Measures of Success

February 28, 2005

I had an interesting discussion over the weekend. It was about forming a framework to determine where you are on your path to success. After a few suggestions on how to view this, I came up with my take. I think analogy’s are often helpful here… At some point I’ll fill you in on my limo driver and river analogies, which Brandon and I came up with. However, I usually feel that analogies fall short at some point. Simply because with any analogy, there may be mixed feelings about the process you are making reference to.

To make up an arbitrary example… If you view your relationship is like a flower, you may say that it has to be experienced with multiple senses, that it needs tending to, in order to grow, or perhaps that every flower (relationship) is different. However, at the same time, you could dig deeper (in a negative sense)and say that eventually the flower will wilt, in which case your best option is to dry it. But even then, it becomes unchanging, loses some color and smell, etc.

So, obviously, with any analogy, its sometimes best to have multiple analogies, and to use the parts of each analogy that you like, and then just leave the rest.

But to get back to my discussion.

My take was that no matter what way you frame it, there are three things which are important when measuring yourself.

  1. Where you think you are.
  2. Where you think you should be now.
  3. Where you want to be.

Now there are some subtleties in this that are important. Notable is that I didn’t put down “Where you actually are”… in some reference to absolute truth. I think most people would admit that where they view themselves on any path, is probably different than what they think is actually true.

“I don’t think I’m very good at skiing, but I’m probably not that bad.”

This seems like a strange statement, since you’re admiting that your opinion on yourself, is probably wrong, but you hold on to it anyhow. But I believe this happens all the time. We don’t always believe we can change how we think about ourselves.

In my opinion… the three items listed are all that really exists. There isn’t an absolute truth, only your perception of it. Other peoples perceptions may differ from your own, and you can use them to adopt a new view… but neither is absolutely true. Our whole experience of life is based on our perceptions, biases, and preconceived notions. (in a positive and negative sense).
So I believe it only matters where we think we are. Now, if there is a big discrepancy between where we think we are (#1), and where we think we should be(#2)… then its a setup for misery. All this is in your head anyhow, so why not set the bar low? As long as you keep your sights high (#3)… does it really help for you to be down on yourself? I think we’re better off just trying to get rid of #2 as much as possible, while keeping #1 as positive as possible. After all, does it really matter where you think you should be? Not really, only your interpretation of where you are, and where you want to go.

This is not about being delusional. There’s a fine balance between tricking yourself into thinking you’re doing well, when you’re not, but at the same time allowing yourself the luxury of a pat on the back.

Some may say, that the sense they are behind motivates them to keep moving forward. This doesn’t ring true for me, because I think that even if you’re motivated, and you eventually achieve your #3, you’ll never really be happy with your success if your #2 is constantly ahead of #1.

Keeping your “should be’s” in check is a mentality,… and not something that changes as soon as you reach your goals. There will always be some imperfection to focus on, that will still allow you to be hard on yourself. After all, whats more important: to enjoy your life day to day, or to eventually achieve what you now percieve to be success?

As with all my theories,… this one is going to need some modification. I especially want to clarify the line between being delusional, and allowing yourself to think of yourself as successful.

I think sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone else say they think you’re doing a great job.

“Love is the answer,
At least for most of the questions in my heart.
Why are we here, and where do we go, and how come it’s so hard?”
-Jack Johnson in his song “Better Together”

Seeing Beyond Money

February 25, 2005

I’ve been mulling over a few questions today as I’m sitting in my office and thinking about the beautiful weather outside. Am I being ungrateful? After all, I’m getting paid well to be here, and I really can’t justify it by thinking I “deserve it.” Does the fact that I want more, mean that I’m ungrateful for what I have?

I was talking with some friends last night and we were talking about something similar, and I think I solidified my take on this. I think there is a difference between being grateful for the opportunities in your life, and using dissatisfaction to motivate you and create new opportunities.

One of the things I find remarkable about my position, that is different than many people I know, is that I am able to see beyond money. When I was young, I let my parents think about money, and I did both what I was told (I should do), and outside of that, I did what I wanted. Now, I have financial responsibility, since I support myself, but I have no one telling me that I have to do this and that. (Actually, I have tons of people telling me I should do this and that, but now I have the ability to nod politely, and then do what I want.)

What I’m grateful for, is that because I have a high paying job, it allows me to not worry about money. I honestly don’t think about it very much at all. I don’t have loads, but I live well under my means, and that leaves a comforting buffer. This is a luxury most people don’t have. Worrying about money is mentally limiting when you think about your future and what your possiblities are. Alleviating myself from that is an amazing luxury.

Now, that said, I know lots of people who earn as much and more than I do, but don’t have this freedom. That makes me think. I think many people have the ability to “see beyond money,” but admittedly,… its much harder for those who have less of it.

Now lets see, how do I define that? “Seeing Beyond Money.” To me, it means letting go of the need to worry about money for long enough to think about what you want if money wasn’t a concept. Now actually going after it, and taking the plunge is much harder. But I think most people are stopped by their thinking and their beliefs.

What would you do, if money wasn’t a concern? What are the real reasons for why you are not doing that? For some, its security. I think I’m starting to let go of this… I’m okay with the fact that I don’t have solid plans as to what I will do when I’m done traveling.

