The Discipline of Finishing: Conor Neill at TEDxUniversidaddeNavarra


Translator: Rahul MS
Reviewer: Alina Siluyanova Who would you bet on? Imagine you had the 200 people
you know best in the world sat in this room and I gave you this deal: you come, today, come up here to me, you give me a 1,000 Euros
and you give me a name, and for the rest of that person’s life I will pay you 10%
of everything they make, every month, month after month,
month after month. Ten percent. Who would you choose? Imagine that; here in the room, if you look around the faces
you see in this room – some good faces
to bet on in this room – but if you put the 200 people
you know best from school, from university,
through family connections, who of all the people you know, would be the one person that you would put on that paper
and bring to me? Who would you bet on? I was asked this question 7 years ago. The man in the picture is Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett at time
is the richest man in the world. Warren Buffett doesn’t invent things; Warren Buffett doesn’t sell things; Warren Buffett doesn’t manage a company. Warren Buffet takes
one decision every day: Would I bet on this person? And the results would seem
that he does this quite well. But 7 years ago, when he asked
this question to a 150 MBAs, in my mind, 3 or 4 faces came to my mind. Three or four faces. And I hope as you’re thinking
about this now – who would you bet on? –
some faces come to your mind. Some faces come to mind:
people, that you know, that if you had this bet to make,
you choose them. So, let’s work a little bit on this. If we’re going to do this properly,
we should put together a process. The question: What criteria would you use
in making this decision? What criteria is your mind already using when it puts up
a couple of faces in your mind’s eye? What are you looking for
when you see in someone the capacity to have a massive impact in the world? I’m assuming you want to do this bet well, because if you do it well, you can use that money
for a lot of good causes. What criteria would you use? Let’s go through some ideas. One idea: let’s get
the 200 people present in the room to bring their grades
from school and university, and we put them in order
from the best to the worst grade, and we choose number one. Good idea? The really scary thing
is if I asked a group of twelve-year-olds, they would laugh at the idea. Twelve-year-olds already see
the grades in school is not the criteria. What are the criteria we’re using? How about best friends? Patchi, I’ll choose you if you choose me. Best friends! (Laughter) Wonderful for friendship
but a very dumb way to take this decision. What criteria would you use? What criteria
is your mind already using when it starts to put
some ideas in your mind? Who would you bet on? So, if grades from school isn’t it, best friend isn’t it, what would you use? Now, Warren Buffett
takes this decision every day, and Warren Buffett has 3 criteria. But before I get into
the 3 criteria of Warren Buffett, I want to move to the world
of psychology – I studied psychology – and to this day,
from the beginning of psychology, there’s one test
that above any other tests in life predicts future success on every measure: wealth, quality of relationships,
grades in school, length of relationships, happiness measured on every scale
whether qualitative or quantitative. And the test
is called the Marshmallow Test. This here is a marshmallow. The marshmallow test can be conducted
on children 3-4 years old. The psychologist brings
the child into the room and says, “This is yours.
This is yours to eat. I need to leave the room
for a couple of minutes. When I come back,
if it’s still there, you’ll get two.” And the psychologist leaves the room. And the kid looks at the marshmallow. It’s his marshmallow! You can do anything you want to it. You can use it in any way you want. So, 50% eat the marshmallow, 50%t don’t eat the marshmallow. And the 50% that don’t eat the marshmallow go on to lead lives that are qualitatively
and quantitatively better than the kids’
that do eat the marshmallow. But you can go
and look at this on Youtube. You can go and see this experiment being carried out. And what is most illustrative is what the children do
that don’t eat the marshmallow. The kids that eat the marshmallow, do something similar: they stare at the marshmallow, they look at it. The kids that don’t eat the marshmallow – and you can imagine
3-year-olds, 4-year-olds; they are kind of obvious – the kids that don’t eat the marshmallow,
they put their head in their hands, they get up and they stare at the wall, they look at their shoes. Because at the age of 3, they’ve already realized how little power
they have over themselves, over their own nature. And the lesson: the diet fails in the supermarket, not at home. If I go to the supermarket
and I buy a chocolate, and that chocolate gets to my house, my willpower
might get me through one day, it might get me
through the end of the week, it might get me
to the end of the month, I might last a year, but one day
