30 Highlights: The Leadership Skill Handbook by Jo Owen


1. This handbook is different. It starts with the question, ‘How can you learn to lead?’ In our research with over 1,000 leaders at all levels in public, private and voluntary sectors the answer was clear: leaders learn not from courses but from experience, bosses, peers and role models.

2. Finally, it is worth learning one lesson from the world’s top athletes. Each gold medallist is supreme in one discipline: they focus relentlessly on becoming the best at one thing. They do not focus on their weaknesses. No one asks weightlifters to improve their synchronized swimming skills. Leaders, like athletes, cannot succeed at everything. They have to focus on their strengths, practise relentlessly and find the context or discipline in which they can flourish.

3. Our research found no effective leaders who were cynical about their work, their organization, themselves or their lives. They were relentlessly positive about everything.

4. If you want a high-performing team, do not be afraid to set high expectations.

5. To build trust with your followers, you have to be honest with them. This is hard-form honesty: telling the whole truth promptly, even when it is painful.

6. Authority and popularity are weak currencies for leadership. Authority can be removed in a reorganization. Popularity leads to weakness: you avoid the difficult conversations; you avoid stretching the team too far; you accept excuses. Honesty and trust are the true currencies for leadership. No one can take them away from you. Honesty and trust build respect, which lasts longer than popularity.

7. An ineffective team will all be clones of the leader. An effective team will complement the leader’s technical strengths and personal style. Your job is not to be the best person on the team. As a leader, your job is to get all the best people onto the team.

8. Athletes, like leaders, do not win by playing to their weaknesses and imagining failure. They win by building on their strengths and rehearsing, visualizing success in their minds. From this comes four principles :

i. Play to your strengths

ii. Visualise Success

iii. Think like a winner

iv. Create a team that compensates for your weaknesses

9. Coach yourself by following the plan-do-review cycle on all your activities:

i. Plan - what you want to achieve and how. 

ii. Do it.

iii. Review it - Review stage is where you learn most and it is your chance to accelerate your career. It is your secret weapon.

10. After any key event, ask yourself two questions:

 i. WWW. What went well? Success is not the natural state of things. When things work well, step back and ask why? This is how you will build your personal success formula.

 ii. EBI: Even better if. Ask what you could have done differently, or tried to make things work better.

11. Warren Buffet remarked that ‘when a great manager joins a lousy company, it is normally the reputation of the company that remains intact’.

12. Strong teams are diverse. Diversity means more than diversity of race, gender, age and faith.  It means the subtler diversity of building a team with complementary styles, skills and perspectives. A football team of 11 great goalkeepers is unlikely to do well.

13. Failure to delegate traps you into doing low-level jobs. You cannot lead if you cannot delegate. Here is why you must delegate :

i. Delegation is the only way to create more than 24 hours in a day. If you don't delegate, you work yourself into an early grave.

ii.Delegation allows you to focus on the areas where you make the most difference.

iii. It shows you have trust in the team, and most teams will respond to your vote of confidence in them by working hard to show they are worthy of your trust.

iv. It builds and stretches your team: they have to learn new skills.

14. Principles of delegation : 

-Ensure clarity of the task and the eventual success criteria.

-Make the team summarise back to you what they think the task and outcomes are meant to be. Do not assume they have understood anything until they say it back to you.

-Ensure people have enough skills and resources to complete the job : do not delegate too much too soon.

-Be clear about how you want to work together (progress reports). Discuss concerns before you start.

-Be available to help, but do not interfere all the time. When they ask for help, require them to suggest solutions so that they always learn.

-Delegate meaningful projects, not just adminstriva. Stretch people and they will rise to the challenge. Giving away mundane jobs only demotivates people.

-Show faith and trust in the team : praise successes and do not undermine them

-Remember, you may have delegated authority, but you cannot delegate away responsibility. You are still accountable for the outcomes.

15. Always try to figure out how to appeal to fear, greed and idleness.

16. Five drivers of motivation in the workplace:

i. My boss shows an interest in my career.

ii. I trust my boss; he/she is honest with me.

iii. I know where we are going and how to get there.

iv. I am doing a worthwhile job.

v. I am recognized for my contribution

17. The best way to communicate is to shut up. If necessary, put duct tape over your mouth and force yourself to listen. The more you listen, the more you understand. When you really understand what the other person is thinking, then you can influence them positively.

18. Good leaders normally have a simple agenda, which boils down to three things: idea, people, money, or the IPM agenda:

i. Idea. You need to have a simple idea about what you will do that will be different from and better than the past. The best ideas are simplest: ‘We will increase customer satisfaction’, ‘We will increase reliability’, ‘We will reduce costs’.

ii. People. If you have the B team, you have a recipe for sleepless nights and stress. Do not assume that the team you inherited is the team you must live with.

iii. Money. Make sure you have the right budget to fulfil your goals.


19. SPIN – situation and specifics, personal impact, insight and inquiry, and next steps – is a classic and simple framework for giving negative feedback:

i. Situation and specifics. Give feedback in the right situation: when the person is calm and the event is still fresh in the mind.

ii. Personal impact. Do not judge the other person: that invites conflict. Say how his or her actions made you feel: feelings are irrefutable. For example, say: ‘You have turned up late to three client meetings; it makes me feel you think they are unimportant’, not: ‘You are a lazy idler’, ‘I was very embarrassed when the CFO saw the errors in the budget you prepared’, or ‘You are an innumerate scumbag.’

iii. Insight and inquiry. Ask questions to see if the person understands the problem, to help him or her explore and evaluate options and discover the way forward.

iv. Next steps. Mutually agree what happens next. There needs to be a positive way forward. You need to have thought through possible options and actions.

20. The Art of War advocated fighting under only three conditions, all of which must be present: 1) only fight when there is a prize worth fighting for; 2) only fight when you know you will win; and 3) only fight when there is no alternative.

21. The trust equation shows that trust (T) is a function of values alignment (V) and credibility (C) offset by risk (R): high risk means you need higher levels of trust to work together.

22. You have no permanent friends or allies; there are only permanent interests. At some point, your interests and their interests will go different ways simply because you are in different roles and have different priorities.

23. The more senior you become, the harder you have to push for the next step. Early in your career, if you work hard and do well you will be promoted because every firm wants to encourage the next generation of leadership talent. But as your career progresses, there are fewer opportunities and there is more competition. Leadership is not given to you; you have to take it.

24. Everyone is selling: ideas, proposals and social events. We normally sell at three levels: features (‘ My computer has 8GB RAM memory’); benefits (‘ It can handle video editing’); dreams (‘ It could turn me into a Hollywood mogul’).

25. Avoid selling features. At least work out the benefits, or ideally the dreams, that will appeal to the person you are selling to. Start with what the person wants, not with what you have.

26. We have already met fear, greed, idleness and risk in motivation skills. We meet them again in selling skills. They work together: 

-Fear: What problem am I solving for the other person?

-Greed: What hope or dream am I helping the other person achieve?

-Idleness and risk: Am I making it easy for the other person to agree? Have I removed the risks he or she perceives?

27. The selling proposition varies dramatically depending on who you are selling to. You succeed when you focus less on the product and more on the buyer’s needs.

28. It is not enough to know what to sell. You also need to know how to sell. Here is a classic seven-step sales cycle: 

-Agree the problem/ opportunity.

-Preview the benefits of addressing the problem/ opportunity.

-Suggest the idea.

-Explain how it works.

-Pre-empt objections.

