Recent reads and listens – November edition

December has somehow snuck up on us and shown all her festive promise which means it’s time to share a hand-picked selection of books and podcasts that made me think, laugh, and do some noodlin’ in November. My hope is they do the same for you:

To hear 6min of audio that might just change your life:

Read the transcript and listen to this clip of Debbie Millman sharing her ’10 year plan for a Remarkable Life’ exercise.

To read a compelling Australian fiction novel on identity, life, and everything in between:

Honeybee – Craig Silvey

To begin wrapping your head around Web3, NFTs and how they might change the world:

Listen to Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant on this podcast.

To learn from one of the most thoughtful trailblazing CEO’s of our time on improving the future of work:

Indra Nooyi being interviewed on this podcast.

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The trap of anticipation

Earlier today I noticed that when getting a massage it’s easy to spend the whole time anticipating the next stage of the massage.

The therapist was massaging my calves and I found myself thinking “I can’t wait until they get to my back, I’m really tight in my back.”

Then they got to my back and I immediately thought “yep, this is going to feel GREAT when they get to my tight shoulders.”

When they got to the shoulders I started thinking about the stiffness in my neck and when they get to the neck I wondered if they’d finish with a head massage.

All of a sudden the massage was over and I realised I spent the entire time anticipating some future event, distracting myself from the present one.

I tricked myself into thinking the next stage of the massage would be the one that finally solves all my muscle tension and in doing so robbed myself of simply enjoying the process of getting a massage.

Of course, this provides a metaphor and an annoying noodley question for the rest of our lives too:

What outcome are you currently anticipating that is preventing you from enjoying the process of getting there?

A collection of stories I told myself on Thursday

“This might be the best idea I’ve ever had.”

“This is undoubtedly the worst idea I’ve ever had.”

“I totally got this.”

“I am a complete fraud and imposter.”

“I am lazy and not working hard enough.”

“I am working smart.”

“I am working way too hard and deserve a break and an almond croissant.”

“I probably didn’t need that almond croissant.”

“Maybe I should give this project up.”

“I love this project.”

“That workshop went great.”

“That workshop wasn’t your best.”

“I’m so energised.”

“I’m so tired.”

All that in just one day.

Reflecting on the ridiculousness of this made me think of two things, that build on one another:

  1. The stories we tell ourselves are temporary and often subject to contradiction in just a matter of minutes. Treat them as such and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  2. Don’t believe everything you think.

Two easy (and confronting) ways to reveal what you value

  1. Look at your bank statement from the last month and consider: what did I spend most of my money on?
  2. Look at your calendar from the last month and consider: what did I spend most of my time doing?

As the brilliant Kirsty Stark reminded me this week: how we spend our money and time is a direct reflection of what we value.

Once I recovered from that metaphorical punch in the throat, it proved a worthy reminder to noodle on.

Attitude is a skill

One parent looks out the window on a rainy day and says to their kids dreerily “it’s bad weather today, we can’t go outside.”

Another parent looks out the window on a rainy day and says to their kids excitedly “look at all those puddles, grab your gumboots and let’s go jump in them!”

The way we respond to circumstances shapes the way we, and others, view the world.

Put another way: attitude is a learned skill.

Expanded some more: the way we show up for our kids, partners, co-workers, friends, family and for ourselves is something we can always practice and improve.

So what would it look like to do so?

Recent reads (and listens) – October edition

‘Tis almost November (wut?!) which means it’s time to share a small selection of books and podcasts that made me think, laugh, and do some noodlin’ in October. They’re sure to do the same for you:

For short and actionable wisdom from over 100 world-class leaders in their field:

Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss.

To read 27 contradicting philosophies of how to live your life and one weird/awesome conclusion:

How to Live – Derek Sivers

Essential listening for anyone intersted in improving any relationship:

Esther Perel with Brené Brown

Bonus for any reader looking to improve their golf swing (#niche):

Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons – Ben Hogan (also relevant for anyone noodling on how to break down learning a new skill).

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Hiding places

When it comes to hiding from discomfort, I can mix it with the best of them.

Whether it’s sitting down to write this blog (meta), deciding to propose a new idea/project, recording an episode of The Long and The Short Of It, reaching out to a friend, asking a favour, having a difficult conversation, getting feedback on something, giving feedback on something or >insert any creative task that requires emotional labour and leadership< I have my fair share of hiding places.

