I happened across a news piece online the other day that featured a man who was my boss some twenty years ago. Come to find out he had recently been appointed the CEO of a major LA media organization. I was very happy to learn how my former boss had risen to such heights in his career and reached out to him via LinkedIn to tell him so.
I know this man as being the salt of the earth. And there was something about the period of time that we worked together in a New Hampshire division of a worldwide publishing company that feels like there is a bond there. Most of us were in our early 30′s. We took our jobs seriously yet there was a lot of camaraderie and fun. My boss was beginning to make a name for himself as a magazine publisher and I was his second in command who ran the finances and operations.
I wasn’t surprised that within a few hours my former boss responded with a kind note. I was very happy to hear from him and the way he sought an update made an impact that has lasted.
“What’s your story?” he asked.
While collecting my thoughts to answer his question it struck me that my story is not simply what I am doing today. Rather it is an evolution best described by a few key highlights that has led me to where I am today. Sometimes those highlights have been highs and sometimes they’ve been lows. Being able to now see my story as a journey helps put things in perspective.
I may want to feel more successful in my business today yet I have to acknowledge where I’ve come from to appreciate how much I have accomplished. And if I am able to look at my life as a story I can imagine how I’d like the story to play out and make the appropriate choices. I feel more in control.
What’s your story and how might you like to change it?
I spent this past weekend celebrating my fiancé’s belated birthday in San Francisco. Living within 10 miles of the city it’s not unusual for us to spend a night in town. Yet what was lusciously different for us this time was that we chose a completely different neighborhood in which to hang out. This time we stayed in Japantown.
I’m a native San Franciscan and have lived a majority of my life in the Bay Area, yet I’m embarrassed to say that I have never stepped foot in Japantown until this weekend. It reminded me of how getting out of my ruts always leads me to look at life with a fresh pair of eyes.
This weekend I realized how important it is to focus on what I have been able to create in my life instead of where I am lagging behind in where I want to be. It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that my business isn’t doing this or that while totally losing sight of how blessed I am to have a business that enables me to spend every day working with my fiance and very best friend. My instincts tell me this will be far more important as I reflect back on my life at its end than my client list and annual revenues.
Thoughts Taking Form
Be careful what you ask for. I went to Maui for the first time in the summer of 2002 for a retreat with best-selling inspirational author Alan Cohen. One of the memorable exercises for me was describing to a partner what an ideal day would look like. I found myself sharing something that I’d never given deep thought to yet it felt right at the time. I shared that I’d love to have a business that my significant other was a part of. I was single at the time working in a corporate job and partnership had eluded me for several years. So this idea seemed like a pipe-dream that I never expected would come to fruition.
I met Dean five years later and when his business came to a fork I seized the opportunity to ask him to join me in mine.
This weekend I was reminded of how powerful it is to be aware of desires that you have that may not be a part of your daily consciousness. You have to be in touch with what you want before you can reach out to claim what you want when the opportunities present themselves.
I had been thinking about re-launching—or more appropriately, resurrecting—my personal blog for weeks. I’d been on hiatus for four years while consumed with getting my marketing business sturdily off the ground all the while becoming increasingly aware that my life was out of balance. I knew that I needed to add a focus that feeds my soul and keeps me in touch with the experiences of life. I don’t want to end up feeling that my life has passed me by.
The sadness of last week’s tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman lingered with me for several days—far longer, frankly, than I would have expected for a man whose work I honored yet didn’t follow closely. The thought that has stayed with me is just how delicate the human experience is on so many levels. How easy it is for us to observe someone else’s life on the outside and think they have it made yet have no clue about how much they may be suffering on the inside.
As I tried to process my emotions in response to this event, I recognized that I wanted to learn more about what was touching me. Isn’t this really the experience of life—truly feeling what gets thrown at you day by day?
For decades I have heard my mother’s voice uttering, “Everything happens for a reason.” I do believe this is true. Yet how can it be true for just the big things? I believe that everything—big or small–that happens every day is an opportunity to be looked at to lead me or you to do something new or different.
So while I was in a state of wanting to explore my responses to life on a deeper level, I had a very mundane event occur that I looked at as guidance to return to my personal blog. Thank you, Sheila, from Dublin, Ireland for following my dormant blog the other day. You motivated me to get back out there. Hopefully my digging for meaning will make some kind of a contribution.
I didn’t expect the 4-mile hill run I took the other day to be anything more than a standard workout. But as I got about 10 minutes into the run and started to climb with the hilly grade, I receive another life lesson reminder. I became aware of how much my beliefs and habits play a role in what I am able to accomplish. As I tuned into what was going on in my mind, I was able to get beyond what I had let become obstacles and achieve a higher performance.
