Four Lessons on Living From a Man Who Made a Difference

How do you get a street named after you when you weren’t a city “father”, a major philanthropist, a company founder, a celebrity, or the person who once lived on the developed land?

Put another way, how does an “ordinary” man get a street named after him (and another street named after his grandson)?

I am becoming obsessed with the stories of people who aren’t famous but make a significant impact on people and communities. Fortunately for me, I grew up with an uncle who was just such an “ordinary” man.

This is a story of Denny Darnold, a not-so-ordinary man, and four lessons we can learn from the way he lived his remarkable life.

Until a couple years back when you Googled “Darnold”, you didn’t get many results…the Darnolds aren’t exactly the Rockefellers or Kardashians (thank God). Of course, distant cousin Sam recently elevated our Google prominence and taught people how to pronounce our name.

Denny and Grandson at end of dock

We Darnolds aren’t generally headline seekers, we are more folks who sit on the end of docks with our grandchildren. Thanks to Uncle Denny (and of course my Father), I understand the beauty and power in a humble strength approach to living though their example.

Lessons on Living From Denny Darnold

1. Live With Great Integrity

While eulogizing my Uncle the Mayor of Hudson Wisconsin listed Denny’s many accomplishment and awards (see a nice story about Denny’s accomplishments here). However he also emphasized one word, integrity. I think he said it ten times. And for good reason…integrity, and care for family, were the values most enacted in Denny’s life.

The Mayor told a story about a man who interacted with Denny on a regular basis professionally. That man told the Mayor upon my Uncle’s recent retirement that he was happy Denny was retiring because he could now buy Denny a beer.

He was a city planner and he wouldn’t allow vendors, contractors, etc to even buy him a beer because he feared it would mar his reputation for integrity!!!

The Mayor also told a story about the only time he saw my Uncle lose his temper. You guessed it, someone challenged Denny’s integrity.

Uncle Denny and his Grandson Easton on Darnold Dr.

Denny understood that in his role, one of public service, he must never be seen as beholden to anyone but the citizens. He knew that if his loyalty to the people was clear he could be effective for them and that he and his family would never be embarrassed by some negative story that would come to light.

“A Man of Integrity”

I believe we are all called to live with great integrity. Claim the right values and align your actions with those claimed values!

2. Value Function Over Form

I drive a Honda Accord because of my uncles (Tom factored in here as well) and I probably will until Honda messes up their value proposition.

In my opinion, the only reason to own something is because it meets a need (broadly defined). If an attribute of a thing doesn’t cause it to better meet a need, why pay for it. The logo doesn’t add tangible value…only symbolic value. Some needs are met by symbolic value…not very many of mine.

Denny modeled this for me at an early age.

Buy Function Not Form

I remember when Denny first saw me pull up in my Accord. He was proud! At the time I found this strange. Now I believe he saw this as a sign that I had grown into a man who valued the important things. In his view (and mine), Honda Accords have the features you need and they function efficiently…they just run. The things that are important in a conveyance for an office worker.

Honda has become the symbol for me – contradiction intended – of valuing function over form.

3. Have and Share Personal Passions

Denny was a man of many passions.

Denny was a childhood athletic prodigy in a tiny town in Southwest Iowa. He loved the communal nature of sports. He played golf almost literally until the day he died. Many golf buddies came to his funeral and were some of the most sorrow filled non-family members in attendance.

He used his passions as means to build relationships. He was on the shy side so I believe that having connections to people through common interests was especially important to him.

Denny and I both went to Iowa State and he loved to follow Creighton basketball as well. He and I connected through these common interests. But more importantly, we connected early in my life through golf. This is odd because I don’t think we played more than a few rounds together in my entire life. I only remember one.

We connected because he brought me along as a caddy. I went to visit him for about a week most every summer and he would take me along to some tournament. I did nothing but hurt his chances of winning. I know for a fact that he was distracted because of me during a match play final (match play is where two players are going head to head). However, he never got angry with me and had me caddy for him again the next year and the next.

I loved this in real time and in hindsight this was amazing! I learned so much about how to relate to people at these tournaments and I bonded with my Uncle.

