15 of My Favorite Reads From November 2015

This is my effort to provide a little signal by curating some of the best/most interesting posts I encountered during the month of November 2015. I recommend identifying and diving into 2-3 that resonate with you. Focus less on the dopamine rush you get from hopping from article to article and more on how you apply the wisdom in these posts to your own life.

Please use the comments section to recommend and share other posts you’ve recently found useful and/or your best posts of late.

The commentary below the link is typically the author’s own words that I’ve extracted as a key takeaway; however, sometimes I add my own commentary and make connections as well.

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[Blog Posts/News Articles]:

Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family – Claire Cain Miller

While family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.

“This is not an individual problem, it is a social problem,” said Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist and the founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions at the University of California, San Diego. She said policies like paid family leave and after-school child care would significantly ease parents’ stress.

Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children. Fifty-nine percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same. Of parents with college degrees, 65 percent said they found it difficult to balance job and family.

Life is about choices, I suppose.

Addicted to Distraction – Tony Schwartz

According to one recent survey, the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email. The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.

Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.

The solution? As often as possible, I try to ask myself, “Is this really what I want to be doing?” If the answer is no, the next question is, “What could I be doing that would feel more productive, or satisfying, or relaxing?”

If we didn’t spend so much of our work time on needless distractions, maybe we’d have more time for our families.

What’s the solution? Deep work.

Deep Work Helps You Produce at an Elite Level – Cal Newport (excerpted from Deep Work)

Adam Grant, the youngest full professor at Wharton, is an elite performer. At 34, he’s written more than sixty peer-​reviewed publications in addition to his bestselling book.

Grant recommends the batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches.

In particular, by consolidating his work into intense and uninterrupted pulses, he’s leveraging the following law of productivity:

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

By maximizing his intensity when he works, he maximizes the results he produces per unit of time spent working.

By working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, Grant minimizes the negative impact of attention residue from his other obligations, allowing him to maximize performance on this one task. When Grant is working for days in isolation on a paper, in other words, he’s doing so at a higher level of effectiveness than the standard professor following a more distracted strategy in which the work is repeatedly interrupted by residue-​slathering interruptions.

Spending More Time Managing Your Time – Cal Newport

Something organized people don’t often talk about is how much time they spend organizing their time. t’s now accepted by many that it’s enough to jot down each morning a couple “most important tasks” of the day on an index card (or sticky note), and if you get those done, consider your day a success.

It’s true that many people approach their days with flexibility, perhaps hunkering down when an immediate deadline looms, but otherwise letting their reactions to input drive the agenda. But I want to emphasize that there’s another group of us who take our time really seriously, and aren’t afraid to spend hours figuring out how best to invest it.

Quadrant II – Invest to Prevent Fire Fighting – Rohan Rajiv

What kind of work constitutes Deep Work? Where should we spend our time? In Quadrant II.

time-matrix
Source: Tina O’Brien

Stephen Covey’s thesis was that effective people spend a comparatively large chunk of their time in quadrant II – activities that aren’t urgent, but are important. Quadrant II activities are those that require us to invest in ourselves and the long term. For example, exercise and spending time with your loved ones are Quadrant II activities. If you don’t exercise and take care of yourself, it is very likely it’ll show up in Quadrant I as a health crisis.

Your Progress Report – Seth Godin

I’m not sure we need to see a checklist of what you got done last week. What we really need:

a. the difficult questions that remain unanswered

b. the long-term goals where you don’t feel like progress is being made

c. risky, generous acts that worked

Even more important: All the things that aren’t on your list, but could be.

 

Lifelong Learning – Shane Parrish

Why *wouldn’t* you want to be a lifelong learner?

It may boil down to choices and priorities. It is easy to be drawn towards passive entertainment, which requires less from us, over more energetic, active understanding. Inconvenience might be an alibi: “I don’t have time for continuous learning as I am too busy with real life”. But that excuse doesn’t withstand close scrutiny, as experiences (coupled with reflection) can be the richest of all sources of investigation and discovery.

Why not make a conscious decision to learn something new every day? No matter how small the daily learning, it is significant when aggregated over a lifetime. Resolving early in life to have a continuous learning mindset is not only more interesting than the passive alternative, it is also remarkably powerful. Choosing lifelong learning is one of the few good choices that can make a big difference in our lives, giving us an enormous advantage when practised over a long period of time.

“Reading,” writes Endersen, “is the foundation of indirect learning.” Learning how to read and finding time to read are two of the easiest and best changes you can make if you want to pursue lifelong learning.

Stronger: Developing Personal Resilience and Becoming Antifragile – Shane Parrish

How is it that some people come back from crushing defeats while others simply give in? Why does adversity make some people and teams stronger and render others ineffective?

What factors do resilient people have in common?

1. Optimism – A mandate to bounce back, to be successful, to avoid being a victim.
2. Decisive action – You must act in order to rebound. You must learn to leave behind the comfort of the status quo and make difficult decisions.
3. Moral Compass – There are four points to our moral compass: honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethics. Simply do what is right and just.
4. Tenacity – Success often comes to those who not only show up but tenaciously show up and carry with them a relentless defiance of failure.
5. Interpersonal connectedness – Great strength is derived from the support of others. Knowing when to rely upon others is a sign of strength and wisdom.

Check out Shane’s post above to learn how to overcome indecision, increase personal responsibility and review the seven characteristics of highly resilient people.

Stoicism isn’t Pessimistic. It’s Boldly Optimistic – Ryan Holiday

“Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

What Marcus was writing—reminding himself—is one of the core tenets of Stoicism. What it is prescribing is essentially this: in any and every situation—no matter how bad or seemingly undesirable it is—we have the opportunity to practice a virtue.

We all face tough situations on a regular basis. But behind the circumstances and events that provoke an immediate negative reaction is something good—some exposed benefit that we can seize mentally and then act upon.We blame outside forces or other people and we write ourselves off as failures or our goals as impossible. But there is only one thing we really control: our attitude and approach. Find the silver lining.

Life-Hacks, 10 Life-Habits, 10 Meta-Habits – James Altucher

  • There’s always a good reason and a real reason”. Always look for the real reason.
  • You don’t need to be the best in the world to be better than everyone around you.
  • Sleep 8-9 hours a day. People who sleep more get sick less, have more willpower, are less at risk for cancer, etc.
  • Honesty. Honesty defines your character. And character defines your future.
  • Failure = Experiment. Thomas Edison did not fail 10,000 times to make one lightbulb. He did 10,000 experiments.

Tony Robbins: The Best Advice I’ve Ever Been Given – Product Hunt Team

Robbins on the best advice he’s ever been given:

The secret to life is to find a way to do more for others than anyone else is doing. If you want to be extraordinary as a friend or business person, as a father or a lover, find a way to add more value — especially to those you love the most. I’m obsessed by this focus, and I really believe it’s the secret to not only wealth, but real lasting happiness. In my soul I believe the secret to living is giving.

Proximity is power.

On Success:

Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.

I also enjoyed the exercises he leverages to focus on introspection as it relates to goals and gratitude. Click the link above to read the full interview. Should take you about 10 minutes.

3 Timeless Rules for Making Tough Decisions – Peter Bregman

We spend an inordinate amount of time, and a tremendous amount of energy, making choices between equally attractive options in everyday situations. If these mundane decisions drag on our time and energy, think about the bigger ones we need to make, in organizations, all the time. So how can we handle decisions of all kinds more efficiently?

  • Use habits as a way to reduce routine decision fatigue (i.e. always eat a salad for lunch)
    • Works well for predictable decisions
  • Use if/then thinking to routinize unpredictable choices (i.e. if this person interrupts me twice, I’ll say something)
  • Use a timer
    • For decisions for which there is no clear, right answer
    • The time you save by not deliberating pointlessly will pay massive dividends in productivity

 

[Interesting]:

Paternity Leave is a Medicine We Still Can’t Seem to Choke Down – Jake Anderson

Married men with salaries are now 35% more likely to work 50 hours per week, and even when they’re “off”, they’re still connected to the job.

Amidst the silent apprehension, paternity leave should feel a godsend. For a generation committed to data and proof, there are reams of studies that demonstrate taking paternity leave creates equality in the home and healthier relationships between father and child. Yet many new dads still don’t take paternity leave, why?

Most have just enough responsibility to have direct reports who can bungle something critical, but not quite enough responsibility to ensure they won’t get edged out, undermined, displaced or overlooked. Nearly 50% of dads on paternity leave checked email once-per day and cite workplace pressure and stigma for cutting leave short.

Time for the Academy To Put Its Pencils Down – Liel Leibovitz

Big money began to blind university administrations, which, in turn, led to the buying of real estate in bulk and the selling of reputations to nations eager to set up a local version of Yale or the Sorbonne by writing a large check—instead of embracing the values of free speech and open inquiry upon which higher education still claims to be based.

Promoted largely for their ability to impress their narrow circles of peers, most American professors have little ability to speak about meaningful things to any large numbers of people. In fact, they had come to see even teaching students within the university as a liability, something you do little of and only when there’s absolutely no other choice.

When you are trained to see everything as an aggression, how would you know to tell the innocuous from the truly menacing? And when you’re praised for pointing out the vicissitudes of victimhood, why not play the victim, and whine endlessly about your pain, instead of doing your homework and going to class?

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[Thoughts I’m Chewing On]:

As the end of the year approaches, I will set aside time to review 2015 and prepare for next year. 2014 was about my 5 pillars for a healthy and happy life. And those didn’t change much in 2015. They’re still excellent guide posts for living a rich life.

In preparation for 2016 some of the things I’ve started chewing on include:

  • Being extremely intentional about how I spend my time — particularly at the office.
    • I’m looking forward to Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” in an effort to hone my ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks.
  • Practicing gentleness — especially toward myself.
    • I’m seeking to do this by becoming more mindful and aware next year.
  • As I continue to grow in my career, I’m thinking more and more about the qualities that make great leaders

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[Quotes]:

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” — Lin Yutang (h/t @farnamstreet)

“In life, being the same is comfortable. In business, being the same is death.” — @ramit

“The industry overvalues experience, and undervalues strategic and tactical flexibility.” — @ericschmidt

“‘Use your best judgment, care about your impact, do work that matters…’ are significantly more powerful instructions than, ‘Do it this way. Say it this way. Behave the way I told you to.'” — Seth Godin

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If you made it this far and found this post valuable in any way, please let me know in the comments which of these reads caught your attention. Better yet, why don’t you share something you’ve read recently that you think I’d find interesting.

If you like this post, you might also like my favorite reads from October or this curated list of 125+ of my favorite posts from 2014.