Tag Archives: Time

On Whose Time? Take Life As It Comes vs. Force Your Own Agenda

“Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.” –Chinese proverb

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello friend,

I’ve been doing a little experiment over these last several months since I published my book. You see, up until that point, I religiously published my post once a week, only ever taking a week off when I was traveling. Although I don’t recall ever making a cross-my-heart promise to myself that I would get a new letter to you every week, that was essentially the deal. No excuses. And I kept it. For years.

I can’t adequately express to you how distressing it was to–hundreds of letters later–finally come to the decision last Autumn to put the blog on hold for several weeks in order to get through the very tedious and time-consuming final stages of publishing the book. Despite my certainty that it was the wisest course and that I would get right back to these letters when I finished all I had to do for the book, the decision to pause took me weeks to finally accept and execute. I hated to break the flow and the commitment.

An interesting thing happened when it finally came time to resume my weekly letters. I wrote the first few weeks: no problem. But the next week, when it was time to nail down a topic for the new post, I drew a blank. Nothing came to me. I started to panic. It’s not as though I had never had trouble coming up with a topic before; I definitely had. But through manic brainstorms or scouring of old notebooks or searches of the news, I had always come up with something that inspired/confounded me enough to deem worthy of my consideration and yours. But not that week. Try as I might for several anxious days, it just didn’t’ come.

In a rare moment of self-mercy, I let myself off the hook. I rationalized that after all of the work on the book, my mind must simply be not fully restored to its engaged self. I figured I just wasn’t tapped into the Universe the way I had been, and I decided that it would be very “enlightened” of me to accept that reality and flow with it. I gave myself a break. And let me tell you, that felt incredibly strange! I was almost itchy with dissonance. Something was definitely missing from my week.

But you know what? Even without my writing, my world did not come crashing down. I survived the anxiety and guilt of “not doing my job” of writing to you. Inspiration returned the following week, I wrote a long post, and I figured I was back on track. Trusting the flow of inspiration from the Universe was fine for a week, and I gave myself a little pat on the back for giving it a shot. “But I’m a writer,” I assured myself. “From now on, I write. No excuses!”

But then it happened again. Nothing stirred in my chest and my brain, aching to get out of me. I scanned and scoured, but nothing stuck. I had my panic moment, but eventually I rationalized, “Maybe this is the Universe telling me that I have a new pace. I will trust this one more time.” And I let that week go.

I wrote again the next week, then waited on pins and needles to see what would happen. Again I drew a blank and it slipped by. I scratched my head, eventually forgave myself, and moved on. And so it went for these last few months, alternating between a writing week and a head-scratching week. It is not like I didn’t write anything; I still journaled every day. I just couldn’t muster a post idea, and I accepted that–albeit with some suspicion–as me “staying in the moment” and “trusting the Universe to provide inspiration in its time.”

That, I suppose, became the essence of my struggle: deciding how much to view my lack of inspiration and diminished ambition to create something no matter what as A) me surrendering to the whims of the Universe, rather than as B) me failing at something under my control. I battled myself over and over to grant myself permission to let those uninspired weeks slide by without a product to publish.

My natural instinct was to label this inclination ‘Lazy’ and ‘Weak’ and then prod my myself until I found something to make it work. That has been my way for years: no excuses, act like a professional, get it done.

Produce! Push the envelope! Never settle! Go hard to get to your dreams!

That’s the way the world works, right? Or not?

But what about that seemingly enlightened idea of not “pushing the river” from the Chinese proverb? That sounds pretty darn good to me most mornings when my alarm sounds extra-early so I can squeeze more ambition into my day. It felt like a siren song on those weeks when I didn’t (couldn’t?) publish anything, telling me that it was all okay and even healthy to take a break from the rigors of striving for my dreams. It was downright alluring to believe that inspiration would come in its own time, when the Universe was ready for me to receive it, and that I could relax and enjoy the beautiful moments until The Muse decided to tap me on the shoulder and invite herself back into my soul, allowing me to return to my passion fully-armed.

So alluring that if tried really hard, I could almost believe it.

