Aric Dromi Helps Design the Future We Wish to Live In

Aric Dromi is a keynote speaker, futurologist, digital philosopher and self-proclaimed professional troublemaker who helps people and organizations design the future they wish to live in.

He has one simple mission: inspiring a change in the way the world and the technologies that govern it are viewed and experienced. To question the status quo and stimulate the kind of critical thinking that’ll shift priorities and better equip us against challenges ahead. Challenges we’re not prepared for.

Aric is passionate about the transformation necessary at political, societal and personal levels in preparation of a rapidly evolving future and the technologies taking over it. He is CEO and founder of TEMPUS.MOTU and creator of Dead Rabbit Society – both dedicated to coming up with ways to make the world and its leaders take notice of a fast-moving digital era we are already a part of.

Here’s what the story-maker had to tell Red Shoe Movement about experiencing technology, the importance of critical thinking and creativity, and navigating our way through a new technological revolution that’ll be like nothing humankind has experienced before.

Aric Dromi helps people and organizations think about how to design the Future

Aric Dromi helps people and organizations think about how to design the Future

How to design the future

Aline Cerdá­n— Can you explain a little more about your role as a futurologist and what it entails? What are some of the elements you consider when navigating the future?

Aric Dromi— always take the simple approach answering the question of what a futurologist is. I tell stories about potential futures that could happen and reverse engineer these potentials into concepts and trajectories of futures that should happen. In this context, you can’t merely be reactive but rather build proactive frameworks that can design future trends. If you do that, you control the narratives of the future. Navigating the future is about controlling the waves, then the wind, and the sea rather than building better ships.

AC—How will things like work, life, and travel change? Is there a way to prepare for a digital age?

AD—We live in a world where technology is augmenting almost every aspect of our lives and enabling us to enhance our virtual presence using code. Empathy, freedom, wellbeing, intelligence, education, governance, creativity, economics, and politics are the primary benefactors of the exponential growth and impact of technology.

For the first time in the history of humankind, natural evolution has reached the zenith of its potential. There is no place to go from a biological point of view. Yes, we might become a little faster and jump a bit higher, but we have reached a point where our organic structure cannot evolve anymore. Even with genetic modifications – sooner or later – we will hit the limit of our evolutionary potential.

We live in a world where technology is observing us more than we are observing it, and it is reality, the information doesn’t exist behind the screen anymore – we are the information. Every aspect of our existence is being quantified, stored, and monetized. This has already fundamentally changed (even if not on the societal level) the narratives of work, travel, mobility, and more. The App economy improves the way we book a hotel, order taxi, pay for services, work remotely etc.

I don’t think we should put any effort into preparing for a digital age, as we are already living in one. My main concern is that we keep driving our economic models based on buzz words that force our resources to focus on technology rather on the development of humankind, individuals and strategic thinking.

When we keep building “smart” things (smart phones, smart cities, smart cars) the word smart means Technology. We keep surrounding ourselves with technology and forgetting that our entire infrastructure, that may be cities, legal, educational, political and economic models can be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire. Moving forward, we need to rethink the fundamental building blocks of societal development and evolution or we are simply building a house of cards.

Sergio Kaufman of Accenture shares how technology levels the playing field for women
Helping design the future you want. Photo Credit Clay Banks.Unsplash

Helping design the future you want. Photo Credit: Clay Banks. Unsplash

AC—How are algorithms affecting us as human beings? How can we rethink the way we experience technology?

AD—What is an algorithm? It’s math and code coming together creating a set of routines that are designed to solve a problem (OK, I’m over simplifying). How many people actually understand what an algorithm is? Yet we are surrounded, directed, and even manipulated, by algorithms every day. From phone notifications, to content recommendations, digital communication, food consumption, online shopping, and social interactions, algorithms are the invisible puppet masters that frame our existence in the modern age. I’m not trying to be negative, but rather emphasize the need to better research and understand the side effects (that are fast becoming the new norm) of living in a world where the control strings are written in code.

AC— What is The Dead Rabbit’s Society? What is it about discomfort that helps challenge the status quo and better design the future?

