Posts by :
- It’s self-correcting by providing opportunities for course corrections throughout the week as well as from week to week.
- You get rid of the noise in your head (the buzz of all the little MUSTs, SHOULDs, COULDs floating around).
- Unimportant items slough off. (Don’t carry them forward—if they’re important, you’ll rehydrate them when needed.)
- You manage small and simple lists—never a big bloated list.
- It’s not technology bound. When you’re not at your desk, pen and paper work fine.
- Keeping your working set small helps you prioritize faster and make course corrections as needed.
- It’s a system with simple habits and practices. It’s a system to consistently check your path, allowing you to course-correct and integrate lessons learned.
- Your next actions—your MUSTs—are immediate and obvious relative to SHOULDs and COULDs.
- They were too complex or too weird.
- They ended up in monolithic lists or complicated slicing and dicing to get simple views for next actions.
- It was easy to get lost in activity instead of driving by outcome.
- They didn’t account for the human side.
- Keeping the list (or lists) up-to-date and managing status were often more work than some of the actual to-do items.
- Stuff that should slough off wouldn’t, and a snowball effect would ultimately make the approach unwieldy.
Getting Results the Agile Way combines the precision and process-oriented, project management focused mindset needed to get things done with a real-world thought bridge to cross … to discover meaning and fulfillment in your work or life – or both.
What’s a polymath? I didn’t know either. I never was good at math so I had to look up the definition.
“A person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.”
Or … one that delves into many facets of life; art, science, mathematics, technology, business, rhetoric, story-telling and communicates it successfully to others. In other words, a “Renaissance Man.” As soon as I read the definition I knew J.D.Meier, Principal Program Manager on the Microsoft patterns & practices team, Expert Access contributor, friend and published author fit the description to a tee.
J.D. Meier has a new book out called “Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life.” It’s superb.
Getting Results the Agile Way combines the precision and process-oriented, project management focused mindset needed to get things done with a real-world thought bridge to cross … to discover meaning and fulfillment in your work or life – or both.
“Agile Results delivers know-what, know-why and know-how for anyone who understands the value of momentum in making your moments count.” – Dr. Rick Kirschner bestselling author, speaker, trainer, coach, The Art of Change
J.D. contributed the article below”Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection” from Getting Results the Agile Way.” It gives you a sense of the patience, persistence, heart and hard work involved in – not only getting results – but getting results that make a difference in your life of business or business of life.
At the heart of Agile Results is the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern. It’s a simple weekly pattern in which each week is a new chance to get results. On Mondays, you figure out three outcomes you want for the week. Each day, you determine your three most important outcomes. On Fridays, you reflect on your results. This pattern helps you tune and prune your results.
One of the most important techniques I share with those I mentor is how to manage their tasks. It’s too easy to churn or find yourself in task saturation. Another common mistake is to confuse activities with outcomes. That is, you might spend a lot of time doing a lot of activities but not actually accomplish anything. In fact, I’ve seen many smart people throw a lot of hours at their weeks only to fail in one way or another. It might be that they ended up missing an important time window or losing any sort of work-life balance. In some cases, they spent all their time doing activities but not actually producing any results. In other cases, they produced results, only to find out it’s not the results they needed or wanted.
How you frame and organize your results for the week plays an important part in your success. There are always more things to do than there is time in a day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to beat yourself up over what you didn’t finish. It’s easy to spend all your time on task management. It’s easy to find yourself at the end of the week, wondering where your time went. The reality is that without a system it’s easy to get off track.
The solution is a system—a simple system you can count on, not have to think too hard to implement, and turn into a lifelong habit. In this system, each week is a fresh start. If you fall off the horse, you can get back on. Each week you know you’re spending your time on the right things. Rather than feel overwhelmed by your backlog, you feel good about your accomplishments. Each week, you improve your ability to get results. That’s the idea behind the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern.
Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection
Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection is a simple but effective pattern for results. It’s time-tested. Here’s the approach in a nutshell:
Table 5.1 Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection
|Monday Vision||On Mondays, simply identify three outcomes—compelling results—you’d like for the week. If you’ve established what your Hot Spots are, use them for input.|
|Daily Outcomes||At the start of each day, identify three compelling outcomes you want to accomplish. Use your three outcomes for the week from your Monday Vision as input. You may have a laundry list of tasks, but for your Daily Outcomes, identify the three most important things you can accomplish for that day. You use these three outcomes to help you prioritize all of your tasks and focus on results. If you complete your three key outcomes for the day, you can always bite off more. Whenever you ask yourself what’s the next best thing for you to do, your three outcomes should guide your answer.|
|Friday Reflection||Each Friday, make time to reflect on your results. This is your chance to see how you’re doing at getting done what you set out to do. Identify three things that are going well. Identify three things that need improvement. This is a balanced look at your results. In addition, it’s also a good time to check yourself against your three outcomes for the week and notice any recurring patterns.|
That’s the basic pattern. However, you can tailor it for your scenario. For example, maybe your week starts on a Sunday rather than on a Monday. What’s important is those three parts. While the whole is more than the sum of its parts, each piece of the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern is significant. In fact, you can incrementally adopt each piece.
