Start in Front

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliff

If you’re going for a new you for 2014, it’s too late.

It’s 7:59am on the west coast. With a fresh cup of coffee at arm’s reach (I’m at Starbucks), a quick text sent asking Tami if she wants a cup too, and my fingers typing away on this article, I’m honestly pretty happy with how my day, month and year have begun.

I’m also standing upright while I work (my new writing posture) and am completing Day One of my January writing challenge. I even took time before the coffee shop to fill my head with good ideas and pray.

With all these good habits rolling, I’m just a jog away from a new year’s day cliché.

And, it almost didn’t happen.

A little context

I was first up in my house this morning. Despite having ten warm bodies asleep at home (some of my son’s friends crashed after the ball dropped), I managed to slip out quietly and get my January 1st started the way I decided it would go, before I went to bed.

But, I really just got lucky.

What if my youngest had wandered in first with a bump on her elbow from falling out of bed? It’s not like that sort of thing happens all the time, but it has. What if my alarm clock failed? What if curiosity had caught me and I started with email instead of what I said I’d start with? What if, what if, what if? You get the point.

When unexpected interruptions to my method happen, my daily game plan get’s interrupted with it. It happens all the time. But not today… bullet dodged right?

What did happen – that could have had an even greater sabbotaging effect – took place when I was walking out of our bedroom. I found myself feeling all lovey dovey for Tami and glanced over at her while I was at the door.

Before you get concerned that this article is about to get racy, the affection I was feeling was less about me hoping to get some action and more about gratitude.

I am so thankful that Tami is supportive of this daily rhythm approach to my life and her kindness just hit me. Her willingness to take care of the household waking up most days is just amazing. She’s a remarkable person.

Anyway, when I had this mini-flood of good feelings well up, I noticed she was stirring just a bit and her eyes were beginning to open. I paused in my exit and went to her bedside to give a New Year kiss.

She received it, but I made the near fatal mistake of asking her if she was mad at me for getting up early and exiting, despite the fact that I told her my plans before we went to bed.

Sidenote about me: I have issues.

If you’re a newer reader, this might sound like an odd declaration but it’s an important thing to know if you’re going to show up here from time to time.

To the familiar, this is a profound statement of the obvious.

The reason I mention this here is if my past is an indicator, I have a tendency to do stupid things from time to time that get in my own way. This was one of them.

Any wannabe-Freud could tell you why: they’d likely say something about my obvious people pleasing tendencies that connect to my mom or my strivings for significance that connect to my dad… or something else. They’d probably be right too.

The psycho-insight wouldn’t mean much for this conversation though. What does matter is when my issues show, they often derail me. Can you relate?

Back to the story…

This is all backdrop to confess that when I asked Tami if she was mad, I really wasn’t asking for her sake.

It was more of a thinly veiled question about me. In fact, the more honest query would have been, “Regardless of how you feel about it, will my efforts in the next few hours tempt you to hold back on any of the other incredible things I get from you?”

Hi. My name is Dane and I’m a self-aholic.

The good news is she barely heard my question, or maybe it was just so familiar that she closed her eyes and nodded that all was well. That was her code for, “Do what you need to do, dude.

Did I mention how much I love her? That’s what my text was about. Asking if she wanted coffee wasn’t me being awesome. It was me saying thanks for her encouragement for me to be me, especially when it bugs her.

Here’s the thing

So, here I am feeling great about a solid start, right? What I’m more aware of though is how tomorrow (or some day soon after), circumstances won’t go my way.

Maybe Tami will wake up and get to have some issues of her own, and it’ll be my turn to let her do what she needs to do. Maybe I’ll get to cuddle with my daughter and her bruised elbow and daily method be damned.

But, what will it mean if I miss a day down the line? It will mean precisely what I decide it will mean. What I make up about missing a day really isn’t the point. Having a life is.

I’m not just committed to change. I’m committed to becoming something new.

New habits are useless anyway

What’s hilarious is just how useless new resolutions actually are. The only habits that really matter are the one’s that started weeks, months or years ago… the habits that I actually have today.

A great example of how big a deal this truth is, played out at a TED Conference a while back. Seth Godin (a particularly prolific author of best-sellers) was asked for advice by a first time author, on what they should do to have a successful book launch the following month.

Seth told him straight up, “You’re too late.” He should have asked his question a year earlier… or maybe two.

The good news

But what’s that poor author supposed to do with that?

If he’s wise, I think he takes it as the gift that it is and adjusts his expectations. Maybe he launches his book (now or later) but more importantly starts thinking immediately about how he wants his thing to end, not just begin.

It’s not that complicated. Everyone gets this when they slow down for a second.

In fact, just moments ago, the Barrista in front of me was asked by a patron what her new year’s resolution was for this year. She said she decided it was going to be the one she had last year… that she felt guilty about the year before… and wrote down the year before that.

She’s smart.

Making 2014 about anything other than what you’ll be telling yourself in 2015 is a sucker bet.

Want to make this year great? Be deliberate. Find your rhythm and method. Pause in the middle and be grateful for the interruptions. But, whatever you do, decide who you want to be a year from now and work backwards.

What actually happens will be way more interesting than wishful thinking.

