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E11: How Will You Measure Your Life?

E11: How Will You Measure Your Life?

 
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Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI, and while it’s insanely awesome, it’s not perfect.

[00:00:00] Today on the I Hear You Podcast, I want to discuss something that is near and dear to my heart and something that I feel is especially valuable considering we’re headed into the New Year. And if you’re listening to this after the fact, this is still an evergreen episode, meaning it’s a valuable topic regardless of when you listen to it. The topic comes from a man named Clayton Christensen, an author and Harvard Business School professor who’s been named one of the world’s most influential business thinkers. We’re going to take a moment to step back and make sure we have our ladders up on the right wall. We want to make sure we know what matters most to us in life and then to make sure that that’s what we’re working toward. Make sure that’s how we’re measuring our life, so that we’re not inadvertently pushing away what matters most under the guise of creating it. Let’s dive in.

[00:01:08] Alright, we’re coming up on the New Year, one of my favorite times of year, not just because of Christmas, but because I get a chance to take a vacation that my wife and my family and I often do to get away from all the craziness of the year and the year end. To take some time to just reflect. And a lot of us will be doing something similar this year, whether or not you’re on vacation, you will likely still be thinking about setting goals and resolutions. Now, I’m a huge fan of doing so. In fact, I wrote a blog post all about my process, something I’ve been using for years on my Website, and I’ll link to that in the show notes. But I find that many of us stop short of full, well-rounded goal setting. And what I mean by that is this, we often focus primarily on money, our physical health, our career, so on, but we spend little to no time setting goals for our relationships, or our emotional health, or our deeper connection to ourselves, others and to God or the universe, or some higher power or purpose. So that’s what I want to talk about today. You know, a few weeks ago, where all of this came from is, I was doing a deep clean of my office and I found an article that I had printed out, gosh, almost 10 years ago I think it was back in 2010 or 2011 by Clayton Christensen. It was from the Harvard Business Review and I took an hour or so to sit down and read it, and it really helped me realign myself. At that time, and really at this time in my life, I have a lot going on. I certainly consider myself a high achiever, or at least I aim to be with the book, with this podcast, with my other work. I have real estate, I have so many things that I’m working on and it’s all out of one, an innate desire and this rush and this push to always be creating and pushing myself and learning and doing more. And I think that’s all very healthy. I considerate it God given, if you will. And I like that, it’s part of what makes me me. And, I really value my relationships. I love my wife. I love my parents and my siblings. I have great friends. I have so much goodness in my life above and beyond all of the projects, above and beyond the money that I’m trying to create. And this article really helped me level set and it gave me a chance to pause and step back and make sure that I wasn’t getting too caught up in all of those things because, I had been.

What’s Really Most Important?

[00:03:49] You know, I’m better on some days than others. But the reality is, I am at risk of getting sucked into all of these projects and my goals and my ambitions and neglecting the most important relationships of my life. And my guess is, I’m not alone in this. My guess is, a good number of you listening to this podcast can relate in some way or another, even if it’s just your job and it’s all consuming. It takes so much time and effort and you keep thinking to yourself, well, I’m doing this for the kids, I’m doing this for my spouse, I’m doing this because in the future, I’ll be happy. In the future, I’ll reach a point where I don’t have to work as hard. In the future, I’ll have enough money that then I can revisit my relationships. Then I can spend more time with my children or my spouse or my friends. If you’ve said that, if you believe that, I implore you to keep listening because I think you already know where I’m going with this. And I think deep down, you know that’s a bit of a slippery slope. That is a dangerous path that many of us fall into. And so this article here, I want to start unpacking some of this and sharing some of the most poignant parts of it.

[00:05:05] As Christensen reflects on his his classmates, the class of 1979, he says, reading from his article here, he says, “I’ve seen more and more of them come to Reunion’s unhappy divorce and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with a deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. Yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center, as they decided how to spend their time, talents and energy.”

Short-Term Versus Long-Term Happiness

[00:05:40] So let’s let’s explore this for a moment here, this idea of short term versus long term happiness. I mentioned earlier on about making sure our ladders are on the right wall. And what I mean by that is, we can spend a lot of time climbing toward something only to get to the top and recognize that we are not where we want to be. Recognize that actually as we look out, we want it to be on a different wall, we want it to get to a different level of an entirely different building.

