Blog Post # 29 – For the Sake of Art

All across the world today, someone is creating art.

A painting.

A mosaic.

A new jazz piece.

The artist creates because she has to.

Not because she feels like it.

Not because she has nothing else to do.

Because she has to.

Artists create art for the sake of art itself.

We each have the power to make beautiful art.

In every aspect of our life.

A few exercise that power, most do not.

Sharing our art with the rest of the world is a risk.

What if the world hates it?

What if the world laughs?

Certainly a risk, no doubt.

But the bigger risk is denying our art to those who need it.

Hiding the beauty that we can create.

For if our art connects with just one other human being,

It is so, so worth the effort.

 

Blog Post # 28 – Wiggle Room

This week, I had several conversations with a good friend.

He has been reading the blog and has enjoyed some of my posts – especially the ones about the lack of connection we all have with our fellows, here in 2016.

So check this out – we had an actual heart-to-heart conversation.

About real things.

About what’s going on in each of our lives.

In fact, we have had two such conversations.

Face-to-face, honest communication.

Can you believe it?

We talked about the people that we are and the people that we aim to be.

About that crevasse between where we are today and where we may be headed.

These conversations were such a gift.

That only took place because I put myself out there, opened up a bit and put my thoughts out into the interwebs.

My friend confided with me that he is feeling a bit stuck.

That he’d like to make some changes in his life.

He was looking for some accountability, the chance to bounce ideas off someone else.

I reminded him that so much of what I write about is the Aspirational Jim as opposed to the Current Jim.

He knew that already.

As we delved into that feeling of being stuck, I got the sense that his line of thinking was a bit binary.

Either he stayed in the job that he’s had for many years or he chucked it and did something new completely.

Either he used all of his free time going to the gym and dropping some pounds (thereby missing time with his wife and family) or he never worked out and just kept doing what he had been doing.

All or nothing. Yes or no. Binary x 2.

We talked about trying to get him some breathing room.

Some space to make small decisions, minor tweaks and sustainable changes to his weekly routine.

In short, my friend just needed some wiggle room.

He seemed a bit boxed in. Stymied, perhaps.

I totally get it as I often fall into that trap. The trap of all or nothing.

It is a false narrative. And it doesn’t serve us very well.

For today, let’s try and find ourselves some wiggle room in an area that has us stymied.

So that we can eventually be free.

Blog Post # 27 – In Reality

In my mind, I already made the changes that needed to be made.

In my mind, I am approaching perfection.

In my mind, I have already arrived.

In reality, there is more of a gap between where I currently am and where I want to be.

In reality, there is no such thing as a perfect human being.

In reality, change is fleeting and old habits return.

I put these thoughts of mine out into the world not to be preachy or holier than thou.

I have just as much to learn as anybody else.

Uncle Seth was right, of course.

When I put myself out there, “publishing” my philosophy on how the world works, it changes me.

Changes my reality.

Puts me on the record.

And I am really enjoying it.

It forces me to ask myself if I am really going to walk the walk.

Or, more specifically, am I willing to settle for merely changing my mind?

Seems like a poor substitute for true change to the real me in the physical world.

Blog Post # 26 – What I (Don’t) Like About You

“I didn’t like the way you embarrassed me in front of that couple that we just met.”

“You could certainly stand to lose a few pounds.”

“Will you just be quiet?  Why do you keep repeating yourself?”

People can really say horrible things to those that they love.

We can also think horrible things about the people we love.

But in those instances where I can think about my thinking or reflect on the things that I said, I realize that the things that I say or the thoughts that I have are usually about me.

If I am not feeling comfortable in my body, I look down on heavyset people.

If I have been slacking off at work, I criticize my kids for not working hard enough in school.

If I haven’t been listening to what you have to say, maybe that makes you anxious and to feel the need to repeat yourself.

The old lesson from grade school that if you are pointing your finger at someone else, you have three other fingers pointing back at you is certainly true.

Today, let’s just keep track of the things that we say about other people.  The thoughts that pop into our brain when interacting with another.

