Lessons I Think I Learned from Books?

Listen, the truth is, I have no idea how much what I’ve read has played into this thinking. But I have a vague idea that I’ve used literary inputs to formulate language and context around principles I’ve been using for the bulk of my conscious existence.

I frequently read multiple books at once. I’m not sure how I got into this habit, but it has had a really interesting result that has kept me doing it. By reading more than one book at a time, I find my brain does some triangulation that allows me to get more from any of those books than I think the authors intended. 

In the last couple years, I read Effortless, but I was also reading Talent Code, and The Big Leap. Those 3 books together did something cool for me.

Side Note – I read both Essentialism and Effortless by Greg McKeown. They were both OK, but I got more out of Effortless. As usual, these books just rehash things we’ve all thought of or at least heard before, but also as usual, it’s nice to be reminded to do something about it. 

This is some stuff we’ve been doing for a long time, but have continued to crystallize with inputs from books like Effortless.

Eschew prescribed paths and look for shortcuts or unconventional ways to more enlightened results.

There’s a reason micro dosing is so popular amongst entrepreneurs. Our brains are super lazy. Give them a path and they wear it out as fast as they can. All these podcast bros leverage limited amounts of psychedelic drugs as a means to hot wire their brain into seeing paths it hasn’t carved out yet. 

Creativity doesn’t lie in the well-trodden path. My whole life I’ve heard phrases like, “don’t reinvent the wheel” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – those are phrases that do not lead to innovation. 

We don’t do drugs over here, but drugs aren’t necessary. The knowledge of the lazy brain is all you really need to make sure you throw it for a loop every now and then. 

We have been surprisingly successful doing things our ever-changing way. We’re often faced with a flurry of buzzwords while our peers jockey for position. We never really care. What we care about is finding common sense, efficient, and creative paths to goals. We believe that by maintaining an open minded approach to our problem solving processes, we’ll identify more problems. When you identify more problems, you build better solutions. And you identify opportunities faster. 

This has led us to create frameworks rather than processes. And we don’t even always work through our frameworks in order. 

Neuroscientists recommend tricking your brain into being creative by doing things like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand or switching your watch wrist. Do some stuff out of order and see what happens. 

Iteration is a form of creativity. If it ain’t broke, iterate. It could always be better. 

Done is Better than Perfect

This one makes me feel weird. But it’s true. We like stuff to be really really good. And it is. But really really good and incomplete cannot compete with really good, or pretty good, or just good and done

Beyond this, undone tasks require way too much cognitive space. They sit in your brain sucking energy. Energy you need to leverage. I think Effortless talked about this like computer programs taking up processing power.

There’s another interesting story in this vein – I think this one is from Thinking Fast and Slow (an absolute all time favorite of mine). A study, or experiment, indicated that your decision making degrades based on how much you’re holding in your short term memory. Essentially people were asked to remember a handful of numbers to share with someone, then they were asked if they wanted chocolate cake or a salad. The longer the set of numbers, the more often the chocolate cake was selected. 

I think this is pretty flawed. There are a lot of reasons I would ignore salad for chocolate cake. That said, it’s still an interesting point. 

What’s on the chopping block? 

After reading Effortless, I implemented a specific meeting for our ops team every week. We take dedicated time to identify things that have become over complicated or that have snuck into our lives and shouldn’t be there. 

We use this framework when assessing the tasks. Coupled, of course, with a decent understanding of the “why” of what we’re doing. If you don’t know the “why” you’ll have a very hard time navigating the “what.”

Delete > Simplify > Automate > Delegate

It’s pretty simple. We look at calendars and tasks against our true priorities and we start “chopping.”

What meetings can be killed or merged? What tasks can be straight up deleted? If we can’t delete them, can we simplify them? Can we skip any steps based on our expertise or experience? Has anything rote crept in that can be clobbered?

We put in some energy to prune in an effort to conserve energy for what really matters. By keeping a wild eye on this stuff, we’ve managed to free up 20% of our time to pursue our own creative endeavors and ideation. And it feels great. 

Find everyone’s sweet spot. Or as we like to call it – their “secret genius.”

We have the belief that while some personal weaknesses need attention, a lot of them don’t. If you suck at administration, you shouldn’t be responsible for it. Everyone has to play ball, but ideally, everyone is operating inside of their strengths for the highest efficiency and the least friction. 

This is a necessary step when getting into that world of automation and delegation. I only want my team to work on the things they can do better than anyone else. If our VP of Solution Design is stuck scheduling meetings, he’s inefficient, forgetful, and frequently ends up with scheduling issues. The time he just wasted trying to corral people was time they could have been producing something he’s uniquely capable of producing. Or having an idea that would help us develop a new product. Or solving a difficult problem a key client cares about. 

You get the picture. 

If people are in the pocket of their potential, they grow faster, they are more satisfied, they achieve more, they see further, and they thrive. If people are stuck operating outside of their genius, they’re frustrated, embarrassed, guilty, and lack confidence. Sounds like a loser to me.

Only automate the boring stuff. 

There are challenges that come with always looking at problems with fresh eyes. That’s where automation comes in. Once we can abstract a system, there are elements to our work that can be repeatable. But we look to leverage that to broker higher levels of creativity. We’re only allowed to routinize the rapid removal of common problems. Like identifying software that can centralize communication and tasks.

Frameworks are different. By defining a set of questions or needs, we can give ourselves the space we need to be creative while building on efficiencies and abstracting learnings across industries. That’s its own kind of fun. 

Who gets the credit? Beats me. 

I don’t know what I should credit Greg McKeown with. I know that we’ve been acting on principle and refining every chance we get for the last 11 years as Love and Science. We’re optimizers. We take in new information and we find a place for it very quickly. 

We don’t repeat, we remix. 

Want more insights I may or may not have gleaned from reading? Check out my “impressions” of Good to Great.

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