4 bucket-list goals I completed in 2015

bucket list2I’m a huge fan of setting goals. If you aim at nothing you will always hit it.

In 2015 I wrote four posts regarding setting and accomplishing goals:

I maintain a robust “bucket list” of goals that I want to accomplish before I expire. These items are, of course, in addition to normal everyday activities. This year I checked off the following:

1. Join Mensa International

Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world, open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test. There are around 57,000 people in the U.S. who have passed the test.
When I was in high school I took an IQ test and missed getting into Mensa by .5% and that has always bothered me…like an unfinished sentence.
So on May 16, 2015 I took the test and scored in the 99th percentile. Yeah.

2. Visit a country I’ve never been to before.

My goal is to visit 60 counties before I die. Mary and I have been to 43 and we try to add one new country every year.
On August 10-14, 2015 Mary and I went to the United Arab Emirates and enjoyed the mid-eastern culture, went to the top of the world’s tallest building, etc. We have plans to add two new countries in 2016.

3. Stand 30 minutes by myself somewhere on earth where it’s at least 130° fahrenheit.

While I was in the UAE I hired a car and driver to take me out into the desert toward Oman. Fortunately, the area was experiencing a severe heat wave. I recorded 132° on my digital thermometer.
I also want to stand for 30 minutes by myself somewhere on earth where it’s at least negative 30° fahrenheit. Perhaps this year…

4. Publish six monographs on the six soft skills I teach in the Lead Well workshop.

In September of this year I published Lifelong Learning: Why it’s more important and doable than you think
In 2016 I will publish #2 of the six: Signature Soulprint.

Don’t worry about sharks. Worry about cows or mosquitoes.

Or…don’t worry at all

In the Bleachers

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. —Mark Twain

According to Oceana, a nonprofit organization, sharks kill only about four people a year worldwide and only one in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cows kill more than five times the number of people than sharks do. One research study reported an average of 22 deaths a year by bovines, typically due to stomping or goring.

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous; they kill 655,000 people each year, primarily in Africa, through the spread of malaria.

So why all the fuss over sharks?

Sometimes in life, we worry about the wrong things. Things that are large and have sharp teeth get our attention, but we’re often waylaid by less obvious assailants—we worry the most about things that endanger us the least.

For instance, we may inordinately worry about getting shot by a random shooter in a public area but ignore our daily intake of calories. We may obsess over being antiseptically clean—washing our hands often, using sterile wipes—but contaminate our minds by watching trash on TV.

Things that look menacing may not be, whereas some things that are invisible may be. We may cautiously avoid people with tattoos who drive loud motorcycles, but neglect getting a flu shot.

Sometimes, the mass media prompts us to focus on inconsequential issues. After all, they have to discuss something to fill up the required time and space, and they usually try to create a sense of emergency and concern regarding their topics, even banal ones.

Actually, I don’t see the advantage in worrying at all. Corrie ten Boom said,”worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

But if you insist on worrying about something, at least worry about things that might truly hurt you. Forget about sharks.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

What? – If you must worry, at least focus on issues that might matter.
So what? – We often worry needlessly.
Now what? – Analyze what you are concerned about and make sure it is a legitimate concern.

Don’t be superstitious

superstitious5.001Superstitious behavior comes from the mistaken belief that a specific activity that is followed by positive or negative reinforcement is actually the cause of that positive or negative reinforcement. It is the confusion of correlation and causality. —Marshall Goldsmith

Some people believe the silliest things.

  • Samuel Johnson always exited his house right foot first and avoided stepping on cracks in the pavement. He thought that to do otherwise would be bad luck.
  • While leading the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships during his legendary career, Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform in every game, thinking it would affect his playing.
  • In Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese the words for “death” and “four” are pronounced the same, so in these cultures the number 4 is seen as unlucky.
  • In Western civilization, the number 13 is deemed unlucky because there were 13 people at Christ’s last supper. Many hotels don’t label the 13th floor because some people won’t stay there; the floor numbers simply skip from 12 to 14.