AD— The Dead Rabbit Society was born out of few lectures I did with students outside the normal academic framework. I saw a need to rethink the narratives of education and the objectivity of the important questions we need to ask ourselves to secure our desired future. In a world of sanitized, politicized and agenda-filled news broadcasts, finding the truth has become a full-time job. We are confronted by a cacophony of trite media stories that have little or nothing to do with our reality in the present or, more importantly, the future. Yet for all the noise there is no clarity, no critical thinking, no objective voices to defend our society from an imminent future for which we are more than ill-prepared.

The Dead Rabbit Society’s role in all of this is to highlight the major questions of our time and to get people thinking about potential solutions the will carry us forward toward our desired future.

We do this via our online community, through hosting events, conferences and keynotes and we are embarking on an ambitious plan to produce documentaries around these questions. The first documentary will examine The Future of Work in a world that will be increasingly run by artificial intelligence and automated production capacity.

Aric Dromi speaks about how to design the future. Photo Credit Owen Beard. Unsplash

Aric Dromi speaks about how to design the future. Photo Credit Owen Beard. Unsplash

People don’t seem to have fully grasped the implications of AI and automation. Our society is on the verge of seismic changes, the likes of which we have not seen since the Industrial Revolution. This revolution will also displace a lot of employees and professions. But it won’t just be truck drivers and taxi drivers that are affected. Lawyers, doctors, surgeons – all manner of professions will be threatened by this technological revolution. But you don’t hear people talking about this. Our goal is to change that. We would like to highlight the issues, the questions, and have people put pressure on their political representatives to come up with a direction, a strategy for a future where we may not be employed as we currently know it. We can either sit back and hope that someone puts the genie back in the bottle, or we can be proactive and try to shape the narrative so that the future we encounter is one of our own making and not the result of a string of poorly made decisions based on incomplete facts that exclude the most important component of our future – people.

What we have seen so far is that most people are blissfully ignorant of the coming changes and have blind faith that things will work out for the best. Guess what – they won’t. Without clear and agreed direction we will be at the mercy of despots, corporations the size of continents and we will be slaves to our own data footprint. We have a choice. The Dead Rabbit Society’s aim is to highlight the choices and instigate an informed discussion.

Companies design the future by thinking differently

AC—How can companies instill a culture of creativity and risk-taking?

AD— I think the keyword here is “culture”. Companies must remember that we are born into culture, we are not born with culture. It is something we learn through the interaction set by our environment. To instill a culture of creativity and risk-taking you must have an assertive leadership team’s commitment to set the example.

Focusing on increasing your core earning model – and forgetting how to nurture and defend it – will never give you the tools and know-how to expand the foundation of your business.

So, this is the end destroying the means. If you focus on how profitable your business is today, your organization will not be productive tomorrow. Engaging in iterative change ensures you follow the pack as opposed to reap the rewards of being a thought-leader. Fear is the spawn of ignorance. If you only consider what has happened – or worse, what is happening – you can’t help us with tomorrow. Learn from the past, be present in the moment and let that insight allow you to think differently about the future.

We are in a major technological revolution. Photo Credit Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

We are in a major technological revolution. Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

Traits we need to prepare for what’s coming

AC—What can we do to educate ourselves on connectivity and the way we experience technology? What traits and abilities will we need moving forward to design the future we want to live in?

AD—I would start by asking the question, what does it mean to be human in a world where technology determines almost every aspect of our existence? I think we have already passed the point of no return where we can “live” without technology and as such we should find way to partner with it to define the next steps of human evolution. We need better-educated leaders and politicians. We need a better understanding of policymaking.

We can easily list the skills that today’s children will need to successfully navigate the future:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Originally
  • The ability to solve complex problems
  • Emotion and passion

But why is that list different from the skills we have always needed to excel in life and rise to the apex of our own potential? The truth is it’s not!

We do, however, need a set of new ideas for these skills:

  • We can’t use code the same way we use bricks
  • We need to move from managing-for-profit, to managing-for-impact
  • Experience should be measured by the quality of choices and not by the number of its functions
  • Don’t confuse symptoms with the appearance and root cause
  • Assets need to build up into properties and capital to deliver value to society
  • Think of technology as a legal system. The legal system was designed to be used (and sometimes abused) by lawyers – entrepreneurs use technology – technology is never the end goal, but simply a path.