An Open Letter to Humans in the Physical Universe

The Innovation of Loneliness from Shimi Cohen.

Dear listener, reader, watcher, hater, lover and friend,

I have a lot of personal goals for this coming year. I’m guessing you do too. A lot could be said about that. In fact, many of you are busy writing your lists and plans right now. And you should!

This time of year however, tends to generate a disproportionate amount of manifesto-like declarations. In fact, I’ve been getting a handful in my inbox most every day lately. I’m guessing you can relate. The same thing happened last year and for the past several.

They tend to arrive some time between Christmas and New Year’s. Some play off the cliché and cleverly write their resolutions closer to Canadian Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day just to mix it up. I rarely see them in July.

As I read, I began to notice a consistent pattern. Most authors seem to be wanting increased personal honesty and earnestness and hope and possibility in the new year. The same was true when I considered my own declarations. What surprised me was that the experience left me with an odd sense of nostalgia.

Like the familiar tree in our living rooms (you get that it’s weird to kill and prop those things up inside by your couch, right?), it would feel odd not to do it, especially for the productivity-obsessed among us. But even for those who don’t remember what a Franklin-Covey Planner used to be, you can now join the utopian goal setting commune without even standing out.

Because it’s more socially acceptable this time of year, it makes it less threatening to make it public too. In truth, I’m guessing there are lots of July journal entries in people’s private diaries about good intentions for “next” month. They just don’t get published very often.

It’s probably true that most who are writing do tend to be public-facing folks or those who aspire to express themselves more honestly and earnestly, and with greater discipline in the new year coming.

When I’ve written them, I’ve tended to crave a fresh starting line, a renewed hope or some sort of unprecedented possibility. Nothing wrong with any of that by the way. Writing it down really is the smart thing to do.

This year though, I’ve found it useful to pause and wrestle with what I’m really needing, beyond just my hopes for behavior modification.

When I sat down to get my goals on this time around, I also began to notice how much it felt like I was talking exclusively to myself. Not that people wouldn’t read what I wrote or that it wouldn’t be meaningful or inspire others to create meaningful moments for themselves if they went and did likewise. Again, I hope all those things happen. But, on a profound level (at least for me), I am more ok than ever if they don’t.

Why end of year goal setting can remind us of just how lonely online life can be…

What I’m speaking to has more to do with the unintended side-effects of living life in two worlds. With the removal of space and time in the virtual space, it’s just easier to have the experience of a scaling connection with (several) others, when in fact no real connection has happened.

Please hear me: I’m not ignoring all the remarkable good that has come from extending our lives from physical to virtual. It’s incredible. Perhaps even intoxicating. I guess it’s the hangover I’m talking about.

It’s what Shimi Cohen has brilliantly identified as The Innovation of Loneliness. All this edited sharing to connect can leave me feeling more and more alone.

So, why am I writing all this?

Great question. I guess I’m witholding my public declaration of goals this year in exchange for a more personal request… of myself and of you, if you’re game.

Whether you are a listener, reader, watcher, hater, lover, friend or “friend”, would you do me this one favor? I’m personally committed to be more human with everyone I can. Might you be willing to join me? And if possible, can we do it in the real world?

Believe me, this will be as uncomfortable for me as it will be you. No need to be something we’re not. If we’re “friends” online, I won’t be hurt if others more real to you get priority time. But, if we both aspire to upgrade our relationship by losing the “air quotes”, let’s do that out in the open.

Same thing if you consume the content I make, will you reach out and tell me about how you experience it? I’ll be doing the same with those I read and watch and listen to. I can’t wait to make it more personal actually.

Hate me, mad at me or disagree with something I put out there or just what I represent to you? Let’s both be courageous and resist gossiping about it online (or even in private). Here’s a better idea… Call me up! Let me buy the coffee!! If I call you, I’ll let you buy. We can even have a real argument if you want. How much more gratifying would that be in person than by ourselves behind a blue lit screen.

Probably my favorite option on this is to be present proportionately with those I truly love. Enough being out of whack time wise with the wrong people. You know what I mean?

But here’s the deal: We all get to be engaged proportionately to our commitment to each other.

What do you think? Maybe, maybe?

I know I’m asking a lot. I also recognize it’s not going to be very efficient and in some cases, we just won’t have the chance to connect that way this year. If that’s the case, I hope we still take advantage of what the virtual world has to offer.

But if you and I do end up getting the chance to be together, let’s not waste it, ok?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that actually is my primary commitment to myself this year. Apparently, I couldn’t resist a goal setting letter after all.

The power of curiosity

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People are strange when they’re a stranger, people look ugly when you’re alone. -The Doors

Like politics, religion is one of those areas that can polarize people pretty fast. It makes sense. Both subjects contain ideas that people hold passionately. But despite sincere beliefs, much damage has been done by folks dogmatic in their stance.

Well, when I was finishing up my interview with Michael Hyatt over at Converge, we got to talking on a more personal level about just this topic and I found it so refreshing. Michael and I share a common faith tradition and I found his take on how to be with folks who hold different beliefs like a glass of cold water on a hot day. It was so good, I made a mini-bonus-episode and included it below. [Read more...]

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