I tried that on myself last week. The week before had been one of my “off” weeks that I have begun to get accustomed to after a post, so last week I was on the clock. A letter was due. But then I got busy at work for a couple of days, and then my kids got out of school and took over my world, and yada yada yada…..the next thing I knew, I was pretending I had a legitimate excuse for not writing to you that week. I truly put in the effort to snow myself into believing I was just too busy and that “sometimes Life intervenes, the Universe decides it’s not time for that,” despite my best intentions. It made for a stress-free weekend.

But not really. Because, despite my best efforts at pretending that I had given my best efforts toward my writing, deep down the truth was lurking. “Trusting the Universe’s pacing” and “not pushing the river” were fast becoming justifications for my laziness and lack of focus on my passion, and I knew it underneath all of my “enlightened” rationalizations.

Although I am a big believer in intuition and following your gut, by nature I am a driver. My inclination is to look for a way I can make my situation better and then to set out to make that happen. I am stubborn about getting things to go my way. I have been known to “push the river.”

Despite all of that, I like the theory of being at peace with what is and trusting that the Universe has my back no matter how things appear to be going. I like the idea of translating my lack of inspiration as, “It’s just not meant to be today. I’ll check in again tomorrow.” I sometimes admire the people who just chill and don’t mind at all what happens with their situation one way or the other.

But despite the allure of “Whatever,” that just isn’t me.

This reminds me of the other age-old dilemma that I have taken my turn struggling to come to grips with: choosing to be happy with who you are and accepting yourself (your body, your flaws, etc.) completely vs. constantly striving to be better than you are today. Maybe it’s exactly the same issue.

In either case, I always seem to fall back to being bothered by the “Just accept things/Let it be” answer because it feels lazy and complacent. It takes my agency, my responsibility away from me. It coaxes me into helplessness. I despise that condition.

I choose to believe that I have the power to change my situation, whether that relates to an injustice in my country or a lack of inspiration in my mind. I choose to believe that, no matter what forces are working against me that seem to be representing “the Universe wants it this way,” I can take action to steer the situation another way. That action might be a march on Washington, DC, or a volunteer shift at a shelter, but it might also be just showing up at my computer next time I don’t feel “inspired” by any particular topic and start typing anyway, one grinding word at a time. After all, The Muse may or may not be real, but if she is (and I believe she is), I am certain that she only helps the ones who are there doing the work that their soul calls out for them to do. When she stops by my house, I plan to be plugging away at my keyboard.

Maybe this boils down to me saying that I have to act as though the Universe does not have a pace, does not have an agenda. That it’s up to me to create the life I long for, despite the circumstances that sometimes seem to conspire against me. I can’t sit on the sidelines of my own life and take the “It’s in God’s hands” attitude. I think God’s hands are my hands. Yours, too. I must use my hands to the best of my ability to create a life and a world that meets my standards. So that is what I will do.

I am not guaranteeing that you will start seeing a new letter again every week. I am only promising that I won’t blame it on someone or something else when I don’t produce or live up to my expectations. I will not write it off to the whims of the Universe or The Fates not feeling me. I will own what I do and what I fail to do, call myself out when I am being lazy or procrastinating, and take regular stock of myself (usually in my journal).

This morning as I was trying to pull this letter together, I took a break to look at social media. One of the first things to pop up in my newsfeed was a photo of one of those old signs that used to be in front of every convenience store, with the rows for interchangeable block letters that listed the hot deals on cigarettes or jumbo sodas or Slim Jims. This one read: EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. SOMETIMES THE REASON IS YOU’RE STUPID AND MAKE BAD DECISIONS. “Yes! This is what I am trying to say!” I shouted to myself. The Universe may have its own agenda, but we have to take ownership of our little neck of the woods.

My new working theory after processing all of this: Maybe each of us doing our absolute best to ambitiously pursue the life and the world that we dream of is what creates the Universe’s agenda. That is, maybe each of us pushing our little portion of the river is what actually makes it “flow by itself.” Yeah, I like that. It doesn’t make me feel guilty for being ambitious and not settling for the way things are. In fact, it demands that I trust that instinct to push the river and live my dreams. That works for me!

