Human

Fall in love with your life

Came across this phenomenal advice from Edie Freeman, who among other things was the creative director that came up with the idea of using various animals on the cover of the O’Reilly series of highly technical programming manuals.

My current advice to everyone is this: fall in love with your life. Pursue the things that bring you joy. Let go of things that don’t. Know the difference.

Make it intentional. Make it your goal. Make it your reality.

I certainly subscribe to this philosophy.  It’s plainly stated, yet full of depth.  And each sentence is a challenge – pursuing joy, letting go, recognizing what belongs on each list, and not accepting the default.

 

Father, Human, Husband

With and without family

For a good part of the next two weeks or so, I’ll get to spend a lot of time with my immediate family.

There were times before, and there will be times after, when I do not get to see my wife and kids nearly as much. Sacrifices from other commitments – job, friends, hobbies – take away from that time.

Many of those sacrifices, however, make the time with family possible. All of them make the time with family that much sweeter… with or without the cotton candy.

ferris-wheel-family.png

Friend, Human, Marketer

Small world

The world is smaller than you think.

Even with billions of people on the Earth, our paths are constantly crossing with people we know in unexpected places.  It’s because of the many trails we leave: past friends from living in previous cities, former colleagues at old jobs, buddies from school, or activity groups.  We run our lives in smaller universes than we realize.  The LinkedIn / Kevin Bacon / degrees of separation game is very real.

It can be dangerous, if you forget to treat people well. More than one job applicant has been denied a position because word got around of his low performance three jobs ago, or because she made enemies who then found the ear of her hiring manager.  Of course the solution to that is pretty straightforward: do a good job and don’t step on people on the way.

It can also be delightful, when coincidences lead to chance meetings.  For example, my wife and I were up in Maine, hours away from home, celebrating our 17th anniversary.  While huddled around a firepit making s’mores, another guest peering over the flames said to me, “Are you Jeff?  Jeff Foley?”  It was my former coworker Victor, whom I hadn’t seen in almost two decades.  My wife burst out, “You took the very first picture of us as a couple!  We framed it and had it on our piano for years!”  It was true: one of the last times we saw Victor was on what was probably our third date, a going-away cruise marking an important transition for our company as it was acquired by a competitor.

These stories are always remarkable.  The guy whose new boyfriend turns out to be the neighbor’s best friend.  The dinner invite turned down that a couple realizes, a decade later, would have caused them to meet two years earlier than they did.  The Facebook “wait, how do you two know each other?” moment in which you learn a best friend from kindergarten went to grad school with a trusted coworker.  All because the world is smaller than you think.

We re-live our impact on others again and again.  (Just in case any of you needed more motivation not to be an asshole.)

Husband

Anniversaries

anniversary_photoAn anniversary is an arbitrary milestone.  Just like we like round numbers (top 10 lists,  20th reunions, 40th birthdays…) we like to mark the annual passage of momentous events in our lives, even if it’s just a convenient way to mark another trip around the sun.

And yet… an anniversary is a great opportunity to take stock.  To be strategic instead of tactical.  To look fondly at what you’ve achieved, to think about how you can improve, and to look forward to what future anniversaries are like.  It’s a past, present, and future evaluation that makes you appreciate the occasion even more.

Take a wedding anniversary.  You can use it to look backwards: to remember your wedding day, to see where you’ve been and what you’ve built together, to reminisce about past celebrations.  Or you can revel in the now: to mark the occasion together with a nice dinner or a getaway, to share it privately or with friends and family.  Or you can use it to look towards the future: what your 20th, your 30th, or your 40th anniversary will be like, and what you want to do to get there.

Or better yet, you can do all three.

Father, Homeowner, Husband, Leadership, Marketer

Strategic vs Tactical

Our days are so full of tasks to complete, like quests in a never-ending role-playing game.

Laundry, dishes, decluttering, bills, groceries, straightening, meal prep, errands.

Emails, phone calls, status reports, one-on-one check-ins, presentation revisions, invoices.

Decisions, optimizations, quick fixes, interventions, assists, demonstrations, coordinations, deferments.

It’s both exhilarating and exhausting to check off items from the ever-growing to-do list, whether it’s explicitly written out before you or churning amorphously in your overloaded brain.

That’s why it’s so important to take a step back.  To climb a tree and make sure your team is swinging the machete in the right direction as you all hack through the jungle:

  • What are we trying to do?  Why are we doing it?
  • What does success look like?  Is there a metric, a milestone, a goal to shoot for?
  • Where do we want to be in 1, 3, 5, 10 years?  How do we get there?
  • Do all of us agree?

Whether it’s your family, your coworkers, your activity group, your circle of friends… one rarely hears of anyone accused of being “too strategic.”  Get away for a weekend.  Have an offsite.  Go on a retreat.  Meet for a drink.  And while you’re away from the checklists, figure out where you’re going.  Then you’ll find joy in having a progress bar to go along with your checklist.

Human, Leadership

Recognizing an Inflection Point

There are these great moments that are easy to spot in hindsight — moments where everything around you changes irrevocably.  At work, it could be a new boss or new CEO, or an acquisition or sale. World news such as an election, an attack, or a crime can alter the course of history. Major personal events such as a marriage or birth or death leave an obvious, indelible mark on the trajectory of our lives and others.

Those are obvious inflection points – points on the timeline that you can use to end one chapter and start another in the story of your own life. But what about the less obvious ones?

That moment when you realize you’re not going to stay in your job and it’s time to figure out what’s next. The first time a teen calls you “sir.” The day you realize a new way to approach a familiar task, or that you start a habit that stays with you.

Those inflection points are great to look back upon and acknowledge when you are reflecting on your path traveled.

It’s even greater when you spot one as it’s happening and see in real time how it’s changing you.

But the greatest is when you can actively turn a moment into a inflection point and say now. Right now. This is happening, I’m turning the page, I’m declaring a new chapter, and I am going to make this work.

We have that power.