We shouldn’t focus on experiencing technology but how technology can enable us to better experience ourselves and life. Think of technology as fire. Mankind learned how to tame fire (for the most part) – but we have already lost control of technology. This needs to change – quickly.

We have already lost control of technology. Photo Credit: William Daigneault. Unsplash

We have already lost control of technology. Photo Credit: William Daigneault. Unsplash

AC—How can concepts like morality and trust be redefined? Who will determine what the code of conduct in the digital age should be?

AD— I often ask people in my keynotes: If I visit a brothel run by robots and have sex with a robot, did I cheat on my wife? Can she rightfully sue me for divorce? What if someone hacked my artificial intelligence digital assistant and deleted the code. Can I sue that person for murder? I don’t have one simple answer around the future of morality, ethics and trust but rather a suggestion. We need to understand that our current system will never scale into a future that is anchored in code. We need to start telling stories about potential futures and stress-test them in front of policymakers to better help them rethink the process narratives that they use to design their policies. We can do this in a number of ways:

  • Identifying the unknowns in domains critical to the stability and development of humankind’s current societal structure
  • Defining the questions around which leaders and politicians can design a desired vision of the future
  • Developing strategies to realize this future by implementing the necessary tools and processes to deliver on the desired vision
  • Designing a set of experiments and scenarios in various domains to better prepare local, national and global leadership to tackle the upcoming challenges.

This is how we work with policymakers and governments, high business leaders and NGOs with our Think– Do–Rethink Tank, www.tempusmotu.org

Only by bringing the best minds together and providing space for them to develop these potential future narratives can we stress-test them and improve them through an iterative process. This is something that I am extremely passionate about.

In the end it is about defining the world you wish to live in, modelling it, testing it and improving it. If we continue to use the past as the gateway to the future we will not move very far. This is challenge I put to every leader I speak to. We can make the world a better place, if we want to.

8 Ideas to Make the Most Out of Working from Home

It’s not for everyone. I’ve met people who look at me in complete shock and horror when I tell them that I spend most of my time working from home. To some, the prospect of losing things like the social interaction and usual distractions of a day spent at the office, is simply unthinkable.

I really can’t blame them. It’s easy to lose track of time and blur lines when your workspace is also your home. Easy to either spend too much time working or to fall into procrastination with the excuse of some chore that just needs to get done. Still, it’s achievable. And all that time that’s not wasted in traffic, commuting back and forth can leave you with some unexpected – and much appreciated – free time.

I’ve been working from home for a few years, which has given me enough time to do it all wrong and learn a little bit from my mistakes. I’m not going to say I never surrender to the appeal of my favorite couch, but I know how to prioritize and how to be productive and respect my workspace and schedule.

Working from home. Photo Credit Ella Jardim. Unsplash

Create your own space within your home. It helps keep boundaries.Photo Credit Ella Jardim. Unsplash

The Subtle Art of Working from Home

1Designate a work space. Stay out of your bedroom unless it’s absolutely necessary, that way that area can be a getaway from the workspace. If you have the room to create your own office, do it. If not, find a corner of the house and make it your own. A designated work area will also make it easier for others to respect that this is where you keep your work stuff. A concept that can seem a little bewildering to office goers.

2Have a morning routine.

Have breakfast, take care of personal calls or emails, shower and change before starting the workday. You obviously don’t have to dress up, but it helps to make the beginning of the day real. If I don’t change into street clothes, I will very rarely manage anything productive once I’m done with the more pressing work. This is how you end up with last-minute assignments that can take over your entire weekend.

3Schedule your work ahead of time. I’m easily distracted, so anything that brings a little order to my day is appreciated. Look at what needs to be done through the day and set goals before you decide when to take breaks and when to stop working for the day. It helps to have a fixed work schedule if the nature of your job allows it. It may be impossible to avoid projects that demand more and may sometimes entail working late or on weekends but administering deadlines can let you plan ahead. In order to do this, you need to set clear expectations with your boss, your clients and yourself.

4Prepare your lunch ahead, just as if you were planning to leave the house. There are two reasons this is a good idea. First of all, it makes you keep up the illusion that “you’re not home”, which can be key in concentrating. Second, it can save you time, money and keep you away from unhealthy meals and snacks. You can assign time to get out of the house and get something to eat now and then, but your pocket will probably appreciate occasionally staying in. To avoid overdoing it with the snacks, (it’s easy to fall into this trap when you’re so close to your very own fridge and pantry) prepare some for the day as well. Also? Research shows that when we choose all our meals for the week at the same time, we tend to have a healthier and more varied diet.

