Book Reviews

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

23. One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way - Robert Maurer

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 6/10

Date of reading: 28th – 30th of June, 2017

Description: Kaizen is a Japanese phrase which means continuous improvement. The book shows us how to change our lives by using the Kaizen method, starting from the tiniest possible steps. And it works.


My notes:


“How do people succeed? How do successful people stay successful?” ( :8)

“That’s the problem with innovation. Too often, you meet with success in the short term, only to find yourself falling back into your old ways when your initial burst of enthusiasm fades away. Radical change is like charging up a steep hill-you may run out of wind before you reach the crest, or the thought of all the work ahead makes you give up no sooner than you’ve begun.” ( :10)

“”A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”” ( :11)

“”When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens and when it happens, it lasts. ” -John Wooden, one of the most successful coaches in the history of college basketball” ( :12)

“Small steps were so successful that the Japanese gave them a name of their own: kaizen.” ( :13)

“”How about if you just march in place in front of the television, each day, for one minute?” The resident shot me an incredulous look. But Julie brightened a little. She said, “I could give that a try.”” ( :14)

“”What else can I do in one minute a day?” she wanted to know.” ( :14)

“• asking small questions to dispel fear and inspire creativity • thinking small thoughts to develop new skills and habits-without moving a muscle • taking small actions that guarantee success • solving small problems, even when you’re faced with an overwhelming crisis • bestowing small rewards to yourself or others to produce the best results • recognizing the small but crucial moments that everyone else ignores” ( :15)

“All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.” ( :17)

“When you want to change but experience a block, you can often blame the midbrain for gumming up the works. The midbrain is where you’ll find a structure called the amygdala (a-MIG-duh-luh). The amygdala” ( :18)

“your memory bank. Some lucky people are able to” ( :19)

“Where once you might have been daunted by change, your new mental software will have you moving toward your ultimate goal at a pace that may well exceed your expectations. That’s exactly what happened to Julie. After a few weeks of very limited exercise, she was shocked to find herself exercising even when she didn’t have to.” ( :19)

“about their emotional pain, they chose words such as stress, anxiety, depression, nervous, and tense. But when I observed children talking about their feelings, they talked about being scared, sad, or afraid.” ( :20)

“When life gets scary and difficult, we tend to look for solutions in places where it is easy or at least familiar to do so, and not in the dark, uncomfortable places where real solutions might lie.” ( :21)

“”Can you think of a very small step you might take to improve our process or product?” To his surprise, faces around the room tilted toward him; as his employees began to mull over this slightly different question, they began to sit up straighter and contribute to the discussion.” ( :24)

“”What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask.” -Sam Keen” ( :24)

“ry this experiment. Tomorrow at work or wherever you spend your time, ask one of your friends the color of the car parked next to hers. Your friend is likely to give you a funny look and then admit she has no idea. Repeat the question the next day and the day after that. By the fourth or fifth day, your friend will have no choice: As she pulls into the parking lot the next morning, her brain will remind her that that silly person (you) is going to ask that silly question, and she’ll be forced to store the answer in her short-term memory bank.” ( :24)

“The hippocampus’s main criterion for storage is repetition, so asking that question over” ( :24)

“and over gives the brain no choice but to pay attention and begin to create answers.” ( :25)

“• If health were my first priority, what would I be doing differently today? • What is one way I can remind myself to drink more water? • How could I incorporate a few more minutes of exercise into my daily routine?” ( :25)

“Instead of responding with playfulness, our brain, sensing the fear, suppresses creativity and shuts down access to the cortex (the thinking part of the brain) when we need it most. One of the brain’s strengths-the ability to go into a self-protective lockdown in times of danger-here becomes a crippling liability.” ( :26)

“conformity and toward creativity. I believe that the mere act of posing the same question on a regular basis and waiting patiently for an answer mobilizes the cortex. A question is not demanding, not scary. It’s fun. So when you ask small questions, your amygdala (where the fight-or-flight response occurs) will remain asleep, and the cortex, always hungry for a good time, will wake up and take notice. It will process and absorb the question and, in its own magical way, create answers when it is ready …” ( :26)

“Even if you’re not aware of it, your fight-or-flight response is kicking in; that feeling you might call “writer’s block” is actually fear. The question you’ve asked yourself is too large and frightening. You’ve awakened your amygdala and your cortex has simply shut down.” ( :27)

