Ecosystems

October 13, 2005

“I tell you, country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate.” So says Rodney Dangerfield’s character, an obnoxious land baron, in the 1980 movie Caddyshack.

I haven’t really thought too much about cemeteries, but I have mixed feelings about country clubs.

I live in a house that borders Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, and I love that I can look up from my desk out my window at the beautiful wide-open fairways. In the early spring it’s particularly stunning. The wide expanses of green grass, the rolling landscape, and the bay just beyond.

Right now as I write this, the golf course is mostly brown, except for the greens, which are, well, green. As I understand it, the greens are the only sections that are allowed to be watered. The rest of the grass has died because of the drought.

But right next to the golf course I see a wooded area that doesn’t seem to be affected by the drought at all. The tall trees with their robust root systems draw water from deep within the ground. And those trees, in turn, shade the smaller forms of vegetation, protecting the bushes and plants from the hot sun. The fallen leaves decay, fertilizing the soil. It is a complex system in contrast to the simple grass fairways, and much better able to weather environmental stress.

It makes me think of something I learned about ecology back in college: Lawns are an artificially immature ecosystem. That is why they are so prone to infestation by weeds and pests, and why they will die if we don’t water them. I remember this neighbor we had when I was growing up in Setauket who would lay down new sod every spring. They had the best looking lawn in the neighborhood, but it couldn’t even survive a single year on its own.

Why am I talking about lawns and golf courses? This idea of an artificially immature ecosystem interests me, especially as a metaphor for certain parts of our lives.

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First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy by Stephen R. Covey

October 2, 2005

If you’re struggling to manage your time and balance your life, then read First Things First. In this book, Stephen Covey shows us that time management is not about time and it’s not about management. It is about choice and leadership.

The answer is not greater efficiency. The answer is not better multi-tasking and streamlining. The answer is not better scheduling. The answer is a dramatic paradigm shift from the what to the why—from activity to results.

First Things First will help you distinguish the important from the urgent; clarify your values, roles, and goals; nurture and build effective and rewarding personal and professional relationships; plan and schedule daily actions within the context of the big picture; and define your personal mission statement. (There is an entire appendix devoted to helping you clarify and define your personal mission statement.)

This is not a book to read and forget. Many chapters include assignments to make sure you put the lessons into practice. Once you experience the power of these lessons, you will never go back to to-do lists and post-it notes. I’ve been applying these lessons consistently for the past 6 months, and I’ve been more productive and felt more fulfilled during that time than in the previous 3 years.

The solution to your time management problems does not come cheap. It requires you to pay a price that involves looking at your life and your choices much differently than you’ve been conditioned to. But, in my experience, those who do, are happy they did.


Mission Statements Demystified

October 1, 2005

Have you heard the phrase “personal mission statement,” and if so, do you know what it is? Given that this is a personal growth magazine, I’m expecting the percentage of readers who answer “yes” to be extremely high. In case you don’t, a personal mission statement is a written description of one’s life purpose.

There are many advantages to having a personal mission statement:

  • It acts as a compass for navigating difficult choices.
  • It unites the different facets of your life in support of a common purpose.
  • It provides long-term motivation for achieving your goals in the face of distraction, temptation, and adversity.
  • It answers the big question, “Why am I here?”
  • Living your mission is fulfilling because you are contributing to something bigger than yourself.
  • And, to quote Nietzsche: “He who as a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Given this list of advantages, wouldn’t you agree that it’s valuable to spend some time clarifying and writing your personal mission statement?

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