Book Review: How will you measure your life?

If you would have told me 20 years ago that I’d be interested in owning a business, I would had said you are freaking crazy. I saw my parents work days, nights, weekends, holidays and year round to make A-1 Air Care a viable enterprise that could keep the family’s bills paid. I had a love for being active, playing sports, bouncing basketballs and running down the runway to time my mile time (if you ever tried to land a plane at the Broken Bow, NE airport you likely saw me running around somewhere).

By the time I was heading to college, I thought I’d likely be a physical therapist or coach high school sports and become a teacher. I don’t know when, where or how it happened but somewhere around my junior year of college I got the idea that I wanted to start an internet business that pulled together different allied health professionals and serve people (it was 1999 / 2000 that year so I wasn’t alone in this thought). My drive to create a really great business started there and hasn’t stopped. The fact is that I’ve become really good at some things, but really bad at some things too.

The book, “How will you measure your life?” is a very interesting book because it takes business theories that Clayton Christensen has developed and then takes those theories and applies them to your life. It’s a positive way to approach the question, for me, because at this moment in time I appear to be more keen to view things through a business lens than a personal self actualization process. There are some interesting, almost Lean Startup, concepts in the book that are then taken to the personal level.

My best thoughts after reflecting on the book a little are this: In business when things don’t work out, what happens? For those of us that love the idea of creating, we start again. In our personal lives, at least at the end, there’s not the same ‘do over’ we may get in business; therefore use the same keen awareness and evaluation processes that you may dedicate to a business and at least be that diligent and intentional when managing your life.

Here are my top ten highlights taken from my Kindle notes:

One

People often think that the best way to predict the future is by collecting as much data as possible before making a decision. But this is like driving a car looking only at the rearview mirror—because data is only available about the past.

Two

But so much of what’s become popular thinking isn’t grounded in anything more than a series of anecdotes. Solving the challenges in your life requires a deep understanding of what causes what to happen.

Three

The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. —Steve Jobs

Four

All of these factors—priorities, balancing plans with opportunities, and allocating your resources—combine to create your strategy.

Five

“What about doing something important, or something you really love? Isn’t that why you came here?” “Don’t worry,” came back the answer. “This is just for a couple of years. I’ll pay off my loans, get myself in a good financial position, then I’ll go chase my real dreams.

They’d managed to expand their lifestyle to fit the salaries they were bringing in, and it was really difficult to wind that back. They’d made choices early on because of the hygiene factors, not true motivators, and they couldn’t find their way out of that trap.

Six

In my assessment, it is frightfully easy for us to lose our sense of the difference between what brings money and what causes happiness. You must be careful not to confuse correlation with causality in assessing the happiness we can find in different jobs.

Seven

This is another way of saying that if you are in these circumstances, experiment in life. As you learn from each experience, adjust. Then iterate quickly. Keep going through this process until your strategy begins to click.

Eight

Because if the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person.

Nine
A string of quotes, not taken in perfect sequence but fitting a nice theme

The same is true in our relationships: we go into them thinking about what we want rather than what is important to the other person. Changing your perspective is a powerful way to deepen your relationships.
More important, the jobs that your spouse is trying to do are often very different from the jobs that you think she should want to do.

A husband may be convinced that he is the selfless one, and also convinced that his wife is being self-centered because she doesn’t even notice everything he is giving her—and vice versa. This is exactly the interaction between the customers and the marketers of so many companies, too.

I deeply believe that the path to happiness in a relationship is not just about finding someone who you think is going to make you happy. Rather, the reverse is equally true: the path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.

But you have to go beyond understanding what job your spouse needs you to do. You have to do that job. You’ll have to devote your time and energy to the effort, be willing to suppress your own priorities and desires, and focus on doing what is required to make the other person happy.

Ten

The marginal cost of doing something “just this once” always seems to be negligible, but the full cost will typically be much higher. Yet unconsciously, we will naturally employ the marginal-cost doctrine in our personal lives. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s okay.”

