Choose to do less

A checklist is a game.

A game that we all play and try to manipulate to win.

We start the day off with a list of things to do and with roughly 16 to 18 hours to do it.

The funny thing is, that tomorrow that checklist of things to do fills back up again.

You will never win the game by doing more.

But perhaps, you can win by doing less.

That by doing less you don’t immediately fill it back up.

By doing less sends the signal that you are not filling your list of things to do with urgent emergencies but with important work that takes time to complete.

Less is more.

Goal index vs happiness index

Finish high school. Check.

Go to college. Check.

Graduate college. Check.

Find a job. Check.

Be happy? …

Achieving goals doesn’t equate to happiness.

We have become so goal-oriented, checkbox focused, that we forget that the goal isn’t what this journey is all about.

Yes, you should set goals. But we shouldn’t get sucked into thinking that by completing the next thing on our to-do list that we will somehow be fulfilled.

Focus on performance, not the goal.

How common was it for parents to lose a child?

200 years ago, if you lived in Sweden one and four of the children you had were likely to die before the age of five.

Globally, at the time, that was actually low. In fact, 43% of the world’s newborns died before their fifth birthday.

Fast forward to today, having a child die before the age of five is very rare.

This is just one of the great byproducts that industrialism has brought to the table—massive amounts of technology, innovation and wealth that has created prosperity.

We are all benefitting from it. So much so, we forget how harsh this world really was before it.

Industrialism is the closest shot we have to tame this world.

Despite the problems that industrialism has created in our time, I wouldn’t trade them for any other time period. If we are virtually going to rid of fatalities before the age of five in our lifetime, what else could we do?

We have all the tools and we are quite capable of solving complex challenges going forward.

Raising the stakes

If your employer was going to take your retirement contributions away if you don’t lose 20 pounds over the next 90 days, how motivated would you be to get on the treadmill?

The problem with most diets is that there is nothing on the line.

If you fail, you can try again later.

“I’ll start again on Monday” (or the New Year, or after the holidays, or on the first of October…)

We don’t have enough willpower to just get up and change our status quo. We can’t do it on our own.

Here’s the good news though. One of your greatest assets that all human beings possess is our ability to adapt.

It’s possible to create incentives. To nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone while leveraging our environment.

For instance, you can buy a gym membership and block out Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 6:00 am to 7:00 am to go to the gym. What were to happen over the next 18 months if you were to do that?

That might not be enough if you stop going to the gym and are wasting money on a gym membership. But what if you wrote a check to your favorite non-profit and handed it to your best friend to send in if you don’t reach your target goals? (Apparently, that works quite well.)

The question isn’t How am I to do this? No, start with the question of How do I raise the stakes so that I will feel the pressure to perform at my best?

What are you training the people around you to do?

If you are looking for mistakes that other people are making then you are training the people around you to hide them.

Is that how you want to lead an office (or a classroom or a home)?

Which do you put an emphasis on:

Doing things right


Doing the right things?

“I only speak when necessary. Now is one of those moments.”

2016 left people believing that it was the worst year ever.

It’s quite a time to be alive if you think about it. On one hand, we live in the wealthiest, safest, comfortable, most technologically advanced society in human history.

And yet…

Yet, optimism wanes.

The world is closer than ever before to destroying itself. Democracy, climate change, nuclear stockpiling continue to be the most pressing problems.

Compounding it, we live in an era of fake news, AI algorithm bias, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, businesses that are too big to fail…

But then you have, Greta Thunberg, the leading voice on climate change. She’s 15 years-old with Aspergers, OCD and selective mutism.

There’s Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking up against injustice.

And Yash Gupta, who started SightLearning, a non-profit that collects used glasses and redistributes them to the 12 million children that do not have access to corrective eyewear.

Tell me again, what do these young people have that you don’t?

It’s worth asking the question:

Why were there so many painters during the Renaissance movement?

How does one city produce so many rock groups in the ’60s?

Why were so many great poets born in the 19th century?

It’s because revolutions make heroes just as much as heroes make revolutions.

That when the time comes to change things, people gather and show up to tip the balance of what is to what could be.

We see it with our youth.

Our future is in good hands.


We focus so much of our lives around productivity. It is what we have been taught from such an early age.

It is what capitalism thrives on. Finish one task before we start the next. Be present. Avoid interruptions. (It takes 23 minutes to refocus.) Scale. Do the same thing you did yesterday but a little faster and a little cheaper.

Yet, when our significant other calls, do we drop everything to pick up the phone? When your kid asks if they can go on a walk with you, do you put stuff on hold for them? How often are we caught saying, “In just a minute”?

Interruptions are an exception for the people we care about. Because they are not actual interruptions or inconveniences. They are the why behind all of this in the first place. Aren’t they?

It’s funny because, over time, we convince ourselves that we are doing this for them in the first place. That someday we will have fun once we have everything all set.

And then, you are reminded that time is short. It’s later than you think.

Build slack into your system for today. For now, is the only moment we are guaranteed. Now is not later.

Two touching posts (here and here) below from parents that lost their 8-year-old a month ago. Thank you for sharing and reminding us what this is all for.

More distance = less conflict

Out of sight, out of mind, right?

It’s really difficult to have an argument with someone who isn’t there.

But what would we be without vulnerability and intimacy? What happens when we don’t allow anyone in?

Yes, we reduce friction when we build up walls but life without conflict has no meaning or purpose.

Bring people close.

Embrace the messiness and challenges that come with it.

Getting under people’s skin

There are two ways to go about this.

The first is, I’m going to say something obnoxious knowing I will get a reaction out of people.

They have names: trolls, critics, politicians…

And then there is the generous skeptic who is asking a question that people are afraid to answer.

The generous skeptic that knows you and is willing to say, “You can do better.”

We need more generous skeptics that are willing to say the important things to get under our skin so that we can do better work.

Getting under our skin reminds us that there is no time to waste.

My message to you today:

Do scary, important work.


No one is stupid

It’s not that we don’t know.

Of course, we know that if we want to lose weight we have to exercise and eat healthy food.

Of course, we know that if we want to get out of debt we have to stop using the credit card to purchase consumer goods.

It’s that, in the moment of temptation, we forget.

We can’t remember all the time.

Which is why we need to be constantly reminded who it is we are trying to become in order to get there.