Choose Your Game
January 14, 2023
This is the Too Many Trees newsletter, where I share what I’ve been writing and reading in the realm of leadership and personal development. My executive coaching practice is centered around the idea that we are more effective in moving towards our goals when we become more conscious and intentional in focusing our time and attention, and learn how our unconscious patterns are holding us back. If you know somebody that could benefit from my perspective, please forward this to them or let them know they can set up a free intro chat with me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of choosing what game you are playing in your own life. This was prompted in part by my 2022 Year in Review post where I realized that stressing myself out defeated the purpose of being self-employed with a lifestyle business. It’s also reinforced by the James Clear question of “What are you optimizing for?” and the blog post I wrote about my approach to selling.
In all of these arenas, there’s more than one way to do things. We often feel pressured to adopt “best practices” without ever understanding the assumptions and principles that drove that practice. But adopting a practice that optimizes for short-term revenue when you care about long-term relationships with your customers may actively damage your interests.
I’ve become more humble over time, as I realize that what works for me doesn’t work for others, because I have different privileges, different perspectives, different opportunities, and different intentions. If I want to give useful advice to somebody, I have to understand their history, their worldview, and what is important to them. It’s far easier to instead share my stories and vulnerably share what I care about, and they can learn from my experience if it is relevant to them.
As an aside, parenting is an area where choosing one’s own game becomes critical. Everybody has advice for parents, including childless people, and that advice often conflicts (e.g. sleep training cry-it-out vs. co-sleeping). Everybody thinks they know what’s best, often generalizing from their experience with a child or two, despite also acknowledging that every child is different. Parenting seems designed to make every parent feel guilty for not doing enough, by setting the standard to be unattainably high. So choose your own rules with your co-parent, and ignore the noise.
What’s important to you? How are you showing up each week to demonstrate that intention? Choose the people whose opinions matter to you, and let go of trying to satisfy everybody else, because it’s impossible. Celebrate when you act in alignment with your values and principles, because you are playing your own game.
What’s your game?
And now for the normal personal development content…
Blog: I have had the same conversation with several new coaches recently about how to sell yourself and start a business, and decided it was time to write up my sales and marketing approach, which I term Generous Selling. While this approach doesn’t maximize revenue, it does let me stay aligned with my values of generosity and contribution, while also getting enough business to meet my needs.
LinkedIn: These are ideas that have helped my clients (or myself), and that I share via LinkedIn to help a wider audience.
Set daily intentions to reach your goals. Goals are great as a way for clarifying for yourself what is important to you. But most goals are set around lagging indicators, which can only be measured after you have done the work. To achieve your goals requires converting your goals into intentions that guide your actions each day.
Goals or habits? I actually get discouraged by ambitious goals. They often feel impossible and demotivating for me because I don't know how to get there from here. I'm more of an incrementalist, thinking about how I can get a little better each time, and trusting that the results will take care of themselves. But others are motivated by visualizing achieving ambitious goals. What works for you?
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. This saying from the Navy Seals reminds us that when we rush, we get tense and jittery, and often make more mistakes. Going at our own pace allows us to stay relaxed and smooth, which often makes things go faster.
What are you optimizing for? James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, shared this question in a podcast with Tim Ferriss, and I love how it creates clarity about what's most important to you. There's no wrong answer, but you can't effectively optimize for everything. Your answer reflects your priority, and lets you take appropriate actions in response. Play your game, not somebody else’s.
Articles and resources I’ve found interesting:
I went from homeless to Harvard. This essay reminds people that focusing on the lucky individuals who manage to escape an awful childhood situation (as the author did) lets us ignore the systemic problems of the vast majority of people who don’t escape those situations: “The idea of the exception feeds the myth that anyone in our country can achieve success if they simply want it enough and work hard enough. This myth leads us to faulting individuals for their struggles instead of the power structures and social systems that define who is worthy of success.”
Speaking of systemic changes, this investment memo from Howard Marks positing that we are experiencing a “sea change” in the investment environment, only the third of his decades-long career (the first being investors learning to accept more risk in exchange for more reward, and the second being the declining interest-rate environment of the last 40 years). In particular, his previous advice was “it’s hard to achieve good returns dependably and safely in a low-return world”. But with the return of inflation, and the associated higher interest rates, he warns investors to recognize that what worked previously may not continue working in this new environment, and to adjust accordingly.
I found this Twitter thread hilarious as somebody who has all the management books mentioned on my bookshelf, and as somebody who adored the movie Good Will Hunting.
Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks!