I had the pleasure of attending TEDxIESEBarcelona a couple of months ago. My good friend and fellow EO member Raul Aguirre gave a passionate talk on a special secret that has led to his success.

The hidden secret that led to Raul’s success

This talk reveals new insight about the real reasons of success of famous and not-so-famous people – and how to apply these principles to be much more successful – and happier – in any field.

Raul Aguirre

Raul is the Founder and first CEO of Tango/04 Computing Group, Inc. He does wonderful drawings and has a cool instagram account @osplo. He Graduated in Computer Science (University of Buenos Aires), EO/MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Entrepreneurship Master Program, and the Superior Institute of MorphoPsychology (ISM, Barcelona). Designer of award-winning technologies (such as the APEX Award of Penton Media for VMC, USA, 2004) and products sold in more than 50 countries.

TEDxIESE Barcelona

Check out the full playlist of speeches from the first 2 editions of TEDxIESEBarcelona:

 

I have worried for too much of my life about whether I am a success or not.

This video shares the simplest and most empowering definition of success that I have found.  It comes from Pema Chodron.  It is a wonderful reflection for me about how I am living my life.

Am I learning to forgive myself and to be a positive addition when I am with other people?

Thank you for your comments, reflections, shares and likes!

Jim Rohn had a wonderful saying: “Success is a few good habits repeated every day, Failure is a few bad decisions repeated every day”

If you are reading this via email, the video is here Success is a Few Good Habits Repeated Every Day

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. This is old wisdom but relates to success in our lives. What are your apples? Your daily positive habits? Let me know in the comments below 😉

pablo-33

In a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, former U.S. President Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

jp-kantorRobert Glazer shared this simple but powerful life management tool on his blog today – Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important matrix.

The image to the right shows a 2×2 matrix using the two axis of Important and Urgent.  This gives us 4 types of task:

  1. Urgent & Important
  2. Urgent & Not Important
  3. Important & Not Urgent
  4. Not Urgent & Not Important

In an un-disciplined person, category 2 tends to be completed before category 3.  In a disciplined person, category 3 is completed before touching category 2.

Success is rarely Urgent

Jim Rohn gives one of the most powerful definitions of success:

“Failure is a few bad decisions repeated every day.  Success is a few simple good habits practiced every day” Jim Rohn

There is a saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  Health success is an apple a day.  Failure is a donut instead of an apple each day.  You can say “what difference does 1 donut make?”  You won’t notice the damage today, you won’t notice tomorrow… but over a year: a donut a day starts to extract a price.

The urgent is often the result of avoiding the important.

By the time the painkillers are needed, it is too late for the vitamins.

Vitamins are important.

Practice Saying “No”

If you wish to spend more of your life on the important things, and less on the urgent things, there is a tool…

Warren Buffett’s definition of integrity: “you say No to most things”.  If you are not saying No to most things, you are dividing your life up into millions of little pieces that are being given to other people’s priorities.

Learn to say “No”…

…without the word “no”.

The most powerful ways to say “no” do not involve the actual word “no”.

  • Here is one powerful way: Strategic Unavailability.
  • Another is to raise the cost of your “Yes”: If someone wants to meet for coffee, I say “yeah sure, I am free on Friday at 7am at my office in Sabadell [25 mlles away]”. If the person still wants to meet then it must be important.  90% end up not following up.  The few that do, will come prepared and have done their research.  They know what they want from me.  They know whether it is worth their time.

Celebrities and Politicians have entire staffs dedicated to restricting access.  Bono, the singer of U2, has 25 people who review requests for his time, his money, his attention in order to allow only the important requests to reach Bono himself.  Barrack Obama has a whole White House staff whose mission is to ensure that he only spends time and energy on important things, that only he can deal with.

If you don’t start developing methods of saying “no” now, it will only get harder as you become wealthier, wiser, more famous, more experienced and more resourceful.

What urgent task will you say “No” to today?

Some other great posts on Robert Glazer’s blog Friday Forward:

 

3 Ingredients for Success in Life

@Saminsights shared a wonderful 1 page graphic summary of my TEDx talk from 2013.

