Lessons Learned in 2009



“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” – Vernon Howard

What did you learn last year that surprised you the most?  … What did you learn last year that really mattered?

To keep track of the distinctions I learn, I keep an insights journal.

In my insights journal, I write down my one-liners of “ah-has.”   I track anything from quotes that hit home to dots that finally get connected   I keep it simple – a tickler list with just enough to jog my memory.

Rather than share my journal for the year, I’ve taken the time to distill some of the things I found to be most useful.

The Vital Few

This is my short list of new lenses for looking at things:

  1. “Just like skiing, the goal is not to get to the bottom of the hill.  It’s to have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.” – Seth Godin
  2. “If you lead your life the right way, your dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch
    “Use the process of life to figure out who you are and create the experiences you want … decide who you are and who you want to be.” – Conversations with God
  3. You’re the average of the 10 people you spend time with.
  4. “We’re all fellow travelers to the grave.” – Disney’s A Christmas Carol

Key Surprises

This is a handful of things that surprised me the most:

  1. Our larynx slows us down.  To read faster, don’t say the words, even inside your head.  See One Speed Reading Trick that Does Work.
  2. The secret of positivity is non-negative thinking. The secret of positivity is isn’t thinking positively – it’s not thinking negatively.  Simply practice non-negative thinking.  See Argue Your Way to Optimism.
  3. Synthetic happiness. You can create your own happiness and it’s just as real as the real deal.  See Synthetic happiness.
  4. Your brain can change within seconds.  “The human brain can adapt to changing demands even in adulthood, but MIT neuroscientists have now found evidence of it changing with unsuspected speed.”  See Adult Brain Can Change Within Seconds.
  5. Mirror cells.  Mirror cells can help you read other people’s minds.   See Cells That Read Minds.
  6. Seeking.  Seeking is the curiosity /expectancy state / granddaddy of emotional systems/ motivational engine.  See Seeking is the Granddaddy of Emotional Systems.

Key Ah-Has and Random Insights

These are some of my favorite prompts, ah-has, and distinctions from last year.  These are some things I caught myself saying to other people or thinking about:

  1. Be YOUR best in YOUR world.
  2. Legacy is a byproduct / side-effect.  To leave a legacy – make the most of the time you’ve got with who you’ve got.  It’s a slice in time.  Nothing lasts forever.  It happens as a side-effect.
  3. It’s not the trains you miss, it’s the trains you catch.
  4. Follow the growth.
  5. Sayings are how we share insights and principles.
  6. Diversify yourself.  You’re a portfolio of skills, experiences, and achievements.
  7. I like writers who say a lot, without writing a lot.
  8. Execution is mindset, energy, time, and technique.
  9. Success is about getting up to bat and giving your best.  It’s a numbers game.
  10. Improve efficiencies or get priced out of the market.
  11. Know what the market wants.
  12. The market doesn’t always want the right things.
  13. Don’t dwell.
  14. Compete with yourself is the way to grow.  It’s competition and fun.
  15. Don’t fall into the pit of self-entitlement.
  16. Succeed … at what?
  17. I think part of the trick is factoring insight from action. The next trick is changing the 80/20 thinking/doing to 80/20 doing/thinking.
  18. Mentors are the short cuts.
  19. User empowerment over Command and Control.
  20. Smart people on a cadence.
  21. Whenever you look for it, there it goes.
  22. People work by time and cost, not effort.
  23. People listen to reason and results.
  24. Have “right” on your side … truth knowledge.
  25. When you anticipate more, you react less.
  26. Rapport before influence … AND … the KEY to rapport is empathy.
  27. Shift from debate to dialogue.
  28. If you miss the train, catch the next one.
  29. Lead with your “why.”
  30. Respond over react.
  31. “Funding your life style” as a frame to choose paths.
  32. Lead your life insight out.
  33. Audience is a strategic question.
  34. Know you natural strengths and leverage those.
  35. Spending all your time living in the future? How to make the most of what you’ve got right now?
  36. Frame it, then explain it
  37. Become more of who you are and make more of what you got.
  38. It’s all talk until it’s a project.
  39. Draw the pie, show your share
  40. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.
  41. The Business of Life
  42. Micro-experiences and immersive experiences.
  43. Vision, Goals, and Constraints.
  44. Think tanks and thought leaders
  45. Bite off less.  Focus over quantity.  Quality over scope.

