July 10, 2021

Lifecamp Newsletter #16

The bluffer’s guide to productivity, a short leadership lesson, and a neat avocado trick

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying summer. In recent weeks, I have been following Cicero’s advice that “a garden and a library is all you need.” The Roman statesman may have said that over two millennia ago, but his advocated lifestyle is definitely working for me. (I’m writing this from my garden.)

I’ve been reading more broadly than I have in a long time – mainly narrative books (fiction and non-fiction) and long-form investigative journalism, alongside my usual diet of personal development content. It’s been a refreshing change and an opportunity to feed my mind with fresh ideas in story form rather than just practical advice.

Don’t get fancy

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge martial arts fan, especially MMA. There’s something about watching people put it all on the line and compete one-on-one in a high-stakes real-time strategic battle while showcasing the capabilities of a well-trained human mind and body that makes it so compelling. Add in the rock/paper/scissors element of how different fighting styles match up, and it becomes fascinating to watch.

Recently, a fighter I have followed for a long time has fallen from being a veteran at the top of the game to become a journeyman gatekeeper after having his record-breaking win-streak broken. Age was the initial chink in his armour, but this exposed his real weakness: a lack of fundamentals

His sudden decline was a timely reminder of a maxim I have long held dear. That is: if you want to excel at something, don’t try to get fancy. Instead, focus on the fundamentals and execute them as best you can. It will serve you better than adopting a more flashy approach. I wrote a short piece on it here, which you can read if you want a more detailed, colourful explanation of the idea.

Keep your knowledge bank topped up

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

That may be an oversimplification. To extend the monetary knowledge metaphor, consider that knowledge works like money in an inflationary environment. As the world evolves, the value of your existing knowledge decreases due to something akin to “knowledge inflation.” And the faster the world changes, the faster your knowledge loses value.
Inflation will erode the spending power of the cash you have in the bank. Similarly, if you don’t keep updating your knowledge bank, the value of your existing knowledge will erode over time, and you will go from being knowledge rich to knowledge poor.

This is why CPD, personal development, and lifelong learning are so important. To stay ahead, never think your learning journey is over, no matter how expert you may be at something.

The bluffer’s guide to productivity

This week, I managed to distil the process of reliably getting things done into a single tweet. It’s intended to be an antidote to the endless “productivity-porn” articles found all over the web that trick people into procrastinating while feeling productive while never getting anything done. (I know because I was once guilty of doing the very same.) Here it is in its 250-character glory. Follow the process and you can’t fail to get results:

The GOAT avocado hack

I’m not sure how you remove the pit from an avocado, but my go-to method has always been to dig around it with a teaspoon before scooping it out. It works, but it’s messy, and I usually waste some of the creamy green flesh in the process. That is until I stumbled across this amazingly simple method, which you can see in this fun TikTok. Thank me later if you haven’t already seen it.

What productivity sounds like

I have recently been experimenting with listening to brown noise while working after it was recommended to me from a couple of sources as being a great way to focus. I was sceptical, but I have been pleasantly surprised, and after just a few minutes I was sold. It consistently and quickly gets me into a relaxed, focused frame of mind similar to a flow state and, weirdly, is comforting to listen to. 

If you want to give it a try (maybe next time you’re struggling to concentrate), search for brown noise in YouTube – there are dozens of multi-hour recordings for your listening pleasure. It works best through headphones rather than speakers in my experience.

A short leadership lesson

As I write this, the England football team have just reached their first cup final in over 50 years. I’m not a huge football fan, but it’s hard to ignore cultural moments like this. I’m sure if the team lift the trophy after the final match, it will have a profoundly positive effect on the nation’s mood.

I recently wrote a short essay on leadership inspired by watching how the England Manager, Gareth Southgate, handled his team’s defeat in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup. With England facing this impending historic test, now seems like a good opportunity to share it with you:

Stand Proud

I’m not a big football (soccer) fan, but it was hard not to get caught up in England’s 2018 World Cup run when they made it to the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.

I remember watching them get knocked out by Croatia – a close match that went into extra time. After the final whistle, the players dropped to the ground, exhausted. Their body language spoke of disappointment and defeat. Players were laid down or sat slumped, crying, shaking their heads in disbelief, or frozen in a thousand-yard stare.
Amid this visible agony, their manager, Gareth Southgate, did something I will never forget. He walked onto the pitch and spoke to every player individually. Then, he encouraged them to stand up and didn’t stop until the entire team were on their feet, standing proud.

I can only guess what he said to the players, but from their change in demeanour, the gist was obvious. He seemed to tell them not to focus on defeat or disappointment but to be proud of how far they had come and what they have achieved. I’m sure he told them that he and the nation were proud of them too. And so, he transformed a beaten team into a bunch of victors.

I thought this was an incredible display of leadership. And it’s a lesson not just for leaders but for everybody.
We tend to be our worst critics when we fall short of our expectations. But we do ourselves a disservice in this regard. Instead of admonishing ourselves for our apparent failures, we should applaud ourselves for trying and acknowledge how far we have come to get where we are. And we should rise to our feet and stand tall so we can fight another day and try again.

Final thought

Re-reading some book notes the other day, I stumbled across this quote, which made me chuckle and reminded me of the value of experience and making mistakes:

“Good judgement is usually the result of experience, and experience is usually the result of bad judgment.” 

Robert Lovett

Until next month,