In early 2019, I felt stuck in my career and took this as an opportunity to reflect on my situation and career prospects. Here, I’m sharing the framework that emerged from this period. I’ve removed personal content so you can directly apply it to your own career.
In this post, I’m sharing the learning map that I’m using to acquire a strong coaching skill set.
After some deliberation, I decided to pursue this as a self-guided learning project instead of getting formal credentials. To set myself up for success, I wanted to get clear at the outset on my motivation to learn, the abilities and knowledge required, as well as the best methods for getting there. Here’s the learning map that I’ve drawn and continue to update along the way.
For more context on learning maps, I recommend picking up the book “Ultralearning” by Scott H. Young.
Giving others feedback is critical to help them succeed. It’s also really difficult, both for the giver and the receiver. Here are some pointers on how to do well in both roles.
How to give feedback
- Goal: Provide outside perspective and encourage effective future behaviour.
- Step 1: Permission. Ask the Receiver whether you can give them some feedback. This increases the likelihood they’ll change their behaviour. Honour a “no” response. If it’s clearly important, at least give them the choice for when to receive feedback.
- “Hey, can I give you some feedback?”
- “When would be a good time for me to give you some feedback?”
- Step 2: Behaviour. Tell the Receiver what they did well or what they did that you would like them to change.
- “When you (insert behaviour)…” – focus on behaviour, not character
- Step 3: Consequences. State the impact that the behaviour has had.
- “Here’s what happens: (insert consequences)”
- Step 4: Future. Either ask for a change in behaviour or say thank you for behaviour that you want to encourage. Let the receiver come up with the answer themselves to increase their commitment.
- “How could you change that?”
- “Can you do that differently?”
- Step 5: Validation of who people are and of their value to the organization. Also, acknowledge their openness to feedback. It’s possible to do this naturally without sounding too artificial.
- “It’s great that you took on this assignment. You helped us make rapid progress towards X goal.”
- “Awesome, thanks a lot!”
When to give feedback
- Ideally, give feedback immediately after you notice the behaviour because the memory will be fresh.
- Solve problems early. Don’t wait until there’s a pattern.
- Pause and reflect before giving feedback:
- Are you angry? Are you assuming bad intent? If so, hold off for now.
- Do you want to punish? If so, hold off for now.
- Can you deliver it with a smile on your face?
- Should you ask more clarifying questions first?
How to receive feedback
- How you respond to feedback determines whether you receive more in the future.
- Take the first fall: The best way to do that besides giving great feedback is volunteering to take some as well.
- Pause and ride the immediate wave of defensiveness.
- Move from “that’s wrong” to “tell me more.” Listen carefully. Ask clarifying questions.
- Thank the person for taking the time to help you. Encourage them to keep doing this in the future.
- If you don’t like the way they give feedback, tell them later in a careful way.
- Cultivate a growth identity to respond better to feedback:
- Love your mistakes. They are your best opportunity to learn and improve.
- Don’t worry about looking good. Worry about achieving your goal.
If you’d like to explore these ideas further, here are a few resources that you’ll find useful:
- The Effective Manager – Mark Horstman
- Nonviolent Communication – Marshall B. Rosenberg
- HBR archive on giving feedback
- How Emotionally Intelligent People Give Negative Feedback – Inc.
- How to Provide Great Feedback When You’re Not In Charge – Farnam Street
As a disoriented teenager, I started collecting principles that helped me align my thinking and action with my values—how I want to be and how I want to relate to the world. I put those principles in a document that I’d review roughly once per week to stay on track and avoid getting washed away by the currents of everyday life. This document has changed a lot over time based on the challenges I faced and what I learned from them. I’m sharing the current version of this work in progress below in the hope that it will be useful to you, too.
Note that some of the principles might appear to contradict each other. I don’t think that’s the case: they apply to different situations, and life isn’t black-and-white anyway. Note also that I don’t hope to ever achieve those principles—they’re guidelines, not end goals.
- Pause and attend.
- Notice that everything is simply appearing.
- Relax in the midst of struggle and unsatisfactoriness.
- The quality of your attention determines the quality of your life.
- Dwell in reality and don’t argue with it.
