Rage

I’ve always been afraid of RAGE, namely my own.

Somewhere around 10 years old, I created a place inside me just for RAGE, put it in there and decided to never let it out. But RAGE is a wily one and it put a hit on me from the inside… it got SADNESS & NUMBNESS to step in and do the dirty work. There was never a full-blown take-over but whenever a situation called for RAGE, the other two worked me over real good.

My identity was formed around this: a fear of RAGE and those unexpected knock-downs by SADNESS & NUMBNESS. “Chill Cliff” emerged, a leaf in the wind, a dude okay with everything and everybody. Certainly, a likable lad, though not completely whole, not yet.

And as my identity surfaced, I feared RAGE all the more because I thought it might take over entirely if I let it out of its container. I worried it would cover everything else I’d created like a thick black ink spilling over a page.

It took many things to get me to open that box again – sweet, patient girlfriends, pop songs and mixed tapes, ventures with vices, thousands of journal entries, daring bits of fiction, caring high school teachers and college professors, more girlfriends, sensitive boys and sensitive men, and storybook reconciliation with those that love me more than life itself.

It worked.

I became brave enough to let RAGE out its box, and I smashed that fucking box to smithereens, cuz boxes have no place in the body. And though I was scared, I let RAGE run free. It broke a few things, it turned some heads, then quieted down. In fact, that’s kind of its M.O. Come out hard, break shit, and disappear.

It’s taken some time but I’ve come to understand RAGE. It’s a wrecking ball, an alarm clock, a microphone, and a dump truck. It serves me well, just as all the others do. Its message is hard to read because it’s cloaked in violence.

But I get that, too. RAGE is always pushing harder than you want it to, always coming out at the wrong time because, much like a screaming, kicking child or a deep dark secret, it’s constantly being told to go away.

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Specialists & Generalists

Most employers want specialists.

Because of this, most people want to be specialists and yet, after years of interviews with professionals, I can tell you that most people are generalists (even the people that are seeking to hire specialists!).

The most specialized specialist out there usually ends up becoming a generalist because they end up doing way more than that special thing they were hired for. In fact, if they want to keep their job, they are REQUIRED to do more than that special thing.

There are 2 reasons for this.

First off, the worker who works within his job description is considered lazy, or at least not promotable. Second, if a worker does a single thing that is then repeated over and over again, sooner or later someone will find a way to automate that thing and then the worker’s value disappears.

But this isn’t just about keeping your job.

Humans aren’t designed to specialize. No one wants to do the same thing over and over again. We want to do a little of this and a little of that. We want to oversee many things. We want VARIETY, something different every day: new and unforeseen challenges, pregnant with possibilities. We want to grow and connect and that’s rarely a linear process.

Up isn’t always the most attractive direction.

Ironically, to specialize, we often have to give up the very things we do best because, as we discover new talents, we have to discard them.

To retain our value, we must do more of the same at the cost of our own self-expression. In work, as in high school, popularity has a price.

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The Gift of Confines

Resume-writing as a profession has taught me that you can distill anything down to 1-2 lines of text.

When you’re working within the confines of 1-2 pages, that’s all you have… to share a single achievement, to explain how a company was acquired and then divested, to convince someone that a sabbatical with a dying family member was pivotal in making a career transition into dog-training, to encapsulate the scrumptious fruit of uniqueness in one’s personality…

If you can’t factor a statement down to 1 or 2 sentences, it’s not that it’s too complicated or unique of a story to tell; it’s that you don’t yet have a full grasp of the point of the story. You haven’t captured the unicorn yet.

It’s worth your time to figure it out. After years of fitting big thoughts into pithy statements (single-spaced with .8-inch margins), it’s the short statement that will make the point and be remembered. Not the long story.

So, take the time and thought required for proper distillation. Work at condensing your story. It’s worth it, not just for the resume, but because the person for whom this painstakingly precision-crafted point will hit the hardest – the primary unwrapper of the gift, the one to get the first glimpse of the unicorn – is going to be you.

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Unfair Fight

When attacked by the ill feelings of another, be it anger, grumpiness, resentment, or whatever, we often attack back, which is certainly justified, but a silly war to wage.

If it helps, think of the battle as having 3 participants, not just 2. There is you, there is the person who just attacked you, and then there is the awful thing that is happening inside that person that orchestrated their attack.

It’s like when someone has a cold, you don’t fight the person, you fight the cold.

People who attack are sick with something, something wildly contagious that spreads like a germ through the molecules in the air. Don’t be fooled. That thing wins out most of the time, spreading and infecting the room, the house, the neighborhood…

But it’s weak. It hates its name and fears a fair fight. It can be taken down quick once recognized. And you already know how to take it down, because you’ve taken it down when it went into you. A small, soft gesture can break its neck, a generous word can dismantle its DNA. No matter how long the path of destruction, its reign can end in a moment.

And as the real foe falls, an unexpected ally may emerge.

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Chewbacca Farts

While meditating, I suppress my farts to keep the space quiet but the farts bubble back up into my stomach and growl out like a beast. It sounds like that noise Chewbacca makes when complaining to Han Solo. It ends up being distracting, which of course defeats the purpose of suppressing them in the first place.

