Impossible or Unlikely?

Seth Godin recently posted on how unimpressive the new iPhone 10 is despite its high cost. It is unimpressive he says because it does not do anything truly different. It does not break through any barriers. It does not revolutionize anything. It is merely a slightly improved version of the previous product.

So much of what we do fits this description. We merely repeat what we have done before, perhaps with a tweak here or there. Making real progress – changing the world – is unlikely and it is almost always very difficult, but it is not impossible.

How often we hear that something is impossible? Yet in fact very little is really impossible. Much more is unlikely; it is difficult; it is challenging.

First then we should be careful not to declare things impossible and more accurately see them as unlikely or as difficult or as both.

If a true change is to be made that will have a great effect it will be the unlikely change.

Developing the next iPhone 10 is not the aim or the challenge. It is likely. It is relatively easy. It has been done.

In whatever endeavor we engage upon the aim ought to be to achieve the unlikely and the truly impactful change.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.


Most likely now that Christmas is past you have more stuff than you had before. Some of you are now engaged in a further shopping flurry to get the good deals in the after-Christmas sales.

Why there is clutter-

Meanwhile I am concentrating on decluttering. I am trying to get rid of too much stuff. It just accumulates, doesn’t it? Over the years more and more stuff fills your house. Some of it must be updated (technology) or maintained, cleaned, sorted, stored, and otherwise messed with. Some of it sits in a bottom drawer or closet for years without any use or attention, yet we keep it. Why?

There have been many articles written on this but it seems to come down to two things in my experience:

  • We are so busy we do not have the time or the energy to sort through it all and get rid of what we do not need.
  • When we do pick up that item in our sorting the nagging thought is always there: someday I will need this.

To reinforce that second thought I have a number of times gotten rid of something and then shortly thereafter have found I need it. My brain then says, “see, I told you you’d need that someday”.

Of course most of that stuff in those bottom drawers and closets will never be needed. But our mind, which is wired to save against scarcity, only focuses on those few times when you did get rid of something and then found you needed it.

Why reduce clutter-

There are many reasons to reduce clutter at least for me:

  • A neat and tidy work space is more efficient.
  • It is easier to find what you need if there is less stuff to sort through.
  • A neat and tidy work space looks better.
  • The less stuff you have the less time you spend fiddling with it – sorting it, storing it, retrieving it, etc.

Most of us have too much stuff and much of that stuff is clutter. Joshua Becker wrote a recent post on how we collect this stuff and how we should look at clearing it away. He makes many good points. It is worth reading.

How to get rid of it-

My aim is to start by cleaning up my study. I have a penchant for collecting office supplies: staplers, hole punches, paper of different kinds, pens, pencils, etc. As I go through stuff I categorize it and deal with it in this way:

Heirlooms – things of significance to me like the ink well that belonged to my grandfather: keep.

Gadgets – divide into two groups: those I’ve used in the past year keep; those I have not used for a year or more: donate.

General stationary and office supplies: same as gadgets.

This is much more difficult than it sounds. It takes time. It takes focus. When I sit down to sort my brain is chattering at me about the dozen more important things I ought to be doing with this time. Some objects evoke memories leading me down a lane of reminiscence and slowing progress.

Have I used that in the last year? Is it likely I will use it in the year to come? Those are sometimes hard to answer. Better keep it just in case. No! That is why you have too much clutter in this study. Pitch it.

And so the process goes. It is difficult.

Then there are the books. My greatest weakness is books. I love them. I love to read them. I often study them. I prefer to keep them. Will I read them all again? No. But which ones will I want to consult at some future time? It is almost impossible to tell. I also love the look of a book shelf lined with row after row of books. My own library!

I am categorizing books: classic fiction I keep (not a lot of those); ordinary fiction I need to donate or sell back; most of the nonfiction work I keep though I am increasingly screening out those nonfiction books I found not so useful. I’ve gotten rid of four or five boxes of books in the past year but still need to trim down the collection to the most important. I remind myself to get more fiction on the Kindle to avoid this problem.

And so the process goes. It is always difficult. If it were not difficult I would not have clutter!

Bookstores and the internet are full of guides on how to declutter and get rid of what you do not really need. But in the end no one else can do this for you. You have to make the tough decisions and cut stuff loose.

Sort. Get rid of stuff. Try to avoid collecting much more. It is a process. It will take some time.

In the end it is worth it.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The 10/10/10 Rule

We all have to make tough decisions. Hopefully not every day, but often enough that it would be useful to have a process to use to make those decisions. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a post on Fast about the 10/10/10 rule as an approach to making these hard decisions.

The Heaths suggest that a primary impediment to making good tough decisions is our visceral emotional response. They suggest that our initial emotional reactions will fade with time, which is why people say if you have a big decision to make you should sleep on it. Suzy Welch, a business writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and O magazine developed a strategy to avoid poor decisions driven by initial emotional reactions. She calls it the 10/10/10 method. She wrote a book about it.

