Digging deeper into The 10X Rule

Digging deeper into The 10X Rule

In the previous post, I talked about why it is a great idea to read certain books over and over again. Especially the books that profoundly impact your thinking and views on the world…your quake books. I even shared 10 such books that have changed my life to my email list (you can subscribe here for exclusive content).

One of those books is The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. I have written about the book before, sharing highlights. Lately, I’ve had the strong impression to re-read the book. So I did one better, I read, listened and thought about the book in a quest to let the ideas really sink into my mind and subconscious to supercharge my mindset, my ideas and my action towards my goals.

I generally approach each year with a theme. In 2018, I worked on my execution skills, my aim was to get better at executing my ideas. I won some, and lost some, and learned many lessons about the process of getting things done. It is still something I continue to work on. This year, I’m working on my ability to set and achieve big goals.

The core of the 10X rule is that for whatever goal you have, you must take 10 times the amount of action you think you need to take to get there. It is the fastest way to guarantee that you will get what you want.

The 10X rule can be broken up to three aspects.

  1. Dream 10X goals
  2. (Over)estimate clearly just how much effort and energy would be needed to get to your goals
  3. Put in 10X action in the pursuit of your goals.

Set the right goals.The 10X rule means removing the internal limits we have set for ourselves around how much success we desire, or deem enough. Life is unpredictable and fragile. We have to set goals that are big enough, and sexy enough. We need goals that stretch us, excite us, and arouse us.

Which is an interesting thing to try to do, to open our minds to such goals because generally, from conditioning, society and experience, we have a range of goals we are comfortable with. Goals that are socially acceptable or normal for most people. What if we break out of that and access a wider range of goals? Not just goals around achievement and doing amazing cool stuff and having amazing pleasures and experiences. But also goals on impact, on transformation, on contribution of mutual benefit.

Being able to exercise imagination and see goals like this vividly is a super power that can be developed.

Then there is the other aspect to the 10X rule, which is estimating the effort required to achieve the goal. Grant says we falter here all the time. We are lazy. We consistently underestimate the amount of effort and level of action we need to get what we want. How do we fix that? By practice. By fleshing out distinct, clear and practical plans to getting us to our goals. By mentally running through the process before we begin. By imagining the pitfalls and obstacles. By imagining what could go wrong and coming up with contingency plans and redundancies. By reading, and studying the paths others have taken and absorbing just how much work they have put in to get where they were.

The better we are at estimating and anticipating the amount of pure graft required to do big things, the easier it gets for us to just buckle down and do it.

Which is the next aspect – the discipline of action. What does it look like to take 10X action? What does it look like to take unreasonable action? I got a glimpse of that recently, when I was looking for a new place. I browsed a bit, found a place I liked and went for it, assured I would get it. I didn’t. Spurred by this loss, and running out of time, I literally spent hours researching and looking for places. I identified up to 20 places and started calling from top to bottom until I got a hold of a few people and scheduled viewings. I kept multiple requests running right up to the moment of deciding and paying a deposit. I went over and beyond the call for action, to make sure I got what I wanted.

I have to apply the same to my goals. Want a remote job? Do a ton of research, call and speak to people who are working in places. Update your CV, refresh your portfolio, jump on to sites, apply, apply, apply. Take massive action until you get what you want.

Want to improve your finances? Make that list of books and resources you need to read. Spend hours watching videos on personal finance. Use that app to track your expenses. Work with an accountant closely to understand your numbers. Have a clear idea of your financial health even if it is bad. A clear idea is the first step. Set up new accounts, set up services, set up savings, set up all that you must. Know what your financial milestones are and what you want to get done with money.

And then go 10x on figuring out how to rapidly and permanently increase your level of income. Learn, up-skill, and take massive action in building business systems to deliver and capture value.