How about you? How do you balance trusting the Universe’s pacing with pushing for things to happen as quickly as your ambition demands? Open up your journal and your engine and try to understand how driven you are and what causes the ebbs and flows in that drive. How ambitious are you in getting what you want, whatever that may be (not necessarily career goals or saving the world–could be anything)? Do you impose your will upon the situation and force things to go your way no matter what the circumstances are? Or, if things do not seem to line up in your favor, do you accept that as a sign that it was not meant to be and let it pass? On a scale of 1 to 100–with 1 being “Whatever” and 100 being stubbornly ambitious–how do rate yourself? Would the people in your life agree with that number? What would they rate you? Speaking of them, how does your number compare to the people in your inner circle? How does it compare to the people you admire most? Are the people we generally see as heroic and worthy of our admiration–the people in our History books–more likely to have high ratings? Does that make stubborn ambition better, or does it just make it unusual? How much do you admire the “Whatever” folks who are just fine with any situation? Do you think those folks are happier than the people like me who are always striving and looking for ways to improve our situation? Does the world need more people on one side of the spectrum than the other? What do you think is the proper dispersal of people along the spectrum? What would happen if we all became stubbornly ambitious in our pursuit of a better life and better world, given that we might not all have the same ideas of what “better” looks like? Could that work? Might it be amazing? Okay, so does the Universe–or God, or Spirit, or The Fates, or whatever–have its own timing? Does It aid or hinder us in our pursuits based on Its own agenda or Its own pacing? If you believe so, how often are you aware of that sensation of things being out of your hands and under control of the Universe? What feelings does that awareness bring up in you? Awe? Calm? Frustration? Helplessness? Gratitude? Does it make you more complacent or lazy to think that something is out of your hands or “just not meant to be?” Do you feel less responsible for your actions in those cases? How do you strike that balance in your life between, on the one side, ambition and personal responsibility, and on the other side, going with the flow and leaving it to Fate? Do you often sway dramatically from one end of the spectrum to the other? Have you found your sweet spot yet, where you feel like you are pushing just enough to bend the Universe to your will but still accepting whatever comes as a result of your pushing? Leave me a reply and let me know: Whose agenda is your life following?

Make Peace with it All,

William

P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please share it with your social media channels. Together we can create a more self-aware world.

P.P.S. If you are looking for a Summer read (and write), check out my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailer.

When 50 Years Is Forever But No Time At All

“Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” –Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait

Hello friend,

All week long I have been ruminating on the life of Martin Luther King. Well, I suppose it is more like 30 years that I have been ruminating on him. Ever since that day I walked into the library of my high school bent on satisfying the intense curiosity I felt about this man, a fascination that none of my teachers and textbooks had quenched. I read and read, and as I did, the feeling grew that I had found my soulmate across the ages. We were connected somehow, like cosmic brothers. Timelessly so.

My hero was murdered 50 years ago.

FIFTY YEARS!!! That feels like an eternity to me! But even for someone as resonant and consistently present in my life as Dr. King has been, “his time” still feels so long ago and so much before mine. In so many ways, I cannot believe it was only 50 years ago that he died!

I think of all those images in still photographs and grainy video. The fire hoses and dogs, the lunch counters and sidewalk beatings, the policemen’s billy-clubs, the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, the many sermons in churches across the South, and the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall for the “I Have A Dream” speech. I always see the Civil Rights Movement in black-and-white. Some time long before me, just like the Great Depression and World War II and Charlie Chaplin. Ancient history.

But the truth is that Dr. King was right before me, and his time bumped right up to my time. He was murdered in April of 1968. My sister was born the very next month. My goodness, I have never realized that! It shocks me now that I do. Even though I can see the dates in my head and I understand it to be true, somehow my mind just won’t absorb the concept.

I nearly shared an era with Martin Luther King.

I am so stricken by that realization just now. In my mind, it was such a stretch to connect us, at least from a practical standpoint; I felt him in my heart, of course, but he was always a character from such a completely different time, as much as my other major influences: Gandhi, Buddha, Henry Thoreau, and Jesus of Nazareth. Fifty years could have just as well have been 500! It always seemed so far before me.

