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Brevity Rules

Brevity Rules

I contemplated making the title the entirety of the post.

Pay attention to how people communicate over the next two days, especially how they speak and what they produce for print media. How often do people spend a lot of their time “clearing their throat” before getting to the meat of what they want to discuss? How often after the main point is made do people repeat pretty much the same thing, as if this will somehow reinforce it?

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I have theories.

One is that people think more is better. It’s not. Better is better. Less can be far better than more. Putting less fluff, clutter, and repetition in your communication, whether in print or verbal, allows people to better isolate and consume the main point you’d like to make.

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On paper, a great way to accomplish this is to hit them straight between the eyes right after the title. Sure, you can use a little bit of introductory material to explain the circumstances as they stand today, usually the “problem” to be solved. But then, go right to the shortest, most succinct, easiest to digest version of what you have to say. If you want things to change, say, “Things have to change. Here’s how.” Make the point so stand-alone that people can’t avoid seeing it, feeling it, and absorbing it. Thereafter, you can build on the point, explain it out a little more, give it flesh and dimensions.

When speaking, consider the mental, emotional, and stress states of the person or people about to receive your message. If you want to tell your team that you’ve decided to take a job elsewhere, but they’re still talking about the coffee pot exploding early that morning, you might start with something that cues them to the eventual impact of your statement. “I have some important news.” It’s brief, not dramatic, and it sets the mental so that the team pays attention. Then, you can say, “I’ve decided to move on to a new role at a different company, effective three weeks from yesterday.” That’s a very succinct message, and it gives people a chance to think about all you’ve said. Note that I didn’t go into the reasons. Give them time to consider first.

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And on presentations (which seem to be on my mind lately), brief rules the day. Use words on slides as if they cost you personally $3000 a word. Make the words powerful icons of the meaning underneath them. If you’re selling the best lawn mower in the world, slap up a huge colorful picture of that baby and put the words: “It cuts better.” I swear to *.deity that you will get a powerful response from fewer words. Put up a novel on every slide, and people will check their Blackberry so much that you worry about their necks.

Now that I’ve chewed up hundreds of words telling you to be brief, let me close by saying that the recipients of your message will appreciate it greatly. Further, it might even help shift the culture a bit to adopt your amazing new brief style. Try it.

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Last Updated on May 16, 2019

The Daily Rituals of 7 Successful CEOs

The Daily Rituals of 7 Successful CEOs

One of my favorite success quotes ever comes from one of the original and most successful ‘CEOs’ of his era: Aristotle. Here’s what he said:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

This advice is just as sound today as it was when Aristotle first expressed it, way back when. I’m reminded of this at least once a week, when I interview an inspiring author, leader, or successful CEO on my show. I ask my guests a series of questions about what has contributed to their success and their ability to build something meaningful.

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You want to know what nearly all of them say? Almost every time, they respond by telling me that their success is the result of simple habits  enacted day after day.

These quotes from seven successful CEOs demonstrate the daily rituals that have contributed to their success:

1. Promote what you love.

“It’s so much better to promote what you love than to bash what you hate.” – Jessica Alba, CEO of The Honest Company

2. Develop a feedback loop.

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” – Elon Musk, CEO of TESLA Motors

3. Create things that are better, not just “different.”

“Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better—to go from 0 to 1. The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.” – Peter Thiel, CEO of Palantir and best-selling author of Zero To One.

4. Meditate.

“Meditate. Breathe consciously. Listen. Pay attention. Treasure every moment. Make the connection.” – Oprah Winfrey, CEO of OWN Network

5. Read every day.

“Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest.”-Warren Buffet, CEO of investment firm Berkshire-Hathaway

6. Block time for email.

“Set aside a 20- to 30-minute chunk of time two or three times a day for email. Do not check continually through the day.” – Doug Camplejohn, CEO of predictive lead marketing company FlipTop.

7. Make your customers happy.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com

Develop the right rituals. Become a successful CEO.

If the majority of these daily habits are new to you, avoid making the crucial mistake of adopting all of these habits at once. Research on habit-formation indicates that lasting habits are formed one at a time.

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For example, let’s say you’re excited about developing the following daily habits:

  • daily reading,
  • daily meditation, and
  • updating your to-do list every night

Let’s say that daily reading is the one that excites you the most out of the three habits noted above. It would be wise of you to begin by choosing and scheduling time to read every day, and then sticking to that time until it becomes a habit. Once it feels effortless and automatic, you’ll know that you’ve turned it into a daily habit. Now you’re ready to install the next habit… and the next… Until before you know it, you’ll start looking in the mirror and seeing the reflection of a successful CEO.

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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