A Guide to a Good Life?

Author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields gives advice from his Good Life Project on how entrepreneurs can live a better life.

Have a strategy, but be open to serendipity

“One of things that we find that is really kind of amazing is that people get really linear about what they are trying to accomplish and achieve -- and what we find is that the best things in life very often are not planned. They are the things where you have to be open to the possibility that something even better; something magical, might happen that you never even thought of. When you close that off, we tend to close off a lot of the amazing things in life. When you become open to the fact that maybe you could be wrong -- that something better may be out there -- then all of a sudden things you never thought could happen flood in. And this is actually a deliberate practice because most of us become so focused and so narrow that we literally have to retrain ourselves to not be that way.”

Serve others, but don't live through them.

“What we find is that a lot of the happiest people who say ‘I feel like I’m living a good life’ are in some way deeply serving other people…. But the risk there is that we become so service-oriented that we actually give up ourselves and we start to live through those other people and we lose our sense of self. So, you have to constantly be pulling back and saying, ‘I want to serve, I want to give’ but I also need to keep track of who I am along the way.'”

Vulnerability is a good thing.

“This is so counterintuitive …. We think that vulnerability is weakness and especially I think men tend to wrap around this, we don’t want to show our vulnerability, that we don’t know everything out in the world. But what we find is, in both in life and in business, that when you actually step up and say, ‘I don’t know the answers,’ you not only give yourself permission to learn but you give everyone around you permission to also open up and say, ‘We don’t either. Let’s come together and see if we can figure this all out together,’ and that creates a really deep connection between people which is really a lot of what living well is about… beyond the fact that if you’re trying to run or build something, now you actually get people being honest and you get answers and solutions and creations on a different level.”

"Most of us become so focused and so narrow that we literally have to retrain ourselves to [be open to serendipity]"

- Author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields

Failure is only failure when it doesn’t move you forward.

“To me, failure is only bad -- it’s only negative -- when you don’t take a look at it and say, ‘Well, why did I fail? What happened here?’ So failure unexamined is failure. But failure where you actually learn from it and learn forward, almost like failing forward, is an experience. So, to me, if I am never failing, I am never growing, I am never learning -- and that’s on a personal level and also as an entrepreneur. When I am trying to build something and I am never hitting a wall, that means whatever I am doing is static and going sideways and that’s really not why I am here. So always go back and debrief: What happened here? What are the things that I can extract from this and then apply moving forward?”

A Good Life isn’t a place at which you arrive, it is a lens through which you see and create your world. There is no there there.

“This is so huge because so many people say just a little bit more. A little bit more money. A little more success. When I finally find that person, or get that house, or whatever it may be but what you find is you get years, decades, to the end of your life and you’re always saying ‘a little bit more’ and what you start to realize is that it’s more of a choice. I want to put on a lens that says I still aspire to do big things in the world but let me be grateful for what I have here now -- and it's a lens that we choose to wear at any moment in time.”

Gratitude is jet fuel for success.

“There are so many opportunities throughout the day to say, ‘Oh, this didn’t go right. I hate what happened’ but when you can actually look at it at the end of the day and step back and say, ‘What went well today? What am I grateful for?’ what we find is the research shows that that actually makes a really profound difference in our day-to-day happiness.”

Ritualize the mundane to make room for the brilliant.

"So, this really came to me when I was working on my last book and I was talking to all these high-level creators across different fields and what I started to realize was a pattern that none of them even saw, which is the day-to-day decisions that they were making they would ritualize so that they didn’t have to make any decisions about what they ate, what they wore or what they listened to or when they exercised and things like that -- and that freed up all this cognitive creative bandwidth to really go deep and create extraordinary things in those areas of their life that it really mattered.”

Align what you do with who you are and you’ll become what you need to be.

“A lot of people have asked me ‘What does it take to succeed in business or succeed in life?’ and what I found is that so many people will start something out in the world and they will build it and build something that the world considers successful, but inside they actually hate showing up at the thing that they built every day because what they built was built based on what other people told them they should build, not what they actually knew intuitively that they really needed to build. So, the real deeper lesson there is know yourself. A lot of people just want to figure out what’s going to work -- but they never want to figure out what is going to work for me. And it’s a process of self- discovery, looking at your values, looking at your strengths, looking at your preferences that you want to bring to how you contribute to the world. It actually takes a fair amount of work so people just skip past it and figure that it doesn’t really matter. But it’s really the source of why things work or don’t.”