“‘ What’s one thing I wish to contribute to the world with my book, poem, song, or painting? ‘Whom could I ask for help or Inspiration? ‘What Is special about my creative process/talents/business team? ‘What type of work would excite and fulfill me?” ( :28)

“honest answers. I then asked her to call my voice mail once a day with an answer to another question: What small, caring act would you like to receive from an ideal partner right now?” ( :30)

“take her brown-bag lunch to the food court at the basement of the high-rise where she worked. She wasn’t going to flirt or even try to sit near an attractive man; she was just going to put herself “in harm’s way.” At the same time, I asked her to consider this question: If I were 100 percent certain that my prince was coming in a month, what would I be doing differently today? Grace had always maintained high standards of physical health, but now she began to dress with extra care and follow an even more nutritious diet. Essentially, she was making herself ready for her ideal man. Another question helped her mobilize her interest and leave the safety of her office and apartment: Assuming that your ideal man shares your interests, where you would like to meet him? Grace decided she might like to meet him at the gym” ( :30)

“I hope you’ll build the kaizen habit of asking yourself small (and positive!) questions.” ( :33)

“This method, called mind sculpture, can help you run a tough race, go out on blind dates, or talk to employees more effectively.” ( :36)

“Mind sculpture takes advantage of cutting-edge neuroscience, which suggests that the brain learns best not in large dramatic do it!-but in very small increments, smaller than ever believed possible. Mind Sculpture: A Total Experience” ( :36)

“Mind sculpture, developed by Ian Robertson, is a newer technique that involves total but stillimaginary sensory immersion. It requires its practitioners to pretend that they are actually engaged in the action, not just seeing but hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching. In mind sculpture, people imagine the movement of their muscles, and the rise and fall of their emotions.” ( :37)

“Ian Robertson, one of the world’s leading authorities on brain rehabilitation, theorized in his book Mind Sculpture that during mind sculpture, the brain doesn’t understand that it’s not really performing the imagined activity. Backley’s brain sent the precise messages to his muscles that were necessary to execute the perfect javelin toss. In effect, his brain and body were practicing the event over and over, without mistakes. When Backley recovered from his injury, his body and mind were already in an advanced state of preparedness for a successful season.” ( :37)

“I struck a bargain with him. “My goal is to get you to the point where you enjoy annual evaluations,” I said. “I think I can do this if you give me thirty seconds a day for the next three months. If it doesn’t work, you can tell human resources that you followed all my suggestions and fulfilled your obligation.” My request was so small that it was impossible for Michael to refuse.” ( :39)

“Two weeks into the second month, my phone rang. “My wife and kids are asking what’s wrong with me!” Michael said, clearly pleased with himself. His family had returned his compliments with such love and warmth that mind sculpture and kaizen now had real credibility with him.” ( :40)

“”Now,” I suggested, “how about calling me once a day and leaving your one compliment and one criticism for an employee on my voice mail?” He could practice his tone of voice that way, and I’d return the call with feedback about the specificity of the comments and whether his tone had reached the level of neutrality he sought.” ( :40)

“In true kaizen fashion, I’ll break mind sculpture down into several small steps:” ( :40)

“difficult activity with enthusiasm. But if you’re not ready for the real thing, that’s perfectly okay. Never force the process of kaizen; it works only if you let change happen in a comfortable and easy manner.” ( :41)

“You should increase the length and pace only when the previous stage of mind sculpture has become effortless. If you start making excuses for not practicing mind sculpture, or if you find yourself forgetting to do it, then you need to cut back on the amount of time.” ( :41)

“No Time, No Money? Kaizen Fits Your Life” ( :45)

“Other people agreed that their worst consumer experiences could easily have been turned around by an apology and a demonstration of concern. Everyone knows, they said, that hard drives can break down before they should and that bank tellers can make mistakes. What makes the experience a positive or negative one is what transpires in those few minutes when you explain your problem to the people involved.” ( :47)

“These changes consisted of short sentences-mainly “I apologize” and “thank you”-and were undeniably the smallest of steps. But shortly after the staff implemented these changes, patient surveys showed that the satisfaction rate doubled, and the number of patients defecting from the practice went down by 60 percent. Keep in mind that the average waiting time remained exactly the same as before. But now patients said things like, “I’ve never felt more appreciated in a doctor’s office!” And the previously warring factions within the practice laid down their arms, pleased that there was something simple and productive each of them could do to achieve their goals.” ( :47)

