Simple Living and Leading in Crazy Times

In years gone by, I’ve written about the craziness of the season, as we’re beset by  the convergence of end-of-year work, next-year-goal-setting, and the “work” of gifts, cards and social functions.  And, if that’s not enough this year, Jen and I are moving our home after eight years (and after our 2003 experience of randomly shoving the 10 prior years of accumulated stuff into storage bins).  Help!

From obstacles spring opportunities and the biggest ones for me (as I teach what I most need to learn) are the one-two punch of awesome leadership and management.  To lead you have to know your own values.  And to manage you have to constantly clarify and simplify.  It’s how I am trying to triage, and what I will very briefly unpack a little here.

Values.  When time pressures are great and when home-meets-work in a duel to the death, you’ve got to ask what – and who – are vitally important.  Family, integrity (keeping my commitments), faith – these are central to me.  Preserving key values often turns on saying no to other “values.”  I value shooting for perfection; I can’t be perfect and really can’t now! I value helping everyone who asks of me; I never could meet all those needs, and really can’t now (so, please friends, no more gubernatorial pardon requests). I value learning about everything, but I never could and really can’t now.  What are some of your loves, your secondary values, that you ought to put back in their place for a few weeks in favor of your sanity and the values that matter the very most.

Clarify and simplify.  The best bosses are clear. The best parents are clear.  And the hardest people to buy for are those who can’t give you any clear idea of what they want! So, this is a time for clarity. Everyone’s too busy at work to spend time trying to figure out what’s wanted of them, and more importantly, what’s needed of them. Do yourself and everyone a favor: strive for simplicity and clarity down the stretch.

We have a great radio show planned this weekend on the choice of simple living – how it can help you at work and at home.  I’m looking forward to it, and you might as well, as you

Lead with your best self!


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  • You’re so right, Dan, that when push comes to shove in these crazy times, we find out, by our behavior, what we truly value. As the Person whose birthday we’re about to celebrate once said, “By their fruits, you shall know them.” A very big condemnation for too many of us, too much of the time!

    It’s so easy for all of us to say we value all kinds of high-sounding, important things. It’s even possible to live by those values when the going is easy and predictable. Talk is cheap! …but in these crazy times, we have to make priority decisions between what I can handle now and what needs to get done so I can get through some tomorrows. An awesome choice!

    It would be so much easier if the choice were between good and bad, but the crazy times make us choose between something that’s really horrible / unforgiveable and not really good, but understandable under the circumstances.

    This is why we need to cut each other a little slack the next time someone tailgates us on an icy highway bridge, or brings 15 items into the 12-items-only aisle at the supermarket… even if it makes us late for some appointment we consider really important. Why? Because the best thing to value is PEOPLE! Not ideas nor anything that can get wrapped up, but the time and energy and attention and appreciation and forgiveness and affection we can give to people, no matter what else we say we value.

    For Christmas, I’m giving my family time together at a Michigan destination so we can have fun together, planned in advance for a time that won’t be so crazy. I feel very blessed to be able to give the kids and grandkids some shared time together having fun and making memories they’ll treasure always. Unforgettable! Who knows? They may even take time to give grandma a few hugs! That’ll be my payback.

    It will be a good thing during these crazy times if everyone who reads your blog can take a moment to reflect: “What do my fruits show to everyone about who I am and what I truly believe, what I truly treasure?” It can be a hard question to ask, and yet a most valuable one to seek the answer to, on a regular basis, not just during these crazy times.

    I wish everyone a most blessed holiday season and new year filled with confidence, peace of mind, and good health.

  • Dan,
    The last year or so, tied to this bed, has given me the opportunity to watch Ami lead and manage our family through really troubled times. Having become both deaf and bedridden, and being set up in a room thst looks out on kitchen, dining room, and kids’ playroom, I am like an observer without influence. It has been really something watching Ami bslance her time and energy and prioritize our values that over the years we have defined together. You are right, there is a continuing process of keeping the most importsnt values at the forefront and learning to say “No” without anger to others when necessary. I’m happy to say that I’ve watched our older girls develop the same patterns as they live with a Mom who leads and manages.

    I ordered your new book today from your website. Two copies as always. One for all the margin notes I make and a copy to keep for the girls. I’ll catch up with you sometime to get you to sign.

    Mike O’Neill

  • So Dan I hope you will define simplified living for all of us. I’ve been working to frame an issue guide on personal conspicuous consumption in our country. I have four approaches, and the 2nd one concerns Voluntary Simplicity and suggests that “conspicuous” consumption is immoral. I have been awed with the strategies people have designed to simplify their lives. Happy Holidays, and although I’m not a resident of Michigan, thanks to you and Jennifer for all you have done for Michigan and the country (and all that you continue to do). Margaret

  • Hello Dan,

    I would be available to help you and Governor Granholm transition to your new home. I truly have a lot of respect for the both of you first for being “real” people and secondly trying to do what is best for our youth; Helping our youth is what I value. I am certain the Governor and yourself will continue your ties with Mentor Michigan being that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

    There is a story written by the chinese culture describing what the word “PU” (pronounced pooh), which means simplicity. Winnie the pooh is percieved as being a simple, dim witted character. In essence, Winnie the pooh is a very intelligent character who relates to being a Taoist, unburdened by knowledge or experience.

    I have been learning to live a simple life. It is not an easy thing to do since I have been involved with volunteering in my community. Good luck with your transition, and my offer to help you and the Governor is genuine.

    God bless you,

    Thomas K. Burke-Mentor

  • Wish you and your family a wonderful holiday. I am grateful to you for all you have done to promote leadership in our state. I know that this has been a time time of change, as for myself and my family also, but am grateful for all you have done. Wish you luck and success in the future.
    thank you,
    Crystal Shappee

  • Dan:
    Great piece, as always. In the age of consumerism, we forgot that the most important things aren’t ‘things’ at all – they are the people and the relationships we have.
    Let me know how I can help with the move. As you know, I can’t say ‘no’ and I actually enjoy the process of moving (when it is someone else moving!).

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