Jake recently recommended a book, titled The One Thing, by Gary Keller.
The One Thing dives into applying the Pareto Principle to the extreme in order to simplify priorities and achieve maximum effectiveness. If you're unfamiliar with the Pareto Principle, it states that the minority of your efforts constitute the majority of your results. It's also commonly called the 20/80 rule, stipulating that 20% of your efforts constitute 80% of your results. I've spent the vast majority of the last 7 years testing and applying the Pareto Principle in different ways, after learning about it from author Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek. Despite broad application of the Pareto Principle, The One Thing is now challenging me to be even more selective in what I invest my time in.
Today's post is about how to apply this concept to a new area of learning.
Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
I remember another way that Stephen Covey put was "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
Today, whilst driving home with Teresa, I commented "Man, if only I could duplicate myself, then I could take up piano and Chinese lessons."
"Weren't you about to sign up for Chinese lessons last fall - what happened?" Teresa began to ask, then stopped herself. "Wait, no, I know why you haven't been able to do those things. You decided to take up the GMAT, play sports 4 nights a week and block out most Sundays. On top of all that, you spend Saturdays with me. If you're up and out of the house by 5am and you get home by 10/11pm daily, how will you ever manage to fit additional projects in?"
Just like that, I was reminded that a majority of my week is being invested into doing things that I could do, not things that I should do. Well, the great news is that my GMAT Prep time is almost over and I now have Monday nights open starting mid-March. So this is the perfect chance to experiment with a new dream project!
Living the dream
In grade 12, I took one year of piano lessons where I learn the very basics of playing piano. Some of you have seen my cover videos over the years, where I've simply focused on learning one song at a time and following a basic YouTube tutorial to get there. This has allowed me to learn to play and sing simple, but awesome songs like
I've been on the worship team as a vocalist for my church for a little over two years now. I've always said that I want to learn and pick up piano again, but haven't gotten around to it. I'd really like to become a worship leader who sings/plays piano/leads the team. However, this doesn't really happen unless you can play music too. What better way of exercising my passion for music to glorify God? =D
The stigma is that worship music is fairly easy to pick up because some choruses are repetitive. Since it should be fairly easy, I can tackle this fearlessly knowing that I can only get better from here haha.
That being said, here's an experiment I'd like to invite you to help me out with. From what I've gathered so far, efforts should be concentrated on chord progression, different jazz piano styles/rhythms, learning pivoting, and understanding how piano works with other instruments (namely guitar and drums).
As a to-do list, all those ideas are too broad for a noob like me to understand because there isn't one thing that I can focus on. I have approximately 20 lyric sheets with chords on them and because I don't have time set aside to play piano, I sit down maybe once every few months to jam for an hour randomly.
Collectively thinking, if I were to set aside ONLY 20 minutes per day, what is the ONE THING that I SHOULD do that will not only teach me how to play worship songs, but also sing it and lead others too?
What is the most effective task I should focus on that will enable agile learning and improvisational navigation around the keys?
Desired Result: Be able to play and sing piano simultaneously for worship music
The One Thing: Practicing Scales. I've heard that the one thing that I should focus on is practicing scales. Looking into that, I came across Hanon - Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises and was recommended to simply start with C Major.
Is there anything else you would advise that is more important?
Update (12/22/2016): How I learnt to play piano in 7 months
I was having breakfast with Peter on Sunday and the topic of mentorship came up. As I dived into my sambal scramble at the Tipper restaurant on Kingsway, Peter shared with me how he wished that he had a mentor growing up, someone who could walk him through the ropes of life.
I completely agreed - there was no Mr. Miyagi for either of us, so we had the fun task of figuring things out on our own.
When I was in high school, I was nowhere close to being the smartest kid in the class. Being in the International Baccalaureate program, I had classmates who were Ivy-League smart, who ran circles around problems without breaking a sweat. On the other hand... I was more of the class clown who rarely paid attention because I was trying to make my friends laugh. My best friend and I always figured it was better spending our time building go-karts (Alex) and crashing them (Jay). That being said, I had to adapt to get through high-school and that often meant relying on my classmates for advice and support, especially when it came to Organic Chemistry. *shudder*
Not being naturally talented at school, however, did mean that I was naturally talented at bugging people, asking them questions, or persuading them to let me copy their homework. When I think back, my friends ended up being mentors in that way. As Lennon and McCartney wrote, "I get by with a little help from my friends."
