A Break From The Sea

(1 min read)

There is a moment when clients come to realize that I’m the real thing.

It’s usually on the phone, during our initial consultation to discuss their resume, when something clicks into place for them. They see a glimmer from way offshore.

I’m not sure if it’s my voice, my laugh, my questions, my expertise, but I can feel them shift from guarded to vulnerable, from business to casual, which is when we start to get some real work done.

At this moment, the money they paid, the research they did on me, the referral they followed, all falls away, and we become two people committed to their well-being. It’s special: being allowed to visit someone in their favorite rooms at one of the most pivotal times of their lives, invited to sit for a moment while they talk in front of the fire of the things that make them whole and the pieces that are missing.

Sometimes, I see my business as an elaborate invention of levers and cranks and air vents and dials – a puffing, clanging tower that sits alone on the edge of the world, like a lighthouse, with the sole purpose of calling people in to safety so they can catch their breath, dry their clothes, and remember where they’re headed.

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The Email Test

(1 min read)

Here’s a little test for you.

When you’re away from work and wrapped up in something else, the next time your email notification sound goes off on your phone, stop and notice what happens to you. What emotion pops up?

Anxiety? Joy? Wonder? Dread? Resentment? Excitement?

The email notification chime is the present-day Pavlovian Dog. The very sound elicits an immediate response in all of us, as reflexive as a dog’s drooling at the call for dinner.

This response can tell you how you view your work, your job, your entire life.

If the emotion you experience is an unwanted one, I suggest changing 2 things:

First, change your notification chime so you can give yourself a chance to create a new pattern. Then, and here’s the important part: change what you’re getting in your email box. Bear with me here…

It doesn’t have to be drastic. Just disrupt the pattern. The cool thing about email is you can design your inbox how you need it to be. I don’t mean visually redesign it – though that can help too – I mean design it by content. Those horizontal strips of content running across the screen are voices from the wishing well.

If everything speaks of task-oriented seriousness, send out a silly question to get back something whimsical.

If your email is full of obligations, request a (small) activity or piece of an activity you actually want to do.

If you’re anxious about who’s going to be in there and what they’re going to say, find another way to communicate with them, invite them in less frequently, or invite other people in more.

If all you get is work, email a friend.

Ultimately, you decide what comes in. And you decide that by what you send out. Email is one scenario in which Karma always works. Change what you ask for and you’ll change what you get back.

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The Loop

(1 min read)

Does this happen to anyone else?

When I’m watching a movie on my phone that I shot myself, I tend to laugh in the same spots and in the same way as I did while filming the original video. The end result is an echo of myself, past and present.

I like that this happens. It tells me that my laugh is genuine and that I’m fully experiencing the moment all over again. It’s crazy; I can watch the video over and over and I’ll laugh (or at least have the urge to laugh) in the same exact place.

But it’s startling at the same time because it signifies that the world isn’t entirely open-ended for me, that I’m on my own very specific course that’s as predictable as the sun rising and setting every day. If given a set of circumstances, I will respond in the same exact way, nearly every time. Like I said, it’s a bit maddening.

I don’t think many of us want to be predictable. I know I don’t! We’d like to believe that every moment is new and that our reactions are limitless, that we can choose to be who we are at any given time, that we are not merely a product of circumstances dictating clusters of behavior.

But we are just that: complex yet simple, intricately designed but broadly defined, deep thinkers with small parts, open yet closed as hell, traveling the world one foot at a time, on a thin line that loops back on itself.

That’s just the truth. If you want something fresh, you have to actively not make the loop and that can seem as hard as keeping the sun from dropping behind the horizon.

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Old People Are Less Employable

It’s widely known that employers want young people. Age discrimination is real. Young people have stamina, will work long hours, don’t have preconceived ideas that get in the way. They’re more flexible in their thinking, more willing to adopt the company’s ways of working.

At least that’s the theory. And honestly, isn’t it more or less accurate?

I’m on the cusp of being discriminated against so I think I have a right to speak; I’ve been young and now I’m old. At the risk of offending some of my fellow old people for speaking on their behalf without permission…

You’re damn right old people don’t want to work long hours, nor do they want to do things in a specific way without explanation, nor change their mode of thinking since it’s taken a lifetime of a wins and losses to get it where it is now.

Old people are less employable because they know, without a shadow of a doubt through late nights of trial and error, that family, personal growth, systems-level impact, and human connection are way more important than any single job. And they’re well aware that they’ve earned the right to live by this creedo, and to seek out employers who feel the same.

When it comes to work, no matter how much we love our jobs, our priorities inevitably change with age, slanting toward the things that grow our hearts, safeguard the future, and open up possibilities for the seismic changes that are only possible across lifetimes.

That’s someone worth having on the team. Isn’t it?

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Presents From the Past

Funny, how we get a second try at things in life.

I used to play soccer. It was a huge part of my life growing up. Great friendships, lots of championships, all before I was in high school.

Then puberty hit, for everyone else, not for me, and the game changed. It became less about finesse and ball control and more about power and stamina. My coach made the joke that he wanted to water my feet. I never laughed because I heard this to mean I was useless to him the way I was. I sat on the bench for the first time in my life.

I never watered my feet. Instead, I quit the team and left the sport. I grew up and got big and fast, but not until college, really.

And now, I see this same thing happening with my daughter, in her sport, where flexibility is giving way to power. She’s long and skinny like I was, her feet flare out to the sides when she runs just like mine did.

Sitting there watching her do her thing at her show, I was reminded of how the coach took me aside after one practice. He meant well. He tried to teach me how to run, hoping I’d cut off a few seconds in my 100-meter sprint. But it didn’t work. I remember the disappointment in my coach’s face upon realizing that I was just slow. That disappointment weighed on me, even though it wasn’t in words.

So here I am again, watching this scene play out, my daughter’s friends growing width-wise faster than she, the physical game taking precedent, as it does.

I don’t want to live through her. I’m careful of that. That’s not the point. But I believe, I may know better than anyone else right now how she feels in her body, or how she may feel when people ask her body to do things it can’t do yet.

I know that great training, great advice, and great jokes may not work; they may be swords instead of shields. I’m not sure what that leaves us in terms of a game plan, but I think I’ll know when the time comes.

The past has given me that.

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I Can’t Live Without You

I can’t live without you.

A refrain echoed in the heart’s of anyone who has loved past their limits.

But isn’t this untrue? It’s quite the opposite really: I love you so hard, you make me want to live.

Fiery red love – and not just romantic love, a love between any two people or two beings. That kind of love expands our heart, grows it bigger than is comfortable, beyond our own body, to the point of it getting scary because it’s so big we can’t protect it anymore.

A heart like that leaves us no choice but to explore, to walk around in the mystery of ourselves a little longer than we’re used to doing, to be comfortable getting lost, almost purposefully, forgetting the way home and stepping out of the tether so that we can attach to new things.

Love leads us astray. For the sake of the ones we love so dearly, we change our patterns, we face our fears, and we walk further outside the perimeter. It’s in these actions, so selfless and earnest, that love teaches us to live our lives fully.

This is the gift of love and the message from those that love us. The more we love, the deeper we love, the brighter the fire, the bigger the light. And the further we can see.

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Crossroads

One time in my youth while on mushrooms in the woods of Iowa, in the middle of a cross-country trip out West, I came to a crossroads.

Literally.

I had strayed from the group, mostly because I was afraid to sit in the tall grass where the snakes were.

I stood at the fork in the road, looking both ways. Down to the right there was a bridge that went over a brook. Off to the left, a path that went up over a hill. I couldn’t see very far down either of them. Perhaps the path up the hill led to a view,. Perhaps the path down to the bridge led to a waterfall.

I couldn’t stand to miss the waterfall or the view so that meant not taking a step in either direction. This lasted for a while. I thought about retreating back to the snakes and the grass but I’d left for a reason, so there I stood.

My mind got going and wouldn’t stop. Maybe there wasn’t a view. Maybe there wasn’t a waterfall. I’d wished I never got up, never put myself in the position to choose. I began resenting the fork in the road, the snakes for sending me here, my limited human abilities to only see so far. I was working myself into a panic and then I thought about how stupid that was – to be in a panic over a dirt road – but that only added to it. I was silly. I was failing. Everything was closing in on me.

And then…

From behind me, someone shouted, “Hey. Ground Control to Cliff!” It was some guy back in the snake grass. He was standing up so I could see him. “You cool?”

How long had he been watching? I couldn’t make a decision as to what to say so I threw up my hands.

He took two steps forward and cupped his hands around his mouth this time. “You okay?” He was genuinely concerned.

I looked around at the grass growing up to my knees, the rocks in the path, and the dirt on my shoes. The clouds were white again. The sun was there.

