The Achievement Habit Summary

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 The Achievement Habit shows you that being an achiever can be learned, by using the principles of design thinking to walk you through several stories and exercises, which will get you to stop wishing and start doing.

Bernie Roth is a professor of engineering at Stanford and co-founded the school’s design institute, nicknamed “The d.School” in 2003.

Bernie is a genuinely nice guy and he’s always on the lookout what he can do to help people. This is why during both of his sabbaticals as a professor, he started writing a book.

The first one was at the very beginning of his career, which ended up taking 9 years to write and turned out to be a 525-page collection of equations. It was dubbed “the book of the century” and “the best kinematics book ever written” – but unfortunately only by his academic peers, so it ended up selling just 2,000 copies.

The second one was The Achievement Habit, which took him less than a year, became an instant bestseller and Bernie now receives a constant influx of thank you notes in his inbox – I’m glad he gave it a go again 🙂

Here are 3 things to learn from The Achievement Habit:

  • Stop giving reasons, they’re just another form of excuses.
  • Swap “but” for “and” in everything you say.
  • Don’t network, make real friends instead.

Ready to become an achiever? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Reasons are just another form of excuses, so stop looking for them.

Have you ever been late to a meeting? Of course you have, everyone has.

Chances are, the 2 minutes before you entered the room your mind was racing through your journey of getting there, looking for anything and everything that might have potentially caused a delay.

Was there a lot of traffic?

Did your car make funny noises?

An old lady stopped you to ask for directions?

Magically, your brain always finds a reason, so when you enter that room, you can feel relieved and just say: “Sorry guys, INSANE traffic today!”

Here’s the problem: You knew about all these eventual delays.

You knew the traffic would be a problem, your car’s been acting up for weeks, and being asked for directions can always happen.

You simply didn’t make the meeting enough of a priority to leave as early as you needed to, in order to get there on time.

That’s because in most of all cases, the reasons we assign to certain events are really just correlations, not causations.

For example you might tell a friend you don’t have time to help, but in reality you just want to finish watching a movie. Later that day, you spill your coffee all over yourself.

Of course your brain instantly jumps to the conclusion that because you lied to your friend, you are now being punished – but really it’s just a coincidence.

Similarly, someone might call you the very day you thought of them again after a long time. You might already plan your career as a psychic, but in reality, you think about 300 people a day, and it just so happened that one of them called you.

Your brain naturally assigned meaning to that one person, ignoring all the 299 that didn’t call you.

So stop looking for reasons everywhere, because they block you from making decisions and actually changing your behavior.

Know that most of the things you think are causally linked are really just correlated.

Lesson 2: Every time you want to say “but” say “and” instead.

Reframing is one of Bernie’s big ideas in the book.

Simply by changing the angle you take to look at a problem, you might make it a lot easier, or figure out it’s not a problem at all.

Here’s one exercise in particular, which I loved:

Instead of saying something like: “I want to watch a movie tonight, but I have to work.” say “I want to watch a movie tonight, and I have to work.”

When you say the former, you’ve created a problem, that might not even exist, because hey, you can work AND see a movie.

The latter will instantly make your brain think about how you can do both, instead of sacrificing one for the other, which always makes you feel bad.

Dead simple, but incredibly powerful.

Lesson 3: Forget networking, make real friends!



I hate that word.

Think about it.

Every time you treat someone as a business contact, you lose out on making a true friend.

Never approach someone with the angle of “what can I do for them so they’ll want to do something for me?”.

Just think like a true friend would. Take yourself out of the equation.

“How can I help them?”

The rest will follow.

When you come from a perspective of abundance, when you share your wisdom, ideas and knowledge freely, it will come back to you 10 times over.

Stop “networking” so much and keeping things on a business level, instead, make more true friends!

My personal take-aways

What a great guy!

I’m not sure why, but even though I just learned about Bernie today, I feel very strongly about him. He’s really out there to help people.

He calls the advice from his book “fuzzy guy stuff”, and I know what he means – the advice is less specific than any equations in a kinematics book for sure – but that makes it all the more helpful.

It reminded me of books like The One Thing, Do The Work or Essentialism, where the concepts and ideas are clear to everyone immediately because they’re common sense, but the way they’re described in the book makes them a lot more accessible.

My tip would be to start with this summary and watch some of Bernie’s talks, then go to the book.

The 8th Habit Summary

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The 8th Habit is about finding your voice and helping others discover their own, in order to thrive at work in the Information Age, where interdependence is more important than independence.

