Category Archives for "Uncategorized"

Jul 06

All of The Productivity Hacks in the World Won’t Help You.

By admin | Uncategorized

Controversial statement, I know. Our collective generation, all those participating in the global economy at this moment, have become obsessed with productivity.

We have productivity hacks, productivity journals, productivity plans, output quotas, pomodoro bubbles, e-mail batching, the 80/20 rule, daily status reports, scrums, and a myriad of other options and methods for maximizing productivity. Much of this has been effective. Or, said differently, we have indeed discovered more ways to create more output in less time and with fewer resources than we did in the past. The dream of efficiency for many executives and corporations are coming true.

But what about for individuals? The proliferation of productivity has been hard at work for easily a decade now, and yet, as recently as six months ago, publications like Fast CompanyTechCrunchLinkedInForbesBusiness Insider, and the Wall Street Journal all published new ideas and techniques for how to be productive.

So why are companies getting so much traction on material that is at best repetitive and at worst completely identical to the other information out there?

We keep seeing these messages because we as individuals still spend tons of time feeling unproductive and underutilized.

The human condition compels us to feel useful, productive, or helpful on any given day. In his Ted Talk on Blue Zones, Dan Buettner discusses a strong linkage between those who live longer and those who have a defined purpose in their lives. In the community of Okinawa in Japan, this takes the form of Ikigai.

Over the last month, I’ve had 25+ conversations with people ranging in age from 25–40 about their experience with career transition. The number one thing that people stress in what they want in their next role: the opportunity to feel useful and productive.

If we want to fix this pandemic of feeling unproductive, the answer is not to unearth the correct combination of productivity hacks and methodologies; we need to back to the source.

If you want to feel productive, you have to take ownership of defining productivity for yourself, and then create the space you need to pursue that every day.

Personal productivity has an infinite number of forms, and they are all based on who you are and where you are in your life. For some, productivity in the context of output comes naturally — they are driven by the desire and need to outpace and outperform where they were yesterday. This incremental, +1 style often fits in well with traditional goal setting and is easy to integrate into a corporate setting.

Productivity, for others, is more about achieving balance. I feel most productive when I engage in a number of different activities on any given day. Today, I have five calls with old colleagues and classmates, a two-hour Ironman workout, this blog post, and making dinner for my family. In isolation, none of these individual activities is a hallmark or beacon for productivity. However, when I can successfully engage in all of these different areas in my life, I feel great.

Productivity in another lens is doing less. Productivity for this group is more about completing objectives and tasks in increasingly small windows of time to create space to think, breathe, explore, exercise, or do anything else that fills them up.

All of these are great — none of them are wrong. Some versions fit better into some circumstances than others. But one thing is certain:

If you try to artificially layer your employer’s, your partner’s, your friends’, or your family’s version of productivity on top of yours to motivate you, you probably won’t feel particularly motivated.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to throw out the other measures of productivity in your life. If you work in sales and have a quota, you still need to hit and exceed it to excel at work. But you do not have to rely on that metric to make you feel productive. In fact, you’re probably much better off defining productivity for yourself, and ensuring that you care for that metric as much as you do your sales target.

If this idea is exciting but scary, as many new ones are, here are some simple steps to get started.

  1. Get clear on what productivity means to you. Reflect. Journal. Meditate. Think about the days when you feel the most fulfilled and alive. Write down a vision of what your perfect day looks like. Look for patterns.
  2. Track your progress. The one thing that productivity paranoia has given us is the knowledge that measuring progress is a highly necessary component to making substantive progress. Pick your metric, evaluate your performance, look for ways to improve, iterate, and keep going.
  3. Create a range. Productivity, even if defined by you, can become a treadmill to nowhere if you have no endgame other than to constantly increase your productivity. Ideally, you will eventually be able to establish a good feel for what days feel great and what days feel disappointing. As you better understand your own motivations, just shoot for great days, not the best days. If you still need a goal, see how many days in a row you can find yourself comfortably in your desired productivity zone.
  4. Don’t treat productivity like a diet. It is frighteningly common that we decide to go on a diet, do a ton of research, buy all of the right foods, get ready to change our lives, do it for three days, and then totally abandon the whole thing. All or none has a very low expected rate of success; we’re not built to create a massive change in a single moment. Instead, make small changes every day, track your progress, acknowledge your failures, forgive yourself, and keep going. If nothing else, no matter what, keep going.

Every person has the right to feel productive every day. However, we only have the opportunity to reap the benefits of productivity if we take the time and ownership to exercise our right appropriately.

