Lesson 12: Flexibility


20 Lessons From 2020

For a long time I tried to figure out what it means to be flexible.

I wanted to be able to adapt to the ever-changing world. To be responsive, tender, available when needed.

But I knew too much flexibility meant little identity, a weak moral compass, poor decision-making.

How to balance this out? How to be flexible enough but not too much?

This year I came up with a hierarchy for the things I do in life:


On the bottom there are values. These are the foundations. The things I most deeply believe in. They take time to shape, to build up. Values are what everything else is based on, and I care about them very deeply. They allow me to have an identity, to be coherent in my actions. To know what to do in an emergency.

Then there are systems. Notice how small this layer is compared to others. Systems should be invisible - that's when they work best. Systems are the ways I think, organize, interact, communicate. They're also intentionally built, like values, but they're built more on-the-go.

At the top, of course, there are actions - the things I actually do. They take up most space, because I focus on them most. That focus allows me to be flexible, spontaneous, not too rigid. I'm willing to do things I've never done before. An emphasis on living an interesting life.

This visualization finally allowed me to understand how to know what to do, but also do whatever comes my way.

Lesson twelve: values -> systems -> actions.

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