How Much Should You Talk at Meetings?

Before we get into the Meetings article I wanted to mention a list of recommended books on success from It is a list of 13 books that Success Magazine is recommending. These are recent books and I have neither read them nor reviewed them here yet. You may want to check out the list here.

How Much Should You Talk at Meetings?

Meetings: as much as we may hate them they are unavoidable in most organizations, both public and private. In some industries meetings are very frequent. By one estimate middle management spends 35% of their time in meetings and upper management spend 50% of their time in meetings. Even if you are not in management meetings are often frequent. There may be as many as 25 million meetings per day in the US alone.

Some people say very little at meetings. Others say much more. How much should we say? A 2011 study found that too much discussion can dilute the purpose of a presenter at a meeting. Say too little and you lose influence and miss the opportunity to add value to the discussion. Say too much and you risk diluting your message due to redundancy or you alienate others who do not have a chance to get a word in.

It All Starts with the Agenda

If a meeting is well run it starts with an agenda. An effective chair for the meeting will keep the discussion to the agenda unless there is a compelling reason to depart. Before you attend a meeting study the agenda. It may also be a good idea to look over the last couple minutes for past meetings to refresh your memory on what has been decided previously. If the chair fails to keep the meeting on task consider a polite reminder that there is limited time and you have an agenda to get through.

A Word About Personality Types

People are very complex and no label adequately describes their personalities. However in a general sense most people tend to be more introverted or extroverted. Know where you land on that scale. It is OK to say less if you are more comfortable saying less. Likewise, if you are a natural extrovert and have a more irrepressible personality you can only suppress that so far. Either way you will be more effective if you plan your approach in a meeting.

Listen First, Speak Second

There is an advantage to listening before speaking. When you listen first you may find people are already in agreement with your position on agenda items and you will not need to waste time arguing when there is no argument. If you find people taking positions that concern you it is better to listen to what they have to say and what their justifications are. You may need to modify your own position in light of what you hear.

Pick Your Battles Carefully

Most meetings offer several opportunities for debate or differences of opinion. If there is a battle over each agenda item however the meeting will be less effective and leave people alienated and discordant. Decide in advance what is really important to you and let the rest go. As the meeting develops unless you see things going in a direction you believe is very wrong it may be best to let it go. There is little to be gained by arguing about every little detail.

Avoid Time Wasters

We have all suffered through the story tellers. These are often people who have been around for a long time and feel compelled to tell long stories about what happened years past. For many people it is just boring, for others it is irrelevant. What was done ten years ago may have little relevance today. The world is changing fast. If it is important to recount a past incident keep it as brief as you can and be clear about how it is genuinely relevant today.

While a little levity now and then can loosen up a meeting and keep things engaging avoid too many jokes. Meetings take a lot of time out of people’s days and they do not appreciate their time being wasted.

Be Positive and Constructive

Whether you find yourself in support of a proposal or in opposition you will have more influence if you can be positive in stating your position. Offer an alternative solution rather than just opposing what someone else says. Positive and constructive contributions will be appreciated more and will increase your overall influence.

In my 40 year career I’ve attended over a thousand meetings and have chaired many of them. I’ve found I fail to be effective when I failed to obey the suggestions I list here. Being thoughtful and constructive will lead to a much better result and a more enjoyable meeting.

Meetings are often unnecessary and may be seen as a waste of your time. However if you approach them with some constructive planning you can get the most out of the time spent.

So how much should you talk at a meeting: enough to get your ideas across and contribute to finding solutions. More than that is likely to be counter-productive.

Wishing you well,

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

Consistency + Improvement = Success

Success in any endeavor is the result of a number of factors. However, the biggest factor is consistency. Sometimes it is also described as persistence. Keep at it over and over, day in and day out; you get better and better.

Anthony Moore recently posted a long post on describing how consistency makes people more successful. Being persistent or consistent at what you are doing does pay off. Ask Olympic athletes. The practice every day. They cannot afford to goof off for a day. They may have to rest for an injury but they keep at it almost all the time. That is how they get good at what they do. That is how they become the best at what they do.

The same is true for many athletes, actors, business people, professionals.

Improvement is Essential

There is one aspect of consistency that Moore misses in his article. If you are consistent in doing something the wrong way you are just consistently wrong. That does not lead to success – it only leads to consistent failure.

In addition to being consistent, to practice your art or your skill consistently, you must constantly improve how you do it.