-Reinforce the benefits.

-Close.

29. Many leaders come to the realization that they hire for skills and fire for (the wrong) values. Do not make that mistake. Hire to values, not just to skills.

30. The new currency of leadership is respect. Respect is based on two vital ingredients: trust and positive challenge. Trust is dealt with extensively elsewhere in the book. As a reminder, you build trust through values alignment (you ‘talk the talk’ of the other person) and credibility (you always deliver on commitments, or you ‘walk the talk’). Trust is good, but not enough for respect. As a leader you will gain respect with positive challenge. Set ambitious goals. These goals will stretch and develop your team, and give them a sense that they are achieving something meaningful. Ambition creates a sense of purpose and fulfilment. If you stretch people but do not support them, you are simply unreasonable. You need to make the challenge a positive challenge.


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Summary : Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb

1. The experiences of the human race have been recorded, in more or less detail, for some four thousand years. If we attempt to study such a period of time in as many countries as possible, we seem to discover the same patterns constantly repeated under widely differing conditions of climate, culture and religion. 

2. The only thing we learn from history,’ it has been said, ‘is that men never learn from history’

3. If we desire to ascertain the laws which govern the rise and fall of empires, the obvious course is to investigate the imperial experiments recorded in history

4.

The nation Dates of rise and fall Duration in years
Assyria 859-612 B.C. 247
Persia
(Cyrus and his descendants)
538-330 B.C. 208
Greece
(Alexander and his successors)
331-100 B.C. 231
Roman Republic 260-27 B.C. 233
Roman Empire 27 B.C.-A.D. 180 207
Arab Empire A.D. 634-880 246
Mameluke Empire 1250-1517 267
Ottoman Empire 1320-1570 250
Spain 1500-1750 250
Romanov Russia 1682-1916 234
Britain 1700-1950 250

4.1 The present writer is exploring the facts, not trying to prove anything. The dates given are largely arbitrary. Empires do not usually begin or end on a certain date. There is normally a gradual period of expansion and then a period of decline. The resemblance in the duration of these great powers may be queried.

5. An interesting deduction from the figures seems to be that the duration of empires does not depend on the speed of travel or the nature of weapons. The Assyrians marched on foot and fought with spears and bow and arrows. The British used artillery, railways and ocean-going ships. Yet the two empires lasted for approximately the same periods. 

6. In spite of the accidents of fortune, and the apparent circumstances of the human race at different epochs, the periods of duration of different empires at varied epochs show a remarkable similarity. 

7. One of the very few units of measurement which have not seriously changed since the Assyrians is the human ‘generation’, a period of about twenty-five years. Thus a period of 250 years would represent about ten generations of people. A closer examination of the characteristics of the rise and fall of great nations may emphasise the possible significance of the sequence of generations. 

8.  Stage one. The outburst

9. Again and again in history we find a small nation, treated as insignificant by its contemporaries, suddenly emerging from its homeland and overrunning large areas of the world.

10. Prior to Philip (359-336 B.C.), Macedon had been an insignificant state to the north of Greece. Persia was the great power of the time, completely dominating the area from Eastern Europe to India. Yet by 323 B.C., thirty-six years after the accession of Philip, the Persian Empire had ceased to exist, and the Macedonian Empire extended from the Danube to India, including Egypt. 

11. Characteristics of the outburst

12. These sudden outbursts are usually characterised by an extraordinary display of energy and courage. The new conquerors are normally poor, hardy and enterprising and above all aggressive.

13. But the new nation is not only distinguished by victory in battle, but by unresting enterprise in every field. Men hack their way through jungles, climb mountains, or brave the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans in tiny cockle-shells

14. Other peculiarities of the period of the conquering pioneers are their readiness to improvise and experiment. Untrammelled by traditions, they will turn anything available to their purpose. If one method fails, they try something else. Uninhibited by textbooks or book learning, action is their solution to every problem. 

15. Poor, hardy, often half-starved and ill-clad, they abound in courage, energy and initiative, overcome every obstacle and always seem to be in control of the situation. 

16. The first stage of the life of a great nation, therefore, after its outburst, is a period of amazing initiative, and almost incredible enterprise, courage and hardihood. These qualities, often in a very short time, produce a new and formidable nation. These early victories, however, are won chiefly by reckless bravery and daring initiative. 

17. Commercial expansion

18. The conquest of vast areas of land and their subjection to one government automatically acts as a stimulant to commerce. Both merchants and goods can be exchanged over considerable distances. Moreover, if the empire be an extensive one, it will include a great variety of climates, producing extremely varied products, which the different areas will wish to exchange with one another. 

19. When a great empire was in control, commerce was freed from the innumerable shackles imposed upon it today by passports, import permits, customs, boycotts and political interference.

20. In the eighth and ninth centuries, the caliphs of Baghdad achieved fabulous wealth owing to the immense extent of their territories, which constituted a single trade bloc. The empire of the caliphs is now divided into some twenty-five separate ‘nations’. 

21. The inescapable conclusion seems, however, to be that larger territorial units are a benefit to commerce and to public stability, whether the broader territory be achieved by voluntary association or by military action. 

22. The Age of Commerce

23. Let us now, however, return to the life-story of our typical empire. We have already considered the age of outburst, when a little regarded people suddenly bursts on to the world stage with a wild courage and energy. Let us call it the Age of the Pioneers. Then we saw that these new conquerors acquired the sophisticated weapons of the old empires, and adopted their regular systems of military organisation and training. A great period of military expansion ensued, which we may call the Age of Conquests. The conquests resulted in the acquisition of vast territories under one government, thereby automatically giving rise to commercial prosperity. We may call this the Age of Commerce. 

24. Art and Luxury

25. The wealth which seems, almost without effort, to pour into the country enables the commercial classes to grow immensely rich. 

26. How to spend all this money becomes a problem to the wealthy business community. Art, architecture and luxury find rich patrons. Splendid municipal buildings and wide streets lend dignity and beauty to the wealthy areas of great cities. The rich merchants build themselves palaces, and money is invested in infrastructure.

27. The first half of the Age of Commerce appears to be peculiarly splendid. The ancient virtues of courage, patriotism and  devotion to duty are still in evidence. The nation is proud, united and full of self-confidence. Boys are still required, first of all, to be manly—to ride, to shoot straight and to tell the truth. (It is remarkable what emphasis is placed, at this stage, on the manly virtue of truthfulness, for lying is cowardice—the fear of facing up to the situation.) 

28. The Age of Affluence

29. There does not appear to be any doubt that money is the agent which causes the decline of this strong, brave and self-confident people. The decline in courage, enterprise and a sense of duty is, however, gradual.

30. The first direction in which wealth injures the nation is a moral one. Money replaces honour and adventure as the objective of the best young men. 

31. Gradually, and almost imperceptibly, the Age of Affluence silences the voice of duty. The object of the young and the ambitious is no longer fame, honour or service, but cash. 

32. Education undergoes the same gradual transformation. No longer do schools aim at producing brave patriots ready to serve their country. Parents and students alike seek the educational qualifications which will command the highest salaries. 

33. Indeed the change might be summarised as being from service to selfishness. 

34. Another outward change which invariably marks the transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence is the spread of defensiveness. The nation, immensely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury.

35. Money being in better supply than courage, subsidies instead of weapons are employed to buy off enemies. To justify this departure from ancient tradition, the human mind easily devises its own justification. Military readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as primitive and immoral. Civilised peoples are too proud to fight. 

