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Growth Hacks

by Tim McMullen

As we continue to navigate through new routines and new normals, making space in our lives for intentional growth can feel like stealing focus away from urgent tasks. Here are a few hacks I’ve picked up over the years to make even a few minutes of self-investment really worth it:

1. Find Your 1 Key Takeaway

I love TED Talks. To me, a TED Talk is the speaker’s life pink/gold — a term we’ve coined for the 20% of any content that represents 80% of the value. The speaker is essentially handing you the bulleted summary of their most valued life lessons. I have a rule: if you watch a TED Talk at least three times then you owe it to the people around you to share it with them. Most recently I’ve shared Fraces Frei’s TED Talk on using authenticity, empathy, and logic to build trust. Go ahead and watch it (maybe three times).

Oftentimes I’m afraid that when we watch a TED Talk, we put too much pressure on ourselves. We worry about implementing every single strategy or idea, and we overwhelm ourselves with the stress of a total life overhaul. My advice here is to focus in on just one recommendation from each TED Talk and put that single concept into action. The great thing about this mini-hack is that it can be applied to more than just TED Talks. Think about pulling one key takeaway from books, articles, podcasts, and any other medium that inspires you. Radical change doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient with yourself. Gradual adjustments and a good bit of self-reflection will lead to realistic, sustainable changes and measurable results.

2. Be the Person Taking Notes

You’re never too junior, too senior, or too anything to take notes. Richard Branson is note-taking’s biggest advocate, but I’m hot on his heels. In an article on the importance of note-taking he cautions, “If you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room.” With the massive quantity of knowledge and information we are bombarded with these days, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by not writing it down. Once, when I was a panelist at an innovation conference, I decided to take notes while on stage to capture my thoughts and the insights from the other panelists. Afterward, I was surprised by how many people commented on my note-taking. They were inspired by my decision to use the panel as a growth opportunity. I can’t stress enough the importance of writing things down. Watching a TED Talk? Take notes. Listening to Blinkist? (More on that in a second.) Take notes. In a Zoom meeting? Take notes.

3. Modern Day CliffNotes — Blinkist

This one is a growth hack/app suggestion/innovation all in one. Blinkist gives you access to the key insights of over 2500 nonfiction books that can be read or listened to in just under 20 minutes. It’s basically an app for the pink/gold of books! While it does cost money, the investment is completely worth it. It ends up costing as much as if you bought just four books a year, but you’re getting thousands of books’ worth of insight. I primarily use this app for three different situations:

  1. When I’ve read a book and want a refresher on the key insights
  2. When I’m deciding whether or not to read a book and want to know more about it
  3. When I don’t want to read the whole book, but I just want those major takeaways


There you have it. Find your takeaway. Take notes. Use Blinkist. Happy hacking!

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