“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.” ~ Ansel Adams
Here's a confession - it's been (this time around) about 8 months since I left my job as the Marketing & Communications Director of a 42,000 member sports-industry non-profit.
And it's scary. I still don't have a clear vision of what I'm doing. Not knowing where money's gonna come from (I do some part time remote work & private consulting gigs, along with freelance writing, book projects and photography & videography), but it can be hit and miss, and while some of those pieces pay, some of them don't (yet).
Some are "work" some are not. Sometimes my day is full of helping & serving others. Some days are full of hours & hours in front of computer screens plugging away in between meetings.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of work, my skill sets, my value to others, my passions, my dreams and the confluence of them all. I wonder who else ponders these and considers how they play out in their life.
I'm currently reading two books that cover these topics pretty thoroughly, Rework (buy now link: http://amzn.to/2kuvFb2) by Jason Fried and the team at 37signals and Adventure in Everything (buy now link: http://amzn.to/2kuHGgV) by Matthew Walker, which both cover the new job/freelance economy and the confluence of vocation, passion & dreams. Rework in particular looks at the future of work, while Adventure in Everything looks at passions, interests and dreams.
vo·ca·tion, vōˈkāSH(ə)n/, noun: a person's employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication.
av·o·ca·tion, ˌavəˈkāSH(ə)n, noun : a hobby or minor occupation.
I also look closely at the alignment of my calling, contribution and maximum impact. I spend time examining what am I best at, where can I be most useful, how my innate abilities & skills fit with my maximum contribution to the lives of others and the betterment of all.
Sure, I have bills and I gotta eat, but I try to be simple. I try to be as intentional as I can. I don't have new cars or big debt payments, I don't eat out much, I live simply and try to buy only what I need.
I've placed a priority on freedom & flexibility in my life. I'm emphasizing adventure and time in the outdoors. I'm focused on helping others. I'm striving to become a better man.
Everything I do - whether camp or fish or SAR or pray or meditate or learn or read or reflect or travel or daydream - becomes a picture and a dream for a story yet unwritten and yet untold.
The books I'm writing haven't seen a word put to paper, but the experiences, the mental pictures and the perspectives are starting to come together to create a slew of stories that now simply need to be woven together.
Resistance & fear often stop me from starting, but awareness, space, quiet and reflection are guiding an overwhelming pain that can only be overcome by simply doing, by creating & writing. When the resistance has it's hold, it can only be overcome by action & practice.
I'm on the path, I'm following the way...but here's another thing about me - I've never applied for a job I haven't been hired for. I've found jobs, I've created careers, I've dreamed opportunities. I've focused on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to work. I've differentiated myself in the value I bring to the point where I've been able to obtain any job I set my sights on. I don't say this to boast, but rather to illustrate the temptation of simply doing an about-face and just getting another job. Work is easy. Jobs come & go. Meaning & purpose is deeper and harder found.
I could probably go out tomorrow and find a job, get a paycheck and be moderately contented with what I do for a while, until that feeling arose within me (again) and it was time to strike out and do my own thing (again). And if one judges success on material, worldly things, getting a job and having new stuff and driving new cars, while stockpiling money in the bank would appear the path to take.
But this time, the ultimate objective and goal in front of me is to focus my effort toward inward reflection focused on my purpose, contribution, impact and passions to figure out how they come together amid my everyday adventures and work.
For many people, there's a distinct difference between vocation & avocation. For me, I don't see why they cannot thrive harmoniously together in an adventure-filled walk along a path of purpose & impact.
So if you think about it, just going out and getting a job would be a simple easy way to avoid the hard work of self-discovery of who I am and who I'm meant to be and what my role in this world is.
But, through experience, I know that ultimately wouldn't be fulfilling because from where my heart sits today purpose, meaning, impact and contribution are the only things that are.
I recently was listening to an audiobook version of James Allen's As Man Thinketh and thought it to be share-worthy along with a series of questions to ask yourself. Please to see it below, I can assure you that it will take but a few minutes to read, but it's contemplations I hope do continue beyond that time.
Visions and Ideals
"The dreamers are the saviors of the world. As the visible world is sustained by the invisible, so men, through all their trials and sins and sordid vocations, are nourished by the beautiful visions of their solitary dreamers. Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it lives in them; it knows them in the realities which it shall one day see and know.
Composer, sculptor, painter, poet, prophet, sage, these are the makers of the after-world, the architects of heaven. The world is beautiful because they have lived; without them, laboring humanity would perish.
