Recent reads – February edition

A teeny tiny selection of recently read books to assist with your noodling:

To get clarity in who your audience/clients are and how to best serve them:

Your Music and People – Derek Sivers

To have mind exploding and gut wrenching moments of sonder and empathy:

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

To gain perspective and wisdom (the kind that kicks you in the gut with a gumboot):

Life of a Stoic – Seneca

PS. If you enjoy these twice weekly posts I’d love it if you help spread the word by forwarding them to a friend or two. You might use the subject line “checkout these noods” for a laugh.

Context and repetition

Every time we read, watch or hear something we do so with a different context.

The experience of reading the Harry Potter books as they were first released is different to reading them the 6th time (I mean, what?) which is different to reading them after the movies were released.

In each of these instances the context changed and so the experience changed too.

This got me noodling for two reasons:

  1. It highlights the benefit of re-reading great books, re-listening amazing podcasts and re-watching important documentaries
  2. It suggests that each time someone else interacts with our work they’re bringing their own ever-changing context

So I wonder: What’s worth repeating?

So I wonder: What’s worth repeating?

An oversimplified guide to learning a new skill

Spend a predetermined amount of time working on it every single day.

That’s it.

If it’s writing, sit down and type for 30min each day.

If it’s curiosity, commit to asking 3 open-ended questions each day.

If it’s listening, speak 20% less in every meeting you attend each day.

Behind every well honed skill is a mountain of practice. A MOP if you will (but not the gross, overused, soggy kind that you might find in an old laundry).

So what MOP are you working on?

A most memorable sticky note

Between 2013-2016 I was one of those people who had sticky notes all over their computer screen.

In fact, to call it a computer screen is probably inaccurate. It was more of a sticky note holder than anything else.

Quotes, reminders, and questions that past me thought would be good to remind future me.

Five years on, in true Dory from Finding Nemo fashion, I’ve forgotten what every single one of them said, with the exception of just one.

Unlike Dory, however, this one didn’t read: P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.

Instead, it read:

AYIWTATI?

One of my favourite things to do was watch people try and make sense of this sticky.

Some tried to sound it out like a word (AY-IW-TATI?), others thought it was just another corporate acronym and plenty figured I’d finally just lost my mind.

In a way, I guess they were all right.

It is indeed an acronym, one that I still come back to all these years later. AYIWTATI reminds me of this annoyingly brilliant question:

“Are you inventing work to avoid the important?”

Almost every single time I consider this question, the answer is yes, yes I am.

That email I told myself I needed to send, the extra column on the spreadsheet I convinced myself I must add and the latest ‘Which Hogwarts house would you be in?‘ quiz, all inventions to avoid the important work.

What about you? Are you inventing work to avoid the important?

What Sonder feels like

It feels a bit like being slapped across the face with a salmon. A Sonder Salmon, if you will. Allow me to elaborate.

In early 2019 I was running a full day leadership workshop for 20 of Asia Pacific’s smartest leaders. We were 90 minutes into the day when every facilitator’s worst nightmare occurred: someone in the front row had fallen asleep.

What happened in my head next is what Brené Brown would call a “shame shit-storm”.

“This is going terribly. You’re so boring and disengaging. Who do you think you are standing up here? Is it possible you have literally bored someone to death? Why are you still talking? Leave now.”

I somehow survived the next few minutes and, once finished, I noticed the sleeper had risen and was walking straight towards me, beaming.

“Wow, Pete, I have to say, I’ve sat through a LOT of leadership workshops over the years and this morning is hands down the most engaging, insightful and practical session I’ve ever been in.”

I stood stunned wondering if I was now the one asleep, dreaming of this moment?

Before I could pinch myself to see if it was indeed a dream the individual added:

“Oh, just so you know I have Narcolepsy, so you might see me drift off every now and then. Normally it happens a few times in the morning and I think it’s only been once today because of how engaging and interactive the session has been. Once again, thanks, Pete I can’t wait for the afternoon session.”

I was so caught up in my own stories that I experienced a profound moment of Sonder; the moment when you realise everyone else is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

Slap goes the Sonder Salmon.

Critics and gravity

When leading, creating change, and sharing creative work we can be sure there will be critics.

In this sense, they’re like gravity; an omnipresent force seeking to pull us down.

Instead of trying to avoid or push against the critic, then, what if we sought to leverage that force? What if we considered the arrival of a critic a sign that we’re onto something? A reminder that we are in fact creating change (and thus, tension in those attached to the status quo)?

How might that change the way we show up?

Founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, said it best:

“If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting.”

Jeff Bezos

Leadership is a choice

A choice we make based on a vision for a better version of the future. It might be your vision or someone else’s vision. 

Before you say “I’m not a leader”, stop reading this blog and go play chess on the board you impulse purchased after binge watching Queens Gambit it’s worth considering that we can choose to lead from anywhere. 

You might be a leader of a company, team, community, family or social group. 

Leading doesn’t require permission or a position title. It requires an intentional choice to try and make things better.

At the very least, in choosing to read this blog you’re leading yourself towards a better version of the future. 

So yes, you’re a leader. 

Feel that pang in your stomach? Hear the voice of you imposter? Considering stopping here and moving your Knight to C5? 

Great, that means you’re on the hook. 

Put away the chess board and consider: what does your better version of the future look like?

2,000 year old wisdom

The confrontingly still relevant Letters from a Stoic has recently become the most dog-eared book in my bookshelf.

This is thanks to profound and simple lines like:

Associate with people who are likely to improve you.”

Seneca

Bringing it to the present day this has me thinking: who are you associating with via mediums such as email and social media and are they serving to improve you?

PS. The irony isn’t lost on me that if you’re reading this very blog then you’re associating with me.

My hope is that these twice weekly posts are, in fact, improving you in some capacity and providing a moment to pause, lower your spectacles to the end of your nose, raise your head as you puff your imaginary pipe and utter an upbeat and curious “hmm”.

If that’s the case, consider forwarding one to a friend with the subject line “Subscribe to these noods”. If nothing else, it’ll make them laugh.

Rabbit holes

The beauty of a good rabbit hole is that we don’t know what’s at the bottom.

Knowing we’re in the dark we’re able to curiously explore a topic staying open to what might be found, remaining unattached to what the end result must look like.

We do this particularly well when researching something new on our own. Perhaps it’s “Best Gazebo’s for camping” or “what’s a poet laureate?”

So what if we took that same posture, of exploration and curiosity, to our conversations with others? What might we see? What might we learn?