Go backwards to go forwards and far

On transcontinental flights, sometimes a loaded plane with a full tank of jet fuel, people and cargo has to reverse backwards to the edge of the runway to get extra tarmac on takeoff. Every extra meter matters when it comes to momentum.

Sometimes you need to take a step back in your career if it means being part longer journey. Maybe it’s a job title, compensation, or location. When you make the trade off, weigh it against the extra momentum by taking a step back.

Burn the boats

Sometimes the only way through something is to know I can’t go back. When things get rough, it’s tempting to bail out and retrace my steps. If there’s a trap door, I’ll most likely take it and regroup. A regroup, and do-over is easy to rationalize. The problem is that a false start leads typically leads to a no-start.

When I figuratively burn the boats then the only way out is through. More often than not, once I’m on the other side, I look back and am grateful I persevered. The struggle also makes the destination even sweeter.

Part of the joy of achieving something hard is that the destination is not something I can read about or hear about from someone else’s experience. The satisfaction is in the doing and the earning. 

Kids and old people

Live in places where lots of seniors and kids are visible, noisy and active. I’m not talking about contrived suburbia where every house is a castle and nobody sees each other. The places I mean have high walkability, town squares and areas to gather for the community.

The rest of the age groups can take care of themselves. High visibility of kids and old people are an indicator that a community is safe, nurturing and alive. Kids represent the tomorrow and the older generations carry the wisdom and anchor the community.

Julius Caesar – “There is a tide….”

I have no doubt that to learn this off by heart would greatly benefit anybody.

Act 4 Scene 3

Under your pardon. You must note beside,
That we have tried the utmost of our friends,
Our legions are brim-full, our cause is ripe.
The enemy increaseth every day.
We, at the height, are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.


Look for keyholes

In surfing, a keyhole is a channel surfers use to paddle out from a rocky beach. Rather than walk and slip over a reef before launching into the water, you can paddle out using the channel though the reef if the tide is right. The locals will show you the way, but they won’t guide you. You need to watch, learn, and follow. Nobody is going to hold your hand and give you a guide book. Once you paddle out, then you’ve got to earn your spot in the lineup. One too many false takeoffs or wipeouts on a wave and you are toast. The better surfers will call your bluff and steal a wave from under your nose.

The paddle out and the line up is a great leveler. Yes, jets skis have opened up access and made surfing more coin-operated, but in most cases, there aren’t jet skis. Jets skis are like ski lifts. Imagine if everyone had to hike the mountain before they ski down. There would be way fewer people up there.

Respect local customs and earn your place in the lineup. Same for most things in life.

Watertight compartments

Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. 

Don’t let a tough evening commute ruin dinner time with family. Don’t make a snap decision because the stock market had a wobble. Don’t relive mistakes and past interactions, or get anxious about things that haven’t even happened.  Don’t let the past or the future leak into the present.

Build watertight compartments by focusing on the task at hand. Do you have a plan? It doesn’t have to be a 5-year plan. Maybe the plan is to wake up, make a cup of tea, and get an early start. Get going and accomplish the mission. Then make a new plan and do that.

The clarity of a decision

Decisions create clarity. It’s a little like when I only spot spelling mistakes after I publish a tweet or hit send on an email.

Marriage: I didn’t know how good it was until I dared to be vulnerable and commit

Kids: I had no idea about the joy and love I would tap into until they arrived.

Investing time or money: I always have the urge to learn more or understand the downside and risk mitigating moves on the table. It’s paralyzing. It’s after I say yes that energy is freed up and power of momentum kicks in. Making a decision is like releasing the hand brake on a revved-up car.

Clarity after a decision isn’t like turning on a light switch. Sometimes it requires perseverance and a grind. That’s where courage and fortitude come in. It’s like that first night moving to a new home. The first night for me is always tough. Maybe I hear the neighbor for the first time or the sounds of traffic wafts through the window after everyone has gone to bed. It’s the same with starting a new job, and I’m completely out of my comfort zone and am looking back at what I’ve left behind.

If there were clarity before a big life decision, then it would be easy. Preservation of optionality is the enemy of momentum. Accept there will be unknowns, do the homework, understand risk as best you can, and then commit to a decision. Nothing is risk-free, and if you think it’s risk-free, then you haven’t done your homework.

One caveat: Some of the best ideas and companies were started because the founder wasn’t aware of the downside. Ignorance is bliss, but it also allows for a quick decision and resulting momentum. I think this is the exception rather than the rule.