Book Notes: Switch, the best book on change I’ve read so far

I’ve been feeling like i’m stuck in a rut and decided to read this book “Switch”. I like how it makes Daniel Kahneman’s analogies of Systems 1 & 2 more relatable and specific to the topic of Change. Highly recommended!

 

There are so many great chapters that I found myself screen-shooting so many pages of the book so I can keep a copy with me even when it’s overdue. The Heath brothers describe the necessary conditions for successful change to happen.

Book Notes:

  • There are basically 3 basic factors at play for change to happen successfully. A clear-headed Rider (your brain), a willing Elephant (your emotions) and a well-laid Path (your situation.)

 

RIDER

  • The Rider is basically your brain. While it’s very useful for analyzing multiple options and situations, having too many options usually results leaving your brain in analysis paralysis.
  • In situations where change is needed, too much analysis will doom the effect. Your Rider tends to focus on problems instead of solutions and will spin its wheels until you are given clear direction.
  • That’s why to make progress on a change, you will need to direct the Rider. Show him how to act, what destination to pursue.
  • Look for bright spots – when you feel overwhelmed by the current situation, take a step back and look for bright spots. These are the instances where change happened successfully despite of multitude of factors that contributed to the problem.
  • Example: Jerry Sternin was tasked to solve Vietnam malnutrition issue and was given 6 months. He looked for mothers that had healthy kids even though they faced of all the problems all the other mothers do (e.g, poor sanitation, poverty, etc). In the end, he discovered it was because of certain local foods that these healthy kid mothers were adding to the porridge (i.e, small crabs that provided protein) and feeding habits (feed kids four times a day instead of twice so their bodies can absorb more nutrients).
  • Jerry then created change based on the 3 factors, he drafted the necessary actions for mothers to change their feeding habits (RIDER), created social pressure and hope for the mothers to encourage them to change their feeding habits (ELEPHANT) and started communal cooking classes that were easy to sign up for (PATH)
  • Important that he did not try to import a situation from another country, but looked towards the community for solutions so the locals would support and not look for excuses.
  • Status quo feels comfortable and steady because much of the choice has been squeezed out. You have routines and your way of doing things, the Rider is on autopilot.
  • Ambiguity is exhausting to the Rider, because the Rider is tugging on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct the Elephant down a new path which is uncertain. Elephant will insist on taking the default path because uncertainty makes the Elephant anxious.
  • Compelling vision is critical, but the paralyzing part for change is in the details.
  • Scripting critical moves helps to translate aspirations to actions.
  • You have to think of the specific behavior that you want to see in a tough moment and follow through. E.g. (Change from high to low fat diet by getting people to just buy 1% skim milk, use invasive options in surgery as resort.)
  • Describe a compelling destination for Riders to correct the Rider’s greatest weakness of getting lost in analysis.
  • Riders love the analyzing phase more than the doing phase and that’s dangerous if you are trying to change.
  • If you worry about inaction, create B&W goals – marry your long term goal with short term critical moves. For example, rather than “eat less” (ambiguous), it’s more helpful to a B&W goal of “no more food after 8pm”.
  • Rider has many strengths, such as sacrificing short term gratification for long term goals and is a clever tactician, but you have to give him a map so he can follow it perfectly. His flaws such as limited reserves of strength, his analysis paralysis can be mitigated by following bright spots and giving clear directions.