This is the same weekly pattern I’ve used for years to get results in extreme scenarios. It’s helped me through the best of times—and the worst of times. It’s the same pattern I’ve used to lead teams at Microsoft to ship on time and on budget while still keeping a work-life balance. It’s the same system I’ve used to help the people I mentor get their life back and get on track. It works. What makes it work is that it’s a simple way to organize your results. And it’s self-correcting. What you learn each Friday, you can fold back into each new week.
The Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern provides a simple framework for you to organize each week. Here are the main benefits of adopting this pattern:
It’s a Starting Point
It’s a place to start. Even if your current approach is already working for you, you can improve it simply by adopting the routine of Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection.
It’s simple enough that you can immediately apply it. On any given day, simply identify three outcomes for your day. If this is Monday, then identify three outcomes for your week. If this is Friday, reflect on your week and think of three things that went well and three things you’d like to improve. It really is that simple.
It Helps You Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Having three outcomes is a way to set yourself up for success. If you’re accomplishing your results, then you know you’re on the right track—good job! If you’re not accomplishing your results, then you have to ask yourself whether you picked the right outcomes or if you need to improve your approach. As you practice each day, you get more effective.
It’s an Easy Way to Stay on Track
Rather than ad hoc, it’s a system. When you have a routine, you can improve it. If it’s not working for you, you adjust it. It helps you get back on the saddle again.
It Helps You Make Course Corrections Sooner Rather than Later
It allows you to be more responsive to things that might arise.
It’s just enough planning so that you have a map for your week, but you stay flexible. It’s just-in-time so that your plans are timely and relevant. One of the worst pitfalls is to have a rigid system where you can’t respond to change. Another common pitfall is to get bogged down in a system where the tool drives you. With this approach, you’re the driver. You’re in control. You always get to figure out what you’re next best thing to do is in the context of the results you want to accomplish. Life can throw you curve balls. Having a weekly system for results helps you keep swinging at—and hitting—whatever life throws at you.
Why This Approach Works
Here’s why this approach has worked for me and many others:
Why some other approaches haven’t worked:
I’ve been using Agile Results now for years. I’ve tweaked and simplified it as I’ve shown others over time. While I learn every day, I particularly enjoy my Friday Reflections. I also found a new enjoyment in Mondays because I’m designing my days and driving my weeks.
Now that you have a better understanding of the strengths and benefits of the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern, let’s take a closer look at how it works.
Monday Vision is simply a practice where each Monday, you identify the most important outcomes for the week. This helps you work backwards with the results in mind. Knowing where you want to be by the end of the week, helps you stay focused during the week. It also helps you get in the habit of prioritizing your time and energy. There are a lot of things competing for your attention. This is your chance to draw a line in the sand and decide what you will and won’t do.
3 Outcomes for the Week
Start with three outcomes. Simply identify three results for the week. Use questions to guide you. To do so, ask yourself questions such as, “If this were Friday, what are the three most important results I want to show?” and, “What would be the most pain if it weren’t done by Friday?” Focus on outcomes, not activities or tasks. There’s a good chance you may have lots of activities and tasks. This is about carving out three results for the week that you truly care about.
Daily Outcomes are simply the three results you want for your day. This can be anything, such as completing a draft of a chapter in your new book, or having your best workout session, or finishing a meaningful slice of your project at work. You decide. Consider what you can reasonably accomplish and what would be the most valuable. Value is always in the eye of the beholder. Consider what’s valuable for you, your family, your project, your team, your manager, etc.
Identify your three best results for the day. That’s it. You can always bite off more later. Challenge yourself to pick the three most valuable results that you can reasonably accomplish. This focus will help you quickly come to terms with prioritizing what’s on your plate. You may have a sea of tasks. Don’t get caught up in your backlog. Instead, think of the three most valuable things you can accomplish today and apply laser-like focus toward doing so. When you know that each move you make is working towards your meaningful outcomes, then you know that you’re making your best plays given the circumstances. You can’t control everything, but you can control your choices, your best moves, and your best responses for the situations you’re in. Check your three outcomes for the day against your three outcomes for the week to see if you are on track and trending in the right direction.
MUST, SHOULD, COULD
There are lots of ways to rank and prioritize. For example, you might use numbering systems such as Priority 1, Priority 2, Priority 3 (or P1, P2, P3). While this might be helpful in task management systems, I’ve found that in terms of a daily list, it helps to simply think in terms of MUST, SHOULD, and COULD. MUST is what you must get done, SHOULD would be nice, and COULD is just a pipe dream. There’s something about the language that helps your brain prioritize better when you think in terms of MUST versus SHOULD or COULD. I’ve used numbering systems for my outcomes and to-dos in the past, but ultimately, I found better results, by using MUST, SHOULD, COULD to organize and prioritize my results. I’ve also found that many of the people I mentor had similar experiences. That said, if you prefer a numbering system, there’s nothing stopping you from using a MUST, SHOULD, COULD mindset to help you organize your P1, P2, P3s.
Daily Outcomes Lists
You can use your Daily Outcomes as your to-do list. Each day, make a new list. Title it by date (for example, 2009-03-12). Start by listing your minimum MUST items, then your SHOULD and COULD items. Next, given your available time and energy, use The Rule of 3 to bubble up to the top of the list the three most compelling outcomes for you. Use this list throughout the day as you look through your various input streams for action. Your input streams include meetings, email, conversations, or bursts of brilliance throughout the day. Since you do this at the start of your day, you have a good sense of your priorities and can better deal with potentially randomizing scenarios. This list can also help you batch your work. For example, if you know there’s a bunch of folks you need to talk to in your building, you might find that it would be more efficient to walk the halls rather than have email dialogues with them. On the other hand, if there are a lot of folks you need to email, you can batch that as well.
What’s the Next Best Thing to Do?
When you find yourself wondering about your next steps, then first ask yourself, “What’s the next best thing to do?” This simple question can go a long way. There may be things you want to do. There may be things that seem easy to do. While you may choose those for practical reasons, before doing so, answer whether that’s the next best thing for you to do. At least then you know your trade-offs. If you need to get perspective, remind yourself of your three outcomes for the day and your three outcomes for the week.
Friday Reflection is a practice where you evaluate three things going well and three things to improve. By having a dedicated time for reflection, you can better focus on the “pitch” and not the “scoreboard” throughout the week. During the week, you perform; then on Friday, you evaluate. This helps you avoid over-analyzing yourself throughout the week. By focusing on both what’s going well and what needs improvement, you also keep yourself balanced. It’s all too easy to focus on just the negative and miss out on the positive—what’s going well or what’s working.
Friday Reflection is also a chance to evaluate what you got done—or didn’t—and why. Because you have a flat list of to-do lists chunked up by day, it’s very easy to review a week’s worth and see patterns for improvement. It’s actually easy for you to do this for months as well. Trends stand out. Analyzing is easy, particularly with continuous weekly practice. Your insight and key takeaways feed into your Monday Vision. Think of this as carrying forward the good, while letting go of the bad.
One way to make Friday Reflection a regular part of your weekly routine is to make it a recurring appointment on your calendar. For example, simply block off 30 minutes on Fridays at 10:00 a.m. You may not need the full time, but give yourself that time in case you need it. This is one of the most significant ways to continuously improve your quality of life, week over week. This is truly your chance to get clarity on your personal success patterns and what you need to change. It’s also your chance to celebrate your wins and feel good about your ability to learn and respond.
Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind and help you when you adopt the Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern.
- Value Delivered over Backlog Burndown. Rather than just focus on reducing your backlog, think in terms of flowing value. This will impact both your mindset and your results. Rather than feel like a slave to a backlog, you’ll be making conscious decisions over what your next best thing to do is, whether it’s an item from your existing backlog, or capitalizing on a new opportunity. This is agility in action.
- The Rule of 3. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, turn to The Rule of 3. Set simple limits. You may have hundreds of tasks in your backlog, but take the time to figure out your three most meaningful results for today. This will give you clarity, focus, and peace of mind. When you know you’re working on the right things, it’s easy to stay fully engaged and produce your best results.
- Framing Results for the Week. Framing your results is simply how you picture it in your mind, or how you help others picture what your results will look like. The more you practice framing your results for the week (by getting a good vision of what your three results will really look like), the easier it gets. Clarity is a skill.
- Tests for Success. Identify and define your own tests for success. You get to define three outcomes for the day and the week. Imagine in your mind what success looks like. If achieving the results won’t actually be a success, then you need to either redefine success or redefine your outcomes. This is a great way to practice setting and resetting expectations both for yourself and others.
- Scenario-Driven Results. A good way to figure out tests for success is to use scenarios or to craft stories. For example, if you’re working on your backyard, walk the scenarios that matter to you. You might prioritize having a barbeque on your deck, laying in your hammock and enjoying your rose garden as key scenarios to optimize around. Rather than just mow the lawn or clean up the back, now you have specific scenarios or experiences that you are lighting up and making happen. This gives your work meaning, and it improves the quality of your life, simply by focusing and concentrating your effort toward your next best things to do.
- Find a Way to Flow Value. You can always make incremental progress. Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. If you aren’t flowing value, either to yourself or to others, then something is off. See if you can chunk your results down. One way to do this is to have a “show and tell” where you show your results to others. Your show and tell could be demonstrating some software you built, or it could be as simple as showing off a room in your house that you cleaned. If people don’t value what you are showing, you’ll know earlier rather than later, and you can adjust your approach.
- Have a Buffer. Life happens. No matter how well you plan or how predictable things seem, things sometimes suddenly come up. Have a buffer for them. Bite off what you can without having a plate that’s so full that you’re paranoid about running into your boss and getting yet another item to add on top. You also don’t want to be in the situation where one more straw breaks the camel’s back. Think of your work like a buffet: instead of piling it on, take smaller portions, clear your plate faster, and make multiple trips. This will keep you lighter, more agile, and more responsive to any opportunities. If you’re plate is too full and you have no buffers, you won’t see any opportunities—only threats to your already over-burdened schedule.
- Timeboxes. Use time limits to help you spend your energy more effectively, and to invest your time across the things that matter most. A timebox is simply a limit or constraint in terms of how much time you will spend on something. This helps you avoid overspending your time in one area at the expense of another.
- The Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes, Friday Reflection pattern helps you make the most of each week. On Mondays, figure out three results for the week. Each day, decide on three outcomes for the day. On Fridays, ask yourself what three things are going well and what three things need improvement. Reflect on your results.
- It’s a flexible, adaptable system that you can tailor to suit your needs.
- Because it’s a system, you can tune and prune it based on what you learn about yourself and the situation or context that you find yourself in.
- Focus on outcomes. Your outcomes should sound like results or achievements, not activities and tasks.
- Use the system to support you in whatever you need, whether it’s personal results at home or personal results on the job. Trust the system as a way to help you see the forest from the trees while dealing with your everyday tasks and activities.
Here are 3 simple thinking techniques I tend to use each day. There are some more advanced thinking techniques, but here I’m boiling down to a set of 3 you can use today. In fact, you can even use them while you read this post. I’ll go through the thinking techniques in order from simpler to more complex, so you can use them right away.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s think of “thinking” as simply asking and answering questions. If you want to improve your thinking, ask better questions. Using these techniques will improve your thinking, by improving your questions.
3 Thinking Techniques
Here are 3 thinking techniques I use fairly regularly:
- How Might That Be True?
- Six Thinking Hats
How Might That Be True
When you hear something new, or information that conflicts with what you think you already know, ask yourself, “how might that be true?” This simple question will open your curiosity. It can also help you build rapport. This second point is especially important. If you’re quick to prove people wrong, people won’t share information with you. Rather than fight somebody on a point, right from the start, you can help them explore the point.
You don’t have to agree. Instead, you’re exploring possibility. Sometimes people have good information or knowledge, but it’s generalized so it appears to be wrong, but there’s kernels of truth or insight.
I think of PMI as Edward de Bono’s simplified version of Six Thinking Hats. PMI is simply Plus Points, Minus Points, and Interesting Points. Basically, all you do is ask yourself:
- What are the plus points?
- What are the minus points?
- What are the interesting points?
This helps you expand your thinking. Notice how the plus points are first. This helps find the good first, before shutting it down with minus points. By looking for interesting points, you find yet another class of insights. This is where you might find some unexpected “ah-has.”
Six Thinking Hats
Six Thinking Hats is Edward de Bono’s hard-core thinking technique, and it’s highly effective. You can use it for yourself or even in a room full of people. The beauty of the Six Thinking Hats is that you explore multiple perspectives for more complete thinking. The Six Hats are:
- White Hat – the facts and figures
- Red Hat – the emotional view
- Black Hat – the “devil’s advocate”
- Yellow Hat – the positive side
- Green Hat – the creative side
- Blue Hat – the organizing view
The most effective way I’ve found to turn these into action is to turn the hats into simple questions:
- What are the facts and figures? (White Hat)
- What’s your gut reaction? How do you feel about this? (Red Hat)
- Why can’t we do this? What prevents us? What’s the downside? (Black Hat)
- How can we do this? (Yellow Hat)
- What are additional opportunities? (Green Hat)
- How should we think about this? (what are the metaphors or mental models) (Blue Hat)
If you’re in a room full of people, rather than fight on topics, you can team up. Go to the whiteboard, write the list of questions above, and cycle through them as a group. Instead of tug-of-war, you’re now teaming up on “what are the facts and figures?” … … “why can’t we do this?” … “how can we do this?” … etc. This technique helps “black hat critics” step out of character and your reduce the overall energy drain of fighting point by point. Instead, you improve your overall thinking as a group.
What are your favorite thinking techniques?
Sure you know Bruce Lee the martial artist and movie star. But do you know Bruce Lee the philosopher, comedian or master of personal development?
Bruce was one of my early inspirations. He continuously pushed his mind and body to new levels and his physical prowess inspired and influenced body builders and martial artists alike. As far as heroes go, Bruce Lee truly set an example of what it means to be YOUR best. Bruce was all about making the most of what you’ve got, seeking truth knowledge, and applying what you know. If you’ve seen him in movies or you know some of his quotes, you know exactly what I mean. In this article, I share my lessons from Bruce Lee.
TOP TEN LESSONS LEARNED FROM BRUCE LEE
- Be YOUR best. It’s not about following in someone else’s footsteps or trying to be somebody you’re not. It’s about unleashing your best version of yourself. According to Bruce, “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
- Absorb what is useful. It’s not about blindly adopting patterns and practices. It’s about taking the best of the best and tailoring it. It’s also about throwing away what doesn’t work. Bruce borrowed concepts and techniques from everybody and every art in a relentless pursuit of the best of the best. According to Bruce, “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
- Keep an open mind. You have to be willing to throw out what you already know and have a curiosity to explore new paths. If your cup is already full, you can’t learn new things. According to Bruce, “First empty your cup.”
- Aim past your target. Aim past your target, so when you fall short, you still land in the ballpark of success. Bruce Lee was famous for his one-inch punch, but in reality he was aiming past the one-inch. According to Bruce, “Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
- Stay flexible. Be flexible in your approach. Learn from everybody and everything and don’t get locked into a particular style. According to Bruce, “Expose yourself to various conditions and learn.”
- Focus on growth. Push past your limits. According to Bruce, “There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
- Know yourself. Your blind spots and ignorance can be your biggest weakness. According to Bruce, “After all, all knowledge simply means self-knowledge.”
