“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” — Dr. Seuss
Year End Reflection 2023 is a moment to pause, celebrate your achievements and learnings, and thoughtfully pave the way for a more meaningful and impactful 2024.
It’s been an incredible year of learning and growth with trials, tribulations, and lots of great lessons learned for work and life.
I feel super strong and more enlightened from all I’ve learned.
I feel grounded in my painful lessons and insights from the school of hard knocks.
I had several disruptions this year, but each disruption forced me to dig deeper to unveil and reveal deeper and greater insights.
And it’s given me a lot of chances to practice gratitude, especially during the rough patches.
The beautiful thing is you can’t feel fear or anger, at the same time you feel grateful.
My Year End Reflection Process
My process is simple. I basically ask myself 3 questions:
- What are 3 things that went well? (What are the 3 highlights?)
- What are 3 things to change or improve? (What did I learn from any lowlights or challenges?)
- What are 3 Wins you want to achieve this year? (What’s my bold ambition or big dream for this year?)
It’s simple so and it’s flexible, and you get out of it what you put into it.
The Top 52 Lessons I Learned in 2023
As part of my Year End Reflection process, I review several things from the past year: my calendar, my projects, my articles, my daily journal, books I’ve read, and people I’ve met.
As you can imagine, this reminds me of many of the key things I learned over the year that helped me in some way.
I realized one of the best things I could do is share the lessons in case something helps you in some way.
With that in mind, here are my best 52 lessons from 2023…
1. 10X is Better Than 2X
Your Future Self can be 10X better than you are today.
The problem is most people create their future from 2X thinking.
According to Dr. Hardy, with 2X thinking, people view their Future Self as their present.
So, with the 2X Mindset, you take your present, to create the future.
The 10X Mindset takes the opposite approach.
With the 10X Mindset, you use your Future Self to dictate your present.
As Dr. Hardy puts it:
“You really want your Future Self to dictate who you are in the present, rather than letting your present dictate who you will be in the future.” — Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan share a useful mental model for the 10X Mindset vs. the 2X Mindset in the book, 10X is Easier Than 2X.
2. Advance Your Senses to Reveal Your Potential
“My spider-sense is tingling!” — Spiderman
Maybe you are a much faster reader or learner than you think you are, but you just haven’t trained your senses yet.
I underestimated how much by advancing your senses such as sight or hearing you can advance your human potential.
This year what surprised me is when I realized how much more we could explore and expand our senses.
A funny thing happened with my eyes, where I was able to see twice as far, twice as clear.
It inspired me to start practicing reading 10,000 words per minute again, and the Bates method again.
A friend was struggling with hearing, so I explored how to improve hearing through skills.
The EarGym opened my eyes (well, and ears) to what’s possible, when you think of your senses and skills and apply a growth mindset:
“Our suite of immersive training games are designed to improve different auditory processing skills like speech comprehension and the ability to locate sounds. We simulate realistic listening scenarios to make sure eargym’s training has real-world application.
I stared going back through my memory programs and even Super Learning.
I’m exploring in more detail Win Hoff’s discoveries behind our 8th Sense: Interoception.
I never realized how you could train your mind for math at crazy speeds using your hands:
I’m also building libraries of mental models and frameworks so that I can think in thumbnails faster and easier, especially as I augment myself with ChatGPT.
3. AI Changes the Future of SEO
SEO remains a powerful tool for gaining insight into your audience and customer’s pains, needs, and desired outcomes.
But, according to experts, the game of SEO is changing to evolve and become more brand based and user centric.
SEO in the future might be more about brands and branding, and user engagement with pages.
Stian Pedersen in Better Marketing writes:
“These insights underscore a shift in the daily practice of SEO: we now have to focus on the user experience to optimize for engagement on the page. It’s a clear departure from the old-school focus on keywords and backlinks, nudging us towards a more holistic, user-centric approach.” — Stian Pedersen
Matt Diggity summarizes Rand Fishkin’s insights into how AI changes SEO and what the future might be:
“Rand Fishkin brings you his vision of how marketing departments may need to adapt to AI in the coming years.
He posits a hypothetical future where Google search results may look more like the output of an AI tool—with links and snippets replaced with generated statements that include information, advice, and possibly only a few tailored links.
As far as preparations go, he argues you need to tie your brand to words and phrases people enter into search experiences so that it can be mentioned. If Rand is right, this may be the only kind of SEO that matters in the future.” — Matt Diggity
4. AI with Generalist Models Outcompete Specialist Models
I’m not sold either way as I’ve found so much of what you can produce with AI comes down to the user.
It’s not quite the right metaphor, but the wielder of the tool changes what the tool can do.
But this study by Microsoft research opens up some bold new horizons and innovation.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Generalist foundation models such as GPT-4 have displayed surprising capabilities in a wide variety of domains and tasks. Yet, there is a prevalent assumption that they cannot match specialist capabilities without intensive training of models with specialty knowledge.
- We find that prompting innovation can unlock deeper specialist capabilities and show that GPT-4 easily tops prior leading results for medical question-answering datasets. The prompt engineering methods we explore are general purpose, and make no specific use of domain expertise, removing the need for expert-curated content.
- The method outperforms state-of-the-art specialist models such as Med-PaLM 2 by a large margin with an order of magnitude fewer calls to the model.
