Let It Take The Time It Takes

My daughter is the primary user of the sink in our upstairs bathroom. It became clogged with toothpaste and hair and god knows what else. Drain-O was no longer effective; the drain pipe and trap needed to be cleared.

This project fell into the Totally Annoying category. So many other things to do with my limited time. However, there was nothing for it.

The funny thing is, I actually enjoy fixing things and building things. I like working on my house and making stuff better. But when I feel my time is constrained, these projects become annoying and stressful. Why couldn’t this have become a problem last month when I wasn’t working?

Okay. Take a breath. Relax. This is the thing that is happening now. Forgot the right wrench in the garage? Walk back out to get it. Wow, it’s cold today but see the sky is brilliant blue. Need another tool to clear away the gunk inside the trap? Another walk to the garage, play with the dog for a minute, throw some snow for her to jump around crazily. One of the plastic pipes has cracked and need to get a part from the hardware store? Enjoy a walk with my daughter to the store a few blocks away, have a chat with the store clerk, feel connected to my neighborhood and community.

In the end, the project took about 2 1/2 hours. If I had rushed the project, feeling annoyed and stressed, I might have been able to complete it in 2 hours. That was the mental trap. When I let go of the other things I might have done and chose to invest my attention here, now – it made all the difference for my mental health. Slowing the pace and taking 30 extra minutes, it turned out to be a lovely day. I’m happy and proud of the work completed.

Let it take the time it takes.

Never Done Before

To achieve a goal we’ve never achieved before, we must start doing things we’ve never done before.

A more empowering variation of the famous quote: The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I have a goal to complete an Ironman 70.3 triathlon in my 50’s. That’s going to require doing some new things, like giving my body plenty of time to recover after any long workout, including active recovery doing things like foam rolling. (Ouch!) Also physical therapy to strengthen my knees and loosen my hips, to avoid injury. And finally a barrage of core workouts, long boring swims in the lap pool during winter, and some dietary changes I still need to research.

Same goes for completing the Colorado Trail. It’s more solo time than I want to spend, so I’ll need to find a hiking buddy. And instead of jumping in the car when a last-minute hiking window opens up, I’ll need to plan ahead and coordinate.

I suppose there’s a choice here to just keep doing what I’ve been doing (which admittedly has been completely awesome … I am so fortunate!) and let go of those new goals. That doesn’t feel right, though. Even if those goals are never attained, the working-toward-them is rewarding all on its own.

Changing Seasons

Today I accepted a job offer. After four months of what some jealously dubbed my ‘life of leisure’, I’m headed back into the working world. I feel many mixed emotions, in part from agreeing to shoulder a new set of responsibilities. Laying down the burden of responsibility for multiple months created a special space – a space I’ve coveted – for other mental activity and rebuilding emotional resilience. I also grieve the loss of freedom now that my schedule won’t be entirely under my control. These past months I embraced the gift of time. I traveled out of state, completed home projects that required more than an hour or two, trained for and completed a triathlon, hiked a piece of the Colorado Trail, played a lot of music, did some volunteering. I’ve had more quality time with my daughter in four months than perhaps the entire previous year. When my son calls home from college I can pick up and chat with him, even if it’s the middle of a workday. I’ve been able to hike and bike in the beautiful Boulder mountains, avoiding the much more crowded weekends. Perhaps most potently, I’ve had time to simply relax, to sit, to journal, to meditate, to daydream, be bored, be alone, breathe. It’s been a period for my mind to disengage – not to stop or to take a vacation, but to soften and reconnect with the activities that are my unique blend of healthy mindfulness.

I will miss this time, but two truths are buoying my spirits.

First: I’ve observed there are seasons to our lives. As summer flows into autumn and autumn into winter, so do we flow from one chapter to the next. We live in a great river of change, and every day we’re given a choice: we can relax and float in the direction that the water flows, or we can swim hard against it. If we resist the river, we feel rankled and tired as we tread water, stuck in the same place. But if we relax and float with the river, the energy of a thousand mountain streams is with us, filling our hearts with courage and enthusiasm, even when we turn headfirst into the rapids.

Second: with seasons come cycles. I believe this is not the last time I will live a ‘life of leisure’. In fact, I negotiated and built in those expectations with my new employer – that they will get the best of me and I will help them accomplish a very big vision over the next 12-18 months, and once that mission is complete I will likely leave the company.

The world is filled with opportunity, and this particular job is not an opportunity I thought I wanted. I was (and in fact I still am) leaning heavily toward a future in which I serve clients as an independent. Call it consulting or contracting or fractional, but the work of an independent can touch many lives because it isn’t confined to a single company. And it offers the flexibility of lifestyle that I most desire. I am heading that direction.

So why take a full-time job if I want to be independent? Here is where the mystery and magic of the Universe humbles me. To be successful I’ll need a pipeline of potential clients. I don’t have that today and I’m starting from scratch. Building and maintaining pipeline requires investment and time. If I start today, it will take many month to build a client list, and during that time I need to resume an income, so I will inevitably take clients out of desperation that may not be a good fit for me.

Taking a new job, especially one that has a fixed time horizon, is an unbelievable benefit. This season of my professional life will sustain me financially, challenge me intellectually, and perhaps allow me to fill out some skill sets, all while I build a consulting network and pipeline that I can lean into in the future. This next chapter isn’t just about the job, it’s about the collection of activities across my life – within the job and outside the job.

One last thought before I close this post. As I mentioned I wasn’t looking for a job. This one landed in my lap very unexpectedly. The universe presented it, and each step of the process has been surprisingly frictionless. Everything has just flowed, from the interviews to the proposal I presented, to the salary and negotiation process. Where other opportunities in the past four months met resistance or unresponsiveness or other difficulties, this opportunity was like following a route where the lights are all green. I want to trust that. I choose to trust that. I trust that moving in this direction where life just seems to flow, where the green lights lead, is in fact the right direction. Perhaps for reasons I cannot see right now.

Inside my mind, I confess feelings of fear, uncertainty and doubt because my personal preferences don’t want to give up the freedom I’ve enjoyed for the past four months, yet I choose to trust this forward motion will continue to lead me on the path toward rapture.

A Timely Reminder

This morning’s daily post from Seth Godin is called Without Reservations. Here’s an excerpt:

“Yes” can mean, “yes, I’m prepared to do the minimum” or it could mean, “yes, this commitment is something I wholeheartedly embrace and will devote myself to exceeding expectations at every turn.”

Life’s way better if we find partnerships that are the second kind.

This message was perfect timing for me. I’m deliberating a lucrative job opportunity that may require a soul-sucking commute. I realized I’ve been evaluating whether I’m “prepared to do the minimum” which of course will only set me up for misery. After reading Godin’s post, I’m reframing to evaluate whether I can commit to this wholeheartedly. If so then the commute won’t even factor in because I’m so excited about the work, the people, the impact, and what we can build together.

The latter will lead to opportunities for rapture: being all-in, being fully present with the people and problems we’re solving, becoming vulnerable to others who are also all-in on the same mission, and living a life wide open.

Being a Winner Is…

They say that winners have mastered good habits like waking up early, reading, exercising, meditating, creating multiple revenue streams, staying disciplined, and blah blah blah. You’ve read these types of lists hundreds of times. However, the real way to be a winner is to decide what you want out of life, how your business or career can contribute towards your overall purpose and goal, and to then march forward. Some of the cliché habits above may end up being part of your keys to success, but just going through the motions doesn’t do anything if you don’t know what you’re going after. Winners know what they want and are living accordingly.

Keep It Light

Keep it light. Whatever is happening, it’s really not that important.

Making it heavy makes it heavy for everyone. Heavy sighs. Heavy words. Heavy thoughts and heavy heart. No question that those emotions are real, and the hardships of life are real; and we need to shoulder them bravely; and we should ask for help when we need it; and help others when they need it. But no need to overdo it. Overdoing it is just a way to get attention for ourselves, or feed our ego subconsciously. Heavy sighs and heavy words put more on the people around us. They have enough already.

In the grand scheme of the Universe, whatever we’re about to complain about just really isn’t that big of a deal. Whether it goes the way we want it to, or not, a hundred years from now it won’t even be a whit of a memory in anyone’s mind.

