Recent reads and listens – September edition

Hey legend,

Here’s your small collection of resources that I enjoyed in September and recommend them to you, too.

If you’re ready to rethink your relationship with your phone:

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari.

If you want to go further down the Johann Hari/I want to stop scrolling my face off all the time rabbit hole:

Check out this interview and on the Imperfect’s Podcast.

If you’re wanting to feel good and be generous:

This list of 50 ways to be ridiculously generous and feel ridiculously good by Alexandra Franzen are all you need.

That’s it for this month, just the three things to checkout.

What was the best thing you read or listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

5 steps to getting unstuck

If you’re noodling on a decision and feeling stuck, consider these 5 steps:

  1. Find a colleague, family member or friend
  2. Set a timer for 20min
  3. Share with them where you’re stuck
  4. Have them ask you questions for 20min (no statements, assertions or ideas, just questions)
  5. When the timer goes off, consider: what’s my next step?

Do the floss dance because you just unstuck yourself.

See also: Out loud and 16 reasons making an arbitrary numbered list is the best way to get unstuck and spark possibility.

I can’t touch my toes…

Not even close. I’m lucky to get past my knees before my hamstrings feel like they might rip off the bone. It’s a product of having not practised the skill enough and the out-of-my-control reality of being 6″7′.

On the other hand, and not to brag too much, I can reach the top shelf in any supermarket. A product of having practised the skill and being 6″7′. Therefore you might conclude my height is both a weakness and a superpower.

It’s a terrible weakness on a plane and an awesome superpower at concerts.

The same is true of all other skills and traits.

Being a super organised human is awesome until you miss out on serendipity. Being a hands-off leader is great until someone in your team needs instruction and guidance. Being a great question asker is empowering until someone is seeking your opinion.

We all have superpowers and we all have weaknesses. It’s worth keeping this in mind for yourself and those around you. Some questions for cultivating awareness are:

What can you do that others can’t (see this post)? How is it a superpower? How is it a weakness?

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to the supermarket to show off my skills.

Some questions on opinions

When creating or sharing something we’re likely to encounter many opinions. As such, it’s worth having a handy rubric (great word) in order to help us process and filter out the helpful from the irrelevant.

Try asking these questions:

  • Is the opinion coming from someone who I created this thing for?
    • If so, what can I do about it?
    • If not, what can I learn from it before letting it go?

People often treat their opinions as indisputable and universal facts rather than specific stories they tell themselves based on how they uniquely see the world.

It’s worth remembering this when someone shares any sort of response to your work.

See also: this podcast.

Recent reads and listens – August edition

Hey legend,

Here’s your small collection of books and podcasts that caught my eye in August and I recommend them to you, too.

To help explain our fascinating and complicated relationship with money:

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel.

To help understand how (and why) we should care about the future:

Check out this interview and learn about Effective Altruism.

If you’re feeling lost and/or confused about all things climate:

The Carbon Almanac will help.

For tips on the do’s and don’ts of returning to an office:

This episode of Work Life is a good place to start.

What was the best thing you read or listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

Leading with humility

In 2019 I was sitting in the office of a very accomplished entrepreneur. Someone who had built and sold multiple successful businesses, written best-sellers and long been considered a leading thinker in their field.

On the whiteboard he had written up an idea that he was noodling on and turned to me, and two others, and asked:

“What do you think?”

Here was a brilliant and accomplished leader asking the three of us for our opinion. For our thoughts, ideas and input. Together, the four of us had a conversation, threw more ideas around and co-created a new and improved solution

He did this not because he thought it was the right thing to do, but because he was genuinely curious what we thought. He had the humility to realise that he doesn’t know everything and so deliberately created space for us to contribute and add our ideas.

It’s moments like this that remind me humility is a superpower. One that some consider a weakness and others appear to lack in almost shocking quantities. So what if we all practiced it a little bit more?

A story most leaders tell themselves

“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

It doesn’t matter how senior they are, whether they’re at a Fortune 500 company or Founded a successful Not-For-Profit. All leaders are making it up as they go and will experience moments of doubt, insecurity and, yes, feeling like an imposter.

Knowing this, what would it look like for you to remove that backpack full of perfectionism bricks and impossible expectation textbooks?

A question on rules

What rules have you created for yourself that are no longer serving you?

Because having a rule to always wake up at 5am can be great, until you start going to bed later and it’s the reason you’re so exhausted and moody at work.

We’re all operating in accordance with rules we’ve set for ourselves, but how often do we stop to question them?

Two hundred

The brilliant Jen Waldman and I just released Episode 200 of our podcast.

