Strategies Are Overrated. Listen To Your Insights Instead.

August 7, 2017

by Ravi Raman

90% of business and personal development books are full of strategies. Maybe 99%!

When I say “strategies” I am referring to step-by-step formulas or back-tested approaches for success. However, from what I see, strategies rarely work the same way when applied by others.

Just look at books like Good to Great…where many of the “Great” companies fell to mediocrity in the ensuing years. Other companies implementing the lessons from Good to Great were not guaranteed success.

Far from it.

The same thing happens when athletic teams follow the coaching principles set forth by past greats. Reading “Coach Bob’s 12 Secrets To Football Success” doesn’t guarantee that your football team will dominate the season.


It’s not the strategies that matter so much as the mindset of the leaders and teams executing them. Without a firm, calm and resourceful mental state, how can any strategy actually work? When we rely on external tools and strategies for success, how can we weather the storm of an unpredictable life?

Instead of seeking external strategies that are back-tested but not future-proof, we should be on the hunt for something else; something that is always present and helpful regardless what life, work or the competition throws at us.

Yes, such a thing exists.

While strategies are external and failure-prone, insights are internally generated, robust and present in every human being. Insights are the keys that unlock the doors we have been struggling to open. Our challenge is in being able to notice when they appear.

Have you ever had an insight occur to you in the shower, after a workout or upon waking up from a nap?

It is in these moments that our internal dialogue and non-stop thinking become quiet enough to let our greater intelligence bubble up. When we notice these insights and follow through on them, only good things happen. Even when the ideas require painfully difficult choices (like this one I faced), life seems to be better as a result.

My challenge to you, particularly if you love to collect personal development tools and strategies (as I do!), is to pay even more attention to your own ideas and insights. Notice when they appear. Ponder them. Write them down.

Better yet, act on them and see what happens.

Further reading 📚

How to make your work more joyful and less miserable today 

You know the feeling, sleeping walking your way from meeting to meeting. Getting lost in your phone instead of working on that document. Retyping your to-do's instead of actually doing them. The problem is rampant.  While this is clearly an issue for owners and...

Quitting Twitter and getting on with my life

I quit Twitter the other day. It has nothing (really!) to do with Elon and everything to do with how social technology seems designed to fracture, divide and capture attention at the cost of well-being and personal (and group) performance. Moderation was not working...

What I’ve learned this year (2022 edition)

John Dewey, an education reformer and philosopher, is well-known for his understanding that learning doesn't come from experience. It comes from reflecting on experience. Being December as I write this, there is a certain nostalgia in the air as the year comes to a...

It’s time to step off the time management treadmill from hell

There once lived a King in a faraway land. A tyrant who was ruthless though successful in the eyes of the world. Commerce flourished even if heads rolled under his heavy-handed reign. Whatever he wanted was had at any price. Eventually the King was challenged to a...

Bad news and the power of suspending judgment

Michael slipped on a patch of ice getting into a friends car and fell. A self-proclaimed "klutz," taking a tumble wasn't out of the ordinary. This time, embarrassment wasn't the problem. A lingering pain in his wrist meant something serious was going on. An MRI would...