The gist of this method is to think about our decisions and how we will likely feel about them in three time frames:

  • How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
  • How will we feel about it 10 months from now?
  • How will we feel about it 10 years from now?

In their Fast Company post the Heaths offer a fact scenario to describe how the 10/10/10 method might be used. It is about a woman who is trying to decide whether push her relationship with her boyfriend to the next level through a commitment of love. However the system can be used for any difficult decision.

The Heaths also suggest that our short term emotional response is not always wrong and at times may lead to the right decision. They offer that using the 10/10/10 method puts things in greater perspective for most difficult decisions. The post comes from the Heaths’ book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (published by Crown Business, a division of Random House).

The 10/10/10 method offers us some perspective that can help us make difficult decisions. It does not necessarily make the decision making easier, but can force us to think about the decision for the long term.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Limits to Science

Science is a wonderful thing. It saves us from communicable disease, puts a microwave oven in our kitchen and put a man on the moon. There is no doubt that science done well can produce wonderful results for us.

There are, more or less, two types of science that are commonly used: so called hard science and social science. (There are other more theoretical forms, such as theoretical physics, but I leave that for another time.) Hard science is based on concrete observation of the results of repeatable experiments. No matter how many times you do it, if you apply heat to pure water at sea level it will boil at 100 C. Chemistry, physics, basic biology and various combinations of them (e. g. bio-chemistry) are all examples of the hard sciences.  Soft sciences or social sciences are those that seek to measure human and animal behavior: psychology, sociology, economics, etc. I most often reference social science in my blog posts.

The problem with social science is first that it is often based on correlations of data that may or may not demonstrate an actual causal effect. Second, because culture and human dynamics change with time what social science declares as “fact” in one generation can change in later times. Human behavior can be very changeable.

Well Done vs Sloppy Science

There is a more important distinction in science: that which is done rigorously and carefully and that which is not. Seth Godin recently wrote about this difference between well done science and sloppy science. He cites as one example of sloppy science Eugenics, a science that was well accepted in scientific circles in the 19th century but has been found to be wrong. Sloppy science lacks rigor and lacks sufficient and reliable data to support is conclusions. Seth does a good job of illustrating the difference and providing some good examples.

Scientists are humans. As humans they make mistakes, they can be driven by human weaknesses such as greed, hubris, arrogance, and catering to special interests. When that happens the science that results can be sloppy or just plain wrong, like Eugenics.

Another aspect of good science is that it is subject to continual challenge and revision. Scientists consider this the great advantage of science – it constantly tests our assumptions and changes them as the data requires. Sometimes this is because the rigor is greater, sometimes it is because the technology behind the science is improved. The result is that there is rarely a final scientific fact or conclusion that cannot be challenged. Hard science more often achieves this immutable conclusion, like the boiling point of pure water at sea level. Softer science, or social science, is more subject to refinement and change over time.

For this reason, although we can learn a lot from well done science, including social science, it is almost always subject to change and for that reason we must be very careful about drawing ultimate conclusions based on the current state of science. It can always be refined and improved. We must remember that science has often been wrong. The promise of science is that it will in time correct itself. Science allowed us to fly in heavier than air machines when many scientists said that was impossible. Scientific research and experimentation proved those in science that thought that flying faster than the speed of sound was not possible for living human, as well as those who thought it impossible to enter earth orbit.

It is very dangerous for us to believe that what we currently think is the absolute truth. The hubris that convinces each generation that they have discovered the truth is later overturned by the next Einstein who is not fettered by this belief. Like all human endeavor science is imperfect. It has the capacity to be wrong, even very wrong. I suggest that for this reason we must constantly question what is currently accepted in science. I do not suggest we ignore all science because it could be wrong, but that we maintain a healthy skepticism and curiosity about what is today claimed to be the truth.

Skepticism vs Denial

I do not mean to say here that denial of science is justified. Having a healthy skepticism about what science currently teaches is not the same as denying what the overwhelming evidence demonstrates. To simply deny that the climate is changing or to deny that the theory of evolution has validity are examples of this. One can reserve judgment on every aspect of these scientific findings, but there is no value in denying a large body of good science.

I offer these thoughts with humility because I am often citing science in some of my posts here. While I do believe we can learn much from the science that I cite I also remain aware that there is nothing absolute about that science. It may be right, or partly right, or at times all wrong.

Let us take advantage of what science has to teach us. But let us never be arrogant about it. We can always be wrong.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Follow Up on

A few days ago I wrote about a new service that allows you to send a “personally written and signed” birthday card using digital technology to save time. I sent the card to myself and now for some follow up. See that post here.

The card was delivered right on time, one day before the birthday for my brother. I then hand delivered the card to him. He liked the card and thought it clever.

