It turns out that values are far more effective than rules at eliciting desired outcomes and behaviors. In either a family or an organization, it is virtually impossible to cover all possible rules or monitor the adherence to them. Doing so would create a lengthy process manual or a draconian set of guidelines.
highly successful families, communities, and companies select and focus on a few values that are most important to them. These aren’t token values that sit on the wall. They explain the why behind those values to their group and regularly reinforce them, both in terms of holding members to account for not meeting the standard as well as celebrating decisions made that support those values.
Moment of Clarity
Although clarity lies within each of us, many of us don’t actually want it. Gaining clarity might mean that we have to face a relationship that, in our gut, we know is doomed or move on from a career that isn’t going anywhere or doesn’t fulfill us.
That truth is what drives a passion or purpose in life.
Myth of Work-Life Balance
Rather than balance what we really want is the ability to be truly present in our work and in our lives outside work. We are seeking meaningful, uninterrupted, “all in” experiences at each end of the work/life spectrum, which will naturally cycle at different times. There often won’t be balance within a week or a day, and hours aren’t the determinant of quality.
In the end, the goal is not balance in the traditional sense; it’s a life that lets you integrate those pieces. Work-life integration is more akin to a puzzle where all the different pieces fit together in aggregate. It’s an understanding that each day or week might bring a different combination of things to attend to at work or in your personal life, but they total a portfolio of quality experiences. It’s not about the time itself; it’s about being fully present and engaged in each of the pieces.
Freedom to Fail
A great example of a leader embracing failure can be found in Ray Dalio’s bestselling book, Principles. In it, Ray speaks about an expensive oversight that an employee made at his hedge fund and his decision not to fire the person. Ray believed that firing the employee would encourage others to conceal their mistakes out of fear.
Instead, Ray used the experience to create a “mistake log” where all mistakes were reported and logged company-wide so others could learn from them. Now, making mistakes is not a fireable offense. However, failing to report a mistake is
Man with a Plan
There is no doubt Ed Sheeran has tremendous talent, but so do many other artists—all of whom have similar aspirations to make it big. So in addition to his talent, what’s led to his stratospheric success? Some familiar themes emerge. He had a clear vision and a plan; he had an incredible work ethic; he had dogged determination and persistence to see his dream through, despite failures, fatigue, disappointments, and setbacks. He was willing to take risks and bet on himself, and he’s remained humble throughout it all.
Last but not least, Sheeran did not give himself a safety net to fall back on. Plan A (success as a musician) was his only option. Maybe he was just following the advice of his father, who once told him, “If you really want to do it, don’t have a fallback plan. Because you eventually will do it if there’s no other option.”
Either way, the man had a plan.
When you are ten, potential is cute. When you are twenty, it’s nice. But by the time you get to forty, it starts to become an insult.” While this can be painful for some to hear, there’s a lot of truth. Realistically, potential has an expiration date.
Ultimately, we need to decide where we want to convert our potential into achievement. These will likely be areas in your life that are most important to you, not what others decide are most important or valuable.
An iPhone has one hundred thousand times more processing power than the Apollo 11’s onboard computer. To put this in context, this means that an iPhone today could handle 120 million moon missions at once. So clearly, it’s not always about having the best technology, the right tools, or the smartest people; it’s about having the individual and collective will.
What was also apparent from the Apollo 11 anniversary media coverage is that experts from all over the world—mathematicians, engineers, scientists, mechanics, technicians, pilots, and thousands of others who worked tirelessly behind the scenes—all set aside their egos in pursuit of that common goal. The Apollo 11 program proves that, when we don’t allow ourselves or our teams to put personal or team-centered needs above the needs of the organization as a whole, we can accomplish amazing feats.
The most successful people and businesses know how to focus on what needs to get done and what they need to stop doing in order to make that happen.
If you want to make room for new initiatives this year, then some old things need to go, including using “being busy” as an excuse for not getting the right things done.
Rather than focusing on what you can hack, it’s a far better use of time and energy to follow tried and true principles of productivity and achievement. Here are favorites:
- Follow the 80/20 rule: Twenty percent of our inputs are responsible for 80 percent of our outcomes. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the ultimate hack is to identify and spend time on what has the potential to provide the greatest outcome. The rest is a distraction.
- Separate urgent from important: One of the most important productivity concepts that goal-oriented individuals understand is the difference between those things that are urgent and those things that are important.
- Give consistent effort and have patience: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things worth doing take time and consistent effort toward the goal.
- Create a stop-doing list: To do more of the right things, you need to also stop doing the wrong ones.
Last but not least, if you do something, do it well!
BS of Busy
Instead of hopelessly waiting to be given the gift of more free time, consider what high achievers do to stay focused and accomplish large, long-term goals.
- Accept that time is a precious and fixed resource
- Know how to separate urgent from important
- Align their top priorities with their core purpose and/or core values
- Don’t book 100 percent of their time; they value rest and relaxation
- Constantly look for things that they should stop doing
- Are selective about the people they give their energy to
“Clutch,” a term often used in sports to denote a dramatic improvement in performance under pressure or doing something awe-inspiring at the last possible moment—turning defeat into victory.
Much like the myth of the overnight success, when we label someone’s performance as clutch, we are attributing an unexplained force to their success.
When Michael Phelps’s goggles filled with water during his two-hundred-meter butterfly at the 2008 Summer Olympics, he was still able to win the gold. He had visualized the entire race and counted out his strokes well in advance of the actual race day so that even though he couldn’t see, he was clear on where he was going. Clutch or preparation?
We all have the ability to be clutch performers; we just need to do the work. And as leaders, we cannot be afraid to make practice uncomfortable or more difficult than what others deem necessary.
