The Death of Ivan Ilych, published in 1886, is a short story by Leo Tolstoy, considered one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s. The Death of Ivan Ilych tells the story of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia and his sufferings and death from a terminal illness.
If you have read the book, would love your reflections on the book in the comments below.
If you have not read the book, get a copy (amazon | free pdf) and find a couple of hours to read the story… then come back here and let us know your reflections.
3 Reflection Questions for The Death of Ivan Ilyich
What are the specific factors that lead to Ivan’s life transformation?
What purpose does Ivan discover for himself?
What does Ivan’s transformation mean for you and your life?
The founder of Strategic Coach, and one of my favourite podcasters, Dan Sullivan plans to live to 156 years old. It will allow him to see 3 different centuries (19,20,21).
What will it take for him to live that long? He’ll need to eat well. He’ll need to stay physically and mentally fit. He’ll need medicine to come up with some new techniques to extend life…. but more than all of this, he will need a powerful motivation to remain alive.
What gives a powerful motivation to remain alive? In an interview with Peter Diamandis, Dan and Pete shared the perspective that if you have friends, money and purpose: you’ll have a pretty damn good reason to keep on living.
In Vistage, we say “Great leaders ask great questions.” The most important question: What’s my purpose?
The 2 Ingredients of Purpose
Your purpose is about solving problems that are meaningful to yourself. Two phrases are key in this sentence:
solving problems – whilst you can get momentary happiness from experiences, only improving quality of life for other beings gives rise to lasting fulfilment
meaningful to yourself – if you don’t enjoy the journey, you are going to give up quickly. If you give up, you will not solve problems. You must be selfish in this respect. You must use your own unique combination of talents and desires in a way that is satisfying to you personally
The path of the purposeless one is beset on all sides by distraction and other people’s priorities. Modern western society gives us the greatest freedom of action of any civilisation in history. This freedom is dangerous without defining how you will use it.
The greater the freedom, the more important to clarify your own purpose.
“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me… “
“Freedom from” – the removal of obligations: I save enough money to not have to work in a job that is not meaningful
“Freedom to” – the creation of a purpose: I actively exercise my power of will to choose to pursue a meaningful purpose
Being highly efficient in pursuit of what is fundamentally unimportant is a terrible life path. I know several people who are brilliant at tactics, but lack any coherent life strategy. They are lost.
Nobody climbs Everest by accident. It was a dream and a plan and part of the meaningful activity of life for a decade before the summit.
How do you begin to answer: What is my Purpose?
Write something down. Anything.
What do you want to do during your life? Bucket list, problems you want to fix, experiences you want to have, how you differ from others, how you relate to others, teachers that made a difference…
Write them all down.
That’s step 1.
My friend David Tomas and I went to a 3 day workshop with Dr John DeMartini about 10 years ago called “Master Planning for Life“. For 3 straight days we sat in silence in a room in London and we wrote a plan for our life. Mine is 150 pages of word document. It is exactly what I described – a big list of every place I ever wanted to go, every thing I ever wanted to learn, every person that matters, every teacher that impacted me, every dream I have… and a set of financial plans that would allow me to make it happen.
I haven’t done everything that is in the document. I get demotivated and forget to review it often. I have days where I ask myself “what is it all about?”
I have this document as a map and a compass that can get me back on track.
You have to write it down.
…and then you iterate it many, many, many times. You come back to it regularly and add things that are even better and delete things that don’t resonate any more.
After 100 iterations you have something that can re-motivate you about why you are here.
After 1,000 iterations you should start to have something that really reminds you what is important and how to use your time.
Is there a shortcut?
…of course not. This is too important an aspect of your life to cut corners. Imagine if you just copied someone else’s purpose document? You’d end up living a great life, for them.
…and iterations are vital – because often what you think is important or meaningful when you are young turns out to not quite be the experience you expected.
Put it where you will see it often
It is not the writing down that matters. It is the iterating and repeatedly reminding yourself of what you think is important.
The problem is not that you don’t know what matters to you and what activities are most important – it is that you forget or get distracted so often.
This video is about superman. When superman was first developed as a comic book character, he was so strong and powerful that he overcame all obstacles easily. It was only when the authors made him weaker that the stories became interesting.
In our own lives, it is not the easy path that makes for a meaningful life – it is the hard path, and having to become a better, stronger, more resilient, more resourceful person that makes for a meaningful life.
I was in Boston to teach on the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation EMP (Entrepreneurial Masters Program) this week. MIT Endicott House is one of the most beautiful locations for leadership retreats and programs. I brought my drone to capture the scenery around the main buildings. You’ll see the drone shots right at the beginning of the video below.
Why Do We Need to Clarify our Purpose?