ELEPHANT

  • When change works, it’s because leaders are speaking to the Elephant as well as the Rider.
  • People think change happens in the ANALYSE – THINK – CHANGE order, but rather it is SEE – FEEL – CHANGE
  • In most change situations, the parameters are not well understood and future is fuzzy
  • You are not going to convince an unsure bride to by talking up tax advantages and rent savings
  • You have to present a picture or evidence that makes you FEEL something. It might be a disturbing look at the problem, or a hopeful glimpse of the solution – something that hits you at the emotional level.
  • Example: Target design executive Robyn Waters brought in trendy iMacs and M&Ms to let people ooh and ahh over them to show them how color could affect purchasing decisions. She wanted them to feel energized, hopeful, creative and competitive – they took the bait.
  • We tend to take the rosiest interpretations of the facts for ourselves, which can be an enormous problem with regard to change.
  • Before we can move in a new direction, we need to get a clear picture of where we are and how we’re doing.
  • People tend to change only when a crisis compels them to , which implies we need to create a sense of fear or anxiety or doom. However, this only works in certain cases.
  • Burning platform: fear can be a powerful motivator, especially if you need quick and specific action.
  • However, most change is not a “stone-in-my-shoe” situation, but rather requires creativity, flexibility and ingenuity (e.g. how to improve a marriage)
  • Positive emotions have their uses too: Joy leads us to play, which allows us to broaden the kind of things we are doing, like building resources and skills. Interest lends us to get involved and to tackle new experiences. Pride experienced when reaching personal goals broadens the kind of tasks we contemplate for the future and encourage us to pursue even bigger goals.
  • Make people feel like they are closer to the finish line than they thought. People find it more motivating be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the start of a shorter one.
  • Shrink the change to make the Elephant feel like there is immediate payoff.
  • 5 minute room rescue technique: instead of thinking of cleaning your whole house, get a kitchen timer and set it for 5 mins. In that time, start clearing a path and you can stop without a guilty conscience. Chances are you won’t stop after.
  • Starting an unpleasant task is always worse than continuing it, so shrink the change and just do it.
  • Useful tips when shrinking change: limit the investment (just 5 minutes) and think of small wins (milestones that are within reach).
  • Engineer small wins at the beginning to engineer hope! Hope is precious in a change effort, it is Elephant fuel.
  • Once people are on the path and making progress, its important to make their advances visible. Solutions focused therapists ask the “Miracle question” – e.g, imagine all your troubles were resolved, what would your morning look like? How would you know?
  • You can create a miracle scale – “wow you’re already 20% of your miracle there!” Focus attention on small milestones that are attainable and visible rather than on the eventual destination which may seem remote.
  • Change is more often than not, 1 small step forward, 1.3 steps back and 2.7 steps forward.. etc.
  • No one can guarantee a win but the goal is to be wise about the things that are within our control (e.g, how we DEFINE the ultimate victory and the small milestones that lead up to it)
  • Small wins should be 1) meaningful 2) within immediate reach.
  • When a task feels too big, the Elephant will resist. Big changes come from a succession of small changes.
  • The challenge is to get the important part of your self image and triggers the kind of decision making.
  • Identities are central to decision making, any change effort that violates someone’s identity is likely doomed for failure.
  • People adopt identities all the time, “e.g, mother, priest, scientist”. You can cultivate identities in people.
  • For identity model of decision making, we tend to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” “What kind of situation is this?” “What would someone like me do in this situation?”. What’s missing is the calculation of cost and benefits.
  • Failure is part of creating change. You need to create the expectation of failure en route, but not the mission itself. Have a growth mindset that reframes failure as a natural part of the change process.
  • Our brains and abilities are like muscles that can be strengthened with practice. We are not born skateboarders or nurses.

 

PATH

Perhaps the most compelling factor for change to happen is for there to be a conducive environment to make the journey for both the Rider and Elephant easier. Create a steep downhill slope and give them a push. Remove some friction from the trail. Scatter a lot of signs to tell them they’re getting close. Shape the path for them.

