Our Distraction Loop

Football is back. American professional football. The NFL.

Whether you love the sport (nearly 26 million people watched the Buccaneers loss against the Saints), hate the sport, or can only think of football as being a spherical ball being kicked around on a field by nearly 250 million players in over 200 countries and is mostly clearly the world’s most popular sport – makes not one bit of difference this week.

Because one thing is clear, the world is a better place when we have sports around to distract people.

And this year, we need that distraction more than ever.

This has been quite a year. You don’t need me to tell you.

You’ve probably felt every bit of it.

And even if you’ve weathered the storm – you’ve certainly seen it in the faces of your family, loved ones, friends and neighbors (only on Zoom of course). You can see it in the eyes of those haggard faces hidden behind their face masks while you are out at Home Depot loading up for those improvement projects. 2020 has been a doozy of a year and we are all more than ready for it to be over.

Sure, there is plenty of criticism that sports are a form of mass distraction. Just one of many forms of entertainment made into big business to keep the masses from paying too much attention to those in power. Not to mention that many that are in power are connected and are the owners of much of the world’s entertainment. This has been a common tool since the days of bread and circuses that the Roman Empire used so well to keep the mob from getting too interested in the decisions of the elite.

In a year, such as this, where there is a political contest being waged in the US – the NFL will still undoubtedly pull in more viewers for the Packers Saints match up on Sun, 9/27 or even the Chiefs Ravens game on Monday 9/28 – than Trump and Biden will pull in the next night when they match up for the Presidential Debate. I’m not sure that I can draw any conclusions from this. It should make us take notice.

We have so many different forms of entertainment that can be used to dull our senses, distract, and entertain us. I don’t begrudge any of us that need, especially in a year like this. In moderation this makes complete sense and isn’t dangerous.

As with many things, moderation is key. If we keep taking pain meds to numb ourselves rather than treat the source of our issue – we will find the need to take an ever increasing amount of meds to continue to do the job. We may find ourselves regularly binge watching Netflix and You Tube videos rather than develop a positive behavior that can help us through the malaise.

Our top searches this week on Google, almost, all revolve around entertainment. From Big Ten Football, the Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson movie “The Devil All the Time”, to the Clippers, Celtics, Mandalorian’ Season 2, and iOS 14 release date – nearly all our top searches involve entertainment. All of it a distraction.

There are some glimmers of hope with Sally Hurricane, Bill Gates, and look, Breonna Taylor is popping up in second place for today’s search terms, tied with Maya Moore getting married to the man she helped free from prison. – Some big and important issues to be sure, as long as we are searching for information and entertainment in the guise of information.

I’m all for entertainment. I’ll definitely catch some of my Packers games this year. I can use some distraction. Can’t we all.

I’m just hoping and praying that we are all spending a bit more time on learning, growing as people, helping others, and all around doing good than we are on our entertainment binges and searches. The world is a rich and amazing place and there is plenty for us humans to be doing with our time aside from being distracted. We need our fun. I love to have fun. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the important work that needs to be done first.

Do you find yourself Stuck in the Anxiety-Distraction Feedback Loop – Here is a YouTube Video from the Ken Coleman show – you may find interesting.  Do You Feel Stuck in the Anxiety-Distraction Feedback Loop?


Check out a quick read from Jennifer Anders, PsyD. On Moving Beyond the Anxiety and Perfectionism Feedback Loop.


How Do We Keep Going, When We Are Programmed to Stop

We spend a lot of time asking how to get started. How to begin action. To make something happen. Build a business. Get a new job. Change our lives.

We don’t really ask how do we keep going?

There is this idea that if you want it bad enough – you’ll keep going.

There is this thought that with enough determination and grit – you’ll keep going.

We believe that if you are really ambitious, then you’ll make it happen and be successful.

To be successful you must have discipline and without it you’ll always be right wherever you are.

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So, when we fail to keep going we run backwards and look at our goals, our ambitions, our grit and try to solve for one of those things, the next time we go and take a stab at something. Once we’ve overcome our concern over the last failure, the energy to do something builds within us, and then off to the race, we make another huge push.

And still, at some point our momentum wanes, we run into a road block and we come to a crashing and abrupt stop. Then we hit ourselves over the head with the gnarly hammer of discipline and failure, whacking over and over again. Before our skulls are completely bashed in, we add in a bit of self-flagellation by lashing our backs as a gentle reminder of our inadequacies. And all of these lessons stick with us.

