Priorities

The etymology of the word “priority” is interesting. It’s over 600 years old, but only about a hundred years ago (the industrial age) did a plural form of the word appear. “Priori” essentially meant “before all else”. Asking what someone’s priorities were would have been like asking: who is your one best friends?

Unless there’s an urgent threat to our lives, we can’t expect to hold one single priority in modern life. But it’s worth considering that some of the most important things are sacrificed at the cost of things that are simply urgent but to which we never assigned a high priority. If we’re “busy” but not feeling accomplished it may be useful to take a step back and review our priorities, narrowing them down as much as possible. 

A simple question that can change your path

I’m a big fan of simple mental models or thought experiments in the form of a question that immediately put things in perspective. Here’s one with many alternates that can serve to put you on the right path:

“Is what I’m about to do going to move me closer or further away from what’s important?”

Modify any of the words to get to the same version of the question. For example, “Is what I’m about to decide going to move for closer or further away from the person I aspire to be?”

Why optimism is so hard and important

Optimism is hard for a reason – it’s unnatural. For our ancestors, being optimistic and “wrong” perhaps meant you missed out on an opportunity, whereas being pessimistic and wrong meant you became tiger food.

We should train ourselves to overcome this programming for a few reasons: First, many of us are lucky to live in a world where we can test theories, and create things that might be valuable. We can be wrong and “fail” many times, often with little to no personal or reputational damage, unlike our ancestors.

Second, being optimistic is a healthier mindset regardless of outcomes. And lastly, you’re more likely to improve the world (and yourself) by thinking “this might work” versus, “here are all the reasons this won’t work.”

The most important measure of your product

“Product” can mean whatever you want it to. As a business, an influencer, an artist, or even (surprise!) as a human, your product is not for everyone. As Seth Godin brilliantly states, the least helpful mantra is “you can pick anyone, and we’re anyone!”

Of all the businesses and products…in all the ways they are expressed, packaged, and distributed…in any way we engage with the market, here is one simple question that can serve as a yardstick for how our product might be measured: Would they miss it if it were gone? 

Your total diet

We tend to think of our diet in the context of the food we consume. But our overall health is affected by what we “ingest” with all our senses.

Consider your diet in terms of not just what you eat and drink, but how and what news you consume, whom you spend time with, what you choose to read, and everything else that you consume via any of your senses.

The first step to being healthier is to eliminate “junk.”

What is this for?

People often spend hours nitpicking slide designs, the exact wording, and the perfect animated transition for a PowerPoint presentation. It’s rare to find someone in creation mode asking whether the presentation itself should instead be a memo or email.

Frequently reevaluating exactly what you’re trying to accomplish can save hours of wasted effort. It’s not enough to work hard. It matters what you’re hard at work on.

You should definitely labor over the exact specs of a screen door. But if you’re fitting it for a submarine you might want to start asking better questions. 

A healthy way to obsess

The RAS is the tiny portion of your brain that notices yellow cars the moment you consider buying one.

One way to use modern technology to activate the RAS and force multiple “exposures” is to save a relevant image to the lock screen on your smartphone, which research shows the average person sees 110 times per day (perhaps the subject of a separate discussion).

If your focus is on money, save an image of a pile of cash as your default lock-screen photo.  You’ll see it multiple times per day, which may unconsciously open your mind to opportunities you may not have seen otherwise.

The plight of perfection

Seeing ourselves as perfectionists can lead to a failure to take action out of fear that something won’t turn out ideal.  Aiming for perfection and being attentive to detail is admirable.  But do-ers do. Perfectionists can hold themselves back in a state of non-action and analysis.

There is no perfect time to start a business, lose weight, or commit to learning a new skill. Most often, fortune favors those who boldly take action rather than waiting for the certainty of perfection.

High quality questions to help you get unstuck

  • What would be ideal? (I find this to be MUCH more informative than “what do you want?” or “what would make you happy?”)
  • What one thing can I let go of such that my level of stress will be significantly reduced? 
  • Can I convert this thought or belief from shame/fear to hope/compassion? 

Dependability

Dependability is a high-ranking “soft skill” that employers, colleagues and customers desire.

When it comes to your career, there are many worthwhile investments you can make to sharpen the saw of your particular expertise. On top of this, try to cultivate a reputation for being dependable. People want to know that they can count on you, and that your word is reliable.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that so-called soft skills are not trainable. All of them are. For this particular skill, all you have to do is make sure you always do what you say.