2019 year in review: growth versus goals

The end of the year is usually a time for reflection, gratitude, and planning. With our inboxes quiet and our schedules free of meetings, we can afford to take a moment and think about what we achieved and what’s next. It’s my second year writing an annual review, and I want to make it more …

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Illusory correlations: how to identify your hidden assumptions

When I was a kid, I used to think I was doing much better at tests when using a particular pencil my sister had gifted me. So I would make sure to use this pen for every test. I have a friend who thinks that city people are generally rude. So when he meets a …

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But wait, there’s more: the psychology of selling

Even unintentionally, you’ve probably seen one of these infomercials on TV. The presenter goes through all the supposedly amazing features of an obscure product with an excited voice, an urgent tone, as if he or she was sharing an important secret few will be lucky enough to know about. When you think the advert is …

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The Occam’s razor fallacy: the simplest solution is not always the correct one

When faced with two equally credible theories, wisdom seems to indicate you should go for the simplest one. Simpler solutions are easier to verify; they’re easier to execute. But, while mental models are a great way to make sense of the world, not all of them should be followed blindly. In fact, some should be …

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Ethos, Pathos, Logos: how to persuade people

Scholars have discussed the mechanics of persuasion since ancient times. Persuasion encompasses every aspect of culture, with rhetoric as a crucial tool to influence every sphere of society, from mundane negotiations to big national debates. One could argue any form of communication is a form of persuasion. Whether through writing or talking, at home or …

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Overchoice: why more isn’t always better

In many cultures, freedom and autonomy are considered critical to our well-being. Having the ability to do what we want, when we want, and to explore our options seem like healthy attitudes. This is why supermarkets are filled with so many variations of similar products. We think that the more choices we have, the better …

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Checklists: when we can’t trust our brains

From product launches to project management, I’m obsessed with checklists. And I’m not the only one. From the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist to flight checklists and more mundane event production checklists, checklists are everywhere. We use them to run businesses, perform complex surgery, and do our groceries. Systemic complexity means that we cannot …

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The curse of knowledge

Have you ever had a teacher who was very smart, but also terrible at actual teaching? An expert who used so much jargon you could not quite follow their explanation? This is called the “curse of knowledge”, a term coined in 1989 by economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein, and Martin Weber. It’s a cognitive bias …

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Parkinson’s law: how constraints can create freedom

Coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of an essay published in The Economist in 1955, Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” While it was initially designed as a mathematical equation describing the rate at which bureaucracies expand over time, Parkinson’s Law can …

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Turning goals into growth loops: the PARI system of mindful productivity

I had a coaching session today with a client where we discussed his daily routine and the way he was managing his goals. At some point, he said: “Maybe I’m just not disciplined enough.” Many people think this way when they’re disappointed by their own performance. But did you know that 92% of people never …

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