So what exactly is a mentor?
Definition of a mentor - an experienced and trusted advisor.
Considering that mentors are experienced and trusted in giving you advice, wouldn't you want not just one mentor, but multiple ones?
What would it look like if you have different mentors for different aspects of your life?
Here are a few examples:
Why finding a mentor is tough
Ideally, we're looking at a plethora of mentors to help navigate life.
But remember our first problem? It's really hard finding even just one mentor!
Taking a step back, here are the top 2 reasons I wouldn't want to commit to becoming a mentor.
1. Commitment of time
When I'm asked to be a mentor, I wince because I automatically think of how much time I'll have to invest in the other person. I hesitate agreeing, because mentoring means not just one session, but numerous, in-depth hang sessions with my mentee in order to see results. It means that I have to commit to making time out of my busy schedule to care about someone else and that can take months, even years. As you can imagine, if you're not terribly close with the person asking to be mentored, it's hard to want to say yes enthusiastically.
2. Responsibility of well-being
I also get scared of the potential burden placed on me; there's a certain standard, a level of accountability, in taking care of your mentee and making sure they flourish under your guidance.
All of a sudden, you have this expectation put on you that you should know which advice to give, when to give tough love, and when to compliment and provide recognition.
Mentorship is HARD by itself, but also exponentially harder if I don't know you.
How to get multiple mentors in 4 steps
Despite the fact that it's tough to get people to commit to mentoring you, it's very possible to find not just one, but multiple mentors. Here's a simple process I use that may clarify what to do.
1. Ask them if you can treat them to coffee or lunch.
Face to face time is invaluable because you get to connect with the person you're with and it's generally fairly laidback. When I'm with people, it gives me the ability to zone out from everything else and focus only on the person I'm with.
Phone calls are also great if they're not local.
2. Mention that you have 3 specific questions that you'd like to ask them and are seeking their expertise/feedback.
If it's a close friend, then the reason 'I just want to catch up' will do.
If you're not close friends, there needs to be a purpose to meeting. Especially if I don't know you, is there a clear reason why I should spend time with you?
Being specific makes it easier for us to say yes, because we know that you've taken the time to prepare before coming in hot.
3. After the meal, thank them for their time!
An attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Because time is our most valuable asset, we really appreciate it when you thank us for investing the 60 minutes with them. Likewise, we're very thankful for the opportunity to provide insight and share our knowledge, so we thank you for being pro-active and seeking counsel.
4. Ask them if you can follow up in 3-6 months with more questions, after you've applied what they've shared.
One of my pet peeves is when people ask for advice, receive it, and move on without taking action. It hurts when your advice seems to fall on deaf ears, so share with your mentor a quick recap of what you've learnt from that session and what you'll be doing because of it. What's even better is if you ask if it's okay if you check in with me in 6 months, so that takes away my job of remembering to coach you. It also shows that you're taking personal steps to ensure that you are getting the attention you need.
Voila! Without them knowing it, they've suddenly become your mentor!
They may not consider you an official 'mentee', but they are your 'experienced and trusted advisor'.
So....all this being said - now what?
Find one person on Facebook or LinkedIn that you haven't chatted with in a while and message them to catch up! :)
Please send me a message with what you've picked up and how it benefited you - I'd love to see how this is impacting your life. This way, I don't quit writing. Jokes. =D
Until next time,
In January 2015, I finally acted on a recommendation from a friend to try out www.750words.com (hereby referred to as 750).
750 is a site that tracks the daily habit of writing, measured by a minimum of 750 words.
When you first log in, the simplicity of the site is beautiful; you are staring at a blank screen. You can write about whatever topic your heart desires and it auto-saves every few minutes in case you get lost along the way. As I began writing, the topics ranged from religion to career to money to relationships and bounced everywhere.
Here are the top 4 benefits I've noticed so far.
1. It allows for weekly reflection.
Once a week, I use 750 to answer four simple questions to reflect on the previous week.
- What did you learn?
- What would you do differently if you could do it again?
- Who should I call that I haven't talked to in a while that I want to have a meaningful relationship with?
