Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows

Buy the book here!


Want to create real change in the world?  As individuals, we are not as in control as we may think. We live reacting to rules and cultures, whether consciously or not, subject to the forces of inherited systems we find ourselves in, birthed into paradigms not of our own making. To bring about radical change, think in systems – rise above the individual and consider the bigger picture. Learn to redesign the overarching systemic structures in which the individual humbly plays its authorised part – and empower true long-term change for the better.

Buy the book and read about system technicalities and conceptual tools, stocks, oscillations, delays, and boundaries … What follows is a summary focusing on real world problem solving through systemic level shifts.


  • Blame the system, not the individual
  • Failure must be SEEN as temporary
  • Gain power over the rules
  • Change the paradigm, change the system
  • Remember – no yeast, no bread
  • Boundaries are artificial
  • Action trumps rhetoric
  • Avoid a Tragedy of the Commons
  • Avoid Success to the Successful
  • Information is Power
  • Learn to dance


  • A system is a set of things e.g. people, cells – interconnected in such a way as to produce its own pattern of behaviour over time.
  • A system consists of 3 parts – elements, interconnections and purpose e.g. a football team is made up of players, a coach, a ball (elements); the rules of the game, communication between players (interconnections); with the aim to win, get exercise (purpose).
  • Elements do not necessarily have to be tangible e.g. team pride and reputation are examples of intangible elements in football.
  • The purpose of a system is not what is stated through goals, or declared in rhetoric, but is seen in behaviour – e.g. if a government states it wants to protect the environment but allocates little money or effort towards environmental protection, then this is not the true purpose of the system.
  • What isn’t a system? Sand scattered on the sides of a road is not a system – add sand, take it away and you still just have sand on a road. However, if you take away the football players above, you no longer have (the system of) football.
  • A system is more than the sum of its parts.
  • What makes a system different is the influence of its parts on one another. A system with many parts but few connections is detailed but not complex.
  • Systems happen all at once – like a web of many interconnected parts – a shift in one part affects many if not the whole.


  • Systems produce their own behaviours and cultures.
  • People adopt the cultures they find themselves in – to assimilate – to survive – perhaps unconsciously.
  • The famous Stanford Prison Experiment (although not without criticism) has been seen to demonstrate this point – it found that volunteers put into a simulated prison environment adopted common attitudes and behaviours of real-life prison guards and prisoners.
  • System behaviour reveals itself as a series of events over time. Long term behaviour (patterns, trends) provides clues as to the underlying system structure (which like the submerged part of an iceberg remains hidden out of sight)
  • EXAMPLE At the Events Level: There is an accident on the road. Patterns and Trends Level: There are many accidents on this stretch of road. Drivers are more stressed during rush hour, more concerned about getting to their destination quickly than avoiding traffic tickets, they are not as observant of their own driving practices. At the Structural Level: At this level, there must be a causal connection – due to many exits on this stretch of road, drivers are changing lanes often, leading to accidents;  the road is narrow with poor sight lights, causing more accidents when traffic is heavy.
  • The world’s wicked problems – hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, economic instability, unemployment, chronic disease – are all undesirable behaviours that are produced by systems. They continue to persist despite numerous brilliant interventions because the problem remains at the systematic level – the system requires restructuring to solve these problems.
  • Blaming the individual rarely helps create a more desirable outcome.”
  • Disciplining, firing, blaming or instituting technological or policy fixes – tinkering at the margins – will not fix structural problems – the same structures will keep producing the same behaviour year after year. Wars on drugs lead to drugs becoming more prevalent than ever.
  • Solutions lie at the systems level – the overarching rules and interconnections that influence the behaviour of participants within the system.
  • Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” A different system structure therefore will produce a different result.


So, how do we change a system structure to produce more of what we want and less of the undesirable?


  • Systems generally remain unchanged by changing its elements e.g. if you substitute all football players on a team, it is still recognisable as a football team. However, if any of the interconnections or purposes change, the system may become unrecognisable e.g. changing the rules from football to basketball or changing the purpose from winning to losing – you have a whole new ball game. Changing a leader in country (element) does not fundamentally change the system unless that leader changes the country’s purpose or rules.
  • Redesigning the system is what makes the difference – changing goals, improving feedback information, changing incentives and disincentives, stresses and constraints in the system, will impact on the behaviour of actors in the system.
  • If a behaviour persists over time, it’s likely there is a mechanism within the system creating that consistent behaviour. This mechanism is something that can be changed.
  • Before intervening to make a system better, pay attention to the value of what’s already there e.g. aid agencies arriving in Guatemala came with the intention of creating jobs and increasing entrepreneurship skills through factories and assembly plants funded by outside investment  – completely ignoring the already existing and thriving local market full of small scale businesses, and existing job creation. Small scale loans from internal sources and upskilling in accountancy and literacy were found to be the real needs of existing businesses, and potential source for economic expansion.


  • Social systems are the external manifestations of cultural thinking – our beliefs and views are deeply embedded in our psyches, so much so we may be unaware of our inherent assumptions and biases. Therefore any systems change will naturally attract resistance.
  • The higher the leverage point, the more the system will resist changing it – it’s why societies often eliminate or exile truly enlightened beings.


  • A leverage point is a place in a system where a change can lead to a shift in behaviour. A high leverage point is where a small force change causes a dramatic change in system behaviour.
  • We can look at the influence of the following factors and leverage points in producing a change in system behaviour:
    • 1. GOALS – the direction setters
    • 2. RULES – who makes them?
    • 3. PARADIGMS – how we look at the world
    • 4. FEEDBACK LOOPS – information is power
    • 5. RESILIENCE – system bouncebackability
    • 6. HIERARCHY – a system is only as strong as the sum of its parts
    • 7. INDEPENDENCE – encourage self-help
    • 8. STANDARDS – raise your game
    • 9. SYSTEM MERITOCRACY – level the playing field
    • 10. BOUNDARIES – where does it begin and end?
    • 11. LIMITING FACTORS – the important ingredient


  • One of the most powerful ways to influence the behaviour of a system is through its overarching goal. The goal is the direction-setter of the system.
  • E.g. if the goal of a system is to deliver good education, measuring that goal by the amount of money spent per student will ensure money spent per student, but not necessarily a good education. If the goal of a society is to increase Gross National Product (GNP) as a sign of a thriving economy, the societal system will focus on producing GNP. It will not produce welfare, equity, or justice unless these are defined as goals of the system, and progress is regularly measured and reviewed.
  • What if we lived in a world where, instead of competing to have the highest per capita GNP, nations would compete to have the lowest infant mortality, the cleanest environment, and the smallest gap between rich and poor?
  • It is clear that goals are important, but the measures by which progress is assessed are also of vital importance, and if unaligned can lead to the measure becoming the goal or ghost victories.
  • Additionally, pay attention to what is important, not simply what is quantifiable. Otherwise this can lead to setting goals around what can be easily measured rather than around what is truly important. No-one can define or measure love, justice, freedom, or truth – but all of us have a sense of their fundamental importance in our lives. And if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, they will cease to exist.
  • People within a system often don’t recognise the goal of the whole system they are serving.
  • With awareness of the overall goal of a system, you can question your own particular role within it and determine whether your own individual efforts are aligned, or if indeed the goal is one you actually support?
  • Remember that rhetoric is important for two reasons: 1) action trumps rhetoric –  if a government states it wants to achieve Goal X but does not invest or put any resources towards it, then that is not the true goal of the system, it is purely rhetoric. 2) The language and words used within a system or organisation are not objective – they do not objectively describe an external reality – they fundamentally structure the perceptions and actions of those involved in the system e.g. a society that understands the word ‘blame’ but not ‘accountability’ practices a blame culture, and not accountability from which learning and improvement can result. E.g. Eskimos have different names for different types of snow, providing a broader range of utility and perspective than just one concept of snow.
  • To change the results of a system, focus on the overarching goal to shift the direction of behaviour resulting from the system – the goal must be set in conjunction with aligned actions, measures and language.


  • Linked to the overarching goals of a system are the rules that govern it. These rules define the systems we live in and how we as participants interact and behave within it.
  • Therefore, power over the rules is real power. Whomever gets to write the rules defines the systems underneath them. Its why lobbyists congregate when Congress writes laws.
  • When we imagine restructuring a set of rules, we come to understand the power of rules – they represent significant points for changing a system and therefore resulting behaviours.
  • E.g. imagine if you received your degree result based on being graded as a group rather than an individual – this would likely lead to greater collaborative behaviour rather than an individualistic culture. Or suppose the final salary of a political leader was based on how far they helped to improve the health outcomes of a country ranked at the lower end of the scale. What results and behaviours would this produce in the world at large?
  • “If you want to understand the deepest malfunctions of systems, pay attention to the rules and to who has power over them.”
  • Simply put, to change the system, change the rules.


  • Paradigms describe the overall mindset of a society – the collective brain from which all systems flow and are created.
  • A paradigm is a perspective, a set of ideas, a way of looking at the world.  It includes unstated assumptions, our deepest set of beliefs of how the world should work, what is fair and unfair. These philosophies often remain unwritten and unstated because its unnecessary – they are ingrained – everyone inherently knows them.
  • Paradigms are the original sources of system – from a shared social understanding about the nature of life and reality, system goals come, and the systems underneath them.
  • Every nation and every man instantly surround themselves with a material apparatus which exactly corresponds to … their state of thought … Observe the ideas of the present day … see how timber, brick, lime and stone have flown into convenient shape, obedient to the master idea reigning in the minds of many persons … It follows of course, that the least enlargement of ideas…would cause the most striking changes of external things” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
  • The ancient Egyptians built pyramids because they believed in an afterlife.
  • Therefore, intervening at the level of a paradigm is an effective way of changing (multiple) systems that are producing undesirable results and behaviours – to change the hearts of and minds of nations changes the systems within which they live.
  • How do you change a paradigm? You keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm. You keep speaking and acting loudly and with assurance from the new paradigm. Place people embodying the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You work with active change agents and the majority of people in the middle ground who are open minded – don’t waste time trying to convert reactionaries.


  • In a system, information is power.
  • E.g. if you are a coffee drinker, when your energy gets low (feedback) you drink coffee – it’s the gap between your actual and desired energy level that drives your decision and behaviour to do something to adjust your caffeine intake –  the information channel that informs you is an example of a balancing feedback loop.
  • A reinforcing feedback loop has an amplification or snowballing effect leading to growth or decay e.g. compound interest – the more money you have in the bank, the more interest you earn, meaning you have more money in the bank and so you earn even more interest.
  • Systems thinkers see the world as a collection of “feedback processes”.
  • Think, if A causes B, does B also cause A? e.g. if someone tells you population growth causes poverty, ask does poverty cause population growth? This helps you to see that a system can cause its own behaviour.
  • Prompt feedback loops lead to changes in behaviour. Information provided by a feedback loop can only affect future behaviour – so receiving feedback quickly allows for learning, course corrections and changes for desirable behaviour. E.g. In Holland, it was discovered that households in the same area were using a third less electricity than other households of similiar family makeup – all were charged the same electricity rate. So, what caused the difference? It was found that the households with lower consumption had their electricity meters in the front hall – family members were passing by regularly and using the information to monitor and adjust their usage daily. The meters for the higher consumption households were found to be located in their basements, out of sight – they had no prompt feedback loop to adjust their behaviour ahead of receiving bills.
  • The best policies not only contain feedback loops but also design learning into the management process, allowing for course corrections. The 1987 Montreal Protocol not only set targets for decreasing the manufacture of harmful chemicals, but also required ongoing monitoring of damage to the ozone layer, allowing for adaptions to the phase-out schedule depending on actual levels of damage. Just 3 years later, the schedule was brought forward, and further chemicals were added to the list as it was found that the damage to the ozone layer was far greater than had been predicted.
  • Feedback delays can be costly – a problem may only become apparent once the situation is more difficult to solve.
  • We can often be too distant from the impact of our actions – e.g. what if we had to deal with the non-perishable rubbish we produce by containing it in a room in our home for 3 months before it was collected for disposal? Surely we would make different choices about the items we would buy based on levels of packaging used?
  • To encourage responsible behaviour, we can design systems to encourage intrinsic responsibility – to include feedback loops that minimise distance between those devising policy and those impacted by it e.g. a great deal of responsibility was lost when rulers who declared war were no longer expected to lead troops into battle. E.g. companies that emit wastewater into a stream could be made to place their intake pipes downstream from the outflow pipe.
  • Simply delivering information to the right actors in the system can be enough to change behaviour – e.g. the release of previously withheld information led to local newspapers listing “the top ten local polluters”, and a 40% decrease in nationwide chemical emissions without any need for lawsuits, fines, nor mandatory reductions. This shows the power of information alone to shift behaviour.
  • Therefore, to generate a shift in system behaviour, include prompt feedback loops allowing for ongoing course corrections, deliver information to where it wasn’t going previously,and minimise distance between policies, actions and impact
  • Read more on the importance of timely information and feedback loops in our book summary of Upstream.


  • Systems that work well often display the characteristic of resilience.
  • Resilience is the ability of a system to bounce back, to repair itself , to restore itself to the desired state of health or behaviour e.g. the human body is a great example of a resilient system (although not infinitely so – we all eventually die).
  • Undesired results occur when system resilience is lowered. Many chronic diseases (e.g. cancer) derive from a breakdown of resilience mechanisms within the body.  Cows become less resilient – less healthy and more dependent on human management – through growth hormone injections that increase milk production but divert energy away from other vital bodily functions. 
  • Systems therefore need to be managed not only for productivity but also for resilience.
  • Think about what actions or policies can be enacted to encourage strong resilience mechanisms , to enhance a systems own restorative powers e.g. holistic healthcare does more than try to cure a disease – it aims to build up a body’s own internal resilience and resistance to disease.
  • The ability of a system to self-organise can be seen as a type of resilience. “A system that can evolve can survive almost any change, by changing itself”. A decentralised or distributed movement can survive through the presence of self-organising chapters, limiting the need for a centralised leader for its survival.


  • Hierarchy is the arrangement of subsystems within a larger system. E.g. a cell in your liver is a subsystem of an organ, which is a subsystem of your body.
  • Hierarchies evolve from the bottom up – the purpose of the upper layers of the hierarchy is to serve and support the functions of the lower layers. E.g. A life evolves from a single cell, workers come together to form unions to enhance their welfare and common interests.
  • The fundamental purpose of a hierarchy is to help its originating subsystems do their job better. There needs to be an effective balance between central control by the upper levels of the hierarchy to achieve coordination towards the overall larger system goal, and enough autonomy for lower subsystems to carry out their functions and flourish. Think of teams or departments within an organisation.
  • If a system is not meeting its goal, a malfunctioning hierarchy could be the reason. E.g. if a body cell breaks free from its hierarchical function and starts multiplying wildly, we call it cancer.
  • Successful systems ensure harmony between the goals of subsystems and those of the overarching system, with a greater focus on the long-term welfare of the entire system rather than the short-term goals of individual parts/subsystems. E.g. too much of emphasis on competition to foster performance within an organisation could lead to teams subverting each other’s efforts and less collaborative working, lowering the overall performance of the organisation.
  • As well as effective interrelations between parts, there is also a need to ensure that each subsystem is stable and resourced to carry out its own individual function, to ensure the whole system is strong.
  • The parable of the two watchmakers – Hora and Tempus made fine watches made of 1000 parts each. Both had eager customers, calling them for orders. Hora prospered, whilst Tempus lost his shop. Why? Each time Tempus stopped mid-assembly to take a customer’s call, his watches would fall apart – he would have to start assembling from scratch. Hora instead built his watches in sub-assemblies of 10 parts each, which could be put down without falling part. His system was composed of a modular design, of stable intermediate parts.
  • To enable a system to produce desired behaviour and results, ensure each subsystem is stable and can maintain itself to conduct its core function, alignment of the goals of subsystems with the overall goal, and effective relations between parts of the hierarchy balancing sub-system autonomy and central coordination.


  • A well-meaning party watches the struggle of a system and intervenes to help take some of the load – it appears to work – the intervention brings the system back to the desired state. Then the original problem appears again – as nothing has been done to solve the problem at its root cause. So the intervenor applies more of the solution, again disguising the real state of the system, and this cycle continues on again and again. The intervenor has set up a dependence on the intervention, undermining the original capacity of the system to re-balance itself.
  • Look to support and enhance a systems self-correcting and self-reliance mechanisms – don’t create long term dependence on an intervention as a way of achieving desired behaviour from a system.
  • Examples of dependent systems include someone who becomes addicted to drugs and a dependence on using evermore pesticides to control pests  (overtime pesticides can actually lead to an increase in the pest numbers as its natural predator is also killed off by the pesticide).
  • Instead help the system to help itself.
  • To do this, do not rush in with an intervention – instead ask “Why are the natural correction mechanisms failing? How can obstacles to their success be removed?”
  • If intervening, make it as short term as possible. The best way to avoid the dependency trap is to avoid intervening in the first place. Beware of symptom relieving that does not resolve the underlying problem. Focus on long term restructuring rather than short term relief.


  • At times, a system will produce results below previous success levels – the way this is perceived is vital to the long-term success of the system.
  • If a slip in performance is viewed as anything other than temporary – this performance now becomes the new expectation – the original goal or standard is allowed to slip. Less corrective action is taken to get it back to its original performance, so the system state becomes lower. If this loop is allowed to run unchecked, this can lead to a downhill spiral and continuous degradation of the system’s performance. It can explain how schools move from excellent to underperforming, and why the quality of hospitals is allowed to degrade. Another name for this system trap is “eroding goals” or the “boiled frog syndrome”.
  • Danger lies in small changes over time rather than large quick changes in performance. If a system state’s performance changes dramatically, a corrective process would immediately be put in place, but when it drifts slowly enough to erase memory of the original state, all actors in the system get pulled into lower expectations.
  • View a dip in performance as temporary so you can focus efforts on rising back up e.g. taking on additional work to pay off a small debt, rather than becoming accustomed to debt and taking on even more debt.
  • To avoid a downward spiral in performance: 1. Keep standards absolute, regardless of performance; 2. View the worst results as a temporary setback – then the same system structure can focus efforts on pulling the system state back up to better and better performances.


  • “This system trap is found whenever the winners of a competition, receive, as part of the reward, the means to compete even more effectively in the future.”
  • Example: A neighbourhood runs a contest with a $100 prize for the best Christmas light display. The winning family goes on to use that additional money to buy more Christmas lights. The competition is eventually suspended, after the same family goes on to win year after year.
  • The more the winner wins, the more he, she or it can win in the future.”
  • This phenomenon has been known to go further – the winning competitor can drive the loser to extinction, by appropriating all the resource, leaving none for the weaker competitor.
  • The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. E.g. the poorest children often receive the worst educations in the worst schools, that is if they can go to school at all. Having gained few marketable skills, they only qualify for low paying jobs, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Poverty can often mean less resources, time and access for effective lobbying and political organising to affect change at governmental level – meaning a disproportionately small part of government expenditure is allocated to their needs.
  • How to break out of the “success to the successful” system trap to ensure a system can produce benefits for all?
    • 1. Diversification e.g. a small company can create a new product or service that does not directly compete with existing ones owned by more powerful, established and resourced companies.
    • 2. Level the playing field – diversification does not work as a strategy against poverty – instead, design systems that equalise the impact of advantages and privilege e.g. taxation on inheritance, social welfare, equal access health care and education, taxing the rich at higher rates. “These equalizing mechanisms may derive from simple morality….or they may come from the practical understanding that losers, if they are unable to get out of the game of success to the successful, and if they have no hope of winning, could get frustrated enough to destroy the playing field”.


