When you wake-up, you have an experience. At first, your eyes may be blurry, trying to blink into what you are really seeing. And then your mind may begin to kick in and recall the routine. As you roll out, you begin with little thought or out-of-the-ordinary movements. As your awakening continues, you begin to engage and change is upon you.

Experiences happen from when we first open our eyes until we close them again. In between, experience unfolds:

  1. What you do?
  2. How you do whatever you do?
  3. Why you do what you do?

Our experience unfolds in our answers to each question. In so many ways, knowing the answers to each of these three questions is what life and leadership are all about. Simple!

Cluttering Our Answers to the 3 Simple Questions

3 Simple QuestionsWhat happens is we lose our common sense, our sense of purpose, and our consistency. Clutter enters in from all sorts of places – relationships, unexpected events, laziness, and more – and our answers get muddled and jumbled.

Let’s just take these three examples of clutter.

Relationships. Relationships are what can either lift us up or bring us down. As an individual, I can decide where I spend my time and what relationships I value. Too often, we get bogged down in bad relationships – work and otherwise. We let gossip and positioning rule. We allow people to hold us back or think small.

We need to consider what our relationships are doing to the answers of the three life and leadership questions. If they are cluttering our answers, we need to detach ourselves. This isn’t being mean. What it is being is genuine to who you want to be and who you want to become. You want relationships in which you both make each other better.

Unexpected Events. When the unexpected happens, how do you react? The more essential question is how do you respond? Do events overtake you, or do you calmly work through them? We cannot plan for the unplanned, but what we can do is work through the unexpected and then determine a path back to living our answers to the three questions.

Most importantly, through the unexpected events, we need to maintain our character. Integrity matters in all. We need to lean into our core beliefs during challenging times and use them to guide us through. Forgetting our beliefs and principles will further sidetrack us. You want to come out of the unexpected event stronger than you were before – learning and growing.

Laziness. There is a distinct difference between laziness and taking a break. We need to do the latter to refresh, think, and renew. If we don’t take breaks, we will lose our way in leading through our answers to the three questions. However, there is no excuse for laziness.

Thomas Edison said it well:

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

We need to unplug from the TV and the internet to do the work. We need to unplug from it all, at times, to refresh our perspective in the work we do. We need to be proactive, active.

There are many places where we can become lazy. A few include:

  • Our health
  • Our relationships
  • Our work-life tempo
  • Our personal growth
  • Our community involvement

Laziness means our answers to the three questions are just words on a page. Until we do the work, we will never develop the experiences that enliven our answers to the three questions.

Putting Common Sense and Experience into the Our 3 Answers

Returning to the three simple questions, each relate to an important dimension.

  1. What you do? – Time allocated
  2. How you do whatever you do? – Character exemplified
  3. Why you do what you do? – Purpose enabled

Within each dimension, we gain experience and common sense. Which do you value more – experience or common sense? Another interesting question.

Just in today’s Wall Street Journal, there is an article describing Howard Buffett and what his value to Berkshire is, now and in the future. Part of his value was described as someone who is “confident in his judgments and skeptical of those who value experience over common sense.” (Heir Apparent at Berkshire Hathaway: Warren Buffett’s Eldest Son, May 3, 2014) Valuing common sense over experience. A thought-provoking comparison.

  • Are you born with common sense?
  • Do you gain common sense from experiences?

The answer is more likely in through experiences you gain common sense – if you choose to learn from each experience. From your learning and growth, you gain more common sense.

Returning to the three dimensions, each answer builds out our experiences and, if we do this as right as we can, we will make those experiences meaningful for ourselves and for many others. In each, we gain lessons; we gain common sense.

Time allocated. Your life and leadership are a sum of where you spend your time. Where you spend your time is not about balance. Where you spend your time is about creating value in what you do. In what you are doing, are you adding value?

Character exemplified. We can talk core beliefs and leadership principles until our last breath. What matters most is how we act in good and challenging times. Our words become real by how we do certain things. How we build relationships is more relevant than what we say about relationships. How we implement a project is more important than what we write about leading an initiative. Behaviors matter. Character matters. In how you do whatever you do, are you demonstrating your best character always?

Missed OpportunitiesPurpose enabled. If we cannot answer the “why” in what we are doing, then why are we doing it? If we cannot string together a series of meaningful “whys” in what we are doing, then are we really making any positive progress?

Purpose is discussed too often. Purpose is meant to be lived. Purpose is embedded in the work we do (or at least it should be). Purpose is about work. In why you are doing what you do, are you building a legacy to be pulled forward?

Set Your Life Clocks

So here we stand at 9:18 am or 7:03 pm and what does this all mean? For me, on this Saturday morning, I started writing, and this is what spilled out. Maybe it is a rambling. Maybe it is a reminder. Maybe it is a simple call to return to developing our life and leadership experiences, turning them into something more meaningful.

What I know is we need to remove the clutter. We need to simplify the complex. We need to continue to focus on our three answers to three simply powerful questions. We need to live and lead awake.

So, what time is it in your life and leadership? A better question may be this: Where will your time be spent today?