“Let’s return to Julie, the single mother who didn’t have time to exercise. She started with a small actionmarching for just one minute each day in front of the television. This action didn’t do much for her aerobic capacity, but for Julie it had a different and perhaps even more significant effect. It opened a window to the possibility of fitting exercise into her life. After a couple of weeks, Julie decided she could try marching for the duration of a commercial break. Once she mastered that, she decided she would try for two commercial breaks. And then she forgot to stop. The commercials would conclude, the television show would resume, and Julie would find that she was still moving. Almost without realizing it, this extraordinarily busy woman found a way to meet the American” ( :48)

“In a patient tone of voice, he asked me how long meditation techniques had been around. “Two or three thousand years,” I said. “That’s right,” he told me. “So there’s a very good chance that the people in this audience have heard of it before now. Those who like the idea have already found a teacher or a book and are doing it. For the rest of the people in this audience, meditation is the worst idea they ever heard of. I’d rather they go home and meditate for one minute than not meditate for thirty minutes. They might like it. They may forget to stop.”” ( :49)

“poorly executed. The group that had not been approached about the small sign refused the billboard 83 percent of the time; the group that had made the small step in the first neighborhood, however, agreed to the billboard 76 percent of the time. The small step made the larger one four times more likely.” ( :49)

“They know they’re at risk for tooth decay and gum disease, and they feel they ought to develop a flossing habit, but they can’t seem to translate that knowledge into action. So I’ve asked them to floss one tooth a day. These people find this tiny step much easier. After a month of flossing one tooth every day, they have two things: one very clean tooth and a habit of picking up that silly string.” ( :50)

“(When people forget to perform their onetooth-per-day routine, I’ll ask them to add another kaizen step: to tie a piece of floss around their remote control, or to tape some floss to the bathroom mirror as a reminder.)” ( :50)

“As you plan your own small steps toward change, keep in mind that sometimes, despite your best planning, you’ll hit a wall of resistance. Don’t give up! Instead, try scaling back the size of your steps.” ( :51)

“Through willpower and self-control, she was able to cut out three of the four teaspoons, but the habit of using that one last teaspoon of sugar was stubborn. When she realized that her willpower wasn’t strong enough to resist the final teaspoon, she held the spoon and tried to remove just one grain of the sugar from it before pouring the rest into her tea. The next day she tried to remove two grains of sugar from the teaspoon before pouring the rest in. She continued this, removing one or two more grains each day. It took almost a year to empty the teaspoon! She was forty-five years old when she related this story-and still taking her tea without sugar” ( :51)

“Sometimes they were laughing when they said this, but their feeling was real. Many of these smokers, I discovered, grew up in families with parents who were incapable of consistent nurturing. As children, they quickly learned to keep their problems to themselves and to confide in no one when they were upset.” ( :54)

“”Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts. “” ( :62)

“with whom to ally in the organization. Her lack of curiosity suggested an unwillingness to listen, a penchant for action over understanding, and an inclination to demand obedience rather than to inspire.” ( :64)

“so great that we assume the source of such horror must lie in deeply complicated troubles. This is true for marriages, careers, addictions, corporations, and even for worldwide health disasters.” ( :66)

“Many Americans are unaware that diarrhea kills a million children around the world each year. To put this number into perspective, that’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of children crashing every four hours.” ( :66)

“Enter William Bratton, who was hired in 1990 to reduce New York’s subway crime. Bratton’s philosophy was influenced by a lecture he’d attended on the “broken windows” theory, first postulated in 1982 by two criminologists, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling.” ( :66)

“One of Bratton’s district captains, Miles Ansboro, found himself solving another small problem. He wanted passengers to notice his officers’ presence and to feel safer, but no one even looked up as his uniformed officers walked by. So he asked himself a small kaizen question: What makes people look up on a subway car? His answer was: the loudspeaker. Every time a train came into the station, one of Ansboro’s sergeants handed a card to the conductor to read over the public announcement system: “Your attention please. The Transit Police are conducting a sweep of the train. There may be a momentary delay while they go through the train to correct all conditions. Thank you for your patience.” The officers greeted the passengers, escorted the rowdy and the drunken off the cars, and settled down any kids who were misbehaving. Small problems, small questions, small actions-and to the city’s collective astonishment, the rate of major crime in the subway system dropped by 50 percent in just twenty-seven months. Bratton was promoted to Chief of Police for the City of New York, and in that position he produced the same extraordinary results aboveground.” ( :67)

