My yearly ritual now is to post a revision of my personal mission statement. Each year I’m astounded by how much I’ve grown, and how much I have yet to grow.
Last year, I said that the greatest developments in my life have been:
- a fulfillment of my ambition to become an entrepreneur
- a deeper understanding of what it means to build and sustain community
- a recognition that we are no longer living in the Information Age, but in the Network Age, instead, and that this Age represents as fundamental a shift as any shifts we’ve experienced in the past
- an acknowledgement that the things I can change include, not only myself, but the contexts in which I work and live as well, and
- a developing ability to read underlying motivations and emotions, map power dynamics, and hear what is being left unsaid
This year, the greatest developments in my life have been:
- the discovery of my nexus, that intersection of what I love, what I’m good at, what the world needs, and what’s financially sustainable
- a shift in mindset from startup consultant to startup founder
- a growing ability to be my full, authentic self in all contexts
- a growing ability to perceive others’ emotions, intentions, unmet needs, and unsaid conclusions
- the commitment to valuing personal well-being, relationships, and freedom far and above all else
- the awe-inspiring aknowledgement that I could not be doing what I’m doing without the love, help, and support of others, and nor can anyone else
My revised personal mission statement reflects these developments. They include new sections, including “My Nexus”, “My Order of Priorities”, “My Confidants”, and “To Whom I Owe the Greatest Gratitude” as well as revisions and additions to previous sections.
If you make it through this whole thing, I commend you, and I welcome your feedback.
MY PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT
I believe that people are inherently good, that there is an abundance of joy and success to share, and that we have a responsibility to the world-wide community: past, present, and future.
I will be principle centered, having at my core a reservoir of unchanging principles by which I live my life, no matter what the external circumstances, financial, social, or otherwise, may be.
- I will live a growth mindset in all domains of life: academic, work, creative, social, character. I know that I can improve in everything, I just need to seek the knowledge, the skills, and WANT to improve. I also know the same is true of others, so I choose to see potential and promise, not merely problems.
- I will be a person of integrity, someone who always tells the truth, who immediately owns up to mistakes, and who follows through on commitments of character and action. I will be someone that people can trust to do what she says and say what she does.
- I will put people first, their growth, their well-being. I will always have their 10, 20, 30 year development in mind, not what I want them to do or be in just the next hour, day, or even year.
- I will be humble, putting the greater good before all else and building up others, not myself. I will look in the mirror before I look in the magnifying glass, reacting to setbacks and situations by trying to change myself or my context, not by trying to change others.
- I will be a strength-finder, someone who seeks to illuminate the best in other people.
- I will be a team-builder. I will connect people who complement each others’ strengths, find the place where I most benefit the team, regardless of where that may be, and trust and build trust.
- I will be tenacious. I will make things happen by sheer force of will.
- I will lead by example. I will serve. My highest expectations will be for myself.
- I will be sustainable. I will take care of myself to be a model of how others can be. I will take care of the planet and work towards systems in which sustainability is made default by environment. I will encourage others to be sustainable as well.
- I will be insatiably curious. I will never think I know it all. I will always approach problems with a beginner’s mindset. I will never fail to ask questions. I will never fail to change my mind if the data gathered says that my previous conclusions need revision.
- I will be need specific but solution agnostic. I know there’s a win-win, or a win-walk away in all situations.
- I will be discerning. I will judge people by their actions as well as their intent, and the highest standards I have for both are for my own.
These roles take priority in fulfilling my vision and achieving my mission:
- Community Builder: I believe in ‘give before you get’, ‘yes, and’, ‘grow the pie’, ‘no ego’, ‘community-sourced’, ‘bottoms-up’, and ‘community-owned’. These are the beliefs I foster in the communities I join, build, lead. Most importantly, I work to accelerate the development and work of other community builders. There are times when I’ll step forward, but more important are the times I step back.