  • Self manipulation works. People eat less when you use smaller plates
  • Haddon Matrix: Pre-event, event and post event to prepare for social and environmental factors
  • People are incredibly sensitive to the environment and culture – the norms and expectations of communities that we live in.
  • To change people and yourself, you have to change your habits, that’s why people usually change their environments (e.g, smokers find it easier to quit when they are on vacation.
  • In cases where you can’t change the environment, you can use action triggers by preloading decisions to pass control of your behavior to the environment. E.g, I will call my mom after I drink my coffee in the morning.
  • Action triggers have a profound power to motivate people to do the things they know they need to do. Action triggers triple the rate of success for hard goals. E.g, write down where to exercise and which days
  • Habits are behavourial autopilots, to work, they need to to 1) advance the mission, 2) be relatively easy to embrace
  • Use checklists to help yourself eliminate blindspots in a complex environement.
  • As you try to make a switch, the hardest struggle will be to maintain your motivation, to keep your Elephant on the road. This puts a huge burden on your Rider to rein in your Elephant. It’s much easier if the Path is in your favour.
  • Herd mentality: It’s much easier to persevere on a long journey when you’re travelling with a herd.
  • In ambiguous situations, we all look to others for cues to tell us how to behave.
  • Behavior is contagious, when someone becomes obese, the odds of the person’s close mutual friends becoming obese tripled!
  • How to keep small steps to becoming consistent steps? First thing is to recognize and celebrate that first step.
  • Animal trainers use approximations to set a behavioural destination to reinforce positive behaviours
  • We need to be looking for bright spots and start rewarding them! If you want your boss or teammate to change, you have to be less stingy with the mango (rewards)
  • Big changes start with very small steps. Small changes tend to snowball. When change works, it follows a pattern.
  • People who change have clear direction, ample motivation and a supportive environment. 

 

For Singaporeans, this is a SUPER resource for you to read for free and it’s such a waste that not so many people know about it! I downloaded and read the book for free from Overdrive with my National Library Board (NLB) account. 🙂

How To: Borrow NLB eBooks using OverDrive App

https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/Main/Help/Overdrive

 

 

Welcome to November

IMG_2279Welcome to November. My plans to have read more this year have gone severely awry. But one of the things that have disappointed me the most is that I’ve failed to read more.

I’ve been making it a point to read more fiction instead of the regular self-help books. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In my head I kept picturing the voices as they were in the movie, but I realised that there were so many details left out from the wonderful book because of time.

Jane Austen had such a clear, critical perspective of life in her days. In Mr. Darcy’s pride, you recognize that money can’t buy everything, particularly, Elizabeth’s respect at the start of the book. It’s only towards the end, when he started acting out of love to help her that they grew fond of each other and won her heart. For Elizabeth, her prejudice against him made her blind to the wrongs that Darcy had had to endure with Mr. Wickham, and in the end it was her own sister that would suffer from her prejudices.

It’s interesting how a story can help you learn lessons.

From Pride and Prejudice, I learnt that a couple has to learn together to become the best versions of themselves. I think it’s naive to say that, “if you love me, you will accept me as I am.” A large part is realising that you are wrong, and wanting to improve.

It might have had a good ending, but it’s also far from a fairy tale. I’ve never seen so much critique in a love story about the effects of money in society and it’s power in determining who we should love. I do feel she’s a romantic at heart, because in the end the love Elizabeth and Darcy had far outdoes the pragmatic kind of love that Charlotte opted for when she decided to settle down with the annoying Mr. Collins.

Jane Austen was an excellent judge of character, reminding us that it’s more important to be a moral character, than a rich one.

Building BentoBooks #launchin30

Hi everyone!

Today I’m excited to announce that I’m going to build BentoBooks for my #launchin30 challenge, inspired by Mackenzie Child‘s 12 x 12 challenge.

In thirty days, I will launch this new book exchange app. I’ve already completed OneMonthRails and built a small Pinterest clone – although the images are disabled because AWS is crazy expensive for hosting!

Purpose of the app:

To facilitate easy book exchanges between a book club community.

Here are some of the features that I can foresee this app having:

1. User Authentication

2. Private Messaging

3. Image Uploads

4. Validations

5. Pagination

If you’re starting just like me, some guides that have been really helpful so far (will be updating as I go along):

Install Rails – For a step by step guide to installing Rails on your Mac or PC.

Ruby Toolbox  and Ruby Gems – For DB of Ruby Gems

Heroku Toolbelt – headache free way to deploy your apps

I’ve really enjoyed building the Pinterest app, but have totally dropped the ball and this is a good chance to reboot! Good luck to me! You can check out Bento Books‘ progress.

