Blog

  1. Needing More Time

    “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” —William Penn

    This quote may be a bit of an overstatement, yet how often do we closely examine how we use our time? Most of us have probably said, “If I only had more time,” and yet, if we’re honest, how well are we using the time we already have?

    And this goes beyond just how “productive” we appear. It also includes how much time we waste each day either living in the past or in the future – stuck on things that have already passed, or anxiously awaiting things that will never be.

  2. What Defines Success?

    When it comes to your work, how do you define success? Is it tied to the company you’re employed by? The positions and titles you achieve? Is it related to the amount of your paycheck? Or the size of your network?

    The term “success” means, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” For some, the aim is to earn certain positions or titles. For others, money and prestige are primary goals. But there are a couple challenges with these kinds of goals.

    First, if your measure of success is dependent on the actions of others–did they promote me, do they like me, etc.–success is no longer wholly within your control. There could be many other determining factors–things you have no control over–that could keep you from being “successful.”

    Second, if your vision of success focuses only on the future, how do you view all the time until then? If success is accomplishing a goal, but that goal is always a ways off, you’re always in the mode of chasing, but never quite reaching, success.

    Although I’m not against future goals or aims, it’s also valuable to have a vision of success that is 1) not solely in the future, and 2) not dependent on external factors to achieve.

    For instance, what if my goals were not only concerned with what I produce but also how I go about doing the work itself? Instead of focusing only on the future, what if I focused more on today? How did I treat people? How did I do my work? Am I learning from my mistakes? Am I being useful to those around me? These kinds of things are within my control. And they are things I can do each and every day.

    Which means if your idea of success focuses on these kinds of things–how you approach and do your work, how you interact with your colleagues, how you learn and grow as a person–you have the opportunity to be successful every day. Position and money and reputation may come one day, but they don’t have to determine whether or not you’ve been “successful.”

  3. Who Will Decide?

    When a decision needs to be made, one option is to let someone else make it for you. It can also be tempting to wait a little longer and push it off until another day. Maybe you’re afraid of making a poor decision. Or you just don’t want to deal with it right now.

    But letting someone else decide, or deciding not to decide, doesn’t mean you’re no longer responsible for the outcome. If you have the power to decide, and you pass that privilege along, you now share responsibility for whatever happens, since it was still your decision (to not decide) that led to the end result.

    There will be plenty of times where you’re affected by decisions you have no control over. But in all those other times where you do have the opportunity to decide, be slow in abdicating that power to someone else, since you’ll still share in the responsibility for what ultimately takes place.

  4. What Others Think

    There are times when paying attention to what others think is unnecessary. Sometimes it may even be harmful. You can end up acting against your better judgment, or fail to do the things you should be doing. And all because of a fear of what others will say.

    So should you always disregard what others will think? There are many cases where it can be helpful to do so. But sometimes the responses of others can call your attention to potential blind spots.

    For instance, let’s say you’re worried that others will see your actions and think you’re a jerk. First, you should clarify, “Well, am I? Am I actually being a jerk?” Because if you’re not, and other people don’t have the full story, you can safely disregard them. But if you are actually being a jerk, and you don’t want to be, that’s worth being aware of.

    If you always ignore what others will think, you can miss out on valuable perspective. So, before dismissing the opinions of others, especially the ones you don’t like, see if there’s any truth to them. There will be plenty of times where they’ll be safe to disregard. But sometimes they can also help you see areas you may have overlooked.

  5. Standing Up Again

    “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

    —Confucius

    When looking at “successful” people, it’s easy to only pay attention to the wins, and forget about the losses. Take Cy Young, for instance, the famous baseball pitcher who holds the record for career wins. Did you know he also has more career losses than any other player in MLB history?

    Everyone, even the most “successful,” will have failures in life. Everyone loses or missteps at one time or another. That’s a given. The real issue is what you’ll choose to do after you hit the ground. Will you pick yourself up? Will you try again? Will you learn from the experience, and use those (costly) lessons the next time around?

    Failure today doesn’t disqualify you from success tomorrow. In fact, the lessons you learn from failure can later be the keys to your success. Failure can show you where you need more training. Or it can highlight the necessity of changing your course.

    Failure is never final if you choose to pick yourself up and continue forward. It only becomes final when you choose not to get up and try again.

  6. Cancer of Selfishness

    While listening to a recent With a Side of Knowledge podcast, I heard an interesting comparison between selfishness in our lives and the behavior of cancer cells in our bodies.

    In the interview, Dan Hinshaw, a physician and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, talks the maturation process that cells go through. At the end of this process, there is a programmed death of the cell. At this point, the dead cell is broken down, and the remains are used to nourish nearby cells. This is a normal and common occurrence, happening tens of millions of times each day in the human body.

