My number is 10,950…what’s yours?

timeflies

In about a month, I turn 50.  That is not the precipitating event for my thoughts here but it did provide me with the foundation for the calculation that led the “number” mentioned in the title of this post.  The precipitating events that led me to the conclusions I will share were my efforts at determining what 2017 holds for me and those important to me.  I had been seeking out some help with developing my personal brand, pursuing some coaching in my own emotional intelligence, and had also recently revisited some personal insights from the Predictive Index.  All of these combined nicely in support of my focus on what was to be in 2017 & beyond.

I have determined that given me family history and current age, on February 17, 2017 I will have about 10,950 days (365 days/year x 30 years) left on this earth (or you could say 262,800 hours or 15,768,000 minutes).  Some folks might think this is morbid but I have found it to be both freeing and anxiety-inducing.  These are connected because it gives me anxiety to think that I know have a finite amount of time left and freeing because it provides me with a clear justification for actions I must take.

I am committing myself to spending each day adding value to the lives of those I care about and doing the most good I can with each action I take.  The key will be developing my ability to say “NO” more frequently than I say “YES” because I believe this is something none of us do enough of.  I think our main problem is we try to be nice and are afraid of hurting people’s feeling.  I also believe it is because we are afraid to commit to a course of action and stick with it.  We want to do everything which actually leads us to doing nothing (of any importance).

More than anything, this type of thought process has given me tremendous clarity.  I know now that there are a finite number of “tomorrows”.  It has also given me a very deliberate sense of urgency to hold myself accountable for focusing on the only thing I can and that is my daily activities.  I am striving for 100% alignment in what I do and who I am.  I have committed to being who I am because I believe that gives others permissions to do the same.  I will live each day being true to my values and I will not compromise because the clock is ticking.

I also want to empower others to get to “NO” quicker as well.  I want to be clear and unambiguous about what I stand for in every conversation I have.  I believe we should all do this so that we can create, nurture, and maintain as many meaningful relationships as we can in the time we are here.  It is these relationships that define us and not the stuff we accumulate or achievements we strive for.  Legacies are what we leave in the memories of others:  nothing more, nothing less.

We can’t wait until some imaginary point in the future to live the life we want because, as Cervantes said, “The journey is the inn”.  My goal is to create a life I don’t want to retire from.  I would aspire to be a “master in the art of living” as defined by Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand.

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his pplay; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation.  He hardly knows which is which.  He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing.  To himself, he is always appears to be doing both.”

Do you know your number?  More importantly…will it matter if you do?

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Goals are bulls#*@

nogoals

According to Inc. and Forbes, about 92% of people DO NOT ACHIEVE their GOALS.  This leads to copious amounts of tools, articles, and apps that you can buy, read, or download that will supposedly put you in the 8% of successful people who theoretically achieve their goals.  With that in mind, I have a few questions:

  • Are the 8% happier, more successful, or more fulfilled simply because they achieved their goals?
  • Were their goals meaningful?
  • How were they able to achieve their goals?

They certainly did not achieve their goals because they were more focused, passionate, or dedicated. This is what we like to believe because we like the “superman” theory of performance.  We are drawn to believe that if we only “try harder” or “want it more” then it will happen and that is absolutely false.  Sadly we not only tell ourselves this self defeating bulls*&# but we also share it with our peers and, worse yet, our kids.

What really drives results are systems or processes that assist us in overcoming our inherent weakness and lack of self-discipline.  Ever heard these aphorisms:

  • 80% of success is showing up
  • One of the things young people always ask me about is what is the secret to success. The secret is there is no secret. It’s the basics. Blocking and tackling.
  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

Goals are like opinions, everyone has them.  We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world so our goals can and will change during the course of a year. What shouldn’t change is the system we develop to ensure we are doing the right things each and every day.  To make progress, we need a process.  We need to manage our activities and focus on only those that are essential and aligned with who we are and what we wish to accomplish.  Show me a person who holds themselves accountable for doing the right things each and every day, and I will show you a person who is making progress towards their “goals”.

