6 Effective Ways to Leverage Your Life
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes
If you could change something in your life, what would it be, and how would you do it? It’s romantic to think that we can power through situations, but reality shows that’s not very effective. Often times we just want to work very hard, but that’s neither sustainable nor enjoyable. In some circumstances, will power is just exhausting and easily depleted. However, leveraging your life is not about trying hard, it’s about realizing you could do more and do better with levers. Think of levers as tools you can utilize to have a greater impact with less effort. If you set yourself to find and use these leverage points, you will amplify the quantity and quality of whatever you do.
What would you accomplish if you had the right levers? Levers open possibilities you would otherwise have no access to. They are the keys to moving your world. We’ll explore how to find the right tools, methods, resources, people, and time to make extraordinary results possible. Here are 6 effective ways to leverage your life:
Technological levers are about finding how to tap into non-exhaustible energy. We humans get tired. We can start making mistakes when fatigued. In the past, people used to prepare land for farming manually. Later they developed tools to make it easier. Then they realized they could leverage animals. They plowed fields using cattle. Finally, humans engineered tractors and automated machines. How much more productive do you think we became every time we leveraged another level of technology? From materials, to tools, to machines, to artificial intelligence, how much time and effort did we save? At the same time, technology itself is also getting cheaper, more efficient, and widespread.
Of course, all this took time, effort, and was a progression of insight. But knowing this in retrospect, we can infer that there are levers waiting to be discovered in all areas all the time. For example, through the use of apps, it’s possible to leverage other peoples’ houses, cars, and all sorts of home delivery services. Leveraging your work with the right tools means more output, less waste, and more precision. Of course, automation is not everything. There are also some risks of unethical use of technology. But the key point is that you must ask how you can leverage technology to do your best work. When you do this, you free up valuable time that you could then allocate to do more creative work. Technology is not about substituting human work, it’s about freeing up time so that we can be more creative, more bold, more human.
Another important lever is our ability to learn, store, and share information. Different cultures develop their own unique methods to solving and approaching problems, and the most effective method gets passed on from generation to generation, and we call that knowledge (or competitive edge). To leverage your life, ask if there could be a better method to approach your work. Knowledge enables us to have more clarity in how best to approach and solve a problem. Knowledge is power because it means you can avoid mistakes that have been made in the past, and it means you can not only do more, but do it better. It’s also a virtuous cycle because every time you repeat a task, you can improve upon it.
It is also true that new or better information should lead to new or better decisions. So leveraging knowledge is also about improving the quality of your decisions. Figure out how to iterate quickly, learn from it, and move forward. You need to be open so that when you stumble upon a better method, new information, or system out there, you embrace it. The more knowledge you possess, the more applications you see. Knowledge is not just schooling. Leveraging knowledge is a lifelong process. To say that you should leverage knowledge is not groundbreaking, and yet, so few people decide to read. Humility reminds you that someone has already been there. Everyone has the power to tap into history’s greatest mentors through books.
In this capitalist world, financial levers are perhaps one of the most significant levers in your toolbox. Money is the worlds’ language. We spend roughly two decades going to school to build enough skills so that we can exchange them for a salary. More skills = more money. However, consider the exchange of skills for money as one cycle, leveraging knowledge. Eventually what you want is to leverage money itself. This could be achieved in subsequent cycles. For example, you could offer your services and get paid hourly, but as soon as you’re done with the work, the money stops. This is a direct trade of your time for money. But if you were to keep some money and invest it, then that money starts to works for you.
Of course investments carry some risk. You can leverage finances by understanding the difference between borrowing and lending, and when you can leverage other people’s money by getting a loan, paying it off, and making a profit. More obscure is how credit cards operate. They know something about human nature: that we’re more likely to buy items we may not be able to pay later. Many companies exist solely by expecting that you won’t be able to pay off your debt and then charge you interest. I think this is not ethical, but it also presents you the opportunity to leverage resources you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. For example, you can borrow the bank’s money with a good credit score, a clear plan of how you plan to pay it off, and knowing what you want to achieve with it. Just like leveraging knowledge demands humility, leveraging money demands discipline.
While it’s true that we can accomplish a lot with the use of technology, everything we do is based on social needs. An effective way to leverage your life is to focus on social needs, wants, and resources. No matter how talented anyone is, nothing great is ever built alone. Two or more people achieve exponentially more when the right team is built. To leverage people, consider when you should do something yourself, or when you should delegate it to someone else. Today you can leverage the work of people by crowdsourcing, outsourcing, or hiring. Often times, we can be short sighted and fail to consider the work of people you could trust and do more with—more work, more ideas, more profit—just because of greed. Leveraging people is about understanding social math, that 1+1 is not 2.