5Avoid family and friends during work hours. My mother has a really hard time understanding that working from home doesn’t mean I’m just hanging out at my place, a misunderstanding she shares with friends who have free time during working hours. Likewise, some friends have mentioned how important it is for their kids to understand that mommy’s working, even if she is home.  Avoiding them will not only make you more productive, it’ll help them understand that your work hours must be respected. Just as they would be respected if you were at the office. Having your own office space also helps set boundaries and avoid interruptions from your children, partner and other house guests.

6Get out of the house. Make sure that you make time to do other things, like taking a walk, going to the gym or having lunch with work colleagues. It helps you clear your mind and it’s important when so much time is being spent in your house. Remember, vitamin D is important so make time to step out into the sun. A certain flexibility comes with working from home and that can usually mean you can take that class or wander off for a couple of hours to do something that will make you happy.

7Take advantage of projects that allow you to collaborate with others. While there are many upsides to working from home, creating your own schedule and being in charge of your own time, it can be pretty isolating too. Being part of a team and the interaction that comes from it is good for our mental health and can motivate us to work harder, providing a fresh perspective that’s not always available when doing home office. Look for projects that will allow you to collaborate with other people and make time to meet up for lunch, coffee or drinks every now and then. You don’t always need to be confined to your workspace. If you collaborate with larger companies, it may be a good idea to stop by the office to say hello now and then.

8Stay in touch. Make sure you’re talking to the people you work with, especially when you’re a part of an international team with multiple time zones. Differing time zones can make it harder to keep up with everyone, especially if you’re trying to stick to your work hours. Try to schedule conference calls and video chats at times where all, or at least most of the team can join. If it’s not up to you, be open to them and try to engage and make your presence felt. It’ll help you and others to feel like a part of the team, even if you and others are working remotely.

Working from home has its advantages. You decide when to take a break. Photo credit: Free Stocks. Unsplash

Working from home has its advantages. You decide when to take a break. Photo credit: Free Stocks. Unsplash

The Benefits of Working from Home

While some people feel that working from home would affect productivity negatively, a robust two-year study held by Nicholas Bloom, from Stanford University, proved that people in a work-from-home situation actually worked full-shifts and found it easier to concentrate while working from home.

The main problem for most people is how isolating it can be. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. Some people need the very specific aspects of a more conventional work environment to be productive. However, more and more companies are finding that the rise in efficiency of their home office teams and the money that can be saved by reducing office space might be worth looking into.

If done right, home office can make you the master of your own time. It takes some effort to perfect it, but you can learn not to procrastinate, to choose the right collaborations and the best people to collaborate with. It’s all about avoiding distractions, managing your time, sticking to your priorities and building a good relationship with the people you work with.  In any case, it’s looking more and more like it could be the standard for the future, so this is a good time to start exploring the benefits!

 

Working from home. Photo Credit Emma Matthews. Unsplash

Prioritizing and sticking to your plan is an important part of being productive. Photo Credit Emma Matthews. Unsplash

Greta Thunberg and the rise of powerful young female voices

A teenage environmentalist becoming TIME’s Person of the Year is one of the things I loved most about a year that was often difficult to deal with. It’s symptomatic of the rise of powerful young female voices that is defining our times.

I’ll be honest, it puts my own inconsiderate teenage years into a harsh perspective, but while the adult part of me is deeply ashamed of needing young girls like Greta Thunberg to take matters into their hands, it provides vital hope in a time of crisis. Hope that these new strong young female voices that are fighting for the world have inherited not just the chaos previous generations have created, but also the courage to bring the necessary change around.

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

One of the most powerful young female voices today

She may only be a teenager, but Thunberg knows what she wants and won’t stop until she’s made sure people are listening. She has managed to get attention where others have failed to do so; she’s achieved commitment where there was none before, inspired young and not-so young to act and shamed those who continue to fail to do what’s right, no matter who they are or how they may retaliate.

She speaks frankly; she doesn’t do sugarcoating. Greta knows that we’re running out of time to right some of our wrongs before it’s too late. She offers facts and expects them to be enough to scare world leaders into action. To scare people into demanding a change from the politicians in charge.