“Yeah,” I said, realizing I was back to making decisions. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“We’ll be here,” he said, pointing over his shoulder. Big smile, hand up, palm out. Then he sat down.

With a few words, he’d touched me in a place that allowed me to move again, like a friend touching a friend’s arm to wake them from a bad dream. Sometimes, that’s all we need: a person to sit on the side of the bed to touch us in the real world so we can pull away from the voices in the fake one.

I looked down both paths and decided to go right because it seemed like it would take me deeper into the woods.

Huh, I thought. I wanted to go deeper. And I began to whistle.

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Good Job

(1 min read)

I’m lucky. I get to say things like “I’m glad”, “Good for you,” “You deserve it,” and “I’m so excited for you” every day as part of my job.

I do this by email, by phone, by social media… All day.

And it’s not BS. I truly am feeling all of these sentiments when I say them because good things happen to people who take the time to make changes for themselves. And I get to be part of those changes.

The beauty of a compliment is that when I say “Good for you,” I’m also saying “Good for ME!” because I benefit as well. It just feels good to cheer someone on and it’s been scientifically proven to make your healthier (if you need that sort of evidence). That’s why I love hosting karaoke parties, going to children’s recitals, sitting in the front row at lectures, and coaching people through life’s little (or big) challenges. It’s invigorating and intoxicating to offer support, like doing a shot of whiskey with a friend on their birthday.

We tend to believe that the answers are locked up inside of dusty volumes of hard-backed tomes stowed away in vaults and decipherable only by kings and great philosophers, when in fact, what we seek is available for check-out anytime.

We are already warriors. We just need a little encouragement that the fight is worth fighting and that we are worth fighting for.

Never underestimate the wisdom of a good cheerleader who rah-rah’s from the heart, with basic, loud words that can’t be misinterpreted.

It’s the basic stuff that keeps us going.

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The Knots of Others

(1 min read)

We all have knots we can’t untangle, knots we carry around like hobbies. The problem is, from our perspective, we can’t see the threads so well, at least not at the zoomed-in level you need to be at to untangle the thing. Still, we work at it, slowly over time, even though our nails chip and our fingers bleed. We keep at it because the knot is ours, even if we’re not sure how it got there.

If you’ve ever seen someone working at their knot, you’d agree with me that they look a bit silly, like someone trying to wipe a stain out of their shirt while they’re still wearing it. They’re the worst person for the job.

Whatever you do, don’t laugh. This is serious business and not something you should walk away from.

There is a time where we see other people’s solutions better than they can. There is a time when we can pick any knot as long as it’s not ours. In these incredible moments, our eyes take on immeasurable value.

We should put everything aside, just for a moment, and share what we see. At the very least, we can extend and index finger and point to the thread they should loosen.

And, although this act in itself offers great satisfaction, we have to deal with the disappointing truth that this person may resent our interjection and that we will not get to experience the joy of the knot coming undone.

But they will.

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Little Scratchings

(1 min read)

We’ve had rats. It’s been an adventure. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyone who’s had rats knows that scratching sound in the walls, a tiny little noise that makes you want to open up the wall with an ax or burn the whole friggin’ house down.

This past week, I’ve been hearing that scratching sound in the wall behind my computer.

Crap.

I know what happens from here. I have put on clothes I don’t care about along with some disposable rubber gloves. I have to climb into the attic and into the cobwebby crawlspaces under the house, to set the traps, hoping to God the rat chooses to die in the traps and not in the walls. I have to wage a war.

It’s a sting operation and it will be on my mind for weeks as if the scratching is in my head and not in the wall.

I find myself sitting here writing and in between keystrokes I can hear the scratching. I yell at the wall, knock on it, kick it, but it keeps happening. I haven’t told anyone else in the house about the scratching because I don’t want to ruin their week too. I’d rather just keep the scratching in my head.

It wasn’t until today that I decided to put my ear to the wall to see if I could pinpoint the exact location of the little bugger, locate the nest and maybe, just maybe, put a hammer through the sheet rock.

It wasn’t until today, after I stopped the shouting and the kicking and the hammer-plotting, that I made some room for curiosity and noticed that the scratching wasn’t in the wall after all.

It wasn’t in my head either.

And it wasn’t even a scratching. It was a crackling, an oscillating, in-and-out crackle in my 15-year old desktop speaker, perched upright next to my monitor.

Glad I didn’t use the hammer.

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