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Month: April 2012

Book Review: The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Book Review: The Art of Worldly Wisdom

My good friend Ronnie Nurss recommended this book to me some time ago, and like all books he recommends, I quickly got a hold of it to give it a read. The Art of Worldly Wisdom was written in 1637, and it’s a collection of maxims on all things life and how to live well. The almost 400-year-old book compiles 300 ideas and suggestions on what it means to live a successful, responsible life.

These shouldn’t be taken as undeniable truths (everything deserves to be challenged), but as great starting points for deeper thinking and personal reflection. It’s not to be read quickly and then forgotten, but rather to digest slowly, and let each maxim spark new ideas on how to improve our life.

It’s hard to say who this book is for, since it talks about many topics relating to human nature. Therefore, I’ll recommend it for anyone that likes books that make us think, and challenge us to become wiser and more responsible.

Below are some of my favorite excerpts of The Art of Worldly Wisdom…

On being a perfect man:

“Words and deeds make a perfect man. Speak what is very good, do what is very honorable. The first shows a perfect head, the second a perfect heart, and both arise in a superior spirit.”

On hope:

“Have something to hope for, so as not to be happily unhappy. The body breathes and the spirit yearns for things. If all were possession, all would be disappointment and discontent.”

On enjoying people’s company:

“It is useful to know exactly how to enjoy each person. The wise person esteems everyone, for he recognizes the good in each, and he realizes how hard it is to do things well.”

On how to ask:

“Know how to ask. There is nothing more difficult for some, or easier for others. There are some who do not know how to say no; you need no lever, no skeleton key to deal with them. Others say no automatically, and here you need effort. With all of them, do things at the right moment. Catch them when they are in good spirits, after their minds or bodies have been feasting, unless, of course, they are attentive enough to penetrate your intent.”

On personal growth:

“Renew your character with nature and with art. They say that one’s condition changes every seven years: let this change improve and heighten your taste. After the first seven years of life, we reach the age of reason; let a new perfection follow every seven years thereafter.”

On leadership and command:

“Ruling others has one advantage: you can do more good than anyone else. Friends are those who do friendly things.”

On being with others:

“Adapt to those around you. Don’t show the same intelligence with everyone, and don’t put more effort into things than they require. Don’t waste your knowledge or merit. The good falconer uses only the birds he needs. Don’t show off every day, or you’ll stop surprising people. There must always be some novelty left over.”

On dealing with others:

“Deal with others in a grand way. Aspire to elevation. The great should never be petty. You needn’t go into all the details when conversing with others, especially when the subject is distasteful. Notice things, but do so casually; it isn’t good to turn conversation into detailed interrogation. Act with a courteous, noble generality, which is a sort of gallantry. A large part of ruling lies in feigning indifference. Learn to overlook most of the things that happen among your close friends, your acquaintances, and especially your enemies.”

Lessons from Working With Josh Kaufman

Lessons from Working With Josh Kaufman

Many of you know that I worked with Josh Kaufman, best-selling author of The Personal MBA, for a long time. He was and still is my mentor, and someone who has helped me in more ways that I can count. I’m very grateful to him for everything he’s done for me, and look forward to continue having a strong personal and professional relationship with him for years to come.

Josh and I have stopped working together, but still talk on a regular basis. To honor my time with him, I thought of writing a post about the most important lessons I learned during my time under his tutelage…

The importance of systems

One of the first books Josh suggested I should read from the Personal MBA list was Thinking in Systems. This was one of the most important reads of my past year, and I was able to put its lessons into practice constantly on my work with Josh. Josh is a systems thinker and evangelist, and his constant help in making me implement systems in my own life has been priceless.

Systems are everywhere. Every action or event is the output of a system. If you want to change the output you have to change the system. From relationships to health, everything became easier to control when I started thinking in systems.

The reason Josh manages to do many things at the same time, with an optimal quality, is because of his brilliant implementation of systems. Of course, I still have a long way to go before I reach his understanding of systems, but I’ve taken a big leap forward thanks to my time with him.

Ask questions instead of giving advice

Getting a straight answer from Josh was really hard. He’d rarely make it easy for me. I remember talking with a past coaching client of his, saying that by the end of their calls his head would hurt (in a good way). Josh would always ask me questions even though he knew the answers, in order to help me go through the valuable process of finding the answer myself.

This has been a critical skill to learn for my coaching, and conversations in general. When I want to help someone, I rarely reply with my own opinions anymore. Asking questions is the best way to A) Help someone see the answer, and B) Discover new answers for both of us.

One more thought: when people find the answer themselves, they’re more receptive to accepting it. Telling someone what’s best rarely works, unless there’s a lot of respect and admiration on the other side of the conversation.

Value-creation mindset

Going from “What can I get from this?” to “How can I help?” is more than just about paraphrasing. It’s a mindset that I only felt to fully embrace after seeing Josh constantly frame ideas and systems from that perspective. If you look at most of the protests by young people across the world demanding for better jobs and returns on their education, you’ll see a complete lack of the value-creation mindset.

Let me share a good example: a friend is currently trying to get a raise. When I asked him what he’s doing to accomplish that, he told me he made a presentation with all the reasons for why he deserves the raise. He told me that he thinks they owe him that, that they are making a lot of money because of him.

Well, that’s great, but unless you connect your needs to their needs, instead of becoming a problem to solve, the path to a raise is going to be much steeper. Going from “I’d like a raise” to “How can I help the business in order to justify a raise?” is critical in that kind of negotiation.

On that note, one of the best questions Josh ever asked me in response to my offer to help was: What can you do to bring value, that doesn’t require my direct input? This is not easy to answer, but it’s a fantastic exercise to really understand your role and potential when working with somebody. If you can understand their business, it’s highly likely that you’ll find ways to bring value to them (and get compensated in return).

Change the environment and the behavior will follow

We love to believe in two lies. One, that our actions are a result of our conscious decisions, and two, that habits such as laziness, procrastination, etc. are personality traits that are engrained in our person.

Well, this is wrong. Plain and simple. Concepts like Guiding Structure can change one’s life very quickly, if one accepts the harsh truths: We are not in control as much as we like to believe, and we can change our habits if we take responsibility of doing so.

Many conversations with Josh were about changing and implementing habits, and we’d eventually click very quickly on how to create a proper environment to encourage and enforce any action we’d like to see happen. Of all the lessons from Josh, this one is probably the one that will compound results in my life the most.

Accept and mitigate risk, don’t deny or ignore it

Josh is a world-renown business coach and teacher. He understands the basics and complexities of business and human psychology as good as anyone. And when I’d ask him about a particular new idea for the business and whether it’d work or not, he’d quickly say: I don’t know.

Truth is, no one knows. The world has too many variables for anyone to predict things with 100% accuracy. What one should do instead is tackle as many variables as possible, lower the risk, and prepare for multiple scenarios.

This was a critical lesson for me, because being a perfectionist (a flaw of mine), I’d like to have everything under control. Now, I can approach businesses with a much clearer methodology because I’m no longer trying to do the impossible. Instead, I focus on celerity and the variables I can manage. Same goes for business coaching, where people may think that not knowing something means a business or a project is not ready. That’s not the case, because there’s always going to be something you don’t know, and that’s the risky and fun part of business.

Focus on the variables you can control, move fast, reduce uncertainties, prepare for multiple scenarios, and accept the inherent and always-present risk of businesses.

Thanks to Josh for some invaluable lessons, and the most fun I’ve had so far working with anyone.

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