The Original Talk

Who would you bet on?

The human condition: to be aware that we are free to take decisions and that these decisions can turn out to be poor choices.

It is normal to suffer and regret decisions.

Nobody has an anxiety-free life: not even in the movies, not even in romantic songs.  Alain de Botton shares a wise insight into existential crises in this School of Life video.

Learning to Accept Myself as I am

Wisdom is to accept that we do what we do and that is enough.  Even if I don’t do my best, it is the best that I could deliver at that time and that moment.  We can learn from poor decisions, but we get nothing from the emotion of regretting past decisions and we get nothing from the emotion of anxiety over current decisions.

My father takes decisions very quickly.  He has the attitude that he will change direction tomorrow if he is wrong, but he will not wait to take a decision.

Maybe I only see the outside of my father – maybe inside he does face anxiety and frustration at himself for not doing better to get prepared for something.  He does a good job of hiding it.

I feel like I spent far too long in agonising worry over decisions.  I should take a direction more quickly, but also be open to reversing the decision tomorrow.  (As some that know me well will attest: I am poor at accepting that I am wrong).

To be wrong is to have learnt something new.  If I take a decision now, and tomorrow I realise it was wrong for me – this new wisdom could only come because I had taken the decision.

What about you?

Are you good at taking decisions?  Are you good at dealing with anxiety?  I’d love to hear how you approach decisions and deal with yourself.

 

One anecdote does not make a proof.

The danger: humans are more easily persuaded by 1 clear and concrete anecdote than by big data and expert statistical analysis.

“My friend’s brother bought a house in downtown Barcelona 2 years ago and is now selling it at twice the price!”

This statement has far more impact on me as a human than: “the real estate market in Barcelona metropolitan area has an undersupply of mid-range housing and this scarcity will result in an acceleration of asset prices”

An anecdote is a one off. It is not data. It is not science. It is dangerous.

In statistics this is called a Type I error.  In slang: “a false positive”.  More simply stated, a type I error is detecting an effect that is not present, while a type II error is failing to detect an effect that is present (Wikipedia on Type I and Type II errors)

Success Literature and Type I Errors

I just read a blog post that reported lessons from the lives of 13 billionaires. It reported that each billionaire had built their empire based on a product that they had wanted as a consumer.

I suspect if you interview 2,000 failed and bankrupt entrepreneurs, the majority would also say that they had build their companies around a product that they had wanted as a consumer.

So often, success is luck and failure is luck. However, those that succeed sell their story as a systematic managed process of step by step success, and those that fail sell their story as a perfectly executed plan blown to bits by a black swan event (I tell people I failed because of the failure of Lehman brothers and the collapse of the financial markets during 2008-2010).

I suspect that the recipe of success is “try something, if it works, do it again… if it doesn’t work, try something else… and keep going until you succeed” The determination to succeed combined with the commitment to really learn from each setback is the root of all success. Luck will adjust whether the success comes at age 25, 25 or 75.

Be careful of anecdotes. One man’s good deal is not a sustainable marketplace.

On success, there is no one right answer: You cannot learn absolute rules from another person. You cannot take the life recipe of another person. You can learn from their stories, but only you will take what you take from a story.

Seek out Stories

Tribes, civilisations and families have found that life lessons are best communicated through stories.  Stories have existed since words came to the homo sapiens.  Joseph Campbell has identified common themes through the stories of every human society – clarifying the roles we play as human beings, the struggles we face in our lives and the search for underlying meaning to the bits and pieces that make up a life.

Stories connect to heart and to head, to reason and emotion.  There is a truth to a good story that is deeper than the factual truth of the events.  When a story resonates with you, it is not because of the objective truth of the story, it is because it connects with a subjective search for truth within you.

Reading a story about story

A post shared by Conor Neill (@cuchullainn) on

Once Upon a Time in A Speech…

I tell many stories in my speeches.  It always amazes me how different individual members of the audience take their own particular meanings from my speech.   Sometimes one particular off-the-cuff comment has an oversized impact for one individual.  Each person takes what they need from a good story.

