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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Your Communication Isn't Working!

When project teams are surveyed at the end of failed projects, poor communications is always cited as being one of the major causes. Why does this keep happening? Why is project communications so poorly executed so often?  My short answer is that many project managers are arrogant, inattentive, and oblivious to the feelings and needs of the project team.

Project managers get busy. Many times they don't make time to manage project communications properly. Also, the project manager may think they are doing a good job communicating, but that may not be the case.

Project managers must remember that the project team is made up of individuals. Each person on the team has a preference for the types of communication they like to receive, and each person processes communications differently.

Some things to monitor that may point to poor project communications are:

Trust - Does the team trust you (the project manager)? How do you know? Everybody will not trust you all the time. Team members that don't trust the project manager will not be open in their communications. They will tend to either shut down or challenge the project manager at every turn.

De-motivated - Where are we going? Are we going where we said we were going when we started? Did we clearly state where we were going before we started?

Whining - Despair and anxiety take over the team or key team members. Infighting is prevalent and people are starting to talk openly about the project being a failure.

Incompetence - Team isn't sharing information and learning. Perhaps the team has had little to no training, or the training received was of poor quality.

All the above can be overcome, however it requires that the project manager is listening and changing strategy when necessary to get the team back on track. Just because you are a project manager doesn't make you a good communicator, however ignoring problems like the ones mentioned above will make you a bad project manager.

My two cents are, be a leader. Lead through your communication and your ability to motivate your team to get the job done. Be on the lookout for the above warning signs. When you see signs of the warning signs act quickly, follow-up, then continue to monitor.

Poor project team synergy is the fault of the project manager. There are a lot of incompetent project managers that are hurting our profession because they either refuse to alter their communication styles or are too arrogant to change. My advice to them is to change their ways or leave the project management profession.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

The Junction of Dysfunction

When you go to meetings, pretend to listen then walk away and criticize those you just met with, that is dysfunction

When you pretend to trust others, but look for ways to poke holes in their beliefs, that is dysfunction

When you reward mediocrity…dysfunction

When you create something that has questionable value yet hold it up as something awesome….hyper-dysfunction

When you support and encourage weak "leaders" that cause upheaval and mayhem …you have dysfunction

When enterprise standards and processes are ignored…you guessed it…dysfunction

When commitments are made than ignored…yep…more dysfunction

When the people in ivory towers refuse to sit down with the commoners... dysfunction

When you reward your team for winning the silent “us vs. them” war… dysfunction is the winner (guess who is the loser)

When you allow a rogue manager to steamroll others inside and outside your department…you have dysfunction

When you treat your staff like mushrooms (leaving them in the dark)…you again have dysfunction

In closing…be real, be relevant, be a team player, and most of all be trustworthy. Nobody respects a talking head. You have to be visible, engaged and respected to be effective and relevant.

Remember, if you aren't visibile you aren't relevant and if you aren't relevant you aren't needed.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Awesome Manager!

 From @MrEchs on Twitter

What an awesome boss!

Rechs’ promises as he wrote them are as follows: 

1. We’ll have a weekly 1:1. I’ll never cancel this meeting, but you can cancel it whenever you like. It’s your time.


2. Our 1:1 agenda will be in the meeting invite so we remember important topics. But you’re always free to use the time for whatever’s on your mind.


3. When I schedule a meeting with you, I’ll always say *when I schedule it* what it’s meant to be about. I will not schedule meetings without an agenda.


4. When I drop into your DM’s, I’ll always say “hi and why.” No suspense, no small talk while you are wondering what I want.


5. News or announcements that significantly impact you, your work, or your team will come from me directly in a 1:1, not revealed in a big meeting.


6. You’ll get feedback from me when it’s fresh. There will be no feedback in your performance review that you’re hearing for the first time.


7. I trust you to manage your own time. You don’t need to clear with me in advance your time AFK or OOO.


8. Your work gets done your way. My focus is on outcomes, not output. Once we’re clear on where we need to go, how to get there is up to you. If I ever find it necessary to suggest a specific approach, I will supply an example.


