“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” (Often attributed to Thoreau)
I’ve been asking people, “If you started over, knowing what you know today, what would you do differently?”
Paul Smith, author of, “Lead with a Story,” said:
“I’d . . . be less practical in my career choice, and more passionate; I’d pursue bigger ideas, and smaller paychecks; and I’d surround myself with people that share my interests, instead of my income bracket. If we all did that, I think we’d be more excited to get to work than to leave; give more to society than we take; and enjoy more meaningful relationships along the way.”
Can you hear Paul’s song? Maybe practical isn’t practical, after all.
Paul is the Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Procter & Gamble. He spends his days observing and researching what it takes to connect with, inspire, and motivate change in human behavior. He sounds like a practical guy!
Is it time to redefine practical?
The new practical is:
- Dancing with ideas.
- Hanging with passionate people who standout rather than fit in.
- Knowing and following your heart.
- More art, less efficiency.
- Embracing dissatisfaction. Don’t pretending everything’s OK.
- Spending time in reflection.
- Rejecting conformity. Just say it, conformity is dull!
What if impractical becomes the new practical?
Practical about being impractical:
I feel like a flower child from the 60’s. My practical voice hates this type of post. Just for today, I’m redefining practical.
You won’t redefine practical in one giant leap. Let the song start softly. Pursue one item from the “new practical” list.
By the way, leaders are less practical than you think. They chase dreams, reject conformity, and take risks.
Paul’s book: Lead with a Story
Paul on Leadership Freak:
The Untapped Secret of Leadership Success
How a Director at P&G Turned Failure to Success
How can you embrace the new practical, today?
Dan, I’m with you on this post. I think everyone has an artistic side to her personality longing to come out. The best way is to just go for it. You are an artist, let your art out! Here is a podcast I did on the idea yesterday http://toddliles.com/what-is-your-art.html
Thanks Todd. Let your art out…looks like you’ve been thinking down the same lines. Cheers.
Practical is doing what is necessary for a purposeful life. A good way to do this is to spend time writing the epitaph we would like to see on our tombstone, writing the legacy we would like to leave behind us, and writing what we believe we will have value in the afterlife.
These are deep questions, but meaningful.
With these questions well considered and thought out, then we can plan how to get to the right epitaph, legacy, and eternity, and act practically to achieve those goals.
Practicality involves using time wisely, for we do not control the length of our lives, but only what we do with each moment.
Fun, vacations, etc. are a necessary part of maintaining sanity and health, but we often confuse hedonism with fun. There needs to be a purpose-driven balance between what we would like to do when driven by hedonism and laziness with what we should do to be practical.
Speaking as an engineer, I find my signal/noise ratio is often not high enough – much of the energy in my life is used to produce noise, rather than purpose-driven signal.
As a leader (this is, after all, a leadership blog), it is important to evaluate carefully what is practical. Practical leadership means that my leadership is useful to the advancement of the organization’s purpose, and is directed towards achieving it.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
Thank you Marc.
Practical is doing what is necessary for a purposeful life. From a traditional – old school – view, that’s not practical. 🙂
I get a feel from your comment that practical may be “impractical” but it’s not foolish. Cheers
Good morning Dan. Man I love this post. It seems you unearthed hidden impractical feelings of another flower child from the 60s. Every single line of this post chimes out and resonates. There is not one bullet that does not sing out and yell with uncertainty: ” The theoretical may be priceless but more often than not practically worthless.” Redefining value along the “intangibles” seeps deeper then the greatest augur can reach. I am printing this baby and sticking it on my wall for daily reflection and motivation or better yet inspiration. Who was it that said motivation happens to you while inspiration happens in you? I am running to read “Lead with a Story” by Paul Smith. This one cannot sit on the “wait” list. Thanks for the inspiration Dan. Great way to fire up the day. Best, 🙂
Thank you Al. YOur comment feels like poetry to me. My incomplete knowledge of your history and current life make you comments all the more meaningful.
