High Performance Habits: #2 Generate Energy 1 (part 5 of 22)



Energy Basics

As you might expect, it takes a lot of energy to succeed over the long haul. High performers have the magical trifecta of capital “E” Energy – that holistic kind that includes positive and enduring mental, physical, and emotional vibrancy. It’s the key force that helps them perform better in many areas of their life. It’s why high performers have so much more passion, stamina, and motivation. if you can tap into the capital “E” Energy stored within, the world is yours.

You’ll notice that energy isn’t just physical, which is how most people conceive of it. Mental alertness matters, too. So does positive emotion. In fact, all three have been correlated with high performance. When I use the word energy in this book, then, keep in mind it means the full spectrum of mental, emotional, and physical vibrancy.

So low energy not only hurts your ability to reach high performance overall, it pervades all aspects of your life. You feel less happy. You don’t take on the big challenges. You feel as if everyone is passing you by. Your confidence tanks. You eat worse. You get fatter. You struggle to get people to believe in you, buy from you, follow you, support you.

But of course, the flip side also applies. Increase your energy, and you improve all those factors.

And there’s more. Energy is also positively related to educational attainment, creativity, and assertiveness. This tends to mean that the more energy someone has, the more likely they are to pursue higher levels of education, to come with creative ideas at work, and to speak up for themselves and take action toward their dream. That’s why organizations and academic institutions worldwide would get very serious about developing employee and student energy scores.

Bottom line: The more energy someone has, the more likely they are to be happy and climb to the top of their primary field of interest.

The good news is, you can dramatically increase your energy and overall performance with just a few simple practices. Your energy is not a fixed mental, physical, or emotional state. Again, you don’t “have” energy any more than a power plant does. A power plant transforms and transmits energy. In the same regard, you don’t “have” happiness. Rather, you transform your thoughts into feelings that are or are not happy. You don’t have to “have” sadness; you can transform it into something else.

This means you don’t have to “wait” for joy, motivation, love excitement, or any other positive emotion in life. You can choose to generate it, on demand, any time you want, through the power of habit.

Like any other area of your life or any other set of skills, it can be improved. Here are the big three practices I’ve seen high performers leverage to maintain their edge and their energy.

Practice One: Release Tension, Set Intention

In a decade of coaching high performers, I’ve found that the easiest, fastest, and most effective way to help them increase their energy is to teach them to master transitions.

What do I mean by transitions? Well, every morning when you wake up and start your day, you experience a transition from rest to activation. The start of your day is a transition.

At work, when you finish creating that presentation and now go to check e-mail, that’s a transition. You’re going from creative mode to e-mail mode. When a meeting ends and you walk back to your desk, sit down, and jump on a conference call, that’s a transition. The workday ends, you hop back into the car and head to the gym. Two more transitions. Pull up to your house after a long day and walk into your home to become Mommy or Daddy. Transition.

You get the idea. Our days comprise a series of transitions.

These transitions are immensely valuable – a powerful space of freedom between activities. And it’s in this space that you’ll discover your greatest restorer and amplifier of energy.

This about all the transitions you experience during the day. Take a moment and write a few of them down.

I’m convinced that if we can get you change the way you shift from one activity to the next, we can revitalize your life. So, are you ready for an experiment?

From now on, as you move from one major activity to another, try this:

  1. Close your eyes for the next minute or two.
  2. Repeat the word release in your mind, over and over. As you do, command your body to release all the tension in your shoulders, in your neck, in your face and jaw. Release the tension in your back and your legs. Release the tension in your mind and spirit. if this is hard, just focus on each part of your body, breathe deeply, and repeat the word release in your mind. This doesn’t have to take long – just a minute or two repeating the word release.
  3. When you feel you’ve released some tension – and it doesn’t have to be all the tension in your life! – move to the next part: SET INTENTION. This means think about what you want to feel and achieve in the next activity you’re about to take on when you open your eyes. Ask, “What energy do I want to bring into this next activity? How can I do this next activity with excellence? How can I enjoy the process?” These don’t have to be the exact questions you ask, but these are the kinds of question that will prompt your mind to be more present in the next activity.

I do this RELEASE TENSION, SET INTENTION activity before and after workouts, before I pick up the phone to call someone, before I write an e-mail to my team, before I shoot a video, before I got out of the car and go to lunch with friends, before I walk out onto a stage in front of twenty thousand people. it has saved me many times from anxiety and a poor performance: before I walked into a room and got interview by Oprah, before I sat down to dinner with a US president, before I proposed to my wife. All I can say is, thank God for this practice!

You, too, can find and summon new energy and life in the moments in between. Remember, just take a beat, close your eyes, and RELEASE TENSION, SET INTENTION.

Regardless of how you choose to take a break, meditate, or otherwise deal with stress, the idea is to form a habit and stick to it.


  1. The things that cause me the most amount of tension each day are …
  2. A way I could remind myself to release that tension throughout the day is …
  3. If I felt more energy each day, I would be more likely to …
  4. When I reset my energy each day with this practice, I’d like to start the next activity feeling …

High Performance Habits: #1 Seek Clarity 2 (part 4 of 22)

Practice Two: Determine the Feeling You’re After

The second practice that will help you heighten and sustain clarity in your life is to ask yourself frequently, “What is the primary feeling I want to bring to this situation, and what is the primary feeling I want to get from this situation?” … Most people are terrible at this.

High performers demonstrate a tremendous degree of emotional intelligence and what I call “willful feeling.”

My automatic emotions don’t have to be in charge. My feelings are my own.

… But I share this here because it’s so thoroughly obvious that high performers are generating the feelings they want more often than taking the emotions that land on them.


