“Models are useful hypotheses guiding rough maps of the terrain”
Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008 for models and thinking on a particular field. He has also had a unique platform for an Economics professor in writing a twice-weekly column for the NY Times for twenty years.
This weekend I was privileged to listen to Paul Krugman, Dan Ariely and Yanis Varoufakis, moderated by David McWilliams, muse on “The Life and Death of Economics” at Kilkenomics. As David said in introducing his guests, if he had started with a blank page and though who might he like to have discuss the future of Economics, he could not have picked a better group. In short, these three individuals are absolute rock stars in the field.
Now, if we think about our image of rockstars, we might have expected them to be egocentric, pronouncing with great certainty that their models are the answer, perhaps interrupting the others and arguing and even dismissing their thinking.
And yet, these luminaries were humble, respectful, warm, open, enthusiastic, and certainly enjoying themselves.
No one ever made a decision based on a number. They need a story.
An unexpected “bucket list” moment
Last week I was sat in the centre of the front row at the Royal Festival Hall as Hannah Gadsby came back on after her incredible show Douglas to receive the acclamation of an adoring crowd. It had been one of the best shows I’d ever seen in my life, the crow was making so much noise and there was so much applause.
One thing was missing, I realised. A feeling rose in me, articulated in my mind as: “This woman deserves a standing ovation”. I looked from side to side and realised that nobody was standing. In a fraction of second, I realised I had to stand. From my place at the front of the theatre, I did just that, then I didn’t look around, I could simply hear and feel the crowd of 2700 all stand as one and the volume increase still further.
Hannah briefly made eye contact as if to say “thank you”, then, no more than a few seconds later, she left the stage. If I’d had “start a standing ovation at the Royal Festival Hall” on my bucket list, then “tick”.
At certain stages of life, many of us focus more on Editing rather than Accumulating. For me, part of that is to cut back on the newsletters and news outlets I read and pay for.
One that will always stay in my core list is Brainpickings from Maria Popova, a weekly newsletter of exquisitely curated thoughts from artists and writers, each with many links to dive deep into the depths of art and literature. They come out each Sunday and I can often get lost for hours. Oh, and if you enjoy Brainpickings, do support Maria’s art by setting up a monthly contribution.
Now, as I am now well over 750 daily posts on this site, sometimes I write “long read” posts, developing thoughts and ideas. Other times my blogging has evolved to curate posts from others.
Today, I am curating the curator, as Maria recently posted a special Brainpickings. Please note that I have edited down this long post to simply the summary learnings. For the full depth and also her favourite Brainpickings posts of all time, follow the link to the original article.
Maria is a great gift and curator. It is a true gift and wonderful wisdom to read and look to apply these 13 learnings.
Each of these is wonderful, each we can look to apply more in our self-leadership. We must constantly invest in leading ourselves before we can truly lead others.
What I don’t tend to write about, though, is that before seeking to distil (including distilling to these relatively short daily blog posts), I often read and research in-depth to understand the background (and I’ve just linked to five earliest posts as background).
As an example, yes I posted strong opinions quite a while ago about the lack of viability of the WeWork model, but prior to doing so, I read everything I could find about their numbers and business model. Mind you, as soon as I read about “community adjusted EBITDA” my bullshit detector went into overdrive!
Today, then, I’m curating a terrific post from Tim Harford of “Undercover Economist” fame. In this, he warns of the danger of simple ideas. In a UK context, I very much agree with his assessment of Labour party ideas and even policies around such things as nationalisation, shares in companies to the public etc. Depending on your politics, the ideas may well be both simple and really positive. However, read into the detail (and yes, I have done), their policies stack up about as poorly as WeWork’s initial IPO valuation.
So, for more on the idea of being wary of simple ideas, over to Tim Harford.
On average my daily posts take under five minutes to read, yet an average of over an hour to write.
I’ve taken as long as three days at an offsite with a client leadership team to land on a strategy that is simply one word.
When I work on Business Strategy Coaching with a client (see here) we can have meetings and calls over weeks and months simply to hone down their message and story to the absolute essentials so they have maximum impact in the short time they may have to present it to decision-makers.
“Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”
~ Blaise Pascal
Literally translates to: “I made this one longer only because I have not had the leisure to make it shorter.”
