Are you Standing on a Mountain of Happiness?

Before we get into the last article of 2017, I want to acknowledge a little faux pas. If you're on the subscription list, you've recently received some rogue emails. I'm really sorry about this; Squarespace did some updates, and... you don't care about the details. Just know that I believe in a curated inbox, and it is a privilege for you to trust me with your email address. So I apologize and thank you for being patient. Now, onto today...

Last week, I was frantically searching for some notes, which I precisely remember writing last year. I can tell you exactly where in London I was sitting when I wrote them and even my mood at the time. However, this is doing me little good, as I cannot remember the precise notebook in which I wrote them.

I began my search for said-notes with a stack of old work notebooks. No luck. Next, I attacked a pile papers, containing business model sketches and ideas that I'd scribbled down during lectures in Paris. No luck there either.

I never found the tax calculations that I was looking for, but I did find something else... 

Traveler48.jpg

Brainstorming, financial projections, and objective analyses, written by my 2016-self. They all pointed to one thing: a compelling argument (trying to convince myself), of why it was time to create a new professional beginning. Seeing these notes a year later - and revisiting the emotional state I was in then - compared to now - made me want to throw up, laugh, and cry. 

 

The next day got me even more uncomfortable, as I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Tim Urban. During the interview (starting at 55:47, if you're interested), they discussed a topic that cut right to the heart of my discomfort: searching for happiness.

Tim Urban argues that motivated people constantly seek accomplishments, physical objects, idealized spiritual states, etc. Basically, the next thing. Those of us who are ambitious want and do more; so we set goals, take action, and then acquire these targets.

The downside? We fall into cycles where we're never happy. We build "mountains" of things, literally and philosophically; stand on top of our mountains; and then make the mistake that continues pushing happiness just out of our reach: we keep looking up.

Without glancing down once in awhile to internalize what we've already built, accomplished, and acquired, we keep our eyes fixed upward and neglect the mountain on which we're already standing - the mountain that we thought would make us happy in the first place. We keep looking for the "more." The "what's next?" The "when I get to x, I'll be happy." Our skyward expectations increase, and our current mountain of reality suddenly doesn't mean so much. 

 

Tim Ferris says that discontent (the inverse of happiness) can be metaphorically quantified by this equation:

Discontent = expectations - reality

If our expectations increase, and our reality doesn't increase at the same cadence, our discontent increases, and you can assume that happiness decreases.

 

Which - is all nice and philosophical. But how does it connect to my new career scribbles and confused emotions, as I revisited them?

I've noticed over the past couple years that all my yoga and meditation haven't been enough to fight a daily personal battle: I am seriously fixated on "what's next?" Every single day (this is not an exaggeration), I struggle to see, feel, and appreciate the mountain I've already built. The one on which I'm standing right now.

One short year ago, my current reality was my "sky of expectations." And in the past year, I have made gigantic leaps toward capturing this next thing; it's everything I said I was going to do in that pile of papers. I'm standing on this mountain, but yet again, I'm back in the vicious cycle of already obsessing over the new sky. (And case you're wondering, this makes me an exceptional business hire, yet a very demanding and difficult wife).

 

So I'd like to end 2017 with you by acknowledging the mountain on which I'm standing. It's not a brag (please don't hear it that way). It's an effort to pause, look down at what I'm building, and be proud, content, and happy. This also allows me to tell you that when we speak again in January, this site will look completely different: new brand, refreshed style, and evolving content, as I kick off a new phase of my career.

 

And in turn, I'd like to ask you (yes, you): what have you done in 2017 that you're happy about? It can be big or small, professional or personal. I'd like to encourage all of us (holding up the mirror!) to acknowledge and find happiness in the mountain on which we stand today before we look up and ahead to the expectations of 2018. 

 

PS - Do you think that 2017 was a fulcrum year?

 

 

Art from Walter Martin + Paloma Munoz (on display at Cheekwood Gardens if you're in Nashville)

Posted on December 18, 2017 and filed under Personal.

There's One Holiday Gift That's Perfect for All Your Colleagues

Each year around this time, bloggers put out their holiday gift guides. And when I say "around this time," I actually mean a few weeks ago. So, if you've already done your shopping, I both applaud and strongly dislike you.

Others' guides typically have dozens of gift ideas, and in the past, I'd presented many options too. But this year, all the decisions are too much. My 3 priorities for December have long-ended tails and layers of dependencies. In other words: I'm overwhelmed. So personally, I need less choice, not more. I thought and thought: what could be that one universal gift for any colleague, employee, boss, or client?

And then it came to me.

in the company of women.jpg

If you're a male or trying to buy for a male, your reaction may be, "This is for women."

I'm ashamed to admit it, but this was my reaction too. Which is exactly why this is the perfect gift for everyone in your workplace. Seeing a book cover like this shouldn't feel niche-y or even that it favors one sex over the other. It should feel just plain normal. To everyone.

If you're a female reading, can you imagine a colleague walking over to your office at lunchtime to deliver this present, just as you're taking a break from your reading the latest news release about more forced sex in the workplace? Then, this angel-colleague thanks you for your hard work this year and hands you this. How moved would you be? (And honestly, how much would you go out of your way for him the next time he needs something)?