something bad will happen: I’ll come home tired, my willpower will not be there, and I will eat that chocolate. The marshmallow test – the most powerful tool, onto 3 and 4 year-old children to determine the quality of their lives, the rest of their life. Now, marshmallows
don’t work on grown adults, so I wouldn’t recommend
we use the marshmallow test to make your decision
of who you’d bet on. Let’s go back to Warren Buffett and his 3 criteria, the 3 criteria of Warren Buffett. And Warren Buffett
makes this decision pretty damn well: 60 billion dollars
of net worth through deciding, “Would I bet on this person or not?”. And if you look
at the structure of a lot of his deals, he takes 10% of all
the future income of this person, of this team, of this company. And he has 3 criteria. The second criteria of Warren Buffett: Energy. Energy is health and a bias to action. Healthy people,
people who don’t get ill often, people who, when they get a cold,
they’re back to work tomorrow because they recover quick,
they sleep well. Bias to action: people who have a tendency
to take action over thinking about action. Energy is about
vitality and a bias to action. The third criteria of Warren Buffett: Intelligence. But not chess intelligence, not business school intelligence, not sitting in a room for 4 years
designing a strategy intelligence. He’s talking about adaptive intelligence. When you’re running down the street and a lamppost is coming towards you, adaptive intelligence
is the intelligence to see the pattern, see the lamppost coming
and change your course just enough that instead of taking it in the forehead you take the blow in the shoulder
and you keep moving. So, number two: Energy. Number three: Intelligence. But without number one, Warren Buffett and I
would rather you were dumb and lazy. Without number one
you’ll be a danger to yourself. Without number one you’ll be
a danger to your family and to society. Number one, Warren Buffet’s number one criteria. Number two is Energy, number three – Intelligence. But without this
those two are dangerous. Number one is Integrity. But integrity is that you say “no”
to most things. Integrity is really about an alignment between what your calendar
says you do and what you say you do. And if you say yes to most requests, if you can’t think of the time you’ve said
no in the last day, in the last week, your life has been divided
into thousands of little pieces and spread amongst
the priorities of other people. So, to live an integral life, to live a life true to your own values
means that you say no very often. Integrity, energy and intelligence. Do they seem like good criteria? Do they seem like good criteria? They worked for Warren Buffett. They seem like good criteria? Would you use these criteria in taking this decision, in choosing the one person to own 10% of all their future income? These three seem like good criteria to me. I’d use them, I often use them. They seem like good criteria. Now, there’s a person in this room that without paying me a 1,000 Euro, without doing anything different, without raising your hand, without moving, you own more than 10% – you own 100%. The person in this room
that you don’t have to pay money, you don’t have to go to me,
you don’t have to speak to anyone, and you will own 100% of everything,
month after month, after month. So, I very much hope that you each day work very hard to maximize integrity, maximize energy maximize intelligence. Because if you’d bet
on someone else for 10%, I damn well hope
you put everything you can into maximizing
these three in your own life. And given that we got a few minutes, how about some tools? I’ll leave you with some tools. One tool to maximize your intelligence, one tool to maximize your energy, one tool to maximize your integrity. And you can put these
into action right now. Intelligence: write stuff down. If you write down ideas you’ve had today, if you write down people you’ve met, describe things that are going on, 6 months from now you won’t be
the intelligence of one moment, you’ll be the accumulated intelligence
of 6 months of ideas, 6 months of things written down,
6 months of people’s quotes. When I was 14 years old
my biology teacher made us write down 5 minutes everyday, whatever we wanted. I remember day one, pen touched paper: “This is stupid. What are we doing?” Day two, again:
“This is stupid. What are we doing?” Day three: “He’s still doing this!” Day four: “Strange thing happened to me
on the way to school today…” Day five: “My brother said something
to me this morning…” I’ve written everyday of my life
since I was 14 years old. I know where I was
every day of my life since I was 14. I know what I was thinking, I know what it felt like,
I know who I was with. Start writing down your life. It’s the most valuable
resource you have – your own life. But so few people
take the time to document it. Write your life down,
describe the marshmallow. Energy: high-performance athletes. I’ve spent a lot of time
over the last 5 years interviewing the high-performance
athletes of Spain: Josef Ajram, Kilian Jornet, Miquel Suner. Josef Ajram: 10 times he’s competed
in the Marathon des Sables. Two marathons a day,