Ways and Frames to Look at Things

This list is a cornucopia of mental models, techniques, and lenses you can apply in all sorts of scenarios:

  1. Filter Failure – it’s not information overload; it’s “filter failure.”
  2. Boy, warrior, king, sage.
  3. The Five Strengths in Buddhism – faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.
  4. 10-10-10, by Suzy Welch.  Use different time frames to get perspective: 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years.
  5. Cynefin Framework – a way to sort issues and describe problems, situations, and systems: Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, and Disorder.
  6. Porter’s Five Forces — a model for industry analysis.
  7. Needs-based communication, by Dr. K — Need for action, need for accuracy, need for approval, need for appreciation.
  8. 24 Signature Strengths — Martin Seligman.
  9. Dialogue, Debate, and Discussion.  Dialogue is listen with an open spirit, debates is a verbal fight, and discussion is breaking apart the issues.
  10. … practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency” – Bruce Lee.
  11. Big 5 Personality Traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
  12. 16 personality factors (Wikipedia.)
  13. Goal people vs. River People
  14. The effort effect – “The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.”
  15. Have, Do, Be over Be, Do, Have.
  16. Useful, Updated, and Unique.  – Seth Godin.
  17. How much mass do you have to move? … and is it worth it?
  18. Napoleonic law vs. case law.
  19. Never defend against any of their comments. Simply redirect the comments back to the person.”  – Steve Pavlina
  20. Solopreneur – a one-man band in today’s business landscape.
  21. “People hate being sold, but they love to buy.” – Brian Clark
  22. There’s no appetite.
  23. Know whether you’re the quarterback or the coach.
  24. “People will pay more to be entertained that they will pay to be educated.” – Johnny Carson
  25. Complexity of mind – “An unquestioned assumption is as if it is part of the person, a “subject.” It is not an “object,” i.e., something outside of oneself that can be examined, considered, or evaluated from some different perspective.”
  26. Appreciative inquiry – DISCOVER, DREAM, DESIGN, and DESTINY.  It’s question-drive, outcome-based and you focus on what you appreciate/value.
  27. Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
  28. The Rule of 3 – the military uses it – 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food, 3 months without hope, love, or compassion.
  29. Butterfly effect – one tiny thing can make a huge effect that you can’t measure or predict.
  30. The letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law.
  31. SPIN principle: Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff
  32. You’ll see it when you believe it.
  33. 5 Levels of Mental Focus – lifetime, yearly, weekly, daily, currently.
  34. Monkeysphere we can conceptualize up to150 people.
  35. Prima facie – on its first appearance, or by first instance; at first sight.
  36. Exact vs. ambiguous when organizing information.
  37. The realization of “no-self – “Not I” – Vernon Kitabu Turner
  38. Holland Codes for Career Choice.
  39. Personality Types (Analytical, Amiable, Driver, and Expressive)
  40. The Pomodoro Technique – chunk up tasks by time.
  41. Dialogue Mapping – map out comments as a conversation or meeting unfolds.
  42. Compete – compete on truth, – compete on reputation / brand, – compete on value, – compete on perception, – compete on idea
  43. Boundary Object – “Artifacts, Documents and perhaps even vocabulary that can help people from different communities build a shared understanding.”
  44. Knowledge, competencies, and attitudes.
  45. Think Like a Black Belt – Choose to comply, defuse, escape, defy, or fight.
  46. Adam’s MasterMind Matrix
  47. Impact factor, by Eugene Garfield – a proxy for relative importance – a measure reflecting the average number of citations to articles published in science and social science journals.
  48. The 3 C’s – Creativity, Character, and Completion and Disney’s 4 C’s – Curiosity, Courage, Confidence, and Constancy.
  49. OODA  Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.
  50. Crossing the Chasm – “there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists).”
  51. Inflection points, by Andy Grove – “An inflection point occurs where the old strategic picture dissolves and gives way to the new.”
  52. Situationism – “Situationism in psychology refers to an approach to personality that holds that people are more influenced by external, situational factors than by internal traits or motivations.”
  53. Barnum / Forer Effect – “The observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people (astrology, fortune telling, religion[citation needed], and some types of personality tests).
  54. Deliberate practice – “Research shows that 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of practice can make anyone a top performer in pretty much any field, from sports to music to business.” – Hunter Nutall
  55. Coalition of the Wiling – “We should focus more on advancing … than trying to convert the majority … to whatever it is that we happen to be doing at this very moment.  The people who are motivated and interested in coming along with us will come along.”  — Jeremy Miller
  56. Ennegram of Personality – The Reformer, The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enuthusiast, The Challenger, The Peacemaker.
  57. “The leader-follower dynamic is not a case of two (or more) independent brains reacting consciously or unconsciously to each other. Rather, the individual minds become, in a sense, fused into a single system. We believe that great leaders are those whose behavior powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness.”  – Dan Goleman, Social Intelligence and Biology of Leadership
  58. “… we vastly underestimate the extent to which success happens because of things the individual has nothing to do with.” – Malcolm Gladwell, What is Outliers About?
  59. “To improve ourselves, we have to act like each M & M matters. Like each decision has important consequences. … 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.”  — Peter Ubel, eBay and the Brain: What Psychology Teaches Us about the Economic Downturn

Photo by exfordy.