- Master your mind and body. It’s not enough just to be smart. It’s not enough just to master your body. Your body and mind support each other. Your body helps turn what you think or dream up into results. According to Bruce, “As you think, so shall you become.”
- Apply what you know. Life is not about watching from the sidelines. Use what you know and put knowledge into practice. Test yourself. According to Bruce, “Knowing is not enough, we must do. Willing is not enough, we must apply.”
- Make things happen. When there is no wave, make one. According to Bruce, “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
I think it really boils down to making the most of what you’ve got, including your mind and body, pushing past your limits and following a path of continuous learning and growth.
BRUCE LEE QUOTES
I’ve included some of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes below. I’ve organized them using the following categories: Art/Artistry, Goals, Growth/Learning, Life, Mistakes, Positive Thinking, Personal Development, Self-Awareness, Simplicity, Time, and Truth.
- Art calls for complete mastery of techniques, developed by reflection within the soul.
- Art is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life. The aim of art is not the one-sided promotion of spirit, soul and senses, but the opening of all human capacities – thought, feeling, will – to the life rhythm of the world of nature. So will the voiceless voice be heard and the self be brought into harmony with it.
- The secondhand artist blindly following his sensei or sifu accepts his pattern. As a result, his action is and, more importantly, his thinking become mechanical. His responses become automatic, according to set patterns, making him narrow and limited.
GOALS, GROWTH, LEARNING
- A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
- If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.
- Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.
- A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.
- As you think, so shall you become.
- A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.
- Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.
- Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
- Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.
- I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.
- If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.
- If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.
- In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup.
- Knowing is not enough, you must apply; willing is not enough, you must do.
- The knowledge and skills you have achieved are meant to be forgotten so you can float comfortably in emptiness, without obstruction.
- Life is better lived than conceptualized. — This writing can be less demanding should I allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I’ve come to understand that life is best to be lived — not to be conceptualized. If you have to think, you still do not understand.
- Life is never stagnation. It is constant movement, unrhythmic movement, as well as constant change. Things live by moving and gain strength as they go.
- Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.
- Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.
- Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.
- Real living is living for others.
- Reality is apparent when one ceases to compare. — There is “what is” only when there is no comparison at all, and to live with what is, is to be peaceful.
- The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.
- Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
- The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.
POSITIVE THINKING – PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
- Choose the positive. You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.
- If you think a thing is impossible, you’ll make it impossible.
- To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.
- Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.
- Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
- I am learning to understand rather than immediately judge or to be judged. I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach. I will not allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized. I am happy because I am growing daily and I am honestly not knowing where the limit lies. To be certain, every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery. I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.
- I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.
- The spirit of the individual is determined by his dominating thought habits.
- What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become.
- The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.
- When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.
SELF-AWARENESS, SIMPLICITY, TIME
- After all, all knowledge simply means self-knowledge.
- Fear comes from uncertainty; we can eliminate the fear within us when we know ourselves better. As the great Sun Tzu said: “When you know yourself and your opponent, you will win every time. When you know yourself but not your opponent, you will win one and lose one. However, when you do not know yourself or your opponent, you will be imperiled every time.”
- Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.
- The biggest adversary in our life is ourselves. We are what we are, in a sense, because of the dominating thoughts we allow to gather in our head. All concepts of self-improvement, all actions and paths we take, relate solely to our abstract image of ourselves. Life is limited only by how we really see ourselves and feel about our being. A great deal of pure self-knowledge and inner understanding allows us to lay an all-important foundation for the structure of our life from which we can perceive and take the right avenues.
- To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.
- To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.
- Understanding comes about through feeling, from moment to moment in the mirror of relationship.
- When we hold to the core, the opposite sides are the same if they are seen from the center of the moving circle. I do not experience; I am experience. I am not the subject of experience; I am that experience. I am awareness. Nothing else can be I or can exist.
- It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.
- Simplicity is the key to brilliance.
- To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.
- When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.
- Flow in the living moment. — We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.
- If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.
- The moment is freedom. — I couldn’t live by a rigid schedule. I try to live freely from moment to moment, letting things happen and adjusting to them.
- The timeless moment. — The “moment” has no yesterday or tomorrow. It is not the result of thought and therefore has no time.
- All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.
- Truth has no path. Truth is living and, therefore, changing. Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind, there is perception. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. Awareness has no frontier; it is giving of your whole being, without exclusion.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?
While there are countless resources on the Web, and you can always check out his movies, my favorite book on Bruce Lee, is by Bruce Lee.
It’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Aside from the fact that it’s written by the master himself, I like the fact that Bruce wrote it while he was bedridden for six months. You can just imagine how Bruce, the warrior, put everything he could into sharing the best of what he knew, while dealing with a pretty traumatic point in his life. I also like the simple sketches throughout the book which show how he borrowed the best of the best, such as the boxer’s hands or a wrestler’s grappling moves.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Rocky, you know what the eye of the tiger is all about. You get knocked down … but you get up again … and nobody is going to keep you down. That’s the eye of the tiger in action. It’s setting your eyes on the prize and going for it. It’s fierce results. When you have the eye of the tiger, you know it. You’re unstoppable.
