Play at Level 3

Tony Robbins told us there are 3 levels of relationship: The lowest level is Level 1, which is all about “me”. People at this level are only interested in satisfying their own needs. They are not interested or not aware of the other’s need. A higher level is level 2, where you give in order to get something back. The relationship is treated as an exchange.  People at this level are considered good community members, but they are unhappy when others do not return their favor.

A person at level 3 puts his partner’s needs above his own need and does everything to meet that need. He tries to meet the other’s needs in every way: Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He expects nothing in return. That’s because he has internalized his partner’s need. He is happy when his partner is happy. There is no feeling of “sacrifice” as it is pure joy to give.

When two people play at level 3, they will find ways to help each other. They will go out their ways to make each other happy. The relationship gets better and better. It is exactly as described in this Song:

   “Standing here beside you, want so much to give you This love in my heart and I feel it for you

   I’m so glad I found you I’m not gonna lose you Whatever it takes I will stay here with you

   Take it to the good times See it through the bad times Whatever it takes is what I’m gonna do

   Let the world around us just fall apart Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart”

With such love, a person will do “whatever it takes” to make another happy and make the relationship work. Level 3 is the level of pure giving. You do everything you can to meet another person’s need. Play at level 3 is the key to a wonderful relationship. It solves most of the relationship problem, as often times it is not because “incompatible” but failing to meet another person’s need.

Playing at Level 3 applies to intimate partner, family, and friends. It also applies to your work relationship, with your supervisor, colleagues and subordinates. It further applies to the organization you work for, and everyone in that organization. Ultimately, it applies to everyone you interact with in this world. It is easier to play level 3 with your boss or important family members. But it is harder to play level 3 with those who are remote. For us to truly step up to be a leader, we must play level 3 with everyone. This means having the patience to understand another person’s need. Be extremely patient and take time to know other people’s need. It is remembering no matter how important your own need is, another person has his agenda. At level 3, you should be keenly aware of this fact, and support others as much as you can. Playing at level 3 means we give ultimate respect to every other person, trying to understand and support at much as we can. It is not taking anything for granted and seek to fully understand another person’s motives.

When you play at level 3, magic things start to happen. Your kids start to respond to you, your colleagues are happy to see you, and your relationship with everyone gets better. As a result, you are much happier.

How do we play at level 3? First, it requires true appreciation and gratitude for people around you. This is the starting point of playing at level 3. Whenever you find yourself resentful, you cannot truly play level 3. You are much less willing to meet another’s need when you feel resentful. Second, we must deeply understand what others need. Then we do everything we can to meet that need.

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The diligent nature of a leader

A leader is always at the front. As the day comes, he gets up the earliest. As others go to sleep, he is awake thinking. He is the hardest working person among all. He never stops.

Those who admire the achievements of leaders, be it wealth, fame, or exciting products, forget the simple fact: None of these comes easy. There may be people who find fast way of accumulating wealth by speculating. There may be people who gain fame by sheer luck or notorious act of crime. But these people fade quickly. What last are those true leaders who keep growing their wealth and increasing their reach. Behind such people’s achievements are constant innovation, unyielding attention and countless hours of wrangling. Thus their achievement captures our imagination, simply because it is very hard to duplicate their efforts and devotion. As Steve Jobs, “It is really hard. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of worrying, constantly.”

A leaders work longer hours than anyone else. Such long hours are not necessarily in the office. It is in all the activities he does and all the thinking he does.

Diligence is both mental and physical. A leader thinks far ahead and creates unassailable position to win.

Here are Steve Jobs’ words at All Things Digital (D5) in 2007, in response to an audience’s question:

“People say: You have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing. It’s totally true. The reason is that it’s so hard that any rational person would give up if he doesn’t have passion. It’s really hard. You have to do it over a sustained period of time.

If you don’t love it, you’re not having fun doing it. If you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up. That’s what happens to most people, actually.

If you look at the ones that ended up being “successful” in the eyes of society and the ones who didn’t, often times it’s the ones that are successful love what they did so they could persevere when it got really tough. The ones that didn’t love it, quit.  Cause they’re sane, right? Who would want to put up with this stuff if they don’t love it?

It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of worrying, constantly.

If you don’t love it, you’re gonna fail. So, you’ve to love it, you’ve got to have passion.”

The innovative spirit of a leader

A leader is a trail blazer. He invents and creates. Others follow and repeat. A leader has to innovate when existing path does not exist.

A leader dares to be different and dares to be the first. When being so, he may look strange to others. As Steve Jobs puts it, they are “the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes.” It takes significant courage to be such a person, particularly in a large organization where you could easily lose your job for being too much of a troublemaker.

