Around this time of the year, I try to spend some time evaluating the year and reflecting on my life. It helps that I am in Men’s Fraternity. This is a Tuesday morning gathering of guys (mostly from Crestview) who meet to wrestle with some of the basic issues of being a godly man, a Christian husband and father. Every Tuesday morning at 6:30 AM, twenty-five guys gather at our building for an hour and a half. It is well worth the time and effort.
Yet, reflecting on the previous year is something that I have done for many years. Maybe it is the way that I am put together but I just find that some kind of assessment and look to the new year is energizing. The other day, I read a fine article by Jim Collins about beginning the new year. The article is entitled, Best New Year’s Resolution? A "stop doing" list. In the article, Collins tells how he learned a valuable lesson about himself and starting a new year.
Each time the New Year rolls around and I sit down to do my annual resolutions, I reflect back to a lesson taught me by a remarkable teacher. In my mid-20s, I took a course on creativity and innovation from Rochelle Myers and Michael Ray at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and I kept in touch with them after I graduated.
One day, Rochelle pointed to my ferocious work pace and said, "I notice, Jim, that you are a rather undisciplined person."
I was stunned and confused. After all, I was the type of person who carefully laid out my BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), top three objectives and priority activities at the start of each New Year. I prided myself on the ability to work relentlessly toward those objectives, applying the energy I’d inherited from my prairie- stock grandmother.
"Your genetic energy level enables your lack of discipline," Rochelle continued. "Instead of leading a disciplined life, you lead a busy life."
She then gave me what I came to call the 20-10 assignment. It goes like this: Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?
That assignment became a turning point in my life, and the "stop doing" list became an enduring cornerstone of my annual New Year resolutions — a mechanism for disciplined thought about how to allocate the most precious of all resources: time.
Now I find that to be very helpful! What do I need to stop doing? Before I quickly say, "I can’t think of anything" or "Who would do that task?" etc., I really need to reflect on this. Have you ever given thought to what you need to stop doing at work, at home, etc.? I want to revisit this one on another day.