Life Priorities & Design

Life is not perfect

Life is not perfect. We discover this truth early in life. And the longer we live, the more we see it to be true. In fact, the imperfections surround us in nearly every direction:

  • The world we live in is far from perfect:  Famine, war, disasters, tragedy and misfortune impact both the lives of those we know and the lives of those we’ve never met. Our world produces beauty, but it also produces great pain.
  • The people around us are far from perfect:  That annoying co-worker, terrible driver or insensitive neighbor.  Prejudice and misconception harm relationships while hatred and contempt have resulted in awful consequences from the very beginning of time.
  • And unfortunately, we are far from perfect as well:  We often get tripped up by temptation and addiction. We fight within ourselves to do what is right. And we know, deep down, there are far too many unhealthy tendencies that motivate our actions and decisions.

So life is not perfect. It never has been and it never will be. But this can be good news. It means we can stop pursuing the mystical, perfect life. It means we can stop chasing perfect skin, the perfect job, the perfect house, or the perfect spouse. It means we can find freedom to live within our imperfections.

In fact, the sooner we realize that perfection is not available to us in this world, the sooner we can begin living better lives because of the imperfections. Consider what the ongoing presence of our imperfection means. It means…

We can finally stop chasing happiness in perfection.  Happiness is not something to be attained when everything around is perfect—it can’t be. Instead, it means we can find contentment and happiness and joy even in the midst of defect. And when we begin to realize happiness is fully available to us today regardless of our circumstance, the better our chances become of finding it.

We can relate to one another in our weakness.  Once we fully understand that all people are imperfect by nature, we can stop pretending that we have it all together. I am imperfect and you are imperfect. So let’s stop pretending that we aren’t. Instead, let’s begin living authentic, vulnerable lives with another. For it is in our weakness that we find our greatest commonality and community.

We can fully admit that we need help. Because of our imperfections, we all have blind spots–tendencies that continually trip us up often without notice. These weaknesses and deficiencies are often seen by others—others who can help us overcome them. But not until we replace our pride with humility and seek the help of others.

We can learn to grow through our imperfection.  We make imperfection our servant by learning from it. We all live with past regret. And our past will always define our past, but it does not need to define our present. When we begin to accept and recognize our weaknesses, we put ourselves in position to begin learning from them.

We can faithfully work to make things better. This world is imperfect. And as long as it is inhabited by imperfect humans, it will continue to be. This realization ought to spur us on to help make this world better. Not only because the world needs our service, but also because we do.

We can better appreciate the good we see around us.  The mountaintops are high because the valleys are low. Without sorrow there is no joy. Imperfection brings beauty to the good. And because we know life is imperfect at best, we can find even greater joy in the little moments of triumph.

Life is not perfect, but it does go on. And when we learn to fully embrace both its beauty and its weakness, we create the opportunity to live fulfilled lives.  

Work Less, Achieve More. Is This A Gimmick?

We all have likely heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”, yet it might be not so clear as to what it means or even how one accomplishes this. It’s actually much simpler than one thinks. “Working Smart” is about improving productivity and work-life balance.

Less is more
Less is more Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

“Less is more”

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Can you achieve more by doing less? Yes, you can. When your focus is on many things, you may be able to achieve a few important tasks or projects, if you are able to achieve any at all. Imagine for a moment trying to catch a big bouncy ball while holding onto many small balls. Doesn’t sound like a good idea right? Most likely you’ll end up dropping a bunch higgledy-piggledy.

Our focus works the same. We need to decide on our big goals that will give us the leverage. This leverage goal, once achieved, can help solve the other smaller goals. As an example, if you are able to secure a highly talented Head of Operations, you will not only be able to optimize your operational needs but also reduce overhead and increase the overall performance of your business. One leverage goal (a good hire) can help achieve and resolve three highly important affiliated goals.

Now, how do you know which goals are the ones to “leverage”?

Bird’s Eye View (Zoom Out)

You need to zoom out. If you are in the weeds on the ground level, it is impossible to see the big picture. I talk to entrepreneurs and my executive clients about stepping back and flying high – high enough to see the whole picture. The ability to see your work from a bird’s eye view is a highly important skill for not only entrepreneurs and leaders but also anyone who wants to live an intentional and successful life.

