Don’t ever say or think ‘that’s good enough’

Brian Grazer, producer of 24 and Arrested Development on how there are no rules to how you achieve success – except maybe on.

“Every once in a while I rationalize quality,” [Brian Grazer] continued. “There are so many decision you make, and you’re trying to do excellence. We know what excellence is. We know what better food is versus not good food. But there’s a rationalizing process—that’s good enough. Anytime the light bulb goes, that’s good enough, it’s shitty!”

Brian Grazer Talks ’24,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ and Regretting ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ at Aspen – Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic (4 July 2015)

Read the full piece.

Sixty-Three things you must stop believing about yourself

I admit it was the number 63 that got my attention: that’s so specific as to be comedic and I went into this feature expecting platitudes. I expected them to get weaker and weaker until the feature writer clearly just gave up. But instead Sarah (no surname listed) strikes a hell of a chord with me.

She is writing specifically about entrepreneurs but every one of these applies to us writers. Read her introduction for how these things get their the pitons into us and just why they are so damaging. But then do read the whole list, of which here are the first 10. These are things she says we tell ourselves that stop us getting on, stop us trying things, stop us being successful.

I’m not somebody who follows through

2. I’m good at starting projects but I can’t finish them

3. I’m not an expert

4. Nobody cares what I have to say

5. I’m not perfect. Why would anybody listen to/buy from/hire me?

6. I didn’t work hard enough on this

7. I’m not worth it

8. I don’t deserve [money, recognition, success]

9. I don’t have time

63 Toxic Beliefs That Are Poisoning Your Potential as an Entrepreneur – Sarah, Unsettle (19 January 2015)

Read the full piece.

Clickhole: the Daily Habits of 5 Highly Successful People

Ever wonder what it takes to run Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg credits his success entirely to spending most of his days reading various articles on the internet about the habits of successful people. According to sources in the Facebook office, Zuckerberg can spend up to 70 percent or 80 percent of his workday reading about how successful people live their lives, and even takes several hours at home after work to read more articles about productivity.

The Daily Habits Of 5 Highly Successful People | ClickHole

Read the full piece.

Weekend read: a tale of two supermarkets

Well, it’s Tesco and Sears. Both have supermarkety bits to them, both do more, both have interestingly turbulent times. I’m just terribly interested when unstoppable companies stumble: IBM was invincible and now it’s still gigantic and successful but you barely think of it. Microsoft, much the same. Now Tesco, surely royalty of UK supermarkets if not yer acksual king, has taken a kicking.

There’s a schadenfreude element, I suppose, and I’m not embarrassed by that when, for instance, the company falling from a dizzy height only got to that height through blatant copying of another firm. (Did you hear the joke when Apple’s Tim Cook came out as gay? Word was that the head of Samsung was going to come out as more gay.)

But speaking of Apple, I’m also interested really interested when big companies turn around. Apple was within 90 days of bankruptcy and look at it now. Maybe this all speaks to me because I’m a freelancer and a writer: I don’t have a multi-billion dollar business nor, crucially, thousands of employees but we get the ups and downs, we really get them.

So this pair of unrelated but oh-so-very-related articles from the Harvard Business Review makes an absorbing read. First this about Tesco’s woes:

Tesco’s chairman has resigned in disgrace. The company’s market value has more than halved to an 11-year low as it acknowledged overstating profits by hundreds of millions of dollars. And a humbled Warren Buffett, after opportunistically raising his stake in the company after a surprise profit warning, confessed to CNBC: “I made a mistake on Tesco. That was a huge mistake by me.”

Tesco’s Downfall Is a Warning to Data-Driven Retailers – Michael Schrage, Harvard Business Review (28 October 2014)

And now one about how Sears has faced stumbles before but manages to get up and have another go:

It’s easy to suggest that perhaps it’s simply run its course; after all, over the last 50 years, the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has shrunk from about 60 years to less than 20, as more than one business thinker has pointed out. Founded in 1886 as a mail-order watch retailer, Sears was already 71 when it became an original member of the S&P 500 in 1957. At the hoary age of 128, it had beat the odds twice over when it lost its place to chemical maker LyondellBasell at close of trading this year on September 4th.