“But in Japan, the value of the average reward is $3.88 (as opposed to the American average of $458.00). For the best suggestion of the year, Toyota gives a reward called the Presidential Award, bestowed upon the recipient at a formal ceremony. This coveted reward isn’t a fancy watch, a new car, or a shopping spree. It’s a fountain pen. And it’s such an effective reward that Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda boasts, “Our workers provide 1.5 million suggestions a year and 95 percent of them are put to practical use.”” ( :71)

“The larger the external rewards, the greater the risk of inhibiting or stunting the native drive for excellence.” ( :71)

“But small rewards encourage internal motivation because they are really a form of recognition rather than material gain, signaling that the corporation or boss appreciates the employee’s internal desire to improve and contribute.” ( :71)

“book It’s Your Ship, is feeling underappreclated at work. To keep their ranks full, many top naval officers are now consciously bestowing small rewards in the form of compliments and public recognition.” ( :72)

“”No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ” -Aesop, “The Lion and the Mouse”” ( :72)

“Instead, Pryor broke her journey down into a series of distinct segments-walking to the subway station, changing trains, taking the stairs to her classroom. Each time she completed a segment, she allowed herself a square of chocolate. In this way she was training herself to associate each segment of the journey with pleasure. “In a few weeks,” she says, “I was able to get all the way to class without either the chocolate or the internal struggle.”” ( :73)

“”Atta boy, Jack!” he’d say. This compliment, short but sincere, was his reward. Then he’d say to himself: If I can just walk down the street to the gym, I’ll enjoy a chat with the staff there. Once on the treadmill, Jack started by walking for just two minutes, rewarding himself with praise and encouragement. Minute by minute, and small reward by small reward, Jack slowly worked himself into physical fitness. By the time I met him, he was in his” ( :73)

“seventies and had won the Mr. World bodybuilding contest for his age division!” ( :74)

“I had thought, as perhaps you do, that the way to cure a disease is to focus on the people who have the disease, subject them to whatever technology we have or can invent, and eventually stumble onto a cure. The reality is that many of the plagues were cured by a very different process. Smallpox, for example, one of the greatest killers of all time, was cured by a British physician, Edward Jenner.” ( :76)

“An American Airlines flight attendant took the time to notice that many of her passengers did not eat the olives in their salads. She thought this observation might be useful and passed this observation up the chain of command. It was eventually discovered that the airline was charged by its food supplier for salads based on the number of items they contained. The cost for a salad with one to four items was less than a salad with five to eight items. And the uneaten olives, it turned out, were the fifth item in the American Airlines salad. When the airline dropped the olives and switched to a four-item salad, it saved five hundred thousand dollars a year.” ( :77)

“99 cents?” Gold went on to create the 99¢ Only Stores chain, which now numbers 142 stores.” ( :77)

“”The true creator may be recognized by his ability to always find about him, in the commonest and humblest thing, items worthy of note. ” Igor Stravinsky” ( :78)

“Here’s a series of steps to help your mind stay open, playful, and alert to small moments, even in emotionally charged situations.” ( :78)

“1. Look for a person who has the opposite opinion from you on hot-button social policy issues, such as abortion, gun control, or school vouchers. It is helpful if this person is a stranger-say, someone sitting next to you on an airplane-rather than a close friend or family member. 2. Engage this person in a conversation in which all you do is ask questions with only one agenda: to discover and understand the reasons for his or her point of view. 3. Try not to argue, persuade, or sound judgmental. 4. You will know you are succeeding when you feel the person becoming more and more relaxed and chatty as he or she perceives your interest and respect.” ( :79)

“This is an unorthodox setup for a scientific study, to be sure, but what makes us take Gottman seriously are his remarkable results. With these measures, he has been able to predict-with 93 percent accuracywhether a couple would be happily married, or miserable, or even divorced within four years.” ( :79)

“One of the study’s major findings was that in the successful relationships, positive attention outweighed negative on a daily basis by a factor of five to one.” ( :79)

“Another application of kaizen to relationships is allowing ourselves to be interested in the small details of our partner’s life. Instead of expecting our mates to entertain us with dramatic gestures and stories, we can try to appreciate their everyday qualities and actions.” ( :80)

“appreciate him or her for small gestures, a pleasing tone of voice, or a kind touch.” ( :80)

“Instead, try to identify one moment each day during which you can praise your partner’s personality or appearance.” ( :80)

Check out more book notes at How I Read 90 Books In The Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages A Day

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