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Month: January 2020 (page 1 of 1)

Why You Can’t Get It Done – A Poem

When there’s a small thing
That’s been weighing on you

A task that you know
That you simply must do

One task in The Past
Perhaps you’d not embrace

But still needed to do
In your great Career Race

Yes a small and dull part
Of All that you do

When the much Larger part
Was to your own heart True

Back then you could do it;
‘Twas quick; you were done

And Free once again
To Pursue what was Fun

But now once-tiny thing
That with Ease could complete

Seems an out-of-reach Deadline
You cannot quite meet

A small taunting thing
With intent to Elude

You as if slippery,
Or does oil exude

You see now Time has passed
And that Unwanted task

Seems to be, more and more,
From you All that they ask

That ‘So-Not-You’ thing
That now smothers your day

Qualify to yourself:
‘It’s a Price I Must Pay’

And that hopeful career
That once brought you to life

Deep inside, loathe admit,
Brings just Wither and Strife

You Deny and say
‘Well I’m sure things will get better’

But over time sense
To Wrong Path, you’re now Fettered

No you no longer Leap
From your bed every day

But now Will yourself up
And go Just for The Pay

And though Dark it may seem
Hopeless Fear-Frantic Rut

I offer you Hope
In the form of a But

But maybe consider
The thing that they ask

That ‘just-not-you’ thing
(And now Primary Task)

May hold critical clue
Why upsets you so Deep

And may just Reveal
From Yourself secrets Keep!

See, if after some Time
Daily Smile’s mere Mask

And Heart never In-Step
With those things that They ask

Know if that is the case,
Well All parties do lose

And Clear Signal to You
That New Path you Must Choose

For the worst thing to do,
Once Inside you Do know

Is to let Fear Of Change
Force you same line to tow

Yes that pesky Task-Battle
That just can’t be won?

Could be  great flashing sign
That’s it’s YOU who are Done!

You say NO! You React!
‘No this simply can’t Be!’

But your pushback is Futile;
Truth Cannot One Unsee.

Yes this Race you’ve run well,
But now cannot be won

It’s Okay, Walk Away
Leave Old Shade, Find New Sun

Yes, now Gather your things,
And Bid All Kind Adieu,

Know that Everything Changes,
And Know That Includes YOU.

The Key to Sustainable Peace and Fulfillment, or How to Become So Much Less in 2020

How did you get to where you are? If you’re in a good place, and generally happy, you probably don’t think about this sort of thing, and good for you!

But if you’re somewhere on the spectrum between blandly-existing-and-not-too-happy-about-it and holy-crap-if-I-don’t-do-something-about-my-miserable-existence-I’m-going-to-explode, well, this post is for you.

I’ve been working on my own life quite a bit lately (and to be honest, like most of us,  for years in some way or another), and somewhere between existential navel-gazing and more focused journaling to figure out my next steps, I think I’ve found at least one key that will unlock maybe one lock on the path to – or even better, path of –  fulfillment and peace.  And no, I didn’t say happiness; in my experience, the state of being happy, though welcome, is an ephemeral sort of thing, and maybe simply a by-product of being fulfilled and at peace, regardless of circumstance.

That latter part – fulfillment and peace – is what I’m shooting for. And what I’m hoping that, by sharing, I can help some other folks find their way to as well.

Anyway, here’s something I’ve learned that might help you: as we go through life, over time we kind of accumulate lots of things.  When we’re young and start out fresh, we run mostly on instinct and curiosity – and that’s a great thing.  We keep it simple and naturally pursue only those things that interest us and, maybe more importantly, energize us.  We’re pretty lean and unencumbered, in-motion and fueled by the energy of momentum and genuine interest in the world around us. We’re restless with ‘what-if’, and grow fidgety when we have to slow down or stop. When we’re young, we are simple and basic and true.

Having lived through childhood, some of that is rose-colored glasses stuff; it certainly wasn’t easy, just easy to see it that way from a later, more experienced perspective.  But there is truth to the power and fulfillment of the ‘lean’ approach – the not overthinking, trust-your-gut and just do it choices of your youth, because they worked.

Problem is, over time, life gets in the way.

In my case, it’s always been the saying yes to things that’s gotten me in the most trouble.  My motivation is typically either because someone asked me, and I’m wired to tilt at windmills, or — especially more recently over the past decade or so, and with the growing demands of caring for a family and employees and running a small business — our of FEAR.  Take the money as long as you’re doing no harm. Bills to pay, mouths to feed…it’s an easy justification.

