Life Reevaluation: Breaking Through The Local Maximum

Hello friends and family,

I love the mathematical term “Local Maximum”. 

“A local maximum, also called a relative maximum, is a maximum within some neighborhood that need not be (but may be) a global maximum.” 

https://mathworld.wolfram.com/LocalMaximum.html

If you apply this to life, your overall goal may be to achieving a broader goal like getting so good at a sport to compete in the Olympics but you may feel trapped in a plateau in your skills development along the way.  Worst case, you are overconfident and fooling yourself to think that you are the best at something when you are actually not.  There has to be recognition that you have reached a plateau usually caused by feedback or an event.  Then you need to figure out how to get out of it.  These break through moments tend to be very hard and very big.  The harder the problem, the more likely you give up along the way.  So much drive, passion and hard work is required. Most are satisfied with getting to some “local maximum” and not getting to the “global maximum”.  This phenomenon exists in so many things in life. 

  • Learning new skills. 
  • Solving hard problems.
  • Start ups moving from one phase of growth to the next.  
  • Established companies moving from one focus to another.
  • Transitioning from one phase of your life to the next.  
  • Encountering a “life crisis”

In my case, it feels like I encountered a “life crisis” that that broadened my perspective and has me asking “what is beyond this local maximum I’m in right now?”   The American Psychological Association defines a life crisis as —

“a period of distress and major adjustment associated with a significant life experience, such as divorce or death of a family member. In studies relating health to life crises, individuals experiencing recent major stress-producing experiences are more likely than others to show significant alterations in mental and physical health status.”

https://dictionary.apa.org/life-crisis

Am I having an actual “life crisis”?  I don’t think so. I’m generally very happy and grateful for everything that I have been provided in life.  But, I have had a “significant life event” with my stroke.  I have discovered that life is fragile and am asking myself if I am taking advantage of everything I can.   Not in a bad way but just thinking that this ride eventually ends.  When it does, what will I look back upon?  I am fond of the ending of Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs where Steve Jobs is reflecting upon what happens after death.

I would call it more a “life reevaluation”.  Something one might encounter during a quarter or midlife crisis.  So, I invite you to come along with me on this journey and maybe something I write about will strike a chord with you.  One caveat, this is my journey and mostly my own self reflections.  I’m just thinking out loud.         

Below is a list of questions that checks in on my alignment. I have no idea if this is my complete list but these are the ones I’ve been reflecting on recently. 

  • Am I being a good boss, coworker, friend, family member, husband and dad? 
  • Am I working on something I am passionate about? 
  • Am I making a dent in the universe? 
  • Am I over-indexing on what I think society thinks I need to be doing? 
  • Am I being kind to others? 
  • Am I helping other people? 
  • Am I being open minded?
  • Do I listen deeply to others? 
  • Am I being respected and do I respect others? 
  • Am I working on something creative?
  • Am I being positive and surrounding myself with positive people?
  • Am I learning and growing every day?   
  • Am I being challenged? 
  • Am I surrounded by people that challenge me?
  • Am I enjoying my craft?
  • Am I being genuine?
  • Am I enjoying the moment? 
  • Am I being thankful?
  • Am I happy? 

Do any of these resonate with you? 

I find it enjoyable to reflect on these things periodically.  It’s easy to be “comfortable” with where you’re at or where society thinks you should be doing.  We are capable of doing so much more.  Helping many more people.  Making the world a better place.  As I tell my kids, you can do anything with the right amount of passion and hard work. 

Hope you enjoyed this post.  Comment below or send me a note!  Thank you for reading!

-rjm