The Element | Ken Robinson

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Published in: 2009

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Find early in life the job that feels like play to you. That can turn potential underachievers into becoming happy pursuers. This book addresses a few persons who have discovered their element – the place where things you love to do and the things you are good at meet. The element is another way of defining your potential.

“I’m convinced that taking the definition of intelligence for granted is one of the main reasons why so many people underestimate their true intellectual abilities and fail to find their Element. This commonsense view goes something like this: we are all born with a fixed amount of intelligence”

NATURAL STRENGHTS. Most people have a limited idea of their own natural capacity. Finding your element is essential for your well-being and success, and indirectly for the health of your organizations and the efficiency of our education systems. Robinson strongly believes that if we can all find our Element, we have the potential for much higher performance and fulfillment.

LET EVERYONE BLOOM IN THEIR OWN WAY. A “one-size-fits-all” in education marginalizes all those who do not naturally learn in this way. Education should be the system that develops our natural abilities and enables us to take the step into the world. Instead, it often stifles the individual talents and abilities of many students and kills their motivation to learn.

“William James: The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind…if you change your mind, you can change your life”

MAKE THE INTEREST A PROFESSION. The only way to prepare for the future is to do the best we can, assuming it will make us as flexible and productive as possible. Go for things that you cannot imagine being without. Many people neglect their passion for doing things they do not care about, for financial security.

THREE TYPES OF INTELLIGENCE. Robinson argues that there are three types of intelligence: analytical intelligence (the ability to solve problems with academic skills and conventional IQ tests), creative intelligence (the ability to handle difficult situations and come up with original solutions) and practical intelligence (the ability to handle problems and challenges in daily life).

CREATIVITY IS THE HIGHEST. The highest form of intelligence is creative thinking. To find your element, it is important to understand the true nature of creativity and to have a clear understanding of how it relates to intelligence. According to Robinson, most people have a limited view of intelligence, by thinking in terms of academic understanding. This makes many people who are smart in different ways start to think that they are not smart at all.

FIND THE RIGHT FREQUENCY. The first critical step is to understand the intimate relationship between creativity and intelligence. People who work creatively usually love the medium they work with. Musicians love the sound they create, writers love words, dancers love movement, mathematicians love numbers, entrepreneurs love doing business and teachers love pedagogy. Therefore, they do not consider it a job – they do what they do because they are then in their element.

”This is why Feynman talks about working on the equations of motion “just for the fun of it”. It’s why he talks about “playing” with the ideas in “a relaxed fashion”.

DO WHAT YOU LOVE. When we do something within our element, we feel like our most authentic selves. We think that time goes differently and that we are more alive. Finding and developing our creative strengths is an important part of becoming who we really are. People who are in their element get a deep joy and delight of what they do. People who love what they do often describe themselves as lucky. People who think they are not succeeding in their lives often say that they have been unlucky. Being in your element often means that you are connected to other people who share the same passion and have a common sense of commitment. In practice, this means that you actively seek opportunities to explore your suitability in different areas.


The Charisma Myth | Olivia Fox Cabane

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Published in: 2013

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Olivia Fox Cabane is an American author and career coach. Cabane is the daughter of two psychologists who, while growing up, laid the foundation for her interest in the subject of the book: charisma. With the latest from neuroscience, Cabane dispels the myth that charisma is something a few people with the right genes possess.

CHARISMA IS A SKILLCharisma is not something you are born with; it is a skill that can be trained. Charisma makes others like you, trust you, and want to be led by you. Charisma determines whether you are seen as a follower or a leader. Whether you like it or not, charisma is important – it affects everything that happens to us in our lives.

THREE PARTS. Charisma consists of power, warmth, and presence. A charismatic person gives off a sense of power – he knows where he is going and is sure of his cause. A charismatic person also feels warm and radiates confidence. Finally, a charismatic person is present. If any of the components are missing, the charisma disappears.

CHARISMA COMES FROM WITHIN. Charisma is the result of non-verbal behavior. Body language is more crucial to charisma than verbal skill. What we think and feel is visible in our body language, and we can therefore not be charismatic if we do not also have a charismatic interior. A person with a sharp tongue but a weak body language cannot be charismatic.

THREE WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR CHARISMA. Some simple methods to increase your charisma are to: (1) finish the sentences in a lower pitch, (2) not nod in agreement so often and (3) pause for two seconds before speaking. To increase our “telephone charisma”, a good trick is to close our eyes when we talk on the phone – we then immediately become more present. True charisma, however, must be built from within. It is not possible to fake with any quick tips.

