quality questionsI read Umair Haque’s HBR piece “How to have a year that matters” early 2013. Umair challenges the usual superficial New Year’s resolutions big time “ do you want to have a year that matters — or do you want to spend another year starring-slash-wallowing in […] mediocrity-slash-self-imposed tragedy?

I picked up the glove and started working through his questions – not that I remembered every single one of them, however, once you start considering what it means for you “to have a year that matters” you will work through them naturally.

He asks:  So what’s your true north? […] Does your true north point to consumption, status, transactions — instead of investment, accomplishments, relationships? If it’s the former, I’d bet: a life well lived is going to remain as elusive to you as it’s been to Lance.”

During the 2017 Tour de France, Lance was quoted: “Cycling is still struggling to come to terms with its past”.  He may be projecting his own state of mind there …
Anyway, rather than navel-gazing into eternity on how you ended up in south-eastern direction instead of north,  ask “How do I want to move on from here? ”, not “How did this all happen?”.

Many people I speak with are surprised that I would take the radical decision to leave a perfectly fine career and start something new and uncertain. Our inborn loss aversion often leads us into the sunk cost fallacy (Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow), or an escalation of commitment (consistency principle, Robert Cialdini – Influence).  At our core, we prefer to continue the same behavior aligned with previous decisions, rather than alter course – our reptile brain loves a steady go. Even if continuation is irrational, no longer in line with our values and beliefs, resulting in mediocrity or a downward spiral of indifference to our daily work or lives.

Umair asks: What breaks your heart? […]It’s there that you begin to find what moves you. If you want to find your passion, surrender to your heartbreak. Your heartbreak points towards a truer north”

Over the last few years, I experienced real intimacy with people who were willing to open up their hearts and disclose their pain. Who knew they had to push through to save their relationships with partners, children, parents.  Who had the guts to face their monsters. To show their whole being. WOW! That is real. There is no tragedy in honesty, intimacy and openness. And yes, that includes facing my own monsters. Making this journey myself.

I close with the piece of his text that I chose to ignore.
“ And here’s the inconvenient truth: it’s going to take more than the tired old refrains of hard work, dedication, commitment, and perseverance. It’s going to take very real heartbreak, sorrow, grief, and disappointment. Only you can decide how much is too much. Is it worth it? […] The scales of life always hang before us — and always ask us to weigh the burden of our choices carefully.”

We’ll see. I have given myself a couple of years – I know I have no lack of perseverance.  Thank you, Umair.