Those Olympic athletes don’t just train by doing the same thing the same way every day. They learn to do things better every day. They have coaches. They learn what they are doing less effectively and they learn how to improve their performance.

Yes, hard work and consistent work is critical for long term success. But so is improvement. Once you learn how to do something better you can then use consistent application of that better approach to improve your performance. That is what ultimately makes great success.

Consistent work plus constant improvement leads to amazing success. It is the formula for success.

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.

Why You Should Strive to be the Best?

I will answer that question more fully at the end of this post, but for now we can start with my mother’s often spoken advice: “if you are going to do something, do it well”. After all, what is the point of being mediocre?

Anyone can do mediocre work. Anyone can take all the shortcuts and produce an average result. Most of the people you work with and most of your competitors will be satisfied with mediocre results. “Good enough” they will say.

I suggest you should always think, it is not good enough. It is never truly good enough because it could always be done better.

If you want to secure a job or make a business a success you must strive to do the best. And once you think you’ve done your best you need to strive to improve on it.

This is what makes employees indispensable to their employers.

This is what makes products sell.

This is what makes a business a success.

This is how an idea is launched and a fortune is made.

That is what makes a better parent, spouse and friend.

Steve Jobs was never satisfied with doing things well enough. He strived to do things the best they could be done. That is why we have Apple computers and iPhones. In many ways they are the best of their kind. (Even if you prefer a PC or an Android you must acknowledge that Apple products are made very well.)

How to Become the Best

Benjamin Hardy wrote a great post on about how to become the best. I highly recommend the post, but in summary here is what you need to do to become the best at what you do:

  1. Start as an amateur to learn. All of the best had to start somewhere. Michelangelo started as an apprentice.
  2. Get coaching and education. Learn all you can about what you wish to master.
  3. Do not do what everyone else does. Break the mold and do something different and something outstanding.
  4. Learn patience. Be consistent and persevere until you have a break through.
  5. Organize your life and your efforts to optimize your performance.
  6. Take time to rest and refresh.
  7. Learn what it takes to get you into the flow and get there.
  8. Embrace fear and suffering. Take risks.
  9. Do it because you love to do it.

Back to the original question. Why should you strive to be the best? Here is my list of the reasons why:

  • If it is worth doing it is worth doing well.
  • It will make you more in demand which increases job security and business success.
  • It will enable you to be a more effective leader because people listen to those who perform at their peak.
  • It will make you feel good to strive for the best, it will make you proud.
  • Striving to be the best may or may not make you the best, but it will make you perform much better than if you settle for less.

Perhaps this is a good time for you to think about what you do and how well you do it? Could it be improved? (Trick question: everything can be improved.)

Maybe the better question is why not? Why not strive to do the best and become the best?

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.

High Performance Habits – Start by Seeking Clarity

Brendon Burchard is an on-line entrepreneur who specializes in productivity and effectiveness. His latest book is High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way. He advocates six habits that he claims extraordinary people possess.

  1. Seek Clarity

“High performers don’t necessarily get clarity. Instead, they seek it more often than other people — so they tend to find it and stay on their true path.

For example, successful people don’t wait until New Year’s to perform a self-evaluation and decide what changes they want to make.

A simple approach to seeking clarity is to focus on four things: self, skills, social, and service. How do you want to describe your ideal self? How do you want to behave socially? What skills do you want to develop and demonstrate? What service do you want to provide?

  1. Generate Energy

Our research shows, unsurprisingly, that most people lose energy throughout the day. By 2 or 3 p.m. they’re starting to flag, and many finish the day feeling wiped out.

But some people — some extremely busy and productive people — aren’t wiped out.

What we found is that most people bleed out energy and intention in the transitions between tasks, between meetings, etc.

High performers have mastered their transitions. They’re more likely to take a quick break, to close their eyes, to meditate — to give themselves a short psychological break that releases their tension and focus from one activity so they are primed to take on the next.

If you want to feel more energized and creative and be more effective at work — and leave work with plenty of “oomph” to enjoy your personal life — give your mind and body a break every 45 to 60 minutes. While that can sometimes be tough to do, whenever possible, plan your day in those chunks.

  1. Raise Necessity

Before every major activity, high performers raise the psychological necessity regarding why it is important for them to perform well.

  1. Increase Productivity

High performers increase the outputs that matter. When Jobs came back to Apple, he stripped down the product line. Then he focused on increasing the quality of the products that remained.

That’s what we all have to do: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

High performers are also more productive because they see five steps ahead, and align themselves to achieve each of those things.

