Charlie Munger on Mental Models, Wisdom, and Human Psychology

charlie munger mental models

Your brain is a roughly million-year-old piece of hardware – designed and built to operate in the world of hunting and gathering – where a dangerous animal may lurk behind the nearest bush. While our society has changed massively in the last 10,000 years (or even the last 500 years) – our brains have not had time to catch up.

You and I are equipped with a tool that – while wonderfully sculpted by evolution to thrive and reproduce in the world of hunter-gatherers – is riddled with shortcuts and processing errors that can manifest in mistakes, calamities, and all around terrible decisions.

Over the last year or so I have spent much time studying Charlie Munger – the billionaire “right hand man” of Warren Buffett. Charlie developed a rather unique worldview on human behavior and problem solving (that he dubs “worldly wisdom”) rooted in the idea fundamentally that you need a wide range of tools (what he calls mental models) to solve the many problems that life throws at you.

Among one of Charlie’s greatest insights were the combined notions that  (1) all academic disciplines must respect each other in order to be true and (2) that psychology underpins nearly all of them because it impacts and shapes human decisions.

What this means is that to think more effectively and achieve your goals you need to both master psychology and understand the mental models that underpin reality.

One of the most powerful things that you must understand about everything that I’m sharing with you here – these are not anecdotal observations or opinions – the decisions, mistakes, and behavior patterns that human engage in again and again, to their own determinant, are rooted fundamentally in science and proven repeatedly by numerous psychological studies.

Learning More About Charlie Munger’s Mental Models

As a starting point for that journey, I wanted to share with you several resources that I have learned from along the way.

I would absolutely start by watching (or listening to) this Youtube Video of Charlie Munger on “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.” The video is priceless and I’ve listened to it 10+ times. Some of the examples are a bit dated because the speech is from 1995, but the message is timeless.

From there, I would recommend digging into a few books. I’ve put these in a particular order and suggest sticking to it – this will slowly introduce you to the topic and layer in key pieces of knowledge to build a more comprehensive understanding of Charlie Munger’s Mental Models and the Psychology of Misjudgment. [Click the titles for a link to Amazon]

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational is absolutely the best starting place to dip your toes into this subject. It’s a quick read that is easy to grasp and has some great examples that will stick with you. I would compare this to Freakonomics in the sense it’s aimed at a popular audience and does a great job making the subject very approachable.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

In many ways the “bible” of this school of thought – Charlie Munger even mentions it several times in his speech on the psychology of human misjudgment. More technical than Predictably Irrational but a critical next step to go deeper on the topic.

Poor Charlie’s Alamanc by Peter Kaufman

Once you’ve completed your necessary psychology prerequisites – now its time to dig into the meaty stuff. This is a big book, I’m not gonna lie to you. Read every word. This is where Charlie Munger really starts laying out his framework for Worldly Wisdom and explaining in detail how to use psychology as well as mental models to think about the world. This book will explain how and why “worldly wisdom” and “mental models” are important, but does not go deep into actually explaining every mental model that governs reality.

Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin

WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS FIRST. That said, wow. This book. I have never in my life underlined more phrases in a single book. This is probably the most information dense book I have ever read. It’s a treasure trove of information and can serve as a vital reference book for the rest of your life. You absolutely have to read the other books first or this will be like reading something written in Mandarin. This fills out an extremely detailed checklist of both the “Psychology of Misjudgment” and the “Psychics and Mathematics of Misjudgment” – replete with pages and pages of detail, studies, and information on a huge array of mental models.

Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman is a titan among research psychologists and in many ways the godfather behind many of these concepts – including being one of the founders of Prospect Theory, which uncovered many of these mental models and how they shape the world. This book is BIG and full of tough and often counter-intuitive mental models and psychological concepts, but this is the book you want to read to really dig into the core research that underpins much of these other books.

Podcasts on Mental Models

I wanted to share a few links to two Science of Success Podcast episodes where we also dig into these topics.

The Psychology of Making Better Decisions with Michael Mauboussin

How to Build a Toolbox of Mental Models to Understand Reality with Shane Parrish

Blog Posts on Mental Models

I also wanted to share a few links to two blogs that I particularly enjoy that both have wonderful and deep sections focusing on mental models.  Each of these are filled with dozens of mental models as well as examples and explanations to help better understand them.

Farnam Street – Mental Models

Joshua Kennon – Mental Models

Mental Model Checklist – Human Misjudgement

As a bonus for you – I’ve also included Charlie Munger’s (updated as per Seeking Wisdom) checklist of the standard causes of human misjudgment.

1)     Bias from mere association

2)     Underestimating the power of rewards and punishment

3)     Underestimating bias from own self-interest and incentives

4)     Self-serving bias

5)     Self-deception and denial  – distortion of reality to reduce pain or increase pleasure.

6)     Bias from consistency tendency – includes confirmation bias – looking for evidence that confirms our actions and beliefs and ignoring or distorting disconfirming evidence.

7)     Bias from deprival syndrome

8)     Status quo bias and do-nothing syndrome

9)     Impatience

10)     Bias from envy and jealousy

11)     Distortion by contrast comparison – also underestimating the consequences over time of gradual changes.

12)     Bias from anchoring – over-weighing certain initial information

13)     Over-influence from vivid or most recent information

14)     Omission and abstract blindness

15)     Bias from reciprocation tendency

16)     Bias from over-influence by liking tendency – includes bias from over-desire for liking and social acceptance

17)     Bias from over-influence by social proof

18)     Bias from over-influence by authority

19)     Sense making – construction explanations that fit an outcome – being too quick to draw conclusion, also thinking events that have happened were more predictable than they were

20)     Reason-respecting – complying with requests merely because we’ve been given a reason. Includes underestimating the power of giving people reasons.

21)     Believing first and doubting later

22)     Memory limitations

23)     Do-something syndrome – acting without a sensible reason

24)     Mental confusion from say-something syndrome

25)     Emotional arousal – hasty judgments under the influence of intense emotions. Exaggerating the emotional impact of future events.

26)     Mental confusion from stress

27)     Mental confusion from physical or psychological pain

28)     Bias from over-influence by the combined effect of many psychological tendencies operating together [lollapalooza]

If you enjoyed this post please comment, like, and share this with others who you think would also enjoy it.

 

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Conciousness, Venus Colonies and More

Cosmos Carl Sagan

I have long been a proponent of opening the space frontier, space colonization (Venus especially), Carl Sagan and space exploration, as many of you know. I often find myself emailing people lists of my favorite space related YouTube videos, short stories, and articles. Eventually I realized that I should simply type these links into a blog post about the Cosmos, Carl Sagan, and more to easily share with people and reach an even broader audience.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

For starters if you haven’t seen the original Cosmos series with Carl Sagan – that is absolutely the first thing you should check out. It’s incredible. Despite being made in 1980 and featuring some seriously dated graphics, the concepts are so lucidly explained, simple, and yet often mind bending that it’s quite a journey. You can find the entire series on YouTube for free. Here’s Episode 1 of Cosmos by Carl Sagan

A full playlist can be found here. Occasionally episodes of Cosmos get deleted out and you have to find another one on YouTube, but it shouldn’t be too hard.

Cosmos & Consciousness

As part of my ongoing meditation practice I love digging into some of the deeper and more grand mysteries of both our existence and the cosmos itself. To that effect, I’ve created a YouTube playlist of a number of my favorite videos around the concept of life, our place in the cosmos, and what we are. Here’s a sample of one of these – a video by Symphony of Science called “We Are All Connected.” It gives me goosebumps to listen to this.

Awesome Short Stories

Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about space exploration, I always recommend checking out two incredible short stories.

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov (Written in 1956)

The thing that impresses me about both of these stories is how long ago they were written, yet how timely they seem today. The last question is a classic science fiction story by one of the genres all time greats. I don’t want to say too much without giving it away – but its deep and thought provoking.

The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler (Written in 1989)

This story is absolutely amazing. Its one of the most lucid and clear descriptions of what I think “the singularity” might look like (and for those of you unfamiliar, all the more reason you should read this story). This one will take a bit of time to read but its incredibly worth it.

 The Fermi Paradox & The Drake Equation

Drake Equation The Fermi Paradox is another space concept that I absolutely love. This was a favorite of Carl Sagan’s as well. The concept is essentially – if you look at the fact that the Milky Way alone has 400 billion stars – each of which likely harbors multiple planets (the math of crunching these numbers is called The Drake Equation) – the math works out that we should be seeing alien life all over the place – but we don’t. Well why not? First, check out this great video which explains the paradox simply and easily.

