Blog

Your essential day

the-roaming-platypus-310824-unsplash.jpg

Urgent!

It’s what takes up your day. Not going to the gym, writing your book, reading, or traveling—urgent. It’s you spending your time on other people’s to-do list (aka: email).

Here’s the problem, the urgent never stops. It will never stop. There will always be that pesky notification that directs your attention elsewhere. It never ends! And it’s a tragic short-term game.

So, what really deserves your attention? The urgent? Or the important?

Here’s something I’ve tried recently: write down your ideal day. Meaning, if you found the time, had enough sleep, felt great, what would your ideal day look like? Then ask yourself, what is something essential in my life that I’m not investing enough in right now? Then ask, what is something non-essential in my life that I am over-investing in right now? Modify your ideal, essential day accordingly. Then try to get as close to it as possible.

"I had no choice"

rawpixel-743124-unsplash.jpg

Which actually means “I had only one path that was easy at the moment.”

The choices we make when it doesn’t even seem like we have a choice determine who we really are. Do we respond or react? Do we act or are we acted upon?

What follows is the impact we make—or not, your choice.

What's most essential?

gabriele-motter-152990-unsplash.jpg

When you set goals this year, ask yourself these questions:

What is something that is essential to you, but you are underinvesting in right now? At what point, what would it look like when you can say, ‘I’m now investing enough into this thing?’ What is something non-essential that you are over investing in?

For more, check out Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Also listen to this podcast episode where Tim Ferris interviews Greg and they talk about this idea of essentialism in greater depth and detail.

The undisciplined pursuit of more

davidcohen-152992-unsplash.jpg

It’s around this time of year that we start thinking about how we want more. More love, more money, more friends, more time, more freedom.

We go about trying to get more in all the wrong places.

What if more wasn’t the answer?

What if less was where we needed to start?

Less complaining, less worrying, less idleness, less stuff.

If it’s true what they say that less is more, then start with less for a more disciplined more.

Dealing with the subpar

olia-gozha-34223-unsplash.jpg

If you want to be a writer, you’ll need to tolerate being bad, because if you don’t, you’ll never write anything good. 

If you want to be a designer, you’ll need to be okay with creating something flawed, because if you don’t, you’ll never create something spectacular. 

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ll need to know what failure feels like, otherwise, you’ll never know what success is. 

The thing is, trying something and failing at it isn’t difficult. We all fail…a lot. It’s the commitment to keep pursuing “the brilliant” that separates the great from the good. 

Great things are built with time. Keep building. Keep pursuing. 

The good and the bad

kristopher-roller-188180-unsplash.jpg

To do great things, we need to love both. We need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks…and endure them well.

Come what may, and love it.

If we say that we love what we do, that means that we need to love all that it entails. Not just the perks of the job, but also the occupational hazards.

Let go of your expectations and accept what happens to you. Soon, you will realize that there are just some things outside your control. But, there are plenty of other things that are very much within your control: namely, how you choose to react. It also helps if you think about ‘next steps’ in terms of what you get to do instead of what you must do.

It’s life. It happens. Might as well have a good attitude about it.

Beyond urgent

helena-lopes-1053531-unsplash.jpg

What’s more important: The issue? Or how we deal with the issue?

What’s happening right now has repercussions. Sure, the moment can be stressful. It usually takes quick thinking and sharp acumen. But it’s tempting to get lost in the minutiae when there are bigger things at play. And, whatever’s happening right now, the issue at hand—while important—isn’t as vital as our capacity to lay a foundation and create a system to deal with the next hundred issues.

By all means, don’t put the urgent on the back-burner—what i’m suggesting here is to take some extra time so that you’re not only getting it right, but also creating a process so that it doesn’t happen again.

If you find yourself consistently being a victim to circumstance, or getting blindsided by unforeseen issues, it’s probably an operational issue. Whatever system you have in place currently, isn’t detecting the obstacles soon enough and it’s not efficient enough to recalibrate once problems arise. Which is exactly when you need focus more on the process than on whatever ‘urgent’ thing is happening at the moment—getting the process right will always be more important that the problem we’ve got right now.

Worse case, it’s got us collaborating again, whereas before we spent most of our time arguing about the issue. Best case, well…

Sitzfleisch

daniel-leone-185834-unsplash.jpg

In english it means Staying Power.

Another word for it is perseverance.

It’s persisting at something over and over again for a long period of time. It takes courage, creativity, and determination. It’s the long game.

