Random thoughts with a spattering of thoughtfulness.

I’m Sorry

I’d like to apologize for my neglect of this blog. It’s original purpose was to help me create and maintain a writing habit, at which I have epically failed over the past years, but am just now working on again.

I have no excuse other than fear, indecision, and sheer laziness.

According to the VIA Survey on character strengths, my greatest strength is love of learning. While that can certainly be a strength, it is also one of my greatest weaknesses. I use it as an excuse to procrastinate action because there is always more I feel like I need to learn and understand.

Over the past few years, I have changed jobs; started and stopped an associate’s program to support my new career; applied for, was accepted to, and started a graduate program to support my new career; decided this is not the career for me; dropped out of graduate school; and have again returned to my search for work that is meaningful and fulfilling.

The thing is, all I’ve been doing is piling underwear (check out Steve Kamb’s post at NerdFitness.com for reference). All this time, I’ve known what I want to do. I know what work fuels my soul. I alluded to it in my last post here over three years ago. Instead of doing it, I’ve spent years distracting myself. I’ve taken the path of least resistance and the result is that I’m miserable with my current work and full of regret for the work I’ve neglected.

I use my love of learning as a scapegoat for my fear of doing. But, I have to stop. I have to learn by doing regardless of how horrible my initial attempts will be.

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Moments of Insight

I am not a very creative person. My first instinct is always by-the-book and I struggle without a clear set of guidelines. Thinking outside of the box is not really my specialty. Mistakes are things to be corrected or erased altogether.

But, I love creatives. I admire their passion and that unique ability to turn imperfection into art. I long to achieve that level of freedom. Of course, I only recently discovered that creativity, like anything else, can be practiced and learned. I’m still not good at it, but I’ve found it comes more easily in the context of things that ignite my passion.

I’ve also found that when I acknowledge moments of insight instead of letting them pass by unnoticed, I invite even more clarity. When we are grateful for everything that is good in our lives, the universe conspires to bring us more good. So it goes with insight, clarity and creativity. When we acknowledge and appreciate it, we receive more and more of it.

Coming Into Focus

In my last post, I mentioned a little seed of an idea that I’ve been keeping warm and safe in the soil of my mind. I’ve been so eager for it to grow that I have been imagining and even planning how I’m going to shape it, but, really, I hadn’t the slightest clue who it was for. I know what I want to do, I know why I want to do it, I was even mapping out the how, but I didn’t know for whom.

A product or service will only go as far as the customer will take it. And I had no clue who “the customer” was. Until my most recent moment of insight, when my “who” finally clicked into place. Any imagining or planning I’ve done up to now has really been pointless because I didn’t have a clear image of my customer, but now I do.

My loves:

  • Communication
  • Training
  • Attitude
  • Engagement

The pieces are coming together. I have the what, the why, and the who. It’s time to work on the when and the how.

TL;DR?

  1. Accept imperfection; use it to make something beautiful.
  2. Be grateful for the good and you will have more good.
  3. The first step to achieving anything is to answer the most basic questions: what, why, who, when, and how.

MindBodyGreen.com

I started following MindBodyGreen on Facebook about a month ago and ever since my browser has been overloaded with all the links to amazing articles about health and wellness for your mind, body, and soul.

If you’re looking to learn to love yourself, green your routine, or just be happier and healthier in general, MindBodyGreen is an excellent resource.

25 Questions To Ask Yourself

In early December, contributing author and life coach, Ashley Wilhite, posted the article, 25 Questions To Ask Yourself Before The End Of The Year.

I stumbled across her article closer to the end of the month and decided I was going to go through each of the questions one-by-one. I didn’t get around to it before the end of the year, but did yesterday during my lunch hour. I paid careful attention to each question and answered it honestly before moving to the next.

The question that resonated with me most was, “When did I feel most creatively inspired?” Since I’m not a very creative person I expected this question to be difficult, but it really wasn’t. It was surprisingly simple.

My Creative Inspiration

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, it’s probably no surprise that I’m searching for my passion and a way to live it. It’s been hard though, because I love everything. I want to learn everything. I want to do everything.

How could I possibly pick just one thing to focus on when there’s so much to choose from? How can I find a niche when everything interests me and I know a teensy bit about everything but everything about nothing?

Then, while driving home from the grocery store sometime between October and November, the universe opened up and inspiration sprang forth. What if passion is my passion? What if telling others about the beauty of passion and helping them find their passions is my passion?

