Simple is the New Smart

"The premise of this book is to help you take a direct path toward success through applying simple strategies that work. The best strategies are the ones you apply."

- Simple is the New Smart, page 20

The subtitle to Rob Fazio’s book Simple is the New Smart promises readers 26 success strategies to build confidence, inspire yourself, and reach your ultimate potential. Like other authors describing pathways to success (e.g. Stephen Covey, Michael Hyatt, Charles Duhigg) Fazio believes the key lies in being intentional about how you approach your work and life goals and taking action. And like his contemporaries he emphasizes that simple is not necessarily easy (at least not initially).

Fazio groups his lessons and tactics into four categories:

  1. Psychological Swagger – how you think, feel, act.
  2. Reading – what you choose to hear about yourself, your performance and your potential.
  3. Leading – think fast and having the skills and capability to work your plan.
  4. Accelerating – sustaining momentum and accountability.

I appreciated his efforts to describe the success strategies in ways that were appetizing (things people want), digestible (easy to understand and apply) and memorable (easy to recall). There’s actually more than 26 helpful ideas presented between the covers (many of his sub-headings are actionable GEMs) so you are bound to find several to add to your repertoire. I chose to focus on strategies that will help me manage my biggest critic and detractor….me!

The Golden Egg

Golden Egg: The biggest takeaway from the book

Dismantle Your Barrier Beliefs

"The more you focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t do, the more successful you will be."
- Simple is the New Smart, page 89

A barrier belief is a negative message or image that we’ve internalized over time. It stops us from trying something we believe is difficult to do or beyond our skillset. It effectively tells us we’ve failed before we even lift a finger or open our mouth. Examples that may resonate with you include: “I can’t sing.” “I’m not good at sales.” “I can’t think on my feet.” “I could never do that ___________ (fill in the blank).”

Fazio challenges us to examine our barrier beliefs and recognize them for what they are – internal messages and assumptions, not facts! Just because you haven’t had success doing something in the past, it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful now or in the near future. When you catch yourself uttering a barrier belief (either about yourself or one of your colleagues), stop and ask yourself these questions:

  • Where did I learn this?
  • What can I do to break free from this mindset?
  • What do I need more of in order to change this from ‘can’t do’ to ‘can do’?

Based on your answers, select one or two simple things you can do dismantle that mental misconception and do them. Similar to learning to tie your shoes or mastering the art of delegation, changing a ‘can’t do’ to a ‘can do’ will take repeated effort and practice before you feel confident and competent. The two GEMs that follow should help improve your success rate.

Gem #1

An actionable way to implement the BIG takeaway (Golden Egg) into your life

Challenge Your Assumptions

"The framework EAR will help you be intentional about what you hear."
- Simple is the New Smart, page 77

Barrier beliefs are not the only assumptions that need to be confronted if we are going to move confidently toward our desired future. We have a bad habit of interpreting numerous situations that arise throughout our day using erroneous assumptions. Taking a few minutes to challenge our initial reactions and thoughts can help us identify more constructive ways of thinking and acting.

Fazio uses the framework EAR to guide this reflection. It looks like this:

Event – what happened, the situation
Assumptions – your initial thoughts, beliefs and feelings about the event
Result – what happens, the consequence

He posits that it is our assumptions about a given event that influence the outcome, not the event itself. Since we have two ears, and because you actually need to work through the framework twice to reap the benefits, I think of Fazio’s framework as EARs2! Here’s the example he shares in the book.

Round One:
Event – Failure to hit monthly sales numbers.

Assumptions – I’m not a good leader. No one on the sales team is focused on results. We are never going to get out of this mess.

Results – Feelings of self-doubt, low confidence and motivation; fearful of what will happen next; focused on what you can’t control.

Round Two:
Event – Failure to hit monthly sales numbers.

Assumptions – We’re facing a tough situation – it’s an opportunity for the team to focus on new tactics. This is disappointing – what can we learn from this experience? Our current efforts didn’t pay off – what do we need to do to prevent this from happening next month?

Results – Embrace acceptance and action; adopt positive thinking; focus is on what you can control.

I think it’s clear that round one thinking will keep you demotivated and stuck while round two thinking guides you towards problem-resolution mode. Once you’ve made the shift to positive, can do thinking, you are ready to implement GEM #2.

Gem #2

An actionable way to implement the BIG takeaway (Golden Egg) into your life

What Would Edison Do?

"We all fail. If you fail, I want you to fail forward and see failure as feedback, a moment, not a permanent barrier."
- Simple is the New Smart, page 18

Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor with an enviable can do attitude. Edison and his team are reported to have conducted 10,000 experiments before they discovered the filament to power the incandescent light bulb. Rather than labeling these experiments as failures, his team rightly focused on what they learned in order to inform their next attempt. Sounds simple in theory, yet in the thick of things we often choose to focus on the failure. Which is why I’m going to start asking myself “What would Edison do?” as an inspirational reminder to look for the learning in my setbacks.

Fazio shares several other insightful questions that will help you snatch victory from the hands of defeat. My favourite example of a failing forward question is this reframe:

“Rather than asking ‘Why am I never getting asked to take on key responsibilities at work?’ try asking yourself, ‘What are the people who are getting asked to take on key responsibilities doing?’” (And you might add, “that I’m not currently doing?”).

How we interpret and describe our situations, our strengths and our limitations shapes what we choose to do next. Being more mindful of what you ask and what you tell yourself will make a world of difference on the road to success.

Fazio set out to write a book to help people adopt simple strategies that would help them achieve their dreams faster and with less stress. The common thread throughout all the approaches he describes boils down to cultivating an ownership mentality and abandoning the victim mentality. When you choose to:

  • focus on what you can do,
  • challenge your initial assumptions using EARs2, and
  • embrace ‘failure’ as a learning moment, you will do more in less time and dramatically increase your odds of success.

Your beliefs drive your behaviours. You control your beliefs. It’s simple. Think smart. Be confident. Achieve success.

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Dianne Coppola

ABOUT Dianne Coppola

I am passionate about leadership development, change management, community collaboration and…reading! I’ve been writing for the Actionable Book Club since 2014 and love to share my book insights with folks like you...
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