Do you have a goal? Apply the 10X principles to them. Indulge in the discipline of vision and goal setting. Set exciting, rebellious and sexy goals. Apply the discipline of effort estimation. Really understand and try to get a grasp and appreciation for what it would take. And then take massive action. Be unreasonably prepared and researched. Be unreasonable in your level of action and pushing. Be unreasonable in your analysis of your actions and results and stay persistent. Until you get what you want.

In praise of reading books again and again

In praise of reading books again and again

I love books, but I have a wierd relationship with them. Sometimes I read books properly and sequentially, from start to finish. Half the time however, I read books in bits and pieces, often preferring to read multiple books at the same time, a page here, a paragraph here. I tend to treat my small library more like a buffet than a menu with distinct meals.

Many books I read just once and never crack open again. With some, I don’t even get past the first chapter. But there are a few books that I keep coming back to time and time again. They are the books I reference often in my posts like Gary Keller’s The One Thing, or one of my favourites, 50 Cent’s and Robert Greene’s The 50th Law. These are my ‘quake’ books.

Quake books (the term was coined by Ryan Holiday I think)(actually it was coined by Tyler Cowen), are the books that shake you to the core. They cause a seismic shift in your thinking and perception. They radically change the way you view and approach life or yourself. They open doors to new worlds of ideas and possibilities that were hidden from you up on to the point you came in contact with the book.

These are the books you should read over and over again.

Why do that? Why go back to something you already finished?

Why not?

For some reason, we tend to forget that repetition is how we learn anything. We understand that principle when it comes to studying and acquiring new skills. But when we approach books, we hold on to the mentality of getting it done and dusted. We read the book, and then put it down and that is it. Sure, you can treat many books that way no problem, but if you really want to extract the marrow from the bones of a book, especially a really good one, then it pays to approach reading it differently.

We only retain a fraction of what we read anyway. How many times have we read a book, put it down and then completely forgotten about it? If you just read that textbook once come exam time, you would almost definitely fail? So you read, you studied, you took notes.

The more we read and re-read a text, the more familiar we get with it. The easier it is to recall what we learnt and bring those lessons to mind when needed. The more times we read a book, the deeper the ideas and principles seep into our mind and subconscious, and the more they transform and change us. Which is really what they are for – To help us change and to help us grow.

Now, It might seem boring to read a book you have already read before. Why read a book again when I already know what it says?

Because things change, and we change.

Every time you interact with a something – a book, a movie, a work of art, you bring your self, your perception, your interpretation, and your experiences to the table. What you take out of that interaction, is as much a reflection on who you are at that point in time, as it is a reflection of the thing itself.

This is how we can grow to dislike something we used to love or grow to love something we used to hate. This is how many people can look at the same thing and have wildly different reactions.

Reading books over and over again allow us to approach the content at different points in time. Points where we ourselves are different and have grown. Suddenly, a part of the book we usually glossed over before springs to life with new and fresh meaning. With the benefit of new experiences, we get deeper understanding and appreciation of the nuances in the ideas presented to us. We connect us to the author’s words in a way that we could never have appreciated before.

We read books over and over again To remind ourselves.

We are forgetful creatures. We are constantly collecting new information everyday and bombarded by stimuli all around. As we record all these new things, we forget others. Reading these books over and over remind us of what we have learned. They keep us on the path and from sliding off. They pull us back when we have strayed too far.

And so these books become more than just books, they become life long companions, living sources of knowledge and wisdom, sources of strength and guidance to pull from in our journey of life, in our journey to get what we want and max out our potential.

How to live with intention and actually achieve your goals

How to live with intention and actually achieve your goals

This book was conceived, written and designed in 7 days. 

I sat down last week to blog my thoughts on how you approach end of year reviews, and how to set and achieve goals in the new year. And as I started to put my thoughts together, I remembered a friend of mine – Mpumi had asked me a few times about how I went about strategically planning my year, specifically how you organize your life around the One Thing. She had read the book by the same name, and I had written about the book earlier in the year.

Fun fact, we have an almost hour-long interview we did together a while back talking about design, branding and personal development –  here.

