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  1. Feb 2021
    1. You’re a science and data-driven person. You’re obsessed with physics, engineering, with figuring out how things work. So apply that same passion for science not just to your products but to yourself. People are not machines. For machines — whether of the First or Fourth Industrial Revolution variety — downtime is a bug; for humans, downtime is a feature. The science is clear. And what it tells us is that there’s simply no way you can make good decisions and achieve your world-changing ambitions while running on empty. To cite just one study, after 17-19 hours without sleep, we begin to experience levels of cognitive impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05 percent, just under the threshold for being legally drunk. No business leader would hire people who came to work drunk, so don’t model that behavior for your employees.
    1. Several decades ago, when treating substance abuse problems, psychologists developed a technique called motivational interviewing. The central premise: Instead of trying to force other people to change, you’re better off helping them find their own intrinsic motivation to change. You do that by interviewing them — asking open-ended questions and listening carefully — and holding up a mirror so they can see their own thoughts more clearly. If they express a desire to change, you guide them toward a plan.Say you’re a student at Hogwarts, and you want to help your uncle reject Voldemort. You might start like this:You: I’d love to better understand your feelings about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.Uncle: Well, he’s the most powerful wizard alive. Also, his followers promised me a fancy title.You: Interesting. Is there anything you dislike about him?Uncle: Hmm. I’m not crazy about all the murdering.You: Well, nobody’s perfect. What’s stopped you from abandoning him?Uncle: I’m afraid he might direct the murdering toward me.You: That’s a reasonable fear — I’ve felt it too. Are there any principles that matter so deeply to you that you’d be willing to take that risk?
    1. Building a “30 by 30” list, however, is a misbegotten approach to happiness. Not that anyone in our material- and achievement-oriented society could be faulted for thinking this way, of course. Every cultural message we get is that happiness can be read off a scorecard of money, education, experiences, relationships, and prestige. Want the happiest life? Check the boxes of success and adventure, and do it as early as possible! Then move on to the next set of boxes. She who dies with the most checked boxes wins, right?More in this seriesThe Type of Love That Makes People HappiestArthur C. BrooksThe Subtle Mindset Shift That Could Radically Change the Way You See the WorldArthur C. BrooksThere Are Two Kinds of Happy PeopleArthur C. Brooks Wrong. I don’t mean that accomplishment and ambition are bad, but that they are simply not the drivers of our happiness. By the time many people figure this out on their own, they have spent a lifetime checking things off lists, yet are unhappy and don’t know why.The economist Joseph Schumpeter once wrote that entrepreneurs love to earn fortunes “as an index of success and as a symptom of victory.” That is, every million or billion is another box checked to provide an entrepreneur with a feeling of self-worth and success.
    1. “WHEN PEOPLE talk, listen completely.” Those words of Ernest Hemingway might be a pretty good guiding principle for many managers, as might the dictum enunciated by Zeno of Citium, a Greek philosopher: “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” For people like being listened to.
    1. take the case of an eighteen-month-old infant learning to talk. Imagine the father leaning over the crib in which his baby son is engaging in what the behaviorist B. F. Skinner calls the free operant; that is, he’s simply babbling various nonsense sounds. Out of this babble comes the syllable da. What happens? Father smiles broadly, jumps up and down with joy, and shouts, “Did you hear that? My son said ‘daddy.’” Of course, he didn’t say “daddy.” Still, nothing is much more rewarding to an eighteen-month-old infant than to see an adult smiling broadly and jumping up and down. So, the behaviorists confirm our common sense by telling us that the probability of the infant uttering the syllable da has now increased slightly. The father continues to be delighted by da, but after a while his enthusiasm begins to wane. Finally, the infant happens to say, not da, but dada. Once again, father goes slightly crazy with joy, thus increasing the probability that his son will repeat the sound dada. Through such reinforcements and approximations, the toddler finally learns to say daddy quite well. To do so, remember, he not only has been allowed but has been encouraged to babble, to make “mistakes,” to engage in approximations—in short, to be a fool. But what if this type of permission had not been granted? Let’s rerun the same scene. There’s father leaning over the crib of his eighteen-month-old son. Out of the infant’s babble comes the syllable da. This time, father looks down sternly and says, “No, son, that is wrong! The correct pronunciation is dad-dy. Now repeat after me: Dad-dy. Dad-dy. Dad-dy.” What would happen under these circumstances? If all of the adults around an infant responded in such a manner, it’s quite possible he would never learn to talk. In any case, he would be afflicted with serious speech and psychological difficulties.
    2. The theme of emptiness as a precondition to significant learning shows up in the familiar tale of the wise man who comes to the Zen master, haughty in his great wisdom, asking how he can become even wiser. The master simply pours tea into the wise man’s cup and keeps pouring until the cup runs over and spills all over the wise man, letting him know without words that if one’s cup is already full there is no space in it for anything new. Then there is the question of why young people sometimes learn new things faster than old people; why my teenage daughters, for example, learned the new dances when I didn’t. Was it just because they were willing to let themselves be foolish and I was not?
    3. “It’s simple. To be a learner, you’ve got to be willing to be a fool.”