Life Lessons from Comedian Tim Minchin

Comedian Tim Minchin recently shared 9 inspiring life lessons with a college graduating class.  For brevity, below is my annotated version of his talk.  Please … don’t leave your life to chance!

Enjoy these lessons, and please give thought to how you might include them in your life.

You don’t have to have a big dream. There’s nothing wrong with having a big dream.  And if it’s a big enough one, it will take you most of your life to achieve, so that by the time you get to it you wind up staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement.  Meaning, you must live your life today.  Peace of mind is not something you will experience at some far off point when you’ve achieved a big goal. Why?  If you aren’t at peace today, you’re unlikely to magically become at peace when big dreams are finally realized.

Instead, I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals.  Be micro-ambitious.  Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you.  You never know where you might wind up.  Just be aware that your next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery, which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams.  If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing waiting for you that’s just out of the corner of your eye.”  Live today.

Don’t seek happiness.  If you think about happiness too much it goes away.  Instead, keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some happiness as a side effect.  We didn’t evolve to be constantly content.  Contented Homo Erectus got eaten before passing on their genes.

Remember, it’s all luck. You are lucky to be here.  You were incalculably lucky to be born.  Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures, will humble you and make you more compassionate.  Empathy is intuitive, but it is also something you can work on intellectually.

Exercise. I’m sorry, but you simply have to exercise. Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run, whatever, but make sure you take care of your body.  You’re going to need it.  Most of you are going to live to nearly 100, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of.  This long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to challenge you, so be ready for it.

Be hard on your opinions. Our opinions should be constantly and thoroughly examined.  We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others.  Be hard on your beliefs.  Take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous.  Identify your biases, your prejudices, and your privileges.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance.  We tend to generate false dichotomies and then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.

Be a teacher. Please, please, please be a teacher.  Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world.  Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher.  Share your ideas.  Don’t take your knowledge and wisdom for granted.  Rejoice in what you learn and share it widely.

Define yourself by what you love. We have a tendency to define ourselves by what we’re opposed to or don’t want.  Instead, express your passion for things that you love.  Be demonstrative and generous to those you admire.  Send thank you cards and give standing ovations.  Stand for what you love, not against what you don’t.

Respect people with less power than you. Important decisions, big decisions, are often based on personal traits such as how people treat the wait staff in restaurants.  I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, you may be judged on how you treat the less powerful

Finally, don’t rush. You don’t always need to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.  Don’t panic. Life will sometimes seem long and tough, and it can be very tedious and tiring.  You will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad, and sooner than you think you’ll find yourself growing older.  There is only one sensible thing to do with your life and that is to fill it.  

How?  Life is best filled by learning as much as you can, about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, and having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic, and then there’s love and travel and wine and sex and art and kids and giving and mountain climbing, but you know all that stuff.  It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one life of yours.

So good luck, and make the most of it you can!

Who You Must Become: Define What Matters Most

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of achievement.  But what’s the use of accomplishing goals … even BIG goals … if our heart is not at peace, we live in stress, and we are trading what’s truly most important for things that aren’t.

In Leo Tolstoy’s novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the main character is on his death bed and asks a haunting question:  What if my whole life has been wrong.” Then he dies.  End of story.

It can be very scary to start listening to those whispering voices about being more of who you really are.  But doing so isn’t half as scary as facing our end and wondering if we’d gotten it all wrong.

What to do?  Begin with a fearless assessment of what’s really important to you.  Next, begin aligning your life around these personal goals, including  your relationship to work and achievement.  And while you’re at it, help all those around you to do the same.

A business can indeed have a soul.  In fact, when you and your team align around a vision and values that serve a greater good your business performance will likely be stronger for it!  High morale and high performance go hand-in-hand.

In the end what really matters is not what you’ve accumulated, but who you’ve become as a person in the process … and who you’ve helped do the same.  Let’s get it right, and leave a positive legacy in the process.


Goals and Change: Perception Matters

Scientists tell us we don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brains.  Our eyes take in visual information, then our brain interprets the information based upon based beliefs, experiences, and perceptions.

When our brain perceives something to be a danger or outside our comfort zone, it subconsciously moves away from taking action.  When our brain perceives something as safe and possible, it subconsciously engages in action.

What does this mean?  Do you want to break free from procrastination?  You will be more likely to succeed when the following attributes are present:

Commit to a manageable goal or change,  that you can reasonably accomplish in the near future, and believe you are capable of achieving.

By committing to manageable goals your brain remains in the safety zone, significantly increasing the likelihood of action.  With a modest success achieved you are ready to accomplish another goal, then another, and another, and so on.  With your growing confidence, each successive goal can be a little bigger than the last.  One year later you just might be astonished by how much you’ve accomplished!

“Inch by inch is a cinch, yard by yard is hard.”  Grandma was right!

This advice may run counter to those who suggest establishing Big Hairy Audacious Goals.   You may have to trust me on this, but our clients have been accomplishing Big Things.  It’s just that they’re doing them one small success at a time, over and over.  Yvonne Chouinard, founder of Patagonia clothing company, calls this “raging incrementalism.”  It has also been called the law of incremental improvement.”

Make sense?  If you or your company seem to be stuck and want to start making progress please get in touch.  We’d love to help you break free!

Write D.U.M.B. Goals and Then Make Them S.M.A.R.T.

Business owners often ask me the best way to write down their goals.  There are many acronyms being used to outline formula’s for goal setting success.  Author Brendon Burchard recently advised people to establish D.U.M.B. goals instead of S.M.A.R.T. goals.  It’s a catchy play on words, but he does make a few good points.

Let’s start by defining D.U.M.B. goals:

Dream or Destiny.  Goals that allow you to fulfill your life purpose or destiny will more powerfully motivate you to persevere through the inevitable hard times and challenges.   Your goals must inspire you, and draw out the best in you and your team.

Uplifting.  Goals must be positive and compelling if you want others to follow you.

Method friendly.  Design systems and process for goal achievement, and activities you can repeat over and over again.

Behavior.  Determine the trigger-driven behaviors and habits you must develop to become the person capable of reaching higher in your goal achievement.

Now it’s time to make these goals S.M.A.R.T.

Specific.  Your goals must be defined with specific details.  Goals that are vague or general in nature aren’t attainable.  Clarity is the key.

Measurable.  What you can measure you can manage.  Define metrics and then measure on-going performance to determine if you are on course.

Aligned.  Your goals must be aligned with your vision and values to be worth achieving.

Realistic.  You want to have goals that inspire you to stretch, but there’s no point in setting goals that are clearly unrealistic or impossible.  Long-term success is most often accomplished by achieving your most important goals with consistency year after year.   This is the law of continuous incremental improvement and it has a powerful cumulative impact on the growth and health of your business.

Time Sensitive.  Determine the date by which the goal must be attained.

Now you’ve got two good formulas to define your goals.   Let’s end with a simple truth:  The most important thing about goals is having them in the first place!

If you’ve been caught in the whirlwind of day-to-day operations and desire help reconnecting to your vision, strategy and goals we’re here to help.  Our mission is to serve, so please get in touch.