How Not to Hurry

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” -Lao Tzu

Post written by Leo Babauta. Republished with permission.

Consider the above quote from Lao Tzu, (perhaps mythical) father of Taoism: how can it be true?

Is it possible to never hurry, but to get everything done?

It seems contradictory to our modern world, where everything is a rush, where we try to cram as much into every minute of the day as possible, where if we are not busy, we feel unproductive and lazy.

In fact, often we compete by trying to show how busy we are. I have a thousand projects to do! Oh yeah? I have 10,000! The winner is the person who has the most insane schedule, who rushes from one thing to the next with the energy of a hummingbird, because obviously that means he’s the most successful and important.

Right?

Maybe not. Maybe we’re playing the wrong game — we’ve been conditioned to believe that busier is better, but actually the speed of doing is not as important as what we focus on doing.

Maybe we’re going at the wrong speed. Maybe if we are constantly rushing, we will miss out on life itself. Let’s let go of the obsession with speed, and instead slow down, stop rushing, and enjoy life.

And still get everything done.

Let’s look at how.

A Change of Mindset
The most important step is a realization that life is better when you move at a slower, more relaxed pace, instead of hurrying and rushing and trying to cram too much into every day. Instead, get the most out of every moment.

Is a book better if you speed read it, or if you take your time and get lost in it?

Is a song better if you skim through it, or if you take the time to really listen?

Is food better if you cram it down your throat, or if you savor every bite and really appreciate the flavor?

Is your work better if you’re trying to do 10 things at once, or if you really pour yourself into one important task?

Is your time spent with a friend or loved one better if you have a rushed meeting interrupted by your emails and text messages, or if you can relax and really focus on the person?

Life as a whole is better if you go slowly, and take the time to savor it, appreciate every moment. That’s the simplest reason to slow down.

And so, you’ll need to change your mindset (if you’ve been stuck in a rushed mindset until now). To do this, make the simple admission that life is better when savored, that work is better with focus. Then make the commitment to give that a try, to take some of the steps below.

But I Can’t Change!
There will be some among you who will admit that it would be nice to slow down, but you just can’t do it … your job won’t allow it, or you’ll lose income if you don’t do as many projects, or living in the city makes it too difficult to go slowly. It’s a nice ideal if you’re living on a tropical island, or out in the country, or if you have a job that allows control of your schedule … but it’s not realistic for your life.

I say bullshit.

Take responsibility for your life. If your job forces you to rush, take control of it. Make changes in what you do, in how you work. Work with your boss to make changes if necessary. And if really necessary, you can eventually change jobs. You are responsible for your life.

If you live in a city where everyone rushes, realize that you don’t have to be like everyone else. You can be different. You can walk instead of driving in rush hour traffic. You can have fewer meetings. You can work on fewer but more important things. You can be on your iPhone or Blackberry less, and be disconnected sometimes. Your environment doesn’t control your life — you do.

I’m not going to tell you how to take responsibility for your life, but once you make the decision, the how will become apparent over time.

Tips for a Slower-Paced Life
I can’t give you a step-by-step guide to moving slower, but here are some things to consider and perhaps adopt, if they work for your life. Some things might require you to change some major things, but they can be done over time.