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Enduring our own self prescribed pain we ask why we are not strong enough, disciplined enough, why we don’t have enough willpower to over come and to keep going.

It turns out, we’ve been missing the point. All of those words are nice. Ambition. Determination. Grit. Discipline. Willpower.

And, if you either naturally or through experience have developed them over other strengths then you are in a pretty good place for starting and continuing. On their own, they are not a automatic recipe for success. But you do have a pretty good head start on those that don’t.

What we are learning is that we’ve been missing the point all along. We’ve been conditioned to do exactly as we are doing. There is a very natural response that has developed and we find ourselves on one side of the equation.

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We operate out of habits. As much as 40-45% of our day is spent automatically doing things. One thing leads to another, that leads to another. This mechanism is there to protect us. They are formed through a series of responses to either real or perceived pain or pleasure. Alive is the goal. Safe is the name of the game.

Doing something new can be painful. It is unknown. The outcome is not clear. You can’t be certain that you will have the desired outcome. We are operating out of fear. And the chasm between our desired reality or outcome, and where we are at begins to seem insurmountable.

The safe land is what you’ve always done. This isn’t a conscious choice but a natural response to protect you.

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There are lots of tips and tricks to get you started. But if you are relying on sheer force of will and the energy and drive to keep moving forward – then you have a monstrous mountain in front of you. Made all the worse by stories of others who have pushed through and made it happen. Those 1% of people that make things happen through seemingly superhuman feats or ones that we feel have just been dealt a good hand. Combined with the stories of all who fail and our own painful beats we and life give us when we fail at something new, it can seem that we are destined to fail.

We need to hack the system we have so that with the least amount of energy, with the least amount of willpower, we are able to keep our forward momentum.

In order to do that first we have to get good at hacking our habits.

One of the major issues with habits and why we fail with these very difficult changes we are trying to make in our lives, is that we are trying to eat the whole buffet in one bite. Breaking things down into their component pieces, into manageable bites is the best way to go. It seems so logical, and yet we do not do this.

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Breaking things down into manageable snacks not only makes it easier to digest, it also allows us to build up positive rewards along the way. This way, we are not working for some large goal that we have to delay all gratification for until some seemingly super distant future.

The good news is that willpower can be increased. Grit can be increased. It turns out that our ability to practice these things through adjusting our habits make the biggest difference.

It turns out those who have the best self control and willpower, don’t actually use it. They structure their lives in ways that circumvent the need to put their self control to the test. 

You don’t have to love the activity. Maybe you don’t like exercising. One step would be to make it not be about the activity. Make it be about the result. You want to be able to get up with out feeling winded. Now, work on loving the process. How do you change and adjust your habit so that you get up and get moving? What is your reward for getting up and getting moving? And no, it probably shouldn’t reward your one mile walk with a Boston Cream doughnut.

Love the process. Love the result. Give yourself little rewards. Enjoy the little successes. Those little successes will mount up and magnify as you progress. Fall in love with that progress.

Need a bit more on habits, check out this video The Power of Habit : Charles Duhigg @ TedxTeachersCollege

For a great read on grit and perseverance check out Angela Duckworth book, Grit : The Power of Passion and Perseverance

And now for some shameless self promotion, check out my LinkedIn article Relentless Action – Never Give Up, Never Surrender

And while you are reading, here is something I’m listening to Fearless Motivation  – Never Give Up. This is from composer Walter Bergmann and you can follow him on his YouTube channel.

Miserably Failing Excellently

I’ve always been fascinated and motivated by the idea of striving for excellence. But I’ve been doing it all wrong. And have failed miserably.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” – Aristotle paraphrased by Will Durant

This quote has been a major building block for me in my life. It speaks to two subjects that I find quite interesting : excellence and habits. Excellence is not just an idea or something to strive for but one that can be found in action, repeated action that forms a consistent habit.

This provides a framework where we can begin to visualize what excellence looks like.

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There is also an unspoken aspect that follows quite naturally that excellence is a choice in our actions. A choice to be excellent at a thing while not pursuing other things. Not only choice but intentional and conscious choice.

Of course, Aristotle wasn’t speaking of a singular act and was speaking to the habit of excellence coming from what we repeatedly do.

To strive for excellence is to go beyond okay, beyond the ordinary standards, far beyond good enough. It is to reach for unusually good – and this takes being uniquely in a class all to itself reserved for the few. To step away from the pack. Away from how it has always been done or how everyone has done it.

“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. ”

Booker T. Washington

It then follows that to attain excellence we must risk failure. To be excellent, one has to be less than excellent by falling right on our face after reaching higher than everyone else.

