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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

The Other 90% by Robert K. Cooper



I finished this book in May 2024. I recommend this book 3/10.


Why you should read this book:

You should read this book if you are overwhelmed and caught in the rat race. The book was released shortly after "Seven Habits of Effective People" and maybe was seen as a follow-up. You can see how this book might have talked more about the meaning of life.


Get your copy here.


🚀 The book in three sentences

  1. Your purpose is to be good and kind.

  2. Slow down. Do a brain dump of everything you have on your mind onto paper.

  3. Find your strengths and values, and ensure you check in on them from time to time.


🎨 Impressions

I can see how this book was a hit in 2001, following Stephen Covey's & Habits of Effective People.


✍️ My favorite quotes

  • "Independent of others and in concert with others, your main task in life is to do what you can best do and become what you can potentially be." ~ Erich Fromm.

  • Goethe said, "Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

  • Rick Tarquinio said, "The way to your dreams can only be found with one foot in eternity and the other on shaky ground."


📝 My notes and thoughts

  • P8. Unless you choose to consciously override this brain tendency, you're consigned to repeating the past. One of the most effective ways to get past this limitation is to devise simple mechanisms that help you stand apart from the crowd and reach for what you can yet become. A plan is a fine intention or faraway vision. It may be inspiring, but by itself, it usually doesn't amount to much. But once you have a clear sense of what you want, a mechanism actually brings it to fruition. For example, there's a simple mechanism that overcomes our natural resistance to growth or change and helps us be our best. All that is required is to regularly ask these two questions:

  • What's the most exceptional thing you've done this week?

  • What's the most exceptional thing you think you will do next week?

  • P8. You can ask each member of a group to answer these questions, or you can do it alone—you can schedule a weekly meeting with yourself (every Friday morning in front of the bathroom mirror, for example). The word "exceptional" is defined however you want. It simply means, "What stood out for you?" or "How did you go against the crowd?" or "What real difference did you make to the people around you or the world at large?" Perhaps this week, it was something big. Or maybe it was a kind word or an unnoticed task at home or at work that made you proud. It is the intensity that counts. Take a moment to reflect on your answer: Was this the best you could give? Is there any way you could have given something more?

  • P10. If you ask yourself right now what you did last week that was exceptional, you'll probably have to think for a while. When you establish the asking of the two questions—what did you do last week and what will you do next week—as an integral part of your life, it can change your approach to everything you do. It steadily raises your sights about what you are capable of. On Tuesday, you may be thinking, "But I haven't done anything real exceptional yet this week." This may prompt an inner response, such as, "Then I'd better think of something exceptional to do!" This heightens curiosity about the possibilities for taking new actions. You'll be more likely to find yourself actively seeking ways to give the world more of your best, instead of just hoping for them.

  • P22. Things on the mind create background chatter that can distract us from applying our full intelligence to what matters most right now. Whatever is being "held" in your mind consumes energy and attention. When there's too much on your mind, the result is needless distress and tension. A lot of these thoughts and worries stay on your mind simply because we haven't faced them or clarified them, or have no trusted way to remember them or take action on them later. This is where a day book or journal comes in. To test this, take a minute right now to clear your mind of whatever is nagging you. Thoughts, ideas, or worries. Put them all on paper. Next to each concern or idea, jot out a single line that is required for this to be dealt with in the most satisfactory way. Then, add one physical action you could take next to make progress and when would be the best to do it in reaching this solution. What commitments can you make? For things that matter most, put a specific action on your calendar. For others that are a little more than background noise or distractions that are of little value today, cross them off or file them away for a future "worry time" or "new idea time" rather than letting them get jammed up with today's priorities. Once on paper, such thoughts tend to lose much of their power to nag or distract you.

  • P32. Here are some strategies that may help bring out your best and the best in others, without trapping you in zero-sum thinking:

  • Every time you get competitive, lighten up—and focus on discovering new ways to excel. Whenever you find yourself zeroing in on another person's shortcomings (or, more correctly, on your assumptions as to their shortcomings), or feeling that someone else must lose for you to win, catch yourself. Stop. Remind yourself of how debilitating such competitiveness can be. If it helps you gain perspective, think of something humorous. Get back into the flow of what was most fun or challenging about what you're doing. Shift gears. Change your view. Surprise yourself. Often, competitiveness comes from not wanting to stretch or change yourself. The failures of others can make it appear that you are just fine or are advancing when, in truth, you're standing still.

