Book Notes – Die Empty

Posted: April 15, 2014 by admin in Books
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Chapter 1: Die Empty

“Before I Die, I want to ________” mural
“The death rate is hovering right around 100%.”
General positive encouragement to be all you can be without excuses.
Chapter 2: Your Contribution
Principle: “Your body of work should reflect what’s important to you.”
“Can I lay my head down tonight satisfied with the work I did today?”
3 Types of Work:
  1. Mapping – “work before the work,” planning, plotting, setting priorities
  2. Making – actually doing the work
  3. Meshing – “work between the work” that makes you effective – learning, developing, etc.


4 Types of Working Profiles
  1. Developer = Mapping + Making + Meshing
  2. Driver = Mapping + Making – Meshing (starts strong, but fades due to lack of innovation)
  3. Drifter = Making + Meshing – Mapping
  4. Dreamer = Meshing + Mapping – Making
Chapter 3: The Siren Song of Mediocrity
Principle: Mediocrity doesn’t just happen suddenly; it develops slowly over time.
Satisficing – selecting an option that is sufficient to meet enough of our ongoing expectations.  Settling for the best available option that meets most of our requirements.
You can’t simply change your external situation without changing your mindset and methods.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Mediocrity (ABCDEFG)
  1. Aimlessness; The key to conquering aimlessness is to concretely define the battles that you need to fight each day in order to make meaningful progress, then focus your efforts on those above all else.
  2. Boredom; Maintain intentional curiosity
  3. Comfort; “At a certain point, past innovations inhibit future innovations.”
  4. Delusion; Cultivate self-awareness
  5. Ego; Don’t be afraid to fail or admit to failure
  6. Fear; Fear thrives on the unknown.
  7. Guardedness; Be relational
Chapter 4: Define Your Battles
Principle: To counter aimlessness, you must define your battles wisely, and build your life around winning them.
Know what your life’s major mission is.
What work am I willing to suffer for today?
Passion often follows action rather than the other way around.
Chris Martin “suffered” for football because it served a higher purpose of getting at risk kids out of bad situations.
Chapter 5: Be Fiercely Curious
Principle: To prevent boredom from dulling your senses, you must approach your work with a curious mind-set.
“While a curious, questioning mind-set may seem inefficient when we’re under pressure to deliver quick results, it actually makes us more effective in everything we do.”
“Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.” (Alexander Pope)
“Creative Inversion” – “For example, you know that you need an idea for the 4: 00 p.m. strategy meeting, but you have absolutely nothing to offer. Everything you come up with feels like a bad rehash of a previous idea, and no matter what you try, you can’t seem to come up with something that feels fresh and profound.”
Two strategies for cultivating curiosity: (1) Establish Hunting Trails, (2) Develop Possibility Thinking
Hunting Trails: Set aside structured time for this.  Read and reflect.  Think of questions you want to learn about – not just from books, but from encountering things.  Have a space to do this work – (time, energy, and physical space) – the “bliss station.”
Relating similarities of otherwise dissimilar things can help generate new perspectives.
Four elements of possibility thinking: Aspirations, Affinities, Assumptions, Attributes (all can help find the edges of a project, like a puzzle)
Two kinds of “blocks”: Conceptual & Executional
Conceptual blocks aren’t solved by “knuckling down.”
See questions at loc 987
Chapter 6: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Principle: To make a valuable contribution, you have to get uncomfortable and embrace lifelong growth and skill development.
Satisfaction tends to come from saying “yes” to challenging things.
“Don’t allow short-arc comfort to convince you to compromise your long-arc goals.”
“If you could make anything happen in your job right now, what would it be?”
Contingency response – some constraint must change
Ownership response – something one can control must change
Three Kinds of Growth Goals:
  1. Step – short arc (day)
  2. Sprint – medium arc (1-2 weeks)
  3. Stretch – long arc
These all support one another.
Remember to define what you’re willing to give up in order to accomplish a goal.  Everything is a trade-off.
“You cannot pursue greatness and comfort at the same time.”
Chapter 7: Know Yourself
Principle: Knowing yourself will help you counter self-delusion and pursue the unique contribution you alone are capable of making.
Story about someone else taking credit for another’s work
Tap into the qualities of those you admire…like kids taking on superpowers.
Read biographies.
Make notes of very specific qualities in people.  The specificity makes them more emulatable.
Set a timer ever hour as speed bumps for effective work.
ACHE – Method for Evaluating Work:
Chapter 8: Be Confidently Adaptable
Principle: Confidence and adaptability prevent an inflated ego from stalling progress on your most important work.
“Rules become so pervasive that they’re meaningless.”
Ways we exercise control:
  • Playing the Victim
  • Snark, Cynicism, and Overcomplexity
  • Judging your work relative to others’ rather than on its own merits
  • Expecting to be accomodated
