Checklist: Are you doing these five things to be more effective at work?

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Eric Barker  -  

How to be more effective at work


1) Have A Solid Daily Ritual

Here’s a solid one from Peter Bregman that will help you maximize use of your time .

Via 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done:

STEP 1 (5 Minutes): Your Morning Minutes. This is your opportunity to plan ahead. Before turning on your computer, sit down with the to-do list you created…and decide what will make this day highly successful…

STEP 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus. …Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour and start the work that’s listed on your calendar. When you hear the beep, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes. At the end of your day, shut off your computer and review how the day went, asking yourself… questions like: How did the day go? What did I learn about myself? Is there anyone I need to update? Shoot off a couple of emails or calls to make sure you’ve communicated with the people you need to contact.


2) Make Things Automatic

The secret to getting more done is to make things automatic. Decisons exhaust you:

The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy.

It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation. In other words, if you spend energy trying to resist a fragrant chocolate chip cookie, you’ll have less energy left over to solve a difficult problem. Will and discipline decline inexorably as the day wears on.

Build routines and habits so that you’re not deciding, you’re just doing. When you first learn to drive it’s 1000 activities like steering, shifting, checking mirrors, braking — but with practice you turned it into autopilot and it’s no stress at all.


3) Checklists are magic

Use checklists. Yeah, everybody says that. And you probably don’t consistently do it.

Harvard surgeon Atul Gawande analyzed their effectiveness in his book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. What happens when you consistently use checklists in an intensive care unit?

The proportion of patients who didn’t receive the recommended care dropped from seventy per cent to four per cent; the occurrence of pneumonias fell by a quarter; and twenty-one fewer patients died than in the previous year. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the I.C.U. make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that, within a few weeks, the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

What makes for a good checklist? Be specific and include time estimates.


4) Beat Procrastination

Use dashes:

“…a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute.”

A big part of procrastination is dread. The task seems terrible and overwhelming. And that’s the first issue that needs attacking: those feelings.

By breaking the problem down into smaller chunks — even comically small ones that require only 1 minute of activity — and doing just that one little thing, you prove to yourself the task isn’t insurmountable.

The most motivating thing in the world is progress. Any trivial progress can motivate and boost positive emotions that will help build a productive momentum.

So this sounds good in theory but you’re probably thinking: what’s that first step and won’t that be horribly, horribly painful? For any procrastinated task, first thing is to take one minute and just write down the steps you need to do to finish the task.

This should be enough to kill negative emotions, build some momentum and get you going.


5) How to relieve stress

The secret to being stress free is feeling in control:

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact.

Do things that increase your control of a situation ahead of time. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized.

The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you.

The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.

Most of the things you instinctively do to relieve stress don’t work.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them. Another study found that women are most likely to eat chocolate when they are feeling anxious or depressed, but the only reliable change in mood they experience from their drug of choice is an increase in guilt.

So what does work?

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)

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Checklist: Are you doing these five things to be the best?

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Eric Barker  -  

1) Realize it’s not about natural talent. It’s about hard work.

We all know intelligence is important, creativity is important… but how much do these types of natural talent control really what you can achieve in life?

In ~95% of cases, they don’t.

Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.” He’s not counting the 2 to 3 percent of children who have severe impairments, and he’s not counting the top 1 to 2 percent of children at the other extreme… He is counting everybody else.


2) 10,000 hours is not the whole story

As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, “Outliers“, to become an expert it takes 10,000 hours (or approximately 10 years), right? Wrong. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. That means actively working to improve. Just showing up doesn’t cut it.

Most people may do something for 10,000 hours (driving a car over the course of a lifetime) but never get anywhere near expert level (Formula One). Most people plateau and some even get worse.

Via Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

Extensive research in a wide range of fields shows that many people not only fail to become outstandingly good at what they do, no matter how many years they spend doing it, they frequently don’t even get any better than they were when they started… In field after field, when it came to centrally important skills—stockbrokers recommending stocks, parole officers predicting recidivism, college admissions officials judging applicants—people with lots of experience were no better at their jobs than those with very little experience.


