80,000 hours. That is how long you can expect work over the course of your lifetime. I’m well on my way, approaching the 35,000-hour mark by now.
I’ve done my fair share of work. First in the accounting department of an airline (not awesome). Then at an investment bank (surprisingly boring). Finally, I spent about 14 years at Microsoft Corporation (great place to work). Now I’m an entrepreneur (ahhh…finally!).
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how work can impact life and vice versa. I’ve seen what helps me get ahead and what holds me back.
I’ve learned what to do. I’ve learned what not to do!
If I could turn back time, there are plenty of things I would have done differently. Here are 12 things I wish I knew when I first started working:
Most people would agree that a happy life is a good life. Therefore, it seems like actively designing life to maximize happiness would be an excellent idea. Research, at first glance, appears to back up this point of view. However, the reality is different. In this blog post I go into what to do instead of striving for happiness, that research tells us actually works.
In my experience, without asking for it, people will throw their opinions around. Family members will tell you about the type of career you should have. Partners will tell you what clothes to wear. Friends will tell you where you should go on vacation or who you should date. Co-workers will give you career guidance.
Some people even go so far as to hire coaches to tell them what to do. I’m a coach myself, but I’m not in the advice giving business. I prefer to help clients discover answers on their own.
Moreover, the bigger the decision we face in life, the more we tend to turn to others to solve the problems for us. Seeking the advice of others seems like a smart thing to do when dealing with a critical situation. The problem is, nobody knows our life as well as we do. No one else has as much at stake. How then, can anyone possibly know what we should do?
The truth is that they can’t.
At best, giving and receiving advice is a way to gather knowledge. As the giver, it is a sure-fire way to stroke the ego. At worst, however, seeking the advice of others can lead you down the wrong path while shutting off the flow of your inner wisdom. When we tell others what to do, it constricts their innate intelligence and creativity. The same happens when we turn to others for the answers to our biggest problems.
However, what do we do when others come to us for guidance or when we are stuck in life? Should we expect people to figure everything out on their own? Of course not! However, you should handle these situations differently thank you think. By doing so, you will show others (and yourself) how to tap into the inner wisdom and capacity for problem-solving that we all hold as human beings.
Instead of doling out advice we should do this instead:
The morning is a special time. It’s a time when the world seems to be in slumber. When the demands of the day are not yet fully born. It’s a chance to begin life anew and fresh.
Research is starting to show what countless successful (and happy) people already know: that taking advantage of the morning hours is a stepping stone to having a great day. Our willpower is deplated as the day wears on. The morning is the best time to get important things done. When we are productive, we feel better about our accomplishments and our self-satisfaction rises.
There are a lot of articles out there talking about how important it is to wake up early. However, waking up is just the start to a morning routine. We need to pay close attention to how best to spend the time after we rise from bed.
Treat this article like a menu of ways to radically improve your morning routine and in turn, your entire day. I’ve tried them all for extended periods, and they work! However, you do not (and probably shouldn’t!) do everything on this list at the same time. That will be overwhelming and self-defeating. Instead, pick a few things to focus on. Over time, you can refine your approach based on what works best for you.
I made the unfortunate decision to glance at my LinkedIn feed in the middle of a recent Tuesday afternoon. It normally wouldn’t have been anything more than a slight distraction, an innocent way to take my mind off the meaningful creative work I was doing at the time.
What a mistake.
As I scanned my feed, full of work anniversaries, posts about managers looking to fill open positions and feel-good shares of how to “hack” your way to success at work, I stumbled upon a post by John (not his real name). John used to be a co-worker, about the same age and level of seniority as I. Instead of doing as I did and quiting my job to travel the world, and then moving into an entirely new field; John stayed put in the tech industry. We lost touch 6–7 years ago.