Unless something is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature will continue to rise. According to scientists this will “expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030”.

With a future that’s increasingly bleak and world leaders who don’t seem very interested in doing something about it, it’s no wonder that she’s gone from a muted depression to anger that’s gone viral. Anger that represents thousands.

The face of a youth-led climate movement first heard about climate change at school and tumbled deep into depression triggered by hopelessness and disbelief. How could global warming be a reality if politicians and world leaders were doing nothing about it? How  could adults be so unconcerned by the dreary future being handed down to children? How could they not listen to warnings scientists have given us for years?

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

At first, she went quiet and stopped eating, inspiring her family to make changes in lifestyle like giving up meat, growing their own food and installing solar panels to appease her anxiety. Gradually, she began to find her voice once again. An uncompromising, no-bullshit voice that she’s been using to wake the world up to the urgency of the planet’s current situation.

Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis may have explained why she took her findings on the condition of the planet so hard, but as her father pointed out to TIME, she’s not wrong. While she has been mocked and bullied, her uncompromising passion and straightforward approach has also reached millions.

Her outrage at being forced to begin a climate strike instead of enjoying her childhood made an impression, especially on other young people who share her anger and disappointment. As they should. The demonstrations that have happened worldwide have brought about the kind of pressure that’s hard for leaders to ignore.

Emmanuel Macron told TIME that these weekly demonstrations by young people helped him change, “You cannot remain neutral”.

So, it’s probably a good thing that youths seem so involved. That Greta is not alone in wanting to make things happen where “grown-ups” have failed to succeed, or to even try. According to Al Gore, a Nobel Prize Winner for decades in climate advocacy, “many great morally based movements have gained traction at the very moment when young people decided to make that movement their cause”.

This could be a good sign considering young people, young women, seem to be at the forefront of change. Different, real, flawed, diverse, eloquent, young women who are making big things happen. It’s pretty inspiring.

I often wonder about the kind of woman my niece will grow into as a product of the world she’s been inherited. Of a world that’s fought for great new freedoms and has bred unlikely social champions unwilling to watch it burn. A world that’s at a breaking point that has forced kids out of classrooms to stand up and do what adults can no longer be trusted to do.

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

In recent years, names like Jamie Margolin (climate change), Emma González (gun control), Marley Diaz (diversity representation), Malala Yousafzai (education for women and girls), Mari Copeny (access to drinkable water) and Zoey Luna (trans youth rights) have proved that Greta is not only not alone in her fight to create awareness – she’s in good company. With more young female voices rising above the static as we stumble into the next decade.

I found the women I looked up to making music, or movies or writing stories. It worked for me – their messages were empowering and helped me define who and how I wanted to be in a lot of ways. It felt a little more self-involved on my side though, more limited. More about changing myself than changing the world. It feels like these kids are changing the world.

At sixteen, Greta is the youngest person to take the title given by the magazine every year. She joins Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis in the long list of names who have claimed the cover, which has pleased some and, unsurprisingly, annoyed a few others. The unconventional young hero makes me feel ashamed of myself, but also excited about what she means to girls watching.

The women my niece will look up to are fighting for others. They tear through social convention. They are everywhere. They do everything. And, in a lot of ways, they’re just like her.

Read about the Women’s March that took place in the US

How aligned are your aspirations with your career? Your success depends on it!

Stop whatever you’re doing. Ask yourself this question: How aligned are your aspirations with your career? Only when they are in sync will you feel fulfilled, centered and successful. Read on!

As simple as this may sound, it’s an issue that affects a large percentage of people, particularly women. Why? Because many of us are so busy pushing forward with our lives and professional careers that we don’t take the time to stop and reevaluate where we are and how we are feeling about it. And if we find that we are not happy, even fewer of us commit to making the necessary changes to redirect our careers.

Synchronize intention and attention. Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

Always remember to synchronize your intention with your attention. Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

How to identify potential misalignments?