Occasionally people actually get worse with experience. More experienced doctors reliably score lower on tests of medical knowledge than do less experienced doctors; general physicians also become less skilled over time at diagnosing heart sounds and X-rays. Auditors become less skilled at certain types of evaluations.


3) Make your practice as close to the real thing as possible

Nothing beats really doing it.

Via The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How:

“One real encounter, even for a few seconds, is far more useful than several hundred observations.” Bjork cites psychologist Henry Roediger at Washington University of St. Louis, where students were divided into two groups to study a natural history text. Group A studied the paper for four sessions. Group B studied only once but was tested three times. A week later both groups were tested, and Group B scored 50 percent higher than Group A. They’d studied one-fourth as much yet learned far more.

Via Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To:

Practicing under the types of pressures you will face on the big testing day is one of the best ways to combat choking…


During the initial shooting practice, all of the officers missed more shots when firing at a live opponent compared with firing at the stationary cardboard targets. Not so surprising. This was true after training as well, but only for those officers whose practice had been limited to the cardboard cutouts. For those officers who practiced shooting at an opponent, after training they were just as good shots when aiming at the live individuals as they were when aiming at the stationary cutouts. The opportunity to “practice under the gun” of an opponent, so to speak, really helped to hone the police officers’ shots for more real-life stressful shooting situations.


4) Commit to the long term

Merely deciding you’re committed for the long-term vs the short-term makes an enormous difference.

Via The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How:

When McPherson saw the graph, he was stunned. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. Progress was determined not by any measurable aptitude or trait, but by a tiny, powerful idea the child had before even starting lessons. The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. The long-term-commitment group, with a mere twenty minutes of weekly practice, progressed faster than the short-termers who practiced for an hour and a half. When long-term commitment combined with high levels of practice, skills skyrocketed.


5) The best goal is merely to “get better”

When challenged, focus on “getting better” — not doing well or looking good. Get-better goals increase motivation, make tasks more interesting and replenish energy.

Via Nine Things Successful People Do Differently:

Get-better goals, on the other hand, are practically bulletproof. When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and mastering, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur… The amazing thing was that the people who were pursuing get-better goals (i.e., who saw the test as an opportunity to learn a new problem-solving skill) were completely unaffected by any of our dirty tricks. No matter how hard we made it, these participants stayed motivated and did well.

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Which character in “The Breakfast Club” were you in high school? (It can predict who you’ll be as an adult.)

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Eric Barker  -  

Which character in “The Breakfast Club” did you resemble the most as a tenth grader? The answer often predicts adult personality:

In 2000, three psychologists presented a paper titled “Peer Crowd-Based Identities and Adjustment: Pathways of Jocks, Princesses, Brains, Basket-Cases, and Criminals,” which asked a large sample of tenth-graders which of the five characters from The Breakfast Club they most considered themselves to be, and then checked back in with them at 24. The categories were “immensely predictive,” according to Jacquelynne Eccles, one of the authors. 

This is from a long, fascinating article in New York Magazine called “Why You Never Truly Leave High School.” It references a number of interesting social science studies showing how profoundly that time of life can shape you, damage you and predict who you will be. Some other highlights are below.

Height, weight and attractiveness during high school predict success as an adult better than those factors in general:

it wasn’t adult height that seemed to affect their subjects’ wages; it was their height at 16. (In other words, two white men measuring five-foot-eleven can have very different earning potential in the same profession, all other demographic markers being equal, just because one of them was shorter at 16.) Eight years later, Deborah Carr, a sociologist at Rutgers, observed something similar about adults of a normal weight: They are far more likely to have higher self-esteem if they were a normal weight, rather than overweight or obese, in late adolescence (Carr was using sample data that tracked weight at age 21, but she notes that heavy 21-year-olds were also likely to be heavy in high school). Robert Crosnoe, a University of Texas sociologist, will be publishing a monograph with a colleague this year that shows attractiveness in high school has lingering effects, too, even fifteen years later. “It predicted a greater likelihood of marrying,” says Crosnoe, “better earning potential, better mental health.”