The Haitians would say: Deye mon, gen mon – Beyond mountains, there are mountains. For life isn’t about overcoming one obstacle to achieve one goal. It’s about many.

Whatever you want to call it, if you practice it, then keep practicing it, you will be all the better for it.

The middle ground

luke-stackpoole-552423-unsplash.jpg

You hear world-class athletes say this all the time: not too high, not too low. It’s about keeping a level head. Not getting too excited when things go your way and not getting too down when things don’t.

The thing is, uncontrolled ambition is easy. Anyone can keep their foot on the gas pedal. Complacency is easy, too. The trick is to find the right balance between the two. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure at the right time during the right circumstances.

The “Golden Mean” as Aristotle put it. It’s what makes excellence so difficult. He wrote: “In each case, it is hard work to find the intermediate; for instance, not everyone, but only one who knows, finds the midpoint in a circle.”

Find your middle ground. Check yourself when you feel like you’re getting reckless, realize when you are shying away from responsibility. What lies in the middle is courage.

Find your middle ground. Know when to speak up, sense when to keep your mouth shut. What lies in the middle is respect.

Find your middle ground. Look for opportunities in obstacles, beware of pitfalls in possibilities. What lies in the middle is mastery.

How to find a needle in a haystack

lucas-gallone-108793-unsplash.jpg

We all have them. Needles we need to find. Haystacks to sort through.

For some of us, those needles are relationships, innovations, breakthroughs.

For others, those needles are goals, quotas, or projects. Whatever your needle is, there will come a time when you will need to find it in the most unfortunate circumstances, improbable scenarios, and unlikely obstacles.

Some will find their needles, others will not. The difference between finding what you are looking for, accomplishing what you set out to do and not, comes down to one word—persistence.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. The men, women, and organizations that have gone on to accomplish great things didn’t get there because they just happened upon ‘their needles’ in the thick of a ‘haystack,’ they got there because they were more persistent than everyone else.

Genius is often just persistence in disguise

Nikola Tesla spent a year in Thomas Edison’s lab during the invention of the lightbulb. He once grumbled that “if Edison needed to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed at once to simply examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes. That job you are looking for, that book you are writing, that deal you are closing, that mission are you embarking on, that person you are influencing, that thing you are learning—persist.

Work works—it’s simple, but not easy.

The thing that will set you apart from everyone else will be your ability to tolerate the difficulty and mundaneness that will certainly arise as you continue toward solving the problem in front of you.

Here’s something that helps me. I keep telling myself that ‘it’s supposed to be hard.’ So, settle in, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and double down your efforts on finding your needle in a haystack.

Inalienable responsibility

kelly-sikkema-411622-unsplash.jpg

If you have the power to make rules, the rules are your responsibility.

And all of us have the power to make rules. We make them for ourselves and others every day.

If we don’t, deciding not to is still a choice. Doing nothing is also a choice. By saying nothing, creating nothing, helping no one, you are making rules that lay the foundation for how you act and how you are perceived.

The CEO of you

hunters-race-408744-unsplash.jpg

What would your approval rating be?

Chances are, not very good. How do you talk to yourself? How well are you managing your health? How much time are you wasting doing things that don’t matter? How much blame are you placing on others? How much ownership you are taking over yourself and what happens to you?

Are you constantly learning and developing your skills? Staying positive and encouraging yourself? Planning out your career path? Focusing on the daily objectives while keeping in mind your long-term vision?

—Like most employees expect from their CEOs?

You are the CEO of you. If you can’t manage yourself the way you expect to be managed, then what are you complaining about?

It starts with you. Managing is hard, and managing yourself is even harder. But it’s a worthy pursuit—for there are few things that are more important to learn.

Liked? Or respected?

mari-lezhava-265675-unsplash.jpg

When it comes to seeing real change, too often, we let the need to be liked get in the way.

Our ego wants us to be liked. It begs us to seek validation, to put things off, to double down on bad decisions, to avoid asking the questions we don’t want to hear the answers to.

Being respected is the long game. It takes time. It’s something you earn as opposed to something that’s given.

Failure is going to happen. You’re going to do things that don’t work, be places that aren’t a good fit, make decisions that have poor repercussions, have unfortunate circumstances befall you. It might be your fault, it might not be, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now that matters.

Will your next decision be based on what others will think of it? Or will you dig deep, reflect, and take ownership?

Write what you would like to read

mario-badilla-1077321-unsplash.jpg

What "work" would you do even if you didn't have to?