  1. Do less. Cut back on your projects, on your task list, on how much you try to do each day. Focus not on quantity but quality. Pick 2-3 important things — or even just one important thing — and work on those first. Save smaller, routine tasks for later in the day, but give yourself time to focus. Read more.
  2. Have fewer meetings. Meetings are usually a big waste of time. And they eat into your day, forcing you to squeeze the things you really need to do into small windows, and making you rush. Try to have blocks of time with no interruptions, so you don’t have to rush from one meeting to another.
  3. Practice disconnecting. Have times when you turn off your devices and your email notifications and whatnot. Time with no phone calls, when you’re just creating, or when you’re just spending time with someone, or just reading a book, or just taking a walk, or just eating mindfully. You can even disconnect for (gasp!) an entire day, and you won’t be hurt. I promise.
  4. Give yourself time to get ready and get there. If you’re constantly rushing to appointments or other places you have to be, it’s because you don’t allot enough time in your schedule for preparing and for traveling. Pad your schedule to allow time for this stuff. If you think it only takes you 10 minutes to get ready for work or a date, perhaps give yourself 30-45 minutes so you don’t have to shave in a rush or put on makeup in the car. If you think you can get there in 10 minutes, perhaps give yourself 2-3 times that amount so you can go at a leisurely pace and maybe even get there early.
  5. Practice being comfortable with sitting, doing nothing. One thing I’ve noticed is that when people have to wait, they become impatient or uncomfortable. They want their mobile device or at least a magazine, because standing and waiting is either a waste of time or something they’re not used to doing without feeling self-conscious. Instead, try just sitting there, looking around, soaking in your surroundings. Try standing in line and just watching and listening to people around you. It takes practice, but after awhile, you’ll do it with a smile.
  6. Realize that if it doesn’t get done, that’s OK. There’s always tomorrow. And yes, I know that’s a frustrating attitude for some of you who don’t like laziness or procrastination or living without firm deadlines, but it’s also reality. The world likely won’t end if you don’t get that task done today. Your boss might get mad, but the company won’t collapse and the life will inevitably go on. And the things that need to get done will.
  7. Start to eliminate the unnecessary. When you do the important things with focus, without rush, there will be things that get pushed back, that don’t get done. And you need to ask yourself: how necessary are these things? What would happen if I stopped doing them? How can I eliminate them, delegate them, automate them?
  8. Practice mindfulness. Simply learn to live in the present, rather than thinking so much about the future or the past. When you eat, fully appreciate your food. When you’re with someone, be with them fully. When you’re walking, appreciate your surroundings, no matter where you are. Read this for more, and also try The Mindfulist.
  9. Slowly eliminate commitments. We’re overcommitted, which is why we’re rushing around so much. I don’t just mean with work — projects and meetings and the like. Parents have tons of things to do with and for their kids, and we overcommit our kids as well. Many of us have busy social lives, or civic commitments, or are coaching or playing on sports teams. We have classes and groups and hobbies. But in trying to cram so much into our lives, we’re actually deteriorating the quality of those lives. Slowly eliminate commitments — pick 4-5 essential ones, and realize that the rest, while nice or important, just don’t fit right now. Politely inform people, over time, that you don’t have time to stick to those commitments.

Try these things out. Life is better when unrushed. And given the fleeting nature of this life, why waste even a moment by rushing through it?

Remember the quote above: if nature can get everything done without rushing, so can you.

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I’m Writing a Book about Larry H. Miller Called “Beyond Driven”

It’s impossible to know how many lives my dad, Larry H. Miller, positively impacted, but one thing’s for sure— it’s a big number. I recall that more than five thousand people attended his funeral or attended his viewing, and in the five years since he’s been gone I’ve had so many people share with me incredible stories of how he touched their lives.

I want to capture those stories in writing before they disappear forever. That’s why I’m inviting people who knew or interacted with my dad to share their stories in a new book I’m writing that I’m calling Beyond Driven.

The idea for the book is to collect ninety-nine brief stories about my dad that are inspirational, motivational or uplifting in nature. (Nine was his softball number and it’s always been special to our family. 99 felt like a good number of stories to shoot for.)

Tomorrow I’ll send an email announcing this project to employees of the Larry H. Miller Group inviting them to contribute their stories. This email will link to a video I will post on MillerInspiration.com explaining the project.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks compiling a master list of my dad’s friends from childhood to adulthood, softball teammates, Jazz players, business associates, long-term employees, close neighbors and church members, government officials and others who had significant relationships with him.

I have enjoyed reaching out to a number of these people with phone calls and letters, and it’s been great to receive hugely positive responses from people who are willing and eager to share their stories.

I’m proud of my team at Miller Inspiration for having created a simple website that allows contributors to learn about the project and to submit their stories online. (You can find the page here.) I’m also very excited to have already received our first two stories.

I’m working to attach a charity partner to the project. I have already received a positive response from one that would be very appropriate. I hope to be able to announce it soon.