Everything about the 1960s has felt that way for me: Woodstock, JFK, the moon landing, even Vietnam, which went into the 70s. I see now that everything before me feels like ancient history.

And just the concept of FIFTY YEARS seems like forever. It’s so big!

I guess that I fail to realize that I am 45 years old. That is nearly half a century itself. Maybe the fact that I cannot imagine myself as being 50 sheds some light on why I see Martin Luther King as nowhere near my time.

I think this type of view changes with age. At least it has for me. I know that I have made an effort in my adult years to expand my range on this, to make more real the idea that 100 years and 200 years and things like slavery, the extermination of the Native Americans, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, and the right of women to vote, that none of that was actually very long ago. I have done it intentionally so that I can keep my empathy and be on the alert for narrow-mindedness and entitlement. It is a process that I have mixed results with, occasionally grasping the close proximity of these events to me, but usually not. I take a lot for granted.

The fluctuating nature of my grasp on this concept of Time seems directly proportional to the level of wisdom that I operate with from day to day. When I am clear how near all of this stuff is to today–a blink of an eye, historically–then I am more aware of how important it is for me to use my voice and my life for good and to speak up immediately and passionately against ignorance and injustice, as those things can quickly gain a foothold and wreak havoc on a generation of unsuspecting souls.

I feel like I owe it to my children and future grandchildren to take the long view and realize just how brief a half-century is, how near we are to the previous one, and how quickly the next one will pass. It pushes me to take ownership of my era, to try to leave a better legacy than my generation seems to be allowing to transpire right under our noses.

I don’t want my future grandchildren to look back at this time–my time–and think, “What fools and cowards those people were in that age! How badly they behaved toward one another and toward the planet! They nearly destroyed everything, and barely anyone spoke up on the side of right. How short-sighted they were. Thanks goodness we know better!” I hope that we can see and confront the error of our ways in the present and leave a better legacy than we are on track to.

Fifty years goes by in a blink. That’s what my mother tells me. We can do a lot of good or a lot of bad in that amount of time. When I think about those black-and-white images from the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s death–and when I remind myself that that was only one blink ago–I understand the kind of seismic shift we can make in the next blink, one way or the other. Dr. King and every other brave person who spoke, marched, and bled for civil rights in the 1960s made all our lives immeasurably better. But our potential for greater things is limitless. There will not come an era when it will be acceptable to say, “Okay, we have done enough to improve the world for ourselves, for humankind, and for our planet.” The time will always, as Dr. King says, “be ripe to do right.”

If you are reading these words, you are in the midst of one of those 50-year blinks. Someone is going to look back in wonder 50 short years from now–it might be you, it might be your grandkids, it might be the History books–at the time in which we are living. They will see the images we daily create: school shootings, climate events, cowardly displays of greed and short-sightedness from our elected leaders, showdowns over nuclear weapons, killings of unarmed Black men by the police, and lots of people taking selfies as the rest of the list goes on in the background? Will they be impressed or aghast at us?   Will they find any heroes in their review of our time, anyone like Martin Luther King?

These questions haunt me now in this rare moment of clarity about how quickly time flies by. At least for this moment, before something distracts me and clouds my vision, I want to make a bigger commitment to make this historical blink–our blink–a more positive one. A time for growth and for progress. I want this blink to be characterized by an increase in EMPATHY and a corresponding natural boost in Social Justice and Peace. I want it to be characterized by an awakening in our hearts and minds about the disastrous effects of our actions (and those of our ancestors) on each other and on our planet, and with that awakening a newfound conviction to live bigger and better than we ever have before.

I sincerely hope that with that awakening and conviction come heroes. It would be a shame to be a party to an era that leaves behind no heroes for the next era. It reminds me of the John Mayer lyric from his song “Speak For Me”: You can tell that something isn’t right when all your heroes are in black-and-white. I hope that for the sake of the coming generations, we can leave behind a legacy of moral progress and broadminded vision, and some genuine heroes, too.