36. The conquest of one nation by another is declared to be immoral. Empires are wicked. This intellectual device enables us to suppress our feeling of inferiority, when we read of the heroism of our ancestors, and then ruefully contemplate our position today. ‘It is not that we are afraid to fight,’ we say, ‘but we should consider it immoral.’ This even enables us to assume an attitude of moral superiority

37. The weakness of pacifism is that there are still many peoples in the world who are aggressive. Nations who proclaim themselves unwilling to fight are liable to be conquered by peoples in the stage of militarism—perhaps even to see themselves incorporated into some new empire, with the status of mere provinces or colonies.

38. The Age of Intellect

39. The merchant princes of the Age of Commerce seek fame and praise, not only by endowing works of art or patronising music and literature. They also found and endow colleges and universities. It is remarkable with what regularity this phase follows on that of wealth, in empire after empire, divided by many centuries. 

40. The ambition of the young, once engaged in the pursuit of adventure and military glory, and then in the desire for the accumulation of wealth, now turns to the acquisition of academic honours. 

41. The Age of Intellect is accompanied by surprising advances in natural science. In the ninth century, for example, in the age of Mamun, the Arabs measured the circumference of the earth with remarkable accuracy. Seven centuries were to pass before Western Europe discovered that the world was not flat. Less than fifty years after the amazing scientific discoveries under Mamun, the Arab Empire collapsed. Wonderful and beneficent as was the progress of science, it did not save the empire from chaos. 

42. As in the case of the Athenians, intellectualism leads to discussion, debate and argument, such as is typical of the Western nations today. 

43. But this constant dedication to discussion seems to destroy the power of action. Amid a Babel of talk, the ship drifts on to the rocks. 

44. Perhaps the most dangerous by-product of the Age of Intellect is the unconscious growth of the idea that the human brain can solve the problems of the world.

45.  Any small human activity, the local bowls club or the ladies’ luncheon club, requires for its survival a measure of selfsacrifice and service on the part of the members. 

46.  In a wider national sphere, the survival of the nation depends basically on the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the citizens. The impression that the situation can be saved by mental cleverness, without unselfishness or human self-dedication, can only lead to collapse. 

47. Thus we see that the cultivation of the human intellect seems to be a magnificent ideal, but only on condition that it does not weaken unselfishness and human dedication to service. Yet this, judging by historical precedent, seems to be exactly what it does do. 

48. True to the normal course followed by nations in decline, internal differences are not reconciled in an attempt to save the nation. On the contrary, internal rivalries become more acute, as the nation becomes weaker. 

49. One of the oft-repeated phenomena of great empires is the influx of foreigners to the capital city. 

50. While the nation is still affluent, all the diverse races may appear equally loyal. But in an acute emergency, the immigrants will often be less willing to sacrifice their lives and their property than will be the original descendants of the founder race. 

51. As the nation declines in power and wealth, a universal pessimism gradually pervades the people, and itself hastens the decline. 

52. Frivolity is the frequent companion of pessimism. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The resemblance between various declining nations in this respect is truly surprising. The Roman mob, we have seen, demanded free meals and public games. Gladiatorial shows, chariot races and athletic events were their passion. 

53. The heroes of declining nations are always the same—the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player, not a statesman, a general, or a literary genius. 

54. History, however, seems to suggest that the age of decline of a great nation is often a period which shows a tendency to philanthropy and to sympathy for other races

55. Historians of periods of decadence often refer to a decline in religion.

56. We have to interpret religion in a very broad sense. Some such definition as ‘the human feeling that there is something, some invisible Power, apart from material objects, which controls human life and the natural world’. 

57. Genghis Khan, one of the most brutal of all conquerors, claimed that God had delegated him the duty to exterminate the decadent races of the civilised world. Thus the Age of Conquests often had some kind of religious atmosphere, which implied heroic self-sacrifice for the cause. 

58. But this spirit of dedication was slowly eroded in the Age of Commerce by the action of money. People make money for themselves, not for their country. Thus periods of affluence gradually dissolved the spirit of service, which had caused the rise of the imperial races. 

59. The habits of the members of the community have been corrupted by the enjoyment of too much money and too much power for too long a period. 

60. The result has been, in the framework of their national life, to make them selfish and idle. 

61. A community of selfish and idle people declines, internal quarrels develop in the division of its dwindling wealth, and pessimism follows, which some of them endeavour to drown in sensuality or frivolity.

62. Decadence is both mental and moral deterioration, produced by the slow decline of the community from which its members cannot escape, as long as they remain in their old surroundings. But, transported elsewhere, they soon discard their decadent ways of thought, and prove themselves equal to the other citizens of their adopted country. 

63. Decadence is not physical. Decadence is a moral and spiritual disease, resulting from too long a period of wealth and power, producing cynicism, decline of religion, pessimism and frivolity. The citizens of such a nation will no longer make an effort to save themselves, because they are not convinced that anything in life is worth saving. 


Highlights from "Daily Rituals" by Mason Currey

1. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

2. “A modern stoic,” he observed, “knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”

3. When he did find the time to compose, Feldman employed a strategy that John Cage taught him—it was “the most important advice anybody ever gave me,” Feldman told a lecture audience in 1984. “He said that it’s a very good idea that after you write a little bit, stop and then copy it. Because while you’re copying it, you’re thinking about it, and it’s giving you other ideas. And that’s the way I work. And it’s marvelous, just wonderful, the relationship relationship between working and copying.”

4. All those I think who have lived as literary men,—working daily as literary labourers,—will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.

5. Isaiah Berlin describes Marx’s habits during this time: His mode of living consisted of daily visits to the British [Museum] reading-room, where he normally remained

6. And although he had many patients who relied on him, Jung was not shy about taking time off; “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool,” he said.

7. In Everybody’s Autobiography, Stein confirmed that she had never been able to write much more than half an hour a day—but added, “If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year. To be sure all day and every day you are waiting around to write that half hour a day.”

8. When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00. “I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he told The Paris Review in 2004. “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

9. “Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

10. “My experience has been that most really serious creative people I know have very, very routine and not particularly glamorous work habits” - John Adams

11. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.

12. “I find that having a job is one of the best things in the world that could happen to me,” he once said. “It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life. I am just as free as I want to be and of course I have nothing to worry about about money.” - Wallace Stevens

13. Angelou has never been able to write at home.

14. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. “Like the pugilist,” Gershwin said, “the songwriter must always keep in training.”

15. Heller wrote Catch-22 in the evenings after work, sitting at the kitchen table in his Manhattan apartment. “I spent two or three hours a night on it for eight years,”

16. As a young apprentice in Thomas Edison’s New York office, Tesla regularly worked from 10:30 in the morning until 5:00 the following morning. (“I’ve had many hardworking assistants, but you take the cake,” Edison told him.) Later, after he had started his own company, Tesla arrived at the office at noon. Immediately, his secretary would draw the blinds; Tesla worked best in the dark and would raise the blinds again only in the event of a lightning storm, which he liked to watch flashing above the cityscape from his black mohair sofa. He typically worked at the office until midnight, with a break at 8:00 for dinner in the Palm Room of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

17. “Be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” - William Styron

18. Descartes believed that idleness was essential to good mental work, and he made sure not to overexert himself.

19. Dickens was prolific—he produced fifteen novels, ten of which are longer than eight hundred pages, and numerous stories, essays, letters, and plays—but he could not be productive without certain conditions in place. First, he needed absolute quiet; at one of his houses, an extra door had to be installed to his study to block out noise. And his study had to be precisely arranged, with his writing desk placed in front of a window and, on the desk itself, his writing materials—goose-quill pens and blue ink—laid out alongside several ornaments: a small vase of fresh flowers, a large paper knife, a gilt leaf with a rabbit perched upon it, and two bronze statuettes (one depicting a pair of fat toads dueling, the other a gentleman swarmed with puppies).

