Tag Archives: personal development

36 Questions to Fall in Love

The idea that two people could go through a process that causes them to build a stronger relationship or even fall in love is a fascinating one.

As explained in this article, which is based on this academic paper by Aron et al, there is a process that psychologists have developed that seems to do just that.

It is based on the process of “increasing mutual vulnerability”, which studies suggest when reciprocated leads to deepening feelings towards each other.

Apparently, two people can read the 36 questions below to each other, taking it in turns to answer them. Then, finally, they should stare silently into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes.

You can even read the questions together on this very useful webapp here: http://36questionsinlove.com/.

Judging from a quick read through as I read the article, even going through these by oneself would be quite enlightening.

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
  13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  16. What do you value most in a friendship?
  17. What is your most treasured memory?
  18. What is your most terrible memory?
  19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  20. What does friendship mean to you?
  21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
  23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
  24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
  25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
  26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
  27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
  32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
  35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a classic book in the personal development genre.

I have recently read it (twice in a row) and gained so many interesting techniques and little nuggets of wisdom.

One thing that I found very interesting was the Personal Inventory Self Analysis Questions (download pdf here). It was a series of questions that yielded some very revealing insights.

Also, during my period of self-reflection between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when I set my personal 5 Oaths for the year, I will now use the Self-Analysis Questionnaire for Personal Inventory (click for pdf download) from the book.

Randy Pausch on Time Management

After Randy Pausch’s phenomenal Last Lecture, he recorded another great one on Time Management lecture at the University of Virginia which you can view below:

The full slide deck can be downloaded here: Randy Pausch Time Management slides.

I have condensed the talk’s key points into this list of top tips:

  1. Make sure that you understand that time = money
    1. Understand what your time is worth to both you and your employer and use that to make better decisions about money
  2. The real reason to maximise your time is actually to maximise FUN!
  3. Maximising your time well makes you successful
  4. When assessing your goals:
    1. Why are you doing it?
    2. Why will I succeed?
    3. What will happen if I don’t do it?
    4. Doing things right vs doing the right things
    5. 100 life goal list – read it weekly and ask if you are working on something from it
  5. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Walt Disney
  6. To fail to plan is to plan to fail
  7. You can’t change a plan if you don’t have one!
  8. Break your to-do list down into small steps
  9. If you have to eat a frog, don’t spend a lot of time looking at it
    1. If you have to eat three, eat the biggest and ugliest one first
  10. Covey’s four-quadrant To-Do list
    1. If it is urgent but not important, DON’T DO IT!
  11. Keep your desk clear apart from one piece of paper that you are going to work on next
  12. Touch each piece of paper once
  13. Your email inbox is not your to-do list
  14. Practice “inbox zero”
  15. Filing systems are crucial – have one
  16. Have your desk in front of a window when you can.
  17. Get a second computer monitor to improve your productivity:
    1. One for your To-Do list
    2. One for email inbox
    3. One for calendar
  18. Get a calendar
  19. Get a speakerphone to counter stress (as you may be on hold a lot)
  20. Keep your calls short
    1. Stand for the call
    2. Start by announcing your goals for the call
    3. Have something on your desk that you want to do next
    4. Group your phone calls
    5. Call someone just before lunch or the end of the day if you want a short call!
  21. Write a thank-you note with paper and pen
    1. Have a stack ready on your desk so that you can send them
  22. Don’t have comfortable chairs for guests in your office
  23. You don’t “find time”, you make it!
  24. Be mindful of opportunity costs
  25. Learn to say no!
  26. Schedule dead time
  27. Reduce your interruptions
  28. Group items/requests for people
  29. Have a time log/time journal to see what you were doing with your time
    1. Randy hoped that time journals become automatic (which has come true!)
  30. Make a fake meeting to do something when you have a gap between commitments
  31. Think about how you could delegate effectively
    1. Also think about how you could stop wasting other people’s time
  32. Having a spouse and kids helps you to manage time as it creates a sense of urgency
  33. Prioritise effectiveness over efficiency
  34. Doing things at the last minute is really expensive
  35. If your deadline is way off, make up a fake deadline to do part of the work sooner
  36. If you procrastinate there is a hidden reason, like you are worried you might look stupid or fail
  37. Sometimes all you have to do is ask
  38. If you delegate, grant authority with responsibility
  39. Delegate but always do the ugliest job yourself
  40. Treat your people well
  41. When delegating be specific and make the consequences to them clear
  42. People like being challenged so delegate more!
  43. Give people objectives not procedures
  44. Brief people on the relative importance of each task
  45. Praise and thank people when they do a good job
  46. Meetings should never last more than hour
  47. Meetings should have an agenda
    1. Don’t go to a meeting that doesn’t have an agenda
    2. Nominate a scribe to write up the minutes/action points
  48. “Computers are faster, they just take longer”
  49. Only use technology that helps you
  50. Don’t delete email, archive it
  51. When delegating by email, send it to one person and/or name them explicitly
  52. It’s not a vacation if you’re reading email
  53. Get rid of your television
  54. Turn money into time (especially if you have small kids)
    1. Hire people to do the small tasks
  55. Eat, sleep and exercise
  56. Never break a promise (but renegotiate if need be)
  57. Most things are pass or fail
    1. Don’t spend too much time on the unimportant details
  58. If you don’t have time to do it right, you don’t have time to do it wrong
  59. Ask people in confidence for feedback

Elon Musk’s Superpower: Urgency

I believe Elon Musk’s superpower is urgency.

His dreams, such as landing on Mars and having a civilisation powered by renewable energy, are arguably shared by many other people, but the difference is that he is deeply committed to making it happen NOW.

That’s why he thinks he can get man to Mars and can do it in a time frame that allows him to blow away the competition.

His urgency creates a creative edge and causes his famously mad work ethic.

Tony Robbins says urgency is a result of creating the vision of a compelling future. Elon Musk has this technique nailed.

This old article calculated that Elon on average achieves in 1 year what it takes most people to do several years. In the article, it also focuses on his desire to build things that have an order of magnitude better performance (for example, increasing the speed of the Boring Company’s tunnel boring machines by 14x compared to the standard speed).

However, now some shareholders and analysts are sarcastically referring to his several delays and missed deadlines at Tesla as “Elon Time”.

Part of this is caused by his dedication to redesigning everything from first principles, even down to the details of the production line and the bespoke software tools used at Tesla.

People are speculating whether he can turn things around before Tesla runs out of the ability to continually raise capital. I think that his relentless dedication to urgency will win out.

Choosing the right problems

In order to do great work with one’s life and career, it is essential to choose the right problems: that is, problems that are the most important for humanity to solve.

One American mathematician, Richard Hamming, published two particularly helpful discussions of this topic. 

A Stroke of Genius- Striving for Greatness in All You Do

In Hamming’s A Stroke of Genius- Striving for Greatness in All You Do, he discusses the qualities needed to work on important problems with one’s life.

Here are a few highlights:

  • An important aspect of any problem is that you have a good attack, a good starting place, some reasonable idea of how to begin.
  • Knowing when to persist is not easy – if you are wrong then you are stubborn, but if you turn out to be right, then you are strong willed.
  • These traits are not all essential but tend to be present in most doers of great things in science.
    • First, successful people exhibit more activity, more energy, than most people do.
    • This trait must be coupled with emotional commitment. Deep emotional commitment seems to be necessary for success. The reason is obvious. The emotional commitment keeps you thinking about the problem morning, noon and night, and that tends to beat out mere ability.
    • Courage is another attribute of those who do great things. Without courage you are unlikely to attack important problems with any persistence, and hence not likely to do important things. Courage brings self-confidence, an essential feature of doing difficult things.
    • There is another trait that took me many years to notice, and that is the ability to tolerate ambiguity.
    • Another obvious trait of great people is that they do their work in such a fashion that others can build on top of it.
  • You need a vision of who you are and where your field is going.
  • While you are leaning things you need to think about them and examine them from many sides. By connecting them in many ways with what you already know, you can later retrieve them in unusual situations.
  • Some of the greatest work was done under unfavourable conditions.
  • The evidence is overwhelming that steps that transform a field often come from outsiders.
    • When someone’s flavor of brains does not match yours may be more reason for paying attention to them.
  • It is in the struggle and not in the success that the real gain appears. In striving to do great things, you change yourself into a better person.