Here are the obstacles I got in touch with and lessons learned:
Obstacle: I realized that I had established certain points in this routine run where I told myself that the grade was too steep and I allowed my pace to transition from run to walk.
Lesson: I had come to let the points in the road dictate my pace without even considering what may be possible. Over the course of time, I had developed the habit to stop at certain points without pushing myself. I let myself believe it was too hard without even trying.
Obstacle: When I became aware of how I was holding myself back, I made an effort to get in tune with what thoughts were attached. I realized that I had a slight fear about driving my heart and breathing rate.
Lesson: I made the assumption that if I was huffing and puffing deeply at the lower part of the hill, that it would be too much for my lungs to handle as I made my way towards the top. It wasn’t until I pushed myself that I was able to discover that I could manage my breathing as I focused on it. The assumption that I had let hold me back had turned out to be totally false.
The fresh New Year is just around the corner. Maybe you, like me, are thinking about goals. As you take a look at what you’d like to create in your life, what obstacles might be holding you back? Might you discover like I did some thoughts that are pure false?
I got a Facebook message today from a woman who was a close friend in my early high school years. She asked about what I have been doing in the 30 plus years since we last communicated. Once I got beyond the challenge of summing up my life in one paragraph, my mind stayed focused on the question–What am I doing with my life?
When I turned 50 a few months ago, I told myself that I would be more proactive in creating the second half of my life. So far, I’ve not done a good job with that. While I am doing pretty well with carrying out some short term business goals, I continue to let some long-held dreams go by the wayside. Are you guilty of this, too?
Make Your Dream a Priority
A couple of decades ago I made fitness a priority and began to schedule my life with workouts in mind. When a potential commitment makes itself available, the first thing I think about is how I might need to schedule my workout around it. Sick, maybe, but at least it works in enabling me to maintain my fitness goals. Why has it not occurred to me to treat my dreams in the same way? I know the necessary steps I need to take; I just haven’t forced myself to do the work because I simply don’t make the time for it.
In the scheme of life, seeing my dreams become my reality is far more important than my mission to keep away a few unwanted pounds. What’s up with my priorities? Add this one to my list of “What was I thinking??”
I have dropped a few pounds of body fat since I turned 50 three months ago. While being a bit leaner certainly makes me feel good, it’s the lesson behind the lost inches that means the most.
How I Lost the Weight
- I created a new habit. One evening my abs were feeling particularly flabby so I added some weights to my routine. I was actually more focused on how my body felt than how it looked, so as I discovered the weight work felt good, I moved the weights out of the closest and next to my desk where I began to use them daily. I wasn’t really aware of the physical effects the weights were having until I put on a new tank top on my birthday, about 3 weeks after I started my new routine. Realizing that I felt and looked stronger at 50 than the years leading up to it made me happy and inspired me to want to keep it up.
- I became more aware of the control I have over what I become. I started asking myself if I was hungry before popping food into my mouth or if I was still enjoying the food as I continued to eat. As I began to look at my eating as a direct cause and effect of my body weight, I lost a bit more fat.
It’s funny, but losing just these 8 or 10 pounds reminds me of what I learned after successfully losing 40 extra pounds at age 19. Having been an overweight kid my entire life and a failure at numerous diet attempts, I never thought I would be anything but overweight. There’s no doubt in my mind that my life would have been very different had I not made the commitment to change my eating habits.
It’s Not About the Weight
The lesson at 19–
Your history does not dictate what is possible for your future.
The lesson at 50–
The actions you take every day shape what you become.
Yesterday I took my place alongside thousands of other spectators who had gathered to watch the Blue Angels roar through the picturesque San Francisco skyline. The jets flew across the bay, giving us a quick glimpse of their spectacular stunts before they were grounded due to fog conditions. Yet it wasn’t the aborted show that sent me away feeling disappointed; it was a conversation that took place in the crowd that I allowed to get me down.
Four and a half years ago I left a high-paying job because I had come to painfully recognize that I was only in it for the money. I’ve started a new business since then that has great potential, yet it is only now beginning to take off. My life lately has not exactly been a cakewalk financially as I continue to invest in my new venture.
What Does Money Mean?
I am not normally an envious person, so it took me some soul-searching to uncover why the couple behind me in yesterday’s crowd got to me when I heard them talking about the multiple homes they owned. I had let myself fall into the trap of valuing money as the gauge for success. As I listened to them discuss how they were currently looking at buying another home, I began to ask myself if I had been a fool to let go of my big paycheck, as if the amount of money you have is a determination of how wise you are.
True Success in Life
One question that always gets me back on track is asking myself what would make me feel good about my life when I reach its end. It is easy to forget that it is a series of little things that build a lifetime, not one accomplishment that defines us. My Blue Angels experience reminded me to honor how I want to be remembered, and to measure my success accordingly.