Visit my new site at https://RaviRaman.com
Visit my new site at https://RaviRaman.com
Visit my new site at https://RaviRaman.com
Some of you may have read on my Set Higher Standards blog that I’m starting a 1:1 coaching practice to support people in advancing their careers and businesses.
This is a true passion of mine, and am taking some steps to make it a reality.
If you have any desire to advance your career or grow your business, I’d greatly appreciate your feedback through this little survey. This will help me fine tune the focus of my practice at this early stage.
In return, you will see a link at the top of the survey to a my 7-step goal setting eBook. I have created and used this process to transform my own life over the past 10 years.
This powerful tool is yours FOR FREE as my way of saying thank you for filling out the survey. Click the link below or just fill out the embedded survey in this post!
Live your dream,
p.s. Don’t worry, your survey feedback will be anonymous!
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.
This video, “Dream” by Mateusz M, has over 15 million views on Youtube and for good reason. Every now and then I browse YouTube for inspiration. This one is a gem.
The music, words and video clips are not only highly motivating, they are inspiring.
Film clips represented are from some of my favorite movies: Into The Wild, Rocky 4, Seven Pounds, Pursuit of Happyness, A Beautiful Mind. Words are by Les Brown, Eric Thomas and Will Smith, among others.
…”it’s not over until I win!”
I left my job a year ago to travel the world.
I’m writing this point to share my experience, in the hope that it helps other readers who are going through a similar situation make sense of it all. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the decision for staying in or leaving a job, particularly one you care about. The decision must be made by each person on their own. However, it can be helpful to examine the paths that others have walked.
I started there as an intern and literally never left. I got an offer to join full-time, and despite having not yet graduated from college – decided to take it. I flew home, convinced my thesis advisor to let me finish school through distance education so I could get my degree and flew back to start work as a full-time employee hardly two weeks later. The place was amazing (still is in my opinion), I was captivated.
During the 14 years I spent working in Redmond, WA – I learned a ton. I took on more and more responsibility with steady promotions. Became a people manager, which I enjoyed. Tried out various jobs – ranging from finance to strategy to product planning to marketing. I got married, bought a house, took care of two dogs and had a great circle of friends.
Microsoft was an integral part of my identity. I noticed that my family took great pride in my work there. At parties my work gave me an easy and engaging answer to the “what do you do?” question. I spent most of my time working, thinking about work, or hanging out with friends I made at work. I traveled all over the world meeting with customers. It was fun and rewarding.
I didn’t leave to join another company. I didn’t get fired. I just decided that it was time.
I get this question time to time and it is something that I still don’t know the exact answer to. However, I definitely know how it felt when I made the decision, and how it still feels now. It felt RIGHT then and STILL DOES. I have zero regrets and am confident that it was the right thing to do for me, even though many people who care a lot about me (including many members of my family!) think I was and am insane to leave a well-paying job during the height of my career, and give up a significant portion of my (former) net worth in unvested stock grants.
The right thing to do isn’t always easy, but with enough awareness it can at least become clear when it is the right time to act. Leaving a job shouldn’t be a cop-out to keep from dealing with problems that should be solved, an excuse to avoid seeing through on a commitment, or even worse, an act of laziness.
For me, I definitely felt stressed in my job. Very much so at times. I resented having to spend the best hours of the best years of my life chained to a laptop. I grew increasingly frustrated at having to play office politics and deal with people operating with ulterior motives – though the fact I also had some amazing peers to work with made dealing with the bozos more bearable. I also just wanted to move quicker and faster, taking my ideas from plan to reality, with less need for reviews and rubber stamps – a tough thing to do at a large corporation. In my opinion Microsoft is quite agile for a company its size, but there are still limits to how quickly a company with 100,000+ employees can move.
I put up with the negative issues for my whole career. Instead, it turns out that the I wanted to try my hand at doing my own thing, and living without a career. I wanted to shed the identity of “the Microsoft guy” and just be Ravi. I wanted to be more than just what I did for work. I wanted to travel and see what life would be like without the type of responsibility a corporate job entails – and do so together with my wife. Perhaps most importantly, I wanted to learn more and do more without work dictating any sort of boundary.