Uncle Denny with my Aunt Jeanne

I wasn’t the only one who experienced this.

Denny bonded with his in-laws by becoming a huge Packers fan when he moved to Wisconsin.

Denny bonded with his father in-law through fishing.

And most importantly, he bonded with his children through their interests. He coached their youth sports and shared his love of art most especially with his son.

Don’t be selfish about your passions. Use the energy they provide to build relationships and influence others.

4. Be a Person of Few Words

Meaning > Multitude

I am still trying to live this lesson.

Denny & Brecken, Brecken will be memorialized by a city street just like his Grandfather. Check out my Cousin Sarah’s blog to learn more about Brecken’s story. http://www.mommingstrong.com/

My Uncle lived with a humble strength that allowed him to make an huge difference in the world.

The people of Hudson valued the way he lived his life as much or more than the zoning decisions he recommended.

I believe humble strength is how an “ordinary” man gets a street named after him whether it be literal or metaphorical.

I think we all need to be mentored by these “ordinary” people through their stories. I aim to tell these stories in a way that helps others grow. I wrote about my Grandfather in “My First Minimalist Management Mentor” and I am proud and humbled to pay tribute to my Uncle Denny in this post. He was a remarkable man!

He is one of the many additional people I should have discussed in my TedX talk if it weren’t for that pesky time limitation.

Who are your “ordinary people” and what life lessons can you learn from them?

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Why We All Need Summer Break and Back To School

I find that back to school season is a great time to reflect. Mostly because I can’t think until my kids are back in school. Heading into this particular summer break I felt particularly fried. I was busy all summer, but didn’t feel productive. Maybe you can relate.

When the kids headed back to school I reflected on the summer. I tried to make sense of my lack of measurable output. I barely wrote at all. I kept the balls in the air at work, but didn’t really score many goals.

I truly came to terms with the fact that my progress stalled. I bet you have felt this way a time or two.

I realized I never really took a summer break this year. We took some long weekends that were sandwiched between work travel, the daily grind, and youth sports, but I never really took the time I needed to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.

That was a big mistake!

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“I need a break”

I came to realize that the sprint I made in the spring left me empty in many ways. I was submitting manuscripts, recording a podcast, trying serve my team, teaching a new course, and delivering a TEDx talk. In many ways last spring culminated in a mountain top moment for me. But we all know the problem with being on a mountain top…

My metaphorical finals week left me drained despite earning good grades.

For those of us who are parents, teachers, coaches, etc we can all see this in the children and young adults around us. They lose focus, their tempers get shorter, they make more mistakes…just like all of us when we run out of juice. If you can’t relate, congratulations, you are super human.

I needed a summer vacation to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.

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Sometimes you just need to eat ice cream with your friends.

At the beginning of any good summer vacation – whether it is a week, a month, or the whole summer – you just need to relax. Kids need to swim, run through sprinklers, play games, watch movies, and eat ice cream with their friends.

I personally need some serious kayak time, preferably with fishing involved. I need a few good camp fires with my wife and friends…and of course a few beverages help the cause.

What do you need to relax?

Unless you give yourself some time to decompress you won’t release the pressure that has built up. This will eventually lead to an explosion!

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We all need nutrition

However, summer break cannot just be about decompressing if we are going to use it as a time of growth and refreshment. We can’t live on ice cream alone…some of you might debate me on this point.

As we begin to release pressure we need to take time to strengthen ourselves through nutrition and exercise in order to thrive in our next. Many of us, myself included, can get into some bad eating habits when we are stretched too thin. Don’t even get me started on my exercise routine when I am in the worst phases of the grind.

Kids eat and exercise naturally as long as we provide a conducive environment. The key for them and us is the conducive environment.

Breaks allow us the opportunity to focus on what we need to strengthen our bodies and to reclaim healthy habits.

What habit do you need to reclaim/start to strengthen your body? What needs to change in your environment to keep your body strong?

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Feed your mind

Physical nourishment isn’t all we need refresh, recharge, and refocus.