Now that is scary. And thrilling.

Think of all those that we have heard use the word excellence.

They describe their work as excellent. They as a boss tell you they demand excellence trying to sound like leaders inspiring others to greatness. Always looking outward for others to be excellent and rarely role modeling excellence. Show up to work on time. Turn in your work on time. Meet expectations.

Mediocrity masquerading as excellence.

How many of us have the word excellence on our resume? Demonstrated excellence. Committed to excellence. Operational excellence. You name it, I see it all the time. I’ve been guilt of it, and it pains me to realize it. Ouch.

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Are you at the top of your game? Can you demonstrate excellence through a consistent habit and delivery of top of your field results? Great.

But I suspect that many of us are doing really good work, but just shouldn’t be using the word excellent.

Knock it off already – we sound silly to self proclaim excellence without the action to back it up. Look at your work. You should be proud of what you are doing, but is it really excellent. Do the results back it up?

“The foundation of lasting self-confidence and self-esteem is excellence, mastery of your work. ”

Brian Tracy

What this means is that we have some work to do on this journey to strive for excellence. We’ve made the first step by desiring excellence and being committed to doing the work towards excellence. But if we haven’t risked it all and stuck our neck out, then we can’t have had the experiences to learn from and to reach beyond into the land of excellence.

I’m reaching for excellence with this post. I’m not just saying what others want to hear from me. I’m pushing my own boundaries. I’m trying. I’ll learn from what works. And I’ll keep trying to refine this message so that it touches people and helps them on their quest to change for the better.

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I’ve failed at excellence and that is exactly where I need to be. Falling on my face is good as long as I keep getting back up. How about you?

It’s okay that I may fail. But I will reach for excellence and not claim I’ve reached the peak of the mountain when I’m still staring up. There is work to get done. Let’s get on with it.

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence. ”

Jessica Guidobono

Here is a good (less than five minute video) from Rules of the Mind on Aristotle – Excellence Comes By Habit

Check out the book Focus : The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by Daniel Goleman and learn how to cultivate attention as a way to achieve self -control.

For a quick read, check out my LinkedIn article Fight Mediocrity, Strive for Excellence

I’m back with lots of goodies to share

I’m back. And this time, I hope for good.

I took some time away putting some of what I’ve learned to the test. I’ve been distracted a bit by all that is going on in the world. And with coming to grips with some of the decisions I’ve made over the last year. I’ve learned a lot about what I need to do with my time. One of those things is writing here for you.

My personal transformation has continued, deepened and grown. It has taken me some time to work through things. And now, I’m ready to come back with a vengeance.

Except, that isn’t quite right. I’m not seeking revenge, retribution, or retaliation. And that doesn’t exactly fill anyone with confidence if I look at my writing as a punishment to be inflicted.

Perhaps, it’s more like I’m ready to come back with verve, vigor, enthusiasm. Maybe with a bit of force, zeal and passion. I’m certainly eager and have quite a bit of zing, zip, vim, and get up and go.

Hopefully I endeavor to have some pizzazz in all that I do. And while my writing may not always convey my fervor, occasionally showing a sparkle of spirit, and an effervescent fizz of dynamism — I do hope it shows my motivation and determination to drive forward to help change others on their journey.

Surely, it will be with a touch of fanaticism for being a development geek and an absolute commitment to help others by using my own unique strengths to their fullest.

I have a lot to learn. And there are some interesting things I can perhaps teach along the way.

This won’t be for everyone. And for the first time in my life, I’m really okay with that. I don’t need to be accepted by all. I’m not reaching for the middle. For average. For mediocre. Or just to say what everyone wants to hear.

Reach with me, for something different.

Are you ready for a change? Are you ready to put in the effort?

This week I’m reading Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers. I’ve been in the mood to re-explore some impactful books that have helped me along my journey.

I’m always on the search for ways to get the most out of each day. I view each day as a wonderful opportunity to improve ourselves. Marcus Aurelius was a great practitioner of improving his daily routine.  Here is an easy video  –Marcus Aurelius – 5 Ways to Start Your Day (Stoicism Morning Routine)

And for some relaxing and meditation music – I’m enjoying Hans Zimmer – Ultimate Soundtrack Compilation. It has a great mixture of music from Interstellar, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman Begins, Gladiator and so many others.

Can’t wait for tomorrow and the chance to continue to jump down the rabbit hole with you.