To be honest, the question threw me off. At first, I was just going to talk specifically on how I set goals and translate that to the day-to-day actions that would get me there. Now the scope was a little bigger. Taking into consideration the concept of the One Thing, I quickly realized I had to take a few steps back to accommodate the new ideas that spring from that one question. What is the One Thing, how do you find yours, and how do you orient yourself toward it? Why have a One Thing at all? 

As I wrote, I found myself meandering, getting to page 4 without even scratching the surface. For context, I usually write about 2 – 3 pages per blog post. I had two options, continue the blog route and make a 4-5-part blog series, or just write all the pieces and make it into a book. 

Hmmm. I released my first book in October. Could I really write two books in one year? Why not? It was a stretch but it was certainly doable. It could at the very least be a cool flex. 

So, on this whim, I asked around, ‘what people would like to read, a series or a book?’ The book won by a margin of like 3:1. So here we are. 

As I wrote and thought more about what I was trying to say in this book, it became apparent that I was really trying to write about the art of living intentionally. I believe the road to fulfillment – happiness, and success starts here. To be successful, you have to be able to set a north star and move towards it consistently. But how do you define your One Thing, and how do you connect the dots backwards to your day-to-day life?

This book is an attempt to answer these questions.


The Meaning of Life: Prologue

The Meaning of Life: Prologue

For the past couple of months, I have been working on a project – my first book. But really, it has been a long time coming. I have toyed with the idea since 2012, of creating a personal ‘Tao’, a distillation of ideas and conclusions I came to in my quest to figure out ‘the meaning of life’ and how to live well.

Finally, it is here.

I wrote this book to kill two birds. First, I did it to do it, to write the book, to finally complete a personal project of mine. It has been an exercise in getting things done, and a sort of throwaway first attempt as a prelude to other books I will write. Secondly, I did it to mark and honor a time of my life that was filled with much existential dread, questioning, searching and wrestling. A time when it felt like I was swimming in my subconscious, trying to rewrite my code.

The Meaning of Life (and other such nonsense) is a select collection of posts from between 2010 – 2014, updated and refined. This is version 1.0, it is far from perfect. But I promised myself, I’d put a version of this book once I had it done. I would start by doing it badly. I like to think of this as more of a mixtape than a polished album. I hope you like it.



My father is an avid reader, so I grew up in a house full of books. On long boring hot holiday afternoons in my childhood, between exhausting bouts of playtime and afternoon cartoons at 4pm, I liked picking up random books to get lost into. For birthdays as a teen in boarding school, I usually got 3 or 4 new books, not the videogames I really wanted. But those formative experiences sparked a love affair with books. They gifted me with something more important than button mashing pleasure. They opened my mind to possibilities.

Fiction pulled me into exotic new worlds, and colorful characters. The hallowed halls of Hogwarts, and artifacts like the Alethiometer fascinated me, filling my imagination with the magical and the cosmic. It was however books on leadership, vision, and inspiration by the likes of Ben Carson, John Maxwell, Jim Rohn and many more that really set my mind ablaze. They taught me the need to be intentional, and the importance of believing in yourself and in your potential. These books guided a young me, helping me build a philosophy of life.

The promise of religion, which is also the promise of personal development, is that you can gain insight or knowledge into the reality of life, and how to live it. What should you do, what path should you follow for best results. I was fortunate to grow up around these ideas. Between the books and church, I was pretty set. But life is weird, and the transitions between life phases are nothing short of seismic shifts that change us indelibly over time.

In my journey to young adulthood, I became obsessed with the question of ‘how to live’. It would seem pretty easy right, like…just live. But I like to overthink things, and I like to do things well, so I’d ask myself, how should I do this life thing? How do I navigate the nature of reality, society and the customs of the time, my own nature, God, the afterlife? What was the purpose of it all?

