Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Dear Me

I have been around some young people over the past weeks and am excited by their passion and troubled by their despair (in the same person (or maybe all persons)).
I don’t seem to have any meaningful advice for them to celebrate their enthusiasm or lift them from their anguish. Ther swings, which I suffered because of a mental illness, are wide and deep. I don’t know what to say because when I was bouncing from manic to depressive, nothing helped and almost everything hurt. If someone significant in my life reached out, I rejected them and their words because they couldn’t understand what I was going through.
I started wondering, what advice the today I would give to the fifteen-year-old? What should I tell/remind the seventy-five-year-old version? Does distance give me any perspective?
Dear 15 year-old Me,
I do remember what you are going through. The pain and sorrow that couldn’t be labelled but was tempered by pulling the blankets up over your ears and screaming in silence. The weight on your chest didn’t leave but it hurt a little less when the sights and sounds of the world were walled away. I remember the shrieking tension that rose up as a reversal of emotions waded slowly through the muck. The extraordinarily bright light, the squishiness of your palette at the touch of your tongue, the nauseating speed of everything swirling around me without seeming to make progress were welcomed because it meant that in minutes, hours or days I would be at the top of my game; unstoppable, invincible, joyous and delicious. It all passed and I survived even when I didn’t want to. The best advice is just that -” This too shall pass”. It sounds meaningless and trite but so would the medical explanation that took another 25 years to uncover. Knowing that the anxiety didn’t have a foundation and that whether some girl liked me or hated me isn’t the end of the world isn’t helpful or at 15 even believable. I could offer that when it passes, you will once again be stronger and eventually you will have the courage to share the depths and the heights with someone who cares and she will ‘insist’ that you seek professional help. After a few years of evading, avoiding and resisting you will relent and in your case that is the beginning of a more joyful and productive life. This too shall pass.
With hope,
Me, nearing retirement

Dear 75 year-old Me,

Looking at you from 13 years in the past, I see a vibrant, loving, caring man. Someone who is still healthy. Someone who is joyously still married and sharing a meaningful life with your beloved of more than 50 years. The perspective from this vantage point is that all of that is possible and if you aren’t living hale and hearty and happy, it is my fault. I didn’t set you up by continuing to build on the good blessings of today.
I know you have a great relationship with your grandchildren because I strived to keep the relationships meaningful and unique. You are aging well, with little stress and still living an adventure because that is how I engineered the years between 60 and 75. Even if an illness has arisen, I took the steps to mitgate it and I battled the demon to a draw so you can live in an abundance of love, laughter and learning.My advice to you as I turn 75 is “accept your responsibilities for today – to love well, laugh loud, leap and learn, and accept your responsibility to set up the 90 year-old us for a remarkable encore with great grandchildren and wisdom and wonder and love”

With hope and confidence,

Today Me

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Wow, Wow, Wow!

I had a breakfast meeting today and at the end of the hour, she said: ” I dare you not tp be wowed”. The circumstances, she was referring to were clear and when we got to the appointed wow point, I certainly was wowed.

When was the last time that you allowed yourself to be awed? Have you been blown away by something in the last six months? Have you heard someone tell a story that blew your mind? Did you read an essay, a story, a book that left you changed?

Or are you cynically reserved in your response to the world around you? Do you expect to be astonished? Are you willing and able to be filled with amazement? What are you waiting for? Isn’t life meant to be joyously and lavishly enjoyed?

awe

I am open to being impressed (not easily) often. I am committed to keeping my eyes open to wonder. When I look for it, it rises up and surprises me in ways that two minutes before, I wouldn’t have imagined. When I am inspired early in the day, I am inspired often throughout the day. Wow seems to beget wow. In a state of awe readiness, I am more aware and appreciative.

Not coincidentally, I am also more ready to be a source of awe. The work I do is better to best when I have been lifted by beauty, majesty, creativity and surprise. Rigid gives way to curious. Yesterday frees up a different tomorrow. Ambiguity celebrates and status quo retreats. As yet unimagined directions and original animations to long-standing questions or issues arise. When my work is better to best (rather than mediocre to good), I witness excellence more often (in myself and others).

Like so many things; trust, love, courage, allowing myself/ourselves to be amazed is a choice that gets easier the more often to choose it and the rewards magnify with each instance.

Are you ready to be amazed? Choose to be wowed, this afternoon, I dare you.