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Drawing and the Zen of Improving the Bad

Are we born with a predetermined set of talents? Do we grow skills from those talents to a certain age and then stop? Are our brains really built with a certain talent set and that core foundation can’t be changed?

If we are good at math, we are good at math. If we are artistic, then we are artistic. If we aren’t good at those things, then we aren’t and there is no changing it.

Or are we not so much skill based but rather we have a set way of thinking? Does that way of thinking, these core abilities influence everything else? 

And is that thinking fixed?

Can we change our core programming?

These questions are very powerful. How we ask them, and what we believe has a lot to say about how we approach learning and self development.

I do believe that we are born and we grow through our formative years with a selection of talents and predispositions. There is a blueprint in our genetics. Then add in some environment and what we learn along the way.

We’ve been asking these questions for a long time, is it nature or nurture? I doubt we will resolve that here. And I don’t even think that it is a binary, one or the other situation.

More than that, it doesn’t seem likely that it is a one or the other situation.

Personally, I believe it is a combination of both.

Similar to what we are just scratching the surface to learn about in genetics. With each new study and experiment we are learning more and more that while we have a blueprint, that blueprint changes over time depending on environment. While there is science to back this up, it also seems logical and fits what we see in the real world.

Personal Bias

It also could be that much like the destiny or freewill debate, I feel better knowing that I have influence over the choices I make, rather than it being written in stone. If life is only an already written, directed, and produced movie where I must play my part and I cannot affect the outcome – then this existence becomes two dimensional.

I know I don’t have control over my life, just over myself and the choices I make. I’m okay with that and it makes total sense in our existence. Anything else, diminishes my role in my own life. And I believe I am responsible for everything I choose to do.

This is why, even after being told my entire life that I’m no good at art, I try to draw. I allowed myself to believe it for a long time. It got in my head, infected me, and I allowed it to define me. I couldn’t even draw a circle so why would I put time into something I was so absolutely bad at.

Except that goes against my core belief system. It goes against how I think about ability and what we put our time into.

Now, I sit down with a notepad,  take out some pencils and have been working at trying to learn to draw better. Any time that I can put pencil to paper, and it’s  recognizable as what I was trying to create, then I’m doing good. I’ve set a very low bar, but that bar is immeasurably higher than it used to be when I wouldn’t even try.

If you believe others stories about you, or your own propaganda than you’ll never do anything differently.

I’m improving at something that I’ve never been good at. And it feels good. I believe in my ability to improve. I believe being good at something because of experience and perseverance means something. It is rewarding.

There is nothing amazing in what you’ve done, if it comes easily. It isn’t a personal accomplishment.

There is no special in being good at something that you were handed. This is merely working to your potential. Surely, we have gifts that we are born with and were developed at a young age. It’s wonderful to be given gifts.

The measure of a person is what they do with what they have been given.

Superpowers are a responsibility, they are not a measure of character. It’s what you do after you get bit by the radioactive spider. You aren’t special because you happened to be in the place to get bit by one.

The bigger test is to go out and work for skills that weren’t just handed to you. I’m never in awe of the kid who doesn’t have to work for their grades, and every test comes easily to them. The born athlete who doesn’t condition, or eat healthy, or workout, or try to grow their ability but who just always does well. It’s a wonderful gift of genetics, but that isn’t anything they did.

Are you naturally skinny, never working out and always eating junk food? Good for you. Be happy these are the genes you were given. You are fortunate and should be grateful. But don’t pat yourself on the back because you didn’t do anything to earn this.

Now the person who has struggled with their weight, who’s parents possibly were diabetic, who watches what they eat but still their body responds with intense cravings even when eating healthy food in moderate amounts, who works out and still is overweight. This person who keeps trying and working for it and fights the urge to give up. This person is showing something about who they are as a person.

So, I’ll keep working on my drawings. I’m okay with not being very good. The fact that I’ve come this far makes me happy.

  • What do you think? I can’t be alone on this one.
  • Do you believe in nature or nurture?
  • Are you in the fixed mindset camp or do you have a growth mindset?
  • What have you worked at that you weren’t very good at or were told you sucked at?
  • What’s your story?
  • Why did you work to get better at this thing that wasn’t a strength for you?

No More Fitting In

In school, I sucked at art.

Not like people casually say, I wasn’t any good at math or science or hitting a baseball.

Teachers confirmed it by failing me in art. There it was a fact, I sucked.

It didn’t matter how much time I put in. They didn’t like my work. Some accused me of not trying. They couldn’t understand being a good student in all other subjects and doing so poorly at coloring.

