Drafting a will

On May 25th, Seth shared a post on his blog about finishing well.


If you start a book, you will do better if you have a plan for finishing your book.

If you take the time and spend the money to go to college, it’s worth considering graduating as well.

Aretha Franklin died without a clearly stated will. As a result, her heirs will waste time, money and frustration, because Franklin was both naive (a will doesn’t make it more likely that you will die) and selfish.

If you’re born, it pays to plan on dying.

Every year, millions of people needlessly suffer in old age because they didn’t spend twenty minutes on a health care proxy.

If you’re going to take a job, everyone will benefit if you think about how you’re going to leave that job.

And if you start a company, you should realize that you’re probably going to either sell it or fold it one day, and neither has to be a catastrophe or a failure.

Beginning is magical. So is finishing. We can embrace both.


This post resonated deeply as my wife and I had spoken about creating a will after having our first child. We’d spoken in the past about a health care proxy as well – however, we never got around to doing it.

So, after reading this post, I made a note on my list of priorities during my week off in July to get it done. And, so, today, after a bit of research, we purchased Quick Willmaker Plus (there’s a 40% discount this week on account of Independence Day) and drafted our wills and health care proxies. It took us about an hour and we intend to sign it front of two of our friends to complete the process in the coming days.

It was time well spent. If you haven’t done it yet, I hope you will consider it.

Getting good at things you don’t want to do

I came across a thought provoking tweet recently – “Be careful about getting good at things you don’t want to do.”

As obvious as that sounds, it is fairly easy to fall into that trap if we are solving for extrinsic measures of success – more money, prestigious roles, better titles, etc. And, extrinsic measures tend to be a natural outcome if all we solve for is “what should I do next?”

A better approach tends to be to to invest in solving who we want to be instead of what we want to do.

It is more upfront investment to understand our motives and values. But, once we do the legwork, solving what we want to do in a way that actually helps us get good at things we want to do turns out to be surprisingly tractable.

Transient

I was reflecting on the sudden death of a young friend yesterday and was reminded of just how transient this life is.

It is so easy to get caught up in the all consuming puzzle/issue/tiff/ego battle of the moment. It is easy to forget that these things can change in an instant.

Reminders of our mortality are powerful reminders to keep perspective. This was one of them. It also reminded me of a lovely quote I once read – “Be kind to each other. The world will roll on without you.”

Indeed.

Societal success and scale

It strikes me that one of the biggest challenges we face is reconciling our desire to be successful by societal definitions while not giving up on being successful by our definition.

The challenge lies in the fact that extrinsic measures tend to be breadth focused (e.g. number of customers/successful exits/employees) while the stuff that make us feel intrinsically successful tend to be depth focused (e.g. deep relationships, immersive experiences).

Anyone who has built products or services has faced this in their work. It is much easier to move vanity metrics than it to create meaningful impact.

The answer, in work and in life, isn’t to shun extrinsic measures and breadth. We need some of it to ensure it doesn’t get in the way of us getting to the intrinsic stuff.

The challenge, however, is not being so sucked in by the allure of breadth and scale that we forget that its main purpose is to enable the depth we really seek.

Put differently, the optimal strategy tends to be to do things that scale easily so we can then spend more of our time doing things that don’t scale.

Growth and The Conscious Parent

Dr. Shefali Tsabary has written a powerful book called “The Conscious Parent.” I’ve been reading the book on and off over the past couple of years. It reads like the expanded version of the wonderful poem by Kahlil Gibran on parenting that is our aspirational parenting philosophy.

One of the recurring themes in the book is the idea that your kids come into your life to help you grow. In doing so, they stretch you and help you become more aware of the areas where you need help becoming a better version of yourself.

I have written repeatedly about my increasing awareness of my tendency to fight fire with fire when the better approach would be to follow the fire department and use water (or, in this case, tact :-)). And, today’s note is another one of those. I received another reminder this week that impatience and tempers generally only serve to exacerbate problems.

The combination of patience and tact, on the other hand, go a long way.

I expect to keep encountering these lessons until I learn to move beyond reaction into response. It takes time to overcome our natural tendencies – I’m definitely in it for the long haul.

The powerful extension of this theme is when we extend it beyond our kids to everyone we encounter.

What if we treated every person we meet as a messenger from life to help us become the person we want to be?

Human-size life

I was reminded of a post I’d shared 3 years ago from Dave Winer’s blog (one of the first regular blogs on the internet) called “Your human-size life.

Dave wrote the post to explain why the narrative we have on wealth in society – “Until you’re rich, you’re miserable. Once you’re rich, it’s all great!” – is deeply flawed. And, there is a quote from that post that has stuck with me over the years.

One of the biggest mistakes rich people make is to try to live larger than a single human being can. A mathematical impossibility. You can buy a big house, but you can only sleep in one bedroom at a time. You can own twenty fantastic cars, airplanes and yachts, but you can only be in one at a time. You can own an NBA team and a MLB team, and you get to sit in the nicest seat in the house at games, but you still can only sit in one seat. In other words, your humanity doesn’t increase just because your wealth did.

At the end of the day, we can only sleep in one bedroom, drive in one car, work on one desk, and be in one place. If we’re lucky, we get to do all of this while spending time with people we care about  and spending at least some portion of our day struggling to solve problems that matter.

Or, as Dave puts it –

“I think we all need a struggle, I think that’s where our creativity comes from. We need something that feels unattainable, but actually is not. But the struggle to rise above our humanity, that’s not going to happen for any of us. And the desire to have it robs your very human life of any value. 

Joe had it right. Live a gentle human-size life. Go for a walk in your middle-class neighborhood and run into a friend of a friend and share what you see, and influence their life for the better. That’s the kind of thing a human can do. And it is, imho, where happiness comes from. “

No one has the right answers on the difficult questions

Life presents us with difficult questions every day.

What’s the right way to balance/integrate work and life?
What do you choose to value?
How should you balance between the short term and the long term?
Should you persist?
What should you prioritize given the information you have?

There are many who claim to have the answer. For example, some will tell you that the secret to managing a workplace is by working in a calm workplace. Others will tell you it is all about your work ethic when you are building your career. And, yet some others will tell you it is all about achieving financial independence to do what you want.

All of these may be the right answers.

But, there is no guarantee they will work for you.

By all means, read the best books/posts on the questions you’re asking and listen to folks who challenge your thinking.

But, once you do the work, find some silence and ask yourself what the answer should be. Only you understand your circumstances and constraints. Only you can find a path that works for you… a path that will inevitably lead to more difficult questions that no one else will have the answers for.