Highlights from “Achievement Habit”

A flight to India is 19 hours long. While movies help kill these hours, last time I decided to read a book instead :-0 I picked Achievement Habit. If you are wondering why this book, then it was the mention of d.school in the introductory chapter.

As I read the book, I realized the book was not focused on d.school. Instead, it was a collection of observations from d.school and about life in general. While at times common, the life lessons (and accompanying stories) were interesting and useful. In addition, most observations were accompanied by now-your-turn kinda drills that act as how-to guide and provide readers an opportunity to test out the observations.

While almost all chapters in the book have something to offer, I really liked the following chapters: 1) Nothing is what you think it is, 2) Reasons are bullshit, and 6) Watch your language. The first chapter demystifies the “meaning” we attach to things, the second chapter really holds a mirror to how we (mis)use reasons in daily life, and the sixth chapter presents some nuances in how we use language, what it can mean, and how small changes can have a big effect. I was intrigued by the view points in these chapters as they were unlike any I have read or heard previously.

Here are some bits from the book that I liked.

  1. Functional and dysfunctional behavior both result from choice people make based on meaning they create.
  2. Nothing is what you think it is. You give everything its meaning.
  3. Experiencing failure in an endeavor may initially be painful, but it is rarely catastrophic unless you give it that meaning.
  4. Once you understand that you can choose what meaning and importance to place on something, you can also understand that it is you, not external circumstances, who determines that quality of your life.
  5. In life, typically, the only one keeping a scorecard of your successes and failures is you, and there are ample opportunities to learn the lessons you need to learn, even if you didn’t get it right the first — or the fifth — time.
  6. Next time you find yourself playing right and wrong, remember: You give everything in your life its meaning, so you can choose to end the game. It does not matter how right you are or how wrong they are; you lose just by playing.
  7. Many reasons are simply excuses to hide the fact that we are not willing to give something a high enough priority in our lives.
  8. Simply by noticing how reasons are used, you can gain insight into your own behavior and your relationships with others.
  9. Be confident enough in your actions not to need to explain yourself. Trust yourself and act.
  10. Often we say the opposite of what we really mean when faced with beliefs or behavior we find troubling.
  11. “If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter which road you choose.”
  12. “All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad” — Moby Dick
  13. Steal back the time to support your intentions.
  14. Change for change’s sake is not necessarily good. Sometimes it is okay to fail in the pursuit of a meaningful goal.
  15. Often just getting a good problem statement is enough to set you on the road to a great solution.
  16. If you don’t really want to do it, then the world might be nice enough to give you goooood reasons why it can’t be done.
  17. By examining your own rationalizations and moral compromises, you can better understand the complexity and unpredictability of peoples’ ethical and moral decisions.
  18. If you are mindful about what you have done, failure is a teacher.
  19. Don’t be afraid of failure. It is part of the price you pay for action. The most liberating way to acknowledge failure is to celebrate it.
  20. Fear of failure often keeps us in an unsatisfying routine.
  21. It is best to always speak from how it makes you feel or what you personally believe.
  22. One of the most difficult things is to listen to someone else’ story and not interrupt. The nest most difficult thing when you are a listener is not to follow immediately with one of your own stories.
  23. Go beyond the good listening. Get to a point where you know the intention, not just the words.
  24. The best communicator isn’t necessarily the person who knows the fanciest words; it’s the person who pays attention and makes others know that they’ve been heard.
  25. It’s important to learn to be motivated to do your personal best, regardless of what happens around you.
  26. Teachers need to be clear what their intention is for each class session, and develop a style suited to who they are.
  27. Causing our behavior to fall in line with our self-image requires telling ourselves the truth, not lying to ourselves or rationalizing our behavior.
  28. “Insanity in individuals is something rare — but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule” — Friedrich Nietzsche
  29. It’s a very good idea to have a general sense of your goals in life, and an equally good idea not to get too rigid about your path. Stay open to possibility: let other people in, and listen when new opportunities present themselves.
  30. The constraints on our career paths tend to be self-imposed.
  31. The things we take for granted, and simply assume, are the basis for our self-image, and give the things in our lives their meaning. By making our background assumptions explicit, we are able to affirm them or change them.
  32. Realize that your mind is trickier than you think, and is always working with your ego to make you believe you are doing better than you really are.

Overall, I think the book was an interesting read. The writing style along with the number of stories/anecdotes peppered through out the book made the book an easy and brisk read. So, if you are looking for some different view points, then pick this book.