I think we all can agree that this deep-seated irrationality is nonsense. Most of it just sounds nutty. Carrying a rabbit’s foot will bring good luck? There’s a relationship between astronomical phenomena and human events? Blow out all the candles on your birthday cake in one breath and you’ll get whatever you wish for?

Scientific tests of superstitions consistently debunk them. Yet superstitious thinking and behavior still pervades society.

Are you superstitious? Do you engage in superstitious behavior?

I doubt if any of my readers embrace the ridiculous examples cited above, but many of us may yield to more subtle forms of superstition that exist whenever correlation is confused with causation. Correlation is when two or more things or events tend to occur at about the same time and might be associated with each other, but aren’t necessarily connected by a cause/effect relationship. For instance, consider the following hypothetical situation.

A small town in East Texas hires a new sheriff, and a year later the robbery rate is down 50%. The city council assumes that the drop in crime is because the new sheriff is doing a terrific job so they extend his contract and give him a raise.

The problem is, while there is a valid correlation between hiring the new sheriff and the drop in crime, it is wrong to infer causation from this sequence of events. The crime rate may be down because the criminals, having already robbed most of the town’s wealth, have moved to another town that holds more opportunities. Or perhaps an aggressive home-security company has installed security systems in most of the homes and stores. So the new sheriff may or may not be the primary reason for the drop in burglaries.

The only way to prove causation is by a controlled experiment.

I doubt if any of us, in this age of science and reason, naively embrace obvious superstitions. But we may succumb to subtle forms of superstition when we inadvertently confuse correlation and causation.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]


What? – We often confuse correlation with causation. When we do, we succumb to a subtle form of superstition.
So what? – This can lead to faulty and unproductive decisions and behaviors.
Now what? – Analyze your life and eliminate superstitious behavior.

5 best books I read in 2015

reading_for_dummies_1125455We read for the pleasure and benefit of thinking another person’s thoughts. Sam Harris

One of my regrets in life is that for a decade (around age 40-50) I punched pause on my learning and grew intellectually disengaged and stale. During those years I don’t think I read even one book cover-to-cover.

So, I’m making up for lost time. Now, my goal is to read and process one book a week. (Don’t overlook the word process in the previous sentence; it’s the key to learning from reading.) I wrote a post about the benefits of reading along with some suggestions on how to maximize learning from reading – Read.

Here’s a list of the books I read and processed in 2015. At the bottom of this list are my five favorites.

The numbers in brackets represent how I rate each book on a scale from 1 (not good) to 10 (exceptional).

1. Lying – Sam Harris [8] – This short book on one subject is very powerful. Harris sees clearly and communicates well. The bottom line: Don’t ever lie. Honesty is a gift we can give to others.
2. Waking Up – Sam Harris [6] – Radical thoughts on spirituality and meditation.
3. Personal (fiction) – Lee Childs [4] – I don’t learn much by reading fiction.
4. Socrates – Paul Johnson – [6] – Socrates laid the foundation for absolute morality.
5. The Economic Naturalist – Robert Frank – [6] – Most everyday enigmas involve an economic principle.
6. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish [6] – Good business principles revisited.

7. Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown [6.5] – Good thoughts on focusing on that which is essential.
8. I Am Pilgrim (fiction) – Terry Hayes [6] – CIA-type thriller; though it is a long read (566 pages), it is a good read.
9. Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson [7.5] – Well-researched with lots of interesting stories. Just the chapter on The Slow Hunch makes the book worth reading.
10. The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown [7] – Lessons learned from the rowing team that won gold at the 1936 Olympics.

11. Me, Myself, and Us – Brian Little [7] – An engaging psychology professor writes on important issues of well-being, personality, etc. Just the chapter on Personal Projects: The Happiness of Pursuit, is worth the cost of the book.
12. The Millionaire Next Door – Stanley and Danko [6] – Through extensive research, the authors, analyze what the “typical” American millionaire family looks like. The results are surprising, and encouraging.
13. In The Kingdom of Ice – Hampton Sides [8] – In 1879 the Jeanette set sail from San Francisco. Her crew hoped to be the first humans to reach the North Pole. This story is a testimony to the incredible perseverance embedded in the human psyche.
14. How We Got to Now – Six Innovations That Made The Modern World – Steven Johnson [9] – A totally fascinating and insightful book; a must read. A blend of science and history.
15. Leadership and the Customer Revolution – Heil, Parker Tate [8] – I read this book eight years ago and it still speaks to important leadership issues, particularly relating to how to delight customers.