He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Columbus cherished a vision of another world, and he discovered it; Copernicus fostered the vision of a multiplicity of worlds and a wider universe, and he revealed it; Buddha beheld the vision of a spiritual world of stainless beauty and perfect peace, and he entered into it.
Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; herish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.
To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve. Shall man's basest desires receive the fullest measure of gratification, and his purest aspirations starve for lack of sustenance? Such is not the Law: such a condition of things can never obtain : "Ask and receive."
Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.
Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without. Here is a youth hard pressed by poverty and labor; confined long hours in an unhealthy workshop; unschooled, and lacking all the arts of refinement. But he dreams of better things; he thinks of intelligence, of refinement, of grace and beauty. He conceives of, mentally builds up, an ideal condition of life; the vision of a wider liberty and a larger scope takes possession of him; unrest urges him to action, and he utilizes all his spare time and means, small though they are, to the development of his latent powers and resources.
Very soon so altered has his mind become that the workshop can no longer hold him. It has become so out of harmony with his mentality that it falls out of his life as a garment is cast aside, and, with the growth of opportunities which fit the scope of his expanding powers, he passes out of it forever.
Years later we see this youth as a full-grown man. We find him a master of certain forces of the mind which he wields with world-wide influence and almost unequaled power. In his hands he holds the cords of gigantic responsibilities; he speaks, and lo! lives are changed; men and women hang upon his words and remold their characters, and, sunlike, he becomes the fixed and luminous center around which innumerable destinies revolve.
He has realized the Vision of his youth.
He has become one with his Ideal. And you, too, youthful reader, will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you secretly most love. Into your hands will be placed the exact results of your own thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal.
You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration: in the beautiful words of Stanton Kirkham Davis, "You may be keeping accounts, and presently you shall walk out of the door that for so long has seemed to you the barrier of your ideals, and shall find yourself before an audience - the pen still behind your ear, the ink stains on your fingers - and then and there shall pour out the torrent of your inspiration. You may be driving sheep, and you shall wander to the city - bucolic and open mouthed; shall wander under the intrepid guidance of the spirit into the studio of the master, and after a time he shall say, 'I have nothing more to teach you.' And now you have become the master, who did so recently dream of great things while driving sheep. You shall lay down the saw and the plane to take upon yourself the regeneration of the world."
The thoughtless, the ignorant, and the indolent, seeing only the apparent effects of things and not the things themselves, talk of luck, of fortune, and chance. Seeing a man grow rich, they say, "How lucky he is!" Observing another become intellectual, they exclaim, "How highly favored he is!" And noting the saintly character and wide influence of another, the remark, "How chance aids him at every turn!"
They do not see the trials and failures and struggles which these men have voluntarily encountered in order to gain their experience; have no knowledge of the sacrifices they have made, of the undaunted efforts they have put forth, of the faith they have exercised, that they might overcome the apparently insurmountable, and realize the Vision of their heart. They do not know the darkness and the heartaches; they only see the light and joy, and call it "luck"; do not see the long and arduous journey, but only behold the pleasant goal, and call it "good fortune"; do not understand the process, but only perceive the result, and call it "chance."
In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. Chance is not. "Gifts," powers, material, intellectual, and spiritual possessions are the fruits of effort; they are thoughts completed, objects accomplished, visions realized.
What are your dreams?
What is holding you back?
What are your controlling desires?
What is the vision you glorify in your mind?
If you've read this to here, I applaud you, as not many will. Therefore, I can tell that you're a unique one and I do appreciate that. To show you, please contact me via this form and I'll send you a book.
*Photo credit Andrew Ruiz, Unsplash
Over the course of my professional career, I've been fascinated with productivity, workflows, efficiency & technology utilization allowing me to do more through working smarter. However, recently, I've become keenly aware that my structure & processes need some attention.
This interest all probably started around the year 2000 when I came across an early proof edition of David Allen's Getting Things Done, The art of stress-free productivity.
And while I'll admit I don't necessarily incorporate all aspects of GTD today, I do a pretty good job in some areas - like processing & braindumps. This entire system is built around reducing and eliminating mental pings in my mind of unfinished loops or items. And while I have that part down, I need to develop more of an effective structure to my action item workflow.
I've also utilized Hal Elrod's book The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM). The key daily focus includes the S.A.V.E.R.S program (Silence, Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading, Scribing)...and when I do all of these, the clarity around what I need to be doing is so much better. When I don't, I feel scattered and all over the place.
