How to be lucky?

Let’s talk about how to be lucky via a set of 5 quotes

There are only two things that determine how your life turns out: luck and the quality of your decisions. You have control over only one of those two things.

Annie Duke

Please do not wait till you get lucky. As Annie Duke shares in her excellent book How to Decide, the one thing you can control and improve is the quality of your decisions. You increase the chances that good things will happen to you by doing so.

What do other people say about how you can increase your chances of being lucky?

Good luck arises from putting yourself in the best position to take advantage of events. As often as not, bad luck is evidence that you are on the wrong track.

Ronald Cohen

As with many things, luck will find you when you are sweating. Put yourself in that best position. However, if you ran over and over again into a wall, perhaps consider there is no door in this wall, and you need to take a different direction. There is no requirement for good luck to appear after bad luck, so change your route if you find bad luck on your way.

In nearly any competitive endeavor, you have to be damned good before luck can be of any use to you at all.

Gary Kasparov

When does luck make a difference? Long after you have completed hard work. Long after you build your capabilities and experience. After that, luck can play a role and impact any outcome. Before that, your skill gap overshadows everything that luck could make up for you.

Work, time, and luck come with achieving a goal. Just know that if you pursue your goal with a steady drumbeat, the length between start and success will continually shrink.

Bob Bowman

It is no guarantee that luck will visit you if you work long enough and hard enough. Since then, it would not be luck but fate. As long you put in the work, and the time deliberately, luck might follow you and help you reach your goals.

What if you are somebody who says that luck does not exist? Perhaps Jean Cocteau can convince you why you should consider it is existing:

We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?

Jean Cocteau

Do not worry about being original. Produce and change the world

There was a moment I could not bring myself to write anything for years. The main reason was that I saw an immense amount of repetition of content, and I saw too many people claiming success that was not theirs.

That was nobody’s fault or problem. I was using the wrong lens to look at the world.

This is not about me not writing. It is about all of us who censor ourselves (in work, in private, in things we love to do) because we do not like the world (or company, hobby club, or department) we see and do not want to be like “those other people”.

Using the wrong lens

It is because of how we look at the world, not how it really is. Do not blame people for being successful with something you do not like. Learn how they did it and use it to change the world.

My problem was that I wanted to see original content. I did not realize that originality is not the Internet’s critical problem. It is the distribution of ideas. Ideas are not distributed to everyone at the same time.

How you can overcome this

Everything has already been done. every story has been told every scene has been shot. it’s our job to do it one better.

Stanley Kubrick

Originality is not dead. There is plenty to be original at. Though there is a chance what you do has been done before. So what. It doesn’t hold anybody else back and to be successful with it. Why would you? You know you can bring in something new, something different, more complete, a different angle, or anything. At least, you can have an idea that represents you and your viewpoints.

It is about producing not viewing

Don’t let your view of the world limit yourself. You can always push higher standards on yourself and be the person you want to see. If you are not producing any content, the world remains the same, and you are just sitting there with your high standards.

If you do not like the world you see: participate in it and change it. Pointing fingers at the sideline that it is wrong doesn’t help.

The way to come to power is not always to merely challenge the Establishment, but first, make a place in it and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment.

Francis Ford Coppola

Produce, go out there. It would help if you did it for yourself. You deserve it. You will see: many other people need what you are producing and have been waiting for it all along. If you are not producing, you are not thriving, and you definitely are not changing anything.

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Be nice

Nobody ever disliked a nice person. Being nice is the most simple skill to build and use in your daily life. Being nice is its own reward most of the time.

One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice. Nice sells.

Mark Cuban
  • If you need help, to whom would you instead go? The nice person.
  • If you want advice, to whom would you instead go? The nice person.
  • If you want to catch up, to who would you instead go? The nice person.

People like nice people. Do not confuse being nice with being slimy, with somebody who constantly does lip service, who tells you what you want to hear. None of these things is about being nice. It might look nice and feel nice, though people will see through it and know it is disingenuous. People do not like deceitful people.

Don’t hold back

If you are nice, it doesn’t mean that you need to hold back. You can be nice and honest, nice and direct, nice and open, nice and disagreeable. It is how you behave. It is how much you care about the other. Since if you are just honest but not nice, you are just being mean.

Be nice. It doesn’t cost you anything extra. Niceness might be the best investment in your career. If you can interact with people, give them a good feeling, and resolve conflicts in a manner both parties value, you become an even more precious person.