Every person’s life experiences lead to answers in this moment for that person.  We each live in two worlds, the outer world that we share with all others; and the inner world that exists inside us, and that will disappear from this world when we ourselves leave this world.  Stories connect between my inner world and your inner world.

Stop Searching for Rules

Seek out experiences, not certificates.

Seek out people, not facades.

Seek out stories, not answers.

There are not answers, only stories.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 16.38.35Keynote: The 3 Keys for Entrepreneurial Success

When I was 14 years old, my grandfather told me that “Success is earning more than your father.”  This talk shares how my definition of success has changed over the next 3 decades of my life.  My definition today…  listen at the end of the speech.

What is success?  What are the 3 key ingredients of a person who can have a successful life as an entrepreneur?  Watch the video here on my blog or Watch on Facebook.

Questions for You…

Who is the first person that comes to your mind when you think about success? Who is that person? What is about them that makes you think of them?

Does it surprise you which person comes to your mind?

Re-sharing an old article of mine…

I wrote an article for myself in 2009 when I had faced 2 major setbacks. This was to remind me of what is important. I’ll share the article again here below:

17 Daily Habits for a Fulfilling Life

Conor Neill, February 2009

This is a compilation of habits that I have seen in the lives of people who have achieved things and felt satisfied and fulfilled with the way their life has progressed.  I often get asked the question “is this for a book?”.  I don’t know.  I teach MBAs and often am asked over a coffee “what should I do with my life?” or “how can I be a success?” to which my answers are often in the form of questions – but this project hopefully will move me towards a better answer when asked these questions. 

An entrepreneur friend recently commented to me an early conversation he had with a mentor “Alex, you have great potential”.  “Thanks.”  “Do you know what great potential means?  You ain’t don’t nothing yet”.  What does it take to turn potential into fulfilment?

I look forward to your comments, reflections, disagreements, personal experiences and outright criticisms.  

Conor Neill

 

Goal setting, Dreams – Goals – Actions

We know what we need to do to be successful, but why do so few people manage to sustain the habits of regularly dedicating time to the activities that will bring them success?  Why do we sabotage ourselves?

A nice thought about something you might like to have is a dream.  A dream written down and clearly visualised is a goal.  A tangible, measurable step written down and committed to is an action.  You will not achieve a dream if you don’t systematically work through the actions that lead to the goals that lead to the dream.  Dream – have a book published.  Goal – complete first draft of book by 31/1/2010.  Action – write 1000 words on goal setting.

A writer is somebody who finds writing harder than anybody else.  My brother Aidan – set a goal 60 weeks ago – publish a blog article every Monday before 9:00am – and has consistently met it except for 2 weeks – the week his son was born and the week his son was in hospital with a worrying stomach condition.  How?  He made a verbal commitment to many of his friends.  He said to his wife that he would give her €100 every time he failed to publish by 9:00am.  He has paid 3 times (once he published the blog 20 minutes late).

We need accountability partners (sadly we are less likely to cheat on our goals if committed to a friend than just to ourself).  The top performers all have coaches; it is too difficult to sustain high performance without help. 

Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers made popular the idea that becoming excellent requires 10,000 hours of practice.  Your genes, your natural talent, luck becomes irrelevant when you achieve 10,000 hours.  In what will you spend the next 5 years accumulating your 10,000 hours of practice? 

Most people never accrue 10,000 hours in anything.  Will you make the commitment to excellence, the commitment to mastery?

Calendar Management (Pomodoro Technique, Rhythm); Self Discipline

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret” Jim Rohn

Routine sets you free.  Routines can break the tendency to procrastination (“quieting the lizard brain” Seth Godin).

Pomodoro technique – get a timer that clearly counts down 25 minute intervals.  Take your to-do list.  Prioritise number 1 important item.  Estimate number of 25 minute intervals.  Set the timer and work on the first timer.  Any interruption, reset the timer to 25.  At the end of a pomodoro take a proper 7 minute break.  After 4 take a 25 minute break.  How many pomodoros can you achieve in a day?