But I’ve not changed my behavior. I still suppress my farts.

Can you blame me? I’ve figured out a way to summon Chewbacca into my morning meditation.

That can’t be a bad thing.

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Sick

I hate being sick because I love being in power. (…In power over my own self, that is.)

When I’m healthy, I can bop away bad emotions, I can summon energy when I need it, I can WILL myself to wherever I need to be.

Not true when I’m sick.

When I’m sick, I’m just sick. My body laughs at my need for power. My chemistry set is out of control. There’s no one in the room watching the test tubes. It’s painful to sit back and watch the room explode. I worked hard to put that thing together!

I realized the solution when my wife brought me chicken soup from Whole Foods.

The way home is ASKING FOR HELP.

But how would I know! I never asked. I was still stuck on stupid as my aunt used to say. The logic of chicken soup was out of my reach. I needed someone else’s ideas to lay over mine.

HELP comes once you acknowledge you need it, once you declare that you’re sick, any kind of sick: body-sick, heart-sick, mind-sick, dope-sick (they all have a way of merging together over time, anyway). But, shit, when you’re in it, you can’t see it, you can’t see anything, and so you forget to ask. Or don’t want to ask. Or you hate that you have to ask…

That’s why I’m calling on those of us who aren’t sick to look around, to make room for the white flags to wave, and to walk toward them when they do.

Thanks for the soup, babe.

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The Path of the Passionate

The most interesting clients I work with have such tangled, meandering work histories, they’re often misinterpreted as lost, noncommittal, or passion-less, when, indeed, it’s just the opposite.

It’s these folks who are so committed to their passions, to their industry, to leaving a mark and making real change that they pay little attention to their titles. They ignore the looping trail behind them, because, honestly, who gives a shit when you have such a beautiful, glowing dawn ahead.

Passion, curiosity, openness, ambition – these are the nonlinear guides that lead the bravest among us up and down mountains to the rarest of flowers, to the mystical spots on the map that flatlanders speak of, but never see.

And as these courageous deserters and adventurers descend from the mountain with their guides in tow, carousing and thirsty, they are always questioned about their path, and not of their discoveries.

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Boat Drinks

There is this thing I do during the day that I rarely tell anyone about, where I picture myself later that evening sitting in my favorite chair, drinking tea, and reading my book.

Seems harmless enough…

I got this idea from a movie: a bunch of mobsters when they’re about to do a job they shake hands and say “boat drinks” to each other signifying the victorious meetup after the score (on a boat presumably).

Boat Drinks.

Unfortunately for me, seeing as I’m not a mob boss in a movie, this exercise has a paradoxical effect. Instead of relief of what is to come, I usually just feel the burden of the present moment keeping me away from my elusive Boat Drinks. It doesn’t matter what the present moment is – whether I’m changing a diaper or driving home from Tahoe. There’s a longing that’s created the minute the Boat Drinks appear and, more often than not, those Boat Drinks (or tea, book, and chair in my case) never come anyway.

So I’ve turned Boat Drinks into something entirely different. When it comes, I enjoy the thought of my tea-book-chair power combo (oh what a beautiful image!), but then I allow it to live in its rightful place: the future, so I can get back to what I’m doing – diaper, drive, work, dinner, doodle. Because, as beautiful as sitting on a boat or in a blue-velour rocking swivel chair can be, it’s not sweet enough to rob me of more moments in my day.

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The Great Return

I’m generally a jolly guy so people will probably be surprised when they hear I think about being dead every once in a while. Not in a morbid way, if that’s possible, just as sort of an overreaction to difficult situations, sort of a quick way out of sudden pain or anxiety. Nothing intense like with a funeral and people crying. More like a quiet departure through an emergency exit, without the alarm.

And just as quickly as these thoughts come, they cycle out of me. The process looks something like this:

Aw man, this sucks. I’m never gonna get through this.
It would just be easier if I wasn’t here; then I wouldn’t have to deal with this shit (the death part)
Who really cares anyway?

(breath)

Well, if no one cares, I might as well do something.
Even a bad something is better than nothing.
I can surely do a bad something.
Maybe it won’t be so bad.

(some time later)

It’s good to be alive.

This little self-dialogue happens in a couple blinks of an eye. It’s not a daily thing, but it does come up every now and again. I’ve learned to laugh at it.

I’m pretty sure we all think about death, our own deaths that is. It doesn’t have to be grim. It doesn’t have to lead to depression or self-doubt. Like all experiences, it can be used for good, like when you go traveling somewhere foreign and it’s not as great a trip as you thought it would be, but then you get to have the experience of coming home for the first time in a while and that makes it worth it.

A few footsteps in the fountain. A walk in the dark to find the moon.

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A Contagious Glow

Ever run into someone who’s in love? When they talk about the one they love, they glow. It doesn’t matter what the subject is; you get a big smile and shining light, and it’s contagious that glow. You want to be around it.

You can use this experience in other situations, like first dates and business presentations. When you talk, tell stories about the people you like: speak of your friends, your colleagues, your favorite clients…

Without even trying, you’ll smile, you’ll relax, and you’ll light up. You’ll be great to be around.

And people will want to be part of that.

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