    But cancerous cells don’t follow this process. Unlike normal cells, they do not respond to the signal to die. The don’t react to the call to give of themselves for the sake of the larger organism. Instead, they keep trying to live, trying to grow. But in doing so, they cause damage, both to the cells nearby, and ultimately to the entire organism.

    In life, it can be tempting to try to hold on to what we have, and to grasp for even more. But in doing so, we can start to behave like these cancer cells Hinshaw describes. Instead of being self-less, we can become selfish. But at what cost?

    Just like in the case of a cancer cell, selfishness may get us more in the short run. But when left unchecked, the long-term impact is one of pain, and ultimately death. No, selfishness may not cause us physical death. But what things in our lives get damaged—sometimes irreparably—when we refuse to give of ourselves for the sake of someone else; to gracefully let go, and seek the welfare of others?

  7. Consistently Not Stupid

    Why have Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger been so successful in their investing? According to Munger, much of it stemmed from avoiding costly mistakes.

    “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

    Rather than focus on being brilliant, they first made sure they were not making stupid errors—an approach that has done very well for them over the years. A stupid mistake can quickly erase the gains or momentum you’ve already experienced. It could cost you years of work, and your reputation. Making gains are exciting, but limiting your losses can be even more important.

    Being aware of the mistakes you want to avoid, and taking steps to protect against them, has value in all areas of life—not just in investing and finance. Knowing the kind of person you don’t want to be, or the health issues you don’t want to develop, or the kinds of relationships you want to avoid, can bring awareness to the decisions and habits that could lead down these paths.

    If you know where you don’t want to go, you can put up guardrails to protect you from going that direction. And this in turn will make it more likely you’ll actually head in the direction you do want to go.

  8. Being In Sync

    This past December, our family attended my daughter’s ballet recital. During the evening, we saw several different groups of children perform, with a wide range of ages and skills represented. But in the midst of this variety, there was one thing that applied to every group: the performance of the group was not just affected by the skill of each member, but by how all of the members were able to stay in sync with each other. One person may do their part flawlessly, but if everyone else isn’t doing the same, it’s going to look off.

    The value of being in sync can be seen in all kinds of sports and team activities. A team may have extremely talented players. But if they fail to work together, they may end up losing to another team that, though they may not have the same level of individual talent, are able to work in perfect unison.

    Individual talent can take you a long way in certain areas. But as soon as you’re competing or performing as a group, the ability of the group to work together becomes just as important. So, if you’re in a partnership or team of some kind—including your business or family—pay attention to if and how everyone is working together. Because if that’s not happening well, you’ll be limited in what you’re able to accomplish.

  9. In Front of Your Face

    If you want to stop doing something, one tactic is to hide anything that could potentially trigger a craving for that thing.

    For instance, want to stop eating junk food? Make sure it’s not sitting out on the counter, or right inside the fridge or pantry, where you’re bound to see it. Because once you see it, that in itself may trigger a craving for it. Instead, remove it from sight, either by pitching it in the trash, or by putting it somewhere you won’t normally see and that’s inconvenient to reach.

    The same can work with technology. Want to stop wasting time on certain apps? The most effective solution would be to uninstall them. But short of that, you can at least make them more difficult to get to. Move them from the home screen or desktop to somewhere that much more inconvenient to access—like inside a folder or two, a few swipes or clicks away from where you normally are.

    The opposite is also true. Want to eat healthier foods? Make sure they’re visible and within reach. Want to spend more time reading? Make sure the books you want to read are nearby and within sight. Want to remember certain goals or priorities, or keep certain quotes fresh in your mind? Try writing them out on sticky notes and putting them where you’ll see them.

    When something’s right in front of your face, it will be more likely to attract your attention. And if it has your attention, your thoughts and your actions will eventually be affected. You may not be able to control everything you see. But with the things you do control, make sure they include triggers for the thoughts and behaviors you want to encourage, not the ones you want to avoid.

  10. Checking Spare Tires

    While changing a flat tire on a recent trip, I was reminded of the importance of not only having a spare, but making sure it’s ready for use.

    When we stopped, I didn’t know for sure where the spare tire was. I assumed we had one, but had never seen it. And when I initially went to look for it, I couldn’t find it. Eventually I ended up resorting to the user’s manual to find its location. Thankfully, it and the jack were where the manual said they should be, and they were also in good condition. But what if they had not been?

    A spare tire is one of those things that can be easy to ignore until you need it. But if it’s not ready when an emergency hits, what good is it? The same could be said of having adequate insurance policies in place, or anything else you may rely on in case of an emergency.

    Of course, you hope you never need to use them. But if, before an emergency hits, you regularly take time to make sure they’re ready for use, not only will they be of value in the moment when you need them, but in the meanwhile, you’ll also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re prepared.