For me, it was writing. I have been writing in my journal for close to ten years now without missing a day. I never considered if people would eventually read it or not. It has been something I've looked forward to doing each morning and evening (and sometimes throughout the day). It's encouraging to look back at the progress I've made and read everything I've learned.

My daily practice of writing every day has now turned into this blog, my website, and a few books I'm working on. It's been scary to put my thoughts out there. I know I can be vague and sometimes speak in riddles, but that's how I like to write. Turns out, it's what people like to read; short, meaningful sentences that hopefully make you think.

"Find something that you love and do it every day. Do that for the rest of your life and eventually, the world will change." - Macklemore 

The humble pursuit

ben-white-128608-unsplash.jpg

Marina Abramović stated:

If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.

Whether it be in sports, at work, or in other pursuits, the only thing that will every truly stop you, is yourself; to be more specific, your ego.

Ask the questions you don’t want to hear the answers to. Do they things others aren’t willing to do. Don’t make up for your own insecurities by criticizing others or looking for shortcuts.

Keep at it. Be humble.

Unlocking potential

marc-olivier-jodoin-502572-unsplash.jpg

I have a friend who has more money than he knows what to do with. He recently bought a new iMac—the $5,000 one. The one that was made for programmers, videographers, and designers. And he uses it solely to watch Netflix and answer emails! He has no idea what kind of power lies inside that machine. And, frankly, he doesn’t care. He got it because it looks nice on his desk and it keeps up the appearance that he’s on the forefront of innovation.

It’s kind of like someone—who doesn’t know how (or like) to fly—buying a private jet, parking it in their backyard and using it as a showpiece and maybe a guest house. That would be a shame! What a waste!

But how many of us do the same with our own potential? How many of us have heard those voices inside our heads and ignored them because we’re scared?

You were designed to do so much more than to ‘sit in someone’s backyard as a showpiece.’ You were made to ‘fly.’ And you’re lying to yourself if you think you don’t have what it takes.

Learn more today about the world than you knew yesterday. Create something meaningful. Unlock the potential inside you.

Wearing down

claudio-hirschberger-576973-unsplash.jpg

Whether it’s your fault or not, things have a tendency to either wear down or break completely. Although you might not have something you had before, you still have a choice: will you get bitter, or will you get better?

None of us start out being bitter, and none of us become better without making that choice. We’re continually choosing who we’re becoming.  This is especially true when things break. The person you are today is a result of the gradual attitude changes made over a period of time. Who do you want to become tomorrow? What are you willing to change today to become that person? 

Chopping down the last tree

johannes-plenio-629984-unsplash.jpg

Did the folks on the once-great Easter Island know what they were doing to their lush, beautiful island when they started taking down all the trees? Or were they too concerned with short-term results? At which point did they realize what they had done? What were they thinking as they chopped down the last tree?

Our society loves short-term successes. We are impressed with those who 'burst onto the scene' or 'become great overnight.' So we fall for it. We focus on how quickly we can get there rather than on how well we are doing it. But in doing so, are we (metaphorically, of course) chopping down our own forest?

Any way you slice it, it's going to take effort. Whether it's doing it fast or doing it right, the amount of energy spent will be the same. In fact, I think most would agree (especially those who have gone through the painful experience of chopping down their last tree) that it will take less time and less effort to do things the difficult way—the 'long' way—than it will to cut corners, take shortcuts, 'chop down trees at an unsustainable rate,' all in the name of looking good today, instead of building for tomorrow. 

When you're near the end...

jonathan-chng-751342-unsplash.jpg

Our greatest threat lies at the finish line. It’s when victory seems inevitable and there’s nothing that can stop you now. It’s when you are the most vulnerable. It’s when you have let your guard down. It’s when your ego steps in and takes over. 

Like a football player dropping the ball right before the goal line to celebrate. Like the Trojans allowing a giant horse into their walls as a token of surrender from the Greeks. Like Odysseus taking a nap when Ithaca was in sight only to have his men open a bag of wind and blow his ship back across the very oceans, they had already sailed. 

There are two forces in the universe: one that wants you to succeed and one that doesn’t. They both know WHEN you’re about to strike gold, to cross the finish line, to be victorious, and they both are telling you two very different things. The first is pleading for you to push a little harder, focus a little more, and be extra cautious near the end. The second is puffing up your ego, turning up the dance music for the celebration party, and telling you to relax; “look! The finish line is in sight!”

You’ve made it this far. Which force are you listening to? Now is not the time to nap, celebrate, or prematurely drop the ball. Those can all come later, but not yet. Not until you have crossed the finish line.