The colors I used didn’t go together. Everything was super bright and colorful or very dark. I liked colors that stood out. I never understood coloring inside the lines, or having to follow rules. My fourth grade teacher said I might as well use art time to work on other subjects instead of wasting it on drawing.

But mostly, color just didn’t make any sense.

  • Why did one color go with another?
  • Why did some people say some colors looked so beautiful to them, when all I saw was dingy and dirty colors?
  • Why were some colors popular to wear one year and no one would be caught dead a couple years later?
  • Why is blue a boy color and pink a girl color?
  • Who decided that red is bad and green is good?

I was always different. Even amongst the kids without a lot of artistic talent, I stood out as being particularly non-artistic.

That was fine. I could appreciate art even if I wasn’t going to be an artist.

In fifth grade, there was a picture of different sized colored dots in our social studies books. Everyone was squawking on how the dots formed a picture of a butterfly. I didn’t know what was going on. Was this a prank? Had the whole class ganged up and decided to pull one over on me?

I craned my neck to look at the books of those around me. Maybe the picture in my book was just different.

Nope. Everywhere I looked, it was the same. A bunch of colored dots.

I worked up the nerve to raise my hand and say something. My teacher thought I was messing with him and stirring up trouble. He sent me to the office.

That’s okay, he was more interested in singing and playing folk music on his guitar than explaining things. Like, why we were supposed to color specific people yellow, brown or black on a social studies assignment. I’d gotten in trouble for questioning the rules of coloring people so I already had a bit of a history with this teacher.

I explained it to the school secretary before going in to see the Principle. She didn’t know what to make of it, but was empathetic.

Going into his office, he asked me to explain the referral note from my teacher. The Principle was confused. While I was known for occasionally questioning and challenging the validity of the information I was given, I was known as a good kid and didn’t get in trouble.

As he was getting ready to call my parents, the school secretary suggested sending me to the school nurse and investigate. It was after all a picture giving an example of testing for color blindness. Maybe they should double check first.

Sitting in the nurses office, going through her big book of dots, I was only able to identify one or two pictures out of fifty or sixty. Every so often, I would stop and ask the nurse, if there was really something else there that she could see. And she would patiently reply yes, and would explain it was a number.

I had a hard time believing it. It was like being told there was ghosts that everyone but you could see. The world was not the same place for me that it was for everyone else.

I mean, I’d always known that. I didn’t know that it was a scientific fact.

It turned out I was extremely color blind. Fortunately, I wasn’t a monochromat and could still see color. It was only that I didn’t see it like everyone else.

There are colors that are nearly invisible to me. Others, look dirty or washed out. You can hide red lines in graphs and I probably won’t see them. Picking out flowers for my girlfriend doesn’t always get me the response I’m looking for. You probably don’t want me picking out the paint for your living room.

Being color blind for me is a large part of my identity. Color is a big part of the world and how we see and interact with the world. However, being color blind is more than just about not seeing color like everyone else.

It verified for me, something I had always felt since my earliest of days. That our perceptions are personal. There is no objective truth. We rely on our network of sensors in our bodies and processed through our nervous system and brain to form our connection to the outside world. There is a reality but it can’t be fully known by us. We experience reality through filters, and for each of us those filters are different.

I choose to celebrate the vast differences in everyone’s filters. The universe is already an interesting place. Made doubly so through each person’s lens.

It wasn’t easy for me as a kid to be different. I carried some of that with me as an adult. And while I may have been afraid of my differences – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am unique.

But that isn’t the interesting part. The interesting part is how unique others are as well. That while there is this great desire on many people’s parts to fit in. It shouldn’t be about fitting in, but of being accepted for being different. I no longer want to fit in. But some acceptance wouldn’t be bad.

And while I may not be able to change the world or how the world reacts to me. I can make sure that I celebrate others for their uniqueness.

We don’t need more fitting in. We need to embrace the diversity of others, the differences, the uniqueness and say to everyone it is okay being you, whoever you are, so long as you respect the freedom of others to do the same and be different.

No more fitting in.

Grow Yourself : Cut Away The Excess Fat In Your Life

We each have an opportunity right now and a choice to make.

Do we let this thing happen to us? Or do we do something with this?

Are we a victim to this thing? Are we only trying to endure it? Or are we the CEO of our lives. The owners who decide what to do next.

This is a tremendous opportunity to take stock in your life. Look deeply at what is important to you.

What is the most important things to you? Make a list. Write it all down.

Once you have your list. Put a star next to the five most important things.