- Moving beyond medical challenge problems, we show the power of Medprompt to generalize to other domains and provide evidence for the broad applicability of the approach via studies of the strategy on competency exams in electrical engineering, machine learning, philosophy, accounting, law, nursing, and clinical psychology.
5. AI-Augments You
If you’re not using AI to augment yourself, you are missing out on exploring and expanding your world of possibilities.
I think we’re at the new beginning of the AI-augmented Everything Era.
I say augmented vs. enhanced.
Both terms imply improvement, but “augmented” often means adding new features or aspects to something.
“Enhanced” typically means improving existing features or qualities.
I’ve seen how people and businesses are transforming themselves.
Brad Smith, the leader of Microsoft’s legal, corporate affairs, and public policy put it well:
“I think without question, the kinds of AI services that we are bringing to market at Microsoft that others are creating within their companies and their organizations using a model like GTP 4, using our Azure AI services, that will advance productivity. It will advance the fundamental lines of business that companies are focused on.” — Brad Smith
I wrote how I think we’re in the Fifth Generation Productivity: AI-Augmented Productivity.
6. Apologize with Skill (Even When You’re Not Wrong)
Apologizing when you’re wrong has been taught when we were young.
But how do you apologize when you’re not wrong?
Partly, it comes down to letting go of who is right or who is wrong. It also comes down to acknowledging the other person’s feelings or the impact of the situation, rather than admitting fault.
It’s about showing empathy and understanding for how the situation may have affected them. This type of apology focuses on mending the relationship and moving forward.
That needs a lot of mental work and that’s what Dr. Paul Jenkins discusses in this episode:
The video by Dr. Jenkins is absolutely incredible and will help repair a lot of relationships. But before going all in on that strategy, I recommend balancing it with this video:
I think that to really master the skill of apology, you need to really understand both of them and evaluate them against your personal experience and circumstances.
7. Ask Yourself What Would Better Me Do?
This is a simple way that I connect with my Future Self.
My Future Self is smarter, faster, and much better looking. Oh, and funnier, too.
When I have to make some important decisions or really find my strength, I ask myself:
“What would Better Me do?”
Using my Future Self to guide my present to shape my future is a profound way to become what you’re capable of.
See Future Self.
8. Atomic Practice is a Skill for Mastery
As I explained more things on Twitter, I realized I was really practicing what I call Atomic Thoughts.
But it was more than that.
I was really creating a lot of Atomic Practices, too.
I like thinking of them as Atomic Practices, because they are small, actionable steps.
The journey to mastering “Atomic Practice” began when I shifted my learning approach a few years back.
I moved from a broad focus on “how to learn XYZ” to a more targeted “how to practice XYZ.”
This subtle reorientation had a profound impact.
It led to a more effective method of translating theoretical knowledge from books, videos, or articles into actionable, step-by-step practices.
“Atomic Practice” involves breaking down these practices into the smallest possible components.
This method is similar to deliberate practice but is even more granular.
It’s about identifying and working on the tiniest elements of a skill or habit to perfect it.
This past year, I dedicated myself to this approach, focusing on practicing one small component at a time.
This strategy allowed for more rapid refinement and improvement, as it’s easier to identify and correct errors and make adjustments on a micro-level.
The power of ‘”Atomic Practice” lies in its ability to transform learning and skill development into a series of small, manageable, and highly focused steps, leading to more efficient and effective mastery.
9. Batch and Focus to Transform Your Productivity
Every time I fall behind or I’m not as fast as I could be, the solution is almost always that I’m not batching enough.
“Batch and Focus” is a productivity strategy where you group similar tasks together (batching) and dedicating focused time to them without distractions.
This approach leads to exponential productivity by reducing the time lost in task-switching and enhancing deep, concentrated work.
By batching tasks, you streamline your workflow, and focusing deeply on one batch at a time allows for more efficient and higher-quality output.
So, whether it’s writing articles, working on projects, doing social media, batch and focus is my go-to for transforming my productivity.
10. Be Careful What You Outsource
I’ve used lots of coaches, freelancers, and Fiverr services to experiment and test and learn and grow and to make things happen.
Sometimes I just want the fish. Other times I want to learn how to fish.
I continuously challenge myself how to get smarter in a Web that could dumb you down.
I’m careful what I “outsource” to ChatGPT versus what I want to grow better in.
I want ChatGPT to help me spend more time doing what I do best and grow better in my super skill.
I also want ChatGPT to augment me and grow ne capabilities by getting me over humps and hurdles.
I remind myself that the first and most important thing to prompt better is yourself.
I wrote Go Prompt Yourself to remind people this lesson that I keep teaching myself.
11. Books are Faster than Courses If You Want to Learn Faster
I had fallen into the trap of believing that courses would be a better path for learning faster.
But after taking several courses, I found that books can still be the fastest way to get ahead at your own pace.
Many course creators turned their original one-hour courses into multi-week or multi-month courses and added community to 10X their price.
The argument is it’s a win-win for people who need more community or support and more accountability.
But if you master how to learn from books, you can enjoy a world of learning at a much faster pace.
Obviously, a big factor here is if you find the right books to learn from.
I create lists of books to learn from based on books I found useful in some way:
12. Brand is Your Best Way to Stand Out from the Crowd
One of the best books I read this year was The Brand Positioning Workbook, by Ulli Appelbaum.
