Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live

XI – We must build the four underlying capacities that make excellence possible: strength and endurance (physical), high positive energy (emotional), control of attention (mental), and a compelling sense of purpose (spiritual).

4 – More than a hundred studies have demonstrated some correlation between employee engagement and business performance.

6 – Great performers… work more intensely than most of us do but also recover more deeply.

6 – In fields ranging from sports to chess, researchers have found that four hours a day is the maximum that the best performers practice.

9 – Our core needs: Sustainability (Body) – being able to regularly renew and take care of myself so I’m healthy, fit and resilient; Security (Emotions) – feeling appreciated, cared for, valued for who I am and what I do; Self-expression (Mind) – freedom to develop and express my unique skills and talent; Significance (Spirit) – what I stand for and believe in – what gives me a sense of meaning.

13 – Perhaps no human need is more neglected in the workplace than to feel valued.

13 – The single most important factor in whether or not employees choose to stay in a job, Gallup has found, is the quality of their relationship with their direct superiors. Gallup has uncovered twelve key factors that produce high engagement, productivity, and retention among employees. Fully half of them are connected to the issue of feeling valued…

20 – “How can we get more out of our people?” leaders regularly ask us. We suggest they pose a different question: “How can I more intentionally invest in meeting the multidimensional needs of our employees so they’re freed, fueled, and inspired to bring the best of themselves to work every day?”

20 – To build competitive advantage, organizations must help employees to cultivate qualities that have never before been critical – among them authenticity, empathy, self-awareness, constant creativity, an internal sense of purpose, and perhaps, above all, resilience in the face of relentless change.
24 – (Daniel Goleman, inspired by R.D. Laing)
The range of what we think and do
Is limited by what we fail to notice
And because we fail to notice
That we fail to notice
There is little we can do
To change
Until we notice
How failing to notice
Shapes our thoughts and deeds.

25 – Is the life you’re leading worth the price you’re paying to live it?

27 – Awareness has multiple dimensions. We typically ask our clients to consider it from three angles: How long is your perspective (beyond the short-term)? How wide is your vision (how will it affect others)? And, perhaps most important, how deeply are you willing to look?

28 – By embracing our own opposites and getting comfortable with our own contradictions, we build richer, deeper lives.

28 – (Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson) “Our efforts at self-justification are designed to serve our need to feel good about what we have done, what we believe and who we are.”

30 – (Gregory Bateson) “There is always an optimal value, beyond which anything is toxic, no matter what: oxygen, sleep, psychotherapy, philosophy.” The Stoic philosophers referred to this paradox as anacoluthia.

31 – (Seng-ts’an) “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.”

32 – Strengths overused eventually become liabilities.

33 – 25% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after one week. 60% do so within 6 months. The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution ten separate times without success.

33 – 70% of organizational change initiatives ultimately fail.

36 – (Alfred North Whitehead in 1911) “It is a profoundly erroneous truism… that we should cultivate the habit of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations, which we can perform without thinking about them.”

42 – … the most passionate commitment to a given change is invariably counterbalanced by an equally powerful but often unseen commitment not to change (“immunity to change”).

43 – “How can I design this ritual so I enjoy its intended benefits but also minimize the costs I fear it will prompt?”

49 – (Josephine Arendt) “It would be reasonable to say that everything happens in our bodies is rhythmic until proven otherwise.”

51 – Think for a moment about the Indianapolis 500. The driver who wins that race isn’t the one who drives the fastest, the longest, and most continuously. The winner is the one who drives at the highest speeds on the track but also makes the most efficient pit stops along the way to refuel, change the tires and make mechanical adjustments and repair.

74 – The most powerful nap of all is one taken for 90 minutes between 1 and 3 p.m. – traditional siesta time – which is when the body most craves sleep.

97 – Consider the beloved bagel. Its average size has doubled since 1960.

