Peter Thiel and the recipe for innovation

Thiel

Peter Thiel, chess master by age 21, a doctorate in law by age 25, and founder of $1.5 billion company, PayPal at age 35 has helped to create some of the most successful businesses, in the world.

The first team Thiel created is known in Silicon Valley as the “PayPal Mafia” because the majority of his team went on to start and invest in world-dominating companies such as;

  • SpaceX
  • Tesla Motors
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Yelp
  • Yammer
  • Palantir

Today all seven of these companies are worth more than $1 billion each. Needless to say, Thiel knows a thing or two, about creating successful businesses so, it’s no surprise that his book, “Zero To One”, on how to grow a business masterpiece, is a New York Times #1 bestseller. Here are four reasons why;

1) The ultimate innovation recipe; Zero to One

Thiel argues the greatest leaps in innovation are vertical, not horizontal. Doing what we already know how to do (i.e horizontal progress) takes the world from 1 to n, you are simply adding more of something familiar. However, on the other hand, when you do something new (i.e vertical progress) you take the world from n to 1. This is the exact formula Thiel seeks to create in every new enterprise. Theil argues that the champions of tomorrow, will not win by competing in an existing marketplace. Instead, they escape competition altogether, because their business is brand new and that is the recipe for success.

2) Success comes from monopoly not competition

The problem with competition is that your own success is constantly dependant on your competitors. You have to fight hard to survive and keep up to date. If you offer affordable products, with low margins, then you probably can’t focus on properly renumerating your employees. You have to focus on every saving every efficiency. It’s a constant battle.

A monopoly like Google, for example, is different. As it doesn’t have to worry about competing with anyone, it has wider latitude to care about its workers, its products, and its wider social impact. Google is the ideal kind of business that is successful enough to take ethics seriously without jeopardizing its own existence. It’s not just great for marketing but great for all of those involved – employees and employers, alike. In business, money is either an important thing or it is everything. Monopolists can afford to think about things other than making money; non-monopolists can’t.

In Theil’s view competition forces businesses to be so focused on the present margins that it can’t possibly plan for a long-term future. The only one thing that can allow a business to transcend the daily savage struggle for survival is monopoly profits.

3) Competition closes our creativity

Theil argues that people can be so obsessed with competition, that they focus on what has worked in the past in an unhealthy manner, without searching for future opportunities. Businesses start to rely on competitors for their own advancement, meaning they lose sight of their own purpose and why the business was created in the first place.

Creative monopolists, however, never lose sight of their original business purpose. Their success is defined by the value they are constantly adding to their market. They give customers more choice by adding entirely new categories of benefits to the world. Creative monopolies aren’t just good for the rest of society; they’re powerful engines for making the world a better place.

4) Slow and steady can win the innovation race

Many think that to win at innovation you’ve got to be the first entrant to the market. this can be true in some cases, and if it’s done well you can capture significant market share while competitors scramble to get started. However, Theil argues that moving first is a tactic, not a goal. What really matters is creating consistent cash flows in the future, so being the first mover doesn’t give any benefits if someone else can come along and unseat you. It’s much better to be the last mover – that is, to make the last great development, in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits – because you have done it the best way possible.

Zero to One is full of counterintuitive insights that will help your thinking and build the foundations for a world-changing enterprise. These are just the top four insights we believe to be the most monumental, however, the book has plenty more.

 

A set of principles for building your future

principles

What are your guiding principles? When you truly take ownership of what matters to you, you create a set of principles that you live by. You will lead with your guiding principles, in everything you do, why? Because you are creating your own reality.

Your guiding principles will carry you over rough patches and you won’t doubt your direction. It’s a set of rules that you define, allowing you to reach your predetermined goals. How to define your set of principles? Well, that’s up to you but here is a six-point guide which should point you in the right direction:

1. Get clear, be organized

An organized mind is a clear mind. Write down your overriding objectives in life. The blue sky visions. Then put these at the top of your to-do lists and write the steps you need to get there. Not only does this cut unnecessary tasks from your life but it gives you the clarity you need to stay close to your path.

