By April 2, 2012 Read More →

101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life

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“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” — Reba McEntire

This is a 101 list of some of the best insights and actions for work and life.  This is the stuff you can use to change your frame, to change your game.

I started with the simple goal to build and unleash the world’s greatest “ah-ha” collection. I really, REALLY want this to be the gems of insight that are the super insights in life that really do change your game.

While a lot of the ideas should look familiar, many should be surprising, and instantly useful to your every day. I took an 80/20 approach, and targeted many of the common pitfalls, pains, and opportunities we face through life, in an attempt to arm us with the wisdom of the ages and modern sages.   When we take the balcony view, we can draw from books, people, and quotes to “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

This collection of insights and actions is a “hub-and-spokes” model.  By providing a “bird’s-eye view”, you can easily scan and find the ah-has that are right for you.  For each item, or “spoke”, I link to more depth and additional resources.

Enjoy.

  1. 20/20 Hindsight — “I knew it all along” phenomenon.  The “I knew it all along” phenomenon is also called the “hindsight bias.”  It’s when you assume you knew the answer all along, when somebody gives you the answer or the information.   It happens when you see something and it seems like common sense, or that you knew it would happen.  The problem is when you build false-confidence, or don’t really know the information as well as you thought you did.  See What is the “I Knew It All Along Phenomenon.”
  2. 30 Day Trials — Try something new for 30 days.   If you want to grow your capabilities, learn something new, change a habit or adopt a new one, try it for 30 days.   Whether you do it as a 30 Day Challenge, or a 30 Day Trial, or a 30 Day Improvement Sprint, there is power when you get time on your side, and take a small action each day.   See 30 Days to Success, by Steve Pavlina,  watch a video by Matt Cuts on Try Something New for 30 Days, or read my post on 30 Day Improvement Sprints.
  3. 80/20 Rule – 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.  You can use this rule of thumb to spend more energy on the vital few things that count.  Amplify what counts, and you amplify your impact.   This is the key to exponential results.  The 80/20  Rule is also known as the Pareto Principle, and the idea is popularized in The 80/20 Individual, by Richard Koch, and The Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris.  See the Pareto Principle.
  4. “A Sense of Urgency” — The key to change.  Early success can lead to complacency.  Change can be hard.  People can resist change for all sorts of reasons.   Because change can be hard, and to get over the humps, the key is to create a sense of urgency.  You do this with stories, and appealing to emotions, in ways that compel people to action.  John Kotter teaches us that the key to change is creating a compelling sense of urgency in the book, A Sense of Urgency.
  5. “Absence makes the heart grow stronger,” or “Out of sight, out of mind”? In the short term, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, until you move on and “out of sight, out of mind” takes over.  In the long term, absence can make the heart grow fonder, in that we tend to remember the good things, and forget the bad.  In this way, if you reunite with somebody that was “out of site, out of mind”, you might be fonder.
  6. “Absorb what is useful” — Find what’s true for you.   Draw insight and action from anyone and anything, but find what works for you, and tailor it to you or your situation to make the most of what you’ve got.  Bruce Lee says it best with, “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
  7. Ah-has are sticky — “Find the surprise.” Things that surprise us are easier to remember.  One way to find more insight is to ask, “What did you learn that surprised you?” … or “What did you learn that you didn’t expect?”  Chip Heath and Dan Heath teach us that unexpectedness sticks in the book, Made to Stick.
  8. Agree, build, and compare to build rapport — Watch your “ABC”s.   Agree when you agree.  Build when others leave out key pieces.  Compare when you differ.  In the book, Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler teach us to use our ABCs to agree, build, and compare our views when we disagree with the other person’s facts or stories.  Don’t start with “Wrong!” – Instead, start with, “I think I see things differently.  Let me describe how.”
  9. Ask, don’t tell – “Lead the horse to water.” Your self-talk is the key to willpower.   Ask, “Will I do this?” over state “I will do this.”    “Wondering minds” are “more goal-directed and more motivated than those who declare their objective to themselves.”   See The Willpower Paradox (Scientific Americana.)
  10. Ask, “How can I use this?” If you want to find more insights or make more information actionable, then ask yourself the question, “How can I use this?”   This will help you hone in on the parts you can use, ask better questions, and turn insight into action.
  11. Ask, “Is it effective?” — Measure against effectiveness. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing something that doesn’t actually work.  It’s a simple question, but asking, “Is it effective?” can be exactly the insight you need to find your breakthrough or get results.
  12. Avoid “Learned Helplessness” — Don’t make it permanent, personal, or pervasive.  When something goes wrong, be careful how you explain it to yourself.   Don’t make it permanent, personal, or pervasive.  For example, don’t rationalize it as “I’ll never be good at this,” or “Why always me?” or “Why does everything I try go wrong?”   That just leads to “learned helplessness.”   In Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman teaches us that one of the most important things we can do in life is have a healthy “explanatory style.”  Recognize that you change and your situations change.  Know that it’s not always about you.  What applies to one aspect of your life, does not automatically apply to others.
  13. Balance connection and conviction. Connection is simply how cut-off or how connected you are to others.  You improve your connection by listening, validating, empathizing, and showing interest.  You don’t want to be cut-off, avoiding, or indifferent.  You also don’t want to be extremely approval-seeking, over-accommodating or dependent.  Conviction is how flexible or rigid you are in your position or belief.  The key here to improve your effectiveness is to have clarity on your position, but to be open and flexible to other realities or perspective.  This is how you improve your ability to use better judgment and make more thoughtful decisions.  It’s also how you avoid pushing people away by taking dogmatic positions.  It’s also how you keep your emotions in check by distinguishing between your feelings and your intellectual process.  See Balance Connection and Conviction to Reduce Anxiety and Lead Effectively.
