WISDOM – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss – Book review

Do you think a former FBI negotiator may have something to teach you about negotiation? That is what Never Split the Difference is all about. Here is the summary and some practical knowledge from the book.

In no more than 300 words

In Never Split the Difference, former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss shares his field knowledge of high stakes negotiations. Personal experiences illustrate the wide range of skills and techniques that anyone can leverage on. Cornerstone of all techniques is to engage into deep active listening and encourage counterpart to keep talking. To achieve the later, Chris Voss relies on open-end calibrated questions (“how” and “what”), repetition of words just pronounced by its counterpart (mirroring) and empathy expression (labeling). This helps to uncover information about what the counterpart truly wants to achieve. Knowing such piece of information, seldom disclosed at first, gives the upper hand.

Contrary to popular wisdom, Chris Voss encourages to refrain from trying to achieve “yes” answers. Such answers may not signify compliance with your goals, but merely the desire of your counterpart to stop the conversation. On the flip side, the author urges to find the “no”, a genuine disagreement. From this clear line, one can use open questions such as “what about this does not work for you?”. Breakthrough is said to happen when you achieve a “that’s right”. This signifies a genuine understanding of your counterpart’s situation. Previously mentioned techniques are designed to ensure conversation reaches such situation.

The book refers at length to Prospect Theory (see Thinking, Fast and Slow for further information on this concept) and illustrates how to successfully tap on loss aversion and certainty effect (if these concepts are foreign to you, just get back to the link above). In practice, unfolding negotiation in a way the counterpart can see what he has to lose from a non-deal provides leverage.

Instead of cornering the counterpart into an agreement, it may be more effective to create an “illusion of control”, encouraging him or her to voice the design of the final solution, which can be achieved through “how” questions.

Finally, two “tips” for effective negotiation.
1 – Keeping emotions under control at all time, as rational thinking is only possible when you remain calm
2 – make a conscious effort – and train – to use voice inflection.

Final word: “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Three takeaways

  • Frontal negotiation and traditional battle of arguments is unlikely to lead to a true successful negotiation. Research has found more efficient ways of leading someone to comply
  • Cornerstone of a successful negotiation is to uncover key pieces of information and to use them in a way that can lead your counterpart to comply. Techniques focus on keeping the counterpart actively engaged and actively speaking. Negotiator needs to pay extreme attention to every single details, including non-verbal elements.
  • Preparation and implantation of negotiation techniques considerably increase probability of successful outcome. Abundant ressources and regular practice can dramatically increase negotiation skills.

Bridging the implementation gap

  • Make a conscious effort to listen and encourage the counterpart to speak. Rely on mirroring, open-end calibrated question and labeling to keep the discussion going
  • Establish tactical empathy as the “default mode” (which is different from sympathy) and requires to understand your counterpart’s feelings
  • Don’t settle for compromise: leverage on the Ackerman model and keep bargaining hard. Keep in mind that “no deal is better than a bad deal”

Personal bonus implementation points

  • My negotiation type is assertive. This means I tend to come off as harsh. This reduces dramatically the changes of successful negotiation and the chances of collaboration. To reduce this biais, I need to work to intentionally soften the tone of my voice, in order to make it pleasant. Calibrated questions and labels will help me to be perceived as more approachable.
  • Shift from “is this a good time to talk?” To “is this a bad time to talk?

Do I recommend this book? Definitely, especially for all sales professionals

View the book (or ebook) on Amazon: Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

See how Never Split the Difference, ranks on the #neverendingbooklist

Never Split the Difference is part of my Sales toolkit

How useful was this article? Do you think your friends or colleagues may also get one or two insights from this short read? If so please help to share, that would be really appreciated!

WISDOM – The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

This bestseller by Malcolm Gladwell, a New Yorker journalist and author of several fascinating books, explores a topic all the more interesting in the age of social media: how a trend becomes viral.

In no more than 300 words

In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell invites readers to consider how a trend starts. What makes something go viral is the combination of three rare factors. The initial reason if that a specific information or product encounters three type of very specific people that are labeled as Connectors (imagine your friend who knows everyone), Mavens (your other friend that is always aware of the new technologies and the best places to strike a deal) and Salesmen (the enthusiastic but sometimes annoying friend who stills the attention at diner parties). The second element that makes a viral trend is that the information is packaged into a simple and very efficient way: it sticks. Gladwell exposes how research proves that ability to achieve an outstanding level of information stickiness outsmarts the best possible creative marketing campaigns. Intense practical testing – via focus groups for instance – appears to be the only way (yet exhausting) to reach such efficiency. Finally, environment plays an extraordinarily important role into the unfolding of any trend. However, seemingly negligeable details, such as the immediate context (stressful situation, unfavorable environment, community type of organisation…) carries similar influence to the previous two factors.
In the age of social media, Gladwell provides simple queues to understand how viral content is created, and enables us to break down retroactively and understand existing or past trends. This is a powerful “How-To” that we can leverage on to promote causes dear to us or improve our marketing abilities.

