Never Wish Luck

Yesterday, I participated in a half-marathon. Many of my friends, relatives, and close ones wished me luck. With all the best intentions they had, their approach was wrong.

Never wish luck to anyone.

It is external. By definition, it’s outside of control of individual counting on it. It’s almost as pointless as hope, with hoping for luck being the ultimate recipe for disappointment.

What to wish to someone about to set sails on a challenging voyage?

Wish them grind, because only when you pay the price, you appreciate the prize.
Wish them perseverance, because the way out is always deceptively easy.
Wish them resilience, because the bigger their challenge is, the more often they will fall.

All of these are within control of every single person, whether they realize it or not.

Grind, perseverance, and resilience allowed me to shave eleven minutes of my previous personal record yesterday.

Are you feeling lucky this Monday morning? Or ready to push forward?

Best Books On Leadership

I am an avid reader. From quantum physics, via business, to sport psychology – and beyond, if I get my grasp on a book, I’m on it. And the further I go, the more often I’m disappointed. It’s actually hard to find a good book nowadays. And truly groundbreaking vaults of knowledge are extremely rare. With that in mind, I would like to share my top three books on leadership with you. While you mind find this selection trivial, they helped me reshape myself to provide a better service and better value to those that I work with.

“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

[av_video src=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReRcHdeUG9Y’ format=’16-9′ width=’16’ height=’9′ av_uid=’av-mmb7t’]

If you’re even remotely interested in leadership, you must’ve seen Simon on stage during his seemingly countless TED talks and interviews. It’s his second book, following spectacular success of “Start With Why” (which I also recommend, though for building a business). While you may argue it’s entry level, that’s one of it’s advantages. It’s deceptively easy to get so entangled in complex processes and models, that basics fade out from our view. Also, I love how Simon phrases his ideas – in an easy to follow and understand way. I envy this skill, as – clearly – I don’t possess it. Altogether, a great book covering the most crucial aspects of leadership, without all the corporate mumbo-jumbo.

“Turn The Ship Around!” by David Marquet

[av_video src=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLRH5J_93LQ’ format=’16-9′ width=’16’ height=’9′ av_uid=’av-hhqxd’]

An intriguing story of one nuclear submarine captain, who was almost forced to become humble and drop his know-it-all mindset. We all know these managers. It’s just impossible for team to convince them they’re wrong. Well, David was used to know every possible detail of warships he commanded. One day, just days before setting sails, he was stricken off balance by his superiors. He was to take over a different submarine – also, of other type. Having no chance to learn everything by heart, he caught himself failing several times – and making an unorthodox (and possibly illegal) decision to empower his crew. Within months, his submarine became the most efficient of US Navy vessels. The story, with all the findings and conclusions, makes one wonder – if it’s possible to achieve that on a military warship loaded with nuclear missiles, how hard could it be in corporate environment?

Yes, very. Unless you learn how to improvise, adapt, and overcome the obstacles. David’s book will give you a hand.

“Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink

[av_video src=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljqra3BcqWM’ format=’16-9′ width=’16’ height=’9′ av_uid=’av-6oht5′]

While previous two are light reads, this book is quite hardcore. Jocko was one of the commanding officers of US Navy SEAL team during heavy fighting in battle of Ramadi. His story goes far beyond what they teach you at business school. From brutal training, through dusty streets of Iraqi cities, to ruthless corporate environment, we learn what it takes to truly lead our men. It’s a story of extremely hard work, honest accountability, and discipline. I love three things about Jocko’s story. First, there’s no sugarcoating included. Leading is a hard work and this book is one of the very few places where it’s stated openly and repeatedly. Second, it’s truly practical, with examples that most of readers will relate to with ease. Third, the book gave us one of the most popular episodes of Tim Ferriss podcast (which I highly recommend) and extensive podcast series by Jocko Willink himself.

These three may not resonate with you the way they did for me, though they will expand your horizons and give you great tools to work on your business, your team, and yourself.

