Category: personal improvement

On What’s Important And How to Say No

The realization that in the history of the human race, no one has ever survived old age is a profound one. Now, this doesn’t mean that we won’t eventually find a cure for ageing, and in my opinion Tim Urban has explained this beautifully. Let’s just for arguments sake however, say that we are not going to live forever, which means that we will someday run out of time in this beautiful world.

That means, that we have to make it very clear to ourselves what’s important to us. What’s going to matter, when we look back on our life? Will it matter what title we have at our company? Or will it matter that we had a lot of fun while we worked, and we got to spend our time with amazing people? Maybe we can do both. But I know which one is more important to me.

When we realize that our time is finite, we also inevitably realize that the extra hour or two we spend working, might not be worth it, if it means missing time with our fiancee, missed snuggles with our cat, a missed workout or whatever might else might be more important to us. Don’t get me wrong – if work is what’s most important to you, then by all means spend all the time you can doing it. I have a close friend who loves his job – and I’m fairly sure he would rather work than not, because it gives him an intense sense of satisfaction, and I still love him all the same.

My point is that our best course of action is to prioritize consciously, so that we don’t end up getting roped into things which we derive no pleasure from. We want to spend our time on the things which brings us the most value. This doesn’t mean skipping out on family get-togethers or only doing things which you want to do, but it does mean that we can say No without feeling bad or guilty. It means that we need to figure out if other people’s opinion are important to us, and if so, why?

Here’s the main point: I can’t decide what’s important for you. I can only decide what I find important and that only applies to me. If I can pass along a single idea from this post it is this:

Decide what is important to you and what is not, and make your best effort to spend your time according to that decision.

A curious mind is the best mind

When we are children, we question the world around us constantly, because it is new and exciting. As we get older we tend to ask fewer questions, because we start taking the world around us for granted.

This is a shame, because the world is an incredibly beautiful and interesting place if we care to look a little closer. This goes for everything in everyday life – even things that might seem mundane, like work.

If we stop to notice how things work and ask questions when we don’t understand, we will learn so much more about how the world works and how we fit into this beautiful place that we are living in.

Marcus Aurelius continuously makes a point in Meditations to point out the fact that we are simply traveling through the world. We come with nothing and we will leave with nothing – everything is simply borrowed.

If we accept this argument then we can look at things with less gravity and more detached curiosity – a curiosity which can cause us to ask more and better questions – more thoughtful questions.

The better questions we ask, the more we will be able to understand.

Ask more questions.

Ask better questions.

Stay curious.

Keep learning.

What’s your most valuable skillset?

We all have skills. Most of us have more than one valuable skillset, meaning a range of skills which we can utilize to accomplish any number of things. A skill set which sets us apart in a massive way when we use them or where the practice of that skill comes more easily and naturally than our peers. This is sometimes referred to as talent – other times it’s referred to the intersection between work and play.

What I’m getting at is that we all have areas where we have more natural aptitude than others. Some people are gifted with a wide range of areas where they have natural aptitude, and others have a more narrow range of skill sets. Whichever bucket you fall in, rest assured that simply due to the fact that you are reading these words, you have skills that the market is willing to pay for.

I would argue however, that what truly makes a skill set valuable is when we find an area where we enjoy the work itself, and where we do better work than our peers at a similar level.

Maybe you have a natural aptitude for math, languages, writing, solving complex problems, human psychology, sports or any other area where specialized skills command a premium.

My point is that most of us tend to somehow undermine ourselves and work in areas where we don’t use our best skills. On the flip side we try to be good at everything and work on our weaknesses. In sports this is a terrible idea – if Leo Messi all of a sudden tried to become a defensive player he most likely would have never made the pros, but if he had followed the conventional wisdom of working on his weaknesses that would have been the outcome. It works the same in every other area. Focus on your strengths.

Answer the question

what is my most valuable skillset?”

When you answer that question, you will know where you need to focus your efforts.


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On improving instead of comparing

All too often I get caught up in judging others, and comparing myself favorably or otherwise to other people of all sorts. Random people I see on the street, colleagues at work who are either younger or older, and who have different backgrounds, ideas, values and priorities than I do.

Sometimes I catch myself in the act and I manage to pull myself back to reality, because the truth of the matter is that there are zillion different reasons why I am the way I am, and the same goes for everyone else. Comparing myself to others is the most fruitless waste of time, this side of trying to travel back in time and correct my faults and misdeeds (something I wish I could have done on more than one occasion) – the point is, that I am me and you are you.

The only exercise we can benefit from is comparing ourselves to our former selves. If I am better than I was yesterday, then it was a good day. Likewise if you can go to bed a tiny bit smarter, wiser, more informed, better read or in better shape than you were yesterday, then that’s a win. It doesn’t matter what the Jones’s on the other side of the street – or more realistically in the apartment next door – are doing or thinking or how skinny they are. They have their own challenges that they’re dealing with – you deal with yours. You improve yourself a little each day. Just one tiny flicker of a percent. Barely enough for it to register – that’s enough for you to make tremendous progress over the long term.

But you have to focus on making one small improvement at a time. Focus on getting a tiny bit better today than you were yesterday, and I guarantee that great things will happen for you over time.