Better Things

Now that you and I have agreed that the best place for the things you intend to do are on a calendar, I wanted to take some time to talk about what that means.

You see, when the things you hope to do are on some long wish list of things you hope to do, they are telling you a lie. They are telling you that you that every single thing on there is of equal importance. They are telling you that you have infinite capacity and infinite time. They are telling you everything needs to be there and should, at some point, warrant 100% of your attention. That it is completely possible and reasonable that you will do all of these things and have all the time in the world to do them.

The beauty of forcing the essential question of "When?" is that it also forces you (and the things) to face a hard and undeniable truth — time is finite. Each day has 24 hours. Six-to-Eight of those you are sleeping. You have many other obligations that will take away from the rest of your waking time — both on your calendar and not. My guess is that for a lot of us, at most and on the best days, we have about 2 hours to honestly dedicate to any of the things on our list. Most days, that is much, much, less.

Now that you are going to make those things part of your day, week, or month by taking a look at your calendar and deciding when you plan to do those things and scheduling those things at a time, you can see exactly how much time you have to work with. Suddenly, you go from having the lie of infinite capacity to the truth of having known constraints. With this knowledge, and only with this knowledge, you can focus on doing better things with that time.

Time is an instant prioritizer. Looking at a thing you need to do and asking "when" returns an answer that is a priority as much as a time. For instance, if some thing should be done "Now" then it is more important than anything else that might be done now. If some thing should be done today, and slotted into a free spot on your calendar to be done today, then it’s as important as anything else you will do today. It also follows that some thing that you put on the calendar to do tomorrow is less important than the things you need to do today or right now.

Now that you have recognized that the time and capacity you have for this long list of things is, in fact, limited you might also start to look at the things on that list and ask, "Is this worth my time doing?"

That is to say, if you know you only have a limited amount of time to work on the things you wish to do, don’t you want to make sure you are only doing the things you should be doing? Don’t you want to do better things? Things that really matter and make an impact? You have maybe a half-hour, hour, etc. Is that short amount of time going to be spent doing the best things you can?

I know I do. And, I know the first step to deciding the best thing I can do with the time I have is ensuring that the things on my list are all things that matter to me. Anything else I, literally, don’t have time for.

A Successful Plan

“Nothing that happened was intentional. Nothing. Everything was about trying to make something cool for our friends that they would like.”Rick Rubin, on the only plan he ever had for Def Jam Records

This quote has been resonating with me ever since I heard it in a short documentary on producer Rick Rubin. In it, he visits the New York University dorm room where he started and ran Def Jam Records for its first few years. In fact, if you bought a Def Jam album during those early days, the business address printed on the sleeve was the address of that very same room. The album was likely shipped to the record store from the mailroom in the dorm by one of his classmates. They had some memorable parties at that dorm, for sure. It was college after all. But those parties are now even more memorable in hindsight because all of Rick’s friends were there and many of Rick’s friends were people that are household names — Rap music legends — now.

Def Jam Records went on to become, even today, one of the most powerful and profitable labels in music. Rick Rubin went on to produce musicians way beyond Rap. Credited in no small part with resurrecting the careers of living legends and always having the finger on the pulse of the next big thing. By any measure, one could make the argument that he is one of the most successful producers the music industry has ever known.

But, I would be willing to bet that even today he’s still just, “…trying to make something cool for our friends that they would like.” That his current success in no more intentional today than it was back then. The reason I suspect this is because it is a successful plan. A solid plan that worked then and remains a plan that works today. And, it’s a plan that scales. Because, if your friends like it then the chances are good that there are millions of other people just like them who would like it too. And, if you can make something millions of people like and place a fair price on it then you will sell millions of that thing and make millions of dollars in the process.

And, sure, there are many other factors to go from selling to a few friends to selling to millions of strangers. Luck, timing, and dozens of other factors mostly out of your control certainly come into play in order to reach those kinds of numbers. But, the one thing you can shoot for — to make something cool for your friends that they would like — is a measure of success that is achievable by all. And, even if you argue against it being your only measure of success you have to admit that it is a pretty good place to start counting it.

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Random Notes and Recent Thoughts #3

I haven’t done one of these in a while. Here are some short ideas I have yet to fully flesh out but are complete enough to share right now anyway. Perhaps in doing so they will drive a discussion that will lead to a longer post.

  • When “No” is your default, the things that fight their way to “Yes” have a deeper value and meaning. They not only have to earn their place, they have to maintain their worth to keep it. “Yes” is important. “Yes” means that something really matters to me. But, this is only the case — and I would argue only can be the case — when “Yes” is not easy and “No” is the default.

  • It is not enough to simply accept, put-up-with, or ignore those things that might drive us nuts about our partners in a relationship. We must learn to appreciate them. Find the ways in which those things might, in fact, be a part of what makes the other person so great. Unless we do, we risk it becoming the chink that becomes a hole that, under pressure, breaks the dam.

  • Like wide margins in a book makes it easier and more pleasurable to read, leaving wide margins in your life makes it easier and more pleasurable to live. Also, having margins in a book leaves lots of room to make notes, observations, doodle, and offer your thoughts. So goes margins in life, too.

  • The reason for quantifying your commitments, and making the time and space for them on a calendar, is as much about committing to your tasks and projects as it is to committing to the margins.

  • The gulf between irresponsibility and opportunity is bridged by intention.

  • Kindness is a habit. One that is strengthened and improved the more you are so.

  • Always get the best paint you can buy. The difference between the good stuff and everything else is measured in decades and, in some cases, centuries.

  • Just a little bit more effort goes such a long way because so many do so much less than the minimum required.

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