You and Your Research: my key lessons

Here are some great points from You and Your Research (not all are direct quotes, some are my interpretations of his points):

  • First admit that you want to do first-class, important work.
  • “Luck favours the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur.
  • Think original thoughts and have the courage to pursue them.
  • Work on small problems that lead you to the big ones.
  • Great scientists have tremendous drive and hard work.
  • Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.
  • Be committed to the problem but have some tolerance of ambiguity.
    • This helps you to have a critical eye for the points about your theory that don’t add up.
  • Identify what are the important problems in your field and then how you can attack them.
  • Problems are only important if you have a reasonable attack on them.
  • When you find the right problem, drop everything else and go after it until it is solved.
  • Be open to collaboration and inspiration from your peers.
  • Get good at selling.
  • Educate your bosses.
  • Know your value and also your weaknesses.

Randy Pausch: the Last Lecture

This is a video that I can categorically say has changed my life for the better.

I will never forget when I first watched this video 10 years ago during my final year of university. Watching this talk was the first time I had ever really thought about what I wanted my adult life to be like and the specific things that I had always wanted to do.

Until that point, it was all pretty vague and there was a rough notion of goals, but I had never put any intention into discovering and planning them in a systematic manner.

Dr Randy Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science and specialist in Virtual Reality at Carnegie Mellon University.

The university organised a series of lectures, setting speakers the task of presenting what they thought was the most vital wisdom that they would confer if they only had one last lecture to give before they died.

However, before his lecture, Dr Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, in a case of life imitating art, the hypothetical became real.

What follows is Dr Pausch’s touching talk, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, posted below. You can also download the slides from the talk Randy Pausch Last Lecture Slides.

It is full of wisdom, humour, and kindness. Some great learning points in there include:

  • “head fake” = teaching kids one thing secretly by actually getting them to learn something else (i.e. learn teamwork and perseverance by playing sports)
  • “Brick walls are there to how much you really want it.”
  • “Loyalty is a two-way street.”
  • For women: “When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it’s simple. Just ignore everything they say and watch everything they do.”
  • “Don’t bail; the best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap.”
  • “Don’t complain; just work harder.”

Causes to support in memory of Dr Pausch:

You can also buy a copy of his book, the Last Lecture, on Amazon.

Oh! I must be a #linkybrain

#Linkybrain #Linkybrains

#linkybrains — it all started with this post by Doug Scott, then this enlightening piece by Chris Tottman, and this by Alex Dunsdon.

The virality of this conversation across LinkedIn and Medium shows how deeply the concept has resonated with people.

And I can understand why.

Most of Chris Tottman’s points struck close to home for me.

I’ll briefly pull out a couple before hitting my own confession.

# 1. Extended or Semi-permanent Adolescence

My curiosity and dislike of the well-trodden path mean that I am averse to the idea of a job for life and all the trappings of it.

#3. High Creative Output

I am brimming with new ideas and always have some form of personal project on the go. However, I’ve got to get better at completing and monetising them!

#4. Own Boss

I have a deep-seated need for control of my work and life in general. Autonomy and freedom are key tenets of my life.

#7. Restless – prone to multiple careers, verticals and j curves

I am always looking at the next thing. Honing this instinct and forcing myself to finish tasks before the next one has been a key project of recent years.

#10. Outsider

Yes. My distrust of the herd mentality folly runs deep.

#15. Obsessive Nature

When I find a problem that captivates me. I can’t let it go. I’ve got solutions to problems that have been bubbling away on the stove for a decade.


