7 weeks and 8 books after the start of my crazy Personal MBA Challenge, I am enjoying my first week without a book – I devoted it especially to implementing the GTD Method – in order to recommend to you 10 pearls of wisdom that I have chosen from these books. These are the ones that, from my experience as the founder and leader of a company, seemed to me the most useful and the most likely to lead to changes in our lives. Here they are:
1. The speed at which we read is an asset – or a burden – for our success.
Do you know your reading speed? Take an online test, compare yourself with other readers and rank yourself. If you are under 350 words a minute, you can improve and get up to 450-500 words. Imagine the time you will save by increasing your reading speed by 50% or more: you will spend less time reading verbose, professional documents – reports, manuals, procedures, accounts – and you will be able to read meaningful non-fiction books more quickly, giving you benefits and advantages in your specialty. That’s even more true if you are a student. To get further, read 10 Days to Faster Reading. You can choose too more powerfuls tools like this audio program or these online classes.
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2. Working on our strengths is more rewarding and more effective than overcoming our weaknesses.
We are all human and thus limited: there are only a few areas where we are not good, and we are very good only where we have combined talent with hard work. Imagine that the result you get is nothing more than the simple equation talent x work = result. If you put that on a scale from 1 to 5, let’s say you work hard in an area where you are naturally average. The result will be 2 x 5 = 10. If you now work hard, but without pushing yourself too strenuously, in an area where you are naturally gifted, the result will be 5 x 4 = 20. But to really work on our strengths we must first know what they are, to do that read Strengths Finder 2.0.
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3. Everything we do is rich with opportunities.
They are right under our noses. But these opportunities don’t glow in the dark, nor are they written on billboards. To see them, you must look with new eyes. All too often we don’t question what already exists because if millions of people are doing it, it must be the best way to do it. But it’s not the best way, it’s the average, customary way. To find opportunities begin by taking an hour a day with a notebook to dissect your work. Try to see it through new eyes and examine all its components. Opportunities are there – fields of diamonds.
4. The power of the human brain is prodigious and we are under-utilizing it.
How often do you go to the trouble of sitting down, quietly, taking a piece of paper, and thinking over your problems? We have the good fortune to be intelligent and educated, yet we don’t use this good fortune to its full potential, simply because we don’t take the time to think. There is, however, a simple way we can make better use of our brains; every day, take a piece of paper, write at the top your main objective, then write underneath all the ideas that come into your head to help you reach this goal. The first 4 or 5 will come easily. Then it will get harder. Don’t stop until you have written 20. Often, the last ones will be the most interesting and the best.
You won’t want to keep or implement all the ideas, but even if we only do this 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year, we will have 4,000 ideas available to help us improve and reach our objectives. And it will only have taken 200 hours out of 8,760. If you subtract about 2,920 hours for sleeping, and about 1,645 hours for working, that leaves 3,995 for leisure. Never, in the history of humanity, have we ever had so much time to dedicate to something other than work. Using 5% of this additional free time to think could completely change our lives; a single great idea could revolutionize our work and our whole life. One out of 4,000. Or 40,000 – one great idea every 10 years would be more than enough!
5. Our success is built every week, and every day.
Each day is one of the bricks that you use to build your house. Sometimes we watch a mason start to build a wall, brick by brick, and we dream of the work that still remains to be done. And then one day, several weeks or several months later, there is a whole house standing in the place where the mason was working. The same thing happens in our lives; if we position each of our stones successfully, we could build a great tower. To get in the habit of being successful, all we have to do is succeed at the little tasks that we assign ourselves every day.
Try this idea which was purchased for $25 000: “Every day, write on a piece of paper 6 important tasks to do each day. Then categorize them in order of importance. Then do them, one by one. If you don’t get to the last ones, let it be because you couldn’t have accomplished them no matter what.” This method allows you to stop worrying about tomorrow. You can relax happily knowing that successfully completed tasks mean a successful day and these build a successful life. To know more about this and about the two preceding pearls, read Lead the Field.
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6. We could be a lot more efficient if our mind wasn’t cluttered with parasitic thoughts about everything we have to do.
To attain what practitioners of the martial arts call “mind like water,” or athletes call “being in the zone,” we must help our brain by alleviating it of the burdensome task which consists of remembering everything we have to do – a task which it performs badly and which takes a high amount of energy. To do this, we need to create a reliable system in which we place all the important tasks we have to do, categorized by priority, time, duration, necessary energy level…Whenever we have a free moment we reach into our task system and pick an important task to do according to our availability, the importance of the situation and our energy – and our mind will be free of the need to think about all those tasks. To learn how to implement such a system, read Getting Things Done – Organizing for Success.
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7. Our office is not our inbox.
Too often I see my clients’ offices covered in paper, files and binders to a point where you can’t even see what the desk is made of. How do you expect to have a clear, focused mind when your office looks like a battle field? How can you want to work if it’s like entering into a maze of papers when you arrive at work every morning? And how can you be fast and efficient if you have to rummage through layers of documents for a quarter of an hour before you find such and such a formula – while praying that it doesn’t all collapse?
A clean, tidy office, on which you can find essentials, is, on the other, an invitation for enthusiasm and performance in the morning and relaxing for the eyes and the mind, which are no longer distracted by a mountain of stuff. That is how our efficiency begins. In order to learn how to do it, read GTD or this simple method to get started.
8. Luck is a skill.
To be open to luck, you must ardently seek the solution to something and be attentive to the smallest signs that lead in that direction. This is how it was with Newton and the apple (even if it’s really only a legend, the image is useful), the discovery of the vulcanization of rubber by Charles Goodyear, and many other scientific discoveries. In order to be lucky, you must improve your tolerance for ambiguity. Only plan up to a certain point. Leave room for chance. And focus yourself on your goal; you will know how to recognize luck that comes your way, seize it on the fly and transform it into opportunity.
9. It is very important to fail.
The best failures are private failures that happen to you in the privacy of your office. These private failures are kind. What’s so great about this kind of failure? It’s simple: the more you fail in private, the less you fail in public. In any case, creating something means editing something. You suppress or modify bad ideas which won’t please the public or your clients. This exercises our judgment. There are several ways of failing:
Failure of skill. You have an idea in your head but you don’t have the required skills to put it into practice.
Failure of concept. You have an idea which is weakly constructed and is got a good fit with your lifestyle.
Failure of judgment. You leave something in your idea or your project that should have been cut – and that creates imbalance in the rest of your creation.
Failure of nerves. The worst. You have everything you need except the guts to stand behind your idea and explore it to its full potential.
Failure of repetition. In spite of having suffered one or more similar failures, you repeat the same mistakes.
Failure of denial. The deepest. Creating something new and fresh is a bold, presumptuous act. You think the world cares about what you have to say. And in reality it doesn’t care, you are sick with denial and feel misunderstood and curse the world that doesn’t understand your genius.
To learn about these two pearls in depth and discover how you can multiply your creative power, read The Creative Habit – Learn It and Use It for Life.
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10. Nothing beats a good education wisely applied.
Don’t be like all those who stop stop learning once they leave school. Read. Get involved in activities. Go for training. Create something. Take night classes. Have heated debates with different people, coming from various perspectives. Go from one social circle to another. Do something from time to time that you are afraid to do – a parachute jump, a public speech, approach a woman in the street. And above all apply yourself. Thinking without acting is just as stupid as acting without thinking. In this way you can create synergy which will feed off itself. A good thought is nourished by knowledge. Which in turn is nourished by good thoughts.
Let no-one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other.
Do you have your own reading pearls? If so, what are they?