Three takeaways

  • A trend is started by a very small number of highly specific people who fall into three distinct groups: Connectors (who know everyone), Mavens (who genuinely want to help) and Salesmen (who persuade others due to their mesmerizing skills)
  • There is always a simple way of packaging information to make it irresistible. Putting up the hard work to discover the right format is the most effective way to make information stick. There is no shortcut to testing: intuition can not tell you what really woks
  • Environment can have an immense impact on behavior, yet the seemingly little details tend to have the largest impact

Bridging the implementation gap

  • Identify and keep an eye on the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen in my environment. They can play the role of canaries in the mine and help me spot trends
  • Put marketing strategies and material to test relentlessly. it is the best way to achieve maximum communication efficiency. Creative marketing can not replace this effort
  • Accept that environnement plays a major role in anyone’s behavior, including me. Focus on fixing negatively impacting elements of my environnent to ensure long term success and happiness

Do I recommend this book? It is indeed an interesting read but unless you are fundamentally interested by the research behind the conclusions, I would recommand you stick to the summary and action points

View the book (or ebook) The Tipping Point on Amazon

How does The Tipping point rank on the #neverendingbooklist project?

In this book, Malcolm Gladwell quotes a research paper that I am strongly influenced by. This paper is the Affective Communication Test by Howard Friedman published in 1980. It shows how salesmanship efficiency relies heavily on a quality that is highly difficult to measure: the ability to convey emotions. Research shows that, contrary to our intuition, this is mostly a non verbal process and that it can hardly be faked. In conclusion, charisma appears to be a gift. Friedman built a self test to assess levels of individual charisma. Such test has been proven efficient by many subsequent experience. I encourage any sales professional to use it as part of his recruiting method.
Read the paper: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f14c/36b4a59112b4dae5b9eed711c565d8ef96e3.pdf

Malcolm Gladwell on TED:

WISDOM – Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling was a doctor and public speaker who fought two main battles: children mortality and ignorance. If you never had the chance to watch Hans’ inspiring TED Talks, give it a look. I’ll add them after the review. The main reason to read this article – and the book – is that I bet it will make you happier about the current state of the world! I am comfortable to say it will help most of us make better decisions.

In no more than 300 words

Factfulness was written by Hans Rosling as a digest of his lifelong quest for a fact-based understanding of our world. After countless research and public speaking exercises, Rosling concluded that human beings living in richest parts of the world tend to imagine a distorted reality, through the lence of poverty, violence and fear. Factfulness exposes how we rely on an outdated matrix to make our judgements. Western vs Developping world framework prevents us from realising that most people live today in middle-income countries, that 80% of 1-year old children globally have been vaccinated or that Malaysia life expectancy today is comparable to Sweden in 1975. Rosling invites us to consider a 4 income buckets framework. Level 1 corresponds to $1 a day, and encompasses our traditional poverty image: people going barefoot to get water from a well. 1 billion people are today in this category. Level 4 stands for “western” lifestyle, with a daily income over $64, home to another 1 billion individuals. Remaining 5 billions are split between two categories: from $4 daily income for category 2 and $16 a day for level 3.

Rosling warns against the use of stereotypes: facts show that religion has barely any impact on number of children while income, and to a second order healthcare and education do. Consider that that number of children per woman is lower in Iran than in USA.

As I finished the book, I realised such data-driven exercise opened my eyes on opportunities. It also calls for lifelong learning: the world is evolving fast, yet the eduction is mostly provided when people are young, by teachers who rely on data usually from their own twenties. Luckily, data is now available to most of us, and at a very cheap cost. A small effort can grant us a useful framework upgrade.