My dad hated certain words. These include “boss,” “empire,” (when referring to the LHM Group) and “legacy.” The reality is, though, that my dad did establish a legacy. It’s my hope that this book will help to build on and preserve that legacy for future generations.

If you have questions about Beyond Driven or you’d like to contribute a story please let me know. I’d love to include your story in the book!

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I’m Sorry If You Were Offended

“I’m sorry if you were offended.”

Has anyone ever offered you this sort of “apology”?

I recently read a blog post called “A Better Way to Say Sorry” that offers a powerful alternative to such lame apologies. It outlines a simple, four-step method of apologizing that’s simple enough for children to learn but effective enough to help us preserve and enhance our relationships throughout our lifetime. You can read it here.

I highly recommend that you do.

Of course, it might not be appropriate for every situation that calls for an apology. As an alternative, one commenter on the site where I found this blog writes, “I prefer ‘Congratulations, you got to be offended. I’m only too happy to have played into your preferred personal narrative today. No, really, don’t thank me, it’s nothing.’”

Don’t over think it. Just go with what works for you.

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This Post Put My Life in Perspective

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Comedian Demetri Martin tells a joke about going to the bookstore, picking up an autobiography, flipping to the “about the author” section on the back flap and reading that instead of the entire book. Brilliant!

It’s remarkable that every book, every seminar or lecture, every speech, every novel or film can be boiled down to a single sentence. Every life, every career can be distilled— reduced to its essence—in one line.

Wikipedia tells us that Hemingway was “An American author and journalist,” that Chaplin was “An English comic actor who rose to fame in the silent era,” and that Jesus was “The central figure of Christianity, whom most Christians hold to be the Son of God.”

Summarizing a life clearly, simply, and accurately can be challenging. Where do you begin and end?

It’s a cliché among writers that everybody has a book in them, though Christopher Hitchens tells us that in most cases that’s where it should stay.

Last year I searched for a coach who could help me write my book. I wanted someone who could help me find my writer’s voice and refine my message. I wanted to get clear about what exactly I have to say and how to most effectively say it.

One prospective coach asked me to prepare for our first meeting by writing what I would say if I could broadcast ten of my life’s lessons— as single-sentences— to every person on Earth. What have I learned that I would want to share with every person on the planet? What would you say?

Samuel Johnson wrote, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Unfortunately, I have found, that without the real and immediate threat of death, getting perfect clarity is nigh impossible.

Wess Roberts, a friend and best-selling author, once told me that if I want to know if my writing is any good— if people like it and are willing to pay for it— that I should reduce my main ideas to a single page, take that page downtown, stop people on the sidewalk and try to get them to read what I’ve written. If they do, he said, I should then ask them to pay me whatever they thought it was worth. He said that doing that would teach me all the same lessons I’d need to earn a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List someday.

In his book The Millionaire Messenger, Brendon Burchard presents a ten-step plan to help people turn their passions and life lessons into profitable businesses. The first step, he says, is to “Claim and Master Your Topic.” I got stuck on step one.

I’ve heard other authors and speakers say things like, “I teach people how to live mindfully in a modern age,” or “I make great people unstoppable,” or “I help people find and live their highest purpose.” But I had no idea how to cast myself.

In our marketing-driven, sound bite society it’s easy to get overlooked without such a single-sentence descriptor. Heck, it’s easy to get overlooked with one.

Perhaps writing my own obituary can help me find the clarity I’m seeking. Maybe I should start with just six words, à la Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. I found this book when I drafted my brother Roger’s obituary last August. It inspired, “Cars and Computers— Never Fast Enough.”

Once I get past the discomfort that comes with envisioning my own demise, the thought of writing my own obituary really appeals to me. It reminds me of something Steve Jobs once said,

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything— all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure— these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

And now I know it! Writing this post really has helped me put my life in perspective. For my six-word memoir I want, “Lived simply. Loved fully. Died happy.” 🙂

What about you?

PS – If you’ve made it this far I’ll tell you about the photo above. I’ve include it because it represents for me the simplicity of life before we have language. It was many years before I started worrying about things like “How should I brand myself?” “What do I want out of life?” and “Am I happy?” (By the way, it’s one of my theories that if you ask that last question, you’re not.) 

