All the notes were taken directly from the source mentioned.
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Disappointments are hard. Paying the bills is hard. Strained relationships are hard. Raising children is hard. Losing a loved one is hard. There are periods in our lives when every day can be hard.
The implicit message is that if we aren’t perpetually exhausted, we must not be doing enough.
What does one do when they’ve stripped life down to the essentials and it’s still too much?
But as I sat in my hotel room that night, I wondered: What do you do if there are too many big rocks? What if the absolutely essential work simply does not fit within the limits of the container?
Here is what I learned: I was doing all the right things for the right reasons. But I was doing them in the wrong way.
Essentialism was about doing the right things; Effortless is about doing them in the right way.
Instead of trying to get better results by pushing ever harder, we can make the most essential activities the easiest ones.
Anything Can Be Made Effortless, but Not Everything
Drawing on learnings from behavioral economics,
George Eliot, What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?
Similarly, when your brain is filled with clutter like outdated assumptions, negative emotions, and toxic thought patterns you have less mental energy available to perform what’s most essential.
Then, after a warm meal, a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep, things look completely different.
When you remove the burdens in your heart and the distractions in your mind, you are able to see more clearly. You can discern the right action and light the right path.
The Effortless State is one in which you are physically rested, emotionally unburdened, and mentally energized. You are completely present, attentive, and focused on what’s important in that moment.
What If This Could Be Easy?
When faced with a task that felt impossibly hard, she would ask, Is there an easier way?
The problem is that the complexity of modern life has created a false dichotomy between things that are essential and hard and things that are easy and trivial.
Our language helps to reveal our deeper assumptions. Think of these revealing phrases: When we accomplish something important, we say it took blood, sweat, and tears. We say important achievements are hard-earned when we might just say earned. We recommend a hard day’s work when day’s work would suffice.
Then there are the ways our language betrays our distrust of ease. When we talk of easy money, we are implying it was obtained through illegal or questionable means. We use the phrase That’s easy for you to say as a criticism, usually when we are seeking to invalidate someone’s opinion. It’s curious to me how we default to sayings like It won’t be easy, but it’s worth it or It’s going to be really hard to make that happen, but we should try. It’s like we all automatically accept that the right way is, inevitably, the harder one.
Our brain is wired to resist what it perceives as hard and welcome what it perceives as easy. This bias is sometimes called the cognitive ease principle, or the principle of least effort. It’s our tendency to take the path of least resistance to achieve what we want.
What if this essential project could be made easy? For some, the idea of working less hard feels uncomfortable. We feel lazy. We fear we’ll fall behind. We feel guilty for not going the extra mile each time.
To invert means to turn an assumption or approach upside down, to work backward, to ask, What if the opposite were true? Inversion can help you discover obvious insights you have missed because you’re looking at the problem from only one point of view. It can highlight errors in our thinking. It can open our minds to new ways of doing things.
Effortless Inversion means looking at problems from the opposite perspective.
For example, the other day I was tidying up my office. As I scanned the room I saw an old printer we had recently replaced. It had been sitting on my office floor for a couple of weeks, taking up space. It bothered me every time I saw it there. Still, every time I looked at it I thought of all the steps required to deal with it: deciding whether to keep or discard it, checking the costs of replacing the color ink, potentially finding a place to give it away. Every time, the work involved was enough for a voice in my head to whisper, Too much trouble! so I quickly resigned myself to it staying on the floor. However, this time I asked, What if this could be easy? What if all those steps I’d assumed this task entailed were not in fact required steps at all? I then looked up from my desk and happened to see one of the building workers through the window of my office. I walked outside and asked if he wanted the printer for free. He said yes, and took it. The problem was solved within two minutes of asking the question.
There’s no question that some goals are incredibly, almost impossibly, hard to achieve. However, even these can sometimes be made less hard, once we find an indirect approach.
Marketing author Seth Godin once shared the following: If you can think about how hard it is to push a business uphill, particularly when you’re just getting started, one answer is to say: ˜Why don’t you just start a different business you can push downhill?’
When a strategy is so complex that each step feels akin to pushing a boulder up a hill, you should pause. Invert the problem. Ask, What’s the simplest way to achieve this result?
ENJOY What If This Could Be Fun?