Recently, I've learned that my productivity increases significantly when I leave my home office and go to a coffee shop, library or co-working space. I'll often find that I can kick through what would typically take me all day when working from home in just a few hours in a more productive environment.
What I'm working on now is structuring my time to maximize movement in the projects I have according to their priority and potential. I often have multiple projects in the work at the same time, but have struggled to refine focus into each to achieve maximum momentum & traction to really see things coming together.
What I'm looking at doing for the month of February includes:
• structured daily scheduling - creating & sticking to a schedule to build routine & habit.
• time-based actions - this will include sleep, exercise, diet, work, writing, creativity and rest.
• daily meditation practice. I need this more than ever.
• social media fast/detox. It's taken over [again] and I need the reprieve for the next month.
So, I'm gonna give a focused effort for the next 30-or so days and will report back on progress & breakthroughs. I know that whatever I focus on tends to get more of my attention, so am looking forward to these improvements.
What's helpful in the structure of your life? How do you stay focused & productive? In what areas do you need growth? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
First, let me first say how much I value my sleep. Secondly, I gotta say I love naps more than just about anyone I know.
I'm kinda like a grandpa (in many ways) and go to bed early and rise before dawn these days. I nap early & I nap often. Here's the thing, though, I rarely if ever set alarms.
I go to sleep when I'm tired & I wake up when I'm rested. I listen to my body. I'm on a pretty natural circadian schedule. I'll sometimes still set an alarm when I really have a thing I don't want to worry about missing (like work, a class or SAR training or mission), but 90% of the time when I do set an alarm I awake before it anyway. And almost all of those times are for things before 06:00 anyway, so most days it really isn't even necessary or a consideration.
I attribute this to being in tune with and having developed the ability to listen to my body. I don't stay up late for staying up late's sake. I read most evenings and limit screen time. My favorite hour is 04:00-05:00 whether I'm going to the gym, writing or doing other work.
I tend to prefer focused, creative work this early in the morning when my mind is fresh and the world is yet to start rolling.
Take a look into this topic from any myriad of sources and you'll find just about every different type of advice you could imagine. From always get 8+ hours, to our President's 4-hour sleep habit, to the segmented sleeping schedules of many high performers to a regular short napping philosophy and on and on.
I don't prescribe to any of these specifically, but I do find that each of them can be effective & incorporated into my patterns. Sometimes, life is full and I don't have time to sleep as long as I'd like. I'll awake not fully rested if I have something to do. I make up for it with naps and recalibrating myself. I no longer go on for extended periods of sleep deprivation, because when I did it affected me in every area of my life and health.
Today, for example, as I write this, I've been sitting in a 24-hour diner since just after midnight and been here for four hours or so. I fell asleep last night sometime before 8:00 pm or so and slept till midnight and woke up refreshed. Since the options then became sleep more for sleep's sake or get up and go work, read, write, study that's what I chose to do. I feel good about the decision as I got a ton done and feel ahead on a bunch of things.
Later today, after some morning meetings and a lunch appointment, I'll likely lay down for an hour or so and nap. But even that's really just subject to the way my body feels.
I seek to always be improving and growing and to you would ask: Are you listening to your body? How does your sleep life look? Do you find yourself continually exhausted & caffeine dependent? Or are you on a pretty good routine that provides for adequate rest and refresh in your days? What are you improving in this area?
If there's anything I'm not, it's a sleep expert. I may be able to consider myself a nap aficionado, but that's about it.
Books, naps, fireplaces & blankets. That's my jam.
*Disclaimer, I love the snow.
The past few days the Portland Metro area literally shut down after receiving 6-12" of snow.
Drivers abandoned cars, other's slept in theirs. Stores started running out of bread. Schools shut down for days. Conveys of equipment & vehicles arrived from other city's to clear streets. It seemed that society's norms had come to an end. News channels ran live 24-7. One may have thought the world was ending. Things would never be the same.
It got me thinking about how we deal with interruptions in our lives. There seem to be a couple of different approaches one can take to an interruption like this. Or any interruption in our life.
It could be a job loss, illness, injury, break up, or anything else that disrupts our normal. It could really be any up-ending of our world. It's anything that disrupts the norm. Anything that changes the routine.
When I looked around, I saw two distinct responses to the snow: I love it and I'm making the most of it & go away, this is horrible, i have things to do, I have work to get to, places to go, etc.