I always knew that at some point (I stopped working when I was 34) when I was 40-50-60-70…I would want to cut back on the sheer volume of time I spent working…I didn’t know exactly when but it seemed like I’d only cut back on work when my hair turned gray….then it hit me, why wait? Why not figure out how to live a better and more balanced life now? Should I leave work now or wait a few more years or five more years? Maybe ten?
I have many more years of work left in me, but I only have my strong health and capacity to travel untethered (with my wife!) now. This was my thought process. So I decided to take the leap – as did my wife.
My job and working in a corporate setting was become too familiar. It wasn’t boring, it was just far too familiar. I needed to really do something different and throw my brain for a loop. I needed to get off the linear path a corporate uphill trajectory put me on. I needed to leave the familiar comforts of my corporate job to learn how to experience life in a different way.
I resigned from Microsoft (my wife also left her career). I sold my car. We moved everything we owned into storage. We rented out our house (that we just bought a few years ago!). We packed our bags (just 1 backpack for each of us) and booked a one-way ticket to India.
We traveled the world. We traveled the US – visiting dozens of national parks. We spent time with friends and family. We hiked until our feet were blistered. We sweltered in the heat of the desert. We enjoyed the mountain air of the Rockies, High Sierras and Himalayan foothills. We dipped our toes into the Atlantic and the Pacific. We made it to the lowest and highest parts of the USA. We spent over 80 nights camping out under the stars.
I have never looked back on or questioned our decision to make this move. I know that I will work again – but don’t know exactly what form that will take. My experience and learning over the past year has been immense. It has changed me, and I hope, changed me for the better.
If I do end up going back to work at a big company at some point, I will surely be better equipped to deal with the things I wanted to leave behind when I left. I am more energetic, more patient, more creative and more inspired than I have been in years.
If nothing else, this year of travel has given me two fringe benefits: (1) I feel amazing and have lost 40 pounds that slowly accumulated – mostly on my waist – during my last few years of work (2) I sleep like a baby!
That alone has made my decision worthwhile.
Call for comments:
I’ve heard the statistic thrown around that 80% of people never bother to set goals, and of the 20% that do, 70% fail. So we are talking about 20% goal setters with a 30% success rate. This means that only about 6% of the population proactively directs their life to keep it moving it in a positive direction. That is less than 1 in 15 people! What terrible odds. The rest rely on chance, fate or momentum.
It doesn’t need to be this way. There are proven techniques that can greatly improve the odds that whatever goal you set can be achieved. If you aren’t setting goals, well, that one is tougher to deal with since it requires intrinsic motivation. You can try watching some motivational videos on Youtube, like this one, or check out one of Tony Robbins programs. If that doesn’t do it, well…why are you reading this blog anyway? 🙂
I’ve found that for the goals setters among us, there are five key things you can focus on to supercharge your goals and help you see them through. I use these techniques in my own life, and want to share them with you before the new year to help you avoid being one of the 94% of people that keep things going in status quo fashion.
1. The “WHY” matters more than the “HOW”
Don’t let your brain nix potentially fulfilling goals because you don’t know how they will be accomplished. Ultimately, none of us have complete control over how anything in this world works, so don’t try to make guesses. Let’s take the example of an aspiring marathoner. Let’s say that you have a goal to run your first marathon, but have never run over a mile in your life. Setting a goal to finish a marathon does not and should require that you have all the steps figured out between now and the day of your race. What matters, is that the reason (the “WHY”) is incredibly strong. With compelling reasons, you (and the universe at large) will find a way!
What do you want to achieve? Why is it important to you? Ponder this question for a while (at least 10 minutes). Write down your answer.
2. Make powerful goals
Don’t set weak goals! Weak goals are doomed to failure. Back to the marathon runner example….let’s say you really want to do a marathon…but since that seems like too far, you comprise, and instead say you are going to run 2 miles some day on the roads near your house nonstop (your previous best was 1 mile). Is that enough to keep you motivated? Will it get you up early on the weekends with excitement to go train? Is it something you would be proud of accomplishing? Whatever your goal is, it’s OK to dream big….it’s these big dreams that get us excited. For me, I have a goal of running 100 miles in a single day within the next 2 years. It is a big goal (one that most people find shocking), but it sure is a powerful one that keeps me motivated.