For unorthodox books on Agile, see this post.

Step Over Procrastination

According to at least a few of wacky internet calendars, last Sunday was World’s Procrastination Day. It’s obvious then, why I put off publishing this article till this morning. I’m actually surprised I didn’t wait until tomorrow.

Jokes aside, the costs of unbreakable wall blocking many of us from achieving a bit more are extremely high. Especially given we know that one day we’re going to have to climb it. And, ourselves, we add brick after brick, inevitably making sure the voyage uphill will be as costly as possible.

Just because we’re not prepared.

Because it’s so hard.

Because there’s a price to be paid.

Basically, because we decide to stay in safety of our comfort zones.

On the other hand, there’s whole slow movement, noticing the fact that at work and in our private lives, we put enormous pressure on ourselves to focus on things of little importance. With all the good intentions, it’s so easy to misunderstand the whole idea and use it as yet another excuse to wait a bit longer.

And, as we wait, the price relentlessly rises.

While I’d love to go and brag about my spectacular successes on this field, I can’t. There are areas of my life, which I decide to just sit through. Wait a bit longer.

So that I can be better prepared.

So that it is easier.

So that I can afford to pay the price.

Basically, so that I can stay in whatever’s left of my comfort zone.

There are some honest conversations that I put off. My taxes are always paid on the final due date (or so…). I take the elevator home, when I’m back from workout. I do all that despite living the lifestyle that many active duty soldiers would declare harsh.

It would be good to do something about it, then. And the strategies are countless. If you try googling it, you’ll be overwhelmed with plethora of options. Which, inevitably, leads all of us – including me – into the abyss of analysis paralysis, hence we make the cheapest of choices – we vote to do nothing.

Then, it doesn’t have to be that hard.

On Sunday, I had a pretty rough running workout, preparing for half-marathon in two weeks. It went bad, to say the least. I wasn’t dressed accordingly to arctic weather. Running (sic!) late, I neither stretched, nor warmed up properly. My nutrition choices of the day were foolish. All combined, I achieved truly pathetic results and returned home exhausted.

And this is what I saw:

The easy way of the elevator to the left. The smart choice of cooling down while burning extra few calories on the staircase to the right.

The choice was obvious.

However, as I reached out to press the button, a crazy thought wandered in my mind.

(Note: this is what happens when you run – and it’s the greatest gift I can imagine.)

Let’s just take one step. I can always walk back.

Seconds later, I stormed straight into my apartment several floors up, laughing to myself. Here’s why it worked:

I chose the smallest possible first step (which, in this case, was literally a step). Then I allowed myself to turn back if I want to. Then I decided to plough on.

That’s it. There’s no need for strategies or fancy approaches.

How to make that tiny step out of the comfort zone?

Step.

Downsides of Early Rising

If you ever received an instant message or email from me, you know why it’s important to mute your phone notifications before going to bed. I rarely reply to evening messages later than at 4:30 AM, which leads to a conclusion that I wake up even earlier. The whole concept of early rising is popular ever since the personal development was invented.

It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.
– Aristotle

As it’s extremely easy to write about so popular and well described idea, you just can’t avoid the advocates of waking up before rest of the world. Myself I could talk about it for hours, sharing examples of how it makes my life better. Even my Instagram is full of this propaganda.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
– Benjamin Franklin

Thing is though, everything in life has a price tag attached. What would be the cost of being healthy, wealthy, and wise?