Glancing over John’s post, I clicked to see what his profile said about his career. I saw that he was no longer working for my alma mater (Microsoft). He had left while I was still working there, and in the course of the past few years had launched his career into the stratosphere, currently serving as founder/CEO of a fast-growing startup hell-bent on transforming an industry and flush with boatloads of VC cash. Not only that, I noticed that another colleague I had once worked with, was now in an exec-level position at the firm.
My innocent decision to check my social media account spiraled into a full-blown severe case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Even worse, I started to feel the more terrible afflictions of jealousy and regret. The later is not necessarily a bad thing depending on the circumstance. Regret, in metered doses, is an opportunity to learn from the past. This time, I OD’d.
Thoughts kept swirling around in my head. I couldn’t focus on my work. I constantly wondered “What would life have been life had I stayed at my job?” and “Should I go back to my old life?” and “Did I make a mistake by quitting my job to travel the world?” and “Am I giving up on a bigger opportunity to make a positive impact on the world?”.
After too many hours of being terrorized by these thoughts, I did what I usually do when I need to get out of my head; I went for a jog. After a few miles of cruising around the meandering paths in the fresh air under blue skies (one of the perks of living near Denver, CO!) I felt better.
Having space and distance from my problem helped me get over my emotional reaction. I realized that my negative emotions were the result of ignoring a few important realities. I’d like to share them with you in the hope that they will help you to overcome any similar situation you may face down the road.
With social media addiction on the rise, it seems that FOMO and regret are also on the uptick. By checking into these three truths, you can move away from jealousy and regret and move towards something bigger and innately unique within yourself. Above all, you will find access to greater peace and calm in your day, regardless what Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn throw at you.
If you had your choice, what sort of life would you live?
Would you live in a city and work hard to climb the corporate ladder? Would you live as an artist in a coastal enclave? Would you be semi-nomadic, making your way as a digital freelancer - a modern day tradesman of sorts?
We have, at least those of us living in a developed country, some degree of freedom about where we live, what we do and how we do it. We may not be able to have everything in our life that we wish for, but we can definitely come closer and closer over time.
Optimizing your life requires a set of decisions. Decisions about what you want. Decisions about what you don’t want. Decisions about trade-offs you are willing to make.
This post shares a few steps that you can apply to design your optimal life. I’m not trying to tell you what you should do. Instead, I’m sharing the steps that I actually took in my own life over the past few years. I’ve moved closer to a lifestyle that is fulfilling and rewarding for both my wife and I (and our dog Duke).
I know that since these steps have worked for me, that they might work for many others.
It is my opinion that to maximize one’s potential, not just to achieve but to contribute, that goals are a vital tool.
Goals enable the mind and body to organize resources in a manner that create a favorable outcome. Goals are the north star by which we can build the habits and systems that lead to a brighter future. I’d go so far as to say that humans are designed to be goal-seeking animals, with important aspects of our brain and physiology “lighting up” when pursuing a worthy goal.
You might think, by the tone of the past few sentences, that I think goals, and their achievement, are all that matter when it comes to living a full and successful life. If you believe that, you are incorrect.
For a moment, I’d like you to paint a vivid picture in your mind’s eye. Imagine that you’ve just survived a grueling interview process for a fantastic job. Everyone loved you. You get the offer and accept!
After joining the new team, you take your time to ramp up and learn. Slowly but surely, the days tick by as you struggle to learn the ropes and pick your big project to focus on.
Fast forward a year into the future, and you feel like you are stuck. Your last project was completed, but your boss didn’t seem pleased with the outcome. You are working hard but having a tough time getting things done. You don’t have the allies you need to push decisions up and across various chains of command. You don’t feel like you are on the same page as your management team.
Fast forward two years, and you know the jig is up. This role hasn’t worked out. While you aren’t being told to leave, you can see the writing on the wall. Before the hammer can drop, you decide to resign to seek a new challenge. It’s a bitter ending to what seems like a sweet once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity.
This story, as sad as it may be to travel through in your mind’s eye, is all too real for many highly qualified and determined professionals.
This blog post is designed to help you be among those who succeed and not the many who fail.