Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

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.

Earn or Sacrifice?

Added on by Sam Davidson.

A question has been haunting me of late: Do I want to be known for what you earned? Or what I sacrificed?

In other words, do I hope to be known for what I achieved, or what I deferred?

Maybe it’s the distinction between the capitalist and the soldier. The capitalist seeks to accumulate and earn. The soldier to give her life or health in service of a higher aim.

Or the difference between the businessman and the priest. One working for a check in order to add to a notion of self. The other working in order to deny the notion of self.

I shot messages to a few friends about this idea, to see where they stood. Some answered based on religious influence and sense of duty. Others answered a bit more broadly, choosing a third or even fourth way to be known. (Fair enough; I can appreciate people who answer questions bigger than the ones asked.)

But, ultimately, where I’m landing is that I don’t think these two can cleanly be separated. You want to earn something big? You’ll need to give up a few things to get there (friendships, time, hobbies, health). You want to sacrifice something meaningful? Then you’ll earn things when you do (kudos, honor, pride, wealth).

What’s your driving motivator, then?

I know people who led with the earning motivator. They wanted to amass wealth, status, and influence. They worked hard to earn it. Each day, when they woke up, they pledged allegiance to this earning potential and made decisions throughout their day that drove them closer to their goal of accumulating and amassing. As they climbed, sacrifices had to be made of course, but their names became synonymous with greatness or wealth or whatever else they earned.

Others I’ve known wanted to first be known by what it was they gave up. They abstained and fasted, withdrew and quit certain behaviors, routines, or pathways because it didn’t meet their personal goals and objectives. Of course, among a select group, they were then honored for this sacrifice, earning esteem from others. But, their chief drive was in the giving, not in the getting. They lived to give, to give up, to give to.

Where, then, is your strive directed? Your deepest efforts and greatest ambition? To earn or to sacrifice?

Ultimately, the question points to a broader truth: you will be known for something. What will it be?

And how can you shape it? The choice is in your hands, after all.

What's In Your Bones?

Added on by Sam Davidson.

Have you ever been to a place that’s in your bones? A home, a childhood destination, a vacation locale? Something that has embedded itself into your very being so that there’s no separating you from it?

I spent last week on a cruise to Alaska. We got the chance to get off the boat a few times, going on tours and meeting local residents. There is no shortage of shows about the wilds and peculiarities of Alaska, so it’s only obvious that people who live there merge with the place itself.

Some of that place creeped into my bones a bit, surprising me some. I'm already planning a trip back next summer.

Those of us who are transient and move from here to there for work or who have moved several times throughout life may miss this chance, even if we do have a feeling that we’d like to be location dependent.

It’s unmistakable - when you meet someone who has a tale that is bone-deep, borne in them due to longevity and origin, or tumult and struggle. Stories like that can’t be bought at a gift shop or completed in a 36-hour turn. Those stories have to be lived. They have to be earned over time.

I don’t think I have place stories in my bones yet. Even growing up in Nashville and living the near entirety of my adult life here, it’s not in my bones. I like it here. My people are here. My companies are here. My community is here. But this place is not in my bones. (Yet.)

If anywhere could be, it’s a rundown farm in northeastern Mississippi. There is a picture on my wall of me and my grandfather, him holding my hand as two horses follow along. Us behind a barbed wire fence, out for an evening stroll, finishing chores before dinner. I spent so many childhood summers at that farm - Christmases, too. I remember the smell of the humid pecan house, the creak of those floors and the rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat of the shelling machine. Strangers would pull up and buy pecans by the pound from my grandfather.

When he wasn’t around, I explored. I found the junkyard on site, the place where old cars and tractors went to die. Weeds and roots grew through engine blocks and wound around rear view mirrors. Old leather cracked under years of heat and cold, rubber tires hard as stone now.

There was a garden, a wood pile, a creek, and patio. My great-grandmother’s house was about thirty paces away from my grandfather’s, and they both lived in those homes until each of them died.

I don’t go back much now. My youngest cousin occupies the house. The cows are all sold and the horses long gone. Some of the pasture has been parceled off and sold by my uncle and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next.

As I meet people, I’m starting to ask them what’s in their bones. It may be a place. Or a person. An idea. A dream, a job, an ethic, a hope, a cause. I believe we all need something to get into our bones and camp out there, changing our very DNA in order to shape a future that we are uniquely suited for. (Click to tweet.)

I think this is what it means to do the very thing we’re born for.

It's said that when you feel something "in your bones", you know it to be true, even if you can't explain why. The origins of the phrase are murky at best, but when I hear it, I think about bone marrow. 

Your bone marrow is essential to your entire functioning, from a biological standpoint. Your bone marrow is what produces some of the most basic building blocks of your immune system. It's quite literally keeping you going.

What keeps you going?

What’s in my bones

I think effort is in my bones. I love my gym where I work out regularly because the tagline is “Easy is not an option.” And while I loathe certain exercises and my body screams for easy sometimes, I know that deep down, my bones won’t have it. Ten more sit-ups, six more minutes of cardio, 40 more burpees - I get off on putting forth effort. I keep going by keeping going.

I’ve never started a company that’s easy. I’ve been stressed more than I’ve ever wanted to be and I hope that any work I do in the future doesn’t reach the levels of agony and despair I reached last year. But I don’t mind hard work. It’s in my bones - putting forth the mental or physical energy to accomplish or establish something important.

