« All Episodes

Friday Refills - Stop Predicting Your Priorities

Published 3/12/2021

We spend a lot of energy trying to predict our lives and priorities. This is mostly wasted - instead, we should spend our time understanding our values and planning to make margin for the principles in our lives.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Happy Friday, everybody. You are listening to another episode of the Friday Refill of the Veloprotein. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. So in today's episode, I want to talk to you about prediction. Much of our effort as engineers, much of our effort as humans, is put into trying to predict something, trying to predict the future. If we could do that, then all of us would be rich, right? Or if some of us could do it. If everyone could predict the future, then some of that kind of inequality of income and that kind of thing would stay the same, because our capabilities are the same, and so a lot of those systems would probably be the same. But if just a few of us could predict the future, or if we could predict the future only by practicing a certain amount, right, then our lives would change drastically. Because if we had certainty about the future, then almost definitely we would change something about the present, right? This isn't always true. Sometimes our behaviors in the present are ignoring an almost certain future, or even ignoring a certain present reality. The behavior in ways that we don't necessarily even want to behave in the present. And so not only would predicting the future not necessarily give you the sustainable motivation to react to that future state that you're certain about, but being able to do that now, right, being able to see the present reality and not responding to it in kind is pretty good proof that we probably wouldn't do it for the future either. With that said, we do spend an enormous amount of effort trying to predict the future. And I want to talk about a specific kind of prediction today. And hopefully this will be kind of an energizing thought for you as you go into the weekend, especially if you're the kind of person who likes to do a morning journaling session or something like that. This would be a good thing to sit down and write about. But the kind of prediction that I want to talk about today is your future priorities. If you're thinking about making decisions for the long term, if you're thinking about setting your life up for a successful future priority, being able to adequately act on behalf of your future priorities, then you need to know what those priorities are, right? It's difficult to know what to do if you don't have those priorities in line. But this is incredibly difficult. Imagine what your current priorities are today. You can list out maybe your top three priorities. And we're not talking about necessarily the simple priorities like taking the trash out because tomorrow is trash day. That's more of a task. What I'm talking about today is at this frame is something like developing a good relationship with a particular person at work. That might be the scope of priority that we're talking about. Or taking the time to tutor your child in a particular area of school that they're falling behind on. These are the scope of priorities. It's the kind of thing that you would imagine would last maybe a couple of months. These are the ways this kind of scope is about where people tend to shape their lives around their priorities. This is the scope. And typically, the unspoken reality here is that this scope of priority kind of sits in the middle of two things. On the lower level, on the daily or even on the minute to minute level, that's down from this scope, we have our calendar. We have our moment to moment behaviors. We have what we like to call work-life balance or we have some way of spending each moment in order to achieve that particular priority. But then above that priority, and imagining this kind of sandwiched in the middle here, above that priority of developing that good relationship with that coworker or tutoring your child, above that you have some kind of a good relationship with that person. Some kind of identity goal. What do I mean by an identity goal? Well, why do you care about developing that relationship with that person? Or why do you care about tutoring your child? You want them to be successful, but you also want to be a good parent. You want to have a good relationship with your coworker because you want to have peace at work and you want them to succeed and you want to succeed yourself. But also, you probably want to leave a legacy with your career. You know that the only way to do that is to develop relationships in order to continue growing whatever direction you're trying to grow with your career. Okay, so we have this scope of priority that's sitting in the middle. We're trying to imagine that we can predict that scope, that level of priority five years or ten years into the future. This is what a lot of our planning is pointed at is trying to figure out future priorities. Future kind of sandwiched in the middle priorities. Now, here's the reality. We're going to struggle very much with trying to do this. I want you to remember, again, what are those priorities that you have now and try to imagine, try to kind of time travel five years ago. Could you ever have been able to imagine the exact priorities that you have today? Probably not. Almost certainly not. You couldn't imagine, certainly you don't know who the person is that you're trying to build a relationship with. You don't know what subject your child would be struggling with. There's no way that you could explicitly list your priorities five years ago that you have today. But what you could do, this is the important part. What you could have done is you could have guessed the thing above. You could say, okay, I know that I want to leave a positive legacy. Maybe a whatever employer that I work with. I know that I want to be known by my children and I want to kind of be able to self-affirm that I'm a good parent. You could have done that probably five years ago. Maybe not necessarily exactly those things, but you very likely haven't changed so much in five years. Most people don't. Probably not over the course of one or two years to not be able to identify those higher level, principle-based goals. So here's what I'm calling on you to do in this Reefle Friday episode of the show. What I want you to do is imagine how you determine your priorities. You don't need to know what your priorities will be. When you're planning for the future, making space for how you determine things, how you determine your priorities, your framework of thinking, your values, your principles, the things that you care about in the long run. What are those things that are always true? They're not just true for two or three months. They're true forever for you. Try to list those out this weekend. Try to list those in your journal, whatever that is. And don't list the things that are common amongst everybody. For example, being a good parent, very few people would ever write down that they want to be an average parent, right? Almost nobody aspires to mediocrity at something that is that core to their identity. But most people would aspire to mediocrity as it relates to knowledge about history. I want to have enough knowledge about history that I can function in society, but I don't need to become an expert at it. So there are things that would separate you from another person because there is somebody in the world who cares very much about becoming an expert in history. So when you're writing down how you determine your priorities, try to find the things about yourself, the values, the principles, et cetera, and you can also, by the way, to kind of help you along the way here, look back in the past at how you make decisions about your current priorities. You can review your current priorities and imagine, okay, what is a snapshot of my priorities today? How did they even come to be? Why did I prioritize this thing? Why am I spending the time with my child or why am I spending time learning this particular programming language? And everybody's answers should be slightly different depending on their life context, right? But taking those things, the wise, the things that are above the top of the sandwich, if you will, right? And writing those out and then imagining into the future, how do you make space for those things to still be true? For me, one of my principles in life is the principle of going happy. And I've talked about it on the show before. The idea is very simple. One night I was reading a story to my son and I started going a little bit fast, right? I started reading quickly because I had other things that I wanted to get to and I was deprioritizing, kind of admitting here, I was deprioritizing the story reading portion of our bedtime routine. And my son looked at me very genuinely, I think he was probably around two at the time. He looked at me very genuinely and he said, Daddy, don't go fast, go happy. And he wasn't saying to go slow necessarily, which I thought was important because sometimes fast and happy can be synonymous. My son was in a great philosopher at the age of two, but it really struck me as an important thing to understand that my son didn't see the idea of going fast as acceptable in that moment because he could tell that it meant that I was resisting something. Right? So all of that to say, going happy is one of my principles. So I imagine, okay, how can I leave space in the future for going happy? Much of my future planning is about how do I allocate time? How do I allocate flexibility to the things that I care the most about? I spend almost no time these days trying to predict what my specific priorities are going to be. Hopefully, this will leave an impression on you as you think forward into the next quarter and to the next year, into the next five years, ten years, as you build your career out. You can imagine what are the things that are important to me no matter what quarter of the year it is. What's always important to me? How can I derive my goals based on those categories, based on that higher level thinking rather than trying to, you know, invade most of the time, trying to predict my specific priorities? Thanks so much for listening to this Friday refill of Developer Tea. If you want to join the Developer Tea Discord, we talk about this kind of stuff all the time in that, in that channel, you can send me an email at developertgmail.com. You can also reach me on Twitter at at developert. If you send me a direct message, I will send you an invite to that Discord community. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.