Leveling Up in Life

Moments of clarity tend to bring about big life changes, at least for me. Choosing the college I would attend was one, moving to Sweden was another, quitting my job in order to pursue a life free from cold weather was the most recent.

Our time in Australian surfer town Noosa has become the spot of much reflection and discussion for the Swedeheart and me. Those moments have led to some pretty big insights about our lives and the direction we want them to go.

Adopting the Success of Billionaires

Despite the fact that our nomad lifestyle of moving every 2–3 months has made us keep our luggage to a minimum, the Swedeheart recently purchased the nearly 700-page, 2.5-inch thick hardcover book Tools of Titans, the latest publication by Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek).

outside cover of the book "Tools of Titans"
Not looking forward to packing this thing…

It’s a compilation of conversations which Ferriss has had with successful people on his famous podcast. In the book, he boils down “the tactics, routines, and habits of [these] billionaires, icons, and world-class performers,” as the subtitle states.

Since its purchase, the Swedeheart’s copy has been highlighted and scribbled in from cover to cover so that he can further distill the contents into an annotated version that applies to increasing success his own life.

One morning, as we sat at a local cafe, he began to share an analogy for life, one that he had heard of many times before but most recently been reminded of in “Titans”.

Prioritizing Priorities

Basically, envision your life as a jar. Then imagine the priorities in your life – family, friends, a passion, becoming the best at something, whatever it may be for you – as large stones. In addition, imagine the “administrative” parts of life – chores, paying bills, commuting, work – as smaller pebbles.

I think it’s safe to say that most people tend to take that glass and first fill it with the pebbles. It’s not until the weekend comes that they start putting in the stones, but there usually isn’t much room left. Or in reality, not much energy or time remaining to be able to fit them in.

This is definitely how we had been running our lives, even up to this point. Of course, with my decision to become my own boss, we have managed to eliminate our dislike for the Scandinavian winter and can even take our mornings at a leisurely pace. But we still weren’t getting the whole formula right.

After he told the analogy, he explained that we actually had a huge opportunity to reverse this scenario. We could first fill the jar with the big stones – to the brim if we wanted – and then sprinkle in the pebbles to fill in the cracks.

The idea was so exciting that we decided to implement it into our daily lives immediately.

So for the past two weeks, we have taken turns every day to dedicate the entire morning to the priorities of the other. We’ve loosely defined “priorities” as either activities that the designated person finds truly fulling and fun or problems that are burdening the person and can be tackled together.

It’s not hard to imagine the fun priorities. We’ve spent mornings surfing, sailing, walking, emailing or calling friends/family, talking about topics we enjoy, daydreaming, and reading for leisure.

summer beach scene
Taken during one of my mornings. I chose a visit to Noosa’s main beach.

Tackling Problems Together

As for the problem solving, I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of tasks that keep nagging at you (well, hopefully it’s not just me!). To-dos that cause anxiety and use up precious brain power, chores that get pushed aside by procrastination, irrational worries that grow the more we put them off.

This stuff just weighs me down. But think about how much easier it is to handle these situations with the aid of someone else. Someone who doesn’t have all of those preconceived fears attached.

One thing that I had recently been stressing over was our unplanned travels for the rest of the spring. I know, I know, getting to travel basically anywhere should be an exciting problem to solve! But choosing from, say, 10 really cool places as opposed to just two makes the choice and all of the detailed planning that comes with it daunting.

What a huge difference! Given that we’d purposefully carved out a whole morning dedicated to whatever excited or ailed me, and given that I had someone to boil down the “problem” to its key elements, the task became manageable – and even fun!

Text in a book that's been highlighted
The copy of this book has seen its fair share of highlighter and pen.

This new outlook on the Jar of Life has also helped us to realize the bigger picture of problem solving. When the Swedeheart and I argue, we’re usually pitting ourselves against each other over something that we’re both trying to solve.

But now we’re starting to recognize the onset of a dispute, put the brakes on, and say, “Hey, wait a minute! How about we actually team up to figure out this common problem together?” It’s worked.

Many successful people attribute their successes not to sudden, big changes, but to developing positive habits over time, little by little. We’ve got some big plans for our lives, so we’re practicing for them now.

4 thoughts on “Leveling Up in Life

  1. provocative and insightful and so right about solving problems with the help of a partner.

  2. I needed this Kat, thank you. As I sit in bed on day 7 of this awful flu I am realising I’ve been prioritising being busy with work over everything. This analogy changes everything. X

  3. Those little pebbles have an easy time filling our jars! Poor you, I hope you kick that flu to the curb soon so that you can get some stones in there!

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