Now, look think back to your life just a month ago. What were you spending your time on?

Spending. You are spending time. Think of it like a precious commodity. It is the only commodity we have. We can’t make more of it.  And each second we are spending it. So what was it you were spending time on?

Make a list of what you were spending a majority of your time doing.

Compare that list of things that are the most important to you. Those five things. With what you are spending a majority of your time doing.

How do those scales balance out for you?

Does what you spent time on match up against what was most important to you?

If not, this is exactly what I said, a great opportunity to make some changes.

The world changed and right now you have a chance to cut away at the excess fat. Get out your scalpel and cut away. If it doesn’t fit into your priorities and what is important to you, then you must cut away.

Don’t miss this chance to take stock and make some changes. Once the world adjusts again, and you find either the new normal, or roll back into your old ways – it’ll be a lot harder to make a change.

You know time is the one resource that matters. It is the great equalizer. We each get the same 24 hours in a day and it is entirely our choice on how we spend it.

So, what will you do with those 24 hours? Continue to do things the way you were doing it, or get intentional and make some decisions.

I know it isn’t easy to do this. Change never is. That is why, this is an amazing opportunity. It’s scary, yes. But you have a chance to craft your life differently.

I know it isn’t easy, because I’ve done exactly this. I made a number of changes to my life. I had to cut away at things that I thought were priorities, when in fact there were just so many things that were important – it meant that nothing was important. This is why we have to restrict ourselves to 5 priorities. –If we make everything important, than nothing is important.

Once I knew what was important to me, I began to make serious adjustments to what I was spending my time on. And while, I’ve done a lot of good work in this area, it is a muscle I have to keep strong. Regularly, I review my priorities and look at what I’ve been spending my time on. I adjust and figure out ways to make sure I don’t get pulled into other things or away from my why, my golden circle.

Life is not about finding ourselves, it’s about crafting ourselves. If your life, or you, or your days are not what you want them to be, then take out that scalpel, cut away, and then grow yourself into the shape you want to be.

I did it, so I know for sure you can do it.

Vomiting My Way To Success

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Anais Nin

It may be an overstatement, but not by much, to say that most everything worthwhile that I’ve accomplished in this world came from my pushing through fear and finding my courage to do something that I’m afraid of.

For instance, I’ve always been afraid of speaking. Public speaking really. And by that I mean, speaking to more than one person.

For much of my life I was a shy, introverted kid. I didn’t understand other people and I’d been exposed to a lot of cruelty and ridicule at an early age.

I read a lot. I was always learning and testing things out. I could see patterns in things. I was always cross referencing different subjects against one another. Looking for ways that things interconnected and informed one another. It seemed that I saw things that others didn’t.

And for a long time, I didn’t know how to articulate what I saw. I’d jump to the end much too quickly and others wouldn’t follow where I was headed. Not being able to communicate well and explain, I found myself ostracized from others. I felt like an outsider and an alien.

The best thing I could do was shut up. I avoided ridicule, or at least lessened it by not speaking up even when I knew the answer. For a long time in my life, nothing good ever came from speaking up.

And this is where I think my fear of public speaking was born.

I also had and still have something inside of me that is trying to get out. It can’t be contained. And so I’ve raised my hand to speak in front of groups.

Time and time again, I get up the nerve and I go make myself do it. It is stronger than my fear. Sometimes, my fear wins and I’m quiet. Eventually, this something else inside of me, rises up and I cannot be contained.

When I do speak in public, whether it be in front of 5 people or 1000, I’m always nervous. You’d think that would go away at some point. But it never has.

Until about a year ago, I always, always threw up before any speaking engagement. While, my pre-show vomiting has started to subside, I still always have that fear inside of me, that almost panic at the last moment that I don’t know what to say and that I can’t do it.

And still I would always go back for more, and each time I’ve upped the ante of difficulty.

This fear, for me, is more about putting myself out there in front of others, telling what is in my head and being afraid of looking stupid and others not accepting me for who I am. I know most of the logical reasons why this really shouldn’t be a thing. And each time that I put myself out there – I’ve gotten something amazing in return. I’ve grown each time.

And so I keep putting myself out there. Every word I write here, every post I make, every video I shoot, or article I write – there is the nasty blade on the end of a pendulum swinging ever closer to me. It is the fear of this unknown thing that could happen to me if I keep putting myself out there. That once and for all, the world will deem me unworthy.

I imagine that for others this is silly. For me, it has been my constant companion.

I’m not sure if it is comforting to know that I’m not alone, and that every one has fears.

