Greg shares some things. Monthly.
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First Thoughts

Hello 2017! 

Last year, I attempted 'theme words.' I picked three overarching themes for the year (Design, Innovation, and Leadership) as well as monthly sub-themes that each First Thoughts would follow. It was an interesting experiment and I understand how it could be helpful for others, but more than anything, I really struggled to hold to my predetermined themes. More often than not, I found myself trying to force-fit my work into the themes rather than letting the themes influence my work. (That is to say, I basically went about the process backwards. Oops.)

For example, in advance of the month themed 'Pivot' I started looking for a book to read. So I googled "pivot book" and read one that had just come out. It sucked. (There has since been another book by the same title that's supposedly very good.) While there's nothing wrong with reading bad books (looking at you, Twilight fans) it caused additional stress for me because I wanted to have something worth sharing with you all. And then there were months that I was completely unprepared for. I had totally procrastinated, not even looked at the theme word at all, and just cobbled something together before the 1st of the month deadline. Obviously, having theme words wasn't beneficial in these cases...

Retrospectively, I can see how the three themes of Design, Innovation, Leadership played out over the course of the year and how I've grown in each area (including my pending pursuit of a PhD in Design) but I'm hesitant to say these words were catalytic or causal to my learning in these areas. In no way do I regret this experiment. In fact, if given the option, I would do it again. That's how you learn and grow: you try new things and see what happens. You pay attention to the results and make adjustments moving forward.

This month I want to provide a couple of resources to help you do just that. Reflect, learn, iterate, and move forward. You'll find a book on the role of deliberate practice and the science of self-improvement, an article on how Victor Hugo dressed in a large shawl to spur his work on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a TED talk about panic monsters and instant-gratification-monkeys, and a memed review of 2016.

Sláinte mhaith

Reader's Digest

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

Anders Ericsson

Ever heard of the "10,000 Hour Rule?" It has entered modern lore (largely through Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers) as what it takes to become the best in the world at something: 10,000 hours of practice. Anders Ericsson is the one who did the original research and this is his next work about what success looks like and how to get there. 


  • Practice doesn't make you better, deliberate practice does
  • Deliberate practice requires focus, feedback, and fixing issues as soon as they arise
  • We must choose which question we seek to answer: 
How do we improve the relevant skills
how do we teach the relevant knowledge?
  • Focus on mental representations and building skills, not acquiring knowledge, especially not in short-term memory

Key Quote

"This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve."

“The reason that most people don’t possess these extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. They live in the world of 'good enough.' The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in,”



Ericsson totally calls out Gladwell for wrenching his research completely out of context and unequivocally refutes the way the "10,000 Hour Rule" was packaged and presented. If this were a rap battle, Ericsson just dropped the mic.

Around the Web

The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do and What to Do About It

James Clear

You probably have some goals or resolutions for the year. But you're not going to keep them. This is why. AND this is how to overcome your akrasia and actually write that book, run those miles, and drink less soda.


Key Quote

"It’s not being in the work that is hard, it’s starting the work. The friction that prevents us from taking action is usually centered around starting the behavior. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to do the work."

TED Talk: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

Tim Urban

Lemme guess... you skipped right over that article and jumped straight to the TED talk. Hey, it's January 1. You're in your PJs,(or last night's attire maybe?) and you just want to put on a video. I get it. So consider this video the funnier version of the article above. Also, it's HILARIOUS and involves an instant-gratification monkey.

Just for fun:

I hope you didn't have plans for the rest of today. If so, cancel 'em. Here's a look at 2016. In memes.

Here's to a great year ahead!

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,

And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

- Robert Burns, 1788

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