Yesterday, a bearded 21-year-old surfer who lives in a 1978 VW bus, and on a self-imposed annual allowance of $10,000, mowed down my beloved Orioles with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.
Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris isn’t striving to make a statement with his apparently Spartan existence. He’s simply choosing to live life according to his priorities. He’s writing his own story.
According to ESPN, Norris’ values system is strengthened by generational ties and rooted in the topography of Johnson City in northeast Tennessee: “Play outdoors. Love the earth. Live simply. Use only what you need.”
The point of this article is not to compel you to adopt Daniel Norris’ values, but to convince you to live by your own. Here are three ways to do so:
1) Know your values.
The challenge to knowing your values is learning how to discern and articulate what’s most important to you without simply parroting a corporate slogan or a Successories poster. (Hint: “Integrity” is already taken.) Most of us, in response to the direct question, “What are your values?” will inadvertently list someone else’s. Consider a less direct, but perhaps more difficult, path to discernment.
Especially if you are a visual processor, glance at this exercise—the Wheel of Life—courtesy of Money Quotient founder Carol Anderson:
On each spoke, rate your satisfaction in the corresponding area of life between zero and 10—10 being the best. After connecting the dots, note the roundness or wobbliness of your wheel as a whole. Consider why your satisfaction in some areas is high while in others it might be low.
Now, while ruminating on your reaction to the exercise, write a few words—or perhaps a few sentences—addressing what is most important in life to you. Start with two to five of the areas of life represented on the wheel. The result may be a nicely packaged articulation of what you value most.
If you want to go deeper—or you’re more verbal than visual, or if your Wheel of Life exercise was fruitless for any reason—consider George Kinder’s “3 Questions” exercise. It may be another eye opener.
2) Have the courage to live according to your values.
Truly living life according to your values is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage because social convention prefers efficiency. There are few venues where non-conformity is prized less than it is in sports, and “perhaps nowhere is consistency more valued than in baseball,” says Eli Saslow of ESPN.
Being true to yourself could cost you. It cost Carmen Segarra her job—and likely forevermore limited her prospects in her chosen profession—when she challenged Fed regulators to actually, well, regulate.
Of course, the objective is not non-conformity for its own sake, and definitely not visible self-righteousness. Daniel Norris won’t compromise his conviction not to consume alcohol, for example. But he also doesn’t opt-out of the rookie hazing ritual that involves carting around the veterans’ booze. Originality doesn’t necessarily have to mean unmitigated individuality.
Originality is attractive when it is genuine, but repellant when it is contrived or copied.
If Daniel Norris was just another dude living out of a VW bus down by the river, his non-conformist path would be unknown. Having inspired values alone doesn’t make Norris an inspiration. Applying himself to them in an exemplary fashion does.
Via Twitter, Norris tells us exactly how he’s decided to apply his values:
“I live to find 3 things. 1. Eternal life. 2. The strike zone. 3. Good waves.”
My Orioles are certainly aware that he’s mastered at least one of the three. So are his teammates, who have learned that Norris’ unique way of approaching life—and the game—has netted positive results. They may not understand his method, but they appreciate it. Similarly, you will be given more leeway to be yourself in whatever you choose to pursue if you do so with excellence.
Life isn’t a bullet list of values or a spreadsheet for calculating progress toward your goals—it’s a story, a narrative. I hope my suggestions aid you in writing your story, but please don’t confine yourself to my prescriptions. Regardless of whether or not we follow any particular method to discerning our values and pursuing our goals, we’re still creating a body of work. Everybody’s life tells a story. The only question is, Who’s writing yours?
This commentary originally appeared March 27 on Forbes.com
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