If you’re not feeling particularly productive or useful in your work currently, give this a shot and let me know how it goes — I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading!! If you enjoyed this story, it would mean the world to me if you would hit the heart button below. It helps to spread the word!

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Jul 06

The Holiday Hangover Effect

By admin | Uncategorized

Raise your hand if you absolutely love celebrating holidays with your family and friends!! 🙋

Raise your hand if you wished that the time that you had to enjoy yourself was longer, deeper, richer!! 🙋

Raise your hand if immediately after the holiday, you think about the foods you will avoid, the work you will do, and the extra steps to get “back on track” after indulging yourself for the holiday. 🙋

Raise your hand if you often wake up this morning after a holiday filled with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to disrupt your everyday life and celebrate the with people you love? 😶

This post is a bit more personal, and I don’t intend to project my experience onto others. However, I think that this is a conversation I’ve had after every major holiday, particularly in the summer time, since my career started.

We view holidays as opportunities to escape, to break free from the confines of our daily lives.

We hatch big plans, drive absurd distances for what amounts to 36 hours of vacation, eat all of the food, buy all of the alcohol, and we blow up Instagram and Snapchat like they’re going out of style.

And why do we do this? Because it’s awesome. The adrenaline pump that begins the moment everyone piles into the car that extends to the last song played for the party before everyone finally succumbs to a day’s worth of sun, burgers, and beer.

These days engender incredible memories, new friendships, and lifelong traditions. Think about that.

We attach traditions to holidays so frequently because we want to capture and recreate the incredible joy that we feel from those experiences.

But what happens when you wake up the next morning?

Rue. Regret. Remorse. A new and more terrifying version of the Sunday Scaries arrives. The responsibilities of work and life that you pushed from your brain have arrived front and center. And much like a pet that has been ignored, this anxiety scratches relentlessly at the back of your forehead to get your attention. It feels neglected. You haven’t obsessed over your e-mail or your deliverables or your clients for all of 36 hours.

So we start to plan.

I’m going to leave by 9, which puts me at home by 1. I’ll grab a quick bite, hit the gym, clean up my inbox, vacuum my apartment, grab dinner with a friend in the neighborhood, and unwind with a TV show before I crash. I have six meetings tomorrow plus two calls — I’ll read these reports on the commute tomorrow and catch up on the rest of the action from the weekend from my colleague etc..

Sound familiar?

We start to feel guilty about how much we ate and drank over the course of the weekend, and we start to make a plan for how we will atone over the coming week and give up some of our favorite things like cookies or ice cream to make up for the weekend swing.

All of the care-free, abundant joy that we experience hours before has all evaporated because it is too much of a departure from our normal lives. We don’t know how to reconcile the two realities. We genuinely struggle to understand how we can go from chugging rose out of a bottle while riding an inflatable unicorn to an important client meeting within 36 hours. But here’s the thing:

A huge part of what makes you awesome is your capacity to work and play with equal vigor.

Moreover, we have an inherent need to play to create space for recovery and reflection on the work that we do, otherwise we simply run ourselves relentlessly into the ground.

We already give so much of our time and energy to work, and not just in the hours we physically spend there. We shape ourselves to fit the image of what we should be like at work. We’re professional. We’re organized. We’re detail-oriented. We’re diligent.

I count myself as blessed to have so many wonderful friends who do so much extraordinary work. Many of them have worked with more large, Fortune 100 companies already than I will in my lifetime. They have counseled CEOs and executives on million dollar strategies to steer an organization of thousands of people in new directions. But this is not why I love them.

I love them because they can be discussing these amazing challenges they face at work in one moment, and be laughing at a fart joke the next. And they’re the exact same person.

We feel it necessary to divorce these parts of our life and personality from one another, but they desperately need each other.

I mean this from two perspectives. First, we need to be able to have room to be serious and goofy in the same body. To dial these qualities up and down as needed, and also to be sure that we have access to both of them on a regular basis.

Second, it hurts us to view these periods of celebration and connectivity as an alternative universe to the one that we occupy most of the time. These moments and experiences are every bit a part of your life just as your professional commitments.

When we relegate these spirited times to some “other” category, we form a storyline in which we have to justify our opportunities to have fun and celebrate with friends.

Having an amazing time with friends and family is not something that you need to earn, or justify to other people.

Rather than regret our celebrations, or seeing them as an aberration from the norm, let’s embrace them as the glorious, uplifting part of our reality that they really are. Let’s reflect on the new friends that we made rather than the extra calories we consumed.

This is as much a message for me as it is for anyone else. I know that I have a great deal of work to do in this area, too.