Paul is a surprising guy. Hope you enjoy his book. It helps leaders understand ways to use stories in leadership and even gives stories that apply to various leadership situations.
Dear Dan – LOVE this topic – it reaches to the heart of my existence, and the Thoreau quote is one of my guiding lights, reminding me why I do what I do and why I am who I am. Thank-you for starting off my day on an inspirational, and goosebump-producing note. .
Thank you Erica. Your life aligns with Thoreau’s quote. You make music for yourself and others.Thanks for following your dream and making a difference.
Hey Dan, great topic and what I like the most out of it is you stretching! I could almost see you pecking away while hearing scratching on chalkboard noises in your head! Good for you!
Your writing style has a defintite rythym to it and I can tell this was not your favorite subject but once you got started you got rolling.
I am an against the grain fella, could you tell? In my part time I am a paradigm shifter, my personal email handle is shifterp. I have always been fascinated with how paradigms shift, most times from an outsider stumbling into the conversation and pointing out the obvious! Funny how that happens.
Speaking practially, see I am tying into the topic, I find it useful to start at the beginning of most everything and see how effective something is. Just because this is the way we have always done it does not mean it will continue to be the most effective way to proceed, or is it? Reminds me of a quote by Curly, Three Stooges….”I tried to think but nothing happened”! This happens to me from time to time.
One quote, think it was Einstein, don’t quote me just beause I am sort of quoting him, “the thinking that got us into this sitee-a-tion ain’t the same as the thinking that is gonna get us out”! That quote is blended with a little North Carolina mountain slang but think you get the jist of it. The absolute, or one of them, is constant change, isn’t it? Does make the human condition interesting or very exhausting!
I am still pondering most of my day if Leaders, most effective ones, Henry Ford, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, ect ect ect care, practially how the people doing things for them get to their results? Do they care what the mental processes are or the mental gymnastics are or do they just care that what they want done, gets done? That just keeps rattling around in my head.
Do Leaders care what the process to get things done are practial or impractical or just accomplished? Just not sure. Anyone else have any thoughts? I mean could I ever see myself explaining how I did something to Steve Jobs? Could I say, Mr Ford, “I went at solving this problem in a very impractical way, wanna hear how I did it”?
Would he have cared or did he just want the engine to be able to get the car up to the speed he wanted it to get to? Just not sure.
Ok thanks again for a great thought provoking post. Ok off to find that next paradigm to shift! It is impossibly difficult let me tell you. If I ever actually do it I will let ya’ll know!
I could feel you get rolling as you typed your comment.
JUst a note on style of leadership. I wonder how much the success of style has to do with context and culture. Many believe old management styles espoused by Ford, for example, are out dated and out of step. Management is so much about control as it is release. (Just a thought)
Having said that, how could we discount the tough and tenacious side of leadership.
Excellent point thanks Dan. I know I can get on a bit of a roll.
I know Fords style might be outdated but welch and jobs were not touchy feely guys either. Think they were more results oriented, not much for style points, just do it!!!! Get it done or I will find someone who will. See what I mean?
Anyway thanks for giving me a place to stir my thinking and share my two cents worth. Scott
Hey Scott love your handle “shifter.” that is pretty cool and am totally fascinated by the “Curly” quote. Wow such a brief statement and a “long” finish! To ride along with your riff and Henry Ford, Efficiency does not equal effectiveness and yes I know counterintuitive but I forget this all the time. I have go and digg out my old three stooges movies, you have created the “itch.” Have a great day and keep on “Paradigming.” Not sure that is a word but I am sure you get my drift. Peace, 🙂
I agree, Dan. I have to say, though, that I often think I should have hunkered down and done something “practical and l lucrative” even if it wasn’t my heart’s song early on (pharmacy always comes to mind), earned $$, invested wisely so I could really follow my heart now.
Thank you Paula,
As I wrote this post, I thought about the older person who has reached some financial goals advising a younger to not focus on financial stuff. Easier said than done. Plus, there are responsibilities like feeding kids.
