No. 501 – December 4, 2022
Brain Food is a weekly newsletter with bite-sized ideas and insights that make a difference.
The difference between average and exceptional results is what you avoid.
My conversation with Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel.
We discuss how CP went from worst to first, autonomous rails and trucks, lessons from Hunter Harrison and Bill Ackman, the $27B decision to buy Kansas City Southern (in the most detail ever), and so much more.
“He would raise the bar so high that even if you didn’t make it all the way, you were accomplishing a whole lot more than anybody else because he created a world where you had to stretch. You had to really understand your business in every detail and drill issues to the root cause, and define what good looks like in a way that you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t think it’s possible.”
A high school science teacher wanted to demonstrate a concept to his students. He takes a large-mouth jar and places several large rocks in it. He then asks the class, “Is it full?”
Unanimously, the class replies, “Yes!”
The teacher then takes a bucket of gravel and pours it into the jar. The small rocks settle into the spaces between the big rocks.
He then asks the class, “Is it full?”
This time there are some students holding back, but most reply, “Yes!” The teacher then produces a large can of sand and proceeds to pour it into the jar. The sand fills up the spaces between the gravel.
For the third time, the teacher asks, “Is it full?”
Most of the students are wary of answering, but again, many reply, “Yes!”
Then the teacher brings out a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar. The water saturates the sand. At this point, the teacher asks the class, “What is the point of this demonstration?”
One bright young student raises his hand and then responds, “No matter how full one’s schedule is in life, he can always squeeze in more things!”
“No,” replies the teacher, “The point is that unless you first place the big rocks into the jar, you are never going to get them in. The big rocks are the important things in your life …your family, your friends, your personal growth. If you fill your life with small things, as demonstrated by the gravel, the sand, and the water…you will never have the time for the important things.
So, what are the “Big Rocks” in your life? Spending time with your children, your parents or your spouse? Taking the seminar or class to get the information and perspective you need to succeed? Making the time to set goals, plan or evaluate your progress? When you are hassled because there is no time, remember the story about the Big Rocks and the Jar!”
— Author Unknown
The most powerful productivity tool ever invented is simply the word no.
Kevin de Bruyne on the value of multiple perspectives:
I ask why so many European footballers seem better educated than their British counterparts. Perhaps the difference is languages, he says. “There are a lot of people from different countries who speak two or three languages, where English players usually only speak English. I come from a country where by 13 you are studying Dutch, French and English.” With languages, perhaps comes wisdom and humility – an ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, a knowledge that your way is not the only way. He smiles. The Belgian way was never going to be the only way, he says.
On the magic of rituals:
“When people experience uncertainty and lack of control, they are more likely to see patterns or regularities where there are none. These patterns can range from visual illusions (such as seeing faces in the clouds) to seeing causality in random events and forming conspiracy theories. Under these circumstances people are also more likely to turn to ritualized behaviors. This is known as the compensatory control model: We compensate for lack of control in one domain by seeking it in another. Whether this sense of control is illusory is of little importance. What matters is that ritual can be an efficient coping mechanism, and this is why those domains of life that involve high stakes and uncertain outcomes are rife with rituals.”
P.S. Some ideas I can’t stop thinking about.