As I look back on 2015, it was a year full of learning and discovery for me. From books to podcasts to audio-books to talks, I was hungry to consume as much new learning I could.
During the past 6 years, I have been fortunate to be involved in Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) which has given me exposure to many different people, perspectives, and experiences running businesses, managing people, living life, etc. I joined EO so that I could learn. I am an engineer who started a product design company, Inertia Engineering + Design, almost 13 years ago and while I knew a lot about design, engineering and manufacturing, at that point in time I knew little about business, strategy, management and leadership. And while I’ve learned a lot over the past 6 years being around like minded entrepreneurs, the last year has been particularly enlightening.
Sometimes there is something or somebody that triggers your mind to start thinking differently and take action on a whole new level. For me, that person was Jayson Gaignard, who in 2014, like me, was on the board of EO’s Toronto chapter. Jayson was in charge of organizing the learning events and I was responsible for running the Accelerator program which helps smaller businesses grow to over $1M revenue so they can then go on to join EO. It was during this time that Jayson exposed me to many new people and ideas such as Peter Diamandis and the abundance mindset, David Meerman Scott for marketing and PR, Joey Coleman on customer service, and of course Jayson himself on how to build relationships.
Now that I look back on it, I sort of consider Jayson as my gateway-drug to learning. The following year I continued to listening to Jayson’s Mastermind Talks podcast where I continued to learn and get exposed to many other interesting people such as James Altucher and Tim Ferriss who in turn opened up another world of ideas and inspiration. Most of what I have compiled here I think can somehow be linked back to Jayson and / or EO. I tried to come up with a top 10, top 5 or top whatever but I couldn’t figure out a way to neatly fortune cookie this stuff as it is quite diverse. So here goes…
How to Learn
If you are serious about learning, you will soon realize that you will become frustrated because you cannot consume enough information fast enough. For this reason, I would have to rate Jim Kwik as the number one recommendation for where to start to learn because as he points out, nowhere in school has anyone taught us how to learn things. James Altucher’s interview with Jim Kwik is amazing. If you are like me, and have a stack of books you’ve been wanting to read on your bedside table and just can’t get through them fast enough, you need to listen to this podcast. A master teacher of speed reading and memory recall, Jim’s life story is incredible and will inspire anyone to learn. I do still listen to audiobooks (mostly podcasts now) but I much prefer the act of reading from a physical printed book as I find it relaxing as well as educational. I can’t wait to finish Jim’s course on memory and recall as that has been a particular challenge for me for a long time.
Health and Wellness
I finally got around to reading Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Body after listening to his podcast with Dom D’Agostino where I learned how our diet, the food we eat, can have such profound effects on our body and health – from reducing seizures (for those who have them), reduction of cancer growth, and boosting human performance – it is a very interesting listen. The start of 2016 finds me following Tim’s extremely simple and low-effort approach to eating well – and so far so good. To help me learn and monitor nutrition, I have been using the My Fitness Pal app which has really helped provide me with a great feedback loop on what I eat. On the exercise side, I have incorporated the extremely simple 5BX (Five Basic Exercises) plan into my morning routine. At 11 minutes in length, this program developed by the Royal Canadian Airforce in the late 1950’s is an excuse free way to incorporate exercise into your day.
As I was looking for a starting point to improve mindfulness and learn about meditation, a fellow EO’er suggested I read Eckhart Toll – A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose It is a good starting point for those seeking understanding of happiness or mindfulness and has a super interesting take on religion and the role our ego plays in all of the above.
To help me focus, clean my head and reduce stress, I have enjoyed using the Headspace app which is basically a guided meditation.
The recurring theme this year seemed to be centered on democratization and demonetization of business models for all kinds of products and services – from the advent of digital cameras to smart phones to new business models like Airbnb and Uber, the world, she-is-a-changin’. Fortune magazine published a really great article which discusses this evolution, Why Every Aspect of Your Business is About to Change. If you want to go more in depth check out the books listed below for how to think like those who created Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla, Quirky, etc. as well as how to tactically deploy the thinking and methodologies to provide the world with at over 10x increase in value. While Quirky didn’t end up succeeding in the end, there are elements in that method I think are genius and when applied differently could revolutionize our industry and business here at Inertia, the service of product design and development on a global scale.
For a couple of years our management team has been using the Verne Harnish’s Gazelles, Mastering Rockefeller Habits method to manage, run and grow our product design and engineering firm. From daily huddles to one-page plans we drank Verne’s Kool-Aid by the bucket. Last year he released a new book entitled Scaling Up, which I think provides much more broad perspective on business strategy and execution as well as better tactical methods compared to his earlier book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. If you want to run a high functioning, well organized and aligned company Scaling Up is number one on my list for developing world-class rhythms and behaviours for business strategy, execution, culture, and finance.
One thing that was not so much learning for me but rather some sweet validation came from listening to a presentation by Michael Norton – Professor Harvard Marketing which was given at one of Jayson’s Mastermind events, entitled The Importance of Transparency and Showing Your Work This podcast really resonated with me because when I started my company 12 years ago, I wanted to create a customer service focused organization in an industry / discipline that has been forever known for being obtuse, arrogant and self-serving – I’ll lump engineers, designers and anyone else in the act of product development into that bin. I wanted to create an organization that was so transparent and open, that documentation, communication and knowledge share was the norm and that the result was true collaboration – all of which drove towards the goal of very happy customers with a natural by-product being outstanding and innovative products. Well I am proud to say that a lot of the rhythms and behaviours we have at Inertia echo the practices and findings discussed by Michael Norton – I highly recommend giving it a listen.
I hope you find this information interesting and useful. It has certainly helped me to learn and grow over the past year. If you have any recommendations for books, podcasts, etc. that has changed your life, I would love to hear from you. I wish you all the best in business, life, and learning for 2016!