  14. BE-DO-HAVE, over HAVE-DO-BE. Don’t put your life on hold or wait mode.  You’ve heard the saying, “Fake it, till you make it.”  Don’t wait until you “HAVE” something to “BE”.  Don’t “BE” happy, when you “HAVE” a better life.  Don’t “BE” a better leader, when you “HAVE” a better job.  If you want something to be true, then first believe it to be true.   “BE” the change you want to see, and make it so.  When you “BE”, you “DO” actions that flow from your beliefs, and you find you “HAVE” more of what you want.
  15. Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.   In Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert teaches us that we aren’t good at predicting what makes us happy.  We are better off asking friends we trust what movies they liked, what vacations they enjoyed, and what jobs they like, and borrow from their experience.
  16. Be the change you want to see – Lead by example. Feel free to lead the way.  Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  The beauty of this approach is you empower yourself to take action, and you avoid falling into the blame game or being a victim.  You can set the example of what good looks like, and attract others to follow your lead.   Jim Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner teach us to “Model the Way” in the book, The Leadership Challenge.
  17. Beware of specialization. Specialization is a good thing, unless things change.   As Gerald Weinberg says, “The better adapted you are, the less adaptable you tend to be.”  And, we know what Darwin says about survival of the fittest … it’s the most adaptable that win in the long run.   There is something to be said for “Jack-of-all-Trades” and master of some.  A polymath or Renaissance man approach might be the key to adapting in an ever-changing world.  See Polymath.
  18. Big Five personality traits – “OCEAN”. The Big Five Framework is a lens for understanding the relationship between personality and behavior.  You can remember it with the OCEAN acronym: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (moodiness.)   Openness to experience is a spectrum of inventive and curious vs. consistent and cautious.  Conscientiousness is a spectrum of efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless.  Extraversion is a spectrum of outgoing and energetic vs. solitary and reserved.  Agreeableness is a spectrum of friendly and compassionate vs. cold and unkind.  Neuroticism is a spectrum of sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident.  See Big Five Personality Traits.
  19. Black swan theory — “Expect the unexpected.” While we can’t predict certain highly improbable events, we can build better robustness to negative ones, and better exploit the positive ones.   Black Swan events are highly improbable and unexpected.  In the book, The Black Swan, Nassim Nocholas Taleb  teaches us that a Black Swan event is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.
  20. Blink — Thin slices of data tell us a lot. Snap judgments can tell us a lot.  Less input is better than more, if it’s the right input, and we can make better snap judgments if we train our minds and senses to focus on the right things.  In the book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell teaches us to think small and focus on the meaning of “thin slices” of behavior.  The key is to rely on our “adaptive unconscious”– to provide us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.
  21. Blue oceans — Compete where there is no competition.   Don’t compete where there’s competition.   Create new uncontested market space, and pursuit both differentiation and low cost.   In Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne teach us that lasting success comes from creating ‘blue oceans”, which are untapped new market spaces ripe from growth.  The idea is based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and thirty industries.
  22. Blue Zones – Add 12 years to your life, and be 40% happier. The Blue Zones are the world’s healthiest spots, and they can teach us how to live a better, longer life.   The average American could live an extra 12 years and be 40% happier by optimizing their lifestyle and environment.   Take the Happiness Test.   Take the Vitality Test.  See 9 Ways to Add 12 Years to Your Life.
  23. Change the question to change your focus. You can change your focus by changing the question.  Rather than asking yourself, “What’s wrong with this picture?” try asking, “What’s right with this picture?”  If you want a simple way for better days, try asking yourself, “What’s the favorite part of my day?”
  24. Change your procedure or change your perception — Change your emotions with skill.   What if you knew that no matter what negative emotion you felt, in a moment or two you could get out of that feeling?   According to Tony Robbins, you can.  At any moment when you feel any negative emotion, you can change your procedure, or change your perception.  In other words, you can change what you’re doing about it, or you can change how you are experiencing it, by changing what the experience means to you.  Changing the meaning of something is one of the fastest ways to change how you feel, and you are your most important meaning maker.
  25. Change your “Why” or change your “How.” You can’t always change the “what” you have to do, but you can always change the “why” or “how.”  If you change your “why” or change your “how”, you can find your motivation, even for tasks you don’t normally want to do.  This approach for motivation works because instead of rely on external motivation, you make it intrinsic or internal.  You basically find your drive from the inside out, rather than wait for it, or react to external pressure.  To change your “why”, find a higher cause, make new meaning, or tell yourself a compelling story.  To change your how, make it a game, master your craft, pair up with somebody, change when you do it, link it to good feelings, or set a time limit.
  26. Change yourself first. The fastest thing you can change in any situation is you.   You can’t change somebody else, but you can change yourself in an instant.  Even if you want to change somebody else, or to change the situation, your fastest path to change is to change yourself, whether that means how you see things or how you show up or how you choose to do things.
  27. “Choose-To” over “Have-To.”   Don’t say you “have to.” Say you “choose to”.  Make it a choice.  Make it your choice.   A little choice goes a long way so choose away.  By choosing to do things, you’ll find you enjoy them more, and you’ll be less of a victim and more empowered throughout your life.