But what happens when you lose that eye of the tiger? What happens when life knocks you down and you’re not sure you can get back up? How do you find your eye of the tiger, then? Where does the eye of the tiger even come from? …
It comes from inside. Don’t look outside for it. Look to the inside. Remember the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man? They all had it all along. The Lion had courage, the Scarecrow was a smarty … and the Tin Man was all heart. The Wizard simply helped point that out. I can only imagine that forever after nobody messed with the Cowardly Lion, there was no problem the Scarecrow could not solve, and the Tin Man I’m sure went on to be a role-model for sensitive guys across the land.
One of my favorite wrestling coaches had a way with words. When you didn’t give your best, you were a “mental midget.” Mentally you gave up before the fight was over. Good guys finished last, not because they didn’t have the skills. It wasn’t because they didn’t have the physical strengths. It was because they didn’t have heart. They didn’t have mental toughness. When the going got tough, they surrendered. Once you give up mentally, what’s left? Your body will be more than happy to surrender. Remember, it’s what your mind can conceive that your body will achieve.
Don’t be a mental midget.
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “intestinal fortitude.” I didn’t know what it meant, but it sounded neat. I had been hustling on the baseball field and I remember my baseball coach remarking to my Dad that I had intestinal fortitude. I later asked my Dad what it meant and he said, “You don’t give up.” You’re relentless. You drive from the inside out.
I remember thinking, doesn’t everybody? … The reality is, not everybody knows that they can jump the hurdle, or tear down a wall. They give up before they are beat. They don’t know that if at first they don’t succeed, they can try again. Nobody reminded them that if they are going to go down, then go down fighting. There’s plenty of time to rest, after you’re gone.
What It’s Like to Give It All You’ve Got
You know that point where you just can’t give anymore? That’s not it. It’s past that. It’s beyond what you even thought you could do. Sometimes it’s way beyond even that. It’s the target past where you aimed. Did you know Bruce Lee always aimed past his target? When he fell short, he still hit his mark.
When you give all you’ve got, you’re not asking yourself, what if I run out of steam? You’re not telling yourself, I can’t … you’re telling yourself you think you can. Maybe slowly at first, like the Little Engine that Could. But then something happens and it’s a change in state. You’re fully engaged. It’s just you and the challenge before you. Your challenge looks you in the eyes … and your eye of the tiger looks back.
Whether or not you suddenly hear the theme song to Rocky, your inner strength comes from beyond you. It’s more than all your prowess. It’s more than your mind, body and heart. It’s more than the sum of your strengths. The mountain before you flinches and gets ready to move out of your way.
Remember the Feeling
OK, so you want your eye of the tiger. You don’t need the Wizard to remind you. Just remember the feeling. Simply remember how you felt, when you felt your best. Remember how you felt, when you felt your strongest. Maybe it was the first time you lifted more weight than you ever thought you could. Maybe it was the day you reached deep inside and called upon your inner strongman to open that jar of peanut butter that just wouldn’t give … and it suddenly flew open as if your hands were possessed by the Hulk. That’s the feeling.
Whatever helps you remember the feeling … hearing a favorite song … snapping your fingers … or playing a scene from one of your favorite movies … use it. Remember when the Bad News Bears won despite the odds? Remember when Cool Hand Luke went on a rampage and shoveled like there was no tomorrow? Remember Stand and Deliver? Remember Braveheart? Remember Dead Poets Society? Fill your head with the movies that move you. It’s those scenes you’ll draw from when your knocked on your heels and Clubber Lang has is fists raised to beat you down. It’s how you’ll respond with … not this time … not this day … and not this way. Whether it’s your inner demon or a real-world bully … you’ll raise your arms in triumph as you run up the steps, knowing you stood strong when tested.
It’s a Choice
What if you just can’t find your eye of the tiger? What if you looked inside and all you find is an itty, bitty kitty? Fine … start small. Even the mighty Oak was once a sapling. At the same time, maybe you just need to kick your courageous arse in gear. Find your catalyst. Play your inspirational head movie with the dials all the way up. Get it in gear. If you get knocked down, get up again. Success is all about getting up to bat more often. Not every ball needs to get knocked out of the park. Remember that it’s not how many times in life you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up. Most importantly, remember that your eye of the tiger is a choice. It’s like a muscle. The more you flex it, the stronger it gets.
Photo by Adrian Boardman
PM is short for Program Manager. That’s what I am.
At Microsoft, the PM role is a fairly common role, and it can mean a lot of things, so I’ll explain a bit about what a PM does down below before we dive in. To bottom line it, you can think of a PM as a technical leader that orchestrates a product or service through planning, design and execution. As you can imagine, this requires a variety of skills from communication and interpersonal skills to strategic thinking and execution.
These are valuable skills for more than just executing projects and making things happen. These are skills that can help you in everyday life. In this post, I’ll share some of the skills and how I apply them for skilled living.
What is a Program Manager?
Before we begin, I’ll set some context by giving you a rough idea what a program manager is. I’ll generalize a bit, but a program manager includes basic project management responsibilities, as well as “program” responsibilities. A program can either be a group of inter-related projects or a piece of software or a system of software.
