The challenge with how we measure our life

One of the biggest challenges with designing a good life for ourselves is that the stuff we measure our days, weeks, and even months with is not how we measure our life as a whole.

The stuff we measure our life with – living with integrity or building a few deep relationships with people we care about for example – come with no awards, no vanity metrics, no promotions, and no recognition. And, just in case that wasn’t hard enough, there are often minimal signs of progress for long periods of time.

On the flip side, most of the stuff that seems to loom large and feature so prominently in the near future (e.g. work/career milestones or fun side projects) seem to matter for the longest time… until they don’t.

It is the classic urgency vs. importance prioritization problem. And, as is the case with most things, it is much easier to talk about thinking long term/balancing the short and long term than it is to actually do it.

PS: This is much like building good products. The foreseeable future seems more important than it is.

The tire queue

I was recently in a self-serve queue to fill air in my car tire recently. At one point, however, the queue got stuck.

Instead of a quick one minute wait, we were now waiting close to five minutes without any sign of progress. This car owner seemed to just be walking up and down from the machine to the tire. Someone ahead shared his frustration at the situation and he finally got help from a technician at the tire center.

As the queue was fairly backed up, the technician helped the rest of of us get it done as well.

As I reflected on that incident, I realized that the issue wasn’t that he didn’t know how to work the pump. Instead, it was his unwillingness to ask for help. And, while it happened to him in this instance, it could just as easily have happened to me in another context.

It is natural for all of us to want to demonstrate capability – even in seemingly inconsequential things. However, that desire gets in the way of learning and progress.

Helpful reminder that becoming is more important than being in the long run.

The 30 minute introductory conversation

There is no tool I’ve found to be more effective in 10x-ing the productivity of a working relationship than a 30 minute introductory conversation.

How it works: Before you need to collaborate with a colleague/partner on a project or request them for something, go for a coffee or walk outdoors with them. Then, spend that time getting to know them with your pick of questions. My favorites are – i) “Would love to get to know your story starting from when you were born…”, ii) “What is the dream?,” and iii) “What do you like doing when you have free time?”

(And, if they’re interested, share your story too :-))

As simple as this sounds, I’ve found that it is easy to forget to do this in the face of the many urgent things that need to get done.

And, yet, this knowledge leads to the the understanding and trust that enables us to collaborate effectively.

The dream upgrade

Go to a dream home and we’ll find a neighbor with a dreamier home.

Land that dream job and we’ll find colleagues working with a more interesting scope/better manager/cross functional team.

Get that wonderful car and we’ll find someone we know with a superior model.

Our default state is to normalize stuff we might have been dreaming about for the longest time and then look around for upgrades.

Beware that default state.

Happiness follows gratitude – not the other way around.

All that remains and It’s later than you think

Dr Jessica Brandes and J R Storment were parents of an 8 year old boy who passed away 3 weeks ago. They both penned beautiful posts this week about this very painful experience.

In “All that remains,” Dr Brandes wrote about the fragility of life and pushes us to take the time to spend time with those we love.

And, in “It’s later than you think,” Storment reflected on his regrets and reminds us to be very intentional in how we prioritize our time.

I hope you take the time to read it.

Reminders of the fragility of this life are a gift. And, I’m grateful to Jessica Brandes and J R Storment for sharing their notes with us.

Nana korobi, ya oki

“Nana korobi, ya oki” is a Japanese proverb that roughly translates to “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

We tend to be great scorekeepers of the times we fell.

Perhaps we ought to keep count of the number of times we stood up instead?

PS: Periodic reminder that failure is not the falling down. It is the staying down.

Sound writing style

A friend recommended Jason Zweig’s series on writing better. I started with the first post recently and loved it. There were two notes that stood out.

First, he cautions against writing in the first person – i.e., using phrases like “I think.” I’m not sure how much of this advice is relevant to writing a personal blog. But, it is advice I’ve heard before and I can see why it detracts from the content.

The second note that resonated was a quote on sound writing style from essayist H L Mencken –

“the essence of a sound style is that it cannot be reduced to rules — that it is a living and breathing thing, with something of the demoniacal in it — that it fits its proprietor tightly and yet ever so loosely, as his skin fits him. It is, in fact, quite as securely an integral part of him as that skin is…. In brief, a style is always the outward and visible symbol of a [writer], and it cannot be anything else. To attempt to teach it is as silly as to set up courses in making love.”

This hit home as I’ve wrestled a bunch with myself over the years on my writing style. For example, I’ve gone through phases where I made a concerted effort to avoid writing in the first person. On some days, I manage to do that. On others, I don’t.

Over time, I’ve just attempted to keep focused on improving my ability to synthesize what I’m learning and ship every day. That often means making trade-offs on the “right way to write.”

I’ve come to make peace with those trade-offs and begun to accept this eclectic mix as my own.