The way to Mastery – the #Drive way or the Freak Factor way

Photo by Gapiningvoid


According to Dan Pink in his new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, a big part of “Motivation 3.0”, is the concept of Mastery. The argument goes something like this:

Only engagement can produce mastery – becoming better at something that matters. And the pursuit of mastery, an important but often dormant part of our third drive, has become essential to making one’s way in the economy. Mastery begins with “flow” – optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities.

While I really like the concept I feel that the argument for this part of the AMP (Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose) in the book is not compelling as the other parts. One potential drawback that I see with the way Pink approaches the issue of mastery. He takes a too narrow approach to the way success, or better yet, excellence, is actually measured in our world. In his attempt to break some of the conventional wisdoms, Pink falls prays to others.

Let me explain by quoting a short part from the mastery chapter:

Mastery – of sports, music, business – requires effort (difficult, painful, excruciating, all consuming effort) over a long time (not a week or a month, but a decade). Sociologist Daniel Chambliss has referred to this as “the mundanity of excellence.” Like Ericsson, Chambliss found – in a three-year study of Olympic swimmers – that those who did the best typically spent the most time and effort on the mundane activities that readied them for races. It’s the same reason that, in another study, the west point grit researchers found that grittiness – rather than IQ or standardized test scores – is the most accurate predictor of college grades. As they explained, whereas the importance of working harder is easily apprehended, the importance of working longer without switching objectives may be less predictable… in every field, grit may be as essential as talent to high accomplishment”.

Am I the only one who is baffled here? Predictor of college grades? I am sorry, but since when college grades is a predictor of anything? As Seth Godin says in Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, the only thing that being good at school means is – that you are good at school (!):

You have been brainwashed by school and by the system into believing that your job is to do your job and follow instructions. It’s not, not anymore.

Following instructions with grittiness and determination might lead to successes. But it also might be exactly the kind of thinking that leads us to being cogs in the big factories of productivity. I am not sure that the success, as measured currently by society, is what we should all aspire for. I am not saying that effort or grittiness is not important. I actually believe that sometimes dying on the treadmill is all that matters. It is just that it is not the right fit for everybody. For some, mastery can be found not in grittiness, but in being impatient. Here is one example of a very successful man, from the freak factor blog:

My mantra, as well as my business plan, is ‘If you always do fun stuff, there will always be plenty of fun stuff to do.’ This works incredibly well for me, as I’m allergic to doing stuff that’s not fun. Consequently, I have the grooviest career, biz & life I can imagine as the Rock and Roll Guru.

Another significant ‘flaw’ is my attention span, or lack thereof. The strength here is that I’m working on so much cool stuff that I never get bored. There’s always another fun project to which I can turn my attention, however briefly. For example, I’m working on a series of themed Daffynitions books, including Biz, Parenting, Relationships & Self-help. Additionally, I’m writing the Rock & Roll Dictionary, which is based on the Daffynitions model.

Yes, in his own way, over a long haul of time, Joe Heuer shows grittiness. But it is not in the way Pink talks about. More importantly, Joe Heuer is a wonderful example of mastery leading to excellence.

I am not against mastery. I am all for it. I do believe in its power. We just need to remember that there are many ways to achieve mastery and that we need to be careful in the ways we measure success, as they might limit the ways we manage people. Mastery can be reached by working hard and not giving up. Mastery can also be achieved by letting go and trying many different things. And that is exactly the point. Differences should be embraced. Paths should be explored. Given the right support, people will find their way to excellence.


can you learn how to presude?


Photo by Neuibe

A few days ago I finished reading “The 7 triggers to yes – the new science behind influencing people’s decisions” by Russell H. Granger  (you can check out the book’s site here). In the last few weeks, I hit the jackpot with all the books I read and recommended them here on this blog. Unfortunately, with this book, I can’t do that. Well, it is not that it is a bad book. I just think it will be helpful to specific people.  I guess this needs a little pit of explaining…

I bought this book because its title and description led me to believe that I will learn a lot about the science behind people’s decisions. Lately, I have been reading some fascinating books about this subject (like the amazing “YES!” and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman‘s book (with co-authors) “Rationality, Fairness, Happiness”) and I wanted to know more about it. What I discovered, is that the book doesn’t actually describe the science behind people’s decisions. It only explains that there is science. If you compare this book to “YES!” which actually describes many of the experiments behind the rules for persuasion, than you discover that this book only promises explanations, but does not supply them.

Like previous books I wrote about here, this book tries to break the conventional wisdom that great arguments persuade.  To put it in general terms the book main thesis is that most of time, most of the people, don’t make decisions which are based on their intellect but make decisions based on their emotions, and then, justify them with their intellect. So, if you want to persuade, you need to use people’s emotions and not apply to their logic. The main idea in the books id derived from a statement by Dr. Richard Restak, Neuropsychologist and author of “The Secret Life of the Brain“, saying: “We are not thinking machines – we are feeling machines that think“.  The book claims, that by understanding this concept (which is based on brain research which is described shortly) and by using 7 triggers (Friendship, Authority, Consistency, Reciprocity, Contrast, Reason Why and Hope), you can become a master persuader.

The reason I cannot recommended this book to everybody is that it tries to convince the reader that anybody can be a master persuader by following the process described in the book using the 7 triggers. I was not persuaded. I just don’t believe that everybody can learn to excel at anything. I believe, like Marcus Buckingham claims in his book, “First, breaking all the rules” that people are different and there is a limit to what they can learn. I expected that a book based on brain research will take into account the fact that each of us develop mental pathways (that can actually be seen of on our brains) that create recurring behaviours. These behaviours are our talents or our strengths.  This means, that even if I used all the process described in the book, I will never be a master persuader.  This is due to the fact that I just don’t have the inherent ability to use these processes, because this ability requires a talent to communicate with people, to learn about them and then use this knowledge a talent I don’t have and that no matter how hard I try, I will never excel at.

The books tries to tell us that persuasion is a key component of many leaders describing people like Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Lee Iacocca who used their persuasion skills to accomplish great things. I think this just proves the opposite. These people had the basic talent to do it naturally without learning about the 7 triggers. If they had learned the the 7 triggers, they would have been able to enhance their abilities. People like me, who are not conversationalist, who find it hard to chit-chat with other people, who don’t naturally learn about other people, will never be able to use the concepts of the book.

So, it is not that you can’t learn anything from this book or that you can’t improve some of your persuasions skills and techniques after reading it. But, if you (or somebody you know) have great communication skills, which enable you to learn a lot of information about other people in short periods and are able to use it, this book can really make the difference. It will give you (or whoever you buy it for) the ideas, skills and triggers to transform from a natural good persuader, to a master persuader.


Conventional Wisdom


Photo by Kevin Hutchinson

Today I finished something that was well overdue for me. I read “First, break all the rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. As I already mentioned in this blog a few times, I am a keen reader of Buckingham‘s books and I talk a lot about the strengths thinking in my e-book. So, I can’t say that I really discovered new things when I read the book. But as always, many ideas wear fine-tuned. Off course this is a book that any person that is a manager of people must read.

I think the interesting thing for me in this book was the systematic way that the book attacks the conventional wisdom. This is something that most of the books I read in the last few weeks did. “Outliers” and “Billion Dollar Lessons” are just two names that pop to my mind. All of these books show us how the commonplace thinking regarding success, excellence and human behaviour is fundamentally wrong.

“First, break all the rules” was written I 1999. Almost ten years ago. It is an international best seller. And still, the misplaced conventional wisdoms that are described in the book are commonplace. I am sure that all of you felt them at some point.

And the question that comes to my mind is: “how can that be changed?”. How can me make these conventional wisdoms become obsolete. How can we make the idea that everybody can excel in any job if they only get the right opportunity and training disappear? or the idea that if you work hard enough you can success no matter what disappear? These two ideas represent a romantic but false stories should be changed. But they don’t.  Because these stories are so fundamental and are so intertwined into our thinking they affect decisions and polices. And when your basic assumptions are wrong, the chances that you will make the right decisions seriously drop. And we still can’t change them.

There is a dire need to create education systems which will eradicate all these wrong notions and that will create, over time, new conventional wisdoms, ones that work. I am not sure our current education systems are up to the challenge. In three weeks I will be starting an MBA course at AGSM. I am quite sure that these conventional wisdoms will be the curriculum. But I am more afraid there will be more misplaced conventional wisdoms that I will be taught and I will never know they are wrong.




Photo by shashiBellamkonda

 A few days ago I finished reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Usually, the day I finish a book is the day I start to write (and usually publish) something about it in my blog. But this book was so overwhelmingly new and interesting that I guess it took me a few days to digest everything. I am still doing it.

I really don’t want to ruin it for you, because no matter what your field is, this one is a must read. And if you are in business or education and/or are parents to young children, you should do everything you can to read it.

The main thesis of the book is that the way we measure success is totally wrong. Gladwell tries to explain that the glorified story of the man (or woman) that came from nowhere and did it on his own is false. We are actually deriving the wrong lessons from these stories.  Great successes are usually a result of two things – opportunities and social legacies. Not that Gladwell is trying to say that talent or hard-work are not important for people’s success. Quite the opposite. What he tries to say is that we put too much importance on these factors and totally ignore other important factors – especially, opportunities and cultural heritage.