Is your goal compelling enough to excite you? How could you make it even more exciting?
3. Be specific
Ambiguity is a fact of life, but it is also a source of incredible fear. Uncertainty can paralyze you before you even start. The more specific you can be in shaping your goals, the better chance you have of achieving them. Being specific helps your brain realize that the goal is not just a dream, but a real and tangible thing. For example, instead of saying “I want to make more money next year than last year”….get specific. Figure out exactly how much you want, down to the penny. Don’t worry about how this will happen, or whether the number is too big. Just get specific. A few years ago, I set a financial goal for monthly income. I wrote a check (made out to myself) and posted it on my vision board. It was made out for a very specific amount of money I expected to bring into my life on a monthly basis within the next year. While I did not reach this goal within a single year…I greatly surpassed it within 2 years! I’ll take that as success!
How specific is your goal? How could you make it even more real, tangible and specific?
4. Use peer pressure to your advantage
Humans are social animals, and much of our behavior is driven to both serve, lead and gain acceptance from our peer group. Use this fact to your advantage. Don’t be shy about your goals. Keeping them secret helps no-one. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell your co-workers. It shows that you are someone who is motivated and could help inspire others to start setting some more compelling goals themselves. People are far more likely to follow-through on a goal when they have other people keeping them accountable. You also never know who in your peer group might have some insights that could help you achieve whatever it is you are after (physically, financially, etc.).
Who are you accountable to regarding your goal? Is this person (or people) supportive of your achieving the goal? Who else could you recruit to keep you accountable?
5. Reference them daily
Put your goals in a place that is highly visible. Ideally, you should reference them on a daily basis. Put them on a sheet of paper next to your bathroom mirror. Put them on a poster and hang them in your bedroom (or even better, living room). Out of sight means out of mind. Keep them in a place where you are forced to look at them. Reading them is best, but just glancing at them will jog your memory and get your sub-conscious engaged to help you achieve what you want.
What reminders do you have in place that keep your goal top of mind?
So there you have it, a few quick tips to help make 2015 the best year ever!
Call for comments:
This past weekend I decided to give downhill skiing a try. I skied a handful of times in high school, but that was almost 20 years ago. Since then, I have been a snow boarder and for the past 15 years or so, I’ve gotten out a handful of times a year. I also love to Nordic Ski.
The advancement in ski technology in the last 20 years is staggering. Skis are wider and more stable, easier to turn, less tricky to plow through powder and even the stiff ski boots are more comfy to wear. More and more of my friends are skiing now a days, and I find skiing more of a practical skill as it opens up more possibilities for adventure through alpine touring and backcountry skiing – something there is a lot of potential for in the Pacific Northwest. While my wife was in a Nordic Ski Camp, I figured this was a chance for me to get back on skis.
Since I have some experience on skis, I was going to just rent the right gear and fumble around on my own at Silverstar Mountain Resort for a few days. I figured that after launching myself downhill a few times my muscle memory would kick in. Good thing I didn’t try that approach! Instead, sanity prevailed and I ventured over to the ski school and booked 2 group lessons, on back-to-back days. Since it was early season conditions and there weren’t many people on the mountain this weekend, my group lessons ended up being semi-private lessons.
I had two different instructors, both older (one was almost 70, the other 58) and both in phenomenal shape. They would ski backwards down blue runs (moderately difficult slopes) while called out coaching instructions…at times doing so while balancing on one ski!
While I was pretty tired by the time our 2 hour lessons were done each day, my teachers were hardly warmed up. By using proper technique, they not only got down the hill faster and with more grace, they also did so with far less wear and tear on their joints and muscles.
By the end of the second lesson, I experienced this phenomenon myself. Despite just learning a few simple drills — (1) focusing on my feet and the inner edge of the skis while turning (2) keeping my hands out front and (3) initiating turns from my knees without moving my hips — I was cruising along without fatigue. My knees didn’t hurt. My feet didn’t get sore. I was able to float through soft and choppy snow as well as harder groomers.
I can now see myself as a skier again!