If you don’t believe me, check out this insightful piece of writing from Scott Adams or this one from James Clear

 

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Often duplicated, never replicated

sitting-on-rocks-talking

A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of “Parts Unknown” (Anthony Bourdain’s travel and food show on CNN) where he was visiting Japan with Chef Masa Takayama and I was introduced to the concept of “ichi-go ichi-e” that describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people. The term is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” As I read more about this, I was struck by the implications of this in our lives.

Admittedly, I am probably more interested and/or attuned to this as a Vistage Chair because my entire professional life is based upon meetings with both groups and individuals. Then, it occurred to me that everyone’s lives are really an ongoing series of both professional and personal interactions regardless of your chosen profession. It is at that point the concept truly takes on weight & raises the following questions:

  • Don’t we have to admit that each interaction we have with another human being is absolutely and truly unique because, although you might meet with them again in the future, you will both only be the people you are at that moment so that meeting can never happen the same way again?
  • Don’t we have the responsibility to uncover and discuss the state of mind (if only briefly) of all attendees at these meetings and determine if there are meaningful conversations that could happen that would benefit some or all of the attendees?
  • Isn’t there an inherent opportunity to then abolish “small talk” because we don’t want to waste time “talking around things that don’t matter” because we could then focus on “talking about things that matter”?
  • How will this impact both the number of meetings you are willing to have as well as the time you set aside for each meeting you schedule? If each meeting truly was an opportunity to intentionally engage at a meaningful level, what would your criteria be? How would you communicate that to others? How would you prepare?

I will conclude with a few more open-ended questions that are actually not rhetorical in nature because I would like for your to answer them for yourself. If your answers are positive in nature, then would you be willing to give it a try?

  • Would this be meaningful to you?
  • Would it meaningful to others?
  • Would these meetings build up or tear down walls & barriers?
  • Would you walk away energized or drained?

About 2,500 years ago Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its the not the same river and he is not the same man.” We cannot slow time down nor do I believe we should try. We can, however, embrace the opportunities that the passage of time presents to us and that is the ability to learn & change. The real challenge becomes providing others with the space and safety to do the same.

I believe Mother Teresa summed it up best with the following, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

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Answering what & why

WARNING:  There are no “answers” in this post and my only goal in sharing these thoughts was to cause you to ask yourself meaningful questions.  If you would prefer not to do that, then do not read any further.

I believe that when we enter into the “2nd half” of our lives, we entertain different questions because time becomes real and there is a sense of mortality we cannot escape. We begin to think more deeply about legacy because we want our lives to have meant something and would like to believe we did something meaningful that will live on when we are gone.

This leads to a change in how we perceive the world around us and our reticular activating system provides us with the means to accomplish this…”When you set your intent, you are marrying your subconscious mind with your conscious will to make something happen. It is like you are sending your Reticular Activating System a message that you are “expecting” the event to happen, and there is absolutely no room for uncertainty.” Essentially, we begin to see/experience what we look for and/or expect.  This works in all seasons of our lives but now it is especially poignant because we’re looking for meaning and meaning we will find.  We begin to question “why” much more often and have an urge to understand people and their actions…which is not a peaceful practice.

Since others will often frustrate or confuse us, we then turn inward and ask ourselves these challenging questions.  We want to better understand ourselves because that might help us understand others?  I recently began working with a coach (Jim Vaive) in the realm of emotional intelligence and one my homework assignments was the creation of my “noble goal”.  I have to admit that I really liked the sound of that but it has not been easy to write down.  When I visited 6seconds, I found this snippet of insight which really crystallized it for me…“Live as if your choices send ripples beyond your lifetime.”  Full disclosure, this resonated with me because it sounds like the great scene from “The Gladiator”, where Maximus tells his troops that “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”  Think of the impact this might have on our actions each day if we truly lived in this manner.  Imagine the impact it would have on others.  Imagine how hard it is to capture this in one sentence!

As a recovering philosophy student (27 years in the real world and counting) this also took be right back to Immanuel Kant and his thoughts on the categorical imperative…which is not a fun place to go.  Kantian philosophy would tell us that we should “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”  I was fond of torturing my kids with this and can’t tell how many times I lectured them with no thought of Matthew 7:3…“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?”  Actually, there might be quite the circular argument with that entire discussion because in lecturing them on the categorical imperative I was actually exemplifying a poor example to be repeated “in perpetuum” but that is a thought for another day.