But to me, the most interesting examination of this is actually the idea that Carl Sagan’s model for understanding the expansion of alien life slightly misses the point that it really more of a “big bang” type model – the notion that as soon as a single intelligent lifeform evolves in a given galaxy – within a relatively short cosmic time frame (approx. 20mm years) they will come to completely dominate their galaxy. So instead of many pockets of intelligent life within a galaxy – there will almost always ever be a single dominant life form. The chart below explains this distinction and this article is a full read on the theory and the math behind it. The main takeaway is the notion that humans are likely in 1 of 2 phases – either we are about to takeover our entire galaxy (assuming we avoid wipeout) or we are just at the cusp of another alien civilization taking over the Milky Way. Essentially we are either at Point A or Point D of this graph today. Fermi Paradox Drake Equation Either way – its fascinating stuff and I suggest digging into it if it’s the kind of thing that gets you excited. If you want to really go deep on this, read through the “Explaining the Paradox Hypothetically” section on Wikipedia, its great.

Venus Colonization

While most people are focused exclusively on the colonization of Mars, there is actually a surprisingly strong case for the colonization of Venus. I originally discovered this one day in a deep Wikipedia binge and have really gravitated to it since. Specifically there are 3 major risks to Mars colonization that people just gloss over.

  • Gravity – Mars only has approximately 0.4 of Earths gravity and the long term impacts of this low gravity could be several damaging. There are currently no known solutions for this problem. This is also something that even long-term would make terraforming Mars tough because we still end up with a planet that is too low gravity.
  • Pressure – Mars also has almost no surface pressure – requiring both every structure to be completely pressurized, which is extremely expensive and challenging from a design perspective, and people to constantly wear pressurized suits.
  • Radiation – Mars has almost no atmosphere which also makes radiation a very dangerous prospect – requiring further protection and raising the expense and challenges of permanent colonization.

The problem with Venus is that everyone looks solely at the surface – you have to zoom up about 30-40kms into the atmosphere to find the single most earth-like place in our solar system. A place where the atmosphere protects you from solar radiation at the equivalent of earth’s sea level, a place where the gravity is approximately 1g, and a place where the pressure is exactly the same as sea level pressure on earth. This means that all you would need to wear is a gas mask and you would be perfectly fine. The real kicker though is that at this height in Venus’s atmosphere – breathable air is lifting gas when unpressurized. What this means is that just filling a civilization with breathable air makes it automatically float – and there is no risk of a Hindenburg-esq explosion event because the pressure would be equal – the civilization doesn’t have to be pressurized so that even a rupture or tear would cause a very slow leakage of gas instead of an immediate implosion/explosion.

Here are also two great articles about the colonization of Venus.

The Surprisingly Strong Case for Colonizing Venus

Will We Build Colonies That Float Over Venus

Additional Space Resources

Lastly, I wanted to share a few awesome websites to check out about cosmos, space exploration, and much more.Here are three of my favorite sites to check out (all of them are in my Feedly RSS reader and I check them pretty much every morning) related to space news.

RedOrbit

http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/

IFL Science

http://www.iflscience.com/categories/space

Space.com

http://www.space.com/

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if you’re passionate about space exploration please share and comment!

Three Big Ideas That Will Change Your Reality

Transform your reality.

I believe in constantly challenging my assumptions, thinking outside the box, and pushing myself to the limit of transformation – constantly expanding my horizons both mentally and physically.

In the last 60 days I have completely transformed my perception of myself, reality, and the world.

In November I  joined “The Foundation” – a 6 month online mentoring program for software startups. As you may notice from some of my older posts here, I have been a huge fan of the ideas of Dane Maxwell for a long time.

Dane has one of the most unique ways of the looking at the world (much the same reason that I like Tim Ferriss) and he takes a lot of this unconventional thought to a whole new level – well beyond even the awakening I had after reading the 4HWW for the first time.

After emailing this list of links out to friends again and again, I decided that I needed to put them in a blog post so I could share these eye opening ideas with as many people as possible.

Here are three “big ideas” that I have taken away from The Foundation. I wanted to share with you a few podcasts, videos and interviews that encapsulate each of these concepts.

Focus On Changing Your Mindset First

“If you play the game at the belief level, everything shifts.” – Dane Maxwell

The single biggest and most important takeaway for me was to focus on understanding and eliminating my limiting beliefs. This single shift, which requires some seriously deep emotional thinking, has transformed the way that I act and think about the world.

