Handpicked: My Week of Learning

Here is my weekly post on what I have been reading or listening to.

Book am I reading (Non Fiction)


The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

I finished this book on the weekend. It is a great read.

I reviewed the book and made more detailed observations in this post.

Favourite Highlight from the week?

“The fear people have about the idea of adherence to protocol is rigidity. They imagine mindless automatons, heads down in a checklist, incapable of looking out their windshield and coping with the real world in front of them. But what you find, when a checklist is well made, is exactly the opposite. The checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with (Are the elevator controls set? Did the patient get her antibiotics on time? Did the managers sell all their shares? Is everyone on the same page here?), and lets it rise above to focus on the hard stuff (Where should we land [the aeroplane]?).”


People Skills by Robert Bolton.

This book was recommended at the end of the Secrets of Consulting by Gerry Weinberg.

I am enjoying it. I can definitely learn from it. It is about communication and understanding. It is in many ways about perception. When I read the third quote below I knew this book was for me.

So far the book has discussed barriers to communication. The things we do consciously or not that get in the way of effective communication. There are twelve barriers he mentions, many of which are surprising.

I will break with my protocol and add a quote here form the book which is worth contemplating. This is a quote within a quote at the start of Chapter Two.

“A barrier to communication is something that keeps meanings from meeting. Meaning barriers exist between all people, making communication much more difficult than most people seem to realize. – Reuel Howe, theolgian and educator”

Following the theme from last week I find myself thinking about questioning again. Excessive or inappropriate questioning is one of the barriers to communication he mentions.

This makes sense later in the book when he starts talking about listening skills. I am still reading this section. In relation to questioning, and in particular questioning as a barrier, this is about leaving space for the person talking to think and say what they need to say.

How do you get that conversation flowing so you hear the interesting information?

Have you ever seen Michael Parkinson interview, or even Graham Norton is pretty good? If you have, did you noticed how free flowing the conversations are? Did you notice how guests say more than they might in another chat show?

For a bad example see anything Jonathan Ross does.

I enjoyed Michael Parkinson’s shows because he got out of the way. He let the interviewee talk. What they said was interesting. He listened.

Asking too many question demonstrates a lack of listening.  This is counter-intuitive. In reality we are probably thinking about the next question, not what is being said. This is particularly true of closed questions.

If we want to communicate effectively we need to listen better.

This morning one of the listening skills he introduces is paraphrasing. I am going to talk about it now as I will be well past this section by this time next week.

Why discuss it now?

Because I have mentioned the term back-brief in a couple of posts. I am yet to do a post on where I get this term from. I promise one will come. The back-brief process is a feedback loop. It is a way of checking that you understood the instruction.

I like the lesson on paraphrasing as it is the same thing, just a gentle approach with a different purpose.Paraphrasing is showing that you heard the person talking. You use their words. You are succinct. In showing you are listening you build the relationship and fuel the conversation.

Favourite Highlight from the week?

Labelling prevents us from getting to know ourselves and other individuals: there is no longer a person before us—only a type.

And a second because I can … and it is related.

The psychologist Clark Moustakas says:

“Labels and classifications make it appear that we know the other, when actually, we have caught the shadow and not the substance. Since we are convinced we know ourselves and others . . . [we] no longer actually see what is happening before us and in us, and, not knowing that we do not know, we make no effort to be in contact with the real. We continue to use labels to stereotype ourselves and others, and these labels have replaced human meanings, unique feelings and growing life within and between persons.”

Podcasts I Heard

A Look Inside China's Steel Industry

On Being: JONATHAN HAIDT AND MELVIN KONNER — Capitalism and Moral Evolution: A Civil Provocation

It was supposed to be a discussion about “culture and conscience” with two social scientists, as part of a public gathering of the Center for Humans and Nature at the American Museum of Natural History. But Jonathan Haidt is studying the relationship between capitalism and moral evolution, and our conversation took off from there in surprising directions. The liberal view of capitalism as essentially exploitative may remain alive and well, Haidt says. But the ironic truth of history is that capitalism actually generates liberal values as it takes root in societies. Our conversation preceded this American cultural-political season but offers provocative perspective on it.

What Stuck

This was a winding conversation as mentioned in the blurb above. I found myself observing the flow and structure of the conversation. Yet there were some really great quotes.

The one below is my favourite. I like anything that speaks to misunderstanding, perception, and biases. To our failure to empathise, listen, and to try and understand another person.

“No, I think we need to understand what’s happening to us. We especially need to understand our limitations in understanding what’s happening to us. People are very confident about why capitalism is so terrible, or why it’s so wonderful. And I think we all need to be more epistemologically humble. We need to recognize that, again, the world is changing, we’re changing, and we’re so biased and partisan and tribal, that however certain we are about our political convictions, we’re wrong about a lot of them.” – Jonathan Haidt

One of the other points he makes a couple of times is that successful capitalist states tend towards social support. They tend towards the ideals of those who propose other forms of government and economics.