  • Any boundaries you may draw around a system are inherently artificial. Systems are always part of ever larger boundaries. The world is a continuum of systems.
  • E.g. attempting to tackle urban traffic problems by building more motorways attracts the building of new housing developments along them, meaning more cars using these motorways from those households, meaning roads become just as clogged up as before the intervention. E.g. a nation unilaterally trying to tackle ozone depletion must realise that greenhouse gases know nothing of national boundaries.
  • If you want to encourage more desirable results, consider how wide of a system landscape you are considering, to ensure a workable solution, paradoxically knowing that you will never be able to determine a perfect boundary.


  • At any given time, the input or element that is most limited is the most important to the success of a system.
  • E.g. Bread (the system) will not rise without yeast (input/element), no matter how much flour you add. E.g. “Rich countries transfer capital or technology to poor ones and wonder why the economies of the receiving countries still don’t develop, never thinking that capital or technology may not be the most limiting factors”. Other factors could be lack of clean water, clean air, raw material, energy.
  • The growth of a system can in fact change the factor that is limiting.
  • E.g. A company hires more salespeople, who are so good they generate orders faster than the factory can produce them leading to delivery delays and lost customers – the production capacity has become the most limiting factor. The company then invests in its production capacity and hires new people to produce orders, but as they are hired in a hurry they receive little training and so quality suffers, leading to lost customers – labour skill has become the most limiting factor to the success of the system.
  • To gain real control over the growth process, you need to focus on the next potential limiting factor in the system.
  • However, in physical systems there are always limits to growth –“the choice is not to grow forever but to decide what limits to live within”. E.g. if a city meets the needs of all its inhabitants better than any other city, people will flock there until some limiting factor brings down the city’s ability to satisfy people’s need e.g. overcrowding/lack of housing.
  • Tourists flock to the most beautiful undiscovered destinations and then complain that these places have been ruined by all the tourists. Fishermen overfish and destroy their own livelihoods. If people within systems do not enforce their own limits to keep growth within the capacity of the supporting environment, the environment will choose and enforce limits.
  • People choose to fulfil their short-term best interests but produce aggregate longer-term results that no one likes. If you are a fisherman with a loan on your boat, a family to support and imperfect knowledge of the state of the fish population, you will overfish. Within the bounds of what a person in that part of the system can see and know, their behaviour is reasonable (from that perspective – not excusable but understandable).
  • If a herdsman profits from the sale of each additional cow, the incentive is to increase their stock of cows. With limited resource – grassland for grazing (the commons), if each herdsman increases their stock of cows, each individually benefits (initially), however the effects of overgrazing are shared by all, and therefore over time, all will lose out.
  • How do we harmonise subsystem short term goals with longer-term sustainability of the system? To avoid a Tragedy of the Commons?
  • EDUCATE – help people see the consequence of unrestrained use of the commons. Appeal to their morality.
  • PRIVATISE THE COMMONS – divide it up so that each person reaps the consequences of their own actions e.g. divide up the land for each herdsman.
  • REGULATE THE COMMONS – e.g. bans on certain behaviours, quotas, taxes, permits, penalties, limit the number of users of the land, tax use of the land to help maintain it.
  • Through these examples of limiting factors, we can see it’s not possible to control a system completely – one change leads to another change and to another – a true balancing act. Instead we need to learn to dance with a system as it changes.


  • Ultimately no system can be controlled completely.
  • Systems are dynamic, ever changing. Systems are connected to other systems – they have no real boundary.
  • We can’t know everything, even collectively, there will always be gaps. A system is like a complex web of interlinked parts, no one part being able to see the whole – even systems thinkers.
  • Everything that anyone ever knows is only ever a model – just as a map is not reality – so always be aware of your assumptions and challenge them.
  • We can’t impose our will on a system. We can instead learn to listen to what a system tells us, watch its behaviour, discover its intrinsic attributes and values, and work together to bring forth something better.
  • Systems thinking can actually raise more questions than it answers. This in a sense reflects the fundamental awe and wonder of life and its natural order and paradoxes.
  • The only way through, therefore, is to learn to dance with systems, in all their complexity and glory.

Find out more about systems and learn how to design systems and prevent problems before they start – read our book summary of Upstream here.

Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury

Buy the book here!


Want to negotiate effectively? Winning all of the pie (win-lose) or equally sharing the pie (compromise) has its price. Damaged relations and sacrificial lambs are the cost of a win. Principled negotiation seeks to get us to a “True Yes” by fundamentally understanding that it’s our DIFFERING INTERESTS in the pie that should be exploited for ALL sides to win. While some love the crust, others love the meat – meaning we can all be genuinely satisfied – we can all WIN-WIN.


  • No communication = no negotiation
  • Be “soft on the people” but “hard on the problem”
  • Like it or not, you are a negotiator
  • Why the world needs more conflict not less
  • Why the Third Way leads to win-win solutions
  • Don’t strive to divide the pie – unravel the orange instead!
  • How an orange can reveal your true interests
  • Focus on WHY not WHAT
  • The power of Plan B – your BATNA


  • Negotiation is the means of getting what you want from others via back and forth communication to reach an agreement. Communication is key.
  • Effective negotiation is not about giving in. It is not about compromise.
  • Effective negotiation is not about insisting on your view in order to win.
  • Negotiation does not require compromising your principles.
  • Negotiation power is not a zero-sum game – effective negotiation does not have to mean win/lose.
  • Effective negotiation involves identifying mutual interests and finding ways to address differences.


  • Traditionally, decision-making has been based on hierarchical top-down orders. In today’s world this has changed.
  • “Like it or not, you are a negotiator”. From morning to night, we negotiate with practically everyone we meet whether it be formally or informally. This could be over a date to meet friends, who will carry out certain tasks, salary negotiations, purchases and sales, etc.
  • Negotiation occurs due to our differences, interests and priorities.
  • The aim is not to eliminate conflict – it is an inevitable and useful part of life, leading to insights, understanding and change.
  • Few injustices are addressed without serious conflict”. And thus, the world needs more conflict, not less.
  • The challenge is to transform the way we deal with conflict – from destructive and adversarial to side by side problem solving – by striving for “win-win” solutions. By “Getting to Yes”.


  • Like a boiled egg, people often employ one of two modes of negotiation – soft or hard.
  • Soft negotiators make concessions easily to reach agreement to maintain the relationship. They can, however, end up feeling exploited and bitter. By being too nice, too trusting of the other side to do best by them, by yielding too much, they superficially maintain the relationship but sacrifice their own interests in the process.
  • Hard negotiators tend to favour winning at all odds – the ultimate goal being victory over the other side – at the expense of maintaining good relations between parties in the process. Each side engages in positional bargaining, maintaining their stance and making minimal concessions. A battle of wills can be inefficient process – it encourages tactics such as dragging one’s feet, threatening to walk out, stonewalling, using sheer willpower to force the other to change, to give in. Anger and resentment arise, and relationships can be destroyed in the process. Even in “winning”, a person’s ego may be satisfied by the win, but their true underlying interests may still remain unmet.
  • There is however a “third way” of negotiating – “Principled Negotiation”.


  • The Orange Conundrum: In a kitchen, there are 2 chefs both wanting the last remaining orange for their recipe. Positional bargaining would see a battle of wills ensue, each chef maintaining their fixed individual stance that its vital that they have the orange, perhaps resulting in ongoing argument but no agreement, or with one chef eventually wearing down the other side into giving it up, or just simply taking it, causing resentment. Or, they may focus on compromise and decide to divide the orange into 2 parts, seemingly fair as both receive an equal share, but neither feeling fully satisfied.
  • A focus on insisting or compromise can leave both parties feeling that they have lost. Splitting the difference between final positions does not truly bring a solution that meets the real needs of both sides – it can be arbitrary and meaningless.
  • Principled negotiation finds a solution to The Orange Conundrum, by focusing on the underlying interests of each party involved.
  • When both chefs talk and find out WHY each one wants the orange, they soon realise they each other differing interests – one chef wants the fruit of the orange to make juice, the other wants the rind to make a cake. The chefs realise that their differing but compatible interests mean they can identify a win-win solution, and both be completely satisfied.
  • A focus on positions (on WHAT) rather than interests – the WHY under the WHAT – can mask what each side truly wants.
  • Principled negotiation looks for complimentary interests and mutual gains.
  • The aim is to strengthen (or not further harm) the relationship even as each side may disagree on a topic.
  • Where interests conflict, the outcome is determined by an objective standard e.g. market value.



  • Participants should see themselves as working on the same side to attack the problem collaboratively, not on opposing sides attacking each other.
  • Be “soft on the people” but “hard on the problem”.
  • In a negotiation it can be important to satisfy interests as well build a good relationship for the future. E.g. an antiques dealer wants to make a good profit from a sale AND turn a customer into a regular one.
  • To disentangle people from a problem, you will need to address: A) perception, B) emotion, and C) communication.
    • A) PERCEPTION – differences in a conflict are defined by the way each side perceives the problem – conflict often lies not in objective reality but in how each side views reality.
    • Having curiosity about perception – about how the other side perceives the problem – opens up paths to a solution. The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess. Understanding another’s view and empathising with it does not mean having to agree with it.
    • Make space to discuss each other’s perceptions. Don’t fall into blame which leads to defensiveness. You are trying to uncover the facts of the situation and substantive issues seeking resolution.
    • B) EMOTIONS It’s important to allow emotions and grievances to be expressed – it can free the conversation from the burden of unexpressed emotions, making it easier to tackle the substance of the problem together.
    • The relationship can be strengthened even through differences by acknowledging emotions sensitively, treating “the other side” with respect, and allowing understanding on both sides.
    • However, be wary of allowing the conversation to spiral into a negative cycle.
    • Be aware that emotions are driven by the following factors and trampling insensitively on any of these tends to generate strong negative emotions.  1) autonomy – desire to make your own choices and control your own fate, 2) appreciation – desire to be recognised and valued, 3) belonging – desire to be accepted as part of a group 4) role – desire to have a meaningful purpose, 5) status – desire to be fairly seen and acknowledged, 6) identity – desire for one’s self-image or self-respect to be maintained.
    • C) COMMUNICATION – Without communication there is no negotiation.
    • Negotiation is a back and forth process of communication in order to reach agreement.
    • Whatever you say, be aware that the other side will almost always hear something different, particularly when caught up in emotion, or may misunderstand.
    • Active listening helps to overcome this – repeat back what you have understood from the conversation and clarify any areas of misunderstanding.
    • Speak about yourself, not the other side. Describe a situation and its impact from your own point of view – rather than explaining or condemning the motivations or intentions of the other side. A statement about how you feel is difficult to challenge.
    • The best time for handling conflicts is before they come – by establishing good ongoing relationships and communication, that will cushion conflicts and differences when they come. A good working relationship is one that can cope with differences.


  • A position is the demand from a party (the WHAT they want) e.g. to sell a home at no less than £X. Interests are the underlying reasons for adopting a position (the WHY) e.g. to pay for their grandmother’s care.
  • Knowing the WHY is more revealing than the WHAT as it can lead to more creative solutions that truly provide a remedy (e.g. to sell the main house on the property allowing their grandmother to move into the smaller separate annexe, raising enough funds for in-home care without having to move away).
  • RADIO STATION EXAMPLE – A businessman had submitted several offers for the purchase of a radio station, but all offers were rejected. He was about to give up, but decided to enquire further and in doing so, learned that the real interest of the minority owner was not in selling (money was not her real interest) but was in continuing to manage the radio station and be a part owner. The solution – the businessman bought only the share of the business needed for beneficial tax reasons (saving almost a million dollars) and kept the minority owner as manager. Understanding the seller’s underlying interests greatly enhanced the buyer’s negotiating power.
  • A focus on interests rather than position directs attention to an integrative approach – to collaboratively creating a solution that satisfies the collective interests of both sides, that is best for all.
  • We tend to assume that because a party’s position is opposed to ours (e.g. landlord wants higher rent, tenant wants lower rent), their underlying interests must also opposed, which is not necessarily the case. E.g. a landlord and tenant both want stability, both want a well-maintained apartment. By focusing on mutual interests, it may be possible to find a creative solution that satisfies both sides.
  • Try to understand the other side’s interests. The basic human interests we all tend to have can be a good starting point – the need for security, economic well-being, sense of belonging.


  • Allow space for creativity – broaden the scope of the problem space by generating a range of potential options before seeking agreement
  • Often people go into a negotiation thinking they are looking for the one best answer, which can narrow the focus of discussions, and lead to dead ends and incomplete solutions.
  • Instead, recognise that interests could be satisfied by many solutions. Allow for creative options to be presented without the need to commit to any, without judgement.
  • Seeing the other side’s preference for an option without commitment can aid in finding a satisfying solution for all, by helping to further elicit their real interests. This option can be further refined or combined with other options collaboratively in the interests of a comprehensive solution.


  • To ensure good relations going forward, and the durability of a solution limiting the risk of any retractions or lack of follow-through, the aim is to devise a solution that leaves each party feeling truly satisfied. No party should leave feeling cheated.
  • Objective standards (criteria) can be used to achieve such solutions. For example, a fair price for the sale of a property can be determined by assessing market value for a similar house in the same area.
  • Objective standard examples include market value, expert opinion, custom, law, replacement cost, depreciated book value, competitive prices, precedent, community practice, tradition, moral standards, scientific judgement, voting, equal treatment, and seeking involvement of a 3rd party e.g. mediation.
  • Using standard, fair objective criteria, process or principles to reach agreement is particularly important where interests conflict.
  • E.g. For a dispute in rental price between a landlord (wants a higher rent) and tenant (wants a lower rent) employ market research to decide – what is the average price for a similar flat in the same area?
  • E.g. where 2 factions of union leadership cannot agree on a certain wage proposal, they can agree to submit the decision to a membership vote.
  • E.g. If the other side presents an offer e.g. a $2000 dollar pay rise, ask “On what (fair/objective standard) was this calculation made?
  • Never yield to pressure to adopt an agreement, only to principle.


  • The wisest solutions produce maximum gain for you at minimum cost to the other side, and these are often produced only when the interests for both sides are clear.
  • To reach an agreement that meets your own self-interest, you need to develop a solution that also appeals to the self-interest of the other side.
  • Therefore, it is vitally important that each side advocate for their interests and not be too conciliatory.
  • Where a permanent agreement is not possible, consider undertaking a provisional or temporary agreement and period for review. A provisional agreement could break down the problem into smaller more manageable parts.
  • Check whether the person you are negotiating with has full authority to come to a decision – they may need to go back to their superior or other party for agreement which will have an influence on the scope of your discussions and any agreement that can be made.
  • Agreement is easier when all sides involved feel ownership of the idea. Get them involved early on. When people feel they have been part of the process of a decision they are more likely to accept the end result. The feeling of participation in the process is one of the most important factors in whether a proposal is accepted – i.e. the process is the result.


  • What do you do when the other side in a negotiation won’t budge from their final offer despite all efforts?  Ensure you have identified your BATNA Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.
  • Essentially your BATNA is your PLAN B.
  • Negotiation isn’t really about wealth, political connections, physical strength, resources etc. The real question for each side isare the consequences of not reaching agreement more disastrous than reaching agreement?”
  • This depends on having identified your BATNA before negotiating – the option you will pursue should agreement not be possible.You can use your BATNA to assess any proposed agreement to determine whether the offer on hand is better or worse than your BATNA.
  • Having a BATNA will give you confidence in the negotiating process, to fully present and defend your interests without giving in, in order to be conciliatory.
  • Examples of BATNAs
    • Brexit – it can be argued that the UK’s BATNA was preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
    • Purchases – if you are buying an item, your BATNA could be purchasing your 2nd preference item if you cannot negotiate your preferred price for your first preference item.
    • Strike – as a union your BATNA could be to organise a strike if you cannot reach agreement through talks.
    • Legal Process – going to court if you can’t reach a settlement, if you are likely to win and obtain a higher settlement after costs.
    • Minimum sales price – you can set a minimum limit at which you will sell an item – e.g. at cost or no lower than X amount.

Sack Your Boss by Christian Rodwell

Buy the book here! Free copy here!


The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present … then dies having never really lived.

So you quit your job. You sack your boss to build your own business, envisaging a life free of the demands of others, a life on YOUR timing, determined by YOUR choices – a life of freedom. “Sacking your boss” does not, however, equate to freedom.  If you don’t design a business that truly aligns with what you want you could end up becoming a slave to your creation, working more hours than before, an employee again –  you as the boss having become your own jailer.  “Sack Your Boss” is a metaphor for change – use it to design a life better suited to you, a life on YOUR terms.

The book outlines a practical 5-stage process for “Sacking Your Boss” and creating your own business aligned to a lifestyle you truly desire. This book summary focuses on the initial phase before taking action – the key questions to consider before making a change, whether that be shifting from employee to self-employed, or pivoting your current business – to ensure you design a lifestyle that provides the freedom you crave. And to avoid unwittingly creating yet another golden cage.


  • The allure of the golden cage
  • The 5 freedoms – 1 freedom unlocks the others
  • Think curiosity rather than passion
  • Own a system
  • Think scalability – think 1-to-many
  • Bigger doesn’t always mean better
  • Success – a real life game of snakes and ladders


  • A frog put into a pot of boiling water will jump out immediately, an instantaneous reaction to a harmful environment. But a frog put into cold water that is gradually heated, lulled by a warm but false sense of security, will find it harder to leave. Having gradually grown accustomed to its environment, it finds it harder to recognise the point at which its surroundings have become harmful to its survival, its internal guidance system masked by a cunning offering of comfort.
  • Do you find yourself in your own pot of warming water? Are you staying in a situation that is not conducive to the growth of your true potential, one that has gradually eroded your core dreams, replaced by the trappings of external success – a great salary, prestige, other perks of the job – a golden cage?


  • How much do you love your job? If your employer stopped paying, would you still turn up due to a passion for your work?
  • If you keep continuing on the path you are currently on, will you be happy in the long term?
  • If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” (Jim Rohn)
  • What legacy do you want to leave behind?
  • How will you know you have escaped (the rat race)? Feeling excited to wake up every day? Feeling on flow, feeling that you make a meaningful impact, being surrounded by people who you feel connected with? Feeling on purpose, doing something remarkable? Why are you here?


  • Choosing the path that suits you involves experimenting – you may not find your ideal work or business on your first try. You will likely need to try several strategies to find out what truly works for you.
  • However, avoid “shiny penny” syndrome. Often when deciding to make a change people can become seminar junkies, attending seminar after seminar, course after course, attracted to the next shiny offering – in endless experimentation, erroneously thinking they are progressing with their business. At some point you will have to take action and choose a path.
  • To minimise wasting money, think of any training or course purchase as an investment. What will the return on investment be? How will you know? Will it contribute to your long-term goals? What do you expect to get out of it?
  • If you are contemplating “sacking your boss” to start your own business, but are hesitant, try writing a resignation letter to your boss (without sending it). How do you feel?
  • Life can be like a game of snakes and ladders – sometimes you have to slide down a snake – the wrong path  for you – and begin at the bottom to find the right ladder to truly fulfil your potential – which is true success.
  • Know your values to choose the right path -“It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are” (Roy Disney).
  • “When you live congruently with your highest values, your voice and vision on the inside becomes louder and more profound than people’s voices and opinions on the outside” (Dr John Demartini).
  • Be curious to choose your path: Trying to find your one elusive “Passion” or “Purpose” can feel overwhelming and weighty, and lead to analysis paralysis. Instead try the Kaizen approach and ask a smaller question – think “What am I curious about?”  


  • Make sure you design a business that will give you the lifestyle you truly want.
  • Otherwise you can end up yet again becoming an employee of a business, the only difference being you are employing yourself.
  • Often people who want to have their own business seek one or more of the following freedoms:
    • 1. Financial Freedom
    • 2. Time Freedom
    • 3. Location Freedom
    • 4. Relationship Freedom
    • 5. Freedom of Choice.
  • Achieving financial freedom often unlocks the other freedoms.
  • If time freedom is key, focus on owning a system. Robert Kiyosaki defines a true business owner as someone who owns a system and has other people working within it, so that if they were to take a period of time off, the business would still be operating, if not better than before.
  • Bigger doesn’t always mean better. The Fisherman and the Businessman tells the story of a fisherman who catches enough fish to feed his family, with the rest of each day to spend with his loved ones. A businessman offers to make him “more successful” by industrialising and expanding his business, spending more time at sea, catching more fish and thereby becoming richer. AFTER which he would be able to retire and spend time with family and friends. The fisherman replied “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
  • What does success mean to you? Your path depends on what you truly want from life, not on what is deemed as “success” by society or others.


  • Trading time for money limits your wealth. You are limited by the number of waking hours you have in a day. The only option you have to increase your wealth from time is to increase your hourly rate.
  • The most valuable asset we have is our time. “You can get more money, but you cannot get more time” (Jim Rohn)
  • “Don’t work hard for money, make money work hard for you” (Robert Kiyosaki).
  • “Working because you want to, not because you have to is financial freedom” (Anthony Robbins).


  • If time freedom is key for you, think about scalability when designing your business.
  • A job is not scalable – when you’re not working, you’re not earning.
  • Furthermore, some self-employed work isn’t scalable – e.g. coaches , trainers, consultants – the 1-to-1 model only allows you to work with a certain number of clients until you run out of hours in the month – you hit a revenue ceiling. Instead, think about designing a business where you work 1-to-many – e.g. train and deliver to groups, create a webinar, course or digital product and earn whilst you sleep.
  • When you own assets e.g. property, your own business, you have the opportunity to generate income 24/7.
  • Wealth isn’t how much money you have. Wealth is what you’re left with if you lose all your money” (Roger Hamilton) Your wealth is in your value as a person. A truly wealthy person, on losing money, can make it back again and again through being who they are – they are their own asset.
  • True wealth begins in the mind, believing you are worthy of what you truly desire.


  • Focus on who your customer is and what problem you are solving for them. You only have a business if you have a customer. You don’t have a business if you just have a product.
  • Success must be attracted, not pursued” (Jim Rohn). Think about how much value you will deliver for your customer? To earn more you need to become more.


  • Remember you will need others – no one becomes successful without having a team– make sure you have a support network.
  • Stay in your lane – do what you do best and leverage the skills of others to get you and your business further.
  • Reach out to people who have done what you want to do and learn from their successes and failures.


  • “The cost of inaction” (Tim Ferris) – consider the cost of not changing, of maintaining the status quo. Most of us focus on fears of what could go wrong from a change rather than the cost of doing nothing, which is still an (expensive) decision.
  • Be aware that fear can sabotage you. It can make stop you from making a needed change. To overcome this fear, take small steps and ask small questions.
  • There’s pain in either direction – in staying in a career – the status quo – or in taking a new path and starting your own business. There are sacrifices on either path so you might as well choose the direction that’s going to be more positive for your life.
  • Just take action. Your first business idea likely won’t be the one that brings you success. That doesn’t matter – it will open doors to new opportunities. You will either earn or learn.
  • Remember, it’s easier not to change.


  • “Success is a lagging indicator”-  you need to keep at it long before you see the results of your labour.
  • Things always take longer than you think. They just do. If you were to know after quitting your job and starting your business that it might take years before seeing true signs of success,  would it deter you from starting?
  • At some points along your journey you will fail. “I never lose. I either win or learn.” (Nelson Mandela)
  • It takes discipline to reach your goals. It’s better to suffer the pain of discipline than the pain of regret.


  • What are you willing to sacrifice in order to make your business a successful one? This could include holidays, socialising with friends and family, a pay cut.
  • Power of no – “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything” (Warren Buffet).
  • Power of “no for now”– use this if you are facing a difficult dilemma, buying yourself time and allowing you to take up the opportunity at another point in the future.
  • “Focus on the opportunity that can make you the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time” (John Keller). Which of your opportunities will generate the most income and grow your business? Focus on this – say “no” to everything else.

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

Buy the book here!


Glamour is overrated – there’s success in the mundane. Success is so simple it’s tragically overlooked. This is the book of mastering the drill of the mundane, the small, the insignificant, the “easy-to-do easy-not-to-do”; in order to gain the Slight Edge – and ultimately become successful.


  • To become a millionaire, do the mundane.
  • Become 1 in 20.
  • Be aware of the danger in small seemingly insignificant choices.
  • Do the “Easy-to-do Easy-not-to-do” action to succeed.
  • There is no grey – you are either on the path to beach bum or on the path to millionaire.
  • Soak your subconscious – choose the right little things in every moment, each and every day.


  • Simple productive actions done repeatedly and consistently over time.
  • Examples include exercising a few minutes a day, saving money regularly, reading ten pages of a book daily.
  • These “success habits” over time compound and lead to fulfilment of our goals.
  • It’s an incremental process, it’s progressive. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”.
  • The actions within the slight edge process can be tiny – are often so slight – but can be the difference between success and failure. E.g. the difference between a .300 batting average baseball player with a multimillion-dollar contract and a .260 plus player making an average salary works out at less than one additional hit per week over a season.


  • You have it within you to be a beach bum and you have it within you to be a millionaire. What makes the difference is the choices you make. For a different outcome, you need to do something different.
  • Why do people oscillate between failure and success? It’s simple. They stop undertaking the same actions that made them successful. Once they hit their goal, they relax, stop doing the things that took them to success and eventually end back in failure. A classic example of this pattern is yo-yo dieting.


  • We often have the same everyday choices available to us as other people.  People who make lots of money read books. People who are penniless read books – they just CHOOSE different books.
  • What everyday choices are you making? Are choosing what will get you to your goal? Are you making the right choice each and every day?
  • Every decision you make is either building your dream or building someone else’s dream.
  • If you chose to read 10 pages a day of inspiring books, that would equate to approximately 12 life transforming books over the course of a year. “Your mind will be filled with the strategies and know-how necessary to create a startling new level of success. You will have absorbed the thoughts of millionaires”.
  • The “insignificant” penny – what would it take to deposit the equivalent of a penny in every major area of your life – your health, relationships, finances? Something as seemingly insignificant and small as a penny would add up – equivalent to making a 1% step change beach day, resulting in a 365% shift in a year. Read more about the 1% Rule here.
  • Every decision you make is a Slight Edge decision – in each moment you have the opportunity to choose, to choose an action that leads you closer to your vision or further away from your goal. Will you choose to read an inspiring novel or gossip magazine? Will you choose to eat a healthy salad or sugar filled doughnut? It’s not about making the right decision aligned with your overall goal once, but making it again and again and again AND again that has impact.
  • Ask yourself at the outset of a project or goal – am I willing to make the same right choice again and again and again to reach my ultimate goal? If not, perhaps you need to reconsider that goal.
  • People who feel good about themselves produce good results. Catch yourself and others in the midst of doing something right and celebrate it. Make each successful right choice an opportunity for celebration.


  • Becoming an Everyday Millionaire is simple but not necessarily easy.
  • Why? Saving a little every day is easy to do and easy not to do. Similarly, it’s easy to exercise for 5 minutes a day and easy not to do. It’s easy to wake up 10 minutes early to meditate, and easy not to do.
  • Because the action can appear to be so small, so insignificant it’s easy to dismiss or delay it as it will have little to no impact TODAY. However, the impact of making that same choice again and again and again IS SIGNIFICANT.
  • Making the right choices isn’t dramatic, isn’t exciting, isn’t glamourous. Success is in the small, in the slight, in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the seemingly insignificant.
  • Therefore, master the mundane to become an everyday millionaire.
  • Unsuccessful people choose the path of least resistance in the moment, not thinking about the longer-term impact.
  • Greatness is always in the moment of a decision. The danger lies in the small seemingly insignificant decisions we overlook that add up over time. The piece of cake we eat each night, the coffee we buy each day that we could be saving. The decisions you have made have led to where you are today. Where you end up in life isn’t about whether you are good or bad – its dictated by the choices you make – ESPECIALLY the little ones.
  • In every moment you always faced with a choice. Keep making the choice that gets you closer to what you truly want, what will genuinely fulfil you.

BE 1 IN 20

  • Only 5% of people achieve the level of success they dream of.
  • 95% quit before waiting for their results to show – they lack patience or trust in the process, in the longer term vision.
  • Successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do. They undertake the mundane, repetitive, simple, “easy-to-do easy-not-to-do” actions again and again and again.
  • And they do it for long enough for the effects of compounding to kick in.


  • Delayed gratification is difficult in today’s instant gratification culture.
  • We want evidence of our actions too quickly – we want instant results, and when we don’t see them, we give up too soon.
  • The impact of your everyday small success choices will often remain invisible until long into the future. In fact, the unwanted circumstances in your life may continue for some time despite making the right actions.You have to hang in the process for long enough to give it a chance, whilst the right results are developing underground, hidden from sight.
  • A metaphorical story – two frogs hopped into a pail of fresh cream and found themselves stuck – the sides too slippery to climb, the bottom too far down to jump from. They began to frantically thrash about, one frog eventually gave up and sank out of sight, the other frog kept paddling in the same small circle, over and over again, hoping for a miracle. After an hour he gave up and let go, but instead of sinking to his death, he was able to get out. Why? His small simple efforts over time had churned the cream into a lump of butter – a solid surface he could leap from. His seemingly insignificant efforts had generated invisible progressive results which eventually led to his success.


  • Consistently repeated daily actions + time = inconquerable results.
  • Time allows your actions to be leveraged through compounding. A small action repeated over time leads to big results.
  • “Growth compounds”. The sum of our actions over time do not amount to a straight line. It curves due to compounding.
  • The upward journey of success is available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and STAY ON IT.
  • Mastery is a state of mind that lies at the very beginning of the path, not some exalted state arising at the end, at the point of success.
  • The Wall: when Will Smith was 12 years old, his father tore down a wall and told him to rebuild it with his younger brother. At the time, Will Smith remarked that it was impossible, but they did complete it, in 1.5 years. It was a lesson to demonstrate that they should NEVER say there’s something they cannot do. Will surmised that you don’t set out to build a wall – if you set out to lay that very first brick, and you do that every single day, soon you will have a wall.
  • “Difficult takes a little time; impossible takes just a little longer”.


  • There are two potential selves within us all – the Beach Bum and the Millionaire. Which self are you progressing?
  • Those on the failure curve (the Beach Bum path) blame – they blame others, circumstances, fate – they give their power away. They tend to focus on the past and this pulls them down.
  • Those on the success curve (the Millionaire path) focus on the future, and use the past as a learning tool from which to spring forth.
  • In life you are either on the path to success or the path to failure – there is no in between – constantly monitor where you are. You are either going for your dreams or giving up on them. You are either stretching for what could be or settling for less.
  • Review the past – but only for the purpose of making a better plan. You can’t change your past, but you can absolutely change your future.
  • Review your day and monitor where you spent your time. Did you spend your time on activities that will lead to your goals or elsewhere?
  • A genuinely successful life is successful in all areas – health, happiness, relationships, career, legacy.
  • Take an honest look at your life. Is the number of true friends in your life with whom you have mutually enlivening experiences growing larger each year? Do you regularly engage in activities that are truly meaningful to you? Where is your life heading right now in each of these areas?


  • It’s simple.
  • So simple it’s overlooked.
  • Ordinary people on ordinary salaries become millionaires by living below their means, not just once in a while, but repeatedly, and save consistently over time.
  • They undertake a simple daily, weekly, or monthly saving discipline that over time buys their financial freedom.
  • Buy the book and read more about how the author’s mum surprised him by revealing she had quietly become a millionaire by this simple Slight Edge method.
  • Do not wait to start saving – there is a cost to waiting – act now – take advantage of the Power of Time and the Impact of Compound Interest. Check out these Millionaire Calculators and see an illustration of this.
  • It’s better to be worth £1 million than to have £1 million. Invest in yourself – if you have a million dollar mindset it won’t be long before you make a million, but if you only have the money without the habits or understanding, you are likely to find yourself penniless again.


  • Our culture tends to worship the big break, the quantum leap, the dramatic discovery.
  • However, the truth is that success often involves years of effort, overcoming obstacles and defeats – with thousands of steps along the way,
  • The seemingly sudden success is actually the pinnacle point of all of these preceding steps.
  • “No success is immediate or instantaneous, no collapse is sudden or precipitous.”
  • An overnight success is 10 years in the making.”
  • To succeed, reframe your view of success – seek incremental improvement and stop chasing the illusion of the big breakthrough. Check out our book summary of One Small Step Can Change Your Life and find out more.


  • The right choice means sacrificing the wrong choice, the wrong choice may still be very tempting.
  • “If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice”.
  • The price of an unfulfilled dream is more costly than the price of the discipline needed to get there.


  • The majority of the choices we make are determined by our subconscious.
  • This is the place where our habits have become so engrained, we no longer need to do them consciously.
  • Like brushing your teeth or driving a car –we have practised them so much, our conscious mind has promoted them over to our subconscious. These habits have become automated.
  • In order to reach your ultimate goals, ensure you are consciously practising the right actions and choices that lead to your success, as repeated actions whether good or bad, will eventually become automated, and therefore difficult not to do.
  • The actions you carry out are informed by your thoughts. The thoughts you repeatedly think also become engrained in your subconscious. Ensure you are thinking the right thoughts.
  • The odds are against you – only 5% truly succeed. To give yourself the slight edge, “soak your subconscious” in your vision. Repeatedly think of it so you come to live and breath it before it even happens, so that your mind becomes attuned to whatever may cross your path in support of your goals.


  • On its way to the moon, the Apollo rocket was only on course 2-3% of the time. At least 97% of the time it was course correcting – veering off and getting back on track. So there is hope for us mere mortals.
  • It’s important to keep making the right choices to get to your ultimate destination but you don’t have to make the right decision every single time. Go easy on yourself. You are allowed to fail. As long as you do not give up, learn from failures and keep course correcting to get you back on track, you will get there.


  • No matter where you are today, you can turn the corner from failure to success – by building positive habits and acting consistently.
  • You cannot change your past, but at any moment you can start to rebuild a new future – all it takes is that very first step, that very first act in the right direction, and to keep moving in that direction.
  • Get started – come up with a plan to get you out of the starting block. The plan you start with will not be the plan that gets your there. It does not need to be perfect – there will be a second plan and a third plan …You will have to adjust and auto-correct – embrace failures and pivots along the way.
  • Great success starts from a tiny beginning.


  • Wanting something, desiring something hurts. Why? Because it reminds you of what you currently lack.
  • Use that pain, that tension as a force to get you from A to B, from where you are to where you want to be. Make it work for you.
  • What most people describe as a problem is simply a gap, a space between A and B. The uncomfortable tension in the gap will resolve, resulting in either A or B.
  • Successful people live in the uncomfortable zone – in that tension between A and B. Embrace doing what’s uncomfortable, doing what 95% of people do not do, in order to attain a life in the long run that is genuinely and sustainably comfortable.
  • The alternative is to quit dreaming, to let go of your dreams, and settle for less – and B will disappear.
  • Unsuccessful people often appear successful at first – they hang with the masses, their lives are more comfortable during the long early stretch but their habits ensure this becomes unsustainable –  later on they find they do not have the finances, health or happiness to sustain their lifestyle and their lives become increasingly more uncomfortable. In contrast, those on the success curve end up more comfortable as their lives progress, as their finances, health, happiness and successes increase through the compounding of their minuscule but right actions that have become engrained habits.
  • It takes more than desire to achieve your dreams – it takes desire + faith. If you do not believe you can get what you want, if there is an incongruence between what you desire and what you believe you are merely setting yourself up for failure.
  • The disconnect between faith and desire often happens when you dream big – the dream being so big, so far removed from your present day reality it’s hard for you to believe it could ever come true no matter how much you desire it.
  • Suggestion – dream big but chunk it down. Focus on a smaller version of that dream, one that you desire and believe can come true. E.g. Perhaps your big dream is to run a marathon, but you haven’t run more than 10 minutes in your life.  So, focus on a smaller version of this dream – running a 5k – something you desire and have faith in achieving. Then, when you’ve tasted success in reaching this goal, your belief in your potential will have expanded – you can move onto the next level of your dream – a 10k, then perhaps a half-marathon … and then the ultimate dream – a marathon!


  • No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible, intangible force which, which may be likened to a third mind”.
  • Be aware of who you associate with – those around you can help raise you to your dreams (e.g. a mentor, a coach) or bring you down. People can be hurt by your large vision and subconsciously sabotage you to distract from their own perceived failings.
  • Your relationships, finances, health, attitudes, success, and career will tend to reflect the average level of your five closest associates. You are known by the company you keep.


  • If you work for someone else, you may be dreaming of the day when you can give it up and work for yourself.
  • However, simply living a life IS being an entrepreneur – you are already your own boss.You are solely in charge of the steady unfolding course of your life.
  • You are the author of YOUR story – what story do you want to create from today?
  • In each moment of decision, ask yourself why you are making that choice? No matter how small. Become conscious of what you are doing. What do you want your life to mean?
  • Realise that you are the project you are waiting for – work on yourself – continuously learn and expand.
  • Focus on building your own dream, otherwise you will be left building dreams for others.

Upstream: How to solve problems before they happen, by Dan Heath

Buy the book here!


Heroism is revered worldwide, a phenomenon deeply rooted in mythology through to the present day. The need for a “Save The Day” hero, however, is a sign of something gone wrong, a sign of failure not success. It’s high time to evolve our approach – to give greater applause to a “quieter breed of hero” – those invisible heroes who annihilate problems before they even occur.

Given the current impact of Coronavirus, the sentiments of this book are needed now more than ever.


  • The need for a hero is a sign of system failure.
  • Focus on changing the system.
  • Problematise what has become normal, what has become acceptable.
  • Detect problems before they arise by addressing early warning signs.
  • Use key leverage points for greatest impact.
  • Systems are complex –expect unexpected reactions.
  • Implement ongoing feedback for success.
  • Upstream work is limitless – you can always go further.


  • Upstream work detects problems before they occur.
  • It is preventative. It is proactive.
  • It focuses on early warning signs, flagging the onset of a larger problem if unheeded.
  • It involves systems thinking – looking at the systems behind problems and fixing these.
  • Upstream solutions are broader and slower but when they work, they achieve long lasting results.
  • Examples of upstream solutions include swimming lessons to prevent drowning, vaccinations to prevent disease, and visible police presence to prevent crime.
  • Upstream is a direction … you can always go further. Swimming lessons are further upstream than life saving buoys.  Police presence is further upstream than burglar alarms.


  • Downstream work is reacting to problems. It is putting out a fire after it has occurred, it is treating for diabetes after it has developed.
  • It is favoured because solutions are tangible, easier to measure, and short term.
  • In solving a problem reactively but successfully – e.g. putting out a fire that saves lives – a saviour hero is created. And heroism is addictive. Everyone wants to be the hero that saves the day. However, the need for heroism is a sign of system failure. True heroes stop the fire occurring in the first place.
  • Preventing a problem before it occurs is hidden work. Upstream work involves an inherent paradox: how can you measure success for something that did not happen? This defines the Prophet’s Dilemma – a prediction that prevents what it predicts because the prophecy galvanises forces to put in the work to avoid its occurrence. It leads people to erroneously believe that there never really was a problem in the first place.
  • Upstream work involves invisible heroes saving invisible victims.
  • There will always be a need for downstream work – we cannot prevent all fires from occurring, we can’t stop hurricanes. However, it is time for a new dawn to emerge – it is time to tip the balance in favour of Upstream work. “The world needs … a quieter breed of hero, one actively fighting for a world in which rescues are no longer required”.



  • How can you solve an issue where no one sees it as a problem because its seen as normal? Where people are blind to the problem in the first place? This describes problem blindness.
  • Solution: There’s a need to “problematize the normal”–to give a problem a name.
  • EXAMPLE – SEXUAL HARRASSMENT: In 1975, journalist Lin Foley coined the term “sexual harassment”, giving a name to an issue that had been normalised in the workplace, making it something abnormal and unacceptable, and empowering women by defining a collective experience. This helped to enable a world in which women would no longer need to tolerate or accept such behaviour in order to keep their jobs.
  • The second aspect of normalisation is the belief that outcomes are out of our control. “This is just the way it is.” That negative outcomes are natural or inevitable.
  • It highlights our passivity and sense of helplessness. Instead of renouncing our power to make a change, we must believe in our agency to make a difference – to stop minimising problems as normal because we mask our power.
  • INJURIES EXAMPLE: Sports trainer and doctor, Marcus Elliott, brought a different mindset to the New England Patriots NFL team – one averse to the traditional acceptance of injuries as an inevitable part of sport. Instead, his belief that injuries simply resulted from bad training (something that could be changed), inspired a new individualised approach focused on movement observations, assessments of muscle imbalances and targeted training for those most at risk of injury, leading to a 76% reduction in hamstring injuries following his intervention. His programme is an example of an upstream intervention – by focusing on early risk and warning signs of injuries (problems that had not yet occurred but could), and making interventions (training) he changed the course of direction to a more favourable outcome.


  • Problems aren’t solved without someone taking ownership for solving them.
  • “That’s not mine to fix” – a common approach by parties who are actually capable of fixing a problem. Its often those who suffer most from a problem that are left to find solutions. However, they may not be best placed to fix them.
  • Taking ownership is particularly important in upstream work, which focuses on preventing a problem that hasn’t yet occurred, where there is little to no attention nor demand for a solution. In these situations, taking ownership is about becoming a visionary, a pioneer, about stepping up to become a leader.
  • The question should not be “Who suffers most from the problem?” but “Who’s best positioned to fix it, and will they step up?”
  • Taking responsibility for problems often means stepping outside of your immediate sphere of influence.
  • CAR SEAT SAFETY EXAMPLE – In the 1970s, Dr Bob Sanders – a paediatrician in Tennessee – stood up and took ownership by answering the call from an article for paediatricians to advocate for child car seat safety. The article called for the widening of the realm of paediatricians beyond diagnosing and treating illness to advocacy and lobbying – undertaking leadership of a problem that wasn’t within their traditional remit. More young children were injured and killed within vehicles than outside, and the authors saw paediatricians – possessing the authority to positively impact outcomes by alerting parents to the dangers of children riding “loose” in vehicles, and advocate for change more widely  – as best placed to fix the problem, seeing no difference between restraints and immunisation as weapons in the preventative medicine toolkit. Following intense lobbying efforts, in 1978, Tennessee became the first US state to require car seats for children under four (with a subsequent repeal of a loophole in 1981) and by 1985 all 50 states had passed child restraint laws. Estimates indicate that 11,000+ children’s lives were saved by car seats between 1975 and 2016.
  • Sometimes we deny our own ownership of a problem, requiring someone else to fix it, something external to us, and thus giving away our power.
  • MOVE MY CHAIR EXAMPLE We’ve all been in situations when someone sitting in front of us blocks our view, we shift a little, and the person in front mirrors our action, creating an ongoing dance causing huge irritation. But we forget that we hold power in our hands – we can simply get up,  move our chair and end our frustration. What other irritating situations can you apply the “move my chair” mindset to, and take control of a situation for a more positive outcome? What if you were to tell a story of a frustrating situation as if you were the only one responsible for the outcome and move from a victim mindset to (co)-owner of a solution? (This does not apply to abusive situations which would lead to victim-blaming”).
  • Sometimes, “That’s not mine to fix” is an issue of legitimacy. People are motivated to step up to help fix a problem, but do not feel it’s their legitimate place to do so as they haven’t suffered directly e.g. a young man is concerned about the high levels of date rape on campus but feels it may be inappropriate for him to join protests led by women.
  • Solution: where appropriate, provide a sense of legitimacy by making it clear all groups can play a part in the solution e.g. simply by changing the title of a protest to include references to both men and women.


  • Juggling multiple problems can lead to tunnel vision – there isn’t enough bandwidth to solve them all.
  • It results in short term, narrow and reactive thinking – the opposite of systems thinking and preventative solutions which form the basis of upstream work.
  • When resources are scarce, every problem becomes a source of stress – “life becomes a tightrope walk” -leading to reacting to fire after fire after fire, without the breadth of space – the bandwidth – required to prevent them in the first place. This explains the spiral of poverty. Time can also have this effect.
  • Tunnelling leads to more tunnelling –if you can’t solve problems by treating the system, you are kept in an endless cycle of reaction.
  • TUNNELLING NURSES EXAMPLE A study showed that nurses solved unexpected problems every 90 minutes on average – they were professional problem solvers. However, their creativity and efficiency, signs of a “good nurse”, masked the tracking of these problems, creating “a system that never learns”. Problems included having to borrow towels from other departments to cover a shortfall, and repeatedly having to find security tags required for new-borns to be discharged. The nurses were tunnelling, focusing on short term reactions to problems without the formal opportunity to feedback on these issues or space to consider potential preventative solutions.
  • How to escape the tunnel? Build in guaranteed time and resources for problem solving – a space for upstream work e.g. some hospitals hold early morning forums where staff can flag regular issues and near misses, and discuss complexities for the day ahead. This could have been the ideal forum for the nurses above to raise issues e.g. security tags falling off babies, allowing for preventative fixes at the systems level.



  • Upstream work often involves volunteered efforts, “chosen, not obligated”. People volunteer to take ownership of a problem in order to prevent it, so it’s important to motivate people to undertake this work.
  • A. Surround the problem with the right people – those close to the problem with the experience, expertise and authority to make a difference. To surround the problem, make sure all of the agencies playing a part in the multi-faceted system are involved.  (Similarly, Rebel Ideas calls for diversity of thought to surround a problem.)
  • B. Align people’s efforts towards a shared vision focused on preventing specific instances of the problem e.g. stopping women from being killed rather than discussing domestic violence policy issues or what’s broken. Make the problem personal and real – focus on cases by people and names.
  • C. Focus people on the use of the latest data – data for the purpose of learning rather than data for the purpose of inspection. The latter is often target focused, based on penalising those who fall short (which can lead to gaming), rather than learning why and how to improve going forward. When designing a system, ensure data will be useful for those on the frontline, to allow them to learn and adapt, and know in real time whether they are succeeding or failing e.g. such data could be used by teachers to focus more time on areas students are struggling with if they have data that reveals this in real-time. “You can’t solve a dynamic problem with static data.
  • DOMESTIC ABUSE EXAMPLE In 2005, Kelly Dunne, a leader in the anti-domestic violence field, saw that the only way to prevent murder in domestic abuse cases was to unite the fragmented groups having a role in them – police officers, parole and probation officers, victim advocates, hospital staff, a representative from the District Attorney’s office. She surrounded the problem by organising the Domestic Violence High Risk Team, bringing together representatives who had previously been working in institutional isolation and focused their efforts to prevent the deaths of women at greatest risk. They used name lists, reviewing cases one by one (specific instances of the larger problem) – making the problem personal and real rather than abstract and distant, using the latest data to inform their work. “Where was Nicole’s abuser?” “What has he been doing?” How can we help her this week?” Where would she go if she needed to escape? Who would pay for a hotel or taxi?” Collectively the team uncovered and addressed gaps within the system that could be exploited by abusers. Not a single woman was killed due to domestic violence related homicide in the 14 years from the formation of the team. “Not one”.


  • The ultimate aim of upstream work is systems change for the better – a well-designed system is the best way to solve problems before they occur.
  • INVISIBLE SYSTEM EXAMPLE For decades, fluoride has been added to water supplies to prevent tooth decay, a preventative invisible systematic solution that has been named one of the ten best public health achievements of the twentieth century.
  • DAMAGED GOODS EXAMPLE – to solve the problem of bikes being damaged on delivery, VanMoof added images of flatscreen TVs to their boxes, leading to more careful handling by couriers and a 70%+ reduction in damages.
  • Upstream work involves fighting against people and organisations who have become used to the system, who tacitly accept its flaws and the status quo, perhaps because in some way they benefit from the system or it’s simply much easier to become resigned to it.
  • Courage sparks the start of system change by uniting people around a common cause, but there should never be an ongoing reliance on heroism – the objective is to eliminate the need for courage because change has been instilled within the system.
  • Be in it for the long haul – realise that systems change takes time – it took decades or even centuries for these systems to form in the first place.
  • Solutions should be systemic, not personal i.e. not reliant or dependent on the judgement of persons within the system e.g. to increase workplace diversity, organisations can systematically remove names from applications, and require recruitment from a wider pool of places.
  • An important part of systems change is to give actors involved a sense of their own power to create change, a chance to express their agency, which could initially be in small ways leading onto successes in larger campaigns.
  • LIFE EXPECTANCY EXAMPLE – Anthony Iton on moving to Baltimore in 1985 was shocked at Americans who shrugged their shoulders at urban poverty, who had come to accept it as inevitable. As director of the Alameda County Public Health Department, he and his team used data to analyse life expectancy by neighbourhood, something that hadn’t been done by the department before, revealing a stark gap of 16-23 years in neighbourhoods only miles apart. He found that there wasn’t just one or two or three causes of the lower life expectancy, but that it was literally everything – a multiplicity of systemic forces that created communities that were “incubators of chronic stress” due to a lack of control over their lives – over housing, finding good education, avoiding crime, finding jobs, healthy food etc. Lower income communities were being short-changed in terms of their life spans due to the system they functioned within. People with low incomes are not born being physiologically different from those with higher incomes…they are made that way – they are made by the system. The system had been perfectly designed to produce those results. Chronic stress led to ill health and shorter lives. Of course there are exceptions, examples of people rising above their circumstances and the systems they were born into, to succeed. However, badly designed systems lower the probabilities of this happening – in higher income neighbourhoods, where systems were well designed and life expectancy longer, the probabilities were overwhelmingly in their favour. Why should we be indirectly congratulating a system where individuals have to become heroes and overcome the odds just to succeed? Iton went on to focus on giving citizens a sense of their power through political campaigning, to reshape their environments and the systemic causes of their hardships piece by piece, gradually shifting the odds back in their favour. “Greater power leads to policy victories which leads to a better environment”. Successes in a particularly community – Fresno – included a new skateboard park, and opening up of 16 school playgrounds for public use outside of school hours. Between 2010-2018, 321 policy wins and 451 system changes were achieved across 14 communities. “Power works”.


  • Systems change is complex and can take decades of effort – so it’s important as early as possible to look for a points of leverage, which can be used to gain and deliver maximum impact towards the outcomes you seek.
  • Examples of leverage points include: targeting high impact groups – small groups of people having most impact on a problem, risk factors e.g. smoking, and protective factors that could lower the incidence of the problem e.g. youth clubs.
  • Finding leverage points requires immersing yourself in the problem, to understand the issues that contribute most.
  • SEPSIS EXAMPLE In aiming to reduce patient deaths, detailed case studies of the last 50 patients that had died at each hospital within the Permanente Medical Group in Northern California, revealed that a third had died due to sepsis. This had been an infection the hospitals had been relatively ignorant to, which consequently led to a focus on patients with sepsis and a 60% reduction in deaths due to this cause.
  • EDUCATION EXAMPLE Chicago Public Schools (CPS) “was a system designed to fail half its kids”. In 1998, only 52.4% of its students graduated (the symptom). The mindset of those within CPS was an acceptance of the high dropout rate, and belief that the failure of students was either due to their own behaviour or lack of effort, or root causes beyond their control that were impossible for them to impact–poor families, student trauma, lack of nutrition, inadequate prior education. Outcomes were turned around through the use of insightful research, and problem ownership, which shifted focus onto the attainment of high school freshmen – something they could have an impact on, and a change they could make within the educational system at a key leverage point. The research had shown that achievement of students in their first year of high school was critical to their overall success. By 2018, the graduation rate shot up to 78%, an increase of 25%.


  • The aim is to design a “smoke detector” alarm system forewarning you of a problem to come, so you can take upstream action to prevent the problem occurring.
  • In some situations, you do not want too many false positives, leading to alarm fatigue where people end up ignoring the alarms. But where the impact of missing a problem would be devasting you may be willing to accept a high rate of false positives.
  • 911 EMERGENCIES EXAMPLE In New York City, Northwell Health used historical data to create their warning system, to strategically locate ambulances in areas of highest need. Data revealed that there was a spike in 911 calls on Fridays & Saturdays, during flu season, on July 4th and New Year’s Eve, and at mealtimes in nursing homes (when caregivers are guaranteed to check on residents and discover something wrong). By pre-deploying ambulances within close reach of key locations at designated times they achieved a response rate of 6.5 minutes in comparison to the national average of 8 minutes.
  • SCHOOL SHOOTINGS EXAMPLE Following the Sandy Hook School Shooting, the Sandy Hook Promise organisation researched other school shootings to develop an early warning system focusing on the mental health of potential shooters. Extreme feelings of social isolation, a strong fascination with firearms, bragging about access to guns, and acting aggressively for seemingly minor reasons – had all been warning signs that had been overlooked in past shootings. They launched a training program and anonymous reporting system to encourage students to raise any concerns they had with fellow students – effectively employing students as human sensors, as human warning signals. When this system was adopted by public schools in Pennsylvania 615 tips were received in the first week, and there were 46 suicide interventions, 3 major drug busts and warning of a school shooting threat.


  • Success is more tangible for downstream interventions. The overall aim is restore the situation to the previous state e.g. put out the fire – so success is easily measurable and evident.
  • Upstream interventions involve prevention of a problem before it even occurs – so how do you measure their success?
  • This difficulty can lead to ghost victories – superficial success which cloak failure.
  • 3 types of ghost victories:
    • 1) Assuming success that is not attributable to your work although measures show you are succeeding e.g.  your team is hitting more home runs, but it’s not through your interventions but an external factor – a decline in pitching talent. Every other team in the league is also achieving greater success as a result.
    • 2) Short term measure success but not aligned with the longer-term mission. BOSTON SIDEWALKS EXAMPLE – in Boston, measures used to assess success in sidewalk maintenance actually worked against the longer-term ambition. Research revealed that prior “success” in repairing roads, serviced as a result of phone call requests, masked the fact that almost half of these roads were already deemed to be in good condition, and lower income neighbourhoods with roads in the poorest conditions were being neglected as a result. This was because roads were only being repaired on calls received – which in the main came from richer areas – and not on the basis of need or condition. Success was partially measured by the number of closed calls – and in doing so, it appeared the team had unwittingly been providing an inequitable service. The short measures indicated a ghost victory, going against the overall mission of ensuring walkability for all Bostonians, particularly those communities most in need.
    • 3) short term measure becomes the mission undermining the overall aim (leading to cheating or “gaming” measures). HOSPITAL WAITING TIMES EXAMPLE – an investigation revealed that patients had purposely been left in ambulances in order to achieve a maximum 4-hour waiting time target, measured from the point at which they entered the hospital. CRIME DATA EXAMPLE – some police officers found indirect ways to under-report crimes or downgrade them in order to achieve more favourable crime statistics. This included purposely trying to find holes in a victim’s story with the sole intention of downgrading a crime as serious as rape. When career performance and progress is judged on hitting certain targets, people will find ways to tilt the numbers in their favour.
  • Ways to avoid ghost victories:
    • Paired measures – pair quantitative and qualitative measures to ensure real success e.g. for cleaning, measure “success” based on the size of the area cleaned during a period of time PLUS quality checks – spot checks for errors, customer satisfaction.
    • Pre-gaming – devote time to consider how short-term measures might be misused or achieved in such a way that would be deemed misleading.


  • In our quest to do good, to make the world better, how can we ensure we don’t unwittingly do harm?
  • Remember that upstream interventions involving tinkering with complex systems – you should expect reactions and consequences beyond the immediate scope of your particular area of work, and not all of them may be favourable.
  • Systems are too complex to be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned – it’s about learning to dance with them.
  • 1. Look at the system as a whole, not just the particular part you are interested in solving.
  • 2. Ask – are you intervening at the right level of the system? And what are the secondary effects of your interventions? What will fill the void (of removing something e.g. banning plastic bags)? What will receive less attention due to focusing on the intervention? How easy is it to reverse the intervention if we end up unwittingly creating harm?
  • 3. Test small, gain prompt and ongoing feedback, and implement quickly and iteratively – remember that your thoughts and planned intervention is only a theory – experiment and ask others to challenge your assumptions, create feedback mechanisms and measurement systems – and implement the feedback in order to improve.  Success does not come by foreseeing the future accurately, it’s impossible to foresee everything – we succeed by ensuring we have the feedback we need to navigate our way through.
  • 4. Check whether there have been other similar interventions and learn from them.
  • 5. On the basis of 1-4, make a decision as to whether to stage a full upstream intervention (similar to moving from pilot to launch) If the answer is no or negative to any of the above, or you haven’t created any feedback mechanisms, think carefully before proceeding.
  • FALLING BRANCHES EXAMPLE – In New York City, cutting the pruning budget (pruning being an upstream activity) led to a surprising number of settlements due to injuries caused by falling branches. Greater harm was caused by only looking at benefits to part of the system – savings on maintenance – which in fact ended up being paid out in lawsuits.
  • COBRA EXAMPLE – during the UK’s colonial rule of India, a British administrator decided to use incentives to decrease the numbers of cobras in Delhi. However he unwittingly made the problem worse – cash rewards for dead cobras created a cobra farming industry, increasing rather than decreasing numbers. Furthermore, on abolishment of the scheme, the cobra farmers released them as they were no longer of value.
  • PLASTIC BAGS EXAMPLE– the banning of plastic bags has led to some unexpected consequences e.g. in San Diego, a deadly outbreak of hepatitis A in 2017 was attributed by some to the lack of plastic bags – people who were homeless had been using them to dispose of their waste, and the void led to use of less sanitary alternatives.
  • CHARITIES EXAMPLE Is the solution you are providing really benefiting the people it is meant to serve or those employed by it? A foundation aiming to increase the financial security of those on low incomes through financial coaching actually benefited its workers – everyone in the ecosystem got paid except those  beneficiaries – “they got coached”. The problem was not that the poor lacked financial know-how – it was because they lacked money due to a lack of adequate opportunities – a system that did not favour them.


  • The cost of downstream work often far outweighs the cost of upstream work, but there is often resistance to pay for the latter despite the popular saying “Prevention is better than cure” e.g. estimates indicate that  for every $1 dollar spent adding fluoride to water supplies, society saves $20 in avoided dental costs.
  • Preventative efforts succeed when the problem is prevented i.e. nothing happens. Who will pay for what does not happen? How do we get people to pay to prevent problems rather than paying for reactionary fixes, often at a much higher cost because the problem is far worse by that point?
  • Part of the challenge is that many people and organisations do not want to invest in a programme that will provide rewards years in the future – that will pay them back eventually.
  • Solution 1: Government funding -Seek private/alternative sources of funding initially, implement a study of the intervention to assess its impacts based on measures agreed in advance, if successful the government agrees to fund the intervention permanently. The government benefits from not having to undertake a big financial risk at the outset, and future funding is underpinned by evidence of the intervention’s success.
  • Solution 2:  Create incentives for organisations to adopt preventative measures.
  • ACO EXAMPLE  The Accountable Care Organisation (ACO) model allows primary care doctors to group together and share savings achieved by managing patient’s healthcare better, often achieved through proactive solutions – spending more time with patients, monitoring early warning metrics such as weight and blood pressure, ensuring these head in the right direction – and thus reducing the need for more costly downstream measures such as hospital visits.
  • CAPITATION EXAMPLE – healthcare providers get paid a flat fee per patient to take care of all of their healthcare needs regardless of the number of interventions required. These payments are risk adjusted e.g. higher payments for an elderly person compared to a 25-year old. The capitation model incentivises upstream approaches such as providing free healthy food for diabetics, thus avoiding more costly downstream interventions. Pairing quantitative and qualitative measures e.g. patient health metrics and patient satisfaction surveys ensures providers do not game the system by providing less services – they receive less money where patients report being unsatisfied or they allow their health to deteriorate.


  • How can you personally move upstream? Upstream thinking is not just for organisations, it’s for individuals too.
  • There are lots of things you could invest in – how do you choose?
    • What do you care so much about that you are willing to commit to it year after year, through obstacles and defeats?
    • What problem are you willing to really learn about up close? Macro starts with micro – to help a million people you first need to understand how to help one; if you want to help solve big problems in the world, seek out groups with ambitious visions that have proximate experience of the problem.
    • Could you change the organisation you currently work for and improve the system from within?
  • How can you engage in upstream thinking in your personal life, in relationships? Adopt the mindset of upstream thinking, take personal responsibility for issues and believe in your power to solve them – think of the Move my Chair example above.


    • PROBLEMATISE NORMAL – give a problematic experience a name.
    • BELIEVE IN YOUR POWER TO POSITIVELY IMPACT OUTCOMES How many problems in our lives and in society are we tolerating simply because we’ve gradually given away our power, accepting apathy and the inevitability of negative outcomes as substitutions? Because we have forgotten that we can fix them?
    • TAKE OWNERSHIP – you may not be the one to create a problem, but you can be the one to fix it. Become a leader. Move from “Can’t someone (else) fix this problem?” to “How can I/we solve this problem?”
  • BUILD IN TIME FOR PREVENTATIVE THINKING without guaranteed time for thinking about the wider system and preventative solutions you can get stuck in tunnelling – in a cycle of reactionary band aid fixes. 
  • BE IN IT FOR THE LONG GAME – it takes time and commitment – years and decades rather than days and months to see the fruit of your labour when undertaking upstream work, due to the broadness of the problem landscape and the complexity of various moving parts and actors within the system. Be impatient for action (change is not based on lofty ideals but is delivered through action) but patient for outcomes.
  • HAVE HUMILITY – the humility to learn, to be wrong, to listen and take on feedback, to take on the hard and complex work and not be discouraged.
  • CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY – to start preventing a problem that will result far off in the future unless action is taken now, you need to create a sense of urgency to attract attention and demand for the problem to be to fixed. People and organisations are constantly dealing with urgent short-term problems – planning for speculative future ones by definition is not urgent. To compete with people’s daily concerns, to overcome indifference and the difficulty in convincing people to collaborate when hardship hasn’t forced them to, create an image and use language that captures people’s imaginations, that enables them to understand the world they could avoid through their efforts now. E.g. The term “ozone hole” created visual imagery that helped the public understand the need to take action to prevent further damage to the ozone layer – alike the urgent need to fix a hole in a roof or a boat.
  • FIX THE SYSTEM, NOT THE SYMPTOMS Upstream work is concerned with creating change at the systematic level – with changing the processes and rules that govern us and the culture that influences us – for better outcomes.  Downstream work reacts to problems, treating the symptoms, allowing the root cause to remain – a perpetual cycle. At the heart of the upstream approach, if there is a problem or failure, its root cause is within the system, as “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”.
  • UNITE THE RIGHT PEOPLE – Surround the problem with those with the knowledge, experience and authority to make a positive impact.
  • HUNT FOR LEVERAGE POINTS IN THE SYSTEM to deliver maximum impact towards the outcomes you want to achieve.
  • GET UP CLOSE TO A PROBLEM to understand the key issues.
  • SPOT PROBLEMS EARLY ON – create “smoke alarms” to spot early warning signs of impending problems and intervene.
  • AVOID HARM –make sure you ask the right questions before pursuing an intervention.
  • GET STARTED & GAIN FEEDBACK – Don’t obsess about formulating the perfect solution before getting started – ongoing feedback is key. Take ownership of the underlying problem and start slogging forward. You could spend time designing the perfect (untested) intervention and hope for the best, or start with a pretty good solution with numerous built-in feedback loops, that can’t help to get better over time.
  • DETERMINE HOW TO MEASURE SUCCESS ACCURATELY to avoid ghost victories and unintended consequences.
  • MAKE USE OF THE LATEST DATA – to solve dynamic and complex problems before they occur.
  • CONDUCT TESTS AHEAD OF FULL IMPLEMENTATION. The benefits of pre-planning and simulations in emergencies and humanitarian disaster planning include:
    • 1) boosting readiness before the real situation occurs by revealing problems and developing improvements and tweaks to the system (e.g. implementation of learning from logjams in prior hurricane evacuations improved the contraflow process during Hurricane Katrina, saving lives);
    • 2) get stakeholders to know each other before having to work together in a real emergency and to understand the linkages in the system, as  “you don’t want to be exchanging business cards in the middle of an emergency”.

This is a book where a variety of examples are given that are key to a nuanced and deep understanding of the nature of upstream work – buy the book here.

Uncopyable by Steve Miller

Buy the book here!


In a competitive market, how do you stand out? Reverse your thinking! Stop focusing on the tangible and copyable end deliverable – your product or service. Instead use Uncopyable – the ‘Orange Marketing Guide’ to ‘hunt your moose’ and elevate the intangible elements of your business – your branding, stealing genius innovation, and rockstar customer experience combined – to become unique. To become ultimately… UNCOPYABLE.


  • Study aliens. Steal Genius.
  • Learn why and how to hunt a moose.
  • Why a $0.96 tube of toothpaste could be your marketing gem.
  • The importance of the next step.
  • How to create attachment through that rockstar feeling.


  • Old model to be competitively different: either a better product, a better price, or a better service.
  • When a customer can’t differentiate between two products based on performance or quality, they look to a company’s service and if they can’t differentiate on this, they look to the last point of differentiation: price.  You don’t want to be competing on price as it’s a losing battle. Undercutting on price may work for a while until you get usurped, e.g. Amazon usurped Walmart.
  • Instead aim to become Uncopyable not just better, as better can always be bettered by someone else.
  • Use Uncopyable tools and approach to create a superior exclusive customer attachment to your business – an experience and relationship so special and valuable it can’t be found anywhere else.


  • The product or service you sell is tangible and therefore easily copyable. The combination of your branding, storytelling, and customer experience are intangible and therefore much easier to make uncopyable.
  • You not only want to be different from competitors, you also want to create an attachment with your customers.
  • Build your own box and create attachment through:
    • Uncopyable Innovation
    • Uncopyable Marketing
    • Uncopyable Branding
    • Uncopyable Experience


  • Competition doesn’t breed innovation. Competition breeds conformity. If it can be copied, it will be copied.
  • Don’t compete, use Stealing Genius to innovate (to offer something unique and valuable) and become uncopyable.
  • Study aliens – study organisations and people outside of your field, that are alien to you, to give you a fresh perspective. And steal their ideas – steal their genius and apply it to your organisation.
  • This is similar to the concept of recombinant innovation.
  • You need to develop an ongoing practice of observation and curiosity, stepping outside of what is popular.
  • Of course, keep an eye on your competition to ensure you offer the minimum standards expected by your customer base in your field– the benchmark– e.g. all hotel guests will expect to have coffee/tea making facilities in their room whichever hotel they stay at.
  • However, you never get new ideas from your competition – you can only take their improvements and perhaps make them a little better.
  • Look at what everyone else is doing and don’t do it. Ask“…What’s the thing that’s not in the world that should be…?” (Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton)
  • EXAMPLE McDonalds Stole Genius– McDonalds created their first fast food drive-through in 1975 by observing bank drive-throughs, as a way to attract business from soldiers who were forbidden to leave their cars whilst wearing army fatigues. Nowadays 50-70% of all sales are from drive-through customers.
  • Example Southwest Airlines Stole Genius – the airline used the efficiency employed by NASCAR pit crews servicing racing cars and applied it to airplane cleaning and preparation times. This led to an increase in average daily flights to 10.5 compared to the industry average of 5 and thus an increase in revenue (as airlines make money from flights not downtime).
  • When studying alien organisations, ask yourself:
    • What is this alien organisation doing to impact a customer’s experience?
    • What encourages people to spend money with them?
    • What is different about this business?
    • How do they communicate with customers?
    • How do customers experience the organisation?
  • For innovative ideas, don’t necessarily rely on asking your customers– nobody asked for a cell phone let alone a smart phone, no-one asked for the internet. Henry Ford:“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.
  • To see through a different filter and generate new insights, ask yourself – “What would Disney do?”, “What would Apple do?”.
  • Develop a habit of active awareness, of mindful observation – wherever you are, always have an enquiring mind looking for ideas.
  • You need to keep being Uncopyable – it’s not a fixed target but a moving one – what is uncopyable now will not be forever.
  • EXERCISE Unique Ideas: on the left-hand side (LHS) of a sheet of paper write all the reasons why someone should do business with you. On the right, write why they should do business with your competition. Cross out reasons that are the same on both sides …those left on the LHS are now those that are unique to you – the unique ideas you should now focus on.

UNCOPYABLE MARKETING: How to attract your moose

  • Recognise the importance of marketing – it is not an afterthought; it is not something you do after you have produced your product or service – it is paramount. You are not in the business of making golf clubs. You are in the business of marketing and selling golf clubs. You are selling the experience of using your golf clubs – if you are unable to sell them, you’ll end up with a big pile of steel. The golf club is incidental – it is the end deliverable of what you are selling.
  • Marketing is about awareness. It seeks to attract people to your business, to generate interest. It involves understanding your potential customers, promoting your business to them and building a relationship.
  • Uncopyable Marketing Approach – 1. MARKET > 2. MESSAGE > 3. MEDIA > 4. MOMENT
    • 1. MARKET: Who is Your Market?
  • Demographic: Who are they? Where are they located? Who is your ideal customer? What is their profile? Create an avatar.
  • Psychographic: What are their pain points (that you can remove)? What challenges do they face everyday? What are their aspirations? What solutions have they tried that haven’t worked?
    • 2. MESSAGE: What message can you create to get their attention?
  • Join the conversation that is going on in their head e.g. if your business is related to weight loss, the conversation isn’t about weight loss, it’s about how that will make them feel – turn heads, feel confident etc.
  • Always enter the conversation that is already taking place in the customers mind and align with it. People are thinking about their own interest, their loved ones, and how to advance – how can you embed yourself within their sphere?
  • The better you understand what your market is thinking, the easier it is to develop a relationship.
    • 3. MEDIA: What media can you use to deliver your message to your market?
  • It is backwards to choose the medium first and then hope your market is there.
  • You don’t need to use all media channels (e.g. trade ad, social media, mailing), just the ones your target market is already on, otherwise it’s a waste of time. E.g. if your market reads a certain magazine, place advert or get an article published.
  • Think “hunt moose” – your strategy is to hunt moose (your target market) – you aren’t interested in the other animals in the forest – the bears, the birds, the wild cats. Tailor your hunt for moose only – investigate what they eat (what can you use to bait them – your message), what paths do they follow through the forest, what will get your moose’s attention. Your message should be like a dog (or moose in this case) whistle – only dogs (moose) can hear it. That’s the perfect message – you aren’t trying to attract all of the animals in the forest – only those that will be interested.
  • You want to use your media to uncover your leads among prospects – the ones who are interested in what you have to say and want to stay in touch. A prospect fits the profile of your target market, to become a lead they must show some level of interest.
    • 4. MOMENT: Will your market (moose) think of you when they are ready to buy?
  • Does your target market think of you first when they need a solution? Although they may not need your solution at the moment they receive your message, when they do, will they think of you first? Or even at all?
  • Your aim is to be the only source your prospects think about.
  • What triggers can you create to help them remember you WHEN they are ready to buy (e.g. Steve Miller gives orange moose whistle as gifts, as memory triggers for his business).
  • Next-step marketing – use this to get your moose to remember you and take that next step along the customer pathway. The essential idea is that there is always a next step – that your customers engage with your business through a series of steps, your focus is to get them to that next step. E.g. you send a mailing to prospects…what is the next step? It isn’t (yet) to buy your product – it is to get them to open the mailing in the first place! Always think of the tools at your disposal to get them to take that very next action.

UNCOPYABLE BRANDING: Create your own box

  • Branding is your identity – who are you and how do people recognise you? It’s about your promise to the marketplace – why do you exist, what is your offering?
  • Branding makes you memorable to your moose. It resonates with your moose, establishes your credibility, and differentiates you from the competition.
  • You are not trying to think outside the box – you are trying to create your own box. 
  • EXAMPLE Motorcycle: think of a motorcycle – what comes to mind? Your brain scans for associations with this word – for some it may be danger, for others it could be noise, freedom, Honda, Suzuki – all of these associations are in the same box called “motorcycle”. So how can you compete? Harley Davidson is a great example of a business that has created its own box. They do not sell motorcycles, they sell fantasy and community. Their box is filled with black leather jackets, belonging, freedom, rebellion, adventure …
  • Build your own box and fill it with things that resonate with your moose (your target market), things that keep you out of that generic big box.
  • Your brand could be the founder who has a unique captivating personality – that’s uncopyable.
  • Branding tools for building your own unique box:
    • Claim a WORD or PHRASE – e.g. Disney owns the phrase “Happiest Place on Earth” – not happy, nor happier, but happiest. How can you reinforce and symbolise your chosen word or phrase to get it into the minds of customers so they link that word with your business?
    • Claim a COLOUR  e.g. Coca Cola owns red. Uncopyable author Steve Miller owns the colour orange – in public he always wears orange, his glasses are orange, his gifts are orange, he uses orange envelopes – when you think of orange you think Uncopyable – it’s a trigger.
    • Create TRIGGERS – Steve Miller uses a Moose Whistle (an orange dog whistle relabelled) to remind prospects and leads of the need to hunt moose (go for their target market)– it triggers memories of his message and therefore of him.
    • Create Your Own LANGUAGE – Starbucks has created its own coffee language – the triple venti skinny, half-caf, the black eye – only those words will be associated with your company.
    • What is your STORY? – Storytelling is an extremely powerful branding tool – people connect with stories and they provide an image of what your company stands for, humanising your company. Stories help build trust in your business, and importantly, people tell stories to others. Stories are unique – uncopyable. What kinds of stories can you tell to connect with your moose? e.g. how and why your company started, a grievance story (every idea starts with a problem), a mission story – your mission to solve a social problem through your business.

UNCOPYABLE EXPERIENCE: Create that rockstar feeling

  • The aim is to create attachment – personal and emotional, the perception of high value, and a fear of losing that attachment.
  • Attachment generates loyalty, repeat business and referrals to others.
  • Create an amazing experience that wants to be REPEATED, REMEMBERED, SHARED.
  • Create a club – you want people to feel like they want to become part of your exclusive club – to feel like rock stars – special, elevated – the cool kids. People want a sense of belonging, a sense of exclusivity and to feel valued.
    • A club that delivers this means they won’t want to leave – if they do they will lose that unique high value experience.
    • EXAMPLE – Airline frequent prisoner (sorry flyer) programmes are examples of successful clubs – you can’t leave otherwise you lose your collected airmiles and will no longer be cool.
    • EXAMPLE – if you are a MAC person you are in a club – you are part of the cool gang who use aesthetically designed Apple products rather than PCs.
  • How can you make your customers feel special, like rock stars?
    • Give your top customers something no one else has, that is hard to get – e.g. information for free that others have to buy, or the first to get this information so they gain an advantage.
    • You could set levels that reward the best customers and provide an incentive for others to work towards e.g. a frequent flyer program that has bronze, silver, gold levels.
    • Become the master networker of your field – the person your customers come to make contact with others – a powerful resource that is uncopyable.
    • Do something more than just delivering your service or product.
    • Example: Southwest Airlines creates wow experiences onboard that cannot be copied, that make their customers feel like rock stars – and it doesn’t have to cost a thing (read the book page 88 to find out more).
    • Example: The Muse Hotel in Manhattan makes guests feel valuable through creating a wow moment, an unexpected experience, through a small but significant action, through their attention to detail. “Our thinking caps are always on as we imagine ways to keep things fresh and welcoming for you” is their brand promise. This was brought to life when a housekeeper, on noticing an empty tube of toothpaste that had been discarded, went out and replaced it, doing a service for Steve Miller as a guest without even asking, as if they had read his mind. This is an example of an experience to be shared, a story that will be told to others who will want to experience what this hotel has to offer. This is free marketing – all through a small tube of toothpaste worth 96 cents.
    • The key is to make people feel valued and valuable – you are not looking for them to recognise your excellence – you are instead focusing on them and recognising their value and excellence. Nobody forgets that feeling. And it’s an experience – a story that will be shared with many others.
    • Create Shock-and Awe Packages – wow your market. Go above and beyond – provide a wonderful package to new customers to enhance your relationship and to separate you from the competition.
    • Example: Steve Miller after signing his publishing deal received a package from the publisher containing a handwritten welcome note, three books relevant to becoming a successful author, an infographic poster on book publishing, popcorn and CDS from other published authors.
    • Example: Steve Miller used shock and awe packages to instil trust in the quality and value of his offering and generate new speaking gigs, sending the following to good prospects – copies of testimonial letters, videos of him speaking, an unusual gift e.g. pair of orange sunglasses, an orange moose whistle (memorable triggers), copies of articles he’d written, copies of his books. He sent them to confirm he was the right person for the job, and it worked.
  • Creating the experience that leads to personal attachment to your company is the key ingredient of the Uncopyable approach.


  • Disney World – they don’t sell amusement parks – they sell unique uncopyable experiences.
  • Hamilton theatre show – creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, used non-traditional means to engage with fans leading to its soaring popularity e.g. $10 daily ticket lottery, impromptu short performances, school studies of the show.
  • Tiger Woods – he became unbeatable by becoming an athlete – being in peak physical condition had not been a standard part of the golf world previously.
  • High Point University – provides students with a unique and unforgettable learning experience e.g. on starting students undertake a Life Skills course, they learn through  simulations of real-world experiences e.g. a replica of a financial trading floor, they experience weekly gourmet meals where they learn social and dining etiquette. The university has created a club that students absolutely want to be a part of – and don’t want to leave.
  • Harley Davidson – do not sell motorcycles – they sell the ability for a 43-year old accountant “to dress in black leather, ride through small towns, and have people be afraid for them”. It sells fantasy and community; with such a unique brand it is difficult for other companies to copy them.

Learn about referral marketing and more great examples of Uncopyable businesses to steal genius from – buy the book here!

The 1% Rule by Tommy Baker

Buy the book here!


Most men lead live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”. Endless time, complacency and distraction are the Silent Snatchers of our dreams. Wake up! Seize the certainty of death to live – use the 1% Rule to thrive.


  • Curb Time – Create Urgency
  • Curb Choice – Choose
  • End Vanilla – Captivate Yourself
  • Curb Complacency – Choose Growth
  • Curb Dreaming – Start Doing
  • End Sometimes – Do It Daily
  • End Instant – Delay Gratification
  • End Solo – Get Support
  • Curb Distraction – Say No and Focus
  • Curb How – Adopt the 1% Rule


  • Your time is now. Stop acting like you have all the time in the world.
  • If you keep waiting to get started, you’ll wake up one day and wonder where your life went.
  • Manufacture urgency – urgency is not natural – it has to be created and recreated e.g. cut your target completion date in half and start now.
  • The amateur sits around waiting to be inspired – the pro creates inspiration.


  • Indecision is a big dream killer.
  • Too much choice means you don’t get to focus on what is really valuable, on what is really important.
  • Kill thinking you can have everything, kill thinking you don’t have to make a choice.
  • Instead of opting for choice, choose. Instead of allowing yourself options, decide what’s most meaningful to you – CHOOSE.


  • A lack of vision and clarity means you end up serving the dreams of others.
  • Create a vision so big and bold you feel electrified and uneasy.  No vanilla allowed! Captivate yourself, captivate your emotions. It should resonate deeply and move you – you should be able to touch it, smell it, live it – it should bring you to tears. You should feel an energetic shift as you think and talk about, like experiencing your dream holiday, like testing your dream car.
  • How badly do you want it? This passion is ‘your why’. It must pull at your heartstrings – it will keep you going in the face of extraordinary challenges.
  • Remember – YOU WILL die. Focus your attention on what you really want, stop thinking you have something to lose, follow your heart.


  • Complacency is a killer.
  • Growth requires constant challenge, something that stretches you, that pushes you to the edge of your perceived limits.
  • Without challenge we wither away, we fade. We become complacent, stuck, bored, apathetic. Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capacity – no longer being tested – start to suck the life force out of us.
  • How do you know if you have joined the one-way track to complacency? You no longer feel challenged. Your enthusiasm wanes. The status quo has become your comfort blanket. You lose your spark.
  • Fear can seduce us into the dangerous comforting arms of complacency. We start to accept less. Resistance wants to keep you small, to keep you imprisoned from your dreams. Learn to love the resistance and the courage it takes to live a life on your own terms.
  • The greater the fear, the greater its importance to the growth of our soul.

Growth – Becoming Someone Different

  • Your vision is about achieving something you haven’t done before – you will have to become someone different to achieve it. You will have to change, and change is uncomfortable.
  • When you truly love who you’re becoming, you will become unstoppable.
  • In order to grow, you need to be in the game, feeling the pressure, intensity, high stakes, and sleepless nights. Sitting on the side-lines watching the game, analysing, criticising – sees you remain a spectator, merely pretending at the game of life.
  • Change and growth require different inputs to generate different outputs. Doing the same thing and expecting change is madness. 


  • The amateur lives in a world of insights and “aha” moments, stopping there. The pro uses these by executing on them. Don’t allow your potential to be wasted – take action, implement what you read and learn.
  • Motivational conferences and reading alone won’t make it happen. Move from KNOWING (the insight, spark, concept – the starting point) to DOING (the endless reps, practice, challenge – this is when it starts to get hard – and where most people quit –) to BEING (where the magic happens – the integration – you become more than just the concept and the practice – it’s who you are).
  • The greatest way to influence is not directly – it is by becoming a beacon and allowing others the space to do the same.

There’s power in adversity

  • Expect challenges, adversity and chaos at least once every single day. This knowledge can excite you, and stop you becoming disheartened when obstacles arise.
  • Reframe challenges as opportunities to grow.
  • Use negativity as fuel – insults and opposition can be used as motivation to prove others wrong. Positivity is great, but sometimes you need to harness the creative power found in those darker emotions.
  • Pain is your power – it contains a gift – it can drive you to do exceed your wildest dreams, to move so far away from the circumstances that would bring you to experience that pain again e.g. homelessness to millionaire.


  • When choosing a goal, realise this is not a one-off choice. You are choosing to make the same choice day after day after day.
  • In fact, when you choose a goal, you don’t really have a choice. If you want to lose weight you MUST exercise, you MUST eat healthily. There is no choice.
  • And you must choose it consistently – doing exercise once or as you feel will not see you lose the weight.
  • You won’t be spirituality on fire after 3 mediation sessions. You won’t have a 6-pack after hitting the gym twice. 
  • If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want will become the sacrifice. Everything costs something. Everything.

Keep persisting

  • Keep heading towards your goal no matter the obstacles and rejections. JK Rowling persisted through numerous rejections.
  • Persistence kicks in when that initial high of doing something new wears off. People fail because they don’t stick with the process after the good feeling fades, and through the hard times.
  • It involves choosing the path again, and again, and again, and again, no matter what.
  • Know that you will face obstacles, sleepless nights, existential crises and moments that bring you to your knees – that’s part of the path.
  • Behind every overnight success are years of effort, struggle, and rejection and consistent action.
  • Don’t compare yourself to someone’s end result, go back to their first iteration.
  • Use comparison to spur you on – you can compare yourself to others and use it to stay stuck, disempowered, excusing yourself from even attempting change OR you can see their success as your own greatness reflected back to you and step up to the plate.

Keep Moving Forward

  • Always just focus on the next step – right here, right now. This is especially true in moments of pain, resistance and exhaustion.
  • Ask “What can I do RIGHT NOW that can prove that my vision is not only possible, but is coming true?” This is especially important when you are not seeing any results, or experience chaos.
  • Even on days, months, years when you feel low in energy or depressed, just do one purposeful activity to start your day – every day. It can be as simple as making your bed – the important thing isn’t what you do, rather that you just keep doing it. Keep it small, almost laughably so. You will notice an upgrade in your energy, even if only slight. This will start to have a snowball effect.
  • Progress isn’t linear – we go through different seasons e.g. a season of rest and recharge, a season of intense action, a season of rewards reaped from our efforts – and we may spend months or even years in any season.
  • If we are doing something daily, we are creating a habit. We always revert back to our level of training, not our expectations i.e. our habits are who we are.
  • Be productive – notice when you are just being busy (e.g. reading a motivational book) versus being productive towards your goals (highlighting and implementing the learning in your life).
  • Be productive rather than busy – 20% of your actions drive 80% of your results.
  • Be just as intentional (‘productive’) with your downtime as your work activity. If you are going to rest then really rest – recharge and disconnect e.g. get up and go for a walk to refresh yourself, instead of sitting at your desk idly checking your phone.


  • Fall in love with delayed gratification.
  • A farmer doesn’t plant seeds and wake up yelling in frustration the next day that the crop hasn’t bloomed. Instead they trust the process – with sunshine, water, and patience the crops will bear fruit.
  • Why do some people fail to reach their goals? They expect too much too early and give up at the first sign of struggle – overnight success is a decade in the making.
  • Remember, “the first iteration of your goals is never the end result – the magic is in the pivot e.g. YouTube started as a video dating site, and noticed people wanted to share content rather than look for dates and pivoted. Instagram started as a digital check-in app and discovered people were taking pictures of places they’d checked in at and pivoted.


  • Maximum Urgency + Maximum Accountability = Maximum Results
  • The more successful you are, the higher you get, the more accountability and urgency forms part of your experience e.g. a person becoming a CEO becomes accountable to shareholders, employees, executive team etc.
  • Create systems, structures and people to ensure you follow through – this will ensure consistent productivity over the long term.
  • Accountability is uncomfortable – it sounds great on paper, until you are being challenged on why you didn’t complete a crucial task on 2 hours sleep.
  • How to choose an accountability group? 1. Do these people have the results you want? 2. Do they challenge and push you to new levels of execution? 
  • Accountability comes in different forms e.g. coach, mentor, events, mastermind groups – but a core trait is that it involves a healthy dose of being challenged.
  • We often surround ourselves with enablers, people who don’t respect us enough to challenge our behaviour. If someone truly respects and appreciates you, they will push you past your excuses. That’s a powerful relationship – one to nurture and keep hold of.


  • Lack of focus is the number 1 obstacle standing between people and their dreams.
  • Reaching our goals involves self-control, delayed gratification and ignoring distractions and temptations that can divert us from our path.
  • Emails and social media are dream killers – putting you in the driver’s seat for someone else’s vision.
  • In a world telling you to choose others, choose yourself. You need to be selfish to achieve success.
  • If you don’t fill your day with high-priority items, others will fill your day with low-priority items.
  • Questions to ask yourself daily: Did I really move the needle forward in my life and business (today)? Which activities truly mattered, and which could be deleted? Was I moving myself forward or just other people’s agendas?
  • “A warrior is an average man with laser like focus” (Bruce Lee).

Double your rate of Saying No

  • Execute non-negotiable ruthless boundaries e.g. stop checking emails all day – set regular hours for checking e.g. at 10am, at 1pm, at 4pm.
  • You don’t have to say no to things that are truly important – think WIN-WIN. Instead of thinking you need to give up one part of your life in order to progress another, think about how you can better integrate the different facets of your life and how they can feed each other e.g. you could exercise with your partner and therefore complete 2 goals at once.

Delete what’s not serving you

  • “Your mental real estate is priceless”. Your mind is like a house – why do you so willingly fill it with junk? We let people and things of little importance take residence within our minds, rent – free. Your mind is not a rundown home in the slums – it’s a spectacular beachfront home of incredible value – everyone wants it! Start recognising that fact – cut back the weeds and delete what doesn’t serve.
  • To create space in your life to achieve what you want you need to delete anything and everything that doesn’t serve your path.
  • Every time you grow and expand into a new experience, audit your surroundings. Every time you achieve a breakthrough, audit your circle.
  • To change who we are, we need to change our environment – our environment reminds us of who we have been and can subconsciously induce the same state of mind we are trying to get away from. To stop this, we need to interrupt our reality: 1. Physical Interrupt – change our physical state e.g. by doing 10 star jumps – anything to get us breathing hard; 2. Spiritual Interrupt – mediate for a minute; 3. Emotional interrupt – a silent 1 minute scream to release built up emotions; 4. Mental Interrupt – e.g. journal, listen to music.
  • Over 50% of what is in your life is not serving your vision – you allow things to stay in your life out of comfort.  Do a life audit. Delete what’s not serving you to create space for the 1% Rule to Work.


  • ‘The How’ is where dreams go to die.
  • Why do some people fail? They focus on ‘how’ more than their passionate ‘why’. They focus on the big end result which overwhelms and paralyses, instead of inspiring to action.
  • The gap between that great idea and reality leads to doubt, procrastination, confusion and the crushing of a dream.
  • The 1% RULE is the solution – allowing you to dream big but start small, through reverse engineering.

Reverse Engineering

  • At the core of the 1% Rule is the use of reverse engineering to breakdown any large vision into its smallest common denominator, so tiny that it’s impossible for you to fail to make progress each and every day.
  • Process over end result – when you focus on small daily actions tied to a larger vision – you feel inspired rather than overwhelmed.
  • Dream big but start small.
  • Break your vision down into CORE OUTCOME, CORE PROCESS and 1% (DAILY) PROCESS.
  • Example BUSINESS: CORE OUTCOME =generate $35,000 within the next 90 days,  CORE PROCESS = reach out to 2,500 leads within the next 90 days, 1% PROCESS = generate 27 prospect calls every single day.
  • Example: SPIRITUALITY: CORE OUTCOME = create more inner peace and reduce stress, CORE PROCESS = wake up 15 minutes earlier to allow the time, 1% PROCESS = minimum of 7 minutes meditation every day.

The Equation


1% progress + daily application (consistency) + persistence (focus) + time (endurance) = SUCCESS

  • 1% progress – make progress and move forward daily, no matter how small.
  • Consistency – do the action daily – each and every day – and see your effort compound over time.
  • Persistence – stick with it beyond the initial high and choose it again and again, despite challenges, obstacles and distractions.
  • Endurance – stay with the process for long enough to see your dreams come true. Have patience.

The 1% Rule core question: If I moved the needle forward 1% in every area of my life, every single day, what would my life look like in one year?

  • It would actually be more than 1%+1%+1%…= a 365% upgrade across a year – due to compounding, we have the potential of advancing by 3700% over a year. That’s a huge upgrade in terms of our health, relationships, finances etc, all by enacting a small 1% daily action, and doing it with consistency, persistence and patience.
  • Design a process you love – you will spend more time carrying out the process than in the achievement of the end result so ensure you enjoy it.
  • Track your progress – reflection is just as important as action – assess where you are with your goals, and if you are heading in the right direction.
  • Celebrate small wins – this will keep you inspired and on track – progress no matter how small is motivating.

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking by Matthew Syed

Buy the book here!


Harmonious thinking can be dangerous, by clones who are individually intelligent but collectively stupid. Harness the power of diversity and the rebel idea! Bring people together who think differently to advance the collective brain and solve the world’s wicked problems.


  • Alike the classic story ‘The Blind Men & The Elephant’ – a diversity of perspectives is needed to see the whole elephant – the bigger picture.
  • Harmony can be blindingly dangerous.
  • Intelligence can be collectively dumb.
  • Great minds think unalike.
  • It’s better to be social than smart.
  • Become an outsider.
  • The progress of humanity depends on diversity.


  • Everyone wants better. Better ideas. Better performance. Better productivity. Better innovation.  Better solutions. For complex tasks, cognitive diversity and rebel ideas lie at the heart of this.
  • To solve the world’s most challenging problems, hire a team based on diversity of their thinking rather than performance or expertise alone. Experts can be vulnerable to bias that undermine their capacity to make wise judgments, there is a need to work with a range of people who think differently not just accurately.
  • This is about cognitive diversity (thinking differently) rather than demographic diversity (gender, race, age, religion etc), although there is some overlap.
  • Problems are too complex for any one person to tackle alone. Groups that contain diverse views have a huge advantage. It is not a case of one person being right and another wrong – looking at a problem through different lenses can jog new insights, metaphors and solutions. Sometimes you need to look at a problem in new ways, with the eyes of an outsider.
  • Complex problems are often multi-layered and therefore require multiple insights and points of view.
  • The more diverse the perspectives, the wider the range of potentially viable solutions.
  • EXAMPLE: An experiment looked at the responses by American and Japanese people to the same video clips of underwater scenes. The Americans recalled high level details of the fish – a focus on objects. The Japanese instead focused on the context – the water, rocks and plants. It was as of the groups were seeing different scenes. The experiment revealed differences in thinking shaped by culture – America – a more individualistic society – revealed by their focus on objects. Japan – a more interdependent culture – revealed by their focus on context. Furthermore, combining these different frames of reference created a more comprehensive insight of the whole scene.
  • You need wise individuals (with knowledge relevant to the topic of focus) as well as diverse individuals – asking a group of laypeople to estimate the rise in ocean levels over the next decade won’t get you very far. However a diverse range of experts will overcome blind spots that arise in a group of experts with the same frame of reference.
  • For complex problems you need diversity. For simple performance-based tasks, diversity is a distraction. EXAMPLE for a relay team of 6 runners, you want 6 Usain Bolts– everyone one of them would be faster than anybody in any other team, so you want to hire based on best performance. Conversely, for an accurate economic forecast (a complex task given countless influencing factors – businesses, consumers, banks etc), hiring 6 clones of the most accurate forecaster in the world would not provide the most accurate forecast. A study indicates that a diverse group of 6 forecasters while individually less impressive, would be 15% more accurate. This is because the cloned economists would have the same way of looking at the world, the same frames of reference, the same blind-spots. They would all be looking at the same side of the elephant. No one economist has the whole truth. A group of diverse economists, able to see more of the whole elephant, collectively gets us closer to the truth.
  • Collective intelligence requires both ABILITY AND DIVERSITY.


  • A group of wise individuals can become an unwise board. The problem isn’t a single person, the problem emerges from the whole.
  • How homogeneity of perspective led to dismissing the threat of Osama bin Laden. “They could not believe that this tall Saudi with a beard, squatting around a camp-fire, could be a threat to the United States of America”. “How can a man in a cave out-communicate the world’s leading communications society?” To a homogeneous group of CIA analysts, lacking in cognitive diversity, bin Laden looked primitive and thus of no serious danger to a technological giant like the US. They simply could not see any benefit in allocating resources to pursue intelligence on someone they viewed as the ‘essence of backwardness’. Instead, someone more familiar with Islam could have perceived the same images in a different way. Bin Laden’s simple cloth and postures were not signs of primitiveness in terms of intellect or technology, but symbolic, evoking imagery of the Prophet – they magnified his potency to many Muslims. Warnings of danger were raised by many in the Muslim world but were invisible or dismissed by those unfamiliar with the faith – those CIA agents who had been hired as the brightest and the best (on the basis of performance rather than cognitive diversity).  The potency of his messages was visible only to those looking with the right lens. The dots depicted a pattern but required a diverse team to connect them. Different frames of reference, would have created a more comprehensive, nuanced and powerful synthesis. The CIA agents were individually perceptive but COLLECTIVELY BLIND.
  • Homogeneous groups share and reinforce their blind spots, through “mirroring”. Certainty becomes inversely correlated with accuracy – they are far more likely to be wrong but more confident about their (wrong) judgement.
  • Why harmony can be dangerous – working in homogeneous groups produces the warm glow of homophily it is more enjoyable to agree, parrot, and confirm– social harmony can delude groups into thinking they are honing in on wise policy when in fact they are compounding each other’s blinds spot.  We unconsciously enjoy being surrounded by people who share our perspectives – it is comforting and validating. It makes us feel individually intelligent as we become ever more collectively stupid.
  • Teams of rebels outperform teams of clones. Teams that are diverse in personal experiences tend to have richer, more nuanced understanding of their fellow human beings, and have a wider array of perspectives and fewer blind spots. Cognitive diversity is set to become a key source of competitive advantage.
  • Wise groups of rebels are not clone like, they do not parrot the same view, they have perspectives that challenge, augment, diverge and cross-pollinate. The individuals are no smarter than those in homogeneous groups, but the group possesses vastly higher levels of collective intelligence. Collective intelligence emerges from the differences between the individuals. Just as a car only works due to the interaction of its parts, and the intelligence of the brain derives from the interaction of its parts, diverse teams exceed the capability of (albeit smart) individuals through the interaction of its members.
  • A substantial proportion of the biggest blunders by governments across political persuasions is due to the lack of social diversity in political elites. Government officials project their lifestyles onto the masses and devise policies on this basis. Example: For decades in northern Sweden, snow clearing policy prioritised the clearing of major roads ending with pedestrian walkways. However, statistics previously overlooked, indicated that hospital admissions for injuries caused by slippery icy conditions were three times higher for pedestrians than motorists. This led to a reversal of the previous policy, to prioritise pedestrian routes for snow clearing above roads. The previous policy had been determined by officials who were mainly men; the change came about when fresh analysis revealed a difference in travel patterns between men and women: with men tending to drive, and women more likely to take public transport or walk. The male officials who had originally devised the schedule had designed it around their needs – they hadn’t deliberately set out to exclude women – they just didn’t think about them.
  • Diversity isn’t just about market research or focus groups, it’s about the questions that are asked in the first place, the data that is used to determine a course of action, policy or problem solution. The deepest problem of homogeneity is the questions they are not even asking, the data they haven’t thought to look for, the opportunities they haven’t realised are out there.


  • There is a need not only to recruit diversely, but to create structures and processes that sustain that diversity of thinking, that preserve the survival of the rebel.
  • E.g. if you run a software company, you do not want to simply recruit graduates from the top ranked university for software – they will all have the same frame of reference, having studied under the same professors, absorbed similar insights, ideas, and models. By selecting graduates in a meritocratic way, based on performance alone, organisations find themselves gravitating towards clone-like teams.
  • Furthermore, a company can hire great people from all sorts of backgrounds, brimming with diverse ideas, only to see them gradually re-moulded to fit the dominant culture of the organisation, losing their unique insights and voices, echoing the company’s accepted way of thinking.


