I heard a tough question this morning (on a podcast).
“Who is the least reliable person you know?”
A powerful reflection… stop and have a think. Is it a friend? Is it a brother? Is it a parent? Is it you… to yourself?
We live in a time of great uncertainty… coronavirus… globalization… robots taking our jobs… a way to bring some certainty to your life and the life of the people you care about… is to be deliberate in keeping your promises.
What impact does it have when someone is not reliable? What impact does it have in your own life when you don’t keep the promises that you make to yourself? Today? In a decade?
Thanks to Tony for pushing me to reflect deeply on the nature of friendship… and to the podcast this morning for a reminder:
Joseph Campbell’s work has had a profound influence on me and on my life. The Hero’s Journey are the steps that a mythical hero must take in order to complete the path to their purpose.
There is no pain-free path… and it must be “chosen sacrifice” if it is to lead you towards self belief. You can’t just accumulate externally imposed suffering and hope… you have to decide to follow the path of the hero.
The Hero’s Journey
“The Hero With a Thousand Faces” is a journey through myths from all over the world. Myths are stories that have been handed down from generation to generation over hundreds and thousands of years. Joseph Campbell shares myths from the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, Hindu and Buddhist legends of the east, and the folk-tales and foundation myths of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The book explores common themes that define the world’s myths. While our cultures differ, they structure their stories in similar ways. This template is what is known as the hero’s journey.
The 3 themes and the 17 specific steps along the Hero’s Journey are described below.
Call to Adverture
1.The call to adventure: Something, or someone, interrupts the hero’s familiar life to present a problem, threat, or opportunity. 2.Refusal of the call: Unwilling to step out of their comfort zone or face their fear, the hero initially hesitates to embark on this journey. 3.Supernatural aid: A mentor figure gives the hero the tools and inspiration they need to accept the call to adventure. 4.Crossing the threshold: The hero embarks on their quest. 5.Belly of the whale: The hero crosses the point of no return, and encounters their first major obstacle.
Trials of the Hero
6.The road of trials: The hero must go through a series of tests or ordeals to begin his transformation. Often, the hero fails at least one of these tests. 7.The meeting with the goddess: The hero meets one or more allies, who pick him up and help him continue his journey. 8.Woman as temptress: The hero is tempted to abandon or stray from his quest. Traditionally, this temptation is a love interest, but it can manifest itself in other forms as well, including fame or wealth. 9.Atonement with the father: The hero confronts the reason for his journey, facing his doubts and fears and the powers that rule his life. This is a major turning point in the story: every prior step has brought the hero here, and every step forward stems from this moment. 10.Apotheosis: As a result of this confrontation, the hero gains a profound understanding of their purpose or skill. Armed with this new ability, the hero prepares for the most difficult part of the adventure. 11.The ultimate boon: The hero achieves the goal he set out to accomplish, fulfilling the call that inspired his journey in the first place.
Return of the Hero
12.Refusal of the return: If the hero’s journey has been victorious, he may be reluctant to return to the ordinary world of his prior life. 13.The magic flight: The hero must escape with the object of his quest, evading those who would reclaim it. 14.Rescue from without: Mirroring the meeting with the goddess, the hero receives help from a guide or rescuer in order to make it home. 15.The crossing of the return threshold: The hero makes a successful return to the ordinary world. 16.Master of two worlds: We see the hero achieve a balance between who he was before his journey and who he is now. Often, this means balancing the material world with the spiritual enlightenment he’s gained. 17.Freedom to live: We leave the hero at peace with his life.
What is a Story?
This is a video from a few years back where I simplified the hero journey structure into 7 steps:
I’ve spent the last 16 years working with CEOs and entrepreneurs to help them get clear on their purpose, get great people around them, execute their decisions and enjoy their life in the process.
The fact that you are reading this indicates that you are purposeful. The challenge for leaders is how this effectiveness leads to an enhanced quality of life.
How to be happier and more purposeful in 2020 and beyond
Author and Harvard professor David Maister says “success is enjoying your life. If you don’t enjoy what you do, the company of the people you do it with, and the impact you are making in the world… it cannot be considered success.”
A happy life is not the absence of pain. In achieving anything of significance: pain is guaranteed, but misery is optional. Anyone who has climbed Everest has been through a lot of pain. All significant achievements of meaning require the willing acceptance of the pain necessary to make the journey, to do the work, to learn the skills.
7 mindsets that connect a purposeful life to a happy life
Think about what you can achieve in 10 years, not in a week. We so underestimate what we can achieve in a decade, and we so overestimate what we can achieve in a day or a week. Shift your focus to what you can achieve over the next decade. Where can your health, your relationships, your financial wellbeing, your skill mastery be in a decade? It is far more inspiring to see a decade of achievement than a weeks worth of tasks.
Think in terms of who you will become (character), not what you will have (possessions.) I have been running leadership retreats for many years now. As we come to the end of any year, one of the questions that I ask leaders to reflect and share during the retreat is “what three words represent who you will become in 2020?” It forces thinking about how I will be, rather than what I will accomplish. My three words for 2020 are Generous, Focused and Kind. What three words would you choose?
Think in terms of process goals, not results goals. I spent over a decade leading sales organisations… and we are taught not to let sales people share results, but activity. A results goal could be to grow my business by 20%. A process goal is to make two more calls per day. A results goal is to lose 10 kilograms. A process goal is to leave two bites unfinished on every plate.
Think about changes in your environment, not your willpower. If you want to eat less chocolate, don’t have it in your home. If you want to do more exercise, put your sports gear on as soon as you wake up. If want to use Facebook less, delete the app. High performers don’t have greater willpower, they remove the distractions from their life.
Don’t negotiate with your excuses. As soon as you decide to take any action, your mind will come up with reasons why not to do it. Don’t engage in this discussion. Your excuses have access to all of your intelligence and they will win.
Fix the little things, and the big things can take care of themselves. Over the last 3 years I’ve had a habit of noting down each afternoon my “love/hate” list. I note everything that has added to my enjoyment of life on the left, and everthing (and everyone) who has detracted from my life on the right. It is often small things that detract. I have acted to remove anything that consistently appears in my “hate” list from my environment.
Think why, who, how… not what, when, how…. In every Vistage CEO decision coaching process, the first question we ask is “why is this important to you?” And we will stay with this question until we truly understand why… before we move to who can help and how to execute. Start with why. Do what is important, not what is convenient.
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.
What do you think? What’s your biggest “drag”?
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