Start with Self

On a recent trip to Vancouver, I did my best to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while. We’d sit down and after exchanging pleasantries, the following question would be asked.

“So Jay, how is LinkedIn going?”

I appreciate these questions about work. They are expressing interest in an area of your life you think a lot about and spend a lot of time in.

I’d prefer to chat about that later.

I’d rather start with how I’m doing first. How’s my mental health and my physical health? How about the relationships in my life – my parents, friends, and significant others? To help reconnect quicker and jump into an authentic conversation, I encouraged friends to start by expressing how they were doing themselves, to share how that was impacting their relationships, and then how their career was going.

I would draw out a model on a napkin – kinda like this:

Let’s call this the SRC Model

I’d prefer to start in then go out, as it provides a holistic picture of the person’s life, and I was happy to start.

When I presented this model to the friends I was reconnecting with, the conversations had more depth and we were able to get to the heart of the biggest things in their lives – and was able to share my own.

Reflecting on the effectiveness of this model to connect deeper with my friends back home, it struck me that this would be a good way to orient my own life – to connect deeper with myself.

The key point here is to start with the self, then on relationships, and finally on career – in that order. The priority in which you put this in is vital for a number of reasons.

Let’s say you’re prioritize on your career

Say you’ve focused all of your time at work. You’ve been eating like shit, not sleeping well, and not spending time with friends. We all know someone like this or have been this person ourselves.

What happens to this person if they get laid off? They don’t hit their performance goal? Don’t get that promotion? It hurts, a lot. Why does it hurt? It is because that is all they had, they put all of their emphasis on their career (the outer ring), and did not spend the time to develop themselves nor their relationships. Their whole reality was shattered because all they had was their career.

Let’s say you prioritize on your partner

What about that friend that started dating that cute girl?

He fell head over heels for her, and whenever you asked him to hang out, he’s busy with his new girlfriend. As the good friend you are, you appreciate this and maybe even a bit jealous of his newfound love.

Over the next few months, you see less of him and question the amount of time he’s spending with his new girlfriend. Months turn into a year and your friendship with him is a remnant of what it used to be.

Then you get a text, “hey bro can we talk?” – you get on the phone and hear him crying. She broke up with him. She tells him that he’s been overbearing, and things are moving too fast. She’s not ready for this type of long term commitment. He definitely was.

He’s heartbroken and you’re there to help, but at the back of your mind, you’re also irritated. You’re irritated because he hasn’t checked in on you in months, has no idea how you’re doing, and is now expecting support from you. If you’re a loyal friend you’ll be there for him, but many of his other friends are no longer people he feels comfortable to reach out to.

He was focused too much on one component of that middle ring, and did not check in with his other relationships, nor was spending time developing himself.

Let’s say you prioritize yourself

It appears if you focus on the self first, paradoxically, you can be more effective with your relationships and with your career. You are more clear of what you’re looking for. You can express your intentions with people.

In your relationships with others, you’ll be more present. At work, you’ll be more attentive and creative to find solutions to problems others may not have found. You and your colleagues will develop stronger connections which can then help you advance your career.

Prioritizing yourself gives you energy. That energy can be spent however you want and is the type of energy that withstands time, and mitigates burnout.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making my best attempt at breaking these down. How can we check in with ourselves to ensure that we are focusing on the “self” – and what exactly does that even mean? Stick with me as I work through these ideas 🙂

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