High school is a very recent phenomenon:

Until the Great Depression, the majority of American adolescents didn’t even graduate from high school. Once kids hit their teen years, they did a variety of things: farmed, helped run the home, earned a regular wage… In their recent book Escaping the Endless Adolescencepsychologists Joseph and Claudia Worrell Allen note that teenagers today spend just 16 hours per week interacting with adults and 60 with their cohort. One century ago, it was almost exactly the reverse.

When asked, many popular kids didn’t see themselves as popular. Why? Because staying popular requires so much effort you never really feel you’ve achieved it:

“It’s social combat,” he explains. “Think about it: There’s not much instrumental value to gossiping about a wallflower. There’s value to gossiping about your rivals.” The higher kids climb, in other words, the more precariously balanced they feel, unless they’re standing on the square head of the totem pole. It therefore stands to reason that many popular kids don’t see themselves as popular, or at least feel less powerful than they loom. Their perch is too fragile.

One of the reasons high school can be so painful to some is because few relationships are two-way:

In 2005, the sociologist Koji Ueno looked at one of the largest samples of adolescents in the United States, and found that only 37 percent of their friendships were reciprocal—meaning that when respondents were asked to name their closest friends, the results were mutual only 37 percent of the time. One could argue that this heartbreaking statistic is just further proof that high school is a time of unrequited longings.

Why is it a liability to be smart in high school? Because it can be a social liability to be smart in life:

Kurt Vonnegut wrote that high school “is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.” …Why is it that in most public high schools across America, a girl who plays the cello or a boy who plays in the marching band is a loser? And even more fundamentally: Why was it such a liability to be smart? The explanations tended to vary. But among the most striking was the one offered by Steinberg, who conjectured that high-school values aren’t all that different from adult values. Most adults don’t like cello or marching bands, either. Most Americans are suspicious of intellectuals. Cellists, trumpet players, and geeks may find their homes somewhere in the adult world, and even status and esteem. But only in places that draw their own kind.

And how good you are at navigating high school might predict how good you are at navigating life:

Thirty-five years later, the authors estimated, boys who ranked in the 80th percentile of popularity earned, on average, 10 percent more than those in the 20th… Joseph Allen and his colleagues at the University of Virginia just found that kids who suffer from mild depression at 14, 15, and 16 have worse odds in the future—in romance, friendship, competency assessments by outsiders—even if their depression disappears and they become perfectly happy adults. “Because that’s their first template for adult interaction,” says Allen when asked to offer an explanation. “And once they’re impaired socially, it carries forward.”

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What happens when you drop out of Princeton to move to the Shaolin Temple and master Kung Fu?

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Eric Barker  -  

“Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.”
— Neal Stephenson


My friend Matt Polly is the author of American Shaolin and Tapped Out.

And, yes, at 21 he left Princeton to move to China, find the Shaolin Temple and study Kung Fu.

It’s an incredible story (which he detailed in his first book American Shaolin) and so I decided to interview Matt about risk-taking, the 10000 hour rule of expertise and getting your ass kicked by monks.

The full interview was over 30 minutes long so for brevity’s sake I’m only going to post highlights here.

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When you look back on the whole dropping out of Princeton, going to China and studying at the Shaolin Temple, do you think, “I took a calculated risk”, or “it was something I was passionate about” or “I was nuts when I was a kid!” How do you think about that now?


I look at it kind of like it was a different person, like I was nuts. You know how you kind of look at your childhood self and it’s you but it’s not quite you? It does feel a little nuts to me. It’s something nuts that I’m proud of doing and I think that was the important thing.

When I see a lot of my friends who went to the same type of schools, most of them never took a risk. The way they got there was by just taking that next step up the ladder. At a certain point, it felt to me like they didn’t know what the next step was and so they never followed their passion to do anything and there’s a certain emptiness, I think, about that.

On the other side though, taking a risk often puts you outside the system. The whole kind of American capitalist system rewards people who follow the rules. You join a corporation, they give you healthcare. You try to do freelance and do it on your own, well, you’ve got to pay for everything. I do sometimes joke that if I were ever asked to speak to college graduates I would tell them not to follow their passion.

