Those who know do not speak
Those who speak do not know.
– Lao Zi, The Way of Lao Zi
Quiet offers a fresh new perspective on how to interact with people in the business/professional world that is different from most self-help books in the market. Rather than the popular phrases on continuous networking from books such as Never Eat Alone or How to Win Friends and Influence People, Susan Cain shows why it is okay (and could be beneficial) for us to stay in on weekend evenings to read a book or to sit alone at lunch.
In a society that seems to overvalue extroverts and salesmanship, this was a refreshing take on how we should take a step back and rethink how we raise our children, set up our workplace, and develop relationships.
We are inclined to empower dynamic speakers. “I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.
“Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.”
What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress and revise accordingly.
Plan your day and activities so you will experience the sweet spot. Understanding your sweet spot can increase your satisfaction in every arena of your life. You can set up your work, your hobbies, and your social life so that you spend as much time inside your sweet spot as possible.
“I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts…We find so many people impatient to talk. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time. My shyness has been in reality my shield and bucket. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discernment of truth.” – Gandhi
Three key steps to identify your own [passion]
Think back to what you loved to do when you were a child
What an inspirational story about entrepreneurship. Walton’s story really shows the importance of proper execution, risk-taking, humility, and adaptability for startups. Here are some memorable quotes I found from the book:
“What has carried this company so far so fast is the relationship that we, the managers, have been able to enjoy with our associates”
“The more you share profits with your associates, the more profits will accrue to the company”
“Sharing information and responsibility is a key to any partnership. It makes people feel responsible and involved.”
“If you get too caught up in that good life (lavish lifestyle), it’s probably time to move on, simply because you lose touch with what your mind is supposed to be concentrating on: serving the customer.”
When asked if he was just starting out in the business world today, what would he do: “I think I’d study the retail field today and go into the business that offered the most promise for the least amount of money”
Although a long read (~800 pages), this book is the best biography I’ve read. Not only because of the opportunity to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, but the author does a great job writing the narrative in all other other cabinet members’ viewpoints (William Seward, Edwin Stanton, Salmon Chase, etc.) . This adds up to provide readers a great perspective of the Union’s leadership throughout the Civil War.
Some quotes that resonated with me throughout the book:
“Lincoln… developed ambitions far beyond the expectations of his family and neighbors. It was through literature that he was able to transcend his surroundings”
“It did not matter whether the reading be done in a small town or a large city, by oneself or in the company of others. The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places…Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”
“I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.”
“A man watches his pear-tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear at length falls into his lap!”
“It was by ignoring men, and ignoring all small causes, but by closely calculating the tendencies of events and the great forces which were producing logical results” – Swett’s secret to Lincoln’s gifted leadership
Lincoln was “the most truly progressive man of the age, because of he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”
“I am a living witness that one of your children may look to come here (the White House) as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright…The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”
A young Lincoln wrote, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other ambition so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”
Foster a creative culture that asks questions like:
If we had done some things right to achieve success, how could we ensure that we understood what those things were?
Could we replicate them on our next projects?
Perhaps as important, was replication of success even the right thing to do?
How many serious, potentially disastrous problems were lurking just out of sight and threatening to undo us?
How much of our success was luck?
What would happen to our egos if we continued to succeed?
“Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right” (p.74)
Ideas are not singular. They are forged through tends of thousands of decisions, often made by dozens of people
“Quality is the best business plan” – John Lasseter
“One of the most crucial responsibilities of leadership is creating a culture that rewards those who lift not just our stock prices, but our aspirations as well” (p.123)
“The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts” (p.123)
“There are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends” (p.144)
“A culture that allows everyone, no matter their position, to stop the assembly line, both figuratively and literally, maximize the creative engagement of people who want to help.” (p.163)
“Any time we impose limits or procedures, we should ask how they will aid in enabling people to respond creatively.”(p.203)
Learning to see – “Just as looking at what is not the chair helps bring it into relief, pulling focus away from a particular problem (and, instead, looking at the environment around it) can lead to better solutions.” (p.214)
Postmortems – “Companies, like individuals, do not become exceptional by believing they are exceptional but by understanding the ways in which they aren’t exceptional” (p.215)
“A large portion of what we manage can’t be measured, and not realizing this has unintended consequences.”…”Measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do.”