2. Be disciplined

Every day try to do at least one thing you’ve been avoiding. A quote that I fail to forget is by Jim Rohn “There are two types of pain you will go through in life–the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.” Each moment you can decide which you would rather experience.

3. Be optimistic

Don’t let your past mistakes or failures shape your future. Be self-aware of any negative baggage you are holding onto as this will only bring you down. Why not aim high? See life in a positive way and you will be rewarded. Your past does not reflect your future.

4. Be thirsty for knowledge

If you really want to be at the top of your game you need to know all there is to know about your field. This can happen by reading two articles or one research paper, about your industry, every day. Imagine how knowledgeable you could be in just 12 months of this practice? Importantly, after a few months, you will really start to sense patterns in your industry – this will allow you to eventually start making realistic predictions about where your market is headed.

5. Embrace others

Networking not only creates potential clients but also increases your understanding of the businesses field in which you operate. Get to know the key people in your area. Never speak badly about others. Embrace new opinions and insights – maybe even make friends. Not all of our learning can be from books. Don’t underestimate the importance of first-hand accounts, from key industry players on their experiences in the field.

6. Be Tough

Demand only the highest and best standards of everyone you surround yourself with. This includes setting, demanding and being accountable for high standards yourself. Remember that an organization is only as good as its leader. A great leader is tough, consistent in following his/her rules of success. Never let your standards slide and always do your best work. Words for leaders to live by.

 

Small changes to make a big difference to your work-life-balance

work-life-balance

Work-life-balance is a lured after concept, desired by most working parents (and workers). Numerous surveys show that parents are eager to make changes allowing them to work flexible hours. The priority for many working families has now shifted from payment to flexibility. In reality, getting the balance right is difficult. UK employees work longer hours than anyone else in Europe so trying to find time outside of work, for family time is inherently tricky. Irrespective of whether you intend to discuss work place flexibility with your employer, or not, there are a few tweaks small you can make to your routine that can give a big difference to you and your family.

Five changes to your routine to boost your work-life-balance

1) Come home relaxed

Easier said than done after a hard day at the office but if you need to take 10 minutes to shower and change before you can sit down and relax with your family then you should do that. Children (and partners) can pick up on moods and will sense your unhappiness with the family routine if you come home and feel burdened by more responsibilities. However, if you’re relaxed when you come home than your family is likely to be more relaxed too. Regardless of how much time they get to spend with you in the evening its quality over quantity, every time.

2) Try to share something with your family every evening

The easiest thing to share would be a meal together however, understandably you might not be able to make dinner every night. If it’s late and they’ve already eaten try enjoying a light snack with your children and a chat before bed. You can also try to read a short article/story or watch something together every night. Every evening may be a hard commitment to keep but that constant routine in the evening can become one of the most enjoyable parts of your families weekly routine.

3) Enjoy the bedtime routine

Bathtime, storytime or both if you can. This will be a good time to relax with your children. Your children don’t need full on entertainment but just having you next to them whilst they play in the bath will make them feel like they have spent time with you. Simply just being physically next to the ones you love can be enough.

4) Make one night your special night

Have one night a week, game night, movie night or pizza night. Do whatever the kids enjoy. Just mark one night a week that everyone can look forward to having together. Your family will love to know that there is one night when everything stops, just for them. You will look forward to this occasion every week too.

5) Be present

Make sure that you are fully present for the precious time that you spend with your loved ones. Unplugging, if you can, is an excellent way to properly unwind. Technology notifications are incredibly distracting and can pull you into a sphere of unwanted stress. Try to stay focused on what’s important, when you’re with your family and avoid distractions.

6)  Start small and build up

Don’t try to overhaul your routine in one week, it won’t work. The best way to make healthy habits for you and your family is to make small incremental changes and then build upon the ones that suit your family lifestyle most. Embracing new things not only adds excitement to your family routine but it keeps spirits high.

Why we all need to know about the six pillars of self-esteem

self-esteem

Nathaniel Branden, the leading self-esteem psychologist, neatly wraps up what he defines as the foundations of self-esteem in his best selling book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. 