So in Christensen’s book here, he elaborates on that and he expounds on that. He says again, “I haven’t met too many people that don’t intend on having a fulfilling life. High achievers, however, end up allocating their resources in a way that seriously undermines their intended strategy. And this stems from the fact that many of them are wired for a high need for achievement and they get a pretty big hit every time they achieve something. Whether it shipping a product, getting a bonus or a raise or offered a promotion. What have you. It feels good to them. They can see and feel like they’re succeeding. So they ask themselves, how can I keep succeeding like this? And they keep doing the same things.” And he goes on to say that the problem there is that in the long run, this isn’t what makes us happy. We’ve already talked about this, our very first episode talks about the Harvard research that shows that quality relationships are the key to long term happiness. Not even just happiness, but long term health, physical health.

[00:07:14] So it’s not all about the money, it’s not all about the job promotions. And yet the danger here is that we get dopamine hits when we accomplish something, just like he said there. And if you’re anything like me, there’s so much goodness, so much joy, so much fulfillment that comes when you check those boxes, when you cross something after your to do list. When you’ve been working for days, weeks, months or years toward a goal and you hit that. That’s amazing. You know, for me, that’s publishing a book, that’s getting this podcast out there and it feels so good. But then guess what? Anywhere from a few minutes, to a day later, that dopamine goes away and you’re like, OK, well, that was nice. But what next? I need more, right? And we can we crave more and we keep going. Then, like he says, we go back to the same things that give us the same hits.

[00:08:07] Now, this is where things get especially tricky because our relationships, especially the most intimate ones, the ones with our spouse, or girlfriend, or boyfriend, or family. Those are the ones that don’t always give us the immediate dopamine hits, right? We get comfortable with them and we get annoyed by them and we take them for granted. And so it’s very easy to slip into the trap and into the cycle of just going back to the easy dopamine hits, the quick wins, the things that feel good. And oftentimes those are work, they’re projects, they’re sports games, they are other things that give us those immediate quick hits, but they’re somewhat shallow. They’re not bad by any means, so don’t misunderstand me here, they’re not bad. But they are not the most important thing. And so where things get dangerous is when we start giving up or sacrificing or compromising the more important items for those Quick Hits. For example, it may take a decade or more to stand back with your spouse and say, boy, we really raised some great kids.

[00:09:18] And so it’s rather easy to starve those relationships of little investments of your time, because you might not feel like it’s costing you anything until it’s too late. Until you grow up, or your kids grow up and 10-20 years later, you realize they’ve estranged you. They don’t feel like you love them. Or, maybe you don’t love them. Maybe you don’t even know them. Let’s push it to the extreme here for just a moment, That happens and it’s tragic.

And again, I think very few of these people set out to do that right out the gates and said, I’m just not going to spend time with my kids, I don’t really care about them and I don’t really want to see them ever again. I don’t think many people in this world say that. But far too many end up in that exact situation. So be careful to not fall into the trap or the lie of thinking, well, this was one little thing, one little thing here and here, this isn’t making a difference. Look, it’s fine. Look, I still see my spouse. Because oftentimes it isn’t until it’s too late, until you’ve lost touch with your friends, until you have little to no relationship with your children, or until you’re facing a divorce that you realize, oh, maybe that promotion wasn’t worth it. Maybe making more money really isn’t helping my family because, look, I don’t really have a family anymore. And none of us want to find ourselves in that situation. I know I don’t.

For Example

[00:10:41] OK, but this is getting a bit negative here, so let me back up a little bit. I think you understand the concept and the principle. Let me shine some light on that. Let me let me turn this into a more positive discussion here for a moment and give a shout out to my parents, because I can tell you from personal experience, this stuff matters and it is not mutually exclusive. You do not have to give up your high performance, your driven mindset. You don’t have to give up your dreams in order to also have healthy relationships. And while my parents, like any other humans on this planet, are not perfect, I think they’ve done a fantastic job here in this area.

