30 Days of Less Recap

Writing wasn’t a priority in 2017: I posted two blogs. I could make a laundry list of excuses, but they’re just that, excuses. But, I’m making a small commitment, 15 minutes per day, to writing more. Starting with the the second part (first one, here) of this mini-series on an experiment with less.

This renewed commitment comes at the beginning of 2018. I’d hardly consider it a “resolution” because I don’t believe in those (here’s what I did, instead). I’ve noticed that I don’t think as clearly as I used to and I firmly believe that comes from my lack of writing and deep, intentional thought. So here I am, writing more… about less.

30 Days of Less was an experiment about me eliminating things (stuff, ideas, baggage, people, burdens, etc.) from my life. Anytime in life I’ve felt overwhelmed, I found respite through subtraction rather than addition. This post is a recap of me intentionally eliminating things from my life and the affects of this experiment on my life.

30 Days of Less recap

The first thing you need to know about this challenge was that it took me 60 days instead of 30. I didn’t discipline myself to stay the course for 30 consecutive days. The plan was to eliminate something every day for 30 days. Instead, I eliminated something (roughly) every other day for 60 days. Same outcome, just a longer runway.

I won’t share the entire list, but here’s a few examples:

  • Desk/closet clutter
  • Books I didn’t want/will never open again
  • Clothes/shoes
  • People who were not influencing me to be a better man
  • Social media accounts/apps
  • Phone contacts
  • Email, podcast, and media subscriptions

Some things were easy to get rid of, i.e. toxic people. But others were harder, like old trophies and clothes that carried warm and fuzzy feelings or had been gifted to me. When I purged, I felt relieved. I like a simple and orderly life and the more stuff you have, the harder it is to be orderly.

The items (clothes, books, clutter) that were removed made my little beach hut more manageable. The people who were removed made it less stressful – fewer faces to please. The social media and phone-related things I removed cleared out room for me to live more in the present. Overall, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders every time I got rid of something.

The Blazer – An Example

Since this experiment lasted longer than anticipated, I got into the mind-set of elimination and it felt like a daily commitment I had to keep – which wasn’t a bad thing. I was in Kansas City for a work function and I didn’t pack accordingly. I needed a suit jacket to stay warm and the local H&M had a nice sale. I purchased the blazer but kept the receipt in case it didn’t fit. Because I’m nearly the exact build as a mannequin, it fit perfectly and it performed its necessary duties.

But, as I was packing to go home, I realized I was leaving more than I came with. I’d eventually have to add this new coat to my wardrobe and I already had plenty of blazers. Another couldn’t hurt, but it wasn’t going to help, either. If I kept it, I’d likely go out of my way to wear it again that year. But the most it would get worn was twice. I had to ask myself if it was worth me adding to my life.

I returned it and I’m thrilled with the decision. It’s been months since that trip and I can count the times on one hand that I’ve worn blazers since. It wasn’t about the money or the extra garment in the closet, it was about the space in my life. I heard a term for this type of behavior from a TED Talk after this episode.

Ruthlessly Edit Your Life

This brief TED Talk does a much better job of describing my thoughts. The speaker’s takeaways to live a simpler life are:

  1. Edit ruthlessly
  2. Think small
  3. Make multifunctional

He was mostly talking about furniture and living spaces, but I agree with these rules. I’ve found myself editing everything I own. I ask myself, “Do I really need this?” and “What can I get rid of if I add this new thing to my life?” or “Does/will this bring me joy?”

I was recently given a pack of dress socks for Christmas. They were nice and I appreciated the gift, but I was never going to wear them. They didn’t even come out of the pack, straight to the Goodwill pile. I’ve begun to think harder on why I keep the things that come into my life.

I thought I’d miss some of the people I cut out. I don’t. I thought I’d have a need for some of the clothes I tossed. I haven’t. I thought I’d be bored without some of the apps and lists I unsubscribed from. I’m not.

Instead of filling the empty space with more things that aren’t important, I fill them with engagement, eye contact, or genuine interest in the conversations happening around me. The seconds I used to spend staring at stupid smartphone apps are often spent reading or observing the world around me.

Christmas recently came and went and I found myself ruthlessly editing my life. I evaluated things as I received them: did I need that? do I want another one of those? is that useful? I kept some things, sure. But I tried to remove something if I added anything. And some things, like the socks, simply passed through my hands like sand through a sieve.

At the end of my experiment, I have less and I’m happier. But more importantly, I’ve instilled an attitude of questioning the things that come into my life. There will always be a need for purges, like this 30-day experiment. But if I ruthlessly edit with regularity, I will be able to live with less and be happier doing it.

30 Days of Less

30 days of less - minimalism

Backstory

I  haven’t written in a while. My life has been busy. Before you let me off the hook for a lame excuse, you should know that I hate the idea of “busy.” Since I made the move to Florida from South Carolina, I’ve been trying to figure life out. There have been many changes and not all of them for the better. Some aspects of life have been stressful.

I used to be forced to live minimally – I lived in a 900 square ft apartment with another person and I was freelancing just enough to pay my bills. I didn’t need much, life was simpler. Since I moved, I am making a steady income and I now have a larger place all to myself. By most accounts, I have more now than I did a year and a half ago.