Three little drills – practiced for a couple hours over two days – had completely transformed my skiing ability. Whereas I was nervously moving down a green slope at the start of the first day, I was confidently carving down blue runs by the end of the second day. The increased enjoyment and confidence I now have on skis was worth every penny I paid for the lessons ($320 for 2x 2-hour lessons with lift tickets and ski rentals).
If you are serious about learning anything – be it skiing, snowboarding, yoga, writing, weight lifting, painting, music, presenting, blogging, business building, real estate investment, tax rules, etc….really any skill – it pays to find someone who is not only good at what they do, but also a GREAT teacher (not all skilled people know how to teach!). I lucked out, both my ski instructors were amazing and the fact that they were essentially private lessons meant that we could progress as fast as I could learn.
Typically, people who know how to do something well aren’t cheap to hire for private lessons, but you will find that the progress you can make with careful instruction will far surpass (or at least massively accelerate) what you could do on your own.
Call for comments:
I love coffee. I have a cup (or two!) every morning. For a long time I never drank the stuff, I just didn’t develop a taste for it. Once I graduated from college and started working at Microsoft, that changed. I started drinking coffee just to pass the time or while taking a break with co-workers. I was also living in Seattle….the coffee capital of the universe. Eventually I grew to love the stuff.
Over the years I’ve had an on again off again relationship with coffee. I’ve even blogged about my swapping out a coffee habit for a tea habit. At times I drank too much of it, and felt like it was an addiction I didn’t need in my life. I would feel a little jittery and at times have trouble sleeping. Tea, even the caffeinated varieties, never gave me the same trouble.
Right now I am thoroughly enjoying my coffee habit and have no desire to quit. I have 1-2 big cups in the morning (I brew it myself) and feel no ill effects. In fact I’m drinking some right now! Perhaps my body has developed some kind of tolerance, or perhaps I’m just blind to the continuing ill affects. Even more likely, my days are no longer stuck behind a desk. I’m very active and that makes a big difference in how well my body processes food and drink – caffeinated beverages included.
Whatever the reason I’m still sticking to my coffee habit. There are more important things for me to focus on right now.
However, my wife is taking a break from drinking coffee, it just isn’t sitting well with her right now. She is a true coffee aficionado though, which makes her giving up the stuff even harder. She has shown a ton of willpower in being coffee free for a few weeks now and we talk quite a bit about it.
Since coffee is on my mind (and in my mouth) right now, I thought I would share five tips for those looking to quit, based on my own experience in the past.
Get clear on why you want to stop drinking coffee
We are motivated by compelling reasons more than anything else. Why do you want to stop drinking coffee? Is this the right time to do so? How will your life be better without it? Is it really a priority?
The urge to give things up in the hope that it will make life remarkably better can be a big one….but without first getting clear on why taking action is important the deeper intrinsic motivation will be lacking. Take some time to ponder your compelling reason “Why?”.
Commit to going cold turkey off coffee
Many articles on the internet mention that going cold-turkey isn’t the smartest thing. These articles point to the numerous withdrawal symptoms that come with caffeine withdrawal. That’s why I go cold-turkey off coffee, but continue drinking other caffeinated drinks for a while.
Going cold-turkey has been the only method that has worked for me. Just tapering back on the amount of coffee consumed over time never worked. It was too tempting to drink more. YMMV.
Wean off the caffeine over time
To avoid withdrawal symptoms, I would start drinking green tea or Yerbe Mate instead of coffee. There is a good amount of caffeine in these drinks, but in my experience they don’t lead to the jittery-ness or highs and lows that caffeine in coffee provides. I could drink a big cup of Yerbe Mate in the afternoon and sleep like a baby. The same was never true with coffee. Again YMMV.
Over time, if you want to cut back on all caffeine, you can explore the world of herbal teas or coffee substitutes (based on chicory, carob and other caffeine free and healthy ingredients). My wife is drinking is drinking this stuff right now, I tried it and it’s decent:
Develop a new morning/afternoon drink ritual.
A lot of the desire to drink coffee can be linked to the ritual associated with it. Maybe you enjoy drinking a steaming cup with your partner in the morning. Maybe its a way to relax with co-workers in the afternoon. Maybe you like walking to Starbucks during your lunch break and getting some fresh air.
Replicate those rituals, but find a substitute for the coffee. Walk to a juice bar instead of a coffee shop. Get loose leaf teas and proper tea brewing equipment to make the process more fun. Propose going on a walk with co-workers instead of sitting at the coffee bar. Etc.
Keep a log/journal for 10 days (minimum)
This one is important, particularly if you are wanting to quit coffee for a health-related reason. Make note of what you eat/drink, your sleep quality and energy levels (and whatever other health indicators you are monitoring). See how your coffee free-ness is helping (or not) your cause over time.
There might be something else you can do to more dramatically improve your well-being than just giving up coffee, or perhaps coffee is really throwing a monkey wrench into your quality of living. The only way to know if to objectively look at the data. Keep a log for at least 10 days. Review it and see for yourself. If it’s working keeping it up. If not, change your approach.
I have a weird fascination with minimalist living.
I don’t want to be a minimalist, but I do want to keep my life simplified to the point where I’m not spending hours every month trying to find stuff I already that’s buried in the bowels of a storage room somewhere.
A friend of mine had a trick to keep his belongings pared down to just the essentials. Whenever he got something, like a book for example, he got rid of something.
This was a practical solution for him since he was a long-term traveler and carried all his belongings in a backpack. There was literally no room or strength left to lug extra stuff around. To my knowledge he continued to hold this philosophy even after settling down again.
With the holidays coming up, chances are that whether you want to or not you will end up getting more stuff. Either you will succumb to the slew of limited-time-only deals or you will have presents to deal with.
Go ahead and enjoy the new stuff, but consider getting rid of an equal quantity of things to make room for it. Re-gift, donate or sell. Keeping stuff around has a cost, even if it came to you for free.
My wife and I are two weeks into a six-week stay in a Tiny House. Our little cabin in the woods is located on a horse pasture in the interior of British Columbia, Canada.
After spending the past year traveling around the world and the USA visiting national parks (and living in a small tent, tiny motel room or hostel bunk) we were excited at the idea of plopping down in one spot for more than a few days.
We found this cute little cabin on AirBnB. We spend our days nordic skiing and practicing yoga (at the local Bikram Studio) and cooking awesome vegan meals.
What makes our experience even more unique, is that we are here in the dead of winter, where temperatures can drop to zero degrees (I’m talking fahrenheit not celsius!) and snow falls by the foot. So we spend a LOT of time indoors when we aren’t at the dog park or at the ski hill. This gives us a unique perspective on how livable the interior space is (or isn’t).
Our Tiny House is definitely “tiny” but it is not built on a chassis that can be moved around, as is typically implied by the term “Tiny House.” Instead, it is a renovated shed.
See the above pic? Yes, that is a miniature pony right outside! The Tiny House (~200 sq. ft.) is located on a horse pasture, with a couple of ponies. There are a dozen horses elsewhere on the property. The Tiny House is only half as wide as the picture shows…as a large portion of the right size of the building is a storage shed, not interior space.
The owners gutted it and rebuilt with tons of insulation and minimal yet sufficient and modern furnishing. There are tons of natural light through a few large windows and sliding doors, along with electric heat and a full bathroom with deep tub. The kitchen is minimal but complete, with a micro-fridge and a 2-burner electric hot plate and full sink. It is <200 square feet in size.
Tiny House living seems to be a hot trend, and there is even a show (I think it is on TLC?) about it. I think most people are enamored more with the idea of not having to deal with their stuff vs. the idea of cramming a bunch of full-grown humans (and in our case, two good-sized dogs + two full-grown humans!) into a home smaller than the size of a typical unused spare bedroom in most Mc.Mansions.
I’ll address these questions one by one based on my experience living in a Tiny House for the past two weeks. I’m sure my opinions will shift a little as we stay plan to stay here a full 45 days, so I’ll post an updated blog with thoughts towards the end of our stay.
Yes! It took us about two days to figure out how to not only fit our stuff into the Tiny House, but also to “convert” the layout for sleeping vs. daytime activity. We learned how to stack the kitchen stools on the counter and move tables around to make it possible to pull out the sofa-bed and still get around if we needed to.