Make Today Remarkable,

B

Self Improvement

River Cleanup

Why has become the big question. Of the W’s and H, Simon Sinek and others have lead us to understand our ‘why’ ahead of any other question. This is a laudable approach, as having an approach is better than winging it (maybe), but may act as a stalling tactic. It can also lead to perfection bias. (If it doesn’t meet the why test completely, then it shouldn’t be done.) The way I use why isn’t as a genesis test but as an omega confirmation.
For me, when I know the what, where, how and when I can test it against why. Why doesn’t generate the action it serves to align it and confirm it through the strategic positioning.
If I see litter alongside the pathway, I can think “that is terrible, someone should pick it up”. Who should that be? – Me? Does taking responsibility for helping solve what I encounter fit with my values? Yes – so the who is me. What should I do? If I pick up the trash and hide it so no one can see it, does that conform with my value of doing the best that I can? No – so I need to do something else. If I pick up the garbage and carry it a couple of blocks to a receptacle, would that serve my purpose? Yes -ok, that’s what I will do. I will come back at the end of the week and remove that piece of rubbish. No – that doesn’t fit with my belief that action always is better than delaying. Do it now.
OK, I will charge into the bushes and grab up the mess. Even though that meets my action bias, it contradicts my value of safety so I need to consider some of the possible hazards and plan to act in a safe manner.
So I pick up the trash, right now, in a safe manner and carry it to a nearby trash can. Who, what, how, where, when all confirmed by my why.

Thanks to everyone in Calgary who is doing that exact thing this morning during the Annual River Cleanup. You and your efforts are appreciated. Be safe, be well.

river cleanup

Thanks For making today remarkable,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

I Know, Does She?

Power and privilege are interchangeable as the ladder and the wall that allows some to climb higher than others. Sometimes, the support is the wall of power that defends the ladder that infers license to wield additional power. My array of pretentious permits; race, gender, age, education, confidence, place of birth, time of birth, wealth all conveys unearned and unwarranted perceptions (both internal and external) of where I fit in relation to others. I can deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the condition and/or choose to deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the responsibility that comes with the state. Power and privilege can be a destructive and abusive force but it can also be an equity building mechanism if used as a strength to strengthen others. If someone with power agrees to either use their influence to reshape the landscape or willingly demonstrates that they are able to share power or is compelled to cede to authority (a different brand of power, equally susceptible to corruption), then the dynamic can create a semblance of equity.

Education and intrinsic knowledge are the great levelers and are the most difficult to distribute across birthright barriers (or any other concession advantage). Can we go much beyond creating infrastructure? Public education serves as a conduit to the egalitarian expression of opportunity but genetics, socioeconomic realities, parental involvement, peer influence, resource availability, familial and kinship experiences, and expectations have an impact on the how widely the opportunity is accepted and exploited. Imagine that two students of equal ability but from widely different homes are provided with the necessities of learning; same school, same teacher, same curriculum and same cohort. They have the same attendance (nearly perfect) and the same disposition towards classroom learning. One student has parents that have attended and graduated from university who work white color jobs and are home for supper every evening. The household is relatively quiet, well appointed, and has an Internet-ready computer. The second student’s parents both work two part-time jobs in the service sector and struggle to earn enough to maintain their rental accommodations and pay all their bills. While they try to provide a good model, they are usually working before the student rises and don’t get home until 8 or 9 pm. The home has an older computer without the ability to connect to the Web.
While the public playing field is level, the private has barriers and embedded disadvantages.
One child will likely acquire more knowledge, better grades, and have a richer understanding of the importance of post-secondary education. He will have access to better employment opportunities and his knowledge (and society’s admiration) will add to a power imbalance.

This wandering, wondering post began when a question about knowledge popped into my head a week ago. Is epistemology always privileged? The summary of my meanderings is above and my conclusion is that always is too strong a qualifier. But, there is a definite advantage to having knowledge and the ability to learn. The imbalance magnifies through each life-stage and may be insurmountable by high school.

Under our current equality frame, I can’t imagine a solution. In an equitable model, where each student received what they need, we may be able to offset disadvantages but populist pressures seem opposed to anything resembling equitable treatment.

I can only do what I can do, we can only do what we can do. What I have figured out is that I have some skills and abilities (as do you) that would be an asset to one student. I have or could easily acquire mobile Internet access. I can read and comprehend difficult material and can share my understanding in one-on-one volunteer tutor sessions. I can encourage the young people in my life to demonstrate that they care by ‘helping’ a fellow student.