16. The Automatic Customer – Warrillow [5] – A good book about a narrow topic – how to make automate customers.
17. Get What’s Yours – Kotlikoff, Moeller, Solman [6] – The Social Security system is very complicated; this book helps answer major questions.
18. Ethics (for the real world) – Howard and Korver [7] – A thorough and practical book on ethics in both our personal and professional lives. A must-read book.
19. The First 90 Days – Watkins [7] – A must-read for everyone who is starting a new job or taking on a new role. “The actions you take during your first 90 days in a new role will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.” (pg, 1)
20. 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn In School – Sykes [4] – Written to teenagers but I can’t imagine a kid reading this book. Sykes is very sarcastic and belittling in his approach. All I got was a few good quotes.

21. The Road to Character – Brooks [9] – A great treatise on character illustrated by a brief biography of major characters (Eisenhower, Augustine, Dorothy Day, and others).
22. Stand Out – Dorie Clark [6] – Subtitled, How to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it. I got a few new thoughts from this book.
23. Young Men & Fire – MaClean (7) – This book proves that there are no boring stories, just boring storytellers. MaClean takes a semi-interesting story – young me fighting the Mann Gulch forest fire in 1949 – and spins it into a fascinating read.

24. The 80/20 Individual – Koch [6] – Koch is a been-there-done-that consultant so he has a lot of insight into that world and good insights into people and corporations. But the book didn’t strongly speak to me.
25. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life – Twyla Tharp [8] – Tharp, a great dance choreographer, shares good thoughts about the creative process.
26. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Goldsmith [8] – Goldsmith is a highly successful executive coach and in this book he gives away his secrets. Great thoughts on people skills.

27. Quirkology – How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things – Wiseman [6.5] – Interesting book about psychological research and practical issues of life.
28. The Long Goodbye [fiction] – Raymond Chandler [4.5] – A novel about a detective; semi-entertaining but nothing learned.
29. How Breakthroughs Happen – Hargadon [7] – Written by an academic but in a readable style, this book underscores the necessity of collaboration when innovating.
30. Complications – Atul Guwande [7] – An interesting, inside perspective on the life of a physician.
31. Fermat’s Enigma – Singh [9] – Phenomenal book that gives keen insight into the world of mathematics. In 1993, Andrew Wile solved a mathematical problem that had eluded mathematicians for 350 years.

32. The Martian – Andy Weir [6] – A novel about an astronaut left behind on Mars. Interesting from a technical/scientific point of view, but the storyline was simple.
33. For One More Day – Albom [5] – A novel about having one more day with a loved one. Not my kind of book, but some nice thoughts about childhood.
34. Triggers – Marshall Goldsmith [7] – Goldsmith is very practical and has some good things to say about adult behavioral change.
35. A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson [7.5] – Bryson is a great journalist that makes any subject interesting, including this one about hiking the Appalachian Trail.

36. Phantom [fiction] – Jo Nesbo [5] – A novel. I just don’t learn much by reading modern fiction.
37. What you Can Change…and What You Can’t – Martin Seligman [7.5] – Seligman is a top-notch academic and psychologist who writes about issues such as addiction, weight loss, depression, and anxiety. It was originally written in 1993 and re-endorsed in 2007 so it doesn’t reflect the latest science in these areas, but it’s still a great read. My biggest take-away is that we humans have a lot of control over ourselves.
38. Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret – Pat Williams [7] – Sometimes we don’t need to be taught, we just need to be reminded. This is a simple but important book that reminds us of some important life principles, espoused by coach John Wooden. Lot’s of good stories and illustrations. My main takeaway was: pay attention to details and fundamentals.
39. Better – A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance – Atul Gawande [7] – Gawande gives us insight into the world of physicians and teachers important life lessons. Fascinating reading.
40.The 4-Hour Workweek – Ferriss [6] – I was skeptical about the book when I first read the title. He does have some good ideas about how to build a virtual, all-outsourced company. He could have said it in less than 374 pages.
41. Scientific Secrets for a Powerful Memory – Vishton [7] – This book/course came from The Great Courses – a terrific source for taking college courses online. I bought the dvd version which comes with a book version of the lectures. Fascinating information.

42. Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication – Ehrman [7] – I read/viewed this series of lectures through The Great Courses. 24, 30-minute lectures and the book for $39; what a deal. Ehrman knows his subject well.
43. Developing the Leaders Around You – Maxwell [5] – I’m frustrated with Maxwell’s books. They all contain numerous lists and endless bullet points and seem random in their focus.
44. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Pink [7] – Good thoughts on getting beyond extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to what Pink defines as the next level: offering people autonomy, mastery and purpose.

45. Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society – John Gardner [7] – This book is timeless. Written in 1963, it still speaks. Gardner talks of major concepts and principles that relate to societies and individuals.
46. On Leadership – John Gardner [7.5] – This book is also timeless. Gardner addresses deep and abiding issues of leadership.
47. Brain Power – Karl Albrecht [8] – Good thoughts on mental flexibility, facts, thinking clearly, logic, making decisions, ideas, and more.
48. Raving Fans – Blanchard and Bowles [3] – Written as a short-story, this book didn’t speak at all to me.

49. Behavioral Economics: When Psychology and Economics Collide – Scott Huettel [6] A Great Courses course with 24 lectures.
50. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking – Jordan Ellenberg [6] An interesting book but at times the involved and complicated math bogs down the momentum.
51. A Rulebook for Argumentation 4th edition – Anthony Weston [7.5] A short (88 pages), readable, easily understood and helpful book. I really enjoyed it.
52. Management Challenges for the 21st Century – Drucker [7] – I read this terrific book in 2005, and it spoke to me the second read. I particularly like the last chapter, Managing Oneself.

Books that I skimmed

Coming of Age in Samoa – Mead [5] – Margaret Mead was one of our nation’s greatest anthropologist, studying adolescent girls in Samoa. But the book is tedious to read because of the amount of detail.
How To Read and Why – Bloom – [5] – An erudite book on reading; a little beyond my understanding and interest.

Books that I started to read but did not finish because they are poorly written. (Some of these books were so bad that I threw them away; no use taking up limited shelf space.)

Start With Why – Simon Sinek [2] – Disjointed, confusing, just a combination of random thoughts.
Kiss My Asterisk A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar – Jenny Baranick [2] – I couldn’t get past the continued use of crude phrases and comments.

5 favorite books I read in 2015

These books are not listed in order of preference. I chose one book from five different categories so you, the reader, might benefit from choosing a category that you like.

Historical – In The Kingdom of Ice – Hampton Sides [8] – In 1879 the Jeanette set sail from San Francisco. Her crew hoped to be the first humans to reach the North Pole. This story is a testimony to incredible human perseverance.

General interest – How We Got to Now – Six Innovations That Made The Modern World – Steven Johnson [9] – A fascinating and insightful blend of science and history. A must read.

General morality – Lying – Sam Harris [8] – This short book on one subject is very powerful. Harris sees clearly and communicates well. The bottom line: Don’t ever lie. Honesty is a gift we can give to others.

General lessons on life – The Road to Character – Brooks [9] – A great treatise on character illustrated by a brief biography of major characters (Eisenhower, Augustine, Dorothy Day, and others).

Leadership – Leadership and the Customer Revolution – Heil, Parker Tate [8] – I read this book eight years ago and enjoyed reading it again. It still speaks to important leadership issues, particularly relative to how to delight customers.

In 2015 I “discovered” two terrific authors: Karl Albrect and John Gardner and read several of their books: Albrecht—Brain Power & Social Intelligence; Gardner On Leadership & Self Renewal. I highly recommend everything these two men have written.