Four Seconds

Summary Written by Justin Gasbarre
"Four Seconds is the amount of time required to take a single breathe. That short pause is all you need to see where you’re going wrong and to make a little shift."

- Four Seconds, page 4

The Big Idea

Stop Performing. Start Experiencing.

"Try to remember this: It’s not a performance; it’s an experience."- Four Seconds, page 51

I absolutely love this paradigm shift that the author proposes in the quote above. Think about the reality of our lives – what we do feels like a series of performances. Think about how we’re graded throughout school, our performance reviews in the workplace and the fact that many of us are paid for our performance – “even little things – leading a meeting, having a hallway conversation, sending an email – are followed by the silent but ever present question, ‘How’d that go?’” Here’s the kicker: living our lives with the perspective that everything is a performance lead to stress, unhappiness and most often, mediocre performances. “If you want to get better at anything, you need to experiment with an open mind, to try and fail, to willingly accept and learn from any outcome,” Bregman writes.

When you make this slight mindset shift, you’re taking the “pressure” off a short lived moment in time. There’s going to always be someone there to judge your performance and that will never change. When you’re going through an “experience”, you remain fluid and agile. Yes, you may “bomb” your speech but at least you did it. Now you have an experience to lean on to do better next time.

Easier said than done, right? Of course, luckily for us Bergman gives us some advice. “So how can we let go of performance in favor of experience? – complete this sentence: This is what it feels like to _____ (fill in the blank). IE: This is what it feels like to be in love; this is what it feels like to be nervous for a sales meeting; etc.” Try it out!

Insight #1

Let People Fail – or Almost Fail

"Learning anything – isn’t about doing it right."- Four Seconds, page 176

We all learn differently. That’s been drilled into our heads from the time we’re young. What we also know to be true, although it’s not ideal, is that failure helps us learn. “Our natural instinct is to prevent all failure, but doing so stunts growth,” writes Bregman. Consider this example:

“If an employee comes to you with a presentation that doesn’t meet your expectations, what do you do? Take it, fix it and present it yourself? Tell him what he’s doing wrong and ask him to fix it? Allow him to present it without making changes and let him face the consequences? Each choice is legitimate in the right circumstances.”

What would you do? Your job as a leader is to determine and gauge the circumstance correctly. It’s certainly easier said than done, but luckily, Bregman gives us some questions we can ask ourselves, when facing these types of situations:

  • What’s the risk, the consequences of failure?
  • Is it time critical?
  • Will mistakes destroy the person’s reputation forever?
  • Will it being an effective learning experience?

Failure is a valuable part of the growth and development of people in all areas of our lives. Being a leader or parent puts us in a position to make determinations on if failing is going to help or hurt the person and their development. Whether we are succeeding or failing, it’s all part of the experiences that make up who we are, our skill sets and abilities. Once we learn to embrace failure and see it as an opportunity to grow, the faster we’ll get to where we, our teams or our children are trying to get.

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Insight #2

Not everything needs to be sustainable

"For something to be a great success, it doesn’t have to last forever."- Four Seconds, page 236

Today, things change… fast! What got yourself to where you are today isn’t going to get you to where you want to be tomorrow. We’ve seen throughout history brilliant ideas, companies, processes that are incredible. Then they aren’t. Nothing is perfect and nothing lasts forever. We’re going to have to evolve as individuals, leaders, and businesses to keep up with the changing economy, business landscape and competition. By having this paradigm of looking at solutions and ideas as temporary rather than permanent, it becomes easier to commit to. It becomes easier to implement. It becomes easier to get others involved. It becomes easier to pay for.

Keep in mind that we change. Situations change. The people around us change. And the tools we use should change, too.

Four Seconds is an enjoyable read filled with ideas, strategies and tactics that will help you to make better, more impactful decisions. Some of these ideas will help you today, others will prove helpful later in life.

Read the book

Get Four Seconds on Amazon.

Peter Bregman

Peter Bregman is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams. He speaks, writes, and consults about how to lead and how to live.

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