At the end of the day, I think if you take the risk, even if you fail, you’ve taken your shot at it and there’s not that feeling of that you didn’t have your shot, you didn’t take a chance. I think in the end, that’s worth it but I’ll tell you, there are days when I do wonder.


First and foremost, let me take a step back. Can you recount for me what happened there? I’m familiar with it but for the sake of the interview, can you give a quick round up of the Shaolin experience?


The Shaolin story. I was one of those skinny, scrawny, nerdy kids who got picked on in grade school and middle school. I developed, like a lot of nerdy kids, this kind of fantasy about what it would be like if I were super tough and a super hero and fell in love with kung fu and Bruce Lee and David Carradine. When I got into college, I started studying martial arts and Chinese and Chinese religion but was really fascinated by the fighting styles.

At a certain point, I read the book “Iron and Silk” by Mark Salzman and it tells the story of this Yale graduate who goes to China and learns kung fu. That was the first sort of idea I had that this was possible. I went to my Chinese language teacher who came from mainland China and asked him if this was cool and what I should do if I wanted to study kung fu in China.

He said, in Chinese, “[speaking Chinese]”, which means, “Are you afraid to eat bitter?” I said, “No,” lying to him, and so he said, “If you want to study really real kung fu, then you have to go to the Shaolin Temple.”

This was back in like 1992, before there was much Internet search or anything and there was no records anywhere that I could find of what the Shaolin Temple was but the idea of going to the place where the T.V. show “Kung Fu” was about, where all the Wu Tang Clan talked about, “Enter the Dragon”, Bruce Lee, was a Shaolin Temple monk.

This was like my whole childhood fantasy, the idea that I could live it out. So that’s what inspired me to take the risk and basically drop out and defy my parents and get on a plane and fly to Beijing when I had no idea where the Shaolin Temple was.

I landed there literally with a Fodor’s map, a book, of China and walked around Tiananmen’s Square asking people, “Do you know where the Shaolin Temple was?” [laughter]

I did finally find somebody. Several people thought it had been destroyed or they didn’t know and finally I found this old lady who came from the province where the Shaolin Temple was located. She said, “I know how to get there. Get on a train,” and that’s how I ended up finding the Shaolin Temple, just walking in cold.

It truly was like some sort of old school adventure which, now, with the Internet, people are there blogging about their life at the Shaolin Temple. You can get a Google Maps of it so it’s completely different now. At the time, the Shaolin Temple had one telephone line in the whole village so it was completely cut off from everyone.


Yes but there’s a big difference between somebody saying, “I’m flying to the United States today,” versus being Christopher Columbus. You did it first and you did it when it was really hard.


There is an aspect of that. At the same time, I had a return ticket so if everything failed, you could still come back. Christopher Columbus, if he didn’t find anything, was going to die. [laughter]


It’s funny, it’s such an unbelievable story, man. Give me the quick basics. You were there for how long? What did you learn? What did you take away from it?


I spent two years living there. I studied kung fu like seven hours a day. The whole Chinese thing is about eating bitter. That’s their whole training method. They’re not into scientific training, peak performance, up and down. It’s just grind. They had like 30,000 young Chinese kids studying kung fu and the very best got to be Shaolin monks.

When I watched, for example, the Opening Ceremonies to the Beijing Olympics, that was like what China was, to me, the Shaolin Temple was, thousands of people doing the same thing over and over every day in perfect precision.

One of my takeaways was just I discovered how very American I am because the Chinese are extremely nationalistic, so being the foreigner all the time was eye-opening. I was a minority of one there so I learned a lot about what it was like to be an outsider.

Two, kind of strengthened my sense of pride in where I came from but also my concern, just politically speaking, since we’ve talked about this before. I came back very concerned that we needed to up our game because the Chinese were coming to, you know, they had the eye of the tiger.

Then, three, personally, it was a sense of I felt like the lion in the Wizard of Oz looking for his courage. Then afterwards, when things would come up, I was like, “Well, it won’t be as bad as Shaolin, whatever happens.” You do a job interview, whatever happens, it’s not like I’m going to get beat up by a bunch of monks. [laughter]

It gave me kind of baseline of confidence that I could do something completely crazy, go off the map and come back in one piece. That, to me, is the great advantage of risk taking is that even if it fails, you know that you had the courage to do it and that you have the courage to do it again.


What made you come back? Did you originally set any sort of, “I’m going to do this for two years?” Did you ever say to yourself, “I might never come back,” or was there a certain achievement or was it blurry and something happened where you said, “OK. I’m ready to go back now.”


Yes, originally what I told my parents just so they wouldn’t arrest me and not let me go was that I was only going to go for a year. Then towards the end of the year, I realized I still didn’t feel like I understood China or the Shaolin Temple or the culture yet so I extended it two years, which, at that point, my parents were furious and they ended up cutting me off.

It was in the middle of the second year where I felt like I kind of got, that I understood the culture, I understood Shaolin. I had also kind of achieved my goal. My goal in learning kung fu, I thought it was originally to be the baddest fighter on Earth and then I learned that’s not possible. There are always tougher guys than you are.

I came to the point where I realized I was tough enough and that I didn’t need to be a world champion of kickboxing. I just needed to be good enough to feel secure if some bully tried to push me around like in grade school. At that point, when I felt like I had achieved that goal, it no longer seemed as necessary to stay there and suffer and eat bitter. And I wanted to come home.

I think a lot of expatriates, you go to China with a lot of goals but it’s a very tough place to be a foreigner and it wears you down over time. I got tired of being the outsider forever and I wanted to come back and actually live in my own country. That’s kind of what changed. By the end of the second year, I was ready to come home.


Overall, how do you think that kind of shaped your attitude on risk taking in general? 


For me, it was a signature moment of my life. If I look back, it was the transformative moment. Some people it’s high school. Some people it’s college. For me it was going to Shaolin Temple. I was a different person when I came back. That, I think, is the most important point about risk taking is you get to find out who you really are when you push yourself outside a comfort zone and discover resources you didn’t know you had.

For me, that’s why I always think, in the end, even though it is risky by definition, it’s worth the risk if it’s something you’re passionate about. There’s no point taking a risk for it’s own sake. If there’s something you really want to do, and it involves risk, that you should, especially when you’re young and you have no commitments to anyone. No one’s going to starve and you don’t have kids.

I thought it was the perfect time and afterwards, I would meet people easy road and I always kind of felt sad about that. You’re not as interesting a person if you don’t challenge yourself like that.


Do you think that a challenge like that, do you think it revealed who you were? Do you think it changed who you were or either? 


No, I see what you’re saying. It’s weird. I think it does both. One of my goals in going was I didn’t like who I was at the time. I wanted to be something different, I had an active sense of wanting to be more courageous than I felt I was at the time.

It’s strange, since I was actively trying to self-improve. I think all challenges reveal something you don’t know about yourself, but if they’re tough enough, they change you in fundamental ways and I was when I left. And not all of it was for the better. I was a little edgier around the corners for awhile and a little more cynical than I was.

One of the things about living in a desperately poor village in the middle of China is you get a real sense of how hard life can really be. Just kind of growing up upper-middle class white in America and going to an elite college, I had a pretty privileged background so I’d never lived in conditions that were that primitive. A lot of the guys I knew, some of them in caves, they didn’t have enough food to eat many days. They’d go hungry.

It kind of flipped me out when I went back and finished my senior year at Princeton, all these people worrying about things that seemed so trivial. “Am I going to get a job at Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs?” [laughter]

“Oh, my 25-page paper is due and I’m a day late, instead of an ‘A’.”

For awhile, I couldn’t readjust to it. What people were worried about at Princeton seemed trivial to me because it is, so it did actually have that kind of effect where I found it hard to re-relate to the things that Americans get really upset about. Because in the context, I had a whole new perspective and context and so it took me awhile to kind of readjust to that.


Another thing I’ve kind of explored on the blog a lot is expertise, becoming an expert, studies in “deliberate practice.” That’s pretty central in a lot of ways to what you were dealing with and what you said about the practicing. Can you just talk a little bit about that, just kind of expertise, moving towards perfection, trying to get better, what did you learn about that?