20. The morning is the best time, there are no people around.

21. “The overriding factor in my life between the ages of six and twenty-two was my father’s candy store,” Asimov wrote in his posthumously published memoir. His father owned a succession of candy stores in Brooklyn, which he opened at 6:00 A.M. and closed at 1:00 A.M., seven days a week. I have kept the candy-store hours all my life. I wake at five in the morning. I get to work as early as I can. I work as long as I can. I do this every day in the week, including holidays. I don’t take vacations voluntarily and I try to do my work even when I’m on vacation. (And even when I’m in the hospital.) In other words, I am still and forever in the candy store.

22. (Stephen) King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words.

23. (Georges) Simenon was one of the most prolific novelists of the twentieth century, publishing 425 books in his career. The Belgian-French novelist worked in intense bursts of literary activity, each lasting two or three weeks, separated by weeks or months of no writing at all.

Highlights from : "Sleep Smarter" by Shawn Stevenson

1. Get more sunlight during the day. It may sound counter-intuitive that getting more sunlight during the day can help you sleep better at night, but science has proven that this is precisely the case.

2.Avoid screens before bedtime. Cutting out some screen time at night is likely the number one thing you can do to improve your sleep quality immediately.

3. Two hours of computer screen time before bed was enough to significantly suppress people's nighttime of melatonin. When your melatonin secretion is thrown off, it will intrinsically throw-off your normal sleep cycle.

4. If you want to give your body the deep sleep it needs, make it a mandate to turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize.

5. Use a blue light blocker. Extenuating circumstances come up, and you may need to be on your computer later than you want.

6. Have a caffeine curfew. Set an unbreakable caffeine curfew to make sure your body has time to remove the majority of it from your system before bedtime. For most people, that's generally going to be before 2:00pm.

7. Keep Cool. Studies have found that the optimal room temperature for sleep is really quite cool at around 60 to 68F. Anything too far above or below this range will likely cause some difficulty sleeping.

8. Studies have shown that insomniacs tend to have a significantly warmer body temperature than normal right before bed.

9. Researchers found cooling caps allowed insomniacs to fall asleep in about 13 minutes compared with 16 minutes for the healthy control group. They also found insomnia slept for 89% of the time they were in bed, which was exact amount of time the healthy control group slept in bed.

10. If you have trouble falling asleep, try taking a warm bath 1.5 to 2hrs before hitting the sack.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but while your core temperature will increase from the bath, it will fall accordingly and level out a little cooler right around the time you turn in for the night.

11. There are mattress pads you can use that may help regulate your body temperature.

12. You can literally get amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours.  It's been shown that human beings get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10pm to 2pm. You get the most rejuvenating effects during this period, and any sleep that you get in addition is a nice bonus.

13. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now classified overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that staying up  late repeatedly, and working overnight is a strong enough cancer-causing agent to be lumped in with lead exposure and UVA radiation.

14. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women who worked the overnight shift had a 30 percent greater incidence of breast cancer.

15. Just one night of sleep deprivation can make you as insulin resistant as a person with type 2 diabetes, but extend that out to when you're not sleeping during the night at all, and you and diabetes will do more than just flirt with each other.

16. Fix your gut to fix your sleep. Upwards of 95% of your body's serotonin is located in your gut.  The obvious sleep connection is that serotonin is the building block for the "get-good-sleep" hormone, melatonin.

17. Incorporate magnesium-rich foods in your diet

18. It's a well-established fact that we sleep better in a dark environment, yet so many people aren't taking full advantage of this. Studies show that exposure to room light during usual hours of sleep suppresses melatonin levels by more than 50%.

19. Sleep experts suggest that your room be so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face.

20. Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia discovered that even a simple nightlight could contribute to myopia in children and lead to significant vision problems later in life. The researchers found that 10 percent of children who slept in the dark ended up being nearsighted, while 34% of the children who slept with a nightlight and 55 percent of the childreen who slept in a lightened room developed nearsightedness.

21. Morning exercisers had up to 75 percent more time in reparative "deep sleep" stage at night than midday or night exercisers.

22. One of the big issues with working out late in the evening is that it significantly raises your core temperature, and it take upwards of 4 to 6 hours for your temperature to come down again.

23. Keep your bedroom reserved for sleep and sex.

24. Data show that children with televisions in their bedrooms score lower on school exams and are more likely to have sleep problems.

25. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that 4 hours of wireless Internet-connected laptop exposure led to a significant decrease  in progressive sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation.

26. Lose weight. People with a healthy weight show a 5% increase in cortisol levels after consuming a meal, while overweight and obese individuals' cortisol levels increased by a whopping 51%! The biggest issue is that cortisol is as close to an anti-sleep hormone as you can get.

27.Give your body a solid 90 minutes(more is better) before heading off to bed after eating. 

28. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published research showing that meditation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

29. One of the best times for meditation is when you're already close to the alpha and theta brain waves. This would be as soon as you wake up in the morning, or right before bed at night. As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine research showed, meditating in the morning is proven to help test subjects sleep at night.

30. Chamomile can be used as a mild sedative and sleep inducer.

31. The use of melatonin supplementation is that it can potentially down-regulate your body's natural ability to utilize melatonin on its own.

32. Going to sleep early and waking early syncs the body clock with the earth's natural circadian rhythms, which is more restorative than trying to sleep while the sun is up.

33. In 2008, a study from the University of North Texas found that students who identified themselves as morning people earned significantly higher grades. In fact, the early risers had  a full grade point higher than the night owls in the study with a 3.5 to 2.5 GPA respectively.

34. A comprehensive study conducted through the department of radiotherapy and oncology at San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, Italy, found that 60 percent of patients with sleep disorders had an improvement in sleep quality after at least 2 weeks of acupressure treatment.

35. A 2009 study found that women who slept in their bras had a 60 percent greater risk for developing breast cancer.

36. Oxytocin is a potent anti-stress hormone. It reduces the signs and symptoms of depression, combats the negative effects of cortisol, and helps regulate blood pressure. It's also been shown to decrease intestinal inflammation and improve gut motility as well. All the more  reason to get as close as possible (Oxytocin is released during skin to skin contact for example massage, sex, or simply cuddling).

37. Overwhelming research is mounting that shows the impressive benefits the earth's electromagnetic surface has on the human body. 

38. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, researchers found that when test subjects were grounded, there was a "rapid activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and corresponding deactivation of the sympathetic nervous system".

39. Dr. Spencer is an Olympic athlete and 8 time Tour de France- winning team doctor and has been directly involved in more than 40 Olympic, World, National, or Tour de France Championships. He told me(author) that grounding technologies played a vital role in the success of his athletes. He found very quickly that earthing accelerated tissue repair and wound healing from injuries that athletes encountered during practice and competition. Among the benefits he also observed and reported from his patients: better sleep, less pain, more energy, and faster recovery.

40. "Grounding to the earth changes your physiology immediately. The more you ground, the more you can benefit because you are at your most natural electrical state when connected to the earth."  That said, even a minute is helpful, but the longer the better. I'd say to target a minimum of 10 minutes each day.

