You have just a few days to learn everything there is to know about a subject you know nothing about. Now what?
I was staring at a serious problem. To help our firm win a multimillion-dollar consulting contract, I had five days to tell my new boss everything there was to know about airline bankruptcies. Problem was, I didn’t know the first thing about airline bankruptcies.
I barely knew the first thing about anything. It was my first month of my first job out of college, and I had no idea how I—a 23-year-old with zero existing insights on the industry—was going to tell a senior partner anything that wasn’t going to get me fired.
Nir’s Note: This guest post is an excerpt from my friend Ryan Holiday’s new book, Ego Is the Enemy. Ryan is the author of three other books and his monthly reading recommendations, which go out to 50,000+ subscribers, can be found here.
It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character.
John DeLorean ran his car company into the ground with a mix of outsized ambition, negligence, narcissism, greed, and mismanagement. As the bad news began to pile up and the picture was made clear and public, how do you think he responded? Was it with resigned acceptance? Did he acknowledge the errors his disgruntled employees were speaking out about for the first time? Was he able to reflect, even slightly, on the mistakes and decisions that had brought him, his investors, and his employees so much trouble?
About a year ago, I wrote an essay about how to win your competition’s customers habits.
Today, I’d like to share a quick video of the ideas in that article. Let me know what you think about this format and if you’d like to see more videos like this one…
Last week’s Habit Summit was amazing! It was wonderful to see so many blog readers and friends enjoying the keynotes — not to mention the Stanford sunshine.
Below is my opening presentation highlighting examples of companies changing user behavior for good.
Let me know if you can think of more examples in the comments section below.
BTW – If you couldn’t attend the Habit Summit, you can get a video pass to see all the talks you missed here: http://HabitSummitVideoPass.eventbrite.com
Nir’s Note: My friend Jake Knapp just published a fantastic book titled, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. The book details a process he and his colleagues at Google Ventures use to quickly go from idea, to prototype, to live test. Jake put together an exclusive excerpt from the book for NirAndFar.com readers. Here it is:
Monday of the sprint week begins with an exercise we call “Start at the End”. It’s a look ahead—to the end of the sprint and beyond. You and your team will lay out the basics: your long-term goal and the difficult questions that must be answered to get there.
When a big problem comes along, it’s natural to want to solve it right away. In your five-day sprint, the clock is ticking, the team is amped up, and solutions start popping into everyone’s mind. But if you don’t first slow down, share what you know, and prioritize, you could end up wasting time and effort on the wrong part of the problem.
Chances are you’ve experienced the following: You’re with a small group of friends at a nice restaurant. Everyone is enjoying the food and conversation when someone decides to take out his phone — not for an urgent call, but to check email, Instagram, and Facebook.
Maybe you’ve witnessed this behavior and found it unsettling. So what do you do? Do you sit idly by, thinking disparaging thoughts? Or do you call out the offender?
For years, I accepted ill-timed tech use as a sign of the times. Sherry Turkle, an author and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, diagnosed the situation succinctly: these days, “We expect more from technology and less from each other.”
I used to do nothing in the face of indiscriminate gadget use. Now, I’ve come to believe that doing nothing is no longer O.K. Staying silent about bad technology habits is making things worse for all of us.
When my wife and I moved to New York City in 2001, recently graduated from college and newly wed, we were eager to find friends. We knew nearly no one but were sure we’d soon find a fun-loving group like the 20- and 30-something New Yorkers who spontaneously dropped in on one another on TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends.
We hatched a plan. After moving into our Midtown Manhattan apartment, we invited all the neighbors over for drinks by placing Kinko’s-printed quarter-sheets into everyone’s mailboxes. Then, we waited for our versions of Chandler, Kramer, and Elaine to show up. But they didn’t. In fact, no one did. As the ice in the cooler melted and the guacamole browned, not a single person among 100 apartments stopped by. Not. One. Person.
“Nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet,” wrote Tony Schwartz in a recent essay in The New York Times. It’s a common complaint these days. A steady stream of similar headlines accuse the Net and its offspring apps, social media sites and online games of addicting us to distraction.
There’s little doubt that nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Net has difficulty disconnecting. Just look around. People everywhere are glued to their devices. Many of us, like Schwartz, struggle to stay focused on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update. As one person ironically put it in the comments section of Schwartz’s online article, “As I was reading this very excellent article, I stopped at least half a dozen times to check my email.”
By the looks of his laptop, Robbert Van Els could be mistaken for a secret agent. His screen is an explosion of urgent files — a master control center for managing clandestine operatives. The man of mystery persona is typified by a side-sliding sports car winding through an onslaught of Word docs and Jpeg files. Just looking at his desktop can raise your blood pressure.
But Van Els is not a secret agent. He’s a mess.
In fact, Van Els’ LinkedIn profile says he is in the “custom made earplugs” business. Apparently, there is no correlation between the mayhem on one’s laptop and the adventure in one’s life. Anyone can find themselves drowning in desktop clutter and research suggests this digital detritus costs us time, degrades performance, and kills concentration.