Tue, 29 Oct 2013

Things To Do

Recently, I came across Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey's Do and Don't List, and was struck by how similar it is to my own daily routine.

His list follows:

  • Stay present: donít focus on the past or the future.
  • Be vulnerable: show people your mistakes and fears so that they can relate
  • Drink only lemon water and red wine
  • Donít eat sugar
  • Six sets of 20 squats and push-ups every day, run for 3 miles, meditate on this list, stand up straight, spend 10 minutes with a heavy bag
  • Get 7 hours of sleep
  • Say hello to everyone
  • Donít avoid eye contact
  • Donít be late
  • Donít set expectations and not meet them

I don't know the context of this list, but I thought I'd share some of my ideas why I adhere to a similar set of rules, and more importantly, how.

Staying present is a key element in a leadership training program called Pathwise that I've been fortunate enough to be exposed to. As part of the program, they teach you about the 'Suspension of Attention'. To briefly explain the concept, the mind is in three places at once: the past, as you reflect and integrate what you are experiencing into the context of what has been learned; the present moment, and the future as you contemplate "what do I think of this, how shall I respond, what do I want to impress upon the speaker?" The technique, pioneered by Sigmund Freud, focuses on a body sensation (because the body can't help but be in the present) as a way of maintaining focus on the present moment. When done properly, it's effortless and awareness-expanding.

Be vulnerable, as I read it, is somewhat tied into the previous point. By being present, you are far more likely to be open to alternatives; to ideas from outside because you're not looking to prove anything. Being vulnerable allows your ideas and those of others to proliferate. Allowing others to relate means you can empower and become a multiplier, not just an addition (or worse, a subtraction) to their contributions.

I drink very little red wine, but over the past year or so I've drastically reduced the amount of artificial sweeteners I drink (I'd already long ago cut out sugar, down to between 15-30 grams of refined/processed sugar or less). I also don't drink much lemon water, but just plain water? I'm starting to drink a lot of it and iced tea and coffee too. No soda pop, and only an occasional beer or two.

I don't do the workout Jack outlines, but I'm at the gym between 5-6 days a week for an hour at a time. I've got a ways to go, but I've also made a ton of progress against my fitness goals. Mostly, working out, and the next item, help reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.

Seven hours of sleep is key in fighting cortisol, and it has become a key element in my schedule. While I used to hate sleep because I thought I was a machine that could just keep trucking, there are many downsides to not getting enough sleep. Sleep is key in making memories and converting the activities of the day into long term memories. If it was worth waking up for this morning, it's worth going to sleep for tonight!

Say hello to everyone. Make eye contact. These are something I learned from my friend David C. Especially if you know someone's name, what excuse do you have to walk past someone you know without saying "hi"? What kind of antisocial vibe are you sending out by walking past someone like they don't exist? If you're going to walk around with your head up, be prepared to smile and say "hi".

The last two items are really about living up to the potential you set for yourself. If you're going to set expectations, for yourself, or for others, your credibility is at stake if you don't live up to them. Don't set expectations if you can't live up to them!

So those are the how's and why's I abide by these rules, but I have a few more I would highlight above his list. My additions include:

  • In times of duress, remind yourself of something to be thankful for. Gratitude, true gratitude, is uplifting and when you can find the presence of mind to be grateful, many other positive things come for the ride (perspective, focus, determination, for example).
  • When in doubt, make long-term decisions. The Stanford Marshmallow experiment showed empirically that those who are able to delay gratification are generally more competent, and achieved better test scores. Correlation doesn't imply causation, of course, but it strikes me that if a key decision-making technique you use is to ask yourself "what would I do if I was in this for the long run?", whether that's answering the question of "should I put this $100 in lottery tickets, or in my retirement?" or "shall I eat this donut or some carrots" or "should I watch TV or go to the gym?", you'll generally be better off by delaying gratification long enough to get that 2nd marshmallow.
  • In line with the previous item, I am starting to shift to more of a morning person. I now get up at 5:30am so I can be at the gym by 6:30am, and have time to work out prior to the start of my day. That also means I strive to be in bed by 10:30pm. And, making it to bed by then largely means cutting out nearly all television except my absolute favorite shows. I've already cut the cable cord, and am carefully aware of what kind of time I spend watching TV. If it takes you more than a minute to figure out how much TV you watched last week, you might want to re-evaluate your priorities!

I've certainly got a few other gems to share, but none in such a form that conveying them is a simple matter of exposition. They are more convictions that are difficult to convey in a rambling blog post.

Khan Klatt

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