9. A team is strongest when it’s working together, looking after one another, and taking care of each other. Please look to your left and to your right for opportunities to help your colleagues. Please ask for help when you need it. Nobody works alone.


10. I trust you to skip level and talk to my manager or other senior management about anything you feel is relevant. You don’t need to clear it with me, and I’m not going to get weird about it when you do.


11. I will attribute credit appropriately to you and your team. I will never exaggerate my own role or minimize your contribution. I’ll be especially certain to nail down attribution when senior management are hearing of our accomplishments.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

 This Soviet war poster conveys the message: "Don't chatter! Gossiping borders on treason" (1941).


According to Marilyn Haight, at BigBadBoss.com Office Politics “is the use of one's individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one's legitimate authority.” Those advantages may include access to tangible assets, or intangible benefits such as status or pseudo-authority that influences the behavior of others. Both individuals and groups may engage in Office Politics."

I think most people would agree that those participating in office politics seek to gain an advantage. Being a skillful office politician may get you recognized or promoted, but it may also come at the expense of your or another’s integrity.

Remember, gossip is usually destructive (at a minimum unfair) to somebody, and should be discouraged whenever possible. If we are honest, we would all admit that we participate in office gossip. We need to limit office gossip to be the exception, not the norm in our daily conversations with others.

Be accountable for your words in the workplace. Work should be fun and our work relationships should be positive and healthy. Healthy work relationships are dependent on gossip being kept to a minimum.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Genius of Tom Peters!

 Tom Peters - March 24, 2022

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Women buy everything.

Old people have all the money.

Women are [significantly| better leaders.

Beauty/grace/character is the design standard for a ball gown or a block of code.

Be the best. Not the biggest.

Every team should have a music or theater major aboard.

Moral behavior is the unswerving standard.

Excellence is not a hill to climb;' excellence is the next five minutes.

Community-mindedness is the norm.

Investment in relationships is the first 90percent of effectiveness.

Execution beats strategy.

Kindness, always.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Pareto Principle


There was a popular survey some time ago that asked leaders in several mid-sized companies about their success. One of the main reasons that many were successful is they focused on simplicity in everything they did. The study concluded that simple, focused companies were more profitable.

The Pareto or 80/20 Principle can help us realize the power of keeping things simple.

Some popular statistics that relate to the Pareto Principle are below:

80% of beer is consumed by 20% of the beer drinkers

80% of classroom participation comes from 20% of the students

80% of traffic jams occur on 20% of roads

20% of your clothes will be worn 80% of the time

80% of sales are generated by 20% of the sales staff

80% of problems are generated by 20% of the employees

80% of problems come from 20% of the customer base

Now that we know this, how do we make things simpler?  Try looking at your business processes to eliminate waste and complexity.

Questions to ask yourself and your organization when seeking to simplify your business processes:

What are our processes?

Who are our customers?

What systems do we use? Do we have the right systems in place to support our business?

What services do we offer internally and externally? Are they still valuable today?

Look for the 20% that adds value and eliminate or redesign the rest. 


We should be looking to automate, minimize, isolate, reduce, redesign, throw away, reinvent, rejuvenate, refresh, retire, or reallocate those things that are not helping us to achieve simplicity.  Achieving simplicity can be hard, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Don’t Pay Attention to all the Criticisim

Tom Peters a highly regarded speaker and writer said it best in his book The Project 50, “as project managers we should not try to convert our project enemies by overcoming their objections” and I would add through appeasement. Tom states “we should set out to surround and marginalize them; additionally, the most effective change agents ignore the barbs and darts, their time is spent on allies and likely allies”.


It seems to be in our nature to take on those that oppose us, particularly if they have been attacking us behind our backs. This taking on of the opposition is a waste of valuable project time and detracts the project manager from the task at hand. All projects will have detractors, whiners, and complainers. Don’t waste your time trying to convince them of the error of their ways. Let your project’s results answer your critics!

