I’ve learned a great deal from spending a decade together with my wife, Kate.
And, after navigating ten years of executive leadership at the same time, one important lesson I’ve learned is to tread carefully when importing systems from work life to home life.
For example, I have a sneaking suspicion that Kate would not be pleased if I suggested we do quarterly performance reviews or weekly written status updates on our active home tasks—though I find these practices quite effective at work!
Work processes are usually designed to maximize efficiency, whereas I choose to focus my home life on maximizing love, trust, and connection.
However, in his book, How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton Christensen takes a lifetime of observations in the business world and suggests some artful ways for bringing a few of these principles into home life. One such practice that is quite commonplace in businesses large and small is establishing a set of core values.
At work, these values serve as a force for norming behavior. As long as these values are lived and practiced daily at the company—especially through leaders publicly modeling these values—they can become a powerful method of making the business more successful and creating a workplace for happier and more fulfilled employees.
Inspired by Christensen, Kate and I recently decided to try importing the practice of establishing core values into our home life.
After I sold my first company, Pana, we started thinking about the next chapter of our lives and we believed having a written set of values would help ensure that our decisions were consistent with the things we care about. Too often we saw examples of others who, when caught up in the hustle and bustle of their lives, failed to make decisions consistent with their unwritten values.
By memorializing our values, and, importantly, making an intention to regularly evaluate our recent decisions against them, we believed we could chart a course towards living a more purposeful, happy, meaningful, and value-aligned life.
For me, this experience also had the unplanned side effect: by learning the ways that our most firmly-held principles aligned with each other, we discovered an even deeper commitment to our love, our life together, and our mutual partnership.
I’ve chosen to share our values for illustration only, in the event you find inspiration in our little activity and are interested in doing the same. Every partnership is unique, and, in my opinion, your values should reflect that uniqueness.
Honesty & Kindness We build trust through candor and kindness. We foster high-integrity, authentic relationships through empathy, caring personally, and revealing our true feelings and experiences. Creative Work We are energized by doing purpose-driven work with people we look up to. We bring new ideas into the world and think of creative solutions to challenges. We do work we are proud of. Play & Rest We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We value quality time with each other, our pets, our family, and our friends. We intentionally make time to cook and eat good food, travel, and make music because these activities make our lives more full and recharge us. Abundance We are generous with our wealth and resources. We have the freedom to take advantage of opportunities as they appear. We make decisions with love and a confidence that we have enough. Kaizen We take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. We continuously work to become more in tune with our authentic, whole selves. We are committed to curiosity as a path for rapid learning.
Establishing these values with Kate has been one of the more rewarding exercises of my life. And, I feel proud to look back at recent family decisions and see how they’ve aligned with these values.
When my sister learned her landlord was selling the home she rented, it was easy to make a decision to buy the house—aligned with our value of abundance—so she should stay in the place she was loved and was building her post-college life in.
Our new love of pickleball has helped us find ways to take care of ourselves physically (kaizen) while embracing our value of not taking ourselves too seriously (we are not very good). And, we recently launched a vacation rental with a few of our friends who we really respect and love, in an effort to further explore the hospitality space as a direction for us to consider to find even more meaningful work.
These values show up in small ways in our life as well. We ensure we both end work at 6pm daily to make time for a walk with our dog, Finny. This time helps us decompress and transition from work brain to home brain, ensuring we hold work in balance with rest.
I look forward to continually building a life with Kate consistent with these values, particularly as we one day step into the journey of raising children. I can only imagine the delightful chaos in store for us; for now, however, we’ll focus on the hard enough challenge of aligning our own actions and decisions with these values.
For further reading on family core values, I recommend “Chapter 5: Mind the Gap” of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly and “Chapter 9: The Invisible Hand Inside Your Family” of Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life.