  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing your insights as well as your resources. Loved your second list, had to look up several. Your suggestion to find your natural strengths and use them is one of my core messages, and you’ve added several more. Look forward to more insights in 2010!

  2. Hi JD – what an amazing gathering – something to come back and savour over and over – I’d love to spend the day here .. looking around your links.

    I like the elephant in the picture – they never forget .. Key Ah-ahs & Random Insights – no 9: you get lots of innings over your career as a batsman.

    The Butterfly Effect .. we probably all need to remember that each and everyone of our tiny actions will affect someone else – watch our words, our comments, our thoughts, our stories, our pictures etc etc

    You must be so organised!! Great to see and thanks so much for sharing .. an example to us all
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  3. I am really intrigued by that information on positivity. I think it says something about the nature of negativity, namely that is so powerful that the lack of negativity in and of itself is positive.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Wow, thanks for sharing so much. This may take me a few days to digest as there is a lot of information here.

    For myself, last year I got to see the power that other people can have on myself. In getting into support groups and becoming more social, I can look back and wonder, “Why didn’t I do that sooner?” Not too much though, as second guessing myself doesn’t really help. I am where I am now and get to choose what to do next. As the Microsoft tagline used to say, “Where do you want to go today?”

  5. Thank you for this excellent compilation! If I was still a personal development blogger, I’d be drooling over this as a resource to hundreds of post ideas.

    This resonated with me first:
    “If you lead your life the right way, your dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch

    Thank you for including my two cents via a post of mine. The fluidity of options in self defense mirror a lot of what we face in life.

  6. Looks like you learned a lot in 2009. I can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2010.

    We have to reflect on what we did right so we can do even more of those things next week, month and year. After starting my blog I’m realizing the importance of reflection. The more I take time to enjoy what I’m accomplishing the better I get at what I’m doing. It’s very similar to the chicken and the egg dilemma. It doesn’t matter what came first because we have both. What does matter is appreciating and harnessing the “chicken and the egg” so they both add to our happiness.

    I still am reaching more than enjoying. I want my business to take off and have all kinds of businesses begging me to work with them. Funny how life doesn’t work that way, especially if you aren’t ready yet. I know that once I’m ready the clients will start flooding in. Until then I have to just enjoy where I am and not worry about what may or may not be.

  7. Wow JD these lists just knocked my socks clear off!

    In the last group #24 by Johnny Carson was the eye opener I have been seeking – I am a strong educator/activist….and not a good entertainer….there is truth there for me as I am decluttering my life right now…changing in so many ways..
    I have been blaming myself in ways that were notions of someone else not of my strengths…lumping potatoes and pearls in the same bowl.

    thank you

  8. Now I wish I’d jotted down all the insights I picked up and lessons I learned in 2009. I do know that lots came from you, J.D., and many of them were vague ideas that turned into concrete “ahas!” when I read your articles. So thanks for sharing so much valuable knowledge and experience. I look forward to many more insights in 2010, and maybe I’ll start keeping notes about what I’m learning.

  9. @ Susanne

    Thank you!

    @ Wendy

    This is the Year of the Tiger, so the gloves are off.

    @ Hilary

    I like the way you connected the butterfly effect right back to home base.

    @ Hayden

    It’s amazing how a little negativity can go such a long way.

    @ JB King

    It sounds like you’ve had an amazing year of growth.

    That was such a good tagline … it’s actually baked into me (I like the right question gets the wheels going.)

    @ Lori

    Randy’s left us with so some amazing lessons.

    @ Karl

    Your brought out a really important point — you gotta love your growth and the stage you’re at. I’m a sapling and I’m enjoying the path.

    There’s a demand for what you’ve got … sometimes, it’s just finding the right bridge.

    @ Patricia

    Thank you!

    “lumping potatoes and pearls in the same bowl” … beautiful.

    @ davidburkus

    I love it when such a simple idea has such a ripple effect.

  10. @ Melissa

    > Now I wish I’d jotted down all the insights
    You get to catch the next train 🙂

    > Maybe I’ll start keeping notes about what I’m learning.
    Sweet … I look forward to it and I bet you wrinkle your brain all the time.

  11. J.D., I love many of these quotes you shared! also great photo for this blog! 😉

    “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” – Vernon Howard

    “If you lead your life the right way, your dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch

    I really must say your ending takes it all! I’ve never heard this one before, but it is a goodie! 😉
    “To improve ourselves, we have to act like each M & M matters…” -Peter Ubel

    many blessings to you this ripe year of 2010!

  12. Hey JD,

    This is fantastic post. Thanks for sharing this wisdom.
    BTW Wish You A Very Happy New Year.

    Nilesh Joglekar

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