  • Demographic diversity often overlaps with cognitive diversity but is distinct.
  • Demographic diversity is useful when needing to gain a collective perspective encompassing of broad range of groups. E.g. research indicated that increases in racial diversity offered no efficiency gains for firms producing aircraft parts and machinery because the experience of being from a particular race did not reveal any novel insights into the design of engine parts.
  • Cognitive diversity instead points to differences in ways of thinking – two people could be demographically diverse in terms of race but if they attended the same university, studied under the same professor, they would still remain clone-like in their thinking. Two racially similar economists would be clone-like demographically, but could be cognitively diverse -one a Monetarist, the other a Keynesian – holding diverse frames of references when thinking about the economy.



  • The first step for any group seeking to tackle a tough challenge is not the problem itself but the group’s dimensions – the question to ask is “Where are the gaps in our collective understanding, in our cognitive diversity?”
  • Filling these gaps produce team deliberations that lead to enlightment rather than mirroring (through cognitive similarity).


  • Prestige hierarchies are the solution. Dominance hierarchies lead to cloning and the failure to speak up.
  • High status leaders fail more often due to the unconditional support they get – subordinates have a need to please the boss, often unconsciously, parroting their thoughts and behaviours, and thereby eliminating diverse insights. The dominance dynamic leads to the social equivalent of the cloning effect. Diverse perspectives exist but are not expressed. The cognitive capacity of the team effectively collapses to the parameters of one brain (that of the dominant leader). A study found that projects by junior managers were more likely to succeed than those led by more senior managers.
  • Research found that a significant number of crashes occurred due to co-pilots failing to speak up. At the time, aviation was characterised by a dominance hierarchy – crew members calling pilots “Sir”, deferring to their judgments and simply acting on their commands.
  • EXAMPLE: The 1996 Mount Everest Disaster is explained by dominance hierarchy, not by the failure of individual actions, despite the finger pointing that followed the disaster. Members of the climbing group failed to speak up to provide critical insights that could have averted disaster, due to the dominance of the head guide, Robert Hall. For the best of reasons, through his deep experience of Mount Everest, and knowledge of the dangers involved, he asserted he would not tolerate any dissension whilst on the mountain, but in doing so, he inadvertently created a dominance dynamic, critically limiting his perspective when taking key decisions. The casting of himself and other guides as the invincible leaders, the dominant figureheads, silenced key input from clients and others on a repeated basis, thus reducing the collective wisdom of the team when life and death decisions were taken, leading to the deaths of 8 climbers.  One client – who as a commercial pilot had long experience of interpreting cloud information – noticed a cloud formation indicating a nasty storm brewing but did not speak up. Why? Another client failed to challenge one of the guides who mistakenly concluded there was no oxygen left in a pile of bottles. Why? Clients had been instructed to obey rather than contribute to decisions. It wasn’t that they didn’t care enough – humans are acutely sensitive to hierarchy, even when the stakes are high – self silencing occurs unconsciously. By the time the storm hit, the accumulation of misjudgments compounded to form a chain of tragedy.
  • A study has shown that teams with more dominant hierarchies are significantly more likely to die in high altitude mountaineering expeditions. Top down decision-making processes mean people are less likely to speak up about changing conditions or impending problems – all conditions calling for a change in plan. It seems people are ingrained to preserve social order at the expense of their own lives.


  • Communication is dysfunctional at most meetings. Group processes by and large conspire to suppress the very diversity of viewpoints that they seek.
  • Status rather than contributions rule the discourse (the dominance dynamic at play). When one or two people dominate, it suppresses the insights of others in the team, particularly introverts. This is even worse if the dominant person is the leader as people parrot back their opinions. People fail to share crucial information, leaning towards the answers of the dominant person, not wanting to appear rude or disruptive. Rebel ideas that exist in the group are not expressed. Diversity of thought vanishes.
  • Lack of diverse input leads to disastrous decisions because the team, through the cloning effect, compound each other’s errors and collectively become increasingly confident about objectively terrible judgments.
  • How to provide a safe space for all voices and reduce the dominance dynamic? Create a meritocracy of ideas! Get everyone to write down their ideas anonymously (which separates ideas from a person’s status), all ideas are shared and voted on by the group. This has been found to generate twice the volume of ideas and higher quality ideas than spoken idea sharing.
  • Another tool – everyone attending a meeting provides a short written summary of their views, which are randomly distributed to participants and read out, again protecting cognitive diversity from the dangers of dominance.


  • Prestige hierachy v dominance hierarchy – there is a time for both, wise leaders pivot between the two.
  • Dominance hierachy is effective when decisions need to be made and implemented – for executing a plan. However, when generating and evaluating ideas, seeking innovation, deciding on a new strategy, and forecasting the future, prestige hierarchy is best – you need to hear diverse perspectives.
  • People need to feel safe to speak up, free from retribution from a leader who interprets rebel and diverse ideas as a threat. Prestige-oriented leaders boost collective intelligence, gaining their influence and respect through qualities like generosity, empathy, listening, cooperation, authentic persuasion and self-deprecation. In contrast, dominance-oriented leaders gain status through intimidation, aggression, manipulation, reward and punishment, narcissism, politicking and internal competition. Prestige-oriented leaders gain respect that is volunteered by those they lead, it is not demanded, their actions intend to liberate rather than intimidate.
  • Leaders often worry that inviting other views – particularly disagreeing ones – might undermine their authority. They are wrong, people feel more committed when given an opportunity to make a contribution – it strengthens motivation, boosts creativity and increases the potential of the whole organisation.
  •  “The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true” (Adam Grant).
  • The balance of dominance and diversity – organisations do indeed need leaders – when Google installed a flat structure without managers it failed due to lack of hierarchy leading to chaos and confusion. However, leaders need to shift the balance of hierarchy to allow for diversity (for greater perspective and innovation) as well as dominance (for effective implementation).
  • The dangerous paradox of dominance-oriented leadership and loss of control – people find themselves favouring a dominant leader when there is a collective loss of control and security (e.g. economic insecurity), seeking an authoritarian personality to provide reassurance, with disastrous consequences. When the environment is complex and uncertain, this is precisely the time when a diversity of perspectives is needed to maximise collective intelligence. When the economy is going well, people favour non-hierarchical churches, when jobs are insecure and they lack control over their lives, they convert to hierarchical churches, to compensate for feelings of insecurity. This is a dangerous paradox because the dominance hierarchy which leads to one dominant brain, is not diverse enough to solve a complex problem.


  • Innovation can be incremental, through continual modification of existing ideas, or recombinant – fusing together conventional ideas from previously unrelated fields e.g. a wheel and a suitcase = the wheeled suitcase, psychology and economics = behavioural psychology.
  • Recombinant innovation has become the dominant force of change (e.g. vast majority of patents span traditional boundaries) which requires diversity and rebellion. The rebel combination of diverse fields across the problem space, the cross fertilisation of ideas (“ideas having sex”) and opening up of new possibilities – only flourishes in diversity.


  • Immigrants feature highly in innovative settings. More than ½ of US Nobel Prize winners over the last few decades were born abroad Studies show they are twice more likely to become entrepreneurs. 57% of the top 35 Fortune 500 companies were founded/co-founded by immigrants/children of immigrants. Immigrants make disproportionate contributions to technology, patent production and academic science.
  • Why? The outsider mindset is a powerful asset when it comes to innovation – those deeply familiar with the status quo find it psychologically more difficult to deconstruct or disrupt it, their frame of reference so bound up in a fixed worldview, unable to see the new, unable to evolve.
  • Immigrants on the other hand, having experience of different culture(s), and alternative ways of doing things, have an upper hand in seeing where things could be different, reformed, amended, or re-combined. Having experience of more than one culture, enables them greater scope to bring ideas together – acting as bridges – the recombinant perspective. Their outsider mindset offers them the psychological space to question conventions and assumptions of the status quo and come up with rebel ideas.
  • A study found that teams with an outsider perform better than homogeneous groups and individuals working alone, indicating an advantage through differing perspectives stimulating widened debates, scope of ideas and solutions.
  • To become a visionary, take the perspective of an outsider in order to see the things that are taken for granted by insiders. You can only know who you are by seeing your contrast. Stepping outside our own walls provides us with a new way of seeing the same info, a new perspective, generating new possibilities and opportunities.
  • Charles Darwin alternated between research in zoology, psychology, botany and geology enhancing his creative potential because it gave him the outsider mindset – the chance to see his subject from the outside and fuse ideas from diverse branches of science.
  • How do you adopt an outsider mindset and see with new eyes? Use assumption reversal.
  • EXAMPLE: Suppose you are setting up a new taxi company – your first assumption might be that taxi companies own their own cars. Instead, consider its reversal – taxi companies own no cars.  20 years ago this may have sounded like a radical idea. Today, the largest taxi company that has ever existed doesn’t own cars – Uber.
  • EXAMPLE – Suppose you are a doctor with a patient with a malignant stomach tumor. A ray exists that can be used to destroy the tumour at a sufficiently high intensity, however the healthy tissue it passes through will also be destroyed. What procedure can be done that destroys the tumour but not healthy tissues? Most people say there is no solution. However, on reading the following seemingly unrelated story most people find a way to save the patient. Many roads led to a fortress situated in the middle of the country, surrounded by farms and villages. A rebel general vowed to capture the fortress but learned that mines had been planted on each road. Small bodies of men could pass over the mines safely, but any large force would detonate them. Do you see the solution now? The general divided his army into small groups down each road, arriving at the fortress at the same time, and captured the fortress. In a similar way, the solution to the tumor problem is solved by setting multiple ray guns around the patient delivering 10% of the radiation with each gun, destroying the tumour without harming the healthy tissue. This is an artificial example but shows how different perspectives may contribute to solving a challenging problem innovatively. When faced with a difficult medical problem, the temptation is to recruit more and more doctors, but these experts have similar backgrounds and training, and consequently similar frames of reference and blind spots. It may be more effective to employ someone with a military background instead, to look at the problem with a new set of eyes, revealing new insights and solutions.


  • For innovation, it is better to be social then smart, AND you are smart because you are social.
  • Geniuses can have originality but without sociality, their ideas die with them.
  • Innovation is more than about individual creativity – it is about connections. Places and societies that facilitate idea sharing tend to be more productive and innovative – when ideas are shared, they multiply. Innovation is about the fusing of existing ideas to produce something that breaks new ground – recombinant innovation – which only happens in interaction between individuals and the networks they inhabit. Geniuses are smarter than networks, but unsocial geniuses are less likely to be in possession of innovative ideas for this reason.
  • Furthermore, the creativity of an individual brain is linked to the diversity of the network it is plugged into –  the great genius, thinker, inventor is smart because he is social – this person’s brain being the product of the collective brains of which they have been around. In the same way reading across a breadth of books and subjects exposes you to a diversity of perspective and possibility for innovation through the fusing of diverse ideas.
  • How do you encourage the spreading of ideas?  Design it into office spaces, e.g. Steve Jobs in planning the Pixar building, deliberately designed it with one set of toilets in the atrium, forcing the mingling of people from across different functions, niches and silos, leading to a ‘symphony of chance encounters’.
  • How do you meet people from a different thought perspective than you? Seek a smaller community of people to engage with. For example, a larger university, although having greater diversity due to its size, paradoxically affords greater possibility of finding people much like yourself to socialise with.  In a smaller university, diversity is less and with fewer available choices, you are more likely to have to mingle with people from comparatively different backgrounds and perspectives.


  • Justice and the Collective Brain: the success of humanity is dependent on the innovation that emerges from the collective brain, not the individual.
  • When a group of people are denied access to the network of ideas, the whole world suffers. For centuries, women were barred from higher education and professional training, not only unjust for women, but also dramatically diminishing the creativity of men and the collective brain, by ignoring diverse perspectives, information and discoveries from half of the population.
  • How to be just and increase diversity? Limit unconscious bias to create a true meritocracy of talent, by using blind selection e.g. blind auditions, blinding CVs (remove names and other demographic info when recruiting). When orchestras, previously dominated by men, held blind auditions, women’s chances of advancing through to the final selection rounds increased by 300%.
  • Racial and gender diversity: an analsyis of companies found that in Germany, UK and US, return on equity was significantly higher (66% and 100% for US alone) for firms with executives in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity compared to those in the bottom quartile. Another study with a focus on legal, health and financial services found that an increase in racial diversity by 1 standard deviation increased productivity by more than 25%.
  • Note that optimising demographic diversity does not necessarily equate to optimising cognitive diversity. To encourage a greater breadth of perspective and enhance collective wisdom, you can for example, introduce shadow boards, e.g. a shadow board of young people running in parallel who provide a different perspective to those on the main board.


  • Diversity v Standardisation: when an average is used well, it harnesses the insights from multiple (diverse) people. When used badly, it imposes a solution for multiple (diverse) people.
  • Average used well – taking the average forecast of 6 cognitively diverse economists was found to be significantly more accurate than the forecast of the top economist.
  • Average used badly – when US Air Force Cockpits were redesigned to embrace the diversity of individuals (e.g. adjustable seat height, distance of joystick) incidents plummeted. Previously, cockpits had been designed around the “standard body size” based on mean averages of different body dimensions. However, the combination of these averages resulted in dimensions for a person who was far from “average”.
  • Allowing diversity (i.e. personalisation) in the workplace increases productivity. Workers who are able to deviate from the standard to achieve tasks in their own way are much happier and more productive in their jobs. Productivity was found to be 30% higher where people were given the autonomy to design and configure their workspaces to suit their own tastes and personalities.
  • Standardised dietary advice will always be flawed because it only takes into account the food, not the person eating it. In a study, eating ice cream led to a healthy blood sugar levels for some people, whilst sushi had the opposite effect.
  • In education, the 2015 PISA tables showed that adaptive instruction was the second most powerful predictor of high levels of educational outcome, rating above discipline, classroom size and more. An approach embracing diversity of learning style and pace, as opposed to the standardised outlook which treats schools like factories in which children are the raw products to be shaped and fashioned into products that meet the various demands of life.


  • It’s imperative to place human beings in contact with people dissimilar to themselves, with modes of thought unlike their own. Diversity isn’t some optional add on – it is the basic ingredient of collective intelligence.
  • Cultures that encourage new ideas, foster dissent and have strong networks spurring the growth of rebel ideas, innovate faster than those held back by cultures of intellectual conformity.
  • Cognitive diversity is the route to solving the world’s most complex problems, humanity’s re-invention and growth is dependent on it.

Successful Women Think Differently, by Valorie Burton

Buy the book here!


Happiness comes before success. Adopt mindsets and practices that increase your true happiness, and success will follow.

Although this book is aimed at women, lessons shared can apply to anyone. The book focuses on 9 habits and this book summary is structured differently, highlighting the essential ideas!


  • Happiness creates success.
  • An optimistic mindset develops the traits needed for success e.g. bouncebackability.
  • Successful people take their happiness seriously.
  • Successful people seek fulfilment over success.
  • Successful people are satisficers.
  • Successful people send their true selves rather than their fear based, approval seeking facade into the world.
  • Successful people refuse to downsize their dreams, knowing that when you stop hoping you start settling.
  • Successful people say no to good opportunities in favour of purposeful ones.


  • Success is living your life’s purpose and embracing joy and resilience and as you do it.


  • What makes one person succeed while another falls short of similar goals? Essentially – Successful people THINK differently.
  • Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
  • Successful people recognise it’s their thinking style – it’s the mindsets they adopt FIRST – that inspire their success. The right mindset leads to the right decisions, actions, goals and eventually success.
  • They adopt the following mindsets for success, with the Happiness Mindset being at the heart of these:
Happiness Mindset Impact MindsetInspiration Mindset
Learning MindsetPossibility MindsetResourceful Mindset
Challenge MindsetSolution MindsetDecisive Mindset
Courage MindsetAuthenticity MindsetDiscipline Mindset
Relationship MindsetStrength MindsetResilience Mindset
Preparation Mindset360° Mindset


  • Research suggests that happiness causes more productivity and higher income. That happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Most people mistakenly think if they had X (mostly something external) they would then finally be happy.
  • Research shows that positive emotion associated with happiness equips people to handle adversity better, bounce back from setbacks, see the bigger picture, and live longer. On average, the effects of unhappiness cut life expectancy by 6 years.
  • Successful people take their happiness seriously – they don’t dwell on the negative and fill life with the positive – positive thoughts, words, people and outlook. They see fun and joy as an essential element of success.
  • Optimists make better leaders, succeed at higher levels and live longer. They explain their failures and successes differently. An optimistic outlook can be learned.
  • Pessimists tend to believe negative events impact their lives forever and are all their fault – they give up more easily. Negative emotion narrows your scope of thinking.
  • True happiness v The Hedonic Treadmill – the latter is the continual chasing of short-term thrills or the next big thing (the bigger house, car, income etc) and the temporary thrill of acquiring them. The thrill of victory, no matter how great, eventually wears off. True happiness is derived from an internal mindset, outlook, activities and relationships, focusing on longer term contentment and joy, and sustained despite external circumstances.
  • Successful people value fulfilment over success. Success is often defined by the external (e.g. money, success, titles, possessions). Fulfilment instead is about living with purpose (being of service to others) using your strengths and tapping into your passions.
  • Focus on the journey more than the end goal – are you being your best in each and every moment? Are you feeling fulfilled moment to moment rather than just at the endpoint? Are you joyful through your journey?
  • Is your success making you a better person? E.g. when you face obstacles are you getting bitter of better?
  • Be content whilst also aiming higher. There is no guilt in wanting more if you are in service to others – you getting more means others get more.
  • Sonja Lyubomirsky: Happiness is 50% your temperament and outside your control (your happiness setpoint, determined genetically – some people naturally have a more positive disposition than others), 40% what you do daily (intentional activity), and 10% circumstances. That means there is a lot more of happiness that can be controlled than most people think.
  • Changing your circumstances e.g. getting a new car only accounts for 10% of happiness and explains why the newness becomes the norm and you revert back to your happiness set point. Too often we wait for a change in circumstances to feel happy, however once the newness of “our new toy” wears off we discover our lack of happiness is a deeper issue. You can instead choose to intentionally engage in activities daily (the 40%) that impact your happiness e.g. exercise, social interaction, enjoyable tasks you enjoy, acknowledging your blessings. Focus on what brings you joy.
  • Further to this, if you change your circumstances (only 10%) think about how it will allow you to act differently – how it will allow you to undertake “happiness generating” intentional activity that makes up 40% of your happiness quotient. E.g. getting a new car – is this to impress and keep up with the Joneses, or will the additional seating allow you to bring your gran on trips with the rest of the family, or transport your neighbour’s children to school (i.e. serving and having positive impact). Changing your boss to a more supportive one, or changing your career may mean on a daily basis you get to do tasks that derive greater happiness to you, as they are aligned with your true purpose. Choose a career that gives you daily activity you look forward to.
  • Money and happiness: Living below your means increases happiness, not how much you make but whether you can pay your bills. Research shows that people are happier spending money on others (and thus impacting others) than on themselves.
  • Look for opportunities to use your money to boost positive emotion (in the long term rather than for temporary thrills).
  • Successful people take the time to measure their success by their own standards, not that of society. Take time to identify your personal definition of happiness.

IMPACT MINDSET – Successful people ask “What is my impact?” and “Who am I serving?”

  • They have a sense of vision and purpose (making a difference in the lives of others). They say no to good opportunities in favour of purposeful ones.
  • “How is someone’s life made better because your path crossed theirs?
  • They are givers, believing in and developing the potential of others on their success journey.
  • Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.

INSPIRATION MINDSET – Successful people use inspiration to set goals 

  • Happy, successful people set inspired goals, knowing that inspired goals and the achievement of them give you life. A goal is inspired if you feel led by it rather than it feeling like a burden. Inspired goals tap into your strengths and fulfil your purpose. Authentic goals are derived from our deepest needs and desires.
  • They choose goals that stretch them beyond their comfort zones.
  • They choose goals that intrigue them – goals that are meaningful.
  • They use the power of why to motivate and inspire them. Why do you want to achieve the goal? What will it give you?
  • They focus on a single goal, and put their all into them – understanding that it takes, passion, laser focus and energy to reach a goal and therefore choose the one that matters most.