Perhaps the biggest learning was how to work around the kitchen, as my wife and I LOVE TO COOK AND EAT GREAT VEGAN FOOD! With a 2-burner hot plate and limited counter space and storage, we had to experiment with ways to store our stuff.
We also discovered where our dogs like to sleep and hang-out, and positioned their dog beds accordingly.
After a few days, we found a system that works for us, and now we are able to cook, eat, sleep and hang out without any issues. We have everything we need.
You might be wondering how much stuff we have with us……we have quite a lot….since we are ski bums for the winter, we have multiple sets of skis, tons of winter clothing, and a ton of food/spices and some kitchen appliances (like our Vitamix and some cookware). Imagine a Subaru Outback with a back seat packed with stuff, and a rooftop box also packed with stuff…..that is what we got!
We only carry what we need, and that is very liberating even though it seems like we brought everything but the kitchen sink with us. It’s still a small fraction of what we had in our large house last year. We buy groceries that we will consume within three days, and tend to buy lesser amounts of non-perishables. This results in less stuff going bad or just going unused. There is no doubt that living in the Tiny House has saved us money on groceries!
It is easy to find stuff. I can’t tell you how often I would need to go hunting for some piece of equipment in my house when we lived in a 3200 sq. ft. monster back in Seattle, WA. In our Tiny House, it is pretty obvious where stuff is!
Heating and cooling….it’s winter here so the “cool” part takes care of itself, but I’m amazed at how a single electric baseboard heat keeps the place toasty warm! Our Tiny House is very well insulated.
Perhaps the biggest benefit, is that my wife and I (and our dogs!) feel much closer together. I’m not just saying physically closer together (which we are as well!) I’m saying that we feel like we are spending a lot more quality time together. We talk more. We cook together more. Being a small space provides a sense of intimacy that you don’t get when one person is upstairs and the other is downstairs or in the kitchen or in the basement, etc. There is nowhere to hide out…I call this a benefit but can also be a drawback (see below).
The main drawback right now is the fact that we have to deal with a sofa-bed. This means converting and moving stuff around in the morning and at night when it is time to sleep/wake-up. It only takes us 3 minutes to do…but it is annoying.
The other drawback is that there is no privacy. If you need to work on something in peace and quiet, or perhaps have a private phone call or attend an online class (which I’m doing right now); you can’t go to another room…because there is no other room!
Lastly, the space is small (duh!) which is fine, but if we lived full-time in a space this small we would need a storage unit equal in size to keep our other gear (summer/winter camping gear, bikes, extra clothes, tools). Living in a Tiny House is definitely doable….but if we were to ever do it for a longer stretch we would need a good-sized storage unit or shed on the property to keep our other stuff….stuff that we use on a seasonal basis, or just on the weekends.
Yes! I think people would learn a lot about their habits and how much extra/useless stuff they carry around if they moved into a Tiny House for AT LEAST A WEEK. Doing such an experiment would go a long way in helping folks shake up some bad habits and streamline their lifestyle. Check out AirBNB…there are a lot of Tiny Houses posted there – this includes sailboats, RV’s, cabins and actual “Tiny Houses” build on a movable chassis.
However, I don’t necessarily think that Tiny House living is the right thing for a lot of people for the long-term. I think small houses (e.g. a 800 sq ft 2BR/1BA bungalow) NOT Tiny Houses are far more practical for most folks, as they have more storage and possibility for a private bedroom space. I think just going “Tiny” for Tiny sake doesn’t make that much sense. Unless you want to go Tiny to get around zoning rules….that is another story.
Hello everyone! It has been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog. Almost a year ago, I posted that I was leaving my career to travel the world with my wife. 11 months in…..we are still going strong!
We have traveled throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and are six months into an epic road trip around the USA and Canada, visiting dozens of national parks along the way.
Our decision to take a career break seemed scary a year ago, but was absolutely the perfect decision for both of us.