Over time, your valuation pays out. Unfriendly people only go so far. Niceness has endless longevity. And as with most investments, time in the market beats timing in the market.

Be nice in 2022.

Five books to start the year with


Most of the books I picked last year were books I read before and gave a five-star rating on Goodreads, and I wanted to see if they were still good.

Some of them did not survive their rating and were challenging books to read again. Of course, there were plenty of books that were still great. And some books jumped the line because they came out, and I wanted to read them right away.

If you are looking for books to read this year, here are a few I would recommend:

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

Book Cover The Antidote

This book is a casual and very informative read. It takes you through many activities and methods that should cause happiness but most likely do not. However, it is not about highlighting the charlatans (many). It also comes with a good exploration of what happiness can look like and how to get there.

‘There are lots of ways of being miserable,’ says a character in a short story by Edith Wharton, ‘but there’s only one way of being comfortable, and that is to stop running around after happiness.’

Oliver Burkeman

Never Split the Difference

Book Cover Never Split the Difference

You are constantly negotiating. And even though this book is written by Chriss Voss, a former hostage negotiator from the FBI, this book will be helpful for you even when you do not have to negotiate for hostages. The book has a healthy mix between theory and stories. It is close to applying the ideas you just learned in the stories that follow.

Negotiation is a game, not a competition. It is about planting information, not about making demands. Keep in mind: as soon as people want to talk with you, you have something they want.

Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.

Chris Voss

Legacy: What the All Black can teach us about the business of Life

Book Cover Legacy

The All Blacks are the most successful sports team ever. They not always were. This book shows how the combination of sports, Maori heritage and modern leadership theory built one of the best teams. Every paragraph you read, you learn.

My favourite concept is “the jersey” when you are invited to join the All Blacks, your job (amongst many) is to leave the jersey in a better place. You are a steward of cultural legacy.

Sweep the Sheds Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done. —— Kāore te kūmara e whāki ana tana reka. The kūmara (sweet potato) does not need to say how sweet he is.

James Kerr

Think Again

Book Cover Think Again

Whenever Adam Grant has a new book, I read it. It is a bit fanboyish, but I love how he combines a very scientific approach and science-backed style of argumentation with a very casual way of bringing the content.

This book is about the thing we do least: rethinking. We can be wrong, but we seldom revisit that we can be wrong. The purpose of learning is not to affirm our beliefs. It’s to evolve our beliefs. Reading this book in combination with “Never Split the Difference”, “Noise”, “Catalyst”, and “How to decide” will increase your view on how to think, rethink and decide enormously.

Remember:

The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.

Adam Grant

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement

Book Cover Noise

Why are we so inconsistent. Presented with the same information, judges, doctors, and inspectors make different decisions. Even the same person makes other decisions when the same situation happens twice.

It is not as a heavy read as “Thinking, fast and slow”, though it still gives you a lot to think about. Do not expect a clear list with five things you can do to eliminate noise. Do expect an overview with scientific research on why noise exists and how it is created, and what you can do to minimize it.

Handwashing does not prevent all diseases. Likewise, decision hygiene will not prevent all mistakes. It will not make every decision brilliant. But like handwashing, it addresses an invisible yet pervasive and damaging problem. Wherever there is judgment, there is noise, and we propose decision hygiene as a tool to reduce it.

Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass Sunstein
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After reading 1 book a week this year, these are the books I would recommend

After reading again a book per week on average this year, I want to share with you the books I would recommend most. If you want to see the whole list of books I read in this year, you could go to my Year in Books over at Goodreads.

For when you are leading a team

The books I would recommend provided me with new insights about how I could organise myself and/or the people around me. Furthermore, some books provided ideas on how to create and work in a culture that I can be proud of.

Biographies

And I think when you’re trying to teach the great concepts that work, it helps to tie them into the lives and personalities of the people who developed them. I think you learn economics better if you make Adam Smith your friend. That sounds funny, making friends among the eminent dead, but if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better in life and work better in education. It’s way better than just being given the basic concepts.
by Charlie Munger

I like biographies a lot, and I should have read way more of them this year since there is so much to learn out of an excellent biography. Next year, there will be more on my list, though for this year I would recommend:

Creative thinking and working

I am always curious about how I can be better at the things I do and how I could help others to be the best they can be. Hence the majority of my reading list is around this topic:

The mind and mindfulness

Every year I challenge myself to improve myself, and this year I ran into the reality that was working harder did not cut it. Therefore I focused more on how my brain works. Some of the books in the previous list could also be listed here. However, every list is just an opinion by an individual.