Highlights from: "Get Together : How to build a community"

1. The secret to getting people together is this: build your community with people, not for them.

2. Amateurs try to manage a community, but great leaders create more leaders. Nearly every challenge of building a community can be met by asking yourself, “How do I achieve this by working with my people, not doing it for them?” In other words, approach community-building as progressive acts of collaboration— doing more with others every step of the way.

3. If you want to spark your own community, you’ll need to first pinpoint your people. Find your kindling— those early allies who care about what you care about enough to manifest your idea for a community into an actual gathering of human beings.

4. No matter your community-building endeavor, the original leader should start with a clear who, then craft a why with that who in mind.

5. You can find your team of allies by asking yourself a series of more targeted questions: 

  • Who do I care about? 
  • Who do I share an interest, identity, or place with?
  • Who do I want to help?

6. Focus on two criteria: 

  • Who brings the energy— who are the people who already engage, contribute, or attend? Don’t try to conjure motivation out of thin air. Start with keen participants. 
  • Assuming that the community flourishes, who will you stick with? Cultivating a community is a long-term play. Who does your organization’s future

7. In order to make sure that your community’s purpose is grounded in your people’s needs, and that it expresses what you can accomplish together, consider: 

  • What do my people need more of? 
  • What’s the change we desire? 
  • What’s the problem only we can solve together?

8. Make your list of names: Don’t underestimate the power of personal outreach when you’re trying to spark a community. You truly become a community leader only when you establish your first early ally.

9. No matter if you’re working solo or backed by an organization, your first members will probably stem from existing relationships, the people you already know. That personal connection eases people into taking the leap to participate in something new. Your list might start with close friends who share your passion, or with some of the most engaged users of your app.

10. But there are three principles that any first community activity should integrate in order to start your group on a collaborative path: 

  • Make it purposeful. Tie the activity back to why your community teamed up in the first place.
  • Make it participatory. Don’t just talk at people. You gathered them because they’re passionate, just like you! Give them the chance to contribute to the purpose you share.
  • Make it repeatable. One-offs are the enemy. Relationships need time to flourish, and it’ll take a few cycles for some folks to warm up and begin actively contributing. Design the first activity with the intent to repeat it with your people over and over.

11. Stop thinking about your community as just an audience. Instead, treat these people as collaborators. Even with your first activity, carve out ways for others to participate. People are showing up to realize a shared purpose, not to watch you realize it for them.

12. Meaningful human connections are sticky. They make us return to shared endeavors, from Weight Watchers to team sports to church. As Scott Heiferman, co-founder of Meetup, told us during a workshop, “people show up for the meetup but they come back for the people.”

13. Through open and ongoing dialogue, a loose group of people with a shared interest can be transformed into a community, teeming with life.

14. To enable all the ways your people can share and collaborate with one another, you’ll have to create spaces where members can freely connect on their own time.

15. “I don’t think there’s much secret. Get the product right, treat the customer well, and get them talking. And that’s it,” Instant Pot founder Robert Wang 

16. Give members the space, prompts, and structure to start talking Conversations— like those unfolding daily in the Instant Pot Facebook group— don’t start without provocation. Leaders need to lay the groundwork for free-flowing communication between members.

17. To get your community talking, figure out: 

  • Space - Where can members find each other to continue their conversations independently?
  • Prompts - How do I give people an excuse to connect for the first time? It’s scary to talk to strangers. Guide your members into discussions by modeling what good participation looks like. Craft regular prompts and make introductions for newbies.
  • Structure - What structure would make communication in this space more meaningful? When implemented with care, ground rules and moderation can facilitate and reward focused, sincere conversations. Structure also supports healthy debate when conflict arises.

18. Appoint moderators and establish a code of conduct;  by doing so,you’re making a safe space for conflict, which is an essential part of any community.

19. Starter questions for your code of conduct:

  • What’s our purpose? Remind members why your community exists before dictating specific rules. 
  • What is okay? How should members act? Describe the spirit of your community and introduce etiquette that keeps conversations valuable. (Bogleheads: “Discussions are about issues, not people.”) 
  •  What is not okay? List behaviors that are not allowed (e.g., no insults or hateful language) to help make members feel confident in joining the community and safe in reporting violations. 
  • How do members report violations? Give members a private way (such as an email address) to report violations. Explain who receives that report. 
  • How will you investigate and enforce the rules? Let members know how you’ll collect information on the situation and what consequences to expect when the code of conduct is violated (e.g., a private warning, followed by a temporary ban for a certain number of days).

20. A sign of a vibrant community is that new members join because they want to. Aspiring leaders frequently forget the importance of this agency. They plop unknowing people on a list and start calling them a community.

21. Work with your members to collectively send a clear, authentic signal about what your community is all about.

22. Step one in attracting new members is crafting your origin story.

23. Marshall Ganz is a Harvard senior lecturer who organized the United Farm Workers alongside Cesar Chavez from 1965 to 1981, and designed the grassroots organizing model for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Ganz’s current course is titled Organizing: People, Power, Change.

24. Ganz believes public narratives communicate three key concepts. When you refine your origin story, follow Ganz’s lead: 

  • Tell the story of self. Make it personal. Describe the moment that you started on the path to rally your community.
  • Tell the story of us. Show that it’s bigger than you. What do you believe is made possible when this group comes together?
  • Tell the story of now. What’s one small, immediate way someone can get involved (e.g., attend a meetup, sign up for a newsletter, sign a petition)? Why should they do so now? This urgency will make people feel the pull to get started right away.

25. Once you’re satisfied with your narrative, the next step is to make that origin story available to anyone curious about what you stand for. Share your origin story in one-on-one conversations with strangers, newcomers, and other potential community members. If you gather in person, don’t be timid.

26. Now that you have your origin story pinned down, here’s the secret to spreading the word: attracting others can’t just be your job. Ask any traditional marketer, and they’ll tell you that word-of-mouth advertising is their most powerful tool.

27. You can’t expect people to recruit others without a nudge. Make it clear to members that their active involvement is crucial to ensuring the vitality and success of your community.

28. Each week, without fail, Aria takes a team photo at halftime (so that even players who have to leave early don’t get left out). “People always say, ‘I haven’t come before, I’m not going to be in the team photo,’” Aria explains. “So that photo is a moment to be like, ‘No, you’re on the team and we’re showing that to the world.’” Before practice wraps, she offers to share the team pic with anyone who wants it. Nearly everyone raises their hand. Within an hour of receiving the squad pic, many of the players have posted it on their personal Instagram accounts, coupled with captions describing their experiences.

29. You can’t force people to spread the word. Instead, ask: How can I make it easier for them to do so on their own terms?

30. Collect the right shareable stories for your community

31. It’s your job to figure out how to turn your community’s unique activities into natural, simple narratives. Here are some starter ideas: 

  • Your community centers around in-person experiences.
  • Your community centers around training or learning.
  • Your community centers around contributing and sharing content.

32. If none of these sharing strategies jumps out as a natural choice for your community, don’t fret. Look to your community members for inspiration. They’re already passing around stories. That’s guaranteed. Dig into how and what they’re sharing. Figure out which tools, information, and resources you could offer to boost their storytelling.

33. With a refined origin story and resources for members to spread the word, the foundation to attract new people to your community is in place. Congrats!

34. Now your job is to put a spotlight on the inspiring people in your community. In creating exposure for these exceptional folks, you’ll bring the community to life for others considering joining. And, as a bonus, you’ll celebrate what standout participation looks like, which can motivate existing members to deepen their involvement.

35. Build a culture of reciprocity with your storytelling. Proactively seek stories from exceptional members, then share them widely to inspire others to join the fun.

36. One way to cultivate your community’s identity is to equip enthusiastic members with badges. A badge can be anything visual that enables members to telegraph an affiliation.

37. As your own group grows, you may want to consider localizing certain badges to help foster recognition and intimacy between individuals.

38. Celebrate the self-expression of your members and encourage them to make their own badges. Whether those badges are physical or digital, the tools for customization are more accessible than ever.

39. Bonds between members are fostered through the rituals they practice together, from reciting a mantra to participating in a daily standup meeting. Kursat Ozenc, a designer whoresearches, writes, and teaches at Stanford’s d.school about rituals, notes, “When you practice a ritual that others have practiced before you— or that others are practicing at the same time as you— the actions make you feel connected to them.

40. You don’t have to meticulously design every ritual. Start by noticing and then codifying the idiosyncrasies that people are already repeating.

41. Another way that people bond over their shared identity is by creating language unique to their community.

42. As a start, try agreeing on a name for members. A demonym is a word used to describe someone from a certain place. For instance, people from California refer to themselves as Californians. Communities have demonyms, too.

43. Just as she was breaking into the music scene, Nicki Minaj came up with a demonym for her biggest fans: Barbz, or Barbies.

44. “A community is a living organism. It’s either declining or improving; there’s no steady-state in a community.” - Jennifer Sampson,

45. Similarly, a community can only grow sustainably if newcomers find value in their first interactions, then return. If you find that your members aren’t consistently participating in or contributing to the group— they’re showing up to only one event or sending just one message— you have a leaky bucket. Your community hasn’t established the foundation it needs to proliferate.

46. You can begin tracking and exploring your community’s retention in three steps: 

  • Collect participation data. Prioritize the tracking of member participation in community activities. The more the measured action demonstrates true participation, the better.
  • Gather info about your regular participants. Get to know the people who keep showing up. Build a Rolodex that includes notes, like where members are from and contact info. A spreadsheet is a fine start.
  • Seek insights on why they participate and what they want more of. Listen, listen, and listen. Numbers are great at explaining how many, but you’ll need to have conversations in order to ask why?

47. It’s not enough to measure your community’s retention. You need to dig into who keeps showing up and why.

48. Use your measurement and listening processes to search for people we call “hand-raisers.” These people are your most passionate community members, the hardcore of the hardcore. They always show up. They consistently invite friends. And most importantly, they’re raising their hands— eagerly contributing time and energy toward taking your community to the next level.

49. Hand-raisers have the potential to become homegrown leaders of your community, your most valuable collaborators.

50. Passing the torch to the folks who are raising their hands is how you’ll multiply your efforts as a leader and grow together as a community.

51. But your listening processes are perhaps even more crucial during challenging times. At some point, you may make a change or decision that is not well-received. Paying close attention to your community helps you monitor sentiment, detect your missteps early, and react appropriately.

52. “One of the things that is the death knell for a community manager is to not listen,” Mia points out. “Even if it’s a simple ‘Thanks so much for your feedback,’ you have to acknowledge people.”

53. Spread out ownership by encouraging hand-raisers to lead in ways big and small, supercharging their efforts, and, last but not least, celebrating their accomplishments.

54. Growing a community isn’t about management. It’s about developing leaders. With their help, your community will affect more people and sustain itself longer than you could have managed on your own.

55. In any community, a small set of extra-passionate people will do the majority of the work to push the group forward and expand what’s possible.

56. Mary Ellen Hannibal’s book Citizen Scientist, “the bulk of what gets done is by a small set of fanatics.”

57. But when you’re the original leader, trusting others to take over is often a challenge. We get protective, controlling, even paranoid. We worry about people “not having the same standards” or “misrepresenting the brand.”

58. Don’t bend to fears of losing control. As Marshall Ganz says, “Organizers think of themselves as people that develop the leadership of others.” You don’t have to toil alone. Shift your mindset from stoking the fire to passing the torch. Your community depends on it.

59. Cultivating hand-raisers into leaders isn’t just a way to expand your reach. It’s also the only way that large communities stay relevant over the long term and that small communities ensure their own sustainability. If your community is dependent on a lone leader, it’s more at risk of collapse in the face of uncertainty and a changing world.

60. So, what do you look for in potential leaders? Seek genuine and qualified people from your pool of hand-raisers.

61. What should you do if you promote the “wrong” leader? Our advice: don’t be afraid to say goodbye. Just as an exceptional leader can move a community forward, a bad one can stagnate or, even worse, erode a community’s magic.

62. In many of the communities we studied, a core contingent of extra-passionate people made an outsize impact. These exceptional leaders act as catalysts, accelerating a community’s ability to fulfill its purpose.

63. How do you figure out what support is needed by your community leaders, and when? Your goal is to create a potent system of support instead of a bunch of disparate, semi-helpful resources. Start by mapping out the journey of the person you’re trying to help, using good ol’ pen paper.

65. To get started, assemble a brain trust of your key leaders.

66. Build out a flowchart of the leader’s journey by discussing these questions: 

  • What are the first steps that leaders take after raising their hands to accept a leadership role? 
  • How are they vetted? Welcomed? Onboarded? Acknowledged? 
  • What are the key activities involved in their work? What support do they currently receive?

67. Your support should supercharge valuable activities and minimize or eliminate the others.

68. There are many ways to buoy up leaders when they need it. You can host trainings, offer coaching, create templates, assemble a knowledge base, record tutorials, build tools, pre-write emails, develop checklists, collect best practices, start a newsletter, make a FAQ, form partnerships, streamline communications, translate documents, offer funds, line up contacts, lend credibility, buddy people up, send reminders, cut requirements, or even rearrange the order of key activities.


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Highlights from : "Vagus Nerve" by David Reyes



1.The Vagus nerve is an incredible part of your body. It is long, meandering, and powerful. It is unique and complex. It is truly amazing! Sometimes called CNX, this is the tenth cranial nerve, and it extends from the base of your skull to your colon. Along the way down from your brain stem, the Vagus nerve makes several stops along the way, extending in various areas, and acting as an information “highway” for your body to tell the brain what it is experiencing, and for the brain to tell the body how to respond. And in many instances, this is all happening subconsciously!

2. Your blood pressure lowers and heart rate slows down when the Vagus nerve is stimulated.

3. Otto Loewi, a physiologist from Germany, identified the connection between a stimulated Vagus nerve and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. It was early in the 1920’s when Loewi recognized that the Vagus nerve sent the message to release this, and its primary function is to calm the body and mind when it is experiencing stress.

4. And one of the best and easiest methods for triggering the release of this neurotransmitter is by breathing deeply very slowly.

5. “Controlling” your Vagus nerve, or learning how to work with it, is important because you can keep it functioning properly. If it becomes over-stimulated, you can experience responses like emotional disturbances, added stress, and anxiety.

6. An overactive Vagus nerve can lead to increased stress and anxiety. An underactive Vagus nerve can lead to gastroparesis, which then can lead to diabetes.