Interview he did with Forbes

Here’s a Tedx presentation that he did presenting these ideas:

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Quantified Self Measurements – Q2 2013

Potential things I want to add / do in second quarter of 2013:

– blood sugars (at least for 1 week, multiple times throughout day)
– books read
– lectures listened to / watched (subjects reviewed)
– research articles read
– amount of coffee (because I know that the binary data for each day is ‘yes’)

Also need to get outcomes page created, which will include information I already collect
– weight
– body comp
– body measurements
– run mileage / duration / ctl / tss
– possibly break out steps on treadmill desk (don’t currently track individually)

Tracking 2013 – Important Data and Patterns

This year I have decided to set forth on a journey that is a little different then almost every year for the past 14 years. I have become accustom to setting goals for the upcoming year on January 1st, or soon after. This year I have decided to make a little bit of change in that pattern, primarily because I wanted to start tracking something different – but also because the past two years have not been exceptionally successful for me on a personal level.

They say that stupidity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting to get different results. Therefore rather than setting big goals (like Ironman, sub 3 hour marathon, being debt free) and creating a plan to meet those goals, I’ve decided to take a daily commitment approach.

What does this mean?

I am going to track my daily commitment to the behaviors that I believe are the key to a successful year. The thought being that commitment to the these behaviors are going to propel me towards the things I’d like to accomplish. I’ve discussed this idea previously over at Endurance Base Camp, talking about “process goals” versus “outcome goals”.

I (and our culture) am often committed to outcomes. I want to be a successful runner; which I’ve defined as getting my marathon time under 3 hours. I want to be an individual that lives with financial freedom; which I’ve defined as having zero debt. I want to ….

The point is that it is easy to commit to the outcomes we want to have, but it’s a completely different level of commitment to live into the daily patterns that are necessary to make those outcomes become a reality.

What am I committing to?

As I work out what I want my “future self” to be, I’ve come up with a few behaviors I am confident will help that desire become a reality:

  • 30min of Aerobic Exercise – this is a minimum acceptable duration, 4 days a week for Q1 2013
  • Strength Training – the specifics are not as valuable as getting it done twice a week for Q1 2013
  • Yoga, Animal Flow & Daily Steps – supplemental physical parameters that I believe will help
  • 9 Servings of Fruits & Veges, eating breakfast (60min of waking), protein with breakfast
  • Alcohol, water, diet soda and soda – it’s clear that what I drink is bigger need for change than what I eat
  • Bed by 10:30pm and 7.5 hours of sleep – it become incredibly obvious in 2012 that my poor sleep derailed my ability manage stress and train the way I wanted.
  • Meditation & Scripture Reading – two behaviors that are consistently present when I am happy

Those are the behaviors that I have identified for the first quarter of 2013. Some other things that I have identified that are not necessarily daily behaviors, yet I have decided to look at adding them to my 2013 schedule of behaviors:

  1. 4 backpacking, hiking and camping trips — primitive camping always makes me happy
  2. Quarterly long weekends — taking a little bit of a lead from Brad Feld, I’m scheduling a 4 day weekend each quarter.
  3. 1 personal get-a-way — no idea what this means yet, maybe a long camping trip by myself, possibly getting away for a week long bike touring trip (solo of course), who knows?

There are some other things that I’ll look at adding in the second quarter of 2013, depending on how this goes.  I need to add intellectual habits, such as reading books and taking online courses.  I also need to add some financial behaviors, but just don’t want to overload myself right now.

I created a page to share the graphs from my spreadsheet that I’m using to track this data, you can find it here:  Gary’s Behavior Tracking Dashboard

PS, I just noticed that it is 10:33pm EST.  This means that I’m not meeting that behavior for today.  It’s a process.

What does it mean to really be free?

Nikki checking out the scene at a rest stop near Moab, Utah
Nikki checking out the scene at a rest stop near Moab, Utah

I have discussed the idea of what would make me happy with Nikki multiple times over the years.  And after a lot of discussions about houses, cars, jobs, careers, bikes, races and even children – the one thing that I come to at the end of each conversation is “freedom”.

It may sound a little odd that I’m talking about not having freedom, but I think over the years, decisions have been made and priorities have been set that have lead to a life where I don’t feel I have as much freedom as I would like.

