THE CORE – The starting point to better life, better performance

True to my nature of being more a hands-on performer than a theoretician, while reading Aki Hintsa’s book the Core, I was in a hurry to decide what actions I would launch and had trouble “holding my horses” and taking the time to think about my answers to Hintsa’s questions to define one’s own core:

  • Do you know who you are?
  • Do you know what you want?
  • Are you in control of your own life?

The answer to each of these questions differs at different points in life. Both in how I see myself, in how determined I have been about what I want and how well I have my own life in my own hands.

Rather than going into a lengthy story of my values and ambitions, I’ll share some of the ways my values have been questioned:

“You love your horse more than you love your daughter”

I post a lot about my horse on facebook. Some time ago I had an acquaintance, a facebook friend, comment on a posting concerning my horse claiming that I love my horse more than I love my daughter. My first instinct was to delete the comment, but I thought that if I do that, it will leave those who have already seen it wondering. So, I replied to her comment: “what makes you think that?”. She answered that it is obvious as I post more about my horse than about my daughter. I responded to her that my horse does not get to choose but I’m sure my then 26-year-old daughter would be rather embarrassed if her mother posted almost every day something about her “baby-girl”.

A Hintsa coach suggested during a lecture that we should think about our inner circle – who are the most important people in our lives. Who are the people in the next “ring”? How do you value the importance of someone in your life? I took the path of assessing the value through who are the people whose lives are affected by me, who depend on me. This does lead my horse in being most important to me. At this point in my life, my horse is the only one whose life totally depends on my choices and actions. All the others closest to me are strong adults, who would do just fine even without me. Make no mistake though: of course, my daughter is uncontestably the one and only most important thing in my life.

“You would have the opportunity to rub against IBM top management”

When I worked at IBM in Helsinki, I received a visit from the IBM headquarters. I do not remember what his title was, but he wanted to discuss with me a position as an “equality of the sexes representative” within the IBM organization. The position would get me travelling around the world and working with interesting international organizations.

For me, that involved a choice between spending evenings in a hotel room or sitting at an airport waiting for a late flight home, instead of spending evenings at the stables with my daughter. A no-brainer. He tried: “but you would get to rub against IBM top management”. Didn’t change my mind. He attempted once more: “you would make a lot more money”. I responded: “If I tell my daughter in ten years’ time, ‘darling now I have time for you’, she’ll be in her twenties and tell me that I missed my window. Money will not compensate that.”

“You’re so ambitious and competitive”

I often get comments about being ambitious and competitive. I’ve wondered why as I don’t feel that myself. More than ambition and competitiveness, I think I am conscientious. I always was a daddy’s girl. My father was very authoritative. He made me work hard but also rewarded generously. He’d give me a task and then inspect the quality of my work. For example, he asked me to remove dandelions from our lawn. He carefully showed me how to do it: you need to take hold of the dandelion as close to the ground as you can, take a firm grip, wiggle as you pull so as to get as much of the root with as you can so that it will take longer for it to grow back. I was to place the dandelions then in a wheel barrow and he would come and see how long roots I had been able to pull out.

I think that this work moral that my father built in to me is what drives me in my professional life: I strive to do my work so well that no-one can complain about the result. It isn’t competitiveness – I feel no need to be better than others. It isn’t ambition – I do not aim at power, position or title. I just pure and simple want to do interesting projects, which tickle my gray cells and offer me a learning experience and be respected for my expertise and the quality of my work.

The core is not something you sit down and write down once. It is an interesting on-going process and at best can lead to meaningful discussions with people of your choice.