”Striving to acquire external charisma skills without learning how to handle your internal world is like adding pretty balconies to a house with a weak foundation. It’s a nice touch, but at the first earthquake everything falls apart. If your internal state is in turmoil, it’s hard to remember, let alone use, the new skills you’ve just learned.”

PRESENCE IS HARD. A strong impression is only created by being fully present for short periods in situations where others normally aren’t. Some simple tricks to be present are to think about focusing on our breathing or on, for example, our big toe – with this we are put directly into a present mind. If we can increase our ability to be present, we will thereby improve our body language, our ability to listen and our mental focus.

THE IMPOSTOR SYNDROME. Many successful people suffer from what is called “The impostor syndrome” – they feel that they do not know what they are doing and are waiting for someone to expose them as a fraudster. This type of self-criticism is a major obstacle for high-performing people and is often called “the silent killer of business”. Many high-ranking people suffer from this but few dare to talk about it. To reduce our suffering from the syndrome, we can remind ourselves that negativity is something normal everyone feels. We can change our view of the situation by thinking of someone we look up to who has gone through something similar.

APPRECIATE YOUR INCONVENIENCE. Uncomfortable situations will arise in our lives. For that reason, we should not only learn to accept them, but we also need to learn to be more comfortable with them. When they arise, we should not only try to endure them but instead dive into them. We should see ourselves as a scientist trying to investigate how it feels and why. Then we can tackle these situations in the best way come out wiser in the end.

DETAILS MATTERSWhen we dress for a workday or social event, we should do it thoughtfully. We should not wear clothes that make us too hot or too cold, avoid clothes that itch or sit badly or are in some way distracting. Even if we do not notice it ourselves, these physical distractions affect us – they eat away at our mental focus and make us less present.


The Go-Giver | Bob Burg & John David Mann

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Published in: 2015

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The Go-Giver is the fictional story of the management consultant Joe who works at a large company where there is a “dog-eat-dog” culture. In order to keep their jobs, or climb up in the organization, the employees must deliver ambitious billing goals. Joe is a typical careerist who plans to elbow his way up in the organization through hard work. But when, for the third quarter in a row, he is about to miss his sales target, he hears about “The Chairman” – a businessman who in some mysterious way has reached the absolute top. He contacts “The Chairman” and gets to spend a week with him, learning the secret behind his success – “The five laws of stratospheric success”

“Most people just laugh when they hear that the secret to success is giving… then again, most people are nowhere near as successful as they wish they were”

#1 – THE LAW OF VALUE. The first law reads “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment”. In short, the secret behind success is to give. Most people have a mindset that tells the fire “give me warmth and I will give you firewood”. This is not how the world works. If we just focus on giving, and see it as a way of life, then good things will start to happen to us. The first law determines our earning potential. But it is law number two that determines how much we actually earn.

#2 – THE LAW OF COMPENSATION. The second law reads “Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.” Our income is directly proportional to how many people we serve. If we seek more success, we should look for ways to serve more people. It’s about building a network of people who know us, like us and want us well. They never have to buy anything from us, the important thing is that we are in their consciousness. It’s like having an army of personal ambassadors around the world.

#3 – THE LAW OF INFLUENCE. The third law reads “Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interest first”. Keep the other person’s interest in mind: forget 50/50 – it’s 100/0 that counts. If we focus on the other person’s interest first, then our interests will always be taken care of. Some call this enlightened self-interest. If we make sure that others get what they need, others will make sure that we get what we need.

“Don’t keep track. That’s not networking – that’s poker. You know how people say “win-win”? It sounds great, in theory. But most of the time, what people call “win-win” is really just a disguised way of keeping track. When you base your relationships – in business or anywhere else in your life – on who owes who what, that’s not being a friend. That’s being a creditor.”

#4 – THE LAW OF AUTHENTICITY. The fourth law reads “The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself”. Real “people skills” are to be a person, to be oneself, to be authentic. It trumps the knowledge of all the sales and influence tricks that exist.

“Everyone likes to be appreciated. And that’s the golden rule of business. All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.”

#5 – THE LAW OF RECEPTIVITY. The fifth law reads “The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving”. Being able to receive is connected with being able to give. We humans are born with an appetite and a baby’s survival is based on being able to receive help. As children, we have dreams, are curious and believe in ourselves. To be able to achieve all this, we as children are open to receive help – something we lose with age. Many become too proud in adulthood to receive help – which hinders them. In the end, the secret to success is to give. The secret to receiving is to give. And the secret behind giving is to be open to receiving.