Is this a perfect solution? No, or at least not yet. Would or could a bureaucracy create and sustain a better solution? Likely not. Would we be a better community, city, country if we cared enough to involve ourselves in each other’s lives? Definitely.

Make Today Remarkable for someone else,

B

Self Improvement

What is Important

What is the most important thing that you could do with the next hour? the next day? the next week? If you are like me, it isn’t reading and writing more emails. If you are like me it isn’t watching another youtube video or a binge of Netflix or another tweet, post or photo.

If I think about important, in lieu of productivity, the lens of relationship, or the light of health, I have three completely different lists.
If the most important thing resides and is realized when I am productive then in the next hour, I should be presenting to potential clients and setting up presentations for tomorrow and next week.
If my relationships reign as most important then spending time with my beloved; first in quantity and second in quality. I should be scheduling many hours, spending time, laughing, learning and loving with her.
When my health is most important, I make nutritious meals, enough sleep, and daily exercise my priority number one.

The lists aren’t comprehensive or mutually exclusive. There would be small, detailed, practical steps in each list and if planned correctly they could coexist without concern for balance or harmony.
The most important thing I need to be doing right now is making a decision through reflection and deliberation, what is the most important thing. Rather than answering another 25 emails (which creates a spiral of 25 new emails in my inbox) or retweeting a pithy saying, I need to breathe, reflect and react. Inhale, ask, act. Deep breath to quiet my head and open my heart. What should I be doing right now? Do it.

Make Today Remarkable, by doing what is important,

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Where Are You Going?

The beginning of a new calendar page and the start of the 2nd quarter of 2017 affords us all an opportune moment to look ahead and reflect back. The quarter that was brought me unimagined opportunities, physical challenges and a two surprise financial commitments (one that I needed to meet and one receivable that lapsed). Despite the unexpected or maybe because of it, I managed to stay on target for my 1st quarter goals. I wrote 295,000 words in three projects. I added five new clients and added value to three others. I needed to adapt my run mileage goal because of a nagging and recurring foot injury but was able to clock the missing mileage on a rowing machine. My health improvement was confirmed by my doctor. My reading goal of 150 books this year remains on target (actually one book ahead of target).

How was your quarter? Did January, February, and March live up to your expectations? Did you? What was the highlight of last week? last month? last quarter?
Could you have improved your performance in any element of your life or business?

What are you looking forward to this term? Spring has officially arrived where I live and longer days, early morning sunlight and the greening of my yard and neighborhood is always invigorating. Spring is my third favorite season but coming off what was and felt like a long winter, I am pretty sold on the possibilities ahead.

My goals for the next quarter are my goals and I doubt that they fit well with your circumstances or ambitions. I try to set reachable goals that I can manage if I follow a plan, in all seven elements of the Remarkable People Life Wheel and do an assessment of how satisfied I am in each today and a check-in at the end of June.
I post my goals here as an example of what kinds of things you might consider and to create a public record that holds me to account.

Family – I commit to spending both quality and quantity time with the 20 people in my life that mean the most to me. Quantity – 1 hour a week for most and 8 hours a day for the most important person. Quality – is a reflection of perspective so I commit to being present with each encounter and doing things that the other finds interesting and fun.

Finance – I commit to collect all debts or set up a payment schedule for receivables. There are some large outflows this quarter as we complete a real estate transaction so I commit to reducing expenses by 10%. There are some opportunities in the next three months to reduce or eliminate personal debt so I commit to taking advantage of 3 debt reduction strategies.

Fun – Most of the other six elements of my life contribute to the fun I have in my life. My relationships make me happy and I smile and laugh aloud a dozen times a day. I play games, read great books, write, run, row, rest, and relate which all add to the fun bank. This would be a 10 in the Remarkable Life wheel satisfaction index but I commit to be observant and ready to take in new fun.

Health – This is an ongoing commitment – a higher order habit to live a holistically healthier life. That means that monitoring and maintaining my current blood pressure. I commit to losing another 5 pounds this quarter (which gets me to a 3 year healthy weight loss goal). I commit to eliminating alcohol for April, sugar for May, and coffee for June – for no particular reason other than making a cleansing commitment is good for my constitution. I am receiving treatment for the foot injury so I can commit to daily exercise and a minimum of 100 km on trails each month.

Work – I have three ongoing writing assignments and I commit to writing every day this quarter, alternating projects. I am best at this commitment first thing in the morning so I am ready to return to writing 750-1500 words before 7am each day.
I have space for 4 new clients starting this month (so take this as an invitation to reach out, if you could see us co-creating value in your life). I will send out three newsletters and finalize the content for an online goal achievement course.

