9 Expert Insights That Will Make You Productive, Successful And Smart

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Expert Tip #1: How To Be More Creative

Your first idea is rarely the best. Always keep pushing and generate more possibilities.

Advice from Andrew Goldberg, writer on Family Guy:

I’m a big fan of writing “alts” (versions). If I come to a joke spot, even if I’m working on my own stuff, I’ll often write three or four or five different alts, and then I’ll show it to friends, show it to my wife, show it to my manager, show it to a director or somebody on the project, and ask them which they think is funniest. Usually the first joke you think of isn’t the funniest. One thing that I’ve learned from TV and working in a big group is, whatever joke is there, you can always beat it. There’s always a funnier joke somewhere out there. So I’m a big fan of writing different versions to find the funniest and the best version.

More from Andrew here.


Expert Tip #2: How To Get Promoted

Ask your boss what they want. Make sure your accomplishments are visible. Build relationships in the organization.

Advice from Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford professor and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t:

First of all you need to figure out what your boss actually wants. Many people assume they know what, how they’re going to be evaluated and the criteria that other people in their organization are going to use, but unless you’re a mind reader you probably would be well served to actually check that out.  That’s number one.

Number two, you should make sure that your performance is visible to your boss and your accomplishments are visible. Your superiors in the organization have their own jobs, are managing their own careers, are busy human beings.  And you should not assume that they’re spending all their time thinking about you and worrying about you and your career.

And the third thing you need to do, which is, I think, even less obvious, is you need to build relationships with people in the organization.  Basically, people are the name of the game.  Life is really about relationships and your success in getting promoted and getting raises and getting hired, depends on the quality of the network and relationships you were able to build with a large number of other people inside your company and for that matter, outside your company.

More from Jeffrey here.


Expert Tip #3: How To Make Better Decisions

What would you recommend someone else do if they were in your situation?

Advice from Dan Ariely, Duke professor and author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions:

If I had to give advice across many aspects of life, I would ask people to take what’s called “the outside perspective.” And the outside perspective is easily thought about: “What would you do if you made the recommendation for another person?” And I find that often when we’re recommending something to another person, we don’t think about our current state and we don’t think about our current emotions. We actually think a bit more distant from the decision and often make the better decision because of that.

More from Dan here.


Expert Tip #4: How To Become An Expert At Something

Make sure you’re getting feedback. Always push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Put in the hours.

Advice from Cal Newport author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love:

What you need is a clearly identified sort of skill you’re working on. You need some notion of feedback. So you have to have some notion of, “How good am I at this now, and am I any better now that I’ve done this versus not doing it?” So that’s sort of the coaching aspect of things. And then when actually working, you have to work deeply, which means you have to sort of work on the skill with a persistent, unbroken focus, and you have to try to push yourself a little bit beyond where you’re comfortable. So you should not really be able to easily get to the next step in what you’re doing. At the same time, you should, with enough strain, be able to make some progress.

More from my interview with Cal here.


Expert Tip #5: Be A Better Networker

Take five minutes every day to do something easy for you that is very valuable to someone else.

Advice from Adam Rifkin, who Fortune Magazine declared the most networked guy in Silicon Valley:

Every day, do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of this thing you do should be that it makes a big difference to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or broadcast on social media.

But yeah, do something that’s not for yourself, every single day. Expect nothing in return. Over time, these random acts of kindness will really add up.

More from Adam here.


Expert Tip #6: How To Pitch An Idea Like A Pro

Don’t try to convince them; try to get them to contribute.

Advice from Dan Pink, NYT bestselling author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and To Sell is Human:

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.

More from Dan here.


Expert Tip #7: How To Negotiate Like An FBI Hostage Negotiator

Pay attention to emotions and learn to listen.

Advice from Chris Voss, former head of International Hostage Negotiation for the FBI:

I compare a lot of negotiations to dealing with a schizophrenic, because a schizophrenic’s always got a voice in his head talking to him which makes it very hard for him to listen to you.

Now most people in business negotiations, they approach the negotiation, and they’ve got firmly in their mind all of the arguments that support their position. So when they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. They view negotiation as a battle of arguments.

If while you’re making your argument, the only time the other side is silent is because they’re thinking about their own argument, they’ve got a voice in their head that’s talking to them. They’re not listening to you. When they’re making their argument to you, you’re thinking about your argument, that’s the voice in your head that’s talking to you. So it’s very much like dealing with a schizophrenic.

If your first objective in the negotiation, instead of making your argument, is to hear the other side out, that’s the only way you can quiet the voice in the other guy’s mind. But most people don’t do that. They don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument. They don’t pay attention to emotions and they don’t listen.

More from Chris here.


Expert Tip #8: How To Lead Like An Army Ranger

It’s okay not to know something. Let those who do handle that task.

Advice from Joe Asher, Army Ranger:

One company leader, socially was a buffoon and tactically he was a buffoon. But, he knew he was a buffoon. He didn’t try to be a stud like my first company commander. And when we got into the field, there were portions of the tactics that he knew. It was a signal company, a signal core company. There were portions of it that he knew very well. When it came to stuff that, tactically speaking, he didn’t know, he was okay not knowing it.

We get out there, and I had just come off from an infantry platoon leader, twice. I was a Ranger. I knew tactics. When we got to our site, he said to me – even though I was his XO – he said, “You’ve got the training to protect this site. I don’t. Protect this site.” That’s all he had to say.

So those were examples of company commanders who taught me a very valuable lesson: “It’s okay not to know something.” There are people around you who do know something, and they can teach you. If it’s too grand a knowledge base to pick up right there in the war and that fight, put them in charge. Have them report to you. Put the responsibility on them. If you do that, they will execute that to perfection, and I did. 

More from Joe here.


Expert Tip #9: How To Be A Better Storyteller

You must surprise your audience.

Advice from Howard Suber, UCLA Film School professor emeritus and author of Letters to Young Filmmakers: Creativity and Getting Your Films Made:

Things are not what they seem.” It’s that to get people to sit on the edge of their chair or to get them involved in your story, the audience has to constantly discover something new.

One of the constants in great stories is that things are never what they seem, because if things are what they seem, why would you read it, watch it, or listen to it?

So, in “Apocalypse Now,” “The Godfather,” “Casablanca,” — you just run off the names of the memorable films — any statement you make about the central character has to be followed by the word “but.” So Michael Corleone is a cold-blooded murderer, but he does it for his family. Rick Blaine sticks his neck out for nobody, as he tells you three times, but then he does, and sacrifices the only thing he’s ever really loved for the cause.

Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.

More from Howard.

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