As project managers we need to spend our time working with our advocates and supporters, not answering our critics. If you say you don’t have critics on your project than I say you probably aren’t a very good project manager. The project manager that has friends everywhere on his projects is usually trying to satisfy everyone, and many times at the end of their project – if it ever ends – there will be low overall satisfaction due to all of the tradeoffs that were made between all of the competing interests.

When you push people, demand excellence, set deadlines, push for quality, hold individuals accountable, and are firm on agreed upon commitments you are going to ruffle some feathers. Get over it, and realize no matter what you do on your project there will always be detractors. Just don’t let the detractors sway you from implementing your project on time, on budget, within requirements, and most importantly with a satisfied customer as your biggest fan.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Powerful Habits of Truly Happy People

Dr. Travis Bradberry

Coauthor Emotional Intelligence 2.0 & President at TalentSmart

When we think of happiness, we typically think of things that bring us immediate pleasure—a decadent meal, a favorite book, or a relaxing day on the beach. These pleasures do bring happiness, but only temporarily. Recent studies have shown that true happiness, or life satisfaction, works a bit differently.


In one study, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman categorized hundreds of people into three groups based on how they pursued happiness:

The Pleasant Life: People in pursuit of the Pleasant Life seek happiness by looking for pleasure. They are good at savoring the moment and making their pleasures last. These people are often described as “thrill-seekers.”


The Engaged Life: People in pursuit of the Engaged Life seek happiness by working hard at their passions. They immerse themselves so deeply in these that they sometimes come across as cold and uncaring; but for them, time seems to melt away as they experience a state of total engagement.


The Meaningful Life: People in pursuit of the Meaningful Life use their strengths to work toward something they believe contributes to a greater good. This greater good motivates them deeply.


Seligman found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.


While Seligman’s research is just a single study, it shows that where you focus your energy and attention has a big impact on your happiness. Those who pursued the Engaged Life and the Meaningful Life had something important in common—they were deeply passionate, and they used their strengths to better themselves and the world around them.


Indeed, happy people are highly intentional. If you want to follow in their footsteps, learn to incorporate the following habits into your repertoire. 


Create your own happiness (don’t sit back and wait for it). Every second you waste waiting for happiness is a second you could have been using to create it. The happiest people aren’t the luckiest, wealthiest, or best-looking; the happiest people are those who make an effort to be happy. If you want to create your own happiness, you have to start by making it a priority. We work so hard to avoid letting other people down, but we so often do so at the expense of our own happiness.  


Surround yourself with the right people. Happiness is contagious. Surrounding yourself with happy people builds confidence and stimulates creativity, and it’s flat-out fun. Hanging around negative people has the opposite effect—they want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke?


Get enough sleep. I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to improving your mood, focus, and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, removing toxic proteins that accumulate during the day as byproducts of normal neuronal activity. This ensures that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your energy, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Happy people make sleep a priority, because it makes them feel great and they know how lousy they feel when they’re sleep deprived.


Live in the moment. You can’t reach your full potential until you learn to live your life in the present. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future. It’s impossible to be happy if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of this very moment. To help yourself live in the moment, you must do two things: First, accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and, in doing so, it will create your future. Second, accept the uncertainty of the future. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”


Learn to love yourself. Most of us have no problem marveling at our friends’ good qualities, but it can be hard to appreciate our own. Learn to accept who you are, and appreciate your strengths. Studies have shown that practicing self-compassion increases the number of healthy choices you make, improves mental health, and decreases your tendency to procrastinate.  


Appreciate what you have. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23 percent. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.


Exercise. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Happy people schedule regular exercise and follow through on it because they know it pays huge dividends for their mood.


Forgive, but don’t forget. Happy people live by the motto “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” They forgive in order to prevent a grudge, but they never forget. The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Holding on to that stress can have devastating consequences for your health and mood, and happy people know to avoid this at all costs. However, offering forgiveness doesn’t mean they’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Happy people will not be bogged down by mistreatment from others, so they quickly let things go and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.


