How to Get Good at Life

Getting good at change (big, small, tiny – every day) means getting good at life” – James Altucher.

Pessimist and Optimist vs Change
Churchill’s view of Change

Life is all about managing change. We change every day since we are born, and the world changes every day around us.

Let’s try to get good at change instead of trying to stick to illusory stability.

It can be scary at times, but so much more rewarding.

Change is pure opportunity.



Do it without expectation. Wish for nothing. Care for everything. Happiness will be in between.”


How to Overcome the Greatest Problem in Communication

The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished” – George Bernard Shaw.

Poor communicationI can observe every day in my consulting practice how this old quote is so true, in particular in large organizations. Top management often confuses the act of communicating with actual communication.

It takes a lot of effort and caring to ensure proper communication. That means actual, down-to-earth leadership, and consistency through time.

I like to think that this issue can be solve through enough caring: what is communication if you don’t care about how well the message has been received and understood? It is about acknowledging the emotional component and be emphatic to the actual reception.

Be open and listen actively to assess the result of your communication. Don’t just deliver a message: observe its effect and ensure ‘after-sales’ service in the form of emphatic listening!


Where to Find Meaning in Life

According to Viktor Frankl, the author of  ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘ (ref. our post ‘How We Always Have a Choice, Even in the Worst Situation‘), there are three possible positive sources of Meaning: in Work (doing something significant), in Love (caring for another person), and in Courage during difficult times.

life meaningAs we evolve in life, the source where we seek out meaning might evolve and change. The overall meaning of our life will only make sense at the very end. “We cannot understand the whole film without having first understood each of its components, each of the individual pictures. Isn’t it the same with life? Doesn’t the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself, if at all, only at its end, on the verge of death? And doesn’t this final meaning, too, depend on whether or not the potential meaning of each single situation has been actualized to the best of the respective individual’s knowledge and belief?

Notwithstanding that it will all make sense at the end and not before, are you doing your best finding meaning in a meaningful work, love for another person or courage facing a difficult situation?


What is True Mastery?

True mastery comes from discovering the ‘simplicity’ on the other side of complexity” – Dan Ward.

Dan Ward Simplicity CycleDan Ward is an interesting phenomenon – senior purchaser with the US Air Force he is also a prolific writer on the topic of complexity. The Simplicity Cycle is a great piece of thought – here is the link to the Simplicity Cycle Paper or alternatively, the Simplicity Cycle slideshow.

He has an interesting take on the fact that development of a great item needs to initially start with increasing complexity – but that after some stage it needs to migrate to the search for simplicity – and that otherwise goodness decreases with increasing complexity.

Perfection [in design] is achieved not when there is something more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away” – Eric Raymond. A great definition of the Graal of design and of the evolution of any system. And a great definition Mastery: one who knows how to simplify the complex can increase significantly its impact on the world!

Hat tip to Tony Farrow for the link to Dan Ward’s work.


Why Quantity is not Quality for Reports and Presentations

I often experience that a thick-looking report, or presentation, benefits from a positive first impression, in particular in traditional corporate settings – notwithstanding the quality of its contents. This is wrong!

large, thick paper filePamela Slim in her latest book ‘Body of Work‘ mentions that “There is a conspiracy cooked up by marketing wonks, consultants, and executives to pay for words by the pound, and to question the intelligence of a corporate “professional” who does not create complex and obtuse presentations. They are wrong. Your instinct to keep things clean and simple is right.” She quotes an experience where she sat for a few hours through a powerpoint presentation in a corporate setting without being able to understand what it actually was about.

Sometimes, providing a long presentation is also a way to hide from the fear of having a real candid conversation about the issue at hand, making sure that the allocated time is spent looking at a content that has been carefully polished, and avoiding questions and debate.

While substantial evidence backups might need to be gathered separately (as an appendix), I believe that the presentation or report message needs to be clear and crisp and should ideally be delivered in less than 25% of time allocated for that particular discussion – or at the minimum leave time to elicit proper discussion while the material is presented.

The value lies in the confrontation of ideas and in the discussion. The quality of the presentation or the report is to act as a sound trigger for that discussion. Never judge the quality of their content separately from the discussion – and possibly the decision – that it will trigger.


Why You Should Become Better at Change… by Practicing Change

Getting good at change (big, small, tiny – every day) means getting good at life” writes James Altucher in this excellent post.

LifeChangeWe certainly all need to become better at taking change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Change is actually always quite good in terms of excitement and learning. “When you change you go from a flattening learning curve (your old situation) to a steep learning curve (the new situation). Steep learning curves feel good. Like the feeling of new love.”

Of course, changes are not always ignited by us; they can be the result of external forces we don’t control. Sometimes one reason we suffer too much is because we’ve become rusty at change, because we don’t practice enough; we have become too sedentary in our habits. One key secret is probably to exercise at change by changing often. By becoming a nomad of sorts when it comes to our habits. We can exercise this very well by travelling; by relocating elsewhere; and by trying to change our habits and activities often.

A final word from James Altucher: “[Change] without expectation. Wish for nothing. Care for everything. Happiness will be in between“.

Go for it!