Adventure is there, too. The chance to discover something new. Being outside and sweating, striving, going to where some people have never been. I like to find an uncharted course and blaze a trail. Maybe this is why Alaska spoke to my soul as it did last week.

If we get the chance to meet, I won’t ask you for your resume or for you to list a set of beliefs. Rather, I’ll ask what’s in your bones. Sure, you can certainly fake it, but gimme a while and I’ll see how you live. Your body can’t do anything without your bones so soon enough the truth will come out by the life you live.

Live deeply and boldly. Your bones don’t want anything else.

Location Dependent

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I hear it time and again over coffee and while speaking on college campuses: “I just want a location independent job. I want something I can do from anywhere so I can travel and see the world."

There is no shortage, it seems, of people who want the same. Do a quick online search and “location independence” will bring up eBooks and blog posts by people who have claimed to achieved such and now spend their time Instagramming their lives from remote locales, all while apparently “killing it”, making a ton of money, and collecting the photos to prove it.

The king of this growing tribe is Tim Ferris, whose “4-Hour Workweek” is still the definitive manual for working less and seeing the world more. And while Tim has gone on to build an empire and worked hard to do so in the process, I’m wondering if the glorification of location independence is sacrificing depth on the altar of cheap thrills.

It’s time to make the case for location dependence.

Fly away with me

For the better part of the last decade, I felt most at peace high in the sky, locked away in an aluminum tube (you may know it as an airplane) cruising at 30,000 ft. on my way to give a speech. I worked from the skies, SkyClubs, hotel rooms, coffee shops, and rental cars. I could do my work (speaking) from anywhere.

I wore this like a badge of honor. Scroll back through my social media feeds a few years and you’ll see smug captions that accompany plane wing shots or show me on sandy shores after entertaining a crowd for an hour on a stage.

But the truth? I was lonely (I didn’t have the self-awareness or emotional ability to recognize this at the time). My quest for attention turned into a quest for frequent flier miles and the dopamine hit that came with their accumulation meant that I could very proudly claim to be location independent.

Look at me! I’ve made it! I can work from anywhere!

If you can work from anywhere, be careful. You’ll soon wind up belonging to nowhere.

Opportunity calls when you stay put

You think opportunity is knocking and asking you to flit away for a season? To do yoga in India in between client emails? You think that now is the time to backpack across the Andes while you drop ship nutritional supplements? While these may indeed be the deepest longings of your heart, make sure that the knocking you hear isn’t something closer to home. Just because the sound of opportunity is faint doesn’t mean it’s because the knocking is coming from a thousand miles away. (Click to tweet.)

While amid the busiest speaking and travel season of my life, Batch began to grow. What was meant to be a part-time hobby for me and two friends suddenly had the chance to blossom into a legacy company. But to achieve this, I couldn’t manage it from the road. I couldn’t serve as an example of dedication to colleagues and employees if my head was in the clouds and my feet weren’t firmly planted on the ground, packing boxes or going on sales calls when needed.

As we began to raise money to create something big, one investor turned us down saying, “Your scale doesn’t depend on technology. It depends on people. You have a physical company - humans are needed to put items in boxes and service customers. We’re looking for companies that don’t need people."

I have never been happier to receive a rejection from an investor. I’m glad I run a company that needs people.

Location independence has its distractions; location dependence has its relationships.

Travel, but know why

By all means, travel. Get a ticket. See the world. Create experiences for yourself. Take in views. Make memories. Try new food. Smile at strangers.

But know why you’re doing all this. If you’re escaping a reality you don’t want, then work to create one you do. Don’t assume that unplugging from true community will offer you the chance to find yourself. I think we find ourselves the minute we begin to share who we are with others (this is a lesson I didn’t learn until recently). That’s tough to do when all we can manage is to tweet what the sunset looks like in Sydney tonight.

So, go. But make sure you know where you can come back to. Yes - you want to go places that take your breath away for a moment. But you also need a place to catch your breath for a lifetime. You need a people and a place that is yours, that can breathe with and for you when needed. You need to depend on a location.

This artwork hangs in my home. Just last week my daughter asked what it meant. I tried my best to explain: “It means that whenever we’re together, we can feel like we’re home. Home is a safe place - a place where you always belong, where you can be yourself, and where people love you. And it doesn’t matter what a house looks like or how big it is. What really matters is that I love you, that you love me, and that if can remember that, we can feel safe and that we are where we need to be."

Ron Swanson knows

My main man Ron Swanson (of Parks and Rec fame) knows all about staying put for the sake of belonging. He drops some wisdom on Leslie Knope about a guy she’s dating, but with whom she can’t quite connect.

Swanson nails it thusly: "He’s a tourist. He vacations in people’s lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on. All he’s interested in are stories. Basically, he’s selfish. And you’re not. That’s why you don’t like him."

Tourist is a temporary designation. Community is a permanent one. The former you get by going; the latter you get by staying. (Click to tweet.)

How to be location dependent

If you, too, want to experience the deep meaning of belonging, you can. It’s easy. Pick any of the following and dive in. Soon, you’ll realize that your life and work depend on a place and you’ll never be happier:

  • Fall in love
  • Become friends with your neighbors
  • Join a nonprofit board
  • Adopt a pet
  • Start a company
  • Get involved at your church
  • Have children
  • Run for office
  • Create a life you don’t need to run away from

Then, go live into this Walt Whitman quote, now and evermore:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.