- Coalition Builder: I believe in the power of collective impact. I bridge lines of difference to find points of common interest between groups of people so that together, we can advocate and create the change we would not have been able to create on our own.
- Connector: I proactively connect people with resources that will benefit them. I put people first. I get to know each person I encounter as an individual so that I can speak to his or her strengths and preferences. I connect people with one another so that we can be a web of relationships. My network opens outward instead of closing inward. I am tolerant and accepting as well as direct.
- Designer: I design beautiful processes, products, and services that solve big problems and make people’s lives better.
- Educator: I develop in children the academic skills, character traits, and habits of mind necessary to be successful, conscientious, and dedicated builders of a better tomorrow for not only themselves, but for their families, communities, and world as well. My children will fight for, and receive, the freedom of choice, and have the wisdom to make the right choice.
- Entrepreneur: I see what is possible while acknowledging the brutal truths of the here and now. I set goals for myself and set out to achieve those goals. I care for a world and planet, country and state, city and community, fifty years down the line and not just five years down the line. I dream. I build a movement of people who dream that dream with me, and together we create the conditions that make our dream a reality.
- Family Member: I will support my siblings so that they can be their best. I will support my parents so that they can lead healthy and happy lives. I will value our time together.
- Personal Developer: I renew my body, mind, emotions, and spirit every day. I listen to the rhythms of my body. I value myself. I value my energy.
- Professional Developer: I approach my work with deep humility and the desire to learn. I seek self-improvement and think of my work as crucial but my job as just how I’m doing that work at that moment. I project five years into the future to prioritize the questions I want to answer, the people I want to know, and the skills I want to learn.
- Significant Other:* My significant other is the most important person in the world to me. We are each other’s number ones. We complement each other’s strengths and draw out the best in each other. We are each other’s trusted advisors. I will always value this relationship and cultivate it, never taking it for granted. Love is a choice and I choose to love him.
- Writer: I will always ask questions, always question assumptions, always learn and grow and build more complete pictures of the world, the truth, and the way it is organized, then share this with others.
I take down systemic barriers to education innovation.
MY ORDER OF PRIORITIES
This is how I order my priorities for maximum well-being.
- Personal Health: sleeping enough, eating well, exercising every day, being mindful and in the moment
- Positive Relationships: my friends, family, significant other, colleagues, partners, and the person I bump into on the street
- Freedom: the ability to choose to do what I want with my time and energy every moment of the day
- Learning: reading, taking courses, pursuing novel experiences, having adventures, failing forward
- Meaning: doing work aligned to my values, making a positive impact, living for something greater than myself
And then, and only then…
- Achievement: recognition, financial compensation, credit for a job well done
These are my specific, methodical, and consistent actions:
- Know Myself: I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I know my preferences. I know when I do my best work. I know how much social stimulation I can handle before I need to rejuvenate. I know what brings me happiness and what brings me sadness. I know my pet peeves. I am constantly in the process of knowing myself more fully so that I can advocate for my own needs, trust in my decisions, and continue refining myself to become the best version of me that I can be.
- Give Before I Get: I always look to add value to others in ways that are consistent with my vision, mission, and principles. I do not expect anything back immediately or personally. Instead, I trust that the value I add will be multiplied and amplified by the work of others who are doing good in the world.
- Do My Research: Before I complete any project or task, I look first to others for resources and leads so that I’m not starting from scratch.
- Sweep the Searchlight: I will try to illuminate my blindspots. I will try to see the things I don’t know I don’t know.
- Fire Bullets, then Cannonballs: Before I commit all out to something, I’ll try it out first in an easy, low-risk way.
- Single Task: I focus on executing one thing at a time, and executing it well.
- Look for Disconfirming Evidence: I actively seek to find evidence that disagrees with my assumptions.