  1. The emotions I’ve been experiencing a lot of lately are …
  2. The areas of life where I’m not having the feelings I want are …
  3. The feelings I want to experience more of in life include …
  4. The next time I feel a negative emotion come up, the thing I’m going to say to myself is …


Practice Three: Define What’s Meaningful

High performers can do almost anything they set their heart and mind to. But not every mountain is worth the climb. What differentiates high performers from tother si their critical eye in figuring out what is going to be meaning fun to their life experience. They spend more of their time doing things that they find meaningful, and this makes them happy.

What emerged was that high performers tended to equate four factors with meaning.

First, they linked enthusiasm with meaning. When forced to choose between two projects, for example, many mentioned they would do the one they could be most enthusiastic about. This finding dovetails with research findings that enthusiasm independently predicted life satisfaction, positive emotions, few negative emotions, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations, self-acceptance, purpose in life, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and achievement. Clearly if you want a positive life, you would do well to summon as much enthusiasm as possible.

The second link to meaning was connection. … Like everyone else, high performers value the relationships they have in life and work. What’s unique about high performers, though, is that connection often correlates with meaning, especially at work. Connection is less about comfort than about challenge. In other words, high performers feel that their work has more meaning when they are in a peer group that challenges them. In their everyday life, too, they value being around inspiring people who push them to grow more than, say, people who are just fun to be around or are generally kind.

Third, high performers relate satisfaction with meaning. If what they are doing creates a sense of personal satisfaction, they feel that their life is more meaningful. Teasing out what “satisfaction” means to people is as difficult as finding out how they define “meaningful.” But for high performers, there is a clear equation for what leads to personal satisfaction. When your efforts correspond with one of your primary passions, lead to personal or professional growth, and make a clear and positive contribution to others, you tend to call those efforts satisfying.

Passion + Growth + Contribution = Personal Satisfaction

The fourth way that high performers say their efforts have meaning is by making them feel that their life “makes sense.” Psychologists call this coherence. It means that the story of your life – or of recent events in your life – is comprehensible to you in some way.

Often, the desire for things to make sense is more important to a high performer than are autonomy and balance. They will put their own desires for control or work-life balance aside if they sense that what they are doing makes sense and adds to a greater whole.

You may find this simple equation helpful:

Enthusiasm + Connection + Satisfaction + Coherence = Meaning

Not all of these factors need to be in play at once to give us a sense of meaning. … The important thing is this: You need to bring more conscious and consistent thought to what you will find meaningful in life. You start by exploring your own definitions of meaning and how to enhance it in your life. When you learn the difference between busywork and your life’s work, that’s the first step on the path of purpose.


  1. The activities that I currently do that bring me the most meaning are …
  2. The activities or projects that I should stop doing, because they are not bringing me any sense of meaning are …
  3. If I was going to add new activities that bring me more meaning, the first ones I would add would be …


Putting It All Together

You have to have a vision for yourself in the future. You have to discern how you want to feel and what will be meaningful to you. Without those practices, you have nothing to dream of and strive for, no pop and zest in your daily life propelling you forward.

We’ve covered a lot in this chapter. How do we put all these practices together so that our practices for clarity are strong and consistent?

[I use] a tool called the Clarity Chart. It’s a one-page journal sheet that [you] fill out every Sunday evening for twelve weeks. … download the full version at HighPerformanceHabits.com/tools

High performance clarity happens because we put these concepts up onto the dashboard of our conscious mind. Perhaps you’ve given occasional thought to the concepts we’ve covered in this chapter. But our goal is to focus on these things more consistently then you ever have before. That’s what moves the needle. With greater focus will come greater clarity, and with greater clarity will come more consistent action and, ultimately, high performance.

High Performance Habits: #1 Seek Clarity 1 (part 3 of 22)



Clarity Basics

Whether you have a high degree of clarity in life or not, don’t fret, because you can learn to develop it. Clarity is not a personality trait that some are blessed to “have” and others are not. Just as a power plant doesn’t “have” energy – it transforms energy – you don’t “have” any specific reality. You generate your reality. In this same line of thinking, you don’t “have” clarity; you generate it.

Clarity is the child of careful thought and mindful experimentation. It comes from asking yourself questions continually and further refining your perspective on life.

Clarity research tells us that successful people know the answers to certain fundamental questions: Who am I? (What do I value? What are my strengths and weaknesses?) What are my goals? What’s my plan? These questions may seem basic, but you would be surprised how much knowing the answers can affect your life.

Clarity on who you are is associated with overall self-esteem. This means that how positive you feel about yourself is tied to how well you know yourself. On the flip side, lack of clarity is strongly associated with neuroticism and negative emotions. That’s why self-awareness is so key to initial success. You have to know who you are, what you value, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and where you want to go. This kind of knowledge makes you feel better about yourself and about life.

Next, you need to have unambiguous and challenging goals. … You should also give yourself deadlines for your goals, or you won’t follow through. … Having a clear plan is as important as motivation and willpower. It also helps you see past distractions and inoculates you against negative moods – the more clarity you have, the more likely you are to get stuff done even on the days you feel lazy or tired. When you see the steps right there in front of you, it’s hard to ignore them.

Practice One: Envision the Future Four

High performers are clear on their intentions for themselves, their social world, their skills, and their service to others. I call these areas self, social, skills, and service, or the Future Four.


“Know thyself” is the timeless advice inscribed on the Temple of Delphi in Greece over 2,400 years ago. But there’s a difference between “know thyself” and “imagine thyself.” High performers know themselves, but they don’t get stuck there. They are more focused on sculpting themselves into stronger and more capable people. That’s another big difference: introspection versus intention.

We’ve found that high performers can articulate their future self with greater ease than others. Tactically, this means they tend to have a faster and more thoughtful, confident response when I ask them, “if you could describe your ideal self in the future, the person you are trying to become, how would you describe that self?”

