Masterpiece Days

by bsrubin on January 5, 2013

Today was a Masterpiece Day.  One simple reason: “Had a great conversation with Derek about company and personal values.”

A Key Question

I’ve added one simple question to my daily review which has been pretty monumental to my life:

“Was the day a masterpiece?”

When I sit down with folks these days – I typically ask ‘what little change in your life has made a disproportionate positive difference?  Kevin Vogelsang suggested the masterpiece question.

What is a Masterpiece Day?

My initial reaction was pretty muted.  I have some bad days – but for the most part I feel pretty good at the end of the day about how I spent my time.  I figured the masterpiece question wouldn’t do much for me – highlighting shitty days wasn’t something I was really looking forward to.

But I love experiments, and Kevin suggested it – so here goes!

Day 1: Masterpiece

Day 2: Nope

Day 3: Nope

Day 4: Nope

Day 5: Nope

… WTF?

On one of these days I noted:

“That was ostensibly a close-to-perfect day.  Felt good, lots done, healthy living, hang out with folks… but ultimately I am not marking it a ‘masterpiece’. This is very interesting – what makes a day a masterpiece?  It’s a pretty high bar.”

In the month I’ve been tracking masterpiece days – I’ve had only eight.

And they don’t seem to correspond to what I would have expected initially – I can go all-green on sleep, exercise, meditate, food, work, social time… and still not hit a masterpiece day.


While spending a fun night with a friend (and in a slightly altered head-space) - the answer to ‘what makes a day a masterpiece’ popped up.

Deep, meaningful connection with someone I care about makes a day a masterpiece.

This has since been corroborated with data.  All masterpiece days so far include a deep conversation or a meaningful shared experience.   Some example quotes:

  • “Great meditation session with Ravi.”
  • “Really connected with Sutha.”
  • “Had a beautiful morning with Beth.”
  • “Great ski day with Alex.”

Thinking back on spectacular days I’ve had in the past – I know this won’t be the ONLY way to get a masterpiece day.  Wilderness and professional achievement come to mind as other ways.  But I feel human connection will be by far the most regular and important.

At first this epiphany struck me as a bit trite.  Almost every elder, scientific study, spiritual leader, etc. says that human relationships are the most important part of life.  Duhh.  But knowing it as a fact in my life has made a difference in the way I act.

Creating more Masterpiece Days

How can I have more masterpiece days?  Some ideas:

  • During my weekly review make sure I’ve scheduled in meaningful time with people I can connect with.
  • Don’t confuse real connection with ‘shallow’ human interaction – like a busy party or people I don’t truly enjoy being with.
  • Seek out the characteristics of other masterpiece days – does an intense physical day do it?  What about true wilderness?  Learning?

Ask Good Questions

Seeing the impact this key question has made on my life drives me to find other simple triggers to deep self-reflection.

My coach Marcy suggested another recently:  What do I really not want to do or think about today?

Derek and I have been thinking about a product experiment to make self reflection easier.

  • Daily email so you don’t forget.
  • A few simple questions that have extraordinary power.
  • Immediate feedback/tips/tricks as questions are answered.

Suggestions welcome!

  • Nicolas Warren

    What might be my equivalent of the Daily Email is to stop and ask myself, aloud, “Am I’m making a smart decision?” This presumes that my reflex answer is “HELLS YEAH!” 

    This question is a condensed way of considering all of the questions I would ask of any spontaneous opportunity that intercepts me during the day.  ”Is the time commitment worth the value of the experience?” ”Do I miss this person’s influence in my life?” ”Will this inhibit my accomplishment of a time-sensitive goal?”  ”Is the emotional gratification enough to out-weigh the productivity loss?” 

    That little question/habit helps me make better decision, feel better about my decisions, and I believe, feel happier over time.

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