The envelope appeared to be hand addressed. I suspect they do that using a print font but it looks very much like the real thing. I was impressed that it was mailed on time.

As I mentioned last time the one flaw I found was that when they print your handwritten note and signature if you are careful on how you space it in your photo to them it will appear written over the printed message in the card. The one suggestion I have for them is to mention this in their instructions.

If you want to avoid a trip to the store to send a personalized card this is a good way to do it. I have no affiliation with this company and have posted this just for your information.

Check it out at .

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.


A Basque word, Gaztelugatxe means “it’s a lot of effort, but worth it”. Seth Godin recently posted on this concept and suggests that it is the opposite of fast, easy and worthless.

Modern society emphasizes the fast and the easy and much of the time the result is worthless. Everyone is looking for short cuts (what are now called hacks) to make everything as fast and easy as possible.

Sometimes making hard work or difficult work easier is a good thing.

Sometimes the continuous search for the quick and easy option is not so good.

Often the real pleasure in life and the real lesson in life is in the journey, not the arrival. Be wary of shortcuts – they may remove the quality that makes life truly worth living.

Seth Godin’s post is here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Getting Back on Track

Yehong Zhu posted 70 ideas on how to get back on track – that is how to live better – on Quora. It was then reposted on This is a fascinating list of ideas, tips, and insights. A few of them are very important. They all teach us something of value. Here are just a few examples:

3 Figure out what your values are and stick with them.

8 Trust your gut. When your spidey sense is tingling, pay close attention. Somehow it knows better than you do when something is right or wrong.

18 Whenever you can, pay it forward.

32 Work hard.

69 Life is short, and death is the great equalizer. Do everything you want to do while you can. There’s no time for anything else.

That is just a small sample. Some you will find very useful, others not so much.

Read all of Zhu’s 70 ideas here.
Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Book Review By Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Synopsis of Content:

The sub-title to this book describes its contents in one sense, “Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants”. It may also have been called, “the limited power of the powerful”.

Despite myths like David and Goliath we most often assume that those in power and those with power will prevail over the weaker side in any contest. Gladwell tells us a number of true stories, beginning with David and Goliath that show how and why the more powerful side in a dispute or battle may often not win. He illustrates how the “weaker” party can use their perceived weakness as a strength and prevail. He shows how the abuse of power can be self-defeating.

He shows how a novice coach who knew nothing about basketball led his team to victory over better trained teams. He demonstrates how smaller class sizes in schools do not always provide better education. The theme continues with how attending the most prestigious universities may not be the best choice for students; the power, for some, of disabilities such as dyslexia; and struggles by those in the civil rights movement and during war that defeated a more powerful foe.

From these stories he argues certain principles: that there are disadvantages to advantage; and advantages to disadvantage; that challenge and difficulty can produce strength; that there are inherent limits to power; and that power itself, used in smaller doses can be more effective, but used in larger doses can backfire.

Gladwell also admits there are limits to these theories. At times the more powerful do win, perhaps in the majority of situations. But if the underdog is cunning enough and brave enough and perhaps most importantly persistent enough the underdog can often win over the more powerful foe.

The lessons offered by this book have many applications. For the parent who wants to be effective guiding children, the supervisor or manager who wants to use his authority wisely to direct employees, the government leader who wishes to mobilize support for a proposal or the person fighting the uphill battle against those with greater perceived power there are valuable lessons in this book.

The lessons here are not that the weak always prevail against the strong. In fact the author acknowledges that more often the strong prevail against the weak. His challenge to us is to redefine strong and weak. His point is that though not always, very often what we perceive as weakness can possess strength and what we perceive as strength can be weak and in those situations the weak will prevail over the strong.

What I found useful about this book:
The stories Gladwell tells us provide an engaging read that gives dimension and power to the principles he is conveying. This is not a dry book about politics or power, this is an engaging book about people and how they use, misuse and lose power over others.

Readability/Writing Quality:  
The book is very well written as with all of Gladwell’s work. The story telling makes it read much like a light novel. It is difficult to put down. He does a masterful job of linking one concept and example with another.

Notes on Author:
Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist and author. He has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1996.

Other Books by This Author:

What the Dog Saw
The Tipping Point

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Our perception of power and weakness can be deceiving. Human interaction is complex and a “weaker” person with sufficient persistence and intelligence can often overcome or outwit a more powerful opponent.
  2. Those in power should never assume they are guaranteed to prevail because of their power. The abuse of power can delegitimize one such that one loses influence – one’s power becomes less effective.
  3. Those fighting abusive power must remember that if the persist and if they exercise flexibility and adaptability against more powerful but usually less flexible opponents they have a significant chance of attaining what they want.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Copyright holder: 2013 by Malcolm Gladwell

Publisher: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company

Buy the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Everything Can Be Improved II

“If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.” – James Clear. This sums up the power of continuous or incremental improvement. If you just make a small improvement every day it really adds up. Clear has written a number of articles on continuous improvement and most recently a post on his blog.

