From Lewis Menand’s review of Smart, Faster, Better, I learned that all self help books have the same goal — to get us to be the people we know we should be. These books don’t have have any new solutions — they just reiterate common sense through the current cultural or businesses lenses. Menand points out that Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People (which I love) could be summed up in the sentence “If you are nice to people, they will like you.” But, he continues, the purpose of these books is not “What would Jesus do? but How, exactly, would He do it?” Carnegie’s book has some great tips on how to be nice to people like, “Be a good listener and focus on what the other person is interested in.” To me, it’s a fundamental point that none of these books, as much as they try, have the answer — we already know the answer. But they do have some good tips and tricks on how help us anyway.
- We are currently in an attention economy. Companies like Google, Facebook and many others are trying to convince you to spend as much time as possible on the web viewing ads. This is not in your best interest.
- My Solution: (Go to Medium for the Full Story): I figured out how to use micropayments to replace Google Display ads with my To Do list. Building on an idea Matt Cutts had on his blog, I used Google Contributor and Remember The Milk to substitute advertisements with my To Do list. Now I have my To Do list follow me around the Internet. It’s just like a persistent targeted ad that won’t leave me alone. It’s Awesome!
- Tristan Harris’s Solution: Tristan Harris is the champion of managing your attention on the internet. There’s a great profile of him in The Atlantic. He used to be the “Product Ethicist” at Google and now has a foundation called Time Well Spent. He’s currently studying how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities, writing about ways to protect yourself and speaking about these things at TED.
- Manoush Zomorodi’s Solution: Manoush Zomorodi has a podcast called Note to Self where she focuses on how people relate to technology. There’s a great video of Manoush from the GEL conference which talks about how to disconnect from the internet. If you want to learn more about how to reclaim your time and be more creative take a look at Bored and Brilliant and Infomagical.
Brene Brown gave a number of very powerful presentations about how to be vulnerable and listen to others. Check out these animated shorts on Empathy and Blame that are taken from her presentation at the Royal Society of the Arts. She also gave some great TED talks on The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.
If you were in college or thereabouts in the late 90’s, no doubt you’ve heard The Sunscreen Song based on the fictitious MIT commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s simple, humble advice for everyone and only a few minutes long. It actually wasn’t by Kurt Vonnegut but a hypothetical address (if she were to give one) by a Chicago writer named Mary Schmich. It was later turned into an international hit song by Baz Luhrmann. I like to listen to it for advice every so often. Remember that many things in this site are my opinion, trust me on the sunscreen.
Make sure you are in the right Mindset. Carol Dweck is a university professor with probably the single biggest finding that can change your life. She has learned that how you think about challenges and failure can have a huge impact on your life. She classifies people into those that have a fixed mindset and those that have a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time proving their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. The Growth Mindset is significantly more helpful but most people are in the Fixed Mindset. She has a website and wrote a book on the topic. Another take on this is Brene Brown who talks about Guilt (I’ve done something bad — a growth mindset) and Shame (I am bad — a fixed mindset). Listen to her great speech and at about 17:20 she discusses this.
Randy Pausch was a brilliant computer science professor at Carnegie Melon who gave “The Last Lecture” a year before he died. The Last Lecture is a conceit at Universities with the premise that speakers give a presentation like it were the last lecture they ever would give. Pausch hits is out of the park with a talk called Achieving Your Childhood Dreams., This fantastic and heartfelt lecture is meant as final communication for his children after his death. After The Last Lecture he also gave a great talk on Time Management, pulling from Stephen Covey and David Allen.
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Audiobook). This was the FAVORITE book of Barney Liebman, my mother’s father. When I listen to it, I can hear him giving me the same advice. It’s a surprisingly good book that’s still relevant and not nearly as manipulative as the title makes it sound. On the audiobook the narrator is great – providing a strong a wise tone – my grandfather would be proud.
David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is the current standard on life and time management. Almost everything that David recommends is powerful and useful. I find the most powerful tool to be the Weekly Review. I try to do one every Friday. I found the GTD methodology a bit overwhelming at first but found the Getting Started on the GTD Path extremely useful.