Self-esteem is not just about how to become successful in the business world or ace networking. Self-esteem is one of the most important parts of living a fulfilled and happy life. Regardless of your material achievements or assets, if your mind is unfulfilled, you can never feel happiness.

Branden explains how there are two limbs of self-esteem. First, there is self-efficacy, which describes the basic confidence telling us that we can “handle” certain situations. The second part of self-esteem is self-respect. This is a sense of being worthy of happiness and joy. The second limb is the most interesting as it is often overlooked in our confidence pursuits.

The six pillars of self-esteem

Live consciously

Self-awareness is always the first step to improvement. When we start to become aware of our thoughts and behavior we can asses our actions. The best way to understand if our self-esteem (or lack of), is influencing our actions is to asses whether our decisions are fact-based or emotions based. For example, am I deciding to not speaking at this meeting because I feel insecure or because I have nothing valuable to add? You must then correct your behavior if necessary.

Self-acceptance

This is closely linked to self-respect. Whilst we might not be able to “choose” to be self-confident for factual reasons, such as lack of experience, we can “choose” to accept ourselves. Instead of berating ourselves for not having the high stands we want, we can choose to value ourselves and treat ourselves with respect. Accepting is not judging or disliking. Accepting does not mean we are stuck in a situation, in fact, the contrary, it means we are respecting our journey to success.

Acceptance creates the important space we need to grow and self-develop. If we allow ourselves to be who we truly are, we don’t seek the approval of others. At this moment, it’s okay to just be us. We acknowledge the important fact that it can be changed in the future but right now accepting ourselves is the most important part.

Self-responsibility

If we want self-esteem, we have to stop seeing ourselves as victims. Our future is in our hands. Until we acknowledge that we control our own reality we won’t be motivated to work on our self-esteem – because it greatly influences how we enjoy our lives. Nobody else can give us what we internally need to be fulfilled, this mindset can lead to misery. Other people only have as much control over us as we give them. “Concentrate on what is in your circle of influence and neglect what lies outside of it” are words to live by. Things inside our circle of influence include our response to situations, the way we self-care and how we try to self-develop.

Self-assertiveness

Self-assertiveness is a skewed concept from assertiveness, in that it is not about negotiating and gaining, it is more about owning who we are and demanding what we deserve as a person. “Honor your needs and wants. Live and express your values“.

Live purposefully

Live with a goal in mind. Aimless wander leads to incoherence and feelings of a lack of purpose in life. When we live with a goal in mind, we don’t waste time on things irrelevant to our wants. Instead, we can be efficient high-achievers always striving for the prize.

Furthermore, it’s important to choose a specific goal, not just “I will do my best”.

Give it metrics, numbers, times and a finishing date. It is important to be able to measure your progress. Only by making the progress measurable will we be able to tracks results and adjust our actions accordingly.

Personal Integrity

Two key quotes from this book perfectly encapsulate this pillar “Always make sure that your behaviors are congruent to your values”, and “be honest, as everything else is disrespectful to yourself.”

When our behavior is in line with our values, we gain more self-esteem as we can rely on ourselves to take care of our needs and wants. We stop doubting ourselves and start leading ourselves. This might lead to situations where we face the aversion of others but so long as we are true to ourselves and act authentically to our values we can be sure to lead a happy and fulfilled life.

How are we primed to perform? The self-awareness guide to performance

performance

Performance management is the business development buzzword. Every organization wants to be on top of their employee performance but very few take the correct steps to manage it. Performance is the outcome of motivation. Without understanding what motivates employees, (or even ourselves) we cannot hope to influence work performance. This was the impetus behind authors, Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor’s best seller, Primed to Perform; How to Build The Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. This dynamic duo takes a look at research and case studies of successful companies and successful leadership that have created the most effective, motivational environments for their employees.

The six human motives

This blog will take a look at the six motives, for why people perform work activities. These motives form the skeleton of motivation and if understood, and utilized correctly by organizations, could define the difference between a business and a successful business.

Direct motives

The first thee motives are directly linked to the activity and positively drive performance.