Get in touch with your feelings. Attempting to repress your emotions doesn’t just feel bad; it’s bad for you. Learning to be open about your feelings decreases stress levels and improves your mood. One study even suggested that there was a relationship between how long you live and your ability to express your emotions. It found that people who lived to be at least 100 were significantly more emotionally expressive than the average person.  


Concentrate on what you can control. Rather than dwelling on the things you can’t control, try putting your effort into the things that you can. Have a long commute to work? Try listening to audiobooks. Hurt your leg jogging? Try swimming. More often than not, we take the bad and let it hold us back when it doesn’t have to. Happy people are happy because they take their failures in stride, not because they don’t fail.


Have a growth mindset. People’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged, because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed. People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. This makes them happier because they are better at handling difficulties. They also outperform those with a fixed mindset because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.


Bringing It All Together

These strategies won’t just improve your happiness; they’ll also make you a better person. Pick those that resonate with you and have fun with them

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Rewind - A Glimpse at my Project Management Beliefs

These are my rules for managing projects.  I acknowledge they may not be practicable in some circumstances and political climates, however you should strive to be familiar with them.

Feedback is always welcome!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Remove people from your team that don’t ask questions, don’t talk with other team members, won’t provide documentation, or won’t do analysis

Only people that aren’t competent won’t show off their work

Question authority or live with the result

A sense of humor can help get teams through tough times

A working meeting should have no more than five people. Meetings with more than five should be reserved for providing updates or relaying information

Project failure is planned at the beginning of the project

Project initiation is the most important project phase

Be honest in all your dealings

Project managers are expected to offer their opinions, but be accountable for their words

When it comes to project scope, what is not in writing has not been said

Have verifiable milestones 

End of project surveys must be completed and the results distributed to the team

Bad conclusions lead to more bad conclusions

Documented assumptions are believed to be true for planning purposes

The best lessons learned come from failures

Without data you only have an opinion

Data doesn’t tell the whole story

Bad data leads to bad decisions

Senior management is usually clueless when it comes to what your project is all about

A bad project team will never deliver good project results

If your project sponsor isn’t responsive you should put your project on-hold until such time they can become involved

The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle

A project manager’s main job is to keep the customer happy

At the end of a project if you have met all scope, quality, budget, and schedule objectives, but the customer isn’t satisfied your project is a failure

Documentation doesn’t replace knowledge

Most people want to do good work. Many times they don’t have the tools or information they need to perform well, or they aren’t managed properly

Project managers aren’t successful if their team members aren’t successful

Not all successful project managers are competent and not all unsuccessful project managers are incompetent. Sometimes you just have to be lucky

Good project managers are insecure by nature

An introvert can’t be a (successful) project manager

A project manager with lots of enemies won’t be successful over the
long run

You must be a relationship guru and be ready to fall on the sword sometimes

A project manager must be a motivator

If you don’t listen, you can’t plan

Project managers deal with change. You must be the change agent for your project. Your project sponsor is the change salesman

Remove people from your team that don’t ask questions, don’t talk with other team members, won’t provide documentation, or won’t do analysis

Only people that aren’t competent won’t show off their work

Question authority or live with the result

A sense of humor can help get teams through tough times

A working meeting should have no more than five people. Meetings with more than five should be reserved for providing updates or relaying information

Project failure is planned at the beginning of the project

Project initiation is the most important project phase

Be honest in all your dealings

Project managers are expected to offer their opinions, but be accountable for their words

When it comes to project scope, what is not in writing has not been said

Have verifiable milestones 

End of project surveys must be completed and the results distributed to the team

Bad conclusions lead to more bad conclusions

Documented assumptions are believed to be true for planning purposes

The best lessons learned come from failures

Without data you only have an opinion

Data doesn’t tell the whole story

Bad data leads to bad decisions

Senior management is usually clueless when it comes to what your project is all about

A bad project team will never deliver good project results

If your project sponsor isn’t responsive you should put your project on-hold until such time they can become involved

The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle

A project manager’s main job is to keep the customer happy

At the end of a project if you have met all scope, quality, budget, and schedule objectives, but the customer isn’t satisfied your project is a failure