  1. Develop Influence

High performers develop influence by teaching people how to think and challenging them to grow.

Teach people how to think and you change their lives. High performers say things like, “Think of it this way” or “What if we approached it this way?” or “What do you think about this?” Over time, they train the people around them how to think — because when you impact someone else’s thoughts in a positive way, you have influence.

  1. Demonstrate Courage

We did a tremendous amount of research on courage, and we found that in the face of risk, hardship, judgment, the unknown, or even fear, high performers tend to do a couple of things.

First, they speak up for themselves. They share their truth and ambitions more often than other people do. They also speak up for other people more often than others do. In short, high performers are willing to share the truth about themselves.

Many people complain about the struggle. High performers don’t. They’re fine being in the weeds, getting muddy. They know that showing up, even when they’re tired, will help make them the best.

Knowing that the process will be hard — not just accepting that it will be hard but appreciating that working through the tough times is necessary for success — makes them less afraid.”

The words above are directly quoted from Burchard by Jeff Haden in his post on Check out the post for a more thorough discussion of these ideas. But before you do that:

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to ask yourself if you truly want to be extraordinary. Being extraordinary requires a great deal of focus, self-discipline and hard work. It means working more than average and doing more than expected. Not everyone is committed to doing all that.

If you decide you want to put forth that high level of effort to achieve more than average, then these habits will serve you well. However, if you are not committed to going that extra mile those habits will mean little.

That is really applying Buchard’s first habit: seeking clarity. I suggest we must first seek clarity in what we want to achieve and what price we are really willing to pay.

Wishing you well,

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

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.

Looking Ahead

Every year about this time I take stock of the past year and look ahead to the new year. Lots of people do that.

Every year has its challenges but I have far more to be grateful for from 2017 than I do to complain about.

As for 2018 I will concentrate here on my goals for this blog and related work. As 2017 draws to a close I have published a large number of book reviews over the past year. That will change in 2018. There will be fewer reviews and more articles. The frequency of posting however will go down a bit. There are personal reasons for that. The coming year promises to bring a lot of change for me.

There will be changes in my “day job”. As many of my readers know I am a circuit judge. This will be my last year fully employed as a judge. My official retirement date is June 30 but I will likely continue to serve more or less full time as a senior judge until my position is filled. If the May election does not decide who my successor is it will be decided in the November general election.

Retirement however is a misnomer for what I plan to do. When I am freed from full time work at the courthouse sometime later in 2018 I will open a mediation and arbitration practice. I also hope to have a bit more time to relax and do things I enjoy.

I plan to continue bringing you, my readers, the best information I can about books and other resources on self-improvement and the other topics I frequently write on. My aim will be to write less frequently but in greater depth.

As always I would love to hear from my readers with your questions or comments. You can post a comment here or go to my Contact page and send me a private message.

I wish all of you the very best in the new year. I hope you have set aside some time to reflect on your past year and develop a few goals for the coming year. It is an old saw but true: people who set goals and then work to implement them achieve more than those who do not.

Happy New Year!

Learn how to formulate goals correctly to gain control over your life and achieve your dreams in my book, Goal Power!

Wishing you well,

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

Do Winners Ever Quit

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A common success myth is that winners never quit and quitters never win. It is a favorite with athletic coaches. Is there scientific evidence to support it?

In his insightful book Barking Up the Wrong Tree Eric Barker examines the research on this. He starts Chapter 3 with the story of an impoverished Mexican boy who was inspired to persist. He tried multiple times to cross the US border to find work that would pay better in the US. Despite failed attempts and being caught by border patrol and returned to Mexico he finally made it. He could not speak English but he found work and worked 7 days a week 12 hours a day. He lived at first in his car. He also took classes at a community college at night. With good grades he managed to transfer to the University of California at Barkley. Graduating he was accepted at Harvard Medical School. He married and became a US citizen.

Today, Dr. Q, as he is known. Is one of the top brain surgeons in the US. He performs hundreds of surgeries a year at John Hopkins, one of the top hospitals in the country. There is no doubt that Dr. Q is very intelligent. But it took amazing grit and persistence for this poor immigrant boy from Mexico to become one of the most outstanding brain surgeons in the US.

Dr. Q’s story is very inspiring, but does it typify most people’s experience. Barker’s examination of research on this subject revealed that while persistence is certainly an important element of success it is not a guarantee of success. He cites the work of Howard Gardner who found that ambitious people are usually very persistent but they still do not always succeed. The most successful of them learn from their failures and change their approach.

