3 Ways To Ensure You Live Life To The Full

Picture of Jet Engine Over The Sea
Conscious, Thankful, Forgiving, How to Live Regret Free

I listened to BJ Miller in his TED TalkWhat Really Matters At the End of Life“, then again in a podcast interview recently. As someone who has witnessed over 1000 deaths, he is arguably one of the best people to share what makes a good life from those at the end of theirs.

[ted id=2325]

We've all read the poem(s) about 'If I Had My LIfe Over – I'd Eat More Ice Cream.” It seems the earliest attribution is to Nadine Stair at age 85.

If I had my life to live over, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I'm one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I've been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

And it is a truth that: “No-one on their deathbed ever wished they'd spent more time at the office.”

Actually I'm not sure I know anyone who wishes they spent more time at the office, deathbed or no. One of the responses you never get when you ask people what they enjoy doing, is spending (any) time at the office. But I digress.

I really like BJ's more nuanced response.

I like it because our lives aren't all on a timeline towards a tidy deathbed in twilight years. Death is a mere car accident away. BJ's response is one that allows us to live a full life, whether it ends tomorrow or 70 years hence. (Or if you're a transhumanist, never.)

Unfortunately most of us don't live a full life. Most of the people I know at best end up in a 'Ground Hog Day' type of grind, at worst are bitter.

And you don't get to live it again.

So how do you live that regret free life?

1. Make Conscious Decisions

You have agency…

…Societal pressure, peer pressure, your parents, your spouse/partner, your job, succumbing to any of these is a choice. Ultimately you either make decisions, or they are made for you. But pretty much everything that describes our life is a man-made construct.

So be conscious about your decisions. Think about how you spend your time, your money. A very simple rule of thumb I've found is “you can make the right decision, or the easy decision.”

If it's a tough decision, because there are many right choices, make the decision that increases your opportunity to enjoy deep relationships and give to others. If that doesn't help, toss a coin and follow your emotional response to the toss. Commit to making this the best decision.

This isn't only valid for the big life decisions: Vocation, Location, or Life Relationship; but the little ones too. Consciously choose the farthest car park so you can increase your walking. Consciously pay for coffee to brighten someone else's day. Consciously tithe and give to charity. Consciously choose the bedtime story over the sales proposal.

As far as possible, don't default to automatic decisions, but be conscious.

2. Live in Gratitude

This morning I commented on Instagram about having to fly in economy, so chose the exit row. My daughter teasingly reminded me this was a #FirstWorldProblem. Indeed she's right. I don't have to fly, I get to.

There is so much to be thankful for. Even the painful gout that reminds me every single step: I can walk, I have shoes, I'm alive. (Much better than the alternative)

Write down every night 3 things you're thankful for. Send a thank-you card to someone every week. Thank the people that serve you, no matter how little they do.

Thank them by name.

Thank your God, or the universe, for the simplest flower, the sunset, the rain. For the incredible times we live in where we can access the wisdom of people throughout the ages in an instant.

When you're tempted to criticise, or complain, be thankful instead. The richest people are not those with the most money, but those who're most thankful for what (& whom) they have.

3. Forgive

Resentment, anger, rage, disappointment these are all cancers that eat you. Rarely the other person even after revenge. The worst is when they're directed at yourself.

This doesn't only make you into a bitter person at the end of your life, but throughout your life. And not only socially, but physiologically. In my late twenties I had Ulcerative Colitis, an auto-immune disease, that is largely exacerbated, if not triggered, by stress. That stress was in a large part due to my inability to forgive.

Acknowledge hurt.

Forgive.

Let it go.

The End

Whether the end is next week, or in your dotage, if you can get there happy with the path you chose because it was the right path, thankful for the richness of your life, and unfettered by bitterness, yours will have been a good life.

If you get there with deep loving relationships, having given to others, and changed their lives; yours will have been a great life.

You get to choose.

 

What Your Wake Can Teach You About Life.

Yacht Wake
Hardly a ripple, and you're gone (c) RGB Stock

One of the greatest experiences in life is watching the phosphorescence glow ghostly green in the black ocean in the middle of the night. During the day you get to chart your course with the creamy white wake streaming behind you across the circle of blue.

Sailing gives you a perspective that flying across an ocean cannot.

Vastness.

Sheer immensity. Against which, no matter the size of your yacht, you are insignificant.

For days you are the centre of a sphere with sky above & sea below. Once your wake reaches the horizon, your progress is imperceptible on an hourly, or even daily basis.

In the vastness of the ocean your presence is indicated by your wake. Perhaps it's massive, creating waves of its own; or a mere ripple hardly noticeable in the maelstrom.

Just like life.

3 thoughts from sailing an ocean that have helped me gain perspective on life.

1. Little changes in course have a big impact later.

Just because of the scale of the journey, a percentage of a degree lands you at a totally different destination. This is exacerbated by different climates, weather systems, and others you meet along the way.

Make the hard choices, not the easy ones. The smallest decision you make literally changes the course of your life.

2. Your wake affects others.

Either constructively or destructively.

It is up to you to grow, then position yourself, so you can support others nearby. Learn how to compound the effect of your influence, with others, with the environment.

If nothing else, be a guide for those coming behind you. But also realise that you are a guide for those coming behind. Be the best guide you can be.

3. Your wake fades away once you've passed.

So does everyone elses. That's as it should be.

No matter the size, it's impossible to determine from the ocean the boats that sailed passed yesterday.

This may help you 'get over your self.'

It should also help you treat everyone with the respect, and lack of adulation, they deserve. 🙂

 

Even if Life Isn’t Short, There’s No Plan ‘B’.

I really enjoyed Tim Urban's TED talk “Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator” (Please watch prior to my spoilers below)

[ted id=2458]

I took a long hard look at my 90 years of weeks.

A 90 year life in weeks
Roger's 90 year life in weeks
  • Yellow marks pre-school,
  • Green any learning when I wasn't earning – so school and programming college
  • Blue are the two years in the Air Force
  • Purple are the two years volunteering for Baptist Youth
  • Red is the time I travelled with no set agenda (I've done a lot more travel for work and pleasure)
  • Grey is all the time I've been in full-time paid employment

Urgency

When you look at the number of weeks left, there aren't that many for me to see more places, learn new skills, enjoy deep relationships, create more art, teach others, and change the world.

So there's a sense of urgency to do all of those things that make a life worth living before procrastinating too long then not being able to.

Deadline Party

One of the best ways I've seen to do that is a Deadline Party.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOM7m_E-cHk&w=800&h=480]

There is exactly 6 months to my 49th birthday, and I've decided to do exactly that, have a deadline party with my friends. Where we commit, support, and hold each other accountable to achieve a life goal in the company of good friends, with fun, song, food, and wine.

My goal for this first Deadline Party is to play the song below on the bagpipes:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOO5qRjVFLw&w=800&h=480]

What are you going to accomplish?

 

The 39 Pivotal Books That Shaped My Career

The 39 Pivotal Books That Shaped My Career

I am an avid reader. One might say ravenous. There are very few nights that I don’t read for 30 minutes prior to going to sleep. So in the 44+ years I’ve been reading, you might imagine there’s a fertile ground for some pearls. There’s also plenty of room for manure. Such is Pareto’s Principle.

Here then are the 39 books that have shaped my career, some fiction, most non, in alphabetical order so as not to prejudice any particular merit judgement. They are all worth a read.

1. 1984 By George Orwell

I cannot thank the Eastern Cape Education Department enough for making this one of our texts for my matric exams (in 1984.) I keep coming back to this book. From a statement about communism and it’s effect on economy during my younger years, to the surveillance nations of today, we have a lot to learn from this novel published in 1948. More recently Room 101 is playing on me as a business opportunity…

2. The Back Of The Napkin by Dan Roam

“Any problem can be solved, and any product sold, using simple pictures.” This is the premise behind this deceptively simple book. This will lead you to vomit crap powerpoint on customers less, and whiteboard more. The methodology behind the principle is rich. You don’t need to be able to draw more than a circle, a line, and basic geometry. Then you’ll learn how we see, and using this knowledge, along with your knowledge of your customer, be able to draw relevant pictures to solve problems and sell yourself. Invaluable. There is a follow on book, but if you get the principles from this book, that one is just practice.

3. Beyond Bulletpoints by Cliff Atkinson

Finally someone who understands that big business runs on Powerpoint (and Excel) and has a practical methodology (and macros) to use those tools and create a presentation like a movie script. Your presentations will never be the same, nor will they have bulletpoints, ever again.

4. The Bible

From the tragedy of Job and eroticism of Song of Solomon, to the laments and ectacies of Psalms and truths of Proverbs. The practicality of James, to the promise of Romans and Ephesians. The empathy in Corinthians. The leadership of Nehemiah and the courage of Esther. The immutable laws of the universe come alive through the stories of very real men and women. Start with the gospels.

5. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Most of our decisions are made in the blink of an eye. Moreover, we can demonstrably measure decisions in our body prior to conscious thought. A fascinating look at decision making, both to support our own decisions, as well as helping others make theirs.

6. Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull

What an amazing book. Written by someone who strategically went beyond the common wisdom to create about the most creative company out there, Pixar. Great lessons in humility, empathy, collaboration, authenticity, and the truth’s that “your baby is always ugly,” and “there is no individual genius.” Just how do you capture serendipity?

7. Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High by Joseph Grenny and Kerry Patterson

WHERE was this book for the first half of my career? (And marriage?) Turns out that those who cut through conflict, drive consensus, and never get cross, all use tools. A technique. You can learn that too… …and should.

8. Drive, the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

If you work for a manager that believes monetary rewards and punishments are what motivates people, you work for someone whom a) hasn’t read this book and b) is stuck in the industrial age. If you are someone who motivates people, like your children, team, youth group by extrinsic rewards, you haven’t a) read this book and b) are stuck…. The book draws from studies commissioned by the US Federal Reserve amongst others, and will forever change the way you approach motivation. Gold.

9. Eagle in the Sky by Wilbur Smith

Beauty and the beast, a story of redemption for the irredeemable. The truth of loyalty in Love, in camaraderie, in patriotism. The split second that rewrites your life, and the sight you can only get through blindness. Searingly beautiful, his second best work.

10. The E-Myth by Daniel Gerber

Holy crap! Every person who is tired of working for “the man” and believes they can charge less on their own, and earn more, because they don’t have the diseconomies of the business, needs to read this. As does every start-up entrepreneur. Every small business owner. Every contractor. Every consultant. If you provide services to customers, you would do well to read this. Understand how to automate processes to become a turn-key ‘business’, understand the three roles in every small business, understand your strengths and how to delegate your weaknesses. Understand how to work on your business, rather than in your business.

11. First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham

What separates great managers from good managers? This book lays it out for you. Getting your team to answer just 6 questions will give you insights into their engagement, directly correlated with their happiness, your customers’ happiness, their productivity, and your management. I read this shortly after becoming a manager at Microsoft and it changed my life… …and those of my team.

12. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Have you ever had the fortune to be part of a great team? One where you held each other accountable? Where you could argue ferociously about something because it was a safe environment? Where your team mates sacrificed early mornings, late nights, and individual recognition to achieve a common outcome? Few of us have. This disarming allegory gently opens up the truth of great teams, and allows you the opportunity to build one.