[00:11:18] So they co-founded a company that is now a worldwide company and does business in over 90 countries and the products are sold in virtually every retail store you walk into. And they built that while raising six children, which is incredible to me. I look at that now and I’m like, I can hardly keep up with everything I want to do, and I don’t even have kids yet. But that’s a topic for another day how they pulled that off. What I want to focus on today is that, they built that company without sacrificing our family. In fact, from day one, they made our family a priority. And we as children knew that.

Sure, there were days here and there when mom or dad, you know, were late at the office or they weren’t there for certain things. But that was the exception, more the exception, than the rule. They always make time for us as their children and that is evident up to this day. So a shout out to my mom, my mom, when we were still younger, you know, still in school, she would help us get ready. She’d wake up really early in the morning, help us all get ready, get breakfast put together, send us off to school. Then she would go into the office and she would work. She’s the COO of the company. And to this day, is still very involved in it. However, she set a firm boundary, a firm line that all of her meetings ended at 1:30 or whenever it was, so that she could be home when we got home from school. And she did that all the way up until my youngest sibling left for college. She was always home when we came home.

I thought that was awesome, because she just as easily could have said, well, I’m just going to work until 5:00 and then I’ll come home. I’m not judging any parents who do that for the record. In this particular instance, it was important for her and she was able to leave early to be home for us kids.

[00:13:14] Now, my father, similar example. Again, they always put us first. I remember when I built my first home, I took some PTO, I left work early because I had to figure out what I was going to do with my backyard. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I was pretty stressed about it, because I had contractors lined up, I had to have everything ready to go. And it’s a lot of money when you’re when you’re finishing a backyard and I wanted to make sure I had made the best decisions.

And so I called my dad up, it was like 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you know, again he’s running the company as well. He’s CEO, he has a lot on his plate, a lot of meetings. And I said, dad, here’s the situation.  I’m wondering if you’d have a few minutes to come out and just take a look at the lot with me and give me your opinion on this. And he said, absolutely. Let me finish up this meeting and I’ll be there. That simple thing, that meant a lot to me. I think about that often, because he’s a busy man and that reiterated to me that I came first. It didn’t matter how important the meeting, how big of an opportunity the company had, what the sales pitch was, whatever it was, he canceled the meeting or he shifted some things around to come out and walk the lot with me.

[00:14:34] So, if you’re a parent, hear it from me as a child, a child of parents. That little thing made a huge deal. I don’t even know if my dad remembers that, frankly. I am certain he doesn’t remember what meeting he had to cancel or shift around, but I can tell you that till the day I die, I will hang on to that memory with my father and remember that I mattered more than work. I will hold on to the times when I called up my mom, when I came over and walked into her office and she pushed things aside and talked to me. I knew that I came first.

How Do We Implement This?

[00:15:15] So, how do we implement this into our lives? How do you implement this into your life? Well, choose the right yardstick. Christensen says that this is the single most important thing he tells his students to do, take time to figure out their life purpose or at least what they think it is, because that is how they and we can measure our success all throughout life. It’s how we know that our ladders are up against the right wall. And it’s a great way for us to go back and check in.

[00:15:45] I want to read the last paragraph of this 2010 article from the Harvard Business Review, because I think he wraps it up very nicely here. He says for him, “I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars. But the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.” And I’ll pause here for a second and say again, if you don’t believe in God, that’s fine. But something’s going to judge your life, whether it’s yourself, or others, or God, or the universe.

So think about it, how how do you think your life will be judged? How do you want it to be judged? To continue from his article here, he says, “I think that’s the way it will work for all of us. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved. Worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation. Think about the metric by which your life will be judged and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end your life will be judged a success.”

How Will You Measure Your Life?

[00:16:48] So my invitation to you today is to answer that same question. How will you measure your life? And if you’re at a place where you can take a moment, actually write this down. Take a few minutes now to think through it. If you’re driving, don’t just turn on another episode or some music after this, but drive in silence for a few minutes and think about this. And then use, Siri, or Google, or whoever to remind you to set time aside later to write your thoughts down. Please don’t brush this off. Do this for your spouse, do it for your children, do it for your siblings, your friends. And most importantly, do this for yourself. We’ll see you next week.

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