Tag: cxo

Confidence is the first step to having a life you need

I read a story of Richard Branson buying Necker Island for a mere $180,000, despite its $6 million asking price. You might think it’s all due to his negotiation skills, and I agree he must be quite the negotiator to reach such heights in business. But what struck me most was his confidence in making that first call.

Imagine seeing a $6 million price tag when you can only afford $100,000. Instead of walking away, he picked up the phone, arranged a visit to the island, and boldly offered his limited budget.

I wish I had that kind of confidence.

For example, I run a podcast and sometimes spot the perfect guest. Yet, I lack the courage to reach out to them on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email. But Branson’s story teaches me the value of taking that first step.

Coming back to Branson’s story, a year later, the island’s owner hadn’t received any better offers and called Branson again. This time he could offer more – $180,000 – and sealed the deal. The lesson here is clear: have the confidence to act even when there’s a gaping chasm between what you can give and what’s asked for.

I want to embrace this boldness in my own life. Maybe I won’t always succeed in negotiating, but at least I’ll have given it my best shot. So I’ll start with my podcast and reach out to potential guests with newfound courage.

Hierarchy of tasks

Hierarchy of tasks

You can sort any task into three categories:

  • routine, low-level tasks;
  • time-based, deadline-driven tasks; and
  • creative tasks.

The more time you dedicate to creative tasks, the better your output will be. For that to happen, you need to keep low-level tasks as frictionless as possible.

Podcast Example

Take my podcast for example. Tasks for the podcast involves finding guests, crafting questions, conducting interviews, editing, creating video thumbnails, and sharing on social media. The podcast focuses on leadership rather than design, so I’ve simplified my thumbnails to just two colors and one font in three sizes. This makes it a low-level task that can be done quickly. I also have templates for guest communications that are easily copied and pasted. These routine tasks are now automated or streamlined.

Time-based tasks include scheduling interviews on specific dates and releasing episodes every Tuesday at 6 a.m. These deadlines keep me focused.

My creative work lies in discovering the theme or perspective to shape the interview and its questions. That’s where I want to spend most of my time—thinking and framing the questions. If I spend too much time on thumbnails and social media sharing, I’ll have less time for this vital creative work.

Of course, your priorities may vary. If you’re a designer, you might want to spend more time on thumbnail design. So, depending on your focus, adjust your task hierarchy accordingly.

Take writing and publishing a blog post as another example. For me, writing is thinking and seeking answers. I want as little friction as possible to focus on my writing. That’s why I’ve made hosting platforms, color themes, fonts, dictation tools, and editing low-level tasks. This way, I can spend more time pondering what to write about and actually writing instead of fiddling with design details.

Creativity depends on routinized low-level activities

The more tasks you can turn into routine, low-level duties, the more time and energy you’ll have for creative work. This doesn’t mean low-level tasks aren’t important; they are. But streamlining them frees up your cognitive power for creativity.

Imagine your day as a series of tasks in different buckets. The better you can sort these tasks, the smoother your day will flow. By turning many daily activities into low-level tasks, you’ll reduce friction and save energy for what truly matters. For example, my morning routine is filled with streamlined tasks, from fitness to learning new things.

Knowing the hierarchy of tasks will help you boost your creativity and output. So, focus on making routine tasks as efficient as possible to free up your mind for the creative work that truly makes a difference.

There is no single factor for success

• What’s the one thing you need to be fit?
• Which one thing should a CEO focus on?
• What is one single leadership quality?
• Who is more important – customers or employees?

I’ve heard such questions often.

There’s no silver bullet, but we’re all looking for it. We hope we’ll find a magic genie to clear all our confusions.

Seeking a single factor is magical thinking. Inexperienced people gets stuck onto one idea. Content marketers love titles that highlight one thing over everything else. Yet seasoned people offer balanced views.

Imagine brewing the most delicious coffee. Quality beans matter, but so does roasting, water, and blending. To create that delicious coffee, you need all the ingredients.

Consider the question, what should a CEO focus solely on? CEOs must juggle capital, customers, and employees. Is it possible to run a business without any of these?

Fitness requires balance too. Mix up your diet, strength training, and cardio! Oh, don’t forget 8 hours of sound sleep. If you mess up one, you mess up your health.

That doesn’t mean you have to do everything at once. By planning your approach, you can start by improving one factor, then move to the next knowing that one by one you’ll improve everything.

Retirement is a relic concept

Retirement, an old relic from the manufacturing age, no longer holds true in our information era. As long as your mind is sharp and you can contribute positively with your intellect, there’s no need to step back.

In the past, physical mobility dictated productivity, and as age slowed us down, retirement became necessary for safety. But now, if you can maintain mental agility and build a personal brand, retirement becomes a choice rather than a requirement. Opportunities abound for those who stay mentally active, gaining and sharing experiences.

Charlie Munger serves as a prime example – sharing his wisdom on podcasts until nearly his last breath.

To remain relevant in this ever-changing landscape, you must adapt to new technologies and workforce patterns.

  • Be a learning machine
  • Cultivate a network of peers, mentees, and influencers
  • Gain social proof through your work and network

First and foremost, embrace learning. Much like software, if you are not updated, you’ll quickly get outdated. Learning includes learning how to communicate with younger generations so you can create content they’ll love. Don’t just create content; make it valuable.

Next, cultivate a network of peers, mentees, and influencers who can vouch for your abilities. Building connections allows you to stay active in learning, sharing, and creating value – all while earning from it.

Lastly, get social proof for helping others. Testimonials are good. It could also be having a lot of trafficked blog posts, the most watched videos, or the most popular books. Success is the most convincing social proof.

I’ve been walking this path for 8 years. I consult three days a week. On the other days, I do podcasts, blogs, meet people, research investments, and so on.

I don’t intend to retire. I plan to do this until I can.

Integrating Paranoia and Optimism

In the wise words of Intel founder, Andy Grove, “only the paranoid survive.” Imagine our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, constantly surrounded by risks and dangers. Their paranoia kept them alive. If you’re reading this today, it’s because everyone in your lineage survived, and mostly because they were paranoid.

To be paranoid and survive, you must integrate two opposing ideas.

First, recognize what could kill or destroy you, or drain your energy, talent, or time. If you’re managing a project, think about what might ruin your best-laid plans. But don’t stop there. You also need optimism to counteract that paranoia.

Optimism is what keeps us moving forward instead of giving up in despair. It’s believing that life will turn out well and that we can improve our circumstances.

Roger Martin discusses this concept in his book “Opposable Mind,” explaining the importance of integrating these two opposing ideas.

The ability to face the tension of opposing ideas constructively and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each. – Opposable Mind, Roger Martin

In today’s world, many people lean heavily towards one end of the spectrum: either overly optimistic or pessimistic. But to truly thrive, we must integrate paranoia and optimism. By doing so, we can not only survive but flourish as we face the challenges ahead.