Hear me out as I try out his logic. The conversation draws parallels to evolution throughout so keep that in mind. His point is that as a capitalist economy starts to do its thing it pulls people out of poverty. Not everyone, but it does pull people out. Over time the expectations of society change. Driven by the newer generations that have no memory of what it was like before. The standard by which these newer geneations measure their quality of life are different. Their expectations of the government are different. As this changes you see many societies start to argue for the social safety nets that support those at the bottom.

He isn’t naive in his analysis in the sense that he knows there are trade-off’s through the whole process.

As a thought experiment it is interesting. It is another way of looking at what is happening over time.

“So I guess what I’m saying is with constant change and our incredibly limited self-righteous and biased minds, we need multiple perspectives on what’s happening to us. We need to listen to each other. Our biggest problem as a nation now is that the left-right divide is getting ever more hostile. Surveys show that the way people think — the other side is getting more and more hostile since the ‘90s. And this is what’s preventing us from functioning as a nation. We need to be working on this problem of political divisiveness. We need more political diversity. ” – Jonathan Haidt



Remarkably Human: Outsource Your Memory & Curate Your Life with Joel Zaslofsky

… On today’s episode, we chat about Joel’s solution, which he recently published in his new book Experience Curating.

Most of us have heard of – or even practiced – what call we “curating.”  But Joel’s method of curating his experiences is nothing short of outsourcing human memory.  We chat about what he outsources, how he does it, and most importantly, the surprising ways in which it has changed his life significantly for the better.

I must admit that I was a skeptic when I first picked up his book, but he quickly converted me into a believer, and I’m thrilled to have him on the show.

What Stuck

This is the first time I have listened to this podcast. I heard about it via Pat Flynn on the Smart Passive Income podcast. Roderick Russell is in his mastermind group.

If you are reading this email. If you have got this far. Then this podcast is worth a listen.

What I am doing here, and what I have done before via email with friends and colleagues, is sharing curated content. I am sharing what I have read and why I think you might be interested.

This is what his guest Joel is talking about. Curating with intent and purpose.

Every time you share a photo on Facebook, or you share an article you read, you are curating content. However most times we do not think about what we share, why we share it, what was going on at the time, and why the other person would be interested.

Curating with intent and purpose, so you can share with people who are interested, and so that you can recall accurately is what he suggests.

Have a listen.

I have one more thought. At the end of the podcast Roderick discusses the conversation. He starts to talk about human memory and he goes near an idea I have come across before.

He is making a point that as more people rely on tools to memorise things, as we rely on Google to have information just in time, we are negatively impacting our ability to innovate and be creative. If the idea is not stewing in your mind somewhere, how can your brain make the non-obvious links that result in creative solutions? That is the point that Roderick makes.

The other related point I have heard before talks about how our perceptions are impacted. The thoughts and views in your head affect how you see the world. If there is nothing in there, or it is not well tended, what does that mean?

That has to be a blog topic in its own right.



The Tim Ferriss Show: The Canvas Strategy — What Ben Franklin and Bill Belichick Have in Common

“My job is usually to deconstruct world-class performers from business, military, entertainment, politics, or athletics, and then to tease out the routines and habits you can use.

In this particular episode, I’m going to share an overarching strategy that has been used by many of the greats. That includes Ben Franklin, legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick, and many more. It is also how I built my network, how my first book hit the tipping point, how I became successful at angel investing, etc.

Of course, if you’re interested in the networking part of it, you can also read the blog post and listen to the episode, How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time. But that is bonus credit.

The secret to all of the above is the “canvas strategy.”

And in this episode, Ryan Holiday, author of the new book, Ego Is the Enemy, will teach you how to apply canvas strategy to your life. (The book is also the newest addition to my book club, which can be found at audible.com/timsbooks.)

Please enjoy this excerpt with Ryan Holiday from Ego Is the Enemy!”

What Stuck

This is a chapter from Ryan Holiday’s new book. From this one chapter it is on my reading list. 

“You’ll see what most people’s egos prevent them from appreciating. The person who clears the path, ultimately controls its direction. Just as the canvas shapes the painting. ” Ryan Holiday in ‘The Ego is the Enemy

Heard on Tim Ferriss show. Episode #167

I took a while for me to get my head around what the canvas strategy is. I am not sure I can explain it succinctly yet. But the gist of the chapter is that by helping other people, by putting your ego to one side, you progress. And he means help. He does not mean brown-nose or any of those things.

The quote above makes the point that by helping others you gain. By clearing the path for them and helping them get things done you start to gain control of that path. You can affect its direction. By helping you gain more influence.

Worth a listen. There is enough in the episode to get you thinking about how your ego gets in your way.


Articles I Saved

Only one article this week. I have had a few open to read but not got around to them.

What Productivity Systems Won’t Solve

A way to think about procrastination …

Handpicked Tweets

Have a great weekend.