What’s the point in living a deliberate life? Are there certain approaches to life, which, if carefully crafted into the fabric of our lives, will ultimately leave us more satisfied when it comes time to look back over our days?
I believe there are. I believe that woven throughout our shared human experience, there are certain components that make up a life well lived, and we see them surface again and again in our great thinkers, art, and science.
One of the best comedy ensemble tv shows of the last couple of decades is ‘The Office’, and one of the best characters of the show is the manager of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch, Michael Scott, played to perfection by Steve Carell. What makes Michael so awkwardly, cringingly hilarious to watch is his complete and total lack of self-awareness.
You’re probably familiar with the story of the big rocks, the pebbles and the sand in the vase. A teacher stands up in front of the class and fills a glass vase with big rocks. ‘Is it full?’ he asks. ‘Yes’, the class answers. Then he pours in small pebbles, which fill up the cracks between the big rocks. ‘Is it full now?’. ‘Yes’, they answer. Finally, he pours in a bag of sand, the grains making their way into the tiny gaps that remain.
The principle in the story is that if you start with the sand, it will fill the vase completely, leaving no room for the big rocks. Starting with the big rocks and then moving onto smaller things is the only way to get all the elements in. This, of course, is an analogy for starting with the ‘big rocks’ in the way we plan and live out our lives – the things that really matter to us – and then allowing the smaller things that matter less to fit around them.
It’s a classic story that gets used again and again, because the principle is true. Being deliberate about the most important goals and values in our lives is the only way to ensure we give them the time and energy they deserve.
Ultimately, it’s a story about getting what you want. What you really want.
A few years ago I was overseas for work when, one day, I moved in a way my body obviously didn’t appreciate, and I did something to my back. It didn’t seem like a big deal, just a bit of a twinge, and I was due to start travelling home the next day, so I just ignored the pain, packed and went to bed.
I came across a business concept this week which instantly captured my attention. I felt instant, visceral recognition of the concept being described, and the power of being able to sum it up so succinctly.
The term was ‘Organizational Debt’.