Four Critical Things

Four Critical Things

Life is full of “if only”, of what you should and should not have done, of choices you never made and of burdens others didn’t seem to have to bear. The process of growing up is meant to make you fit to handle the best and the worst of these. It seldom does. Parenting is – thank God – the last of the amateur professions. Long may it remain so. The concept of Professional Parents makes Artificial Intelligence look like the foundations of a liberal democracy. The good and bad choices I made were made because I am a good and bad person who makes good and bad judgments with a personality so different from everyone else’s that trying either to fundamentally tame it – or to precisely replicate it – it would be a fool’s errand courting disaster.

Take the above literally and you would never plan for anything. Plenty of cynics say you cannot plan any more in the VUCA world. Look at their diaries. Lunches, dinners, meetings, webinars, holidays, entertainments – they are planning all right. Examine any set of advertisements. They would be money down the drain if planning was not possible. Looking forward is one of the great joys of life. Controlling your own destiny is another. Planning is more important when times are unpredictable than when they are as still as a millpond. What does that mean for the individual at any stage of life?

I decided to proffer four things that don’t themselves constitute a plan but that can map the route to having your own chart of destiny. They aren’t the only things to do but they are such common sense that they tend to be forgotten in the rush and turmoil of ‘getting on’. I’ve put them in a sort of order of behaviour but any of them can be done at any time – provided that they actually are done. As has often been said ‘About 99% of the time, the right time is right now’.

Weighing up your assets and commitments. You don’t want a balance sheet statement of these but it’s a good idea to try to measure them often enough to notice any shift. The greatest difficulty you will have will be objectivity. We hear the compliments quite easily; the criticism we tend to ignore as someone else’s bias. We forget that the greatest bias we have is in our own favour. You are gifted and you are floored. Realising how much is the best clue to who you are. Providing a list of the potential assets and commitments wouldn’t be helpful – there are so many possibilities. The only way to compile your list is with a series of questions.

Deciding the commonsense moves you should now make. Think of these more in terms of learning first and making short-term changes second. We are so action-oriented that contemplation has become associated with a sandy dune and a skimpy swimsuit. Find times when you can imagine some of the possible next steps in your life and imagine them. Among the things you may come up with are widening your network, especially within your existing circle of contacts, adding to your skills, devoting time to others, broadening your vision and equipping yourself to understand the world better.

Rediscovering your purpose in life. The greatest shift in the attitudes of people in my lifetime was brought about by the pandemic and working from home (WFH). There have been wars, famines, plagues, economic disasters, personal losses and a whole host of traumas that might have changed the average person’s attitude to work. It took isolation and WFH to do it. Quite unexpectedly people started to say ‘I want to be happy’. The rest is history in the making.

Learning how to meet the right people. What you know is, of course, the main determinant of your worldly success but who you know is, for better or worse, still critical, too. The educational establishment is struggling to deal with what you know – no mean feat now that knowledge is universal and largely free. Paying more attention to who you know is both rewarding and profitable. It, too, can be approached methodically. Apart from transactional gain, people constitute the most interesting species on the planet. They are a wealth of wisdom.

Try to reassess these four things at midsummer and at midwinter.

If you do, your plan will become apparent very quickly afterwards.

Good morning

John Bittleston

We are always happy to comment on your own list of critical things. We make no charge for doing that. Please send it, in confidence, to or to me.