- Identify the Problem Worth Solving and the Team That’s Capable of Solving It: I dig deep to understand problems before ever having the audacity to propose solutions. I actively work to identify that catalytic mix of skill sets, mindsets, experiences, motivations, and life circumstances necessary in the team that will be able to solve the problem. I give ideas away; I coach; I have no sense of ownership over the ideas I generate. Ideas are owned by the people who actually do the work, not the people who initially dreamed them up.
- Assume Nothing: I don’t know what I don’t know. Before I draw any conclusions, I do my best to probe and inquire.
- Have Empathy: I see things from other people’s perspectives. I try to put myself in their shoes. I try not to project my own preferences and interpretations on others.
- Treat Others the Way They Want To Be Treated: I treat people the way they want to be treated, not the way I want to be treated.
- Do Nothing That Is Not Play: Life is meant to be enjoyed. My work is play and my play is work. Life is too short to be spent doing things I don’t find fun, fulfilling, challenging, impactful, and meaningful.
- Be Direct with Respect: The people around me will always know where they stand, what my opinions of them are, and when they impress as well as when they disappoint. I will never say things about a person to other people that I won’t say to that person directly, and, I hope for the same level of directness and respect from those around me as well.
- Solicit Feedback: I actively ask others how I’m being perceived, to what extent I met expectations, and where I can improve.
- Celebrate Differences: I don’t just tolerate differences, I celebrate them. Differences are beautiful. They provide meaning in relationships, fuel for innovation, and endless opportunities for learning and growth.
- Love: I genuinely love myself and I genuinely love others. I want everyone I interact with, whether it’s the doorman or my significant other, to love themselves even more as a result of my affirming of who they are and why they are important.
- Try Everything Once, So Long as It Does Not Carry a Significant Risk of Harming Myself or Others: This is how I live a life of no regrets. We are much more likely to regret the chance not taken than the chance we take, whether or not that chance turned out to be for the better or the worse, because the chance we take ultimately shapes who we are, whereas the chance not taken represents the person we could have, but did not, become.
- Be Excellent: I am thorough and conscientious in everything I do. When I make mistakes, I immediately apologize and do everything in my power to solve the problem and learn from the experience. I never make the same mistake three times.
- Over Promise and Over Deliver: I’m honest about my strengths and my areas of growth. I never promise what I cannot deliver. I set realistic expectations I know that I can meet while actively working to exceed them. The thing is, my realistic expectations are high, they’re very, very high.
- Go First: Before I’m asked to do something, I volunteer to do it. I empathize, I offer. If someone is coughing, I ask if they need water. If a customer is unhappy, I ask if they’d like a refund. If someone seems on the verge of tears, I let them know that I will listen.
- My 20 Mile March: I build habits and consistently accomplish my 20 mile march regardless of how easy or hard it is each time. Currently, my 20 mile marches include doing the following, everyday:
- Expressing gratitude
- Sleeping 7+ hours a night
- Delegate: Delegating is strength. Delegating is focus. Delegating is power. And, delegating is giving others the opportunity to grow and create something even better than what I thought I could accomplish myself.
- See the World as It Is, Not Just as It Should Be: I can be optimistic for the future while not being blinded by a myth of the world as it should be. I understand that people are motivated by self-interest, not just the greater good, that power determines sucess, not just merit, and that there exists systemic injustice, not equal opportunity.
- Document Everything: Document my learning. Document my process. Document my organization’s learning. Document my organization’s process. Foster a love of documentation in others. Due to the curse of knowledge, we often forget what we know now is what we did not know before, and, as a result, squander an opportunity to help others build on top of our work. We’re also never as clear about our thinking as when we are forced to write it down for public view.
- Tell the Truth and Nothing but the Truth: The first day of my teaching career, Dave Crumbine, KIPP Academy’s 5th Grade English Teacher, Grade Level Chair, and Assistant Principal, said to our kids, “I will never lie to you, your teachers will never lie to you.” That was the moment I said to myself, “Well I guess that’s it then, I will never lie again.”