At the end of my last sprint my mind was a pile of goo suited for little more than Candy Crush and running errands…

Fortunately breaks allow us time to feed our minds what they need to grow. Our brains are especially receptive when not cluttered with the day to day.

What do you need to learn? Do you need inspiration? Do you need to dream?

Books, documentaries, the theatre, lectures, podcasts, and conversations with thought partners can all provide what we need. We must use our breaks to learn and grow as thinkers and dreamers.

I find that campfires are catalysts for great conversations.

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Connect to refresh your soul

As a Jesus follower I also need breaks to help me get back in touch with my creator and God’s creation. I need time to reconnect with Jesus and to reflect on what he wants for my life.

I often neglect prayer, study, and reflection when I get busy. Although busyness is not an excuse, once I am out of the habit I need time to get refocused. Without reconnecting, refreshing, and refocusing spiritually I don’t feel well directed to move forward.

What do you need to do to reconnect and refresh your soul?

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Refreshed, recharged, refocused…time to go back to school.

We all need breaks to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus, but then we need to return.

Refueling is a waste if you aren’t going to burn that fuel. By the end of summer I can always tell that it is time for my kids to go back to school. They are stir crazy, bouncing off the walls, focusing their energy poorly…it is time for them to get back to work.

The same is true for us. I believe we are all called to work while on this earth. We should refresh, recharge, and refocus with the aim of returning to serve our people.

I believe we will be at our best if we return purposefully. Accordingly, the end of our breaks might be a great time to review and revise our purpose and to set goals to achieve that purpose.

What is your plan for your “Back To School”? What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to serve?

I pray that you find a time to take a break to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus. That said, I also pray that you return so that you can make a difference for the people you love and serve.

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TEDx Talk: The Minimalist Manager Mindset

If you want to understand Minimalist Management living and leading, this blog, and to a large degree…me… give this a quick watch. I hope it is helpful to you. The key themes are purpose, mentorship, self-reflection, faith, gratitude, wisdom, leadership and of course minimalism. I am honored to have shared the TEDx stage with so many amazing people. Check out tedxcreightonu.com!

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How I Applied New Tactics to Declutter My Mind & Surroundings

Stuff … stuff … and more stuff … I am amazed at how much stuff comes through my front door.

Junk mail, papers, tchotchkes, candies, toys … the clutter keeps piling up.  And this stockpiling of stuff doesn’t come only in the physical form – there’s also the mental stuff. The emails, the priorities, the inner dialogue, the to-do lists… this type of mental clutter can be just as taxing as the physical.

That’s why, earlier this year, I set a goal to get rid of the mental and physical clutter that prevented me from achieving the goals I had set for myself — the clutter that had been staring me in the eyes for years, daring me to go toe-to-toe with it.

While this goal was certainly nothing new to me, the time and intention I was willing to invest in it was.

You see, I seem to go through a cycle of decluttering every few months or so, only to find myself back in the very same place I started.  The cycle goes something like this …

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Stage 1: The Overzealous Purge

Nothing is safe or sacred at this point!  I’m determined to get rid of all the items I haven’t touched in months and to clear my agenda of any activity that doesn’t help me achieve my goals.

Stage 2: The Rational Purge

Ok… let’s be reasonable.  I can’t be irresponsible by getting rid of things that would cost money to replace.  I bet I’ll use these in the future, or even better… maybe I’ll save them for a garage sale.

Stage 3: There’s No Time to Purge

Sigh!  I’ve run completely out of time, and now all my items and thoughts are scattered.  I’ll quickly put them back in their place and get rid of them next weekend.

Sound familiar?

So, this year … I was (and still am) in the process of doing this differently.  How?

Enlisting the help of my husband and children.

Typically, my decluttering activities are a solo sport.  But this time, I thought it was important for us to participate in it together.  Because we all have different reasons for keeping particular items or doing particular activities, I wanted to ensure I wasn’t placing judgment on things they valued.

Now… some of you might be thinking, “How in the world does Bike Trailyour whole family have time to declutter life together?  We can hardly find time to eat together.”  Well, we had to get creative.

While I had increased my time commitment to this activity, not everyone in the house had that same luxury.  So, I made sure to actively involve them when I could, and I set key items and questions aside for them to review when they had the time.

Being more intentional about ‘how I decided’ to get rid of stuff.

I was never good at getting rid of items I haven’t used in a year; after all, we don’t always keep possessions because of their practical use.  We keep them for deeper reasons, as well.  So, rather than repeating the same old thought process, I decided to apply the five purposeful questions shared in a previous Minimalist Manager article.

I asked myself …

  1. Does this bring me joy?
  2. Does this help me live out my values?
  3. Does this help me employ my strengths or mitigate my weaknesses?
  4. Does this help me fulfill my purpose?
  5. Does this help me execute my strategy?

Asking these questions made the world of difference!  Especially when it came to items that I saw as ‘junk’, but my husband saw as ‘joy’ (or vice versa).  Or activities that some thought were a ‘waste of time’ and others thought were ‘helping them employ their strengths.’

By understanding each other’s perspectives, we stopped complaining about the things ‘we needed to get rid of, but never did’.  Instead, we saw their value for what it was… meaningful in its own way.

Prioritizing the most important and realistic areas to declutter. 

In the past, I’ve been guilty of taking on too much at once (a common theme you’ll notice in future posts).  Because of this massive undertaking, I tend to move the ball slightly forward on a lot of things rather than fully forward on a few.

Having recognized and acknowledged this personal tendency, I decided to prioritize the most important areas of my life that I needed to declutter.  I achieved this by noting the way particular rooms, activities, surroundings and people made me feel.

Hard Work_Kitchen
Tackling the kitchen … one of those rooms that kept taunting me!

Then I asked myself … “can you realistically improve this?”  If the answer was ‘yes’, it made the list.  If the answer was ‘no’, I moved it down the priority list until something changes.

I also used the five questions above to guide which activities were most important.  While I might want to clean out my fridge, clearing out junk in my office is more likely to impact the success of my goals.

Where are you?

We are all on separate paths to decluttering our lives.  Whether it is the physical junk that has been sitting in the corner of our room, mental clutter that blocks our creative thoughts, or activities that keep us from what is most important, we all have different ‘stuff’ we need to tackle.

Head Clutter

Whatever ‘stuff’ is holding you back from fulfilling your personal goals, I encourage you to think about what you can declutter to get yourself back on track.

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How I Recharged on the Way to the Airport

I don’t know about you but I get drained. When the battery is running low I lose my focus on my purpose and I am more likely to do things out of line with my values. We all need energy to move forward.

At the conclusion of a recent work trip I had my Uber driver drop me off at a favorite spot on my way from my hotel to the airport. I was there for about an hour and a half, then headed to the airport. It made all the difference in the world…battery was charged and (or because) I connected with God through God’s creation.

I would encourage you to try to replicate this. Find an hour to stop, reflect, and recharge. You might not be going right by LaJolla. But I bet there is a great park near your path home. Give it a try. I bet you will find it helpful.

 

We All Need Reminders

Wondering about any items on the shelf? Ask in a comment.  I would also love to know what would go on your “shelf”.

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Killing Motivation Vampires: Micro-Management

Motivation Vampire

Micro-management is a motivation vampire…please forgive the hyperbole.

A quick working definition of micro-management is to manage with excessive control.

Autonomy is life giving…being controlled will suck the life right out of you.

Signs You Are A Micro-Manager

We Need To Talk About Your Flair
Office Space must be referenced in this post.

Obviously, what is excessive varies from situation to situation and some situations require more oversight than others. For example, when a task is new to a person they may require significant oversight and instruction, but if they still need a high level of oversight and instruction after some training then either they do not have the attributes required, the tools required, the proper context in which to practice, or you are a poor teacher/coach/manager.

Minimalist Management

Minimalist Management is based in the belief that meaningful and clear work allows people to flourish. The people you care about…team at work, children, friends, etc…will thrive when they are working toward something they believe is meaningful and they understand how to be successful.

This pertains to teaching your children to mow the lawn, enlisting your friends in your service activity of choice, or influencing your team to support the new organizational strategy. Meaning and clarity matter!

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Meaning and clarity are abundant in farming and I don’t know many unmotivated farmers

This isn’t just an opinion. Research published in the top academic journals supports this claim. Meaning and clarity are a part of what is often called empowerment. For example, Seibert, Wang, and Courtright (2011) provide evidence from numerous studies that empowerment is positively related to satisfaction, commitment, performance, voluntary pro-social behaviors, and innovation. Further, it is negatively related to strain and a desire to leave an organization. If you want more nerdery, I will put a little more at the end of the article.

If you started to glaze over during the academic speak…that is all really good stuff for the people you care about.

Warding Off Micro-Management Using Minimalist Management

The Minimalist Manager version of garlic, mirrors and sunlight, or a crucifix and holy water is the The Minimalist Management Bill of Rights. It provides some good starting points for warding off this motivation vampire as well as many other motivation vampires.

If you fear you will need to struggle against a real vampire read Six Ways To Stop A Vampire.

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This entrepreneur is the picture of meaning meets clarity

Right 1. Everyone deserves the opportunity to strive toward something personally meaningful.

Do your people understand how their work will improve things for themselves, their family, their team, their organization? If not, it’s time for a conversation. Don’t assume they do. You know what they say about assuming…Don’t do it…this is a family blog.

Right 2. Everyone deserves to have clarity of task and purpose.

Do your people understand what is being asked of them and why they are being asked to perform that task? If not, it’s time for a conversation.

Right 3. Everyone deserves to believe that they can successfully complete their work.

Do your people have the abilities and tools to complete their work as well as an environment conducive to the completion of their work? If not, you need to train them up or move them to another task. You need to get them the tools they need. And/or you need to create a conducive environment. Failure to do these things will lead to demotivation as it will be unclear to your people how they can be successful.

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Task: Put the ball in the net. How: Using the tactics and skills we have practiced.

Be Diligent

By using these rights as pillars of your culture you should ward off micro-management before drastic measures are required.

However, if you are not diligent then your people will likely fall short of your expectations and you might convince yourself that your people need excessive control. You will then exercise that control and you will create a negative habit that will drain your people until they avoid you, quit, end the friendship, or end up in years of therapy to overcome your parenting.

You have the choice to drain life or give life to your people. Don’t be a vampire.

As always, if you found this helpful please share.

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Bonus Nerdery

Just to be clear. I could go on and on talking data on this…

One more example study, Liden, Wayne, and Sparrowe (2000) showed that meaning and competence (two key dimensions of empowerment) held important relationships with outcome variables. Meaning held the key relationship with satisfaction and commitment while competence was key to performance. We need all three to create a healthy performance environment. This study also provides empirical evidence for the importance of high quality inter-personal relationships even when controlling for beliefs about the work itself.

A note about the study referenced in the main part of the post. That study was a meta-analysis. Meta-analysis combines across many studies to estimate the relationship between variables of interest. That study suggests that individual level empowerment is most strongly related to job satisfaction (r = .64), then organizational commitment (r = .63), then strain (r = -.37), then intention to leave (r = -.36), then organizational citizenship behavior (r = .34; pro-social helping behavior), then innovation (r = .28), then task performance (r = .27; r = .54 when people rated their own performance). Empowerment is also likely related to other variable you might find interesting, but those variables likely had not yet been studied enough to be included in this caliber of meta-analysis. Unfortunately, this meta-analysis didn’t break down empowerment into its underlying parts, but it is otherwise a great piece of work and I am not just saying that because two or the three authors are friends of mine. It was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology which is the top applied psychology journal in the world (as was Liden et al.).

 

 

5 Purposeful Questions To Help You Get Rid of “Stuff”

At the core of the current minimalist conversation is “own less stuff so that your stuff doesn’t own you”.

I totally buy into this…

Much more importantly, I believe Christ actually taught this…

If you are not a Christ follower, Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates all seem to agree as well.

My take is that “stuff” can get in the way of relationships with those I love…Jesus, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my partners (see Value #1 below). So we need to get rid of obstructionary “stuff”.

Personal Strategy Template (7)

Time to get rid of the quotation marks around “stuff”. Stuff goes beyond physical possessions. Our definition of stuff must include the activities that consume our time.

As we manage across all the areas of our life we need to curate our stuff so that we only buy/keep possessions and engage in activities that add value to our lives and the lives of those we love.

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondō suggests we ask of each item “Does it bring me joy?”. I think this can be helpful.

However, I believe it is a bit overly simplistic.

Minimalist Management is about the pursuit of purpose. So I think we need a more nuanced approach.

My laptop does not bring me joy in-and-of-itself, in fact I hate it sometimes. It, and other devices, can be a curse just as they can be a blessing. That said, I sure need my laptop in order to pursue my purpose. The pursuit of purpose brings me joy…so I guess I need to keep my laptop.

I hate clothes and I wish I could wear my black polos about 344 days a year (on the other days I would be in my kayak and would look very strange in a black polo) but I can’t cut back to just black polos because the career I love frequently requires that I wear a shirt with more than three buttons. That said, if the shirt isn’t required for something that will lead to joy…it should go.

I must keep some things that I despise because they are required by or for people/activities I love.

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Beautiful but absurd

If you work through the process of putting together a personal strategic plan it can serve as your guide to whether you need to own a possession or engage in an activity. Once you know your purpose and strategy you can ask “Will this thing help me achieve my purpose?”. Or, “Will this activity help me reach a goal that will move me closer to fulfilling my purpose?”.

If you cannot answer yes to at least one of the following it needs to go or you need to stop doing it…hint, the questions are not mutually exclusive.

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Does This Bring Me Joy?

If something truly brings joy…and you are sure you are being honest with yourself and not just justifying…don’t over think it. Upon reflection, you will probably realize that it brings you joy because the thing or activity is helping you live out your purpose(s).

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Making memories with people I love…yes, I mean you Chewbacca.

Does This Help Me Live Out My Values?

Values are our guideposts. I have decided to try to live by four (see above). If I own a possession or engage in an activity that does not represent meaningful relationships, growth, kindness, or impact then it needs to go.

Personal Strategy Template (3)

Does This Help Me Employ My Strengths or Mitigate My Weaknesses?

If I am not being intellectually stimulated or intellectually stimulating others I feel like I am wasting time…literally wasting my life. So if I am not taking in or dispensing data/knowledge/wisdom for more than brief recharge periods I get frustrated and listless.

I need to put my strengths to work! Activities and things that enable the utilization of my strengths should be kept…but not hoarded…I probably only need one of each necessary thing*. Activities and things that distract me and do not recharge me need to be jettisoned.

On the flip side, when I try to spend time thinking about time management, organization, or am trying to lock in on details…I quickly short circuit. These things are important and I can force myself to do them for short periods when I believe they are important for executing my strategy, but I need things and people to help me here. I also need to occasionally invest time in making sure these weaknesses aren’t derailing me.

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I love watching this kid grow.

Does This Help Me Fulfill My Purpose?

“I exist to help people grow into their full God-given potential so that they can impact the world.”

That is my purpose at this point in my life…maybe for the rest of my life.

I am blessed to work in a profession that easily maps onto this purpose. But Minimalist Management spans across all the areas of our life. I am sure people who don’t know me very well …and maybe some who do…wonder why I invest so much in my kids activities (time, money, mental energy).

The answer is quite simple…

I believe based on my life experiences that what kids gain from sports and music will help them grow into adults that will impact the world (teamwork, perseverance, creativity to name a few…but that is a different post).

These are certainly not the only activities that could yield positive outcomes, but I believe they work and they fit with my values. So I happily invest in the things that facilitate these activities and in the activities themselves.

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Building relationships with, and in, God’s creation.

Does This Help Me Execute My Strategy?

Whether it is the high levels strategic goals or the shorter term goals that will lead to your strategic goals the lesson is the same…if it doesn’t help, it probably hurts.

We need to focus. Buying that gadget instead of investing in your growth or your child’s growth…probably not helpful. Sacrificing a vacation in nature where you can bond with your friends or family (if relationship is a core value) because you are constantly getting fast food…probably not helpful.