- Relinquish your reaction to experience by simply noticing it.
- Your experience in this moment is good enough.
- Don’t wish to be fulfilled. Instead, welcome all things.
- Begin again in each moment.
- Step away and look at the situation from above.
- Focus on what you can control. Embrace what you can’t control.
- It’s not external events that upset you, but your judgment of them.
- You are nowhere. There are no bounds between you and the world.
- You are not your feelings, thoughts, and other contents of consciousness.
- Ignore the crowd. Improve your life in relation to yourself, not others.
- Keep your identity small and nimble.
- Everything is impermanent. There’s nothing to hold on to.
- Don’t cling to ideas. Keep your mind open to what is.
- Let go of the results of your actions.
- You are entitled to nothing.
- Enjoy this moment where your consciousness is bright.
- You will die soon. Let this teach you how to live fully.
- Compare downwards to feel how lucky you are.
- Marvel at the universe.
- Fear of the unknown will always be with you. Why let it stop you?
- Own your fear and lean just beyond it, in every aspect of your life.
- Choose to be excited rather than afraid.
- Your life shrinks or expands in proportion to your courage.
- Your mission is your priority.
- Dedicate yourself to excellence.
- Always have a challenge.
- Every action is a vote for who you want to be.
- Act for the well-being of the whole world.
- You have to find a way to help yourself.
- Pain plus reflection equals progress.
- Own your desires and be shameless about your intentions.
- Treat setbacks as a test to your ingenuity and resourcefulness.
- Don’t cling to your comfort.
- Diversify in everything. Always have a backup.
- Do what you can, then let things take their course.
- Follow your curiosity, wherever you can find it.
- Explore the unknown corners of the world and sample experiences.
- Life is a series of experiments. Do what will teach you the most.
- There’s no treasure at the end of the process. The process is the treasure.
- In the long run, the truth comes out.
- Unobstructed self-expression: nothing to hide, nothing to defend.
- Align what you say with what you think and feel.
- Seek out games where honesty is the dominant strategy.
- Treat everyone as family and assume other people like you.
- Hold space and experience the full range of feelings behind it.
- Resist envy. Most of life isn’t zero-sum.
- Occasionally forgive.
- Action allows you to see the world for what it really is.
- Let your actions control your emotions.
- Ideas are worth nothing unless executed.
- Optimism in the face of uncertainty.
If you’d like to explore these ideas further, here are a few books that you’ll find useful:
- Meditations – Marcus Aurelius (Gregory Hays translation)
- Tao Te Ching – Lao-Tzu (Stephen Mitchell translation)
- The Bhagavad Gita (Stephen Mitchell translation)
- Principles – Ray Dalio
- Algorithms to Live By – Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths
- How to Fight a Hydra – Josh Kaufman
- Waking Up – Sam Harris
I like to make time to think about a situation without rushing to action. Since the latter is my natural tendency, I benefit from having a simple framework that lowers barriers to entering brainstorming mode, which I’ll outline in this post.
Setting the stage
- What topic are you brainstorming on?
- What’s the goal? What are the potential benefits?
- How much time will you dedicate to this? When will you stop?
In no particular order, except for the first one. Liberally skip any question that doesn’t elicit useful thinking.
- Meta: What are some questions you could ask yourself about this topic? Add those to the list.
- What are the individual steps? Why is each step performed?
- What are the limiting steps? How can you work around them?
- What would this look like if it were easy?
- What metrics can you use to find out if you’re on track? How can you install these metrics in your digital and physical workspace?
- Where does this process need monitoring and gate-keeping?
- What are the worst things that could happen? What could go most wrong? What do you want to avoid?
- What if you did nothing at all?
- What are the second-order effects?
- What are the critical/foundational assumptions? How can you verify them?
- Where are you uncertain and expect additional information to be valuable? How can you collect this information?
- Who is an expert at this? How can you get their input?
- What’s the minimum effective dose to get the desired results?
- What would you do to achieve your goal with only 10% of current inputs?
- How can you increase the leverage of your efforts? What do you need to stop doing?
- How can you make yourself redundant?
- What if you could only subtract to solve problems?
- Would you be worried if the details were made public? If yes, why?
- What would your successor do?