But when you do this, you are doing harm.  To yourself.  But unlike a useful and immediate pain response – like take your hand off the hot stove, dummy – this type of harm is considerably more insidious.  The damage happens over time, and by the time you finally figure it out (journaling helps with that, btw), you’ve got a real and complicated problem on your hands.

When you keep taking things on that aren’t aligned with your genuine interests, talents, or passions, you are growing bigger and slower and more encumbered. You’re like a snowball that keeps rolling along, picking up twigs and stones and rocks and garbage until you reach a point where you no longer resemble snow at all – just a rough and immobile pile of unrecognizable things, most of which are not you at all.

At a certain point, you become too big to move. There is no energy to you. And the real you is buried inside.

The good news is that last bit: you’re still in there.  But you have to unbury.  You need to unearth that genuine and entombed bit of you that, when you consult your own inner voice — you know, the one that you ignore, but that’s ALWAYS right and that you’re generally too chickenshit to act on – tells you the exact thing you must do, and the path that you must take.  The one that is natural to you, and aligned with your interests and talents and just feels right.

You know that path, that one you don’t overthink – or even consider, but just ‘do’. And when you do, time disappears. THat’s the one you have to dig out.  And muster up the courage to walk.

Yes, reality is reality. You’re not going to return to childhood, and probably really don’t want to.  You have responsibilities and they’re quite real.  I get that – I have them too.

But you ALSO owe it to yourself and your family and the world to be the best version of yourself, and this is how you start: you chip away.

That mass of everything you’ve said yes to over the long haul – that thing that is big and immobile and sedentary and sad and that can’t even bear its own weight anymore – that thing needs to get smaller.  And it gets smaller by willfully discarding all of those things that are not you, and by saying no to even the seemingly best opportunities and possibilities that are not aligned with those few simple things that you really are. It is like a sculptor chipping away at a block and removing all of those things that are not the exact thing they want to realize. When successful only the Art remains, nothing else.

This is not easy. It requires mindfulness, courage, skill and spine. It is a daily practice, but like a sensible diet should not be an extreme or overwhelming one. More of a lifestyle change that reveals its benefits over time.

Yesterday I was offered a new and lucrative opportunity. But I am busy and, more importantly, yearning toward the new, not the more of the same. And as this new opportunity has nothing to do with writing, creativity, brand communications, strategy, helping others or, as Neil Gaiman so aptly put it, will allow me to “Make Good Art“, I will pass.  Someone else is a better fit for this. And yes, I could use the money.

But I will say no, politely, to this one.  Because I already have too many rocks and sticks on my snowball.

And I really want to see just the snow again 😉

 

 

 

 

 

How to Start Being Happy Forever (or Who Cares If It’s Supposed To Rain Today?)

Many of us are miserable. Exhausted, unsatisfied, longing and unhealthy. A quick walk through your local Target 2 days before Christmas is pretty much all the proof you need of this.  Haunted faraway looks, frenzied actions, stress-pallored and with an almost robotic demeanor.  Even the Santa with the Kettle outside had one hand on the cell while ringing the bell.

We’re no longer where we are, but always somewhere else.

Ho, ho…no, this is not my holiday message. But it does seem to be the unfortunate truth of our supposedly gilded – or maybe that’s just veneered – age.

Maybe we’ve lost that in the age where value and worth are solely determined by quantifiable and commercial factors, but maybe, just maybe, we can push back and be reminded that there is another way. Maybe that’s why I’m blogging again, at least in part – to remind us that we are all so much more more than this, more than just consumption machines playing our role in the economy. And that maybe by yearning for less, perhaps we will find ourselves and that quicksilver of happiness that we continually seek by pursuing the more.

I’m beginning to suspect that we ourselves are quite enough, and less is a worthy pursuit. As a brand communications strategist, I realize that is marketing blasphemy.  But because I take a long term view of everything, I also do not care.

“Hey,I just want to be Happy Forever.  That’s why I read this far…and what’s this Rain business?” 

I learned a long time ago that everything I need to learn my kids already know.  Now I realize that maybe what I need to really do is unlearn.

Here’s an example: I was sitting outside on my deck the other morning doing my usual bit of journaling to see what was in my head.  It was warmish and greyish and niceish – the day, not my head –  and not too cold for December.

