How to be Smarter Faster Better at Work and Life

Genuine Productivity Hinges on Improving Your Decision-making Ability

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg Best Business Books 2

When I first read the subtitle of Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, I was pretty skeptical—do we really need another productivity book? Hasn’t everything about productivity already been said or written about a thousand times before? What new insights could this gifted storyteller possibly bring to the table?

Plenty, it turns out.

From startling neurological discoveries about what motivates us, to how the Marine Corps prepares its recruits for the uncertainty of war; from how Google and Saturday Night Live create effective teams, to the implications of the tragic demise of Air France Flight 447; there are productivity insights galore in Duhigg’s carefully woven tapestry of riveting stories.

The Power of Habit

What you absolutely need to know in order to create powerful and lasting change in your life

The Power of Habits—Best Business Books by Charles Duhigg

We like to think that the things we do every day (in actions big and small) are the result of our conscious choices and the exercise of our free will, but scientists who study the human brain are questioning that assumption. Based on abundant research data, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we rely on subconscious habits more than we realize (or care to admit).

Are we then creatures of habit, rather than creatures of choice?

If we even suspect that the answer to that question might be “yes”, then it behooves us to understand what habits are. How do they work? How can we change bad habits and install new and better ones—habits that pull us closer to what we really want?

Answering those questions was Charles Duhigg’s precise purpose for writing, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Explained in Duhigg’s highly entertaining and rich story-telling style, habits are thoroughly demystified allowing readers to visualize how they might apply the ideas in their own life.

In fact, using the insights I picked up in this book, I was able to finally lose 40 lbs and get back into shape. It had a real impact on the quality of my life and I can’t think of a higher tribute that anyone can pay to an author’s work.

For this reason, I’m very confident that you too can apply the ideas presented in this book, to improve the quality of your personal and professional life.

Here are 5 powerful ideas that I took away from the book (among many, many others):

Do you have to be lucky to succeed?

Is it the luck we get or how we react to it that matters?

Lucky Or Good

photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash

“I’d rather to be lucky than good,” said storied Yankees legend, Vernon “Lefty” Gomez.

But is that true?

For years my son and I fell on opposite sides of the Lucky vs. Good Debate.

My view was that people who achieved great things did so, not only through talent, but through the clenched teeth and wrinkled brow of unrelenting effort and perseverance—literally willing themselves to succeed, even against the odds. I acknowledged luck as a factor but I weighed factors like hard work, ability, and dogged determination much more heavily.

My son discounted my view as overly dramatic and even romantic, preferring to explain the exploits of “great” people as having been greatly influenced by plain ‘ol luck.

It’s a fascinating question and how you choose to answer it may form the foundation for what you think is possible in your life, and how hard you think you should work for it.

I thought about some books and authors I’ve read that could shed some light on the issue.

Give yourself permission to live your best life

Read Procrastinate On Purpose by Rory Vaden

Procrastinate on Purpose Cover

Though I’m not madly in love with the title (though it does catch the eye) boy am I ever glad I picked up and started studying this brilliant little tome from Rory Vaden.

What I love most about it is Rory’s youthful idealism, passion, energy, empathy and open-mindedness, not to mention his relentless and singular commitment to winning.

This book is very inspiring.

It lit a massive fire under my back side and it may do the same for you.

That’s because the message is delivered with passion and also happens to be urgent and timely. As our world continues to be revolutionized by technology and as the noise level in our world becomes ever more deafening, we’ll have to make a choice: (1) to continue doing what we’ve always done and risk having our voices drowned out and our efforts sadly diluted or (2) find smarter ways to marshall all the modern tools and resources at our disposal to multiply our impact and effectiveness.

I believe those are the choices before us, but Rory defines them as permissions:

A College Degree is Nice But Not Enough

Here are 6 super affordable resources for lifelong learning

photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek via pic jumbo

photo courtesy of Viktor Janacek, via pic jumbo

In a Gallup study conducted last year, 66% of adults with a Bachelor’s degree said that they learn and do something interesting every day—but so did 63% of people who had only earned a high school diploma, or less.

Although this is not encouraging news for colleges and universities (and their graduates), it does underscore the importance of lifelong learning, not so much as an ideal, but as a practical component of what Gallup calls the currency of a life that matters.

Curiosity. Love of learning. Continuing education. These are beautiful things available to every human being at every stage of life, regardless of past academic achievements, or the lack thereof.

This is the currency of the new economy and 4-year degrees aren’t required for admission.

Today, colleges and universities are not the only way to ensure that you are learning and doing something  interesting every day. There are countless ways that we can weave learning into the tapestry of our daily life.

In fact, there are so many options for learning and upgrading our skills and experience that the issue is (1) knowing which resources represent the best opportunities and (2) getting committed and intentional about using these incredible learning tools.

To make it a little easier, I submit for your consideration 6 amazing resources that I have no compunction in recommending. I have personal experience with most of them and I can happily report that they have served me very well. Best of all, they are incredibly affordable (if not FREE) and have the power to change your life.

Give them a try! Won’t you?

Are You Fit for the New Freelance Economy?

4 ways to get ready for the employee to freelancer transition at work

photo courtesy of Ales Krivec via Unsplash

photo courtesy of Ales Krivec via Unsplash

There are now 53 million Americans, or 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, working as freelancers. By 2020 the number of freelancers might exceed 50%. Are you ready for this massive change?

If it hasn’t impacted you or your household yet, it will. And the bottom line is simple: One day, soon or late, you may have to go out there and fend for yourself!

And though this trend is not new, it seems to be approaching the tipping point—the point at which we all look up and take notice.

Maybe you’ve already noticed the new crop of digital platforms designed to give you a great variety of choices about how to earn a living. These include AirBnB, Uber, Care.com, Handy.com and HourlyNerd.com, just to name a scant few that come to mind.

Maybe you thought about them as curiosities or as potential services that you may one day choose to procure (if you haven’t already). But what if you were on the other side of the equation and chose to offer your services on these platforms yourself? Or you built your own platform to get clients?

What if you chose to become a freelancer, today?

Well, you don’t have to wait. You can be proactive about it right now.

Here are 4 very practical ways you can start getting ready for the Freelance Revolution, even if you currently have a job and you have no intentions of leaving it.

What did the Primatologist say to the Chief Marketing Officer?

Go sleep in their nests!

photo courtesy of Fiona Stewart & W.C. McGrew via LiveScience.com

Perhaps I should explain…

Primatologists are scientists who specialize in the study of primates, usually of the non human variety. For almost a century they have been studying the nesting behavior of  chimpanzees in an attempt to understand why they build nests every day and sleep in them every night.

The way it’s always been done is to stand on the ground with notebook and binoculars in hand and observe, as astutely as possible, the behavior of their subjects. That’s the way primatologist Fiona Stewart had always done it but then she went further and did something remarkable, taking our understanding of primate nesting behavior to new heights in the process.

As told by LiveScience:

For six nights in 2007 and 2008, Stewart climbed 5 to 29 feet (1.5 to 8.8 meters) into the trees, either crashing in pre-used chimp nests or building nests using chimpanzee techniques. She spent another five nights sleeping on the bare ground.

By having the guts to do this she discovered things that ground-based researchers might have never understood.

Here are some of her discoveries: