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Weekly 3: Tools for life design

Summary: Picture yourself in 10 years. Name your fears to lessen their influence. Find a sponsor for

Idea Journal Weekly 3

July 29 · Issue #45 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Picture yourself in 10 years. Name your fears to lessen their influence. Find a sponsor for your career. (~6 min read)

#1. What will your life be like in 10 years?
In an interview titled How to Design a Life, designer and educator Debbie Millman tells entrepreneur Tim Ferriss about an exercise she gives her students to help them imagine what their lives will be like in the future.
Millman’s “Your Ten-Year Plan for a Remarkable Life” exercise prompts you to write down exactly what you think you’ll be doing on a given day in 10 years.
Here’s how to do it in 2 steps:
1. Imagine yourself as 10 years older, and in as much detail as possible answer the below questions. Capturing your responses could take up to 20 pages or as few as 2 – the key is to dream big and without fear.
  • Where are you living?
  • Who do you live with?
  • Do you have a significant other? What are they like?
  • Do you have children? What are they like?
  • Do you have pets?
  • How is your health?
  • Do you live in an apartment or a house?
  • What is your furniture like?
  • Are you in the city or in the country?
  • What kind of clothes are you wearing?
  • What is your career?
  • What are you reading?
  • What are you creating?
  • What excites you?
  • What do you want?
2. Then read your answers once a year and see what happens. For Millman, this process works like “magic.”
#2. Cut your fears down to size.
Choreographer and dancer Twyla Tharp writes in her book The Creative Habit that fear is a natural part of any creative endeavor.
Why didn’t you speak up during that brainstorming session at work? When that idea for a new project came to you, why didn’t you pursue it?
There’s nothing wrong with having fears – the mistake is to let them paralyze you before you begin.
For Tharp, if you examine your concerns closely, you should be able to identify and break down the ones that are holding you back.
She names 5 of the most common fears people face when they’re doing something new, along with some helpful perspectives for dealing with them:
I’m not sure how to do it: Doing is better than not doing, plus “we’re not talking about constructing the Brooklyn Bridge.” If you try and it doesn’t work, learn from your mistakes and use a different approach next time.
People will think less of me: Not the people who matter – your friends and family will still love you.
It will take too much time: Maybe, but if it’s something you really want to do, make the time. Tharp cites the golfer Ben Hogan’s idea that “Every day you don’t practice, you’re one day further from being good.”
It will cost money: Once your basic needs are met, money is there to be used: What better investment than in yourself?
It’s self-indulgent: So what? How often do you indulge yourself? Tharp notes that “You won’t be of much value to others if you don’t learn to value yourself and your efforts.”
#3. Develop a mutually-beneficial relationship with someone who you can help you become a leader.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, writes in the Harvard Business Review that mentors are great as “sympathetic confidants” and even role models, but you you need a career sponsor if you want to develop as a leader.
A mentor offers advice, reviews problem-solving approaches, and helps you think about your next position; a career sponsor develops you into a leader, advocates for your promotion, and opens the door.
Hewlett argues that you need to be strategic in your search for a sponsor who can catapult your career: “Efficacy trumps affinity; you’re not looking for a friend but an ally.”
She recommends the following plan:
How to find a sponsor: The key is to target the right person. Not simply a role model, but someone with the power to significantly change your career through introductions to high-level contacts, stretch assignments that will help you grow, and a broad perspective when they give you critical feedback.
How to be sponsor-worthy: Instead of hoping for a lucky break, Hewlett suggests that you can make yourself worthy of a sponsor in 3 ways:
  1. Performance: Your ability to hit targets and deadlines, execute flawlessly on your assignments, and produce results that benefit both you and your would-be sponsors.
  2. Loyalty: This can manifest in different ways: consistently demonstrating a dedicated work ethic, commitment to a shared mission, and allegiance to the broader organization.
  3. What you offer: An effective sponsorship is based less on altruism and like-mindedness than on mutual benefits: “furthering your career helps further their career, organization or vision.” The value that you offer could range from fluency in a foreign language to technical expertise; it’s worth investing in skills beyond your role that will help set you apart.
Note: Hewlett created a brief assessment to help you determine if you’re ready for a sponsor.
Quote of the Week
“Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name: call it hope.“
- Novelist Jane Austen in her book Sense and Sensibility
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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