I returned from a leadership retreat in Telluride last week. Our group was asked to read a book — Living Life Backwards by David Gibson. It’s a breakdown of the book of Ecclesiastes. In essence, if we know we are going to die, how does that impact the way live?

Asking the Wrong Question

At the beginning of the trip, our group leader asked each of us to share our intention for the retreat. My response was that I wanted to get clarity on what I should be doing with my life (easy, right?).

There is a full blog post with a recap of my learnings which can be found here, but my major epiphany came when I realized I was asking for an answer to the wrong question. 

The question wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with my life but, rather, how I should be doing it.

Values > Actions

My focus then shifted to concentrate on my values instead of my actions. What were the characteristics by which I would to be remembered when I died? 

In one of my recent interviews on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, friend and entrepreneur, Cole Harmonson, made a comment, “I look at entrepreneurship as a vehicle for personal growth and as a vehicle for uncovering many weaknesses…the dips in our business have almost always been because we didn’t stay true to our values.”

**full interview here**

I think this is true. Any time my actions have grown out of sync with my values, I realize I’m at a low point. Values are the things that mean the most to me — not what I do in my day-to-day. And when I cement my values, they become the catalyst for my actions

So I’ve spent the past couple days refining my values and fleshing them out. I’ve always had a sense of what these were in my mind but I wanted to take time to get them on paper. These are now the things that drive me every day. I remember hearing a quote, “The more you want to know me, the more you have to know my values.” 

As Cole would say, “Like attracts like.”

Those who are closest to me are those who share the same values. 

So here they are: 

  • Listen – I want to be remembered as one who listened well to others, unbiased of their background. I want the other person to know they have my undivided attention. I want to remember the little things as well as the big things. 

  • Learn – I always want to be learning something new. Life is too short for stagnation. I want to be awed by the vast complexity of the world and continually push the limits of my boundaries and embrace discomfort.

  • Servant – I want to be one who led through servitude, quick to highlight others. May I never think of a task or objective to be “beneath” me.

  • Material freedom – I want to be free of material possessions dictating my life and not live beyond my means.

  • Cultivate – I want to invest my life in helping people grow and create new opportunities. In the world of business, may I create win-win scenarios for everyone I engage with.

  • Keeper of Promises – I want to be remembered as one who always kept my word. Let my yes’s be yes, my no’s be no. May I be one who follows through in everything I say I’ll do.

  • Patience – I want to be remembered as one who played the long game, who wasn’t distracted by short term thinking but could see the bigger picture. May I not make rash emotional decisions but understand the days are long and the years are short.

  • Relentless Underdog – May I never grow apathetic or entitled. As the son of immigrant parents, may I always walk around with a chip on my shoulder and use my competitive nature to push myself further.

I’m sure my values may shift slightly as I get older, but I predict many of them will stay the same.

Living It Out

How does this impact my current day-to-day? This is an ongoing exercise, but here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Continue writing letters to individuals for conversations had and lessons learned.

  • Begin international excursions (Wescapades) to immerse myself in new learning experiences.

  • Shift my current financial situation to invest more in people and opportunities. Set constraints around “recreational spending.”

  • A few more that will emerge in the coming months…

I strongly encourage each of you to spend some time thinking through your values. Write them out, share them with those closest to you, and get feedback. Are there some you want to grow in? Are there areas of your life out of alignment with your beliefs? What needs to change?

The days are long but the years are short. Make each one count and live true to who you are and what you were made to be. It’s only then will you be operating at your true potential.