I realized that brand is a strategic tool that you can leverage to create a loyal customer base and a distinct market position.
Your brand represents a unique combination of your values, strengths, and style, distinguishing you in a crowded marketplace.
A strong brand creates a memorable identity, making you or your business easily recognizable and setting you apart from competitors.
I like what Sharran Srivatsaa has to say about personal brand. According to Sharran:
- Your brand is not your logo.
- Your brand is not your font.
- Your brand is not your website.
Sharran says that contrary to popular belief your brand is NOT just what they think about you when you are not in the room.
He says your brand is WHY they actually thought about you in the first place.
Sharran gives a few excellent examples of this idea:
- When I think of running shoes, I think of Nike. But when I think of Nike, I don’t think of running shoes.
- When I think of beaches, I think of St. John USVI. But when I think of St. John USVI, I don’t think of beaches.
- When I think of soccer, I think of Lionel Messi. When I think of Messi I don’t think of soccer.
- When I think of cars, I think of Tesla. But when I think of Tesla, i don’t think of cars.
13. Break Your Identity Habits Before They Break You
Identity habits are deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and behaving that shape how you perceive yourself and how you interact with the world.
Over time, these habits can become limiting or negative, holding you back from personal growth and adapting to new challenges.
Breaking these habits requires conscious effort and self-reflection to identify and challenge them.
By doing so, you open yourself to new possibilities, allowing for personal transformation and the adoption of more positive and adaptive behaviors.
Failing to address these identity habits can lead to stagnation, missed opportunities, and a lack of fulfillment in both personal and professional life.
14. Build a Better Business World
Fiction writes create fantastical worlds and realms people want to be a part of.
From Narnia to Middle-Earth to a galaxy far, far away.
Some businesses build a better world, or at least try.
Walt Disney comes to mind with his focus on building a business world of magic and love.
In a world of sameness, brands and worlds and characters will be the difference that separates the best from the rest.
What a great mental model, too, if you’re thinking about your metaverse experience.
Here’s the book that really got me thinking more along these lines:
15. Burnout and Overwhelm are Red Flags Demanding You Transform Your Approach
I’ve seen far too many people burnout and deal with constant overwhelm, so I took a fresh look at an old problem to see where we are.
Burnout and overwhelm are signals to pause, reassess your workload and priorities, and implement your self-care strategies.
Here’s why you get overwhelmed:
- You get overwhelmed because you take on too much that you should have said “no” to.
- You fill your plate with things that drain you instead of energizing you. You don’t put boundaries around your time and work.
- And, perhaps most importantly, you don’t transition well between tasks or activities where you should take a break to reset and rejuvenate before switching into what’s next.
When you frame the problem of overwhelm this way, the solution becomes clearer:
- Establish a better morning routine
- Master your Transition Rejuvenation moments
- Focus on fewer things on your plate that matter.
And across the board, you get better when you practice your energy management and stress skills in the form of focus, breath work, and mindfulness.
16. Businesses of the Future are a Force of Good
Every business has to reimagine itself to be “good for people, good for the planet.”
Think about it like this:
- Customers want to buy from companies that are good for people, good for the planet.
- Employees want to work for companies and organizations that are good for people, good for the planet.
- Investors want to bet on companies that focus on sustainability. Not out of the good of their hearts, but because it’s good for business.
Organizations that focus on sustainability create more transparency in their supply chain and enable data-driven decisions.
This can drastically reduce risk and improve resilience which is why investors are betting on businesses that bet on sustainability.
But the big opportunity here as a leader is to reimagine your business and your bold ambitions in a way that makes your business more meaningful.
17. ChatGPT Can Coach You on Anything
My first surprise was when I asked ChatGPT to coach me as JD Meier. I didn’t know what to expect.
It opened my mind to a new way to use ChatGPT where the power of perspective really comes to life.
I’ve also been surprised by how deep ChatGPT can go, if you take it deep and innovate in the prompts.
I’ve used ChatGPT to coach everything from innovation to leadership to marketing to personal development.
Here is a deep dive example where I show How to Use ChatGPT as Your Marketing Mentor.
I’ve been able to innovate here by not just having ChatGPT play new roles and perspectives, but also by having it use frameworks to produce outstanding results.
It’s been so good that I started wondering whether it’s better to be a specialist at using general models or a generalist using specialized models or some combo.
18. ChatGPT Can Help You Innovate Through Framing, Frameworks, and Forced Connections
How you frame a problem or opportunity sets the stage for innovation.
Framing is simple how you view a problem, including what is considered relevant (in scope) and what isn’t (out of scope).
It’s the “frame” you look through to see the challenge or opportunity.
ChatGPT can provide different perspectives on a problem, suggest various aspects to consider, and help you identify potential areas of focus.
By generating questions or proposing alternative viewpoints, ChatGPT can challenge existing assumptions and help you refine the scope of a problem, leading to a clearer and more effective problem-solving approach.
Not only do people think better with frameworks, but so does ChatGPT.
I was able to produce much better results with ChatGPT by using frameworks, such as Hook. Story. Offer. to create much more effective sales pages for friends.
Forced Connections is one of your most powerful tools for inspiring innovation.
Forced Connections are the deliberate combination of seemingly unrelated concepts or elements.
ChatGPT can help you in this process by suggesting unexpected connections and offering diverse ideas, fostering creative and innovative thought patterns.