In reviewing recordings from my interviews, it’s clear that high performers have thought about this more than others. … Now it’s your turn

  1. Describe how you’ve perceived yourself in the following situations over the past several months – with your significant other, at work, with the kids or team, in social situations with strangers
  2. Now ask, “Is that who I really see myself being in the future?” How would my future self look, feel, and behave differently in those situations?
  3. If you could describe yourself in just three aspirational words – words that would sum up who you are at your best in the future – what would those words be? Why are those words meaningful to you? Once you find your words, put them in your phone as an alarm label that goes off several times a day.


High performers also have clear intentions about how they want to treat other people. They have high situational awareness and social intelligence, which help them succeed and lead. In every situation that matters, they know who they want to be and how they want to interact with others.

If this sounds like common sense, let’s find out whether it’s common practice in your life:

  • Before you went into your last meeting, did you think about how you wanted to interact with each person in the meeting?
  • Before your last phone call, did you think about the tone you would choose to use with the other person?
  • On your last night out with your partner or friends, did you set an intention for the energy you wanted to create?
  • When you were dealing with the last conflict, did you think about your values and how you wanted to come across to the other person when you talked to them?
  • Do you actively think about how to be a better listener, how to generate positive emotions with others, how you can be a good role model?

Questions of this kind may help you look within and gauge your level of intention.

I’ve found that high performers also regularly ask themselves a few primary questions right before interacting with people. They ask questions like these:

  • How can I be a good person or leader in this upcoming situation?
  • What will the other person(s) need?
  • What kind of mood and tone do I want to set?

What is apparent across all high performers is that they anticipate positive social interactions and they strive consciously and consistently to create them.

Try this activity:

a. Write down each person’s name in your immediate family and team.
b. Imagine that in twenty years each person is describing why they love and respect you. If each person could say just three words to summarize the interactions they had with you in life, what would you want those three words to be?
c. Next time you’re with each of those people, approach your time with as an opportunity to demonstrate those three qualities. Have those words as the goal and start living into those qualities. Challenge yourself to be that person now. This will bring life back into your relationships.


Next, we found that high performers are very clear about the skill sets they need to develop now to win in the future. They don’t draw a blank when you ask them, “What three skills are you currently working to develop so you’ll be more successful next year?”

Look to the future. Identify key skills. Obsessively develop those skills.

Try this:

  1. Think about your PFI (primary field of interest) and write down three skills that make people successful in that field.
  2. Under each skill, write down what you will do to develop it. Will you read, practice, get a coach, go to a training? When? Set up a plan to develop those skills, put it in your calendar, and stay consistent.
  3. Now think about your PFI and write down three skills that you will need in order to succeed in that field five to ten years from now. In other words, try to imagine the future. What new skills will you likely need then? Keep those skills on your radar, and start developing them sooner rather than later.


The last of the Four Futures, after self, social, and skills, concerns how high performers look to tomorrow and consider their service to the world. Specifically, high performers care deeply about the difference they are going to make for others and in the future in general, so they cater today’s activities to delivering those contributions with heart and elegance. They may sound like a broad description, but it’s how high performers talk. They often speak of how all the extra efforts they make to wow people today are vitally important to leaving a lasting legacy tomorrow. That’s why, for many high performers, the details of how they treat others or approach their work truly matter. The high performing waiter obsesses over whether the table is set with symmetry and precision, not just because it’s his job but because he cares about the overall customer experience and how the restaurant will be perceived now and in the future. The extraordinary product designer obsesses about style, fit, and function, not just to create strong sales through this season but also to create devoted fans to serve a larger brand vision. What ties all these things together is the future focus conveyed in this question: “How can I serve people with excellence and make an extraordinary contribution to the world?”

The opposite is easy to spot.

When someone becomes disconnected from the future and their contribution to it, they underperform.


  1. When I think about the Future Four – self, social, skill, and service – the area that I haven’t had as much intention in as I should is …
  2. The areas in which I have not been considering those I serve and lead are …
  3. To leave a lasting legacy, the contributions I can start making now are …

High Performance Habits: Summary Guide (part 2 of 22)



  1. Envision the Future Four. Have vision and consistently set clear intentions for who you want to be each day, how you want to interact with others, what skills you must develop to win in the future, and how you can make a difference and serve with excellence. Never enter a situation without thinking through these four categories (self, social, skills, service).
  2. Determine the Feeling You’re After. As yourself frequently, “What is the primary feeling I want to get from this situation?” Don’t wait for emotions to land on you; choose and cultivate the feelings that you wish to consistently experience and share in life.
  3. Define What’s Meaningful. Not everything that is achievable is important, and so achievement is not the issue – alignment is. Look to upcoming months and projects and determine what might bring you enthusiasm, connection, and satisfaction – then spend more time there. Always be asking, “How can I make this effort personally meaningful to me?”


  1. Release Tension, Set Intention. Use transitions between activities to renew your energy. Do this by closing your eyes, practicing deep breathing, and releasing tension in your body and thoughts in your mind. Try to do this at least once every hour. Once you feel tension lift, set a clear intention for your next activity, open your eyes, and got to work with vibrant focus.
  2. Bring the Joy. Be responsible for the energy you bring to your day and each situation in life. Focus especially on bringing joy to your activities. Anticipate positive outcomes from your actions, ask yourself questions that generate positive emotions, set triggers to remind you to be positive and grateful, and appreciate the small things and the people around you.
  3. Optimize Health. If the demands of your life require you to learn quickly, deal with stress, be alert, pay attention, remember important things, and keep a positive mood, then you must take sleep, exercise, and nutrition more seriously. Work with your doctor and other professionals to optimize your health. You already know things you should be doing. Do them!