Self discipline has been shown to be an “expendable” resource.  In order to have the greatest ability to maintain self discipline, we need to get enough sleep, face our anxieties, take time out to relax as well.

Fit mind and body (Energy)

Survey of centurions (people who live to 100) – two things in common:

  1. they exercise every day and
  2. they have a project which they must survive in order to complete.

“Sharpen the saw”  Steven Covey

You only have one body – take time for repairs.  Take time to strengthen it.  Take time to rest it.  Keep fit, play sport, enjoy walking, don’t wait for the heart attack to let you know that you need to eat healthy, keep fit. 

Personal Vision

“What on Earth am I here for?”  Wrong Question – meaning is not to be found inside ourselves – “What do my parents, friends, family, society need from me?  How can I best help others?

Jesus Christ once said, “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”

What drives you?  Guilt?  Resentment?  Fear?  Materialism?  Approval?  Social comparison?

The Arbinger Institute distinguish between two forms of emotional living – “In the box” vs “Out of the box”.  “In the box” is reactive – your emotions are reactions to world and people around you.  If someone is late to your meeting, you are angry.  Out of the Box is that you are proactive about emotion – you choose the emotion that best serves the current moment.  You don’t react to people, but seek to understand what is happening in their life, what they are seeking, what they are lacking.  

Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of “quiet desperation,” but today a better description is aimless distraction. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere.

We are products of our past, but do not have to be prisoners of it.

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Do you have a clear understanding of your values?  Have you spent some time reflecting on what is important to you?  Who are your role models that have lived these values in a strong way?

Why do many cancer survivors look back on the cancer as a gift? – they live the rest of their lives with a true understanding of how short a time we have and what is really important in the time we have.  The unimportant drops away and leaves a powerful clarity and focus.

Communication in concise terms of your personal, company, project, goal vision. You are always selling.  People sign up for vision, fun and principle.

“We die”.  What will you do the last hour?  Who will be there?  Who will you want to speak to?  What would you say?

In the book “Superfreakonomics” there is a chapter that shows a high correlation with the arrival of television and an increase in crime.  The authors examine various hypothesis, but essentially find no link except a speculation that the arrival of TV also was the arrival of powerful advertisement campaigns that transmit the idea that “buy this product” = “get this life”.  The purchase of a €2 coca cola is not the purchase of sugar, water and some cola flavour in a red can…  No, it is access to a life full of exciting friends, fun parties and meaningful interaction.  The purchase of a car is not the purchase of a vehicle to get from A to B, it is access to a lifestyle.  You are not happy now, but the mere purchase of the right set of goods will transform your life into one of fulfilment.  This leads to frustrated people.  We believe the ads, but they are selling falsehood.   No thing, no object, no achievement will fundamentally change how you feel about yourself – only you can decide to change how you feel about life.

Integrity – build trust, reliability (“Its a small world”)

Are values worthwhile because they provide a ROI or are they valuable only in that they allow you to sleep well every night?  Warren Buffett – why is Integrity his number 1 criteria for selecting people in whom to invest?

Aristotle believed that if an individual did not internalise an ethical value system before the age of 12 they would never really “feel” the need to live their values.

Finances in Order

Delayed gratification is necessary.  Nobody soaked in debt will ever be able to generate the focus to deliver impact in the important areas of their life.

The test that has most correlation with success in life is a simple test devised by psychologists.  They bring a child into a room and sit them down.  The child is presented with a sweet.  The adult then says that they need to leave the room.  The child is most welcome to eat the sweet, but if it is still there when the adult returns, the child will receive 2 sweets.  50% of children cannot resist temptation and eat the one sweet, losing the opportunity to double their outcomes.  The children that don’t eat the sweet do not sit there staring at it – they have learnt to avoid looking at the temptation, they have learnt strategies to manage themselves.

Accumulate education => Accumulate capital => Generate income => Grow expenses inside the limit of passive income.  Freedom = passive income > expenses.  Slave = 90% income as salary.  Keep expenses low, generate assets.

Balanced, enriching social life

Choose your friends.  You will become who you spend most time with.