There are several symptoms that point to a lack of alignment. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Frustration at not getting what you want
  • Envy of other people’s achievements
  • Anger at the huge effort you have to make to get anything from recognition to a promotion
  • Feeling frequently tired, in a bad mood, or lack enthusiasm for your job

I saw it recently in a highly educated, very smart colleague who was complaining about working too much and not having enough to show for it. When we dived deeper into the reasons why she thought this was happening, I could hear that her goals and her professional activity were not in sync. She wanted to achieve A but was putting a lot of efforts in a direction that pointed her to B. As we continued our conversation it became evident that she experienced a similar pattern in other aspects of her life.

How to do less and achieve more. A great read!
Post its with dreams by Kyle Glenn

Creating a vision board or a wall full of your dreams on post it notes can help keep you focused! Photo Credit: Kyle Glenn. Unsplash

How to align your aspirations and your career goals

There is a process by which you synchronize your intention with your attention. You see, when you are not clear about what you want, your attention is dispersed. You get pulled into a million different directions, as you have no sense of priority or what serves your purpose. It becomes more about staying busy, occupying your mind than anything else.  Now when you define what it is you want, what truly gives you a sense of fulfillment, then you develop a sharp focus.

Here’s a simple way to go about it: Spell out what you want

The best way to stop envying other people’s lives and successes is by zeroing in on what you want and how willing you are to get it. Because these two things go hand in hand. You may want to live in a four-bedroom home overlooking the ocean but not willing to do anything to change your current five-digits salary. So, grab a notebook and a pen. Sit in a quiet place. As a header write “The career I want.”

Then write 100 things that you want your career to be like. Describe in detail (one detail per line) the kind of job you want, the type of activities you’d like to do, the sort of bosses, colleagues, organization’s culture, industry, how far from home you are willing to go, and so on. The more detailed you are, the better.

This exercise works for all different aspects of life and work. You could create the same kind of list for an executive search your company is conducting or for a romantic partner.

It works incredibly well because when you’ve written down 50 things, and you think you have nothing else to add to the list, more items pop up until you have an incredibly sharp idea of what you’re looking for. What would fulfill you and what would not. It helps you keep your goals front and center and this in turns helps you make better decisions. You learn how to say no to things that would derail you and yes to things that will contribute to your objectives.

The more deliberate you are in your choices, the more your life and your career get aligned with your goals and this is the shortest path to achieving them. It also keeps the focus on you and your attainments rather than on other people and theirs. Thus reducing your envious impulses or any sense of not being good enough or deserving enough to get what you want.

Try it and then let me know how it goes. Sometimes the simplest solutions unexpectedly bring us the biggest satisfaction.

And if you’d like help with this process, consider our Step Up Program.

How aligned are your aspirations. Christopher Campbell. Unsplash

How aligned are your aspirations? Photo credit: Christopher Campbell. Unsplash

4 Steps to do less and achieve more to feel better

I’ve spent many years working long days and weekends building one company or another. Finally, I figured out how to do less and achieve more.  In the process I found my passion and time to live my life. Here are my insights.

“Do less and achieve more” may not come naturally

I had just finished my Master’s degree when I first arrived in the U.S. So not only did I have to work hard to get my career going but I also had to learn a new culture, improve my English and do it all as a newly wed away from my family. Hard work and effort was a given. I had to pave my way, pay my dues, and all that.

But the truth is that perseverance and a strong will to succeed had always been part of my DNA. I had worked hard to get good grades in school and had done a ton of extra curricular activities since I have memory. So it was only natural that I’d continue in that vein once I entered the workplace.

After I worked at a company for a couple of years my now ex husband and I purchased it from the owner. It was about to go bankrupt so it looked like a good idea to restructure and re-launch an existing company rather than start from scratch.  It wasn’t any easier, though. With the bankruptcy looming over us, it meant we had to work 16 hour-days and 7 days a week to keep the company afloat. All the while taking very little money out and investing in marketing new programs and services.

That was my first professional taste of an imbalanced life. We worked all the time.  We took no days off, no vacations. We did nothing for pleasure. It was work, work work. And when I look back, the results we got for the amount of work we did were not commensurate. Not even close.

The idea to “do less and achieve more” never even crossed my mind back then. It would take many more years for it to sink in.

So, let me save you the learning curve and share the insights I gained along the way.