Keep it light.

A Parent’s Gift

“To trust who our child is, and not who we think he should be or what the world wants him to be – that perhaps is the single greatest gift a parent can give. Faith in our child’s destiny, in the destiny of her soul – that’s the one ingredient that will make the biggest difference in our parenting.”

– Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open

Mud Run

Yesterday I had a few unexpected free hours and wanted to do a trail run. We’ve recently had a 8-9″ of snow and I love the trails under snow, so I geared up for cold and wore my studded shoes (short machine screws drilled into the rubber soles with the screw heads providing excellent traction on snow/ice).

With a little extra time available, I decided to drive south of Denver to the trailhead for the Colorado Trail. I ran 3.1 miles up the trail then back for a total of 6.2 miles (10k distance). The trail here is not really trail but a packed dirt road, and despite recent snow storms by the time I got there the road was unfortunately not snow-packed. The sun had done its duty and melted everything, leaving nothing but mud.

What could I do? I ran with my studded shoes in the mud.

With studded shoes it was better to run in the squishy mud on the left than the drier hard pack on the right

What I learned today:

1. Be prepared for any conditions, especially psychologically! I was disappointed and even a bit frustrated for a while, but then realized how much fun I was having in the mud. Conditions will undoubtedly be different than expected, at least part of the time.

2. The studs on my winter running shoes, intended for snow & ice, work very well in squishy mud. I did not slip once!

3. I liked these sign posts. I wonder how long they exist? I’m sure it’s not the entire 486 miles of the Colorado Trail.

Nice mile markers. According to signs these were donated by the Boy Scouts.

Sunday Morning

Scott Adams, who invented the Dilbert comic, mentions this in his book ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’ the difference between wishing and deciding.

It’s a key difference, because once we decide, we begin to take action. Wishing tends to start in the mind and stay there.

Deciding involves looking at the cost of pursuing that wish – financial cost, opportunity cost of not doing something else, etc. And then internally agreeing to the cost and moving ahead.

I’ve discovered that 10 minutes early Sunday morning, while the house is asleep and all is still quiet, I can pull out a pen and paper and write down my wishes. Just writing them down makes them feel different. It catalyzes a process that puts thoughts into action and leads to a decision to do – or not do – something that otherwise would float around in my mind.

I find I’m more energized (and happier!) because I’m less frustrated. Despite a demanding career and a busy life I’ve dropped the feeling of dread that life is passing me by. I’m able to put my most important wishes into action because I took time to prioritize and decide.

I don’t think everyone struggles with this. I envy those who do it naturally without much effort. They seem to just know what they want and it’s already prioritized and they’re able to just go. I’m very curious how others manage.

Wild Geese

This poem from Mary Oliver caught me in a moment I was feeling deep anxiety – over work, over life, over whether I’m doing it right.

Tim Ferriss called attention to this in one of his 5-bullet Friday messages, but I only saw it weeks after that particular email came out.

I recognized Mary Oliver‘s name from another poem The Summer Day, particularly a line I stumbled across in 2015 and have carried around in my memory ever since, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Wild Geese jolted me out of my anxiety and returned my attention to a larger perspective: that our wide world and the even more gigantic universe is flowing always, and I’m but a tiny speck in all those machinations. (Why is it so easy to lose track of that?) More important, Oliver’s words reminded me even though I’m a small speck I do have a place, and I only need to walk outside and look around to feel that flow of energy, and relax into it.

Daily Mantras

I will have a good time!

Attitude is EVERYTHING.

If it’s not what I want, I don’t say it.

It’s easy for me to change.

Words are previews of things to come.

I’m a doctor of human relations.

I am in the people business.

I am genuinely interested in other people.

I will ask a lot of questions today!

“Tell me more.”

I have an advantage.

I will watch the tone of my voice.

People are as interested in me as I am in them.

I’ll fake it ’til I make it.

I will speed up by slowing down.

It’ll come to me.

I will look for the good.

I will do more for everybody when I do more for me.

I will be a meaningful specific rather than a wandering general.

What I see is what I’ll get.

Repetition is the mother of skill.

I will act, not react.

I’m a money magnet.