Master Life Faster: Newsletter

How to be successful like Steve Jobs

Posted in Newsletter by Paul Lem, M.D. on October 14, 2008

Volume 1, Issue 1
HAPPY: Happiness and the Whos of Whoville
SMART: Charlie Munger’s Latticework
WEALTHY: Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney

“What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy money.”
-Henny Youngman

Happiness and the Whos of Whoville

The Grinch
Wall Street’s Credit Crunch is spilling over to Main Street. With home values falling and 401(k)s shrinking, everyone is feeling poorer. CNN Money reports that consumers are expected to spend a lot less during the holidays. This Christmas, it looks like the Grinch will be making off with your new 55” LCD TV. But just like in Dr. Seuss’s classic story, true happiness doesn’t come from gifts or material goods. Rather, true happiness comes from positive activities, such as doing things you enjoy and spending time with friends and family.

The Science of Happiness
This was the finding from a semester-long study by psychologists Kennon Sheldon and Sonya Lyubomirsky. They recruited 669 college students who had recently experienced a positive change in their circumstances or activities. The sign-up descriptions were as follows:

‘‘Please sign up only if there has been some significant positive change in the circumstances of your life since the beginning of the semester, which has given you a boost since it occurred. ‘Circumstances’ means ‘facts’ about your life, such as living arrangement, monetary situation, or course-load. For example, you may have moved to a better dorm or better roommate, received an increase in financial support so you can have more fun, or dropped a course that you were really going to have trouble with.’’

‘‘Please sign up only if you have adopted some significant positive new goal or activity since the beginning of the semester, which has given you a boost since it occurred. ‘Goal/activity’ means something you chose to do or get involved in, which takes effort on your part. For example, you may have joined a rewarding new group, club, or sports team, decided on a major or career direction which makes it clear what to focus on, or taken on some other important new project or goal in your life.’’

Hedonic Treadmill
At 6 weeks and 12 weeks, students rated their level of happiness. Results showed that positive changes in activities and circumstances led to higher happiness ratings at the 6-week mark. But only the positive activities continued to boost happiness at the end of 12 weeks. The problem with changes in circumstances is that people adapt quickly. At first, it’s exciting to watch movies on a 55” LCD TV, but soon you take it for granted. It’s a “hedonic treadmill” where you have to keep running to stay in the same place. With less money to spend this Christmas, hopefully people will have more time to reflect on the true meaning of happiness.

Sheldon KM, Lyubomirsky S. (2006). Achieving sustainable gains in happiness: change your actions, not your circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies. 7: 55-86. Full Article.

“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
-Abraham Maslow

Charlie Munger’s Latticework

Worldly Wisdom
Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway and the billionaire founder of Wesco Financial Corporation. In a speech to the University of Southern California’s business school, Charlie emphasized the importance of developing “worldly wisdom.” Rather than memorizing and regurgitating a bunch of facts, it is far more useful to learn a latticework of mental models.

In architecture, a latticework is a criss-crosssed pattern of strips that can be used to support a structure, such as lattice girder bridge supports. A mental model is an explanation for how something works in the real world. For example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a mental model that explains how lower physiological needs such as hunger and sleep must be satisfied before higher psychological needs such as love and self-actualization.

Mental Models
The more mental models you have in your toolbox, the deeper your understanding will be of yourself and the world around you. Charlie says, “80 or 90 important models will carry about 90 percent of the freight in making you a worldly-wise person. And, of those, only a mere handful really carry very heavy freight.” He adds, “And the models have to come from multiple disciplines—because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department.”

In future issues of Master Life Faster, we’ll learn about high-impact mental models, and how they can change your perspective on life.

“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”
-William Plomer

How to be Successful like Steve Jobs

Leander Kahney is managing editor at Wired News, the online sister publication of Wired magazine. In his book Inside Steve’s Brain, Kahney reveals how Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs has been able to hit home run after home run, from the iMac to the iPod to the iPhone.

I learned three major lessons from reading this book:

  1. Creativity is about connecting the dots
  2. Developing the best product requires prototyping and more prototyping
  3. Authoritative leadership motivates teams to run through walls

Connecting the Dots
On the topic of creativity, Steve says, “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” Steve goes on to say, “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Who Cares About Calligraphy?
For example, after dropping out of college, Steve took a course on calligraphy even though it didn’t have a practical application in his life. He learned about serif and san serif typefaces, spacing between letter combinations, and the general aesthetics of typography. Steve said “It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.” Ten years later, he incorporated these aesthetics into the design of the Macintosh, the most stylish and easy-to-use computer the world had ever seen.

Steve’s experience agrees with research by Dean Keith Simonton at the University of California, Davis. Simonton has observed that creative people are often unconventional risk-takers who are open to new experiences. They usually have broader interests than their less creative colleagues. More dots = more chances for a creative combination.

Prototyping and More Prototyping
A creative idea is just the beginning. Under Steve’s guidance, Apple’s engineers and industrial designers build mockups and prototypes, edit and revise them, and then build more mockups and prototypes. At times, the cycle seems endless—teams build an “embarrassing” number of prototypes. The focus is on simplification.

Steve says, “When you start looking at a problem and think it’s really simple, you don’t understand how complex the problem really is. Once you get into the problem…you see that it’s complicated, and you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep going, find the underlying problem, and come up with an elegant solution that works on every level.”

The final product is both beautiful and functional. It combines handcrafted quality with mass-manufactured affordability. I remember using my first iPod. It looked great, felt great, and I didn’t have to read the user manual to make it work.

Authoritative Leadership
Scientists have found that the best parenting style is “authoritative.” Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. Demanding refers to discipline, control, and supervision. Responsiveness refers to emotional warmth, acceptance, and involvement in a child’s life.

At Apple, Steve is an authoritative CEO. On one hand, he works his people hard and insists on seemingly impossible goals. Apparently, everyone who works with Steve eventually burns out or gets fired. On the other hand, Steve is passionate and cares deeply. He inspires teams to run through walls with his “reality distortion field.” In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli says, “Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.” Perhaps that is the secret of Steve’s leadership style—he has figured out how to balance love and fear.

Simonton DK. (2000). Creative development as acquired expertise: theoretical issues and an empirical test. Developmental Review. 20:283–318. Abstract.

Aunola K, Stattin H, Nurmi J. (2000). Parenting styles and adolescents’ achievement strategies. Journal of Adolescence. 23:205–222. Abstract.

Copyright 2008 by Paul Lem, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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