Cultivate a service mind-set.  GIFT Acronym:
Forward momentum
Conduct SWOT Analyses
Chapter 9: Find Your Voice
Principle: Find your voice and conquer the fear of failure by taking small, calculated risks each day.
Find what you alone can do.
Calling can often be an iterative, trial and error, journey rather than a clear sense of direction from the beginning.
Factor “experimentation time” into your workflow schedule.
Don’t hold back because things seem “too obvious.”
“Cover bands don’t change the world.”
Follow your intuitions.
Chapter 10: Stay Connected
Principle: Establishing genuine connections with others will prevent guardedness from infecting your life.
There are two common mistakes that lead to decreased effectiveness and regret: avoidance and squashing conflict.  “It’s easy to defer important conversations to a more convenient time.”  [Recall Tim Ferriss: “The quality of your life is proportional to the number of hard conversations your willing to have.”]
Tranquility does not equal health.
Working through conflict contributes to the connecting depth of the group.
Strategies on Connecting with Others:
  • Find Mirrors – people in your life who have permission to speak the truth to you about what they see
    • Identify mirrors (at least 2)
    • Alert them of specific things to look for
    • Get together regularly – prepare a mirror reflection each time
    • Adjust regularly
  • Use Probing Conversations (5)
    • Three “Assassins” of Creativity:
      • Dissonance – things don’t add up; professed beliefs don’t match reality
      • Fear – often a figment of our imagination; thrives when undiscussed.
      • Expectation escalation – this week’s remarkable performance becomes next week’s expectation; talk about expectations
    • Five Conversations
      • The Clarity Conversation – bring alignment and combat dissonance; define the work/expectations
        • Clarity questions:
          • How does what I’m doing tie in to why our organization exists? (Converse: Is there anything we’re doing now that seems out of character for us?)
          • Can you clarify the objectives once more?
      • The Expectations Conversations
        • Do you know what is expected of you?
        • What do you expect from me and am I falling short?
      • The Fear Conversation – “all about shining light into dark, unspoken places and neutralizing fear where it lives.”
        • What are you afraid might happen and why?
        • What was the last risk you took? (Talking about risk is a great way to minimize it.)
      • The Engagement Conversation
        • What’s inspiring you?
        • How do you feel about the work we’re doing?
        • What’s the best thing we’re doing and why?
      • The “Final 10 Percent” Conversation – the ‘parking lot conversations’ or ‘meeting after the meeting’ of stuff left unsaid, but now shared in quasi secrecy
        • What is something I’m doing that doesn’t make sense?
        • What’s the smartest thing I’m doing right now?
        • What’s something obvious that you don’t think I’m seeing?
Chapter 11: Live Empty
Daily checkpoints help refocus on effectiveness (over efficiency).
Five step process to scan life for action points (EMPTY):
  • Focus on your Ethics
    • Look at your appointments, commitments, tasks
    • Consider how to apply your values/ethics to them
    • Consider potential pitfalls
  • Focus on your Mission
    • What will change as result of my effort today?  Step goal?  How will I know if today is a success?
    • What isn’t already represented?
    • What needs to go away?
  • Focus on People
    • Who will you interact with today?  Consider them individually.
    • Are there any open relational loops to close?  5 conversations to have?
    • How can you serve others today?
  • Focus on Tasks
    • Consider your daily priorities (“Brilliant work demands dedicated time on your calendar.”)
    • Define your projects
  • Focus on You
    • What will you do today to develop yourself?
    • What do you need to start moving on?
    • Be grateful.
    • Dream a little.
People tend to respond to questions about their job with, “I’m a ….” rather than “I ….”
Chapter 12: Forward
You alone can find the bears for your life map.
Without drive, nothing in this book matters.
Victor Frankl – Those who fare best through suffering are those that ascribe meaning to their suffering (through narrative).
Existential vacuum – not knowing what the deeper purpose of life is
Not, “What do I expect from life?” but “What does life expect from me?”
The “lag” can zap energy from our work.  It is the gap between cause and effect.
Three things that keep you moving forward in the “lag:”
  1. Confidence in your vision and ability to bring it to fruition
  2. Willingness to say no to other things that tempt you to divert from your course
  3. Daily, diligent, urgent progress
“Hustle is the best antidote to lifelong regret.”
Quitting should be a strategic choice.
Someone who is optimistic expects the best while actively working to bring it about. Wishing externalizes responsibility and hopes that everything lines up according to plan, but doesn’t do anything to actively bring about the desired change.
Two things will paralyze our creativity faster than anything else:
1. We haven’t defined success.
2. We haven’t defined failure.

Go through alternating cycles of tension and release.  Stay out of the “gray zone.”
“Hustle overcomes nearly every shortcoming.”

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