Book Notes: On Writing – Steven King

Reading is such luxury. Reading about how to write from someone like Steven King is a greater privilege.

The first thing I thought about after reading the book was, why aren’t Singaporeans writing more? Fiction, non-fiction, whatever? Or are there people who write but have gone undiscovered? What happened to our generation of Russell Lees, our Teenage Textbooks, our Catherine Lims?

On Writing should be made a textbook for all writers. Fiction or not – Steven King covers the nooks and crannies of writing with honesty and pragmatism. There’s lots of practical tips in his “toolbox” for beginners but it’s his emphasis on writing about the truth and sticking to what we know, said what was on everyone’s mind but hadn’t been said before.

Here are my highlight / notes from the book:

Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around. So you don’t need a big fancy desk to start writing under the perfect conditions. All you need is a closed door, a computer or notepad and grit. In fact, put that table in the corner of the room and just focus on the writing.
From the toolbox:

The paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing—the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words.

To write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you.

Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colourful.

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

The simplicity of noun-verb construction is useful—at the very least it can provide a safety net for your writing.

Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float.

You should avoid the passive tense

Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?

You might also notice how much simpler the thought is to understand when it’s broken up into two thoughts.

The adverb is not your friend.

The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.

While to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.

You always add ’s, even when the word you’re modifying ends in s—always write Thomas’s bike and never Thomas’ bike

Easy books contain lots of short paragraphs—including dialogue paragraphs which may only be a word or two long—and lots of white space.

Topic-sentence-followed-by-support-and-description insists that the writer organize his/her thoughts, and it also provides good insurance against wandering away from the topic.

Writing is refined thinking.

The more fiction you read and write, the more you’ll find your paragraphs forming on their own.

Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story … to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

On reading and writing

Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?

You must learn to use it well if you are to write well. What this means is lots of practice; you have to learn the beat.

Words have weight. (Literally)

if you’re a bad writer, no one can help you become a good one, or even a competent one. If you’re good and want to be great … fuhgeddaboudit.

There is a muse,* but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor

If you don’t want to work your ass off, you have no business trying to write well—settle back into competency and be grateful you have even that much to fall back on.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that

Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.

Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns.
Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.

I’d like to suggest that turning off that endlessly quacking box is apt to improve the quality of your life as well as the quality of your writing. And how much of a sacrifice are we talking about here?

 If there’s no joy in it, it’s just no good. 

Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy.

The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing

Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness.

Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind—they begin to seem like characters instead of real people.

How much and when to write?

Writing is at its best—always, always, always—when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it’s fresh and almost too hot to handle.

When I’m writing, it’s all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good.

I believe the first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season

I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words.

You can read anywhere, almost, but when it comes to writing, library carrels, park benches, and rented flats should be courts of last resort—Truman Capote said he did his best work in motel rooms, but he is an exception; most of us do our best in a place of our own. Until you get one, you’ll find your new resolution to write a lot hard to take seriously.

The space can be humble (probably should be, as I think I have already suggested), and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business

Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.

I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.
When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.

But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. The longer you keep to these basics, the easier the act of writing will become.

Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three.

If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.

What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all … as long as you tell the truth.

What would be very wrong, I think, is to turn away from what you know and like in favor of things you believe will impress your friends, relatives, and writing-circle colleagues. What’s equally wrong is the deliberate turning toward some genre or type of fiction in order to make money.

Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do.

(John Grisham)  He was once a young lawyer, though, and he has clearly forgotten none of the struggle. Nor has he forgotten the location of the various financial pitfalls and honey-traps that make the field of corporate law so difficult.

Don’t imitate,  emulate Grisham’s openness and inability to do anything other than get right to the point.

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

Do you consciously need a plot?

I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.

Honesty in storytelling makes up for a great many stylistic faults, as the work of wooden-prose writers like Theodore Dreiser and Ayn Rand shows, but lying is the great unrepairable fault.