How to Achieve Success

To achieve success, don’t aim at success!

missed targetThat is essentially what Viktor Frankl (author of  ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘) advises. Achieve success by not thinking about success but putting in the hard work, dedication and commitment that is necessary to achieve great things.

Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it“.

And it is very true in my personal experience: every time I have been very successful, it was when I was concentrating on doing my best work independently of any thought about success and how people would judge me.

Are you concentrating on doing your best work instead of thinking how to achieve success?


How Negotiating is Different from Selling and Why they Should be Split

When you are negotiating, you have to say no a lot. When you are selling, you are always trying to find the ‘yes’“, writes James Altucher in his book ‘Choose Yourself‘. He goes on to explain that it is difficult for the same individual to be good on the two roles.

negotiation is not the same as saleThis observation makes sense – negotiating means achieving a balanced agreement in which both parties’ interests are preserved and enhanced; it is quite different from the sale perspective which might be considered focused on bringing business – promising everything the client could want.

That is certainly an interesting perspective, because in most organizations I know, the sale people are also the ones driving as well the negotiations before the finalized contract is handed over to the rest of the organization for execution. This observation would mean splitting much more clearly than it is now, the sale function from the contract negotiation team, and make sure that the chief negotiator is not just trying to close the sale, but also has in mind other issues such as legal protection of the organization, actual feasibility of the agreement etc.

Who is facing the client in your organization? And how do you make sure you involve a negotiator before the sale is closed?


How We Always Have a Choice, Even in the Worst Situation

I just finished one of most powerful books I ever read: ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘ by Viktor Frankl. A psychologist, Viktor Frankl has been interned in the Nazi concentration camps, and survived. In the book he gives an account of his atrocious experience at the edge of what humans can endure (and beyond what most humans can endure) – with the point of view of a psychologist.

Viktor Frankl - Man's Search for MeaningThis book is emotionally extremely powerful and very profound as well. Frankl states that “There is nothing conceivable which would so condition a man as to leave him without the slightest freedom“. Even in the worst possible external conditions, barely surviving to cold, hunger and abominable treatments, man can still keep its internal freedom intact.

The books also explains vividly why certain people do cope with terrible conditions and survive while others will soon reach despair and die. It all depends on whether life keeps meaning at the present moment.

The lesson is summarized in the following way: “Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self-determining“.

Read the book, it will change your view of life, and at the same time make you so grateful for the normal lives we live today. And even if you feel you are trapped in the worst possible situation, realize that you still have the choice to determine yourself.


Why Procrastination is Useful (Sometimes)

In this blog we have written often about the concept of Resistance and how to overcome it. Overcoming resistance is beating procrastination. But maybe procrastination is not such a bad thing, after all, at least sometimes.

Now vs LaterThat’s at least what James Altucher suggests in his book ‘Choose Yourself‘: “Procrastination is your body telling you that you need to back off a bit and think more about what you are doing“.

After reflection, I believe this is true in some instances, in particular when it comes to a creative endeavor. Sometimes we procrastinate because the meaning or the objective of what we intend to do is unclear, and then, in that case, it might be worth thinking twice before undertaking our project. When we are fully motivated, procrastination never appears.

Remains the issue of chores and those things we need to do but are not particularly pleasant. In that case, procrastination is obviously an issue.

It is important to distinguish between chores and creative endeavors. If on a creative endeavor, procrastination appears, ask yourself if what you are doing is the right thing to do!


Why We Can Elicit Criticism by Just Being Present

Aristotle said “there is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing“.

criticism and judgmentAgain and again I find that I do my best work when I expose myself. And often when I push myself at the edge, or even beyond the limit of my comfort zone. When it is tough and I feel inadequate, where the impostor syndrome hovers in the background. Of course, that is also where one is more vulnerable to criticism.

What I find particularly interesting in Aristotle’s quote is the relation to being. That simply, being somebody, and being present, necessarily exposes to criticism as well.

There is no doubt that just being there in the world, even doing or saying nothing, does change the world a little. There is no hiding from it. Simple observation does change what is being observed. I know from my coaching practice that sometimes, just being silent, and fully present, can be a great vector of change in people and groups. It can be extremely powerful.

It leads to a reaction from the environment, which will resist, often in the shape of criticism. And that is where be absolutely need to be ourselves, and take the best part of the inevitable criticism.

We are, thus we change our surroundings, thus the surroundings will resist. Be aware that criticism can come also from just being here, and fully present.

Other Fourth Revolution posts on overcoming criticism: ‘What should you do with Criticism?‘ and ‘How can you stop trying to please everyone?


How to Find Your Sweet Spot

I like the enclosed schematics which is very much inspired from the work of Jim Collins (Good to Great, etc.).

Where is Your Sweet Spot?

What is says is basically that the Sweet Spot you should seek lies at the intersection of what you are passionate doing, what you are good at (word class) and what pays well. There are other possible locations in between these different poles, which are also possible to sustain, with advantages and drawbacks.

Of course, this is not all independent: if you love doing something there are more chances you will become good at it.

You might also decide to combine simultaneously a job (where you are good at it and it pays well), and a hobby (where you are passionate and good at it).

Anyway, this is an interesting framework to classify your hobbies and activities and check there is sufficient balance in your life. Check your activities against it, it might inspire you!