  1. Know Who Needs Your A Game. You cannot become extraordinary without a sense that it’s absolutely necessary to excel, for yourself and for others. From now on, whenever you set down and your desk, ask: “Who needs me on my A game the most right now? What about my identity and external obligations makes it imperative for me to deliver today?”
  2. Affirm the Why. When you verbalize something, it becomes more real and important to you. Speak your “why” to yourself out loud often, and share it with others. This will motivate you to live in concurrence with your commitments. So the next time you want to increase your performance necessity, declare – to yourself and others – what you want and why you want it.
  3. Level Up Your Squad. Emotions and excellence are contagious, so spend more time with the most positive and successful people in your peer group. Then continue building your idea network of supportive and empower people. Ask, “How can I work with the best people as I embark on this next project? How can I inspire others to raise their standards?”



  1. Increase the Outputs That Matter. Determine the outputs that matter the most in determining your success, differentiation, and contribution to your field or industry. Focus there, say no to almost everything else, and be prolific in creating those outputs with high standards of quality. Remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  2. Chart Your Five Moves. Ask, “If there were only five major moves to make that goal happen, what would they be?” Think of each major move as a big bucket of activities, a project. Break the projects down into deliverables, deadlines, and activities. Once you’re clear on these things, put them into your calendar, and schedule the bulk of your time working on them.
  3. Get Insanely Good at Key Skills (Progressive Mastery). Determine the five major skills you need to develop over the next three years to grow into the person you hope to become. Then set out to develop those skills with obsessive focus through the ten steps of progressive mastery. The Most important thing is to always be developing the critical skills to your future success.


  1. Teach People How to Think. In every situation of influence, prepare by asking yourself how do you want other people to think about (a) themselves, (b) other people, and (c) the world at large. Then go communicate that consistently. Shape people’s thinking by saying things like: “Think of it this way …” “What do you think about …” “What would happen if we tried …”
  2. Challenge People to Grow. Observe people’s character, connections, and contributions, and actively challenge them to develop those things even further. Ask people if they gave their all, if they could be treating those around them better, and if they could give even more or serve with even greater excellence and distinction.
  3. Role Model the Way. Seventy-one percent of high performers say they think about being a role model daily. They want to be a good role model for their family, the team, and the greater community. So ask, “How can I handle this situation in a way that will inspire others to believe in themselves, be their best, and serve others with integrity, heart, and excellence?”


  1. Honor the Struggle. When you have the opportunity to learn and serve, you don’t complain about the effort involved. View struggle as a necessary, important, and positive part of your journey so that you can find true peace and personal power. Don’t bemoan the inevitable hardships of self-improvement and chasing your dreams; have reverence for challenge.
  2. Share Your Truth and Ambitions. The main motivation of humankind is to be free, to express our true selves and pursue our dreams without restriction – to experience what may be called personal freedom. Follow this impulse by consistently sharing your true thoughts, feelings, needs, and dreams with other people. Do not play small to placate others. Live your truth.
  3. Find Someone to Fight For. We need a noble cause to rise for. High performers tend to make that cause just one person – they want to fight for that person so they can be safe, improve, or live a better quality of life. You will do more for others than for yourself. And in doing something for others, you will find your reason for courage, and your cause for focus and excellence.

These six habits and the three practices that strengthen each are your path to an extraordinary life. There are other basic strategies in the book, but these mix meta-habits are the ones that most move the needle toward progress.

For even more resources, including checklists, posters, assessments, day planners, journals, and corporate training tools, visit HighPerformanceHabits.com/tools.

High Performance Habits (part 1 of 22)

High Performance Habits

By: Brendon Burchard (2017)

[Pigeonhole] A Practical Rule Book

[Premise] Brendan Burchard has been a coach of ‘high achievers’ for over 10 years. He built his prominence through online learning and public speaking. This book is the result of hundreds of interviews with his top performers. These habits are the rules that each of them consistently followed in order to reach their levels of success.


Introduction (1-28)
Beyond Natural: The Quest for High Performance (29-50)

Section One: Personal Habits (51-52)
Habit 1: Seek Clarity (53-90)
Habit 2: Generate Energy (91-126)
Habit 3: Raise Necessity (127-170)

Section Two: Social Habits (171-172)
Habit 4: Increase Productivity (173-214)
Habit 5: Develop Influence (215-254)
Habit 6: Demonstrate Courage (255-288)

Section Three: Sustaining Success (289-290)
Beware Three Traps (291-324)
The #1 Thing (325-342)
Summary Guide (343-347)

Continuing Education Resources (348)
About the Author (349-350)
Acknowledgments (351-356)
Endnotes (357-368)
References (369)

[Key Points] The Summary Guide (part 2 of this series) provides the Key Points of the book.  Further details will be explored in the chapter logs.

Principles: Table of Work Principles 12 – 16 (part 14 of 14)

12. Diagnose Problems to Get at Their Root Causes

  1. To diagnose well, ask the the following questions: 1. Is the outcome good or bad? 2. Who is responsible for the outcome? 3. If the outcome is bad, is the Responsible Party incapable and/or is the design bad? 
    • Ask yourself: “Who should do what differently?”
    • Identify the principles that were violated.
    • Avoid Monday morning quarterbacking.
    • Don’t confuse the quality of someone’s circumstances with the quality of their approach to dealing with the circumstances.
    • Identifying the fact that someone else doesn’t know what to do doesn’t mean that you know what to do.
    • Remember that a root cause is not an action but a reason.
    • To distinguish between a capacity issue and a capability issue, imagine how the person would perform at that particular function if they had ample capacity.
    • Keep in mind that mangers usually fail or fall short of their goals for one (or more) of five reasons.
  2. Maintain an emerging synthesis by diagnosing continuously
  3. Keep in mind that diagnoses should produce outcomes.
    • Remember that if you have the same people doing the same things, you should expect the same results.
  4. Use the following “drill-down” technique to gain an 80/20 understanding of a department or sub-department that is having problems.
  5. Understand that diagnosis is foundational to both progress and quality relationships.

13. Design Improvements to Your Machine to Get Around Your Problems

  1. Build your machine.
  2. Systemize your principles and how they will be implemented.
    • Create great decision-making machines by thinking through the criteria you are using to make decisions while you are making them.
  3. Remember that a good plan should resemble a movie script.
    • Put yourself in the position of pain for a while so that you gain a richer understanding of what you’re designing for.
    • Visualize alternative machines and their outcomes, and then choose.
    • Consider second- and third-order consequences, not just first-order ones.
    • Use standing meetings to help your organization run like a Swiss clock.
    • Remember that a good machine takes into account the fact that people are imperfect.
  4. Recognize that design is an iterative process. Between a bad “now” and good “then” is a “working through it” period.
    • Understand the power of the “cleansing storm.”
  5. Build the organization around goals rather than tasks.
    • Build your organization from the top down.
    • Remember that everyone must be overseen by a believable person who has high standards.
    • Make sure the people at the top of each pyramid have the skills and focus to manage their direct reports and a deep understanding of their jobs.
    • In designing your organization, remember that the 5-Step Process is the path to success and that different people are good at different steps.
    • Don’t build the organization to fit the people.
    • Keep scale in mind.
    • Organize departments and sub-departments around the most logical groupings based on “gravitational pull.”
    • Make departments as self-sufficient as possible so that they have control over the resources they need to achieve their goals.
    • Ensure that the rations of senior managers to junior managers and of junior managers to their reports are limited to preserve quality communication and mutual understanding.
    • Consider succession and training in your design.
    • Don’t just pay attention to your job; pay attention to how your job will be done if you are no longer around.
    • Use “double-do” rather than “double-check” to make sure mission-critical tasks are done correctly.
    • Use consultants wisely and watch out for consultant addiction.
  6. Create an organizational chart to look like a pyramid, with straight lines down that don’t cross.
    • Involve the person who is the point of the pyramid when encountering cross-departmental or cross-sub-departmental issues.
    • Don’t do work for people in another department or grab people from another department to do work for you unless you speak to the person responsible for overseeing the other department.
    • Watch out for “department slip.”
  7. Create guardrails when needed – and remember it’s better not to guardrail at all.
    • Don’t expect people to recognize and compensate for their own blind spots.
    • Consider the clover-leaf design.
  8. Keep your strategic vision the same while making appropriate tactical changes as circumstances dictate.
    • Don’t put the expedient ahead of the strategic.
    • Think about both the big picture and the granular details, and understand the connections between them.
  9. Have good controls so that you are not exposed to the dishonesty of others.
    • Investigate and let people know you are going to investigate.
    • Remember that there is no sense in having laws unless you have policemen (auditors).
    • Beware of rubber-stamping.
    • Recognize that people who make purchases on your behalf probably will not spend your money wisely.
    • Use “public hangings” to deter bad behavior.
  10. Have the clearest possible reporting lines and delineations of responsibilities.
    • Assign responsibilities based on workflow design and people’s abilities, not job titles.
    • Constantly think about how to produce leverage.
    • Recognize that it is far better to find a few smart people and give them the best technology than to have greater number of ordinary people who are less well equipped.
    • Use leveragers.
  11. Remember that almost everything will take more time and cost more money than you expect. 

14. Do What You Set Out to Do

  1. Work for goals that you and your organization are excited about and think about how your tasks connect to those goals. 
    • Be coordinated and consistent in motivating others.
    • Don’t act before thinking. Take the time to come up with a game plan.
    • Look for create, cut-through solutions.
  2. Recognize that everyone has too much to do.
    • Don’t get frustrated.
  3. Use checklists.
    • Don’t confuse checklists with personal responsibility
  4. Allow time for rest and renovation.
  5. Ring the bell.

15. Use Tools and Protocols to Show How Work Is Done

  1. Having systemized principles embedded in tools is especially valuable for an idea meritocracy.
    • To produce real behavioral change, understand that there must be internalized or habitualized learning.
    • Use tools to collect data and process it into conclusions and actions.
    • Foster an environment of confidence and fairness by having clearly-stated principles that are implemented in tools and protocols so that the conclusions reached can be assessed by tracking the logic and data behind them.

16. And for Heaven’s Sake, Don’t Overlook Governance!

  1. To be successful, all organizations must have checks and balances.
    • Even in an idea meritocracy, merit cannot be the only determining factor in assigning responsibility and authority.
    • Make sure that no one is more powerful than the system or so important that they are irreplaceable.
    • Beware of fiefdoms.
    • Make clear that the organizations’s structure and rules are designed to ensure that it’s checks-and-balances system functions well.
    • Make sure reporting lines are clear.
    • Make sure decision rights are clear.
    • Make sure that the people doing the assessing 1) have the time to be fully informed about how the person they are checking on is doing, 2) have the ability to make the assessments, and 3) are not in a conflict of interest that stands in the way of carrying out oversight effectively.
    • Recognize that decision makers must have access to the information necessary to make decisions and must be trustworthy enough to handle that information safely.
  2. Remember that in an idea meritocracy a single CEO is not as good as a great group of leaders.
  3. No governance system of principles, rules, and checks and balances can substitute for a great partnership.

Principles: Table of Work Principles 10 and 11 (Part 13 of 14)


