Earlier this month Ron discussed his top ten lessons from the last decade and Jon what he believes is the most important word of the year (“daily”). Although I have tried to divorce myself from the arbitrary boundaries of a calendar year, I still take some time in December and January, deliberate time, to reflect on the past and create plans and experiments for the future.
Over the last decade this process and activity has helped me identify some grounding principles that I try to live by, personally and professionally, which each year become more defined. I then work on reinforcing the principles throughout the year. The principles are simple: reduce friction, share, and grow.
I define “friction” as anything that keeps me from optimal effectiveness, so it takes many forms. Some examples:
- Minimizing and reducing how many “things” we own reduces the friction of clutter, extra cleaning, storage and space requirements, and flexibility should we ever decide to move. My wife and I spend time each week gathering unused items to donate or get rid of. Somehow there always seems like more, which probably correlates to Amazon Prime and why the UPS deliveryman knows our names.
- Similarly, having to find things creates friction by wasting time, so 5S, at home and at work, becomes valuable.
- Distractions create friction to optimal productivity, so I’m working at shutting down email, social media, and web browsers when working during my most productive times of the day.
- Meetings and commitments create friction by tying up potentially valuable time that can be used to grow (see below), so I’m working to ensure everything I commit to truly has value. Reading Greg McKeown’s Essentialism a few years ago helped with this.
- Being humble, authentic, and always acting ethically and with integrity reduces the friction of not simply being myself. maintaining a facade, or dealing with regret.
- Being physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy reduces friction by reducing doctors appointments, the energy required to move around and participate in activities, and unnecessary worry and anxiety. I make time to exercise, reflect, eat healthy, and recenter every day.
I’ve been very fortunate in many aspects of my life. Although we all have dealt with challenges, I know that tonight I’ll have a roof over my head and food to eat – in abundance. My daily gratitude practice, where I identify three very specific and new circumstances, events, or people that I’m thankful for, reinforces how lucky I am and encourages me to share.
- Gemba Academy is one way my partners and I try to share the power of lean, six sigma, and continuous improvement, which has contributed to our individual success in the past.
- Along similar lines, I guest lecture at my alma mater at a nearby university, I blog, and I once (but probably never again!) wrote a book.
- Most of us volunteer in some form or another – that is sharing our expertise and time. I work with a startup incubator affiliated with our local university.
A deliberate practice of growth and learning is the best antidote to cognitive decline as we age. Curiosity and the joy of learning is probably the one characteristic that I’m most thankful to my parents for instilling in me.
- Each year for over two decades I’ve decided on a “do something different” project to intentionally broaden my perspectives. These projects range from the intellectual to sports to basic skills and I spent 12 months and typically around 500 hours working on them. Learning html programming 20 years ago set the stage for Gemba Academy. Last year, after seeing how professional cannabis products eliminated the need for a loved one in extreme pain to use opiods, I grew and processed six (legal!) cannabis plants. This year I’m focusing on the Japanese carpentry and joinery expertise known as edo-sashimono. I’ve taken several woodworking classes over the years and have built a few pieces of furniture, but I’m fascinated by the precision, very complex joinery requiring no fasteners and created only with hand tools, and spiritual aspects of the Japanese form.
- Traveling is one way my wife and I like to grow and experience new perspectives. After many years of extensive overseas travel, we’re refocusing into longer experiences, such as staying a month in one of our favorite cities (Buenos Aires?) or driving across Canada with no set itinerary.
- Speaking of experiences, we’ve also compiled a “bucket list” of those. Earlier this month we spent New Year’s Eve on Times Square in New York City. Crazy, crowded, chaotic, and energetic. Glad we experienced it once, but we’ll never do it again.
What principles guide you? How will you refine and reinforce them this year?