Angela Duckworth made similar findings in her work that led to her book Grit. She found that people who persevere when things get tough do succeed more often. She counts this perseverance as a critical element of grit – the tendency to work very hard and see things through.

It appears that the research tells us what common sense would tell us (as it so often does): that persistence often leads to success but not always. If we persist in doing the wrong thing or in the wrong way we just persist in failing. Persistence is important to success but so is having a realistic view of what will work and being willing to stop now and then, reassess what we are doing and learn from our mistakes.

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.

The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

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Title and Author:   The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Synopsis of Content:  

Duhigg explores what science has to teach us about how habits are formed, how they function, how they can be modified and how they influence our lives and our business world. The book is divided into three parts: The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Successful Organizations, and the Habits of Societies.

Based on studies of animal behavior and human behavior, we (that is rats, monkeys and humans) form habits the same way. There is a cue of some kind that triggers a habit, followed by some form of routine that has been completed memorized and operates more or less automatically, followed by some form of reward that reinforces the habit. Whether it is buckling our seat belt, brushing out teeth, smoking a cigarette or using heroin, this same habit loop operates in all of us.

The brain creates habits because it simplifies our activities. If we had to consciously decide and think out everything we do every day throughout the day from scratch it would be overwhelming for the brain. Habits are little routines that automate aspects of our behavior. We are not usually conscious that the habit is being formed, and once it is in place we need not expend much thought to follow it. It is a very effective efficiency that our minds use to free us up to think about other things.

Since we now know how a habit is formed and how they function we can modify existing habits and create new ones. We must identify the right cue which leads to the desired routine which is then followed by the reward. We must know in advance, or expect, the reward to motivate us to engage in the routine. The reward generates endorphins in the brain which are powerful motivators. They motivate us to repeat the routine every time the cue occurs. It is a bit more complex than that, but that is the gist of it.

Duhigg goes on to explain in fascinating detail how studies have shown us how we can modify a habit and how to replace one habit with another. This is very important because we can learn from it how to replace a bad habit (smoking) with a good one (exercise).

Certain habits also develop in organizations and in societies and they come together to create a culture, whether it is the culture of a corporation or the culture of a society. Culture, it seems, is primarily driven by key habits.

What I found useful about this book:

This book helps us understand how habits are formed and how we can use them to our benefit, change them when we need to and replace them when necessary. Duhigg does warn the reader that although we understand the way habits are made and altered it is not always easy to do it. Determining the actual cue for example can take some experimentation and work.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is very well written. It is engaging. It contains lots of references to studies and science but not in a dry or boring way. It is a series of fascinating stories. It is very well organized.

Notes on Author:  

Charles Duhigg is an award winning investigative reporter for the New York Times.

Other Books by This Author:

Smarter, Faster, Better

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. Habits all function in the same basic way: a cue begins a behavior routine which ends in a reward. Once we understand this we can understand how habits work and how to change them or use them.
  2. We are manipulated every day by business through habits. Marketing has become in many ways habit focused.
  3. Once we know how to form and change a habit we can gain more real control over our own behaviors; we can replace bad habits and create good ones.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Copyright holder: ©2012 by Charles Duhigg
Publisher: Random House

Book of the Month: December 2016


Wishing you well,

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

Does Optimism Have a Dark Side?

Aaron Orendorff wrote a provocative post on Mashable last August about the dark side of optimism. It is an article well worth reading. Though it focuses on optimism in business it has applications on all parts of life.

Generally, we think that optimism is a good thing – and it is. Optimistic people are often healthier and live longer. Most successful people are by nature optimists. As Orendorff points out though, just because most successful people are optimists does not mean that most optimists are successful.

Most people, unless they are by nature risk takers, are averse to risk. They fear failure. If they are also by nature optimistic they may minimize the risks out of fear rather than looking realistically at the risk. A failure to be realistic about risk often leads to failure.

Orendorff suggests four steps to guarding against this failure to appreciate risk and allow optimism to lead to failure.

  1. Look into the future and pretend you have failed at whatever you are setting out to accomplish. Then analyze why you failed. What went wrong? This forces us to examine the risks more realistically. The challenge here is not to allow risk aversion to grow too large – if we fear every possible thing that can go wrong we will never start and never finish, and likely never succeed. So this examination of what can go wrong must be balanced with an analysis of what can go right.
  2. Look at the numbers. Analyze whatever you are undertaking in terms of hard cold numbers as often as you can. Look at reliable statistics. Look at how others have failed and why. The lessons from this can be invaluable.
  3. Know your limitations. We all have limitations. There are things we are not good at, there are things we simply cannot do. Failure to realistically examine those limitations can lead to crushing failure.
  4. Avoid surrounding yourself only with optimists. A few pessimists in the mix can be vital to being realistic. If everyone you are working with is an optimist no one may see the risks in a realistic light.