There definitely is but Gladwell was this 10,000-hour series, he’s very good at coining something that’s kind of common wisdom. But definitely what you found was the monks, they knew how much time you had to train kung fu to be good at it. There was just a general sense and the idea if you went through the program the way they talked about it and you did everything you were supposed to, it took 3 years to get good at it and it took 10 years to master kung fu. They didn’t consider you to have a mastery of it until you’d done about 10 years worth of work.

Now some guys are a little fast than others. Some people are smarter and pick up things quicker and some people have a kind of inherent talent that others lack. But most of what it takes to be an expert at something is the grind and putting the work in. That’s the thing that was fascinating was that you could watch the beginning students and they all moved up at about the same rate, some a little faster than others, and it was the people who were lazy, didn’t put in the work, who couldn’t achieve expertise in the subject.

That said, the difference between very good and great, there is some sort of intangible at the highest level. The work will get you to very good but the difference between that and greatness is something that is kind of beyond. That’s the mystery. At the very end, I felt like I’d gotten very good at martial arts but I realized I’d never be great at it. There were guys that just had a kind of athletic ability or sensibility about them that I would never achieve.


Got you. Has any of that carried over to your writing or to other things you’ve done since?


Yes. I really did feel like my sense of what my art in life, that was the thing, the change for me, is I realized that my goal wasn’t to be a master of kung fu, it was to master some art form. Writing, for me, became where I transferred all my passion. While I’m certainly no master at it, it is where I put in the 10,000 hours and the 10 years worth of work and feel a comfort level. Martial arts became more of a hobby and writing became not only my job but where I think my art is.


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People want to feel that they’re a part of something.

They want to feel a thing is theirs, that they contributed, and that they have some ownership of it.

These may seem like platitudes but research is showing just how important these feelings are to leadership, influence and motivation.

Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely discusses this in his book:  The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home.

Years ago, Pillsbury noticed that their cake mixes had poor sales. They theorized the buyers didn’t feel the cakes were “theirs.” By removing a few of the ingredients and requiring users to do more, sales increased:

One theory was that the cake mixes simplified the process to such an extent that the women did not feel as though the cakes they made were “theirs.” At the time, a psychologist and marketing expert by the name of Ernest Dichter speculated that leaving out some of the ingredients and allowing women to add them to the mix might resolve the issue. This idea became known as the “egg theory.” Sure enough, once Pillsbury left out the dried eggs and required women to add fresh ones, along with milk and oil, to the mix, sales took off.

Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, discussed a very similar phenomenon in sales research when I interviewed him:

Basically, these two scholars, they started studying Hollywood pitching. They did a very exhaustive study. Basically what they found, which you know, I’m sure, from your screenwriting days, is that pitching isn’t about convincing somebody, pitching is essentially about inviting them in.

That’s essentially their view. That changed my view on it a little bit. I think pitching is like, “Are you with me?” and actually that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is, “Here’s the pitch. What’s your contribution?” When the other side contributes, it actually builds something, and it’s usually a little bit better, but also the other side is more invested in it and so forth. The idea of pitching is to begin an engagement with somebody, not to necessarily convince them right there. Then I outlined the six successors to the elevator pitch which are all I think really interesting, backed by some of the social science.

What’s really interesting is, it doesn’t take much.

Just like adding eggs was enough to give a feeling of ownership over a cake, relatively minor adjustments like reordering words increased feelings of ownership and warmth toward ideas and solutions:

Via The Upside of Irrationality:

…we concluded that once we feel that we have created something, we feel an increased sense of ownership—and we begin to overvalue the usefulness and the importance of “our” ideas… Would the simple act of reordering the words to form the solution be enough to make people think the idea was theirs and consequently overvalue it? …even reordering the words was sufficient for our participants to feel ownership and like the ideas better than the ones given to them.

So how can you leverage this?

Lectures, rants, pitches and direct orders need to become conversations if you want the support of others.

Incorporating even their smallest contribution can help people feel a part of something and join your cause.

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