Learning is more about acceleration than speed

“Satisfaction, for us, is only a brief thing. The man who acquires wealth does not reach a point where he has enough. Success for us is more like acceleration than speed. Interest cannot be maintained at a constant level.”

– Neal Asher, The Skinner

You should always celebrate when you have succeeded in delivering a project, presentation, or when you helped someone in a good way. And then you should ask yourself:

What did I learn from this and what will I do different next time?

It is a fine balance between getting annoyed with yourself for all the errors you did and learning so you can do better next time. But it is a balance you should practice every day so you can keep on accelerating.

Luck

I’ve noted that fortune often tends to follow the most observant and best prepared in ways that reward them far more than mere chance,

– Princeps, L.E. Modesitt J.r.

One of the best definitions of luck I have heard is that luck is the intersection between preparation and opportunity. Many opportunities will just pass you by if you don’t notice them or if you don’t have the knowledge or skills to do anything about them (which is where the preparation comes in).

Luck has been researched by Richard Wiseman, and it is apparently possible to increase your luck by following these steps.

Change is hard

“Just remember that no one likes change away from what’s familiar. If you can, show them how what you want to change is just another way of accomplishing the familiar. Show them with little things first. It only seems to take longer.”

“Sir … it only seems…?”

“When you fight to change people’s minds, they resist. When people resist, it takes longer.”

– L.E. Modesitt Jr., Scholar

When changing an organization into a new way of working, focus on making the change seem familiar to the people actually changing. Make them feel like they own it and they know what is happening. And of course don’t forget why you are changing. Based in the FIRO theory the three biggest needs of people working in a group is to feel significant, competent and liked. And their fears are the reverse: being ignored, humiliated, or rejected. A good focus for change management is to help fulfill these three needs:

  • Significance – Inform people about what is happening and why you are doing the change.
  • Competence – Help people understand what their new role will be and listen to the feedback they give on their new roles.
  • Liked – Listen to their fears and give of your time to individuals even if you are stressed.

This will not solve all problems but it will help a bit.

Equal and opposite reaction

“After every unladylike action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. Consider the necessary, analyze the consequences, clean up the mess.”

– Gail Carriger, Manners & Mutiny

After some time of rest you need to move into action.

After working really hard and being stressed you need to take some time to relax, reflect and review your long term goals.

After doing something rash and stupid, you should apologize and try to make amends.

After giving a presentation, listen to the feedback.

After giving a lot of answers, make sure you ask some questions.

We need to balance our lives. Not by doing mediocre things but by doing our utmost and then take a pause to make sure that our body, mind, the people around us, and our environment can handle it.

We are both our personality and our circumstances

“People aren’t just people, they are people surrounded by circumstances.”

– Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

The fundamental attribution error basically say that we usually blaim a person’s personality when they do something wrong, but for ourselves we always have a good reason for doing what we did. Our behavior is a function of both our internal characteristics and the external circumstances. I believe that people want to do the best they can but sometimes they have been put in a situation where no matter what they do they will fail at one of the things they are doing. This stress they will most likely take out on the people around them.

If one of your colleagues are always irritated or angry at their coworkers. It is more likely that they are extremely stressed and have been put in an extremely hard situation for a long time, and not that they are a psychopath.

If you are the manager of a really stressed and angry person try to find out what makes them stressed and then help them either prioritize or removing the misalignment in their goals.

At the same time if one of your colleagues or friends have an extreme amount of energy and happiness. Try to learn from their circumstances: What people are in their life? How do they sleep? What do they eat? How much do they work out?

Behind everything simple is a huge tail of complicated

“The sun is simple. A sword is simple. A storm is simple. Behind everything simple is a huge tail of complicated.”

– Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

We all want simple answers to our questions, and simple solutions to our problems. The challenge is that very few problems are simple, and even if they are simple now they will one day become very complicated, because the world has changed around the problem. Especially when people are involved there are no simple answers. We don’t know how people will react to what we say or do so we have to listen and be ready to change. And apologize if we did something really stupid.

One of my favorite models to explain this and work with different types of problems is the Cynefin framework by Dave Snowden.

Save butts for the chairs

“Save butts for the chairs.”

– Psion Beta, Jacob Gowan

But is one of the most overused and dangerous words in the world. Most people only hear what is after the but and ignores what is before: That was a great presentation, but it could have used more pictures. One thing I do for some groups that have gotten stuck in the Yes, but game is to ask them to start each sentence with Yes, and. It seems a bit silly at first but it forces people to first focus on what was good in what the other people said and then add their opinion. Instead of focusing on what does not work with the other person’s suggestion and then say something they think would work.

Try going a whole day without using any buts, I can promise you it will be really difficult and life changing.

It’s not the truth but it is useful

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

– No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

Of course you need data to use theories, but many people when they only have one data point that fits their model of the world will take that as proof of that they are right. If you only have one data point then you can only fit very simple models, so you need to gather more. The challenge then is how to find relevant data so you can fit them into a theory so that you can make a guess on what to do next.

We all have theories of how we see they world. You can also call them models, perspectives, schemas, map of the world, or intuition. These models affect how we see the world, and what we see in the world. We can’t take everything in so we need some way of removing all the excess data that is not relevant. To break out of our regular way of seeing the world and gather new types of data is to apply other models. They will force you to gather some types of data and disregard other.

When you then have this data then you first have to ask yourself: Does this data fit this model? If not then you have to find another model to work with. But if it seems to fit then you can try to use the model to find out what you should do to improve whatever situation you are in. Now comes the most important part: Test the prediction Try out what you should do and what the model predicts should happen. If it works it gives you a bit more confidence that you are on the right track, if it didn’t work then you have a new data point that could help you finding a new model.

This works for all types models, it could be a group development model to improve a team, a personality type model to find out how you can better talk to a colleague, or a model of a chemical process that you are trying to optimize.

The most important part to remember in all of this is what my old chemistry teacher told me in high school when presenting a new model: It’s not the truth, but it is useful.

Are you wise, brave and wild?

It was wise enough to know itself, and brave enough to be itself, and wild enough to change itself while somehow staying altogether true.

– The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss

You need to be wise enough to know your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and values. You need to be brave enough to live your values and follow your passion. That you dare to use your strengths to make what you want a reality, and to admit when you don’t know what to do. And finally you need to be wild so that you dare to take a leap of faith once in a while.

For me, this is equally true for both individuals and organizations that want to be happy and succesful…

Inaction is also action

“A man might not have the patience to count to a trillion,” answered Del Azarchel coldly, “but the number is real whether he counts it or not. A man might not think he will live to see the future. But it will come, with him, or without him, by his effort, or by the effort of others.

– Count to a Trillian, John C. Wright

No matter what we do or don’t do we will affect the world around us. Inaction is as much an action as action is. Though in many places it is much easier to get away with not doing anything wrong that doing something wrong, which makes us prone to ignoring important decisions until they have resolved themselves, or starting a committee to analyze the problem instead of just making a decision and see what happens.

In many cases the right choice is to not do anything but then it should be a conscious decision to not do anything and not just a tactic to avoid making a mistake.