Vote With Your Actions

A few months ago I saw the movie Food, Inc.  I’ve become quite obsessed with the food industry the past few years.  I’ve read a bunch of books and watched a bunch of documentaries.  It fascinates me just how broken things are and how negatively that affects the entire population.

One of my favorite parts about Food, Inc was at the end of the movie, after revealing just how bad things are, they give you specific steps that you can do to take action.  The list is up on the website.  I love the fact that they encouraged action.  How many documentaries, heck how many people in general, just whine and complain but don’t ever suggest a better alternative?

I do a pretty good job following those rules, but the ones that always get me are #6 & #7 – “Buy organic or sustainable food with little or no pesticides”  and “Protect family farms; visit your local farmer’s market”.  I actually do buy quite a bit of organic food.  My girlfriend and I shop farmers markets.  But, that stuff is expensive.  Really expensive.  So we pick and choose what we buy.  It’s important to me, but not so important to me that I sacrifice other things financially.  So in reality, I only somewhat value organic food and local farms.

Which brings me to my point.  Every day we vote with our actions.  We vote with the time we spend.  We vote with the money we spend.  That’s what’s important to us.

One of my favorite blog posts ever was Adam Gilbert’s post How to tell what someone really cares about (How to tell if someone is full of shit, Part Deuce):

A lot of people always talk about what they want to do, what they want to accomplish, what they meant to do, their intentions, how they want to change the world and on and on and on. It seems as though everyone has intentions of doing big things. Clearly, sadly and unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most people are talkers, rather than doers. Let’s face it. It’s a lot easier to talk than do.

In a world where people are moving a million miles per minute how can you actually tell what someone really cares about? Look at their calendar! It’s that simple. Your calendar never lies. All we have is our time. The way we spend our time is our priorities, is our strategy. Your calendar knows what you really care about.

What’s important to you is a very bottom line business:

  • If you don’t spend time with your family, they aren’t that important to you.
  • If you eat fast food routinely, you’re placing convenience ahead of your health.
  • If you don’t exercise or eat right, losing weight isn’t that important to you.
  • In business, if you don’t spend time interacting with your customers and understanding their needs, you don’t care about them.
  • If your video games keep getting in the way of you starting a business, you’d rather play games than start a company.

And so on and so forth.  I could go for hours.

Now, there are always exceptions to the rule.  But mostly that’s how I see it.  It’s pretty black and white.

Ask yourself two questions: what do I spend my time on?  What do I spend my money on?  That’s what is important to you.  It is.  You might disagree, but you’re wrong.  If you want a different answer, you’ll have to change how you spend your time and/or how you spend your money.

It can be a humbling set of questions.  I’m constantly asking them myself.

For me, there are three really key things that I have control over that I think factor into my overall happiness and well being.

  1. My work.  Am I striving for and accomplishing great things?  Am I having fun doing it?  Does it have an overall positive impact?
  2. My relationships.  Do I actively strive to spend time with my girlfriend, friends, family, and business partners? When I’m with them, am I doing a good job of focusing on being with them and not on my work?
  3. My personal well being.  Am I getting enough sleep?  Am I eating well and exercising enough?  Am I making sure that I get personal time to relax and reflect each day?

Everything else, for the most part, is just ancillary noise to me.   99% of the time, if something doesn’t fall into those three categories I don’t want to be doing it.  So I stop.  It’s not that important to me and I want my actions to reflect that.

Now, time allocation within those three is quite the challenge.  But that’s another story for another day.

2 comments on Vote With Your Actions

  1. Adam Gilbert says:

    Adam,

    Thanks, as always! I think the problem many of us face is that we really don’t know what’s important to us.

    We say one thing yet we do something else.

    However, this approach doesn’t allow for any subjectivity or bias. We might like to think we’re the most hard working person or a great friend or a family man – yet our actions would say otherwise.

    I believe when there is a disconnect between our desires and our actions unhappiness ensues.

    The interesting part about this exercise though is that it reveals what our true desires are and that in itself might be a scary and upsetting wake up call.

    Because we can’t control what we desire! And maybe, if you’re playing video games or watching sports nonstop or hanging with friends all the time what you really desire is comfort, security and relationships.

    You may not like that because you see yourself as a born entrepreneur who is going to be the next ‘it’ person. But it’s the truth.

    And the sooner we stop fighting reality, the happier we’ll be, I think.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      “I believe when there is a disconnect between our desires and our actions unhappiness ensues.” That’s a great line.

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