Actually, I don’t think I’ve solidified my position on this at all. But this is a start. I definitely feel that I’m not being ungrateful by wanting more than this high paying job. I do think that the ability to want more than this job, is a luxury of someone who has their basic needs taken care of. But, in a way… by not making the most of my good fortune, wouldn’t my life be an insult to those not as fortunate?

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine

Dinner with Curt Rosengren

February 23, 2005

I had dinner with Curt Rosengren today. He is a Passion Catalyst, who resides in Seattle, and makes his living showing other people how to find passion in their lives/work. He came to Microsoft to speak a few weeks back and I asked him to dinner so I could pick his brain. Graciously, he accepted. We talked of many things, mostly of how he got into his current line of work, as well as my ideas around such work. I mentioned to him the index card idea which I wrote about a few days ago. It’s worked wonders for me, and he seemed to like the idea as well. I thought I’d only done this for a few months, but I’m at my desk just now, and I realized that my first card was in August, so I’ve been making these cards (almost everyday) for nearly 6 months now. Fantastic! Curt gave me some good ideas around how to use my future travels as a time for self exploration, and how the ideas I’ve been coming up with might really appeal to others who are of similar age and circumstance. I think there must be thousands of 20-somethings who have graduated college, found themselves in a job, and then thought… okay, so now what? Off the bat, Curt said some key things which I hung on to. He says the first 10 years of your career don’t really mean much anyhow, so you should try to get experience in as many things as you can. Why does he say this? Well, his personal experience for one, but even more so, he says thats when he starts seeing alot of his clients. After about that length of time, they start coming around to … what am I doing? Where am I going? What do I want out of my life/career? I think I’m a little ahead of the curve on this end… as are a bunch of my friends with whom I’ve been bouncing ideas around. I think that is what this site is probably going to turn into. A place for self exploration. After all, its already appropriately titled. So I must have had that in my subconscious at the start anyhow. Curt mentioned the book Road Trip Nation” which is a book of interviews by some college kids who traveled around the nation interviewing all sorts of folks. He also mentioned Speak and Grow Rich… which pertains to my future speaking engagements. I’ll have to write more about that soon.

Chit Chat… whats that?

February 22, 2005

My college roommate, Niels Hoven, sent me an article today about Small Talk. It was entitled: “The Rich Resonance of Small Talk: A Primer on The Fine, and Undervalued, Art of Chitchat” By Roxanne Roberts It listed the three golden rules of making small talk:
1. Shut up and listen.
2. When in doubt, repeat Rule 1.
3. People, even the really shy ones, like to talk about themselves and will do so if you know how to draw them out.

You have to be genuinely interested. You have to check your ego. If this is done right, they walk away thinking you’re great. Which, I happen to agree with, but rarely follow. It’s always harder than I think to not interject my own stories and advice into a conversation.

Index Cards… a pocketful of progress

February 14, 2005

A while back, I started filling out an index card every day. I have tried everything to try to get myself to keep my goals in mind. (a few years ago, I started goal setting twice a year, once in Jan, and once after my birthday in June… but i’ll write on that later). I’ve tried writing on paper and hanging it on the wall (never read it after the first week). I tried sectioning off a goal setting portion of my house (never spent much time in there). I tried writing on my mirrors, and windows (ignored it after a while). Then finally I tried the index cards… The act of writing it everyday really works for me. I pick a few topics, (right now its Personal Growth, Questions, and Vocab) and write whatever I want to think about related to those topics on the card. Its good for a few reasons. One, it is small, disposable, and I’m not worried about losing it. (I don’t put my name on it. If someone finds one, maybe they’ll get something out of it though). 2nd. Its the right size to fit in my pocket, and it makes me condense whatever I have to say. I figure if I can’t fit it on the card, then its too much to think about for one day. I try to keep the “to do” type things down to a very minimum… but sometimes I’ll include something. Also, its a handy place to write down any random thoughts I have during the day if I want to remember them. I keep all these cards in a box on my desk at home… and every so often I’ll glance through them. I like seeing the trends in my thinking. I try to keep the things I write down in line with my year-long goals… And many times, I write down the same thing I wrote down the day before. For me, its not so much a new idea thing, but just continuity of thought. I want to be thinking about where I’m going everyday, not just once every 6 months. I also include a vocab word. Today’s was munificent… meaning very generous or lavish. As a fairly educated person, I often wonder about increasing my vocab. I know its good for some reasons, but really, if in 16 years of school, I don’t know the word, what are the odds that a random person I talk to is going to understand it off the top of their head? … oh well, I’m pretty sure thats not a strong argument for staying word-stupid. What I really need is a country of the day. My geography is pathetic. And to think I want to be a world traveler. Oh. and I’m super excited to go home today because my parents sent me a package on Valentines day. How fantastic is that?

Notes on this blog

February 12, 2005

This blog actually has a purpose. Actually, its quite deep. Its to figure out my purpose. Not in a huge grand way, but more in a self-exploratory way. You know those thoughts you sometimes have that seem life changing, but end up being fleeting? I want to record those. I feel like I come across them every so often, and I think that maybe if I share a few…. it could help me,… and who knows? Maybe someone else too.