19. ChatGPT is a Genie with Unlimited Wishes
How you think about ChatGPT can change your life.
Your mental model can set the stage for fear or for a force multiplier.
Jon Morrow of Smart Blogger suggests thinking of ChatGPT like a Genie, but with unlimited wishes (instead of the classic 3 wish limit.)
Be careful what you wish for. It might come true.
Another metaphor I found helpful is:
ChatGPT is a word calculator.
I found this metaphor useful at various times while using ChatGPT to explore different domains and new areas.
Scott Young writes:
“Simon Willison suggests thinking of LLMs as a ‘calculator for words’—something that can do useful things with text—rather than as a general-purpose intelligence or smart person. I tend to agree. The more we can distinguish the cases where LLMs work well from where they don’t (yet), the more we’ll be able to take advantage of the new capabilities without falling into unexpected traps.”
Choose an empowering metaphor that helps you use AI to augment yourself so “you do you”, better.
20. ChatGPT is Only as Good as You Are
“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” — Anaïs Nin
ChatGPT is your Copilot, not your captain. You are the captain.
The effectiveness of ChatGPT, like any tool, is significantly influenced by your skill and approach.
In the case of ChatGPT, this means the quality of interaction depends not just on the AI’s capabilities, but also on how well you communicate your needs and interpret the responses.
It takes two to Tango, especially when it comes to ChatGPT.
It’s a dance between yourself and AI, where you both contribute to the outcome.
If you’re skilled in formulating clear, concise, and contextually relevant queries you will likely derive more value from ChatGPT, as the AI responds more effectively to your well-defined input.
The more you understand the strengths and limitations of ChatGPT, the more you can use it as a complement to your human intelligence and creativity.
By recognizing that your interaction with AI is a dynamic and collaborative process, you can more effectively leverage its capabilities to augment your own problem-solving, learning, and creative efforts.
21. Chunk Down Anything to Achieve Everything
Whenever I get stuck on something or feel like I hit some sort of wall, I break it down.
Actually, I chunk it down.
Chunking is a powerful strategy for simplifying complexity, maintaining focus, and driving progress in various fields.
Chunking is a method of breaking down large goals, projects, or problems into smaller, more manageable parts.
Tony Robbins uses chunking to make overwhelming goals achievable by tackling them in smaller steps.
In software development, agile teams apply chunking to divide complex projects into shorter sprints, enhancing adaptability and efficiency.
Innovators use this method to deconstruct intricate problems into simpler elements, facilitating more focused and creative solutions.
22. Color is the Fastest Way to Change Your Image
Hiring a color coach this year turned out to be a surprisingly transformative decision.
Initially, I was curious about how colors could refresh my personal style, blending the science and art of color in a way I’d never explored before.
The journey was eye-opening; I learned that the right colors can not only enhance my appearance, making me look healthier and more vibrant, but also positively affect the energy of those around me.
Moving away from my all-black “uniform,” I was advised to try blue and other colors that complement me better.
After some skepticism, I updated my wardrobe based on my new color palette, and the results were undeniable.
Every time I wore my “colors,” compliments flowed in, and I noticed strong, positive reactions from others.
It was a simple yet impactful change that went beyond just switching up my shirt color.
Another fast change is simply wearing a collared shirt.
23. Confidence Compounds Your Capabilities
I’ve really underestimated the power of confidence to compound abilities.
I see it now because I see so many people stand in the shadows of their potential, not realizing what they are capable of.
Just like there’s a big difference between people who have self-worth, there’s a huge difference between people with confidence and those who don’t.
Looking back now, I realize I achieved a lot of what I achieved was only possible through self-confidence.
I’ve mentored a lot of people in confidence, but now I’m rethinking how I teach confidence.
I want to make confidence more accessible to more people, so they can realize their potential in work and life.
24. Customer Outcomes are Your Business Incomes
As the wise Drew Gude would often say to our team and in the halls of Microsoft:
“Your customer outcomes are your business incomes.” — Drew Gude
Too many people end up internally focused on their scorecards, their swim lanes, and their lagging performance.
They lose sight of where it all really begins.
The value your business creates is the outcomes you generate for your customers, as well as the experiences along their journey.
The whole customer journey is a journey of micro and macro-outcomes along the way.
25. Data-Driven Decisions Can Change Everything
“What does the data say?”, is a great starting point to make better, strategic choices and decisions.
I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised by data.
The worst surprise was to find I had written a lot of articles that nobody found.
So, then I focused on SEO to improve visibility.
I read my reports wrong and thought I had messed up, but it turns out a lot of my pages are showing up on page #1 of Google.
I’ve been surprised by the words people use to find things, how much demand some things have, and what a lack of demand there is for other things.
Without data, it’s easy to ride off in the wrong direction for a really long time.
26. Decide Better with “One-Way Doors” and “Two-Way Doors”
Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions.
This is a tip from Jeff Bezos on how to speed up your decision making.
Before you make a decision, determine whether it’s a “one-way door” or “two-way door” type of decision:
- “One-way doors”: These are almost impossible to reverse. This would be things like selling your company or quitting your job. Slow down for these to consider the longer-term consequences. This is where strategic thinking pays off.
- “Two-way doors”: These are easy to reverse. This would be things like starting a side hustle or offering a new service.
