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Different Way Forward

Knowing what to do when you don't know what to do

I loved to play in the sandbox when I was a kid. I would spend all day building extravagant terrains and castles and creations where my little Playskool people would live and play.

Every day would involve either rebuilding or add to the existing creation. Usually, rebuilding happened because of rain or pesky little sisters or the dog. Sure I would be upset that the previous day's creation was destroyed but it rarely stopped me from digging in and starting over again. I discovered how to use different things like spoons and forks and water and Tupperware containers to create worlds. I used things in nature like twigs to build fences and line roads with petals and leaves.

When we were kids we didn't know how to do certain things but we didn't care. We made it up as we went along. Knowing what to do next wasn't something that as a little person we thought about too much in advance. We took it day by day.

For me deciding what to do next eventually depended on two things: Exploring the unknown and whether or not I would get in trouble. Typically as a kid, you didn't know the latter until you were deep into the exploring the unknown.

I didn't realize using one of mom's Tupperware containers as a mold for a building or using good silverware as digging tools would land me in hot water

As a kid, I guess my guiding principle was discovering something new everyday and fun. To my knowledge I never wrote that down anywhere I just did it naturally. As I got older and started attending school, I had some great teachers that created "Summer Calendars" with ideas of things to explore every day and I eagerly followed the calendar suggestions. Find three different bugs, leaves, flowers, birds and look them up in the encyclopedia or library, draw a picture of them, etc.

We didn't have the "magic Google " when I was a kid so the encyclopedia and the library was our main source of information

What to do now?

I recently read "Culture Code" by Daniel Coyle which describes how people learn to work together. Why are some teams high performing and others fail despite perfect conditions? Many of the scenarios are harrowing and people came together in minutes and even seconds to address the question "What to do now?"

Coyle goes on to talk about "belonging cues" and "team values" and "company manifestos" and it got me to start thinking about my personal manifesto. What are my personal values or principles and how I show up in the world? What defines me? How do I make decisions?

Do I even know what guides my decisions or am I just winging it every day?

An idea was born to try and identify and create my personal manifesto. How exactly do you build a personal manifesto? I dug in and started researching and reading other famous manifestos. Then I started picking and filtering things that resonated with me. I looked back at how I've conducted myself in the past. What were the guiding principles in hindsight? Then I began thinking about how I want to conduct myself in the future.

In "Culture Code" he retells the story of the Tylenol scare in the '80s and how Johnson & Johnson was able to rebound from the disaster. They knew how to respond because they truly believed and lived their Credo. This is something that resonated with me on a big level.

As I continued to gather the information I began feeling overwhelmed with what I was trying to do. In essence, I was trying to build the "Summer Calendar" of my life but now it comes with baggage. "What will people think?" "What will gain me the most respect at work?" "What will my family think?" "What if I fail?" "What if I'm wrong". Ultimately the answer to these questions simply do not matter.

The point isn't to be right...the point is to learn

I admit I sometimes forget the point and I am driven to be right. I realized my goal in life is to learn and experience new things while still maintaining a level of safety. Take enough risk that I can recover from it even if ends in disaster AND if it's wildly successful how not to lose my mind. This led me to remember the "Fear Setting" tactic that Tim Ferriss has talked about in his blog and Ted Talks.

So after much researching, rumination, and thrashing, I have discovered that my purpose has always been to have fun and experience life and create a world that inspires me. So what guides my decisions on "what to do next"? I came up with a list of guiding principles or values to support my purpose. Purpose and principles are something you know and feel and are memorable. When I decided on the list I was thinking in terms of hashtags that if I took a picture what would my hashtag be?

Lean In

Take Care of Myself

Be Kind



When faced with a problem I can #learn from it and I can #leanin. When faced with a difficult decision I can #takecareofmyself and #bekind. When something is going right I can #inspire others. When faced with the ultimate question "What should I do next?" I can easily ask myself what do I want to #learn today?

What do you want to do next?