In November 2015 I wrote on this and gave credit to Clarence W. Barron for first using this phrase, Everything Can Be Improved.  At that time I did not know about Clear’s writing on the subject. Making big improvements is exciting and gets lots of attention. However, making big improvements takes lots of time and energy (and sometimes money) and cannot be sustained. Making small but continuous improvements however is much more achievable. It can be done every day at minimum cost.

Another advantage to continuous improvement is that it is less disruptive than big changes. Sometimes a big change is a great idea, sometimes it is essential. But on a daily basis incremental improvements are less costly and add up to significant improvement over time.

Clear suggests these tools to improve incrementally:

  1. Do more of what already works
  2. Avoid tiny losses
  3. Measure backwards

I would add another step to this. Keep track of your small improvements. I keep a list on my computer of the incremental improvement projects that I implement each day, each week and each month. If you do not keep track of them you can lose sight of them and fail to follow through.

Incremental improvements begin with full acceptance of the concept that in fact everything can be improved. Once you adopt that mindset you can find ways to improve everything you do, both personally and in an organization, day by day. Following Clear’s formula this can realize an overall improvement of 37.78% per year if you assume a 1% improvement each day. It adds up.

Adopt the mindset that everything can be improved and then resolve and plan to make tiny improvements each day.

Read all of Clear’s article here.

What can you improve on today?

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author: 

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Synopsis of Content:

This book is about ideas. It is about where they come from, how they develop and what conditions best promote their development.

The author examines networks and how they function in nature, in human society and on the internet. Johnson first examines selected individual idea developments from history beginning with Charles Darwin and how he developed his ideas about evolution.

From these individual examples he develops a theory about how people actually develop ideas – especially complex ideas that are world changing. He identifies the environments that most effectively promote idea development: what he calls liquid networks. In nature he cites coral reefs as a prime example of this. He describes how the symbiotic and collaborative processes on a coral reef allow a rich growth of life to come from a nutrient poor environment.

He then extrapolates this process to apply to cities and the internet. He examines the development of inventions and technological advances and looks at the environments and processes that are most likely to promote such advances.

Johnson challenges the myth that most great advancements are the product of one genius working alone. Though he concedes that some progress does come from the lone individual he argues this is the exception to the rule. Most ideas, and most progress, he argues, come from the interaction of various individuals sharing ideas and building on past ideas to develop new ones.

He cites various examples of this including how most modern technologies were developed by numerous people sharing information and building on past ideas.

Environmentally he argues that the place where ideas are most often nurtured are those rich in high densities of people (or animals) working together such as cities or coral reefs.

Johnson examines many of the technological and conceptual advances of the past 400 years and finds that most of them come from some form of collaboration. He says that today most ideas come from research universities and or from research labs run by large corporations where this collaborative function is at its best.

Johnson discusses how these collaborative processes work. He tells us about the adjacent possible principles and that new ideas come from examining the edges of possibility around you. The most fertile idea generation comes from being exposed to multiple disciplines and ideas.

Johnson also writes about the “slow hunch”. He gives several examples (including Darwin) of people who had a hunch which over a long period of time grew and developed with added information and thinking. Most ideas do not come from an instant inspiration of genius but instead from a gradual process where a hunch may linger in the mind for years or even decades and then exposure to new ideas and relationships between ideas give birth to the concept that started with the slow hunch.

What I found useful about this book:

This book is an excellent study on how ideas are nurtured and developed. I learned a lot about how important it is to escape your silo or field of work and collaborate with others in various fields of work and thought to enrich your own thinking.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

This book is not an easy read. It forces you to think in new ways about how ideas are formed. It looks in great detail about how ideas have been formed in science and other areas. At times the detail is a bit daunting but is worth it because it paints a clear picture of how ideas are best developed in a way that a shorter examination of the process would fail to reveal in sufficient detail.

Notes on Author:

Steven Johnson is a bestselling author and founder of a number of websites.

Other Books by This Author:

The Invention of Air

The Ghost Map


Interface Culture

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Your best ideas will develop from a collaborative process interacting with numerous other people and their ideas. Creating and working in an environment rich in this kind of interaction with the largest number of possible influences generate the most ideas and lead to the most transformative changes. There is great value to visiting coffee houses and other places where this collaboration and discussion across disciplines can nurture your ideas.
  1. Write everything down and review those notes from time to time much as Darwin did. This allows you mind to expand on ideas and builds on the slow hunch.
  1. Read and learn from various disciplines outside your own. This will enable you to expand your thinking to levels you could not reach on your own.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Copyright holder: 2010 by Steven Johnson

Publisher: Riverhead Books, NY

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.