- Who can I surround myself with to better myself and the people around us
2. It allows you to puke.
When you're with your friends, there is often the need to puke to them about your problems. I'm not sure if this has ever happened when you talk to friends at work:
I can safely raise my hand and say that I'm guilty of this on a regular basis. To avoid being a complainer, I've now resorted to dumping my complaints and ill-feelings into 750 so that I can move on with my life. The act of writing allows you to release all the pent-up feelings.
3. It allows you to consolidate your thoughts into clear ideas, which then allows you to act on it.
Most people have an average number of 10,000 thoughts in any given day. However, out of these 10,000 thoughts, a lot of them are repeat-thoughts!
This means that you're thinking about the same situations and problems multiple times throughout any given day, with no conclusions or resolutions. Top performers (people who get things done) tend to be able to focus on single tasks for longer periods of time.
One thing that I've loved about 750 is the ability to dump all of my feelings and situations onto the screen in front of me so that I can either
a) dive deeper into introspection for clarification or
b) decide on my next actions.
4. It reveals your heart and mind.
Once you've finished for the day, 750's algorithms take your writing into analysis mode and spits out a summary.
As you can see, it will show you whether you're positive or negative, introverted or extroverted, and what topic you're concerned mostly with.
It also shows you which perspective you're speaking from the most, whether you use the word "I", "You", "We", or "They" most commonly.
You'll be able to see how long it took you to complete your writing, how many distractions, and your average WPM.
Try 750 and let me know what happens! :)
With an empty notepad and an open heart, we lift our eyes to God to inspire and enable us, so that we may be catalysts for His kingdom.
.Those were the thoughts impressed upon me just minutes before the #CatalystOneDay conference opened up for the day. Catalyst is a Christian leadership conference that drives insight and leaves lessons that spread across various areas of our lives. I initially learnt about Catalyst after reading Brad Lomenick's book, H3 Leadership. Intrigued, I ventured down to Kirkland, WA to see what the movement was all about.
The most common pandemic that organizations seem to experience is a severe and utter lack of leadership, resulting in a constant talent/brain drain. Quite often in my role, I share with business owners a Towers and Watson survey that shows that 66% of employees are disengaged. Perhaps we need better leaders who can invoke change...
Throughout the conference, each session peeled back the layers on leadership, revealing a deep need for us to take ownership in serving others
Here are the 3 biggest things I learnt at Catalyst2016.
Learn more at www.catalystoneday.com
1. Lead Up.
Speaker: Craig Groeschel
Before you can be a leader, you must lead up to being a leader.
Your ability to lead up now will help determine your ability to move up later. Leading up looks like providing value that surpasses what people currently expect of you. The biggest myth about leadership is that you have to be in charge in order to lead. Yet, people will follow a leader with a heart faster than a leader with a title. Leaders with the right heart give to an organization and support its growth without thinking of themselves first. Instead of asking how much can you get from your organization, how can you serve with humility, lighten your leader's load, and care about the people around you?
It's not about who you are, it's about who you get to be.
What would a great leader do?
What would your life look like if you replaced the word 'leader' with son/mentor/husband/brother/fiancée/friend?
2. Don't find great leaders, develop great leaders.
The most common question people ask is 'Where do you find great leaders?'
However, the right question should be 'How do you develop great leaders?'
According to Craig Groeschel, the 4 Steps to Build Great Leaders are:
A. Identify talent that others overlook. What are some talents that you seen in others that can be nurtured? These talents may not appear to be obvious right away, but often are intangible character traits like drive, initative, resilience and humility.
B. Attract them to a vision bigger than themselves. Nobody gets excited about jobs or an endless task list. What people get excited about is something that they can find fulfillment in while they grow it.
C. Develop them to go further than they thought possible. Can you believe in people more than they believe in themselves? When they hit their lid on performance, how can you help them break belief barriers?
D. Empower them to fulfill a lifetime in ministry. Success breeds confidence and it's only a matter of time before your racehorses start running. It's your job to get out of the way once they clearly see their path ahead of them.
3. Less is more
Speaker: Andy Stanley
The Two Best-Kept Secrets of Leadership
A. The less you do, the more you accomplish.
B. The less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.
The target: Only do what only you can do.
With everything else, maximize other people and their strengths; allow them to grow.
Think back to how you gained leadership skills. You were given an opportunity, you did a great job, so you were given another opportunity, and it kept on going. So how do you think you develop leaders? Where can you give them the opportunity to lead?
