What Do You Value?

In the last couple of posts, I talked about having found my way to a Meaningful Tapa (in my case, Life Coaching).  And early on in this blog, I wrote about forming my Tapas Life simply by doing things I enjoyed, gradually building up a full portfolio of fine activities.

This brings to mind a question:  How does one know a particular activity will be to their liking?

When I think about sizing things up for a good fit, I like to have some criteria.  When you seek to buy a shirt, for example, you know you want size Medium, you know you want color Red, you know you want material Cotton, you know you want style Polo Shirt.  And so on.  It’s the same with sizing up a potential Tapa.  But your Values, some of the core elements that comprise your Character, are important in addition to things like calendar considerations, pay (if it is a remunerated activity), and other such concrete matters.

My wife introduced me (and our kids) to the VIA Signature Strength survey.  You can Google it and find your way to it on a website of the University of Pennsylvania (you’ll have to register — not sure why — but they’ve never communicated with me since registering 4 years ago).  It does take on the order of 45 minutes to take the survey, as it is a bunch of multiple-choice questions.  And it’s well worth your time since the survey yields a concise list of your top 24 Character Strengths.  Here are the first few from the survey I took 2 years ago (this was the second time that I took the survey, and the results were totally consistent — I guess it’s a well-designed tool).

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Anybody and everybody who knows me even a little bit will look at these 4 aspects of my Character and say, “Yup — that’s Andy!”  These are facets of life that I value greatly.  And they are very helpful in deciding if a Tapa I am contemplating as an addition to my Tapas Life will be satisfying.

Consider one of the first Tapas I added to my Tapas Life, before I even knew that I was assembling a Tapas Life and before the name “Tapas Life” had ever crossed my mind:  taking piano lessons.  Here’s something I’d never done before for more than a few weeks a couple times in my life, even though I had dabbled at piano since I was a teenager.  Most things I’ve heard about piano lessons revolve around the notion that it’s a lot of work.  How was I to know if it would be worth the effort for me?  At the time, I had never heard of the VIA Signature Strength survey, but if I had, I would’ve noticed that piano lessons would resonate well with my top three Strengths.  Gratitude:  I’m grateful for having grown up around piano music;  I’m grateful to own the piano that my grandparents gave to my mom and that then passed to me;  I’m grateful to have found a wonderfully supportive piano teacher — the one both our kids worked with when they were little;  I’m grateful for the opportunity to create music in our home;  and so on.  Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence:  I love piano music and really appreciate a world class performer’s special talents — and they are inspiring models for me;  I love the beauty of the works of the great composers (especially Bach for the complexity and precision, Chopin for the emotion and depth, and many others);  I love it when I’m finally able to play something after a lot of work (there are wistful Chopin pieces on which I get all choked up each and every time I play them;  there are multiple composers’ exciting/powerful pieces which leave me laughing out loud from sheer delight every time I pound out their thundering finale).  Curiosity and Interest in the World:  I love how the more I work with a piece, the more I understand how it’s put together and it’s nuances, the more I can see what the composer was up to (yes, I can go to YouTube and have it made obvious for me, but I prefer exploring on my own since I grasp the material better);  I love learning about the composers, their lives and times and interrelatedness;  I love learning new pieces (my teacher assigns me music I’ve never heard from composers I’ve never heard of — and most of it is a gift!).

I could go on.  As you can see, had I had the VIA Signature Strength survey in hand, I could be pretty sure that piano lessons would be for me (more so after also considering my 8th Strength:  Industry, Diligence, and Perseverance…).

Call them Strengths.  Call them Values or things you value.  Call them elements of your Character.  Call them what you wish to — and they are useful measuring sticks to size up a potential new Tapa to be added to your Tapas Life.

Of course, nothing precludes skipping decision-making altogether and jumping right in for a bit of good old Trial and Error.  Try a lot of things and keep the ones that work!


A Tapas Life Few Days

Have you ever had a time when your mix of activities is really diverse and interesting?  And you move from place to place, person to person, and it all just flows wonderfully?  That’s what I’ve experienced so far this week, and thought I’d share my mix with you as an illustration of what post-career life is for me.  Of course, you can build your own version when you’re ready.


  • Community:  Weekly conference call with group from the Leadership course I took.
  • Meaningful:  Sunday night’s TapasLife blog post (got home late from a fun dinner Sunday night).
  • HouseDad:  Called handyman about a few tasks that need him, now scheduled.
  • Business:  Weekly lunch with the team from my little start-up company.
  • Wine:  Picked up some Champagne from one of my suppliers.
  • General:  Haircut.
  • LifeCoaching:  Phone call with a doctor about a client we’ll be working with.
  • Culinary:  Put together a light dinner (with leftover turkey, as you might guess).
  • Music:  Practiced new piano pieces.
  • Travel:  Received final items needed for upcoming Dubai/India trip.


  • General:  Process emails.
  • Music:  Piano lesson.
  • Community:  Walk around Stanford campus with friend.
  • Music:  Pick up tickets for opening week event of new Stanford concert hall.
  • Meaningful:  First of 24 interviews with 50-/60-somethings that will provide additional material for TapasLife book.
  • Financial:  Continued working on an investment I’m making in the next week or so.
  • Financial:  Checked in with my brother on an investment we have together.
  • LifeCoaching:  Session with a client.
  • Culinary:  Sent a recipe to a friend, per his request.
  • Music:  Practiced piano.


  • Financial:  Read info on another investment I’m considering.
  • General:  Processed email.
  • Financial:  Paid some bills.  Balanced some accounts.
  • Music:  Went to a lunchtime piano recital at Stanford.
  • Community:  Late lunch with an Exotic Fish (see Exotic Fish post).  Fun.
  • Travel:  Small group meeting with Condi Rice who talked about India.  Wow.
  • Business:  Got info I needed from attorney regarding financing I’m trying to close for the little start-up.
  • Music:  Practiced piano.
  • Culinary:  Shopped for and made dinner.  Cleaned up kitchen.
  • Family:  Good conversation with Carole over dinner.
  • Meaningful:  This blog post.

This is the mix that keeps me growing, interested, full of life, and young.  And happy.

What will your version look like?  Imagine it. Pursue bits and pieces of it. Gradually, you can fill your schedule with the life that nourishes you.  It’s so doable.  It’s the Tapas Life!