There is the idea of the dark night of the soul, a breakdown of the fundamental self. I imagine it happens in some form or way for everyone. There is a point in your life where you are shaken from the safe cocoon and illusion of your perception of the world up to that point. The innocent naivete, the mental construct you have built up over time. Something happens to shatter your worldview and you are left to deal with the broken foundations of your psyche. There are two options at this point, you can hold tight, and try to rebuild what you once had, or you can accept the end of that part of your life and choose to evolve to something new. I went through that in my early 20s. A violent awakening that ripped me off one path and brought me to another.

There are books, and there are quake books. A quake book is one that irreversibly alters some aspect of your being. Once you have read one, you cannot un-see what you have seen, you can’t erase what you have learnt from your memory. Sometimes they shake you all the way down to your core, other times they are subtler. But they move you in a new direction every time. Rich Dad, Poor Dad was the first quake book for me. I read it when I was 15, and it altered the way I tackled life from that point on.

There is the ‘African Dream’ – getting qualifications at prestigious institutions, and high paying corporate jobs. And there is the default expectation life we are all subjected to growing up. Go to school, do well, get a good job, get married, start a family, raise your kids to go to school, and do the same thing all over again. Which is all good and well, those are all valid and key milestones. But half the time, all the attention and pressure we feel is on ticking all those boxes, that the bigger question never get answered – Why?

And what better use of youthful exuberance is there than to ‘rebel’, philosophize and tackle the all-important question of living?

Rich Dad, Poor Dad made me ask a lot of questions. Is ‘The Dream’ the kind of life I wanted to live? Do I really need to sacrifice immense amounts of time and energy just to end up trapped in some gilded hamster wheel? Were there other ways to do life, to earn income, to spend one’s time as one saw fit, and direct one’s energies to things that mattered. Was there a way not to be trapped? What did success mean to me? What does a life well lived look like?

The path to me, seemed to be entrepreneurship, or some blend of artistry and entrepreneurship. I was self-aware enough to know that I did not necessarily have the natural traits of an entrepreneur or have the personal fortitude to blaze a trail where few dared to tread. But I was young enough to learn. So, my focus by the time I got to university, was not just on my school work, but was in searching for and connecting with the sort of people who were entrepreneurial, people instigating and making things happen. I found them, and I had a blast, working with them and observing the sheer force of will, and courage it took to make new things happen.

On the school front, life wasn’t as great. I did okay, but throughout the time I studied architecture, I never felt like I connected with the subject. I really wanted to, and I tried, but it just didn’t click. I went through 4 years of studying architecture feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. For someone who was used to excelling in academics, this was not great. I wanted to excel, and I understood that for me to excel at anything I had to connect with the material, I had to be hooked by it, to be deeply interested that I would spend all my time trying to understand it. I had had this experience back in secondary school, poring over college level calculus books in a bid to understand further mathematics.

I had no such luck in architecture. Maybe it was the culture of the school, maybe it was all the time I spent in all my extracurricular activities. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. But it was becoming quite clear to me that a life as an architect as cool as it sounds did not sound appealing to me. I enjoyed what I was doing at the time, running around, making events happen, creating, dancing, being an artist.

I found the love I was looking for though. In a friend’s dorm room. He studied visual communication at the same university and showed me some of the work they did, and it was love at first sight. knew I wanted to do what he did. It made sense, the things I loved doing as a child and that came relatively easy to me was always the art stuff. I loved drawing, and painting and writing. I liked playing with ideas, I liked trying to express myself.

So, I started learning graphic design. While I was in school studying architecture. While I was busy with the dance events, and all my different activities. I started designing for a dance competition, eventually being in charge of all the creative direction and work. I designed for my church, I even had a few clients here and there. I loved it. I would buy magazines or go sit in the computer room downloading tutorials and then I would fiddle with Photoshop, and eventually illustrator. Glorious times.