One of the major points in Stephen R. Covey’s global bestseller “The  7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was that in today’s day and age, working together has become more valuable than competing with one another.

Back in the Industrial Age, when work was mostly physical, differences in individual people’s productivity were marginal, as no one man could cut 100x logs more per day than another. But now that we live in the Information Age, where knowledge is our main skill, a great programmer can indeed be 1000x more valuable than an average one.

In this 2004 addendum book, Stephen R. Covey shares with us how we can set up ourselves and others for success in the working world, by cultivating the 8th habit: finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs.

Here are the 3 lessons I’ve learned about it:

  • Your freedom to choose is the biggest gift you were born with.
  • Build trust by being friendly, knowing when to say sorry and following through on your promises.
  • Empower others by giving up control and handing them responsibility.

Do you want to set yourself up for a successful career in a post-Industrial Age world? Then let’s cultivate the 8th habit together!

Lesson 1: There’s no bigger gift you’ve been born with than the ability to choose.

In order to help others find their voice, you first have to find your own, obviously. Stephen Covey says how fast you’ll be able to do that depends on how well you use the gifts you’ve been given at birth. There are many advantages we’re born with, just because we’re humans, but according to Stephen, the by far biggest one is this:

You are free to choose how you react to any and every situation in life.

Unlike plants, who can’t move, or animals, whose life is just a series of instinctual, knee-jerk reactions, we as humans get to choose our next action. We can’t control what happens to us. But we sure as hell can decide how we’ll react to it. So whether that next step is a step up or down is entirely up to you.

If someone treats you badly, be it your boss or a friend, if people try to peer pressure you into doing things, it is up to you to give in to it, to do something about it, or to walk away.

However, freedom of choice isn’t the only enabling factor in finding your voice. Covey also talks about the four kinds of intelligence:

Physical intelligence, which is your body’s ability to function mostly on autopilot, without conscious direction.

Mental intelligence, what you’d call IQ.

Emotional intelligence, which is about empathy and what’s sometimes called EQ.

Spiritual intelligence, which is your own moral compass, your true north star, the thing that drives your life’s meaning.

Recognizing these powers you have and playing with how you use them is the first step towards finding and capitalizing on your unique powers at work. Then, it’s all about communicating them to others.

Lesson 2: Be nice, apologize when you have to and deliver on what you promise to build trust.

Communicating with others comes easiest when your relationship is built on trust. The more you trust in one another, the more things you’ll feel comfortable saying, the more you think about each other’s words and the more likely you are to accept them.

Think about this in the concept of business, and you can easily see why trust is one of the most important things for CEOs to work on. It determines the speed with which you can execute and therefore, your company’s success overall.

Covey says that trust is built in three ways:

Stick to your word. If you promise something, follow through. 100% of the time. Not sure if you’ll make it? Then don’t promise it. Whatever comes out of your mouth, back it the f up, every time.

Be nice. So simple, yet so powerful. Just be friendly. Say “thank you,” “please,” and “how can I help you?” Avoid gossip and stay positive. These things don’t cost a thing, but go a long way.

Say sorry when you have to. We all screw up. The best thing, by far, you can do when that happens, is to instantly acknowledge it and just say “Sorry!”

However, trust isn’t a one-way street. It’s not just built by you being trustworthy to others, but also by you handing out trust yourself. How do you do that?

Lesson 3: Give up control and hand others responsibility to empower them.

One of the strongest ways to empower others is to just hand the power to them – literally! That doesn’t mean you should let the intern run the business, but always keep extending the responsibility and control your employees have over their work.

For example, if you run a cleaning workforce, let them decide what cleaning products to use, what gloves to wear, what vacuuming devices to try, how to plan the schedule, etc.

Having the freedom to make these important decisions about their work will make them feel a lot more motivated and of course help them trust in your future decisions.

By the way, this applies to friendships too! Ask your friends for help, trust them to do their part and see how your relationship grows.

My personal take-aways

Mostly directed towards leaders and businesses, I think this is also an important book on a personal level. Especially the section about building trust, as it’s become a rare commodity in our short-term oriented world. A modern classic!

Superhuman by Habit by Tynan

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You can do just about anything if you break down the task into habits. You are more likely to stick with good habits over the long run if you start with tiny habits that are incredibly easy in the beginning. When you miss a habit once, getting back on track and sticking with the next occurrence of that habit should become the top priority in your life.

Read the full book summary »

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