For “Two-way door” decisions, you can afford to be more agile and make quicker choices. These decisions, while important, carry less risk and can often be modified or undone if needed.
Recognizing this difference can significantly speed up your decision-making process, allowing you to be more dynamic and responsive in situations where flexibility is key.
This approach helps you balance caution and action, based on the type of decision you need to make.
27. Don’t Believe Everything You Think
2023 has been another incredible year of learning, unlearning, and relearning.
The simple idea, “Don’t believe everything you think”, has saved me from so many pitfalls you can’t imagine.
There are great books on the concept, a great TED Talk, and lots of videos.
But it comes down to this: don’t treat what you know like facts, but more like assumptions.
People fight over their “facts”.
But assumptions help you explore and learn and unlearn.
28. Employee to Entrepreneur
When Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, encourages employees to be “more entrepreneurial,” he’s essentially urging them to embrace market awareness, take calculated risks, and be proactive in generating innovative ideas and solutions while being resourceful.
This call reflects a growing recognition across various roles of the importance of entrepreneurial skills in career advancement and becoming future-ready.
Whether you’re aiming to become an entrepreneur, sharpening your entrepreneurial skills, or fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, these abilities significantly enhance your professional toolkit.
At Microsoft, I experienced this firsthand.
Every team I joined operated like a startup, ingraining an entrepreneurial mindset even within a corporate setting.
Additionally, advising CEOs and working with startups outside the corporate world further enriched this perspective.
Reflecting on this journey, I now understand the distinct yet interconnected roles of innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship, which I collectively term as the Trifecta of Transformation, essential for driving meaningful change and progress.
29. Emulate the Best
“Emulate the best”, adapt with expertise, and innovate with a unique spin.
“Emulate the Best” is a strategy that aligns with Tony Robbins’ philosophy that “success leaves clues.”
By studying and emulating the strategies of successful individuals or businesses, especially online, you can identify and replicate the patterns and tactics that have led to their success.
This approach involves analyzing their digital presence, marketing strategies, and content approaches.
Learning from these proven models helps you reduce risks and accelerates your own path to success, as you’re building on tested and effective methods.
Adding your unique twist to these strategies is how you innovate and differentiate, which is key for standing out in the competitive online landscape.
30. First Principles Thinking Sets the Stage for Disruption
Disruption is my game so I like to continuously learn how to play it better.
First principles thinking is about getting to the fundamental truth of a situation by stripping away assumptions and existing ideas.
It’s a method of questioning and breaking down problems into basic elements, then reassembling them from the ground up.
This approach leads to a deeper understanding and innovative solutions, as it’s not bound by the traditional way of doing things.
It’s practical for challenging and reshaping existing norms to create new, more efficient ways of approaching tasks or solving problems.
Here’s what Elon Musk has to say about First Principles:
“We get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. And you have to do that. Otherwise, mentally, you wouldn’t be able to get through the day. But when you want to do something new, you have to apply the first-principles approach.” — Elon Musk
“In physics and other sciences, theoretical work is said to be from first principles, or ab initio, if it starts directly at the level of established science and does not make assumptions such as empirical model and parameter fitting. ‘
First principles thinking’ consists of decomposing things down to the fundamental axioms in the given arena, before reasoning up by asking which ones are relevant to the question at hand, then cross referencing conclusions based on chosen axioms and making sure conclusions do not violate any fundamental laws.”
31. Hook. Story. Offer. is a Powerful Tool for Troubleshooting Sales
Russell Brunson says whenever there is a problem with conversion or sales, it’s either the Hook, the Story, or the Offer.
He popularized the Hook. Story. Offer. framework for marketing funnels n his trilogy of books:
The Hook “stops the scroll” and gets attention. The story creates engagement and credibility.
And the Offer is your solution to the customer’s problem that creates so much value, it’s a no brainer.
Once you see this pattern, you see it everywhere.
I created a simple example to show friends how to use ChatGPT to innovate in their sales pages with Hook. Story. Offer.:
32. Ikigai is the Key to Finding and Feeling Your Joy
I’m using ikigai to discover and rediscover the simple joys in my life, the stuff that makes life worth living.
I wrote about ikigai long before it was popular. But what I first learned about ikigai was wrong!
This is NOT ikigai:
I never really got a proper introduction until I read the book IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living, by Nicholas Kemp.
Nicholas Kemp reveals the diagram above is actually a misinterpretation of the Zuzunaga Venn Diagram of Purpose.
Ikigai is not answering what the world needs, what you can be paid for, what you are good at.
That’s what the Purpose Venn is for.
According to Nicholas Kemp, a more accurate framework for ikigai would be:
It’s based on the 7 needs that Mieko Kamiya determined we need to satisfy, in order to feel Ikigai.
Nicholas added an 8th need, “a sense of purpose.”
Nicholas shares this enlightening framework for the 8 needs of Ikigai on the back of his book, Ikigai-Kan: Feel a Life Worth Living.
According to Nicholas, ikigai is:
“What makes our life worth living; the reason we battle on through life.”
Ikigai is not limited to work.
It doesn’t have to be some grandiose purpose. It can be your small joys.
Nicholas helped me rediscover the power of ikigai by redefining it back to its true origin and meaning.
33. Illusion of Knowledge Grows Bigger with ChatGPT
Information can fool you into thinking you have knowledge.
