The Boogie Man in the Hallway

Green tiled hallway

Not accomplishing enough in your day?

Upon examination, you will likely see sabotage in your list-making.

As you check off your to-do’s throughout the day, if you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably adding more things to the bottom of that same list. Cross off and replace, cross off and replace… the dance we do.

No one else will see you doing this and you may not physically write down your new to-do’s, but those items seem to find a way of creeping in. They’re most certainly there. And they’re there because you put them there, presumably so you can get ahead, get a jump on tomorrow, get even more done.

Am I right?

It’s okay, I do it too, particularly when I’ve completed a to-do item ahead of schedule.

Woohoo! I’m rockin’ and rollin’! What more can I do?!

Productivity is invigorating, but if we keep responding to the call, our list never shrinks. It’s like a hallway in a bad dream, stretching out as you run down it, the boogie man nearing you from behind, waiting for you to run out of breath.

You can beat it though.

At that crucial moment of crossing off an item, when your mind tries to trick you into doing one more thing with the promise of free time in the future, take the free time now.

Celebrate the cross-off. Let the openness stay open. If only for a few seconds.

Enjoy watching the hallway shrink and the glowing white door in front of you come closer. And, above all, remember the thing we tell our kids over and over again, but seem to forget ourselves:

There’s no such thing as the boogie man.

Pink Ice Cream

Strawberry flavor ice cream in a glass

My daughter doesn’t have to think very long when she goes into an ice cream shop.

“Pink” she shouts out, pointing to whatever is pink.

Doesn’t matter if it’s strawberry or raspberry or cotton candy. She digs in and eats it, gleefully.

Meanwhile, my adult mind has to know every flavor, my pallet has to sample the new ones, my legs have to walk me down past all the little rectangle signs before I make my decision.

This can be a burden: picking an ice cream flavor, like choosing a font or picking a salad dressing. I take my time.

I’m thorough. Or, if you’re the guy standing behind me, slow.

I think it’s healthy to embrace every single decision you come across, to love opportunities like cats that come up and brush past your leg. That’s why I pause every time I’m asked a question. I’ve got to pet the cat. Sorry, Guy-Behind-Me.

That said, all decisions are not created equal. Some decisions feel heavy, pregnant with other decisions. They can slow you down, paralyze you with their bloat in your lap. All of a sudden you’re not doing anything. You’re going hungry, while your options melt away.

When this happens, it’s often a better idea to take the route of a 5-year-old (instead of the advice of a career counselor).

Toss out your decision-making matrix. Choose the pink ice cream. And start eating.

Moments Like These

yellow banana fruits on pink surface

Boat trips, hotel suites, and private beaches are nice but it’s moments like these that make my heart full and put me at ease.

ACT 1:

[Husband and wife in kitchen, standing around table.]

I guess we could make the salmon.

Yeah, it’s gonna go bad.

[Man pulls out salmon. Puts on counter. Looks up.]

I don’t really want this.

Yeah, Me neither. I kind of feel like a banana.

I could do a banana.

[Peel. Peel. Munch. Munch. Kiss.]

And… scene!

The Days After Halloween

There are remnants of Halloween around the house.

White crumbly dust on the floor from sawing styrofoam balls in half with a hacksaw.
Orphaned swatches of tape hanging off the edge of the sill
Dresses laid over chairs in the corner
Hardening paintbrushes on the back of the sink
At least one blobl of hot glue somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Halloween is my oldest daughter’s favorite holiday. Better than Christmas even.

She doesn’t even collect that much candy. Still uses a plastic orange pumpkin, not the more functional pillowcase most teens opt for. More room for the take.

No, it’s different for her. I suppose she’s like her old man, enjoys the act of creating, of stepping into a costume and being someone else for a while, which, if you let it, is the same thing, ironically, as being more of yourself.

Little shards of sparkly purple triangles collected in a pile, the remains of cutting out Saturn’s rings.

And my younger daughter is already following suit.

“Daddy, come do my makeup!” she yells from atop the toilet seat, legs dangling and swishing back and forth.

Happy orange eyebrows for our clown.

A few smudges on the sink, balled-up, orange-tinged tissues that missed the garbage can, an orange ring where the makeup cap was set down.

When I look at these little leftover bits of things, I have to smile, remembering the laughter when I cut the styrofoam crooked the first time, the cooing sounds of a five-year-old as I glided makeup over her skin, the unexpected conversations about important things, as we waited for the glue to dry.

It’s watching my teenager do a TikTok video with her new solar system crown that confirms the truth that adults keep secret: the best part of Halloween definitely isn’t the candy.

Nail polish on the tile, sequins on the floor.

Such things are required to make magic for an evening.


Lightbulb Moment While Living In The Dark

The track lighting in our laundry room went out. Three bulbs. At the same time.

I flicked the wall switch off and on. Nothing.
Checked the circuit box. Nothing.
Opened up the wall panel to check for loose wiring. Nothing.

There were tons of people on the Internet with the same problem. I saw all the videos.

Could be anything. It’s an old house. Some wire probably died in the wall. We probably should change the wiring. Before there’s a fire. A guy in the videos had that happen. Scorched his kitchen

I went down to the basement and flicked off the circuit breaker. Just to be safe.

This is when we started living in the dark. We used the bathroom light to do our laundry. Lived this way for a year.

I was putting off the inevitable.

Finally, tired of tripping over fallen broom handles in the dark, I called in an expert. I called an electrician. Go on, I said. Tell me the bad news.

Jiggle the fixture, he said. (This, without seeing anything. We were on the phone.)

Jiggle the fixture?

Yes, he said. The fixture you have is from the seventies. The bulbs get hot and burn out. If you look closely, you’ll see the housing is probably melted and bent.

I did. It was.