It marks 200 consecutive weeks of showing up, sharing stories and asking questions about creativity, leadership and entrepreneurship.

It’s 200 weeks of laughter, learning and height jokes (she’s 5’1″ and I’m 6’7″ for those who don’t know… you’re welcome).

It’s also 200 weeks of delightful self doubt and swirling stories like:

“I have no ideas”

“Why would anyone listen to a word we say?”

“Was that even an episode?”

200 is a great round number and a milestone we’re proud of. It’s also a reminder that the milestones and achievements we see in others often sit atop a pile of self doubt, bad ideas and then the occasional moment of clarity.

Thanks to anyone who has tuned in over the journey and here’s to 200 more weeks of learning, laughter and, well, mini-existential crisis.

Recent reads and listens – July edition

Hey legend,

Here’s a small collection of books and podcasts I ate up in July and recommend you do too.

If you’re fascinated by humans and our quirky, irrational behaviours:

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Green.

If you love learning languages (or, let’s be honest, the idea of learning languages):

Checkout this interview with founder of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn.

If you’re interested in nerding out on emotional intelligence:

This episode of The Imperfects podcast with Lael Stone should do the trick.

In case you missed it:

We released Episode 200 of The Long and The Short Of It this week.

What was your favourite thing you read/listened to last month? Let me know by replying to this email and in the meantime, keep being awesome.

Mistakes vs failures

Why do mistakes feel light, funny, and recoverable while failures feel heavy, serious, and permanent? Are these two sides of the same coin or something different altogether? Can a creative process, which often encourages mistakes, also make room for failure?

Last week I wanted to find out so I asked my most creative friend, Jen Waldman, in this week’s episode of The Long and The Short Of It. You can tune in wherever you get your pods or, you know, by clicking the link above.

The coffee ordering personality test

If you order a coffee in a cafe and they mistakenly give you the wrong one, do you:

a) let them know about the mistake and request the right coffee because that’s what you ordered? or;

b) suck it up and drink the wrong coffee (while resentfully promising to never come to this stupid cafe ever again) because you don’t want to “cause a fuss?”

Regardless of your answer, you can learn a lot about your personality by answering this questions and listening to this episode of The Imperfects podcast.

As for me? I’m in camp B, attempting to convince myself there’s no difference between a weak, soy, extra hot mocha and the long black that I ordered.

Tennis practice

The brilliant Michelle Florendo recently pointed out that the opportunities presented to us through work and life are a bit like tennis practice.

On one side of the net sits a ball machine, firing ball after ball to the other side of the net. These balls represent opportunities.

Some we capitalise on perfectly having enough time and composure to hit a satisfying forehand back across the net. Others might come a little too fast or a little too slow, causing us to mishit, shank off the frame or swing and miss entirely.

Then there are the balls that hit us square in the face when we’re not ready. The ones that cause our eyes to water and an emotional outburst to occur where we throw the racket, look up to the sky and scream “I don’t even like tennis, especially when used as a metaphor!”.

The thing about a ball machine, though, is that there’s always another ball coming. The machine doesn’t care whether you hit the ball or the ball hit you. It certainly doesn’t care how you feel about it.

In life too, there is a constant stream of opportunities. We can view this stream as overwhelming and frustrating or we can view it as an opportunity to practice, improve and get better… Especially when we get hit in the face.

What diet coke and red wine can teach us about mistakes

When in Paris recently my wife ordered a diet coke and received a glass of red wine. It was an insight into how ‘good’ our basic French was (it was terrible) as well as a fascinating example of how to respond to mistakes.

In this case we explained to the waiter (in even worse French) about the mishap, apologised for our terrible French and she proceeded to laugh and swap the drinks, without fuss. It was funny, a little bit awkward and easily fixed.

It got me thinking about all those times when we don’t laugh off a mistake. When we choose to avoid the awkward and get angry or frustrated at a miscommunication at work. When we take a mistake personally and create a story that someone is out to sabotage us rather than pausing to laugh at what might have transpired.

No-one wakes up in the morning hoping to make a bunch of mistakes. No-one hopes to miscommunicate and cause frustration. No-one wants to serve someone a red wine when they ordered a diet coke.

So what might it look like if we acted as such?

Recent reads and listens – June edition

Hey legend,

Here’s a small collection of books and podcasts that I consumed in June, while eating my bodyweight in pasta, pizza, gelato and assorted pastries in France and Italy.

… well this is awkward.

Turns out I didn’t consume anything but aforementioned food groups.

Instead, I switched to using a different part of my brain (the part that decides “what will I eat next?”) and took some time out to rest.

For more on this novel concept, see this recent podcast. You didn’t think I’d leave you without at least ONE resource, did you?