“The framework is this:

The beliefs you have lead to the feelings you feel.

The feelings you feel lead to the thoughts you think.

The thoughts you think lead to the actions you take.

The actions you take lead to the results you get.

So, instead of focusing just on the actions or the thoughts – go to your deepest level – your beliefs about the world – make one minor shift in your beliefs and you will see a ripple effect on everything in your life.”

– Andy Drish

If you check out nothing else from this post, listen to this podcast immediately. This one hour podcast really sums up most of the core lessons that I have taken away from Andy and Dane at the Foundation – and has a big discussion about limiting beliefs that opened my eyes to the power of uncovering and demolishing your limits.

If you want to find out more specifics on reversing and breaking down limiting beliefs, check out this 30 minute video where Dane explains the process.

I have also included a few more links at the end of this post for those who want to do a deeper dive into discovering their own limiting beliefs.

Forget ‘Finding Your Passion’

Do you struggle with the notion of finding your passion? Do you waffle around between ideas or keep waiting until you find that perfect fit where you will be in harmony with what you are doing?

“Because of.. the myth that you have to be passionate about your idea to do it. My thought is most successful entrepreneurs have done so many different things. You couldn’t even point to what their passion is.” – Hiten Shah

The whole concept creates a tremendous amount of frustration, confusion and dissatisfaction. Instead, highly successful software entrepreneur Hiten Shah (founder of Kiss Metrics) says – optimize for learning and forget trying to find your passion.

“I would just emphasize what you want to learn about. If you want to learn about marketing because you think it’s really important to any idea then just go learn about marketing and try different things and you’ll pretty much find what you’re aligned with, right? If you’re really dying to build software online and build software as a service products or learn how to program because you think that that’s what you need to do then just go learn it. Just start learning. Figure out what you think you’re most attracted to and start learning it.” – Hiten Shah

Focusing on learning removes fear and ego from the equation – it creates a path forward and a framework for you to stay resilient even in tough times.

If you’re optimizing for learning fear doesn’t come into the equation because you’re always seeking new things, seeking how to do something better, seeking the best way to do it, seeking the knowledge and so fear isn’t even part of the equation, it’s not even the thought that comes to mind because you’re like, “Well, how can I learn how to do that?”  -Hiten Shah

Here’s the full interview with Andy Drish and Hiten Shah. One of my business partners told me that listening to this interview was one of the single biggest turning points in his business career – I highly recommend checking it out.

Take Action, Quickly and Often

One of the largest mistakes you can make is not taking enough action – even if you are unsure what direction you are moving in (isn’t that the essence of being an entrepreneur anyway?).

“Recklessly take action on everything. If you wait to feel good before you take action, you’re totally screwed” – Dane Maxwell

To be a successful entrepreneur you have to have an action bias. Peter Shallard “the shrink for entrepreneurs” breaks down the reasons behind this philosophy in this great one hour interview with Andy Drish.

“Focus on [] relentlessly trying to shorten the gap between having an idea and acting on it. … There’s certain things in business that school, high school and your parents just won’t prepare you for. And college won’t prepare you for. Nothing will prepare you for other than doing it. The biggest problem I see is that people have these ideas. They’re like, “Oh, I should try this,” like X, Y, Z marketing tactic or “I should build a website or whatever,” and then they think about it and trying to decide whether or not it’s right; whether or not the strategy is correct.

They really are thinking about strategy very, very carefully. But when you’re just starting out I think that you should road test everything. Any idea that you have should be implemented as quickly as possible and then you make your deductions based on real world results. Experiential data rather than kind of sitting there brainstorming and doing planning. In a way what I’m saying is kind of to over exaggerate it. Don’t plan anything, just do a bunch of stuff.” – Peter Shallard

That’s pretty powerful stuff right? The phase “relentlessly shorten the gap between ideas and action” has become a huge focus for me.

Here is an amazing video with Noah Kagan (founder of App Sumo) and Tim Ferriss (one of my favorite authors of all time) where Noah shows in real time how quickly you can break down an idea and take meaningful action – instead of pretending to make progress. I’m still amazed every time I watch this video, the clarity of thought that Noah brings to the table is just astounding.

