17 Things You Should Give Up in Order to Be Agile

One internet meme making the rounds recently is 15 Things You Should Give Up in Order to Be Happy.

Dan at Tropical MBA has done a version for entrepreneurs so I thought I’d do one for living agile.

Here’s my complete list:

17 Things You Should Give Up in Order to Be Agile

1. Give Up Your Need to be Certain

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.


Nothing in life is certain. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Your company could go bankrupt. Your entire industry could be disrupted. There are plenty of people out there peddling the illusion of certainty, including the corporation cutting your paycheck, but don’t be fooled. The Fortune 500 can’t give you certainty, so stop searching for it in a cubicle.

2. Give Up Trying to Plan for Everything

Everybody’s got plans… until they get hit.

Mike Tyson

Your responsiveness to change is far more important than how thorough your business plan is. Guess what, everything in your 5-year plan is a load of bull, and you know it. Human beings are incredibly bad at predicting the future. Instead of optimizing for things that may never come to pass, start focusing on increasing your openness and adaptability so you can pivot and take advantage of opportunities as they come.

3. Give Up Your Fear of Change

Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.

Arthur Schopenhauer

The future is changing rapidly, and the pace of change is only accelerating. Stop sitting around and complaining about The Good Old Days and start trying to figure out how things work in this brave new world. Gatekeepers are getting kicked out, walls are tumbling down, and old industries are getting swept by the wayside. Which side of creative destruction do you want to be on?

4. Give Up External Expectations

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.

Bruce Lee

Your parents want what’s good for you, not necessarily what’s right for you. The Herd wants you to stay in line and follow the leader, even when you’re marching towards oblivion. Stop letting other people get a say in what you choose unless you really want them involved in your decision-making. And even then, you must always get the final say. You are the only one who gets to live your life.

5. Give Up Following the Herd

If you want to live a mediocre life and get mediocre results, then keep following the Herd. Progress and innovation only happen when agile people look at the status quo, decide it’s severely lacking, and then work their butts off to change it.

6. Give Up Your Concern About Looking Foolish

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Steve Jobs, from his Stanford commencement speech

Behind every success story is the story of failure. Often multiple failures, and all in public to boot. If you’re too wrapped up in how others perceive you, you won’t ever have the guts to do great work. Feeling embarrassed lasts a few minutes. Feeling regret lasts a lifetime.

7. Give Up Overcommitting

Commitments eat away at the agile person’s time and focus, so don’t go around collecting them like Pokemon. I know it doesn’t feel nice to say No, but productivity is as much about what you don’t do as it is about what you decide to take on. An overstretched, overextended you is no use to anybody, least of all yourself.

8. Give Up Your Comfort Zone

Agile people are curve-jumping, line-cutting, risk-taking lifestyle entrepreneurs. That means getting out of your comfort zone and flying without a net sometimes. There are no prewritten scripts for truly novel ideas.

9. Give Up Your Bad Spending Habits

I don’t shop because I need something, I just shop for shopping’s sake.

– Cat Deeley

Shopping is therapy in the West. Time to rethink your spending habits. Agile people know they’re literally trading hours of their lives for the stuff they buy, so it better be damn worth it. Spend your time investing in yourself before you spend it investing in junk.

10. Give Up the Things You Don’t Need

There are whole marketing and advertising departments devoted to trying to convince you that things you can live without are really necessities. It’s good to have nice things, sure. But you don’t really need your iPad or your cable TV or your Beats audio headphones when it comes down to it. Kill all the extra Mass you’re carrying around, and suddenly you’re that much lighter and more agile.

11. Give Up the Dream of Homeownership

Never make your home in a place.

– Tad Williams

The “dream” of homeownership can quickly become a nightmare if you don’t treat it seriously like you would a business. The reality of homeownership is hard work for little to no immediate financial gain. If you aren’t willing to put in the legwork, then maybe you don’t deserve to own a home.

12. Give Up Paying Your Dues

News flash: the era of “pay your dues” ended about a decade ago. If you have an idea worth spreading, you don’t need to work 20 years before someone will listen to you. Stop waiting around to get picked. Digital natives pick themselves.

13. Give Up Climbing the Corporate Ladder

For the most ambitious young people, the corporate ladder is obsolete.

– Paul Graham

Stop climbing the ladders other people set out for you. Your 9 to 5 wants you to keep climbing because it distracts you from how underpaid and underappreciated you are right now. Climbing the ladder makes your boss or founder rich, not you. Build your own damn ladder.

14. Give Up Your Pursuit of Money

You can have sacks of money and be miserable. Self-fulfillment is the only measure of your success. If that means working for $24,000 a year at a non-profit you believe in instead of going to law school, then so be it. Besides, most people who become wealthy create something of value first. Getting rich comes later.

15. Give Up Scarcity Thinking

There are unlimited niches to fill, and thousands more being created every day. Stop hoarding and start sharing. We accomplish greater things when we help one another.

16. Give Up Killing Time

A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.

– Charles Darwin

Time is finite and nonrenewable. Once you spend it, you can’t get it back. Time is your most valuable resource. So why are you “killing” time by procrastinating? Get off your ass and take action.

17. Give Up Deferring Your Dreams

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

Nelson Mandela

If you don’t take your dreams seriously, who will? If it’s always been your dream to be a published author, that dream is more attainable now than it’s ever been. To get your words read by tens of thousands of people, it takes a computer, an internet connection, and an account with Amazon Kindle direct publishing. That’s it.

Whatever it is in your life that is keeping you from your dream, seriously consider giving it the old heave-ho.

You get one shot at life.

Make it count.


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