Jiggle, jiggle.

One of the bulbs flickered.

See, he said. You’ve got power. Now go buy yourself some bulbs.

Wow.

I’d been living in the dark for a year.

A year!

He laughed.

I laughed. A year in the dark.

All because I took limited information and drew my own conclusions, let my mind work on the problem without having the credentials to do so. Noodled my way into a catastrophe. Like a pre-schooler doing a dot-to-dot. It ain’t a pretty picture.

My mind created real problems by imagining fake ones.

The truth is, we were never in danger of a fire.

Just the fallen broom handles.

The Awards We Win

I believe you should get an award just for playing.

I believe “E” is for Effort, and Effort is the beginning of everything.

Why wait to be extraordinary?

Take your wins now. Celebrate often.

Whenever you need it.

I got out of bed today.
I made lunch.
I cleaned the dog yard.

Woohoo!

Who’s to say how many awards you get to have?

Who’s in charge of your time-outs?

You climb higher when you stack your stones.

You get farther when you have more wind.

It’s your game. Make the call.

Oh… one more thing (and I say this as if my life depends on it. And yours):

Thanks for playing. 🙂

How to Spot Fakes

I’m in an industry of charlatans.

We don’t sell toasters. We sell intangibles: happiness, peacefulness, confidence. Or at least that’s what our customers are looking to buy.

This means we’re let into peoples’ minds, allowed to look around and see what’s in the shadows. We see things overlooked. We see things that are supposed to be hidden from view.

And when we pull these things out and hold them up, it appears to be nothing short of magic. We become mystics, curing blindness, healing the body.

How did you do that?

At this point, the mind softens, lets us further in.

This is an important moment. What we do from here, as healers, as coaches, shows our hand.

You see, people will do anything to feel the good stuff again. And they will ask us to take them there, to show them more things they haven’t noticed.

But not all shadows contain treasures and no one person has all the answers. That’s the unglamorous truth.

Still, some of us, the charlatans that is, will pick things up, anything at all, and give those objects more meaning than they deserve, try to turn the simplest of items into a golden key that glows bright enough to coax a gathering.

That’s how to spot them — the ones with the cold hearts, the ones who are rummaging through your mind like a thief through a glove box — they give themselves away because they need you, even more than you need them.

They need the crowd, to make them magical, to provide the oohs and ahhs.

And that’s when it’s obvious that they don’t have what you’re looking for and never will.

Because they’re looking, too.

Abrupt Involuntary Endings

Getting let go from work is like getting hit by a bus.

And like getting hit by a bus, people who get fired, laid off, or asked to leave often experience PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-syndrome). I see it more often than you might think.

The symptoms show up in one’s work history:
–extended time off
–private consulting
–gig work
–sudden or serial entrepreneurism
–underemployment

A common behavior amongst people with Job-related PTSD is complete and total avoidance of an intentional job search — like a batter avoiding the batter’s box or a veteran avoiding loud noises or a driver circumnavigating busy intersections.

It’s understandable. It’s a smart reaction to a bad experience: the brain saying “hey that sucked. Let’s not go through that again.”

But it abbreviates your life. It makes you take U-turns that keep you from certain roads.

To break free of job PTSD, you have to confront it. (Ghosts hate it when you give ’em a name.) Talk about it, replay the crap-ending to someone who loves you and supports you. No need to deconstruct it or overanalyze things, just pull it into the light and let your emotions go where they go; you’ll probably cycle through quite a few of them.

Then go back before that ending and remember the good stuff too. And if it was always bad at that job, go to the one before it.

You’ve got victories; you’ve just forgotten about them. They’re obstructed. The ghosts are in the way.

Once you get them to move, you’ll see all the roads again. And the intersections will be clear.

The Infalliable Guru

Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly be well-equipped enough to guide people in finding meaning in their lives and careers when I can’t even remember which one of my laundry baskets is socks&underwear and which one is pants&shirts. I still can’t remember which side my gas tank is on without looking down at the dash.

But…

I wore a dress to a hip hop concert on the quad
I got a writing and art scholarship and majored in math. (Then went back to English.)
I won “Class Individual”
I have kids.
I’ve driven across the country 4 times
I love with my whole heart
I’ve got an endless supply of questions
More than not, and without really trying, I’m pretty darn jolly
I’m biracial (hint: we hate boxes)
I’ve been talking with people about their work lives for 20 years. Who does that!?
I hated counselors. Then I became one.
I’ll never get tired of the sunrise.

And so here I am, standing with pajama bottoms in hand, pondering the laundry baskets one more time, excited for the appointments on my calendar.

Am I successful?

When asked in sixth grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded, “Cliff,” and then proceeded to write a 2-page paper on the importance of being myself.

Ahead of his time, that boy.

How did he know?

I guess that’s the point.

The Most Important Question of the Day

Just went on a little city trip to prague.We had perfect weather and so the city was crowded.We looked for a peaceful and calm place and found it in the castle above the city. “If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls.”

Every morning, before the sun rises and after my meditation, I ask myself an important question:

What one thing do I want to have accomplished by the end of today?

It’s a question I ask my future self, who is always looking to feel accomplished and who can be quite a grouch come dinner time if he doesn’t get his win.

It doesn’t have to be big. In fact, for me, it really can’t take longer than 30-45 minutes to achieve, or it’s not going to happen. Normally, it’s a piece of a larger goal, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as I’m honest with myself, it’s usually pretty obvious what it is.

I’ve always been good at being present, at drifting with the tide, but I’ve also found that drifting starts to feel pointless without a sense of achievement floating alongside it…

Gratitude is important, but so is growth and development, which is why I bake on intentional accomplishment into my morning, and why you should too.

So.

What one thing do you want to have accomplished by the end of today?