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Ion Valaskakis (Valis)
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Strategic Advice for Work and Life
Strategic Advice for Work and Life

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Looking for a good beach read for your upcoming summer holiday? Then consider listening to the latest episode of the "Boiling the Ocean" podcast that I co-host with my friend and fellow bibliophile Mike Ross.

This is another in-betweenisode, where we play around with the format and topic a bit. This show is all about books - why we love them, which ones we love, and what constitutes a great book in our minds. For fellow word nerds, you will be heaven. For those of you who don’t like to read … better skip this one then. But maybe our lively (yes, really!) discussion on the power of the written word might just tempt you back to the temple of books …

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/boiling-the-ocean/id1332312052
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Don’t go changin’… unless you have to, that is.

In the latest episode of the "Boiling the Ocean" podcast, Mike Ross and I tackle the particularly trendy concept of reinvention. Companies do it either to survive (Converse shoes) or thrive ((Netflix has pulled off that trick - twice!). Management consultants preach it to their clients and practice it themselves in their careers (we are guilty on both those counts). And you might be considering it, too. That's probably a good idea: as we like to say, think of reinvention as redundancy and robot insurance.

On this show, we discuss the merits of reinventing your organization or yourself and share a 6 step framework (we're consultants; of course we have a framework!) for how to make it happen. A lot of people are intimidated by the prospect of reinventing their careers, and understandably so. Disrupting one's life is no easy task. Our position is since we’re all going to have to do it, we might as well learn the how now ... Tune in and let us know what you think.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/boiling-the-ocean/id1332312052
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On the latest episode of the "Boiling the Ocean" podcast, Mike Ross and I delve into a topic that people rarely talk about but probably think about all the time (or should). We ask: what is #success, and how should we define it?

You may wonder what this has to do with consulting. Fair point. What we would say is that a lot of consulting is built on a premise of success. Consultants promise to help your organization succeed. Consultants themselves are usually seen as being successful, by virtue of working at one of these highly respected firms and earning big salaries. But beneath that polished veneer, do consultants actually help companies? Are consultants successes themselves? And for everyone else, what does this reflection teach us about how we should define success for ourselves?

Join us for a special "pop philosophy" episode of BTO as we try to “solve” success in the 21st century - in under 30 minutes, no less! Tune in to hear if we succeed ...
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A pretty big negotiation is about to get underway in Singapore today, but here's some news about negotiating that you can use right away - even if you're not a world leader attending a nuclear summit or a G7 meeting!

Most people fear negotiation almost as much as they fear public speaking - and apparently, they fear giving speeches more than they fear dying, so that’s saying something! Entire business models are built around avoiding negotiations, like Carmax in the US. But negotiation is not rocket science. It’s all about adopting the right frame of mind and incorporating some key tips and tricks.

In the latest episode of the "Boiling the Ocean" Podcast, Mike Ross and I demystify some jargon (what is BATNA, and do I have to take antibiotics if I have it??), challenge some popular misconceptions about #negotiation (no, you shouldn't aim for "Win-Win") and offer our top 3 tactics for instantly improving your haggling skills.

Of course, listening to our 25-minute podcast won’t turn you into an FBI hostage negotiator overnight, but it should make you more confident for your next discussion with your kids about doing their homework, and even perhaps your push for a pay raise. So tune in to "Negotiation Boot Camp" and let us know what you think ...
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Have you ever wondered why we take summer vacations?

The practice is a relic of the agrarian economy and was meant to allow farmers' children (a critical part of the workforce at the time) to pitch in during harvest season. Small family farming began to recede in the 19th century and yet we continue to live with its legacy in the 21st century.

This is an example of the 'QWERTY Effect', named after the curious reason why Anglo-Saxon keyboards have letters that spell out Q-W-E-R-T-Y in the upper left-hand corner. Back when people wrote on typewriters with keys (Google the word to see what they look like, millennials!), the earliest machines were very delicate.

In fact, the main challenge was to prevent users from typing too quickly and jamming the typebars together. In 1873, Christopher Latham Sholes managed to slow down the speed at which people could type by setting out the keys in one of the least efficient ways possible, and the QWERTY layout was born. Fast forward to today, and the keyboard on which I'm typing (or 'keying'?) this post on still maintains the QWERTY layout even though there's no ribbon to be found anywhere.

The QWERTY keyboard has become a metaphor for outmoded but deeply ingrained activities that persist well past their point of relevance.

When I realized that so many aspects of my life -- from when I work to how I type -- were based on old habits, I wondered what else we've been conditioned to accept as 'fact' without critically assessing it first.