I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve excellence in any one thing, but I do know how incredibly passionate I am about achieving excellence. It seems what I love most isn’t something I can necessarily do, but how I can feel. So, I have a little idea.

Less Than A Seedling, A Seed

I don’t have many details about it, yet. It’s just a seed, this idea of mine. It’s still buried in the dark, earthy soil of my mind, but I’m nurturing it. I’m giving it air and light and I believe soon I may get it to sprout. It will be little at first, but, like all things, I believe it will grow.

I’m so grateful for reading Ashley Wilhite’s article and taking the time to mindfully answer her questions. It reminded me of what’s important, what I did well, where I failed, and how I can be better. Most of all, it renewed the light I was allowing to dim; it renewed my courage and my hope.

If you have a little seed of an idea. Shine your light on it, breathe your life into it. Don’t let your light dim and don’t let your idea suffocate. If you nurture it, it will grow.

Walk the Walk

Without Fail…

So… Several weeks ago I discussed the importance of daily practice and letting go of fear and doubt. I announced I would practice writing daily and since then—not only have I not posted anything—I’ve done absolutely nothing. I should also make it known that, earlier this month, I announced in a staff meeting at work that I was going to study for the GRE and try to make the February application deadline for the master’s program I’m interested in. Again, I’ve done absolutely nothing. So, what happened?

It seems that as soon as I commit to a goal I pretty much send it to an early grave. Turns out, there’s a lot at work behind the scenes that causes this phenomena.

First of all, Our Scumbag Brains…

In his 2009 blog post, Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them., Derek Sivers discusses why announcing our plans has such a detrimental effect.

Telling others about goals to create a level of accountability makes a lot of sense. We think if we tell other people, those people will hold us accountable. But, what really happens is the act of telling gives our brains the same level of satisfaction as if we had actually completed the task. Since our brains are chemically satisfied, we are less motivated to actually do the work.

And what about accountability? We choose to tell people who love and support us. The problem is, they also tend to be the people who love and support us even when we fail. Accountability goes right out the window because the people we expect to hold us accountable support us regardless of the outcome.

Worst of All, Fear…

After my last blog post, I had great ideas planned out for the next several days worth of content. I had time scheduled specifically for researching and writing my posts. I even started the research. Then, I did nothing.

As soon as I’d made the commitment, fear took hold. All I could think was, “Who cares?” The self-talk was debilitatingly negative. Thoughts like:

“No one cares what I have to say.”
“No one reads my stupid blog anyway.”
“What difference does it make?”

Through my interest in Pat Flynn, I also learned about Nicole Dean from NicoleOnTheNet.com. What interested me most about Flynn’s interview with Dean on the Smart Passive Income podcast (SPI009) is Dean’s motto, “Making the web and the world a better place.” Dean operates with the perspective that if you’re going to put anything on the internet, you should at least try to make it a better place.

As I was drowning in fear, all I could think was how am I making the web a better place? Is what I’m doing worthwhile or am I just wasting space. In that place of fear I felt like such a waste of space. For two or three weeks, the mere thought of this blog was tied to negative feelings and self-doubt.

Finally, I remembered it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if anyone or no one cares, it doesn’t matter if this is a waste of space and no one ever sees, reads, or remembers it. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing it as an outlet, to practice, and to learn. To heck with what anyone thinks about it or if they even care enough to think about it.

I regained my confidence and still took more than two weeks to finally sit down and write.

Just as bad, Time…

I’m a slave to my 8-5 and I hate it. I’m a slave to my mortgage and my bills and my student loans and I hate it. I want so bad to get out from under all of this. There are so many things I would do if only I had the time.

It’s 2:30 pm on a Sunday afternoon. I spent this morning feeling sorry for myself and thinking about things I would do if only I had the time. Then I realized how much time I was wasting. It’s important to have downtime, of course, but sitting around feeling sorry for yourself is nothing more than a waste of time. I will still take time to relax, but I’m going to try to be more conscious about how I do it and when I could put my time to better use.

There’s so much I need to learn and so much I need to do if I want to free myself and regain ownership of my time. I’m often intimidated because I feel like I need more formal education, which costs money I don’t have and debt I don’t want to incur. I need to remember, however, and everyone should remember, that we have access to invaluable resources world-wide. There is a wealth of knowledge at the click of a button. It’s only a matter of using our time and the world wide web more productively.

I can do this, if only I can stay focused.

Practice–It’s that simple
(and that hard).

I mentioned in my previous post that I’m working to learn more about freelancing and online business in the effort to at least generate a part-time, secondary income working from home. I also mentioned, not for the first time, how much I love to write.

So, last night I applied for work as a transcriber with some online transcription company. The application process consisted of a brief test designed evaluate the applicant’s command of the English language. I thought for sure I blew it clean out of the water. Then, I got the results today and “my number of errors was outside their allowable margin for error.” I *gasp* failed!

After traversing several phases of self-talk (failure, doubt, it’s-not-me-it’s-them, etc.), I set my ego aside and decided I must need more practice. Weekly isn’t enough. I have enough ideas, I need to practice daily.

So, whatever it is you want to learn, and whatever level of skill you currently have, if you want to get better, practice. The more you practice, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get.

Daily–Make time to make it a habit.

As an abstract concept I think we all know practice, especially daily practice, is what it takes to learn and improve anything we want to do well.

Personally, however, I’ve never really had the patience. I want to do something well and I’m a perfectionist, so when I can’t master it in whatever length of time my amateur brain imagines is reasonable, I quit.

To me, daily practice has always been an abstract concept of self improvement. I was either good at something or I wasn’t, period.

Until I made a daily habit of something simple and completely unrelated to anything I wanted to do.

I was among thousands of people who regularly lie to their dental hygienists. She’d ask if I was flossing and I’d reply, “Probably not as often as I should.” Translation: never (or, at best, rarely).

Then, she told me that my family history and personal dental hygiene may put me at higher risk of periodontal disease, so I made a commitment to daily flossing.

Having rarely flossed in the past, naturally I wasn’t very good at it. I used a massive amount of floss and it seemed tedious and time consuming. Not to mention, I had to make the conscious decision every day to take the time and struggle through it.

Then one day, without warning, I realized it wasn’t so bad. It didn’t take as much time, I didn’t use as much floss and I was much more effective at it. I also no longer had to remember to floss, it was just something I did.

That simple task took daily practice from an abstract idea to something practical that I could apply to any task at which I wanted to improve.

I also learned something else about daily practice. You improve without noticing you’re improving. Just like our hair grows and our bodies age, you don’t notice the change until the change is significant. You start out not doing so well and you continue thinking you’re not doing so well until one day, you realize you’re actually good. Then you continue at being good for a while until one day, you realize you’re great. So on and so forth.

Patience–With your progress and with yourself.

You’re not going to be very good on the first day and you’re not going to see immediate results. The most important thing is to remember that’s okay.

    If you want to paint, it’s okay if it’s not a masterpiece. Don’t quit.

    If you want to run, it’s okay if you have to rest. Don’t quit.

    If you want to be creative, it’s okay if ideas come slow. Don’t quit.

    If you want to be anything, it’s okay if you fail. Don’t quit.

It won’t happen overnight, in a day, a week, a month or even a year. But if you want to change, if you want to improve, you have to work. You have to keep practicing.

Let go of fear. Let go of comparison. Let go of anyone’s standards other than your own. Learn what you love and do what you love, because you love it. Accept mistakes as part of the process, as part of your process.

I’m sure for a lot of people this is a “Well, DUH!” post. But, I’m also sure there are a lot of people in the world just like me. Who quit before even giving themselves a chance. Who give up because they think they’re not good enough or it’s too hard or they’ll never make it. Frankly, I’m tired of quitting. I’m doing this.

A Chain of Events

Recently, I’ve started looking for ways I can generate secondary income.

I have a full-time 9-5, but have always wanted to move in the direction of more flexible, freelance options. So, I’ve started looking for ways to generate at least a part-time secondary income through telecommute freelance work. Like a lot of 9-5ers, much of my weekend time is dedicated to maintaining my household, but last week I decided I also wanted to use that time learning how to build an effective online business, so I put in my headphones and scrolled through the list of podcasts in iTunes.

This is how I stumbled upon Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast. I listened to the first six episodes of the Smart Passive Income podcast while cleaning the house and was bombarded with ideas. I’m working through the podcast episodes in order, but I had to jump to episode 87 posted on Nov. 15, 2013. The episode is titled “Why You Belong on Stage – Pat’s ‘Braindump’ of Public Speaking and Presentation Tips” and with my own newfound passion for public speaking, I couldn’t resist.

In episode 87 Flynn dropped this little gem about fear, “When the resistance, when that fear comes into play, for me that’s a sign that whatever it is I’m trying to do is typically worth pushing through…If you are thinking about public speaking, or you know it’s something you should do, but you fear it, take that as a sign that this is something you should do.”