Extra Credit – More on Removing Limiting Beliefs

Here are a few more resources for digging deeper on the limiting belief front.

More on the the “Four Questions” for reversing limiting beliefs, this framework is originally from renowned psychologist Byron Katie.

These 2 posts by entrepreneur Rob Scott are also fantastic resources on how our mindset impacts our thoughts and actions and how we have to focus on shifting our subconscious before we do anything else. Rob’s work within the Foundation was one of the most powerful things I have experienced so far.

Mindset is the most important thing.

The power of the subconscious. (this video is eye-opening if you ever feel like you’ve been stuck in a rut)

Thank You

Thank you so much for reading this post. I really hope some of these ideas have as profound an impact for you as they have had for me.

Here’s a quick recap of the three big ideas:

  1. Shift your mindset first

  2. Optimize for learning

  3. Shorten the gap between ideas and actions

If you even start implementing one of them in your life it could have a huge impact.

If you’re looking for a few books that also fit within this eye opening worldview, I would highly recommend checking this post out as well.

Thank you again for reading.

Image credit to Hartwig HKD on Flickr.

Five Random Life Lessons From Danny Meyer

danny meyer salt shaker

As you know I’m a huge fan of Danny Meyer and everything he’s done in the hospitality business. If you’re familiar with the Salt Shaker Theory – then you will enjoy these life lessons from Danny. I love reading great books about business and entrepreneurship and Setting the Table is no exception. Here are a few of the great life lessons I took from Setting the Table.

Give First

“I would enter the restaurant business with a potent combination of my father’s entrepreneurial spirit and my grandfathers’ legacies of strong business leadership, social responsibility, and philanthropic activism. And I would have a chance to give others two things I craved: good food and warm hospitality. I had begun to understand that business and life have a lot in common with a hug. The best way to get a good one was first to give one.”

“If I want our guests to take an interest in us, I’d better take an equal interest in them.”

This is really one of the most important lessons in business and in life. Give to others first and help other people. That’s how you become a valuable resource and ultimately how you build strong relationships.

Have Fun Being Serious

“ ‘We have fun taking service seriously,’ he said. ‘And as for perfection, we just hide our mistakes better than anyone else!’ That was a refreshing insight for me as I continued to hone my own version of hospitality.”

I am a huge proponent of this. Work hard and play hard. You have to be able to have fun with what you’re doing but also be able to take it seriously. I think the way Danny phrases it is perfect – have FUN taking it seriously.

Be Respectful

“‘Leave the campsite neater than I had found it’ (That concept remains, for me, one of the most significant measures of success in business, and in life.)”

I take this quote to mean a lot of different things. Don’t be selfish, don’t be entitled, be respectful to others. It’s such a simple quote but the implications are far reaching for how you should behave in business and in life.

Make People Feel Special

“Everyone goes through life with an invisible sign hanging around his or her neck reading, “make me feel important.” Giorgio and Mary Kay had it right. The most successful people in any business that depends on human relationships are the ones who know about that invisible sign and have the vision to see how brightly it is flashing. And the true champions know best how to embrace the human being wearing the sign.”

“Ideas at their best happen for people. At their worst they happen to people.”

“Feeling seen and acknowledged is a powerful human need.”

“For most people it’s far more important to feel heard than to be agreed with.”

Not only is this absolutely one of the most important lessons in social media, but it rings so true when talking about management, leadership and really the entire hospitality industry. Many businesses have been built on this idea alone.

Know Your Identity

“It was that they had no clear idea what Eleven Madison Park represented as a dining experience. Was it a bistro or a grand restaurant? Was it inexpensive or for special occasions? Was it French? Was it a place for sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies? Until we had answered those questions for ourselves, we couldn’t avoid confusing our potential customers. Know Thyself: Before you go to market, know what you are selling and to whom. It’s a very rare business that can (or should) be all things to all people. Be the best you can be within a reasonably tight product focus. That will help you to improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.”

Restaurant’s live and die by their identity. The storied past of restaurant failures is often a tale of restaurants failing to ever define what they truly want to be and relentlessly defending their values.

Which quote is your favorite? Join in the convo in the comments or hit me up on Twitter

Your Business Idea Is Worthless (And What You Can Do About It)

People get caught up in finding the “perfect idea” to execute and end up never executing anything. The problem with waiting around for the perfect idea is that even if you find it you have no idea if it works.