My bet is you do too and that it might be helpful for us to name them.

So here are a handful of my favourite places to hide, as observed over the last week:

  • In spreadsheets (maybe I could add another VLOOKUP or trend chart?)
  • On social media (*scrolls aimlessly*)
  • In email and Slack (Once I’m at Inbox 0, then I’ll be ready)
  • Checking the weather (I wonder what the forecast is for next Tuesday?)
  • Listening to (another) podcast (Maybe this guest can provide the nudge I need)
  • Tidying my desk (The notepad is a little crooked)
  • Tidying my desktop (Surely there’s a better way for me to arrange the 3 icons on my desktop)
  • Window shopping online (Let me add all these things I don’t need to my cart, then close the window without buying anything)

Looking back at your last week, where have you hid? And what might happen if you made an intentional effort to avoid these places, even just by 10%?

16 reasons making an arbitrary numbered list is the best way to get unstuck and spark possibility

  1. The first thing that comes to your mind is often predictable and safe
  2. If the current way(s) you were trying to do things was working, you wouldn’t feel stuck
  3. When it comes to creativity, innovation, and leadership, there is no ‘right’ answer
  4. It’s fun to think beyond the obvious
  5. You’ll come up with ridiculous and crazy ideas that make you and others laugh
  6. It’s a way to practice micro-failures
  7. You might coin new terms like micro-failures
  8. Amongst the ridiculous and crazy ideas you might just find some great ideas
  9. You might realise being stuck is a choice
  10. You might realise being stuck is a story you’re telling yourself
  11. You might realise being stuck is annoying
  12. Chances are you’re thinking binary (ie this way or that way)
  13. You might be able to combine multiple ideas into one, like some sort of mad scientist
  14. Wednesday’s Noodle Scratcher asserted it to be true
  15. 16 backwards is 61, which is also an arbitrary number
  16. You can write a blog about it in the form of a meta arbitrary numbered list that you’re not even sure makes sense

Next time you or someone you’re working with feels stuck: pick an arbitrary number and come up with that many ways to get unstuck.

Who knows, maybe unfiltered and unencumbered brainstorming might just become a hobby of yours like it has mine.

Postponing is rarely a good strategy

Last week I told myself I would complete my daily writing before lunch, knowing that my brain turns to mush in the afternoon.

Then, every single day, I found myself looking for, creating and sticking with some sort of excuse to delay the task until the afternoon.

“Let me just empty my inbox”, “I better make a coffee first” and “the kitchen bench could do with a wipe” were some of the common stories/justifications.

Much to my horror the afternoon would arrive, the kitchen bench would be gleaming and, as predicted, I’d feel sluggish, fatigued and like my brain was mush.

Annoyed at my past-self I would pull on every ounce of remaining energy I had left, open a Google doc, mash the keyboard with my meat sticks and produce some truly terrible writing.

“Tomorrow, I’ll do better” I would promise.

Rinse. Repeat.

After a week of this I’m reminded that postponing until the conditions are perfect is rarely a good strategy.

Better to start early, and start small. One word at a time, bird by bird, as a past version of myself once wrote.

Progress, momentum and flow are the results of starting, not the pre-requisites, so what would it look like to behave accordingly?

Recent reads (and listens) – September edition

A small selection of books and podcasts that made me think, laugh, cry and do some noodlin’ in September:

For the mouth breathers in the house (ie anyone looking for mind blowing science and insight into the way we breathe):

Breath – James Nestor

For a fictional, hilarious and at times painfully accurate take on humanity:

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

For a ‘I need to pause this and write that quote down’ podcast interview on entrepreneurship and family:

Suneel Gupta on Design Matters.

For the perfect mix of comedy and intellect:

Absolutely Mental – with Ricky Gervais and Sam Harris is back with Season 2.

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Birds and change

In her best selling book Bird by Bird, Anne Lammott tells a great story about her brother rushing to finish a school assignment on birds at the last minute.

He was overwhelmed at the magnitude of the project and impending deadline until their father sat down beside him, placed a hand on his shoulder and said:

“Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

It serves as an amazing (and at times annoying) reminder that the small actions we take consistently compound over time to create change.

Framed as a question, because that’s how we roll around here: What would it look like to suspend your obsession (and worry) of the desired outcome and instead just take it bird by bird?