  28. Cognitive Dissonance – We change our thoughts to match our actions. We seek consistency.  Wikipedia says, “cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.”   In a state of cognitive dissonance, we try to reduce the dissonance by either changing our beliefs, or by adding new ones to create a consistent belief system.  Cognitive dissonance comes into play when we explain our unexplained feelings, minimize regret of irrevocable choices, justify behaviors that oppose our views, or when we change our perceptions of somebody to match how we treat them.  You can use cognitive dissonance by familiarizing yourself with the Belief Disconfirmation Paradigm, The Induced-Compliance Paradigm, The Free-Choice Paradigm, and the Effort-Justification Paradigm.  See Cognitive Dissonance.
  29. Delayed gratification – The key to competence and success.   You might have heard of the “Marshmallow effect.”  If you can delay your gratification, it can serve you through life.   To put it another way, are you “future-oriented” or “present-oriented?”  (Delaying gratification is future-oriented.)   In the Stanford Marshmallow experiment, kids were tested if they could resist eating a marshmallow, they could have two instead of one.  Researchers found that kids with self-control, that could direct their attention, and delay gratification, performed better in school and were perceived as significantly more competent.  This characteristic stuck with them through life.   Whether you eat the one marshmallow now, or wait for two later is an indicator of whether you are “future-oriented” or “present-oriented.”   Future-oriented is why you delay gratification.  If you are present-oriented, you don’t – you just eat the marshmallow.  See Stanford Marshmallow Experiment and Marshmallow Effect.
  30. Deliberate practice — Success takes practice.   In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell popularizes the “10,000-Hour Rule” .  According to Gladwell, the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.   To do deliberate practice, you perform your skill (or a piece of it), monitor your performance, evaluate your effectiveness, and tune your performance based on feedback.   The repetition, precision, and practice are key.  This is how you build experience and bake things into your muscle memory and basal ganglia, while learning principles, patterns, and techniques.   See The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.  The paper includes data on chess players, gymnasts, piano players, runners, swimmers, tennis players, and violin players.
  31. Delphi Method — Use “Collective Intelligence” to find the best answers.  The Delphi technique is a way to use experts to forecast and predict information.   It’s a structured approach to getting consensus on expert answers.  The way it works is a facilitator gets experts to answer questions anonymously.  The facilitator then shares the summary of the anonymous results.  The experts can then revise their answers based on the collective information.  By sharing anonymous results, and then talking about the summary of the anonymous results, experts can more freely share information and explore ideas without being defensive of their opinions.  See Delphi Method.
  32. Conditioning is the key to lasting change — “Do it daily.” If you want to change a habit or adopt a new one, then do it daily.   Zig Ziglar jokes, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”  Tony Robbins says that the key to lasting change is to use conditioning.  Rather than a program you run once, you condition your success.  You don’t comb your hair once, brush your teeth once, or workout once and then you’re set for life.  Instead, you build a habit, and learn to love the conditioning.  If you’ve ever fallen into your old pattern or habit, it’s likely you are using your old frame of reference, and running your old pattern.
  33. Correlational vs. causational – Correlation does not imply causation. Just because something happens at the same time, doesn’t mean it’s the cause.  It can simply be correlated.  If you recognize the difference, then you can better pursuit finding the root causes, rather than chasing the correlational ones.  See Correlation does not imply causation.
  34. “Don’t wait for inspiration” — Action, then motivation.  If you’re “waiting for inspiration” that could be a problem.   We have to start taking action, and then motivation will follow. David Burns shares the insight that we can’t wait for motivation iIn the book, Feeling Good http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0380810336/thbosh-20/ .
  35. “Doublethink” — Think twice  to visualize more effectively.  Think twice to succeed.  Focus on the positive and the negative.  You can visualize more effectively if you imagine both the positive side and the negative side.  First, fantasize about reaching your goal, and the benefits.  Next, imagine the barriers and obstacles you might face.   Now for the “doublethink” … First, think about the first benefit and elaborate on how your life would be better.  Next, immediately, think about the biggest hurdle to your success and what you would do if you encounter it.  In 59 Seconds:  Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says that Gabriele Oettingen has demonstrated time and again that people who practice “doublethink” are more successful than those who just fantasize or those who just focus on the negatives.
  36. Dream big dreams to stir the blood.   Disney taught us to dream big dreams.  Little dreams don’t inspire the way big ones do.  It’s the big ones that inspire the mind, and stir the blood.  Daniel H. Burnham said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”
  37. Emotional Intelligence is the key to success.   Emotional intelligence (EQ) is what propels people forward, or it’s what holds them back.  Wikipedia says, “Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. “   In Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman teaches us that five skills of emotional intelligence determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well-being.  The five skills are: 1) The ability to quickly reduce stress, 2) The ability to recognize and manage your emotions, 3) The ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication, 4) The ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges, 5) The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence.
  38. “Energized differentiation — Stand out from the pack with vision,  invention, and dynamism.   John Gerzema and Ed Lebar teach us that “energized differentiation” is how some brands stand out.  They communicate “excitement”, “dynamism”, and “creativity” more effectively than other brands.  According to Gerzema and Lebar, the keys to energized differentiation are 1) “Vision” – how the company presents leadership, convictions, and reputation, 2) “Invention” – how consumers perceive innovation in the design or content of the product or service, and 3) “Dynamism” how the brand creates a persona, emotion, advocacy, and evangelism.   See Energized Differentiation Separates Brands from the Pack.