Three takeaways

  • The world is in much better state that our intuition would let us imagine. A simple look at the facts helps to realise that.
  • The next 1Bn population willl be aged between 30 and 45 years old, while other buckets will remain stable from now to 2030
  • It is very difficult for the brain to get a sense of large numbers, hence using ratios and comparables provide a much better understand of general situations

Bridging the implementation gap (actions I added to my toolbox based on this book)

  • Dedicate more time to understand what the majority stands for (in terms of actual distribution) and focus less on averages or extremes that tend to cloud the understanding
  • When facing an urgent situation, instead of acting right away, take an additional look at the data (and get more if not relevant) and assess the second order consequences of action versus non action
  • Beware of statements starting with “in times like this” or “in the world we live in now”. They usually introduce false and overly pessimistic statements.

Do I recommend this book? That is indeed a must read!

View the book or the ebook Factfulness on Amazon

How does Factfulness rank on the #neverendingbooklist project?

See Hans’ TED Talk, Let my dataset change your mindset

Factfulness was highlighted as a reading recommendation by Bill Gates Summer 2018 Reading list and by Howard Marks, Oaktree Investment Manager and bestselling author in the Tim Ferriss show #338.

WISDOM – #neverendingbooklist

This is my project to sort the books I read over time. My criteria is how much I would recommend my sister and my brother to read the book. This is indeed highly subjective and does not necessarily reflect the quality of the books.

You can follow #neverendingbooklist on social media to get updates on the project

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  3. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  5. The One thing you need to know by Marcus Buckingham
  6. Drive by Daniel Pink
  7. Principles by Ray Dalio
  8. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
  9. Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  10. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  11. Act like at Leader, Think like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra
  12. The Everything Story by Brad Stone
  13. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
  14. The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
  15. The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
  16. Why Nations Fail by Damon
  17. Art as Therapy by Alain de Bottom & John Armstrong
  18. Brain Rules by John Medina
  19. Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink
  20. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
  21. How you learn is how you live by Kay Peterson & David Kolb
  22. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  23. Good to Great by Jim Collins

WISDOM – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – book review

What a mastery Daniel Kahneman accomplished by compiling such an amount of practical knowledge in a single, easy-to-read book. I accept the challenge to sum up my understanding of Thinking, Fast and Slow, in this post for the #neverendingbooklist.

In no more than 300 words

Daniel Kahneman is a renown scholar, behavioral economics specialist, that was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman compiles the most important breakthrough of behavioural economics and describes their impacts and implication in simple language.

Central idea is that the brain is made of two Systems:
– System 1, that provokes automatic answers and is always operating
– System 2, your thinking-self, a little more challenging to use.
This split leads people to take sometimes irrational decisions when facing specific situations.
Research has documented a number of these situations, across many practical fields, such as Economics, Investments, Healthcare, but also choices related to daily spendings or holiday planning. Kahneman breaks up with the traditional Economics which assume human being as always rational (Econs) and calls for a more complex picture: the situation in which the decision is made influences the way such decision is made.
Not patronising but analysing, the book illustrates patterns and offers research-backed rational for abnormal behaviour. It then introduces systems to reduce biais whenever such behaviour results in long term disadvantage.
On many occasions, brain focuses only on the information that are readily available to him, even when such information may be irrelevant to such decision. Another flaw is our propension to “mental accounting”, a silo-type of thinking process. Kahneman reviews the considerable impact of Priming which can be used to substantially orientate your decision making process.

This booked helped me to reframe my vision of how my personal feelings have a direct impact on choices that I consider rational (investments) and give me ground to develop stronger decision making process.

Three takeaways

  • Your brain is a two gear engine which performs two singularly different functions: the first one is always on and deals with automatic tasks while the second needs a bit of work to engage and enables you to built up more refine analysis
  • Humans are always rational beings (Econs). Difficulty to engage System 2, the thinking part of the brain, leads to irrational choices under many circumstances. Yet, slower thinking is almost systematically available if we make the conscious effort
  • Experience and memory are significantly different processes. Ultimately memory appears indifferent to the notion of time and favors highlights (peaks). This has a profound impact on our life choices

Bridging the implementation gap

  • Whenever assessing a situation, add a simple step. Ask yourself “what is it that I don’t know?” Don’t fall into the focusing illusion that leaves you to consider only the readily available information – (For your brain, “What You See Is All There Is”)
  • Rely on checklists or very simplified algorithms for recurring decision making such as investment portfolio reviews
  • “It is only a slight exaggeration to say that happiness is the experience of spending time with people you love and who love you” & “The easiest way to increase happiness is to control your use of time”. Keep schedule under tight control and leave plenty of time for who and what you love

Do I recommend this book? Definitely

View the book (or ebook) on Amazon: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

See how Thinking, Fast and Slow ranks on the #neverendingbooklist


WISDOM – #neverendingbooklist, a manifesto

I got so much from reading. Books have been transforming my understanding and still reshape regularly the way I see the world. I am blown away by the impact that knowledge can have on me. I have been fortunate to catch the reading bug early in my life. I know as well that it can be so difficult for some us my friends and family to make time for reading and I always wanted to do something about it.