Now that you are out of the daily weeds, and flying above it all, can you see the big catch? Do you also see generally where the catch is heading?

bird's eye view
Bird’s eye view, Photo by Kieran Wood on Unsplash

Or Step Back

Another way to get a full picture is to step back in time. Think back to a couple of years ago and see what change or initiative you implemented that is now giving you a surprising return? Can you amplify this initiative? And what about another, opposite scenario? Can you think of a project or effort that you spent a lot of time on but yielded very little or no results?

Most likely, you will see that your high productivity derives from your core strengths (working smart) and your low return results from a lack of focus, passion, and/or talent (working hard). The moral of the story is that you want to leverage and focus on your strengths.

You might have heard of Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept. “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing” – to get away from the fox. What is your core competence? How can you leverage it?

Some aspects of our lives and businesses cannot be totally deselected. We may either delegate, internally or externally, and find a system to support you with it.

Establish a focus (or two maximum)

Now that you see your goal (your catch, your leveraging goal), establish your focus. If you have too many things to focus on, that is not a focus. That’s confusion. Get clear about your goals.

If this is about your business and you have multiple members on your team, get everyone on board with the primary focus. A combined force that is focused on one thing together is so much stronger.

Ruthlessly Deprioritize to Prioritize

Prioritizing is ironically also about de-prioritizing. You might have heard from other people saying or even you might’ve said it yourself. “I have too many priorities.” That is to say, “I have no priorities nor focus.”

Once you have your focus, you need to deprioritize the things that don’t support your big goals. Here’s where you really act on the concept of ‘less is more.” If you have 10 big goals to achieve this year, it’s likely that your focus isn’t very clear.

Focus on high leverage goals, and deprioritize the rest. Make sure that your goals are aspirational and that they excite you (& your team).

Measure Your Progress

It is much harder to stay on track if you don’t measure your progress with priorities. It is like running a solo marathon and seeing no milestones or indicators to tell you how far you’ve run so far and how much is left. Feedback is highly important for us to stay the course. Wouldn’t you agree that the journey will be so much more fun and reassuring with the milestones along the way?

What is your focus this year? Can you work 20% less and achieve 80% more? I challenge you to try. I’d love to hear from you about your experience in working for high productivity and work-life balance. What are your challenges and successes?

Best wishes to your productivity and balanced life!

The “Quadrant 2” Concept

In my Sustainable Life Design Coaching sessions, you are very likely to hear about this innovative and highly practical time management concept I call Quadrant 2. This concept originates from Eisenhower’s urgent-important principle and has been popularized by Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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Once Upon A Time….

Cave art shows that humans started telling stories as soon as we were able to. We developed abilities to communicate – probably gestures and expressions first making it useful for surviving easier. A cave dweller could tell their ancestor exactly where those deadly saber-toothed tigers lived.

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Choose How You Spend Your Hours

Do you want more freedom at work? Did the pandemic awaken or heighten your need for freedom – freedom to choose how you spend your time? Considering that we only have one life to live and within it, there are limited numbers of hours.

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Practicing Beginner’s Mind in our Daily Lives

Today’s Koan lesson was about ‘Beginner’s Mind’. The teacher Henry Shukman asks us to use a beginner’s mind to examine whatever appears in our consciousness with a fresh perspective. He asks us to be aware of each breath coming in and leaving, each sensation and sound appearing and disappearing as if they’re appearing for the first time in our existence.

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Lessons from a Mexican Fisherman

Will we live a century? Will we live for the next 5 years? It is not impossible that we have the next 5 days to live? We have two realities to reconcile in life. ONE: we all die one day and TWO: we don’t know when.

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Less Stuff, More Life – Part II

Less focus on stuff will lead you to more living!! Life is short – really short! Do stuff that matters!! That is how I ended Part I. Now let’s talk about the second part of wealth-building – managing the difference between “Earnings” – “Spending” = Savings & Investments.

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Why Sustainable Life Design?

We strongly believe in living an examined and intentional life. Living by design, not by default, means that we continuously prioritize what adds value to our existence over random demands and coincidental developments. This applies to all aspects of our life including work and play.

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A Frog in the Well

There was a Little Frog who lived at the bottom of a deep, dark well. It was a very old well filled with shallow water at the bottom. The walls of the well were all covered with wet moss. When the Little Frog was thirsty, he drank a little bit of the well water, and when he was hungry, he ate some insects.

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