The truth is that most of my “lack of freedom” is a result of self imposed barriers, which I would like to share some thoughts on a few areas that I think about at times:

Financial Freedoms — there’s no question that I feel constrained in my choices by financial barriers.  The truth is that all of these obstacles that I find in this area are related to my own perceptions of what needs to happen and choices I’ve made.

Debt — no matter what anyone says, living with personal debt is a major barrier to living with complete freedom.  Realizing a need to have financial freedom, Nikki and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in 2007, we’re still working on it with less than gazelle like intensity (which Ramsey says is necessary).

Student Loans — I was always told that I needed to get an education, at any cost.  The decision to go to college wasn’t an easy one for me, but once I got to the University of Nebraska, staying was a simple choice.  I loved learning, growing and studying.  It all came at a cost, which I mostly paid for with student loans.  It was amazing how easy money was to obtain, with no real thought on how simple it would be to pay it back.  I was fortunate to have graduate school paid for at the University of Kentucky, but easy money lead to a standard of living that I didn’t / couldn’t realistically mange while a student.  8.5 years after graduating from UK, I’m still paying for that education.

Consumer Needs or Wants — I have always prided myself for living with an anti-materialistic mindset, but what I say and what I do is not always the same.  I often find that the next new gadget will provide some happiness I don’t already possess.  It takes an incredible amount effort and energy to live free of a consumer’s mentality in our culture.  This may not seem like an issue of freedom, but in my perception, if you are constantly seeking something that is external to your own belief system, it limits your freedom.

Freedom to pursue your passions.  I talk to many people that work at a job that they don’t love, are not passionate about, nor feel empowered to change.  Whether it be economic reasons, that they don’t have the skills to change careers or they live in a geographic area that doesn’t present many options – I see and hear many individuals that feel inprisioned by their daily work.  I happen to be really fortunate in this area, because I get to work daily on something I am very passionate about.

Freedom to explore and seek experiences.  There are a couple things that Nikki and I have done in the history of our relationship that have brought a lot of happiness and feelings of “being free”.  In 2004, we took a hiking, mountain biking and back packing trip through the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Not only did I realize that I wanted to marry her, I realized that days without a shower, crappy food and hard rocky ground to sleep on could actually be quite enjoyable when you don’t feel pulled apart by million daily obligations we often commit ourselves to.

In much the same way, for two week in Dec 2011 / Jan 2012, we took a long road trip. We traveled to Chicago, Lincoln, NE, Broken Bow, NE, Laramie, Wyoming, Salt Lake City, Vail, CO, (stopped in Keystone), Denver, CO, Lawrence, KS, St. Louis, MO and back to Lexington.  It sounds like a ridiculous amount of driving, long days of boredom and road rage – but the truth is that it was just the opposite.  It was the best time Nikki and I have spent together since our wedding day.  We sought out the best cup of coffee, stopped when we wanted to, met friends along the way and even participated in a wedding.

Freedom of time.  The idea of having the ability to use your time as you want is an amazing goal.  I hear all the time that people can’t do things for themselves or things they would like to do, because they don’t feel in control of their own calendar.  Their schedule is dictated by someone else.  Even Warren Buffet is in a commercial on CNBC saying that a perfect day is one where his time is his own.  Therefore, this “freedom” is definitely not an issue of money if he can’t find this ability to control his calendar.

Those are just a few of the ideas that often come up when I start to ask myself the question, “What does it really mean to be free?”  I know there are others, I will try to capture them over time.  The resulting exercise as I thing through these ideas, is to come up with what having “complete freedom” would mean for me today.

I’ve actually never put this down, but here’s a first attempt:

– Ability to know that no one “owns” me in any capacity, whether through unpaid loans or through control of my time.
– Ability to seek opportunity without hesitation, whether it be in career decision or taking on a new adventure.
– Emotional, psychological and intellectual strength and discipline to know that my choices were made in line with my personal convictions.  Holy crap, it feels very odd to write that because I would like to believe that I have complete intellectual discipline today. But I did just buy an Iphone 5, which I do like – but not sure if it’s because I’m told I should like it or it really creates happiness?  Tough stuff.