You've got this. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Unsplash

You’ve got this. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Unsplash

1 De-glorify busyness

The one thing you learn pretty quickly when you enter the U.S. workspace is that being busy is considered good. It’s the only acceptable answer to the question: “How are you?” If you’re not busy people immediately think you’re not successful. So even when you are taking a well-deserved break, you may automatically answer “Busy, very busy.”

The truth is that being busy for the sake of being busy is like being famous for the sake of being famous. It’s empty. It’s shallow and it’s completely and utterly unfulfilling.

So if you want to do less and achieve more, my first suggestion is that you take a personal stand against busyness. Its only function is to occupy your time with things that may not be relevant at best and may distance you from your real goals at worst.  So, when someone asks you how you are doing, try any of the following answers:

  • I’m enjoying every minute of my life
  • I’m involved in a very interesting project
  • I’m thinking about my next step
  • I’m spending quality time with the people I care about
  • I’m evaluating my priorities so I can focus on what really matters

You will see how by training yourself to give one of these more thoughtful responses, you will give yourself permission to actually do all those things.

When you learn to do less you achieve more and find more time for what you love. Photo Credit: Joanna Kosinska. Unsplash

When you learn to do less you achieve more and find more time for what you love. Photo Credit: Joanna Kosinska. Unsplash

Learn how to flow

2 Figure out what you enjoy most in order to go with the flow

It’s not a simple thing, but figuring out what you most enjoy doing in life and for work is a cataclysmic discovery. It can throw everything upside down, that’s how infrequently you’re likely to give this any serious consideration. Ask yourself right now:

  • What comes naturally to me?
  • When do I feel I’m in the zone? In a psychological flow?
  • Where do my ability, knowledge, experience and joy intersect? Doing what?
  • If I was given five years to live and the only way to extend my life were to work in something I love, what would that be?

When you uncover what it is that you like to do and you figure out a way to enter that space, you’ll start going with the flow so you are overcome by a feeling of effortlessness. Rather than making efforts against what comes naturally (upstream efforts as Bethany Butzer calls them in her Ted talk,) you’ll be making an effort in the same direction as the current.

I tell you, many people spend their entire lives moving from job to job or developing a career someone else designed for them. Stop. Think. Decide for yourself. Start the path towards doing what you enjoy. It may take a while to course-correct to get there, but it’s worth it.

Learn to do less and achieve more. Photo Credit: Katie Moum. Unsplash

Learn to do less and achieve more. Photo Credit: Katie Moum. Unsplash

3 Start enjoying the process

You’ve heard me say before that success is a journey, not a destination. And although that may sound cliché, the idea is profound. Most of us have arrived to our definition of success through our parents, our culture, our media… We’re so focused on the end result that quite often when you achieve it, it feels meaningless. Why? Because it wasn’t you who gave that goal a meaning. You just went after it because someone out there said it was important. Or it would make you feel important.

To really do less and achieve more, you have to enjoy the process, the path that leads to wherever you are going. And if you’re the one who sets up the direction and you are doing what you like, that path will be much more enjoyable. Granted, it won’t be all smooth sailing all the time. That’s not what this is about. But even when you encounter setbacks and obstacles, you will feel okay. You will have the internal resources to help you navigate through anything. You will have a naturally built-in resilience that comes from doing something you find meaningful.

4 Share the stories you create

In the last few years I realized that because I’ve aligned what I enjoy doing with what I do, my life has gotten much more interesting. I’m having lots of fun, doing less, achieving more, and I have a lot more free time to engage in activities outside of work. I also noticed that the stars seem to align seamlessly and things fall into place with a minimum amount of effort.

What’s happening? I’ve reached a point where the only thing I do is share with those who are interested the stories of what we’ve done at my company, the Red Shoe Movement, and the impact our work has had. I don’t need to convince anyone, I let the stories do the talking. I focus on listening to what people need and then I share what we may be able to do. But I don’t push, I don’t insist, I don’t proselytize. When someone feels we are the right fit and I feel they are the right fit for my organization, things work out beautifully. Everything flows, we become great partners and then, inevitable friends for life.

Because in the end, it’s about creating the conditions that allow everyone to be their best selves and live their most fulfilled lives. Figure out what those conditions look like for you and you’ll feel that it all comes to you effortlessly.

De-glorify busyness and you'll be much happier. Photo Credit: Unsplash

De-glorify busyness and you’ll be much happier. Photo Credit: Unsplash