So, it’s time for my very own #linkybrain confession:

  1. My curiosity is like a black hole, slowly pulling everything in the universe towards it.
  2. I AM ALWAYS DAYDREAMING.
  3. I see problems, and therefore opportunities, e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
  4. I am unsatisfied with my achievements to date, even though people advise me otherwise.
  5. A stable job doing the same thing for life is my own version of hell.
  6. If I am not working on something risky, new, and potentially world-changing, I lose interest almost immediately.
  7. I am a voracious reader.
  8. Many people have told me that I am the hardest person on myself that they have ever met.
  9. I cannot stop having new ideas. The flow is relentless.
  10. I work best in an empty room in silence. Libraries are my heaven.
  11. I am both an introvert and extrovert.
  12. My desire to empathise with other people means that I can see and hold multiple viewpoints at once. This can often make it confusing to choose a side of the argument or make a decision.
  13. Inefficiencies and illogical legacy issues enfuriate me.
  14. Deep down I feel I can do anything (except give birth, obvs).
  15. All conversations with me will drift towards the deep and meaningful if left unchecked.
  16. People who are not altruistic scare me.
  17. I will never understand how people cannot be curious.
  18. Historically I left many projects unfinished.
  19. I frequently wonder whether I’m working on the wrong project or if I will ever finish anything.
  20. I instinctively distrust something that is trending. (Yes, even this #linkybrains fiasco!).
  21. My mind is a battleground in the war against perfectionism.
  22. I believe there is no such thing as a bored person, only a boring one.

From time to time I publish new business and product ideas on my blog, davidjohnkaye.com. Here is a little list of the ones so far.

TRMH: Social Impact Bonds for mental health

The case for improved mental health services

The consequences of poor mental health on human well-being are becoming more widely understood, as are their impacts on other areas of society such as use of drugs, violence, lack of productivity, obesity, lack of creativity, unemployment, smoking and other addictions. Improvements in mental health can cause a cascade of positive multiplier effects throughout society.

Social Impact Bonds as a concept

As noted in my recent post on tackling homelessness, I am fascinated by the potential of Social Impact Bonds to help drive positive social change.

One idea that really resonates with me is the use of Social Impact Bonds to drive positive change in people’s mental health.

Inspiration for the idea

I was inspired by the potential for improvements years ago after reading Healing Without Freud or Prozac by the late Dr David Servan-Schreiber (which was once lent to me by the late Ismena Clout).

In the book, Dr Servan-Schreiber talks about combatting depression with the following:

  1. Meditation and heart coherence
  2. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  3. Maximising exposure to natural light
  4. Acupuncture
  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  6. Exercise
  7. Social Interaction and Emotional Communication

Most of these activities can be undertaken by a beneficiary without any qualified medical assistance, which made me think that this would be an ideal area for a for-profit company or social enterprise to provide a service that would support sufferers of depression.

Indeed, people like Tony Robbins have companies focussed on this area with many of these areas being employed.

However, with Tony Robbins, the emphasis is on the beneficiary directly paying for services themselves. This means that many people that are not currently in a financial position to access the services can benefit.

Use of Social Impact Bonds to reward positive outcomes

What if a company or social enterprise could provide beneficiaries with all the benefits of this approach at no cost at the point of use but instead could be rewarded by a government or health service for delivering the beneficial outcomes?

I drafted this paper below on the back of the idea that Social Impact Bonds could be used to reward social enterprises for just this:

Concept Paper_ Social Impact Bonds for Improved Mental Health

Originally I designed this business so that it could be implemented by a Tony Robbins company because I am a big fan of the work they do to help people achieve transformational change in their lives. However, it could be undertaken by any organisation with a mission to help people make positive change in their own lives.

Below is a diagram explaining the value flows in the concept (note in this diagram I referred to beneficiaries as “patients”, which is not a terminology that I would use anymore):

Diagram: Social Impact Bonds for Mental Health

Risks and risk management

One major risk of this approach is that it could contribute to “privatisation of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) by stealth”, with private sector organisations slicing off more and more of the NHS’ workload and sweating the assets for profit in the way that UK train franchises have done.

