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Doing more by doing less!

Hepburn (band)

Hepburn (band) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first heard of the book title ” Why Quitters Win: Decide to be excellent“,  to say the least, I was very much intrigued. Was Nick trying to say something like stop doing something mid-way if you know that it is going to fail- and ignore the sunk costs…or was it about quitting when faced with unreasonable odds- rather than doubling your efforts and commitment. I believe in sticking with the choices you make,  till you have given it your last shot, and so was slightly apprehensive.

However, what Nick Tasler means, is not about starting many things sequentially,  and then quitting them early, if they are likely to fail; but what he means, instead, in a broad sense, is not starting off and getting absorbed in too many parallel threads, in the first place- but defining a theme or decision pulse and sticking with it and let it guide your day-to-day decisions; and also actively quitting doing the million other things that are not inline with that main theme / decision pulse.

To elaborate, the book is about advice in a business/ organizational scenario,  where an organization, should spend time to spell out its one-time decision pulse- a guiding value that enables managers at all levels to determine for themselves as to whether the decision they will take will be for the good of the organization or not (is in harmony with the decision pulse or not). Seems like a reasonable and obvious advice , but only in hindsight. Practically, it’s very difficult to determine what exactly is/ should be one’s guiding value. And then what is even more difficult is to focus on that one value/ principle and *stop* doing/ being driven by other values/ value propositions.

Easier said then done. Nick proposes a three-step guiding cheat sheet: Know:( find out/ define your decision pulse); Think ( appraise action-plan  in light of decision pulse and also taking alternative scenarios and contrary views into account.) and Do (execute by getting everyone aligned with single focus and take action rather than falling into the trap of making a decision either way by stalling or not acting/ deciding). And quitting other options/ burning bridges behind is important at each step. For e.g. your vision/ decision pulse cannot be vague or over-inclusive- it has to be sharp and concrete enough and focus on one thing and consciously exclude other options- so that it is useful when decisions involve tradeoffs between competing values- as they always do in real world scenarios. .Also, while its important to have action plans, its more important to have a non-action plan: given your new priorities and direction, what are the things you need to stop doing- given that taking up something new and fitting in your day-to-day schedule would force time away from some other activities. Lastly, when executing its best to leave plan B’s foreclosed- for success of plan A, Plan B and Plan C must be sacrificed.

Nick has enough evidence based studies to back his proposition, but the way he goes around elaborating these themes is by taking use of anecdotes and business case studies, which make for engaging reading. Illustrating for e.g. , how Starbucks , whose primary value proposition was being a coffee place, was sort of getting waylaid by having cheese sandwiches as breakfast, and whose cheesy aroma spoiled the coffee aroma, and how the Starbucks founder used the guiding value to  put an end to the lucrative breakfast/  sandwich business to realign the Starbucks with its roots; is illuminating and makes the principles involved clear.

The book is full of such illuminating examples, which makes one see the power of these ‘quitting’ actions,  in action and make one appreciate the theory and ideas in light of real world historical examples.

The book is an absorbing and light read, and is sure to grip you till the end.  In the last chapter, Nick also elaborates how the same strategic framework can be applied to personal planning and self-development.  He list support for some eight universal personal values and how one should ideally choose one of those values and let all one’s personal decision be guided by that value. I could fit those eight values in my ABCD and fundamental four frameworks and would like to spell them out here for the benefit of the readers:

they are sort of eight values,  a pair slightly opposed to each other:

1. Security- Freedom  (pain-pleasure Affect based polarity)

2. Stimulation- Authority (active – passive Behavior based polarity)

3. Achievement- Relationships (self-other Drive/ motivation based polarity)

4. Power – Humanity (broad- narrow Cognition based polarity)

Of course, this is just a peripheral part of what Nick’s book is about, but it resonated with me most.

Lastly, I am at a stage in my life, where , although I do have a guiding decision pulse i.e. ” anythings and everything that helps me achieve and leverage positive psychology based knowledge and interventions in workplace and school settings” I am still too broadly spread: for e.g I am doing a  plethora of MOOCs  ranging from topics related to management and leadership , to evolution and genetics,  and to psychology and neuroscience. Also, I simultaneously manage a full-time job, read a lot of psychology books , do book reviews, am writing a psychology book of my own and have 3-4 active blogs, to which I should contribute on regular basis. I am planning on attending a 15-day cognition workshop in near future. On top of this I pride myself as  curator and share stuff on scoop.it, twitter, Facebook etc. I definitely needed the advice Nick has so timely provided- to make a non-action plan and quit doing somethings.

It’s rare for me to proclaim books as life changing- but this book does seem to be right up the alley- I can’t vouch for you, but at least I am planning to apply its principles to my life in earnest- and am sure that it will be a life changing experience. Thanks Nick for writing this book and sharing it so graciously with me for review.  Hope many more people get to be aware of your ideas and are able to apply them to their lives.

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