Reading is fun and these books fit this category well

The majority of what I read could be seen as business books, though for me they are great fun as well. The books listed here are not at all business-focused even though they provide enough lessons to learn.

I hope this list helps you if you are still thinking about what book to read next. If you have any recommendations for good books that I should read, please let me know.

If there are any questions you have about any of these books I listed, ask me, and I answer the best as I can. I wish you a lot of reading and learning pleasure for the upcoming year.

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How you can also read a book per week in 2019

This year is the first year I will finish the year with around 52 books read. I didn’t plan for it, nor was it my goal (30 books was my original goal, though I increased it to 40 halfway the year). Though let me share with you how I managed to reach this reading level, which is like CEO level according to some, or the level that Bill gates does), though I read because I like it, not because I aspire to be somebody else.

1. Read multiple books at the same time

There hasn’t been any moment that I was reading just a single book. I have like four or five books that I am reading at any moment. The main reason I do this is that of number 2 and 3. I use different formats (physical, audio, and ebooks) and where I read.

2. Read different formats

My favorite format is the good old paperback. However, this is not always an option. Either because it is not published as a paperback or because I would like to consume it during cycling. Also, there are ebooks of course, though I am not a big fan of them (or at least I haven’t found a nice way of consuming them). Of course, I could buy yet another dedicated device for it, but for that feels like overkill. A note on audiobooks: I read them on double speed. It is remarkable how easy for the brain it is to process faster audio, though build this up quite gradually I would recommend.

3. Have books always nearby

In my backpack which is like always near to me, I have a book with me. This is like my main book. In my living room, I have another book (currently Poor Charlie’s Almanack which is really more a living room book from a size perspective). In my car, I have a book in case I go somewhere without a backpack, and I want to read, and lastly, on my phone, I got my audiobooks and ebooks.

4. Create reading habits

I have standard moments when I read. When I m traveling, but I don’t have to drive myself I read. When I am cycling, I put on an audiobook and read. When I have some more time in the morning, I pick up a book and read. When I get my son to soccer practice, I read for like the first 45 minutes and watch the rest. Creating moments when you read is a huge advantage and gives you a lot of reading time.

Something that didn’t work for me, but could work for other is to force yourself reading every day a fixed amount (minutes or chapters). I did it during my holidays by reading one chapter per day. Even though I read more, I enjoyed it less. Though it can help you in building a habit, though make sure to commit to it for 3-4 weeks at a minimum.

The reading list

All the books I read you can find here at Goodreads. If you’d like you could also follow me there to get more real-time updates on what I am reading.

Out of the books I have now completed I would recommend most of them, though especially I would recommend:

Thinking in bets

Concise summary: life is not chess it is poker, and you should not confuse poor outcomes with poor decisions. Really good for people who want to understand their decision making a lot better.

It doesn’t have to be crazy at work

If you are leading a group of people, it is mandatory to read this from my perspective. It shows that you don’t have to do all the crazy things (80 hour weeks, endless meetings, busy, sleep deprivation) to be really good at what you do. Of course the precursor of the book: rework, already shared such insights with you.

Algorithms to live by

Everything is an algorithm nowadays, however, what is an algorithm, how does it work and how would it be applied. An excellent book to get started with a better understanding of the new/current world of computer science.

How to fight a hydra

I think the only fable I read this year, but a great short (audio)book that reminders that ambitious challenges are full with ambiguity and uncertainty but that if you are willing to tackle the unknown, you can complete most challenges.

The checklist manifesto

Don’t let your brain do things that a checklist can. That is what my takeaway from this book is. If you weren’t aware: your mind is unreliable, you can not remember every step and a checklist can be based on examples shown in his book, actually save lives. Also, it provides an excellent blueprint for a useful checklist (so like a checklist for checklists ;)).

Man’s search for meaning

Every summary I would write would do a disservice for this superb book. It is the story about and by Viktor E. Frankl during WW2 while staying and surviving the concentration camps. This quote gives you the best indication of what it will be about:

Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a pursuit of power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a search for meaning.

For next year I aim at 40 books again. If you have any suggestions, please let me know, always looking for good reading tips.

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Robots are not taking your job

The rise of Artificial Intelligence seems to be a scary things for many people. Since the thing that robots / algorithms will take their job. However that is not the case. People have taken the jobs of robots and now need to give them back.

Would you really want to do a job that can be done better by a robot or a by a few lines of code? Or would you rather be a little bit more creative and less repetitive? AI is great in augmenting people at their job and making them better in the work they do, AI doesn’t steal jobs away it just makes them better and more fun.

