SuperConnect: How the best connections in business and life are the ones you least expect by Richard Koch & Greg Lockwood

Weak links

The book offers a differing perspective to networking and connecting. The conventional idea is that strong links (friends/family) are the most important, but the authors suggest that individuals or organisations that rely on a multitude of weak links will prosper the most.

Typically those who are the most successful have an unusually large and varied assortment of friendly acquaintances who they maintain frequent but irregular contact with.

The main way we can build and maintain a large repertoire of excellent weak links is to keep a broad circle of friendly acquaintances and to be open to new people or worlds while continually thinking – at a patient, submerged level – how they might be relevant to our aspirations.

Meeting weak links

Beside just being open and serendipitous to new acquaintances we can use other tactics to meet new people. There are three ways we can do this.

  1. Deliberate immersions – getting a new job, new hobby, joining a new club, volunteering.
  2. Strategic positioning – going to places where there is plenty of opportunities for random contact with new people – walking your dog, sitting on a park bench, becoming a regular at a bar or coffee shop.
  3. Existing contacts – ask your existing contacts if they know people who might be interesting, revive old friendships and acquaintances.

Hubs

One of the most powerful ways to forge weak links is through being part of a hub. A hub is a collection of people who work together to strengthen the hub. The most frequent hub you probably inhabit is your work one. Through your work you meet new people and form collections with them. However, particularly if your work hub is small, your work hub obviously restricts your ability to create lots of weak inks. Therefore, once you have learnt the key skills from your job and created as many weak links as possible, you should then join another hub. Through the process of “hub hopping” you can create an endless supply of weak links, which may prove invaluable. Hub hopping doesn’t just have to be for work, you can also hub hop across hobbies, across bars and restaurants you frequent, and across clubs you are part of.

Spreading ideas

Lastly, if you ever get into a position where you want to spread a new idea, operate on both sides of the equation – the benefits of the new idea, and the effort to understand it. Increase the benefits and make them obvious. Cut the energy required to grasp the new idea. Simplify it. Compress it into a soundbite.

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Why Don’t We Learn From History by B.H Liddell Hart

The object of history is truth. History can show us the direction, but not detailed information about the road signs. However, history does a good job showing us what to avoid – by showing us the most common mistakes that mankind is apt to make and to repeat. Additionally, history allows us to learn from other people’s experiences, as Polybius said “…the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all educations in life.”

Below is a selection of quotations from the book which I found helpful.

A shrewd committeeman often develops a technique based on his time calculation. He will defer his own intervention in the discussion until lunchtime is near, when the majority of the others are more inclined to accept any proposal that sounds good enough to enable them to keep their lunch engagement.

Many documents are written to deceive or conceal. Moreover, the struggles that go on behind the scenes, and largely determine the issue, are rarely recorded in documents.

Misstatement can be more easily spotted in sentences that are crystal clear than those that are cloudy.

The way of approach is simple, if not easy – requiring, above all, constant self-criticism and care for precise statement.

The path of truth is paved with critical doubt and lighted by the spirit of objective inquiry.

If you can doubt at points where other people feel no impulse to doubt, then you are making progress.

We learn that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it is disturbing to their comfortable assurance.

Ambitious officers when they came in sight of promotion to the generals’ list, would decide they would bottle up their thoughts and ideas, as a safety precaution, until they reached the top and could put these ideas into practice. Unfortunately the usual result, after years of such self-repression for the sake of their ambition, was that when the bottle was eventually uncorked the contents had evaporated.

I found that moral courage was quite rare in the top levels of the services as among politicians. It is also a surprise to me to find that those who had shown the highest degree of physical courage tended to be those who were most lacking in moral courage.

In my experience the troubles of the world largely come from excessive regard to other interests.

Loyalty is a noble quality, so long as it is not blind and does not exclude the higher loyalty to truth and decency.

Truth may not be absolute, but it s certain that we are likely to come nearest to it if we search for it in a purely scientific spirit and analyse the facts with complete detachment from all loyalties save that to truth itself.

The most dangerous error is failure to recognise our own tendency to error.

The pretence to infallibility is instinctive in a hierarchy. But to understand the cause is not to underrate the harm that the pretence has produced – in every sphere.

Hence it is better that ability should consent to its own sacrifice, and subordination to the regime of mediocrity, rather than assist in establishing a regime where, in light of past experience, brute stupidity will be enthroned and ability may preserve its footing only at the price of dishonesty.

The thinking man must be against authoritarianism in any form.

Success increasingly depends on individual initiative, which in turn springs from a sense of personal responsibility – these senses are atrophied by compulsion.

Realism should be combined with foresight – to see one or two moves ahead.

Any constructive effort and all human relations – personal, political, and commercial – depend on being able to depend on promises.

It is immoral to make promises that one cannot in practice fulfil – in the sense that the recipient expects.

Deepening study of past experience leads to the conclusion that nations might often have come near to their object by taking advantage in a lull in the struggle to discuss a settlement than by pursuing the war with the aim of “victory.”

If you find your opponent in a strong position costly to force, you should leave him a line of retreat – as the quickest way of loosening his resistance.

Avoid self-righteousness like the devil – nothing is so self-binding.

An intellectual ought to realise the extent to which the world is shaped by human emotions, emotions uncontrolled by reason.

