The destination

Olivia and I hopped on a bus today with no particular destination in mind. We had a free afternoon together and she loves the bus.

My type-A brain kicked in the second we sat down. Where are we headed? What are we doing?

Each time I asked, “Should we get off and go to [fill in the blank]?” The firm response of the content two-year old was, “No.”

“You want to keep riding the bus?” I asked. “Want to keep riding da bus.” She replied.

My wheels kept spinning. With each stop we passed, I worked out the new plan: where we could stop next, what we could do, where we could turn back and still make it home at a reasonable time.

After an hour, I finally accepted that we’d just ride to the end of the line. I sighed deeply, looked out the window, and was in the moment for the first time that day. I looked down and she was asleep.

Our journey was the destination. She just got there a lot faster than I did.

The mindset to teach your kids

Telling your kids how perfect and special they are sets them up for failure. The real world is going to kick their ass and they’re not going to be ready for it.

Instead, tell them how proud you are of them because of how hard they work, or how they never give up.

This is very subtle, but extremely important. It’s about focusing on process instead of outcome. It’s about teaching them that life is about constantly improving yourself, not about needing to be perfect.

Tony Robbins says it great in this video.

Your first financial goal

It’s easier to spend than save, so you need an inspiring target to keep you moving forward.

The best place to start is to save enough to meet your basic needs. Tony Robbins calls this first level “Financial Security” (from the book Money Master the Game).

This is straightforward goal to set:

  1. Calculate a yearly number for your basic needs: Mortgage/rent, insurance, basic bills (yes, cell phone and internet are basics these days… but you’ll survive without Netflix), groceries, transportation
  2. Multiply this by 20 to get a good estimate of how much you need to save

Then start charging towards basic financial security.

What’s the next action?

This is the question you must ask when the problem seems too big.

I learned this a few years ago from David Allen’s Getting Things Done (or GTD, as it’s often called).

When the problem is too big, it’s easy to get stuck.

Imagine trying to cross a high, shaky bridge and not being able to see the other side. When you can’t see the entire path, you’re walking into the unknown, which is scary. Once fear gets ahold, you freeze.

You want to get you hands on it first. You want to find a way to see the other side before stepping into the void.

But you won’t be able to. So stop wasting time trying and energy worrying.

You just need to decide what’s the next action you can take right now and take it. You just need to take a step. And then another step.

Naysayers

There are people who can’t see the bigger picture. They’re too focused on their own precious little world and are terrified of change. So they fight to hold back progress—because progress will make them change.

They scream loudly about the problems. When solutions can’t be provided, they scream louder, no matter how trivial the issue. And when problems are solved, they snarl, because they don’t like being disarmed.

It’s best to avoid these people because they’ll suck you dry. You can’t please them, unless you’re willing to abandon your mission.

If you can’t avoid them, engage them as little as possible and work around them whenever you have the chance. When they get spun up on something, let them spin and work on something else.

Eventually, the train leaves the station and they’ll realize that either: everyone is gone; or they’re stuck in the car and it isn’t turning around.

The power of a tight deadline

If you take as much time as you need, you’re likely to take forever.

It’s easy to find more problems, have more meetings, redesign.

But a tight deadline forces you to make quick decisions, to focus on the essentials, to give up and accept imperfection.

Once you get the beta version out, you can always improve it.

But interestingly, the things you would have let delay usually don’t turn out to be that important.

The red trapezoid

It was one of Olivia’s first three shapes learned. Even before recognizing a square, she could pick a red trapezoid out of a pile of blocks.

But now her beautiful, spongy brain is filling with lots of other good stuff. And we haven’t kept steadily practicing shapes.

I asked her to find the trapezoid from the pile of blocks she dumped on the floor. She paused, looked and a few seconds later wandered to a more fun activity.

With a little bit of solid repetition, I know she’ll get that trapezoid down again. But what I’m more interested in is her ability to focus. To be determined to work through the uncomfortable position of being stuck instead of giving up and doing something more immediately gratifying.

“Olivia… can you give me the trapezoid,” I repeated.

She heard me but pretended to ignore me. I waited, let her play, and repeated the question.

Four or five more times and she finally reached for it. It was a square.

“You did such a great job trying to remember. That’s a square. Can you give me the trapezoid?”

How to slow down time

The older we get, the faster time goes. But there’s one factor in the speed of time that Einstein didn’t account for: engagement.

It’s true: the older we get, the less years we have ahead. With every day, we feel our mortality a bit more.

And with age comes responsibility. Careers, families and all the accoutrements of modern life fill up our plates with lots of things we have to do. So we have less time to do the things we want to do.

But the lever on the speed of time is partially in our control.

This year has flown by. I’ve been consumed by work. Each day is like groundhog day, and then the weekends are a rush to catch up on chores and errands. It’s all a blur.

But this weekend was the opposite. We spent the entire time active and engaged. An outing to a children’s music event. A trip to the park. An outing to the zoo. Some time with family and friends.

This year has disappeared. But this weekend felt like a century.

I’m not suggesting you should quit your job and just go have fun all the time (unless that’s an option, of course). But there’s a clear difference in the speed of life when you’re engaged in it versus being on autopilot and just trying to keep the ship afloat.

Try it. Whatever you’re stuck doing this week, muster up the enthusiasm to engage it in. See if you can squeeze a few extra hours out of all that wasted time.

Progress is only one step

And then another. And another.

Somedays won’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. Step.

Somedays will feel like you’re moving backwards. Step.

But then, without warning, you’ll find a grove and spring way ahead. We’d love for this to be the norm, but it isn’t. It’s all those small steps that make this leap possible.

Don’t let a desire to move faster keep you from moving at all.

We took Olivia to see a doctor

She’s undergoing a craniosacral therepy treatment, which is basically working to improve circulation in her head, spine and sacrum. (We’re happy with this treatment and I can talk more about it if you’re interested).

After 30 minutes of working on her, he sat back and calmly said, “I can’t get the tension in this spot to release. The rest of it is gone, but this one is just like when we started. I’ve tried everything in my toolkit and I’m puzzled.”

He later asked if we wouldn’t mind him consulting a colleague of his. “She’s an expert and can hopefully find what I’m missing.”

Many people in this situation would give up. And they certainly wouldn’t admit they need help. After all, he’s a highly trained professional.

What makes him a great doctor is a combination of humility and perseverance. He assumes there’s an answer somewhere and wants to keep trying to find it, and he isn’t arrogant enough to think he’s got all of the answers.