Some time ago, I started an Instagram hashtag #neverendingbooklist. This was the beginning of a project that I carry on the back of my mind for the longest time: I want to trim, simplify and sort the wisdom I gather from my readings and make it available to my family and close friends. I realized that simply sharing pictures of somehow unactractive non-fiction books has little impact on my reading-sceptical friends. Then is not serving the purpose. Sure it provides me with kudos from the reading community and gives some reading suggestions, but I am trying to be more impactul.

Another personal expereince is that reading is only the first (and sometime the easiest) step to gather knowledge. Pages by themselves do not bring much to me, what makes however an impact are the actions I take, leveraging on that knowledge. I have been sad many time to observe what I now call an implementation gap in my own practice. It stroke me at several occasion as I re-read my all time favorite How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. None of the recommendations are groundbreaking. Yet, I tried a little experimentation. As Carnegie goes through the so called Principles, I wrote down directly on the book, the situations in which I broke such Principle. Not only I ended interrupting my reading every other minute, there was not enough room on the pages to write down my failures. I ended up frustrated and stopped the experience. I could not explain what had gone wrong: I read the book religiously several time before, I made the effort to highlight the concept, and I considered myself able to understand most of the book content. I remembered I came across similar observations in some materials from Tim Ferris, Tony Robbins and Derek Sivers: I was guilty of failure of implementation. Fast forward, I decided to rethink my approach to non-fiction books and to focus on the downstream actions I could take to make the most of this new knowledge. I write on the back of the front-cover of the book, actionable principles derived from this new wisdom. I can not say it is a perfect process but I made since then considerable progress in my implementation. That is why I will make implementation the cornerstone of the #neverendingbooklist.

The #neverendingbooklist method. I decided to focus primarily on non-fiction books. I will summarize and contextualize the books in less than 300 words. I will highlight 3 learning points and propose actionable implementation of these goals. Finally, I will try to maintain an ordered list of the most impactful books I read.

There is an additional goal to this project. I hope to shed light on the unarguable impact that reading can have on anyone’s life and hope to promote actions in favor or literacy for children and access to impactful books for young adults. I am still assessing at this stage to exact format that this goal will take. If you have any idea or if you are already involved in such a project please reach out.

Please share this project around you! Every little helps!


WISDOM – What habits or skills are the more important to live a successful life? Answers from Derek Sivers

This content is from a Tim Ferriss Radio Hour episode dedicated to individuals who achieved outstanding success. This corresponds to the Tim Ferriss Show #325. I highly recommend this podcast which has been an invaluable source of information and inspiration over the years.

As for Derek Sivers, @Sivers on Twitter, he is the founder of CDBaby, and accomplished Ted Speaker and an inspiring author.

Here is what Derek answers to the question: What habits or skills are more important to live a successful life?

1 – Managing your state and your emotional reactions and actions

2 – Knowing what people need in general and what you need in particular

3 – People skills: how to see things from the other’s person point of view and how to communicate from their point of view

4 – The ability to focus, learn, practice and apply what you learn

Discover more from Derek from his Ted Talks on Starting a movement:

WISDOM – Winning the day thanks to morning routines

Human are creatures of habits which means that what defines us is more likely to be what we do everyday than our major life achievements. That also fuels the idea that such achievements may be the result of the tiny steps we are taking each day. That’s the reason why I am so curious about the pattern that govern top performers’ life’s.

The outstanding work done by Tim Ferriss over the years, compiling insights from exemplary individuals life’s provides a bottomless set of data. Indeed, you would need more than 24 hours each day if you were to add everyone’s routines to yours. This post is about the routines that I tried and adopted (or left behind) to build my own set.

#1 – Meditation (10 – 20 min)
Daily morning meditation sets the frame for the day. As explored in a previous post, priming is a fundamental brain mechanism, based on scientific evidence and highlighted by Nobel Prize winer Daniel Kahneman. Human brain works in such a way that its reactions tend to be conditioned by the previous environment and stimulation it received. That means you have a simple tool to “trick” your brain into a positive mindset, simply by starting the day with positive thoughts. You can find detail about meditation practice here, and see how I frame my daily practice.