Many are possibly biologically built into our sense of survival and considered to be linked to humankind’s early days of survivability. Walk out in the wilderness and step on a venomous snake or spider without access to medical care and you’ll easily imagine how this one got built into our collective unconscious fear response. The world was a dangerous place for our early ancestors.

Study almost any list of the top fears and you’ll always find some variation of the following:

  • Dogs
  • Germs – With the Covid-19 pandemic, this one may be gaining some traction for a lot of people
  • Needles –
  • Storms – Thunder and Lightening
  • Snakes
  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Flying
  • Enclosed Spaces
  • Heights
  • Open Spaces/Aloneness
  • Social Phobias – such as public speaking

These affect people in a wide range of ways, from a strong dislike and fear, to a full on psychological phobia. They can be quite debilitating for those that are afflicted with a severe case of any one of these.

There are also a lot of fears people have that hold them back in life.

These are areas such as loss of freedom, inadequacy, being judged, getting hurt, uncertainty, rejection, failure, loneliness, and change that hold people back. These fears can run deep. And it seems fairly clear that most people are dealing with or have dealt with at least one of these.

I’ve certainly felt most of those at one point or another. And still our ability to confront these with courage is the only real measure of our success in growing as a person.

For me, I’ll continue to ratchet up the fear factor. I’ve learned to use that energy and turn it back on itself. I use that anxiety as fuel to be absolutely in the moment when I speak. I believe that there is something to be found on the other side of this fear, if only I can keep going.

Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keeping getting up on a stage or doing a video and putting it out on the internet.

I do have a need to be seen. Not for fame. Or glory. But because, there is something on the other side of that fear. I just know it. If I can share with just one more person, and one more person after that. —There is something amazing out there, connecting with others, helping others.

 I just know it.

And so I keep writing for my life, sharing, putting myself out there, and I know something good will come from all of it.

Improve @ Everything By Being Alone

There are a lot of people who are struggling with the isolation of quarantining. Every day the news is filled with depressing numbers. We know people are dying. Some are losing their jobs. Many are just plain afraid. The uncertainty, the isolation, the change in the every day routine is affecting everyone in different but profound ways.

Some are finding working from home is not as much fun as they once thought it would be. Some are struggling because much of their identity was possibly wrapped up in their social world.

Who they are at work?

Who they are with their friends?

Who they are with the neighbors?

We know that many concoct a magazine cover look to their social media in order to present the best possible version of their life. And without that same level of social interaction, without the same distractions – some are catching their reflection in the mirror and it is giving them pause.

And that is exactly what we should be doing during this time. A good, objective look in the mirror can help center us. Bring us back to who we are without filters and distractions.

We lose ourselves when we become attached to the external and the feelings that come from without. We must look within.

We control only what is within. We must know ourselves. What we value? Who we are? And that doesn’t come from anyone else.

The noise of others can help us feel lost. And so being alone with yourself as your companion, you can become anchored again in who you are.

You can never really be with anyone else if you can’t be with yourself fully.

Take this time alone to reconnect with you.

I can say this with some assurance because I’ve been there.

A year ago I had to take a real hard look at the decisions I’d made and what my next move was going to be. I could choose to continue down the same path. Do the next thing that made sense. It’s what we all do most of the time. One decision and then another and another, one link after another in the chain. 

I know it probably sounds crazy but I’d gotten to a place where I didn’t fully recognize myself. I was working all the time. I wasn’t really any fun. I wasn’t having any fun. But wow was I working hard, and every time a new issue came up, I worked even harder. And when things didn’t go well, I would double down and work even harder.

Like a new pilot flying through clouds, I kept making course corrections that seemed right. One on top of another, until I flew out of the clouds upside down.

In the end, I was fortunate enough to fly out of the clouds. I know some people never do. But there I was totally upside down and out of control, and I had never noticed it. All I could think was to keep flying and course correcting.

I stopped. I sat quietly. And I listened to myself. I could barely hear that small voice that had been buried underneath other people’s expectations. Or rather, what I had created in my mind as other people’s expectations. My voice was so small against the ringing and pounding in my ears from the obligations and responsibilities. Responsibilities that I created for myself from the choices that I had made over a lifetime.

I worked through a process of deep introspection I had the tools I had learned over a lifetime of working with others, and put them to the test.

The first thing I started with was being alone. Living in that place where nothing and no one else distracted me. I went for walks, I listened to music, I wrote, I traveled the country visiting more than 30 states in 34 days.

