Tag: Growth Rings

Learn from Others and Tie Your Camel

After watching then New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady at practice, former Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, in a 2018 Sports Illustrated article, observed: 

“Everything Brady does, he does with purpose… bag drills, footwork drills, the dropping back, throwing to one receiver …the great ones… don’t waste any reps…the great ones never think they’re beyond improvement…”

The story reminds us how leaders, whether formally appointed executives and team captains or informal mentors, set the tone and example for any group. In this post, I revisit lessons that continue to help me and my team improve and make better decisions.

We Learn by Watching Others

We learn what is acceptable and okay based on what our leaders and role models do [see “We All Lead by Example”]. This applies both to productive habits and less desirable ones. For example, while I learned much about leadership and integrity from my Dad, I also picked up choice four-letter words when listening to him on the phone in the other room when I was a kid. (I fear my daughters learned the same words from me the same way…)

People always watch and learn from others. Kids watch parents. Players watch coaches. Students watch teachers. Citizens watch their elected leaders. The actions and behaviors of others serve as models and permissions. If the goal is to become a better leader, manager, and person, then embrace the idea that, first, we can learn by watching others – especially “the best” – go about their work and, second, that we serve and lead as examples for others, as well.

Trust in Allah but Tie Your Camel

How do you decide on who to trust? By comparing a person’s words to their actions. Does the person do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it? Do they answer questions simply and directly? Long rambling answers and failures to follow-through increase doubt and decrease trust. 

Years ago, partners at another consulting firm expressed interest on three separate occasions to explore a potential joint venture with Forisk and promised to follow up for a demo and details. They never did. To this day, I view those individuals and their work as unreliable. 

A manager or business owner cannot put up with the warm smelly mess of excuses, missed deadlines, bashful apologies, and inconsiderate tardiness that leave tracks through the office and get carried home. If someone fails to do their job or what they say they are going to do, you have a right and obligation to communicate and reinforce the expectation, to make a change if required, and to move on. 


If you think in terms of absolutes relative to your values and priorities, then decisions related to hiring and firing and improvement are easier [see Notes on Managing a Business]. Stop rationalizing. Say no to choices, offers, and performance counter to your values and goals. Don’t wait for the manure to hit the fan. Determine what is important, before the divorce, heart attack, kid failing a class, or upset client. Look at how the best perform. Then move forward, do your best, and have some fun.

Information Overload: Brains and Homo Sapiens

We share the brain of our ancestors. The humans of one hundred thousand years ago, as they started migrating from Africa, toted between their ears brains similar to the ones we carry today.[1] The average homo sapiens on the street, with a comparable mental engine to our own, was simply at a different phase in the collective understanding of how things worked. They cut with sharpened stones while we etch with lasers. They hunted and gathered while we order online. They walked while we drive.

Today, we have a different challenge. Rather than make our way with roughhewn tools and limited knowledge, we flounder under an avalanche of information when making decisions. The sources of the information, from social media to corporate advertisers to political campaigns to entertainers, are incented to produce a flood of content, and they do so with a jovial disregard for the implications on our mental or community health. It’s a numbers game that requires capturing and retaining monetizable volumes of eyeballs and attention.

In 1971, Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon wrote, “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” 

“What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

The implication from Simon’s observation is that the pain of dealing with this information overload falls on us. And we are not well-prepared for the task. We share the scarcity mentality of our ancestors, who scavenged for food and knowledge, while we live lives of relative and absolute abundance. We hoard and consume and struggle to manage inboxes. We stuff offsite storage facilities with so many “precious” belongings that they could furnish a small planet.  We are simply not that good at sifting, sorting, and deleting.

Anything we can do teach our children and ourselves how to filter and capture useful information, to appreciate the fertile nature of how lessons in one area may enhance our ability to understand things in another, the more we advance positive self-care, confidence, and our collective ability to learn. In this way, we prepare our minds for navigating and battling the overwhelming noise of a chaotic world.

In future posts, I will focus on the personal “growth rings” of learning, thinking, and communicating.

[1] S. Neubauer, J.-J. Hublin, P. Gunz, The evolution of modern human brain shape. Science Advances. 4, eaao5961 (2018). Available at: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aao5961