Giving to charity is important. Participating in a day of comedy is enjoyable. By bringing charity and comedy together, Tewson made giving easier. As a result, not only do more people participate, they actually look forward to participating again, year after year.
But essential activities don’t have to be enjoyed only in retrospect. We can also experience joy in the activity itself. We simply reduce the lag time between the action and satisfaction by pairing the essential activity with a reward.
You’re going to watch your favorite show, or listen to the new audiobook you just discovered, or relax in your hot tub at some point. So why not pair it with running on the treadmill or doing the dishes or returning phone calls? Perhaps that seems obvious. But how long have you tried to force yourself to do the important but difficult thing through sheer determination, instead of making it fun?
Habits explain what you do, but rituals are about how you do it.
For example, think of Marie Kondo’s approach to tidying up. She doesn’t simply invite us to get rid of the things cluttering our closets, she suggests a ritual for letting go. We are to thank the item we are discarding. We are to think about the ways in which items create joy.
She writes, The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.
When we invite joy into our daily routine, we are no longer yearning for the far-off day when it might arrive. That day is always today.
RELEASE The Power of Letting Go
Do you have any items like this, living rent-free in your mind?
Do you have any items like this, living rent-free in your mind? Outdated goals, suggestions, or ideas that snuck into your brain long ago and took up permanent residence? Mindsets that have outlived their usefulness but have been part of you for so long, you barely even notice them?
Have you ever found that the more you complain and the more you read and hear other people complain the easier it is to find things to complain about?
When you focus on something you are thankful for, the effect is instant. It immediately shifts you from a lack state (regrets, worries about the future, the feeling of being behind) and puts you into a have state (what is going right, what progress you are making, what potential exists in this moment).
Gratitude is a powerful, catalytic thing. It starves negative emotions of the oxygen they need to survive. It also generates a positive, self-sustaining system wherever and whenever it is applied. The broaden-and-build theory in psychology offers an explanation for why this is the case. Positive emotions open us to new perspectives and possibilities. Our openness encourages creative ideas and fosters social bonds. These things change us. They unlock new physical, intellectual, psychological, and social resources. They create an upward spiral that improves our odds of coping with the next challenge we face.
Complaining, too, creates a self-sustaining cycle. But instead of making it easier to do what matters, this system makes it harder. A downward spiral. When we experience negative emotions our mindset narrows (think: fight, flight, or freeze). We are less open to new ideas and to other people. This weakens our personal physical, intellectual, and psychological resources. It depletes our reserves, making it harder to cope with the very challenges or frustrations that provoked our complaints in the first place.
BJ Fogg, founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, says that to create a new habit we simply need to look for something we already do and then attach a new behavior to it.
After [X] I will [Y].
once I started paying attention, I realized that I was actually complaining quite a lot, often without any awareness.
After a couple of days of using this rule, I noticed I would start to catch myself midcomplaint and quickly finish my sentence with words of gratitude.
According to the late Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor who had been named the world’s top management thinker, people don’t really buy products or services. Rather, they hire them to do a job.
We discover grudges perform poorly. Grudges cost us resources but don’t deliver a satisfying return on our investment.
It also keeps us trapped in a never-ending loop of blame, self-righteousness, and self-loathing.
This feels freeing in the short term, but in the long term our prize is not freedom. Our price is living captive to our anger, resentment, contempt, and negativity.
We hire a grudge to protect ourselves. We think that by being wary of the person or people who hurt us once, we can protect ourselves from being hurt again. We think the grudge creates emotional armor. But this too turns out to be a scam. The grudge makes us more vulnerable, more fearful. It becomes harder to trust, to let anybody in.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.
REST The Art of Doing Nothing
Studies show that peak physical and mental performance requires a rhythm of exerting and renewing energy and not just for athletes.
by practicing in the morning, in three sessions of sixty to ninety minutes, with breaks in between.
To maximize gains from long-term practice, the study’s lead author, K. Anders Ericsson, concluded, individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.
Do not do more today than you can completely recover from today. Do not do more this week than you can completely recover from this week.
