Intelligent Leaders—Take An Hour A Day
Each leader, author and consultant has a somewhat different philosophy for self-development. Decide on what it is that you wish to develop in your “self.” Create your own schedule and then protect that time. It is absolutely critical that if you wish to grow and develop in a specific area, then you need to protect this time as if your life depends on it—because it does. If you do not protect this time as yours, it will drift away from you with time and the pressures of life. This article is a reflection on what has worked for others and what is still working for me. From a mentoring perspective, this is the highest recommendation I can make for those who wish to become “Intelligent Leaders.” Take an hour a day for your “self.”
According to an HBR article, “Nike founder Phil Knight so reveres his library that, when you enter, you have to take off your shoes and bow.” He would protect this space and his time there as sacred.
Oprah Winfrey credits books to the development of her success: “Books were my pass to personal freedom.” She has shared her reading habit with the world via her book club. Oprah protects her reading time as essential to her life and business.
Consider the extreme reading habits of other billionaire entrepreneurs:
• Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and roughly 500 pages of corporate reports.
• Bill Gates reads approximately fifty books per year.
• Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks.
• Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother.
• Mark Cuban reads more than three hours every day.
• Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours a day.
• Billionaire entrepreneur David Rubenstein reads six books a week.
• Dan Gilbert, self-made billionaire and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, reads one to two hours a day.
For parents and teachers, here is an article that is written to promote reading with parents in school communities. Create the habit of reading in your children when they are young and this habit will permeate throughout their life time.
Reading Newsletter For Parents.2016 copy 2
2. Reflection & Silence
Everyone needs reflection time, thinking time and learning how to deal with silence. These times need to be quiet and without interruption. Locating the right time and space for this is essential. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong makes his senior team spend four hours per week just thinking. Jack Dorsey is a serial wanderer. LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, schedules two hours of thinking time per day. Brian Scudamore, the founder of the $250 million company O2E Brands, spends ten hours a week just thinking.
When Reid Hoffman needs help thinking through an idea, he calls one of his mentor friends: Peter Thiel, Max Levchin or Elon Musk. I cannot emphasize the advantages to having a mentor enough. The strongest leaders have mentors (formal and informal.)
When billionaire Ray Dalio makes a mistake, he logs it into a system that is public to all employees at his company. Then, he schedules time with his team to find the root cause. Billionaire entrepreneur Sara Blakely is a long-time ‘journaler.’ In one interview, she shared that she has more than twenty notebooks in which she logged the terrible things that happened to her and the gifts that have unfolded as a result. Many authors refer to this as “journalling.” Technically, if you can write out your thoughts, then they become clear and more articulate. Sometimes drawing a picture and labelling it, brings perception to clarity. Some people simply need a friend to say it out loud so they can hear themselves saying it. Effective mentors will empower their partners with this strategy. Much of this is about learning styles. Just recognize what works best for you and make it happen regularly and consistently.
3. Take Action
There needs to be an action phase for your learning. Some call this the experimentation phase. In leadership there needs to be “action forward.” Make plans, reach for clarity, then make the plans happen!
Throughout his life, Ben Franklin set aside time for experimentation, masterminding with like-minded individuals, and tracking key principles for further development. He would learn as much about what doesn’t work as what does work. He would view trials as just that—a series of trials and not failures. Google famously allowed employees to experiment with new projects during twenty percent of their work time. Facebook encourages experimentation through “Hack-a-Months.” These approaches are on the edge of new frontiers.
The biggest example of experimentation might be Thomas Edison’s. Even though he was a genius, Edison approached new inventions with humility. He would identify every possible solution and then systematically test each one of them. According to one of his biographers, “Although he understood the theories of his day, he found them useless in solving unknown problems.”
He took the approach to such an extreme that, Nikola Tesla, had this to say about the trial-and-error approach: “If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be. He would proceed at once with the feverish diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.”
People who apply the above strategies for life learning find themselves in leadership positions. The idea of deliberate practice is often confused with just working hard. Also, most professionals focus on productivity and efficiency, not on improvement. Simply taking an hour a day for your “self” sets you apart from others.
Billionaire entrepreneur Marc Andreessen poignantly talked about “improvement rate” in a recent interview. “I think the archetype/myth of the 22-year-old founder has been blown completely out of proportion. I think skill acquisition, literally the acquisition of skills and how to do things, is just dramatically underrated.”
People are often overvaluing the experience of just jumping into the deep end of the pool, because the reality is that people who jump into the deep end of the pool drown. Andreessen clarified that, “There’s a reason there are so many remarkable stories about Mark Zuckerberg. There aren’t that many Mark Zuckerbergs. Most of them are still floating face down in the pool. And so, for most of us, it’s a good idea to get skills first.” Then think about a reasonable plan that is action forward.
The really great CEOs, if you spend time with them—you would find this to be true of Mark Zuckerberg today or of any of the great CEOs of today or the past—they are really intelligent in their knowledge of how to run a company, and it’s very hard to have that level of intuition in your early twenties. The path that makes much more sense for most people is to spend five to ten years getting skills and evolving your thinking process.
An hour a day for self-development should be the bare minimum for anyone wishing to become an Intelligent Leader.
We need to move beyond the cliché, “Lifelong learning is good,” and think more deeply about the minimum amount of learning the average person should do per day to have a sustainable and successful career. Malcolm Gladwell draws the analogy that it takes 10,000 hours to develop a truly refined skill set.
Just as we have minimum recommended dosages of vitamins and steps per day and of aerobic exercise for leading a healthy life physically, we should be more rigorous about how we, as an information society, think about the minimum doses of deliberate learning for leading a healthy life economically. You can read while you use your stationary cycle; however, it is not the same as quiet thinking time.
The long-term effects of not learning are just as insidious as the long-term effects of not having a healthy lifestyle. The CEO of AT&T makes this point loud and clear in an interview with the New York Times; he said that those who don’t spend at least five to ten hours a week learning online “will obsolete themselves with technology.”