I recently took some time off from my life to travel to India. Like many of you, I am a classic workaholic who has been focused on executing towards success with a nearly maniacal focus. To achieve in my professional goals, I have created a life for myself centered entirely around doing — and not doing well. But in need of a break to sort out my life, I discovered some realities that I hope will bring change to me.
I have decided to make some fundamental life changes. In thinking about my own reality, I came to see that there are so many like me who are workaholics in the worst kind of way. I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you in the hopes that we can all start living better so we can achieve more.
This piece is not about working less. On the contrary — it’s about working smarter. And it’s not about India or why we need to take vacations. It’s about setting rules for life around yourself so that you can build in joy and live in peace.
While en route to New Delhi, I took the opportunity to be silent for quite some time on my flight and think about the origins of my stress. I deliberated on each of them to try and think about what I could do right then and over time to manage those areas of stress.
Making a list was quite helpful in that it helped me see broad categories of stress rather than focus on a single item. For example, I carry a lot of concern for things that I cannot control. I take on the burdens of others too easily. I also came to realize that I invest a lot of effort into people who invest very little in both themselves and in me.
Recognizing the large themes that cause me grief, worry, pain, and heartbreak, I then had to ask an important question: why would I lend my energy to carrying all of that with me?
Resolution: Focus first on myself and actively disengage from those themes and people who distract from that goal.
Take Your Time
I believe that the most precious resource is time. You can win back fortunes, create new opportunities, and ask for forgiveness but you can never get back wasted time. In my efforts to make the most of the time I have, I often move quickly. But I’ll tell you that I now believe that I have been living wrongly.
Speed is not the answer. Accuracy is. And accuracy often takes time.
My new goal is not to speed through life but rather to make the optimal use of time. If that means taking the opportunity to meditate on an idea, to contemplate it, I will now do that. Availing yourself of every opportunity to think and see clearly will be the best use of your time.
Resolution: Breathe and focus, eliminate distractions like my own own ego, and think first. Take the time I need to make the best decision and then act.
We spend so much time thinking about the future and holding on to the past. But we tend to spend so little time in the moment. That’s a worrisome way to live.
You cannot actually control the future. True, you can plan for it and work those aspects of it that you can. But the future is a river and it’s going to flow even if you don’t want it to. But you can see its direction, its currents, and its hazards if you see clearly.
I believe that clarity can only be attained by focusing on the present. This means that you have to put down your phone, stop letting externalities drive your life, and be focused on what is happening around you right now.
I get hundreds of emails, text messages, Slack messages, and phone calls a day. I have allowed those external forces to drive the direction of my life. But I am responsible to myself first and then to others second. Focusing on those things that pull me out of the present are interfering with my future.
Resolution: Create blocks of time when I will focus on answering other people so I can focus on the present, design outcomes, and lead rather than being pushed.
Feed Your Body
In recent weeks, I have taken my first steps towards nutrition — both physical and spiritual. I’ve hired a nutritionist, will be focusing on exercise, and taking the opportunity to change my lifestyle to support my physical health. This has come about because I took the time to reflect on my current condition and chose to make change.
I was recently in New York City and had the opportunity to take a walk through Central Park. Rounding The Lake, I realized that in the past ten years since I lived in the city and ran through the park regularly, I have gained nearly forty pounds. I have put the health of my career over my own personal condition. As a result, I am less productive than I could be and less happier than I should be.
That reality has affected my sleeping, my waking, and my mental health. Ironically, I put my work first because I thought it would bring me joy. But I need to put myself first because I am my body, my mind, and my career. All three of those have to be running on all cylinders in order for me to be at my best. I’ll be better to my colleagues, investors, friends, family, and significant others when I make these changes.
Resolution: Focus on nutrition and live more consciously of my body.
Feed Your Soul
Over the past few weeks here in India, I have taken up yoga and meditation as ways to nourish my spirituality. This has already helped me gain clarity in my personal and professional endeavors and opened up my mind to accepting truths I have had a hard time coming to terms with. I am integrating these activities into my life along side, and not in place of, my commitment to church and my life of faith. But spirituality alone will not grow my joy.