In 2014, when she was just inches away from reaching the world championship, she stalled. Every muscle in her arms was straining. One more pull skyward and she’d be there. But she lost her grip. She came crashing down to the floor. She was allowed to try again. But by this point she had broken down, emotionally and mentally. She tried again but couldn’t do it. So she gave up. The following year, DavÃÃ°sdÃ³ttir decided to hire Ben Bergeron as her coach. When I spoke with Bergeron on my podcast, I asked him about that 2014 competition. He told me that if at that stalled moment she had taken even one minute to rest physically and reset mentally before resuming, she would have finished the climb and made it into the finals. Think
Taking just one minute to get into the right state,
To try to maximize both deep sleep and sleep quality, Wise took some simple steps. He went to bed at the same time every night, turned off digital devices an hour before bed, and before turning in, took a hot shower.
We spend a third of our lives asleep. Perhaps it is time for you to evaluate if you could be doing it better.
Dal called his technique slumber with a key.
NOTICE How to See Clearly
This is not magic. It is the difference between seeing and observing, between watching and noticing, between being and being present.
To be in the Effortless State is to be aware, alert, and present, even in the face of fast-moving information and the endless onslaught of distractions.
According to the Gottmans, we all make small and large attempts to obtain affection, affirmation, and attention in our relationships. They call these bids for connection.
There are three distinct ways a partner can respond to a bid for attention.
The first type of response is what they call turning toward.
The second kind of response is turning against. This is where your partner might respond to your comment about the weather by saying, You really think so? I think it’s much too hot out today. I don’t enjoy this humidity at all!
The third kind of response is turning away. Now your partner doesn’t address the comment about the weather at all and instead responds with something entirely unrelated, like “Have you taken the car for the oil change yet?”
According to Gottman’s research, both of the first two responses even the argumentative one are generally healthy for a relationship. The one that does the most damage is the third kind. It signals that these two people do not see each other. They are not playing the same game, or even the same sport.
When we’re fully present with people, it has an impact. Not just in that moment either. The experience of feeling like the most important person in the world even for the briefest of moments can stay with us for a disproportionate time after the moment has passed.
Words include generous, valued, understanding, refreshing, authentic, worthy, peaceful, important, special, splendid, seen, symbiotic, focused, raw, intimate, important, invigorating, empowering, quiet, golden, magical, warm, impactful, engaging, validating, accepting, and priceless.
We are too eager to say, Oh, you should X, or I don’t know why you didn’t do Y in the first place, or If I were you I would Z. Such quick judgments, however well intentioned, make it harder for people to gain clarity, for two reasons.
First, when people fear being judged, it drowns out their inner voice.
First, when people fear being judged, it drowns out their inner voice. They are able to focus only on what they think we want to hear, rather than on what they actually see or feel. Second, the moment our judgments and opinions are voiced, they compete for the limited mental space others need to draw their own conclusions.
The purpose is not for the committee to tell them what to do. The purpose is to help them figure it out for themselves.
As Parker Palmer, an expert in the Clearness Committee process, has written, Each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems.
We can help people in our lives do the same by putting aside our own opinions, advice, or judgment completely, by putting the other person’s truth above our own.
Past a certain point, more effort doesn’t produce better performance. It sabotages our performance. Economists call this the law of diminishing returns: after a certain point, each extra unit of input produces a decreasing rate of output.
Past a certain point, more effort doesn’t produce better performance. It sabotages our performance.
Negative returns: the point where we are not merely getting a smaller return on each additional investment, we are actually decreasing our overall output.
Haven’t you found that when you do your very best work, the experience feels effortless? You act almost without thinking. You make things happen without even trying to make things happen. You are in the zone, in flow, in peak performance.
In Eastern philosophy the masters call this sweet spot wu wei (pronounced Oo-Way). Wu means not have or without. Wei means do, act, or effort. So wu wei, literally without action or without effort, means trying without trying, action without action, or effortless doing.
DEFINE What Done Looks Like
If you want to make something hard, indeed truly impossible, to complete, all you have to do is make the end goal as vague as possible.
Getting clear on what done looks like doesn’t just help you finish; it also helps you get started.
take sixty seconds to close your eyes and actually visualize what it would look like to cross it off as done: I’ve addressed each of the questions the client posed and proofread it once.
A Done for the Day list is not a list of everything we theoretically could do today, or a list of everything we would love to get done. These things will inevitably extend far beyond the limited time available. Instead, this is a list of what will constitute meaningful and essential progress.