109 – McGill University researcher Debbie Moskowitz has found that Monday is the best day for low-demand administrative tasks, including setting goals, organizing and planning… Over the next two days, our capacity for focus and engagement is at a peak. It makes sense, both individually and organizationally, to tackle the most challenging work on those days… By Thursday… our energy often begins to ebb. This can be a good day for meetings in which reaching consensus is important. By Friday, we’re usually at the lowest level of energy for the week, especially in the afternoon. This can be a good day for more open-ended work, such as brainstorming, long-range planning, and relationship building.
117 – At Google, there is just a single vending machine on its main campus, and it’s there to make a point. The machine is filled with candy and other junk food, but items are priced in inverse proportion to their nutritional value. The worst foods cost the most. You can buy a bag of Famous Amos cookies for $4.55 or shortbread cookies for $3.40 if that’s your thing, but they are going to cost you an arm and a leg.

128 – (W. Edwards Deming) “Fear takes a terrible toll.”

131 – (Jill Bolte Taylor) “It takes less than ninety seconds for limbic system programs to be triggered, surge throughout the body, and then be completely flushed out of our systems… If you stay angry after ninety seconds, it’s because you’ve chosen to stay angry.”

136 – (when feeling threatened) Simply taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly can be helpful because it’s a rapid and effective way of decreasing your physiological arousal and returning to a state of greater calm. Feeling your feet- your toes, then the balls of your feet, then your heels is powerful because doing so pulls you back into your body and out of the visceral experience of threat.

137 – James Gilligan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent forty years studying violence. “In the course of that work,” he writes, “I have been struck by the frequency with which I received the same answer when I asked prisoners, or mental patients, why they assaulted or killed someone. Time after time, they would reply, ‘because he disrespected me.’ Gilligan has found that gaining respect, even more than money, is often the motive for armed robbery (‘I never got so much respect in my life as I did when I pointed a gun at some dude’s face’).”

138 – (Daniel Goleman) “Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are remarkably potent biologically, almost as powerful as those to our very survival.”

150 – (Jonathan Haidt) “Over and over again studies have shown that people set out on a cognitive mission to bring back reasons to support their preferred belief or action. And because we are usually successful in this mission, we end up with the illusion of objectivity. We really believe that our position is rationally and objectively justified.”

179 – (Herbert Simon in 1971) “… a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

180 – (Maggie Jackson) “As we cultivate lives of distraction, we are losing our capacity to create and preserve wisdom… and slipping towards a line of ignorance that is paradoxically born of an abundance of information and connectivity.”

189 – (David Lykken refers to mental energy as) “the ability to persist for long periods thinking productively about a problem, to shut out distractions (and) to persist in search of a solution.”

190 – The average U.S. office worker receives between 50 and 100 e-mails a day.

191 – … answering email often provides a source of relief – a defensible reason to distract ourselves from more difficult and challenging tasks at hand.

194 – (Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi) “Preoccupation with the self consumes psychic energy because in everyday life we often feel threatened. Whenever we are threatened we need to bring the image of ourselves back into awareness, so we can find out whether or not the threat is serious, and how we should meet it… Self-consciousness, which is the most common source of distraction, is not a problem for such a person (who feels safe and secure)… Instead of worrying about how he is doing, how he looks from the outside, he is wholeheartedly committed to his goals.”


3 thoughts on “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live”

  1. Good read; thanks for sharing. Will include this book in my next Amazon shopping spree. If you enjoy this book, you may want to check out ‘Finding Flow” by Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi which was the last reference you quoted. I read it awhile ago and was reminded about it again when I read your article..

  2. Hi ernie, I have read chick sent me high yi’ book “Flow” of course, how different is it from “Finding Flow”. Also read his Creativity. I sure hope he doesn’t turn out to be John Maxwell who sells writes multiple books with the same content…

  3. hmmm I havent read ‘Flow’ so cant comment on that. agreed with you re John Maxwell though I did enjoy one of his latest books ‘everyone communicates; few connects’; found it quite differently from his other leadership books..

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