1. Play

You’re most likely to lose weight when the motive driving you is “play”. This means that the task you are performing doesn’t seem like work to you but instead a hobby or fun. The activity in itself feels rewarding to you. This motive is described in the science world as intrinsic.

  • Because the play motive is solely influenced by the work/activity itself, as opposed to the outcome reward, it is considered as the most powerful driver of high performance.
  • Experimentation and learning are at the heart of this motive. People enjoy seeking out new information and having new experiences.

2. Purpose 

Unlike the play motive, the purpose motive is solely concerned with the outcome of the work. You may or may not enjoy the work but you complete the work because you value its impact.

  • The purpose motive is a powerful motive for employes. However, it’s less powerful than the play motive, because it’s not attached to the work in itself but instead the outcome.

3. Potential 

This is where you believe the work will take you closer to your long-term goals or overriding objectives. You may or may not enjoy the work but you see it as a stepping stone to your dreams and that motivates you to complete the work.

  • Out of the three motives, this is the least influential – however, it has and does motivate employees all over the world to complete work.

According to researchers in this area, when the three p’s; play, purpose, and potential are in place, they create the most performance inducing work environments.

Indirect motives

These three motives for work have been found to negatively impact performance.

1. Emotional pressure 

When emotions such as guilt, pleasing others or disappointment are influencing you to work, they have nothing to do with the work itself but everything to do with your insecurities/fears.

  • When you are motivated to work by negative emotions it has been shown to greatly hinder performance and create poor mental health.

2. Economic pressure 

This is when you do an activity, solely to win a reward. The motive is separate from the work and from your own identity or values. It is an unhealthy motivation and reduces work performance

  • Economic pressure doesn’t only relate to finance but also includes societal expectations and the avoidance of punishment.
  • The research shows that people at any income level can feel economic pressure at work.

3. Inertia 

This is the worst motive for work and not only hinders performance but moral and mental health in employees. This motive exists when you have either forgotten or cannot see any good reason for why you are doing the work apart, from the fact that you did it yesterday. This motive leads to the worst performance overall in employees.

 

As we can see direct motives increase performance and the three P’s can be found in every thriving organization. The indirect motives decrease performance and should be prevented by managers. Organizations should be considering how they presently incentivize employees and how they could make it better to produce the best employee performance.

 

The art of choosing; how to increase your self-awareness around choice

choice

The world famous expert on choice and decisions, Sheena Iyengar, wrote her book titled, “The Art of Choosing” to explain years of her cumulative research on human decision making. What makes her book so interesting (and a global book chart dominator) is that she combines psychology, politics, technology, business, and culture to understand what influences choice, how external factors affect us and what we can do better.

External factors and choice

Learning how to make choices is more important today than ever. We live in a noisy world, where choices are in abundance – being self-aware around our decision making cuts the complexity (and bias) out of our choices. Iyengar became one of the world’s most prominent researchers in this field following her famous jam study, whereby shoppers could sample 6 or 24 different varieties of jam at a supermarket. The study found six times more purchases when fewer jams were available.

How to be more self-aware around decision making

1. Understand your culture and how much choice you need

Cultures that focus and protect individual freedoms and rights, for example, Europe, and the U.S produce people who want autonomy and independence. Eastern cultures are typically more focused on community and feel more at ease with collective decisions being made on their behalf.

In a study where Asian-American and Anglo-American children were either given a toy to play with by their mothers or allowed to select a toy to play with themselves, the Asian kids played longer when their parents chose their toy, whereas the American kids played longer if they self-selected.

This kind of environmental bias can determine our overall happiness and career satisfaction. Be mindful of how much choice you need in your life and try to negotiate a career that can give you what you need.

2. A lack of choice, if left unresolved, can impact your health

Typically those in higher paid roles, with higher responsibility have better mental health. Studies show this isn’t due to more money but due to the increased freedom to structure work and tasks experienced by those in higher responsibility roles.

Feeling like you have a choice is so important that even the perception of choice matters a great deal. For example, when new residents of a nursing home were given a schedule of activities, along with instructions stating they were “allowed” to visit other floors, they felt like their health was the staff’s responsibility, and they gave up on it. Telling a second group that everything was their choice made them much happier, even though technically both groups were free to do as they pleased. This is something to remember if you lead a group of employees, choice is key to employee morale, innovation and productivity.