It was then that I discovered the power of what I call 'perpendicular thinking'.
In geometry, a perpendicular line is one that meets another at a perfect, 90-degree right angle. We need to develop that reflex of looking at conventional wisdom from a contrarian viewpoint - questioning what we're told to believe and investigating whether or not it's still true.

Conclusion: Don't subcontract critical thinking to society. Always stop and think when someone says that you're 'supposed' to do something. It may turn out that you're the only one who knows what they're doing.
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I'm going to be provocative today and roll this grenade into the room: expertise is overrated.

Now to be clear, I don’t mean to suggest that you don’t want an expert when someone is performing neurosurgery on you. It’s just that the idea of expertise has to evolve in the modern era.

In the latest episode of our "Boiling the Ocean" podcast, Mike Ross and I explore the notion of expertise and discuss the limits of specialized knowledge. The headline: it ain’t what it used to be. It’s more fragile but thankfully it’s also more easily achieved. So there are exciting opportunities but also risks - and we’ll try to explore them all, as well as what they mean for you and your career, in 25 minutes. Tune in to see if we succeed and join the debate as well …

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/boiling-the-ocean/id133231205
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Did you know that there is a Japanese word for buying books that you don’t read? This habit - one that I exhibit, sadly - is actually so universal that they created a term for it: 積ん読 or tsundoku.

We’ve always had a complicated relationship with the written word. Socrates feared the arrival of books and favored oral communication, yet his disciple Plato secretly wrote down his famous dialogues (and thanks to him we know what Socrates thought).

Socrates feared what writing would do to our ability to think. I believe that he turned out to be wrong (maybe the only time I’ll ever disagree with the great man!), but like him, I am nervous about a similar transition we’re making today - from books to screens, emails to text messages, and words to emoticons. Reading is an activity we have to preserve and even increase, however. It allows us to commune with some of the greatest minds across time and space, imparting wisdom and building knowledge. Finally, I submit that reading books, in particular, is the antidote to this attention-deficit age because, as Joseph Epstein points out, “we are what we read.” Read the latest issue of the IoNTELLIGENCE Brief to see why ...

https://mailchi.mp/16d56c3c6fb8/iontelligence-brief-13
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I live by a simple motto: plans are useless but planning is priceless.

Maps - whether mental ones or cartographic ones - give the illusion of accuracy. But, as the saying goes, the map is not the territory. Only by recognizing the limitations of these constructs can we use them effectively.

So too, I would argue, for plans. We should never put too much stock in a plan as a static recipe designed for a specific result; too many things can go wrong, and reality usually gets in the way. As that famous business thinker Mike Tyson once pointed out, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.”

While the actual step-by-step list might have limited value, the act of planning does not. In fact, in an era where volatility, uncertainty and complexity rein, thinking through contingencies before disruption - or disaster - strikes is just common sense. After all, the best time to figure out what you’d save in a fire is not while the house is burning down around you ...

Conclusion: Don’t become a slave to “the plan.” Instead, use the process of planning to game out the various scenarios that you might face, and how you might respond. If and when they happen, you’ll know what to do first while retaining the flexibility to adjust to your new reality.
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Have you ever wondered how many hockey pucks there are in Canada? Me neither, to be honest. But if you've had an interview with a consulting firm - or, for that matter, with Google - in the past few years, you might have been asked a crazy question like this.

In the latest episode of the "Boiling the Ocean" podcast, Mike Ross and I discuss why queries like these are used - namely, to investigate how a person thinks. We'll then broaden the conversation to explore the way a well-posed question also impacts what we think about and list our favorite questions. We bet that after this episode, you will find ourselves agreeing with the great Albert Einstein, who noted sagely: "The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution."

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/boiling-the-ocean/id1332312052
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If there was a holy trinity of crucial 21st-century skills, I would personally nominate the following: lifelong learning, stillness (of mind as well as of body) and contrarian (or least critical) thinking. The first one is obvious and the second is becoming more so. But the third may surprise you. Its importance stems from a rise in intellectual and behavioral conformity, as well as the fact that our ‘reality’ can now be manipulated (see Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and of course Facebook, it appears).

In the current climate, there is a real value to keeping your mind’s door constantly open to doubt. Uncertainty makes us more receptive to new information and — gasp — to changing our minds when the facts warrant it.

This month’s edition of the IoNTELLIGENCE Brief is an exploration of that questioning mindset. In that vein, I’ve collected some of the most contrarian ideas on business, history, sex, health, money, and religion. Read on if you're so inclined ...

https://mailchi.mp/1dcf68a7ea74/iontelligence-brief-march-2018-contrarian-thinking
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