If you're a male, maybe it'd feel surprising to open this gift from your colleague, boss, or subordinate. But picture this: a few months from now this book is sitting in your office, and it's a conversation piece. Males and females alike want to know why it's in your office, and it's the tipping point for some fascinating discussions and a new level of bonding with your colleagues and clients. Without lifting a finger you've set the tone for your personal brand - that you're inclusive.

For all of us: the more that we see images like this every day, the more we acclimate. It's not different after all. At some point, it feels just plain normal... to be In the Company of Women.

 

P.S. 2016 + 2015 workplace gift ideas

Posted on December 7, 2017 and filed under Tips & Tools.

How to Make Complex Decisions

Hi there. If you're American, I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving and restful long weekend. If you're not, I suggest that you make friends with a U. S. of A.-er. That way, one year from now, you too can participate in a holiday where the only requirement is to eat a lot and watch football. 'Merica.

I'm clearly feeling a little snarky this morning; there still must be a little European residue leftover after our recent trip! 

Of course, the important part about Thanksgiving is the gratitude.

And because of the little break I took last week, I haven't yet made time to say thank you. Over the past month, my articles have gotten a little personal. Although I always try to link them to business, I've been a little mushy during my nostalgic November. So thank you for reading along and the compliments - both in public and private. When you take time to write to me, comment below, or share on social media, I am thankful every single time.

With that said, I want to balance my personal reflections with information that you've requested. So that brings us to today, where I want to talk to you about decision rubrics.

Huh?

I know, I hear it too. It could not sound any dorkier, but hear me out.

woman at desk.jpg

Decision rubrics have become one of my most valuable tools in the office and in life. They are waaaaaaay better than pro/con lists. While pro/con lists are inherently loaded with emotion, the alternative rubric removes emotion and measures what's most important (in a weighted fashion: near and dear to my math-loving heart). Thus, you're guided through sophisticated, complex decision-making.

For example, I used decision rubrics left and right when building a business in London. They helped me make objective recommendations for establishing new partnerships in the market. That way, we didn't default to flip decisions about who to partner with, simply because someone important in the organization was buddies with so-and-so 20 years ago (#boysclub).

And on a personal level, decision rubrics have become one of my most powerful tools when evaluating impactful decisions with clients and for myself. For example, for one client figuring out the next phase of her business, we made one to evaluate what commitments and clients she should part ways with. (And I have to share this because it's so good: once she implemented the results, she decreased her working time by 40%. That's the equivalent of working only three days a week instead of five!) This process allowed her to release her emotional attachment and see the situation objectively.

     

    To get a little vulnerable, I made one a while ago to provide guidelines for my next career phase:

    Career Path Decision Rubric.png

    This example's content may not apply to you; what I really hope you take away is the how:

     

    1. Clarify your question. The example shown here is: "Should I stay at my company, go to company x, or start my own company?"

    This is obviously a drastic personal question, but it can be much more work/project-focused, like "Which service should we eliminate?" or "Which vendor is best suited for this work we need to outsource?"

     

    2. Decide the most important parameters by which to measure your decision, and assign them weights. The most important theme in my next work phase was being in an environment that made me feel like the best version of me. EMPLOYEE RETENTION ISN'T ROCKET SCIENCE, PEOPLE! <Ahem> I digress... :) More specifically, I wanted to learn interesting and future-looking skills, be among creative people, and work in a healthy, supportive environment that make me feel good, physically and mentally.

     

    3. List your options. Are you deciding among taking a job at company 1, 2, or 3? Or, like my client, are you deciding which commitments and clients are most valuable to your business?

     

    4. Assign a numerical value to how each option stacks up against the parameter. For example, when I was considering a new job at my own company, it was in a place where my family did not want to live, so I gave it a 1. At another company, the job was remote. And with launching my own company, I could make any location work - so these two options got 5s.

     

    5. Total the scores for each option. Score x weight.

     

    6. Most importantly <drumroll>... Notice how the results make you feel. 

    Bet you didn't see that coming with all my talk of "make it emotion-less." But this is particularly important if you're making a personal decision. Like in the above, of course I didn't resign the day that I ran these numbers. Obviously, there was more context for such a change.

    One of the greatest benefits about this approach is that it objectively tells you what the answer "should" be. However, that doesn't mean that you should do whatever the model spits out. Maybe your gut screams "Nooooooo" to the answer, and that's valuable information. 

    You've provoked a reaction, and the purpose of this exercise is to have a distanced, objective evaluation: the facts. Then, layer back in the emotions and context to make your final decision.

    Never ignore your gut. But also: challenge your gut with difficult questions.

     

    I'd love to hear if you've used something like this for decisions big or small.

       

      P.S. One more quick example: a few weeks ago, I talked to a friend about creating a rubric to decide which work trips she should attend. She has a new job that would force her to travel every week if she allowed it, but she doesn't want to and wanted help creating boundaries. I suggested doing a quick evaluation of each trip / client meeting with something like this...

      Work Travel Rubric.png

      What do you think?

       

       

       

      Photo by Getty Caia image/Paul Viant via Net Doctor