Theme 6: Prioritisation & Focus

Make choices based on your definition of success.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Steve Jobs

Why is this theme important?

One of the toughest challenges you will face is making your choices your own. The more you can make decisions based on your definition of success, the more likely you are to both stay the course and enjoy the journey.

Core Ideas

Mind the voices in your head (and in the room).

Whenever you face a big decision, there are likely a myriad of voices chiming in with their own opinions. Sometimes these are voices physically in the room with you. Other times these voices are playing in your head. Your parents, your friends, your spouse, your siblings, your peers and your colleagues – all of them have opinions and all of them “wish the best for you.”

The problem is that too often they’re approaching your life through their lens. They may have your best interest at heart, but that doesn’t mean their advice is sound or helpful to you and your situation.

Instead of blindly listening to those voices, here are two techniques to proactively deal with them and help your own voice to shine through:

  1. Decide who you will let judge you. Roman Krznaric, author of ‘How to Find Fulling Work’ and founding faculty member at The School of Life keeps a handful of people’s photographs looking over him at his desk. They’re mostly authors and writers he respects (some of which are alive, most of which are dead) and one photo of his Croatian grandmother, who he finds courageous and deeply respects. “These are the people I let judge me,” Roman told our Escape Tribe in June. “Not the press, not the media, not the critics and not even my readers.” Decide who you will let judge you and base your decisions and success on that.
  2. Practice reverse role modelling. When someone is giving you advice, take a look at them and ask yourself “Is this person living the life I want to be living?” If “Yes,” then this person may be someone you can role model your life from. If the answer is “No,” consider doing the opposite of what this person suggests. Their suggestion might be good for them, but not for you. Thank them; they’ve helped show you the way by being a reverse role model.

Find your heros/heroines.

Although your relationship with the word “Hero/heroine” may vary, here’s what the word means to us: Heroes/heroines are the embodiment of a person or part of a person you hope to grow into. Heroes/heroines are a tangible example of something you might aspire to become like – someone who embodies a trait, a habit, an expertise or a body of work that you admire.

You need not have just one hero/heroine – you may have many. And fortunately today we live in a world where we can have a closer relationship with our heroes/heroines through social channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and many other online media channels, or even offline meetups.

Here’s a challenge to you: if you don’t have any yet, find your heroes/heroines. Who is living a life you admire (or even envy)? They may be alive, they may not be. For those who are alive, start to follow their work; their blogs, their books, their talks, their social media accounts. Remotely surround yourself with these hero/heroines.

But don’t fall for the trap of worshiping your heroes/heroines. They aren’t meant to forever live on a pedestal far away. One goal in having a hero/heroine is to try to close the perceived gap between yourself and them. You want to learn and study from your heroes/heroines, not just for the sake of it, but with the goal of one day becoming more like them.

Once you’ve found your heroes/heroines, try to take it one step further: Make/create/do something that pays homage to them. It could be a blog post, a photograph, a piece of art, a letter, or an action.

Next: share that thing with them. Not for the sake of if or how they respond, but for the sake of being inspired and doing something with that inspiration. Something may come from it. Or it might not. Either way, your heroes/heroines are waiting for you. It’s your turn now.

Articulate your ‘dream job’ and ‘ideal day’.

We seem to have forgotten that the primary purpose of a job is to serve the lifestyle we want to live; not the other way around. When you’re trying to focus on your own dreams (in the face of everyone else’s dreams for you), ask yourself:

What kind of lifestyle do I want to live?

What are the components of my dream job?

What does my dream job look and feel like?

Here’s how Matt on our team articulated his dream job:

“To me, a dream job is one in which I can work beside people who inspire me and whom I respect. It’s working on projects that matter to me, and ideally, to the world. It’s being part of a mission that’s bigger than just myself; one that’s tightly aligned to my own personal mission.”

What are the components of your dream job? Clearly articulate it.

You can even take this one step further and describe your ideal day in something writer, artist and past Escape Tribe speaker Amber Rae calls an “Ideal Day Manifesto” — an articulation of not just your job, but of your life, as embodied in a single day.

What does your ideal day look, sound, taste, feel like? Write it down. Read it often. Remind yourself what you’re aiming for.

Practice regret-avoidance (and embrace mistakes).

There will come a time in your escape when you need to take a major action or make a big leap. When the time comes, remember Jeff Bezos and his “Risk Minimization Framework.”

In 1994, Jeff Bezos was deliberating quitting his high-paying hedge fund job on Wall Street to start a crazy concept called Amazon.com. He ultimately wished to “minimize the number of regrets” he’d have, and dubbed this thought process his Regret Minimization Framework:

“I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. And I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. And I knew that that would haunt me everyday. So when I thought about it that way, it was an incredibly easy decision.”

You may not be running toward an aspiration to build the next Amazon, but you’re probably running toward a similarly personal ambition. Maybe you’re just running toward a more fulfilling existence, toward something that makes you feel more alive. Maybe you’re running toward a long-forgotten dream, a bucket-list item, or just a life you can be more proud of. If not pursued, might this be a regret in your later years?

Thinking about long-term regrets helps us discount more short-term hiccups, like:

What happens in the next year or two if I quit?

What if I lose momentum in my career?

What if I take a temporary pay cut?

We ask these questions because we’re worried that any change we make will be a massive mistake.

And while these are scary questions, asking them comes from too short-term of a mindset. It’s this mindset that Bezos’s framework was trying to pierce through. It forces us to ask the more important (and even scarier) question:

What happens if I don’t leap/quit/change/do this thing that’s burning in my heart?

Of course, it’s important to take stock in your own unique situation and be mindful of the time, energy and money needed for your own escape. But at some point, when you’re asked by life to take some sort of leap into the unknown, remember Bezos’s Regret Minimization Framework and ask yourself:

Near the end of your days, when you’re 80, will your life be measured in the regrets you didn’t have the courage to act upon, or in the mistakes you had the courage to make? Will your life be driven by the fear of potential regrets or the fear of potential mistakes?

We choose to heed the words of novelist Neil Gaiman:

“Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Your Objectives
  • Create your own definitions of success and a meaningful life.
  • Assess all the factors that may influence your future decisions.
  • Generate a long list of possible options (realistic and unrealistic)
  • Begin narrowing your options down based on your desires and constraints today.
Useful Resources

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