I was reading this morning about adventuring in all that I do and how to live out each day as if an adventure that's guided by God and to simply be a participant in whatever the day brings...pretty different response than what I'm used to, what my normal is.
For me, it was a fall down a riverbank a few year ago resulting in a broken back, multiple surgeries and a long recovery. The event shook me up from the inside & disrupted my life in every imaginable way it could have. The event changed my heart and the direction of my life. Everything was new.
Today, I got to spend the time with some friends going through some very serious & challenging times in their life with an illness so sad and beyond understanding & comprehending. I get to watch them as they take each step, be strong for each other, grow & change. I will continue to be a part of this family as I have for more than 20 years. And by now, I'm accustomed to sitting around hospitals with them, just being, just listening. I know my place here.
No matter what happens in life, to us or around us, we have only one thing we get to choose and that is how we respond, how we react, grow and how we move forward.
Be it a snowstorm or a major life crisis, the choice is ours.
*photo credit: www.pdxpeople.com
I’ve started calling more meetings. I know, right? Who gets excited about meetings?
But here’s the deal, when I left my job in non-profit marketing & communications management in June the last thing I wanted to have was more meetings.
The meetings I attended left me feeling emotionally drained, unfocused & scattered. I would often walk out of a meeting with an overwhelming sense that I was lacking clarity & direction. I carried the emotional energy of the meetings with me as I went about my work, often for days or weeks. It was painful, my soul suffered as did my physical wellbeing.
Today, I’m applying that same principle conversely. I’m having more meetings that lead toward positive energy in my life & a focusing of my time & efforts. I’m meeting with mentors, inspirations & like-minded individuals. I’m meeting with old friends & new friends. I’m attempting to be as fully present as I can be, listening without an agenda & sharing my challenges, opportunities and struggles openly & honestly.
We’ve been meeting for coffee, meals or lengthy library work sessions. What I’m finding is that when I spend time with people who are aspirational, positive, creative & genuinely love life and their role & lot in it, I’m inspired and can carry that energy into my days & weeks.
Nearby? Great - let’s get coffee, I’ll buy. Far away? Let’s embrace technology & creative scheduling to ‘meet’ or talk via Skype or Hangouts. I’m letting my heart lead me to the conversations I have and the things we discuss; the ideas that shape me and the projects that I become involved in.
I’m learning a lot as I go on this journey toward more effective, productive, useful, meaningful work and these conversations I am having are playing a huge role in that.
Have time? Great! No time? I understand. Lives get full.
I used to have a lot of excuses. Today, I know that the only one I need only to please & live up to the expectations of myself.
So, I may be asking you to meet (and I may not). But by having read this, you'll have an idea or an understanding of why (or why not).
Maybe reading this has prompted you to ask yourselves about your attitude about meetings. How do they work in your life?
I'm finding upon reflection, like many things, I was just doing it wrong.
A while back, I heard reference to the parable below - I believe it was by Ryan Holiday (Ego is The Enemy, The Obstacle is The Way) on Tim Ferris's podcast. If I recall it correctly, I've found it (or a similar version of it) on the web. Either way, the point is the same.
Who Are You? And What Are You Doing Here?
Disappointed by his lack of direction and life purpose, a rabbi living in a Russian city a century ago wandered in the chilly evening. With his hands thrust deep in his pockets, he aimlessly walked through the empty streets questioning his faith in God, and his purpose. The only thing colder than the Russian winter air was the chill within his soul. He felt so enshrouded by his own despair that he mistakenly wandered into a Russian military compound off limits to civilians.
The bark of a Russian soldier shattered the silence of the evening chill. ”Who are you? And what are you doing here?”
“Excuse me?” replied the rabbi.
The soldier shouted back, “I said, ‘Who are you and what are you doing here?”
After a brief moment in a gracious tone so as to not provoke to soldier, the rabbi said, “How much do you get paid every day?”
“What does that have to do with you?” the soldier retorted.
With the delight of someone making a new discovery, the rabbi said, “I will pay you the equal sum if you will ask me those same two questions every day: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What are you doing here?”.