Over the past weeks, I have been carrying a cool little Cannon SLR camera with me to take photos of this beautiful country. In looking them over nearing the end of my journey, I realize how much I love photography. It hit me that feeding our soul isn’t just about spirituality and faith — it’s about happiness.
To that end, I’ll be taking time for myself in an effort to learn more about photography, start taking cooking classes agin, and making the time to do the things that make me happy. If the body is to ascend, the mind and spirit have to climb as well.
Resolution: Meditate daily and create opportunities for fun.
Carry Less: Physically
Having now lived for nearly two weeks out of a single 30 liter pack, I wonder why I own so much crap. I cannot find an answer that suits a reality I am willing to accept any longer.
Before I left, I realized that I have an entire closet in my home filled with things I own and have not once used since I bought my house more than two years ago. I literally carried all of it with me from DC to Boulder and then to Denver for no conceivable reason.
This is, however, not to say that I will not buy things anymore. On the contrary. However, I now must answer two questions. First, what utility will this item bring to my life? Second, is this the highest quality product I could purchase?
In an effort to make less waste, I think these are important questions. They’ll help me to carry less in my physical life.
Resolution: Divest myself of a least one-third of what I own, donate one thing for each new item acquired, and only keep the highest quality items in my life.
Carry Less: Emotionally
This year has been marked by real heartbreak for me. Let’s just say that it’s been a tough one. I realize now, however, that I didn’t make it easy on myself. I focused on my losses and brought them with me everywhere I went. They became defining characteristics of who I became and that’s not who I want to be.
In my efforts to carry less, I’ve decided to put down heartbreak and live more dispassionately. Holding on to the past, allowing it to dictate your future, removes your power over your life and distract from living in the present. While events in the past have happened, they are no longer happening. This is not to say that I do not remember what happened but it is to say that I will no longer be defined by other people and events of the past.
Resolution: Live in the present and regain control of your future by moving on from the past.
Focus On Value
In thinking of how to make the most of your time, I believe that it is critical to take the opportunity to determine what is actually valuable and, and like a ships captain in a storm, set your baring on it. Make the investment in setting this opportunity aside for yourself to reap its rewards over your life.
It is important to do this because life will pull you in so many directions. If you have intention around achieving value, and if you define what value looks like, you can take steps to pursue it regardless of the noise around you.
For this, I think that reverse engineering and design thinking are key inputs. It’s interesting that these concepts are so powerful in certain areas of our professional lives but that we rarely apply them to a broader aperture of possibilities.
Take a few hours on a weekend to turn off your phone, take out a pencil and paper, and work the equation. What do you want to achieve? What do you need to do to get there? What stands in your way? What can you do to overcome those obstacles? What changes do you need to make to get going and to be successful.
Resolution: Define what is valuable and stick to that path with singular focus.
If you want to be successful in work, you need clarity. To achieve that, you need to rest. This does not mean binge watching Netflix or wandering aimlessly in a mall. Resting the mind should be the goal. Turing the volume down on life is critical to making progress in those areas discussed above.
I’ve decided to reclaim at least one full day on my weekends. This means that I will focus on resting my mind, meditating, and living in some sort of peace for a marketable period of time. The heat of the work week needs to be cooled so we don’t build something so hot that we get burned.
Resolution: Rest at the bookends of the day and weekends to avoid setting fire to your life.
Build Your Joy By Gaining Peace
I feel like, for the first time in my life, I know what I have clarity. And now that I can see where I want to go, I have to see what I need to do to get there. That means that it’s time to go to production. Now that I have this architecture, the engineering and fabrication can take shape.
My hope is that I can maintain my focus in the busy fervor of my life back in America. Much like New Years resolutions, I find the reality of implementing the commitments I’ve made here in India may not come to pass back in America. And even though I can see that chance, I am focused on my new found reality and commitment to changing my life to save my soul.