Dr. King died 50 years ago this week. Perhaps the more staggering fact is that he was alive for only 39 years. If History blinked, it would have missed him. That’s how fast it goes. But if you do it well, as Dr. King showed us, your blink can shine forever. I want my blink–our blink–to be better. The thought of my hero inspires me to rise up and do my part to make it so.

How about you? Do you realize how quickly your era is passing and the impressions it is leaving in the greater evolutionary journey of our species? Open up your journal and contemplate this infinite topic. What is your sense of the magnitude of 50 years? Does it seem like forever to you–taking you to some foreign territory like a black-and-white film that you can’t make real in your colorful mind–or does it feel like just a little while ago? Do you think this is entirely dependent upon your age–i.e. 50 years seems like nothing for people older than 50 but feels like forever to people younger than 50–or are some people just better at comprehending our tiny spot on the vastness of History’s timeline? As a 45-year old, I grew up with color TV shows but also some after-school re-runs in black-and-white (e.g “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Three Stooges”) that I always had trouble connecting with. Do you think the switch from black-and-white to color images in photos, TV, and movies will change what seems “contemporary” to this and future generations, or will our color images seem old and unrelatable to them, too? Are your heroes from your lifetime? Has the past 50 years–the time since Dr. King–produced a proportionate number of heroes to the other historical eras? If not, what is it about our era that is lacking such that we have not produced the kind of people who are worthy of our idolatry over the long haul? It seems reasonable that with social media and the Internet, this era’s potential paragons of virtue would be easily visible and widely accessible to a broad audience, making it seem likely that we would produce an exponentially greater number of heroic figures than previous eras. Are we? What will be the legacy of our era–this blink–when people look back at it 50 years from now? Will it be all of the negative stuff we see on the news everyday–the corruption and cowardice in Washington, the shootings, the climate change–or is there something greater at play that we are missing amidst all of this narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness? Or is that very pettiness and folly going to be our legacy, the thing that sticks out to the writers of the History books? Perhaps. Now switch gears: what would you like the legacy of this era to be? How different is that than where it appears to be heading now? What could we start doing differently to get it going in the direction you want it to go? Is it a reasonable ask, or are your hope and our reality a bridge too far to cross? What can you personally do to make our era more like the one you would like it to be remembered as? Is that something you can begin today? I hope so. Leave me a reply and let me know: What lasting impression will this historical blink of an eye leave upon History?

Be your biggest,

William

P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, I hope you will share it on your social media. We need to grow the conversations that make us better. Thank you!

P.S.S. If you haven’t read the Journal of YOU book yet, you can find it on Amazon or any of your other favorite online booksellers. Please leave a review if you have. Thanks!

Life On My Terms: Learning to Say NO & Loving It

IMG_1667“Time does not stand still. Make it your aim to create time for your dreams, your loved ones and your Creator. Design your life for what warms your heart and get good at saying no to everything else.” –Mastin Kipp

Hello friend,

I remember the days when I wasn’t so clear about what I wanted to do with my life. Things seemed to be going along pretty well. I enjoyed my relationship with my wife. Kids hadn’t entered the picture yet. I worked way too much, but there was free time on the weekends. If something interesting—or not—was on the television, I would plop down on the sofa and watch. Sometimes for hours, if I was tired or nothing was pressing on my mind. If I was invited to a party or event, I usually went, even though I am, by nature, extremely unsocial. If a suggestion to do something or go somewhere came up, my typical attitude was, “Sure. What else do I have to do?” I was easy; I rolled with it. I was happy. Happy, but not particularly driven. Not particularly clear.

My, how times have changed!

A portrait of my life right now looks a little different. Okay, a LOT different! The wife is still here; that’s a good thing. The kids are definitely here! Also good. I am not working way too much—at least not in the way I used to think of working—which is fabulous. Somehow, though, I have forgotten what plopping down on the sofa feels like. And television? The only thing I know about that anymore is that it shows cartoons. The invitations that come these days are for kids’ birthday parties.

Needless to say, on the outside, my world today looks like an alien planet compared to those bygone casual days! The strange thing is, these changes are just a drop in the bucket compared to what is happening on the inside.

