Where Newness Lies

No matter how great yesterday was, we tend to plateau. Eventually, we get bored of our days (again) and long for NEWNESS: new experiences, new feelings, the rewarding climb to the next plateau.

This may sound crazy and you may hate me for saying this but I think we hide our own map. I think we stow away Newness so we can’t find it.

The truth is there is always a bit of Newness very close by and when you’re bored or convinced you can’t find something new to make you feel alive again, there is one direction that is wide open that will surely give you the Newness you desire. And you don’t even need a map. Newness is easy to spot…

But you’re not going to like this part. You’re not going to like what you have to do to get there.

In front of Newness, always and forever, large and formidable like a Shogun warrior, stands FEAR. But don’t hate Fear; that’s how you spot Newness. You look for Fear, because though you can’t see past the warrior’s tremendous profile, there is always a treasure trove of new feelings and new experiences laying in a heap, just past its shadow.

And here’s something that will surprise you: there is no need to fight Fear.

In fact, Fear will do exactly what you tell it to do. Fear will kneel down in your presence with its intimidating sword and impenetrable shield. Fear will cower at your command because you are the one who put it there. You are the one who gave it the order to stand and growl and stomp.

But even if you can’t mutter the right commands, I promise you this: Fear won’t touch you. Just walk by. Inch by if you have to. Sidestep your way past the foot of the roaring warrior, through its stale huffs of breath, into its thick, black shadow.

Make your way through to the other side and you will see, standing in the light looking back, that Fear cannot touch you, that the shadow wasn’t as big as you thought, and that the treasure is right where you left it.

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How to be More Innovative

A client of mine wanted to inspire her colleagues to be more innovative so she took a survey of 1,000 staff to find out what they needed in the workplace to tap into their creativity and ingenuity.

400 people responded and what they said really surprised her.

She expected to get back zany ideas like “Let’s turn the conference room into a ball pit! More foosball tournaments! Shave each other’s heads! Vegan diets for all! Magicians at lunchtime!”

But that didn’t happen. The survey definitely had a theme though.

People wanted meetings to be more efficient or go away altogether. They wanted controls on their computers to foil their obsessive email checking. They wanted apps to prompt them to stop and think, they wanted designated space carved out between those unwanted meetings to breathe in what they just heard.

In short, when asked what they needed most to innovate, without regard for budget, people responded uniformly in their request:

Make more time for it.

Sure there were a few plugs for Friday hackathons, Hawaiian shirts, and long walks with Tony Robbins, but the biggest theme by far was time – finding more of it, respecting it, piling it up like coals that can give way to a flame.

Turns out – at least according to a few hundred designers and engineers in San Francisco – you don’t need a big tech-company budget to spark innovation and build a fire. All you need is to rope off a little time – unstructured time, protected time, play time in a white room with white walls and a few jars of paint.

And we all have the resources to do that.

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The Listening Face

My daughter has this look she does when she’s listening. Her eyes stare off in another direction, her mouth opens slightly, and not a muscle in her face moves. You can almost see the gears turning, as if a drawer from a massive towering file cabinet in her head is creaking open.

I get a little nervous when I see her Listening Face because I don’t want to mess up the opportunity. It’s like a trance; once she’s in it, everything is being recorded. But then once she realizes it’s happening, the trance fades, the possession is over. And it’s me, the blabbering parent – so conscious of my impact – who is the thing that is most likely to break the spell.

Now, the paradox: The biggest mistake I can make is to try and keep that filing cabinet open.

TRYING will ruin the moment, kill the trance, and close the drawer. Teenagers can spot a TRY from a mile away. It’s a superpower they have.

The absolute best thing I can do is to just keep talking, knowing that she’s in charge of the file cabinet and the lever for the gears, not me.

It’s not my job to determine what’s important. It’s my job to keep the files coming. She knows better than I what she needs and where to put it so she can find it later when her humanity is at stake and I’m not around.

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Better Than a Refund

Every once in a million years a client is less than enamored with the resume I create for them.

It’s okay, it happens.

For those that don’t know, my resumes are my art. I am definitely putting a piece of myself into each project. It’s crazy, too, to put so much heart into something that is as transient as a postage stamp, that can disappear as easily as a reflection off the water. Resumes are obsolete in a few months, indeed less than that if they’re really good.

But sometimes they’re not really good, or at least that’s how a client may see it.

My knee-jerk reaction is to figure out why the client was wrong, to delicately craft an argument to convince them of their misperception. After all, I am The Expert.

The problem here is that by calling out my status I’m putting up a wall, making it impossible for either of us to reach each other, which is really what’s necessary if we’re going to accomplish anything – in the job search or otherwise.

So I’ve learned to shut up and listen, to put away my expert advice and not know the answers for a little while.

That’s what’s so great about good intentions: If you’ve done something in earnest, there’s no reason to get defensive. You need only get quiet.

The energy of a relationship is like an ocean wave. You get more hurt if you fight it. Best to sense where it’s going, get up to the surface so you can see clearly, and let it take you.

You can always swim out of it, but then you’re likely to miss a part of the beach you may not have seen before. And you will walk home in your old footprints with the heavy notion that you, the so-called expert, left someone out to sea.

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The Beauty of Bottom Up

Grassroots movements look very similar in the beginning:

A handful of people, tired but excited, sitting in someone’s living room or in a church rec room (thank God for churches!) on a weekday evening, big smiles and big ideas.

Not much gets done in the first meeting. It takes nearly all the time allotted to go around the room and say hello. There’s tension between the people that want to talk and the people who want to act. Disagreements between those who want rules and those who want openness. A lot of meta-talk, important but circular, usually about how to communicate, what the group actually is, whether it needs a logo, where the next meeting will be.

