I recommend you try this experiment the next time you meet a new person.
Introduce yourself, as you normally would when you meet someone new, wait 30 seconds or so, and then ask them what your name is. More often than not, the person will have already forgotten your name, leading to some form of emotional breakdown.
Besides the enjoyment of picking on people you just met, there is a deeper psychological lesson to be learned.
The reason why most people have trouble remembering a name 30 seconds after they are introduced to a new person is because they haven’t established why they should care. Names reveal very little about an individual, so without a context of who someone is, it’s hard to establish a reason to remember someone’s name.
It’s interesting how if the scenario was slightly tweaked, say that the person you meet has $100 for you if you can remember his name. Suddenly, it becomes hard to forget a person’s name.
This concept applies in companies, charities, and any other type of human system. There’s a saying that goes “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is because people won’t take action unless they know why they are personally taking action.
Millions of kids find themselves bored in schools, not engaged with what is going on in the classroom because they haven’t answered the question “Why should I care?”
Everyone has heard of global warming, and most people are aware of the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing. But to the average person, the problems of global warming have little effect on the way they do their daily lives, meaning that very little will change in the average person’s life. The fact that carbon dioxide levels have just passed 400 parts per million means is relatively insignificant to the average person.
Part of becoming an effective communicator is to understand where people are coming from and what their needs and questions are. Thus, it becomes more about what matters to your audience than what you are doing.
People need to know why they should care before they care about what they should do.
Fear of the unknown, often related to a person’s perception of the future, is always weighed against the events in the present and the past. The mental tug-of-war is between continuing what you are doing in the present for the same results, or trying something radically different for a risk of failing. There’s always a trade-off between consistency and potential virality.
But what happens when you continue doing something that no longer works? Maybe a process that you’ve been using is becoming obsolete, or information that you rely on is outdated.
The definition of an expert is someone who has special skills or knowledge based on training or experience. In other words, experts are people who have knowledge or experience that they learned in the past. And as history has illustrated countless times with various companies, industries, and schools of thought, the mindset of expertise often gets in the way of true innovation.
Of course, that is not to say that lessons from the past are worthless. Lessons from the past, no matter how profound and impactful or negligible and insignificant they might seem, are merely illustrations of what has worked in the past, not projections of how things will be in the future.
Using what has worked in the past to face the unknown future definitely feels safe, but the distinction must be made between safe and comfortable. Safety zones and comfort zones do not completely overlap. Many people are unconsciously disabled by assuming that things that are uncomfortable are unsafe, but even more disabling is when people assume things that are comfortable are safe.
Innovation is achieved under circumstances where it is rarely comfortable. Sometimes the only way to be safe is to be uncomfortable.
The purpose of any leader or leadership organization is to bring some sort of change or obtain some sort of goal. It is not enough for a leader simply to know what to do, they must know how to communicate and bring people together.
I’ve written in the past about how high schoolers have poor training in leadership, and how leadership is about being significant rather than famous. At the heart of significant leadership, there needs to be a desire to empower future generations to accomplish things beyond what you have been able to accomplish. A leader that is afraid of his followers gaining more power than himself is one who builds a community around himself rather than around the group he is serving.
Significant leaders, ones that have a heart for the people they are leading, understand that they must surround themselves with other leaders, instead of surrounding themselves with obedient workers.
“Managers are maintainers, tending to rely on systems and controls. Leaders are innovators and creators who rely on people. Creative ideas become reality when people who are in a position to act catch the vision of their innovative leader.” – John Maxwell
With that said, I’ve noticed that there are four significant areas, that when properly understood, contribute to a leader. I am not claiming to be the perfect leader by any stretch, but these are simply based off of what I’ve noticed.
Create A leader must have a goal, vision, or an understanding of what he/she wants to change. The leader must understand how to accept himself and be vulnerable with the people he leads, in order to boldly and fearlessly take steps toward achieving the goal or vision. Having something tangible to show for often is a leader’s creation that will attract the interest of people, whether it be an idea, a teaching, a philosophy, a talent or skill, or anything else that catches the attention of people.
Express Leaders must be able to express their vision, goal, or creation to other people. A person who is unable to communicate what their creation is will have a hard time having people understand what they are about. In order to lead a group of people, communication allows people to connect with a leader and understand the leader. Effective communication is more than revealing your vision or goal, but also being open and vulnerable about the heart behind it, where it’s coming from, and the emotions and feelings that may be attached.
Inspire After communicating the purpose, vision, and goal with people, leaders must inspire people to make their own steps and choices. This often requires telling people why they should care, in order to get people excited and passionate about what a leader is trying to do. Giving people the freedom to be inspired means giving them the freedom to choose what their response is. Significant leaders understand that not everyone they pitch their idea to will come under their cause, but it’s more important to have a smaller group that freely chooses to accept what you have to offer rather than a larger group that comes through manipulation and pressure.
Empower A significant leader empowers others with the freedom to accomplish things that are greater than what they have accomplished. Significant leaders allow people to take their breakthroughs and build on them, instead of hiding them away. Empowering other people means giving up your control and trusting that people will be able to contribute as much to the purpose or vision that the leader can.
Being a leader is a position that requires an understanding of how to serve people, and being effective at leadership is a practice that is very much related to personal skills.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since I read this book, but many of the principles are becoming pretty evident.
Learning how to make and break habits is a very powerful thing. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.
Habits are made up of a three step loop, the cue, the routine, and the reward.
The cue is what prompts the routine. Generally, cues are divided into five different categories: location, time, emotional state, other people, or an immediately preceding action. The routine then, is the set of actions that a person executes as a response to the cue. And finally, the reward is the feeling or result of performing the routine.
Understanding how to take control of the habit loop is they way to build new habits or change existing ones. Reading this book made me even more aware of habits I never thought of. Toothbrushing only became a regular practice when the minty, refreshing flavor was introduced, leveraging the reward of brushing your teeth. Many little habits form a person’s behavior, whether they realize it or not.
Reading this book made me realize how passion alone is not enough. While structure is something that can become dry or ineffective without passion, the most effective people use passion in order to intentionally create structure in the form of habits in order to achieve their passion. And when the habit is formed, people can use those habits to their advantage without even thinking about it.
People consume too much.
and produce too little.
In theory, the more you consume, the more you should be able to produce. But in practice, since most of what we consume is highly superfluous, it hinders our ability to produce.
Information is valuable, but only when it is applicable.
You’d probably be surprised how liberating an information diet is.