By Theo Winter
As humans, we depend on heuristics, or rules of thumb, to succeed and survive.
From how often to brush our teeth (twice a day), to how hard we should shake someone’s hand (firmly, up and down 2-3 times), to how much income we should squirrel away for retirement (the 10% rule), heuristics are inherently imperfect yet utterly indispensable for getting through life.
A plethora of heuristics saturate our lives in the form of articles, books, courses, and expert opinions (some may call these high-grade heuristics "laws," "truths," or "facts"). Diverse as human thinking appears, like the late Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and a long line of other writers, I have come to believe that the best wisdom of humanity—the ideas that underlie most significant issues, directly or indirectly—are really subtle variations of fundamental themes, timeless advice, and universal principles that have been around for ages.
Which ideas, exactly?
I'm no guru or master, but for what it's worth I'm willing to post my best guesses, no consulting charge, and no promises to change your life. (Unless you wanted grandiose promises? In which case, take it to heart, this will be the best thing ever.) My research methodology was semi-methodical: 1) writing stuff down my colleagues said, 2) my own experience sitting in this chair and occasionally interacting with people, 3) over 50 online lists that I checked just now to plunder ideas from. Based on what "I've" found, I think these 67 "rules" fall somewhere between robust and ultra zenith. I take credit for absolutely nothing. (Unless you want to give me credit, in which case I will gladly take it! Cash is preferred.)
While hard rules offer to alleviate the burden of hard thinking and loose rules offer to make the most soft thinking even easier, it's good to remember that the amateur knows the rules; the expert knows the exceptions. At least, that's what an expert told me.
1. Begin with the end in mind. 2. Don't confuse activity with productivity. 3. Success doesn't come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently. 4. Focus on the critical few (80/20 Rule). 5. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. 6. What gets measured gets done. 7. People buy on emotion and justify with logic. 8. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission. 9. If you aren’t clear, clarify. 10. KISS: keep it simple, stupid. 11. You can’t build a long-term future on short-term thinking. 12. To be the best, surround yourself with the best. 13. Hire for attitude, train for skill. 14. Hire slow, fire fast. 15. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. 16. Someone who talks about others behind their backs will talk about you. 17. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur. 18. Fear and hope are the two great levers of human behaviour. 19. Pain occurs when expectations exceed present reality. 20. Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. 21. The customer is not always right, but always treat them with respect. 22. There is no failure, only feedback. 23. In every difficulty lies opportunity. 24. Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. 25. Focus on strengths more than fixing weaknesses. 26. The golden rule: treat others as you would be treated. 27. Growth happens outside your comfort zone; success happens inside your circle of competence. 28. We don’t get paid for time; we get paid for value. 29. Underpromise and overdeliver. 30. Practice what you preach. 31. Don’t ask, don’t get. 32. Nobody is busy. People have priorities. 33. We are all salespeople. Everybody sells ideas. 34. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. 35. To understand language, look at the context; to understand life, look at the system. 36. People will forget what you said, but never how you made them feel. 37. There are always two sides to every story. 38. Trust, but verify. 39. Seek out disconfirming evidence. 40. Proportion your beliefs to the evidence. 41. Start with faulty assumptions, end with flawed conclusions. 42. Occam’s razor: all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be right. 43. Hanlon’s razor: don’t attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by error. 44. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. 45. In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. 46. Don’t try to be interesting; be interested. 47. You move a mountain by carrying away small stones. 48. Learn to say “no!” 49. Be true to yourself. 50. To a prospect, any price is too high until they understand the value. 51. People don’t buy products; they buy feelings. 52. People join organisations and leave managers. 53. If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done. 54. If it were easy, everyone would be good at it. 55. Spread the risk. 56. Differentiate or die. 57. Work to live; don’t live to work. 58. One example is worth a thousand explanations. 59. Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective? 60. Embrace the messy middle. 61. Use things, not people. Love people, not things. 62. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. 63. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. 64. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. 65. Each to their own. 66. Kindness is always possible. 67. Life is short.
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