10. Manage as Someone Operating a Machine to Achieve a Goal

  1. Look down on your machine and yourself within it from the higher level
    • Constantly compare your outcomes to your goals.
    • Understand that a great manager is essentially an organizational engineer.
    • Build great metrics.
    • Beware of paying too much attention to what is coming at you and not enough attention to your machine.
    • Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.
  2. Remember that for every case you deal with, your approach should have two purposes: 1) to move you closer to your goal, and 2) to train and test your machine (i.e. your people and your design)
    • Everything is a case study.
    • When a problem occurs, conduct the discussion at two levels: 1) the machine level (why that outcome was produced) and 2) the case-at-hand level (what to do about it)
    • When making rules, explain the principles behind them.
    • Your policies should be natural extensions of your principles.
    • While good principles and policies almost always provide good guidance, remember that there are exceptions to every rule.
  3. Understand the differences between managing, micromanaging, and not managing. 
    • Managers must make sure that what they are responsible for works well.
    • Managing the people who report to you should feel like skiing together.
    • An excellent skier is probably going to be a better ski coach than a novice skier.
    • You should be able to delegate the details.
  4. Know what your people are like and what makes them tick, because your people are your most important resource.
    • Regularly take the temperature of each person who is important to you and to the organization.
    • Learn how much confidence to have in your people – don’t assume it.
    • Vary your involvement based on your confidence.
  5. Clearly assign responsibilities. 
    • Remember who has what responsibilities.
    • Watch out for “job slip.”
  6. Probe deep and hard to learn what you can expect from your machine.
    • Get a threshold level of understanding.
    • Avoid staying too distant.
    • Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking.
    • Probe so you know whether problems are likely to occur before they actually do.
    • Probe to the level below the people who report to you.
    • Have the people who report to the people who report to you feel free to escalate their problems to you.
    • Don’t assume that people’s answers are correct.
    • Train your ear.
    • Make your probing transparent rather than private.
    • Welcome probing.
    • Remember that people who see things and think one way often have difficulty communicating with and relating to people who see things and think another way.
    • Pull all suspicious threads.
    • Recognize that there are many ways to skin a cat.
  7. Think like an owner, and expect the people you work with to do the same.
    • Going on vacation doesn’t mean one can neglect one’s responsibilities.
    • Force yourself and the people who work for you to do difficult things.
  8. Recognize and deal with key-man risk.
  9. Don’t treat everyone the same – treat them appropriately.
    • Don’t let yourself get squeezed.
    • Care about the people who work for you.
  10. Know that great leadership is generally not what it’s made out to be.
    • Be weak and strong at the same time.
    • Don’t worry about whether or not your people like you and don’t look to them to tell you what you should do.
    • Don’t give orders and try to be followed; try to be understood and to understand others by getting in sync.
  11. Hold yourself and your people accountable and appreciate them for holding your accountable.
    • If you’ve agreed with someone that something is supposed to go a certain way, make sure it goes that way – unless you get in sync about doing it differently.
    • Distinguish between a failure in which someone broke their “contract” and a failure in which there was no contract to begin with.
    • Avoid getting sucked down.
    • Watch out for people who confuse goals and tasks, because if they can’t make that distinction, you can’t trust them with responsibilities.
    • Watch out for the unfocused and unproductive “theoretical should.”
  12. Communicate the plan clearly and have clear metrics conveying whether you are progressing according to it.
    • Put things in perspective by going back before going forward.

11. Perceive and Don’t Tolerate Problems

  1. If you’re not worried, you need to worry – and if you’re worried, you don’t need to worry.
  2. Design and oversee a machine to perceive whether things are good enough or not good enough, or do it yourself.
    • Assign people the job of perceiving problems, give them time to investigate, and make sure they have independent reporting lines so that they can convey problems without any fear of recrimination.
    • Watch out for the “Frog in the Boiling Water Syndrome.”
    • Beware of group-think: The fact that no one seems concerned doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.
    • To perceive problems, compare how the outcomes are lining p with your goals.
    • “Taste the soup.”
    • Have as many eyes looking for problems as possible.
    • “Pop the cork.”
    • Realize that the best people closest to certain jobs probably know them best.
  3. Be very specific about problems; don’t start with generalizations.
    • Avoid the anonymous “we” and “they,” because they mask personal responsibility.
  4. Don’t be afraid to fix the difficult things.
    • Understand that problems with good, planned solutions in place are completely different from those without such solutions.
    • Think of the problems you perceive in a machinelike way.

Principles: Table of Work Principles 7, 8 and 9 (part 12 of 14)


7. Remember That the WHO is More Important than the WHAT

  1. Recognize that the most important decision for you to make is who you choose as your Responsible Parties.
    • Understand that he most important RPs are those responsible for the goals, outcomes, and machines at the highest levels.
  2. Know that the ultimate Responsible Party will be the person who bears the consequences of what is done.
    • Make sure the everyone has someone they report to.
  3. Remember the force behind the thing.

8. Hire Right, Because the Penalties for Hiring Wrong Are Huge

  1. Match the person to the design
    • Thing through which values, abilities, and skills you are looking for (in that order).
    • Make finding the right people systematic and scientific
    • Hear the click: Find the right fit between the role and the person.
    • Look for pool who sparkle, not just “any ol’ one of those.”
    • Don’t use your pull to get someone a job.
  2. Remember that people are built very differently and that different ways of seeing and thinking make people suitable for different jobs.
    • Understand how to use and interpret personality assessments.
    • Remember that people tend to pick people like themselves, so choose interviewers who can identify what you are looking for.
    • Look for people who are willing to look at themselves objectively.
    • Remember that people typically don’t change all that much.
  3. Think of your teams the way that sports manager do: No one person possesses everything required to produce success, yet everyone must excel.
  4. Pay attention to people’s track records.
    • Check references
    • Recognize that performance in school doesn’t tell you much about whether a person has the values and abilities you are looking for.
    • While it’s best to have great conceptual thinkers, understand that great experience and a great track record also count for a lot.
    • Beware of the impractical idealist.
    • Don’t assume that a person who has been successful elsewhere will be successful in the job you’re giving them.
    • Make sure your people have character and are capable.
  5. Don’t hire people just to fit the first job they will do; hire people you want to share your life with.
    • Look for people who have lots of great questions.
    • Show candidates your warts.
    • Play jazz with people with whom you are compatible but who will also challenge you.
  6. When considering compensation, provide both stability and opportunity.
    • Pay for the person, not the job.
    • Have performance metrics tie at least loosely to compensation.
    • Pay north of fair.
    • Focus more on making the pie bigger than on exactly how to slice it so that you or anyone else gets the biggest piece.
  7. Remember that in great partnerships, consideration and generosity are more important than money.
    • Be generous and expect generosity from others.
  8. Great people are hard to find so make sure you think about how to keep them. 

