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5 Counterintuitive Truths We Learned From Luca Dellanna
Hard work can be lazy; you are your own worst enemy; don't trust the extremely successful, and more...
Author, management advisor, and researcher Luca Dellanna is joining us on the show tomorrow, 10 August.
Luca has dedicated his life to exploring and writing about topics such as productivity, risk, leadership, and personal development.
Unlike many of the self-proclaimed ‘productivity gurus’ you may encounter on Twitter, Luca’s work is thoroughly researched, grounded in science, clearly communicated, and, above all, actionable.
Here are five of the most surprisingly counterintuitive truths we learned from Luca.
I. Hard Work Can Be Lazy
“Often, we make choices that are physically exhausting but emotionally lazy. We just keep doing things the most acceptable or comfortable way. Other times, we work hard not because it will bring us closer to our objectives but because it allows us to signal sacrifice and commitment. We think it’s virtuous, but it is lazy.”
Working harder doesn't always equate to working smarter. Using hard work to avoid doing the work that matters is a form of laziness.
Effort spent on inconsequential tasks is a misallocation of energy. This holds regardless of how much energy is spent on that task.
Hard work doesn’t always scale. True scalability comes from genuinely solving the problem at its root rather than mindlessly grinding away at its symptoms.
Relying solely on hard work as a solution is unsustainable. Luca shares a story of an employee who wasn't promoted because her sole strategy was to work harder. She risked burnout or dropping the ball. She wasn’t engaging in the difficult personal and professional growth necessary for the challenges of a higher position.
Before pouring yourself into hard work, ask yourself: “will doing this bring me closer to my objectives? Am I working hard to achieve an outcome or to avoid doing something else?”
II. Personality Traits Are Habits
“The seeds you plant in your garden are the fruits you will harvest tomorrow.”
We tend to believe that we are born into our personalities. We are Brave. We are Kind. We are Angry.
But our personalities are more malleable than we think.
Taking an action today influences the likelihood of repeating that action tomorrow. This principle applies whether we're talking about indulging in junk food, succumbing to hours of aimless TV-watching, or skipping a planned gym session.
Each decision doesn't just have immediate consequences; it shapes our future behavior.
The same logic applies to our personality traits. They’re not static. They can be honed and developed. Whether “we are resilient, brave, kind, and honest largely depends on whether we acted resiliently, bravely, kindly, and honestly the last time we found ourselves in a similar situation.”
Each time you display a certain behavior, you make it more likely you will act that way next time.
Imagine yourself in 10 years’ time. What kind of person do you want to be? Every action you take from here is an investment in that personality. Make a habit of being that person. Before you know it, they will be you.
III. You Are Probably Getting In Your Own Way
“Desiring the outcome of change isn’t enough to achieve it; one must also desire to do the actions that will bring that outcome.”
Achieving goals isn't just about effort; it's about directing that effort effectively.
Getting things done requires identifying the “bottleneck,” the “one constraining factor or problem preventing efforts from generating significant results.”
Action must always target this bottleneck. As long as it remains, results will be limited.
Most bottlenecks are hidden. They can lurk in unsuspecting corners of your environment: perhaps in the slow growth of your industry or the limited opportunities of your hometown. Even external factors like an unsupportive boss or an unsympathetic social circle can become silent saboteurs.
But the most significant bottleneck often comes from within.
Change starts with a desire to act, not just an aspiration for a specific outcome. Getting fit does not occur because you want to get fit; it happens because you want to exercise.
Every goal has its costs. Determine what costs - physical, emotional, psychological, or financial, must be paid in order to reach your goal. Do you still covet the endgame considering the sacrifices it demands? If not, the main obstacle to action is likely you.
If the necessary actions don't excite you, then you've found your bottleneck.
Next time you find yourself falling short of a self-proclaimed goal, ask yourself: ‘how am I getting in my own way?’
IV. The Most Skilled Person is Unlikely to be the Most Successful
“If you don’t take extreme risks, even if you’re the most skilled person, you will be outperformed by someone who did. And if you take extreme risks, you will have worse average outcomes than if you didn’t.”
The best don’t always succeed.
The successful are the best of those who survive.
The most gifted soccer player ever might have suffered a career-ending injury at 14 due to a risky tackle. The shrewdest investor could have faced bankruptcy at 23 from one hazardous bet.
While short-term success is driven by skill, long-term triumph hinges on survival.
This truth carries profound implications. Decision-making shouldn't merely focus on growth. Instead, it should focus on growth that takes survival into account.
Here’s the thing, in the short term, the most risky strategies are likely the ones that appear to be the most successful. Extreme risks result in extreme rewards.
Even if you’re the most skilled person in the room, someone who's more risk-prone might eclipse you.
But remember, their success is built on much thinner ice. Before you rush to emulate them, ask yourself, ‘If I had taken that same risk and failed, would I have survived?’ If the answer is no, then they are not the role models you are looking for.
V. Happiness is a Transition
Therefore, happiness doesn’t relate to a state but to a transition. It’s about having just solved our problems, not about having solved our problems long ago. So, it is self-deceiving to believe in the existence of something that can make us happy forever.”
The pursuit of a perpetual ‘state of happiness’ is misguided.
Our brains are hardwired for action. “Biologically, happiness is a reward for actions that improve our life. And as with all incentives, it has to be temporary. It has to leave its receiver wanting for more.”
Thus, happiness is not a static state but a dynamic transition. It flourishes not in the complacency of past achievements but in the active process of addressing challenges.
Rather than seeing happiness as a fixed destination, envision it as an ongoing journey. What propels a journey? Progress. Happiness is rooted not in stagnation but in the continuous pursuit of solutions. It isn't about living without problems; it's about perpetually confronting and resolving them.