Seeking the Unsought: Metrics versus Meaning

I like to think I have a fairly organized desk. To my left I have my laptop situated on a stand and to my right, no more than 3 books that I reference and read throughout the month. Interspersed between them I have stickers, charging cables, a computer monitor, sunglasses, sticky notes and more often than not, a cappuccino.

But of all the items on my desk, the first one I interact with is an old, tattered index card, taped to the corner of my monitor. It read “Own 3 separate investment properties”, “$100k in Stock Portfolio” and “Earn $2000 per month trading options”. I’d wake up every morning and gaze at that index card. That was the priority. That was my mission. In my mind, I was pursuing it because it would bring me satisfaction, joy or something in between.

I told myself the story that if I managed my time better I will be able to accomplish all of those items on the index card and more. I justified this by saying that the only reason I haven’t already achieved them was because I was managing my time, money, and life poorly. That was thelie I told myself. My existence was deteriorating all because I was chasing something that wasn’t consistent with my values.

Let me rewind just a bit. During my senior year of high school, I was balancing a number of projects. It was incredibly chaotic. I could not do everything myself and needed to organize my life.

On any given morning, I would plan to accomplish six tasks but I found that only two or three would actually get done. I had to figure out some way to schedule my life. These things had to be completed. Failure meant pure devastation to my future. I wouldn’t get into the right college and I would throw away years of work, but most of all, I would fail to give back to those who supported me at my best and at my worst.

The Polymath Planner was forged from necessity. I had inadvertently been working on this product for years. I eventually distributed this particular version to friends and family, who gave me an incredible amount of feedback. Based on what I had learned, I built the Polymath concept.

Polymath created a space in my life where I could undergo deep reflection and gratitude exercises. I realized that a considerable number of my decisions were based on logical fallacies that I had arrived at based experiences in childhood and adolescence. Through reflection, I learned that it pays to listen to yourself. Simply by reading books and listening to others I was able to know that there was nothing wrong with the way I was managing my time, money or life. However, only through deep reflection was I able to understandwhy I thought that I wasn’t managing them well.

One of the two fallacies that I kept coming back to again and again, was that the journey was irrelevant and the only thing that mattered was the reward at the end. I erroneously thought that the prize would compensate for the pain. This is wrong because it is through the journey that we discover our closest friends, our wisest mentors and our most intimate partners.

The second fallacy I relied on was that I needed possessions to be happy. This mindset lead me to pursue the goals that were on my tattered index card. The writer Yung Pueblo put it best, “...I was addicted to filling a void within myself with things other than my own love.” I was hard on myself. I assumed that austerity and self-sacrifice were required if I wanted to accomplish those goals.

This morning I woke up at 6AM. I sat at my desk and as usual sipped a piping hot cappuccino. This time I looked at a new index card and in my mind confirmed my mission. This card read “Be supremely happy and healthy”, “Be loved and appreciated for my work”, “Make a lasting impression on the world” and “Create sustainable wealth”. These goals are more important to me because they beyond my desires, these are goals that push me to stay in line with my values. If I accomplished what was on the original index card, I would certainly be richer, but when does it end? My next index card would likely be another superficial metric to satisfy my ego as well as the next one after that. Through reflection and gratitude I set goals for sustainable success, instead of being a slave to arbitrary success metrics. Focusing my energy on goals that are fundamentally moving, motivates me to work harder at my craft. In the end, it is about freedom to do what makes you happy.