Documentation doesn’t replace knowledge

Most people want to do good work. Many times they don’t have the tools or information they need to perform well, or they aren’t managed properly

Project managers aren’t successful if their team members aren’t successful

Not all successful project managers are competent and not all unsuccessful project managers are incompetent. Sometimes you just have to be lucky

Good project managers are insecure by nature

An introvert can’t be a (successful) project manager

A project manager with lots of enemies won’t be successful over the long run

You must be a relationship guru and be ready to fall on the sword sometimes

A project manager must be a motivator

If you don’t listen, you can’t plan

Project managers deal with change. You must be the change agent for your project. Your project sponsor is the change salesman

The Smile

There is nothing that you can receive from the material world that will create inner peace or fulfillment. The truth is, “the Smile” is generated through output. It’s not something you get, it’s something you cultivate through giving. 

In the end, it will not matter one single bit how well [people] loved you—you will only gain “the Smile” based on how well you loved them.”

- Will Smith

Monday, February 07, 2022

Einstein Quotes for the Project Manager


1." Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."

2. "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity"

3. "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."

4. "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

5. "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."

6. "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

7. "Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

8. "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

9. "It's not that I am so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

10. "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results."

11. "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

12. "You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."

13. "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

14. "The only source of knowledge is experience."

15. "You never fail until you stop trying."

16. "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them."

17. "A ship is always safe at the shore- but that is NOT what it is built for."

18. "If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things."

19. "Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible."

20. "It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility."

21."Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligent people don’t stop believing in themselves. 

Emotionally intelligent people persevere. They don’t give up in the face of failure, and they don’t give up because they’re tired or uncomfortable. They’re focused on their goals, not on momentary feelings, and that keeps them going even when things are hard. They don’t take failing to mean that they’re a failure. Likewise, they don’t let the opinions of others keep them from chasing their dreams. When someone says, “You’ll never be able to do that,” they regard it as one person’s opinion, which is all it is.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Ideas About How the World Works

 A list of ideas, in no particular order and from different fields, that help explain how the world works:


Depressive Realism: Depressed people have a more accurate view of the world because they’re more realistic about how risky and fragile life is. The opposite of “blissfully unaware.”

Skill Compensation: People who are exceptionally good at one thing tend to be exceptionally poor at another.

Curse of Knowledge: The inability to communicate your ideas because you wrongly assume others have the necessary background to understand what you’re talking about.

Base Rates: The success rate of everyone who’s done what you’re about to try.

Base-Rate Neglect: Assuming the success rate of everyone who’s done what you’re about to try doesn’t apply to you, caused by overestimating the extent to which you do things differently than everyone else.

Compassion Fade: People have more compassion for small groups of victims than larger groups, because the smaller the group the easier it is to identify individual victims.

System Justification Theory: Inefficient systems will be defended and maintained if they serve the needs of people who benefit from them – individual incentives can sustain systemic stupidity.

Three Men Make a Tiger: People will believe anything if enough people tell them it’s true. It comes from a Chinese proverb that if one person tells you there’s a tiger roaming around your neighborhood, you can assume they’re lying. If two people tell you, you begin to wonder. If three say it’s true, you’re convinced there’s a tiger in your neighborhood and you panic.

Buridan’s Ass: A thirsty donkey is placed exactly midway between two pails of water. It dies because it can’t make a rational decision about which one to choose. A form of decision paralysis.

Pareto Principle: The majority of outcomes are driven by a minority of events.

Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap.” The obvious inverse of the Pareto Principle, but hard to accept in practice.

Cumulative advantage: Social status snowballs in either direction because people like associating with successful people, so doors are opened for them, and avoid associating with unsuccessful people, for whom doors are closed.

Impostor Syndrome: Fear of being exposed as less talented than people think you are, often because talent is owed to cumulative advantage rather than actual effort or skill.

Anscombe’s Quartet: Four sets of numbers that look identical on paper (mean average, variance, correlation, etc.) but look completely different when graphed. Describes a situation where exact calculations don’t offer a good representation of how the world works.

