Last month I was lucky to visit the Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks for the first time. It was relaxing, educational, and fun. And I learned a thing or two from the trees.
1. Certain things have been here way longer than modern man and have survived through thick and thin; this should give our lives perspective. The giant sequoia trees I saw were literally thousands of years old. The General Sherman Tree, the largest known tree on Earth, is 2,500 years old. These trees have lived through all the major wars of history, enormous natural disasters, and huge changes in climate and civilization around them. Compared to that, what is our relative importance? What can we learn from their survival?
2. A giant sequoia comes from a tiny cone. In the picture above, the cone for the giant sequoia is the small egg-shaped one, whereas the other cones that are much bigger come from (eventually) much smaller trees like pine. This goes to show that you can't judge one's full potential from one's modest beginnings and that sometimes the biggest things come from the humblest starts.
3. Sequoias need fire to live and grow. Fire is necessary for their survival and replication. At one time firefighters stopped forest fires too early, and this harmed the tree population; now they know the importance of allowing natural fires to do their work. Fires increase the temperature of the cones that fall from the tree, which burns away the outside and activates the seedlings inside to allow reproduction.
4. Sequoias help each other out. They grow deep roots underground and share water with each other. This is how they are able to survive extremely long periods of drought.
5. People tried to cut down giant sequoias that grew for thousands of years for their wood, just to discover they weren't really usable for that purpose. How do we avoid such mistakes in the future?
Back in March, I hosted Marc Goodman at Google LA for an Authors@Google talk.
Marc is a global strategist, author and consultant focused on the disruptive impact of advancing technologies on security, business and international affairs. He discussed the his new book Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It. It was scary and eye-opening and really made me wonder about unintended impacts of exponential technologies.
I just finished reading a book that Noah Kagan recently recommended, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I heard about it on Tim Ferriss's podcast.
The book was a pretty straightforward read. I found it a bit lacking in depth and non-obvious examples. The writing was good, as were the stories, but I was looking for more of a philosophical angle. I also think the book could've been more concise. I do like the core ideas of focusing on the one biggest thing at a time, saying no to everything that you're not 200% excited about, and spending time with the family and friends that will make life meaningful as opposed to email or other non-essential things that can keep us busy.
Below are my notes and main takeaways.
1 the essentialist
Ignore everything except what is essential
Refuse all other requests and be honest
Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now? If not definitive yes then say no.
Let others handle email conversations instead of jumping in first
Stop attending meetings unless have construction
Less but better
Choosing right activities first
If you don't prioritize your life someone else will
Undisciplined pursuit of more
Explore and evaluate
Myths: I have to, it's all important, I can do both
Truths: I choose to, only a few things really matter, I can do anything but not everything
Stop straddled strategy
Choice is an action not a thing. We are always choosing.
We forget our ability to choose. Learned helplessness.
More effort doesn't always yield better results
Almost everything is nonessential
Scan environment for vital few
4 trade off
What can I go big on?
No solutions, just trade offs
If too busy to think then too busy
Solitude required for serious work
Deliberate distraction free time and space to sit and think
Space to read
Listen for what's not being said
Keep a journal
Review every 90 days at high level for patterns
Animals who play more survive better
Required for cognitive development
Protect the asset
Is this something I absolutely love and want to do or have
Only do things that are 90% right
Be very selective
Make criteria selective and explicit
Decide on essential intent
Inspirational and concrete
11 dare: power of graceful no
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing
Separate the decision from the relationship
Consistently saying no
Own the awkward pause; Count to 3
Soft no: no, but (do it later)
Let me check my calendar and get back to you
Use email bounce backs
Yes, what should I de prioritize?
You're welcome to X but I'm not willing to Y
Slow yes and quick no
12 uncommit: cut losses quickly
Beware of endowment effect and sunk cost fallacy
Pretend u don't own it yet. How much would I pay to buy this or how hard would I work to get on this project?
Cut out options
What is the limiting constraint or obstacle
17 progress: small wins
Done better than perfect
Minimal viable progress
Minimal viable preparation
Visually reward progress
18 flow and routine
19 focus: what's important now
Less but better
Very selective in hiring