Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

This, Then, Is How You Should Live

Added on by Sam Davidson.

We don’t need any more comic book superhero movies. Rather, what we need is someone to turn meaningful stories like this one into lessons we can all witness on the big screen and then apply to our life.

Bernhardt Wichmann III had very few friends, but they were deep ones. Friends were patient enough to wait until he wrote replies on small slips of paper so they could carry on conversations with him. Friends were willing enough to help him schedule medical visits.

And early last month, Wichmann died as he lived: fully. From The New York Times: "They discovered that since 1991, Ben had lived in that tiny third-floor room down the block that cost $10 a day. He had few possessions and eked by on Social Security. In a city where so many have so much, he had practically nothing. Yet it was enough, always enough. And inside him beat a heart bigger than a mountain."

Read that again: "And inside him beat a heart bigger than a mountain."

Your move.

What 10 words would you want written about you in The Times?

Of course, Wichmann’s goal wasn’t to be in The New York Times. It was to live fully present and to help others. Living into that authentic goal of his got him into the paper.

Many people would love to be covered by the NYT and it still never happens. I have to think that when our goal is to impress others, we’ll always fall short. When our goal is to serve others, we’ll wind up impressing them, too (even if a large newspaper never writes about us).

Happy 80th, Rosemary

Yesterday, Rosemary Brown turned 80. She hasn’t been in The Times, and may never be.

Last year, I walked into Rosemary’s church when life was very hard. I didn’t expect Rosemary or the people inside to make life easier for me. But I did hope they could make life a tad brighter. It seems like when we’re facing darkness and need some rays of hope, we humans do have the ability to shine for others when we show up in their lives.

The more people we let in, the brighter life gets. And the more deeply we let them shine in our lives, so much beauty becomes revealed by that light.

Yesterday, our ragtag congregation sang "Happy Birthday,", gave Rosemary a set of new tires, and listened as she cried with the gratitude and sincerity that only 80 years can offer. Wrinkles are just memories we can see, after all.

Rosemary offered us all one hope in her sermon yesterday - that when her time is up, she can be described as a single word: faithful.

Maybe eight decades of living make you realize that headlines are temporary; tombstones are permanent. And that legacy is even more lasting, written on hearts and retold with love in a way that newsprint and granite could never convey.

Fight for who you’re becoming

I left these two notes behind - one in each night stand - in Austin last week.

We each have a desire to fight for something, be it a worthy global cause or combatting some injustice we find in the world. But we can’t forget to channel some of that fierce drive toward our own destiny.

Whoever it is you’re becoming, you can decide each morning that you’ll fight for her and the bright vision welling up inside her heart. So don’t compromise a value that makes you beautiful, a passion that makes you unique, or a love that makes you full.

Don’t back down from the man you want to become just because someone else offers a route that’s simple or convenient. Easy and meaningful are opposites. (Click to tweet.)

Dream up the kind of person you’d die to become known as. Then do the hard work of fighting for him or her by being and becoming that man or that woman you know you can be. Your life and your legacy depend upon it mightily.

How to Live

The only life instructions are these: be.

Be authentic.
Be kind.
Be nice.
Be vulnerable.
Be on time.
Be present.
Be willing.
Be patient.
Be curious.
Be loving.
Be honest.
Be true.
Be faithful.
Be thoughtful.
Be pleasant.
Be hopeful.
Be you.

Live deeply. There is no other way.

Destroy the Box

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I don’t need you to merely think outside the box.

I need you to destroy it.

The box needs to be crushed. Crumbled. Shredded. Detonated. Obliterated. Find an empty field, take the box out there late one afternoon, and put it out of its misery.

You can’t merely think outside of the box because eventually, fatigue and safety will tell you to return to it. "Just this once, take the easy route. Do less work. It'll be our little secret."

For this reason alone you must destroy the box. You must cut off the route and burn all bridges that lead back to it. That route is so easy to travel, absent of obstacles or criticism. Anyone can see how effortless it is to harken back to a time when thinking inside the box was acceptable.

Think outside the box if you dare and you’ll soon breathe the free air that comes without confinement and expectation. And then you’ll realize that to return to a simpler time would be the highest treason of self.

You were not meant to think inside or stay inside a box. Especially a box not of your making. A box "they" told you about. That "they" put you in to watch over and control you. You do not need their box. And what you do not need may as well be gone. Dead. Destroyed. Finished.

So do yourself and all your future work a favor and the second you’re willing to leave the box, press that detonation timer. Hide far enough away to be shielded from the shrapnel and watch its glorious explosion and decimation.

Then, get up, and move forward. But don’t look back. You’re not going there.

The Finish Line Isn’t Where You Think It Is

Added on by Sam Davidson.

As is our Sunday tradition a few times a month, my daughter and I went on a hike.

And it took forever.

It always does nowadays. As much as we both love being outside, she is in no hurry to cover the three or four miles we aim to do. It’s a stark contrast to my trail runs on alternating weeks, when I want to cover the same terrain, roots and all, as quickly as possible.

But with her, the point isn’t to finish at a certain clip. The point is to just be on the trail.

She and I are looking at different finish lines. Mine is back at the car, three-and-a-half miles later. Hers is to point out turtles and twisty vines, to wonder out loud how many leaves are in the forest, and to ask me all the questions she can imagine until I run out of ways to say “I don’t know."

The point is not the point

Somewhere along our life's journey, we each begin to focus on a singular outcome. Maybe it’s something simple in a growingly complex world. Maybe keeping score is more fun if there’s only one metric to which we compare ourselves to others. So we start to focus on and measure our work and life in terms of:

  • Money
  • Speed
  • Longevity
  • Clicks
  • Sales
  • Square footage
  • Accounts
  • Awards

The (a) point is not the point. Points are the point. Life is too important to be lived quickly. Nature is too necessary to not be noticed. People are too fragile to be overlooked. All of the elements we badly need in life could never be counted with a calculator.

So maybe we digress by default. We push past the hard stuff (relationships, depth, meaning, religion, mystery) and keep score artificially. At least then we know where we stand.

But sadly, where we stand is on a fragile podium of our own making, one built on arbitrary measurements that neglect the very finish lines we need most - the biggest, most complex ones that keep moving the more we live.

Someone sold us a finish line we don’t want (or need)

I’m the worst person to meet with if you’re a financial advisor or planner. You’ll ask me where I see myself several years from now, how much financial security I want in retirement, and what I need to have saved up by the time I’m 65. I’ll listen to your questions until you’re finished and then I’ll laugh, tell you I have no idea nor concern, and tell you that retirement is an outdated concept, one I’m not racing toward, and not a way that I keep score.

You’ll protest, we’ll chat about it a bit, I’ll thank you for coffee and then you’ll be on your way to the next sales prospect. I’m not interested in running this race.

Well-meaning adults told us (some of us when we were very young) that there was a clear path to follow that consisted of various steps that included making good grades, going to college, getting a job, climbing a ladder, getting promoted, earning a nice living, owning a home, and then doing all of this in increasing measure until we died.

And so went the story of a happy life.

Many of us bought into this race we needed to run. (Many of us still do.)

But this race misses a lot. Its contrite finish line leaves so many of us wondering why the hell we’re running this race so fast. Isn’t there more?

Yes. But it’s not the race you think it is. It’s not even the race you may know how to run. But it’s the only race your inmost being was born to run.

It’s a race bigger than any singular finish line, bigger than what your parents told you, and bigger than your job.

The finish line keeps moving. And more and more of them pop up day after day. Some you’ll decide to stop chasing, and that’s ok. The point isn’t to get to the end of the race.

The point is to run the race with everything you’ve got.

Chase something big

Go start a company. But don’t let someone tell you the point is to make as much money as possible. Instead, breathe life into your idea and its people, watching as the goal isn’t just to amass material wealth, but also to train people how to work hard, to please customers by listening to their needs, or to bring ethics to a place where they are rare.

Go fall in love. But don’t only think the only worthy end is to die beside each other at 90. Maybe you simply love each other for a season, teaching the other about vulnerability and honesty, leaving the relationship wiser and more rich, your heart ready for someone or something else when the season is right.

Go to school. But understand that the point can’t merely be a diploma some years down the road. You’ll also need to learn how to learn, what pursuits are worth your intellect and attention. You want to sit with opposing thoughts, confront someone whose worldview is too small, and sit at the feet of those who are wiser, whose wisdom has come after years of striving.

All of our races - our life’s pursuits - may start heading toward one finish line. But then along that route, we learn that the point of that race wasn’t to finish it. It was just to start it. To get to the first distance marker. To meet someone else along that same course and then veer off with them, hand in hand.

Maybe the point of this race was to show us another race running parallel to ours and so we hop over to that lane. And then we realize we are running in the wrong direction, so we stop and start over, now destined to where we want to go. The finish line is further off, blurrier than we thought, but that’s ok. At least we’re running.

If the race is only about speed, even if you win, you miss out on what could have been an incredible journey. The races that are just about speed usually aren’t worth running anyway.

A Lifetime Mindset

Added on by Sam Davidson.

What is a decision we could make that would be good for us in the short-term, but may not pay big dividends long-term?

What is a decision we could make that may not have any short-term benefits, but would be huge for us long-term?

I asked these hypothetical questions of our Batch core leadership team earlier this week. It was a chance for folks to weigh in - given their assorted vantage points - on what they thought could be of most benefit to the company.

But later I realized I left out another timeframe: lifetime.