At Microsoft, a PM tends to be a technical leader that creates a value prop based on customer needs, competitive landscape, tech trends and business priorities. The PM uses the value prop as a frame for key decisions about features, designs, timelines and priorities. The PM brings the team together and drives the product or service through the planning, design and execution. In the early stages of the project, the PM gathers information, makes sense of the space and helps get the team up to speed.
Throughout the project, the PM influences others to get things done, champions the customers needs and balances perspectives, including the user, business, and technical views. One of the most important qualities of a PM is strong communication skills, to communicate up and down the chain effectively, as well as across cross-functional teams to make things happen.
As an example, as a PM on the patterns & practices team at Microsoft, what I do is take on a significant problem, pitch a project, along with a business case, to stakeholders, assemble a team and drive the project from cradle to grave while coordinating across test, UE, and dev, and managing schedule, budget and scope. It’s a lot of orchestration and it’s both an art and science.
PM Skills for Life
- Vision. A vision is simply a view of the future. As a PM, I need to be able to create and share a vision effectively. The vision has to be a compelling future that the team believes in. I also need to sell the vision to the stakeholders. In life, you can imagine the power of creating a compelling vision. The more effectively you can share your vision, the more you can get people on board to help you with that vision. You can also improve your own clarity. A simple test is asking yourself, can you draw your vision? If you can’t draw it, then good luck getting other people on board. You might find when you draw your vision, it’s no longer that compelling. You can test your vision early to see what sticks. When you have clarity on your vision and it’s compelling, you’ll find ways to make it happen. It’s a catalyst for creativity.
- Make it a project. As simple as it sounds, making something a project really changes things. It implies that there is a start and a finish. It means that by putting a box around it, you can think more deeply about the investment. This includes even thinking about whether it’s even worth it. When you think of the work as a project, it means you can think in terms of budget, time and scope. This helps you make trade-offs. In life, I turn things I work on into projects so that I have a nice wrapper around them. It helps make sure I don’t juggle too many projects at once. I can shelve projects and put them on the backburner. The real beauty though is when a project is done. It’s a clean finish.
- Teamwork. Teams are how things get done. The beauty of a well-designed team is you’re the sum of the strengths. As a PM, one of the most important things I do is find the right people for the job. Finding the right people is critical both for the success of the work, and for the success of the team. When you go on an epic adventure, you want the right collection of skills to make it back alive. In life, building teams and effective teamwork is crucial for surviving the changing landscape.
- Influence without authority. As a PM, I need to get a lot of things done through other people that don’t report to me and I have no authority over. That means a lot of negotiation. It means understanding what people value and connecting with them at their values. It means winning their hearts and minds. People have a lot of choices and they can vote with their feet. In life, this is an extremely valuable lesson. We’re in a world where people have a lot more choices and it’s really about getting people on board and building a coalition of the willing.
- Work Breakdown Structure. A Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, is effectively a map of the work. Imagine going to Antarctica and trying to make it back alive without a map. Trust me, you want the map. Basically, you make a list of the jobs to be done. You keep listing the jobs, as much as you know, to help reduce ambiguity and get clarity on the actual work. You involve the people that will do the work. You review it with people that have paved the path before you. The more clarity you get on the work, the more effective you will be at getting the right people on board, knowing your risks, and having ballparks for time. I’m a fan of using Mind Maps to build Work Breakdown Structures, and I make it a team exercise. I also like to do outcome-driven Work Breakdown Structures, which simply means identify the result and break it down from there. In life, I use Work Breakdown Structures for any project, whether it’s fixing the house or writing a book. It helps me map out the work and get my head around the problem. Whether I think on paper or use a whiteboard, the most important outcome is an outline of the work.
- Budget. If the project value doesn’t match the cost, you’ve got a problem. When the project runs out of money, it stops. As a PM, managing budget really taught me to value the cost of making things happen. It really taught me to pay attention to flowing value and knowing when to cut my losses. Monthly burn rates are my friend. I try to keep it really simple and I always know the ballpark of how much each month costs, so that I can do quick math, projections and trade-offs. In life, one of the things I keep in mind is my monthly burn. It’s sobering to know how much flows out. Just being mindful here can make a big difference. Budget can be limiting or enabling, so it’s definitely something to master as a basic skill.
- Scope. A simple way to think about scope is it’s a box. It’s a box that sets the boundaries for the work for the project, meaning what’s in and what’s out. When something is out of scope, it’s not included. In life, scoping is a key skill I use to avoid taking on too much, as well as identifying what a baseline result should look like.
- Schedule. If you schedule things, they happen. If you don’t, they won’t. As a PM, one of the most important things I learned is the value of a timeline and making time for things. Early on, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What happened was I ended up reacting to a lot of things I didn’t anticipate or make time for. I also had a hard time imaging the impact of things in the future. It always seemed so far away. Over time, I learned to better anticipate downstream events, and I very directly see the impact of the choices I make and how I allocate time for things. I’ve also learned to treat time as a first-class citizen. I’ve found it’s way better to setup a rhythm for results and bite off manageable chunks of scope, then to be scope-driven. In life, your schedule is your friend, as well. For example, if you’re not getting enough free-time, chances are you aren’t allocating enough free time. If you’re spending too much time at work, chances are you aren’t setting limits in your schedule. If you keep missing holidays and other events, chances are you haven’t made a simple timeline to help you anticipate what’s going on your life.