Side Hustle – this is my personal category for element 6 (you can pick something that resonates with you – some have opted for travel, projects, relationships, spirituality…)
My side hustle basket is empty right now. I am not testing the waters, surveying, scanning, budgeting any interesting projects. Two ongoing civic hustles are on hold until the October municipal election. I have committed to assist three candidates with their campaigns for election and need to firm up expectations and time needed.

That is the simple accountability and reflection process that takes a couple hours because I keep an inventory running through the quarter and use technology to keep track of achievements.

If you could use some assistance in creating your Life element goals, I would be happy to offer a complimentary one hour Skype session to readers. If that is of interest, please comment here or reach out to bob@remarkablepeople.ca

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Soar

What is rising from your ashes? Have you been hit with a series of unfortunate and unimaginable circumstances that have you reeling? Have you been given the opportunity to seek employment, relationship, fulfillment elsewhere? Has your world exploded? Did a relationship or project get consumed by flames?

phoenix

Take time, a few days or a couple weeks and recognize the reality, accept the finality, do some bargaining with yourself, feel hurt and angry and then come out the other side. The measure isn’t in what you lost but in what you learned and what you are doing to embrace and use your circumstances?

We all suffer tragedies and trauma and when we ruminate in it and then use the experience to flourish and bloom into something we never imagined.

If a long or short relationship has come to an end, embrace being single. Love yourself and the chance you now have to make decisions that are good for you. Start ticking off the list of things you wanted to do but the relationship prohibited. Spend time in the world in awkward situations. Go to places that you wouldn’t usually consider. Talk to people who aren’t in your ‘loop’. Learn something new every day. (curious.com has a wide menu of possibilities)

If you have been underemployed or unemployed for a while, take advantage of the time and develop new skills, volunteer with organizations, visit family and spend time outside enjoying the fresh air. Look for new ways to be seen and known. If you have been a geologist for years but are interested in food, take a class, visit a foodie event, reach out to the chef you most admire. Whether you are 30, 40 or 60, beginning anew isn’t a failure, it is courageous. We will all start and end numerous careers throughout our lives and many of us will continue to add value in some employment arrangement well past what was once considered retirement age.

For every pyre, there is a phoenix waiting to arise. As long as we don’t douse the embers with disappointment and defeat there is a new you waiting to be born. When the egg hatches, fly as high as you can and be okay if/when the next challenge settles you back on the ground with a thud. Starting over is an opportunity and a testament to your courage.

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Live the Adventure

Are you living your adventure? We have an opportunity to lead an abundant and exciting journey. With about 675,000 hours, we have a chance and a responsibility to make the most of them. I have lived almost 550,000 hours ( I shouldn’t have done this calculation but that is 80% of my allotment). In the remaining 20% or whatever number you calculate, what am I going to try? where am I going to go? who am I going to meet? what am I going to learn? what will touch me? what will scare me? what will challenge me? what will make me laugh? cry? love?

I am feeling wistful and jealous as good friends set out on a two-month adventure. I look forward to hearing the tales of travel, food, drink, sites, problems and relationships. There is a side of me that wishes we were joining them but a deep realization that this is their trip and their test.

adventure
I/we need to make each day an adventure regardless of where we/I land. Living in one of the best countries in the world (Canada was again rated #2) in a city that gets the highest honours for liveability and opportunity(Calgary) , in a neighbourhood that has again been voted one of the coolest places to live (Inglewood), we/I shouldn’t need to go far to be showered with possibilities.

We have an average of 2396 hours of bright sun each year, spread over 333 days. Our weather is variable but for the next five months, it will be temperate. We/I live along the shore of two rivers and have hundreds of miles of walking/biking trails. We are within a fifteen-minute walk of two large urban parks and have urban excitement and a bird sanctuary within fifteen minutes on our bikes.

From early spring to late fall, there are festivals almost every weekend. Some are large multi-day events like Folk Festival, Opera in the Village and The Calgary International Children’s Festival. Some festivals are one-day and local to communities like Lilacfest, Sunfest and Chinatown Street Festival. There are events that celebrate ethnicity – Serbian Fest in May, Greek festival in June, Fiestaval Latino Festival in July and Carifest in August. Some featured food and beverage – Taste of Calgary, Circle the Wagons and Alberta Beer Festivals. There are celebrations of the arts, parties for local and national holidays and the amazing Beakerhead; a smashup of arts, culture, and science.
Even when there isn’t an organized party, there is still so much to see and do.