We are spending the next six weeks being nordic ski bums while living in a “Tiny House” (really…it’s <200 square feet small!) in Canada. These six weeks will be the longest stretch we have stayed in one spot in the past year. To make things even more deluxe, we just got an internet connection to the Tiny House, so we will be able to blog more. You can read about our travel adventures at www.raviandalison.com.
Also, I plan to get back into a regular rhythm posting to www.sethigherstandards.com as well. If you are still subscribed, thanks for sticking it out!
Thank you Microsoft for all of the amazing memories, friendships and a lifetime worth of learning about business, technology and perhaps most importantly, a lesson on how to work together with others to achieve a common vision. It’s funny how the skills I learned in grade-school about how to cooperate and work well with others ended up being the most important ones in my career.
I joined Microsoft over 13 years ago – as an intern. Towards the end of my internship, I was given the offer to join full-time. After exploring some other career options, I figured what the heck – Microsoft would be a great place to spend a couple years (at most!) before going to get my MBA. I never imagined that a 20 year old would be given so much responsibility anywhere else. I accepted! The MBA never happened. I was learning a ton on the job and fell in love with Seattle and the company. What I thought to be a short stint turned into much more.
During my career I worked on mergers and acquisitions, new business models, product naming and branding, pricing, market research, product planning and finally, business planning for our retail channel. I’ve traveled the world, met with Fortune 500 companies and CTOs, worked as an individual contributor and been a manager of several different teams. I worked on line of business software, productivity software, enterprise services, consumer services and operating systems. I couldn’t have asked for a more broad-based and educational experience.
I can say without question that happiness in the workplace is directly related to the person you work for. A boss means everything. I’ve been lucky to have many world-class managers. Thank you to my past managers: Paul, Marc, Jason, Jenna and Bernardo. You gave me the latitude and flexibility to do my work as I saw fit and apply my own creativity, with just enough guidance to stave off disaster. You looked out for the business and also for my own well-being. Thank you for that.
I am leaving Microsoft to travel the world, see the American country-side and witness my life through a different lens. I’m not leaving to join any other company – as most people would think. I don’t have a startup idea or some other business venture on the side. I am simply resigning to do something now that I thought I wouldn’t be doing until after I retired.
Most importantly, I am lucky to have the chance to go on this great adventure with the most special person in my life – my wife Alison – before kids or further obligations come into the picture. For my entire adult life my identity has been largely defined by Microsoft and the Seattle area. Aside from heights, the only thing that scares me is the idea of living a life wondering “what if…” I’m going to find the answer to that question.
So here I go. I’m going to spend the forseeable future (a year? maybe more?) living a different type of life that is free of daily work, and full of whatever else comes to mind. Some days will be great, others will be tough. This vagabond style of life is not going to be forever, but it is the right thing for now. As a 34 year old, I have many more years of my life left to work (and plan to!).
For now, it is time to get my but out on the road while I am healthy and able.
You can follow our exploits at www.raviandalison.com.
Last weekend I attended an Unarmed Self Defense workshop, conducted by Insights Training. The last time I hit anyone was in tae kwon do class when I was 10 years old. I figured it would be a good idea to learn how to hit and defend myself at a basic level. I also heard great things about the training and figured it would be a good use of a weekend. I was right.
The workshop was two full days and was mostly drill-focused with partners. Hardly any time was spent sitting in chairs. We would learn a technique for defending/attacking and then carry it out multiple times with multiple opponents. We covered a variety of grabs and attacks – both standing and on the ground. We also learned how to de-escalate verbally and through body language. The culmination of the day was a full force attack against a trainer in a specially designed attack suit. During breaks the trainer would tell stories and answer questions to teach new material.
The most important learning for me was a new mindset (one of preparedness and a desire to protect what matters most) and a firm understanding of my rights to protect what is important to me. Mindset is even more critical than fitness, equipment or skill. Personal safety is not something I have spent much time thinking about so this weekend definitely opened my mind to a whole new world and how to deal with it effectively. If you are in the Seattle area I highly recommend taking this training.
A simple but very important question to ponder, particularly for those of lucky to have “enough”.
Last month I participated in my second Date With Destiny experience. This is a program led by Tony Robbins that focuses on identifying the core values driving you today, the new values you want to live by and using this new “inner compass” to direct your life in an even more fulfilling manner. There was a lot to take in over the six days, but one distinction that I came away with is that we control the meaning of our lives (past, present and future).
