Results over effort

We don’t judge the quality of a book by the number of hours it took the author to write it. When a friend recommends a great movie we don’t ask what the film’s budget was. 

When we hire companies to do landscaping or cater a party, we don’t interrogate them about the tools they use.  And we don’t evaluate their work product by asking how many years they’ve been in business. We care about and discuss the thing that matters: the outcome.

When hiring someone to do anything, you get the best result when you review their work and have a human conversation that maps their interests and past performance to the outcomes you desire. Hiring a graphic artist? Don’t ask what software they prefer or how many years they’ve done work. Discuss and review their most comparable work product to the one you seek.

The value of time off

The main concept in the book “Time Off” is that you can’t maintain a great work ethic without having a great “rest ethic”. It’s easy to see the necessity of time off when we use an exaggerated example and consider how productive we’d be after days without sleep.

Mounting scientific evidence shows that we are even more productive and fulfilled when we manage our own self-care and downtime, but chances are you didn’t need science to tell you that.

One big takeaway for me is not just that this is true, but that it’s just like any other habit or skill that you can improve.

Deciding who to hire, work with, or work for

Given the choice of who to hire, work with, or work for, always choose character over skills. It’s possible to learn a lot from someone highly skilled in any discipline, but it’s easier to address skill gaps than it is to manage the devastation from lapses in character or integrity.

Anyone who thinks skills and experience can compensate for a principle like integrity has never witnessed the financial (and psychological) damage done to organizations that stem from toxic bosses or colleagues.

Freedom to and freedom from

We tend to think of freedom in terms of the options we have. This is “freedom to…” While we may not have all the resources that give us freedom TO do all we desire, we can recognize the opposite side of the coin, which is “freedom from”: any of the pressures, stresses, or life-deranging things that don’t plague us at this moment.

As you contemplate all you have the freedom to do, give thanks and perhaps give yourself credit for the harmful and even traumatic things that you have freedom from.

Investing in tomorrow

Remember when you first learned about compound interest? It wasn’t intuitive that starting with a penny on day one and doubling it each day for 30 days would net so much money. Investing time and attention works in a similar way, compounding, even if it’s not exponential.

One powerful lesson from any investment that repeats and compounds is that real progress or growth isn’t immediately obvious. Knowing this allows you to adjust your expectations and stay in the game.

Citing the above penny-doubling experiment, after 10 days (1/3 of the way!) you only have $10.24. What do you have on day 30? $5.4 million. 

One useful perspective

Internalizing a single nugget of wisdom can make consuming an entire book, podcast, seminar, or conversation worthwhile.  Always be open to useful outlooks, approaches, or strategies from any source.

Even one new perspective, idea, or well-thought-out question can shift your outlook in life-changing ways.

The antidote for mixed signals in our bodies

The feeling of hunger tells us when we should eat (now), not how much we should eat. Bright lights close to bedtime tell the body that it’s still daytime, as our eyes are the most important medium for delivering info to the mother ship (the brain) on the time of day.

Our bodies can misinterpret signals, and our conscious minds can convince our bodies of a false story. Two keys to correcting this:

  1. Self-awareness is a strong antidote to better interpret these signals. Are you eating more because you’re still hungry?
  2. Change your environment – if we know we’ll get better sleep by avoiding certain kinds of light at night, and exposing ourselves to light in the morning, we can make the right changes.

An alternative to “calm down!”

If there’s a reliable way to enrage someone while also compelling them to do the exact opposite of your advice, it’s using the phrase “calm down”. 

One alternative that I’ve found to work well when I really do want someone to calm down is to say…nothing. Just BE an example of calm. Mirror neurons are part of our biology. Often, people can’t help but embrace some of your calm energy. 

Why optimism is so hard and important

Optimism is hard for a reason – it’s unnatural. For our ancestors, being optimistic and “wrong” perhaps meant you missed out on an opportunity, whereas being pessimistic and wrong meant you became tiger food.

We should train ourselves to overcome this programming for a few reasons: First, many of us are lucky to live in a world where we can test theories, and create things that might be valuable. We can be wrong and “fail” many times, often with little to no personal or reputational damage, unlike our ancestors.

Second, being optimistic is a healthier mindset regardless of outcomes. And lastly, you’re more likely to improve the world (and yourself) by thinking “this might work” versus, “here are all the reasons this won’t work.”

The most important measure of your product

“Product” can mean whatever you want it to. As a business, an influencer, an artist, or even (surprise!) as a human, your product is not for everyone. As Seth Godin brilliantly states, the least helpful mantra is “you can pick anyone, and we’re anyone!”

Of all the businesses and products…in all the ways they are expressed, packaged, and distributed…in any way we engage with the market, here is one simple question that can serve as a yardstick for how our product might be measured: Would they miss it if it were gone?