As Orendorff concludes being realistic about optimism does not mean abandoning it. It is about striking a balance between optimism and pessimism. It is about being neither really – it is about being realistic. Too much pessimism can kill any good idea. Too much optimism can as well by leading us down a path to failure. Successful people are more often realistic people. They are motivated by their optimism but are realistic enough to see the risks and evaluate them in a hard-nosed way.

“The pessimist sees only the tunnel; the optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel; the realist sees the tunnel and the light – and the next tunnel.” – Sydney J. Harris

Aaron Orendorff is the founder of iconiContent and a regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider and more. Connect with him about content marketing (and bunnies) on Facebook or Twitter.

Wishing you well,

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

Smarter, Faster, Better

Post 1000

It is hard for me to believe it but this is the 1000th post to this blog. Actually that is a bit of a cheat because for a number of years the blog had a different name, but it has always been devoted to bringing to my readers book reviews and articles that inform and at times I hope that inspire.

The blog was originally called Creating True Wealth just like my newsletter. By true wealth I mean greater knowledge and understanding about the things that can help you improve yourself just as I strive to improve myself. The blog’s byline is Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development. That has been my vision of true wealth: adapting to change and personal development.

In 2013 I moved all the content of the old blog to this new one and carried on the work.

The first blog entry was in February 2008. So we are coming up on the tenth anniversary of the blog in a couple months.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed the posts, or at least most of them, and that you have learned a few things from them. If you have I have succeeded in my goal. I would love to hear from you, either by posting a comment here or by sending me an email as indicated below. Let me know if you have found these posts at all useful or beneficial and how I might improve them.

And now to continue my task I include below my review of Smarter, Faster and Better by Charles Duhigg. Keep reading friends and keep learning.
A book review by Daniel R. Murphy

The November 2016 Book of the Month

Title and Author:   Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

Synopsis of Content:  

In this book the author takes a detailed look at the habits and practices that improve personal and team performance. What makes this book stand out are the case studies and the scientific research that is explored. He explores motivation, team work, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation and absorbing data in new and insightful ways. This book is not a rehash of the valid but often repeated principles of success. It is an investigation into what has been scientifically demonstrated to enhance success.

He explores the rebelliousness of a retirement home resident, a successful businessman who suffered a rare form of brain damage that changed his brain’s ability to be motivated teaching us how motivation works in the brain. He looks at what motivation lessons come from the military.

What kinds of people make up the ideal team? Should they be alike or diverse? How does diversity in personality types strengthen a team? What have hospitals and airlines learned about team work that can save lives?

How does focus, too much or too little, affect performance? What have we learned from aircraft crashes about how focus and cognitive tunneling can cripple decision making in a crisis? What are mental models and how can they be used by anyone to improve focus and analysis of a difficult situation?

How did a young woman win the National Poker Championship and what did she know about Bayesian psychology that anyone can take advantage of?

What has the business world learned about effective goal setting? How are SMART goals effective and in what ways are they ineffective? What do you have to add to SMART goals to make them more effective?

Duhigg provides insight into all these questions and many more. This book will provide you with a unique and provocative analysis into how we can perform smarter, faster and better.

What I found useful about this book:

Careful analysis of how people perform both on an individual level and as teams has provided us with considerable insight into what works best. While the traditional principles of success remain valid there is more to the story than that.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is very well written and engrossing. It is written as a series of stories that hold attention and teach at the same time.

Notes on Author:  

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist with the New York Times. He is an author who digs deeply into his subjects. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School and Yale College.

Other Books by This Author:

The Power of Habit

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. Teams function most effectively when made up of diverse people with different approaches, attitudes and personalities.
  2. Goal setting must be a combination of measurable and achievable goals with stretch goals to prevent limited performance.
  3. By developing a mental model of what we want to achieve we can avoid cognitive tunneling and achieve more.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
Copyright holder: ©2016 by Charles Duhigg
Publisher: Random House


Questions? Comments? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to post your comments or questions below or if you want to contact me privately you can do that here: CONTACT ME HERE.

Wishing you well,

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