9. Constantly Train, Test, Evaluate, and Sort People

  1. Understand that you and the people you manage will go through a process of personal evolution.
    • Recognize that personal evolution should be relatively rapid and a natural consequence of discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses; as a result, career paths are not planned at the outset.
    • Understand that training guides the process of personal evolution.
    • Teach your people to fish rather than give them fish, even if that means letting them make some mistakes.
    • Recognize that experience creates internalized learning that book learning can’t replace.
  2. Provide constant feedback
  3. Evaluate accurately, not kindly.
    • In the end, accuracy and kindness are the same thing.
    • Put your compliments and criticisms in perspective.
    • Think about accuracy, not implications.
    • Make accurate assessments.
    • Learn from success as well as from failure.
    • Know that most everyone thinks that what they did, and what they are doing, is much more important than it really is.
  4. Recognize that tough love is both the hardest and the most important type of love to give (because it is so rarely welcomed)
    • Recognize that while most people prefer compliments, accurate criticism is more valuable.
  5. Don’t hide your observations about people.
    • Build your synthesis from the specifics up.
    • Squeeze the dots.
    • Don’t over squeeze a dot.
    • Use evaluation tools such as performance surveys, metrics, and formal reviews to document all aspects of a person’s performance.
  6. Make the process of learning what someone is like open, evolutionary, and iterative. 
    • Make your metrics clear and impartial.
    • Encourage people to be objectively reflective about their performance.
    • Look at the whole picture.
    • For performance reviews, start from specific cases, look for patterns, and get in sync with the person being reviewed by looking at evidence together.
    • Remember that when it comes to assessing people, the two biggest mistakes you can make are being overconfident in your assessment and failing to get in sync on it.
    • Get in sync on assessments in a nonhierarchical way.
    • Learn about your people and have them learn about you through frank conversations about mistakes and their root causes.
    • Understand that making sure people are doing a good job doesn’t require watching everything that everybody is doing at all times.
    • Recognize that change is difficult.
    • Help people though the pain that comes with exploring their weaknesses.
  7. Knowing how people operate and being able to judge whether that way of operating will lead to good results is more important than knowing what they did.
    • If someone is doing their job poorly, consider whether it is due to inadequate learning or inadequate ability.
    • Training and testing a poor performer to see if he or she can acquire the required skills without simultaneously trying to asses their abilities is a common mistake.
  8. Recognize that wen you are really in sync with someone about their weaknesses, the weaknesses are probably true.
    • When judging people, remember that yo don’t have to get to the point of “beyond a shadow of a doubt,”
    • It should take you no more than a year to learn what a person is like and whether they are a click for the job.
    • Continue assessing people throughout their tenure.
    • Evaluate employees with the same rigor as you evaluate job candidates.
  9. Train, guardrail, or remove people; don’t rehabilitate them.
    • Don’t collect people.
    • Be willing to “shoot the people you love.”
    • When someone is “without a box,” consider whether there is an open box that would be a better fit or whether you need to get them out of the company.
    • Be cautious about allowing people to step back to another role after failing.
  10. Remember that the goal of a transfer is best, highest use of the person in a way that benefits the community as a whole.
    • Have people “complete their swings” before moving on to new roles.
  11. Don’t lower the bar. 

Principles: Table of Work Principles 5 and 6 (part 11 of 14)

5. Believability Weight Your Decision Making

  1. Recognize that having an effective idea meritocracy requires that you understand the merit of each person’s ideas.
    • If you can’t successfully do something, don’t think you can tell others how it should be done.
    • Remember that everyone has opinions and they are often bad.
  2. Find the most believable people possible who disagree wth you and try to understand their reasoning.
    • Think about people’s believability in order to assess the likelihood that their opinions are good.
    • Remember that believable opinions are most likely to come from people 1) who have successfully accomplished the thing in question at least three times, and 2) who have great explanations of the cause-effect relationships that lead them to their conclusions.
    • If someone hasn’t done something but has a theory that seems logical and can be stress-tested, then by all means test it.
    • Don’t pay as much attention to people’s conclusions as to the reasoning that led them to their conclusions.
    • Inexperienced people can have great ideas too, sometimes far better ones than more experienced people.
    • Everyone should be up-front in expressing how confident they are in their thoughts.
  3. Think about whether you are playing the role of teacher, a student, or a peer and whether you should be teaching, asking questions, or debating. 
    • It’a more important that the student understand the teacher than that the teacher understand the student, though both are important.
    • Recognize that while everyone has the right and responsibility to try to make sense of important things, they must do so with humility and radical open-mindedness.
  4. Understand how people come by their opinions
    • If you ask someone a question, they will probably give you an answer, so thin through to whom you should address your questions.
    • Having everyone randomly probe everyone else is an unproductive waste of time.
    • Beware of statements that begin with “I think that …”
    • Assess believability by systematically capturing people’s track records over time.
  5. Disagreeing must be done efficiently
    • Know when to stop debating and move on to agreeing about what should be done.
    • Use believability weighting as a tool rathe than a substitute for decision making by Responsible Parties.
    • Since you don’t have the time to thoroughly examine everyone’s thinking yourself, choose your believable people wisely.
    • When you’re responsible for a decision, compare the believability-weighted decision making of the crowd to what you believe.
  6. Recognize that everyone has the right and responsibility to try to make sense of important things.
    • Communications aimed at getting the best answer should involve the most relevant people.
    • Communication aimed at educating or boosting cohesion should involve a broader set of people than would be need if the aim were just getting the best answer.
    • Recognize that you don’t need to make judgments about everything.
  7. Pay more attention to whether the decision-making system is fair than whether you get your way.