3. Sometimes delegating our freedom of choice is better for us, but only if we’re properly informed

Sometimes in life, we have to make really, really hard choices. This can range from life or death situations for example, deciding to keep a loved one on life support or big business choices for example, deciding how many employees you have to make redundant. In these situations, it’s often better for your mental health to delegate to an expert however, it only makes you feel better if you’re well informed about the entire decision making process.

In a study where participants read about the following three scenarios, the group that didn’t have to make the decision but was well-informed felt best about it:

  1. The parents aren’t informed about their child’s survival chances, the doctors stop the treatment and the child dies.
  2. The parents are told there’s a 60% survival chance, but with severe neurological disabilities, before the doctors stop the treatment and the child dies.
  3. The parents are told the chances and have to decide themselves.

Groups 1 and 3 felt equally as bad, for being robbed of choice and for having to deal with the circumstances, while group 2 felt glad to know what was going on and that the choice was inevitable.

Choices are everywhere and we make them multiple times a day. Our objective should be to increase self-awareness around the most important areas of our life. Why am I making this choice? Is there any external factors that may make this choice less objective? Small, probing questions can increase self-awareness around your external biases and allow you to make decisions that best serve your long term goals.

 

 

 

 

Science believes this 5-second rule is the secret to motivation

5-second rule

Mel Robbins is probably best known for being an incredibly powerful and influential motivational speaker, she rose to fame by her hugely popular TED talk on “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over”.

More recently, Robbins authored The 5 Second Rule and sent the science and business world into a tizzy.

Her book, explains in simple terms why we have got procrastination all wrong. Robbins explains that procrastination doesn’t come from a bad, lazy or undetermined attitude but instead it comes as a human defense to stress. The task we are avoiding is linked to something that is stressing us. Naturally, if you’re stressed, you want to escape the stressor. So, we are not avoiding the task in itself but, the stress associated with executing the task.

The five-second rule and science

Robbins explains that chemists define ‘activation energy’ as the minimum amount of energy required to trigger a chemical reaction – (i.e for us to stop procrastinating and execute a task). Interestingly, scientific experiments have proven that the initial energy used to get a chemical reaction is always higher than the energy required to maintain the reaction once it’s started. Therefore, we just have to mentally pull ourselves through the first hurdle of a task and the rest is smooth sailing – this might explain why it takes so much energy to get out of bed but when you’re up you require a lot less effort to keep up.

5-second rule and stress

The key influencer between us and completing task X is stress. Put another way, without feeling stress associated to task X we wouldn’t overthink it and then avoid it. Instead, we would impulsively complete the task.

Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist focusing his research on human decision making, claims that our emotional decision making (gut reaction) is just as important as our rational decision making. We have evolved as humans with a capacity for gut reactions (counterbalanced by our rational mind), in order to speed up what could essentially be a very slow and ineffective decision-making process. So, we need our gut reaction, which relies on our brain’s prefrontal cortex, to be in great working order otherwise, we become stuck making even the simplest decisions. And guess what happens to your prefrontal cortex when you’re stressed? That’s right, it pretty much shuts down!

That’s where the beauty of the 5-second rule comes into play – it encourages actions before stress has the ability to prevent them from happening.

How the 5-second rule works

It’s a very simple 2-step process, triggered by one concept; “Make a 5-second decision that is directly contrary to the stress response”.

So, when you feel stress attached to a task do the following:

  1. Count backward from five, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. By counting, you stop focusing on any excuses, fears or distractions and focus on the goal.
  2. The second you reach ‘1’ you take action, you move, you get started.

This rule can be used anytime you are facing uncertainty or fear. As soon as you start counting backward from 5 you’ll find that your mind will slow down, and you’ll be ready to leap into action. Robbins calls this a decision of courage: “When you act with courage, your brain is not involved. Your heart speaks first, and you listen.

So what are you waiting for? Try the 5-second rule today and see how it can change your life!

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