CCSL 2018 – Closing Keynote Summary


Hope you enjoyed the talk. If you have any questions or are seeking clarification on anything I talked about, please email me at zachary (at) zacharystrong (dot) net.

Key Analogy: Puzzle Pieces
  • In leadership (and in life), you will be tasked with solving many puzzles simultaneously. However, you are never given all the pieces!
  • “Puzzle pieces” can be information, resources, connections, support, favours, referrals, references, etc.
  • It is difficult to acquire puzzle pieces when you don’t have any; this is often frustrating for young leaders.
  • The more puzzle pieces you have access to, the more difficult puzzles you will be able to solve and the more impact you will have.
  • The following four tools will help you acquire many puzzle pieces over your lifetime.
Tool #1: Optimism

Trusting that the pieces are out there (and will come your way eventually)

  • If you don’t believe the puzzle pieces exist, you’ll never even bother looking for them.
  • It’s easy to start getting possessive about your pieces, especially if you aren’t given many pieces to start with. However, when you start putting your pieces on the table, other people will too. This is how pieces get shared, loaned, and traded so everyone (including you) can get the pieces they need.
  • Therefore, don’t shy away from connecting with others and seeing where things lead. Use good judgement, of course, but it never hurts to exchange a couple emails.
  • Although I used the word ‘Optimism’ for the purposes of this talk, the more accurate word would be “Faith”, either religious or secular.
Tool #2: Vision

Knowing what puzzle pieces you need to accomplish your goals, and keeping an eye out for them in your day-to-day.

  • If things went really well for you, what could you accomplish over the next 5-10 years? Probably quite a lot!
  • Get specific about the path(s) that you could take that would take you in the general direction of that dream.
  • Pay attention for puzzle pieces that might come in handy later on.
Tool #3: Insight

Knowing the puzzle pieces other people need (and would be able to work with).

  • Empathy is not enough – you also need to be able to act on that empathy.
  • Instead of wondering “what might this person be feeling”, ask yourself “what might they need in this moment”?
  • Even if you have a deep disagreement with someone, it’s important to be able to identify areas where you can have a positive impact.
  • In community work, this is called a strengths-based approach.
  • Leaders that cultivate their powers of insight are able to find ways to empower their friends and win over their opponents.
Tool #4: Humility

The fastest & most effective way of giving (and receiving) puzzle pieces.

  • You can’t work with people that don’t trust you.
  • People will not trust you if you don’t care about them (and it’s obvious when you don’t care).
  • Humble people honour others’ genuinely-held perspectives as a matter of principle. This invites reciprocity.
  • You have to earn the right to be right. Every time, with every person.
For continued study:
  • “The Anatomy of Peace” – Arbinger Institute (book)
  • “The Secret of Luck” – Derren Brown (link: YouTube video)
  • “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict” – Erica Chenoweth & Maria J. Stephan (book)
  • “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup” – Slate Star Codex (link: blog post)
  • “The Education of Millionaires” – Michael Ellsberg (book)
  • “What is an Insight?” – Umar Ghumman (link: SlideShare presentation)
  • “Transformative Scenario Planning” – Adam Kahane (book)
  • “Island” – Aldous Huxley (book)
  • “Zero to One” – Peter Thiel (book)
  • “Unlabel” – Marc Ecko (book)
  • “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story” – Arnold Schwarzenegger (autobiography)
  • Buddha, Confucius, Matthew 5-7, and careful consideration of Zen kōans may also be valuable