LEARNING MINDSET – Successful people do not take failure personally

  • Successful people see failing as learning.
  • In the face of failure or disappointment, they understand that it is your thinking style that gets you through. Instead of blaming seemingly permanent character flaws, they adopt a mindset that moves them forward – believing that failing this time does not mean failing next time.
  • Successful people explain their failures differently. Instead of blaming themselves e.g. “I always mess up…it’s me…it’s going to last” they focus on external factors – “It was just circumstances – nobody spends money in a bad economy”.
  • Akin to a growth mindset, successful people hold the essential belief that any person can change, believing that their natural talents are simply a starting point, and that you can grow substantially through learning and experience.
  • Due to their acceptance of, and ability to learn from failure, they are successful through their willingness to take risks.

POSSIBILITY MINDSET – Successful people believe their dreams are possible

  • Successful people believe that through right thoughts, right actions, right relationships – your dreams are possible.
  • They do not allow belief in their potential to be limited by grades or performance reviews. They decide to expect more.  They refuse to downsize their dreams, knowing that when you stop hoping you start settling.

RESOURCEFUL MINDSET – Successful people are resourceful

  • Successful people are resourceful knowing that creativity is borne from limitation.
  • They ask, “How can I start now despite (limited) resources? They ask, “How can I do less work and receive a higher pay-out?”
  • They ask for and seek opportunities, rather than waiting for them to fall into their lap.

CHALLENGE MINDSET – Successful people welcome and are excited by challenge

  • They choose a mindset that sees problems and challenges as opportunities for growth.

SOLUTION MINDSET – Successful people focus on solutions

  • They choose to focus on solutions over problems, knowing that where your focus goes, your energy flows.

RESILIENCE MINDSET – Successful people believe in their ability to overcome obstacles

  • They expect and plan for challenges to arise on setting out to achieve a goal, realising that sometimes you stumble, sometimes you take 3 steps forward and 2 back, but they never give up.
  • They understand the process is not linear but more of a zig-zag, and that there is more to learn from the failings along the way, and bounce-back from these failures and adversity.
  • When NASA chooses astronauts, they seek people who have more than a track record of success, but who have had significant failures and bounced back.
  • Talented people push back – they don’t accept the status quo, but see room for improvement.

DECISIVE MINDSET – Successful people are decisive satisficers

  • They do not wait for perfect conditions. Once a decision is made they stick with it, this decisiveness frees their energy to focus forward. Decisiveness and follow through conserves energy and creates stability, as opposed to second guessing themselves. Yes, they may have regrets, but they choose to learn from them moving forward.
  • Seizing on the knowledge that something shifts inside of them after making a decision to go for it, and that a decision indicates a belief that it is possible, they follow a decision with action.
  • They understand that too much choice can be bad, leading to analysis paralysis and mean you lose sight of which decisions really matter. They understand their priorities and values and understand that some decisions are far weightier than others and therefore deserve more time and attention.
  • Successful people make conscious decisions. They don’t entertain every option that comes their way. Their values help determine which options although looking good on the surface may not be right for them.
  • Satisficers v Maximisers (Barry Schwarz)Successful people are satisficers. They don’t strive for every choice or task to be perfect. They focus on progress not perfection. Having a clear sense of purpose in everything they do makes it easier to know which to prioritise. Maximisers are those whose aim is for the best conceivable option in every life decision e.g. for a new job as well as for their choice of what to eat in a restaurant. This perfectionist habit robs them of energy, satisfaction and effectiveness. Instead, satisficers set minimum standards that will satisfy them when met, allowing them to shift focus onto other decisions. E.g. when buying a sofa, they set minimum standard criteria (under $X dollars, X length, X colour). Once they find a sofa that matches these criteria, they stop looking. There may indeed be a better option out there, but they choose to spend their energy and time on other important matters. They aim for progress and contentment over perfection.
  • Successful people automate choices for lesser priorities freeing up time, focus and energy for other matters e.g. a fortnightly menu, fortnightly set of work outfits.
  • They own all of their decisions both good and bad. Owning good decisions builds confidence in your ability to make more of them. Owning bad decisions helps you uncover unhealthy patterns, ones that may be sabotaging your success, ones that go against your true desires, and aids you to make a conscious choice to change them.
  • Exercise: What are the 5 best decisions you have ever made in your life and why? What are the lessons gleaned from those choices? Similarly, what are the 5 worst decisions you have made and what are the lessons?

STRENGTH MINDSET – Successful people build on strengths rather than weaknesses

  • They tap into and focus on building and deriving full value from their innate strengths instead of their weaknesses, instead of fixing what’s wrong with them.
  • Instead they acknowledge their weak points (they do not ignore them) and reach out to others to gap fill. This is strength-based personal improvement. Rather than focusing on everything that is wrong in a situation, they pinpoint the steps that would lead to success.
  • “The ageless essence of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant” (Peter Drucker)
  • Trying to accomplish goals outside of your purpose and talent drains your energy. Using your strengths, you get results faster and with seemingly less effort. You can do more with less (input). You need to raise your own awareness of your strengths and the conditions under which they flourish. Your strengths are traits you frequently use, are innate to you, you are energised by them and you elevate others when they experience you using them.
  • It’s important to get feedback as we are often blind to our own strengths as they come so naturally. Who are your champions? Who are the people who can see your strengths clearly and reflect them back to you?
  • You don’t have to be strong at everything. Leverage the strengths of others as well as your own.

RELATIONSHIP MINDSET – Successful people nurture relationships that strengthen them.

  • Successful people authentically collaborate, communicate and celebrate each other. They choose relationships intentionally and nurture them consistently.
  • Through a collaborative outlook they realise their relationship with their staff is symbiotic – as well as staff being employed to make their dream a reality, they are also there to help them realise their own dreams.
  • Through communication they share their challenges, realise they are not alone and thus tap into potential solutions they were not aware of alone.
  • They realise that success rarely happens in isolation. Our sense of purpose is filled in relationship with others and our impact on others.
  • They realise (sustained) success is intentional – it doesn’t happen by accident – there are conditions, structures, and actions (e.g. mentors, accountability groups) – combining to form a system that empowers their success and resilience.
  • Successful people have influence:
    • 1) They know what others want. By helping them to get it they are more likely to get help in return to reach their own goals.
    • 2) They choose battles wisely, refusing to waste energy creating enemies and thus diminishing their influence.
    • 3) They focus on solutions over problems, presenting potential solutions to their boss when a problem arises, and thereby presenting themselves as someone who makes a boss’s job easier.
    • 4) They tap into unofficial networks, knowing that influence isn’t just about who has the big title but who people listen to.
    • 5) They build trust by starting small. By getting a decision maker to say yes to small things they make it easier for them to say yes again, building trust and expanding their level of influence along the way.
    • 6) They are strategic – when they want to ask for something they analyse the situation first– e.g. asking if they need to get some others on board first – by planning what they have to do or say to get the other person to feel positive about saying yes.

COURAGE MINDSET – Successful people choose courage over fear

  • Fear can lead you to shrink from your authentic desires, to rationalise yourself out of a great idea, to pretend you don’t really want something.
  • Successful people feel fear but learn to move forward in spite of these fears.

AUTHENTICITY MINDSET – Successful people choose to be their true selves

  • Successful people choose to be authentic – when you fear acceptance you send your “representative” into the world, the one you believe will be approved.
  • Instead, choose to be the best you possible – no more, no less.

DISCIPLINE MINDSET – Successful people know that at the highest levels, discipline trumps talent

  • They practice and master the skill of discipline, knowing that discipline favours success more than natural talent to be leader in their field.
  • They choose consistency – daily action in their vision’s direction.
  • They choose delayed gratification – e.g. doing homework, learning a challenging new skill, persevering through difficult circumstances – exercising patience before seeing the fruits of their labour.

PREPARATION MINDSET – Successful people are prepared

  • They choose to put in the practice necessary and choose to be prepared for when opportunity knocks.

360° MINDSET– Successful people use the power of reflection to develop themselves

  • They choose honest feedback from trusted others to grow. They recognise they have blind-spots and require others to help them see all of themselves (from a 360° view) clearly.
  • They tap into the power of the pen – writing down your goals takes you much further than sitting and thinking about them.
  • They know the power of the written word to act as a witness and observer. Most people who are driven to success have had some major pain at some point in their lives and have still pushed through. They use writing as a tool and powerful strategy to validate their experiences and process events and emotions – helping them to see themselves more objectively, learning from their experiences and developing resilience.
  • Getting things out of your head releases space for more thoughts. It helps you process issues and get unstuck. The words you write become insights, self-coaching, therapy, healing, and possibility.
  • Exercise – To inspire positive emotion and a healthy mindset write about your best possible future self in the present tense.
  • Successful people use writing as a success tool, empowering them to reflect on themselves and thus help them with the challenges and opportunities life presents.

Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, by Jenny Blake

Buy the book here!


Stuck in a career rut? Like a basketball player, remaining firmly rooted whilst scanning for their next option with the ultimate aim of scoring a basket, use a Pivot to make a purposeful and tested shift in direction towards your ultimate life vision.


  • A change in strategy without a change in overall vision.
  • Doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift in a new, related direction.
  • PIVOT is plan A, not plan B, it is a normal part of our lives.


  • You should be looking to pivot before you are really unhappy, burnt out, or forced to make a change…
  • You can pivot when you are ready for increased challenge and impact.
  • You should be expecting to pivot, and over time you improve how quickly you plan for and spot your next move.
  • Expecting to pivot throughout your career means you stop taking your struggles and searching personally or as a failure in your operating system, and start focusing your valuable attention on moving forward despite the challenges.


  • In basketball, a pivot is when a player keeps one foot firmly planted in place while moving the other foot in any direction, exploring passing options.
  • In a career, a pivot starts by planting your feet and setting a strong foundation of who you already are and what is already working – your strengths – then scanning for opportunities of interest, staying rooted while exploring options. You start testing ideas, gain feedback and eventually launch into a new direction. Scanning alone (e.g. looking for jobs) will not lead to results/score any goals.
  • The 4-stage pivot process is a cycle, not a one off process – some pivots can take a few months, some take years.


  • Successful pivots start from a strong foundation of who you already are and what is already working – from your values, strengths and interests and your vision for the future. It encompasses how you will define success in the next phase of your life and where you ultimately want to end up.
  • It’s about acknowledging and exploiting your existing assets, rather than starting from scratch.
  • Do not underestimate what you are capable of – really focus on your strengths, stop looking for the Next Big Thing and assess what is working – what am I already doing now? Start to celebrate these. If you were to dig deeper into each of these assets you could reveal 10 more related areas to pursue.
  • Here you can assess your knowns and unknowns in terms of your overall vision. What known skills and strengths do you have? What unknowns are they and who could you reach out to help in the next pivot stage?
  • Example: Brooke wanted to pivot her current successful online photography course business to teach more personal subjects such as work-life balance. Her known strengths were teaching and running online courses. Her unknown variables were how to set up a new business and what to do with her old one. She eventually brought in a partner with complementary skillset and rebranded her website with the tagline “Living and documenting the thriving life”, to suit her new vision.


  • This is the exploration phase, and involves looking for people, skills and new opportunities to get you to your end vision, all whilst staying firmly planted.
  • While looking for opportunities and gaining feedback you are having a wide variety of conversations and plugging knowledge and skill gaps.
  • You are collecting ideas and becoming “discoverable” to new and interesting opportunities. You identify your desired direction and make it known to others.
  • This phase can be as much about picking up new ideas you would like to pursue as well as eliminating projects you do not like the sound of.
  • Ask not only What can I get? but also, What can I give? Who can I serve? What problems need solving?
  • If someone were to send you a glowing thank you note a year on from now relating to your pivot project, what would you want it to say?


  • Start running some small low risks experiments to test your new direction.
  • These series of pilots are small extensions of the strengths identified in the plant phase, building on these to branch out into new areas and gather real life feedback, allowing for incremental adjustments along the way rather than a blind leap.
  • Questions include: How can I test my ideas with a small audience? How can I make progress towards my pivot even without my next client or gig lined up?
  • After each pilot, ask yourself:  1. ENJOYMENT Did I enjoy doing it? 2. EXPERTISE Am I good at it? 3. EXPANSION If not am I excited to increase my skills in this area? Is there more opportunity to expand in this market? Can I earn a living doing so?


  • This fourth stage is the tipping point. You can repeat the first 3 stages as many times as is necessary to give you a greater chance of success, but eventually it is time to fully launch into the desired area to complete the pivot and set forth to your ultimate end goal.
  • How to know when to launch? The following criteria can help in making that decision:
    • Money saved – e.g. you have enough money saved to cover living expenses for X months, giving you enough time to build momentum in your new direction.
    • Profitability – e.g. when your side hustle earns enough for you to live on, you could choose to quit your main job and fully launch into your new direction.
    • Set a deadline in advance for the launch.
    • Reaching a project milestone that is critical before the launch can happen e.g. once the website is up and running.
    • X new clients onboarded – indicates new direction is income generating and viable.
    • X new subscribers – indicates the platform has reached a certain size and will lead to more opportunities and connections.
    • Gut instinct – e.g. I need to focus on this now to get out of a worse situation for my health, it feels like the right time.
    • Industry approval – you get a contract, funding or other deal.
  • Other factors to consider:
    • What is your waiting time: how long are you willing to wait to see results you will deem to be successful?
    • What (other) pilots can you run whilst waiting that will also move you towards your overall vision?
    • What is your backup plan? At what point will you “call it a day” and pursue other options?


  • When taking pivot, you won’t know the entire pivot path, that’s part of the adventure – just take the next step.
  • Connect the dots looking backward to see how you pivoted to where you are today and use it to connect the dots forward to where you want to be (similar to reverse engineering).
  • Thinking too many steps ahead can lead to panic and anxiety.
  • If your mission makes your heart sing, but the idea of launching tomorrow gives you major anxiety, build incrementally by planting, scanning, piloting and then ultimately reaching the final launch stage.


  • You can choose to pivot to a new role whilst continuing to work in the same company, leveraging the company’s resources to carry out projects of interest whilst receiving a consistent salary to boot.


  • Results are indicators of where you are on a pivot – are you experiencing progress, momentum and fulfilment? If not, analyse the early stages of the pivot to determine what adjustments to make.
  • Our overall aim is to enter the Zone of Genius. Liberating and expressing our natural genius is the ultimate path to success and life satisfaction. You can identify this by assessing the type of challenges you are attracted to and the unique way you tackle them. You can think about the type of impact you want to have in the world and for whom.


  • Impacters are individuals who are more interested in high growth as opposed to high income but often end up wealthy in  both. They love learning, tackling new projects and solving problems, are generous and cooperative, with a strong desire to make a difference, and a strong need for exploration and challenge, uncovering their callings along the way.
  • For impacters, boredom is a symptom of fulfilment deficiency – of not maximising growth and impact rather than a sign of laziness.
  • Impacters arent asking “What did I earn?” They are asking “What did I learn?” “What did I create?” “What did I contribute?” Their quality of life is measured by challenges, contributions and learning.
  • Though they may get restless more easily, by seeing career setbacks as learning opportunities, they can use them as fuel for growth e.g. ensuring that each step they take involves enough challenge to keep them stimulated.
  • Impacters find ways to thrive in uncertainty – instead of reacting to or becoming paralysed by chaos, they look for opportunities to alchemize what is already working into what comes next. 
  • For impacters, pivoting will be a required and ongoing lifelong process, due to their need for adventure, challenge and exploration.


  • One of the keys to being agile in life is knowing how to quickly find your way back to equilibrium. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pivot from a place of anxiety or unhappiness.
  • Your happiness formula is the unique mix of environmental factors and activities that are most likely to invigorate you and reset your energy batteries when they are running low.
  • Pay close attention to what elevates your mood, performance, creativity, and physical and emotional resilience, and what kills them.
  • Peace of mind is the dividend we collect by investing our day with supportive habits.


  • Give yourself enough energy and time during a pivot period, by automating things you can to allow yourself the space to take bigger decisions e.g. when deciding to leave your job you can automate having the same lunch and breakfast each day.
  • Drop the Bucket on unanswered questions. Keep asking and digging and go until your brain can’t take anymore, to the edge of frustration then just stop. Drop the Bucket into the well of your brain and take your mind off the problem. In doing so, the brain switches form conscious to subconscious processing and answers will seem to pop out of nowhere.
  • Meditate to get quiet enough to hear your own inner wisdom.


  • Most people—including our closest family and friends—do not ask us the big questions on a regular basis, if ever. Casual conversations most often hover around stories and daily drama: This is what happened to me this week. This is how I felt about it. This is what is bugging me. Although we sometimes share the most exhilarating moments, we lean toward discussing what troubles us because that’s what is top of mind.
  • What if instead we pivoted on the questions we ask and start end-of-day debriefs with: What is working best in your life right now? What are you most excited about? What does smashing success look like one year from now?


  • If your values are your compass, your vision is your desired destination – you need to pinpoint where you want to end up.
  • Your values create boundaries and benchmarks for big decisions.
  • The more captivating your vision, the more it will recharge you during uncertain times. It is the difference between a vague sweeping statement such as, “I value travel and teaching” to an alluring invitation from your future self like, “One year from now I am living in London, working from a coffee shop as I prepare for a class I am teaching on international business law”.
  • Your career will remain stalled until you examine what positive outcomes will motivate you into action and sustain you through the inevitable and unnerving dips in the Pivot process.
  • Crafting a vision can start with a sweeping exploration, one as broad as how you want to feel one year from now. If you currently feel stuck, stagnant, or stressed, what is the alternative? If you are an impacter, it is likely that you want to feel more engaged, balanced, and healthy, and to know that you are making a positive difference in the world. 
  • Example: Gillian, graduated from law school and took the bar exam, but quickly realized her one-year vision did not include sitting at a desk every day working on legal briefs. Her one-year vision was to be engaged in a flexible work environment that would keep her physically active, surrounded by like-minded people, and provide stepping-stones toward a career that was conducive to starting a family and running a business with her husband.


  • The best side hustles have the 4 following elements:
    • MARKET REACH – it should offer growth potential – there should be a customer base interested in your product. Focus more on your customer’s needs (what is their biggest challenge, what problems do they need solving) rather than how you can scale your business. Saying this, it isn’t always about listening: “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” (Henry Ford).
    • ENJOYMENT – one that makes you excited to work on it.
    • SKILL BUILDING – one that allows you to learn skills that may be needed in your field in years to come.
    • CASH COW – one that provides an income. If not, the side hustle is no more than just a hobby. Test how quickly you can earn revenue before investing lots of money.


  • Pivots that are not deemed successful are only so if you fail to extract the lessons contained to turn them into seeds of something new. For example – did you run pilots that were well suited to your strengths? What lessons did you learn during the pivot that you can take forward?
  • You are not a failure as a person – you simply did not hit the mark in terms of your strategy or execution.


  • Things to consider when thinking about a pilot: How closely it is aligned to current strengths and overall vision? Is this the most cost/energy/time-effective way of conducting the pivot?
  • Pivot examples include:
    • Seeking an advisory board position in companies of interest
    • Hosting friends for a meal around a topic of interest (to research and gain feedback)
    • Holding focus groups and creating a prototype solution based on their needs
    • Volunteering or gaining an internship in area of interest
    • An additional side project at work
    • Setting up an interest group e.g. book club
    • Tweaking the format of your existing services
    • Undertaking study
    • Writing a blog in the area of interest and seeing which topics inspire interest to take further
    • Taking on a new type of client within your existing business.