I’ve already laid plans for my next holiday. And beyond just the long road trip to Wisconsin, and the inevitable stop at Culver’s, and the egregious number of Bud Lights that will be consumed, I’m making extra plans.

I’m planning on reflecting on how much joy and fun was captured in just a few days by the water. I’m planning on looking for opportunities to be just as silly and ridiculous without having to drive to the North Woods of Wisconsin. I’m planning to bring a little bit more Holiday to my life rather than keeping it relegated to a few precious weekends a year. Join me, won’t you??

Thank you for reading!! If you enjoyed this story, it would mean the world to me if you would hit the heart button below. It helps to spread the word!

Subscribe to my Newsletter HERE

Jul 03

A Better Look at Balance

By admin | Uncategorized

Work-Life balance is easily one of the buzziest buzzwords swimming around in the ether of self-help literature. Some people have evolved the concept one-step further and turned it into work-life integration.

It all stems from a principle that we can have it all. We can have a fulfilling career, a loving family, a few side hobbies, eight hours of sleep a night, and time for long walks on the beach, right?

The biggest fallacy on the subject is that we can achieve balance by adding to our plates. If we’re working too hard, we should have more fun. If we overeat, we should exercise more. If we didn’t see our loved ones much this week, we’d see them twice as much next week, right?

Inspired by several books and articles I’ve read lately, I have a new perspective on balance that I would like to share with you.

Every person will have different things that they prioritize, but if we were to break it down into broad categories that likely affect everyone, it seems that these four would do the trick:

Relationships can be mean friends and family and parents and siblings and anyone that you want to throw into that bucket. Having a real human connection with someone outside of work is a critical part of feeling alive and whole.

Work is work, the good and the bad. Your time jamming on a spreadsheet until 2 AM is work, and your happy hour with colleagues is also work.

Health is the time that you can dedicate to living a healthy life, which includes sleeping, exercising, stretching, breathing, meditating, etc..

Recreation is a tricky one. Many people often define it as the balance of time that is left over from the other three categories. But there is a massive difference between doing something with intention because it brings you joy, and binge watching a TV show in a desperate effort to forget about your terrible day at work or the emails burning in your inbox.

As mentioned earlier, our approach to these things is generally to go for gold on all fronts. All of the sleep! All of the work! All of the fun! This, perhaps, is why we as a generation have an outrageous tendency never to have time OR be insanely busy. We cancel appointments and meetings left and right. We double book. We add and add and add and add because we think that we have the opportunity to max out on every bucket.

If you want to shift how you approach decisions, imagine that every choice you make both increases one bucket but also depletes another.

This is a uncomfortable concept. It attributes a greater amount of weight to our decisions knowing that every single one of them requires a sacrifice elsewhere. To be clear, this has always been true, but it’s not always the most direct approach to looking at a problem.

But wait! It gets even better.

Now, imagine that your mindset, your state of being, and your happiness, could only be as high as the lowest bucket.

Does that scare the shit out of some of you? It should. We also have a dangerous habit of optimizing on 2 of 4 or 3 of 4 banking on future opportunities to find balance and an endless well from which we can draw our energy.

Your well is not unlimited. It can run dry. And there’s one more thing: It’s the worst part. I’m sorry in advance.

A big chunk of your choices don’t fill up any buckets.

The universe is an abundant and generous place. But it will not make you feel spiritually fulfilled if you don’t get off your ass and start living with more intention.

The cocktail hour that you hate but go to for professional optics? Probably not doing much for you. The gym routine you zombie walk through three times a week? Not getting it done. Your weekly phone call with Mom that you take while cleaning out your inbox. Nope.

Look, I’m harsh, but it’s for a good reason. We can’t create balance in our lives until we accept and acknowledge how out of balance they’ve become. Many of our decisions, unbeknownst to us, are made because of existing beliefs and relationships that we like to protect. We like certainty. We like order. But clinging to existing beliefs is not making us happy.

So, what’s the punchline? What can you do to make this better?

  1. Be more intentional with your choices. We make hundreds of choices every day about how we spend our time, both in the moment and in the future (thanks, scheduling apps!). Each time you make a choice, celebrate the bucket that you are filling, and acknowledge the other buckets that you are draining.
  2. Tip the scales. Every day, say NO to one thing that does not fill up a bucket. This can be as simple as saying no to an extra cookie at work, a TV episode, going to happy hour, whatever it is! To be clear, I’m not advocating that you eliminate frivolity and spontaneity from your life. Quite the opposite. But I am suggesting that if you dig below the surface of some of your choices, you may find that they’re not lifting you up at all.
  3. Make space for your lowest bucket. If your health has taken a hit in the name of living the high life, orient more of your choices toward good health. If you haven’t made time for friends in months, get some things on the calendar and dial back your workload. You will be amazed at how good you feel once you’re able to find a better balance among all areas of your life, not just a few.

