How Giving Up Led to Getting More: My Journey to a Simplified Life

Ryan Michalowski smiling

Confession: I’m a recovering overcomplicator. Fortunately—for both me and those around me—I realized this past year that my quest for perfection was leading me to overcomplicate things, both professionally and personally. Coming to this conclusion took time, and changing my habits has not been easy, but the reward has been profound.

As MJ’s Chief People Officer, I am charged with all things “people” related, such as learning and development, human resources, recruiting, training, and most importantly—delivering an exceptional employee experience. I feel a tremendous responsibility to lead by example. But I was falling short on this measure and recognized the need to adopt a new approach. This led me to embrace a new mantra: “Simplify early and often.”

Those four words and what they represent have changed everything.

I’ve learned to trust and relinquish control to my team of talented and capable individuals. The ability to “delegate and elevate” has relieved pressure on us all, leading to greater creativity and hopefully more job satisfaction for all.

Maintaining focus on the objective of any project has reduced my need to over-prepare or drown in the details. I reinforce strategy while each team member claims his or her own role in our success. This provides room for everyone to stretch professionally and I believe it makes us more successful than we would be if we simply ticked off tasks on a to-do list.

I’ve also extended my simplification motto to my personal life. I try to do better instead of doing busy. My formula for happiness is simple. I’ve put my wife and my own health and wellness in the forefront. I’ve lost over 30 pounds in the last year. I take the time to truly enjoy each day, incorporating meditation, lifting, cardio exercise and work/life balance into every week. I make a conscious effort to stop worrying about all the things I can’t control (which is admittedly a lot).

None of this means I accomplish less. In fact, I believe simplifying on all fronts has actually allowed me to accomplish more. When work is not as hectic, I find more opportunity to make an impact. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed serving on MJ’s Value Creation Team (our term to represent our executive team), where we strive to become the Premier People Development Firm in our industry, a goal that was set when I joined the firm almost four years ago. Progress toward that milestone has already resulted in a more robust training program, formalized personal and professional development tracks, leadership enhancement, career pathing and more.

Thanksgiving now provides the ideal time for me to pause and appreciate how much I’ve gained this past year by simplifying on all fronts. I’m incredibly grateful to those who have supported my quest to end overcomplication. It’s an approach I recommend for all, so if you need any encouragement to streamline your own life, I’d be more than happy to connect – send me an email or just call to chat. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you…and here’s to a simply great new year ahead!