No matter what.
No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what troubling conditions we are dealing with in the present, and no matter how potentially bleak the future looks; we can create our own meanings from the experience and either use it to empower ourselves or cast ourselves as a victim.
In the same way that one person could love a day full of bright sunshine and another could cower with fear of getting sunburn, so it is that we can define how we react to situations, memories and possibilities in a way that serves us or in a way that doesn’t.
I just built a little raised bed in my yard.
I needed more space to plant greens (I eat a TON of them!) and this part of my lawn was already destroyed from overgrowth and pine needles that killed off the grass.
It was a simple little project, just arranging some rocks, adding soil and planting seeds (all organic!) – but it feels good having done it. Building things with your hands isn’t about doing something cheaper or better, it’s about the sense of accomplishment and pride that can only come from creating something from scratch – by yourself.
What are you building?
I’ve had my fair share of challenging conversations over the years. It can be tough to deliver a challenging message at work, take critical feedback, deal with an emotional family situation or stand up for what you believe – even when it means going against the views of someone else.
How do you deal with such situations and the people involved?
One option is to get angry, frustrated and label the other party as wrong and maybe even totally psycho! Put the blame on the other person, protect your own ego and make it a story of “me vs them”. This option might feel good initially, but will inevitably lead to more frustration, anger and rarely will solve the issue at hand. It is far more likely that you will enrage the other party, cause more resentment and ill will between everyone. Not to mention the sleepless nights spent tossing and turning worrying about the issue.
Another option is to assume the best and highest intentions for the other person involved. Don’t cast them off as psycho. Don’t belittle their ideas. Don’t make them evil. Don’t create a story of “me vs we” or “us vs them”. Instead, assume that they are behaving the way they are because at some level, deep down, they truly believe it and it serves some higher purpose for them. Assume that in their view of the world, they are right and doing the right thing.
You do NOT need to agree with their point of view. You only need to assume that they have a reason for it, and that their intention is good. You may need to really do some soul-searching to find that good intention – but it will be there if you look hard enough.
This applies even in extreme cases – where lives (or entire ways of life) are at risk or big sums of money are at stake. Even for people the public might condemn as murderers and felons, there is some seed of intention and higher purpose for what they have done. Even if that purpose serves only the individual and not the other person (or people/community) involved. It is still there.
For less extreme cases – this is also true. Let’s take the example of a disagreement at work with a co-worker. You might not agree on an issue, but if you start a conversation by assuming their best intention (they are trying to help, build a stronger team, solve a hard problem, etc.) then you immediately have common ground and can move forward to find a resolution. You don’t have to agree with their actions, but how can you doubt their intentions? How do you know what is going on in their head? You don’t, so take the “high road” and assume the best.
At some level everyone is right in their own mind and any dialogue needs to start with acknowledging that in your own mind and internal dialogue. The alternative is to assume they are out to get you in some way…and that way of thinking just leads to stress and despair.
I prefer the way of thinking that lets me sleep well at night.
Managing your energy is far more important than just managing your time.
Keep a log of how you feel during the day based on your energy level.
Over time see how hydration, nutrition, sleep, training and work schedules impact your energy.
Then, make adjustments to maximize your overall energy level, and make sure that your key activities during the day are aligned during the times when you have the most energy to give.
For example, I know that hydration has a HUGE impact on my energy level. I also know I tend to have the most energy between 9-Noon. After noon (and until 3-4pm or so), I’m essentially useless 🙂 . Later in the evening, I get a second wind around 9-10pm but if I take advantage of that I will pay the price by feeling awful the next day.
Knowing this I focus on getting creative tasks at work done in the morning before lunch, and do my training in the evening around 5-7pm. I carry a water bottle with me and hydrate constantly during the day – especially when teaching lots of yoga or training more in hot weather.
I don’t believe that it is necessary or even possible to feel awesome ALL of the time. Instead, strive to do your best to feel good MOST of the time, and focus on making use of that productive time to do something worthwhile.
Live in the present.
Be optimistic about the future.
…go on and be happy.