I knew my fate was sealed when I spent 24 hours working on a poster. I didn’t shower, I think I ate just once in that whole time, I only got 4 hours of sleep in-between. But it was exhilarating, and I created something I loved at the end. I couldn’t even spend 2 hours working on my school assignments before I felt like shooting myself.

Then I fell into deep depression. I mean, I had started having depressive episodes from my second year at university, but now nearing the end of my degree I was in a deep funk. This was the time the work was ramping up fast, and I needed to get my shit together. But I hated architecture with a passion at this point. I wanted to finish and get it over with, but I could not muster the motivation or discipline to actually do it. Caught between the rock and a hard place, I was stuck. It was this depression and triggering events in my personal relationships that caused a perfect storm, plunging me deep into my dark night of the soul. A place where all my preconceptions and views of life were shattered and suddenly called into question.

I knew I was deeply unhappy. I knew I was torn between finishing something out of duty and embracing something else that I loved. I was torn between needing to ‘remain perfect’ and needing to give in to passion. At that point, there was no more question, I simply had no energy to carry on like that, I had to fall into the abyss. I had to destroy everything and rebuild again.

And so, I walked away from everything, school, community, my friends, and over the next few years, I re-examined my beliefs around religion, society, education, life, purpose, creativity. I raged, explored and sought to find the meaning to life, if there was one. I read more than I ever had. I devoured self-help books, the new wave of personal development works, books on spirituality and energy, books on philosophy, books on life, I explored ideas across religions and thinkers and makers, trying to see the world as it really is and then decide how to live in it. I also began to blog, as a way to share what I was thinking, to explain myself, and as a release valve, a means of catharsis

This book, this trilogy is a collection of some of those blog posts, an attempt to codify and present the ideas that plagued my mind during that time in my life.

To search for the meaning of life, like anything in this physical universe is fraught with paradox. On one hand, it is noble, it is a higher calling, a need to understand and align with a great purpose. On the other hand, it is also nonsense, vanity, a desperate desire to neatly package and box up the raging chaos that is the universe. Hence the title of the book, this is my attempt at the nonsense of defining the meaning of life, not as a guru, just as another soul trying to make sense of it all.

I hope it makes you think.






Book Spotlight: The One Thing

Book Spotlight: The One Thing

Book: The One Thing: The surprising simple truth behind extraordinary results

Author: Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

This book is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. So much so, after finishing it, I went ahead and got copies for my mentors. And my copy is riddled with notes and highlights all over the place. In fact, choosing the highlights to share in this post was so tough, this post will be 4x as long as usual.

Like Essentialism, The One Thing is a book about the central idea that not everything is important, and while it may seem like everything is urgent, there is always that ONE thing that if focused on would bring disproportionate results.

Success in life comes from understanding what your ONE thing is, what the big thing you want your life to be all about is and then working that question down until you have some direction in the day-to-day execution of your dream.

Gary tackles the typical traps that stifles our progress like multitasking, balance, and relying on will power. He then goes on to give practical tips on how to focus on the ONE thing and make it easier to follow. Tips like time blocking, asking the Focusing Question and striving for mastery.

The ONE Thing is a powerful book that connects the idea of big goals, with the reality of focused and persistent execution. Dream big, dare to accomplish great, focus on the ONE thing and let it propel you to greatness.


My Highlights from The One Thing

Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success had varied, my focus had too.

You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing things with side effects.

Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.

Highly successful people know this. So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino and whack away at it until it falls.

…extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear, becomes geometric.

Applying the ONE Thing to your work-and in your life- is the simplest and smartest thing you can do to propel yourself toward the success you want.

The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.

In fact, most to-do lists are actually just survival lists – getting you through your day and your life, but not making each day a stepping-stone for the next so you sequentially build a successful life.

Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list –  a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.

Sometimes it’s the first thing you do. Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.

Multitasking is a lie.

It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.

You can become successful with less discipline that you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.

When our willpower runs out, we all revert to our default settings. This begs the question: What are your default settings?

