The Earned Life, Marshall Goldsmiths’ latest book, is a brilliant map on how to maximize fulfillment and minimize regrets in your life. Here’s how he defines it: “We are living an earned life when the choices, risks, and effort we make in each moment align with an overarching purpose in our lives, regardless of the eventual outcome.”
“The reward of an earned life is being engaged in the process of constantly earning such a life.” Here’s how you do it:
1. Every breath you take is a new you
The person you were when you made that bad financial decision or got in that unhealthy relationship, that was an old you. You are a better person today and if you keep growing and learning, you will be a better person tomorrow. It is a Buddhist concept that serves us all to instill with repetition.
When Goldsmith coaches people at first, he calls them out when they beat themselves up with a “Stop.” Then he has them repeat after him: “That was a previous me. The present me didn’t make that blunder. So why am I torturing myself for some past error that the present version of me didn’t commit?”
2. Reduce your choices so you can go all in on what matters most
Yes, eat the same foods and wear the same clothes; do everything you can to reduce making decisions on anything but where you can make your biggest impact. When purpose, achievement, engagement, happiness, meaning, and relationships align, get to the point where you have only one choice but to pursue the most important thing in your life and live with the other sacrifices and trade-offs.
Work your passion, be with your loved ones, and stay healthy. Delegate, automate and eliminate the rest unless it’s a true passion (as soon as you can and as your income grows). Maximize what you need to do and minimize what you deem unnecessary – this is the secret to the earned life.
3. For an earned life connect your ACTION, GOAL, and IDENTITY.
This is extremely important to grasp this. I had to read this section three times.
a) ACTION is what you do in the moment. We are always ‘busy,’ but Goldsmith urges us to be more AWARE of what each action is since cumulatively they make up our entire lives.
b) The GOAL is your next target. You need goals but the problem with them is the delight you feel when you reach a goal is FLEETING (and often not as big a high as you expected). Achiever types are quickly onto ‘what’s next?” These fleeting feelings do not lead to happiness and a fulfilled LIFE.
c) IDENTITY is about the type of person you are BECOMING. It is aspirational. When you have this greater purpose, and you do your BEST to become this person – well that’s the best you can ever do in your lifetime. The eventual outcome may not be exactly what you’d hoped would happen because you cannot control this, but at least you were brave enough to live your own life and live it fully. You won’t die full of regret that you never gave it your best shot.
You MUST connect all three to get the most from life: what you DO in the moment that moves you toward a GOAL that aligns with the type of person you aspire to be. Goldsmith concludes that the most rewarding life is one where you commit fully to what matters most to you: “Using the currency of your time and energy, you are betting that the future will be an improvement on the current you. Don’t be surprised how tenaciously and creatively you try to win that wager. It is how a life is earned.”
4. You’re only as good as your last game
Don’t confuse this with having to chase the next goal. Everything needs to be re-earned on an aspirational level too. Even if you’ve reached a pleasing professional level, that’s great and it is past. Professional athletes, performers, and CEOs struggle with this and want to keep living off the fumes of past accomplishments. That’s not how the earned life works. You want to let them go. You have to go to the gym forever.
5. “If I can leave you with only one piece of advice to increase your probability of creating an earned life, it is this: Ask for help. You need it more than you know.”
How do you feel when you’ve helped someone? You asking for help typically makes the other person feel good about themselves! Why hold back?
6. Report weekly on your progress to build discipline and get results
The glue to Goldsmith’s work is the Life Plan Review. It’s a best practice he learned and adapted from one of his most famous Fortune 100 CEOs, Alan Mulally (Boeing and Ford). It’s a weekly report on the metrics that help you live a fulfilled life. We overestimate how disciplined we are, and we overestimate how disciplined others are. To build discipline you need FIVE things:
1. Compliance: do what you’re told or need to: take the prescribed medicine, make the calls, study the material, do the prep.
2. Accountability: tell people around you what you’re working on.
3. Follow up: a book or one-off workshop is not enough. Report on your outcomes.
4. Measurement: Have clear metrics that show progress or lack thereof
5. Community – highly accomplished people are not wholly self-made. “They know that an earned life cannot be achieved in isolation. It only thrives within a community.” This is what I’m working on right now. I am building an online Breakthrough Bound community so we can all grow together with the above ingredients. Oh, and I’m not doing it all by myself!
7. “The awkwardness often associated with self-marketing…is the new additional price you have to pay for success in a rapidly changing environment.”
If you believe the work you do makes a positive difference, you have to confront the discomfort of self-promotion and asking for what you want. Your earned life is on the line here: don’t hold back. There is no way around it. I’ve made a living helping people with this.
8. “If I could only have one index card to carry with me for the rest of my life…as a reminder of how I should behave to achieve an earned life:
Am I being the person I want to be right now?”
9. The five recurring themes to an earned life are:
Impermanence – nothing lasts, neither success nor tough times
Be truly you, be present and find purpose in every moment. How you spend these moments is ultimately how you spend your life. When you try to earn it with all your moments, you can look back as Goldsmith has at age 73 and feel peace: “If you try your best, you have not failed, regardless of the result.”
To an earned life!
P.S. I am also thrilled that Marshall has endorsed my new book, The 5 Habits to Mine Your Gold which will be published soon.
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121