Monday, December 12, 2011

An Elegant Methodology

About 20 years ago, a friend of mine told me about a “time management” course to which her company had been planning to send her. At the last moment, a work related issue came up and she was unable to attend. Instead of rescheduling, her boss bought her the 8-hour seminar on tape. My friend was fairly busy and somewhat scattered (as you can infer) and the tapes sat, unopened on her dresser gathering dust. At some point she lent me the package and effectively changed my life forever…

At the time the company producing the seminar was known as FranklinQuest, so named because the company’s founder, Hyrum Smith, had been inspired by the writings of Benjamin Franklin. On its surface, the program was pitched as a time management system, providing a methodology for prioritizing and tracking deliverables. In reality, it was much more. As I listened to the tapes, Hyrum (it was his voice) explained that the only way to be truly successful was to prioritize our daily tasks based on our ultimate values. He suggested that by using our values as an organizing principle, we could effectively create the lives we wanted to live.

Basically, his deceptively simple approach involved setting up complex long terms goals based on what was personally important to us as individuals. Each of these goals would then be broken out into smaller mid-term and short-term goals. As you organized each day, you would review the short-term goals for that week. At the beginning of each week you would set the short-term goals based on the mid-term goals and so forth. This way, in the exact moment of action, in what I refer to as the power-point, you would be engaging in the task that was most closely in line with your values and most likely to bring you incrementally closer to your ultimate objective. If a task showed up on the list that was not part of this structure, then you would need to re-evaluate its importance to you and determine if it was actually appropriate. 

While bringing this to the forefront of our awareness may be revolutionary, the process is fairly straight-forward. In fact, most of us tend to do it already. If you examine your life, you will see that it tends to be the embodiment of an assortment of your strengths and weaknesses. The parts of your life that are going well are expressions of where you “already have yourself” and the parts that aren't… well, aren't. This is not random. Neither however is it set in stone.

Much of what functions as our belief systems (positive and negative) are remnants of childhood lessons and experiences; ideas that we reflexively adopted from our parents or from the environment around us. Some of these “values” were installed accidentally and do not serve us. Others were fine for a time but have since become outdated or are no longer useful. We are all familiar with Robert Fulghum’s prose-poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. This may indeed be true, but there was also a mess of stuff that I learned in Kindergarten that I would do well to surrender. Like, watching hours upon hours of TV when I was bored or sucking on a bottle if I was upset.

Unfortunately, without taking time to DECIDE (and really understand) what values we are choosing to have, many of us continue to operate on these pre-programmed or reactionary positions.

Successfully navigating the CEO Zone involves awarely deciding what is important to us, what we cherish, what we value, and organizing our lives as expressions of those values. Some people might refer to this as “living with intention.”

The basis of Intentional Living then involves identifying and exploring the values we choose to have and then projecting our intelligences far out into the future, imagining what our lives would look like if we were able to organize them solely from the perspective of what is most important. From there, we slowly bring that focus back to the present and in doing so develop a plan to get from where we are now to where we want to be.

There are various ways to engage in this process. I use writing and some peer-based counseling exercises. Others find that meditation, yoga, creative visualization, certain kinds of martial arts, or prayer also work.

Whatever method you choose to adopt or experiment with, consciously or intentionally choosing your value system (and rejecting the pre-conceived or no longer useful perspectives) is immensely powerful and will make realizing your goals both more likely and more fulfilling.

From the Zone…


Note: In 1993, Hyrum merged his business with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author, Stephen Covey’s group and it is now known as FranklinCovey.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Note to self (I)


On December 28, 2011 I will turn 43 (now)
On December 28, 2016 I will turn 48 (5 year horizon)
On December 28, 2021 I will turn 53 (10 year horizon)
On December 28, 2036 I will turn 68 (25 year horizon)

Kaizen: The art of creating massive change via incremental steps.

Law of Possibilities: Given enough time and tenacity, it is possible to accomplish anything.