My youngest daughter, Gabriella, was running and jumping.  She’s always running and jumping. In fact, for the past 11 years, that’s pretty much been what she does.  Sometimes on a horse, but no horse, no worries. She gets bored in front of screens.

I’m so grateful for that.

Anyway, there I was, trying to figure out my life I suppose or appreciate it more. Sketching away, jotting down ideas, doing some freeflow,  Getting things on paper is how I make sense of things, so I’m humming along and hearing Gab’s footfalls and at one point I happen to glance up and see some clouds rolling in.

Jump Jump. Over to my left.  Jump Jump.

“Hey,” I call over to her, “Supposed to Rain today?”

And. just as I say it, I pull away from the moment, no longer see anything of the wonder right in front of me as my head hits turbo:

She’s going to a friend’s house today. Rain.  If I knew about rain, would she have to change her outfit?  What would they do? Should I approach the day differently?  Will they be inside?  Will That shorten the day?  Will I have to pick her up earlier than I’d planned?  How will that affect my day?  Will My schedule change?  Will My wife pick her up after work?  How much rain will we get?  Will That gutter that was a problem during the last storm hold?  Is the basement going to leak again?  Did I leave my guitars near the wall down there where it leaked last time…

“I dunno” she chirped with a happy shrug.  She didn’t lose pace or break stride.  She said nothing more.  She didn’t care one bit, because it didn’t matter one bit.  Not to her.

Jump jump.  Run Run. Breathe breathe. Smile Smile.

It didn’t matter at all.  Not one bit.

I sat there and let the powerful simplicity of that moment sink in.  “Girl’s a genius”, I thought and told her as much.  She looked at me, made a goofy face.  And kept running and jumping and playing.

I watched her, always taking it as it comes.  Light as a feather.  Happy and untethered.

I was envious. Her instinctive simplicity is genius; my learned complexity is stupid.

Only one of us is truly happy, alive and engaged most of the time.

Guess which one.

We live in an attention economy.  Not a consumer economy – that’s become secondary –  an attention economy, first and foremost.  And beyond the economy, we live an attention existence.  Our friends are not in the room, not often, but instead on a screen.  It requires attention to seek them out.   Attention to decide how to present ourselves before we see them.  Attention to determine in advance every single moment of every single day just how to present ourselves to a world that really is not a world at all, at least not in the sense of that which the fabric of actual reality is made. Attention to respond to the constant and smothering stream of pokes and prods and information that is constantly hurled at us.

There is no such thing as multitasking, only micro-tasking. We can only put our effort in one place at one time.  Only be in one place at one time.  And what we’re thinking about – where our attention is invested –  is where we are.  And someone is always pulling at your attention.  Think about it: we are constantly being baited to think about certain things. This is how money is made – at the expense of our attention and self.  And money has somehow been insidiously placed at top of the altar of all that is deemed important and worthy of pursuit.

Yes, I’m a marketing blasphemist.  Or an unapologetic humanist. I’m okay with either.

When was the last time you carved out even 5 minutes of silence?  No phone, no internet. Alone with your thoughts?

Five minutes.  Stop now and try it and realize just how long five minutes is when you are only focusing on them.  It’s a comparable eternity.  Comparable to what?  Spend five minutes on YouTube, and I’ll see you in an hour when you get back.

My point is this: when faced with a question about something that may or may not happen, but which will demand your attention, take my daughter’s advice. Shrug and keep doing whatever you were doing.  You’ll find that whatever seemed so important was not – not to you anyway.  And that your world will not only not end, but will actually be richer and more interesting.  Just be here. And Now.  Not There, or then – even if it’s only in your head.

Remember, this is a process of mindfully choosing Less. Of ironically, being aware and choosing not to engage.  Maybe it’s sort of like meditating: see the ‘must must must’ but choose to let it go.  Over time, this will become not an exercise, but simply the way you are.  This is not a quick fix, but a gradual one.  This is the difference between taking on a crazy unsustainable diet or gradually changing your eating habits toward something healthier over the long term.

Only one lasts over time and makes you healthy inside AND out.

Disconnect. Start a silent rebellion against the perceived inevitability of a questionable future. Shrug and be happy.

You owe the world nothing except the best version of you — which is also what you owe yourself.

And this is a good way to start.

My 2 Cents – and a Happy New Year to All.