Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Paul Attia on Work/Life Balance

Today, I attended a lunch & learn on Work/Life Balance. The guest speaker is Paul Attia.

Before I share what I learned, here's a quick intro:

Okay, without further ado, here's what I learned from today's Lunch & Learn with Paul Attia.

Live a life based on principles, not prescriptions

In life, it's common to have a list of prescriptions, a list of do's and don'ts. Prescription-based living aims for perfection. When failures happen, it leads to unhappiness.

Principle-based living, done right, leads to practices. Practices lead to progress. And progress leads to happiness.

You CAN have it all

Paul divided our life into 3 buckets: Family/Relationships, Fitness, and Finance. Much of our life can be generally categorized into one of these three.

A common view is that you can't have it all. e.g. You can't have a successful career and still be a loving husband and a supercool dad. Paul argues that you can -- and is living proof of this.

Paul will be the first to admit he's not perfect. But he has found a way to carve out his version of success in his Family, Fitness and Finance. 

Three key principles to "have it all"

Paul shared three key principles of how he manages work/life balance. He stresses that these principles are ... principles, not prescriptions. They are guiding principles that have helped him get closer to his BIG PICTURE goal. 

Imagine you're in a sailboat trying to get to an island. If the weather conditions change, you would simply adjust course so that you keep making progress toward the island. This is principle-based living. Prescription-based living is like heading to the island on a speedboat. When the weather changes, you simply turn up the engine. While this will help you move faster, it may not help you move towards the island.

Without further ado, here are his three principles:

Principle #1: In life, something is better than nothing.

Something is better than nothing.

Back in college, Paul was a two-sport varsity athlete and a law student. Even though he was busy, he still managed to fit in 2-hour workouts! He still managed to get in that solid 1-2 hour workout working downtown as a lawyer. This was when he was 30 and single.

Fast forward 5 years later, Paul is married with 4 kids. Life just got a lot busier. Finding the 1-2 hours to workout became like searching for a rare jewel. 

So Paul found 2 minutes. 2 minutes of push-ups. 2 minutes of jumping jacks. 2 minutes of ... anything. 2 minutes is better than 0. 

Something is better than nothing.

This principle extends to finance and family too.

In finance, Paul takes advantage of the principle of compound interest. While he may not always be able to max out or contribute X amount, he commit to something every week. To illustrate the power of compound interest, Paul talks about contributing $48.07/week to your child's RESP (Canada). Assuming 4-5% interest over 18 years and government incentives, this weekly habit will lead to $80K when your child turns 18. $80,000. Wow.

With family, it can be difficult to carve out time, be it with your kids, or quality time with your spouse. On a busy day, Paul might have 2-3 minutes to call his wife and check in on her. He asks how she's doing, checks in with her soul, or enjoys a good laugh. Why 2-3 minutes? Because by the time he finishes work, gets home, does the chores with his wife, spend time with the kids and puts them to bed, it's 9 p.m. And by that time, the only conversation they want is one with an ice cream tub!

This doesn't mean that 2 minutes / day is the key to a happy marriage! Rather, it is about making the most of what you DO have. Strive for progress over perfection. Principles over prescriptions.

Principle #2: In life, you gotta run your own race.

Don't worry about where other people are in life. Run your own race.

Paul says that if you want to be wise, listen to the you that is 75. The 75-year-old version of you has the gift of time and perspective.

Paul shared a powerful story about a key moment in his life. He had an important project to work on. All he could think about during dinner was this project. After dinner, his wife took care of the kids while he popped open his laptop. As he began to work, he heard a sound familiar to anyone who has kids or has been around them. Laughter and giggles. Sounds of pure joy.

As he heard their laughter, he paused. He thought to his 75-year-old self, and wondered what his older self would give to relive this moment.

What project could be so important that you'll give up something I [your older self] would give the world for?

Without a second thought, Paul spent the rest of the evening laughing and playing with his kids.

To be wise, listen to your 75-year-old self.

Principle #3: Gratefulness leads to greatness 

Be grateful. This is a simple principle that has far-reaching benefits.

Shift your mindset from obstacle to opportunity. From I have to... to I get to ...

Instead of writing more about the "why", I encourage you to give gratitude a try.

Try developing a practice of gratitude. There are many ways to go about this. I currently use a version of the Five Minute Journal via Google Docs. Some of my friends spend 5-10 minutes each day reflecting on what they're grateful for. Others like to write about it. Others like to make a practice of thanking at least one person a day.

Whatever you choose, the key is to start developing an attitude of gratitude. 

And to shift your focus from prescription-based to principle-based thinking. Whether it's all/some/none of the principles above, or some of your own, consider living a life based on guiding principles.

My sincere thanks if you made it this far in the post. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. 

What principle(s) resonate most with you?

What guiding principles do you live your life by?