  • Whenever you notice you're comparing yourself to others, change the view. How about comparing yourself to the best in yourself? When tempted to settle for what's common, ask, "I'm making an effort here, but compared to what? Am I stretching deeper inside myself for something new or different that might be possible? What could happen if I call on more of my best here?

  • P36. "Independent of others and in concert with others, your main task in life is to do what you can best do and become what you can potentially be." ~ Erich Fromm.

  • P39. "It's easy to act as if you are a weathervane, always changing your beliefs and words, trying to please everyone around you. But we were born to be lighthouses, not weathervanes. Imagine a vertical axis running through the center of your heart, from your deepest roots to your highest aspirations. That's your lighthouse. It anchors you in the world and frees you from having to change directions every time the weather shifts. Inside this lighthouse, there is a lens and a light. The light represents who you are when nobody else is looking. That light was meant to keep shining, no matter how dark or stormy it gets outside. Robert, when you find that light inside you, you will know it. Don't let anyone else dim it." "And one more thing," he added. "Remember to look for the light inside others. If, at first, you can't see it, look deeper. It's there."

  • P48. You can use a day book or a small notebook to start seeing others with new eyes. Jot down the names of four individuals who are important to you, and then make an entry whenever you notice something distinctive about one of those people: a particular gift or talent, or something that makes their eye light up. (Fedex founder Fred Smith says a mechanism like this, used by all supervisors, was a critical means of helping the company nurture the potential in everyone who works there.) Taking such notes encourages you to sharpen things what you would have missed in the past. When you notice exemplary qualities, make it a point to let the person know. "Pretend you have x-ray vision," my grandfather Cooper would say to me. "Look beneath the surface of whatever is going on around you," However you do it, keep finding ways to look at the world and the people in it with new eyes—and take note of what you find.

  • P57. Give recognition with the honor it deserves. Pause for a moment before thanking others. Keep several things in mind.

  • Make it genuine. Samuel Johnson said, "He who praises everybody praises nobody." He was right, sort of. When praise is generic and shallow, it ultimately fails. Instead, learn all you can about what another person is most excited about and what their favorite work is—and the direction it's taking, the possibilities and obstacles it offers, the way the individual is dealing with the pressures and progress.

  • Personalize your comments. Be specific. "Here's why I believe in you..." When people listen to comments from another person, they weigh how well this person knows who they really are and what they're capable of. Consequently, whenever you value or recognize another person, make it as individualized and specific as you can. Don't make assumptions. Ask and observe. Margaret Mead once said, "Always remember you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."

  • Individualize your remarks for members of a group. Whenever you thank more than one person, single out each individual. Most people give praise to the whole group. Yet, no matter how sincere they may be, they inadvertently make every one of these individuals feel devalued. Each individual knows that he or she contributed something that the others did not. And you missed it.

  • Before thanking a group, learn at least one specific contribution that each individual has made to the project's success. Assemble and thank the entire team. Say, for example, "We couldn't have accomplished this without each of you. I wasn't there for the entire effort, but I have learned at least one specific thing each of you contributed to produce this great result. Then, one by one, mention something specific and distinctive about the contribution of each individual. Watch people's eyes. It's amazing the difference this can make.

  • P93. Jotting down notes is a good, consistent way to keep passions in sight. Studies also suggest that a pen in hand connects to the human heart far better than a keyboard. Therefore, when it comes to uncovering or exploring passions—all the things you truly enjoy doing, whether you're good at them or not—a small journal in hand can be very valuable in day-to-day life. If you don't have an eye out for new passions, you'll only keep repeating the old ones.

  • P103. What are your natural talents and defining strengths?

  • P106. Notice how much—or how little—time you spend developing or applying your strengths. How can you improve the fit between what you do from day to day and what you shine at doing? Many of us get so caught up in being busy that, looking back, we realize we've spent much of our time gridlocked or just plodding along instead of lining up more of our best work and getting it done sooner. One of the gifts of using your strengths is how much you can accomplish in an hour and thereby gain more time or money for doing other things you may love more—such as pursuing your passions.