Ringelmann Effect: Members of a group become lazier as the size of their group increases. Based on the assumption that “someone else is probably taking care of that.”

Semmelweis Reflex: Automatically rejecting evidence that contradicts your tribe’s established norms. Named after a Hungarian doctor who discovered that patients treated by doctors who wash their hands suffer fewer infections, but struggled to convince other doctors that his finding was true.

False-Consensus Effect: Overestimating how widely held your own beliefs are, caused by the difficulty of imagining the experiences of other people.

Boomerang Effect: Trying to persuade someone to do one thing can make them more likely to do the opposite, because the act of persuasion can feel like someone stealing your freedom and doing the opposite makes you feel like you’re taking your freedom back.

Chronological Snobbery: “The assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also ‘a period,’ and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions.” – C.S. Lewis

Planck’s Principle: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

McNamara Fallacy: A belief that rational decisions can be made with quantitative measures alone, when in fact the things you can’t measure are often the most consequential. Named after Defense Secretary McNamara, who tried to quantify every aspect of the Vietnam War.

Courtesy Bias: Giving opinions that are likely to offend people the least, rather than what you actually believe.

Berkson’s Paradox: Strong correlations can fall apart when combined with a larger population. Among hospital patients, motorcycle crash victims wearing helmets are more likely to be seriously injured than those not wearing helmets. But that’s because most crash victims saved by helmets did not need to become hospital patients, and those without helmets are more likely to die before becoming a hospital patient.

Group Attribution Error: Incorrectly assuming that the views of a group member reflect those of the whole group.

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: Noticing an idea everywhere you look as soon as it’s brought to your attention in a way that makes you overestimate its prevalence.

Ludic Fallacy: Falsely associated simulations with real life. Nassim Taleb: “Organized competitive fighting trains the athlete to focus on the game and, in order not to dissipate his concentration, to ignore the possibility of what is not specifically allowed by the rules, such as kicks to the groin, a surprise knife, et cetera. So those who win the gold medal might be precisely those who will be most vulnerable in real life.”

Normalcy Bias: Underestimating the odds of disaster because it’s comforting to assume things will keep functioning the way they’ve always functioned.

Actor-Observer Asymmetry: We judge others based solely on their actions, but when judging ourselves we have an internal dialogue that justifies our mistakes and bad decisions.

The 90-9-1 Rule: In social media networks, 90% of users just read content, 9% of users contribute a little content, and 1% of users contribute almost all the content. Gives a false impression of what ideas are popular or “average.”

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy: Goals set retroactively after an activity, like shooting a blank wall and then drawing a bullseye around the holes you left, or picking a benchmark after you’ve invested.

Fredkin’s Paradox: Confronted with two equally good options, you struggle to decide, even though your decision doesn’t matter because both options are equally good. The more equal the options, the harder the decision.

Poisoning the Well: Presenting irrelevant adverse information about someone in a way that makes everything else that person says seem untrustworthy. “Before you hear my opponent’s healthcare plan, let me remind you that he got a DUI in college.”

Golem Effect: Performance declines when supervisors/teachers have low expectations of your abilities.

Appeal to Consequences: Arguing that a hypothesis must be true (or false) because the outcome is something you like (or dislike). The classic example is arguing that climate change isn’t real because combating climate change will hurt the economy.

Plain Folks Fallacy: People of authority acquiring trust by presenting themselves as Average Joe’s, when in fact their authority proves they are different from everyone else.

Behavioral Inevitability: “History never repeats itself; man always does.” – Voltaire

Apophenia: A tendency to perceive correlations between unrelated things, because your mind can only deal with tiny sample sizes and assuming things are correlated creates easy/comforting explanations of how the world works.

Self-Handicapping: Avoiding effort because you don’t want to deal with the emotional pain of that effort failing.

Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

False Uniqueness Effect: Assuming your skills are unique when they’re not. Comes from conflating “I’m good at this” with “Others are bad at this.”