Ask yourself, If I complete everything on this list, will it leave me feeling satisfied by the end of the day? Is there some other important task that will haunt me all night if I don’t get to it?
simply leaving this task for your loved ones to do for you later.
She wakes up every day with the intent and prayer that these things not be left unfinished when she dies. She is clear about what done looks like for her whole life. What if we could all give ourselves such a gift by approaching our life’s goals as if they were a Swedish Death Cleaning project?
For many years I have been inspired by the idea that, whether we’re aware of it or not, each one of us has an essential mission in life.
START The First Obvious Action
Hastings and Randolph looked for the ridiculously simple first step that would inform them whether they should take a second step or just walk away.
Minimum Viable Action
Marie Kondo’s world-famous method for tidying up their homes. They loved the idea of eliminating everything but the possessions that sparked joy for them.
An alternative is offered by Fumio Sasaki in Goodbye, Things. He suggests that the first action be Discard something right now. He urges readers, Don’t wait till you have finished this book. The best way to go about it is to hone your skills as you part with your possessions. Why not close this book this very moment and discard something?¦This is the first step, right now.
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, defines a minimum viable product as that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort.
SIMPLIFY Start with Zero
No matter how simple the step, it’s still easier to take no step.
What are the minimum steps required to complete this?
Here is a rule I have found helpful: Being asked to do X isn’t a good enough reason to do Y.
But Jobs came at it from the opposite angle. He started at zero and tried to figure out the absolute minimum number of steps required to achieve the desired outcome.
Simplicity; the art of maximizing the steps not taken.
Instead, embrace the rubbish no matter how ugly it is so you can crash, repair, modify, and redesign fast. It’s a far easier path for learning, growing, and making progress on what’s essential.
embracing mistakes leads to accelerated learning.
Is there something new you want to learn but feel overwhelmed by? Something that you know would add great value to you either personally or professionally but that you feel intimidated by because of the long road to mastery?
Make Failure as Cheap as Possible
When our children were younger, Anna and I wanted them to have the chance to be rubbish with money while the stakes were low. After all, we’d much rather they made mistakes with their allowance at the ages of eight and ten than make mistakes with their life savings as adults. So we gave them three glass jars: one for charity, one for saving, and one for spending. When they received their allowance, it was up to them to divide up the money. We didn’t try to advise them on how much should go to saving or spending. We wanted them to make the decisions,
To make effortless progress on what matters, learning-sized mistakes must be encouraged. This isn’t giving yourself or others permission to consistently produce poor-quality work; it’s simply letting go of the absurd pressure to always do everything perfectly.
Reid also advocates the same philosophy in entrepreneurship and business. If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, he says, you released it too late.
Talk to yourself like you would talk to a toddler learning to walk: You’ve taken the first step. You may feel wobbly now, but you’ve begun. You’re going to get there.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
The idea with the zero draft is to write anything. The more rubbish the better. It doesn’t have to be seen by anyone. It never has to be judged. Don’t even think of it as a draft; it’s just words on a page.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed by an essential project because you think you have to produce something flawless from the outset, simply lower the bar to start. Whether it’s writing a book, composing a song, painting a canvas, or any other creative pursuit that calls to you, inspiration flows from the courage to start with rubbish.
PACE Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast
Setting a steady, consistent, sustainable pace was ultimately what allowed the party from Norway to reach their destination
vicious cycle: we get tired, so then we take a break, but then we think we have to make up for the time lost, so we sprint again.
She would write two stories a week, so it was manageable, she explained. And when those two stories were finished, she would stop work for the week, even if she had the energy and appetite to write more.
Lisa Jewell, author of some eighteen bestselling novels, put it, Pace yourself. If you write too much, too quickly, you’ll go off at tangents and lose your way and if you write infrequently you’ll lose your momentum. A thousand words a day is a good ticking over amount.
Whether it’s miles per day or words per day or hours per day, there are few better ways to achieve effortless pace than to set an upper bound.
in our overenthusiasm for getting things done, we may make the mistake of thinking that all progress is created equal. All progress is not created equal.
Since the end of the Cold War, the military has used the acronym VUCA to describe our global environment: one that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
long-term progress through the environment is slow and plagued by unidentified threats.
We can establish upper and lower bounds. Simply use the following rule: Never less than X, never more than Y.