The photo on the left is me in 1977, and the photo on the right is my daughter Maya in 2014. Thanks to my wife Dawn for mashing these photos together. Good times being a baby, but I’ll never go back.

 

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Impact the World by Sharing Your Time, Talents and Treasures

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What would you do if you had an extra $25 million? If you’re like Pierre Lassonde, you’d perform a massive act of philanthropy and donate that money to an institution of higher education, like, say, the University of Utah. And this would probably be just one of the multimillion dollar gifts you’d given to colleges and universities across North America.

A native of Quebec, Pierre earned his MBA at the University of Utah in 1973 before going on to have a successful career in the mining industry.

I attended a luncheon at the University of Utah today where Pierre was honored and the Lassonde Studios— a new building he’s contributing to— was unveiled.  

The Lassonde Studios will be one of the most unique buildings on any campus in the United States and will combine living and working space for as many as 400 student entrepreneurs.

If you check out the building concept video you’ll see that this $45 million building, slated for completion in 2016, is as beautiful as it is innovative. It’s a fitting design to host a unique program that will bring together students from all backgrounds and interests, from humanities and arts to science and engineering, from medicine to business and more.

In addition to being impressed by this project, I was touched by Pierre’s comments today as he shared a few things he’s learned during his career.  

His first rule of business is to say “Thank you.” He advises that if you’re asked to give a speech, make sure it’s no longer than ten minutes.

He said that entrepreneurs often don’t actually start with a vision, they start with an idea. As they explore and move towards their idea it commonly becomes a vision, but the vision doesn’t usually come at the beginning.

He encouraged entrepreneurs to start small. Failure is likely, he said, and when you fail, you’re going to lose money. By starting small you’ll lose as little as possible, but you’ll learn a lot. Your success will grow as you go.

He said that all good things take five years.

For Pierre, what it all leads to is giving back. His three T’s of philanthropy are Time, Talents and Treasures, and it’s important to share all three. And we don’t have to wait until we’re successful before we can share our three T’s. That’s something we can do today.

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How Words Can Make You Rich

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

It’s amazing to me that if I put a thought into words, write those words on piece of paper or type them into my computer and send them to you, if you read them, you are forever changed, at least in some small way.

I picture words as vessels, like little clay pots into which we can insert meaning and emotion. For some reason I think of these word-vessels as grey with tiny lids, shaped like almonds or footballs or genie lamps. We send these vessels to others who receive not only the meaning they contain, but also the energy we put into them.

It’s not uncommon that the recipient of the word-vessel adds his own meaning as well. It’s as though the recipient uses dirty or contaminated hands to remove the meaning and energy from the vessels we send. For this reason we can never really be certain that what we intended to send was what was truly received.

Our messages are also diminished by noise both literal and figurative. Communication’s simple process of “encode, transmit, decode” isn’t really all that simple after all.

And although the process of using words to communicate is fraught with challenges, it has its benefits as well. When we exchange words and ideas with others, we almost always become richer in the process. Unlike the transaction of goods— if I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar’s worth of goods, although we may both now have something of value that we didn’t have before— neither one of us is really any richer.

But if I give you an idea and you give me an idea, we’re both richer and neither one of us had to lose anything for this to happen. We’ve grown wealthier by sharing what we have. I’m convinced that that’s the way the universe always works, even if it’s not always evident.

What this means for communication is that the more love and generosity we can stuff into the word-vessels we send to others, the more we’ll receive in return, and the richer we will be. Just be sure to wash your hands.

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A Monopoly Champion’s Winning Secrets

“It is in games that many men discover their paradise.” -Robert Lynd

Fifteen years ago I competed for the title of National Monopoly Champion. After I won Utah’s state Monopoly championship, Parker Brothers awarded me an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas to compete in the national tournament, where I finished fifth overall.

I missed out on the final game by just one position. I’ll go to my grave feeling confident that I would have won that championship game.

Being the first player excluded from a seat at the championship table was hard. Watching the eventual champion use the same strategy I had used to beat him in the first round made it even harder.