Hard-Easy Effect: Hard tasks promote overconfidence because the rewards are high and fun to dream about; easy tasks promote underconfidence because they’re boring and easy to put off.

Neglect of Probability: Arguing that Nate Silver was wrong when he said Hillary Clinton has a 70% chance of winning, and using Donald Trump’s victory as your proof. Good predictions are based on probabilities, but the assessment of predictions are always binary, right or wrong.

Cobra Effect: Attempting to solve a problem makes that problem worse. Comes from an Indian story about a city infested with snakes offering a bounty for every dead cobra, which caused entrepreneurs to start breeding cobras for slaughter.

Braess’s Paradox: Adding more roads can make traffic worse because new shortcuts become popular and overcrowded.

Non-Ergodic: When group probabilities don’t apply to singular events. If 100 people play Russian Roulette once, the odds of dying might be, say, 10%. But if one person plays Russian Roulette 100 times, the odds are dying are practically 100%.

Pollyanna Principle: It’s easier to remember happy memories than bad ones.

Declinism: Perpetually viewing society as in decline, because you’re afflicted by the Pollyanna Principle and you forget how much things sucked in the past.

Empathy Gap: Underestimating how you’ll behave when you’re “hot” (angry/aroused/rushed), caused by the inability to accurately foresee how your body’s physical response to situations (dopamine, adrenaline, etc.) will influence decision-making.

Abilene Paradox: A group decides to do something that no one in the group wants to do because everyone mistakenly assumes they’re the only ones who object to the idea and they don’t want to rock the boat by speaking up.

Collective Narcissism: Exaggerating the importance and influence of your social group (country, industry, company, department, etc.).

Moral Luck: Praising someone for a good deed they didn’t have full control over. “Avoid calling heroes those who had no other choice.” – Taleb.

Feedback Loops: Falling stock prices scare people, which cause them to sell, which makes prices fall, which scares more people, which causes more people to sell, and so on. Works both ways.

Hawthorne Effect: Being watched/studied changes how people behave, making it difficult to conduct social studies that accurately reflect the real world.

Perfect Solution Fallacy: Comparing reality with an idealized alternative. Prevalent in any field governed by uncertainty.

Weasel Words: Phrases that appear to have meaning but convey nothing tangible. “Growth was solid last quarter,” or “Many people believe.”

Hormesis: Something that hurts you in a high dose can be good for you in small doses. (Weight on your bones, drinking red wine, etc.)

Backfiring Effect: A supercharged version of confirmation bias where being presented with evidence that goes against your beliefs makes you double down on your initial beliefs because you feel you’re being attacked.

Reflexivity: When cause and effect are the same. People think Tesla will sell a lot of cars, so Tesla stock goes up, which lets Tesla raise a bunch of new capital, which helps Tesla sell a lot of cars.

Second Half of the Chessboard: Put one grain of rice on the first chessboard square, two on the next, four on the next, then eight, then sixteen, etc, doubling the amount of rice on each square. When you’ve covered half the chessboard’s squares you’re dealing with an amount of rice that can fit in your lap; in the second half you quickly get to a pile that will consume an entire city. That’s how compounding works: slowly, then ferociously.

Peter Principle: Good workers will continue to be promoted until they end up in a role they’re bad at.

Friendship Paradox: On average, people have fewer friends than their friends have. Occurs because people with an abnormally high number of friends are more likely to be one of your friends. It’s a fundamental part of social network dynamics and makes most people feel less popular than they are.

Hedonic Treadmill: Expectations rise with results, so nothing feels as good as you’d imagine for as long as you’d expect.

Positive Illusions: Excessively rosy views about the decisions you’ve made to maintain self-esteem in a world where everyone makes bad decisions all the time.

Ironic Process Theory: Going out of your way to suppress thoughts makes those thoughts more prominent in your mind.

Clustering Illusions: Falsely assuming that the inevitable bunching of random results in a large sample indicates a trend.