The illusion of knowledge is the mistaken belief that your understanding of a subject is deeper and more comprehensive than it actually is.
Using ChatGPT can lead to the illusion of knowledge because it often provides information at an intellectual level, which is just the first level of learning.
While you receive accurate and comprehensive answers, this interaction lacks the emotional engagement and physical experience (like muscle memory) essential for deeper learning.
This can result in a false sense of mastery or understanding of a subject, as you have not engaged with the material through personal experience or emotional connection, which are crucial for truly internalizing knowledge.
34. Interoception is Your 8th Sense
It’s possible that Wim Hof found the secret of placebo and he calls the 8th sense: Interoception:
Here are different senses we possess:
- 6th sense – intuition
- 7th sense – the neurological network called proprioception
- 8th sense – the neurological network called interoception
Interoceptive focus is top-down regulation. It’s psychology over physiology.
We are the healers.
Professor Muzik said, “Wim Hof has found the secret of placebo.”
We don’t need suggestive powers or trickery.
It’s our willfully controlled power to heal ourselves, which is a network.
But we have never learned how to control that psychology over physiology, that neurological network, which is physical, inside, and enables us to go out, up to the cell, past time, and space, into ancestral trauma, into the DNA.
35. Make 3 Great Decisions Each Day
Make 3 good decisions.
It’s a simple concept, but the challenge is to master actually doing it.
“You need to be thinking two or three years in advance, and if you are, then why do I need to make a hundred decisions today?
If I make, like, three good decisions a day, that’s enough, and they should just be as high quality as I can make them.
Warren Buffett says he’s good if he makes three good decisions a year, and I really believe that.”
36. Metabolic Health is the Gateway to Health for Better or Worse
Metabolic health, which encompasses your body’s ability to manage essential processes like blood sugar regulation, fat storage, and energy production, is a fundamental determinant of your overall health.
When metabolic functions are optimized, they lay the groundwork for a healthy body, reducing the risk of various diseases like diabetes, heart conditions, and obesity.
Conversely, poor metabolic health can lead to a cascade of health issues, often exacerbating or triggering chronic illnesses.
Maintaining good metabolic health acts as a gateway to either safeguard or compromise your general well-being.
The state of your metabolic health significantly influences whether your overall health trajectory veers towards wellness or illness.
Here are some resources that can jumpstart your understanding:
- The Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung
- The Diabetes Code, by Dr. Jason Fung
- Fast Like a Girl, by Dr. Mindy Pelz
- Video: 6 Best Secrets To Reverse Insulin Resistance Naturally & Change Your Life, by Dr. Sten Ekberg
Dr. Jason Fung really dives deep and explains how things work. Dr. Mindy Pelz takes an interesting twist because she lines up fasting cycles with hormone cycles.
Dr. Sten Ekberg does a great job of walking through the challenge of insulin resistance with a simple metaphor.
It’s a learning journey, but I think you’ll be surprised by the depth and details you can learn from these sources.
37. Purpose Venn Diagram
This is the Zuzunaga Venn Diagram of Purpose, an English translation of the original Purpose Venn by Andrés Zuzunaga:
There is a popular version of this that’s wrong that puts ikigai in the center.
The Zuzunaga Venn Diagram of Purpose helps you find your purpose at the intersection of these 4 questions:
- What do you love? (Your Passion)
- What are you good at? (Your Vocation)
- What does the world need from you? (Your Mission)
- What can you be paid for? (Your Profession)
You can learn the story behind the misinterpretation and the true origin the book, IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living, by Nicholas Kemp, and in the podcast:
38. Rethinking is a Real Skill
Rethinking is a crucial skill, as emphasized by Adam Grant in his book Think Again.
It’s a valuable but underdeveloped skill.
Rethinking involves the ability to question and revise your own beliefs, opinions, and approaches based on new evidence or perspectives.
However, the skill of rethinking is challenging for several reasons:
- Cognitive Biases: You are naturally subject to a range of cognitive biases that skew your thinking and decision-making. These biases, like confirmation bias (favoring information that confirms our preexisting beliefs) and sunk cost fallacy (continuing a chosen course of action because of past investments), hinder your ability to rethink effectively.
- Comfort in Familiarity: You often find comfort in familiar thoughts and beliefs. Rethinking requires stepping out of this comfort zone and confronting uncertainty or admitting that your previous beliefs might have been wrong, which can be uncomfortable and challenging.
- Ego and Identity: Your beliefs often become intertwined with your identity. Challenging these beliefs can feel like a threat to your sense of self, making it hard to engage in rethinking. You might resist changing your views to protect your ego and maintain a consistent self-image.
- Skill Deficiency: Rethinking is not a skill that is widely taught or emphasized in education or society. Many people lack the tools and strategies to effectively question and revise their thinking, making it a less intuitive and more arduous process.
- Social Pressure: There’s also a social aspect to rethinking. You may resist changing your opinions due to social pressure or the desire to conform to group norms, even when confronted with new information that contradicts your beliefs.
Curiosity is the cure.
Curiosity is a catalyst for rethinking as it drives the desire to explore and challenge existing beliefs, making you more open to new information and perspectives.
Combine it with a Growth Mindset and you can practice rethinking with skill.
39. Say No with Skill
Sometimes the answer is, “Yes, not now.”
But other times, the answer really is, “No”, for good reason.
Value creation takes focus. When you fork or fracture your focus, you diffuse your value.
Warren Buffet o successful people:
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffet
Steve Jobs on how innovation is saying no to 1,000 things:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all.
It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” — Steve Jobs
Recognizing when to say “No” is not just rejecting distractions, but strategically aligning your actions with your core goals and values.
As Buffet and Jobs highlight, true success and innovation are not in the multitude of tasks you take on.
Success and innovation are in the discernment and courage to focus on what truly matters, letting go of the rest.
40. Sell What People Want to Buy, Not What You Want to Sell
If you don’t put your idea or solution in the language your customer uses, you won’t be relevant.
Zig Ziglar put it so well:
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar
And Blair Warren framed it well, too:
“People will do anything for those who will encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies.” — Blair Warren, The One Sentence Persuasion Course
Ignoring this can lead to wasted resources, market failure, and missed opportunities for genuine innovation that meets user needs and demands.
This principle impacts how products are conceived, designed, and marketed. It shifts the focus from an internal, product-centric viewpoint to an external, customer-centric approach.
- Engineers and innovators often focus on technical excellence and innovative features. Understanding market demand ensures that your innovations solve real problems and fulfill user needs, increasing the likelihood of adoption and success.
- As leaders and business owners, by focusing on what customers actually want, you can guide your companies towards products and services that are more likely to succeed in the competitive market.
- For individuals with new ideas, whether in startups or as part of larger organizations, this principle serves as a reality check. It encourages you to validate your ideas against actual customer demand before investing significant time and resources.
This approach helps you avoid the common pitfall of developing products that you find exciting, but there’s little or no market for.
41. SEO is a Superpower
3 Months to No.1, by Will Coombe, really opened my eyes to the power of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Will hooked me with his claim that he could help any business grow by 20% through SEO.
SEO is a powerful tool that allows you to deeply understand your customers by analyzing how they express their needs, pains, and desired outcomes through online searches.
By optimizing content to align with the exact phrases and keywords customers use, you can directly address your audience’s specific concerns and interests.
This level of insight goes beyond what customers explicitly tell you, uncovering hidden needs and preferences they reveal through their search behavior.
As a result, SEO not only improves a website’s visibility but also becomes a critical instrument for customer insight and market research.
By mastering SEO, businesses effectively gain a ‘superpower’ in learning and speaking their customer’s language, enabling you to tailor their offerings more precisely and compellingly.
42. Smile in the Morning to Boost Your Abilities
For some people, smiles flow free and easy. For others, you might have to work at it.
With all my mouth has been through, I find I tend to smile more on the inside than the outside.
I like how Stefan James says one of the best things you can do to start your day is to train yourself to smile.
Stefan James writes:
“Training yourself to smile first thing in the morning is a great way to condition your mind to be grateful and happy for another day in life. A smile can actually help you manifest what you want into your life. How? When you smile, you are telling the universe that you want to live in a world that is positive and happy. That is exactly what the universe will deliver, because you are attracting that which you desire most.” — Stefan James
Stefan mentions Behavioral psychologist Sarah Stevenson who writes:
“Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The notorious party animals-dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin – start whooping it up when you smile.” — Sarah Stevenson
Stefan also points out that Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage, suggests that retraining your brain to scan for good things life helps you see more possibilities, boosts energy levels, and improves your success rate.
You might have to fake it till you make it, but there is no simpler way to improve your life than by smiling more often.
Just make sure your eyes smile, too, or that’s creepy.
43. Speed Up to Level Up in Work and Life
Earlier this year, I wrote 30 books in 30 days with ChatGPT to transform my productivity.
I learned a lot about my limits and limits with AI and it helped me better understand how AI augments us.
Speed has been one of my most important advantages at Microsoft for several years.
Every time I focus on speed, great things happen.
One of my experiments this past year was to learn how to “write” faster.
So, I got a CharaChorder to explore what’s possible. The goal of CharaChorder is to “type at the speed of thought.”
These numbers helped me understand how life changing this could be:
- 13 WPM (Word Per Minute): Writing
- 40 WPM: QWERTY Keyboard
- 150 WPM: Talking
- 250 WPM: Reading
- 300 WPM: CharaChorder
On the flip side, when things are too slow, you stop doing them.
I find that I ready more books because I practice how to read 10,000 words per minute.
If I didn’t practice speed, I wouldn’t read as much or learn as much.
44. Strategy is the Ultimate Short Cut
So many people say, “Just start.”
And so many people do just start. But they start down the wrong path.
This year reminded me time and again how strategy is the ultimate short cut.
Strategy acts as the ultimate shortcut by guiding efforts towards the most effective and efficient path, avoiding the pitfalls of trial and error.
Much time is often wasted on approaches that are doomed to fail, but a well-crafted strategy helps in identifying and focusing on viable paths right from the start.
Many people begin tasks or projects without a clear plan, script, or blueprint, leading to unnecessary effort and mistakes that could have been avoided by consulting with experienced individuals or using proven models.
Without a strategic direction, even the most dedicated efforts can be futile if they’re applied to the wrong objectives or methods.
A good strategy streamlines the journey to success, ensuring that time and resources are invested wisely and not squandered on ineffective endeavors.