Short-term vs. Long-term

We’re trained to think in twos most of the time. Right vs. wrong. Left vs. right. Now vs. later. Him vs. her. Us vs. them.

But the reality is that so many issues, companies, and ideas are more complex than any binary system. Short-term vs. long-term is neither short- nor long-sighted. It’s incomplete. We need another viewpoint. We need a lifetime viewpoint.

Start with 100 years, not 100 days

There will be a new president elected this fall. When he or she takes office, they’ll announce some kind of 100-day plan. This is customary. But what if they announced a 100-year plan? What if on inauguration day, the new president said in his or her speech:

I’ll announce my 100-day plan tomorrow. But it’ll just be a drop in the bucket to my administration’s 100-year plan. Sure - we can only hope to be around for 8% of that plan. But America needs a big, bold idea for where it wants to be in 2117. Otherwise, if we only focus on the next 100 days, we’ll just make short-term decisions at the expense of a lifetime of prosperity for all Americans.

(Note to candidates  - you can totally steal the above paragraph an use it. I just ask for unlimited use of Air Force One as compensation.)

Phil Libin, founder of Evernote talks about his company being around in 100 years and how that shapes decision making. They make decisions that aren’t just important today, but will be in a century. When you have that mindset, you choose differently and you even establish a different set of criteria that benefits the greatest amount of people.

Deciding for a lifetime

I’ve begun thinking more and more about lifetime decisions - not just what is best for me between now and December 31, or even between now and when I’m 40 in a few years. What decisions can and should I make now that will shape the rest of my life? My daughter’s life?

Some of these decisions are easy. I buy clothes now that will last me for years rather than what’s simply in style right now. I eschew certain purchases and frivolities as I pay down debt and hope to fix up an old house one day.

At work, I can help our team think about how we service customers so we can keep them for life. I will sacrifice short-term and even long-term financial gain if we get lifetime financial security as a result. Batch wants customers who will shop with us for their lifetimes, thus our policies and procedures reflect this. We’re not only focused on being profitable this fiscal year; we’re trying to build value for life.

But some decisions aren’t as easy. Excitement creeps in. Trends and FOMO trick us all. Pleasure lies to us, masquerading as fulfillment. Thrill dresses up as happiness. And a lot of the time, we - myself most of all - wind up picking what’s easy and immediate (short-term) over what’s legacy-building and meaningful (lifetime).

How to decide

I really wish I were brave, smart, and strong enough to choose lifetime over short- and long-term every time. I’m getting better, but am by no means fully there. The below list is incomplete (I’d love to hear your ideas on what you’d add), but it’s a start. Maybe these reminders can help us all decide better as we strive to leave things better than when we found them.

  • Would I want this decision discussed once I’m gone (out of this position or even done with this life)? If so, how would I want it remembered?
  • Am I writing a check (figuratively or literally) that my children or their children won’t be able to cash?
  • This decision is planting a seed of some kind. Am I sure what will ultimately grow from it?
  • Who and how many people will benefit from this decades from now? A century from now?
  • Am I setting up my replacement for the most possible success and meaning?

What would you add?

Can kicking is a fun distraction but a terrible legacy.

You Can’t Plant Roots

Added on by Sam Davidson.

“I want to find a place I can plant some roots for a while.”

I heard this line recently when talking with a friend. She’s ready to travel less and live more deeply in a community she can call home. And while I know exactly what she’s meaning to say, the stark reality is this:

You can’t plant roots. You can only plant seeds and see if roots result. (Click to tweet.)

Roots are deep, taking years and even centuries to develop. They moor. They reach deep into the ground, running parallel and perpendicular and every which way, searching for water and nutrients. Roots are the result; seeds are the cause.

You can’t walk into your local garden center and walk out with a packet of roots to plant.

The only things you can plant in your life are seeds.

The seed of a conversation with a new neighbor. The seed of a first date. The seed of a new business idea. The seed of a coffee meeting facilitated by a mutual introduction. The seed of checking out that new band or restaurant or brewery or city park. The seed of a different workout routine, the seed of walking an alternate way to work, the seed of applying for another job.

Then, with time and effort, some of these seeds break through. Eventually, they want light and they burst through dark soil in search of what makes them grow. Meanwhile, these seeds are also reaching deep - deep inside you and others - to stretch out roots that anchor them and give them the energy, strength and confidence to sprout and thrive.

We all want - and need - roots. But roots take time. And hard work. And deliberate effort.

But any breakthrough and blossoming we experience above the surface only happens because of the mooring occurring below it.

So slow down. Stop trying to plant roots. It’s impossible.

Rather, continue the repetitive work of planting seeds. Eventually, you’ll look around and rest happily in the shade of community and love, made possible by the roots that resulted from all that seed scattering.