Foundational Species: A single thing that plays an outsized role in supporting an ecosystem, whose loss would pull down many others with it. In nature: kelp, algae, and coral. In business: The Federal Reserve and Amazon.

Bizarreness Effect: Crazy things are easier to remember than common things, providing a distorted sense of “normal.”

Nonlinearity: Outputs aren’t always proportional to inputs, so the world is a barrage of massive wins and horrible losses that surprise people.

Moderating Relationship: The correlation between two variables depends on a third, seemingly unrelated variable. The quality of a marriage may be dependent on a spouse’s work project that’s causing stress.

Denomination Effect: One hundred $1 bills feels like less money than one $100 bill. Also explains stock splits – buying 10 shares for $10 each feels cheaper than one share for $100.

Woozle Effect: “A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” - Daniel Kahneman.

Google Scholar Effect: Scientific research depends on citing other research, and the research that gets cited the most is whatever shows up in the top results of Google Scholar searches, regardless of its contribution to the field.

Inversion: Avoiding problems can be more important than scoring wins.

Gambler’s Ruin: Has many meanings, the most important of which is that playing a negative-probability game persistently enough guarantees going broke.

Principle of Least Effort: When seeking information, effort declines as soon as the minimum acceptable result is reached.

Dunning-Kruger Effect: Knowing the limits of your intelligence requires a certain level of intelligence, so some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are.

Knightian Uncertainty: Risk that can’t be measured; admitting that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Aumann’s Agreement Theorem: If you understand your opponent’s beliefs you cannot agree to disagree. If you agree to disagree it’s because one side doesn’t understand the other side’s view.

Focusing Effect: Overemphasizing factors that seem important but exist as part of a complex system. People from the Midwest assume Californians are happier because the weather is better, but they’re not because Californians also deal with traffic, bad bosses, unhappy marriages, etc, which more than offset the happiness boost from sunny skies.

The Middle Ground Fallacy: Falsely assuming that splitting the difference between two polar opposite views is a healthy compromise. If one person says vaccines cause autism and another person says they don’t, it’s not right to compromise and say vaccines sometimes cause autism.

Rebound Effect: New symptoms, or supercharged old symptoms, emerge when medicine or other protections are withdrawn.

Ostrich Effect: Avoiding negative information that might challenge views that you desperately want to be right.

Founder’s Syndrome: When a CEO is so emotionally invested in a company that they can’t effectively delegate decisions.

In-Group Favoritism: Giving preference to people from your social group regardless of their objective qualifications.

Bounded Rationality: People can’t be fully rational because your brain is a hormone machine, not an Excel spreadsheet.

Luxury Paradox: The more expensive something is the less likely you are to use it, so the relationship between price and utility is an inverted U. Ferraris sit in garages; Hondas get driven.

Meat Paradox: Dogs are family, pigs are food. Some animals classified as food are wrongly perceived to have lower intelligence than those classified as pets. An example of morality depending on utility.

Fluency Heuristic: Ideas that can be explained simply are more likely to be believed than those that are complex, even if the simple-sounding ideas are nonsense. It occurs because ideas that are easy to grasp are hard to distinguish from ideas you’re familiar with.

Historical Wisdom: “The dead outnumber the living 14 to 1, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.” – Niall Ferguson

Fact-Check Scarcity Principle: This article is called 100 Little Ideas but there are fewer than 100 ideas. 99% of readers won’t notice because they’re not checking, and most of those who notice won’t say anything. Don’t believe everything you read.

Emotional Contagion: One person’s emotions trigger the same emotions in other people, because evolution has selected for empathizing with those in your social group whose actions you rely on.

Tribal Affiliation: Beliefs can be swayed by identity and a desire to fit in over rational analysis. There is little correlation between climate change denial and scientific literacy. But there is a strong correlation between climate change denial and political affiliation.

Emotional Competence: The ability to recognize others’ emotions and respond to them productively. Harder and rarer than it sounds.

Great People Do This!



A mediocre person tells. 

A good person explains.

A superior person demonstrates. 

A great person inspires others to see for themselves


~ Harvey Mackay