The one constant, fortunately, is that I am still very happy. I am glad that even before all of these changes occurred, I had reached the point with my mind where my happiness is not dependent on circumstances. Things and people come and go, but my happiness remains. That’s a comforting realization.

But, as I said, that is the one constant, the one holdover from those days when I had no plans and my ambition was stuck in neutral. When I step out of my mind right now and think about how it works today compared to then, the differences are shocking. Today, I am being driven hard by my dreams and aspirations every day of the year. There is a reason that the sofa no longer remembers my body and I no longer know the names of any grown-up television shows or movie stars.

You might think it is the kids that did this to me. It isn’t. It is my purpose that did it. My passions. I finally woke up to them, and they have been driving me ever since. There is not a day that goes by that, when my head hits the pillow at night, I don’t wish that I had done more soul-stirring activities or had more time for advancing my mission. Never. Then I wake up the next morning with the itch to be more, to do better, to get closer to the fulfillment of my dreams.

I beg the Universe for more time. Time to write. Time to learn. Time to coach. Time to snuggle with my kids. Time to connect with positive people. Time to connect with The Divine. Time to be of service. These are the causes I want to advance, the ones I am trying to fill every free moment of every day with.

That is why the complementary themes that are driving a deep course through my mind as this new year gets into full swing are Efficiency and Clarity. I am trying to be absolutely crystal-clear every single day about the things that matter most to me so that I can put all of my time and energy into those people and causes. That is what I am about right now. It doesn’t allow for lapses of focus or for days spent in front of the television. It certainly doesn’t understand the possibility of me giving the “Sure. What else do I have to do?” response. I ALWAYS have something to do. Usually more things than I can handle. But always something. It has been a long time since I felt bored, and honestly, I am absolutely certain I will never feel bored another moment in my life. How could I? After all, every moment is an opportunity to better myself and the world around me, another chance to DO SOMETHING to fulfill my dreams and passions. How could I pass on that chance?

That is why my entrance into this year comes with a more serious conviction to spend my time wisely, to not waste any of it. And I mean any! Basically, I want to live entirely on my own terms. I want to cut out all things that don’t speak to me or feel “good for my soul.” I just want to trim off all of the excess—all of the distractions and the energy-drainers and time-consumers—and dial into my essentials. I want to do things that lift my spirit and speak to my soul. I want to spend time with people who I love and who inspire me. I want to feel connected: to myself, my maker, and my loves.

Anyone and anything that threatens to disconnect me from those essentials needs to go. Now! Of course, the more I become laser-focused and excited about this mission and visualize me living the dream, the more I realize how much and how often I am going to have to say, “NO!” to make it happen. I will have to be pretty tyrannical about it. Ruthless. That party I didn’t want to go to? “No, thanks!” Getting drawn into conversation with someone who spreads negativity or just talks about other people? “Pass.” TV? “NO!” I will have to get comfortable declining both invitations and my own inclinations, things I have always done but that simply don’t serve me or speak to my heart. That part will be difficult, no doubt. However, I think that with my priorities much more clear to me now, saying “No” should come easier. After all, if the things I am saying “Yes” to—i.e. only my top passions and pursuits—are enough to fill up my calendar (and they are), then it should be easier to say “No” to the rest. And that is what I will do. Eyes on the prize!

How about you? Is your life matching what you believe your priorities to be? Open up your journal and think about how you spend your time and energy. What activities fill up your typical day? Include both your “work time” and your “free time.” How much of that time do you feel is focused and efficient? How many of your activities and hours are tied to your goals, dreams, or things you deem “good for the soul”? How much of your time is casual, unambitious, not driven toward anything specific? How much of your time is spent doing things you would rather not be doing? How much is spent doing things you regret later? Okay, now reset your mind. Write about all the ways you would spend your time if your passions, your purpose, and nurturing your soul were your only priorities. What makes your heart sing? With that goal foremost in your mind, write out your ideal schedule (Remember, it’s ideal. Get greedy. Think BIG!). How would your week look? How many hours would each of these fulfilling activities get? (Side note: How exciting is it to visualize a life like this?!?) Okay, with this new, ideal life clearly in your mind, write down all of the things you would have to say “NO” to in order to maintain that life. This could include career opportunities that don’t speak to you, invitations to social events that you used to accept but that never enriched you, conversations about other people that you used to engage in but made you feel smaller, mindless hours in front of the television, or people that dragged you down. How long is your list? What percentage of your current life would you get rid of in order to make room for your more fulfilling, ideal life? Is there anything you are ready to start saying “NO” to today? If not today, what are you waiting for? Leave me a reply and let me know, When are you going to start living life on YOUR terms? 

