Searching for the good life – MBA Learnings

“Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.” | Clay Christensen

“Productivity is the act of bringing a system closer to its goal.”  | Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt

“The most important thing about the good life is that you get to decide what good is. If you are living someone else’s good life, you’re making a huge mistake.” | Seth Godin

These 3 quotes have given me plenty of food for thought over the past 2 years. They touch on 2 big questions –
1. What is the yardstick with which you will measure your life?
2. Assuming the goal is “the good life,” what is the good life as I define it?

These questions are so incredibly heavy that it feels easier to give up before I even get started. These 2 questions get at more questions – Who am I? What matters most to me and why? Ah. So much easier to just get on our to do lists and do the next thing.

And, yet, is there anything more important than asking these questions? There is no productivity if we’re not working towards the goal, after all..

This afternoon, a close friend and I, at school, are launching the first edition of a 3 part workshop series we’re calling “The Good Life sessions.” The idea is to break the idea of the good life down by asking 3 questions –
1. What do I value?
2. How do I find my personal mission?
3. How do I create an action plan to live a life consistent with this mission?

We’ve been fortunate to receive support from a collection of inspiring professors who’ve walked this path and continue to struggle with these questions. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have definitely been struggling with these questions for a long while and, after 18 months of wrestling with these questions, have begun to find direction. So, we were really excited to test this idea with the student community and see if we’d find a small group of people who care.

It turned out there was actually a huge group of people who care. We received 70 registrations in the first 120 seconds of our registration opening up and had to close at close to 300 registrations (~25% of the student body) in the first 4 hours. We have a main lecture room and 2 overflow rooms booked today. It helped a lot that the Professors who’re helping us have great follower-ship within the school but (and I am based here) it feels like we’ve hit on a topic that many would like to explore. And, that’s great to see.

I’m not sure this has ever been done before. So, we’re definitely working hard to create structure and tackle these big questions in bite-sized chunks. Of course, this might not work. But, I guess, that’s what makes it really exciting.

More to follow on the good life sessions. For now, I’ll end with a big thank you to Clay Christensen, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt and the wonderful Seth for those 3 big ideas.the good

Training wheel systems

I started blogging here because I felt I was reacting very badly to failure. I wanted to build my confidence brick by brick and thought I’d do so by disciplining myself to write a learning every day.

That was easier said than done, of course. I simply lacked the discipline to do it consistently. Here’s how the process really unfolded –

Phase 1 – The struggle. In the first few months, the biggest challenge was just remembering to write a learning. Some days, all I would manage would be a quote.

Phase 2 – Training wheels. A year or so later, I came upon an idea – why not post a quote every day at the minimum and add something else if I could? So, I started posting a quote every morning on weekdays and also sent the “Good Morning Quote” to  a few friends, family and subscribers. Then, on Sundays, I began posting a “book learning” – simply a learning from a book I was reading. These structures were my blogger training wheels.

Phase 3 – Ready to bike. 3 years in, I moved the quotes out of the blog as I knew I was finally disciplined enough to write a long form post every day. Over time, I consolidated all the additional ideas (quotes, book learnings) to the 200 words project. The 200 words project is no longer a training wheel. I am well into biking solo now.

Call it training wheels, systems, process, or structure – it doesn’t really matter. The principle is, as we think of new year resolutions, we’re best served if we take the time to structure habits and systems that will help us get there.

What is the goal

If you are working hard (and I hope you are), we assume a large part of that is devoted to productive work.

Productive work is work that enables us to make progress towards a goal. Hence, many hours of watching YouTube video is considered unproductive when you have a report to be finished. A short video break might aid productivity but it still wouldn’t be productivity.

So, if productivity doesn’t exist without a goal, defining a goal becomes all important. What is the goal you normally work towards when you don’t have fires to fight? Is there even a goal?

It is hard to set goals in every aspect of our lives. We struggle with just exercise goals and expecting more than that is wishful thinking. However, we could easily make a case for the importance of productive work in the case of our personal relationships, a.k.a. quality time, and productive work in case of our hobbies. So, how do we go about doing that?

My suggestion would be to consider defining your personal “why.” My personal why, for example, is ‘to build active relationships with family and friends, learn, and have a positive impact on the world.’ Once I have this defined, it becomes very clear as to which activities move me towards this goal and which don’t. This “why” has been a work-in-progress for 2 years now (so get started now!) and I consider this a near-finished article. It makes for an excellent measuring stick.

Take time to define your why and your goals. Productivity doesn’t exist without goals. And, now that you are here and taking up some space, why not be productive? :-)

Hat tip to Messrs Eliyahu Goldratt for the insight