6. Recognize how to Get Beyond Disagreements

  1. Remember: Principles can’t be ignored by mutual agreement
    • The same standards of behavior apply to everyone
  2. Make suer people don’t confuse the right to complain, give advice, and openly debate with the right to make decisions.
    • When challenging a decision and/or a decision maker, consider the broader context.
  3. Don’t leave important conflicts unresolved.
    • Don’t let the little things divide you when your agreement on the big things should bind you.
    • Don’t get stuck in disagreement – escalate or vote!
  4. Once a diction is made, everyone should get behind it even though individuals my still disagree.
    • See things from the higher level.
    • Never allow the idea meritocracy to slip into anarchy.
    • Don’t allow lynch mobs or mob rule.
  5. Remember that if the idea meritocracy comes into conflict with the well-being of the organization, it will inevitably suffer.
    • Declare “martial law” only in rare or extreme circumstances when the principles need to be suspended.
    • Be wary of people who argue for the suspension of the idea meritocracy for the “good of the organization.”

Principles: Table of Work Principles 1 – 4 (part 10 of 14)

Summary and Table of Work Principles

  • An organization is a machine consisting of two major parts: culture and people
    • A great organization has both great people and a great culture.
    • Great people have both great character and great capabilities.
    • Great cultures bring problems and disagreements to the surface and solve them well, and they love imagining and building great things that haven’t been built before.
  • Tough love is effective for achieving both great work and great relationships
    • In order to be great, one can’t compromise the uncompromisable.
  • A believably-weighted idea meritocracy is the best system for making effective decisions.
  • Make your passion and your work one and the same and o it with people you want to be with. 


  1. Trust in Radical Truth and Radical Transparency
    1. Realize that you have nothing to fear from knowing the truth
    2. Have integrity and demand it from others
      • Never say anything about someone that you wouldn’t say to them directly and don’t try people without accusing them to their faces.
      • Don’t let loyalty to people stand in the way of truth and the well-being of the organization.
    3. Create an environment in which everyone has the right to understand what makes sense and no one has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up.
      • Speak up, own it, or get out.
      • Be extremely open.
      • Don’t be naive about dishonesty.
    4. Be radically transparent
      • Use transparency to help enforce justice.
      • Share the things that are hardest to share.
      • Keep exceptions to radical transparency very rare.
      • Make sure those who are given radical transparency recognize their responsibilities to handle it well and to weigh all things intelligently.
      • Provide transparency to people who handle it well and either deny it to people who don’t handle it well or remove those people from the organization.
      • Don’t share sensitive information with the organization’s enemies.
    5. Meaningful relationships and meaningful work are mutually reinforcing, especially when supported by radical truth and radical transparency.
  2. Cultivate Meaningful Work and Meaningful Relationships
    1. Be loyal to the common mission and not to anyone who is not operating consistently with it. 
    2. Be crystal clear on what the deal is.
      • Make sure people give more consideration to others than they demand for themselves.
      • Make sure that people understand the difference between fairness and generosity.
      • Know where the line is and be on the far side of fair.
      • Pay for work.
    3. Recognize that the size of the organization can pose a threat to meaningful relationships.
    4. Remember that most people will pretend to operate in your interest while operating in their own.
    5. Treasure honorable people who are capable and will treat you well even wen you’re not looking. 
  3. Create a Culture in Which It Is Okay to Make Mistakes and Unacceptable Not to Learn from Them
    1. Recognize that mistakes are a natural part of the evolutionary process.
      • Fail well.
      • Don’t feel bad about your mistakes or those of others. Love them!
    2. Don’t worry about looking good – worry about achieving your goals.
      • Get over “blame” and “credit” and get on with “accurate” and “inaccurate”.
    3. Observe the patters of mistakes to see if they are products of weaknesses.
    4. Remember to reflect when you experience pain.
      • Be self-reflective and make sure your people are self-reflective.
      • Know that nobody can see themselves objectively.
      • Teach and reinforce the merits of mistake-based learning.
    5. Know what types of mistakes are acceptable and what types are unacceptable, and don’t allow the people who work for you to make the unacceptable ones. 
  4. Get and Stay in Sync
    1. Recognize that conflicts are essential for great relationships because they are how people determine whether their principles are aligned and resolve their differences.
      • Spend lavishly on the time and energy you devote to getting in sync, because it’s the best investment you can make.
    2. Know how to get in sync and disagree well.
      • Surface areas of possible out-of-syncness.
      • Distinguish between idle complaints and complaints mean too lead to improvement.
      • Remember that every story has another side.
    3. Be open-minded and assertive at the same time.
      • Distinguish open-minded people from close-minded people.
      • Don’t have anything to do with close-minded people.
      • Watch out for people who think it’s embarrassing not to know.
      • Make sure that those in charge are open-minded about the questions and comments of others.
      • Recognize that getting in sync is a two-way responsibility.
      • Worry more about substance than style.
      • Be reasonable and expect others to be reasonable.
      • Making suggestions and questioning are not the same as criticizing, so don’t treat them as if they are.
    4. If it is your meeting to run, manage the conversation.
      • Make it clear who is directing the meeting and whom it is meant to serve.
      • Be precise in what you’re talking about to avoid confusion.
      • Make clear what type of communication you are going to have in light of the objectives and priorities.
      • Lead the discussion by being assertive and open-minded.
      • Navigate between the different levels of the conversation.
      • Watch out for “topic slip.”
      • Enforce the logic of conversations.
      • Be careful not to lose personal responsibility via group decision making.
      • Utilize the “two-minute rule” to avoid persistent interruptions.
      • Watch out for assertive “fast talkers.”
      • Achieve completion in conversations.
      • Leverage your communication.
    5. Great collaboration feels like playing jazz.
      • 1+1=3.
      • 3 to 5 is more than 20.
    6. When you have alignment, cherish it.
    7. If you find you can’t reconcile major differences – especially in values – consider whether the relationship is worth preserving.