This could be mitigated by the fact that a lot of these activities are things that can be undertaken by individuals without any form of medical intervention, such as regular exercise, socialising, and improved diet. Therefore these would fall outside of current NHS services and would carry a low risk of this.

Another challenge is whether or not the activities would count as, or have the perception of, being medical treatment and therefore need to be regulated.

For the same reasons above, I think a strong argument could be made that this is not the case. Effective protocols that signpost beneficiaries to NHS services should be in-built so that the NHS and other authorities can have confidence that the social enterprise is not masquerading as a healthcare provider, but a “wellbeing-support provider”.

UK Government support

It’s interesting to see that the UK Government also sees the potential for Social Impact Bonds to stimulate change, as they have launched an Inclusive Economy initiative that includes a funding stream for Social Impact Bonds.

Contact me to discuss

I’d welcome any contact via my contact page from anyone interested in starting a social enterprise in this field. I’d be happy to share my ideas for potential methodologies that exist for the service, as well as potential funding streams to launch a pilot project.

My ICS Project with Raleigh International in Nicaragua: Coffee

5 years ago, I led a team of international volunteers on a climate change project in Nicaragua.

It was run by the British NGO, Raleigh International, under the UK government’s International Citizen Service (ICS) program.

Our project focused on improving the relationship between the communities of El Pajarito and El Tular (near Achuapa) and their environment.

Here is a short 5 minute video of me description our team’s project along with my host family!

GRASP: Getting Results and Solving Problems

What is GRASP?

I recently stumbled across a great framework called GRASP: Getting Results and Solving Problems.

It’s from the Comino Foundation, a foundation set up to support innovation practice. It was set up by Demetrius “Dimitri” Comino, a Greek-Australian engineer and entrepreneur that founded Dexion after settling in the UK post-university. There’s a great biography including a history of his businesses and foundation available here.

The framework can also apparently be referred to as: Getting Results and Seizing Potential  “because it became most effective in helping people to achieve their full potential” according to the Foundation.

How does it work?

Here are the steps as described on the Foundation’s website:

  1. Define your purpose in terms of what you want to achieve
    • NB. Not what you want to do!
  2. When defining purpose, keep asking the question ‘Why?’
    • Ask “What do I really want to achieve?”
  3. Imagine in detail how it will be when you have succeeded
    • Use this picture of success to establish the criteria by which you will know if you have succeeded.
  4. Examine alternative means by which the desired result might be achieved
    • Never allow yourself to think that there is only one way to succeed.
  5. Choose what seems to be the best option and make a plan.
  6. Carry through your chosen plan.
  7. Repeat the process to see if you can do better or have redefined your purpose, which often happens.
  8. Review the process at each stage.

Comments on the framework

I really like this framework as it includes several key tools.

Firstly, the use of Why? is drilling down past our pre-conceived notions and limiting beliefs in the same way as the Five Whys methodology.

Secondly, it is goal focus and not activity focused. This primes us to discard our limited thinking to date and to consider the most efficient way possible to get to our goals.

Thirdly, it contains an element of measurement which is key for the successful completion of any plan.

Finally, the use of visualisation not only makes it real but allows us to actually understand what the goal will feel like when we have achieved it. This useful for motivation, but it is also useful when we take into consideration which of our 6 Human Needs it is actually helping us achieve. This deeper understanding will help us to get closer to what we really need to achieve in order to satisfy our core needs.

My version

I’ve created my own version which reads:

  1. What do I want to achieve?
    • Why?
  2. Visualise in detail the completed goal.
    • Use this vision to establish the success criteria.
  3. Examine alternative means to achieve the desired result.
    • There is always another way!
  4. Choose the best option and make a plan.
  5. Execute.
  6. Repeat.

Download template

You can also download my version of their questions in a handy PDF template here:

GRASP Getting Results and Solving Problems template.