7. Techniques to self-stimulate the Vagus nerve include:
  • Engaging your abdominal muscles
  • Acupuncture
  • Chewing gum
  • Prayer
  • Resting on your right side
  • Tai chi
  • Massage
  • Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting
  • Laughter
  • Engaging in positive social relationships and situations
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • Singing
  • Cold showers

8. Cold temperatures: studies have indicated that when your body has to adjust to colder temperatures, it increases your parasympathetic response system to allow you to relax, thereby inhibiting your sympathetic response. This process is overseen by your Vagus nerve. And this does not need to be an extreme exposure to cold; just a small amount of cold exposure can activate your Vagus nerve. One method you can try is dipping your face in ice-cold water or taking a cold shower. You can also expose yourself to cold by going outside in cold temperatures or standing in front of the open freezer door. Drinking ice-cold water is also effective.

9. Chant or sing. You can easily increase the variability in your heart rate when you sing. You can change this variability in different ways when you sing energetically, sing hymns, chant mantras, or hum. The reason this is effective is because of the stimulation of the vagal pump on your throat. If you sing at the top of your lungs you can engage the back muscles in your throat, activating your Vagus nerve. It also triggers your sympathetic nervous system along with your Vagus nerve. Also, singing is shown to increase oxytocin production.

10. Laugh a lot. The more you laugh the more you stimulate your Vagus nerve and calm your body. Studies have shown many times that this really is one of the “best medicines.” There are reports where people fainted from laughing too much. This is likely due to overstimulation of the Vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sensation becomes extreme and activates the immobilization response. In addition, people that experience this response to laughter often have an illness called Angelman’s, which is a fairly rare condition.

11. Increase the amount of zinc you consume. Zinc is a common mineral in foods and in supplements, but surprisingly many humans do not consume enough. In a study where rats were given a diet low or deficient in zinc for three days, it was clear the Vagus nerve was not functioning at full capacity. When zinc was reintroduced the Vagus nerve was activated and stimulated.

Highlights from "The Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande

1. In the 1970s, the philosophers Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre published a short essay on the nature of human fallibility that I read during my surgical training and haven’t stopped pondering since. The question they sought to answer was why we fail at what we set out to do in the world. One reason, they observed, is “necessary fallibility”—some things we want to do are simply beyond our capacity. We are not omniscient or all-powerful.

2. There are substantial realms, however, in which control is within our reach.

3. In such realms, Gorovitz and MacIntyre point out, we have just two reasons that we may nonetheless fail. The first is ignorance—we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works.

4. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude—because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly. This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.

5. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.

6. That means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.

7. And there is such a strategy—though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies. It is a checklist.

8. Americans today undergo an average of seven operations in their lifetime, with surgeons performing more than fifty million operations annually—the amount of harm remains substantial. Moreover, research has consistently showed that at least half our deaths and major complications are avoidable. The knowledge exists. But however supremely specialized and trained we may have become, steps are still missed. Mistakes are still made.

9. On October 30, 1935, at Wright Air Field in Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. Army Air Corps held a flight competition for airplane manufacturers vying to build the military’s next-generation long-range bomber. In early evaluations, the Boeing Corporation’s gleaming aluminum-alloy Model 299 had trounced the designs of Martin and Douglas. Boeing’s plane could carry five times as many bombs as the army had requested; it could fly faster than previous bombers and almost twice as far.

10. A small crowd of army brass and manufacturing executives watched as the Model 299 test plane taxied onto the runway. The plane roared down the tarmac, lifted off smoothly, and climbed sharply to three hundred feet. Then it stalled, turned on one wing, and crashed in a fiery explosion. 

11. An investigation revealed that nothing mechanical had gone wrong. The crash had been due to “pilot error,” the report said. Substantially more complex than previous aircraft, the new plane required the pilot to attend to the four engines, each with its own oil-fuel mix, the retractable landing gear, the wing flaps, electric trim tabs that needed adjustment to maintain stability at different airspeeds, and constant-speed propellers whose pitch had to be regulated with hydraulic controls, among other features.

12. The army air corps declared Douglas’s smaller design the winner. Boeing nearly went bankrupt. 

13. What they decided not to do was almost as interesting as what they actually did. They did not require Model 299 pilots to undergo longer training. Instead, they came up with an ingeniously simple approach: they created a pilot’s checklist.

14. The test pilots made their list simple, brief, and to the point—short enough to fit on an index card, with step-by-step checks for takeoff, flight, landing, and taxiing. It had the kind of stuff that all pilots know to do. They check that the brakes are released, that the instruments are set, that the door and windows are closed, that the elevator controls are unlocked—dumb stuff. You wouldn’t think it would make that much difference. But with the checklist in hand, the pilots went on to fly the Model 299 a total of 1.8 million miles without one accident.

15. Much of our work today has entered its own B-17 phase. Substantial parts of what software designers, financial managers, firefighters, police officers, lawyers, and most certainly clinicians do are now too complex for them to carry out reliably from memory alone. Multiple fields, in other words, have become too much airplane for one person to fly.

16. In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily overlooked under the strain of more pressing events.

17. Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.

18. Checklists seem to provide protection against such failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.

19. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths and saved two million dollars in costs.

20. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the ICU create their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

21. These checklists accomplished what checklists elsewhere have done, Pronovost observed. They helped with memory recall and clearly set out the minimum necessary steps in a process.

22. Theory: under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgment, but judgment aided—and even enhanced—by procedure.

23. There are good checklists and bad, Boorman explained. Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on. 

24. Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

25. When you’re making a checklist, Boorman explained, you have a number of key decisions. You must define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used (unless the moment is obvious, like when a warning light goes on or an engine fails). You must decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. 

26. The checklist cannot be lengthy. A rule of thumb some use is to keep it to between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory. Boorman didn’t think one had to be religious on this point.

27. But after about sixty to ninety seconds at a given pause point, the checklist often becomes a distraction from other things. People start “shortcutting.” Steps get missed. So you want to keep the list short by focusing on what he called “the killer items”—the steps that are most dangerous to skip and sometimes overlooked nonetheless.

28. Ideally, it should fit on one page. It should be free of clutter and unnecessary colors. It should use both uppercase and lowercase text for ease of reading. (He went so far as to recommend using a sans serif type like Helvetica.)

29. No matter how careful we might be, no matter how much thought we might put in, a checklist has to be tested in the real world, which is inevitably more complicated than expected. First drafts always fall apart, he said, and one needs to study how, make changes, and keep testing until the checklist works consistently.

30. It is common to misconceive how checklists function in complex lines of work. They are not comprehensive how-to guides, whether for building a skyscraper or getting a plane out of trouble. They are quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals. And by remaining swift and usable and resolutely modest, they are saving thousands upon thousands of lives.

31. Pabrai has studied every deal Buffett and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, have made—good or bad—and read every book he could find about them. He even pledged $650,000 at a charity auction to have lunch with Buffett. “Warren,” Pabrai said—and after a $650,000 lunch, I guess first names are in order—“Warren uses a ‘mental checklist’ process” when looking at potential investments.


30 Highlights from "Spark : How exercise will improve the performance of your brain" By Dr. John Ratey

1.       In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection. —Plato

2.       It was already known that exercise increases levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine—important neurotransmitters that traffic in thoughts and emotions.

3.       They don’t know that toxic levels of stress erode the connections between the billions of nerve cells in the brain or that chronic depression shrinks certain areas of the brain. And they don’t know that, conversely, exercise unleashes a cascade of neurochemicals and growth factors that can reverse this process, physically bolstering the brain’s infrastructure. In fact, the brain responds like muscles do, growing with use, withering with inactivity.

4.       It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes. They bear names such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and they provide an unprecedented view of the mind-body connection.

