Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, January 29, 2024
by Neil Senturia
It is near the end of the first month of 2024, and the wellness gurus, the pop psychology promoters, the financial dart throwers and the tax planning advisers have all taken a whack at you.
And do not overlook the ubiquitous gym deal specials. The best one so far is where you pay for two years in advance, and in exchange, you do not have to work out at all, and the first five pounds are free.
The world and the wheel are still spinning, and now I get to lob in a few of my own resolutions for the new year.
Follow the leader — or more accurately the “right” leader. Verbal volume does not indicate intelligence or acumen. That stuff about following your own star is nice, but even better is to follow someone who has walked that path before, is carrying a few water bottles and has a compass. That person may not be the obvious first choice.
Listen well. This one is baseline. You know this one, so do it. Enough said. On the personal confession scale, I do not do this well. I want to do it better. I practice what I preach, but it still appears I need more practice.
Embrace the pivot. The corollary is to acknowledge the error of your previous ways quickly. Consider the case of Harvard’s Claudine Gay. I will not opine at length, but in retrospect, if I were her coach, I would have done two things. First, I would not have let her go to Congress. It was a sucker bet. Smart people assume they can handle everything, after all, they’re smart. Hubris is still the provenance of the arrogant assumption. Beware sandbags.
Second, once the writing was on the wall, resign quickly. Save your reputation. Classy behavior is always rewarded. Throwing the red flag and wanting to argue with the ref when you know the guy had only one foot in bounds? Wasted effort.
Better for Dr. Gay to quickly return to her role as professor. Might have avoided booth review, where they happened to notice some plagiarism as well.
We pay the full price for bad decisions, no discounts. The late Harvard professor Clay Christensen wrote the seminal case study on Netflix and Blockbuster.
Blockbuster had a huge sunk cost in inventory. They thought the cost of mailing DVDs would kill Netflix. Their fallacy was not understanding the difference between fixed costs vs. marginal costs. Christensen pointed out that “Netflix customers paid a monthly fee — and the company made money even when customers didn’t watch the DVDs they had ordered.” Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010. Winner takes all.
Don’t cut corners when it really matters. Henry Ford said it best, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you paid for it and don’t have it.”
Be generous of spirit. You cannot monetize everything. A friend says that all he has to sell is his time. And he wonders why all his clients wear watches. A life well lived is not measured in seconds.
I have written before about the effects of dopamine, a feel-good drug that is released in the body when you are doing something pleasurable, for example, doing good works and kindnesses. Seek it out in large batches.
The hard thing about most resolutions is that they are obvious. Yes, I do want to be a better person, but I need to be concrete in how I will implement the changes. Write it down — in pen.
Stay optimistic. By nature, I am a bit of a curmudgeon, but also an eternal optimist and believer in the next card to turn up. I want to play the long game. I can live with answering a few spam calls, you never know, could be your long-lost uncle with a deed to the ranch.
Be available. Your job is not your life. I have a client, makes a lot of money, hates his boss, wants to quit, can’t, the stock options. This is not a unique story, but the solution to that puzzle will require significant original thinking, letting go of what he knows to embrace the unknown possible what’s next. Look, ma, no hands.
Still, just in case, pack a parachute.
“Fasten your seatbelts,
it’s going to be a bumpy month,” Margo Channing.