One thing that comes to mind is singing our song is about how we bring value to others in unique ways. NOT how I sit under a tree navel gazing. Did I just lose my impractical practicality. 🙂
OH, and we’re making an assumption that if I had more financial resources today, I’d be happier….
The new practical, I think, is embraced incrementally. There is a bit of a dreamer in all of us, especially in leaders. But we are also bound by the practicalities of the situations that we find ourselves in. Finding and advancing new and practical ideas pushes people to change, and this cannot be done at a pace that outdistances their understanding and acceptance of the new ideas.
Thank you Martina. Leaders give other the time to hear the song too. 🙂
I appreciate your approach to Dan’s impractical practicality. There is an inherent tension in the notion of “practical”. What one person calls “impractical” another calls “brilliant”. As Dan points out, we must be “practical” in that we honor our commitments to others (feeding our kids). And, as you point out, if we only stuck with options that were “practical” we would never dream. It’s not an either/or proposition, it’s trying to look at each situation and see the potential within. And that often requires looking at things differently.
So true Dan. I have always felt sucsess is ‘not’ about fitting in, it’s about standing out! Thanks Dan
With 20/20 hindsight or at best, peripheral vision, what our forefathers imbued/ingrained in us was ‘right’ for the time, but now, creeping up Maslow’s hierarchical pyramid, not so much.
Or…puritanical practical has nothing on psychedelic practical? 😉
Or…from a continuous improvement perspective, it is practical to periodically review/revise/update your definitions, lest you be left in the wake o’ change.
Or.. “Same old same old every day
if things don’t change you’re just gonna rot
Cause if you do what you’ve always done
you’ll always get what you always got
Uh could that be nothin'”—Aerosmith, Get A Grip
Hey Doc, Aerosmith, hmmmmmmm. definitely has the “grip!” 🙂
Love this Dan, but I will need to take baby steps! 🙂
This is a great way to live and also a curse. I’ve often followed my heart into 7 different school districts and 5 different houses but fortunately I have a fantastic wife who has understood and always gone with me. 🙂 She is the practical one, but that’s probably why we’ve survived 30 years. Takes a great spouse to live with this type of person too. Love the blog today. Struck home. Thanks
Love this post! As an ED of a non-profit, many of my daily “practical” tasks bored me to tears (updating policies, staff schedules)…but it has been the vision-casting that I enjoy. Much of the vision I share seems crazy and “impractical”…I dream BIG! So recently the Board of Directors made a very wise move: hire a Director of Operations to do the things I struggled with, and free me up to “sing and dance” the vision in the community, inviting others to join. I still have to be “real,” for there is money to be raised. But it is easier to raise money when you can share joy, passion, and vision.
I love these kinds of posts, but they also give me a headache.
I was born into a musician’s family, so I’ve never been what one would call “practical” in the way I pursue things. Yet, all my life, folks have been on me to pursue the practical at all costs.
Now that I’m finally in a place where complacency and regular practicality is a likelihood, the whole world is going against that idea and is now telling me to be IM-practical…to basically embrace my wilder, more artistic and free side.
I think it is changing your thinking from “What if?” to “Why not”? –
At 28 my husband and I are into our second careers, own/owe the bank for three houses (goldilocks- the third was just right!), and manage to get overseas once or twice a year.
We only graduated from our undergraduate degrees last year, and while i’m revving up for honours in fairy tales (completely in sync with my work in contracts….) my accountant partner is enrolled in a photography course.
Recently we asked ourselves how had we ended up here?
We came to the conclusion it was simply because it never occured to us we couldn’t. Or that is was ‘impractical’.
( and we don’t have children at this point so if it all goes belly up it’s just us who’ll eat noodles)
Love the post – very inspiring. It always seems like people regret not taking more risks! However, speaking as a yuppie in NYC, it’s hard to take risks when “the rent is too damn high!”
Has Paul been reading my thoughts? Looks like I’ll need to stop thinking so loudly.