Happiness: Having the opportunity to pursue a set of goals of one’s own choosing (Aristotle, paraphrased… obviously.)

Actually, I am not sure if Aristotle wrote that. But I still like the way it sounds. [Goal: read The Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World's Classics)]

Love: Being loved by others is an important as drinking water. Loving others is as important as breathing air. (H.J.)

Decisions to be Made…

I am at a fork in the road.
The pull for comfort.
A nap. Some TV. Ice cream and cookies.
Humiliation, frustration, depression, disappointment.
Or a harder choice.
Decisions to be made. Energy to be spent. 
Exercise. Bicycling uphill into a headwind. Pushing past endurance.
Creativity. Potential. Success.
A nap would be so nice…

On measuring success…

Success is not measured against the immediate. It is accumulated over time. It is a view observed from a distance, where the day-to-day struggles, failings, flip-flops, confusions, mistakes, and seemingly endless flow of regrettable stupidities, smoothed out by the curve, are too small to be seen. Success is a flow of life, energy and commitment that moves with us as we evolve into our true selves.

There will be struggles. There will be setbacks. Of course this will happen. This is uncharted territory. There is no map of where we are going. The important perspective to hold onto is that if we journey with integrity, and we hold onto our vision, even if that vision is forever in flux, then the challenges need not derail us. They are just interesting opportunities to learn, grow and course correct.

From the Zone…


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Raison d'ĂȘtre…

Ten years ago I moved back to NYC. I had seven thousand dollars in the bank, a solid resume (or so I thought) and a plan.

The plan took the form of a 15-page manifesto called “What’s Important.” It provided, in explicit detail, what I wanted to accomplish over the upcoming decade. It explored my values, set goals and defined milestones. Writing it had helped me to define what kind of person I wanted to be and what kind of life I wanted to live. It provided context and clarity. It helped me to focus my efforts and make choices when faced with competing alternatives. Most importantly, it was a living, breathing document that I could (and did) update regularly. It changed as I changed, in sync with my evolution.

I am now approaching the official end of my 10-year plan. A survey of that document reveals that I have accomplished a great deal. Certainly, the past 4 years have been momentous. I fell in love, completed a second graduate degree, put significant attention on managing my career, got a new job and then spent the past year getting good at it. Prior to that I focused on getting into really good physical shape, running marathons, participating in triathlons, building a large social network. And while my 10-year plan did not accurately foresee every single activity I would engage in, it did define a desired long-term trend: a tone and framework that I have established for my relationships, my career, my creativity.

I am also painfully aware of all of the things that I did not accomplish but might could’ve if I had just: used a small portion of my time and energy with a little bit more efficiency; been able to take a firmer stand against my addictions; been able to exercise a bit more willpower/initiative/restraint/courage/humility.

As I approach my 43rd birthday, I find myself entering a new stage of my life and am ready to develop a new plan of action. I have been referring to this new phase as “the CEO Zone.”

I have had 43 years to learn about myself and the world around me. I have obtained an education and developed valuable skills. I have resources and maturity. There is still a great deal to learn, of course, and I am open to that. But I believe that the focus of this phase is about implementation and action. I am thinking that my personal CEO Zone should last about 25 years; from now until my 68th birthday, when I suppose it will be time to begin some other phase.   

A year ago, when I was looking for a new job, I did an experiment that I called: The Unemployment Micro Blog. Every morning, I would update my Facebook status to review my plans for the day as I pursued this effort. Folks seemed to enjoy reading it and being in touch with people provided a foundation of hope as I worked toward a challenging goal.

The CEO Zone is a significantly larger project. One that I want to keep a record of and track my progress along. So, I am going to do some of it as a blog. I tend to understand things better when I write about them, so blogging it seems a useful activity. I am not planning for this to be a “kiss and tell” or an accounting of my most private personal moments, but I think that the process that I use to set and accomplish goals is interesting and will be worth writing about and sharing.

From the Zone…