So, who am I and what am I doing here? I’ve been toying with the idea of a personal mission statement for a while, making notes, reading about development and have completed my first draft. It will never be complete as I will refine & edit it as life progresses, but here’s my first shot to share with you all of Who I Am & What I’m Doing Here:
"To remember where I have been, who I am as a new creation and to live my life for the service of others. My life mission is to live humbly and faithfully for God while spending as much time outdoors as possible, sleeping under the stars warmed by campfires and the light in my heart. I am committed to living in faith and spiritual exploration and growth. I will live a simple, minimal life with my focus on a quiet mind, a peaceful heart and a loving spirit. I want to leave a minimal footprint on the planet and environment, while adventuring and exploring as much of God’s magnificent creation as possible, going wherever He takes me to do His work. I will tell stories to encourage and inspire, shed tears to comfort and be fully present in each moment. I will share hope, love, safety & adventure as I go."
I'd be interested to hear who you are and what you're doing here.
Looking back, 2016 has been another year of great progress: I quit my job, slept outside more, quieted internally, read a lot, meditated often, grew spiritually, hiked, ran, skied & snowshoed.
I've worked on setting new intentions, focused on the daily actions and directions of my life.
I've focused more on meaning, purpose & impact. I've gauged my life by the direction I'm headed and the traction I'm gaining. I'm incrementally moving toward personal goals, dreams.
When I quit my job in June, I had a heartfelt conversation with my boss that while I didn't know where I was going to end up or what I was going to do, my heart felt called to make space for new opportunities, adventures and service.
I cried, as some of my co-workers told me to follow my dreams, that they wish'd that they'd have had the courage to (at one time or another) have followed theirs. They told me they were proud of my courage, that the timing is never right and that living a life outside of the traditional societal framework is admirable.
The truth is, I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no idea what my "career" will end up looking like. I know that I have certain transferable skills that are applicable to areas I'm interested in, passionate about, have fun doing and can contribute and be impactful and make a difference. I'm on my way to discovering my calling - and it's exciting!
These days I do a lot of stuff. Some days I simply write, sleep outside, help others, take pictures, focus on God, build businesses, help organizations, reveal truth, explore the inward, stare at the sky and quiet my heart. I know that my calling's direction will gain traction the more I become still, listen intently and show up for the work He assigns me each day. For this moment, I'll take that.
What is success? And have you asked yourself who gets to decide if you're successful? Have you thought about we can blindly walk along and allow society & the judgement of others to decide the measures of our successes and what that looks like in your life?
Merriam-Webster describes success as the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence (a position of prominence or superiority).
Of course, there are other definitions one could find, but this one struck me as most accurate in today's worldy sense. It says to me, that to be successful, one must acquire money & stuff, have people like you and be in a position of power or prominence...no wonder so many people are miserable today.
Just line it up, get two out of three of those and be miserable because you don't have the other. It says I have to have or I have to control or I have to be liked. It says I ought to focus on what I don't have. It says I need to focus on what others have that I don't (covetousness). It says if only I have all of this, I'll be successful, and practically speaking, happy.
Think about it - you can have money, family, but hate your job and be miserable. You can have a powerful, prominent career and be able to buy anything you want but if nobody likes you you're not successful.
I think a lot about what I want my life to look like. What I want to define me. What I want to allocate my time, talents and energy toward. I want to live a life that's based on more than money, having people like me, and being in a position of power. I don't want to climb a corporate ladder, and was fed up with office politics.
When I quit my job in June, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I knew that I needed to let the muddy water clear. I needed to regain clarity, focus & direction in my life. I needed to let the distractions float away and let go of the hold that constant boundary-less workplace communications had on my peace & serenity. I know I needed to sit and meditate more. I needed to read more, gain greater perspective. I needed to focus on gratitude for my health & life. I needed to eat better and prioritize time for exercise and mindfulness.
As I continue to focus on these things (6 months to the day I left my previous employer), the answers haven't necessarily all been finalized. What's stronger is my faith in things will unfold the way they're meant to and that I will be at peace along the journey - centered amid the ups & downs.
Today, I'm (largely) contented in most areas of my life. I'm at peace in my heart. And I've been deeply drawn to the One who gives me breath & salvation for my soul. I'm available when the calls come & and focus on rest and spiritual development.
I also know how deeply broken to the core I am alone, but grace has entered my heart and allows me to live free & peacefulToday I'm growing, while praying to surrender more areas of my life. I'm seeking. I'm striving. I'm quieter. I'm contemplative. I'm inward focused. I'm action-oriented.
Have you asked yourself about success lately? For me, it's been valuable introspection, self-evaluation, helpful for goal-setting, priority re-arranging and exploring my heart...and since we each only have have this one, short life, you might want to explore this question.