- Don’t overspend on stuff. I always wondered why my dad focused on things which I’d never feel comfortable owning. Nice is good. Too good is overboard. The friends I ride bikes with know that I go for dependable quality gear without buying anything which is drool-inducing. If I won the lottery I doubt seriously that it would change this part of who I am. If you’re looking to impress someone with your stuff, you’re not impressing them with you.
- Don’t base your job success on ladder climbing or the number on your W2. These are obviously important to building a career and independence, but are hollow judgements. I’ve seen people pursue management positions only to get further from what they love doing daily. Look hard at what you like doing for a living and find a way to do more of it in a sustainable way which promotes the growth you want. Recognition will follow your passion.
- Give of yourself as much as possible. Do it in a way which makes it easy for people to ask you for help. I work in a sales environment which is somewhat competitive and populated by people who are often alpha dogs trying hard to succeed. And still I openly give advice when asked about anything technical or conceptual, tactical or strategic. I know my colleagues are pushing for attention and recognition but my generosity helps shape them in the process. They grow more collaborative and help us all get better in the process. I also build a tribe and a positive culture which can’t be measured on a paycheck.
- Appreciate the mundane. The mundane could be smiling at a person in public, the foam on a well prepared latte, wildlife, or little touches designed into the chair you’re sitting in right now. Every single thing you touch every single day got there by growing and evolving or by people designing, building, transporting, and placing it there. Each person you meet has their own story. Everyday shit can be amazing if you consider its history. Remember that the next time you take a picture and look for opportunities to share something unique and insightful.
- Really take the time to listen. As I said, it’s impossible to impress someone with stuff because it’s not really you. Taking the time to let others speak their mind, internalizing it, and providing commentary from your perspective is deep. People remember and that impresses them. Just last week at work, an incredibly experienced team member asked me about how a prospect had challenged him. He was blindsided because it really questioned his beliefs on how solutions work. I gave my answer framed around a concept he’d explained to me earlier in a way which reaffirmed his core thinking. It hit home and a light came on which excited him with a completely new line of thinking.
I was inspired to write this blog by a friend who shared a TED talk (below) with me and the friend who shared it with him. Both are people who live their lives building relationships and experiences. One left the corporate world to become an entrepreneur to build his own success, not to make a mint. Recently he decided that he would lose nothing by running his business for a month from New Mexico where he grew up. The other also just left a corporate job, helped his mother relocate, and is traveling the world meeting people and experiencing new places. This ties back to the TED talk which speaks of living your life in pursuit of different and memorable days. What it means in part is living your life based on metrics other than money, things, and the comfort of routine. That leads us to build “life profit” over what we might have done mindlessly. We don’t richen our lives on the daily things we do on autopilot. That’s what leads us to ask “Where did the time go?”
But what if living a memorable life isn’t enough? I’m at odds over this beautiful concept. That’s because my father is life-bankrupt. His memory has been largely destroyed by dementia and brain trauma. Even if you live your life becoming the Warren Buffet of life profit, you can still have your market tank like my father’s has. Even before then, he had a widely diverse set of diverse life metrics. On one hand, he got to travel around the world, talked the company he worked for into sponsoring a race car and went to tens of events around the continent, and started a charitable organization to sell samples from his toy sales job to raise money for a children’s hospital. On the other, he placed a lot of value on wealth he’d been able to build, nice watches, and fast cars. As he grew older he focused more on the ephemeral and less on the life richness he’d built.
This leads me to build my own measures of success. I’ve never codified it, but there are a few main tenets I have which have been refined as I’ve grown as a person.
A better goal than leading a life where you remember your days is leading a life where others remember your days. Wealth, even if it’s life profit gained through memorable experiences, is fleeting and can be hollow on its own. Even a gold watch doesn’t mean much if there’s nobody to see it. Leading a memorable life shouldn’t mean relying on your own memories in order have value. It should be in building the right relationships with the lives you touch in a way which enriches everyone with life profit. Each time I talk with my father, who sometimes doesn’t recognize me, I rebuild the connection and make him feel valuable. And that happens on a minute-by-minute basis. That’s a constant reminder of what to value in life. He’s really still teaching me how to live even if he doesn’t realize it.
I’m a wealthy man.