I would like to provide you with 3 “resources” if you are interested and they are…

I would suggest you start with Sean Rowe because he will stir the most visceral reaction in you and reach you in your heart and soul instead of your head as you can see by the following lyrics…

“My friends I believe we are at the wrong fight
And I cannot read what I did not write
I’ve been to His house, but the master is gone
But I’d like to leave something behind

There is a beast who has taken my brain
You can put me to bed but you can’t feel my pain
When the machine has taken the soul from the man
It’s time to leave something behind”

 

 

 

 

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Act like a child…please!

I was reading The Power of  a Good Question (a great post by Leo Bottary) today and it serves as the jumping off point for what follows.  Leo provided great practical insight as to the “how” of this process as well as an example of what can come from it.  I am going to take a more personal approach and share what I believe we have to embrace in order for our default to be asking questions instead of giving answers.

How many times have you told your kids (or been told yourself) to “grow up”?  Well, when it comes to being a great questioner, the reality is that we need to maintain some of that childlike wonderment about the world around us.  In “A More Beautiful Question”,  Warren Berger points out that a typical preschooler asks about 300 questions each day but once they reach middle-school age, they ask very few.

questiondropoffchart6-16

This is referred to a neoteny (the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal)  and you can read “Today we can’t afford to become adults” by Joichi Ito if you would like to find out why it matters.

If we were to maintain this childlike ability maybe we could also avoid what Robert Burton describes as the “certainty epidemic”.  This is also known as the certainty bias which finds its roots in our genetics as we are hardwired to avoid uncertainty because it triggers a “threat response” in our limbic system which causes us to feel something akin to pain.  Being certain is almost like an addiction so when we “meet” the goal of avoiding uncertainty, we feel rewarded…even when it is not in our best interest.

Questioning is also more aligned with divergent thinking rather than convergent thinking because it focuses on the “why” more than the “how”.  In general terms, divergent is more creative and convergent is more efficient.  I think there is less uncertainty in convergent thinking so this means our brain will reward us for taking the convergent path and making the world certain…even if its not.  If you would like to read more, here is “Divergent Thinking versus Convergent Thinking” from Phil Charron.

Finally, there is this gem from Shunryu Suzuki which really stands on its on merits and needs no explanation.  “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I realize the we live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA) which means that trying to remain open to multiple scenarios and withholding judgment is biologically challenging.  We crave certainty because we want to avoid the psychological and emotional “pain” that comes with not knowing but, oftentimes, “knowing” is a false certainty.  We make connections that are not there and draw faulty conclusions because are addicted and need that “certainty fix”.

I believe we all need to continually extend our “threshold of uncertainty” and embrace the opportunity to play the “holy fool” from time to time. Richard Cecil  provides a great closing comment for us on this topic…“The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant.”

 

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Filed under Adaptation, Complexity, Decision Making, The Human Condition, Thinking about thinking

What if?

We spend 95% of our time doing stuff.  Even when we think we are thinking about stuff we are actually thinking about doing stuff…and this is not really thinking, this is planning…there is a difference.

scrabble-what-if

With that in mind, take a minute and just think…”What if…”

  • you caught what you were chasing?
  • money no longer mattered?
  • no one was actually “holding you back”?
  • the people you thought were against actually didn’t even think about you that much?
  • the giants were actually windmills?
  • you decided to not let “it” get to you?
  • your boss wasn’t really a jerk but you were?
  • it’s your issue and not _____ (insert name here)
  • your kids acted just like you?
  • you decided not to argue with ________ (insert name here)
  • the power to make the changes you desired were inside you…and you still didn’t make them?
  • it all depended on you?
  • _______ (insert name here) died unexpectedly and you had not made the time to call or stop by?
  • retirement sucks?
  • they took it all away and you were still happy?
  • you never started that project you always wanted to do but never found the time?
  • you started being the person you thought you would be once you “made it”?
  • you acted “as if” _________ (fill in the blank)
  • no matter what _______ (insert name here) said or did to you, you displayed grace and forgiveness?
  • there is no tomorrow? (I bet you know what movie clip will play if you click on the link)

I know that it is easy to write this down and extremely hard to incorporate into your life.  I know because I struggle with it every day just like you.  That is also why I have a hard time with “self-help” books and gurus who tell you all you need to do is follow their 10 step plan and you too achieve everything you ever wanted.

