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  • Writer's pictureMatt Symes

You Won't See Success Without This...

Updated: Mar 5

The Lead Yourself First newsletter is a deep dive into what keeps leaders healthy and performing at their peak. Every fourth week, I'll distill one or more points to help you prioritize self-leadership and personal growth.

Man walking in nature during the early morning hours

The military calls it battle rhythm. 

Legendary thought leader, Stephen Covey, called it the Calendar of Commitments. 

I like to think of it as your cadence. 

In my last newsletter, we started to discuss the three key steps to success:

  1. Connecting the three A’s with B = MAP

  2. Anchoring the cadence 

  3. Surrounding yourself with the right community 

In part two, let's break down:


You need a calendared approach to recalibrating and resetting. 


Reflection is a superpower.


Living a life of intention in a world of abundance is difficult. And we don’t have the built-in instincts in the human operating system. 


Cadence is king.


The dictionary describes cadence as: the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity. 


How often do you stop, reflect, recalibrate, and get moving again?


Ernest Hemingway once said  'The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.'


The same is required for a life well-lived.


We live in a world of abundance. The infinite optionality many contend with is paralyzing. It can all too easily lead to changing your mind and with it your focus.


Compounding is the 8th wonder of the world. Most success comes from doing the ordinary for an extraordinarily long time.


In the last email, I talked about connecting Aspiration, Ambition, and Action. Let’s connect this to your reflection cadence:


Your strategic cadence - The annual & quarterly reflection: The big decisions

Your operational cadence - The monthly reflection: The alignment

Your tactical cadence - The weekly & daily reflection: The driver




Are you becoming who you aspire to be? Do you still aspire to be that person? 


Once a year it is time to take a step back. I ask myself a set of questions that help cement my own alignment. The annual reflection requires time, especially the first time. If you give yourself the space and time to complete the exercises, I promise you, you’ll feel a clarity unlike anything you’ve ever felt before.


1. What is Your Ikigai?

  • What do you love?

  • What does the world need?

  • What are you good at?

  • Where can you make the financial return?

There are four burners in life: community, relationships (family & friends), professional, and personal (health & wealth).

2. Write Your Eulogy

It sounds morbid at first. But then it puts everything in perspective. And we’re in good company. The stoics were adamant that decisions in life ought to be guided by searing reflection. Arthur Brooks, on the road to character, challenged us to separate resume virtues from eulogy virtues (His 4 minute TED Talk on Adam I vs. Adam II is worth your time).

Take the four burners and write out your Eulogy. Bullet points will suffice.

For me, it was a cathartic exercise. It relieved much of the pressures that the hedonic treadmill can bring. The idea of material possessions tends to lose much of their appeal and the focus becomes clear.

3. Describe the Build

Take the four burners and describe the next ten years. What do you want to be able to say about those burners? What does your family look like? What does your community commitment look like? What kind of health do you enjoy? Your wealth? And what are you doing every day? Where are you spending your time?

4. Define Your Values

We all say we have them. Very few have them written down. And if they are not written, I’m not sure you have them. Robert Glazer has a great course on how to discover, develop, and apply your core values in business and life. As Glazer puts it, discovering yours is the first step to aligning your life toward pursuing what you want most. 

One of the most important exercises my partner and I went through was writing down our values.

5. Write Out Your Bucket List

What are the experiences, small and big, you want to live? While material possessions tend to get worse with time, the moments we experience tend to live on with greater richness as we relive them (we always make a memory book of our travels as a family). I want you to have a list of at least 30. Ideally 50+. It isn’t a to do list. It is an outline of what energizes you.

Once you’ve outlined this, you’ve outlined your personal aim.

Now translate to the next year:

What are the major habits you want to change? This will anchor your personal aim and give you a way to meaningfully reflect, edit, update, and re-energize a life of intention.

If you do this well, you relieve yourself from the tyranny of abundance, the paralysis of infinite optionality. Those who are the most successful give themselves the permission to focus. The permission to say no to perfectly good alternatives in the service of focused effort in a few intentionally selected areas.

You can only benefit from the wonders of compounding if you give yourself permission to focus in an intentional, consistent, and disciplined way on a limited number of objectives. 

Doing this reflection every quarter allows you to take a step back and edit your decisions. At the same time, it allows you to give your time and energy to what you’ve selected without weighing yourself down with the squirrels of life and the false starts that take away your focus, energy, and minutes.