“PERSIST. PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision.” – Austin Madison (p. 294)
“If you want the largest increase in motivation and productivity, then big goals lead to the best outcomes. Big goals significantly outperform small goals, medium-sized goals, and vague goals. It comes down to attention and persistence – which are two of the most important factors in determining performance. Big goals help focus attention, and they make us more persistent.” – Gary Latham
“Many people misperceive what good entrepreneurs do. Good entrepreneurs don’t like risk. They seek to reduce risk. Starting a company is already risky…[so] you systematically eliminate risk in those early days” – Jeff Bezos
“Intrinsic rewards become far more critical. Three in particular stand out: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”
“Always say “Yes, and…,” means interactions should be additive more than argumentative. The goal here is the momentum, togetherness, and innovation that comes from ceaselessly amplifying one another’s ideas and actions”
“I have a very simple metric I use: Are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? The answer for 99.999999 percent of people is no. I think we need to be training people on how to change the world.” – Larry Page
“Have a healthy disregard for the impossible”
“Our philosophy is that the things that people use often are really important to them and we think that over time, you can make money from those things.” – Larry Page
Law of Niches – “The ability for entrepreneurs to nimbly find and serve niche interests – and to produce platforms that allow those groups to address their needs en masse- is better than ever before” – Joshua Kleine
“Don’t think outside the box. Go box shopping. Keep trying on one after another until you find the one that catalyzes your thinking. A good box is like a lane marker on the highway. It’s a constraint that liberates” – Dan and Chip Heath
“The pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure” – success can distract us from focusing on the essential things that produce success in the first place (p.13)
“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come” – Victor Hugo (p.25)
Ignoring the reality of trade-offs is a terrible strategy for organizations (p.51)
The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus (p.68)
One practice I’ve found useful is simply to read something from classic literature for the first twenty minutes of the day (p.70)
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge” – Albert Einstein on how play broadens the range of options available to us (p. 86)
“If the answer isn’t a definite yest, then it should be a no.”
Simple, systematic process to apply selective criteria to opportunities:
Write down he opportunity
Write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered.
Write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered.
If the opportunity doesn’t pass your first set of criteria or two of the three extreme criteria, the answer should be no
When we are unclear about our real purpose in life – in other words, when we don’t have a clear sense of our goals, our aspirations, and our values – we make up our own social games. We waste time and energies on trying to look good in comparison to other people
An essential intent is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable. Done right, an essential intent is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions.
Becoming an Essentialist means making cutting, condensing, and correcting a natural par of our daily routine – making editing a natural cadence in our lives
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Attributed to Abraham Lincoln
One way to protect against this is simply to add a 50% buffer to the amount of time we estimate it will take to complete a task or project
What is the slowest hiker in your job or your life? What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential
“My experience has taught me this about how people and organizations improve: the best place to look is for small changes we could make in the things we do often. There is power in steadiness and repetition.” – Henry B Eyring, Stanford professor
We’re living in a time of astonishing progress with digital technologies
The transformations brought about by digital technology will be profoundly beneficial ones
Digitization is going to bring with it some thorny challenges. (Similar to how the Industrial revolution accompanied soot-filled London skies and horrific exploitation of child labor)
“The main lesson… is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard… As the new generation of intelligent devices appears, it will be the stock analysts and petrochemical engineers and parole board members who are in danger of being replaced by machines. The gardeners, receptionists, and cooks are secure in their jobs for decades to come” – cognitive scientist Steven Pinker
“To invent something is to find it in what previously exists” – Brian Arthur
“It is your mind that matters economically, as much or more than your mouth or hands. In the long run, the most important economic effect of population size and growth is the contribution of additional people to our stock of useful knowledge. And this contribution is large enough in the long run to overcome all the costs of population growth.” -0 economist Julian Simon
“We believe that employers now and for some time to come will, when looking for talent, follow the advice attributed to the Enlightenment sage Voltaire: “Judge a man by his questions, not his answers.””
“We will soon create intelligences greater than our own… When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding” – science-fiction author Vernor Vinge
Students at the University of Chicago were warned that the adult world was “rough and bloody…but if you have enough of the lust of battle in you, you will have a pretty good time after all.” – p. 545
I felt as if I was personally realizing all of Brooks Adam’s gloomy anticipations of our gold ridden, capitalist-bestridden, usurer-mastered future – p. 576
Interesting how this quote seems to foreshadow how politics has evolved since then
Years later White tried to analyze the elements of Roosevelt’s conquering ability. It was not social superiority, he decided, nor political eminence, nor erudition; it was something vaguer and more spiritual, “the undefinable equation of his identity, body, mind, emotion, the soul of him… It was youth and the new order calling youth away from the old order. It was the inexorable coming of change into life, the passing of the old into the new.” – p.610
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far” – p. 754
Got recommendations about this book a couple weeks back, so I decided to give it a try, especially since it’s only $4-$5 on Amazon (used). The book almost starts like a thriller novel, but then naturally blends in interviews and descriptions of the life of those living near Primorye, Russia. This remote town in Eastern Siberia is where life is still very primitive and many make their living through hunting and mining. The narrative of the book is about a man-eating tiger, who disrupts the peaceful lives of the local town. John Vaillant goes deeper into the history and tradition of the region to try to understand what has caused this Tiger to actively hunt down humans. Overall, it is a great read to learn more about the livelihood and environment of people living in such a remote area that we would otherwise never hear about. It’s fascinating to read about how close some of these people are with nature, but then it is also quite shocking how modernization and human greed has affected the ecosystem of such distant regions.