3 Rules for Living a Simple Life in a Complex World

A busy calendar.I assigned my writer’s group the task of plotting goals for beginning and consequently completing their writing project(s). The very process of considering what one wants to do, how to do it, how long it could take, and then placing pencil to paper and plotting its process does these two things:

First, it forces you to carefully consider the project and its many details. Once the individual components are identified, then we can make a reasonable guess as to how long it could take. I learned how critical this could be, and how to put a dollar value on it when I ran my woodworking business. Since I had to charge the client I needed to know what it cost. For writing or any and all other projects in life, the same process has importance. Learn to evaluate everything you do and ruthlessly decide if it is worth enough to get involved.

Your time and talent has value. Other’s appreciate it. You should too!

I resigned today from a commitment to an organization that I like and had hoped to be able to continue. So why, you ask, did I resign?

Because I am falling behind with my highest priority objectives.

Something has to go and this one didn’t make the cut. The opportunities are many but, like off-ramps on the freeway, just because they are there and just because they may lead to a pleasant place, it does not mean we should take them.

Second, it forces you to prioritize. We can’t do everything we would like or need to do, but we can do some things. The question is which ones? The project may be worthy. Is it worthy enough to be worth your while?

Elbert Hubbard wrote:


Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal.


Here are three rules I developed to help keep my life on track:

Number 1 – Go with your best pitch. I am great at some things, good at some things, and not so good at others. Eventually you will become comfortable with what you are good at, what you like to do, what you find rewarding and fulfilling. You can then begin to qualify every opportunity with those criteria and eliminate everything else.  As we get older we have to accept the reality of diminishing time and strength. This challenge to focus on strengths and ignore weaknesses becomes even more imperative.

Number 2 – If it won’t matter a lot, don’t bother at all. Good is not good enough! To warrant your participation, the project or pursuit must promise to make a great deal of difference. Being good, noble, nice, or charitable is not sufficient promise to get involved. In a world of opportunity, learn to measure with a fine line.

Number 3 – Don’t try to kick a dead horse. I’ll be honest here, some of the most worthy pursuits are populated with and governed by very rigid people. As an organization ages, it is quite common to become resistant to change and new life. Consultant Michael Vance went to work for a major automobile manufacturer a few years ago. Faced with plummeting sales, the CEO decided they needed new ideas. As the CEO walked Mike down the hall to the meeting room, he told him, “Good luck but it won’t do any good.”

This irked Mike because he realized he was wasting his time. Some worthwhile pursuits may be in the grips of people and dynamics that resist change. But there is one thing even worse.

Acceptance and resistance are both passive. A horse can be ridden either way but you can’t kick a dead one. I’d rather be accepted or rejected than ignored. So, if you are engaged in a worthy pursuit with others who fight what you are trying to do or simply smile and ignore it, give it up. Your  time is too too valuable to waste on uncooperative people. I would summarily dismiss counseling clients when they argued with me or ignored my instructions…and they were paying me.

My challenge to you, my reader, is to place a very high value on your unique talents and limited time. Carefully allocate your resources to get the most bang. In the end, which for all of us is coming too quickly, you want to look back on life and smile because you are confident you employed your talents in the most worthwhile pursuits.

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