Personal Strategy Template (11)

If we are going to maximize our motivation, capability, and subsequent impact…we need to be intentional in what we own and what we do. Anything else will limit our ability to have an impact.

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We all have a gift. – Image from Runner Tribe

If you have already put together your Personal Strategy, but haven’t yet started to prune back the possessions that aren’t adding value to your life then start today by getting rid of ten things that don’t help you move forward intentionally based on the above questions.

Or, commit to quitting one activity that is not purposeful and shifting that time to an activity that is.

There are a lot of great minimalist challenges and other resources out there that can guide you in pruning. Here are a few examples for those new to the idea of minimalism.

The More of Less – Josh Becker

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondō

The 30-Day Minimalism Game

Tiny Buddha

If you haven’t yet put together your Personal Strategy then I encourage you to do so. Once you put it together…own it…use it to guide you in your pruning and curating.

Move forward today!

If you find this post interesting, helpful, motivating, or inspiring please post to social media so you can help others and we can grow this community. Posting to Facebook and/or LinkedIn would be ideal…I am really trying to grow community on those sites.

If you want to engage further please join the Minimalist Management Community by following this blog and/or joining us on Facebook.

 

*Footnote

Collections are interesting, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with collecting as long as it is on purpose. I like to collect sports cards with my kids. We build relationship through the process and I think it teaches lessons.

How To Craft A Simple Personal Strategy That Drives Impact

If you are like me you hate when you are not working toward something meaningful and/or not living up to your God-given potential. I live with the desire to avoid these situations. Personal strategic planning is a tool that I believe can be helpful for each of us.

As I wrote in Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan, creating and owning a strategy provides many benefits to successful organizations and I believe many of these same benefits are available to each of us if we employ a tailored version of these same planning tools.

I was due for a plan refresh and decided that working through my personal strategy would be the best way to model a simple but effective way for people to build their own plan. I hope you agree.

Here is a link to the Personal Strategy Template. It should be downloadable and editable. This tool is simple, but much reflection is required to arrive at something that will be meaningful and motivational to you.

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Values Clarification

If you haven’t reflected on what you truly value then you have some work to do. I don’t like the idea that we should all run to some predetermined set of values and just pick a few that feel right to us. Although this might be helpful for some, I think it is most useful to put what you value into your own words so you know exactly what you mean.

If you don’t understand what you value then you cannot successfully determine your purpose or strategy.

Simply understanding what you truly value will lead you to clarity that will improve prioritization and decision-making.

Here are some questions and resources to use as thought starters.

These are all worthless if you are not honest with yourself. After you develop your values I suggest running them by someone who knows you well so that they can call BS if you are off base…the same is true of the subsequent parts of the strategy document.

What do you hope people will say about you when you die?

Write your own obituary.

What do you want carved into your tombstone?

When do you feel most like your true self?

When do you feel most alive?

Describe the personal characteristics of the perfect person.

What things or ideas would you never sacrifice?

What are your greatest aspirations?

Who do you truly love?

What do you truly love?

Co-Active Coaching Resource

TheHappinessTrap.com

Personal Strategy Template (7)

Strengths & Weaknesses

To be crystal clear…we all have both!

Mountains of research suggests that when you are working in your areas of strength you will be more effective. Also, and contrary to some people’s/organization’s beliefs, your weaknesses matter as well.

You need to bolster and work from strength while mitigating weaknesses so they do not become fatal flaws.

Once you understand your personal strengths and weaknesses you can better determine which opportunities are a good fit and what might derail your pursuit of a given opportunity. Furthermore, you will better understand which tasks you should take on yourself vs. those that require you to ask for help (delegate, partner, hire).

Questions and tools to help you determine your strengths.

What do people regularly compliment you on?

What activities lead to positive feedback?

What do other people see as your strengths (hint, ask them)?

What attributes do you have that are fairly unique (skills, degrees, experiences, certifications, personal networks)?

Gallup Strengths

Questions and tools to help you determine your weaknesses.

What tasks or situations most frustrate you?

What tasks or situations lead you to most frustrate others?

What tasks do you hate?

When do you most lack confidence?

What do other people see as your weaknesses (hint, ask them and stress that you need to know the truth)?

What habits do you have that lead to frustration (missing deadlines, arriving late, being unorganized, miscalculating)?

Personal Strategy Template (3)

Purpose Statement

I believe lives are clarified through purpose driven work. This can be work that is done for a business, not-for-profit, your family, or for yourself. When people have a sense of purpose they are more motivated and effective.

I believe that you need to have a purpose statement that is informed by your values and strengths then drives your personal strategy. Some people might prefer to call this a mission statement and that works too if it is authentic and/or meaningful to you.

The statement does not have to be fancy. It should be short and clear. People who know you should see it as authentic.

I believe we can all determine a purpose that is inclusive of our entire lives. However, it will take several drafts and will likely change over time as circumstances change and you better discern your values, strengths, and weaknesses.

Some questions to help guide you to your purpose statement.

What value do you want to provide (your family, your work, your community, the world)?

Which of your activities provide the most value to the people you care about?

What do you desire to do in and for the world?

Personal Strategy Template (10)

Strategy Statement

I am a big fan of Collins and Rukstad’s, and Lafley and Martin’s work on strategy creation. That said, their full treatments are probably overkill for most beginning personal strategists. As long as you have discerned your values, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose/mission I think you can write your strategy statement with just a little further effort.

You need your object, scope, and advantage (Collins and Rukstad).

Objective = A specific and measurable goal that will drive you into the future.

Mine has two parts because it is mine and that is what I need, but don’t go much beyond two or three parts or it will lose its ability to provide focus. Make yours meaningful to you!

Scope = Where you will take action (context, “customer”, activity areas, market, industry, etc)?

Advantage = What unique contribution(s) will you make that will allow you to meet your goal? You have a contribution to make!

Then combine these into a concise statement.

Goals

What specific, measurable, and challenging but achievable goals do you need to meet in the short-term (one year) that will lead to you meet your strategic goal(s)?

These goals should guide your monthly, weekly, and daily (to do list) goals.

If these goals are properly aligned with your strategy you can monitor your progress via the completion of these goals. Three is probably not enough for me given my strategy, but I think that is a good starting point.

If working toward your goals is exhausting or demoralizing you…something is amiss. They probably aren’t the right goals or you may have some personal work to do.

I hope this is a helpful starting point and I would love to help you continue on your journey. Please post questions and eventually your strategy statement as a comment to this post on the Facebook page. I would also love to hear about your successes and setbacks. I believe a Minimalist Manager Community would be helpful to people. Let’s get one started on Facebook.

Thankful 2017: Mentors

Yes, I am thankful for my faith, family, friends, work, etc. But, this year I am uniquely thankful for people in my life that serve as mentors…whether they know they are my mentors or not.

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Uncle Ron

Uncle Ron loves people and he loves the outdoors. He marvels at, and values, God’s creations. Ron is a careful steward of his resources, but will generously invest in the people and activities he values. He appears tireless, but knows how to relax. Ron cares deeply.

MentorTwo

Nicole may love people more actively than anyone I know. She constantly invests in growth, whether it is her own or the people she values. She energetically moves forward while honoring the experiences and people that fueled her growth. Nicole is brave.

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Bill reflects. He takes intentional action. Bill is willing to climb down into the muck to help people. He loves the people he serves, but takes the time and space he needs to refuel. He points to Jesus.

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Father Andy

The Jesuits at Creighton love people where they find them. They are for and with others. The hate injustice and take action. They learn. They teach. They know how to have a good time. The serve for the greater glory of God.

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During this natural time of reflection these mentors leapt to the front of my mind. Having them is a blessing for which I am thankful, but doing something with the wisdom I gain from them is up to me.

These people live and have inspired the values of The Minimalist Manager and I think of at least one of them daily. They inspire me and often serve as a guide through life.

Who inspires you?

Who serves as a guide?

What will you do with the gifts they have given you?

When will you start?

Please join us in The Minimalist Manager Community page of Facebook to discuss these questions.