Opposition to the truth is inevitable, especially if it takes the form of a new idea.

Avoid a frontal attack on a long-established position; instead, seek to turn it by flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth.

Various fresh ideas gained acceptance, it can be seen that the process was eased when they could be presented not as something radically new but as the revival in modern terms of a time-honoured principle or practice that had been forgotten.

A model boy rarely goes far, and even when he does he is apt to falter when severely tested. A boy who conforms immaculately to school rules is not likely to grow into a man who will conquer by breaking the stereotyped professional rules of his time.

Manners are apt to be regarded as a surface polish. That is a superficial view. They arise from an inward control. A fresh realisation of their importance is needed in the world today, and their revival might prove the salvation of civilisation.

The West has tended to emphasise the virtue of the positive – “whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” The East has emphasised the virtue of the negative – “do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Both the positive and the negative are essential.

Bad means deform the end.

If we take care of the means, the end will take care of itself.

The smallest permanent enlargement of men’s thought is a greater achievement, and ambition, than the construction of something material that crumbles.

Collective growth is possibly only through the freedom and enlargement of individual minds.

(What can one learn from history)

Not what to do but what to strive for. And what to avoid in striving. The importance and intrinsic value of behaving decently. The importance of seeing clearly – not least of seeing himself clearly. To face life with clear eyes – desirous to the truth – and to come through it with clean hands, behaving with consideration for others, while achieving such conditions as enable a man to get the best out of life, is enough for ambition – and a high ambition. Only as a man progresses toward it does he realise what effort it entails and how large is the distance to go. 

He has to learn how to detach his thinking from his behaviour with every desire and interest, from every sympathy and antipathy – like ridding oneself of superfluous tissue, the “tissue” of untruth which all human beings tend to accumulate for their own comfort and protection.

Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker was considered an expert on management education and is this book he focused on how individuals should manage themselves, so that they can contribute the most.

Main takeaways

Place yourself in a position where you can make the greatest contribution, learn to develop yourself, learn to stay young and mentally alive during a long working life. Learn how and when to change what you do.

Consider these five areas.

  1. Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?
  2. Where do I belong?
  3. What is my contribution?
  4. Am I taking responsibility for my relationships?
  5. What’s the plan for the second half of my life?

1 – What are my strengths?

Most people don’t actually know there own strengths. There is only one way to truly work out your strengths, and that is through feedback analysis. When you make a key decision, and when you do a key action, write down your expectations and then 9 to 12 months later compare the expectations to the results. After 2 or 3 years of repeating this process, you should be able to determine your strengths. From those conclusions:

  • Concentrate on your strengths – put yourself in positions where you can use strengths to produce results.
  • Identify gaps in your skills and knowledge.
  • Work on improving your strengths.
  • Identify your bad habits.
  • Identify what actions produce no results and thus what to avoid doing.

How do you learn?

Do you learn better through reading or by listening? – it will usually be one or the other.

Do you learn better by writing notes, by doing, by hearing yourself, by teaching others, on your own or with others? Do you work well with stress or do you need a structured, organised environment? Do you produce results as a decision maker or adviser?

Once you determine how you learn best, don’t try to change the way you learn, but focus hard on how you can improve your results.

What are your values?

To determine your values use the mirror test. – Ask yourself, what kind of person do you want to see when you shave yourself, or put lipstick on in the morning?

If you are in a job or situation which doesn’t align with your values, you must quit. Values are and should be the ultimate test.

2 – Where do I belong?

Answering the three questions above should tell you where you should belong. Prepare yourself for opportunities by placing yourself in positions which align with your strengths, how you learn, and your values. For knowing where you belong can turn ordinary, hard working people into outstanding performers.

3 – What is your contribution?

You should ask yourself – What should my contribution be? To help answer that question, consider where and how you can have results that make a difference. Results should be hard to achieve, but realistic. Also, the results should be meaningful, they should be visible, and, if possible, measurable.

Only when you have determined what your contribution should be, ask yourself: Does this fit my strengths? Is this what I want to do? Do I find this rewarding and stimulating?

Your contribution balances three elements –

  1. What does the situation require?
  2. How do I make the greatest contribution, with my strengths, my way of performing, my values, to what needs to be done?
  3. What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

This then leads to creating action conclusions: what to do, where to start, how to start, what goals and deadlines to set. Once you have decided what your contribution should be, you have freedom because you now have responsibility.

4 – Relationship responsibility

In life, it is very likely you are going to have to work with others, therefore you have to accept everyone is an individual just like yourself. This means other people have different strengths, ways of doing things, values, and contributions. To be effective, you should learn and cater yourself to other people’s differences.

The second thing you should do, is take responsibility for communications.Determine who needs to know this? How should I tell them? Whom do I depend on? Whom depends on me?

5 – The second part of your life

Over time people get bored, deteriorate, “retire on the job” and become a burden to themselves and to everyone around them. When/if this point is reached, it may be important to consider what you should do.

There are three answers to this dilemma.

  1. Start a second or different career.
  2. Develop a parallel career – help out at a charity or sports club etc.
  3. Become a social entrepreneur – start a non-profit, write books, coach others etc.

There is one requirement for managing the second part of your life – begin creating it before you enter it.