There is a huge chasm between thinking and doing and sometimes that distance looks so vast we are able to console ourselves because “we would never make it” and just continuing to do as we had always done is “safer”.  We are also correct that it is safer and much, much easier to stay continue to act as we have always acted and not entertain “What if…?”

Several months ago I was having coffee with good friend and he was telling me about some challenges he was having.  Now this conversation had been the same one…more or less… for the past 6-7 months.  He is a very bright guy and was always talking about strategy and planning and would say things like…”once this happens…” or “as soon as I…” then I can get things going.  I just nodded my head and stroked my beard as he continued to talked (my own way of focusing my attention on the other person).  At one point, he stopped and I just continued to think about all he has said without saying anything.  He looked at my for a minute and then asked me what I thought.  I then posed  the following question to him – “What if you started doing stuff instead of talking about stuff?  He just stared at me for a few minutes as he thought about the question.  Finally, he said – “I guess stuff would get done and I would actually see some results.”  At that point there was no much more to talk about.

(Read what Seth Godin has to say about this idea here…)

Here is all I can offer.  The next time you are in a situation and falling into your normal behavior/response/activity do the following:

  1. Stop and think “What if I…kept my mouth shut/spoke up/was nice/walked away/helped out/didn’t gripe about it/made that phone call/expressed gratitude/committed to ______ (insert your own answer here)
  2. Immediately reach out to someone close to you and share the experience with them and tell them what new action you are going to take and ask them to hold you accountable
  3. Do it
  4. Enjoy the feeling of being the person other people think about being…

Final thought:  What is Hale, Gandhi, and Fuller were right?

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”   ― Edward Everett Hale

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”      ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ”     ― R. Buckminster Fuller

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Filed under Looking in the mirror, Real Life, The Human Condition, Thinking about thinking

What are you prepared to do?

Please do not read this post if you are easily offended by NSFW language.  I am not trying to alienate or offend anyone but believe there is value in word choice.  I also apologize to my Mrs. Finke, my high school biology teacher, who always said that “cursing was a sign of a weak vocabulary”.

There is a scene in “The Untouchables” when Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is asking Jim Malone (Sean Connery) how to “get” Al Capone.  They are sitting in a church and Malone’s response is, “What are you prepared to do?”  (You can watch the clip if you click here)

 This is the most essential and vital question we can ask ourselves in context of our goals because the answer then impacts and drives (in theory at least) our daily activities.  I believe that the answer to this question is really what prevents many of us from reaching our goals because we are not honest with ourselves from the start.  

It is at this point that I diverge from most folks who discuss this issue.  There is no judgement involved in this for/from me.  My only goal is to empower you to be honest with yourself as to what you are willing to commit to as you begin to think about your dreams, aspirations, goals, or whatever you would like to call them.  Dreams and goals are easy because they do not cost us anything.  In fact, they are more harmful really because our failure to achieve them feeds the gremlins who told us we aren’t worthy, don’t deserve it, or whatever other head trash you might have.  In fact, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, wrote a great treatise on “Whey big goals are for losers” that I would recommend checking out.

The challenge is to get excited about the “work”…the tactical steps that will be required each day to make that goal a reality.  This is the sticking point for us because the day to day things we have to do aren’t fun or exciting.  I think the biggest issue for us is that the small stuff doesn’t generate enough positive reinforcement from others.  No one is there congratulating us or patting us on the back when we perform some mundane, yet essential, tasks that will eventually lead to the achievement of a meaningful goal.  So here is where the NSFW piece comes in.  I saw this graphic the other day and have since printed it off and have it sitting on my desk.  We all have to find something that resonates with us and this really nailed it for me because I think we like to overcomplicate things.  We want to create these elaborate and complex plans to make it appear that what we are doing is challenging.  In reality, it really isn’t…it is really as easy as this…

 

writethatshitdown

I can think of no better way to close this out than to offer this benediction (using the term very loosely)…

“Remember this lesson. History does not teach fatalism. There are moments when the will of a handful of free men breaks through determinism and opens up new roads. People get the history they deserve.”  – Charles de Gaulle

What history will you deserve?

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Filed under Looking in the mirror, Real Life, The Human Condition