This is not something that takes just a day or a week. This will be an ongoing process for you that you will develop and improve over time. But it will be a perspective that can protect you for the rest of your life from becoming overwhelmed, overworked, underslept, and unhappy.

I started 86 Gravity because I want to help people make decisions that make them feel overjoyed and filled with gratitude. This is an excellent way to get started.

If you enjoyed this story, it would mean the world to me if you would share it. Thank you for reading!!

Jun 21

The Myth of Purpose

By admin | Uncategorized

Earlier today, I posted this article on LinkedIn. A quick letter from a reader described dissatisfaction with how MBA programs are ranked.

The argument, to summarize, is that post-MBA salary and prestige are not capturing the essence of what an MBA should be for creating the flexibility to pursue the career or passion that you want to.

To my pleasant surprise, a stream of comments came through, which I enjoyed. One friend made the very fair point that a ranking system without analytical rigor is silly, and I agree because that’s what a listicle is. Another suggested that the ease with which we can compare each other is the culprit. Undoubtedly true, based on my experience at Booth.

But one comment has me stuck. A person in my second-degree network declared: “The reality is that most young people don’t know what they want…” I’ve heard the argument. I’m sure that you have, too. We, if I may include myself, seem to have a tendency to struggle with finding our place in the world. OK. I get it.

But why?

Why do we have so much trouble identifying what we want in the world?
I’m not the only one to ask this question. There are thousands and thousands of career quizzes, assessments, guides, hacks, and cheat sheets to finding your true self. Or something. I’ve taken no fewer than ten organized, robust, data-backed personality assessments to understand who I am and how I tick. Much to my amusement, they all agree on somethings and widely differ on others.

But we still don’t know.

I dug some more. Many people blame education and the disconnect between both academic subject matter and how we analyze it with real job skills that we need to employ. Others suggest that we have way too much information, and it paralyzes us from making good decisions. I have a different theory.

We do a terrible job of owning who we want to be and how we want to live.

It’s not because we don’t care, or don’t try. Humans tend to rely on heuristics, life’s shortcut to knowledge. We look to those that we know and understand to define how we should approach problems and situations. Unfortunately, we build realities that do not suit us.

In his book The End of Average, Todd Rose explains that averages, by in large, are a compatible fit for a tiny number of people. Like, less than 1% of all individuals match an average. In the world of clothing or shoe size, we can work with these imperfections around an average. In designing your life, or as Todd Rose explained, in the context of designing cockpits for fighter pilots, an average that doesn’t fit is not an option.

So, what’s the solution?

Like so many things, the solution is at once obvious — but not so easy.

  1. We need to embrace the notion that our life will not and should not look like someone else’s. It is illogical to expect that you can look at someone else’s path and replicate it for yourself. This is a scary idea — I get it. But the moment you accept that the only person who can build the life you want is you, it makes it much easier to take responsibility for the things that you need to change.
  2. Distinguish between not knowing what you want to do and how to do what you want to do. You don’t know how to create the grand teeter totter that allows you to balance your challenges and obligations with your freedom and your fun. “I would snowboard all day if I could,” you might say, “but I would be poor forever.” OR “I want to be a painter, but I don’t know how I would sell any work.” These are real problems, and ones that you would need to consider judiciously. But to be clear, the problem is not a lack of clarity on what you love. The problem is a lack of clarity on how to do what you love to support the life that you want. There may be a slim number of ways that you can pursue your dream and have it support your lifestyle. But your life isn’t supposed to look like anyone else’s, is it?
  3. Talk to people. If your dreams only live inside your head, then you are left to your own devices to figure out how to make them a reality. One of the biggest things that holds us back is the lack of a credible example of what we seek. We crave validation like crazy. Today, I spent an hour trying to figure out what a coach for the hospitality industry looks and feels like. So I googled: there’s a guy:

The Hospitality Coach – Learn from my mistakes
“I really love Pete’s warmth and honesty and the way his opinion has obviously come from putting in the hard yards…

His name is Pete. He already exists. I’m chatting with him next week.

I’m writing this article because I want to challenge the idea that we can’t what we want. More specifically, the problem is not that we don’t know what we want. Nobody is immune from daydreaming of the wonderful life they want to lead or the wonderful things that they want to have.

