Your job will not take care of you when you get sick. Work will not bail you out of jail. Friends and family will. Put them first in your life. When embarking on your career, building companies or engaging in a hobby, make people a priority as a general rule. Culture and the success of your work stem entirely from the health, attitude and relationships of people surrounding the job. Treat them very well, take care of them – and perhaps they will do the same for you. The risk of taking care of others without the guarantee of a returned favor far outshines the risk of working eighty hour weeks alone.
Money isn’t everything. Time, knowledge, happiness, autonomy, geography and output are all currencies that can be measured and prioritized in different ways. When job hunting, you look at more than just the salary – how much time you’ll get to spend with your kids, how far away it is, how much you’ll be able to learn and grow, what autonomy you’ll have and what you’ll be able to build. Sometimes, money is the most important and necessary thing to you. Other times, you might be willing to make a salary sacrifice to learn something specific or work closer to a place you call home. What matters most to you now? How does that affect your decisions? I find it useful to rank the currencies that matter at this moment. Do you need time more than money now? Do you want social outings more than the number of books read? Do you want a job that constantly teaches you new things or do you want an easy commute? Write it all out. Prioritize your life and make important decisions accordingly.
Setting out to build a business or project for the money is a huge risk – a bigger risk than building something meaningful that can make the world a better place. What happens if you seek a capital return and come up dry? What do you have then? Sadly, you have nothing but a lot of wasted time and energy. What if you build something that makes a difference, but still does not pay out? At least then you can be proud of building something great. Never do things for the money – you have everything to lose. Do things for the challenge, the value to the world, and for yourself. Build something you can be proud of, something rewarding in and of itself.
I can think of few things more unfulfilling and overwhelming than leaving an incomplete pile of work on your desk at the end of the week. You feel like you don’t deserve the weekend. But you do. That work will keep coming and coming. Sometimes you just need to let go.
I’ve found that it’s better to draw the line in the sand on your to-do list first thing every morning. Realistically outline and prioritize the tasks you think you can complete in one day and set the rest aside. Do not let the other tasks bother you. Fold them up and hide them – whatever it takes to focus and feel like you accomplished the list you’ve reasonably committed to.
I’ve turned into a sticky note junkie. I’ve found that the size of a sticky note keeps your list focused, finite and reasonable. I try not to commit to more than one sticky note per day. Nothing feels better than to crumple complete notes and throw them away at the end of the day. You should try it sometime.
The goal isn’t to make money; the goal is to exist. Once you’ve figured that part out, the next goal is to exist longer. Once you realize no one lives forever, the ultimate goal is to leave a legacy.
The only way you can leave a legacy is if you concern yourself less with profit and more with giving life all you’ve got. Sure, you should have a plan to make money. But if greatness comes first on your priority list, then have faith that the rest will follow.