Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
7 things to never stop improving
Writing and speaking and negotiating... also 7 other things worth knowing today.
Think of the most successful people you know.
Perhaps you're thinking of someone you grew up with or went to school with. Maybe the people you imagine include someone you've worked with, or been fortunate to recruit as a mentor.
Maybe—although you'd never admit this out loud—they include you.
Regardless, I'll bet I can identify seven skills these people never stop trying to improve. Let me know how far I am from the mark.
I'm a writer, so perhaps it's inevitable that I'm going to put this one first. But there's more to writing than communicating.
Writing is the key to thinking things through. It's why people can sit through a brief presentation and feel as though they've mastered a subject, only to realize when they're really challenged to explain it, they don't know it at all.
The more you write, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the better armed you are for what comes next.
2. Public speaking
One-on-one communication is vital, but so is one-to-many. Yet so often people's mediocre presentation abilities get in the way of excellent ideas. So, the most successful people among us seek out opportunities to present, to speak, and to share ideas.
(Not sure where to begin to improve your public speaking abilities? Maybe start here.)
This skill is often a mash-up of other skills, of course. But the most successful people train themselves to see the opportunity in every problem, instead of the problem inside every opportunity. Among the crucial skills is the ability to break down seemingly insurmountable problems into much more manageable tasks.
Related realization: The second-most challenging problems in the world are the ones without obvious solutions, but the most challenging problems are the ones that most people take for granted—to the point that they don't even realize they are problems.
4. Practicing generosity
People don't remember what you say or do so much as they remember how you make them feel. (Hat tip Maya Angelou among many others.) One thing people do remember: when people treat them with generosity. So, the most successful people grapple with this concept, learn its many definitions, and seek to incorporate it in their interactions.
Also: Generosity is the first cousin of gratitude, which is the key to happiness and contentment.
Everything in life can be a negotiation. That can sound a bit aggressive, but taken as a simple statement of fact it's a lot less fraught.
The key is a recognition that in almost every interaction—from a big business deal to a simple conversation between friends or romantic partners—you're trying to work together to achieve things you couldn't achieve as effectively on your own.
(I've written a lot more about this, for example here.)
6. Keeping their ego in check
The most successful people on the planet often describe themselves as lifelong learners. One of the obstacles that stops less successful people from following this goal is that they let themselves be threatened by the mere fact that other people and experiences have something to teach them.
But if you can train yourself not to be threatened—to keep your ego in check, and seek out the lessons around you—you wind up gaining advantages beyond your ability to dream.
7. Building emotional intelligence
I'll end on this one, since I've written an awful lot about the subject.
In short, once you recognize that people communicate on multiple emotional dimensions, and that there are ways to leverage emotions—both your own and other people's—to achieve your goals, it becomes almost impossible to ignore. And, frankly, a lot of fun to get better at.
7 other things worth knowing today
A member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), read a brief, two-paragraph AI-generated speech on the House floor, regarding a bill to create a U.S.-Israel artificial intelligence center, he opted to let the AI do the talking. Auchincloss said he used ChatGPT in order to spur debate on AI, adding that he doesn’t want to see a repeat of the advent of social media, which started small and ballooned faster than Congress could react. (AP)
Denmark plans compulsory military conscription for women, as the Nordic country seeks to significantly boost the size of its armed forces. (Straits Times)
Americans aren’t exercising enough. Only 28% of Americans spend at least 150 minutes per week—roughly 20 minutes a day—doing moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and at least two days per week doing muscle-strengthening activities. The CDC analyzed more than 30,000 responses from its 2020 National Health Interview Survey. (MSN)
A high fat diet could reduce the brain’s ability to regulate food intake, according to a new study out of Penn State College of Medicine. Fun fact: I read about this study on my phone while eating at In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles. (I go there like once every two years or so, so I'm not that worried.) (EurekaAlert)
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is adding 15,000 jobs across its North American locations—a sign that demand for restaurant food is robust despite high inflation and economic uncertainty. The burrito chain’s hiring push is meant to ensure its more than 3,000 US restaurants are fully staffed for the company’s busiest season, which stretches from March to May. (Bloomberg)
How did eggs get so expensive in the USA so quickly? The American Egg Board has blamed the price rise on an unprecedented outbreak of H1N1, a particularly virulent strain of avian flu that has a near 100% fatality rate among birds. But one farmer-advocacy group accuses major egg producers of gouging prices in a “collusive scheme” aimed at increasing profits. (The Guardian)
The winner of one of the largest EuroMIllions jackpots burned through most of his winnings before his death in 2019, new documents revealed. Colin Weir from North Ayrshire, Scotland, won a record-breaking £161 million (roughly $257.6 million) in 2011. He died in 2019 at age 71, and spent an average of £100,000 (roughly $131,900 during that time) per week on luxury items and investments. (Fox News)