The need to engineer your life

Up until the end of high school our lives are mostly influenced by our parents, friends, school, neighborhood and environment. We have very little control over our outside world. But after high school or college there comes a point where our responsibilities increase and with that, our power and control.

At this point it is time to step back and look at what we want to accomplish with our lives. Then start moving in that direction. This can be done in a simple three step process of Creating a vision, Creating a plan and then Executing the plan.

1. Create a vision for your life

Two general rules for picking what to do with your life

Something you are naturally good at

Usually we enjoy doing the things we are good at. No one actually sucks at basketball and loves playing it.

The quickest measure if you’re good at something is to be above average at it almost as soon as you try it.

You go to your first day at ping-pong practice and you beat folks that have been training for 6 months already.

Or you start learning about programming and you naturally understand everything.

Something you enjoy doing

This one is obvious. Getting great at anything takes time. To have the motivation to go through with it you need to enjoy what you’re doing. But it’s usually much easier to enjoy doing something if you’re good at it.

Back to reality

Those are good things to know before choosing a college major but most of us are past that time. What now?

Use your knowledge and skills from college or from your previous job as your foundation. Then build it up in the direction that you want. Some of the most successful people have a combination of expertise in unrelated areas.

Elon musk

Graduated physics but then started PayPal, a software startup. After that he had the unique

Then had the skills to build Tesla and SpaceX in the form of silicon valley startups instead of large corporations. Used his PayPal startup experience for his two now companies. This allowed them to move faster than everyone else and have the most advanced software and AI system. Which other car has the option to be upgraded via the Internet?

Steve Jobs

In college Jobs had taken calligraphy and philosophy classes but then went into tech. He wasn’t a coder but was head of product design. And he had a lot to do with the initial branding of Apple computers. He combined technology with a purpose and with beautiful design. Something no one else was doing at the time. Their competitors were IBM and Microsoft which we would never equate to something beautiful or modern even today.

Practical examples

In the days of the internet everyone can become a consultant. If you went to college you have some skill that can be applied to almost any industry. If you’re just finishing high school you have the time to learn any skill, you don’t need college when you have the internet and time. Here are some examples:

You graduated as an accountant but are really into sports

Become an accountant or financial advisor for famous athletes. Every athlete would prefer an advisor that’s into sports and knows that world instead of some grumpy old man that has worked with banks his whole life.

You are a lawyer but have recently discovered the joy of programming

You are in the unique position where you know programming and you know the law. Computer science majors may know few more algorithms than you, but they have no industry knowledge whatsoever. You are able to build apps targeted specifically for lawyers. You know what their struggles are in the day to day work and where money and time can be saved by automating processes with software.

2. Get a plan

Wether you are building a software system for lawyers on the side, or building a brand as sports financial advisor or starting to sell things online or starting a blog, there are people that have done the things you want to do.

I would either try to copy someone that has already done what I’m trying to do or listen to some courses and read some books about it. Use these as the foundation to get moving forward but don’t follow anything blindly. Course correct as you move forward and adapt to how the market reacts. Every situation is different. Your idol may have used Facebook ads like crazy in 2013 when they were cheap but now you could go broke doing the same thing. Don’t outsource your thinking.

3. Execution

Work on it consistently

Daily consistency is the name of the game. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is that it’s better to work on something 1 hour per day for 5 days instead of 5 hours in one day. By working on it more days you are keeping it in the front of your mind. This way your subconscious is still working on it even if you’re not. It’s staying fresh.

Give it enough time

The thing we all mess up. We try something but then give up too soon. Spend less time on social media where everything is instant and develop some patience. Give your plan some time, don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater.

Work productively on the things that matter

This new endeavor of yours will have to come at the expense of your free time. You will have to work on it before or after your regular job. In this case it’s essential to make productive use of the few hours you have. One big thing is to be prepared, the tasks that need to get done today should be in one separate daily Master List. (LifeHQ has one in case you’re wondering 😉

Then with your tasks chosen and your schedule cleared it’s time to get to work. I work in short (or long) Pomodoro work cycles with short breaks in between. Taking breaks before getting too tired is very important for staying productive especially at the end of the day.

Review and course correct

I keep a daily productivity journal (get my daily template) that I review at the end of every week. Then at the end of the month I review my weekly journals and see how things are going in the big picture. You can read about the whole strategy.

The point of this is to remember to keep track of the things that matter. If you’ve been spending money or time on the wrong things then the sooner you discover this the better right?


Until next time,

Stay productive.