45. Think in Thumbnails
I think I finally have a metaphor for how I think that’s helped me improve my thinking over the years at Microsoft.
I think in Thumbnails.
“Thinking in Thumbnails” is my visual and efficient way of processing and organizing information in my mind.
This approach is like having a mental library of images, diagrams, and frameworks.
It’s how a vast array of thumbnails can represent complex ideas in a simple, visual format.
From my experiences at Microsoft, I’ve developed a rich internal repository of frameworks and concepts, visualized as thousands of mental “slides” and “whiteboard images.”
This vast collection is like a mental database of visual cues that represent complex ideas and strategies I’ve encountered over the years.
When I need to solve a problem or generate new ideas, I mentally browse through these “thumbnails.”
This allows me to quickly recall and rearrange concepts, making connections between different ideas or breaking down complex concepts into simpler parts.
By “thinking in thumbnails,” I can efficiently sift through a large volume of information and concepts, enabling rapid understanding and synthesis.
This method enhances my ability to think creatively and strategically, as it allows for quick comparison, contrast, and combination of diverse ideas.
46. Tools Can Be Your Force Multiplier
I’ve spent a lot of time trying and testing different tools this past year.
I know the right tools make a huge difference in terms of daily productivity that really adds up quickly.
The right tools empower you to enhance your capabilities, solve complex problems, and achieve results that were once only attainable by experts.
They help you can achieve extraordinary things by leveraging the power of technology and smart systems.
Data analysis tools can turn simple observations into profound insights, enabling you to make decisions based on solid evidence rather than guesswork.
Tools that offer batching and consolidation simplify and streamline complex tasks, making it possible for you to manage large projects or datasets with ease.
These tools can transform everyday tasks into opportunities for efficiency and innovation, allowing you to accomplish more with less effort.
47. Transition Moments are Your Chance to Recharge
I found by embracing transitions during my day, they are chances to recharge is a strategic approach to maintaining balance and efficiency throughout the day.
Transition moments, like the time between meetings or tasks, offer valuable opportunities for a mental and emotional reset.
You can use these brief pauses to step back, clear your mind, and reduce stress or burnout.
You can rejuvenate your energy and focus by engaging in simple activities such as deep breathing, stretching, or a short walk.
By using these Transition Moments effectively, you can enhance your productivity by providing a fresh perspective when you return to work.
48. Twitter Forces You to Practice Simplicity
I decided to spend some time in X (Twitter) to learn what I can.
What I found is, working on your tweets is working on your thoughts.
And when you work on your thoughts, you can communicate and think better.
Actually, Twitter forces you to practice a few things:
- Prove you’re a human, not a bot
- Chunk big things down
- Simplify complexity
- Stop the scroll with your amazing hooks and stories
- Practice your Hook. Story. Offer. skill
I’ve been through several Twitter coaches and I’m still learning the ropes.
It’s really teaching me how to break things down into easily digestible chunks of insight.
49. Wrap Your Schedule Around Your Priorities
Your calendar is your life, and you are the architect of your time if you design a better calendar.
As Stephen Covey put it:
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
– Stephen Covey
Whenever I forgot this and let my calendar grow out of control, I have to remind myself to wrap my schedule around my priorities.
Aside from priorities, the other backbone for a better calendar is your strengths.
50. You Can Exponentially Improve Your Thinking Patterns with Ray Dalio’s Principles
A friend from Bridgewater Associates walked me through Ray Dalio’s principles and I saw them in a new light.
Ray Dalio’s Principles are really a meta-model for improving your thinking.
I had read Ray Dalio’s Principles: Life and Work a while back, but I didn’t fully understand the model.
After my friend walked me through the model in more detail, I realized how powerful it really is.
I’ve had lots of training in thinking at Microsoft, but this felt like another level.
It doesn’t replace any of the tools in my toolbox, but it does augment and enhance them.
51. Your Network Reflects Your Future
What you don’t know can hurt you.
And what your network knows, could be what you know, if you stay connected and learn from the people in your network.
Your network also reflects your future opportunities from jobs to epic adventures to skill sharing.
You grow a better network by bringing your “Super Skill” to the table and trading it for other people’s Super Skills.
Note that I’ll explain Super Skill in more depth in the future. It’s something I taught at Microsoft and beyond to people I mentor.
52. Your World View is Empowered by the Era You Embrace
How you think about the world at large or the economy shapes your mindset, which shapes your future.
For example, if I think about The Digital Era, I wonder how can I leverage it by thinking “Mobile-First, Cloud-First”, for example.
If I have The Age of Innovation top of mind, I might focus on how to build better innovation skills to lead the future.
Here are a handful of the different ages, eras and economies you might hear about:
- The Age of AI
- The Age of Innovation
- The Digital Era
- The Digital Economy
- The Renter’s Economy
- The Knowledge Economy
- The Information Age
- The Age of Sustainability
- The Gig Economy
- The Era of Big Data
- The Age of Globalization
- The Health and Wellness Era
- The Social Media Age
- The Age of Mobile Technology
- The Era of Smart Cities
Best Wishes for a Breathtaking Year
I hope something within this batch of lessons leads to a future breakthrough for you in some way.
Sometimes seeds are enough, if they are planted well.
Here’s a mental model for life you might find useful:
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take your breath away.” — Maya Angelou
May you have a year full of breathtaking moments.
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