6 days across the Sahara. And Josef tells me, he finishes because he never thinks
about more than 15 minutes ahead. He runs for 15 minutes,
he stops, has a drink, another 15 minutes, another 15 minutes; his mind never goes beyond 15 minutes. He says, “Anybody
can run for 15 minutes.” He’s run the Marathon des Sables
because he’s never, ever, let his mind see more than the next 15 minutes. Miquel Suner swims open water, without a wetsuit, across the English Channel. No wetsuit! 42 thousand strokes
to leave the English coast over to France. 14-15 degree water;
the cold seeping in with every stroke. How does he do it? Because his mind is never further
than stroke, stroke, breath; stroke, stroke, breath. Hour after hour, swimming,
but he’s never allowing his mind to go anywhere beyond
“stroke, stroke, breath”. With the marshmallow: deal with one marshmallow at a time, one marshmallow at a time. What’s the next step? Do not let your mind jump forward and see the biggest thing. Alpine climbers see the next inch. Ranulph Fiennes – oldest man from Europe
to climb Everest, failed 3 times. On his last attempt his wife said to him: “Ranulph, climb it like the horses.” He looked at her:
“What do you mean like the horses?” She’s an animal trainer: “Because a horse
has no concept of the finish, a horse runs until it collapses. Climb Everest one step at a time. Ask yourself one question:
“Can I take one more step?” “Yes!” – take it. “No!” – pause. “Yes!” – take it, “Yes!” – take it.” And on one of those steps
he stood on the summit. Energy: deal with the next unit, one marshmallow at a time,
one marshmallow at a time. Integrity. Do you know how a child spells “love”? How does a child spell “love”? T-I-M-E. This world is full of good intention, but the way you see if an executive really is behind an initiative, you open their diary
and you count the hours. If you say your parents
are important to you, open the diary and show me the hours. The coherence between
a diary and your values is where integrity begins. And it’s kind of horrific
when you start to count, when you start to look and start
to become aware of where your time goes. So little of my time really goes to the things that I know
and I mean to do. So often I slip off into Facebook and what was supposed to be a minute,
is an hour, and then lunch comes. But those minutes – once you’ve started to get the minutes dedicate to the things that matter – And the trully
important thing to remember about the marshmallow test is that there’re hundreds, and thousands,
and millions of marshmallows in your life: hundreds of little decisions,
minute after minute, day after day that all sum up. And success in life is not
one massive good decision, not one marshmallow not eaten; and failure is not
one marshmallow eaten, or one poor decision. Failure – is repeated bad decisions; success – is repeated,
consistent, good habits. We so underestimate
what we can achieve in a year and so overestimate
what we can achieve in a day. A page a day –
and you have a book in a year. You’ll never write a book in one day. But this time, once you’ve started
to dedicate the time right – I had the privilege
of spending a day with Kilian Jornet, probably, Spain’s top athlete, ultraman. When I’d met him he’d just finished
running the Lake Tahoe Rim Run: 288 kilometers, and he ran it in 36 hours. What the hell goes through
a man’s mind as he runs for 36 hours? But when he runs, do you know what
the other competitors say about Killian? “He looks like he’s enjoying it.” The other runners are suffering
and they’re looking down – Killian is running
touching the leaves as he runs past, smelling the smell of the forest, feeling the feel
of the track beneath his feet. He runs for 36 hours
because he’s absolutely there, his mind is nowhere else but in the run, on the path,
in the forests, feeling completely alive. So, when you do get your diary
to match up to your values, getting your life 100% present and experiencing every little piece, is what took Killian to be number one
in the world in the hardest sport in the world. So the lesson, rule one for success – and I brought a few for all of you
to see if you can achieve it – the rule for success: when you have a marshmallow,
don’t stare at it. The diet doesn’t fail
because of weakness of will, the diet fails
because the chocolate is there. If you want to stop watching television, take the batteries out of the remote. If you want to do more exercise,
put your running shoes next to the door. It’s small, small changes. And when I come back, 5 years from now, and I ask, “Who did you bet on?”, the answer that I want:
[Spanish] myself. When I come back 10 years from now, the answer that I want is
[Spanish] myself. And 20 years from now,
I want you to have written stuff down; I want you to have dealt
with one step at a time; I want you to have made sure
your diary aligns completely, you say no to the things
don’t fit with what’s important to you. And 25 years,
when I come back here, I will look out on the most successful group of people, because they’ve lived their lives fully. Who would you bet on? (Applause)

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