'While we're doing one thing, let's just do it as well as we can and make sure we are spending our time, of which we have so little, let's spend it wisely.'
Ben Hunt-Davis knows a bit about focus. As part of the 'Sydney 8', who revolutionised the approach to rowing training and brought home Gold, he learned powerful principles about performance and process that he now brings to the business world in his business - named after his book - Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?
In this conversation, he talks about how that single-minded focus translates into the messy real world, and how writing the book (in collaboration with executive coach Harriet Beveridge) clarified and deepened his message and ultimately transformed his business.
'A 20th-century leader was very analytical, it's all about the drill-down into detail and numbers. But frankly, that did not serve us very well, and that's partly what led to everybody being blindsided by populism. So we say, in the 21st century, you can do analytical, but you have to do parenthetical... you have to be able to not just drill down, but look across. To understand how to connect the dots between silos that were previously independent. To understand, what's the feel. It's not just the math that matters now, it's the mood also.'
When they wrote The Leadership Lab, Dr Pippa Malmgren and her co-author Chris Lewis structured their cutting-edge analysis of 21st-century leadership on a device that's more than 2000 years old. She explains why this navigational tool - the Kythera mechanism - is not only an effective way to communicate complex issues more effectively, but a metaphor for understanding that everything we think we know could be entirely wrong.
This is essential listening for anyone in a position of leadership in the 21st century, and anyone who want to write about it.
"You've got to ask yourself what is more important. Is it selling books, or starting a movement?"
Sam Conniff Allende is in the business of movement-making. A young entrepreneur himself, he’s since inspired a generation of young entrepreneurs and hustlers, and when he decided it was time to write a book he began by writing ‘the worst book on earth’.
Luckily it didn’t end there: find out how he found the metaphor that transformed his message from worthy to world-changing, how he learned the secret of translating the energy of the stage to the page, and how he stayed true to his pirate principles in the marketing as well as the writing of the book.
'Now, I look at work and life and what I know in a different way, it's almost like I'm attuned to looking for opportunities to bring my thinking together and get it out there by way of a book.'
Michelle Sales never thought of herself as a writer. She didn't even particularly enjoy writing her book, The Power of Real Confidence (though she LOVES having written it). Maybe you recognise how it went:
'How I had thought to structure my writing was to block out my Fridays and I would get to Friday morning, and I would do a 9:00 Pilates class. That would finish at 10:00, and I'd do it with a girlfriend, and we'd say, "Oh, we might as well have a coffee." So we'd hang around and have a coffee and a chat. And inevitably it'd be about midday before I'd get home, and then I'd think, "Oh, I have to start writing now." So I'd open it and close it and open it and close it and think, "I'm not really sure I'm into this chapter." Then at about 2:00, I'd think, "Oh, it's Friday afternoon. I think I'm done."'
In this episode she describes how she found a different way to write that worked for her, and also how the process, rather fittingly, challenged and built her own confidence.
'The first draft of the manuscript is just ugly. There are pieces, and parts, and this part doesn't match that part. It looks like a Frankenstein monster. And that's why I call it Frankendraft. It sets that expectation low, that this will be an ugly, ghoulish creation with parts and pieces stuck and bolted on here. And we cut that part out and put it over here. It's not supposed to be the finished draft. We just have to make it come to life.'
The Frankendraft is just one of five stages through which ghostwriter Derek Lewis takes would-be business book authors to get the book in their head out into the world (but it's hands down the stage with the best name).
This is a fascinating glimpse into how a professional writer works with a business expert to create a book that is distinctively their own but better than they could have written themselves, and there's lots here that you can put into practice if you're writing your own business book.