So then, how do you allow people to fail?
- Celebrate and learn from failures as much as you do with successes.
- Try/play around with experimentation.
- Create a culture that allows for failure.
When your people come to you for a decision, practice encouraging them:
'You know, that's your area - I'll let you make that decision.'
It's easier to educate a doer than to motivate a thinker.
The biggest thing I got out of today was leadership isn't about getting things done right, it's about getting things done through the right people. When we do things we don't do well, things don't go well. Figure out that you should do what only you can do, then help others figure that out. Before long, you've got a bunch of strength-maximizers building momentum together.
Think of a train building up speed, slowly at the start, but then by the time it's reached full speed, it is very hard to stop.
Who will you have on your train with you?
"I want to reach my potential."
A lot of people confide that they are depressed or disheartened because they aren't maximizing their potential.
The phrases "I'm sick of being mediocre" and "I was meant to do more" frequently arise in conversation. However, potential is a very overwhelming concept. It personifies the best, no, the perfect version of ourselves. Oftentimes, this idealized version of ourselves seems difficult and unattainable to us because it's someone we hope that we can become someday, just not today. It's almost as if we could place a projector on our head that depicted our future potential self in front of us, but no matter how far we run towards it, it'll still be just out of reach.
Potential' is defined as 'latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.' This implies that our potential is something inherent, that we have a responsibility to reach our full potential and make the most of what we are given. Yet, it is large and abstract enough to scare us, deter us from trying.
For instance, I had a classroom full of kids recently tell me that I should be a rapper because they thought I had pretty awesome 'flow'. They asked me why I hadn't pursued my dreams because they could see my potential. When a group of kids are telling you that you should have done something else with your life, isn't that great? However, when that happened, suddenly we have an image of Jay's future self as Jay the Billboard Top 40 Rapper. We immediately contrast that with today, where Jay is not rapping at all and think about ALL of the tasks and hours needed to get there. Instead of being something that is inspiring and motivating, becoming a rapper turns into more of a wistful thought.
I see the same thing happen time and time again when people hear that I run half marathons and marathons. For people who are fairly athletic, there's a slight nod of mutual respect for trying to achieve a difficult accomplishment. However, for people who don't see themselves as fit at all, the conversation becomes entirely different. These unfit people will usually exclaim "Wow, 21.5 kilometres? That's more than I'll walk in a year!" To which I might say something like "Oh, yes, the half-marathons are long, but they're very doable with the proper training. In fact, you could probably do one by next year with the right planning. There's the potential for anyone to do a half-marathon!"
At this point, the dichotomy of the present self meets the image of a future marathon runner, thinks about the difference between the state of their body now and where it should be, and completely shuts down. "Oh, I can see how you can run those distances because of your slim build, but I could never do that" They lament, pushing their potential self off to one side.
That's a bunch of nonsense.
Of course, you can run a half-marathon if you planned for it.
However, our potential becomes our barrier.
If our potential becomes our barrier, is there any other way of dealing with improving ourselves?
The Other Way
Instead, may I propose a change in thinking?
What if, instead of seeking to reach your full potential, you simply sought to fulfill your capacity?
The word capacity is defined as "the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something." Notice how different the words 'potential' and 'capacity' are.
With potential, one must somehow unlock a latent ability.
With capacity, one simply must execute on an ability they already have.
Continuing within the running example (sorry, it's easiest since I'm a runner), you could simply ask them if they've ever run, or how much they've run before.
Most people can manage 2-3km, even if they're just walking.
In high school, it was one of our long runs, so it's not too much of a challenge.
It sure seems a heck of a lot easier than running 21.5km.
Let's say they want to commit to half-marathon, but are too intimidated by the distance.
An alternative approach is to get their mind off of the potential of running 21.5km and instead invite them to go on a 3km jog every second weeknight, which is enough to give them the confidence to work within their current capacity. Inform them that the plan is to simply increase that capacity slowly each week.
This is why most marathoners train with a running schedule.
It's not about reaching their potential, it's about incrementally increasing their capacity to run long distances week after week.
Words are everything, so how you frame situations is how they affect your perspective.
Consider these other alternative ways of framing things
- opportunity instead of challenge
- situation instead of problem
- concern instead of objection
- doable instead of difficult
- learning instead of failing
What other better ways of framing things can you think of?
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.