And instead of saying something mean or hurtful, reflecting on how what we wanted to say might actually apply to us instead.

To focus on the one person that we truly have the ability to change, to impact – ourselves.

And be gentle while engaging in that focus.  

No need to beat ourselves up.

Just reflect, assess and improve.  Keep it simple.

Blog Post # 25 – One Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four

365 days in a year.

24 hours in a day.

1,440 minutes in a day.

The longer I live, the more I realize that time is our greatest resource.

If we waste a little money, we can earn a little more.

But if we waste time, that time is gone.

I cannot tell you how many books that I have read trying to “hack” time.  Getting Things Done by David Allen.  The No B.S. Guide to Time Management by Dan Kennedy.  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Looks like I might have to read one more.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with author Kevin Kruse.  Kevin interviewed 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs in preparing his new book, entitled 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management.

In the interview, Kevin explained how people who manage their time well think in terms of minutes as opposed to hours in the day.  

They time-block their day and forego to-do lists, instead placing any task that they have on their calendar.

According to Kevin, people who manage their time well do so by making every minute count.

Thinking about time this way seems like a smart thing to do.  I do tend to let time get away from me and distractions tend to eat away a few minutes here and there each hour.

For today, I am going to try and implement a schedule that makes the most out of the time that I have today.  I will map out my schedule in 15 minute increments and see how that goes.

What are you going to do with today’s 1,440?

If you need some inspiration in maximizing today’s 1,440, you might consider checking out the song Seasons of Love from the RENT Soundtrack.  Turns out there are 525,600 minutes in a year.  Try and get your mind around that.

 

Blog Post # 24 – The Things I Can

I cannot control whether it rains today.

But I can bring an umbrella.

I cannot control how tired I am.

But I can go to bed an hour earlier tonight.

I cannot control how much I weigh.

But I can make better food choices and exercise today.

I cannot control whether you forgive me.

But I can apologize without reservation.

I cannot control how my teenager reacts.

But I can speak softly and deliberately.

Too often, I spend a lot of energy trying to dictate outcomes beyond my control.

Attempting to bend the people around me to my will.

To what I want to them to do.

This leads to frustration, anger.

On both our parts.

I am much better off when I accept the things that I cannot change.

And muster the courage necessary to change the things I can.

 

Blog Post # 23 – More or Less Connected

Does social media make us more or less connected to the people that we care about?

I’m not quite sure.

On the one hand, keeping up with friends on social media provides us with the information about things that happens in the lives of others.

When we see each other face to face, we can quickly catch up because we already know what has been going on in our friend’s life.

Also, social media allows us to gain deeper insight into how our friends and acquaintances truly are.  Many people tell me that they love hearing about our family’s activities on Facebook.

I also have friends on social media that I have never met face to face.  Interactions with other lawyers through Twitter, talking with people on Snap Chat that I haven’t really met and even email connections allow us to connect around shared interests.  The conversations that take place in these forums can be very valuable.

But, on the other hand, that actual relationship between two people seems weakened by social media.

If a friend has a baby and we follow the ups and downs for the new parents on Facebook, do we lose human connection when we skip a conversation with our friend about what it’s like being a new dad?

Does the skill of actual face-to-face interaction diminish when we put everything online and avoid actually speaking to each other.

And the problem of trying to talk to people when their eyes are glued to their cell phones is a big one in society today.  We miss what’s going on around us while scrolling from app to app on our phones.

As someone who puts a lot out in social media, I worry about these things.

I wonder – in 2016, are we more, or less, connected?

 

Blog Post # 22 – Anti-Me

Super Bowl champion coach Bill Cowher once gave an interview to Sports Illustrated before the start of the football season.

The article included a photo of his face split down the middle, from top to bottom. Half a profile on each side.

In the interview, Cowher discussed how when he wakes up in the morning, he thinks about his day, his goals, what he wants to accomplish, etc. He would brainstorm on the many ways he could improve the Pittsburgh Steelers’ chances of returning to a Super Bowl.

Thinking about goals and tasks for the day are not particularly unusual activities.