13. The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Essential reading. It shows how the average person can benefit from labour arbitrage in the same way that a large corporation can. It identifies how you can outsource or automate all of the tasks that take you away from doing what you love to do. Be careful because you may just quit your job and start a lifestyle business. Which would be awesome. And no, there’s no such thing as the four hour workweek, this is a good title that has been tested for effectiveness. Now, a brand. (Don’t read this before Maverick)

14. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Get everything by DA, but this is the original. Turns your beliefs on their head. Makes you question, then understand the real reason people make decisions. Pokes fun at religion, belief, itself, and if nothing else this will make you laugh until your sides hurt. The answer is ’42’ (now you know)

15. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Wisdom from 1936. Although the examples are horribly dated, and written in a vastly different world, the principles remain the same. I don’t care what career you’re in, apply the lessons from this book to succeed. Oh and no-one is born with the ability to speak, or learn names. Everyone is born terrible with names. Learn to remember, and use people’s names.

16. Influence, the Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

There are 6 unconscious principles of persuasion. If you’re not aware of them, people are influencing you unawares, and your influence is unlikely to be more than average. If you are aware of them, you are in a much better position to be the most effective negotiator, educator, manager, parent, sales person, leader, aid worker, carer, pastor, facilitator, person that you can be.

17. In the Line of Fire, Answering Tough Questions When It Counts by Jerry Weissman

This is the second book by Jerry that you should read. Drawing examples from presidential debates, both successful and disaster, he guides you on the principles of successfully answering questions. Hostile questions, leading questions, ruse questions, and that worst of all, the rambling, going nowhere, 3 questions in one question.

18. Irrationally Predictable by Dan Ariely

Brilliance from one of social psychology’s foremost professors. No-one makes a rational decision. Also we all cheat and lie far more than we even admit to ourselves. Even know ourselves. Understanding this behaviour is another arrow in your bow of persuasion.

19. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Drawing lessons from Lean manufacturing, this book shares principles good not only for startups, but for your life.

20. Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

What’s not to love about this story? Raw, vulnerable, relatively honest, and entirely irreverend. Here is a man who has build corporations dismantling the establishment. He became a billionnaire the hard way, before the power of Moore’s Law, computers, and the Internet. “Screw it, let’s do it!” Great mantra.

21. Macbeth

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Is it predestination, or will. This is a fantastic expose of loyalty, leadership, and choices that we would do well to heed today.

22. Maverick by Ricardo Semler

GET THIS BOOK!! It will change your perspective on management, valuable processes (few) and wastes of time (many), (dis)economies of scale, status, hiring, competition, redundancies, and a whole lot more. If you read one book from this list, this is that book.

23. The Martian by Andy Weir

Just how resourceful do you really believe you are? “I’m going to science the shit out of this.” Until you’re seriously up shit creek without a paddle, how would you ever know? Prioritise, then solve one problem at a time. Do it with a laugh at yourself.

24. The New Strategic Selling by Robert B. Miller et al

This is crucial for anyone new to strategic selling. If you don’t know the difference between the economic buyer, the user buyer, or the technical buyer you need this book. If you contribute to proposals, RFI’s, RFP’s, or any large sale you need to read this book.

25. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

This book was both explanatory and liberating. If you’ve ever wondered why some people with similar or perhaps even less talent than you succeed, this book will open your eyes to the myriad components to success. From your birth date (true story), to location, parents, culture, talent, the “10,000 hour rule” and more. It explains so much, but don’t use it as an excuse, rather be liberated that you too can succeed at whatever you want. Chances are what you want is reflective of all of the components to success in your life.

26. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

If this doesn’t set you free, and radically change every aspect of your life, perhaps you’re more cynical than is healthy. Accept the now, experience the now, understand the power of now. I’ve just finished this book and already seen the impact on my life. You will too.

27. Presenting to Win, the Art of Telling Your Story by Jerry Weissman

Here’s a man who taught president-elects how to handle media engagements, then taught CEO’s how to pitch in their IPO roadshows. If there’s someone who knows a thing or two about presentations, this is that man. We all present, sometimes formally, sometimes informally, but we all present every day. This book is gold.

28. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Still working on these, but yes, if you can think Win:Win, Begin with the End in Mind, Sharpen the Saw and all the others, you too will be highly effective. This is one of the original self-help books, and still one of the best.

29. Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell

Actually any of the Richard Sharpe stories will do. Lessons in simplicity, authenticity, transparency, and strategy in leadership. History brought to life vividly.

30. Show And Tell by Dan Roam

Another one by Dan, and this one is for all those that want to put presentations together without the time investment, or design training from the methodologies proposed by Nancy Duarte, or Cliff Atkinson. Four very simple approaches to your presentation depending on your audience. The PUMA method will revolutionise putting together a presentation in a flash.

31. Slide-ology by Nancy Duarte

Presentation magic from the consulting company that created Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” world changing movie. The narrative, underscored by compelling visuals, and the amount of preparation it really takes to achieve an outcome in a presentation are all lessons from this beautiful book

32. A Sparrow Falls by Wilbur Smith

Book four in the original Courtney series. “Real men don’t earn salaries, real men pay salaries.” Storm Courtney. Powerful stuff.

33. The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith

I Love most of Wilbur Smith’s writing. He broke me into adult fiction at 12, and at 15 I read this great novel. A leonine leader, a hunchback prophet, a torn seductress, and a fierce antagonist. Told over two great timescales this taught me that you can be betrayed by everything, your friends, your Love, your God and still prevail. In fact you must still prevail.

34. Theseus and Ariadne by Catullus

Another gem from school. The bard plagiarised horribly from here to write Romeo and Juliette. Already a retelling of the Greek myth by a Roman author, this story of illicit love leading to tragedy is probably wired into our DNA.

35. To Kill A Mockingbird by Lee Harper

Another classic you probably read at school. This book is so much more than an anti-racist statement. It talks to the game people play, influence, presence, and courage. The lessons learned in when to speak and what to say I’m still learning.

36. The Trusted Advisor by David Maister et al

Whoever would have thought you could factorise trust. But there it is T=(C+R+I)/SO. Once you understand this concept, you move from consultant to Trusted Advisor. And whether you’re a parent, teacher, car saleswoman, or technology consultant, being the Trusted Advisor is where you want to be. This book is mandatory reading.

37. Unleash The Power Within: Personal Coaching to Transform Your Life by Tony Robbins

Ok, hold the cynicism until you’ve read, or at least started, this book. I found it transformative from page one. Learn the surprising limiting beliefs holding you back, and how to remove them. Draws from psychology, NLP, religion, and experience with over 300 million people from cultures all over the world. There is a reason that world leaders, captains of business, olympic sports people and others turn to Tony when it counts. Can you be that world leader too? Yes, but see Outliers above too.

38. The Way of Conflict by Deidre Combs

This book came at a dark time in my life and turned on a lightbulb. “If you know the enemy you know yourself, the victory will not stand in doubt. If you know heaven and know earth, you may make your victory complete.” Sun Tzu. This book allows you to know yourself, the (conflict partner) enemy, heaven and earth. It draws on elemental wisdom (earth, water, fire, air), psychology, and religion to help you move people along the path of conflict (or negotiation, education etc) When you are stuck because your good people skills don’t work all of the time, this is the book you need to shine the light.

39. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

What is the one thing you believe which everyone else considers insanity? I believe that you can get engaged on your first date and have a successful marriage. This book steps through object lessons in what it takes to move from zero to one. From no idea, no staff, no funding, no business, to a fully formed, performing one. I listened to this, but plan to read it too.

Read.

I had no idea there were so many, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. But each of these books changed me in some way. Small, and large ways. Isn’t it amazing that we can summarise the wisdom of the ages, and the insight of genius, into an accessible, consumable format. The book.

There is so much to learn. Any one of these books may affect you. Read just one perhaps.

What are the books that shaped your career? Your life?