- Have a Mindset of Abundance: There is always enough of the good to share with everyone, whether it is opportunity, joy, well-being, love, achievement, or resources. And, where there is not enough of something, I collaborate to make more of it. That’s what creation is all about.
- Maximize Freedom: When I make money, I always make sure to have enough in savings to allow me to drop everything for at least six months if I recognize that I am no longer living in alignment with my vision, mission, and principles. When I add on living expenses, I follow the ‘burger-flipping rule’; I am never tied to reoccuring expenses so great that I cannot maintain or downgrade within the period of a week to a place where I can sustainably support myself and my family on a minimim wage job. I’m careful to commit only to those things that are 100% aligned to who I am, what my goals are, and where I want to be in the future.
- Create Slack: Slack is what gives me the ability to think and create. Slack is that valuable, quiet space where ideas take shape and insights are generated. Slack is what keeps me healthy and happy.
- Set Boundaries, not Rules: Boundaries are what I set for myself, rules are what I attempt to set for others. Boundaries are within my control, rules are not. Just like I refuse to let others exert their control on me, I refuse to exert control over others. However, actions have consequences, and I can choose my response based on the actions of others.
- Take Smart Risk: Much of what I do – entrepreneurship, parkour, climbing – is inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t mean I cannot go into it knowing the risks, mitigating them as much as possible, and taking precautions to make failure survivable.
- Lean Into My Fear: When I feel afraid something, something I know intellectually is irrational, I do it. I break that fear up into its component parts and tackle one part at a time.
- Never Make the Same Mistake Three Times: One mistake is a point. Two mistakes is a line. Two mistakes is all I need to never make the same mistake three times.
- Specialize. I can only be on the bleeding edge of innovation in a limited number of topics, so I choose to specialize. I can only add unique value if I’m the best at what I do, so I choose to specialize. I know what I do, I do it well, and I say to everything else.
- Start Today
- Meet people where they are: Everyone is on their own journey of personal growth. Everyone is a potential ally. I myself am far from where I need to be. Progress is the goal, not perfection.
- Eyes On. Hands Off: Supervise process to ensure that we avoid silos or bureaucracy, rather than make individual operational decisions. Those decisions are for people closest to the action.
- Sometimes Efficiency is Just Not the Point: It takes time to build context, and culture, and values, and shared understanding, but what doesn’t look efficient now pays off in effectiveness down the line.
This is how I choose to live my life, every day.
- I learn.
- I solve problems with a long time horizon.
- I dream audacious dreams.
- I work in small, collaborative teams of people who are all driving towards a common vision and mission.
- My mornings are creative, afternoons collaborative, evenings connective, and nights reflective.
Jim Rohn once said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” I choose to spend time with people:
- of integrity who attempt to always tell the truth
- with empathy in everything they say or do
- who value and respect differences in others
- who have a mindset of abundance in love, joy, and success
- take responsibility for identifying, expressing, and meeting their own needs
- who have a sense of moral responsibility for meeting world-wide needs
- approach problems and frustration from a place of care and compassion
- are always curious and seeking to learn
- have a growth mindset concerning all aspects of life, work, relationships, and character
- value relationships and experiences over material possessions
- are mentally and emotionally resilient
- work to be confident and self-assured in their own skin
- exercise sound judgment in their own choice of confidants
TO WHOM I OWE THE GREATEST GRATITUDE
I could not be who I am today, doing what I am doing today, without an immense number of people and circumstances that came together in just the right ways. Therefore, I give my greatest gratitude to:
- my family members, who have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and aspirations
- my friends, who never fail to support and inspire me
- my colleagues, who throw their whole selves into living well and creating a world in which all can live well
- my teachers, whom I can never repay for their fostering of my potential and love of learning
- my mentors, who want only the best for me and never hesitate to lend a helping hand
- my students, for whom I can never do enough
*My role as a significant other remains the same regardless of whether or not I’m currently in a relationship. I choose to keep this role because I know that this is who I aspire to be, regardless of my current relationship status.