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224 pages, ebook
First published May 16, 2017
"...But as any mathematician knows, averages can be deceptive. Andrew Robinson, CEO of famed advertising agency BBDO, once said, “When your head is in a refrigerator and your feet on a burner, the average temperature is okay. I am always cautious about averages.”
As a general rule, anything better aligned to fit a unique scenario is going to be problematic on average. And qualities that are “generally good” can be bad at the extremes. The jacket that works just fine eight months out of the year will be a terrible choice in the dead of winter. By the same token, with intensifiers, qualities that seem universally awful have their uses in specific contexts. They’re the Formula 1 cars that are undriveable on city streets but break records on a track.
It’s a matter of basic statistics. When it comes to the extremes of performance, averages don’t matter; what matters is variance, those deviations from the norm. Almost universally, we humans try to filter out the worst to increase the average, but by doing this we also decrease variance. Chopping off the left side of the bell curve improves the average but there are always qualities that we think are in that left side that also are in the right."
"When you choose your pond wisely, you can best leverage your type, your signature strengths, and your context to create tremendous value. This is what makes for a great career, but such self-knowledge can create value wherever you choose to apply it."And failure in this quote:
"So what happens if you fail at something? You won’t die like Batman, so you shouldn’t act like you’re Batman. Try being more like a comedian or a kindergartener. Try things. Quit what fails. Then apply grit.
The research lines up with what the comedians and the kindergarteners already know. Steven Johnson notes that historical studies of patent records reveal that “sheer quantity ultimately leads to quality.” Trying more stuff. Just like the old saying “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
What’s all this leading to? You need to combine strategic quitting with your own personal R&D division.
Okay, some of you are probably angry with me right now. First you told me about opportunity/cost and quitting stuff to free up time to focus on the one thing that matters. Now you’re telling me to do lots of different stuff. What gives?
The answer is simple: If you don’t know what to be gritty at yet, you need to try lots of things—knowing you’ll quit most of them—to find the answer. Once you discover your focus, devote 5 to 10 percent of your time to little experiments to make sure you keep learning and growing.
This gives you the best of both worlds. Use trying and quitting as a deliberate strategy to find out what is worth not quitting. You’re not being a total flake but someone who strategically tests the waters."
"The same is true for successful companies. They don’t just try new things; they often completely reinvent themselves when their little bets bear fruit. YouTube started out as a dating site, of all things. eBay was originally focused on selling PEZ dispensers. Google began as a project to organize library book searches.
So don’t be afraid to do some experiments, and quit the ones that don’t work. It can lead to great things. You need to quit some things to find out what to be gritty at. And you need to try stuff knowing you might quit some of it to open yourself up to the luck and opportunities that can make you successful."