“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”[1]

I believe this to be true—and yet, if I were judged by what I do every day and not what I do once in a while, I’d be found wanting.

Up until the past few years of my life, my priorities would look like coffee, alcohol, email, slack, take out, and the next major project at work. Yes, my weeks looked like more. I’d do some reading, have an adventure with my daughter, and spend time with my partner. However, if you spun a roulette wheel—with a slot for every day in a year—the odds are low that my actions on the day it landed strongly matched my life’s priorities.

Before I go any further, I want to express the luxury of time. It’s been said we all have the same 24 hours daily. But we don’t. For some, our calendars are dictated to us; for others—in increasing amounts—we dictate our calendars.

Yes—every kid must be dropped off on time for school and picked up after. But if your partner can do pick up while you work or work out—you’ve got a different 24 hours in the day than even the same person—who has to do this alone.

So for years, much of my calendar was dictated. At the time, I thought it was dictated by career risk. Perhaps even personal ambition. But in retrospect, I realize my calendar was largely dictated by fear. Fear of being broke.

The net effect is that if you asked me what was most important to me any day of the week—I’d certainly say doing good in the world, community, and family—and then you asked me where is the evidence that those are most important to me. First, I’d explain how much care I have in my heart for the people and causes that matter most to me, next, I’d probably express how “everything I do is for my family.” I’d talk about the long years with zero hobbies—just work—trying to earn a better life.

But hopefully, when I’m done, you’ll gently and assertively remind me that that isn’t evidence. And you’d ask again for evidence that what I say is important to me.

And I’d be nonplussed.

The short is my actions in the world at that time—left behind little evidence of what truly mattered to me. Sure, what mattered to me drove motive. But motive leaves behind little trace in the world.

As a product leader, I’d be thrust into new environments—quickly, needing to sort out what is working and what isn’t. I quickly found that the expository—what people say is essential, rarely reflects the actions. So I’d look for “evidence” of what the team value.

Does the team have weekly meetings? Were there notes from the last meeting? Have the issues from the last meeting been resolved or improved between this one. Where is the evidence of what is being worked on—where is the evidence behind why?

I wouldn’t even worry about the quality of the evidence. Not at first—just does it exist. And often, the answer was no. A healthy product team leaves behind a lot of evidence of its health. An unhealthy product team—leaves no trace of a product team at all.

When I started looking at my personal life with the same criteria. I found myself lacking.

I shifted.

I wanted to leave each day with “evidence” put in the world of what mattered to me. It could be positive text, email, or letter to people that care about it. It could be rituals like discussing if “today was a rock or a rose” every night when I tucked in my daughter. It could be cooking every day.

Thinking about what evidence I leave behind has pushed me farther than my desire to be a good person.

We all love our friends, family, and partners, and we all claim to be empathetic leaders.

But “tell me about the last time someone made a really costly mistake you warned them against—that jeopardized or harmed something important to you? How did you react?”

This may not be who you are.
But it is the evidence you leave behind.

Leave behind lots of evidence of who you are and what you value.

[1] Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun