On Worrying


As I said here, I don't necessarily think that I worry more than most (but then who knows, and this is the second time I've written about worrying in two years) but I do dislike how self-sabotaging and unproductive it can be. Which is one of the reasons that I loved this commencement address by poet and author Mary Karr which contains lots of quotable nuggets like this:

'The real purpose of poetry, W.H. Auden said, is disenchantment. Not to throw fairy dust in somebody's eyes, it's stripping away what's false so you can see what's true underneath. I like to say poetry has to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.'

...and pieces of wisdom like this:

'That's how fear works though, isn't it? Getting what you want can often scare you more than not getting it.'

...that makes a powerful point about how to deal with negative feelings:

'almost every time I was super afraid it was of the wrong thing. And stuff that first looked like the worst, most humiliating thing that could ever happen almost always led me to something extraordinary and very fine.'

And then co-incidentally (as is so often the way) on the same day I happened across one of Eric Barker's typically succint but comprehensive takes on how to stop worrying which, even if you don't think you worry too much, is full of good, insightful advice.

On To-Do Lists


I rather liked this approach to doing a To-Do list from Peter Bregman, taken from this write up (found via Fraggl) of his 18 Minute plan to managing your day and finding focus. What I particularly like about it is the more comprehensive way in which it is inclusive of elements that sit outside of work tasks. It's easy (particularly when running your own business I find) for the time for these non-work related tasks to get squeezed, and this is a good way of allocating them at least equal prominence and so being more disciplined about making them happen. It's a point made well by Paul Graham in this short post about changing the defaults in life to make sure you don't forget about the really important stuff.

Coming to Australia

Odf_logoI'm posting this somewhat later than intended (it's been one of those weeks) but I'll be coming over to Sydney next week for meetings and to begin the planning for an exciting (but for now secret-squirrel) work-related project. I'm always keen to meet ODF readers and subscribers when I travel so if you're in Sydney and would like to catch up over a coffee do drop me note.

Building a Meaningful Career


If I'm honest I get rather impatient with over-simplistic platitudes suggesting that the secret to having a meaningful career is simply to follow your dream. On the surface, and for some of us, this no doubt makes complete sense. If you have a dream then of-course you should do everything you can to find a way to make a living from that passion. Doing a job that doesn't feel like work is a wonderful ambition to have and thing to have achieved. Yet inherent in much of this discourse is a pretty big assumption - that we actually know exactly what that dream is.

I really admire people who have always had a singular calling that gives them a clear direction to fixate on, and who have gone on to pursue that path to great success. But it was never like that for me. Whilst there is no shortage of things that I have been interested in, am interested in, like and even love, somehow that has never materialised into a clear vocation. I suspect that I'm not alone. Being a generalist has many significant benefits. But it can also mean that you are sufficiently good at enough things to progress well in a career that is ultimately not fulfilling in a fundamental way. Or that you spend too long working in an area where you have no long-term ambitions. Or in Chris Dixon's words that you end up climbing the wrong hill. It's so easy, particularly for those that are ambitious, to make the next step an upward one, to want to show progress in our current domain, and to value short-term over long-term rewards. The risk with this method, says Chris, is that:

'...if you happen to start near the lower hill, you’ll end up at the top of that lower hill, not the top of the tallest hill.'

One of the best pieces of careers advice I ever had came from a coach who was ruthless about getting me to identify just a few critical components of my ideal job. I floundered around for a while listing out characteristics and attributes that I thought I'd want but he forced me to focus on the few elemental things that really mattered. It was uncomfortable but it turned out to be something of a turning point.

I count myself fortunate that somehow I've ended up with a career that enables me to do these things pretty much every day. But there's one piece of advice that I wish someone had given me when I was starting out. I wish someone had told me that it is not a bad thing to lack a vocation. That if you do lack a vocation you still need to discover what it is that you find fulfilling. That in order to find what fulfils you, to find the highest hill, you need to create hypotheses and then test them. That you need to experiment. That it's OK to experiment with your career. Better than OK, that it's a good idea to experiment. Better than good, that it's a great idea.

I wish someone had told me that.

Image courtesy The Horan Group, via @eskimon



I was rather saddened to get a notification that OhLife was shutting down at the end of this week.  It was the simplest of diary/memory apps that sent you an email at the end of each day asking one simple question: How did your day go? Write a reflection on the day and you'd get a reminder of it at some point in the future. I didn't necessarily think it would be a long-term thing when I signed up but several years later I was still using it. Like Eric, I believe in the power of gratitude, and found OhLife to be a great way of reminding myself of the small but positive things that happen every day that you would otherwise forget. So it will be a shame not to have it around. I know there's a bunch of visual memory apps (like Timehop and such) but does anyone know of something similar to OhLife?

The image is of the excellent Holstee Manifesto