10% Happier | Dan Harris

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Published in: 2014

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In June 2004, on the set of Good Morning America, 5 million people saw news anchor Dan Harris having a televised panic attack. After the incident, Harris knew he had to make some changes. He started his search, deeply suspicious of self-help solutions, until he stumbled upon an effective way to manage the relentless, impossible-to-satisfy voice in his head: meditation. Harris recommends disregarding the fancy books and the famous gurus promising immediate enlightenment. In his experience, meditation makes you 10% happier.

SEARCH FOR ACTION. Harris work-related insecurities and battles were a way to replace drugs and the thrill of combat (Harris was a previous reporter in Iraq). He was instead inflating drama on the office war zone. If somebody else got the reporting: that meant that X or Y executive disliked him -> his career is doomed -> he would end up in a flophouse in Duluth. Or, baldness -> unemployment -> flophouse in Duluth.

MEETING ECKHART TOLLE. Tolle argued that our entire lives are governed by a voice in our heads. This voice is engaged in a ceaseless stream of thinking – most of it negative, repetitive, and self-referential. It squawks away at us from the minute we open our eyes in the morning until the minute we fall asleep. The voice is constantly judging and labeling everything. Its targets aren’t just external: it often viciously taunts us. According to Tolle, the ego is our inner narrator, our sense of “I”. The ego is obsessed with the past and the future, at the expense of the present.

MONEY MIND. Harris realized that he had been sleepwalking – swept along a tide of automatic, habitual behavior. Many things could be explained through the ego: chasing the thrill of war without contemplating the consequences, replacing the combat high with coke and ecstasy, reflexively and unfairly judging people, getting carried away with anxiety about work, neglecting his partner to tryst with the BlackBerry or obsessing about his hair.

HAPPINESS, INC. Harris launched series of stories on self-help called Happiness Inc. The idea was to delve into an unregulated $10 billion industry that had attracted a growing number of followers as Americans moved away from organized religion. He met Deepak Chopra six weeks after the interview with Eckhart Tolle. Chopra proclaimed that he had no regrets about the past, and don’t anticipate the future. “I live in the moment”. But he also said that without passion, you’d be a walking dead person. Even though you are dynamically engaged, you’re not stressed. Deepak was at this point 63 years old and Time had dubbed him “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine. Harris also met Joe Vitale behind the viral success “The Secret” and other psychoanalysts / authors.

INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM. Psychoanalyst Dr. Mark Epstein gave a quick brief on Buddhism. It became clear that the best part of Tolle was largely unattributed Buddhism. According to Epstein, the Buddha may well have been the “original psychoanalyst” and he argued that Buddhism was better than seeing a shrink. Therapy often leads to “understanding without relief”. Walking up to the reality of our situation allows you to, as the Buddhist say, “let go”, to trop or attachments. The key is to recognize the “wisdom of insecurity” – moments flee.

MISMATCH. One doctor’s theory was that, in modern life, our ancient fight-or-flight mechanism was being triggered too frequently – in traffic jams, meetings with our bosses, etc. – and that this was contributing to the epidemic of heart disease. Even if the confrontations were themselves minor, our bodies didn’t know that; they reacted as if they were in kill-or-be-killed scenarios, releasing toxic stress chemicals into the bloodstream. But studies showed that meditation could reverse the effects of stress and lower blood pressure.

MINDFULLNESS. According to the Buddha, we have three habitual responses to everything we experience. We want it, reject it, or we zone out. Mindfulness is a fourth option, a way to view the contents of our mind with nonjudgmental remove. Mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in our minds right now – anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whatever – without getting carried away by it. Harries realized how blindly impelled he was by his ego, as one Buddhist writer put it “drifting unaware on a surge of habitual impulses”.  

LOSING YOUR EDGE? The more Harris meditated, the more he looked around and appreciated that we all have monkey minds. But he was worried that looking at a problem from all angles and searching for the right move gave him an edge. A comedy friend was worried that meditation would make him less judgmental, and therefore less funny. However, acceptance is not being passive. What mindfulness does is to create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhist say, “respond” rather than simply “react”. The only thing you can control is how you handle it. It’s also okay to worry, plot and plan, but until it’s not useful anymore. If anything, mindfulness brought you closer to your neuroses mapping your mental microclimates, making you more insightful, not less.

“It’s okay to be ambitious, but don’t be attached to the results”  

MEDITATION. Studies indicate that mediation reduced levels of stress hormones, boosts the immune system, make office workers more focused, and improved test scores on the GRE. Scientists found that meditators released significantly lower doses of a stress hormone called cortisol. Overall, compassionate people tended to be healthier, happier, more popular and more successful at work.

NOTHING LASTS. The Buddha’s signature pronouncement is “life is suffering”. What he probably meant was something like “everything in the world is ultimately unsatisfying and unreliable because if won’t last”. We can enjoy pleasant things in life. But if we can achieve a deeper understanding of “suffering”, of the unreliability of everything we experience, it will help us appreciate the inherent poignancy of everything in the world. To be more aligned with what is true brings us much greater happiness.


Never Eat Alone | Keith Ferrazzi

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Published in: 2014

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Keith Ferrazzi believes that the most valuable currency is social capital – defined information, expertise, trust and other value that exists in our relationships. Success in life is the people you meet and what you create together. “Networking” does not create magic – it is maximizing generosity and then letting your social seeds that you have planted grow. For example, a study of MBA students found no correlation between high grades and a successful life. However, they found a strong correlation between social skills and a successful life. The more successful someone is at using language – both speaking and writing – the greater the chances.

MENTORSStudies have shown that those we associate with have a major impact on our lives. At every step of his career, Ferrazzi has looked for successful people to ask for help and guidance. You should not be afraid to ask stupid questions. It is important to be able to ask for help but also to dare to take help.

TANGIBLE AND INTANGIBLE ASSETS. We should be open to working for free if required. Many entrepreneurs work “for free” for a while and then reap the rewards afterwards. It is more important to build up assets than to strive for a high income. An asset can, for example, be shares in a company or ownership of a property – these are tangible. But knowledge and contacts are also assets. However, these the returns from these assets are more unclear. You build the strongest base for success if you have both a lot of tangible as well as intangible assets.

”In your twenties you learn, in your thirties you earn”.

FREE AGENTS. People no longer get a job when they are 20 and have it for the rest of their lives. Today, everyone is a “free agent” and the social currency is very valuable for free agents. We are all “Me Inc.” and, according to Ferrazzi, must nurture our brands and constantly work with them. We do this by focusing on what we can do that creates value for others.

WEAK TIES AND STRONG TIES. “Weak ties ”are often more valuable than“ strong ties”. Those closest to each other within an area know what they can do for each other. It is the “weak ties” that can surprise us with interesting life changes.

A GOAL IS A DREAM WITH A DEADLINE. Almost every successful person Ferrazzi knows is good at setting goals. When goal setting is a part of our lives, the ball is rolling. To find out what you yourself are good at, Ferrazzi thinks you should ask your surroundings. They often know you very well. The goals must also be written down.

BUILD RELATIONS LIKE BILL CLINTON. Bill Clinton basically knew everyone he met, not just names but also their interests. Before he meets new people, he does a quick research on what they are for people, what they have for businesses, what they are proud of, what they have for problems, etc. In this way, he creates strong relationships.

CAREER KARMA. Ferrazzi writes “You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in your own success”. If you help someone with health, their children or their financial life, this is something that will be remembered for a very long time.

FEEDBACK. After a nice meeting, you should get in touch and give feedback (a follow-up takes place best 12-24 hours after you have met someone). Good follow-ups alone elevates you above 95% of your peers. Ferrazzi talks about the process of “pinging” – sending out a quick contact signal to your acquaintances. A relationship is like a fire that you sometimes need to refill with new wood. Get in touch on birthdays or if something else special happens.

VULNERABILITY. At a dinner with new friends, Ferrazzi and his girlfriend had just broke up so he was a bit absent. It was stiff at the table. He apologized for being a little off and told his story. Everyone’s attention increased and there was a deep and rewarding discussion. Everyone told about similar situations they had been in. He showed weakness and the situation changed completely. He noticed that a good icebreaker is to tell something personal from the heart. People feel chosen when they hear something like this which creates strong bonds: “vulnerability is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today”.


Awaken the Giant Within | Tony Robbins


Humans go to great lengths to avoid pain and feel pleasure. The fear of pain is the strongest emotion. Anyone who learns to use this instinctive reaction to his or her advantage will have a tool for taking control over one’s life. When life is structured in such a way that our happiness depends on something we cannot control – the pain will always be present. This is a +500-page book by the self-help guru Tony Robbins written in 1991.  

A summary of the book can be read here.