If we/I took in some of everything that I listed and a day at the Calgary Stampede, we could spend 200 hours laughing, learning, listening, lingering and letting go. Sounds like there are adventures waiting for us and we just need to step outside and breathe them in.

We/I are heading off to the Outdoor Show today, to be inspired and encouraged by what adventure awaits outside the boundaries of our great city.

Find your adventure for today and be ready for tomorrow’s,

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Coping

We have numerous coping mechanisms and self-defense practices to help us get through the day. Many seem innocuous and inconsequential. But like most devices, we can dangerously overuse them and isolate ourselves from our reality and those around us.
To the world, I look like an extrovert and in the sense that I process outside my head, I am. But after spending an afternoon, a day, or a week in the midst of people – I am exhausted and need to retreat to a quiet space where I can ‘be’ inside my head and heart in order to get refreshed. While not quite the dictionary definition of ruminate, I do ponder the intent, the words, and the actions I took today and consider where I may have been unnecessarily harsh, too provocative, or selfish. In my rumination, I review and revisit but I don’t beat myself up. I try to learn from my missteps and I try to do better next time. Connecting dots backwards helps me see how I can be more supple and subtle in the future. On the days that I wrestle with myself and am open to my gentle probing and receptive to being better, I am invigorated.

hive

When I allow distraction or laziness to keep me from reflection, I begin to seed trauma. While I pretend to keep busy with other tasks, my head and heart are using kinetic energy trying to reconcile fragments that require focus to understand. I bury the instance or interaction and insist that it is forgotten but until I acknowledge the emotions, atone for any infractions or forgive myself, I allow the boil to fester. The trauma compiles with and compresses yesterday’s stuff that wasn’t dealt with and the day before and … Before long the stress is too much to bear and I present and resent in unhealthy ways. I either lose my temper, my composure, or I begin plotting some ridiculous vengeance. None are necessary or helpful.

There seems to be evidence (I know not pure scientific research) that when I let the boils of discontent fester without rumination, I suffer from stress and when I reflect, grimace and reconcile I celebrate growth.

I am better when I am better at mulling, accepting, confessing, and remedying. I will reflect on that last sentence tonight before I fall into blissful sleep.

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork

You and Your Neighbours Can!

I really like talking with eager, talented neighbors about social change. Maybe, too much. Conversation, discussion, debate, brainstorming, ideation, evaluation, analysis are all great tools but without action and disruption, it is only empty rhetoric or worse self-absolution.

I heard Mark Lakeman speak last night at a Resilient Community event. He made many provocative statements and offered dozens of actions that he and his village have taken in Portland, Oregon. My paraphrase of the one that stuck with me was ” We don’t deserve to talk about sustainability if we can’t solve issues of abuse and injustice towards women.” I would add that we don’t have the right or reason to survive as a species if we can’t solve abuse of children, women, and seniors.

Action

I recognize that issues can be wickedly complicated. But when we use the complexity as an excuse for inaction, we become complicit in the issue and its impact. When we delay our action, hoping to find the best options, we leave people struggling and in danger. Many readers know that I have a significant action bias and that I have made hundreds of decisions that later need adaptation and improvement. But by acting, the ball started rolling and its momentum, direction, and scale could be altered.

I recall seeing a sign in the airport in San Francisco, a number of years ago. ” If you see something, say something”, resonates with my action focus and I would amend it to read ” If you see something, say something, and do something”. Do anything, do the best that you can in the moment, do the least that you can do in the moment, just do something.

You/I may not be able to solve the issue for all sufferers or even solve the problem completely for one person, but we can act. And we can surround ourselves with like-minded, willing and able, neighbours. What if four concerned citizens all agreed that there should be no child hunger at their community school? Or that the two children from their block would always have lunch. Or that the senior, living alone, would have someone to have a cup of tea with and talk with, every afternoon. Or the woman from the house where there is always shouting would have a safe place? If you look at your world and see something amiss, can you ask ” what can I do?” And then can you imagine you and your ‘team’ taking some meaningful action?

Every day in thousands of communities, millions of neighbours have come together to make it their problem. Their ‘it’ is different from yours, their response isn’t the same each time, but they are all acting and in their action they are making themselves and their villages a better place.

Make Today Remarkable, by beginning a conversation with a commitment to act together,
B