The fact that organizations force confirmation on individuals implies the innovative spirit is repressed and sorely lacking in such a place. The abundant resources in a big organization do not guarantee innovative products. It at most produces mediocre products. Thus we see continuous appearance of new startups in Silicon Valley even when Google and Facebook are still growing.

The good news is that there is infinite way to innovate. You never have to worry about running out of ways to improve existing systems. The bad news is that you have to find your unique way in this crowd of innovators.

If you work in a large organization, you can still find ways to beat the bureaucracy of the system. You can move fast and in doing so shake up the system in small or big ways. You may encounter a lot of resistance and it may take tremendous energy to get even small things done. This begs the question: Why do people stay at such large system when their innovative ability is at its peak?

Large organization offers a large playground. It offers supporting environment for long-term R&D. For data scientists, these are ideal places to conduct both research and development of large-scale data products. While in a small organization (unless it is a startup built on innovative data mining ideas), you never get the time to build sound and solid products.

Many large Internet companies still preserve the spirit of innovation: Consider Apple and Google. While Apple’s innovation is driven top down by its deceased founder Steven Jobs, Google’s innovation is bottom up. Google gives a lot of room for engineers and researchers to come up with new ideas and get funding and resources to work on those ideas. This is due to fact that they hire top tier computer science engineers and researchers. These people by nature are highly motivated, self-driven and independent. Thus they bring leadership to the organization. – Thus Steve Jobs’ advice to Larry Page on “focus” is misguided. While Apple emphasizes “focus” due to its top-down structure, Google’s innovative spirit is best realized in its free exploring culture, where excellent products like Gmail, Google News and Google Maps were created by a small group of enginners. When Larry Page gave up his own model and imposed Jobs’ top-down approach, his pet project Google+ failed miserably.  (Check this article: Why Google Plus is a failure March 13, 2012)

Outside Apple and Google, in any other company there is still a lot of room to innovate. You can innovate in the space of engineering methods, or you can innovate in marketing approaches and so on.

The real leadership lesson from Steve Jobs is innovation. Without innovation, a company will be stagnant and eventually die. Without innovation, a person cannot truly be a leader. Let us embrace our own innovative spirit and step up to be a leader.

In Memory of Steve Jobs

He came to this world for only 56 years. But he left us with such a rich legacy. He revolutionized computer industry as it first pioneer, he revolutionized music delivery industry with iPod and iTune. Then he moved on to revolutionize the mobile phone industry. Not to mention his company also pioneered computer animation, and he created a new Tablet market.

For those of us living in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs seems not far. His house in Palo Alto is not far from where we live, Apple headquarter is just a few streets away, and many Apple employees are our neighbors and friends. Yet Steve Jobs is also a mystery and a legend. He started the company in 1976, when most of engineers at Valley were not yet born. For the next 35 years, he stays at what he loves to do: build great computer products and ship them to people.

Steve Jobs defies convention, but he is also an excellent marketer. Above all, he is a consuming technologist, who loves every part of his product. He is handsome, charming and quick wit. But he did not squander his energy on easy social gain. Instead he poured all his passion in building the real innovative products. He is a creator, an inventor and a pioneer. Deep in his heart, he is pure and passionate about building digital product that can make fundamental impact.

While others retire and go into public limelight, he stays at the peak of his creation, chunking out amazing new products one after another. He has no vanity for public limelight. Instead, he uses them solely for the promotion of his product.

He has devoted his life completely to his work. He is so deeply passionate and devoted to his work that it is unimaginable how he can announce his own retirement. We should have known better, that the candle light was burning out. We did not realize how closely he came to the end of his life. From his retirement (August 25) to his death (October 5), it took only 1 month and 10 days. However, Steve Jobs put on such a brave public face in his retirement announcement, we all believed him as if this is his personal choice. When death comes to deal his hand, even Steve Jobs had no choice.

In the age when people live to their 90s and 100s, 56 seems like middle age. How unfair life is for Steve Jobs, to have to leave this earth so early after such a short stay. But life has endowed him richly with sheer determination, vision, and powerful drive. What life takes away, it has generously given to him beforehand. How can we measure a life by its simple length?

Steven Jobs is an inspiration to all of us. He showed us what is possible, when you dare to try, when you stay firm with your vision, and when you are passionate about what you do.

Life renews itself. New generations will come, and new products will be created day after day. But Steven Jobs stands out with his singular impact. He will be forever remembered as a man who changed our lives.