in his book, he shares the story and lessons he learned while building Pixar.  More specifically, he explains Pixar’s unique leadership practices that made them one of the most innovative and successful companies the world has ever seen (he also got to work side by side with Steve Jobs, so he shares very insightful conversations and things he learned from Steve. I outline one of the things I took away from their time together below).

Things I learned from the book:

  • We are all creative. As an employee (or simply a human) you have the ability to be creative. You just need to be in the right environment with the right mentorship and believe in your abilities.
  • As a leader, you must manage your employees and yourself to the unknown. Loosen the control, take risks, accept the fact that you as a leader can be wrong.
  • Ed states in the book, “The view of our past is hardly clearer than our view of the future.The past should be our teacher, not our master.” Love this quote.
  • Some of the first questions Steve Jobs ever asked Ed Catmull included: “What do you want?” and “What are your long-term goals?” As a leader, you need to find out what is important to those you are leading.
  • You must create a “safe environment” which allows employees to feel comfortable to speak up and talk to anyone regardless of title. This is extremely important for all leaders because most tend to just manage up and forget about managing down. Ed realized quickly that the latter was possibly even more important.  
  • Every company has problems and the cost of not finding the problem is much more than the cost of fixing them once they happen.
  • Hire people who you believe you could work for one day and that you believe are smarter than you. So many people do not follow this advice. I truly believe most leaders are intimidated or scared to hire someone who threatens their intelligence or job because they may have a higher ceiling.
  • As Ed learned from George Lucas, you must follow the process, but do not lose sight of the end goal. Employees will come and go, but keep moving forward even if you do not know where you are headed.
  • All teams and employees matter. If one team or one employee fails to achieve their goal, then we all fail. You must have a mentality and culture that lets everyone know that what they do is vital to the company’s success.
  • As a leader, you must learn to see problems before they happen, which is very difficult. Your employees typically know or see the problems before you. It’s simple. Just ask them, because typically they are too afraid to tell you.
  • A culture that is innovative and achieves their end goal is able to meet “unexpected problems with unexpected responses”.

Other things I learned:

Ask the right questions, and focus on what you value as a company

Ed explains how he got advice from Silicon Valley experts about how to price Pixar’s first imaging computer. Their advice was to price high to start, and if necessary you can always lower it. He quickly learned that was a mistake. He took advice without asking questions.

Pixar gained the reputation of being powerful but too expensive. Because of this, their sales got off to a slow start. He realized he failed to ask the right questions, and should have been focused on what he and the company valued. Meeting the expectations of customers and investing in software development so customers could get more value in their product were their priorities.

Focus more on the end result than the actual process

Making the process cheaper and trying to perfect it is OK, but that cannot be the goal. The goal is to get to your end result. Ed explains that he sees so many companies focused on fixing and streamlining the “process” which leads to groups thinking they are doing the right things. But it ultimately limits communications between teams and blinds you from what the real problem is. This leads to teams becoming distracted from the end goal.  This is a mindset I believe everyone should possess. A team or company needs to have one specific end goal, and everyone then needs to be aligned with that goal. You must set the end goal prior to setting short-term goals. This is so simple, yet so many companies and teams fail to understand this. The process will look like a roller coaster and that is ok. Hitting the end goal is all that matters.

Change is Good

Successful companies and people tend to view any change as a threat to the company culture or way things work. It is easier for people to hold onto processes and things that work and just stick to what they know. The ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ model to some is the winning model, and shockingly most companies fall into this trap. Most people don’t want to hear that no matter what you do things change. The key to a successful company or even an individual reaching the end goal is by changing and evolving. If we try to tighten our control over what we already know and choose not to change, then we impede our creativeness. And just a side note, Ed discusses the person who changed his mind the most of out of anyone he knew… Steve Jobs.

Trust your employees at all levels to find solutions

Big and small problems should be treated the same, and you should create a response structure that matches the problem structure. In a creative and innovative environment, people are allowed to solve problems with no permissions and we are OK with people making mistakes. The person or team can then solve the problem, and it allows the company to catch a problem early on. Don’t wait to get approval or the problem could destroy your business.

Leadership and life lesson from someone who worked side by side with Steve Jobs

As I mentioned, Ed had the unique experience to work with Steve Jobs. After working so closely with Steve, he shares his definition of the world people believe Steve Jobs lived in which they call the “Reality Distortion Field”. Here is Ed’s definition after his time with Steve:

“It stems from my belief that our decisions and actions have consequences and that those consequences shape our future. Our actions change our reality. Our intentions matter. Most people believe that their actions have consequences but don’t think through the implications of that belief. But Steve did. He believed, as I do, that it is precisely by acting on our intentions and staying true to our values that we change the world.”

To me, it seems as if Steve Jobs was just human, and he lived in the same world we lived in. He just did something really well and he believed in his abilities. He didn’t stop. He kept going and he reached his end result. He changed the world.

How has this book impacted me?

From a leadership standpoint, my number 1 goal is to strive to help my reps become not just better salespeople but better individuals. The idea of focusing on the unknown is exactly how you can do that, and Ed lays out very simple practices that you can follow to help create this environment where people can reach their full potential.  

