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10 Essential Life Lessons from Daniel Pink

On work, regret, decision-making, getting things done, and dealing with hassles

Photo by Boston Public Library on Unsplash

Daniel H. Pink, as his website bio states, “is the author of several provocative, bestselling books about business, work, creativity, and behavior.” He also teaches the wonderful MasterClass Sales and Persuasion, about which I wrote this:

I pre-ordered Pink’s upcoming book, The Power of Regret, not only because I love his ideas and the way he presents them, but also because a pre-order gave me access to his special online event “The 10 Most Important Lessons I’ve Ever Learned”.

Well, the event was a few hours ago and it was worth it. Eighty engaging minutes of helpful, wise ideas about how to approach life and relate to others.

While it’s all fresh in my mind, and before my notes cease to make sense, here’s an as-brief-as-they-get summary of what I absorbed, in countdown fashion, the same way Pink presented his lessons.

Lesson 10: The best way to make a decision

Ask yourself: What would I tell my best friend to do?

Why? Because “We are better at solving other people’s problems than our own.” (This and all quotes are by Daniel Pink — except where otherwise noted)

Lesson 9: The best way to get things done, part 1

Do it “bird by bird”.

The idea here came from a book by Anne Lamott titled (you guessed it) Bird by Bird. In a nutshell, the “bird by bird” bit comes from a story in the book where Lamott’s brother had to complete a term paper on birds and he just couldn’t get started. Their father had just the solution. Start with one bird, then on to the next bird, and the next, until you finish.

You don’t necessarily need to know, or think about, all the steps to get to your destination or finish an assignment. Just deal with the first obvious step, which leads to the next natural step, which leads to the next step, and on and on until you get there.

Lesson 8: The best way to know what to do

“Pick the professor more than the class.”

You’ll usually end up in a better place when you focus on who you engage with more than on exactly what you’re doing. As Pink put it, “Don’t work with jerks. Don’t tolerate them.”

The company you keep not only shapes you but also says a lot about who you are.

Lesson 7: The best way to persuade somebody, including yourself

“Make it easy for them to do it.”

One tends to think you must first get people to change their minds to convince them to act a certain way.

It turns out this sequence hardly ever happens in real life. Quite the opposite, when you get people to act by making it easy for them to do so, they’re likely to end up changing their minds. Are we humans not weird?

Lesson 6: Distinguishing good ideas from not-so-good ideas

Pink’s system: “Generate, capture, socialize”.

  1. Generate: “At the early stages, every idea is worthy.” When you generate lots of ideas, one or two of them might end up being good ideas.
  2. Capture: “Out of your head and into a system.” The system can include a Word document, a notebook, and an actual box. Whatever works!
  3. Socialize: “You are enriched by sharing ideas.” You can never know the implications, applications, rebuttals, etc., others might come up with unless you share your idea in the first place.

Lesson 5: The best way to deal with hassles

“Extinguish it” and “reframe it as a test”.

Technique 1: Any task you can get done in less than 2 minutes, do it now.

Technique 2: Reframing a problem or obstacle as a test transfers it from the realm of emotions (Why me? I can’t believe this guy! I can’t take it!) to the realm of cognition, where you can weigh your options with clarity.

Lesson 4: The best way to liberate yourself

“Care a lot less about what people think of you.”

On the one hand, people think about you a lot less than you might believe. (They mostly think about themselves, their own problems and joys.) On the other hand, you have minimal control over what others will think.

This insight applies to this very summary I’m writing. I was concerned Daniel Pink would think badly of me for sharing my summary of his ideas!

Then again, who do I think I am that Pink will give any thought to me? He’s got a book about to be published for Chrissakes. Then too there’s the fact that, if anything, this summary obviously can do no justice to the content of Pink’s books, and can only spur people to check them out and possibly buy them.

Lesson 3: The best way to get things done, part 2

You need to remind yourself often of the Big Picture.

This is where Pink brought in Al Gore, who explained that he kept a big image of planet Earth on the wall of his West Wing office to remind himself of his mission to fight climate change.

Pink is a big proponent of planting triggers, symbols and reminders in the environment to keep you focused on the big picture. Such “iconography”, as Pink called these reminders, can include pictures, items, art, or anything else that inspires you to focus on what most matters to you.

Lesson 2: The best way to deal with your regrets

“Inward, outward, forward.”

Inward: Treat yourself with kindness. Everyone makes mistakes. Forgive yourself.

Outward: Disclose your regrets. This allows us to make sense of the emotion; even writing about it in a journal can help.

Forward: Focus on the lessons you can extract from your regret.

Sounds simple, no? And yet Pink wrote a whole book about regret, so there must be a lot more to it. Stay tuned.

Lesson 1: Best three words to say regularly

Please and Thank you.

When you use “Please” and “Thank you”, it shows you’re aware that you are not entitled to what you are asking or receiving. These words convey appreciation and respect. Plus gratitude deepens our sense of purpose and recognizes the kindness of others.

And that is it! Ten very good lessons which got me thinking: What are the ten most important lessons I have learned so far during my time on this planet we share?

Thank you for reading!




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