4 min read

On starting to see the world

40 for 40, #21-30

A quick thing: If you’ve been contemplating whether or not to join the Leading Smart Creative Teams course, it kicks off next week! While all of the seats with coaching are spoken for, I wanted to do something just for the members of this list. If you want to get the course with peer feedback and the online discussion, you can join for $100 by applying through here.

(Yeah, if you want to share this opportunity with someone, I guess that’s OK)

This month I’m reflecting on some of what I’ve learned in the last 40 years. You can catch up here and here But if you’re tired of my ramblings, you should definitely go read the “Letters to an artist” section of this1. On with my list - which I’d loosely say capture my mid-twenties to my early-thirties.

Comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty will open you up to a greater range of possibilities and opportunities.

Some things you have to build up tolerance over time, but I think this is the opposite - when you’re younger, you’re more inclined to be open to the unknown and the unexpected. Hang on to that openness. Don’t let not knowing or understanding be the main reason that you say no to something.

Develop a strong sense of taste for a few things.

You’ll notice the things that you’re drawn to and interested in, the things that continue to fascinate as you get deeper into them. Strong taste doesn’t mean it has to be refined or sophisticated taste. But anything you might be drawn to has a level of complexity to it that will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation for the thing.

Making the perfect espresso – Coffee Geek
You all know this is my thing. Hours, probably days of my life spent on coffee, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Source

If you have a partner and/or kids, there's a lifetime commitment there.

You're not going to get that same commitment from a job. Keep that in mind when you make decisions about your career.

Anything can be interesting when you get to see it through the eyes of an expert or an enthusiast (or, ideally, an enthusiastic expert).

I have learned this from listening to actuaries talk about insurance, watching a Nascar race with my father-in law, reading David Foster Wallace on grammar. It might be one of the reasons I became a huge NBA fan. But deep understanding of something opens it up and makes it come to life.

Share this with the expert who has helped you see the world differently?

Be aware of your own self interests.

If you're honest about them them, you can choose to give them up. Sometimes they overlap with the good of the whole. Sometimes they don't. I'm a bit suspicious of people who don't think they have self interest, because it means that they do and just aren't aware of it.

There’s a fair bit of money I’d leave on the table to be able to work with incredible people. Even more if we can work on something we really care about.

I got bit by this bug early and often - probably starting with live theater productions in high school, but it took me a while to realize how much it influenced my decision-making and even longer before I realized I liked it that way. I have learned so much and grown so much from being deliberate about having a solid group of peers, about having leaders I respect, and about hiring people who have skills that I don't.

Every 6-12 months, pop your head up, take a look around, and ask if the way you've been spending your time is really the best, most interesting thing you could be doing.

What is an Ostrich? - Answered - Twinkl Teaching Wiki
Channel your inner ostrich. Source

If it isn't, be open to all kinds of change. We probably allow the assumption of stasis to have too much influence in our lives and settle for incremental adjustments rather than significant ones. Sometimes we don't have the capability to do more than that, but that's a conclusion we should be ready to interrogate a bit more.

Some friends are just with you for a specific phase of your life. Treat all of them like they’re friends forever and let life sort out the rest.

This has been best illustrated for me literally every time I've made a big geographic move - there is always one person who I didn't necessarily feel all that close with when we were proximate but we turned out to have a much deeper bond than we realized at the time (the inverse is also true sometimes, that someone you thought you were bonded with forever turns out to have been a friend for a season. It used to leave me feeling a lot more bitterness, and now I recognize that it's OK to feel disappointment and even grief without needing to find fault).

If you’ve hung out with a person in more than one country, they’re probably a true friend.

(And, yes, there is a correlation where the more countries you’ve hung out in the truer of friends you are…but that doesn’t mean your truest friends can’t be people you’ve only been with in one country)

If you had to choose, a society with abundant public goods beats out one with abundant private goods.

I won’t get too political here, but I see tremendous value and importance in doing the work of building a shared vision and mission to the benefit of the common good. It is not the path of ease, but the path of satisfaction.

The last and final installment coming next week!

  1. Actually, even if you like my ramblings you should read it. It’s that good.