#2 – Make your bed (1 min)
Leveraging again on priming, a simple achievement paves the way for an achieving mind. I find this also gives a subtle nudge of satisfaction. It is also an action that is totally under your control, wherever you are. I moved in with my girlfriend, this was not always an option for me so I changed the routine to folding a towel to sit for my meditation. In practice this has the same effect.

#3 – Drink (5 min)
I have tried many types of morning drinks, any kind of strong tea, mate, coffee or fruit juice. No matter of what works for you, the hydration reflex helps to condition the body. I also appreciate the physical action of making the drink, starting the day by building up something healthy – I especially appreciate preparing morning drinks for my family members.

#4 – Yoga (10 min to 1 hour)
Whenever possible, I’ll start the day with a yoga session. Squeezing the Yoga session in the morning gives me the feeling of having already “won the day”. More about my yoga practice here.

#5 – Prioritize (5 to 10 minutes)
Once this routine is done, I dedicate a few minutes to set-up tasks and to-do lists for the day. I like to rank the importance of my tasks to ensure I can focus primary on what matters the most.

I try my best to keep my phone in flight mode until this routine is done. I find the feeling very different if for some reason I get to see a bunch of work emails, social media or news notification.

Keeping up with any routine is always difficult and it is normal to miss out on some of them on a regular basis. My best advice is to build up some time in the morning by getting up earlier, this will help you to win the day. Another observation: contrary to what I initially believed, I tend to miss out on my routines on the less busy days such as weekend or holiday, especially for the meditation part.

Let me know the routines that work for you!

HEALTH – Putting sleep back to the center, where it always belonged

I had to experience exhaustion to realize how sleep was probably one of my best partners in life. Although I was made aware as a kid by my mother of the fundamental role of sleep in the learning process, I recurrently shortened my nights as I started to work. It is only five years after graduating that I started to feel different and could not figure out what was wrong. Both my diet and my physical exercise being under control, I was not able to explain this recurring tiredness, often doubled by a feeling of irritation and slight lack of interest for the present moment.

Researching the cause of this discomfort I noted that I actually did not sleep much, neither during the week, as I was staying late at work or working out to try to reduce my stress level, nor during the weekend, as I was socializing to breath after exhausting weeks, wreaking up in the morning for physical exercise.

At this moment in time, I decided to start using a sleep tracker and it did not take long to get some data: I was barely getting an average of five and half hours, far too low for standards. Yet, this experience triggered even more stress as I did not manage to squeeze more sleep into my schedule. I removed my sleep tracker and carried on with my usual sleep pattern.

Only after I was lucky enough to read Ariana Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution, I started to associate good sleep pattern with performance. Reading that Jeff Bezos or Lebron James where sleeping in excess of eight hours a night opened my eyes. I had always thought that top performers would sleep three to five hours. This had a radical impact on me. I started to cut activities to free time to rest. The most impacted slot was the physical activity, followed by social gatherings. I made a point to sleep at least seven hours a night and when I finally reached that goal, increased to seven and a half (yes, I got back to wearing the sleep tracker).

This new sleep pattern helped to erase the tiredness and irritability. Despite less physical exercice, my stress level decreased and my blood pressure lowered. I also measured an increase in my work and physical performance.

I steel use a few gears to help me with my sleep goal, including a FitBit sleep tracker, lead my brain into sleeping mode with Lavender essential oil and occasionally a confortable eye mask.

WISDOM – Two TED Talks that had a significant influence on me

I am sure you are familiar with TED Talks and you probably saw quite a number already. Today I chose to highlight two talks that had a significant influence on me and that triggered some changes in the way I namely conduct my business.

Both talks help to empower you to do what feels right, for yourself and for others. They helped me to raise my voice, at several occasion, and to reframe the message I wanted to convey, in a way that was more accessible for my audience – in that specific case, colleagues and managers.

The first one is dedicated to the ability to speak up. Also I am a naturally outgoing person, I used to feel some difficulty to voice things that were directly concerning me as an individual. This talk helped me to build a frame to simplify the process and build up the message that is both authentic and efficient.

The second one tackles the question of your work’s value. That’s indeed a key question, regardless of your job and your industry. Thanks to this talk I was able to identify that I was contributing personally much more to the development of my business activity compared to what I traditionally imagined. By refraining this value, it unlock healthy discussions with my managers and open the way to some carrier progression.

I leave you with the two talks, please share you feedbacks in the comments or directly on Twitter!

How to speak up for yourself by Adam Galinsky

Know your worth, and then ask for it by Casey Brown