Dandapani was one of the speakers at the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Masters Program event this week at MIT Endicott House, outside of Boston. Dandapani spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, meditating with his guru on the purpose of his life.
Dandapani spoke about the importance of consciously deciding what is important and what is not important in your life. Why?
A short story from the mountains about how removing drag can be more effective than increasing power. Many times we could improve our life by cleaning up the things we do that actively damage ourselves: eating poorly, drinking too much, complaining, remaining angry, holding grudges, positioning myself as a victim.
This week’s video comes from Champery in Switzerland where I have been part of the faculty for a leadership program for the Avanade company. One of the other faculty is a Leadership Coach called Kris Girrell. He shared a simple 4 part structure for a Coaching Conversation.
The 4 Coaching Questions
Learn More about Kris Girrell
In his TEDx talk, Kris shares a wonderful idea – the “Emotional Table of the Elements” – in which he created a someone tongue in cheek copy of the Periodic Table replacing atoms with emotions. I love the metaphor. Check out his TEDx talk below:
Knowing how to respond to others’ emotional states is the essence of Emotional Intelligence. But how do we actually learn it? Executive leadership coach Kris Girrell suggests that sometimes the path to becoming intimately aware of our emotions may be a little bumpier than we bargained for, but in the end, results in stronger relationships.
Kris is an executive leadership coach, co-owner of the Goddard Preschool in Reading, and author of A Married Man’s Survival Guide.
In his TED talk, Stephen Duneier explains that what defines him are not titles, but an approach to decision making that transformed him from someone who struggled with simple tasks to a guy who is continuously achieving even his most ambitious dreams.
For thirty years, he has applied cognitive science to investing, business and life. The result has been the turnaround of numerous institutional businesses, career best returns for managers who have adopted his methods, the development of a $1.25 billion dollar hedge fund and a rapidly shrinking bucket list.
“Every one of my report cards basically said the same thing: Steven is a very bright young boy, if only he would just settle down and focus.”
“What they didn’t realize was I wanted that even more than they wanted it for me, I just couldn’t. And so, from kindergarten straight through the 2nd year of college, I was a really consistent C, C- student. But then going into my junior year, I’d had enough. I thought I want to make a change. I’m going to make a marginal adjustment, and I’m going to stop being a spectator of my decision-making and start becoming an active participant.”
“And so, that year, instead of pretending, again, that I would suddenly be able to settle down and focus on things for more than five or ten minutes at a time, I decided to assume I wouldn’t. And so, if I wanted to achieve the type of outcome that I desire – doing well in school – I was going to actually have to change my approach. And so I made a marginal adjustment. If I would get an assignment, let’s say, read five chapters in a book, I wouldn’t think of it as five chapters, I wouldn’t even think of it as one chapter. I would break it down into these tasks that I could achieve, that would require me to focus for just five or ten minutes at a time. So, maybe three or four paragraphs. That’s it.”
“I would do that and when I was done with those five or ten minutes, I would get up. I’d go shoot some hoops, do a little drawing, maybe play video games for a few minutes, and then I come back. Not necessarily to the same assignment, not even necessarily to the same subject, but just to another task that required just five to ten minutes of my attention. From that point forward, all the way through to graduation, I was a straight-A student, Dean’s List, President’s Honor Roll, every semester.”
“I then went on to one of the top graduate programs in the world for finance and economics. Same approach, same results. So then, I graduate. I start my career and I’m thinking, this worked really well for me. You know, you take these big concepts, these complex ideas, these big assignments, you break them down too much more manageable tasks, and then along the way, you make a marginal improvement to the process that ups the odds of success in your favor. I’m going to try and do this in my career. So I did. I started out as an exotic derivatives trader for credit Swiss. It then led me to be global head of currency option trading for Bank of America”
Mr. Duneier teaches graduate courses on Decision Analysis in UCSB’s College of Engineering. His book, AlphaBrain is due for release in early 2017 from Wiley & Sons. Through Bija Advisors, he helps business leaders improve performance by applying proven, proprietary decision-making methods to their own processes. His artwork has been featured around the world and is represented by the Sullivan Goss Gallery. As Commissioner of the League of Professional Educators, Duneier is using cognitive science to alter the landscape of American education. He is the former Head of Currency Option Trading at Bank of America and Emerging Markets at AIG International.
This video is inspired by George RR Martin and his view on leadership and the price of power. Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge show that being a good person gets the greatest effort out of the people around you, but just being a nice person can mean you avoid the really tough decisions of Leadership.
What’s the toughest leadership decision of all time? Answer below the video…
Tough Leadership Decisions?
The toughest decision of Leadership: Odysseus’ choice between Scylla and Charybdis.
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