This is a better question for getting perspective to make a decision

I’ve started to replace a common question with something a bit different.

I love making decisions informed by consensus. As I’ve gotten older and taken on different roles, I’ve made it a point to be more decisive and clear in being responsible for the final decision. But perhaps from my journalism roots, I commonly want to get other people’s opinions on a matter.

It’s important to understand their vantage point: in a leadership function, you are responsible for having a wider understanding of a situation. But with the right balance, knowing more focused opinions are crucial.

But I think there’s a better question than simply: “what’s your opinion on this?”

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My 12 Rules to Live By

Anybody worth learning from has plenty they stand for.

I love hearing the rules of thumb, the standards, the conventional wisdom and the accrued learnings of these people. Similarly I try to capture tightly-phrased aphorisms and holding myself accountable with plenty of direct and specific lists and resolutions.

So of course I was a sucker for the concept of ‘12 Rules for Life.’ It’s a book published early this year by Jordan Peterson that spiraled from popular to, fitting for today’s era, being engulfed in a strangely hyper-gendered debate. The book’s over-simplified approach of ordering one’s life with structure did gain positive feedback, including a podcast episode from Malcolm Gladwell. But because Peterson is aflame in lots of identity politics, I walked away from the the book less interested in adding to that debate than with something else.

I spent the last several months taking notes of the many universal truths I held myself to, and recommended for others. It became a fun game for parties among friends and family: what are your 12 Rules to Live By?

Let me share.

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Build the habit of making habits: resolutions of mine that stuck

A friend asked me what I thought is the best skill to develop. Build the habit of habits, I told her.

That’s how you get the most out of yourself and your place. It won’t always work but if you develop the rigor and constitution to choose to add a habit and then go and do just that, you’ll be gold. That is how you develop discipline.

My method for doing this is my near obsessive approach to annual resolutions. Each year, I put forward a dozen of them, many straightforward goals but often several tied to habits I want to add to who I am. I tie them to individual months but in truth I plan to do many of them throughout the year and beyond.

Recently I was considering how many personality traits of mine I believe started as resolutions. I think they’re a good example of building the habit of building habits. I wanted to share.

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You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

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Beat reporters: here are some tips for interviewing efficiently and effectively

For as important as a skill as we consider source interviewing, we don’t talk much about it as being something that has changed amid so many other changes in journalism and news gathering today.

In my experience working with mostly young reporters, talking about interviewing is very much an after-thought. The assumption is you got some instruction at school somewhere and some experience at college media and then refined elsewhere. But, gosh, looking back, we leave a lot of that to chance.

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Here are a bunch of ways to build a personal network with less time

Involved people face pretty common time constraints: you want to be present in more places than your calendar allows.

This is true of beat reporters and community organizers and advocates and activists alike. Recently I was talking about just that topic with a friend, and we found ourselves exchanging a few tricks we each had for accomplishing our goals: expanding a network while maintaining relationships with others.

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By the time something *has* to be solved, it’s probably too late

I’m not a procrastinator, which is no small feat, considering my father and my sister both are.

I take a lot of pride in planning ahead on challenges or opportunities. Sometimes that runs counter to others, who are more to sitting on deadlines. Of course crashing into a deadline happens to us all but the reliance on them concerns me.

That’s because, as I’ve been thinking lately, if you wait for something to have to be solved, then it’s often too late. You can’t creatively or find opportunities for efficiencies. Once the deadline is here, it’s broken and you aren’t going to be able to fix it.

So? Change what a deadline means to you. If something is due on the 15th, your deadline must be the 10th and so you better get started on the 5th. Then you can be the person you say you are.

4 lessons from sports stars that stuck with me as a kid

For all the meaningful sources of life lessons I received as a kid, from my parents to religion, and the many shades of the Golden Rule, I was still a sports-crazed boy growing up in the 1990s.

That means I internalized a lot of advice from athletes, whether or not they actually ever said them (sports quotes are full of apocryphal and fictitious claims). I was amused recently to think of a handful of very-90s-era memories I have about lessons from North American sports legends. In addition to being stuck in time, this collection is funny because I am so far from a knowledgeable sports fan today.

So these are corny for all sorts of reasons. Yet I do find myself thinking of these even today.

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You’re adopting a puppy

For every project you take on, any commitment you make, you’re agreeing to a longterm relationship. Other people will depend on you, habits will form and roles will shape.

It’s like adopting a pet, as a colleague and I say to each other sometimes. Are you willing to walk the dog? To feed it and give it water and be willing to spend the energy, time and money if it gets sick?

I say that to myself when I want to start something new, and I find it helps influence my thinking. If I think of the longterm requirements and still want to move forward, then I will. If not, well, there’s no use to start at all. (One way I’m working to say no more often).

What I accomplished as a Pen and Pencil Club governor 

I first visited the Pen and Pencil Club in January 2009, as a spunky, 23-year-old. After visiting frequently, I finally became an official member of the country’s oldest surviving open daily press club in early 2012.

Then, in 2013 I ran and was elected to the club’s board of governors, with some encouragement from then club President Chris Brennan, a celebrated politics reporter and columnist who worked hard to grow the kind of members in the club. I was growing a reputation with and an active local organizer of the Online News Association.

I was proud. I learned a lot, and I put a lot of effort into being a board member. Next week, rather than run for a fifth term, I am stepping down. Here I share some of what I accomplished during the last four years.

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