The word peloton comes from road bicycle racing and is derived from the French word for “ball.” As many of us have seen when watching the Tour de France, the peloton is the group of riders who ride/partner together in a formation.
In this formation, riders who are positioned up front allow for those riders in the middle of the formation to draft, thus reducing their drag (effort) by as much as 40 percent. The peloton rotates throughout the journey, giving everyone in the group the opportunity to take turns pushing and resting. This concept is actually modeled after the formation of a flock of birds that fly in the same way.
The peloton is a successful strategy as it allows each team member to perform at their best while also efficiently conserving energy. Teams also often use this strategy to help support and protect the rider who has the strongest chance of winning the race.
At the same time, it’s not possible or a good use of a rider’s energy to stay at the head of the pack for too long. What’s needed is self-awareness for when we need to fall back, regain our energy, and let others take the lead.
When it comes to pursuing goals, what often matters more than discipline and willpower is the environment and people we surround ourselves with on a regular basis.
Want to watch less TV? Take the batteries out of the remote and put it across the room. Want to run more in the morning? Put your shoes next to your bed and go to sleep in your running clothes. Want to eat less? Use smaller utensils and dishware.
The “whom we associate with” aspect can often be the most difficult for people. But the reality is, if you want to drink less and your close friends go to the bar four nights a week, it’s probably in your best interest to find new friends to hang out with the majority of the time.
The reality is that we regularly compete in most aspects of our lives. We compete for jobs we want, college admission spots, and new clients and employees. However, this doesn’t mean we should abandon having character.
Competing is about elevating our own game. It’s about practicing, getting better, and having the will to win as a team. Instead of winning at all costs or wishing failure on others, real winners always prioritize character over winning itself. True sportsmanship requires that we know how to win well and be gracious in defeat.
Putting Yourself First
Many of us don’t prioritize our own life goals and needs. We put ourselves last and too often say yes to other things and people, which divides our energy into too many disparate activities. The result is that we aren’t as successful, nor are we as effective at helping others as we could be.
There seems to be a lot of confusion around the concept of putting one’s self first in relation to being selfish. Being selfish is more about believing that the world revolves around you and your needs and not caring about the well-being of others; putting yourself first is about not compromising your own needs.
If we don’t put ourselves first, then everyone we come across tends to get a suboptimal version of us. To be at our best—for ourselves and others—we need to make sure we are living in a way that leaves us happy, healthy, and rested.
Here are three simple tips to help you get better about putting yourself first:
- Say no: If we say yes to everything everyone asks us to do, we will never be in control of our own priorities.
- Prioritize basic needs: Sleeping, eating, and movement (exercise) are all basic needs that should be an uncompromising priority in our lives.
- Keep a journal. An interesting aspect of this practice is that it provides a window into your stream of consciousness, self-accountability, and mindfulness.
Here are some common characteristics of energy vampires:
The victim or blamer: They consistently talk about how they are always getting the short end of the stick in life. They find external blame wherever possible and like to make others feel guilty.
The center of attention: They always seem to make themselves the center of attention in any room or conversation; they like to stand out.
The narcissist: They are consumed with themselves and their own problems; they take very little time to think about others or how to make their lives better.
The drama queen/king: They love the highs and lows, are surrounded by drama constantly, and want to bring everyone along for the ride.
While the best solution is to avoid these people altogether, it can be challenging if they are your coworkers, close friends, or even family members. And when we try to move away from them, we often feel guilty about it.
However difficult, it’s essential that you find a way to break free.
After your stay at a hotel had come to an end, leave a handwritten note thanking the person who cleaned your room along with a monetary tip.
In our haste, we often neglect to show appreciation for the little things or take the time to thank and acknowledge those who have served us. And the reality is, these individuals are likely far less fortunate.
We’re all guilty of focusing on our first world problems and overlooking the challenges/circumstances of others. When we take the time to think about and recognize those who have served us in some way, with nothing to gain from doing so, it has a positive impact that is greater than we can imagine.
There is a significant difference between calling a child stupid versus noting that they did something that was not smart—or between calling a child lazy rather than telling them they are acting lazy.
Feedback isn’t always easy to give or receive. However, how we give that feedback—the words and tone of voice we use—can make all the difference in the world.
Love and Hate
When we put hate out into the world, we get hate in return. This cycle continues until someone is willing to break it. This pattern of behavior is sadly becoming prevalent across the world today.
In all aspects of our lives, we can all be better at seeking to understand. What we see on the surface is often the symptom, not the cause. It takes an enlightened person to get to the why behind people’s actions, decisions, behaviors, and beliefs that otherwise seem inexcusable.
What Really Matters
Your perspective or behavior more permanently? This is the story of Ric Elias, the founder of Red Ventures.
On January 15, 2009, Ric’s flight (US Airways 1549) hit a flock of birds right after takeoff from New York and lost power in both engines. In his emotional five-minute TED Talk, Ric reflects on what went through his mind as the now famous Captain “Sully” Sullenberger prepared for an improbable crash landing on the Hudson River. Sully’s only words to his passengers were, “brace for impact,” leaving Ric and 154 other passengers to suddenly contemplate their mortality in what they believed were the last minutes of their lives.
Thankfully, everyone survived, and the event is now referred to as “the miracle on the Hudson”.
Here are three things Ric took away from that day:
- Everything changes in an instant. Don’t wait for the “right moment.”
- Remove negative energy from your life. Resolve to be happy, not “right.”
- Recognize what is most important. For Ric, his most important goal in life was to be a good dad.
When we don’t learn to solve little problems, we find ourselves getting derailed by speed bumps and unable to tackle bigger problems down the road. What’s needed is a shift in our mindset to embrace the challenges before us and see problems as opportunities to learn, grow, connect, and interact with the world around us in new ways.
“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” —Theodore Isaac Rubin