  39. Enjoy the journey — The journey IS the destination.   Stop and smell the roses.  Live your values and find ways to enjoy the journey as you go.  Sometimes the journey is all we’ve got.  Remember the words of Rainer Maria Rilke — “The only journey is the one within.”
  40. Errors in odds and errors in value – Why we make bad decisions.  Dan Gilbert teaches us that we make bad decisions because we don’t estimate the odds of something occurring very well.   And we aren’t very good at estimating value either.  See Why We Make Bad Decisions: Errors in Odds and Errors in Value.
  41. Establish rapport before influence.   If you want to influence somebody, first you need rapport.   Rapport is when you are in sync with somebody, or on the same wavelength.  If you try to influence when you don’t have rapport, your chances of success are drastically reduced.  Rapport helps you understand and sense the needs and concerns, and it helps build trust.  In Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki shares principles, patterns, and practices for building rapport and influencing with skill.
  42. Find the 3rd alternative.  Think “win-win.” Don’t fall into compromise or win-lose.  There’s always another option.  In The 3rd Alternative, Stephen Covey challenges us to find the creative solution that rises above the trap of limited thinking.
  43. First impressions are lasting impressions.  First impressions count.   It’s true; you never get a second chance to make a first impression.   There is a way to change the perception though.  The key is to have somebody reevaluate you under a new situation or context, and you should be able to show a dramatic contrast from the original impression.
  44. “Fortune Cookie Effect” and self-fulfilling prophecies – You’re the one that makes it come true.   Your mind can rationalize anything.  Simply put, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that causes itself to become true.  What ends up happening is you act in ways that cause it to become true, whether consciously or sub-consciously.   Or, you end up attributing random events to the prophecy or fortune, even though they are unrelated or non-causational.
  45. Focus on what you control, and let the rest go.  Accept the fact that you can’t control everything.   This doesn’t mean give up.  Instead, give your best where you’ve got your best to give and make the most of what you’ve got.  Focus on what you can control.  You can control your approach.   You can control your attitude, your actions, and your response.  Focus on your approach, not your results.   Results are feedback to be aware.  Use your results to tune your approach, but focus on your approach, and don’t dwell on your results.
  46. Gambler’s fallacy — Just because something hasn’t happened for a while, doesn’t mean it’s more likely to happen now.   For example, if you’re playing Roulette, and black has come up a few times in a row, that doesn’t mean, it must be time for red.    See Gambler’s Fallacy.
  47. Groupthink” — Group pressures lead to bad decisions.  Is it “wisdom of the crowds” or “following the herd?”   Two heads are not necessarily better than one.   Being in a group exaggerates decisions, and the final decision can be either extremely risky or extremely conservative.  In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman writes, “Polarization is not the only phenomenon of ‘groupthink’ that can influence the hearts and minds of individuals when they get together.  Other studies have shown that compared to individuals, groups tend to be more dogmatic, better able to justify irrational actions, more likely to see their actions as highly moral, and more apt to form stereotypical views of outsiders.  See Group Think Overview.
  48. Hack away at the unessential.   Bruce Lee taught us the following:  “It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.”
  49. Halo effect – “Good across the board”. The Halo Effect is when we evaluate somebody globally, but then apply it to their specific traits.  For example, we might think somebody is likeable.  Because they are likable, we might then assume they are intelligent, friendly, and display good judgment.    It’s like looking through “rose-colored glasses” and the positive things overshadow the negative things.  See Halo Effect.
  50. “How does the story end?” – How the story ends, matters more than how it starts.  A happy ending is a very powerful thing.   The ending of the story is often more important than the beginning.  Daniel Kahnenman says that a bad ending can ruin your overall experience or memory of the event.    See The Two Flavors of Happiness.
  51. How to measure your life.   Like a non-profit you can measure your life against your mission.  If you’re a fan of the play Rent, you might measure your life in seasons of love.   Clayton Christensen teaches us to measure life in terms of the people we touch.  See How Will You Measure Your Life.
  52. Informational power is the most transient form of power.   There are six bases of social power:   reward power, coercive power, referent power, legitimate power, expert power, and informational power.   Information is the most transient form of power.  Holding on to information is the weakest form of power.   If you want more durable power, then work on the other sources.   See Social Psychology (p. 353)
  53. Inspect your thinking to combat distorted thinking.   Our mind has its flaws.  Inspect your thinking.  Our thinking has pitfalls and traps whether it’s cognitive biases, distorted thinking patterns, or logical flaws.  Recognize the thought patterns that are not serving you well.  Challenge your own thinking, especially in situations where your thinking or feeling is not particularly effective.  For example, you might find that you have a habit of jumping to negative conclusions, without actual facts, or you might find that you let negative emotions get in the way of interpreting your situation.
  54. Intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation — Find your drive from the inside out.  Don’t poke and prod yourself with carrots and sticks.   Find your drive and motivate yourself from the inside out.    One way to do this it to connect what you do to your values.  For example, if you value learning, then make everything you do a chance to learn something new.  If you like adventure, then turn what you do into epic adventures.   Don’t look to external rewards or acknowledgement.  Do things for a job well done, and impress yourself first.
  55. Irrationality – Our innate optimism, greed, and self-ignorance leads to bad daily decisions.  If you want to commit yourself to change, then act like each decision really counts.  Peter Ubel, a behavioral scientist, says that, “No single M & M caused anyone to have diabetes. No one experienced a heart attack because they were 20 minutes short of their exercise goal. And yet our lives, our waistlines even, are the result of thousands of such decisions and behaviors.  To improve ourselves, we have to act like each M & M matters. Like each decision has important consequences.”  See eBay and the Brain: What Psychology Teaches Us about the Economic Downturn.
  56. It’s energy management, not time management.   We all only have 24 hours in a day.  That’s fixed.  The part that’s flexible is energy.  People who manage their energy get more things done with less effort.  In The Power of Full Engagement , Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz teach us that energy management, not time management, is the key to sustainable high performance, as well as to health, happiness, and life balance.
  57. Jigsaw technique — Pair people up to get over prejudice.  One of the most effective ways to get people over their prejudice is to have them pair up on a project.  Throughout the project, they learn that we are all people with basic needs, feelings, hopes, and dreams, and vulnerabilities.  We’re all human.  See Social Psychology (p. 182)
  58. Job satisfaction — Autonomy, identity, feedback significance, and variety.  If you want to truly enjoy your job, focus on the following characteristics: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, feedback.     See  Social Psychology (p. 423)
  59. Johari Window – We have our blind spots.    One of the keys to effectiveness is to know and show yourself enough.  If you know yourself well enough, you can share relevant information to improve communication and connect with others. One tool to help you with this is the Johari Window.   The Johari Window is made up of four quadrants: 1) “Open Self” – What others know about you and you know too, 2) “Blind Self” – What others know about you, but you don’t. 3) “Hidden Self” – What others don’t know about you, but you do.  It’s your secrets 4) “Unknown Self” – What others don’t know about you and you don’t either.See Know and Share Yourself Enough.
  60. Learning style – Know whether you prefer “Audio”, “Visual”, or “Kinesthetic.” The gist is this:  we tend to have preferences for interacting with, taking in, and processing information.   We all have a main modus operandi.   For example, “audio” preference might speak more slowly, particularly, and precisely.    “Visual” preference, might speak more quickly, use pictures and metaphors, etc.   “Kinesthetic”  preference might speak very slowly, and really feel their way through what they are saying.  The way you use these learning styles and interaction preferences is to identify your preferences and put information or experiences into forms that are more meaningful for you.   You can also use these modes to better connect with others by putting things into forms they better understand or prefer.   See Learning Styles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles
  61. Less is more.   Less means more focus.  The 80/20 Rule says we achieve 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our activities.  The Paradox of Choice says more is a bad thing.    In The Power of Less, Leo Babauta promotes the idea that less is more.
  62. Linchpin – Be indispensable.    When you’re really good, they used to call you Cracker Jack.  Now they call you linchpin.   A Linchpin is somebody who is indispensable.  In Linchpin, Seth Godin shares ways to become indispensable at work.  A linchpin goes above and beyond the call of duty.  A linchpin’s worth is measured in contribution, not time spent.   A linchpin  breaks the rules to change the game, gives their all, and does more art.  A Linchpin rises above the status quo to create and flow more value, and make the world a better place.  A linchpin does not take the easy path.  They lean into the challenges, do what matters, and make things happen.  See The Linchpin Manifesto.
  63. Link it to good feelings.  If you want to adopt a new habit, link it to good feelings.  Our emotions help us keep it going.   If you don’t like how it feels, chances are you won’t keep doing it.  You can change how you feel by reframing what it means to you.  You can also change how you feel by doing it a different way.   Play around and find the fun factor.
  64. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — Move yourself up the stack.   Maslow identified a set of needs that people tend to share in common.   It includes: physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence.  If you familiarize yourself with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it can help you understand other people’s drivers as well as your own.  It’s tough to move up the stack, if you’re worried about basic needs.  The less you have to worry about the basics, the more you can move up the stack towards self-actualization and transcendence.    See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  65. Mentors are the short-cuts.    If you find a good mentor, you can shave years off your path, and avoid painful pitfalls.   A mentor with a good map and good models can help you focus on what counts, and can help you bridge the gap between where you are, and where you want to be.  Chances are that whatever you want to learn or get good at, you can find somebody who has been there, and done that, and can help lift you up faster than trial and error, or just going out on your own.
  66. Micro-expressions — How you really feel in the blink of an eye.   If you know the show Lie to Me, you might be familiar with the term micro-expressions.   A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression.  Unlike regular facial expressions, it’s tough to hide microexpression reactions, even if you know how they work.
  67. Mind-Style—Know whether you prefer “Abstract”, “Concrete”, “Random”, and “Sequential.” Dr.Gregorc’s Mind-Style’s model helps us understand how we prefer to perceive and order information.    Perception is about how we grasp information and translate it into either abstractness or concreteness.   Ordering is about how we prefer to sequence information as either random or sequential.    You can use this model to better understand your own learning style, as well as to understand how others need to see or hear information.  Do they need it more “abstract” or “concrete”?  Do they need it more “random” or “sequential”?  Maybe you need to explain something to a colleague in a more concrete or sequential way.   On the flip side, maybe you are losing them in the details, and they need a higher-level abstraction.  See Abstract/Random/Concrete/Sequential, Links.
  68. Mirror Cells — Monkey see, monkey do is true.   Mirror neurons are basically complex cells that can mirror other people’s intentions or feelings. We all have them.  In fact, humans have more than any animal.   Mirror cells help explain anything from empathy to imitation.  See Cells that Read Minds.
  69. Nature favors the flexible.  It’s not the smartest or the fastest that survive.  It’s the most flexible.   As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
  70. Opposites attract, but similarities bind.  Values are the lightening rod.  We connect at the values.   While we might like things that are different, and variety is the spice of life, it’s shared values that bring us together, and ultimately bind us.
  71. Parkinson’s Law — Time expands to fill its container.  If you want something done faster, then give it less time.   According to Parkinson’s Law, ““Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”  See Parkinson’s Law.
  72. Pygmalion effect — You get what you expect.  It’s a form of self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of expectations of other people.  If you look through rose-colored glasses, they can do no wrong.  If you expect the worst, you get the worst.   See Pygmalion Effect.
  73. Reciprocity of Liking — I like you because you like me. In general, we like people who like us.   The caveat is, when we don’t like ourselves, we don’t like people who like us.  After all, if we don’t’ like us, why should anyone else.  See I Like You Because You Like Me.
  74. Return on Luck – The question is not “Are you lucky?” but “Do you get a high return on luck?” Jim Collins says the way to leverage luck is to see luck as an event, not as some indefinable aura.    According to Collins, a “luck event” is 1) independent of the actions of the main actors, 2) potentially significant consequences, and 3) some element of unpredictability.   Collins says, “This ability to achieve a high Return on Luck (ROL) at pivotal moments has a huge multiplicative effect for 10Xers. They zoom out to recognize when a luck event has happened and to consider whether they should let it disrupt their plans.”  Read What’s Luck Got to Do With It.
  75. “Satisfice” to get things done.  How do experts make decisions faster?   In Sources of Power, Gary Klein teaches us that they “satisfice.”   They find the first solution that fits the situation.   Experts do draw from their experience and do rapid pattern matching.   You can actually think of intuition as rapid pattern matching against mental simulation.  The more formal name for this is Recognition-primed decision or RPD.  “RPD is a model of how people make quick, effective decisions when faced with complex situations. In this model, the decision maker is assumed to generate a possible course of action, compare it to the constraints imposed by the situation, and select the first course of action that is not rejected. RPD has been described in diverse groups including ICU nurses, fireground commanders, chess players, and stock market traders.”   See Recognition Primed Decision.
  76. Self-Efficacy — Your self-efficacy beliefs determine how you think, feel, motivate yourself, and behave.  In The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins teaches us that we can build our self-efficacy through three pillars:  pillar 1: adopting success strategies, pillar 2: Enforcing personal disciplines, and pillar 3: building your support system.  See Self-Efficacy and Three Pillars for Building Self-Efficacy.
  77. Situational vs. dispositional — Is it who you are, or did the situation make you do it? Attribution theory is how we attach meaning to other’s behavior or our own.  A simple way to remember this is “situation vs. disposition.”  Is someone bad-tempered (disposition) or did something bad happen (situation)?   We tend to explain our own behavior in terms of the situation   On the flip side, we tend to explain other’s behavior in terms of their personality or disposition (e.g. “They’re just a jerk.”)
  78. Small is the new big — Get small. Think big.   In a Darwin world, small is your friend.   It’s the key to flexibility.  It’s also the key to faster, efficient, and more effective.   In Small is the New Big, Seth Godin teaches us that  small is the new big and it’s how we survive and thrive, as we move from generalization to specialization, and to hyper-competition.
  79. Social loafing – More hands, doesn’t mean less work.   The more people there are, the less hard they work.  Researchers found that people work less hard in groups.  When it feels like the pressure is shared by other people, people don’t put in as much effort as they would if they felt individually responsible.  What this means is, more hands does not mean lighter work, especially if you are the one that has to pick up the slack.  See Social Loafing.
  80. Speak to people’s communication needs — Action, Accuracy, Approval, and Appreciation. The communication needs are action, accuracy, approval, and appreciation.   Dr. Rick Kirschner, best-selling author of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand and How to Click with People teaches us that people give us clues whether they need to hear action, accuracy, approval, or information.  If we pay attention to the clues, we can speak to the needs and be more effective in our communication.
  81. Start with why – Think, act, and communicate from the inside out.   Why do you do what you do?  In Start with Why, Simon Sinek discovered that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way.  It’s from the inside out.  They start with “Why.”  They drive from “Why”, then “How,” then “What.”  Simon calls this idea, “The Golden Circle.”
  82. Synthetic Happiness – Fabricated happiness is a good as the real deal. Dan Gilbert teaches us that it’s not just “sour grape.”  We can create our own happiness, and it’s just as effective as genuine happiness.  See Synthetic Happiness.
  83. The Effort Effect — Why some people achieve their potential while others don’t. According to Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist, it’s not talent, but effort that makes the difference.  And your effort is limited or unleashed by your mindset.  It’s whether you look at ability as something made, not born.   One of the best things you can do to make the most of what you’ve got is to reward your effort.   Read The Effort Effect, by Marina Krakovsky.
  84. The long view — Play out the “What If’s” We can’t predict the future, but we can play out the “What If’s”  In The Art of the Long View, Peter Schwartz teaches us to go beyond forecasting the future and actually prepare for it, by playing out the scenarios.
  85. The Paradox of Choice — More is less.  More choices may lead to a poorer decision or a failure to make a decision at all and analysis paralysis.  In The Paradox of Choice http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060005688/thbosh-20/ , Barry Schwartz popularizes the idea that more is less, when it comes to choice.   See Decision Theory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_theory
  86. The power of Identity — Root yourself in something durable.   If you root your self-acceptance and sense of self in your positions, then you don’t have stable ground.  Instead, root yourself in something durable, while enjoying your unique journey of growth.  See Self-Acceptance vs. Personal Growth, by Steve Pavlina.
  87. The Power of Regret — Reflect on your worst, to bring out your best.    In 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “research conducted by Charles Abraham and Paschal Sheeran has shown that just a few moments’ thinking about how much you will regret not going to the gym will help motivate you to climb off the couch and onto an exercise bike.”