Descriptive writing

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

Good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else

It’s also important to remember it’s not about the setting, anyway—it’s about the story, and it’s always about the story.

In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it “got boring,” the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.

When it’s on target, a simile delights us in much the same way meeting an old friend in a crowd of strangers does. By comparing two seemingly unrelated objects—a restaurant bar and a cave, a mirror and a mirage—we are sometimes able to see an old thing in a new and vivid way.

The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.

one of the cardinal rules of good fiction is never tell us a thing if you can show us, instead

Talk, whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character; it can also be a breath of cool, refreshing air in a room some people would prefer to keep shut up.
The only question is how it rings on the page and in the ear. If you expect it to ring true, then you must talk yourself. Even more important, you must shut up and listen to others talk.

I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.

in real life we each of us regard ourselves as the main character, the protagonist, the big cheese; the camera is on us, baby.

Boredom can be a very good thing for someone in a creative jam. I spent those walks being bored and thinking about my gigantic boondoggle of a manuscript.

The Ideal Reader

In the end I listen most closely to Tabby, because she’s the one I write for, the one I want to wow. If you’re writing primarily for one person besides yourself, I’d advise you to pay very close attention to that person’s opinion.

Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader. He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time.

Ideal Reader is also the best way for you to gauge whether or not your story is paced correctly and if you’ve handled the back story in satisfactory fashion.
Pace is the speed at which your narrative unfolds.

The best way to find the happy medium? Ideal Reader, of course. Try to imagine whether he or she will be bored by a certain scene
Editing and backstories

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.

Back story is all the stuff that happened before your tale began but which has an impact on the front story.

Back story helps define character and establish motivation.

In a very real sense, every life is in medias res.

Don’t go to writing class, just keep writing

It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.

Book Notes: Anything you want – Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers’ “Anything You Want” is a quick hour read that’s easy to understand. I love how he lives by his life’s philosophy and his very human approach to business.

Here are some of the highlights I made of his book:

You need to know your personal philosophy of what makes you happy and what’s worth doing

Business is not about money, it’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.

Do business so that you can answer the calls for help.

You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people – it’s really ok!

The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.

Derek goes on to talk about how he started CD Baby as an accidental entrepreneur. His main goal was to help musicians and that was always the guiding principle behind CD Baby – before profits.

Some people will tell you to outsource everything, but if learning to do it by yourself makes you happy, then do it.

A tech startup that outsources it’s programming is like a musician outsourcing it’s song / music writing

The point is not just to cross the finish line, but to enjoy the ride while you are crossing it – for example, you could ride a taxi to bring you to the finish line in a marathon, but what’s the point?

What’s most important is that it makes you HAPPY.

Write down a utopian view of what you want the world to be and how your business helps to achieve that. Make that your mission.

For Derek, his mission was to run a business that would pay musicians every week, show him where his fans were, never kick him out for not selling enough records, never allow paid placement – otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to those that couldn’t afford it.

The best plans are simple – don’t complicate matters with growth revenue reach and other business jargons.

There’s no revolution, only bit by bit and day by day. Start working on your business idea by building a simple prototype, as long as you are in the race, you can achieve it.

You don’t need funding, just need to find customers and build something people really want. Otherwise all the marketing dollars won’t be able to save your company.

Only do things that make you do “HELL YEAH” – if it’s a hmm ok, then say “NO”.

Ideas are just multipliers of execution. Execute.

How do you grade yourself?

It’s important to know your benchmarks – otherwise how else will you know you are focused on what’s honestly important to you?

Running a business

Care about your customers more than about yourself. That’s your #1 rule of providing good service to them, It’s all about them them them – not you.

Set up your business like you don’t need the money – the money will likely come your way.

Be clear in what you say – it can cause pain when you are unclear to customers and your staff.

Be human – you don’t need to act like a mechanical turk just because others are – look at mail chimp and the Treehouse!

When delegating, make sure you answer the question and explain the philosophy, then make sure everyone understands and get someone to document it!