- Milestones. Milestones are simply key events in your timeline. As a PM, I use milestones to help chunk down progress. In life, I use milestones to help me make progress on projects or goals. They help take something spread out over time and bite off something smaller for the immediate horizon.
- Versioning. It’s a lot easier to make something good enough for now, if you know there is a next train to catch. As a PM, I need to make trade-offs between what to ship now versus what to ship in the next version. Basically, I need to find a way to flow value. Versioning provides a way to make something available as good enough for now, while improving with each version. In life, versioning is a way to create a clean slate in your life, as well as version your work over time. You can think of this even on the personal level, as you improve yourself from version 1.0, to version 2.0 and beyond.
- Prioritization. You can’t do it all and when everything is equally important, nothing is important. As a PM, I have to be able to make trade-offs and choose some things over others, against the objectives and goals for the project. In life, there are constant trade-offs and more things than time in the day. This is where priorities help me focus on the vital few each day, to improve my results.
- Feedback. One of the most important things I do is test ideas against reality. Timely and relevant feedback helps drive real-time course-corrections. In life, you can use feedback from various experts to help you make better choices from your healthcare to your finances or just about anything. Feedback can help you continuously improve as you make your journey. The simplest approach I use is I ask for 3 things going well and 3 things to improve.
- Scorecard. A scorecard is simply a set of metrics and measures against objectives. As a PM, I need to make sure the scorecard helps evaluate the project results and impact. In life, I use a simple scorecard as a periodic checkpoint on whether I’m on track. I find that what I measure is what I get, so I’m careful about what I choose to focus on.
- Post Mortems. Post mortems (or retrospectives) are a chance to reflect on your results. It’s taking a look back on how things went, including the good, the bad and the ugly. The key is to carry the lesson forward. In life, I use post mortems to find the lessons and improve.
- Life Cycles. A life cycle is the progression or cycle of something from start to finish. As a PM, I need to know the life cycle of both the project and the product so that I can make sure the right things happen at the right time. In life, by knowing the cycles of things, I can anticipate the ups and downs, or growth and decline. It’s a simple way to improve my anticipation skills.
- Systems. As a PM, I think of the work in the context of a system. There are inputs, outputs and workflows. By mapping this out, I get a sense of the key levers in the system and who does what. If I know the levers in the system, I can improve my results. The key here is knowing the system. In life, I dramatically improve my results by knowing how the system works, whether it’s dealing with customer service or dealing with healthcare or just about any system.
- Ecosystems. This is about knowing the bigger context for the project. This is about knowing the relationships of one system with another and who the key players are. By mapping out the ecosystem, I get a simple view of interdependencies, potential collaboration and potential threats. In life, when you know the ecosystems, you can find better leverage points as well as design for more sustainable results.
- Execution. Nothing teaches execution like managing projects. The heart of execution is managing time, energy and action. Breaking work down into manageable action items is a key skill. The key here is really about establishing a rhythm and getting the team in the habit of shipping. It’s about driving things to closure, then biting off more, rather than spinning up a bunch of open work that spirals out of control. In life, I’ve learned to reduce my open work. I bite off a manageable chunk of work and close it, before biting off the next chunk. It’s an iterative and incremental approach.
- Balancing perspectives. As a PM, I need to balance the perspectives across the team, across the stakeholders and across the various customers. You can imagine how many people have very different ways of seeing the world. I like to think of it as a big pie and each person has a slice of the pie. One of my jobs is to show this pie and how the various pieces fit together. One of the constant challenges here is helping people see more than just their perspective, so they can understand the decisions and trade-offs. In life, the ability to see and share multiple perspectives helps me understand where different people are coming from, what they care about and how to make the most of situations. I’m a fan of lenses and the right lenses really can be game changers.
- Status. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Status is simply a check on where things are at, which also helps you how things are going. Reporting status is a good forcing function to check the health of the project and look at the key indicators. This is where your really tested on whether value is flowing in a visible way that stakeholders buy into. In life, I use status checks to know the state of my various projects and whether things are on track.
- Risks. A risk is something bad that can potentially happen. An issue is when something bad has happened. Managing a project means managing risk. It’s about having fallback plans as well as mitigations for potential risks. In life, I practice risk management, by figuring out potential risks and then figuring out potential mitigations. Insurance is a simple example of risk management.
- Impact. As a PM, I’ve gradually learned to increase the scope of my impact. The biggest lesson I learned here is to be the platform. When you’re the platform, people build on you. Another key lesson here though is that improving your influence amplifies your impact. In life, you can improve your impact by improving your influence. The same effort can go a much further way.
Well, there you have it. I could add more and elaborate, but this 20 minute post, turned into a 40 minute post, so this is where I’m going to exercise my versioning skills and call this good enough for now. Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought and you can start to see how the PM discipline is incredibly interesting in terms of life skills and can really improve your effectiveness in everyday things.
If you have any PM stories or lessons to share, I’d love to hear them.
Spectacular photos courtesy of H. KoppDelaney