So, take your turn. Change your thinking. Go for it. I can’t wait to see what you do.

Mar 30

I wrote a book…

By admin | Uncategorized

I wrote a book…

…and every time I write that sentence, it’s melodically synced to the song “I’m on a Boat” because I’m a grown up. I digress.

Last November, I was part of the #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) army. I set out to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which would approximately quintuple the number of words I had formally written since graduating from college a decade earlier.

Two months before I started this adventure, I left my job and got married. Both endeavors had occupied my thoughts and ambitions for months. Suddenly, I found myself with a gaping space to explore. It was exciting and uncomfortable. It was a new sensation to wake up in the morning and genuinely ask, “What do I want to do today?”

My type-A personality kicked in, hard, and I immediately started searching for a new project, a new endeavor. I learned of NaNoWriMo from a dear friend, Dani Hayden, who completed it the year before. We talked about the power of building a daily writing practice, and the deep satisfaction of having a tangible thing to show for your work. Both aspects were incredibly appealing to me. So, I created an account and decided to go for it.

I didn’t write a novel, per se, so I suppose I cheated. I knew that the easiest way to complete the project, for me, would be to write about myself. My 30th birthday was approaching (sneak preview: it’s today!) and I became driven to capture the major stories that shaped my life. I would write an everyman’s autobiography, I thought. Rather than trying to paint my stories as harrowing or dramatic, I would tell them as I remembered them and allow my human experience to speak for itself.

The project was easy in the early staged. I would pick an episode from my life and start writing. I included dialogue and visual descriptions of my surroundings. I wrote about memorable meals and hard conversations. I wrote about glorious victories and bitter disappointments. If I ran out of steam on one story, I left it behind and started a new one. My friend, Alex, suggested ending each day in the middle of a sentence. When I went back to resume writing, I had a story with some momentum behind it rather than starting from a dead stop each time. This was sage advice.

The only day that was genuinely hard was Thanksgiving. I was hosting my family for the first time, as well as four other friends, all in our new home, and I cooked everything from scratch. I do not say this to brag, or to make you feel sorry for me; I’m write this to remind myself that my habit of stubbornly insisting that I do everything myself often creates more difficulty than it destroys. Regardless, at 7 PM that night, after cooking, eating, cleaning, and drinking a few glasses of whiskey, I put on a movie for my family and opened up my laptop. I don’t remember which story I wrote about that day, but I pushed through and made it to 1667 words before collapsing.

I ended up writing 60,000 words over the course of the month. On the last day, I received a congratulatory email from #NaNoWriMo and posted about it on Facebook. Almost immediately, I committed to taking my pile of raw writing and turn it into something finished, something polished.

At the time, I assumed that editing and completing the book would provide me with the same lift and goal-completion energy that writing the book had. I was wrong, but in a really, spectacular way.

The process of editing the book, without my intention, became a massive exercise in self-awareness. In reading the stories from start to finish, I dug deeper to find patterns of behavior, personality traits, and repeated mistakes throughout my stories. There were definitely moments where I was embarrassed for my former self, but mostly I had an incredibly opportunity to reflect on how much I changed over the last 30 years.

More specifically, and poignantly, I noticed something: leading into the end of high school, my capacity for gratitude seemed to take a hit. I went from the always happy, excited-to-be-here kid to the brooding, angsty, and driven person that I more-closely resemble today. I watched the sense of wonder and warmth from my childhood fade over time. As someone who comports himself to be generally happy and gregarious, it was jarring to find evidence to the contrary. In my own words, no less.

As the book continued to take shape, I seized on the opportunity to do something about this realization. I started a daily gratitude journal. I started meditating. I worked with a life coach. I used the insights I derived from this project and turned them into actions that made my life substantively better.

The last three months have been some of the best and most fulfilling of my life. Not just because of the novel, but because I’ve been able to bring my focus back to the present and, ironically, think less about myself. Yes, you read that right. The practice of writing a whole book on myself actually prompted me to focus much more on the other people in my life.

My goal, now, is to share this book with the world in hopes that it spurs other people to practice the same self-reflection that I did. I’m so grateful that I stumbled into it, and I think that the practice can help so many people.

So, if support that mission, get my book. Read the dedication. Skip around. Use it however you want. It’s even free for the first week, and thereafter I make $.35 per copy because Amazon requires a minimum price. If you read the book and something strikes you, reach out! My e-mail address is at the back of the book and I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, regardless of whether or not you read my book, I hope that this article has encouraged you to take a few minutes today and reflect on who you are now, and how that has changed over time. You won’t regret it.