How to See Through the Fog: on reading “The Art of Thinking Clearly”

As you might have seen from some of the other posts that I have made, process is kind of an important thing to consider. When it comes thinking however, many of us don’t really have a prcess. Now, I did cover Ultra Learning and habit formation in some other posts, but I have never really dived into thinking.

There really are three thing that I want to talk about here:

An encyclopedia about biases, fallacies, and thinking errors

The art of thinking clearly and a picture of the author, he's handsome.

When I came in contact with The Art of Thinking Clearly, I thought I was going to be reading a book about how to think clearly. I know, sounds pretty self explanatory. But what I found was anything but that, The Art of Thinking Clearly is a book about the different ways that human beings make mistakes in their thinking, and it does this by outlining 99 different biases, fallacies, and thinking errors.

Truthfully, I wanted a book that was going to read more like a novel, like The Goal, or like a journey into a subject matter, like The Power of Habit, but having a book that acts like a lean encyclopedia or catalog was fine after I got thinking about it. I mean Rolf Dobelli does a fine job in some instances of demonstrating where he has seen some of the companies he’s consulted make serious error, but The Checklist Manifesto (on of the earliest books I reviewed) is leagues above this book in terms of raw story telling and practicality.

I mean, Rolff didn’t really do anything more than just copy and paste. But I don’t want to be too damning on this book, I was able to really make headway in some other areas of my life as a result of having a very high overview of ways that I make mistakes when I do serious thinking.

All Decisions Start as Ideas

So let’s talk about what thinking errors really impact. If you guessed decisions, than you are reading the heading of this section and that makes you a smart cookie. Gold Star for you.

See decisions are at the root of what of nearly all of our conscious actions. Granted, habits do have a profound impact on the long term effects of decisions that we have made. Some decisions we’ve made are so small that it is hard to see how we ever arrived at making them to begin with: do you like coffee or tea?

But what does this have to do with thinking clearly. Well, one of the many, many, biases that Dobelli covers is what is known as the Hindsight Bias. And in the year of 2020, there is no better year than this year to use the phrases “Hindsight is 2020” as the root for making better decisions. So what is the hindsight bias? As Dobelli puts it, “We can aptly describe it as the ‘I told you so’ phenomenon: in retrospect.”

So what does he mean by that? It would be easy for us to say some like “I told you Corona Virus was going to cause the world economy to collapse” without ever having said those words. Or “It was inevitable for the George Floyd Riots to become as large as they did.” We had no idea that these events would grow to the size or complexity as they did while they were happening, it is only after the fact that we can see that hindsight is 2020.

Now, Dobelli offers a suggestion on how to become aware of this bias. And truthfully it is very difficult to overcome, if not nearly impossible (in his opinion), but there is a way for you to become more aware. He recommends keeping a journal where you make guesses as to what is going to happen, and then review them later on to see just how wrong you were. Now if this is silly, and you don’t want to make the time or effort, just look at political polls for 2016 and the news leading up to the results of the election. It was quite clear that someone was going to win, but it is rather peculiar that the people who predicted one outcome were surprised that an entirely different outcome occurred.

Decision Journaling Could lead to Better Thinking

But lets say that you are interested in keeping a journal, or you already do and you want to explore different facets of your journal life. Well, that’s really good to hear, you get another gold star and a fun exercise. This exercise is called Decision Journaling. The essence of this exercise is to create a template, or a set of questions, and answer them regarding a decision that you need to be making. I found that this exercise isn’t very fun when it comes to small decisions like what to wear in the morning, but I found that it is incredibly rewarding when it comes to decisions like who I am deciding to vote for.

So let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the exercise. You would start with a decision like “who I am going to vote for” and you would answer a few questions about it. Some examples are:

  • What’s the date
  • What’s the time
  • What are you calling this decision
  • What state of mind are you in
  • What is the situation/context of the decision
  • What is the central problem being addressed in this decision
  • What are some of the factors/variables controlling the situation
  • What are some of the possible alternative outcomes
  • What is the probability of your desired outcome happening
  • What do you expect to happen now that your decision is made
  • When are you going to review this decision

To be fair, I flat out plagiarised nearly all of the questions from this blog, but they have been really thought provoking questions to start with. And just so I wasn’t a complete thief, I made my own list of questions that you can totally steal. Click the link below to catch a copy of my 8 page pdf with hundreds of different questions to ask when you make your decision journal template.