When I heard this in his podcast, it occurred to me that the thing I fear most is probably the thing I should be doing. I also remembered this wasn’t anything new to me. It was something I had learned years ago, but had forgotten.

A Life Lesson

In 2002, I left my family to spend eight weeks detained on a military base in a small New Jersey town for basic training with the United States Coast Guard. I was scared out of my mind when I got on the bus and the closer I got to Cape May, the more my fear escalated into panic. What had I done?! What was I in for?!

Later, when basic training was a mere memory, I was discussing fear and life events with my younger sister and I remember telling her one thing I’ve learned is that, generally, the thing you fear the most will turn out to be the best thing you will ever do.

Despite the near-crippling fear I experienced as a boarded the bus to Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, I can say with complete confidence, that experience and the subsequent four years was easily the best thing I’ve done with my life to date. I didn’t let fear hold me back and the result was life-changing.

So why am I letting fear hold me back now?

A Debilitating Fear

I want to write. I love to write. For a lifetime I’ve been in awe of libraries which house innumerable resources for any topic I can imagine and I’ve dreamt about contributing to that wealth of knowledge. For years I’ve walked into bookstores, purchased random books on random topics of interest and longed to be a name on those shelves screaming for attention amidst thousands of others.

I have a passion for the written word in all forms, but I rarely ever write and I have never really worked toward my dream of being a “writer.” Why? Because when I walk around a bookstore, when I scroll through iBooks, when I look at the blogosphere–the millions of people trying to be heard–I am overwhelmed with doubt and fear. How could I ever stand a chance in such an over-saturated market?

So, other than journaling, I don’t write. Ever. Or, rarely. I started this blog and let it fizzle out. I wrote a couple articles for a local magazine and let that fizzle out. Despite my passion, I let the fear get the best of me and I fizzle out.

A Time to Change

As I was listening to Flynn’s podcast I realized I wasn’t writing, because I was afraid. And, I remembered my own lesson about fear. I decided I have to write. I have to set deadlines, I have to create more content, I have to practice, I have to get better. I can’t NOT do this.

So what if no one reads it, so what if it’s bad at first, so what if no one cares. I’ll get better with time, I’ll get better with practice. The more I write, the more ideas I will have, the more creative I will become.

So, last week I set my first deadline. I decided I would post to this blog on a weekly basis. I decided I would push through it, make myself write more, stick to my deadlines. Even if this never goes anywhere, I will practice, I will learn and I will get better.

Whatever it is you love, just do it. Forget about what other people think, forget about if you’re good at it or not, forget about the what-ifs, forget about the fear. If you’re afraid of failure it’s because you love something enough to care, so go out there and do it.

Fall Like Rain

Fall Like Rain…How?

A Pseudo Summer Rain

In that surreal space on the edge of sleep one night, an image took shape behind my eyelids. The image itself was nothing spectacular, just my neighborhood street under the low-hanging, soggy clouds of a summer afternoon rain storm. For an instant, I watched the rain fall in my mind’s eye.

What was striking about this particular flash of brain activity right before falling asleep wasn’t the image, but the metaphor with which it came.

In a moment of watching an imaginary rain, I saw life. Each raindrop was a single life. Condensed from seemingly nothingness as a result of atmospheric conditions, released on a particular trajectory with no control over the world through which it passes, and smashed into seeming non-existence as it rejoins the earth and those which came before.

The Rain Storm Perspective

The thought that stuck with me immediately after this little spike in brain activity and right before I fell asleep was, “I want to fall like rain.”

We want to believe we have control over every aspect of our lives, but what if we’re just passing through? We all search for purpose, but what if our purpose is just to enjoy the view and be happy?

This idea, of course, isn’t new. Countless people have put a lot of work into this and similar ideas. Many of whose work is well-researched, published and lines countless self-help bookshelves and who are certainly more credible then some girl spouting random thoughts that cross her mind.

It’s interesting, however, of all the material advising people to just be happy the idea is still scoffed at by the majority. And yet, life, or the universe or whatever, continues to blast us with experiences–like my pre-sleep metaphor– encouraging us to do just that.

Even as a believer and follower of this concept, I often get drawn into the day-to-day drama of my culture and society. There are times when and places where I just can’t seem to maintain my inner-peace. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m sure other people who try to live by similar ideas experience moments when they’re drawn back in to negative thoughts and the control-illusion.

Why is it so hard for us to just let go? Why are we so consumed by our need for control, or to be the victim, or to be miserable, when it’s just as easy to let it go and be happy?

So, what I’m striving to remember since that night is to simply fall like rain and let life lead.