Personal Development, Posts

How to Learn New Skills Quickly

Image result for The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything ... Fast

Learning new skills is paramount in today’s world. Whether you are searching for a first job, seeking a promotion in your current job or planning to make a career pivot, your ability to learn new skills (fast) will be your best friend. 

In his book “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything. Fast!”, Josh Kaufman suggests the following 10 steps to gain a new skill quickly:

  • Choose a project you love, a project you are very curious about.
  • Focus your energy on one skill at a time, don’t try to learn everything at once.
  • Define your target performance level, when you become “good enough” on the skill. This will define how long and how much energy you will put in this project.
  • Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills. Divide and conquer.
  • Obtain critical tools, the tools you need for practice and performance.
  • Eliminate barriers to practice, including emotional barriers. Set your environment in a way to reduce the effort required to practice. Remove distractions, put your mobile phone away, etc.
  • Make dedicated time for practice, MAKE it.
  • Create fast feedback loops. Feedback is to get accurate information about how well you are performing. Using this information to improve the performance creates a feedback loop. The faster the loop, the faster the learning.
  • Practice by the clock in short bursts. You may try the Pomodoro technique.
  • Emphasize quantity and speed. Don’t seek perfection. Quantity is better than quality for learning a new skill.

To be at your best performance, and accelerate your learning curve, make sure you are in the zone, or in a flow state. More on that in future posts.

Management, Personal Development, Posts

The Optimal Level of Stress

Stress is the response of your body to challenge. Your level of stress predicts your performance in your job and your relationships. On the one hand, high levels of stress would cause strong anxiety, exhaustion, and impaired performance. On the other hand, low levels of stress would result in boredom, inactivity, and disengagement.

You need an optimal amount of stress to perform at your best. In psychology, this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, depicted in the figure below.

The Optimal Level of Stress

If you are a manager or a leader, make sure that your people are experiencing the optimal level of stress to stay engaged, motivated and at their best performance.

Book Review, Posts

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Image result for blink audible
  • Title: Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • Author: Malcolm Gladwell
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Recommendation Score: 3.5/5

Book Review

“Blink” is about experts’ intuition. The takeaway of the book is: the experts cannot be fooled easily because of their “thin-slicing” ability, that is, they can judge and find patterns in events based on a narrow window of experience, thanks to their intuition. On the other hand, experts can be easily (catastrophically) fooled, as in the case of “Warren Harding Error” (chapter 3). The book leaves you confused about when to trust an expert intuition and when not to.

Gladwell is a good writer and knows how to attract his reader’s attention. He is a talented journalist, who reads tons of articles and books, and interviews a lot of people, to write a good story. His storytelling style makes the reading of the book pleasant. When it comes to the content, the author is far from being an expert on the topic. In many chapters, Gladwell seems to jump between 2 or 3 stories to come to some conclusion, without citing solid evidence about the conclusion.

If you want to read a book that is based on solid scientific research, “Blink” may not satisfy your need.

Personal Development, Posts, Understand Yourself

Outsmart your Confirmation Bias

The first cognitive bias that we will review in the series “Outsmart Your Biases” is the Confirmation Bias, that is, the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms our opinion, and neglect information that contradicts it.

The Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is one of the most common biases that have direct consequences on our personal life and professional career. The examples are endless. We often seek information to prove that our political party is right. When we like a person, we don’t want to see her character flaws. To prove the validity of our proposed strategy we search on google for “Is the [proposed strategy] better than [opposite strategy]?”. In a job interview, we frame our questions in a way to confirm our beliefs or our first impression of the candidate. etc… Try to figure out in which decision you were prone to it.

Jeff Bezos about today’s internet: “a Confirmation Bias Machine”.

To outsmart your confirmation bias, you may use the following tricks:

  • Ask for an outside view of the topic at hand and seek criticism.
  • Search for the pros and cons of the different options.
  • Suppose the opposite: be the devil’s advocate.

Such debiasing strategies can be performed in brainstorming format, in informal discussion, etc.

Management, Posts

Set SMART Goals

Do you struggle with new year resolutions? Do you find it difficult to achieve your goals? And by the way, how do you set your goals?

Failing goals may have negative consequences on one’s well-being and self-confidence. To achieve goals, we should first know how to set them, then how to work towards them. If you set a non-realistic goal, you are bound to failure. This is why you should learn how to set SMART goals.

SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. These are the characteristic your goals should have to make it possible to achieve it. Whether you are setting personal goals such as new year’s resolution, or you are setting goals for your company or your team members, make sure that each goal satisfies these 5 characteristics.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goal setting

Management, Posts, Quotes

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Alan Lakein

Personal Development, Posts, Understand Yourself

Outsmart Your Biases

Do you think you are rational? Are you sure that you often make the best decision? Do you feel that your reasoning is superior to that of others? Do you regret some acts and wish you had thought more before committing them? You are, like all human beings, a victim of your cognitive biases.

What is cognitive bias?

Cognition is the mental process of understanding and acquiring knowledge. Cognitive bias is an unconscious cognitive process in human psychology that makes us prone to errors in our reasoning and judgment. It is the gap between rational thinking and our actual way of thinking.

There exists a lot of biases that affect our interaction with the world; we seek pattern in everything even if there is none, we confuse correlation with causality, we hire people who are similar to us, we don’t react the same way to the same information if framed differently, we don’t understand why the opposite side don’t see the ‘truth’, we overestimate our knowledge, etc.

Cognitive biases are an important cause of many catastrophes and tragedies in business, politics, relationships and everyday life. Outsmarting our cognitive biases is key to good decision making and critical thinking.

A New Blog Post Series “Outsmart your Biases”

Outsmart your biases is a forthcoming series of posts that will discuss some of the major cognitive biases, illustrated with examples; the confirmation bias, the availability heuristic, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the planning fallacy, the halo effect and more. In this series, you will find mental tricks and processes that you can use to outsmart these biases and become a better decision-maker. Stay tuned!

Personal Development, Posts, Quotes

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

Aristotle

Book Review, Management, Posts

The Personal MBA – Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business audiobook cover art
Audible Audio-book

  • Title: The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business
  • Author: Josh Kaufman
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Recommendation Score: 5 / 5

Book Review

The author, Josh Kaufman, argues that MBA programs are too expensive, with a low return on investment. Especially that the best MBA programs are highly selective, they will pick the candidates who have promising profiles, and who would climb the ladder with or without an MBA. He suggests that business school is unnecessary, and that reading books and gaining real-life experience is a better option.

“The Personal MBA” book as a distilled summary of a huge number of business and personal development books. It gives a boost of knowledge about business, but you need to complete it with further readings and practical experience. As the author puts it: The Personal MBA is a “Do-It-Yourself” approach to business education, but “Do-It-Yourself” does not mean “Do-It-By-Yourself”.

The book comprises both the technical and emotional skills needed for a successful career. The chapters pursue the following outline:

  • Value Creation
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Value Delivery
  • Finance
  • The Human Mind
  • Working With Yourself
  • Working With Others
  • Understanding Systems
  • Analyzing Systems
  • Improving Systems

Continue reading “The Personal MBA – Josh Kaufman”

Management, Personal Development, Posts

What is Your Personality Type ?

Every human being is unique. Each of us has a unique DNA, a unique experience of life, and a unique outlook to the future. Nonetheless, as a species – Homo sapiens, we all share some traits at different degrees: we tend to over-generalize, we procrastinate, we are curious, etc. Moreover, if we scan the history and the geography of human societies, we notice some patterns in the characters: the leader, the soldier, the scientist, the rebel, the traitor, the altruist, etc. We don’t find it difficult to compare one or more characters of a story to other characters in other stories…

The study of human behavior and personality has gained increased attention in the last two centuries and has evolved from pseudoscience theories (such as phrenology and physiognomy) to an established branch of psychology.

In a previous post “Who Are You, Really? – Brian Little“, the personality is defined as the result of the following determinants: biogenic (inherited genes), sociogenic (culture and values) and idiogenic (individual decisions and will) traits. The OCEAN model for human personalities and behavior was used as a tool to assess the basic personality traits.

Many other models exist in the literature. In this post, the following personality models are presented: MBTI, FIRO-B, SDI, and DISC. These models are widely used today in the corporate world (in hiring and management), and they are part of some management programs. All the models are based on psychological research studies and are formulated as introspective self-report questionnaires that can be found online.

MBTI – Myer Briggs Type Indicator

The  Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality assessment model that was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the conceptual theory proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. The personality traits are grouped into four categories:

  • Introversion / Extraversion: What is your source of energy? From inside yourself (I) or from people (E).
  • Sensing / INtuition: How do you perceive the world? As facts and details (S) or as possibilities and big picture (N).
  • Thinking / Feeling: How do you make decisions? Using analytical thinking (T), or feelings and empathy (F).
  • Judging / Perception: How do you organize your life? To-do lists and instructions (J) or flexibility and improvisation (P).

This produces 16 personality types as shown in the figure below. An individual can fall into one type, or between 2 or more types, depending on its score.

MBTI Continue reading “What is Your Personality Type ?”