What is the most satisfying thing you can do for:

  • €10?
  • €100?
  • €1000?

Happiness: It is all about shared experiences + intentional giving.

Unhappiness: it is all about comparing yourself to others, what you have, what you don’t have. What would you rescue from your house if you could only save one thing?  (95% choose photos).  Not plasma TV, not furniture.

Strong close relationships – Marriage, Family, Kids

Quality time vs time in the same room.  Intimacy.  Requires work to deepen relationships and maintain powerful connections.  It does not happen automatically – we are not genetically prepared to establish deep intimate relationships.

Resilience (Head in the sky, Feet on the ground)

Healthy balance between Principles and Pragmatism.  Get good at ignoring the little things.  Don’t wrestle with pigs.  You will get dirty, you will lose and the pig enjoys it.

Self Motivation, Self Esteem, Self Belief

You see what you are looking for.  Ask the right questions.  Change “why does this happen to me?” to “What am I grateful for today?”

Get good at motivating yourself.  We are not computers – we are neurons floating in a sea of hormones and we need to be careful what hormones we let flood our brain – it will change what we see and believe.

“The only source of good knowledge is bad experience” Tom Peters

Climbing Everest, you will not always be going uphill.  Sometimes there are periods of downhill, but it is a necessary part of the journey.  Farmers don’t blame the winter – they accept that it will always come around and prepare to plant seeds in Spring.

Survive => Thrive.  We are first generation that survival is guaranteed.  We are first generation where thrive is the aim – and we don’t have any history or knowledge or family role models that can guide us in a world where you really can avoid most hardships.

The person who says “poor me” has clearly got low self esteem.  The person who says “I am the greatest” is also likely to have low self esteem. 

Self Acceptance

You are the best you in the world.  You will be a terrible somebody else. 

“The reward for conformity is that everybody likes you except yourself” Rita Mae Brown

It is only in the tough times that you reach into yourself and truly see what is important to you.  In the easy times you lose yourself as you compare to everybody else – and lose clarity of what you will know is important when death is imminent.  The sharpest steel is forged in the hottest furnaces.

Fun

Life is too short to not laugh regularly.

Be accessible and approachable.

Mentors and Advisors (Life Strategy)

Have a list. Find your way to ask them.  Nick Luckock – “Apax doesn’t invest in first time entrepreneurs – they don’t yet know how much help they will need from others and how they can ask for it”.

The ideal mentor is someone who you respect, can connect with on a personal level, and who is willing to impart their knowledge. But don’t expect them to solve all your problems.

“A mentor’s role is to help you to make sense of your own experiences” Professor D Megginson

Talking to someone who’s been through a similar experience or has achieved something that you would like to achieve will be constructive.

Coach (Accountability and Balance)

Cormac and his personal trainer: “I only work with the best”.   

“I have no time for people not prepared to do the hard work.” All Great Coaches…

Permission to hold me accountable for my own actions.

Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell all have two things in common – they have been leaders of their respective fields, and they each have a coach.  The best in the world have coaches.  Is it coincidence?  We are not strong enough mentally to keep up the hard work and discipline over the long haul to reach excellence.  We need people around us who hold us accountable and push us to stretch.  Tony Nadal, the coach of Rafa Nadal, says that his role is to ensure “Effort and Commitment” – not tennis skills, not better strokes, not how to get fit.

Giving

Auschwitz – 1 in 30 survived the camp.  Victor Frankl was one.  Why did some survive and others not?  It was not random.  The prisoners received bread rations only sufficient to keep them barely alive, yet some prisoners would take half of their bread and give it to someone that they saw needed it more than them.  Those that ate all of their bread survived a time.  Those that shared their meagre ration of bread were able to truly live.  You can take everything away from a man except his ability to choose his response to any given situation.

Victor Frankl developed the Logotherapy process to help people find the ultimate meaning for their life, to find “a why that can overcome any how”.  There are three types of ultimate meaning:

  1. Serving others
  2. A Unique Contribution
  3. Finding Meaning in the Suffering Itself

Giving with intention, giving what is special to you. 