If only people would stop taking the jobs from the robots away, than we would not have had this discussion in the first place.

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The 2019 trends are not important

After the GDPR fiesta of messages in May we reached the end of the year which means that everybody who is dependent on his income advising others how they should do digital is publishing the 2019 trends on digital. Those trends are completely irrelevant.

The reason for these trends is to give people, who are hiring advisors, the feeling that they are moving in the completely wrong direction. Which is ironic since you had hired that advisor before to guide you the way. Another reason is that advisors prefer to have more business from you and need to find another project.

You know how many consultants it take to change a light bulb? Your current budget + 30%. 

So next time somebody comes to you with next year trends and what you need to do, just ask yourself five questions:

  1. What is the budget you have available?
  2. What is the segment you would like to target?
  3. What is your current position in the market?
  4. What are your overall objectives?
  5. Given my previous answers is this really the number 1 should be doing?

Fix your strategy first before you can jump in those trendy tactics for 2019.

And if you really want to know what is happening in 2019, then this set of predictions sums it up for marketing:

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What is it that your customer is asking?

If you ever had to collect requirements you might have heard the anecdote that if your customer asks for a drill, you should not ask how big the drill should be or how strong it should be. you should ask why the customer wants to have the hole in the wall.

Yes, that is a good start. But that is only half the story. It is not about the hole in the wall nor is it about the drill. It is about what the customer is doing next. Does he want to hang a painting he just bought. Is it a shelf to put the pictures of his grand children there.

Even with that answer, you only have a very functional view of the customer requirement. What is it about the painting it should hang there, is it something she made, bought, inherited from a loved family member? The pictures of the grandchildren, are those the ones that she sees every weekend or those who live around the world?

Yes, it is about how the result makes the customer feel, not about the outcome itself. Be also curious about the process. There might be a sense of pride involved doing it herself.

If you are not interested in how your customers feel, you’re not providing customer experience. You are just providing a service.

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Customer Experience: it is just about balancing anxiety and excitement

Today everything is customer experience. Even the things you don’t do, but that have your name on it affects CX. Though let’s keep it simple: customer experience is just about removing anxiety and increasing excitement in a consistent manner.

Removing anxiety

Every question a customer has is a potential source of fear for her. Every next step in the user journey that has an ambiguous outcome drives anxiety. Nobody likes anxiety and if there is a way to get rid of it people sometimes go a great length. Including switching service providers or brands in general.

Warning signs that you are maintaining anxiety are lists of frequently-asked-questions and answers. Why should customers ask you the same questions frequently? Standard boilerplate responses of customer service representatives are also a sign that there is something wrong. It is all effective, but it does not create a great experience. They keep the poor experience and don’t improve it in the long run.

FAQs and boilerplate are responses to small spikes of anxiety that you have caused by leaving gaps, and those could have been small spikes of excitement if you bothered to work on your well-structured todo list which you have now transformed into an FAQ (well it is always easier to list issues than to solve them). Instead of answering a question on social media using a templated reply, why not work with your customer to make sure this kind of question should never be asked again.

Increasing excitement

It is not about putting up the balloons and throwing confetti (though it helps). A celebration is just one type of excitement, which is excellent, but there is more. Something as simple as confirmation can reassure a customer that she is on the right way. Looking forward to the future is another way of creating excitement (for example with a countdown to the holidays you just have booked). Alternatively, a simple manual (upfront or of course afterward) to explain how the item they want to use is working can create much excitement. It is about triggering the imagination how great life will be, based on their actions. Alternatively, it is about reassuring them that they made a correct decision.

Consistency is better than incidental greatness

Customers’ benchmark of your service is the highest level of service they have experienced. Everything you move below level is a dissatisfier and can create more anxiety (“did I do something wrong that I get this outcome”)

Consistency is not the same as average. If you put your feet in the fridge and your head in an oven. Your average temperature is ok. However, it is not a very consistent experience and probably makes you feel quite miserable.

Consistency removes anxiety. People know what happens next and at the same time, it increases excitement because of that same reason. It provides precise control in the variation, just enough to not make it identical but similar. Even though the outcome is not completely clear the range of the results is identified and are in line with the expectations of the customer.

Keep Customer Experience simple

Identify where your customer has anxiety and remove it. Increase excitement where possible and where applicable. Deliver the experience consistently so your customer has a reasonable expectation of what is next and what she can achieve during her interactions with you.

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