5.       In October of 2000 researchers from Duke University made the New York Times with a study showing that exercise is better than sertraline (Zoloft) at treating depression.

6.       If exercise came in pill form, it would be plastered across the front page, hailed as the blockbuster drug of the century.

7.       In Naperville, Illinois, gym class has transformed the student body of nineteen thousand into perhaps the fittest in the nation. Among one entire class of sophomores, only 3 percent were overweight, versus the national average of 30 percent. What’s more surprising—stunning—is that the program has also turned those students into some of the smartest in the nation. In 1999 Naperville’s eighth graders were among some 230,000 students from around the world who took an international standards test called TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), which evaluates knowledge of math and science. In recent years, students in China, Japan, and Singapore have outpaced American kids in these crucial subjects, but Naperville is the conspicuous exception: when its students took the TIMSS, they finished sixth in math and first in the world in science.

8.        Few researchers have tackled the question, although one study from Virginia Tech showed that cutting gym class and allocating more time to math, science, and reading did not improve test scores, as so many school administrators assume it will. Because gym class can mean so many things, research in this area has focused on the correlation between physical fitness and academic achievement. The most telling studies come from the California Department of Education (CDE). Over the past five years, the CDE has consistently shown that students with higher fitness scores also have higher test scores.

9.       In 2001 fit kids scored twice as well on academic tests as their unfit peers. Among California’s 279,000 ninth graders, for instance, those who scored a six on the FitnessGram ranked, on average, in the sixty-seventh percentile in math and the forty-fifth percentile in reading on the Stanford Achievement Test. If these scores seem less than stellar, consider those of the students who passed only one of the six areas: they ranked in the thirty-fifth and twenty-first percentiles, respectively.

10.   Indeed, studies suggest that simply getting on the scale every morning improves the likelihood that someone who’s overweight will shed pounds.

11.   In 2005 the physical education staff expanded gym from one class a week to forty-five minutes a day, focused almost entirely on cardiovascular activity. In the span of one school year, the students’ fitness levels improved dramatically, and counselors reported that the number of incidents involving violence at Woodland decreased decreased from 228 to 95 for the year.

12.   I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters—along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain.

13.   Only a mobile creature needs a brain, points out New York University neurophysiologist Rodolfo Llinás in his 2002 book, I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self. To illustrate, he uses the example of a tiny jellyfish-like animal called a sea squirt: Born with a simple spinal cord and a three hundred–neuron “brain,” the larva motors around in the shallows until it finds a nice patch of coral on which to put down its roots. It has about twelve hours to do so, or it will die. Once safely attached, however, the sea squirt simply eats its brain. For most of its life, it looks much more like a plant than an animal, and since it’s not moving, it has no use for its brain. Llinás’s interpretation: “That which we call thinking is the evolutionary internalization of movement.”

14.   Indeed, in a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and that the rate of learning correlated directly with levels of BDNF.

15.   Learning and memory evolved in concert with the motor functions that allowed our ancestors to track down food, so as far as our brains are concerned, if we’re not moving, there’s no real need to learn anything.

16.   One thing scientists know for sure is that you can’t learn difficult material while you’re exercising at high intensity because blood is shunted away from the prefrontal cortex, and this hampers your executive function.

17.    An imbalance of these neurotransmitters is why some people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) come across as stress junkies. They have to get stressed to focus.

18.   If you exercise or even just socialize, you’re tapping into the evolutionary antidote to stress.

19.   Studies show that if researchers exercise rats that have been chronically stressed, that activity makes the hippocampus grow back to its preshriveled state. The mechanisms by which exercise changes how we think and feel are so much more effective than donuts, medicines, and wine. When you say you feel less stressed out after you go for a swim, or even a fast walk, you are.

20.   Just keep in mind that the more stress you have, the more your body needs to move to keep your brain running smoothly.

21.   A massive Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families published in 2006 showed that exercisers are less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing.

22.    Exercise also boosts dopamine, which improves mood and feelings of wellness and jump-starts the attention system. Dopamine is all about motivation and attention. Studies have shown that chronic exercise increases dopamine storage in the brain and also triggers the production of enzymes that create dopamine receptors in the reward center of the brain, and this provides a feeling of satisfaction when we have accomplished something.

23.   A study in London in 2004 showed that even ten minutes of exercise could blunt an alcoholic’s craving.

24.   The fact that exercise counteracts anxiety and depression directly can have a huge impact on any form of addiction, as both of these mood states undermine treatment.

25.   And while I often suggest that people exercise in the morning, if your goal is to break a habit such as having a drink every night when you come home, exercising in the evening is probably a better strategy. You can use the aerobic shot for a different kind of buzz.

26.   Specifically, every fifty minutes of weekly exercise correlated to a 50 percent drop in the odds of being depressed.

27.   Population studies have shown that countries in which people eat a lot of fish have lower incidence of bipolar disorder. And some people use omega-3s as a stand-alone treatment for mood disorders and ADHD.

28.   AEROBIC. Exercise four days a week, varying from thirty minutes to an hour, at 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. At this level, you’ll be burning fat in the body and generating the ingredients necessary for all the structural changes in the brain I’ve discussed.

29.   STRENGTH. Hit the weights or resistance machines twice a week, doing three sets of your exercises at weights that allows you to do ten to fifteen repetitions in each set.

30.   BALANCE AND FLEXIBILITY. Focus on these abilities twice a week for thirty minutes or so. Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, martial arts, and dance all involve these skills, which are important to staying agile.

200x

In a former life, I often played poker.  A key concept that bad poker players fail to grasp is the concept of avoiding ruin. If one is to be a good poker player, one needs to be sufficiently bankrolled.  One should only spend a small fraction of their bankroll at each game. For instance if one's bankroll is $1000 and they bet all of it on chance of tripling their money with a 50% chance of winning, half the time they will lose that bet be ruined, ie broken.  A better strategy is to bet $1 with a chance of winning $3 at 50% probability, so that if you were to lose the $1 you will still have $999 more to lose and eventually if you continue playing your $1000 would have tripled without ruin.

This concept can also be applied in life, risk little at a time.  When one innovates the goal is to extract some measure of value from the innovation, but there is always some risk involved.  As an example, you came up with a idea for a website, a site dedicated to cats wearing top-hats.  The risk you are taking are two fold, social and financial.  You could be laughed at for the rest of your days ie social risk and also the monies spending on developing and marketing the site could be lost if the website doesn't recoup a profit ie financial risk.  It is hard to assess the risk one can take reputation, thus it would be more valuable to assess one's financial risk.

A very conservative bankroll in poker is 200 times the max buy-in for one game, ie you would need to lose 200 games or more to lose your bankroll. My proposition is that when one undertakes a venture, he should be able to do it 200+ times without ruin, also the venture he undertakes would be sufficient profitable that it would pay for any loses sustained.

In essence, we are looking for opportunities with little risk with enormous pay off.  Such opportunities tend to come with a high risk of failure on each individual attempt.  Consider singing, each time a singer creates a song, it very unlikely it will become a hit, but if it does it will have enormous pay off. In ones lifetime one could make thousand of songs. It's opportunities like this in which one should seek to engage oneself.

Other examples of opportunities with little risk and enormous pay off:

1. Creating and selling Utility Software

2. Small Game Development

3. Writing blog[<---me]

4. Writing and selling short stories/novels/books

5. Writing and selling tutorials[<--I should try this]

6. Prove a mathematical theorem

7. Create Artificial General Intelligence[<---also me]