The real key is finding and filling demand. It doesn’t matter what your ideas is as long as it fills your customer’s demand.

Paras Chopra has an amazing post on his blog talking about how chasing market opportunities is the key to success. I can’t put it more simply than this quote.

“It is the market opportunity coupled with good execution which generates value and revenues. In this post I want to go one step further and argue that most successful (software) companies got there by chasing a market opportunity and not by having a unique business idea.”

Paras Chopra

Any business idea is only useful as long as it fills a particular demand. The best way to go about starting a business is to find customers, ask what their problems are, and then create a solution.

Dane Maxwell, another successful software entrepreneur said the same thing.

“If you only need a paying customer to start a business, then you don’t really even need an idea for a product because you can just ask them what their problems are, which is exactly how all of my products are built. I didn’t come up with any of the ideas on my own.”

-Dane Maxwell on Mixergy.com

“Disregard Ideas, Acquire Assets” explains the same premise in a different way. Picking one great idea and going all in isn’t the right strategy. If you want to start building something – start creating assets (like your social media presence) and then as your assets grow you can take advantage of the opportunities they create.

“What I’ve found though, is that the most exciting startup ideas are… backed by a hidden asset. When I talk about assets, cash is the least interesting of all of these. Instead, I’m talking about more intangible assets like skills, reputation, relationships, attention & fame. I’m of the strong opinion that the most reliable path towards startup success is to focus relentlessly on acquiring interesting assets and then execute on the startups that naturally fall out of them.”

-Xianhang Zhang on Quora

The big takeaway here is that waiting around for “that one great idea” is the completely wrong approach to starting a business. Find a market, find a customer, and try to fill their demand. Keep finding cheap ways to test ideas and see if you have traction.

Chase market opportunities. Build assets. Don’t worry about finding that holy grail. There is no great idea waiting on you to discover it and change the world.

The Salt Shaker Theory – Danny Meyer’s Secret Sauce For Restaurant Management

Danny Meyer’s “Setting The Table” is one of the best books ever written on the restaurant business. An exciting read that covers not only Danny’s life but also his philosophies on business and success. One of the most remarkable ideas from Setting The Table is the “Salt Shaker Theory.”

“Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job. It is the job of life. It’s the law of entropy! Until you understand that, you’re going to get pissed off every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset.

I love the last line – “Its not your job to get upset” – its a remarkably insightful line that almost channels buddhism. Business owners and restaurant operators often struggle in the face of change and uncertainty. How should you react if your salt shaker keeps getting moved?

“Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like to you. And if you’re ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store. Just give away the fuckin’ restaurant!” Wherever your center lies, know it, name it, stick to it, and believe in it. Everyone who works with you will know what matters to you and will respect and appreciate your unwavering values. Your inner beliefs about business will guide you through the tough times. It’s good to be open to fresh approaches to solving problems. But, when you cede your core values to someone else, it’s time to quit.”

The salt shaker is a powerful metaphor for one of the keys to success in the restaurant industry – maintaining high standards and core values. Change is inevitable and you will always be faced with challenges along the way. The key phrase is “let them know what excellence means to you” – this quote isn’t about never changing or never adapting – its about never wavering on your values. Danny Meyers takes this compelling parable and explains how it informs his managerial style.

“Understanding the “saltshaker theory” has helped me develop and teach a managerial style I call constant, gentle pressure. It’s the way I return the saltshaker to the center each time life moves it.

I send my managers an unequivocal message: I’m going to be extremely specific as to where every component on that tabletop belongs. I anticipate that outside forces, including you, will always conspire to change the table setting. Every time that happens, I’m going to move everything right back to the way it should be. And so should you! That’s the constant aspect. I’ll never recenter the saltshaker in a way that denies you your dignity. That’s the gentle aspect. But standards are standards, and I’m constantly watching every table and pushing back on every saltshaker that’s moved, because excellent performance is paramount. That’s the pressure. Constant, gentle pressure is my preferred technique for leadership, guidance, and coaching. It’s the job of any business owner to be very clear as to the company’s nonnegotiable core values.”

It’s such a simple analogy but I think it drives home a great point – your values define you and sticking to your standards is essential to effectively managing and leading your business.

If you enjoyed this – you might also like my post Five Random Life Lessons From Danny Meyer. He is a truly inspirational restaurateur and has so much to teach about life and the restaurant business.