As usual, just a number of my thoughts after reading:

  1. Education – It is amazing to learn how much our education systems are a result of old habits and inertia. I already mentioned here that I think schools are not doing enough in order to tap into the strengths of students. What I discovered after reading the book is that in the US and it is the same in Israel, the education system is built in a way that actually hampers successes. Gladwell puts a lot of the blame for the failure of these systems on the long vacations. I humbly agree and think that the stories in the book illustrate that our schools are teaching our kids the wrong process (and something I had as hunch turned out to be true after reading the book – check out my post in Hebrew – the effect the home environment has on our education is profound). But it is more than that. Our education systems is so focused on developing analytical thinking (OR IQ) that they neglect to teach the kids practical intelligence (or what some call EQ) – how to communicate, how to speak to authority, how to imagine, how to speak publicly, how our day to day economies work (Hebrew link) and much much more. In Israel and in Australia there are worries these days about the scores of children in the Standardized tests. I think the problems lie much deeper.
  2. Are you recruiting only from the best schools? – One of the messages in the book is that you don’t have to be the smartest in order to succussed. You just have to be smart enough. In contrary to what we think, Harvard and Yale graduates, even though they are much smarter IQ wise, don’t succussed more than graduates off other good and sometimes even mediocre schools. I think that coming from a university which is not the best in Israel I can vouch for that. My friends, most of which were not able to get into the good faculties (because of money or just childhood neglect of their studies) are doing just a good as any group form any university, and even more so. What does that say for business recruitment? Where should the hireling come from? How much should a company insist on recruiting from the best schools? Maybe a better strategy is to find the people that are just smart enough, but have better complimentary skills, including people skills, in order to really succeed.
  3. Processes – If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am firm believer in processes. One of the chapters of my e-book is dedicated to the importance of processes. The book just reaffirms my view. I think one of the most powerful chapters in the book is the chapter where Gladwell explains why ignoring the cultural differences and heritages intertwined into people behaviour is so dangerous that it can actually make plains crush. We don’t all work the same and it is important to understand that people from different countries act differently just because they are from a different country. The example is of Korean air which was one the most dangerous air companies until it acknowledged that only by making their pilots act in opposite to their culture will improve the rate of its air collisions. The ways to achieve that are by creating processes that hinder the effects of these cultural heritages. The same is true about creating greater pools of talent. One amazing example in the book is that all the best hockey players in Canada were born between January and March. All of them. By recognizing this pattern and creating a process that will give a chance to more talent, we can actually quadruple the talent pool. It is all in the process.
  4. Don’t be too polite. We are different – One last thing. Next month I will be starting an MBA program. This MBA gathers people from more the 40 nationalities. My intuitive, polite, politicly correct approach was to treat them all the same. Now, because of the book, I am thinking a little differently. What are the cultural heritages these people bring with them to the table? This is something that should be discussed. If someone is giving an example from his/her country, shouldn’t it be analysed taking into account the characteristics/cultural heritage of that country. Carefully, politely, but it should be on the table. Not only of individual people different, but the world’s peoples are different and we should recognize it.


The story of elderly ladies on the bus


Photo by ellecteric

I want our soldiers to stand up in order to make lace for elderly woman on the bus“.

When you think about it, standing up for elderly woman on a bus is a very polite behaviour. But the quoted sentence above, for me, holds much more than just good manners. When I was a junior commander of the operators of communication course in the Israeli Air-Force, our officer repeated it again and again.

What he tried to explain to our team was that he rather have us spend time on education and discipline than on teaching the soldiers the professional parts of the course. This was counter intuitive. Our task was to train Operators of communication course. But for him, making them better soldiers and persons was more important.

Today, I was reminded of this statement, while I was reading the book “Made to stick“.  Like with other management books I wrote about, this book does not need my promotion. So, in addition to recommending it, I will share a number of my thoughts:

  1. I think the most important message of the book deals with trying to find the core value of your message and a memorable way to present it. The story about my commander is a great one. I often talk about it in workshops I give about leadership. One of the challenges mangers face is how to create a message that will allow his team to make decisions when he is not around. When my officer was not around, we could have easily known what his opinion would be. Do you know what your manager wants? Does your team know what you want? Most people are not sure what the goal of their department or company is. As Lewis Carroll Said: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. Don’t be surprised if you or your team decide to go onto the wrong road. There is a great need for more coherence regarding the core values.  If you don’t believe me, believe the CEO of the Coca-Cola company, Muhtar Kent. A Knowledge@Wharton article says: “He explained that his first priority upon assuming the helm at Coca-Cola — based upon what he had witnessed in other leaders in business and in government over the previous 35 years — has been to develop a new broad strategic vision for the Coca-Cola brand. Kent said the leaders he is striving to emulate ‘had the ability to create a clear and compelling vision and they had the ability to articulate and communicate it in a simple way’
  2. When you chose your core values, it is important to stick to them, especially when it comes to intuition. Not only acting against your core values hurts you and your message. The trick is, sometimes, sticking to the core values means you need not to act in ways that seem to be right. In my example, it was passing on more study time for more discipline routine, even if it meant lesser grades for our soldiers. In the book, the writers give an example of southwest airlines, which decided to be “the cheapest airline company in America”. Surveys showed that passengers want the company to serve chicken salad in their flights instead of the usual peanuts. The manager of the company, stuck to his core values, and asked: “will this make us the cheapest airline company in America?”. The answer was off course negative. You read a lot about adjusting your service to the needs of the customers. The costumer is, after all, always right. Well, sometimes, the costumer is wrong. Many times, the right thing to do is to act according to your core values.
  3. Two great concepts for those of us that deal with education and presentations. The power of a good story and the importance of being concrete and tangible. Once I did not believe in the power of stories in classes or presentations. I changed my mind. It happened after I realized that the stories are what I always remember best when I attend a presentation. Think about the last presentation you attended. Try to remember what it was about? Do you remember a story told there? You probably did. A story makes what you talk about to be tangible. So many times you see a lecturer talking about something without explaining what has does that have to do with listeners. Remember, if the lecture is about them, like everybody says, you need to explain to them why what you are talking about is important to them. The best way to do it is to talk about real life consequences of what you talk about. There always are.


Important lessons


Photo by Gaetan Lee

A few days ago I finished reading “Billion Dollar Lessons“. It is a fascinating book that is a must for anyone working in an organization that deals with some form of strategic thinking (which is almost every organization I know). I think the book has enough promotion so I will not attempt to promote it (but still – read this free manifesto if you want some idea of what it is about). I just wanted to share two thoughts:

1. I think this book and others (like the amazing “YES!“) are starting a very interesting trend of books that use behavioural economics to better understand and more importantly, improve, business. I wrote about this kind of thinking after reading Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman‘s book (with co-authors) called “Rationality, Fairness, Happiness”. I think managers who will adapt fast to this trend and will start to gain more knowledge of how people (in contrast or in addition to business) really work, will be the leaders of the next generation.

2. I think the book wonderfully illustrates the importance of the one of the concepts I write about in my E-book, “Playing It to Excellence and Happiness in Real Life – Five Concepts I Learned by Playing Basketball, Working and just Living” – “Focus on the process”. In short, the thesis of the book is that awareness in not enough to prevent strategic mistakes. People make them, many times when they were fully aware of the consequences or when all the relevant information was present or did not reach the right people. This is why it is important to create processes that help us in preventing such mistakes. In the book they talk about appointing a devil’s advocate (among other things). Seth Godin calls it “Stats Fiend“. I think you can say something more general. There is a need for great processes that enhance true communication, positive conflict and the flow of information inside organizations. Two man are always smarter than one man, but many times, organizations are run by one man (when I say “one man” I mean it as a generalization of a type of leadership – not actually one man makes all the decisions alone). If you can create great processes you can add more value.


Nice and Obvious

A few weeks ago I was standing in a book store looking for books in the business section. One woman approached the section and asked the clerk for a recommendation about a business book. He recommended her the book “The power of nice” which title in Hebrew roughly translates to: “It is worthwhile to be nice in business”. The woman looked at the clerk and asked him: “What kind of message will the person I give the book as a present get? I don’t think it is nice to bring someone a book that explains how to be nice“.

This story not only illustrates a bad translation of a book title (it happens a lot) but something deeper – I really tried, but I can’t understand why the hell does someone need to convince us that being nice is important?

I ran into this short 1-minute video clip today by Tim Sanders. Again, an explanation on why is it important to be nice in business.


“The young people coming into to market economy today view economic freedom by the ability to chose a boss that is not a jerk” the video says, trying to explain to us why being nice is important.

Is it me or is this crazy? Shouldn’t nice be the default? Is there anybody who can explain the process that led to the current condition in which nice is not the default?

I watched the video. I read “the power of nice”. They are both… well… nice. But obvious. It was very hard for me to point one concept in the book that did not seem trivial or that I really feel I learned from. I couldn’t find even one. 

I wanted to explain in this post how obvious the concept of being nice is, by showing how important it is to be nice. But decided not to. It is too obvious.  Maybe I am naïve. Still, I believe nice should be the default.