As an Individual, one of my core values is to learn every day and learning from other people on how they achieved their potential is easily the best way to learn. This book specifically was helpful because it solidified some of the leadership ideas and personal values that I am so passionate about. After reading a book like this, it shows me how simple life is at its core and how people like Ed Catmull became successful doing things that you and I can do. As long as I focus on trying to learn every day and have a laser focus on my end goal, nothing can stop me.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Time to lead your team and yourself into the unknown. And purchase the book here: Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

 

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Mondays, I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin.

In my last post, I discussed the idea of how you can reinvent your life and the idea of success. This book has helped me solidify these thoughts and has become one of my top ten favorites. It can help further explain my thought process and help paint a clearer picture of how important it is that you write your own rules.

“My goal is to persuade you that there is an opportunity available to you, a chance to significantly change your life for the better. Not by doing something that is easy or that you have been trained to do, but by understanding how the rules of our world have fundamentally changed and by taking advantage of this moment to become someone the world believes is indispensable.” – Seth Godin

Brief summary of LinchPin: Are you Indispensable?

Seth Godin discusses the idea of how the world has significantly changed, and how in the past it paid to follow the rules. He explains that there have always been two teams: Management and Labor, but now there is a third team: Linchpins. Linchpins are the type of people who make their own map and don’t follow the guidelines of corporate America that have been set in stone for hundreds of years. He shares ideas and stories about how you too can do this and once you do, reaching your potential will never be easier. And Seth makes it clear that it starts with YOU and YOUR CHOICES.

Things I learned from the book:

  • The world has evolved, and it will only continue to evolve. If you keep complying with the system, you will fail to achieve your potential. If you want to reach your goals, you must create your own map.
  • The world is changing because of innovation. The first people to fail are the map-followers, non-risk takers, the fearful and scared to be different. Those type of people gets lost in the fast pace world we live in. It is unfortunate because they were told to “follow the system” and over time it has failed them.
  • Innovative employees are typically the most successful. As a manager, at times I feel like I need to control every situation, and that is unnecessary. Let your employees think for themselves.
  • We have a choice every single day. You can choose to be great, learn, and contribute or you can follow the process and do what others tell you to do. I will take the former.
  • People don’t take a risk because they are afraid. Schools (not all, but most) created a fear like environment. Pass or Fail. We were rarely taught “It’s ok to fail. Get back up. Just give maximum effort.”
  • It’s OK to be unique. You have a purpose. You have your own thoughts and views. Share them with the world. Don’t be scared. If you don’t it will be challenging to reach your goals.
  • Life is about choice: Are you going to choose to be part of the machine or are you going to pave your own way?

Other things I learned from this book:

Seth explains that when you become a linchpin, you strengthen your abilities in these 7 areas:

  1. Provide a unique interface between members of the organization
  2. Deliver unique creativity
  3. Manage a situation or organization of great complexity
  4. Lead customers
  5. Inspire staff
  6. Provide deep domain knowledge
  7. Possess a unique talent

Where does average come from?

  1. You were brainwashed by a school (not all, but a majority) and by the system into believing that your job is to do your job. You have to follow the rules and instructions.
  2. We all have a little voice inside our heads that’s angry and scared. That voice is what Seth refers to as the “resistance” (your lizard brain) and it wants you to play it safe and be average.

The law of linchpin leverage

People who we view as “ultra-successful” or “brilliant” are only truly this way for short bursts. The rest of the time they are doing work that anyone could do. The difference is that for 1 minute or 5 minutes they think differently about how they can contribute and create value in this world. At your job, take a second to think about how you could do it better or create more value because that is what Linchpins do. The ones who do not choose to think this way become replaceable.

We live in a fear driven culture

The “system” prohibits you from being innovative and standing out. We have created a sense of fear in the world that employees cannot share their thoughts and opinions because they must follow the rules. We must break down the walls and barriers to innovation. We all have ideas. Whether they are right or not shouldn’t prohibit someone from speaking up about it. Because we are afraid to take a risk and create our own map, we tend to say things like this:

    • “I don’t have any good ideas”
    • “I don’t know what to do”
    • “I didn’t graduate from (insert brand of some prestigious educational institution here)” –  I LOVE WHEN I HEAR THIS. WHO CARES WHERE YOU WENT TO SCHOOL. IT’S NOT WHERE YOU WENT, IT’S WHAT YOU DO.
    • “My boss won’t let me”
    • “Well, that’s fine for you, but my gender, race, health, religion, nationality, shoe size, handicap, or DNA don’t make it easy”

There is NO map

This is simple. As I mentioned in my last post, everything is invented. We are all human. We all have a purpose. We all have a voice. We are all powerful. If you believe in something, go DO IT. Nobody is in control of you except for yourself.

How has this book impacted me?

As a young kid, I always remember thinking and asking myself “why this”, “why that”. I have always been a curious person, and I have always wanted to be unique and different. This book reassured me that it is OK to want to be that way. It is what makes me a human and not a cog in a machine.

Seth also opened my mind up to the ideas of “choice” and “innovation”. He made it OK and furthermore necessary to challenge the status quo if you are going to reach your potential. He also shares two stories that I actually printed out and laminated for my sales team. I have all my new hires read it, and if you have or still do work for me, you know the story of “Richard and Steve”. I will shortly be sharing a post with those stories. But for now, I can say that we are always given a choice and the people who choose to create their own map end up finding their potential.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Time to create your own map, and become indispensable. Purchase Seth’s book here: Buy the book here! and I highly recommend you subscribe to his blog: Click here to view his blog and subscribe!