The lower bound should be high enough to keep us feeling motivated, and low enough that we can still achieve it even on days when we’re dealing with unexpected chaos.
The lower bound should be high enough to keep us feeling motivated, and low enough that we can still achieve it even on days when we’re dealing with unexpected chaos. The upper bound should be high enough to constitute good progress, but not so high as to leave us feeling exhausted. Once we get into the rhythm, the progress begins to flow. We are able to take Effortless Action.
This is what it means to achieve Effortless Results: not to achieve a result once through intense effort, but to effortlessly achieve a result again and again.
Whenever your inputs create a one-time output you are getting a linear result.
With residual results you exert effort once and reap the benefits again and again.
An author who writes a book and is paid royalties for years is getting residual income. A student who learns first principles and can then apply that understanding in a variety of ways over time is acquiring residual knowledge.
An entrepreneur who sets up her business to work even when she is on vacation for six months has a residual business. A social entrepreneur who provides microloans that are repaid so they can be loaned out again and again is making a residual contribution. A person who does something every day, habitually, without thinking, without effort, is benefiting from residual action. A mother who delegates a whole chore to her child and makes it fun, so it happens every day without prodding, is practicing residual parenting.
Lever: Learning Modest Input, Residual Results Personal capability compounds over time. You develop a reputation once, but then opportunities flow to you for years. You understand first principles deeply and then can easily apply them again and again. You establish a habit once, but then it serves you for a lifetime. Lever: Teaching Modest Input, Residual Results Sharing knowledge is powerful. Teach others to teach, and you get exponential impact. You craft the right story once, and it can live on for millennia. The more we teach, the more we ourselves learn. Lever: Automating Modest Input, Residual Results Automate something once, and then forget about it as it continues to work perpetually. Write up a cheat sheet once, and use it every day afterward. Write lines of code, or hire someone to write them, and then they will perform the same actions thousands of times. You can write a book once, but then millions can read it even hundreds of years later. Lever: Trusting Modest Input, Residual Results If you hire the right person once, they’ll produce results hundreds of times. When you reduce friction on or across teams up front, collaboration flows smoothly on project after project. When you build a unified team where everybody knows who is doing what, itÂ becomes easier to stay aligned on roles, responsibilities, regulations, rewards, and desired results. Lever: Preventing Modest Input, Residual Results Solving a problem before it happens can save you endless time and aggravation later on. Strike a problem at its roots, and you can prevent it from resurfacing again and again. Preventing a crisis now is always easier than managing it in the future.
LEARN Leverage the Best of What Others Know
When you understand why something happened or how something works, you can apply that knowledge again and again. For example: A student who learns the fundamental principles of any discipline can then easily apply that understanding in a variety of ways over time. An entrepreneur who learns what their customers really want can apply that knowledge to any number of different products and services. A manager who learns how to unify their team can apply that approach with many future teams. A person who understands how to make a decision can make decisions forever.
It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree. Make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.
Isaiah Berlin’s original 1953 essay The Hedgehog and the Fox revived the saying by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. Jim Collins famously favored the hedgehog’s approach to succeeding in the business world, arguing that foxes lack focus and waste their energy. But Archilochus’s comparison was always meant to suggest that the fox would fare better if it didn’t simply know many things but knew how to connect those things together.
Munger’s approach to investing and life is the pursuit of what he calls worldly wisdom. He believes that by combining learnings from a range of disciplines psychology, history, mathematics, physics, philosophy, biology, and more we produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
To get the most out of your reading I recommend the following principles: Use the Lindy Effect. This law states that the life expectancy of a book is proportional to its current age meaning, the older a book is, the higher the likelihood that it will survive into the future. So prioritize reading books that have lasted a long time.
Read to Absorb (Rather Than to Check a Box). There are books I have technically read but I can’t tell you anything about them. On the other hand, there are books I may not have read cover to cover, but I have returned to certain chapters or passages so often that they have become a part of me. Reading a book to earn the right of displaying it on your shelf misses the real point of the exercise. But absorbing yourself fully in a book changes who you are, just as if you had lived the experience yourself.
Distill to Understand. When I finish reading a book, I like to take ten minutes to summarize what I learned from it on a single page in my own words. If you summarize the key learnings from a book you just read, you absorb it more deeply. The process of summarizing, of distilling ideas to their essential essence, helps us turn information into understanding, and understanding into unique knowledge.