But, I don’t want more. I want a life of less. One of my favorite quotes, a quote I try to live by, is by an industrial designer named Dieter Rams:

“Less but better.”

A few weeks ago I started realizing that I had too much: too much stuff, too many people, too many obligations, too many aspirations. I remembered my life of less and I became nostalgic for a life more simple.

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2016 Year In Review/Contributing in 2017

Every year I take some time to reflect on the previous 365 days’ events. The good, the bad, and the weird. 2016 was one for the books! I set personal records, I moved back to my hometown (for the time being), ended my strategically unemployed streak, and more.

It wasn’t all great, I had my dark moments. In fact, I had many depressing days and nights in 2016. I had to go back and revisit the photo album in my phone to remind myself of all that happened this year that was positive (priceless memories with friends/family, traveling to TONS of new cities, playing Pokemon, selling my house, speaking to a graduating class, and more).

Bottom line: it wasn’t all good and it wasn’t all bad. It was another year. Another year I wasn’t promised. Another year I didn’t waste. Another year I grew – though maybe not as much as I would have wished.

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2017 Reading List

It’s no secret that I love to read (and listen to) books. I do my best to gift books, especially to the children in my life, as often as possible. And since it’s that time of year when everyone is buying presents, I thought I’d share some potential gift ideas.

A number of my favorite authors have sent me lists like this and I thought you might like the same from me. I’ve compiled my highlights from 2017 with a few bonuses, most of which can still arrive before Christmas thanks to Amazon Prime.

My reading is slanted toward business/non-fiction books, but I’ve found myself getting into fiction as I get older and I’m not mad about it one bit. I’ll start there 🙂

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Retrospective Training: Start Taking Notes (now)

The company I work for has accomplished a ton since inception just shy of five years ago. This year we’ll eclipse $100M in revenue and we’re continuing to grow at a rapid pace. But our onboarding process, particularly in the sales department, is lacking. It’s what most would call a “sink or swim” environment.

This isn’t a problem, except that the hiring doesn’t always match the training program. Because of this, I’ve been thinking extensively about training programs. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his (excellent, thought-provoking) book Antifragile: training doesn’t precede success.

First, comes success. Then, comes a theory about how said success was achieved. Finally, a training program is built around these ideas. Again, not a problem, just how time works.

There is a problem with waiting years to analyze success though, you’re opened up to things that skew the facts such as survivorship bias and the halo effect. If no one is studying how prosperity was attained, than there is no blueprint from which to train new hires. Sometimes companies are moving too fast to take notes on what’s happening. They’re focused on the next sale, the next deal, the next merger, the next acquisition, the next milestone…

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Who To Hire

Generally speaking, you can hire two types of people:

  1. Those who can hit the ground running
  2. Those you need to train

If you go with the former, you’ll pay them more up front and you’ll typically get fast results. You won’t need to invest as much in training, but you will have to invest in recruiting. After all, rock starts don’t just show up at your front door asking for a job (if they did, they’re probably not a rock stars).

If you go with the latter, you’ll save money up front on salary. But you should invest in a robust, ongoing training program. Over the long-term, this cost can add up. Then again, investing in your people has never been a bad idea.

College football coaches know this idea well. They can sign high school players with four years of eligibility who may need a year or two to develop OR they can sign a junior college player who is expected to step in and contribute on the first day. Scholarships are limited, so there is an opportunity cost.

This isn’t rocked surgery, it’s common sense. The organizations that ask themselves who they’re hiring and how to train them are the ones who will succeed in the long-term. If you haven’t slowed down to ask yourself these questions, it’s worth the thought exercise. Find your organizations sweet spot and be intentional about your hiring and training programs.

Study Group Invite: “Under Our Skin” by Benjamin Watson

Preface

Stepping out on a limb is dangerous. It lets people know where you stand. All eyes are on you because you’re exposed. When you’re exposed, ancestrally speaking, you’re vulnerable. When you step out on a limb there’s a real threat of vulnerability: you could fall off, it could break, you could publicly fail, or sadly, you may succeed and be scrutinized you didn’t do it better.

When you lead, you run the risk of looking foolish. Sometimes nobody follows. Sometimes you take people to the wrong place. But its destination often takes care of itself if the movement is justified.

Followers don’t have it any easier. In fact, the first follower is the one who makes the leader a leader. As a follower, you have to accept risk. But you also accept responsibility to keep the leader accountable to you and any other followers that may join.

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Using Strategic Constraints To Make Progress

strategic constraints

I had four months until I was broke. I sat up straight, removed my glasses to rub my eyes, and stared at the wall ahead. There was nothing left to determine from the Excel spreadsheet on my computer.

I was evaluating my finances to determine if I could quit my job.

I wanted to focus on finishing my book, but needed more hours in each day. I realized the week prior that there was too much to do, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the book by my self-imposed deadline unless something changed. I couldn’t work, coach, and finish the book. Coaching was temporary and I justified it by telling myself that it helped inspire me to write. Work had been a means to pay the bills while I focused on the writing. If I had enough to get through publishing, which should take about three more months, I could walk away.

I replaced my spectacles and began planning my denouement at work with impatience. I had no choice but to publish on time.

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