But perhaps its current woes are just a blip in a long, long history of facing and rising to challenges. A trip through the HBR archives shows just how cutting-edge the company has been in so many ways for so long

Sears Has Come Back from the Brink Before – Andrea Ovans, Harvard Business Review (28 October 2014)

Okay, I’ll bite: the organisational habits of highly successful people

I’m intrigued, cautiously intrigued. (I type that and my heads it in a Bond, James Bond voice. Let’s find out whether highly successful people do this.)

Setting goals, both short and long-term, is one of the simplest ways that highly successful people maintain focus and direction in whatever they do. Take the example of Oprah Winfrey, whose success has been defined by setting multiple goals.
In addition to setting their sights high, highly successful people incorporate deadlines and due dates into the structure of their goals. This ensures their short term goals are met regularly, and long term goals are worked towards steadily and methodically.

The Journl Blog – Inspiring Better Organisation – no author listed (what is it with not listing writers?) (24 October 2012)

Read the full piece with lots of quotes from the aforementioned highly successful people. I’ll leave you to see what they quoted from me.

Write like you’re the CEO

There’s an interview doing the rounds that apparently features John Sculley talking about Steve Jobs and Apple. (Previously on Sculley… Jobs hires him, they’re best pals, then they’re not, Sculley fires Jobs. Now read on.)

I say the interview apparently says this because, on the one hand, I haven’t watched it yet – I thought we could do that together – and on the other because every bleedin’ interview with that man is about exactly that same topic.

What I’m interested in more, from our productivity point of view, is how Sculley attempted to shape his story when he was still in the thick of it. He wrote a book called Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple which at the time I really enjoyed. Later I said that to someone and they looked at me exactly the way I would now. Because of them, I got the book back off my shelf, opened it up, shut it again.

It’s not a very good book.

But here’s a guy attempting to put his career and its single most notable moment into a shape, a narrative that ultimately showed him in the best light. I don’t care whether he succeeded or whether it was even possible, I do care that we could try the same thing.

Why not? You are CEO of your work, I am of mine, let’s write our autobiographies in such a way that we make sense and most importantly that our successes get better coverage than our failures.

I’m not sure I’m really advocating that we write 100,000-word books about us, I have limits to my ego – says the man with two blogs, a speaking tour and previously a podcast – but that bit with the successes and failures could be big.

I forget things I do that are good. If I pull something off then no matter how hard it was for me, it’s done now so I know it’s easy for everybody else and I undervalue my own effort. But I just went a bit bombastic for a second, wrote about my towering glory and that time only last night when I successfully roasted a chicken at 1am, I could feel good about myself.

Possibly also silly, but.

Here’s that Sculley interview if you’re sitting comfortably.

So, what, is homework any good or not?

This is mostly a critique of a report but the quotes from the report are interesting. Just apparently not new.

Let’s start by reviewing what we know from earlier investigations.[1] First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school. In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement. If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says.

Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research – Valerie Strauss and Alfie Kohn, Washington Post (26 November 2012)

So that’s not new in two ways: it’s a 2012 article commenting on how a then-recent study wasn’t great. But it cites or at least refers to a whole chain of prior reports that all say homework is a shrug, doesn’t help you one way or the other.

I can’t help but map that homework idea to the amount of cramming I do overnight before meetings. I’ll take a couple of evenings off and see what happens.

The things I do for you.

It’s possible this isn’t serious

The Onion’s new Buzzfeed-like mocking site has a perfect deadpan article about success which I might even have linked to if it were real. I wince admitting that.

Life is short. If you wait too long to go out and do what you want with your life, you’ll never get a chance to see your dreams come true. That’s why I tell people to stop letting the fear of failure hold you back.

Take me for instance. For years, I dreamed of just reaching out and grabbing a police officer’s gun right out of its holster and running away as fast as possible, but I never even tried because I was afraid of failing. What if I wasn’t able to pull out the gun fast enough? What if the cop yelled at me? What if he caught me and sent me to jail? There seemed to be an endless number of things that could go wrong, so I never even gave things a chance to go right.

Then one day, I decided to just go for it. I saw a cop standing on a nearby street corner and he was kind of zoned out, so I snuck up on him very quietly and reached out for his gun. Was I afraid? Of course I was—but this time, I didn’t let my nerves get the better of me. I just grabbed his gun and I booked it as fast as I could.

Stop Letting The Fear Of Failure Hold You Back – Trey Pagels, self-help expert Clickhole (30 June 2014)

See how that works out for him.