  88. The Principle of Contrast — It’s all relative.   It’s easy to lose perspective.    Things look better when you compare them to things that look worse.  Two hundred dollars seems small compared to two thousand.  You can use the principle of contrast when you are negotiating fees, explaining value, or simply changing your perspective.  It works by changing your frame of reference.  Just when you think things are bad, remember they can always be worse.  This is also the stuff that slippery slopes are made of.  It’s easy to bite off something small by comparison.
  89. The Progress Principle — We like to make progress.   Even a little progress goes a long way to make our day.  It’s progress not perfection.  And that is what matters.  Progress is one of the biggest keys to employee engagement and job satisfaction.  Progress is a catalyst for positive emotions, strong motivation, and favorable perceptions of the organization, your work, and your colleagues.  In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer teach us how to activate two forces that enable progress: (1) catalysts—events that directly facilitate project work, such as clear goals and autonomy—and (2) nourishers—interpersonal events that uplift workers, including encouragement and demonstrations of respect.
  90. The secret of “The Good Life” — Spend more time in your values.    One of the simplest ways to live “The Good Life” is to find ways to spend more time in your values.  For example, you can find ways to do more of what you love at work.   It all starts with first knowing what your values really are.   See The Good Life.
  91. The two questions of happiness — “How happy are you?”, and, “How happy are you with your life?”. Daniel Kahnenman teaches us that there are two questions to happiness.  One is how you feel in the moment, and the other is about fulfillment.  See The Two Flavors of Happiness.
  92. Think the thoughts that serve you.   What’s one skill you can learn today that can help you shape a better moment, a better day, and an even better tomorrow? … It’s simple to learn and get fast results, but it takes practice to master.  Here it is … Think the thoughts that serve you.  How can you practice? …  Simply ask yourself, “Does that thought serve you?”, or “What thought would serve me better?”
  93. “To-Go” vs. “To-Date” Thinking — Focus on what’s ahead of you, or what’s behind you? The point is that if you are highly committed to a goal, then focus on how much is left to go.  If you are not highly committed, then focus on how much you have done to-date.  This works because if you are committed to your goal, then focusing on what’s left to-go, helps motivate you.  It also works because if you are not committed to your goal, then it’s better to focus on how much you’ve done.  It’s like asking yourself, “Am I committed?”, and if you see that you are spending time and energy, then you decide the goal is important to you.  See Dynamics of Self-Regulation: How (Un)accomplished Goal Actions Affect Motivation, by Minjung Koo and Ayelet Fishbach.
  94. Urgent vs. Important — Focus on what really matters.   One of the keys to time management is figuring out what’s important vs. what’s urgent.   Stephen Covey teaches us that we live our best life and achieve our long term goals by spending more time on non-urgent, but important things.
  95. Use stress to be your best — Distinguish between stress and anxiety.  Stress is your body’s “fight-or-flight” response.  Anxiety is your cognitive response.  It’s your interpretation of how you feel.   Anxiety is the enemy, not stress.  When you were younger, you linked your poor performance and anxiety to stress.  You didn’t know you weren’t skilled.  All you knew was that when you felt stressed, you didn’t perform well.  With that in mind, you can turn your high-stress scenarios into your best performances.  One thing to keep in mind is that stress can help us perform simple tasks, physical tasks, and tasks we’ve practiced better.  It can get in the way of performing a complex task or learning a new task.  See Use Stress to Be Your Best.
  96. Will power is like a muscle.   Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you either have it or you don’t.   You can actually build your willpower.  In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,   Roy Baumeister teaches us that willpower is like a muscle that you can strengthen it with practice.  You also need to know that willpower is a limited resource, and it fatigues by overuse.  Don’t burn out your willpower by wasting it on little things that don’t mean a lot.
  97. Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve — Don’t work harder to achieve less.  Make time for downtime.  Avoid sustaining high-levels of stress beyond your capacity.   Otherwise, you’ll be working harder, but producing less.   See Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve.
  98. You are who you hang with.  You can actually think of your network as a container that enables or limits you.  You’re the sum of your network and you are who you hang with.  You end up modeling your friends.  They can grow you, or they can hold you back.  It influences what you think about, how you feel, and what you do.  While you can rise above any challenge, the key is to find as many sources of support and build a firm foundation for your success as possible.  See You’re the Average of the 10 People You Spend Time With.
  99. You grow faster in your strengths.   Sure you can work at your weaknesses and improve them.  Or you could accelerate your success by focusing on your strengths.   In Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham provides strategies to develop our strengths and spend more time in our strengths at work. In Character Strengths and Virtues, Martin Seligman gives us a language for strengths and provides strategies for developing our strengths.
  100. Your thoughts shape your feelings.  And the reverse is true too – your feelings shape your thoughts.  If you know this, you can change how you feel.  How?   Change your focus.  Remember how to change your focus?   Ask a different question.  If you want to feel better right here, right now, ask yourself what’s the favorite part of your day.
  101. Zeigarnik Effect — Use the “Just a Few Minutes Rule” to defeat procrastination.   This may just be the closest we have to a silver bullet for procrastination.  We like to finish what we start.   The way to defeat procrastination is simple:   Work on things for “just a few minutes.”   We’re more inclined to finish what we start.   This is a good reason to “just start.”  Start with something small, because we also don’t like to start what we can’t finish.  If we don’t finish what we start, it tends to hang around in our minds.  Scott Hanselman calls this Psychic Weight.   The Zeigarnik effect helps explain this.  The Zeigarnik effect says that we remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than the ones we complete.  See The Zeigarnik Effect and Suspense

Is this is the end?  No.  It’s merely the beginning.

Feel free to share your best insight or action and inspire others to lift their life.

26 Comments on "101 of the Greatest Insights and Actions for Work and Life"

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  1. rob boucher says:

    Truly a masterpiece. I look forward to using this many times in the future.

  2. ershad nozari says:

    True enjoyment is reading articles like this. Bob said it right; a masterpiece.

    Thanks.

  3. Andrew says:

    Great stuff! Not too keen on lists but the variety and links make this very useful. I would say you have given me at least two years of productive growth. I think I will start with 101. Thanks very much.

  4. JD says:

    @ Rob — Thank you. I wanted it to be a work of art but where knowledge is the canvas, and insight is the paint.

    @ Ershad — Thank you. I hope you can read it many times over. It’s fractal, and the ideas keep unfolding like a Russian doll.

    @ Andrew — Thank you. I’ve been torn on lists. I love them and hate them.

    I am a fan of compressed information. I’ve learned how compressed information can accelerate learning and acumen. I’ve neglected doing lists, but now I’m realizing it’s probably the best way I can share more powerful information. It helps to balance the piece-meal, “post-at-a time” approach.

  5. David says:

    I certainly didn’t read the whole list, but I saved it because it has to be one of the most charmingly thoughtful inspired lists I’ve seen in a long while.

    Thanks for the curation!

  6. This is an incredibly deep and rich resource. I’m intrigued by the idea of “blue oceans”, competing where there is no competition. I haven’t read anything about it as yet. I’m curious how you do that when you are in a broad field like personal development or providing a service like freelance writing. It seems to connect with the idea of creating a unique selling proposition.

    Thanks for this amazing, enriching, unique list!

  7. This is something to print up and really savor. Thank you for putting together such a fabulously useful and unique list for living life well.

  8. JD says:

    @ David — Thank you.

    It was easily one of my most challenging posts. I hope this one really helps people live a little better, an insight at a time.

    @ Sandra — Thank you.

    One place to look for ideas is The Blue Ocean Company. Their mission is, “design and deliver fresh, innovative approaches to personal development and organisational transformation.”

    @ Harriet — Thank you.

    You framed the intent perfectly …a “unique list for living life well.”

  9. JD says:

    @ Alik — I’m ready for more.

    The more I read through the list now, the more I think of what I cut. I think I will need to do a volume II.

    But I owe you another post first.

  10. Vidya Sury says:

    Fabulous list. :D You know, JD, I have an on-going list of things to do where I write everything I would like to do. Just for fun, I try timing some of these – and always have something to enjoy. This is different from my priority list of course – but it is a great exercise. Am thrilled to see lots of new things to do on your list. Thank you! I just love this sort of post. (Yes, I am addicted to lists)

    (Thank you for visiting my blog)

    Cheers! Vidya

  11. Very nice list, JD. You’re always producing thought provoking ideas to remind us of what’s important.

    Btw, I can envision a country song for every insight. :)

  12. Kimbundance says:

    I read this and thought it was fantastic! Well done. =)

  13. JD says:

    @ Vidya — Great things happen from great lists. As a project leader, a lot of project success depends on effective lists (work items, priorities, outcomes, etc.)

    @ Gabriel — Thank you.

    Yeah, country songs would work better than rap ;)

    @ Kimbundance — Thank you.

  14. Covery says:

    This is a masterpiece! And a must-read.
    Thanks for collecting and publishing it!

  15. Roy Sharples says:

    Inspirational insights JD! If “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, this makes for a more action-oriented life and way of working!

  16. JD says:

    @ Covery — Thank you. It was a significant effort.

    @ Roy — Action and insight make the journey a brand new game.

  17. farouk says:

    honestly
    its one of the most informative posts i ever came across
    thanks for the tremendous efforts JD!

  18. JD says:

    @ Farouk — Thank you!

  19. Johan, The Dutch Guy says:

    This is my new bible …

    JD for President!

  20. JD says:

    @ Johan — Thank you.

    Ever since I made this list, I’m using many of these mini-mantras on a daily basis. I also have a long list of what I left out. At some point, I need to do a volume 2.

  21. Curtis says:

    Incredible. Haven’t even got through the first 10 and I already had several a-ha’s. You could seriously write a best seller from these insights. Good work.

  22. JD says:

    @ Curtis — Thank you.

    I was going to ask you what I would call the book title, but I bet the title of the post would probably work.

  23. Jay says:

    Thanks for sharing this very insightful list JD. I just came across your blog and have been on it for about 3 hours. You have so much inspiring content here.

  24. “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” — Reba McEntire

    So true.

    Thanks for sharing JD. Once again, you have blown our minds. We really appreciate the variety that you give and look forward to your future posts!