The organization almost never turns out like you thought it would. And, like most restaurants and small businesses, the majority of movements don’t make it, at least in the sense that the rest of the world never hears about them; they never make the front page.

But the people in that room are changed forever. They’ll tell you that, themselves. There is a courageous journey that happens when you attempt to make the world shift. You end up pushing your own boundaries, standing in very uncomfortable spaces, and seeing a few inches deeper into your values, as if peering at the fibers of a muscle.

From that point, everything you read, hear, and see is different. You’re deeper in. There was the time before the group and the time after it. And you walk around seeing people further along than you and further behind, in how they talk and what they’re doing. It’s all a lot clearer and you’re a lot closer. You know it in your bones.

Indeed, you did shift the world. Behold, there was a movement.

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Calling My Mom

I don’t call my mom as often as I should. It always seems to be the thing that slips off the plate.

I hope I get points on the cosmic scoreboard for thinking about calling her, because that happens nearly every day. I often say it out loud to my wife: “I gotta call my mom tonight. No, like I mean it. I really have to this time…”

But by the end of the night, I convince myself that I’m too tired, that I don’t want to recount events from my life in the final hours of my day, that I don’t have enough time to have a really rich phonecall, so I’ll just wait one more day…

This goes on.

Then I finally call and apologize and she forgives me and doesn’t seem like she cares as much as I do.

I’ve tried to get her on Facebook, to get her to buy a cell phone so I can text once in a while and send pics of her granddaughters, but she’s against it.

“I just love hearing your voice,” she says.

I wish I didn’t have such trouble giving it to her.

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Playing With Dolls

My daughter loves to play with dolls, these little miniature things, where she holds the legs and walks for them and flips around in the air while creating whispering little dialogues.

It’s the cutest thing ever.

Last night she invited me to play with her: “This one has superpowers and this one has a force field. You can be the one with superpowers.”

But I declined, not actively but by default.

I was looking at my phone, scrolling through Hawaii B&Bs for our trip in August. C’mon, that’s important!

I had the energy to play and I really wanted to, but I was deep in the phone trance. She could see that and so put her head on my shoulder and danced the dolls around on her chest, respectfully quiet in her play.

In some faraway place beyond all the scrolling, I really did want to play with her. But she ended up falling asleep on my stomach and, around 10pm, I found a B&B in Hawaii.

I woke up today with regret but I know how to make it right. This one’s easy.

When she gets home from school, at a moment when she’s not on her phone, I’ll ask her to let me play dolls with her.

Why have regrets, when I can have it all?

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The Naked Dream

We’ve all had it. You’re at school. You’re at work. You’re on a bus. And you’re naked. Completely naked, for everyone to see. This is one of the most common stress dreams out there, right alongside the “running in the endless hallway” dream and the “forgetting you had a class/exam until the last minute” dream.

I had The Naked Dream last night, but it wasn’t stressful. I had a breakthrough.

I was naked outside in a huge line, like the one you would stand in to go to a show, about 3-4 people wide and wrapping around buildings.

The difference with this naked dream is: I didn’t care. I was just going about my business as usual, only naked. The line went indoors onto a carpeted hallway and down a few flights of stairs. I remember dancing, almost floating down the stairs on the outside of the line of disinterested people. I was moving faster than everyone else touching every other stair, then every fifth step, then skipping entire flights and landing with no impact at all.

It was fun! And I was getting where I needed to go. Perhaps, that’s what made being naked easy.

Another strange part. I was headed to a room: The final destination? And there was a man behind me. I jumped up and did a slow-motion backflip up over him, tapping my feet on the ceiling and landing behind him, allowing him to walk into “the room” first.

Not sure what that was about. Generosity? Whimsy? I was still naked when I landed. Same carpet as the stairs.

Inside “the room” which sort of looked like a gourmet bathroom without the stalls, there was a duffel bag on the table and I knew it was mine. It didn’t have any clothes in it, just passports, books, letters from people, and shoes. One of the letters said, “Welcome! You have a room waiting for you upstairs.”

As I finished reading this warm welcome that filled me with excitement as to what was waiting for back me upstairs, I looked passed my hands holding the letter and noticed I had clothes on.

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An Important Letter

Dear _______________,

I want you to know that I’m happy about the person I’ve become.

I’m not perfect, I’m not always smiling, but I have a fire inside that never seems to go out, a fire you put there, or rather, spent years tending to, adding layers upon layers of kindling slowly over time, blowing the embers back into flame when I couldn’t fan them to fruition myself.

It doesn’t matter where I go or how far I move away from you, you’re always there, and always have been, and now I can see that love can travel from a distance, through the shadows, through anything at all if the one sending it is sending it with everything they have, regardless of what it does to them.

I stand on your wisdom. I walk to the rhythm of your heartbeat.

My words are your words. My breaths are your breaths.

You will always be with me.

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Too Tired

When you’re tired and you need to stay productive, you have 2 options:

The first option is to do something that pulls your mind away from the task at hand and restores your energy level – take a walk, do some sit-ups, call a friend, read a book, eat a carrot. Your second option is to sleep.

The problem is, the first choice is the one we’d prefer to make when we’re already awake (not dead-tired) and the second choice seems less like a choice and more like an undeniable gravity leading us to a familiar but forbidden guilty pleasure.

…which leads us to the most unfortunate part of this whole equation – convincing ourselves that there is, in fact, a third option: just powering through.

The problem with powering through is that you’ll do crappier work and take longer to do it. And you’ll probably be grouchy and resentful in the process, which just generally sucks.

So, next time you’re tired, do something to recharge. And if that doesn’t work, then sleep.

Don’t be seduced by the hope of a third choice. That’s just waging a war against time that you’re going to lose.

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