But what struck me most in the interview is that Cowher would also envision each morning the “anti” Bill Cowher. A part of himself that did not want him to succeed, did not want to see the team thrive and was putting stumbling blocks in the path of the real Bill Cowher.

Cowher spent time every day dwelling on the parts of himself that wished to see him fail.

He did this so that he could turn the tables on “anti” Bill Cowher and outsmart, outwit and outperform his internal enemy.

This may sound a bit esoteric and woo-woo.

But I think we all have an anti-me. An anti-Jim.

Anti-Jim wants to see me fail. Wants to distract me with frivolous endeavors. Lull me into inaction with thoughts like “we are doing fine, no need to push” or “that can wait until tomorrow” or “let’s try this new latest life hack to solve all our problems with zero effort on our part.”

Anti-Jim works when I am asleep. Anti-Jim drops small and (sometimes) large hurdles in my way.

I envision Anti-Jim like a villain on the Superfriends or an enemy in the videogame of my life.

Sometimes I laugh at Anti-Jim – “oh, there’s Anti-Jim screwing with me again.”

Other times, Anti-Jim kicks my butt.

Having the awareness that Anti-Jim is out there, or more accurately, in there, at least lets me acknowledge the power of internal sabotage and positions me to keep Anti-Jim in his place one day at a time.

Blog Post # 21 – Setting Free

The truth.

It’s in there.

May be fuzzy.

Might take a fight to reach it.

But deep down there.

When we are quiet.

Still.

Centered.

The truth is in there.

Beneath the hubbub.

Deep down, it’s there.

Trivialities abound.

Devices distract.

Tasks beckon.

All the while,

what is true rests in our gut.

Waiting to reconnect.

Always willing to play.

To provide direction.

To guide.

Our gut?

Our intuition?

Our soul?

The truth.

It may indeed set us free.

Do we have it backwards?

Maybe our job is different.

Setting free our truth.

Maybe that’s our job.

And thereby set us free.

Blog Post # 20 – While You See a Chance

When I was in high school, I had several foreign language choices: Latin, French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian.

I always thought that I might become a lawyer.  So I put Latin first, believing that exposure to the ancient language would help me in law school.

I can’t remember what my second choice was.

My third choice, I know, was Russian.  I know this because I later found out that if you listed Russian first, you got Russian.  Second, Russian.  Even third, Russian.

So there I was on the first day of high school listening to Mr. George Morris, speak to us in a very foreign tongue.  He wrote on the chalkboard in a different alphabet, the Cyrillic one.

I ended up studying Russian for seven years.  Not because I loved the language but simply because I had so much invested in it.  I joined the Russian club and I even went to Russian camp – a camp where Mr. Morris rented out a facility in Union, Missouri, and you had to speak nothing but Russian for 7 days.

As it turns out, this time period could not have been a better time to learn about Russia and the Soviet Union as the Communist regime was coming to an end.  The Cold War was waning and the nations of Eastern Europe were taking small steps towards democracy.

I mention all this as an introduction to one of my greatest regrets.

In the summer between my sophomore and junior year, Mr. Morris wrote a letter to my entire Russian class.  He had learned of a semester-long program in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.  This program was a language immersion program where participants would study the Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian culture and language overseas in Yugoslavia.

It wasn’t Russian (heck, they didn’t even use the Cyrillic alphabet in Yugoslavia) but it was close enough.

I remember studying that letter for a long, long time.  Part of me really wanted to go.  Over the next few days, I pulled the letter out of my desk drawer several times and read through it again.

Ultimately, I took the safe route and stayed in America.  I continued the traditional path and didn’t take the risk of studying abroad.

I feared the possibility.  I was afraid of what might happen.  I took the safe, predictable route.

Who knows what I would have seen, what experiences I would have had and whom I might have met?

I was only 16 years old, so I am not going to be too hard on myself.  Everything happens for a reason and I love my life now exactly as it is.

But I did decide – long after I threw the invitation to Yugoslavia in the trash – that I didn’t want to fear the possibilities any more.

Now, for today, I follow the advice of Mr. Steve Winwood that while you see a chance, you take it.