Nothing ever achieves absolute balance. Nothing. No matter how imperceptible it might be, what appears to be a state of balance is something entirely different – an act of balancing.

A balanced life is a lie.

Purpose, meaning, significance- these are what make a successful life. Seek them and you will most certainly live your life out of balance, crisscrossing an invisible middle line as you pursue your priorities.

The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.

Every level of achievement requires its own combination of what you do, how you do it and who you do it with. The trouble is that the combination of what, how and who that gets you to one level of success won’t naturally evolve to a better combination that leads to the next level of success.

Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest.

Once you’ve asked a big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can’t imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits and relationships of other people who have found the answer.

Why focus on a question when what we really crave is an answer? It’s simple. Answers come from questions and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.

Great questions are clearly the quickest path to great answers.

Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.

Powered by the Focusing Question, your actions become a natural progression of building one right thing, on top of the previous right thing. When this happens, you’re in position to experience the power of the domino effect.

The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions into one: What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action.

The Big-Picture Question: What is my ONE Thing? Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass.

The Small-Focus Question: What is my ONE Thing right now? Use this when you wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work, and whenever you need it, helps you find the “levered action” or first domino in any activity.

Your one-two punch for extraordinary results – Ask a great question (think big and specific), find a great answer (research & role model)

Low goals don’t require extraordinary actions, so they rarely lead to extraordinary results.

Answers come in three categories: doable, stretch and possibility.

High achievers understand the first two routes but reject them. Unwilling to settle for ordinary when extraordinary is possible, they’ve asked a Great Question and want the very best answer.

Highly successful people choose to live at the outer limits of achievement. They not only dream of but deeply crave what is beyond their natural grasp.

Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer.

A college professor once told me, “Gary, you’re smart, but people have lived before you. You’re not the first person to dream big, so you’d be wise to study what others have learned first, and then build your actions on the back of their lessons”

The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer. Armed with this knowledge, you can establish a benchmark, the current high water mark for all that is known and being done. With a stretch approach this was your maximum, but now it is your minimum.

Because your answer will be original, you’ll probably have to reinvent yourself in some way to implement it. A new answer usually requires new behavior.

“Purpose” may sound heavy, but it doesn’t have to be. Think of it simply as the ONE Thing you want your life to be about more than any other.

It can be a little like a Russian matryoshka doll in that your ONE Thing “right now” is nested inside your ONE Thing today, which is nested inside your ONE Thing this week, which is nested inside your ONE thing this month…it’s how a small thing can actually build up to a big one. You’re lining up your dominoes.

You are training your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time until you know the most important thing you must do right NOW. You are learning how to think big – but go small.

Time blocking is a very results oriented way of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to get done gets done.

Make an appointment with yourself and keep it – Time block your One Thing – Protect your time block.

If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.

To achieve extraordinary results and experience greatness time block these three things in the following order: 1, Time block your time off. 2, Time block your ONE Thing. 3, Time block your planning time.

Resting is as important as working.

There is magic in knocking down your most important domino day after day.

Extraordinary results become possible when you want to go is completely aligned with what you do today.

You must continually seek the very best ways of doing things.

Are you doing this to simply do the best you can do, or are you doing this to do it the best it can be done?

..when you are going about your ONE Thing, any ceiling of achievement must be challenged, and this requires a different approach – a purposeful approach.

Highly productive people don’t accept the limitations of their natural approach as the final word on their success. When they hit a ceiling of achievement, they look for new models and systems, better ways to do things to push them through.

You can’t put limits on what you’ll do. You have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things if you want breakthroughs in your life.

The Purposeful approach says, “I’m still committed to growing, so what are my options?

Taking complete ownership of your outcomes by holding no one but yourself responsible for them is the most powerful thing you can do to drive your success.

An accountability partner provides frank, objective feedback on your performance, creates an ongoing expectation for productive progress and can provide critical brainstorming or even expertise when needed.