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill

Getting others to do stuff for you

“Leadership is Vision with bullying” Professor Brian Leggett

A vision without execution is idealism.  Execution without vision is bullying.

Volunteer for charities, clubs.  It is here that you will learn to lead.  Create change = upset someone, connect people, lead people.

Reflection, Time to Think (Separation of Now and Future) “What have we learnt?”

Incremental improvement almost always wins.

Meditation – why?  Does it really provide the impact that many of its proponents suggest?  Commit to 10 days of self development activity every year.

“We’ll pluck significance from the least consequential happenstance if it suits us and happily ignore the most flagrantly obvious symmetry between separate aspects of our lives if it threatens some cherished prejudice or cosily comforting belief; we are blindest to precisely whatever might be most illuminating”. Iain Banks, Transition, Patient 8262.

 

A fulfilling life?

  • Impact = Self Understanding + Personal Habits + Social Systems
  • Life = Work + Social + Relationship + Logos (Meaning/Spiritual)
  • Success = Impact + Luck

Why worry?  It should all come together in the end shouldn’t it?  Life should naturally turn out well.  I don’t like exactly where I am right now, but in a few years it will be better.  Doesn’t it just happen like that?

I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres when I was 23 years old.  It changed an idea I had about life. It scared me greatly. 

The book tells the story of an lieutenant that is stationed on a Greek Island as part of the Italian occupation during the second world war.  He gets to know the locals and falls in love with the daughter of a villager.  They enjoy happy times together.  The Allied forces take back control of Greece, and the Italian army beats a hasty retreat.  Our lieutenant has to depart but he and the Greek girl promise that he will return after the war.  Three years later, the war ends, peace arrives and our lieutenant, after years in camps and on the run, finally can make his way back to the Greek island.  He travels to Greece, catches the ferry to island and walks towards the village.  He reaches the village in the late afternoon and is walking up the final stretch of hill up towards the centre of the village.  He sees a woman in the square, his Greek girl.  She is holding a baby in her arms.  The lieutenant turns and walks away, never returning.  He travels the world.  Each Christmas the girl receives a postcard from some spot in the world – always anonymous and with no return address. 

After many, many years, the man decides that he cannot live without seeing the girl at least one more time.  He is now in his 60s.  He makes his way to Greece, catches the ferry and repeats his journey of 35 years before.  He walks to the village.  He is walking up the hill towards the square and meets a young local boy.  He asks “does Pelagia still live here?”. The boy says “I don’t know any Ioanna”.  The man reflects and thinks.  “She will be old now, 60.  She was the daughter of Iannis”. The boy responds “that bitter old woman?  She lives slightly outside the village” and indicates the house.  Our lieutenant gets to the door and knocks.  When the door opens, the girl who is now an old woman stands for a few seconds in shock and then hits him with all of her force and slams the door shut.  He knocks and knocks and finally she opens. “Why did you do this to me?  Why did you abandon me?”.  “I saw you with a baby, I thought you had a baby, thought you had married, had found someone else…  I didn’t want to stir up…”  “Why?  Why didn’t you ask?  It was my sister’s baby.  I was babysitting”.

Before I read this book I had the idea that life was like a 10 pin bowling alley when it is set up for a kid’s party.  They put foam into the gutters so that all of the balls will reach the end and take down at least a pin or two.  After reading the story, I realised that life does not have this foam protection.  Life has big gutters, and it is quite possible to put my life into the gutter and not hit a single pin.

Never too Late to start

The positive thing is that it is never too late to start living the life we want.  Life’s gutters are all in my mind. The past is gone Today I can decide to head a new direction, and the final destination changes.  I only need change course by one degree and I may make a massive change in the new destination that I will reach and what will happen on the journey.

Jim Rohn says “It is possible to design and live an extraordinary life”.  We measure life in hours, days, weeks and years – but this is not the right measure.  Life is experiences.  There are people that live 200 years of experiences in 40 years of life,  and there are people who don’t live even a single year of experiences in 90 years of clock time. 