  • P109. Once you have a heightened awareness of where you shine, devise ways to weave in your strengths during the day. For example, take a moment at the top of every hour (or during your essential breaks) to ask: "How can I apply more of my best?" Pause before agreeing to take on any new effort, and be certain it involves doing some of the things you shine at. You might also ask, Is this the most exceptional work I can do, the very best effort I can make? Am I drawing on the utmost of my capabilities? Am I providing the greatest value per minute of effort? Can I bypass, minimize, or delegate some of the upcoming tasks that I have no talent or skill for, or that feel like drudgery? Do I notice and reinforce the best in other people, or am I staring at their blemishes and weaknesses? Can I take on from others more of what I'm best at and, in turn, ask them to lighten my load of the things I'm not great at or don't love to do? Without such questions, it's easy to keep rushing ahead, with a lot of motion but not much enthusiasm or satisfaction. When you do work you're best at, it flows.

  • P110. One of the practical tools for this is to take a few minutes each week to reflect on ways you did new things or tried to face old challenges in new ways. Then, for each of these activities, rate from 0 (least) to 10 (most) your response to the following:

  • Did it fit my values?

  • How natural or easy was it to learn?

  • How proficient was I at doing it?

  • Did I get a "kick" out of doing it? How satisfying was it?

  • How valued or valuable did I feel in doing it?

  • Did I get so absorbed in doing it that I lost track of time?

  • How much recognition or reward might I receive for doing it?

  • Do I want to give this more of my energy and attention?

  • P110. Goethe said, "Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

  • P119. Arnold listened and took action. Eventually, he addressed hundreds of other "little things" that were in the way of his individual employees giving their best. Among the results: After Anorld began paying close attention to golden gripes, employee turnover at Centennial was cut in half while earnings increased by 33 percent. These and a hundred other "little things" often become the big things that, over time, generate overwhelming resentment. Such small irritations have the power to cloud our view, diminish our sense of hope, drive wedges into our closest relationships, and poison our attitude.

  • P128. After a warm greeting for your loved ones at the door, take advantage of a few minutes of "personal wind-down time" to change clothes and go through whatever brief, relatively quiet interlude that helps put your day to rest and your life back in proper perspective: a hot show or bath, a relaxing set of exercises, a calm down time for a beverage and favorite snack. For some families, there may be days when this is actually the best time to employ a babysitter. The key is to make sure that, even if it's only for a few minutes, you make a clear shift away from work—to go for a stroll with your partner, step outside for a few minutes, putter in the garden, give each a back rub, turn on some great music, or sip your favorite cup of tea.

  • P139. From time to time, one of the best ways to achieve a sense of calm control in life is to get everything out of our heads and onto paper. This frees up new energy to focus on great goals and enables you to notice and eliminate whatever is unnecessary and distracting. When there's lots of stuff on the mind that has nothing to do with what matters most, we lose the big picture.

  • P141. There are so many bold wishes as there are people willing to discover them and commit to them. To begin clarifying your big dreams, complete these statements:

  • When I imagine making the two greatest contributions to my family, they are...

  • When I imagine my two biggest contributions to the neighborhood or community, they are...

  • My skills and passions could change the world if...

  • P144. In your day book or journal, keep several pages for your notes on great goals—your own and those of the people closest to you. Possible headings: My big dreams are...Here is how I am advancing them:...Here's how I'm supporting those dreams instead of criticizing them...

  • P150. Morning: Navigation time. One of the most effective ways I've found to link the past and future to the present is to commit a few minutes to doing it every morning. To do this, get up five minutes earlier than usual, find a quiet spot to sip your morning beverage, and reexamine your schedule for the upcoming day. Spend several minutes reflecting on significant experiences in your past. What have you learned? Are you applying these understandings today? Next, envision the future at least five years from now. What do you want to create? What kind of life and work? Look over today's to-do list and ask how important those tasks are in the long run. Does your upcoming schedule contain some activities of long-term value to you as an individual or to your family or work? If not, what changes can you make right now so you don't end up feeling victimized by your calendar? Finally, take a few moments to imagine where you'll be five to ten years from today; that may help you be happier or make more of a contribution when that day arrives.

  • P177. Ease off on the guilt of not getting everything done. Overstuffed schedules are counterproductive. Frustrations spill over into our attitude. We hurry, overcommit, tire out, forget, fall behind, apologize, and then start the whole process again. Try breaking the loop. Let go of something every day. Start with guilt. Do what matters whenever you can. Ease off a bit on the other things.

  • P252. Rick Tarquinio said, "The way to your dreams can only be found with one foot in eternity and the other on shaky ground."

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