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

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

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

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

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

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

Insignificant

In the grand scheme of things, I feel insignificant. On a planet with 7.5 billion people that has been spinning in our galaxy for 4.5 billion years amongst stars that are nearing their 14 billionth birthday, my 175.25 cm frame is a grain of sand. And yet, in my most important relationships, I mark a much larger space. I am making a dent in the lives of my clients and colleagues. I have a spot in the heart of friends, grandkids, children and my beloved. In my head, my delusions of grandeur can run wild. I can imagine that I am a giant among men.

So which image is true? Are all of them relatively real? Does it matter? In this time and place and under these conditions can I feel important and inconsequential simultaneously?

“We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys.” ~Eric Hoffer

When I learn to be quiet and comfortable in insignificance, the pressure to be a performer subsides. My mind stops swimming in rough waters and a tidal ebbs and flows set in. Floating without judgment washes away the toxicity that my ego and my competitive tendency create. Out goes the claim to fame, megalomania and space opens for gentleness and generousity. Without the desperate need to be acknowledged, I find self-awareness. As I rest, nudges towards a different shore begin like the current of a slow moving river. If, I allow myself to be carried rather than resisting because of an agenda, there is a possibility for learning. It takes determination not to rush to a conclusion. Instinct wants me to stake a claim to the island and say ” look at my great new thing”. The moment I name it, the tide ceases. I am learning to ride further and without anticipation, relish the distant shore where my self is rinsed and raised.

I return to my keyboard and peck and pound, hoping that the scratching finds and audience with a niggling realization that my very survival requires moments of delusion. Allowing the rhythm to be a natural element of my life saves me from fits of inferiority and rages of superiority.

Make Today Remarkable, by finding your insignificance,

B

Is a B+ Good Enough?

b

A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with? This was the WordPress writing prompt one day this week. I have been thinking about the question in the light of my Remarkable People philosophy; remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. Who do I spend time with? Is the 100 hours a week with my beloved a significant impact in how I think, how I feel and how I behave? No doubt that her kindness rubs off on me and her commitment to family makes me a better father, a better grandfather and maybe a better brother.
Does seeing my youngest grandson for a day a week make me appreciate small things and big things and all things like books, toys, smiles,? He helps me notice trucks and machinery and squirrels and birdhouses. I am more attentive to my surroundings after a few hours in his presence.

Am I better when I am on vacation with friends who show consideration and courtesy to everyone they encounter? Does their willingness to be of service in tragedies, be of good cheer in adversities and be generous in the face of inequities make be more willing?

What does it mean to be average? Are you smarter than 2 people but less smart than 2? Do you have less compassion than some but more than others? Money? Health? Relationships? Can the average be raised? Lowered?

If you use your strengths to strengthen others and others do the same, can the bar be raised? I believe it can. If true, then it does matter which five people you spend time with? It matters more how they share their gifts, skills and strengths with those around them. It matters how we choose to influence and be influenced. I know that when I spend time with angry, cynical people, I am insensitive and self-righteous. If I listen to rhetoric and join in vitriol, we all become intolerant and joyless.

I was reading a review of “A Paradise Built in Hell” by Rebecca Solnit that reinforced my belief that we are all remarkable when we build on the gifts we bring to the table and community. The reviewer asks “If we think about our own personal experiences, no doubt we have each gone through something “disastrous” in a communal setting. In those situations, there is always something that compels us to rise to the occasion and to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. We begin to feel our common humanity a little bit more.” Have you risen to the occasion in 2017? Have I risen to a challenge? Will I rise tomorrow and then again and again?
Have we used our strengths to strengthen ourself and others? How have you been remarkable? Fourty-five days into this year, I realize that I haven’t been remarkable on very many of them. That is sad enough for me but if my actions, my words, and my attitudes are having a significant imapct on the folks I hang out with, then shame on me.

Miss Vivienne, an 8 year old girl is rising to the occasion in San Francisco with Making A Stand to eliminate slavery. She is selling lemonade on her street and encouraging others to join her around the world to raise awareness and resources to stomp out bondage and abuse.
Closer to home Emma is using her heart and art to strengthen homeless families in Calgary. She creates one of a kond mini masterpieces and auctions them on a Facebook page.
WestJet staff and volunteers lift the spirits of weary travelers by reducing their anxiety. THey respond with kindness to meaningful and meaningless questions and requests without missing a beat.
A friend is preparing meals and providing support to her extended family, from outside the city, as they go through medical treatments.

The possibilities to be remarkable are abundant and maybe ever present when we open our eyes and ears to the world that surrounds us.

Think about 5 people (or 10, 20, 30) that you would like to surround yourself with and rise to the occasion together by celebrating, supporting and sharing each other’s lives. Are those the folks you spend time with? Are you the kind of person that they should be investing their relationship energy to be with? Are you raising the bar this week or are you pulling the average down? We all have bad days, bad weeks, and trying times but if we know that as they fester, they infect others would we have fewer of them?

My challenge and now yours is to be someone who chooses to set the average very high and then set about to be someone who raises the curve.