Being an expert in something nobody is doing is exponentially more valuable.
To reap the residual results of knowledge, the first step is to leverage what others know. But the ultimate goal is to identify knowledge that is unique to you, and build on it. Is there something that seems hard for other people but easy for you? Something that draws on what you already know, making it easier to continuously learn and grow your competence? That is an opportunity for you to create unique knowledge.
LIFT Harness the Strength of Ten
Whenever we want a far-reaching impact, teaching others to teach can be a high-leverage strategy.
When You Learn to Teach, You Teach Yourself to Learn
Go for the straightforward message that can be easily understood and repeated.
AUTOMATE Do It Once and Never Again
Gawande argues, this progress has a downside. The staggering volume and complexity of know-how has exceeded experts’ ability to manage it. And this is exactly why tragic accidents happen.
So what we need is not more knowledge but new skills and strategies that allow us to apply that knowledge without taxing our working memory.
Preorder flowers or gifts to be sent on key birthdays, anniversaries, or other annual events.
Have a percentage of your paycheck automatically deposited in savings each month.
Set up regular monthly or annual donations to your most valued charities.
The effort we invest in automating our most mundane but essential tasks yields significant and repeated benefits later on.
Trust can be a lever for turning modest effort into residual results.
TRUST The Engine of High-Leverage Teams
When you have trust in your relationships, they take less effort to maintain and manage.
You can quickly split work between team members. People can talk about problems when they come up, openly and honestly. Members share valuable information rather than hoard it. Nobody minds asking questions when they don’t understand something. The speed and quality of decisions go up. Political infighting goes down. You may even enjoy the experience of working together. And you perform exponentially better, because you’re able to focus all your energy and attention on getting important things done, rather than on simply getting along.
The best way to leverage trust to get residual results is simply to select trustworthy people to be around.
Executive coach Kim Scott writes in her bestselling book Radical Candor,
Every relationship has a structure, even if it’s an unspoken, unclear one. A low-trust structure is one where expectations are unclear, where goals are incompatible or at odds, where people don’t know who is doing what, where the rules are ambiguous and nobody knows what the standards for success are, and where the priorities are unclear and the incentives misaligned.
A high-trust structure is one where expectations are clear. Goals are shared, roles are clearly delineated, the rules and standards are articulated, and the right results are prioritized, incentivized, and rewarded consistently, not just sometimes.
Each participant’s compensation to the outcome of the whole project rather than to the work that individual contributed. Aligning the incentives in this way encourages the different parties to act as one team and to make decisions that benefit the whole project rather than their own self-interest. They not only feel a sense of ownership but are motivated to take initiative to make the whole experience more efficient.
High-Trust Agreement Results: What results do we want? Roles: Who is doing what? Rules: What minimum viable standards must be kept? Resources: What resources (people, money, tools) are available and needed? Rewards: How will progress be evaluated and rewarded?
Why do so many of us put up with problems big and small for so much longer than we have to?
PREVENT Solve the Problem Before It Happens
Once we add up the cumulative costs of the time and frustration from today, plus tomorrow, plus hundreds of tomorrows after that, suddenly it makes sense to invest in solving the problem once and for all.
ask yourself: What is a problem that irritates me repeatedly? What is the total cost of managing that over several years? What is the next step I can take immediately, in a few minutes, to move toward solving it?
Often, measuring something just once (or not at all) produces first-order consequences: the consequences are the direct and immediate results of our actions.
In an interrelated world, a single action can also have second-order and third-order consequences.