The takeaway here is that our social world is not just having fun with friends and family, or being involved in a romantic relationship. Our economic world is based on human wants and needs. Our world has suffering. There’s too much to do, to help people, to solve difficult problems, and make the world a little less hungry. The greatest inventions come from a series of progressions from everyone else. We need from each other, we need to teach and be taught. The most profitable businesses today, and those in the future, are those that solve and will solve difficult social needs. If you leverage people and find problems to solve, you have a business.
Health should be a life priority. Nothing makes sense without good health. There are so many diets out there, some old, some new. You’ve heard about the latest ones like Paleo Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Ketogenic Diet, and older ones like Weight Watchers, the low-carb diet, you name it. But how sustainable do you think diets are? They feel more restrictive than empowering to me. However, there’s an easier way to improve or maintain good health and weight. To simplify, let’s understand food better by dividing it into three powerful food categories.
One time I read some ingredients on a Pecan Cake and I couldn’t believe my eyes! Did it really have so many types of sugars? It had white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, and I can’t remember the rest. Hurtful calories are those that subtract from your health. These are foods that contain pesticides, are usually GMO, have artificial flavors and colors added, chemicals, preservatives, and sometimes even titanium dioxide, talc, petroleum derived ingredients, etc. Why would you ever want to eat that? Unfortunately almost all candy, fast-food, and most processed items have hurtful calories. Unsurprisingly, most products that are far from what nature provides are hurtful. I try to avoid them at all costs. Just by avoiding hurtful calories (via-negativa), you can tap into this powerful lever.
Empty calories are those calories that doesn’t necessarily nourish, but don’t hurt you either in moderation. For instance, good quality chips or ice cream. Empty calories tend to be fat rich food that offers no real nutritional value, but these are the foods that you can eat without feeling guilty because you can counterbalance them with exercise and moderation. I don’t feel bad eating empty calories as long as they are quality items. I’ve never been on a diet, probably because I distinguish empty calories from hurtful calories. If I’m at a party, I’ll go for the vegetable options, ham, cheese, and either skip the cake or remove the frosting. I do care when something is home-made and I’m not afraid to eat food that has butter, or good quality sugar like muscovado/turbinado sugar (that contains some molasses and cane-sugar byproducts).
Nourishing calories are those that add to your health. They’re nature made, and they’re nutritious! The most important factor when it comes to nourishing calories is nutrition and frequency. What are nourishing calories? Food like broccoli, cacao, red onions, beans, organic soy, garlic, kale, spinach, tomato, wild salmon, etc. Every meal, I hope to incorporate some of these nourishing foods. Another important factor is how often you eat, and the variety within your meals. Many experts recommend some intermittent fasting, and eating different foods at different times.
So ask yourself these questions: Will I get some nutrition with what I’m about to eat? Does this food source contain any nutrition or is it just a bunch of empty, or even worse, hurtful calories? Finally, how can I avoid eating hurtful calories altogether? Health is wealth. Of course nutrition isn’t the only lever in health. Exercise that gets your heart pumping is extremely important. The body needs exercise stressors and adequate recovery. But the one thing that’s in your immediate control is what food you decide to buy and eat.
Finally, time is the backbone of all levers. Everything is intricately linked to time. You can’t buy more life time. This creates an interesting tension: to spend time working (trading time for resources) or to enjoy life (trading time for pleasure). It’s entirely possible to have both, but happiness is elusive. Leveraging time is tricky. To effectively leverage time in your life, you must imagine you just got in your car: Where am I going? Why am I going there? How can I get there? Do I have enough gas to get there? Direction, purpose, skills, and resources. Often times, we’re in the car and we don’t even know where we’re going. Other times, we may be driving and driving never asking what we’re doing. Can we really know what we want to do? I don’t know. Maybe we just need to choose a direction.
Can you really leverage time at all? Or does it pass without you being able to control it? Time is always running, but how productive you are with it is the key matter here. Leveraging time is about how much output over a given period of time you get, or perhaps how many meaningful moments you can shape this year. When you leverage time, ask these important questions: What specifically am I trying to accomplish, and how can I be successful getting to that desired result? (Effective) What can I do to maximize my productivity while wasting a minimum of effort or resources? (Efficient) How can I get to my intended result the first time, and every time? (Efficacy)
The common denominator in these effective ways to leverage your life are about finding opportunities to accelerate your growth. To do more with less. More quantity and more quality. Ask yourself, how can I benefit by implementing any of these levers? Envision your desired state and then figure out how you can get there faster and better. What new processes and systems could you take advantage of? Archimedes said he could move the world if he was given a long enough lever. Now you have a variety of effective ways to leverage your life. How will you move the world?
Juan F. Diaz
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