B

Being Present

The greatest defense against passivity, mediocrity, and ambivalence might be presencing. The guru on being present, Peter Senge, in Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Society, and Organizations, states “Too often, we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.”

involved

But it takes muscle and determination to break our evolutionary responses of fight or flight – neither of which live, well, in the moment. As we simply react rather than rest in and reflect on the circumstances, we reinforce habitual behavior (hear certainty) that stifles or worse strangles curiosity and learning.

While most of the time we aren’t in the kind of danger that requires the amygdala response I, frankly, suck at being present. My tendency is to live through time rather than in it. I am looking towards the next moment, the next appointment, the next thing. My attention drifts because I practice distraction instead of attention. Most people I encounter, from 7-year-old grandchildren to 30 something postmoderns are seeking the next stimulus and then the next. We bypass opportunities in favor of a new fix. Technology and social media have been built to serve this pathology through a nasty co-dependent relationship. I, like so many, spend far too much time seeking the next thing; a like, a friend, a thumbs up, an emoji. According to a post on Networlding says ” We’re obsessed with our phones, a new study has found. The heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day, according to researcher Dscout. That’s the top 10 percent of phone users, so one would expect it to be excessive. However, the rest of us still touch the addictive things 2,617 times a day on average. No small number.”
Fight or flight becomes swipe or click with the same consequence; we are missing the moments and the world is spinning past us. Can I intentionally become be more present?
I have written before about the importance of breathing and awareness of breath as an important factor in preparing to live in the now. Recognizing that you involuntarily sustain life through the inhalation and expiration of air should be a dotted line to understanding the miracle of your life. When you ‘marine breathe’ – inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and remain empty for four seconds, your awareness of each tick as it passes is heightened and is a primer to focus.
I use a couple of exercises to help me stay in the moment. I narrow my view. From the cacophony that is our world, I find stillness and silence. There is a place just behind our attitude, feelings, and prejudices where peace precedes the noise and business of the world. It is in your head and in your heart and regardless of your surroundings, it can be discovered. In the moments leading into a new engagement, a personal discussion, or when I am aware that I need to be prepared, I close my eyes and become aware of the sensation of my own physical presence, my body’s weight,(where am I tense in my sit muscles? am I grounded and sitting erect?). I return to my breath and feel it on the inside of my nostrils. Where does it go when I breathe in? Is there a particular part of my body that is uncomfortable or fidgety? I imagine my breath flowing out to the distractions and calming the sea. If I can envelop myself in an internal silence and stillness for as little as two minutes before a difficult meeting, I can use the energy to stay focused for almost an hour.

After a scheduled discussion or difficult coaching session, I leave a five-minute window to recuperate. I turn my intention back on me. I try to pay attention to what m mind is contemplating. Am I blathering? feeling joy? am I exhausted? I try not to get involved in creating a solution, just observe my own mind in action. If I can give myself permission to take these few minutes for my personal well-being, I am a better coach, consultant, husband, father, and grandfather. If I deny myself the break, I will present a much less interested, compassionate and attentive person because I will be in the room but living someplace else.

Make Today Remarkable, by pracicing presencing,
B

Again this is an easy to say and harder to do practice but I guarantee that if you honestly try it for a week, you will make it a constsnt habit.

You Suck, I Suck, We All Suck

I appreciate that political correctness and liberal politics continue to abhor unfair, abusive, illegal, and immoral treatment of others. When politicians and government make grand statements of attrition and reconciliation, they need to continue to have an eye to the reality of the present. In Canada, when all levels of government apologize for the treatment of first nations people for the way we treated them at first contact, it is empty words because of the abhorrent conditions we continue to press them into. When a city council changes the name of a bridge because the person the bridged honoured for 50 years was a proponent of the residential school system while urban aboriginals are dying from their poverty, it seems disingenuous.

An eye to the past is important so that we don’t repeat our mistakes and help us continue to learn from them. An eye to the past can act as a shield to taking meaningful, difficult steps to remedy a current situation. If I/we don’t know how to, don’t have the commitment to, or are afraid of the ramifications of a difficult issue, like first nation poverty in Canadian cities we take an easier path. Creating an Aboriginal Poverty Reduction Strategy that sits on a shelf without resources or teeth is self-serving and possibly mean-spirited but somehow offers satisfaction to the writers and their sponsors. It may not help those struggling with poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health, and poor self-esteem but it gets headlines in the mainstream press and impresses potential voters and supporters.

I use the tactic too and am frustrated by the obvious dodge it can become. When I don’t know how to remedy a wicked question, I often answer a different one. ” How do we eliminate child hunger in Canada?” and I responded with a school lunch program in Calgary for children identified by an authority as being food insecure. I accepted congratulations for the work (3000 kids a day got fed) and celebrated the immediate, relevant and concrete solution to a very narrow problem. But the solution of providing a nutritious lunch to some hungry kids at school, on school days doesn’t begin to answer the wicked question. I don’t recall anyone challenging what we were doing because after all we were feeding hungry kids and it feels good to be doing something. Successive parliaments and numerous legislatures have passed unanimous motions to eliminate child hunger to great applause and little impact.

All of us need to get past the rhetoric and easy actions and begin having very difficult discussions and trying unbelievably risky experiments if we hope to solve the issues that are destroying lives and killing people. If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue. Most of what we do and say feels and sounds good but without challenging what we are doing, it seems that we are perpetuating the problems with a faint hope that they will somehow disappear.

Think and Act on Solutions,
B