If you can’t say no a lot, you’ll never truly be able to say yes to achieving your ONE Thing. Literally, it’s one or the other – and you get to decide.

One of the greatest thieves of productivity is the unwillingness to allow for the chaos or the lack of creativity in dealing with it.

Hanging out with people who seek success will strengthen your motivation and positively push your performance.

Actions build on action. Habits build on habit. Success builds on success.

Big lives build the powerful wave of chain reactions and are built sequentially.

Success is an inside job. Put yourself together and your world falls into place.

All success starts within you. You know what to do. You know how to do it. Your next step is simple.

You are the first domino.

Book Spotlight: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Book Spotlight: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Book: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters

Author: Richard Rumelt

As a creative, brand strategist and entrepreneur, I’m interested in strategy, and in my travels across the web, this book, ‘Good strategy/Bad Strategy’ came up quite a few times as the one book to read if you wanted to learn more about strategy. I finally finished it last week, and it really delivered.

In the book, Richard Rumelt showcases the difference between good strategy and bad strategy. Bad strategy is nothing less than wishful thinking, and can be recognized by broad fluffy words, bad objectives and an unwillingness to face problems. Good strategy on the other hand digs in to the situation at hand, addresses the critical problems, prescribes a general guideline in tackling them and includes clear coherent set of actions to take to actually get there.

Good strategy/Bad strategy is a highly recommended reading if you are a leader, a consultant, an entrepreneur or just interested in strategy. The insights are profound and are widely applicable, from the board room to personal dealings.

Highlights from Good Strategy/Bad Strategy

Despite the roar of voices wanting to equate strategy with ambition, leadership, “vision”, planning, or the economic logic of competition, strategy is none of these. The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors.

A good strategy does more than urge us forward towards a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides and approach to overcoming them.

A good strategy has an essential logical structure that I call the kernel. The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.

The most basic idea of strategy is the application of strength against weakness. Or, if you prefer, strength applied to the most promising opportunity.

How can someone see what others have not, or what they have ignored, and thereby discover a pivotal objective and create an advantage, lies at the very edge of our understanding, something glimpsed only out the corner of our minds.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses, assess the opportunities and risks (your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses), and build on your strengths.

If you fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, you don’t have a strategy. Instead, you have either a stretch goal, a budget, or a list of things you wish would happen.

Strategic objectives should address a specific process or accomplishment, such as halving the time it takes to respond to a customer, or getting work from several Fortune 500 corporations.

Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.

Good strategy is not just “what’ you are trying to do. It is also “why” and “how” you are doing it.

A good guiding policy tackles the obstacles identified in the diagnosis by creating or drawing upon sources of advantage.

Returns to concentration arise when focusing efforts on fewer, or more limited, objectives generates larger payoffs.

…he invested where his resources would make a large and more visible difference.

One of a leader’s most powerful tools is the creation of a good proximate objective – one that is close enough at hand to be feasible.

…imagine that they were allowed to have only one objective. And that objective had to be feasible. What one single feasible objective, when accomplished, would make the biggest difference?

A master strategist is a designer.

But the truth is that many companies, especially large complex companies, don’t really have strategies. At the core, strategy is about focus, and most complex organizations don’t focus their resources.

Extending a competitive advantage requires looking away from products, buyers and competitors and looking instead at the special skills and resources that underlie a competitive advantage. In other words, “Build on your strengths”.

The other way to grab the high ground – the way that is my focus here – is to exploit a wave of change.

You exploit a wave of change by understanding the likely evolution of the landscape and then channeling resources and innovation toward positions that will become high ground – become valuable and defensible – as the dynamics play out.

A good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgement.

To guide your own thinking in strategy work, you must cultivate three essential skills or habits. First you must have a variety of tools for fighting your own myopia. Second, you must develop the ability to question your own judgement. If your reasoning cannot withstand a vigorous attack, your strategy cannot be expected to stand in the face of real competition. Third, you must cultivate the habit of making and recording judgements so that you can improve.