Communicating Simply

From a HBR interview with General Electric’s former CEO-Chairman Jack Welch:

For a large organization to be effective, it must be simple. For a large organization to be simple, its people must have self-confidence and intellectual self-assurance. Insecure managers create complexity. Frightened, nervous managers use thick, convoluted planning books and busy slides filled with everything they’ve known since childhood. Real leaders don’t need clutter. People must have the self-confidence to be clear, precise, to be sure that every person in their organization—highest to lowest—understands what the business is trying to achieve. But it’s not easy. You can’t believe how hard it is for people to be simple, how much they fear being simple. They worry that if they’re simple, people will think they’re simpleminded. In reality, of course, it’s just the reverse. Clear, tough-minded people are the most simple.

Wonders Everywhere

American Zen teacher Joko Beck in Nothing Special:

Practice isn’t simply being integrated or being healthy or being a good person, though all of these things are part of practice. Practice is about the wonder. If you want to check your own practice, the next time something comes up in your life that you can’t stand, ask yourself, “where’s the wonder here?” That’s what increases as we practice. We gain the ability to see the wonder of life no matter what it is and regardless of whether we like it or don’t like it. For example when we approach a relationship in this way, we can say, “I love you for what you are and I love you for what you are not.” Instead of faultfinding, ” You talk too much. You never talk. You leave your clothes everywhere. You never clean off the kitchen counter. You pick on me all the time”—when you say, “I love you for what you are and I love you for what you are not” the wonder shines through.

Protecting the Downsides

Dean Yeong on protecting your downsides:

When it comes to managing my finances, protecting downsides are far more crucial than maximizing growth and returns. The same works in running a business, growing a career, and having a life in general. To accomplish long-term growth, we need a solid foundation that protects us from unforeseen events, which at the same time, allows us to take more risks. In other words, having a downside protection gives you the advantage of taking more calculated risks in the long run.

Volume and Cost Structures in the Packaged Goods Industry

Warren Buffett at the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting:

It is true that in the packaged goods industry, volume trends for everybody—whether they’re fat or lean in their operation—volume trends are not good. And the test will be over time—you know, three, five years—are the operations which have had their costs cut, do they do poor, in terms of volume, than the ones, that in my judgment, look very fat?

Uninterrupted Thinking & Focus

Bertrand Russell’s Autobiogrpahy (1951) reports of mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s ability to focus:

[Whitehead’s] capacity for concentration on work was quite extraordinary. One hot summer’s day, when I was staying with him at Grantchester, our friend Crompton Davies arrived and I took him into the garden to say how-do-you-do to his host. Whitehead was sitting writing mathematics. Davies and I stood in front of him at a distance of no more than a yard and watched him covering page after page with symbols. He never saw us, and after a time we went away with a feeling of awe.

How Can You Be More Assertive at Work?

Alison Green on becoming more assertive at work, especially in the face of sexism:

The problem: People were saying inappropriate and sexist things to me, and I kept getting too anxious to tell them to knock it off.

  • Give up on ever having that perfect retort that would wither them to their bones, or beautiful speech that would change their life. Instead, I wrote out some very simple, one line, adjustable scripts for every situation I’d come across.
  • Embrace the power of awkward silence. Since I don’t have it in me to make a scene instead just say my one line script, and not say anything else or make it better. Let it be uncomfortable without anyone ever being able to say I was being unprofessional.

Voice to Young Women’s Long-unarticulated Feelings

Journalist Jessica Bennett from New York Magazine opined that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (2013) finally gives women the “words to say what we’d long felt but couldn’t quite articulate.”

Sandberg may never be feminist enough, grassroots enough, inclusive enough, mom enough for everyone. But she has labeled a solution for problems that are rampant among a generation raised to believe that we were on level footing—and a pragmatic approach to change it. She’s also managed to bridge a gap that has mystified many an activist before her: reaching women who both self-identify as feminists (me,) and those who don’t (the women I met at the first Lean In circle.) She is, as one colleague recently joked, the first embodiment of “Big Feminism” (think Big Pharma, but with nicer hair.)

Liberating Your Thoughts

American Zen teacher Joko Beck in Nothing Special:

There is a foundation for our lives, a place in which our life rests. That place is nothing but the present moment, as we see, hear, experience what is. If we do not return to that place, we live our lives out of our heads. We blame others; we complain; we feel sorry for ourselves. All of these symptoms show that we’re stuck in our thoughts. We’re out of touch with the open space that is always right here.

Don’t Expect Too Much of Human Nature

Charlie Munger at the 2019 Daily Journal Annual Meeting:

Part of the secret of a long life, that’s worked as well as mine, is not to expect too much of human nature. It’s almost bound to be a lot of defects and problems. And to have your life full of seething resentments and hatreds, it’s counterproductive. You’re punishing yourself and not fixing the world. Can you think of anything much more stupid than trying to fix the world in a way that ruins yourself and doesn’t fix the world? It’s pretty stupid.

Miracle of Air Travel v. The Mayflower Voyage

Humans have the capacity to take momentous accomplishments for granted, reminds Claude Singer of the Brandsinger consulting firm:

While cruising across the Atlantic in 5 or 6 hours at 35,000 feet, I sometimes think of the sailing ship Mayflower, which crossed from England to Massachusetts in 1620 with 102 passengers—about the typical number for an Embraer jet or an early 737. Passengers set sail on September 9 and didn’t set foot on land again until November 11—nearly 10 weeks at sea.

The Mayflower passengers were stuffed in the ‘tween deck—an airless space less than five feet high—and instead of a few hours with a boring salesman, they lived for 65 days smashed among chests, children and chamber pots. The Mayflower passengers lived on slimy water from the bottom of casks and showed signs of scurvy—bleeding gums and bad breath.

When the Mayflower passengers sickened and vomited in the rolling seas, one sailor cursed and laughed at them, boasting that he’d be casting half of them overboard before they reached the terminal…er, the New World. As it turned out, that sailor died of an agonizing disease and was himself the first tossed overboard.