“We die”. This is how the Cluetrain manifesto begins.

The human lifespan is 650,000 hours.  One of those hours is your last hour.  One of those days is your last day.  This is an inevitability of life.  We all will die.  In that last moment, what will we have with us?  Nothing.  What will we leave?  What will we remember?  What will flash through our minds?  What will it take so that in that moment, God turns and looks and says “now there is someone who really used the opportunity I gave her”?

Steven Covey says “Begin with the End in Mind”.  Our end is a day where we face the end.  No more opportunities.  Our obituary will be written.  What will it say? 

Alfred Nobel had a unique view of his obituary while alive.  He was one of three brothers.  When Alfred was 55, one of his brother’s died.  The newspapers confused the brothers and the next day’s edition came out with an obituary of Alfred.  He had the unique opportunity of reading his own obituary at the age of 55; and he really did not like it.  He was the inventor and mass producer of dynamite.  Reading his obituary was the inspiration to change his life and leave a different legacy.  Today we have the Nobel peace prize – because Alfred was so gutted to see that his legacy was going to be death and destruction that he spent the rest of his life creating the greatest current symbol of peace. 

Aristotle said “we are what we habitually do”.  If something is important, you must do it every day.  If you say, “I will take some time next year and do that” – you will never do it.  If something is important and will be part of our legacy it needs to be done every day and become routine.

“Carpe Diem. Momento Mori.”  Seize the day. Remember we must die.

In ancient Rome, the words “Carpe Diem. Momento Mori” are believed to have been used on the occasions when a Roman general was parading through the streets during a victory triumph. Standing behind the victorious general was his slave, who was tasked to remind the general that, though his highness was at his peak today, tomorrow he could fall or be more likely brought down. The servant conveyed this by telling the general that he should remember, “Memento mori.”  This finds ritual expression in the Catholic rites of Ash Wednesday when ashes are placed upon the worshipers’ heads with the words “Remember Man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

Begin with the end in mind.

Imagine looking back at the age of 75 and realising that you chose the wrong thing to live for?  Realising that all those years of work and sacrifice were for something that you now do not value?

Living to Please Elizabeth

Over at the excellent Art of Manliness blog there is a recent post about Walter Raleigh.  He was of the best of his age: smart, connected, quick-witted and strong. He sought a life of fame and fortune.

He decided that pleasing Queen Elizabeth was the path to success.  He sacrificed time with his family, sold himself short on his own values… anything to keep pleasing the Queen.  He found riches and fame for a time…

Eventually Elizabeth tired of him and had him thrown into The Tower of London.  He never left the tower.

We Find What We Seek

My favourite novel is Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge”.

RazorsEdgeNew
The Razor’s Edge book cover

The Razor’s Edge tells the story of Larry, an American pilot deeply changed by his experiences in World War I.  Larry rejects the conventional, safe path that awaits him and lives in search of meaning.

He is surrounded by 5 main characters: Isobel, Gray, Elliot, Sophie and Maugham himself (who is both author and a central character in the book).

Isobel seeks financial security.  Although deeply in love, she breaks her engagement to Larry once she sees that he will not follow the path of financial security.  She marries Gray, a millionaire stockbroker and heir to a fortune.  She sacrifices love for money.  Gray will go on to lose his fortune.

Elliot wants to be part of aristocratic society.  He will do anything to be invited to the right parties and will sacrifice anything in order to be around people with titles.  As he lies dying, not a single one of his aristocratic friends makes the trip to visit him.  Elliot dies alone.

Sophie drifts into Larry’s life.  She has fallen into alcohol and promiscuity after her family life fell apart.  Larry tries to save her, but triggers Isobel’s jealousy.  Sophie is alcohol-free with Larry, but Isobel tempts her back with a bottle of vodka.  One bottle triggers a collapse into complete alcoholism.

Maugham ends suggesting that all the characters got what they desired: “Elliott achieved social eminence, Isabel achieved a secure position, Sophie, death, and Larry found happiness.”

What are you searching for?  You will find it.

* Photo of The Razor’s Edge – Source Wikimedia under Fair use