Zoe Meditations on Leadership, Meta Learning, & Priority

Welcome to Zoe Meditations, where every week, I will summarize a few ideas that will help you live greater, love better and laugh more. 

This week as we are celebrating a social distancing Easter, I have heard a very great development from the west:

Let’s get started!

A Leader’s Focus: In their book Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin wrote that the true test for a successful leader is whether or not his/her team successfully completes a mission. 

In order to do that, effective leaders need to leave the ego at the door, focus on the task at hand, entirely devote themselves to their team, and forget about themselves as an individual.

This also means that they need to be humble and understand when they are wrong. They need to own up their mistakes and right any errors done on their part or their team. Even when it is the team’s fault.

In essence, an effective leader cares only for two things and two things only: their team and the task at hand.

Interdependence: Contrary to popular belief, interdependence is a source of strength, not weakness. The interconnected world has made it more beneficial to those who choose to connect and collaborate with others. Here’s some tips on how you can collaborate with your team better:

  • During group collaboration, take on the tasks that are in the group’s best interest, not necessarily your own personal interests. Focus on making the groups better off. Show up, work hard, be kind, and take the high road. 
  • Be generous. When people act generously in groups, they earn idiosyncrasy credits—positive impressions that accumulate in the minds of group members. When ideas that might be threatening were proposed by generous people, their colleagues listened and rewarded them for speaking up, knowing they were motivated by a genuine desire to contribute.

Not all things are important: According to Essentialism author Greg McKeown, there are three dangerous modern assumptions that reduce our effectiveness and happiness. They are: “I have to”, “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.”

But these modern assumptions are dangerous because the reality is, our time and energy is limited. To say yes to one opportunity oftentimes mean to say no to another opportunity. In the real world, trade offs were real.

When all things are important, nothing is important. There’s nothing wrong with having options, but if having options prevents you from making a choice, you are in trouble. An option is a hypothetical plan, but a choice will lead you to action. So consider your options, but make sure you make your choice.

A Nonessentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, “How can I do both?” Essentialists ask the tougher but ultimately more liberating question, “Which problem do I want?” or another good one “Which activity makes the best use of my limited time here on earth?”


The principles of ‘meta learning’: Tim Ferris described meta learning as “learning how to learn.” It’s basically the art of mastering any skills quickly and efficiently. In his book the Four Hour Chef, he encapsulated the meta learning principles into neat codes he calls DiSSS. Here’s the breakdown of the principle:

Deconstruction: What are the lego blocks that make up this skill? For example in writing fiction I discovered that the lego blocks were: Plot, Character, Settings, Voice and Self Revision. If you are clueless about the deconstruction process, Ferris recommended to find an expert and interview him or her.

Selection: Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on so that I can get 80% or more of the result? Ferris argued that not all lego blocks are created equal. Some blocks when mastered will supercharge your skill acquisition process. Your task then is to find that block and start there first.

Sequencing: What is the next block that you should master? Again order it according to the ‘Selection’ principle.

Stakes: Humans are lousy creatures when it comes to discipline. So ask yourself: ‘How do I set up stakes and create real consequences if I don’t follow through?

Self abuse: In his book The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz said that “The limit of your self-abuse is the limit you will tolerate from other people. If someone abuses you more than you abuse yourself, you walk away, you run, you escape. But if someone abuses you a little less than you abuse yourself, perhaps you stay longer. You still deserve that abuse.”

The key then is to be aware of our emotion and thought process. If pain is the physical body’s sign that it was hurt, fear is the emotional body’s sign that it was hurt.

When we feel fear, it’s because there is something wrong. Perhaps we are in danger of losing our life. Perhaps our identity is threatened. Perhaps our cherished values are challenged.

Look for signs of fear, because underneath it, you will probably find an emotional wound that should be treated. 

The desire to get somewhere: According to Zen writer Charlotte Beck, “our frantic desire to get better, to “get somewhere,” is illusion itself, and the source of suffering.”

Our interest in reality is extremely low. No, we want to think. We want to worry through all of our preoccupations. We want to figure life out. And so before we know it we’ve forgotten all about this moment, and we’ve drifted off into thinking about something: our boyfriend, our girlfriend, our child, our boss, our current fear… and more.

Why do we do that? You know the answer, of course. We do it because we are trying to protect ourselves. We’re trying to rid ourselves of our current difficulty, or at least understand it. There’s nothing wrong with our self-centered thoughts except that when we identify with them, our view of reality is blocked. So what should we do when the thoughts come up? We should label the thoughts. Be specific in your labeling: not just “thinking, thinking” or “worrying, worrying,” but a specific label. For example: “Having a thought she’s very bossy.” “Having a thought that he’s very unfair to me.”

When we label thoughts precisely and carefully, what happens to them? They begin to quiet down. We don’t have to force ourselves to get rid of them. When they quiet down, we return to the experience of the body and the breath, over and over and over.

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I'm a happiness blogger who writes about philosophy for living strong, loving unconditionally and laughing more.

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