« Tool update: Matt goes digital! Plus a few Mac productivity lessons | Main | 10 GTD "holes" (and how to plug them) »

Is life is a series of ... wows? A selection of "made me think" ideas

While I'm reading, learning, and trying to perform radical self-development (sounds nasty), I noticed I've been tagging ideas and quotes that made me say wow! One of my longer term goals with my consulting practice is to a) leave customers with a "wow, that was great" feeling, and b) eventually be a source of these myself (hey - think audacious). More generally, I want to leave myself receptive to experiencing these little revelations. It's like creating luck - put yourself in environments that facilitate exposure to it, then be observant.

In that spirit I'd like to share a few with you. If you have any favorites of your own, please share them.

  • Tim Ferriss has some great quotes in The 4-Hour Workweek, including:
    A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
    Genius is only a superior power of seeing.
    Doing less meaningless work so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance is not laziness. This is hard for most to accept because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.

  • In Getting Organized, Chris Crouch says this about clutter:
    The bottom line on the relationship between clutter and productivity: 1) the key to improving productivity is improving concentration. 2) the key to improving concentration is minimizing distractions. 3) clutter is distracting.

  • Randy Pausch reprising his &Last Lecture&, we learn how to apologize: 1) Say you're sorry. 2) Take responsibility. 3) Ask "How do I make it right?" Sadly, we usually skip the last step.
  • Kiva - Loans that change lives: Great sounding idea. Don't know anything about them...
  • In her great book Beyond Buzz, Lois Kelly encourages us to "Attract interest, create understanding, build trust." Very nice.
  • Jan Jasper, in her book Take Back Your Time, shares a thought attributed to economist Juliet Schor: Smarter machines and better-educated people bring more options and higher expectations. However, this also leads to our being rich in things, but poor in time.
  • Mark Hurst popularized an insight about email that's very surprising. In Bit Literacy, he says email volume isn't the appropriate measure of email load; it's how many are in the inbox, the message count. This is why his solution to email overload is empty the inbox at least once a day.
  • In her book Selling to Big Companies, Jill Konrath tells us insightful questions have a bigger impact on [my] sales success than any other sales behavior. Plan them ahead of time for maximum impact. In general, I'm completely enamored of the idea of asking great questions, and being genuinely interested in the answers. As a geek, it's the germ of the single best tip to being comfortable (and popular!) in social situations: Come with good questions, ask people about themselves, then listen. If you ask the right question, you can release almost anyone's joy when you get them to talk about what they love. Very cool.
  • Howard Schultz, in Pour your heart into it quotes Helen Keller from her book The Open Door:
    Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

  • I recently had a "wow" moment around my own productivity practice, this one around the surprising power of "I don't have to think about this right now." I was emptying my paper inbox, looking at a complex piece of mail, and started to get drawn in (unhappily). But I was able to catch it, track it for follow-up, and set it aside and move on. Felt great! (And that's one reason I teach this stuff. It really helps.)
  • Stephen Downes' post Things You Really Need to Learn was a wonderful eye-opener. He lists what we need to know to be successful, including:
    • How to predict consequences
    • How to read
    • How to distinguish truth from fiction
    • How to empathize
    • How to be creative
    • How to communicate clearly
    • How to Learn
    • How to stay healthy
    • How to value yourself
    • How to live meaningfully

  • I can always depend on Mark Forster to give us some good insights. Here are a couple from Do It Tomorrow (paraphrasing here):
    We generally judge the difficulty of a proposed action by how much we are resisting it, rather than by how much skill or technical expertise it will take. For example, doing your tax returns.
    Remember, it is structure that produces behavior, not the other way around.
    That has some deep implications around personal productivity...
  • One of my university clients shared with me Robert Boice's book The New Faculty Member. His assessment of the role of tacit knowledge in successful self-management really hit home:
    ... much critical information about professorial success is tacit knowledge ... usually untaught but critical to thriving ... We are apparently unaccustomed to studying or teaching the practical intelligence that contributes to success and happiness in academic careers.

  • Finally, Richard Koch's terrific 80/20 Principle is a source of many perspective changes (beyond the central idea of focusing on the vital few - the super-productive minority, rather than the trivial many - the majority). Here a few that blew me away:
    Belief in progress has to be an act of faith. Progress is a duty.
    To be strategic is to concentrate on what is important, on those few objectives that can give us a comparative advantage, on what is important to us rather than others; and to plan and execute the resulting plan with determination and steadfastness.
    Achievement is driven by insight and selective action. The still small voice of calm has a bigger place in our lives than we acknowledge. Insight comes when we are feeling relaxed and good about ourselves. Insight requires time and time, despite conventional wisdom, is there in abundance.

Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for pulling these together, some great insights here. All the very best with developing your own 'originals' - your blog is already a treasure trove of inspiration.

April 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAodan Enright

Hey, thanks a lot Aodan. There are some ideas starting to come together recently, which is exciting.

April 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Great article .I've been using Tumblr to to organise inspiring quotes I find on the web - following your post I think I'll also use it to collect quotes from books I read. An example is here http://7breaths.tumblr.com/

April 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Great idea, Rob. I love it - perfect use for that tool. Nicholas was kind enough to bring up the idea here too: [ Nicholas Bate: Wow | http://nicholasbate.typepad.com/nicholas_bate/2008/04/wow.html ]: A great quote encapsulates the wisdom we wish to bear in mind, we wish to practice. Plus a great quote inspires us to act, to put into into play. A wow right back at him.

April 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.