It was hard to look at myself and realize that I’d strayed in some ways from my personal golden circle. – Those were some tough days of soul searching.

Being alone allowed me to reconnect with myself. I could never have done the work – if I hadn’t gotten real comfortable with being alone. This does not mean you have to physically be alone. You certainly don’t have to do the same things I did. It will be different for each of us.

What it means is being able to do some soul searching without distraction. Being able to put out of your mind anyone else’s expectations of you. What you think they want you to be doing. That a tough one, but it is key to making this work.

Right now, is a perfect time to take a good look in the mirror and reconnect with the real you. Once you do, and only once you do can you start to make some meaningful change in your life.

Otherwise, this time and opportunity will slip right on by. Life will return to a version of normal. Full of distractions and obligations. Don’t let this pause in the world – while everyone is collectively holding their breath – go by without making a change. Start with getting to know yourself again.

A Virus Changed My Mind About Connecting

I don’t know why it takes me a bit longer than it does other people to get onboard with some things. In some areas, I’m an early adopter. On others, I’m painfully slow.

Only recently, like in the last few days, have I opened my eyes to making more connections online. I guess it took a virus for me to see things differently.

I love connecting in person.

Actually, that isn’t exactly right, I love connecting in person in a real and meaningful way. I actually can’t stand small talk. I’m challenged by conversations that go no where or always stay surface level. I’m always waiting to get the relationship to the next level where we can really connect and talk about something that matters.

If you ask me about the weather, my head begins the countdown to a nuclear meltdown.

I know. It’s a little…something.

But here, after a lifetime,  I am finally in this place where I really think there is something great about getting to know people. I really enjoy hearing their stories and how they got to where they are, discovering their strengths, and learning how we can both help one another. Working with another person who is committed to a higher goal, who is professional and wants to do a great job, who wants to get the right things done, who wants to teach others and learn.

Those are connections that I really get excited about. When I’m working with someone towards a mission. When we are bouncing ideas off one another. Challenging one another respectfully but deeply and meaningfully. When they are showing me a different perspective. When I learn from another person.

I really get off on that. It is something I’m always striving for myself and looking for when connection and building relationships.

I haven’t always felt this way. I didn’t always understand people.

I never understood people when I was a kid. The reasons people did things eluded me. I couldn’t predict their behavior with much accuracy at all. I could see lies all around me and it bothered me a lot. I loved reading and writing. And had a bit of a scientific way of thinking about things. I wanted to understand how things worked.

I devoted much of my life to behavior and how people act and react. I studied a lot. I watched every interaction around me for years, for decades, cataloguing and dissecting. All of that studying helped me to understand people more and to not feel as much like an alien as I did when I was a kid.

And still, somehow I resisted the online world. I’m on social media, but I with all these rules in my head about how I used it and who I would connect with. To what I’ve now realized, I had these rules to a ridiculous degree.

I get why I resisted. I felt that the connections online were like a video game, it’s a virtual world, and you can see in people’s behavior that they do things they would never do in real life. So, I didn’t interact except for fun or to connect with others that I already know.

Then, this pandemic hit. And like most everyone else, if I want to connect with others, I have no choice but to do so virtually.

While I was realizing this and coming to grips with it, a light bulb went off. As I regularly counsel others to do, I looked at my principles and values. I realized that I was making judgement about how some people were using social media.

It was small minded. And in the real world, I would never have put up with that sort of thinking.

This had become a blind spot for me. Now, that I’d used my mirror to look myself in the face – I was ready to make a change. I’m using that mirror to get rid of that blind spot.

It’s only been a week. Now, I am regularly connecting online. I’m accepting connection requests. I’m seeking others online who want to connect and do so in a meaningful way. I’m learning how to connect in a virtual world because it does connect to our real world.

It is a tool for connecting with amazing people all over the world. In just the last few days, I’ve had some amazing conversations with people who I probably would never get a chance to see in every day life. It’s really something amazing to be connecting with someone in Italy or France, Nigeria, the UAE, Australia, Korea or Japan. Getting to know them, hearing about what life is like right now, and how we can maybe help one another get through this. Spread a little positivity and hope. That sounds like a good reason to change my rules.

I’m not sure why it took me so long, why I was so resistant, and why I never thought to think about online the same way that I do about how and why I connect in my real life.

Maybe, it’s time to stop thinking about the social and virtual world as something different than real life. It’s just life, and it’s about how we live it.

It’s ironic that a virus that caused us to stay away from one another so we don’t infect one another allowed me to start connecting more.