 What are the tangible outputs you want to achieve? Are they defined? Have you hit them? 


In the operational view, your objectives must be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 


Vague aspirations set you up to spin wheels. 


Think about the 6-12-18 month horizon. What are the outcomes you want to achieve? Are they the outcomes you’re still striving for? Revisit your objectives at these checkpoints. 


Accomplishments deserve recognition. Missed marks signal the need for reflection and redirection. 


A Note on Goals:


Your goals should challenge you. While attainable, these objectives must require you to push beyond what’s easy. 


I love the concept of misogi (Thank you Michael Easter for the introduction). 


Misogi teaches that true growth stems from discomfort. This Shinto tradition refers to the voluntary undertaking of difficult challenges in nature - ones that we are so removed from now. The idea is that when you return to the comfort and conveniences of everyday life, you’ll have gained valuable skills and strength of character that prove useful for navigating life’s challenges. 


At its core, misogi is about facing adversity directly in order to better equip oneself for what lies ahead. 


When was the last time you challenged yourself this way? You and your business deserve this level of commitment and challenge.




Think weekly and daily. Focusing on the critical actions. How do you stay focused on what you need to do? Rather than what is calling for your attention.

Do you have a way to reflect on the controllable? Understand what’s getting in your way? Do you understand your environment? Your circadian rhythm? Are you positioning yourself correctly?


The rubber truly hits the road with what you do every day. 


Ivy Lee, followed a simple daily routine to achieve peak productivity: 

  1. At the end of each work day, write down the 6 most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Not more, not less.

  2. Prioritize those six tasks in order of importance.

  3. When tomorrow comes, concentrate only on the first task until it is complete.

  4. Approach the rest of the list the same. At the end of the day, move any unfinished tasks to tomorrow’s six.

  5. Repeat.

I use a little Field Notes notebook to keep me on track.


And I use activity metrics to make sure I show up for myself:

  • Family suppers

  • Bedtime routines with my girls

  • Miles run/cycled

  • Scoops of Athletic Greens and LMNT / day

  • Hours slept

I encourage you to find the activity metrics that are aligned with your ambitions taking you to your aspirations and THEN anchor the reflection cadence at the right levels to make adjustments.


You owe it to yourself to make the bigger decisions and commit to the activities. 


The clearer you are, the more the world will conspire to put the right opportunities, conversations, and environments in front of you to help you along your journey.

*Bonus: Do this with your partner.


The silent killer of relationships comes down to unstated expectations that go unmet and the conflict that remains unresolved.


Most times both come down to well-intended individuals, optimistic about their minutes who run out of time and miss the mark.


Think about how that changes when you both share your personal aims. When you plan vacations around your bucket list items. When you anchor in the important dates in the calendar. And then when you check in weekly on the concrete activities tied to the calendar. 


It has been a game changer for my relationship and it provides the right level of reflection at the right time. 


When my partner and I are in the middle of a quarterly sprint, we’re simply in supportive mode. Weekly we align on who has what based on our schedules and our kids' schedules. 


Our quarterly time away to reflect is relaxed and supportive. We take that time to confront some of the conflicts that inevitably percolate as the theory of how we’d like to live hits the reality of the minutes. This is where we landed on how much she wanted to work versus how much she wanted to enjoy our two young daughters (dropping them off at school, picking them up, being there for activities).




It is easier to do this if you commit to a quarterly reflection cadence, step back and ask the bigger questions.


Cat Mulvihill shared a great year-at-a-glance calendar link for mapping out your commitments.  


What is the cadence by which you stop, reflect, and adjust?



  • The big decisions

  • Which burner is hot?

  • What habit are you focused on changing?

  • Are the important dates locked and loaded in the calendar (birthdays, dates, big commitments, vacations - next 3-6-12 months)?

  • What bucket list experiences are scheduled?


  • Are you on track?


  • Last week - what went well? What could be better?

  • Who’s got what - the tyranny of logistics can kill a life. 


  • Ivy Lee - what are the six things you getting done?

That doesn’t mean being perfect every day. In fact, the high performers are defined by how they show up on their off days. They do what they can with what they have. And they reflect honestly on what conditions led to their performance, energy, motivation, etc.


As Marshall Goldsmith puts it,

"If we're satisfied with our life – not necessarily happy or delighted that we've exceeded our wildest expectations, just satisfied – we yield to inertia. We continue doing what we've always done." 


Are you ready to take your business to the next level?


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