12 weeks into the 12 months of this year, I took a moment to pause, and reflect about what I have learned so far. I read some of my journal entries near the start of the year, and revisited what I had said not too long ago about what would be important to me.
I have done this exercise often, and have often felt discouraged when I read what I wrote. It is because I realize that my reality does not always measure up to my dreams and desires.
My conditioning is to either place blame on some external circumstance or people, or to give myself a pep talk that I can try harder, and work smarter, to make it happen. “Try again” is the message that I am used to hearing, from others and myself, when something that is important to me does not happen.
However, this sounds a lot like the definition of insanity. When I keep doing the same thing, while expecting a different result. It just will not happen.
These past few months I decided, as an experiment, to try something different, in the hopes of a different result. It would be to make intentional trade-offs, in other words, to practice “less is more”.
I identified 3 areas I would prioritize, and only 3, and thought about them each literally every single day. I did not have to write them down. They were written all over my mind.
The first was to be present with my newborn nephew. As the first baby in our immediate family, I knew that this moment would be a big deal and that he would be a big deal for all of us. He is. And since the day he was born eight weeks ago, I have gotten to spend a few hours, almost each day, with him. It has been such a joyful experience, despite how much he cries or smells, he can do no wrong in my eyes. There were many opportunities for my attention to get diverted to other activities and people, however I continued to prioritize being present with him. Not for days or weeks, but for months, which has been very important to me.
The next was to hire for a number of leadership positions in my business. Although I have hired hundreds of people in the past decade and have some experience here, I knew that these roles would be particularly difficult as I was looking for very specific backgrounds and skills. It took a lot more interviews and a lot more time than I had expected, however I did hire for all of the roles I set out to fill. What I learned to do is how to ask for help from others, and looking back, I can see clearly now how I would not have been successful without the support of others. I also feel great about the people that I now get a chance to work with and learn from.
The third was to spinout and launch a new business. This was done two weeks ago and I am really proud of the team and excited for the start of another chapter in the journey. It was a particularly big project to spin out a business, and the scope continued to increase week by week. There were many moments when I doubted the strategy, specifically if the effort was worth the squeeze and the timeline. This project required me to continuously recommit to it every week, as the work continued to grow. And it is not something that could have happened off the side of my desk, it required my full dedication and commitment.
While these three examples were quite effortful, in that they required a lot of time and attention, they genuinely felt effortless. And I believe this was because I was clear with myself the entire time that they were important to me, and had no doubt about it.
When I reflect deeper and ask myself, was it good fortune, lucky circumstance or simply hard work and dedication that enabled me to focus on what I said I wanted to focus on, I realized that it was not. Well, maybe these all played a small role, however the main actor here was a willingness to make trade-offs.
I listed some of my recent accomplishments above, however I did not list for you all that I did not accomplish. That list is much longer, and includes areas such as physical health, writing ambitions, reading interests, romantic pursuits, volunteering, winter activities and much, much more. I bought 10+ books in the past 10 weeks and have barely touched them. I was inspired to go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and skating this winter, and settled for walking regularly (while on phone calls of course). I did not write a single word for my book draft that I spent hundreds of hours on last year and told myself I would publish in the first quarter of this year. I can go on.
I share the list of some of what I did not accomplish with a smile though, not a frown. I may just be more proud of what I did not accomplish, than what I did accomplish, as it signals that I actually did make trade-offs.
A trade-off is an expression of intent. Intention is at the root of anything that I desire in life.
A trade-off can either be accidental or intentional.
An accidental trade-off is when I look back in the rear view mirror, and realize that I am here now because I took a turn back there. When I ask myself why, I have no idea. It could be because the others in front of me also turned, or that I was distracted by the noise, or that I was listening to someone else and not myself. Regardless, I am somewhere where I did not intend to be.
An intentional trade-off is a proactive decision, in advance. It is not a “one and done” decision that I make, but rather a daily practice. I am tested daily by opportunities, alarms and ideas that ask me to make different trade-offs. In those moments, my resolve and conviction comes through the strongest.
This is what I am starting to learn this year. To fulfill a desire, I have to be willing to make intentional trade-offs, on a continuous basis. And most of all, how to feel great about it.