I’ve learned a lot about life by playing Monopoly. During my teenage years I had stretches where I spent more hours playing Monopoly than I did sleeping. I’d play anyone who’d accept my challenge. When no one would, I’d compete against myself, playing all four (or sometimes eight) positions myself.

In Monopoly, every other game, and life in general, I hate losing even more than I love winning. And I can’t think of anything that I love more than winning.

I can’t stand the smacking, stinging quality that losing possesses. If there’s any upside whatsoever, it’s that losing can provide perfect clarity, deeply impress lessons, and impart an intense determination to perform better in the future.

Playing a game of Monopoly with me doesn’t resemble the games that most people played as children. It generally takes me only 45 minutes to finish a four-player game.  

Some people think that Monopoly is merely a game of luck, or a simple kid’s game. I like to invite those people to play a game with me.

Of course, any game that uses dice contains an element of luck. But there’s a lot more to winning Monopoly than rolling well. It helps to know the rules inside and out, and to use them fully to your advantage.

Many years ago I bought and studied a book called The Monopoly Companion. It provides statistical tables showing which color groups provide the best return on investment, which properties are landed on most often, and a host of other insights and tips that increase a player’s chances of winning when applied consistently.

Monopoly’s rules are a bit like tax laws— most of them aren’t all that complex, many of them are situational, and by the time they’re all layered on top of one another they can seem pretty overwhelming. Those who understand them well and bend them to their favor benefit far beyond those who don’t.

I quit being surprised a long time ago that most people don’t know or play by Monopoly’s rules. It’s one of my life’s minor joys to witness an opponent’s surprise when I invoke one of the more obscure rules at a pivotal point to tip a game irreversibly in my favor.  

One of my favorite rules to exploit is the housing shortage. It’s based on the fact that there are only 32 houses in the game, and once they’ve all been purchased no one can buy a hotel even if they have the money to do so. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but used correctly it can be game-defining.  

Another strategy I employ is memorizing the sequence of the Chance and Community Chest cards. There are sixteen of each, and because they stay in the same order, if you pay attention once you’ve seen them all you’ll know which ones are coming up.

This allows me to make more intelligent trades, to build (or abstain from building) houses or hotels at the most strategic times, or to hold cash in reserve when I’m at high risk of landing on a card that would require a large cash outlay.

Also, I don’t put money in the “Free Parking” square. First, it’s not in the rules, and second, it makes absolutely no sense to infuse cash into the monetary system of a game whose point is to bankrupt your opponents.

One thing I absolutely believe increases my odds of winning is that I exert positive belief into my play. Every time I roll the dice, from the moment I pick them up, I look at what I want to roll and repeat that number in my mind, or often out loud. It’s amazing how often I roll what I want.

By contrast, I have a friend who loudly announces what he doesn’t want to roll— the Go to Jail square, the property that’s already been purchased, or the one with a hotel on it that will bankrupt him if he hits it. I swear that he lands exactly what he doesn’t want to more often than he avoids it. 

It reminds me of Henry Ford’s saying, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” It also makes me think of what race car drivers are taught about “target fixation,” or looking where you want to go rather than where you don’t want to go.

One of the things I love about Monopoly is that unlike life, it is a closed system with clear rules and knowable and (mostly) predictable outcomes. I also love that every loss can be easily wiped from memory with a subsequent victory.

From Monopoly I’ve learned that before you even sit down to play you’ve got to have absolute confidence that you’re going to win. I’ve learned that it’s important to take action— to ask for what you want and to be creative when dealmaking. I’ve learned that it’s important to pay attention— after all, opponents don’t owe you rent if they land on your property and you don’t ask for it.

Monopoly has taught me that it’s possible to overcome seemingly impossible adversity— I’ve won games where I was only able to purchase a single property the entire game. Of course, it helps to know the rules backwards and forwards and to use them to your advantage whenever possible. 

But as much or more as any of these lessons, I’ve learned that there’s immense power in focusing on and believing in the best possible outcome. I’m amazed at how often it becomes reality. 

I don’t know why it works, but I know that it does.

In my mind I’m undefeated still.

I invite you to share with me your favorite memories or aspects of Monopoly!

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