Now, after you have a couple questions that you feel comfortable asking your self every time that you need to make a decision, you are going to want to take a picture of that, or print it off, and then you are going to set a reminder, or make a calendar event, or what ever you do to remind your self of something and you are going to revisit this thought in say… six months. At that time you are going to ask your self a couple more questions to see what you learned and what was the outcome after the fact.

El Fin

I hope that this was a helpful blog post, I have been thinking about it for a long time and I wanted to make absolutely sure that I was delivering a really great piece for you, I know that the 8 pages will actually be super helpful when it comes to making any decision. My friends who have already snagged a copy have said they have already picked out a few that they want to tattoo on their foreheads so that other people asking them and are reminded of to think about before they make dub decisions.

What questions do you ask your self before you make a decision? comment below!

Engineer Your Process of Sales with Sales Process Engineering

Sales, and the standard sales environment, are a forgone conclusion for most folks.

Some say that sales is not for them, they simply can’t handle the pressure.

If sales is one of the highest paying jobs you can have where a degree or a license are unnecessary to achieve incredible amounts of wealth, you’d think more people would flock to such an opportunity. But they don’t.

Let’s look at why that might be the case.

If you are in a standard sales environment, as a salesperson, then you know you are someone who works on commission. Additionally, more often than not, you are paid on commission only. This means you have to close deals to get paid.

Closing a deal sometimes takes a lot of hand holding and supervision. Then again, as not every sale closes, salespeople compensate for that by taking on volume. The irony of this is that as the salesperson gets busier and busier, the number of customers growing higher and higher, the commissions seem to get thinner and thinner relative to work load. Why? Because the salesperson is free to as they please and end up having to do more account management then meeting new customers.

Does this sound familiar? It does for me as a Realtor. The irony is that as soon as I have a ton of clients from marketing my butt off, I now have no time to market my self and earn new clients. This creates a cyclical effect. Market for clients, hand hold till closed, free up hands, and repeat. And if I didn’t close enough deals in a given time period, it can be a little painful trying to make it through the next cycle. Especially if some or all of those deals fall through.

After a few of these cycles, I felt that there had to be a better way. I mean, there has to be a smarter way to make sales more predictable and more persistent, like a machine. This had been my questions for years, that is it was my question until a few weeks ago. What did I learn?

Do you remember that book I read about Theory of Constraints, or The Goal? Well, after reading that novel I was on a mad hunt to learn about how the theory of constraints impacts the sales profession, or the sales departments of the company. And guess what, I found it.

As it turns out, the modern industrial production complex has completely outpaced the market’s ability to demand product. Sales Process Engineering, as it turns out, is a massive field of study that understands that sales is the bottleneck. As such, sales process engineers structure a system that is designed to act as an effective bottleneck for the capacity of the company. If you are interested in learning how you can implement one sales process engineer’s vision of structuring your sales department, check out Justin Roff-Marsh’s entire book on his website for free at https://salesprocessengineering.net/the-machine/.

Cool book.


What you will learn while reading his book is that when it comes to sales, there are four principles you have to follow to create a sales force the likes of which you have never seen.

1. Centralize Scheduling

When is comes to being in the sales game, the idea of agents having complete autonomy of their actions and time is standard. This standard has been so ingrained in how we conduct business that what I am about to say next will sound like blasphemy: stop paying agents on commission and pay them on salary.

Okay, you are over your shock. When it is assumed that free agents have free use of their time, it is assumed that they have the ability to best manage their time. This is patently false, as we stated above, that as an agent takes on more and more clients, they end up investing more and more time into account management than meeting new people and prosecuting new sales. I can attest to that.