Seth Godin’s habit of daily writing (for over 20 years now!) inspired me to start doing the same a little over two years ago. I hadn’t written regularly, perhaps subconsciously in part as I wanted to become a better writer first.
I love to work with leaders who are Hungry, Humble, Brave and Open. Yes, we all need to learn our craft before putting ourselves out there, but when the moment comes that the feeling of needing to lead change for ourselves and others is so strong we know we just need to be braver and get out there and do it, then bravery is what we need.
Own that Bravery, that Hunger. Ally that to being Open to learning and the ideas of others and Humble to know you will never have all the answers.
Focus on those four characteristics of #OpenLeadership and go make your dent in the universe a crater!
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An’ foolish notion
Translation from Scots:
Oh, would some Power give us the gift To see ourselves as others see us! It would from many a blunder free us, And foolish notion
From “To a Louse” by Robert Burns
A simple thought for a Sunday morning.
I’ve often mused on the thought that “we cannot see the goldfish bowl we are swimming in”, and how we can all benefit from an outside perspective.
My own focus professionally is around being that Sounding Board for leaders, yet of course, I cannot see myself as others see me, so I also am always connected to people I can trust to tell me, unvarnished, how I appear from their perspective.
We can never truly see ourselves as others see us, so let us have the humility to be open to both ask and to be told what they see.
In life and in leadership, you can edit, hone and distill your message constantly.
“The first half of your life is focused more on accumulating: success, responsibilities, family, friends, hobbies, identities. A mid-life crisis is often about feeling weighed-down by all of this. Focus on what’s most important in your life and start the process of editing that which doesn’t serve or nourish you.“
This week I was complimented by a reader on sharing some incisive and concise ideas in my daily writing. That is wonderful to hear, as a) I can talk a lot when on a roll (!), and b) I love the Da Vinci adage of: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
The thing is, to get to simplicity in this age of soundbites and short attention spans takes commitment and focus to actually taking time to listen, read, learn from many sources. Only when one commits to deeply studying and learning can one reach what Oliver Wendell Holmes valued (blog post here):
“I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
An example around one of the most powerful philosophical maxims I have learned (and use in coaching).
This week I was at an event in London with a focus on both speakers and audience having a global perspective in their business, their careers, their outlook. These events are normally larger, but this time there was a smaller group, so more interactive.
What stood out for me most was that each person in the room had a different perspective, they could see what others could not see, based on their very varied types and levels of experience.
For me, as I listened to one speaker talk about how their business has rapidly developed in a burgeoning sector, they were focussed on the operational shifts and improvements they have made through new AI technologies and many other process and structural improvements.
I love hiking. I love walking for the purpose of exercise, of a heart rate over 100bpm for hours on end, of the feeling of walking fast and strongly for exercise.
I also love to walk for a different reason, to walk to allow the process of walking to clear my mind, to solve a problem (see Solvitur Ambulando and here), to slow down (see here), to be creative (see here), to stretch time (see here).
Clearly walking is a repeated theme for me on this site! It is a miraculous thing and now that I live in a country with mild weather, I walk a lot, typically well over thirty miles a week.
Today I write about the power of sauntering as opposed to hiking.
This week in Cayman I find myself musing on Perspectives, on Legacy, on Context, all as I am here with my own Context this week of CONNECTION. After two meetings early in the week with a current client and a past client, I find myself thinking of the legacy of the great Ed Percival on Cayman and how he shifted Perspective and Context for a significant number of Cayman’s leaders.
Lessons learned from working with a master Feldenkrais practitioner .
Over a year ago I injured my Achilles badly. No specific event, I simply was walking a lot that summer and it became injured and wouldn’t heal.
Months later, frustrated and limping around London, a friend referred me to a practitioner of Feldenkrais, “an educational method focusing on learning and movement“. He made a powerful referral by firmly telling me to go to the practitioner and that if I did not find it way beyond expectations, he would pay for the session for me.
Armed with that recommendation, I went to my first session ten months ago and was blown away! I have then gone periodically since then at a frequency recommended by the practitioner.
Last week was my sixth session in these ten months and they have been absolutely transformational in ways far beyond healing my acute injury.
Today, I will share my learning from my most recent session in the context of what it means to be supported by a practitioner at this level of mastery.