Critical Thinking, Reading & Change-Hug and Nudge

Two Answers-One Question

Sometimes a warm hug is the answer to our question 
and sometimes a gentle nudge is the answer. Tweet This

'Hug and Nudge' is a fortnightly column with two different perspectives from two different continents and cultures on the same question viz. 

Jennifer Sertl (based in New York, USA) and 

Dr Amit Nagpal (based in New Delhi, India).

Question-How do we take what we learn from deep thinking and reading and apply it to change?
(A great question posed by Adam Johnson (aka @Garbologie) from Perth, Western Australia

Jennifer Sertl's Answer

The audience I most frequently serve are individuals within a business environment who are working to create more impact from the inside out. So my comments are directed to you. I am an advocate of leaders being readers. As a design it is important that people keep three books in circulation at all times. One book should be a non-fiction book about leadership, business or globalization. One book should be about philosophy - or written by a leader in the past (over 100 years). Finally, one book should be fiction.

Here is a glimpse of some of the books that have impacted me most

The idea here is to be immersed in past, present and metaphor. There is something about critical thinking that requires we put in our minds’ rigor and robust content.

The purpose of a book is to serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us ~ Franz Kafka
I believe your competitive advantage is not what you do or where you work. Your competitive advantage is the accuracy of your macro scan and the way you choose to articulate your life experience.  By infusing your mind with robust stimulation regarding current context, past context, and a novel of some sort - your own life will begin to have a more robust vocabulary in which to express itself. .

I understand the question was about the rub between exposure and action. Yes, being exposed to content doesn’t ensure integration.

Integration of wisdom from reading comes when there are two things:
1)   An explicit declaration of a desire to be better
2)   A commitment to the discipline of practice or routine

An explicit declaration can be either a prayer or a simple statement.

As I continue to contribute at work, may I ______________.
As I lead this team, I desire to _______________________.

Some examples include:
            As I contribute at work, may I be more insightful regarding trade-offs and their long term impact. . .

            As I contribute at work, may I be more articulate in expressing my            concerns  regarding _______.

            As I contribute at work, may I be wiser and more appreciative of complexity.

            As I lead this team, I desire to be brave enough to hear the truth even if it is          difficult.

            As I lead this team, I desire to be fair-minded.

            As I lead this team, I desire to know when to lead and when to follow.

 These statements are very personal and they have power. Written down in a private journal - they get even more traction.

The commitment to a routine regarding rigor and critical thinking is important. As we know:  We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit ~ Aristotle.

Creating space for both reading and reflection should be capacity designs included in any project maps- be they for personal or professional use. What we value is most seen in the P & L and our personal schedules. It isn't what we say; it is where we spend our money and our time that truly clarifies our priorities. 

I say this to nudge you toward ensuring your long view has more options simply because you are more articulate and have more depth. A means to ensure this is the some of the recommendations here from me and Dr. Amit. 
Cheers to the rigor of discipline and reading to lead,
Brief Profile
Beacon of hope. Purveyor of discipline.
Global Citizen. Transleader.
Coach. Facilitator.
Co-Author- Strategy, Leadership & the Soul and Founder of Agility3R.

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Find out more about Jennifer's works here:-

Dr Amit Nagpal's Answer

In my view, there are 3 phases in the process of applying our deep thinking and reading to change viz.:-
  1. Absorption
  2. Execution
  3. A Second Reflection

1.     Absorption-So how do we ensure that we have absorbed what we have learnt? I have few suggestions.
 a)  Critical things require concentration. We live in a multi-tasking world and we may not get oncentrated/focused time for routine activities. But some activities require extreme focus. The more critical the activity/problem is, the more the focus required.
     b)  Re-think/Re-read-Sometimes the re-reading of a book, re-watching a film, re-thinking a decision and so on helps us explore completely new perspectives. In our busy lives, only critical activities can afford the luxury of the repeat though.
      c)  Teach and Co-learn-The best way to learn a subject is to teach it to others. This cannot be done in a formal environment but can be done on social media with closer connections/friends (e.g. on Facebook). During teaching you may discover your own need to learn more and your own deficiencies. In any case, learning is a lifelong process.

2.  Execution-For effective execution clear vision, passion, strategic goal making and accountability are crucial. Vision provides a clear direction and focus, passion/inspiration provide the energy, goals provide the benchmark for comparison and accountability keeps us on track (here it can be self-reward or self-punishment). For an entrepreneur, the mentor helps in ensuring accountability as it may be embarrassing to report 'not meeting of goals' often.

3.   A Second Reflection-When in doubt, reflect again. Sometimes the inner voice doubts a certain decision and it may require a second reflection. (To make it simple to understand I use three terms conscious mind, sub-conscious mind and soul. I personally believe that the sub-conscious is one level deeper than the conscious and the soul is one more level deeper than the sub-conscious). Wisdom can come from the sub-conscious mind but intuition (ideas with complete conviction) come from the soul. When the ideas coming from the sub-conscious are creating doubts, do a second reflection to get answers straight from the soul.

As human beings we often need an element of external discipline (except when people have  high self-discipline) when it comes to execution. In my view, conceptualization (and creative thinking) requires freedom while execution requires boundaries.

We remain the children who play best- when the playing process and the playground have boundaries. Tweet This

These boundaries also become social norms, which stifle the change process at times and themselves need to change. So we need to Create Boundaries-Redefine-Create-Redefine....

(Mail me your questions along with your name and  website at The questions should be on personal development only)
Brief Profile
Dr Amit Nagpal is a Personal Branding Consultant & Deepest Passion Coach. He is based in New Delhi, India and specializes in personal branding with a holistic touch. His philosophy is, "Enlarge as a Human Being, Excel as a Social Media Being and Evolve as a Personal Brand"
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  1. Thank you on many fronts.

    First for the comprehensive answer. It is lovely to have a twitter question become a fully fledged discussion.

    Second for confirming what I had suspected, and even a few things that I just presumed were personal oddities. For instance, I always have several books open, and typically along the lines Jennifer outlines. I can't help myself. And I'll read them all at different times of the day (unless one manages to transfix me). I have always done this, and do it because I felt too constrained otherwise. Reading for work leads to a real narrowness of thinking that is desperately redundant right now.

    Finally, thank you for giving me some ideas to try out for making the transition between deep thinking and action. It is a very real question for me at the moment, and it is great to have some considered opinions on what I might attempt.

  2. Glad to know that Adam and best wishes for your future endeavors!


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