When an agent has the ability to dictate their own schedule, the rest of the company has to comply with what ever that schedule may or may not be. This disallows for the company becoming more efficient or more effective because they would rather avoid the expense of the salesperson altogether. If the company is willing to pay the salesperson on salary, they get to dictate how they use their time, and thereby creating a routine of work of which can be divided among many other team members, which results in greater throughput. The only way this is done is by centralizing the schedule of the team and putting everyone on salary so that it operates as designed.

If you would like to know how I implemented this in my own business: email me.

2. Standardize Workflows

Now, do you have everyone on a salary?

Have you dictated everyone’s hours and what you expect them to do in those hours?

Great!

What you are going to do now is you are going to create a workflow. Yes, that’s right. You are going to create for your sales team a conveyor belt of work the likes of which they have never seen.

If you haven’t done this before, you are going to map out your process of work. That’s right. You are going to draw a straight line and tell the story of how you received a request from a customer to the moment the job is done. Once you have done this, you are going to see how your workflow rolls out and who is involved and what needs to happen at every stage.

The true beauty of seeing the workflow is that it makes for a powerful means of making subtle improvements to how your sales process rolls out for each and every customer. What’s more, is that over time you start how your team can make profound advancements in their sales throughput.

If you have a workflow laid out and people aren’t being paid for their time, only their piece rate (which is what commission is), than you have a workflow where people work when they want to, doing what they want to, for what ever reason they want to. How can you build standards for the company if no one can be held to a standard?

3. Specialize Resources

Once the sales start moving through the workflow and small tweaks are made to the workflow, the team is going to start seeing specialized problems inherent to the workflow. These kinds of special problems will result in development of specialized solutions that can generate tremendous value. Value that can translate to the team, the customers, and even other vendors who want to make use of the solution.

With that said, some specialized resources will be a result of developing the kind of customer base where only some customers will actually fit down the workflow. This improved product market fit will result in greater delivery of service. And, as many can attest, with the help of implementing tools specialized to the problems of these customers and the workflow, throughput will continue to expand.

You are starting to see now that as soon as you can dictate how time is used, like a conductor of a symphony, you will be able to compose music the likes you have hardly even dreamed of.

4. Formalize Management

But here is the thing, once you get to a point where there is immense division of labor, there also is an immense need for management. While it is fun to be part of an organization where everyone is a jack of all trades, a company that has grown to such immense throughput that every single person is doing an individual job, that company has need to ensure that everyone’s work is being managed accordingly.

Yeah, no only truly likes being managed. But then again, no one likes being in the dark about what is expected of them either. Management has a sacred role of making sure that meeting the needs of the customer, as well as the needs of the team, are not cause for the death of the company altogether. This might come as a surprise to many, but companies are made to make money. Companies that make money have an interest in making more money. And companies that are making money don’t want to see a death dive in sales or in staffing.

And here is the thing, the customer isn’t going to know that a company is having a massive HR problem. The customer isn’t going to know that all of the suppliers have dried up. The customer isn’t going to know that the database is destroyed or high-jacked by ransomware. The only time that customers know that there is a problem is when they have made a demand of your business and it doesn’t deliver on its promises. Management is the intercessor between systems, tools, staff, and fulfillment.

Likewise, employees aren’t going to know that your customers have a new set of demands. Employees aren’t going to know that they are operating on a tremendous loss. Employees aren’t going to know that the company is going to be shut down. And employees aren’t going to know that payroll isn’t going through this week. That is, they won’t until it happens. It is management’s job to act as the guardian angel who calmly helps employees understand the new set of expectations from the customer and the company and the future.

So…

Now that you have an idea of what you can do to improve your business, or you at least know where to find an incredible book about improving your sales process (here), I challenge to get to it! And the very first step starts in getting everyone on the same page about how time is going to be spent on the calendar. After that, we can talk about how we are going to act in that given timeframe. Along the way we will become specialized and develop a tremendous insight of how to manage our process. Sounds like an enterprise worth joining in on, huh? Well, if you are interested in learning more, contact me or check out the rad book I read.