Habits for a Happier Life

Recently, I found myself in a funk for a month or two. I don’t want to go all James Altucher and turn this blog into a parade of failures and fears, but I think it’s important to take a look behind the curtain of the generally positive tone I keep here. So, as you read the tips below, keep in mind that they’re coming from someone who needs them.

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What I Learned at Forefront 2017

Last weekend I attended a conference called Forefront in Chicago, and I had a great time. I met a ton of great people and learned a lot. So, I wanted to record what I learned here, both so that I could keep it fresh, and also to share some of the great material with a wider audience. I learned how great it is to connect with people that are weird the same way you are, how to be happier, how better to hold myself and my clients accountable, and the value of belonging to a supportive community when trying to accomplish anything challenging. If anything I mention below sparks an interest, please follow some of the links and learn more about it, or even better, reach out so we can discuss. 

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Depth Before Breadth - Why You Should Learn One Thing at a Time

Many of us have a hard time limiting our effort to one field at a time - there’s so much interesting stuff out there and it’s more available than ever. All of this stuff can lure us into paying hidden costs when we try to learn everything all at once - costs that prevent us from getting the benefits breadth is supposed to bring. On the other hand, if you pursue depth, while you will only focus on one field at a time before moving onto the next, you will get much more out of each field, with a more robust breadth down the road. 

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Virtual Mentors

High performers frequently emphasize the importance of quality mentors, and we’ve all experienced the value of learning from people who have been there and done that. Finding a great mentor can be a big challenge, though. Luckily, you can benefit from the wisdom of impressive people you with  “virtual mentors”.

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Maximize the Value of Your Creative Inputs - Creativity Part 5

In the previous posts on creativity, I’ve mentioned “inputs” pretty frequently, but I haven’t gone into much detail about them. Today, I’ll talk about what I mean by inputs, why they’re important, and share some rules for maximizing their usefulness. I’m very excited to be sharing this with you, because I think it’s an often overlooked aspect of creativity that can have huge effects on your work with very little effort.

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Two Creativity Frameworks - Creativity Part 4

In our last installment in this series, we talked about divergent and convergent thinking. Keep that in mind, as it will be central to everything we discuss below. Today, we’re going to talk about frameworks you can use to structure your creative efforts - one for teams and one for individuals. You can use either framework in the other situation, but I find them better suited to different applications.

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Practicing Divergent & Convergent Thinking - Creativity Part 3

Okay, so I had planned on covering all of the exercises in one post, but when I broke them out, I realized I would be delivering a gigantic, hard to digest mess. So I broke it up. Our next few posts will cover all of the exercises associated with the building blocks we covered last time, starting with Divergent and Convergent thinking today. It’s a great place to start, because if you develop your ability to separate these two ways of thinking, everything else will flow naturally.

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The Building Blocks of Creativity - Creativity Part 2

Last time we came up with a definition of creativity, and today we’re going to talk about some of its core building blocks, from deferring judgment to the inputs you take in. These fundamental concepts will give you the raw materials you need to understand and undertake specific exercises to be more creative yourself - some of which we’ll detail in our next installment of the series. 

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Creativity Part 1: Defining Creativity

When I sat down to write a post about innovation, I quickly realized we had an unwieldy topic on our hands. So, instead of a single post on innovation and the future, I’ve decided to kick off a short series on creativity. To begin with, I’ll provide my favorite definition of creativity and step through each piece of it and what it implies for applications down the road. 

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The Gleeful Iconoclasm of Zhuangzi

I decided to take advantage of my vacation in China to read some Chinese philosophy in the land that gave it birth. Looking over my bookshelf, I noticed a book I had purchased for a college class - Zhuangzi. In the class we only read a tiny excerpt, and ever since it’s been on my “meaning to read” list. So I ended up pulling it out of my bag and digging in while floating through a landscape that looks exactly like a Chinese landscape painting. 

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On the Usefulness of Fiction

We've talked before about the non-fiction books that have shaped my worldview, but today I want to talk to you about fiction. A lot of my high performing, hard charging friends find it challenging to “waste” time with fiction, but you’re doing yourself a huge disservice if you agree with them. You need fiction in your life. Since I’m wrapping up a vacation where I’ve been able to read some great books, I want to share a few reasons why I think so.

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My Operating Manuals for Life

If you accept that you have your own User Interface, you’re going to need some instructions on how to set it up and maintain it. As you know, my go to source for just about everything is books, and I have found those on the list below especially useful for hacking together my own mental operating system. They currently sit right on my desk where I can see them every day and think about what they mean to me.

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A Quick Start Guide for Your Brain’s User Interface

Note: This post might get your hackles up a bit. You might find it especially surprising in a space dedicated to agency and self improvement - but stick with me and you might learn something extremely useful.

We overestimate our control over what we think, how we feel, and even what we do. We assume that every moment of every day we are rationally picking and choosing what to do. It turns out this is an extremely inadequate view of how we operate. We actually take most of our actions on autopilot with little or no conscious thought. Even when we are exercising conscious thought, it is shaped and influenced by mysterious factors under the surface and in our environment. This all sounds somewhat depressing until we realize that we have the power to shape these factors and build the systems that drive our behavior. Our brain has a user interface and we can access it if we know where to look.

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Analysis is Only the Beginning: An Introduction to Systems Thinking

Let’s talk about systems. We’ve touched on them in several posts, and they provide an incredibly valuable tool for understanding a complex world. When we stop thinking about things as independent objects and start thinking about them as elements in a greater whole of interdependent parts, we recognize that they are systems. Today we’re going to talk about a method of inquiry custom designed for such highly complex entities: Systems Thinking. 

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Rethinking Risk with Antifragile

Risk fundamentally shapes some of our most critical decisions, but most of us don’t think very deeply or clearly about it. Nassim Taleb is not like most of us. he has thought long, hard, and with great rigor about risk and randomness, and he presents that thinking most usefully and straightforwardly in Antifragile. That being said, while his writing and storytelling are superb, it’s not exactly light beach reading. Below we’re going to talk about just one of the many useful concepts presented in the book, which is a fundamentally different way to think about and evaluate risk.

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