  1. There’s nobody around. Literally. You’re there all alone. It’s perfectly fine if whatever you’ve planned for the morning can be done in solitude. Many things can’t. While we’re at it…
  2. Devastating majority of businesses are closed. That excludes some 24/7 gyms, gas stations, or – if you’re truly blessed – your clients in another timezone.
  3. It’s dark and cold. That is kind of an issue especially during winter time. While I truly enjoy jogging when there’s no dog owner around, doing it in darkness can be dangerous.
  4. You’re likely to be devoid of energy when everyone else is still alive, exercising their social lives. It’s not that of an issue for some, for instance – six and half hours is more than enough for me. It is a rare gift though, and you don’t want to be ”that guy” falling asleep when even small kids are still active.
  5. Speaking of social life – try setting the alarm clock so that it wakes you up and, at the same time, allows whoever else is in your bed staying there. Good luck!
  6. You might become completely out of sync from the rest of the world. Last weekend I had a breakfast with some friends at 9:30AM. For me, it was lunch.
  7. If it feels like it’s not for you, you’re probably right. We’re not the same. Not only our sleep patterns differ – they evolve over the course of our lives. Remember that the next time you make sarcastic note to that lazy teenager – they need 9 to 10 hours of sleep each day.

And whenever you’re told that some legendary CEO wakes up at some ridiculous hour, think of the dozens of others, who sleep the way they want.

Put no trust in the benefits to accrue from early rising, as set forth by the infatuated Franklin.
– Mark Twain

With that said, given it’s almost 5AM, let me get to my gym, destroy myself there, and then enjoy the coffee at sunrise.

For me, it’s worth the price.

Failed on Your New Year’s Resolution Yet?

With staggering regularity, millions of people worldwide make their commitments to change their lives on that single night. This is the time when we all notice we’ve moved closer to dying and that our passing might be filled with extremely painful regret – that we failed to meet our own expectations. It’s a little surprise then, that seeing this threat we want to change something. Which is where New Year’s resolution come to an aid, an easily available solution to an important issue.

Some want to lose weight – they swarm the gyms. Others want to raise their income – they start to learn new skills. Yet others simply grasp happiness – and open to new relationships and experiences.

What happens next?

I didn’t manage to establish a precise date, but about halfway through January gyms are sparsely occupied, courses get cancelled and experiences are postponed until after I’m through with this thing at work.

And it’s the latest date that devastating majority of resolutions are put in the darkest corners of our conscience, deliberately hidden to be overlooked by any remorse. Many fail even earlier. I can bet most won’t survive the weekend.

Funnily enough, the reason we fail is our strong belief that we won’t fail. We don’t plan for failure. Which makes us perfectly insane, as famously described by Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

(Neither of these remarkable gentlemen said or wrote this definition – the number of misattributed quotes on the Internet is beyond imagination.)

The fact is, we’ve failed on these plans repeatedly, over and over, until it brought us to the tipping point, to the decision to change things.

Why people suddenly decide to lose weight? Because they repeatedly and consistently failed on exercising, eating healthy, and restraining from gluttony.

Why people suddenly decide to raise their income? Because they repeatedly and consistently failed on spending smart, pushing harder, and taking calculated risks.

Why people suddenly decide to pursue happiness? Because, they repeatedly and consistently failed on understanding their needs, communicating them, and verifying whether they’re right or not.

And yet, on New Year’s Eve, we all blatantly lie to ourselves that this time it’ll be different!

NO, IT WON’T.

You kept failing for months, years, and decades. That makes a rock-solid habit. You will fail again.

Unless… Unless you plan for it. How?

Well, you already know what to do to be fat, earn pitiful wage, or be unhappy.

Look at all these times when you reached out for a bag of chips. All those days when you decided that mediocre effort is enough. All those evenings when you looked away from your own happiness.

When did it happen? How? What triggered the specific behavior you want to change? Quantify it.

Now, given you acted accordingly to your resolution, what would you do? Be specific.

Finally, plan. Put it in writing and read every day, until it carves in your mind.

It’s that simple.

And do you know what the best part is?

Every now and then, you will fail anyway. Old habits die hard. That’s ok, we’re humans, perfect in our imperfection.

Yet each of these failures will inevitably grasp your attention – wait, I didn’t want to do that!

This kind of reflection is the best way to learn. Unless you want to die young, poor, or unhappy. That’s always an option.