An Effortless Summary
Part I: Effortless State What is the Effortless State? The Effortless State is an experience many of us have had when we are physically rested, emotionally unburdened, and mentally energized. You are completely aware, alert, present, attentive, and focused on what’s important in this moment. You are able to focus on what matters most with ease. INVERT Instead of asking, Why is this so hard?, invert the question by asking, What if this could be easy? Challenge the assumption that the right way is, inevitably, the harder one. Make the impossible possible by finding an indirect approach. When faced with work that feels overwhelming, ask, How am I making this harder than it needs to be? ENJOY Pair the most essential activities with the most enjoyable ones. Accept that work and play can co-exist. Turn tedious tasks into meaningful rituals. Allow laughter and fun to lighten more of your moments. RELEASE Let go of emotional burdens you don’t need to keep carrying. Remember: When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack. Use this habit recipe: Each time I complain I will say something I am thankful for. Relieve a grudge of its duties by asking, What job have I hired this grudge to do? REST Discover the art of doing nothing. Do not do more today than you can completely recover from by tomorrow. Break down essential work into three sessions of no more than ninety minutes each. Take an effortless nap. NOTICE Achieve a state of heightened awareness by harnessing the power of presence. Train your brain to focus on the important and ignore the irrelevant. To see others more clearly, set aside your opinions, advice, and judgment, and put their truth above your own. Clear the clutter in your physical environment before clearing the clutter in your mind.
Part II: Effortless Action What is Effortless Action? Effortless Action means accomplishing more by trying less. You stop procrastinating and take the first obvious step. You arrive at the point of completion without overthinking. You make progress by pacing yourself rather than powering through. You overachieve without overexerting. DEFINE To get started on an essential project, first define what done looks like. Establish clear conditions for completion, get there, then stop. Take sixty seconds to focus on your desired outcome. Write a Done for the Day list. Limit it to items that would constitute meaningful progress. START Make the first action the most obvious one. Break the first obvious action down into the tiniest, concrete step. Then name it. Gain maximum learning from minimal viable effort. Start with a ten-minute microburst of focused activity to boost motivation and energy. SIMPLIFY To simplify the process, don’t simplify the steps: simply remove them. Recognize that not everything requires you to go the extra mile. Maximize the steps not taken. Measure progress in the tiniest of increments. PROGRESS When you start a project, start with rubbish. Adopt a zero-draft approach and just put some words, any words, on the page. Fail cheaply: make learning-sized mistakes. Protect your progress from the harsh critic in your head. PACE Set an effortless pace: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Reject the false economy of powering through. Create the right range: I will never do less than X, never more than Y. Recognize that not all progress is created equal.
Part III: Effortless Results What are Effortless Results? You’ve continued to cultivate your Effortless State. You’ve started to take Effortless Action with clarity of objective, tiny, obvious first steps, and a consistent pace. You are achieving the results you want, more easily. But now you want those results to continue to flow to you, again and again, with as little additional effort as possible. You are ready to achieve Effortless Results. LEARN Learn principles, not just facts and methods. Understand first principles deeply and then apply them again and again. Stand on the shoulders of giants and leverage the best of what they know. Develop unique knowledge, and it will open the door to perpetual opportunity. LIFT Use teaching as a lever to harness the strength of ten. Achieve far-reaching impact by teaching others to teach. Live what you teach, and notice how much you learn. Tell stories that are easily understood and repeated. AUTOMATE Free up space in your brain by automating as many essential tasks as possible. Use checklists to get it right every time, without having to rely on memory. Seek single choices that eliminate future decisions. Take the high-tech path for the essential and the low-tech path for the nonessential. TRUST Leverage trust as the engine oil of frictionless and high-functioning teams. Make the right hire once, and it will continue to produce results again and again. Follow the Three I’s Rule: hire people with integrity, intelligence, and initiative. Design high-trust agreements to clarify results, roles, rules, resources, and rewards. PREVENT Don’t just manage the problem. Solve it before it happens. Seek simple actions today that can prevent complications tomorrow. Invest two minutes of effort once to end recurring frustrations. Catch mistakes before they happen; measure twice, so you only have to cut once.
We needed to find ways to make every day a little easier. Why? Because we needed to be able to sustain this effort for an unknown length of time. It was not negotiable: we simply could not now or ever burn out. If your job is to keep the fires burning for an indefinite period of time, you can’t throw all the fuel on the flames at the beginning.
Just think how the trajectory of a life can shift in the most fleeting of moments. The moments where we take control: I choose, I decide, I promise, or From now on. The moments we let go of emotional burdens: I forgive you, I am thankful, or I’m willing to accept that. Or the moments when we make something right: Please forgive me, Let’s start over, I won’t give up on you, or I love you. In each new moment, we have the power to shape all subsequent moments.
If you take away just one message from this book, I hope it is this: life doesn’t have to be as hard and complicated as we make it.
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