Maximize every moment,

William

P.S. If this letter got you thinking, please share it. Our souls could all use a little stirring!

All-In, or Hedge Your Bets? A Question for Dreamers

DSC_0769“Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make.–Rick Warren

Hello friend,

In the questions I wrote to you at the end of last week’s letter, I somehow scratched the surface of a topic I have been denying for a very long time. That scratch, however small, has broken open this week, revealing a massive abscess that has been festering far too long in the buried depths of my mind, where I had tried to keep it. Denial is a powerful force, and despite my philosophy of life being based on self-knowledge and the complete ownership, acceptance, and celebration of who I am, I have used the cancerous powers of denial to escape accountability for failing at my biggest of dreams. In that failure, I have been false to my Truth, not allowing the best parts of me to shine through to be used to their fullest to serve the world.

I have been frustrated with the Universe. I have grumbled about the unfairness of Life, how it does not allow me enough time to pursue my passions fully in order to help me maximize my potential. If I can blossom—I have often thought to myself—what I have to give can help to “save the world” and make for a more peaceful, authentic, and happy existence for so many. But the Universe—with its mere 24 hours in a day and bills to pay and soccer practices to get to and such—is not supporting me in that. It is not making it easy on me. It is not, as it turns out, a wish-granting factory. That is extremely annoying to me. It makes it feel like a conspiracy against my dreams, with all of my efforts to advance being thwarted by the constrictions of time, money, and obligations.

So it was that I arrived at the last paragraph of last week’s letter to you, which was about whether or not I had moved any closer to my dreams in the last year. The pertinent questions started flowing out of my mind, things I wanted to ask you so that you might dig deep and know yourself more fully. Then, out of my fingers came the question that opened up the long-festering issue that, in a lot of ways, defines my existence: Does it make any sense in this crazy-busy world of ours to have more than one thing that you are really passionate about and want to give your time and energy to? It stopped me in my tracks. It was like I walked face-first into a wall. I couldn’t help but just stare at the question in front of me. Psychologically, my defenses started to go up. “The question is for the reader. Just move on. Finish the letter! But here I sit, one week later, and I haven’t moved on.

I think I have written this story before, but it bears repeating. A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my revival of my passions and really full of energy to finally start living my purpose on this Earth before it is too late, I used to read a blog every day called “The Daily Love” by Mastin Kipp, that was all about those kinds of thoughts. Well, one day, Mastin posted a video of himself as the subject of an interview by his girlfriend. At the end, she asked him if he had one thing he hadn’t said or would really like to say to his audience. He turned directly into the camera and, after a warning to remove the children from the room, said, “F*#%ing ditch Plan B!! Go all-in on Plan A! Plan B is a f*#%ing distraction from your dreams. When you go all-in on Plan A, not only will Plan A happen, it will be better, because what The Divine has in store for you is so much greater than you can possibly imagine and it’s not going to look anything like you want. Please ditch Plan B.

It was like a jolt of electricity went right up my spine. The goosebumps were immediate. He was talking to me. He found my weak spot. I thought of my writing dreams immediately. I was energized and eager to go all-in on the spot. But then the fears, doubts, and excuses started creeping in: “Yeah, but I have kids to feed and bills to pay; I can’t just go ALL-in.I hated that thought, but I gave it credence. So I kept on in my usual ways.

Sure, I pressed harder on my dreams, but I kept them dispersed pretty widely. I started my Life Coaching training, which is directly related to my big dream of writing to change people’s lives. I took a career move that would reduce stress and distractions and allow me more time with my kids and more energy for my other pursuits, including writing. Then, I also started my skin care business, which was intended to free up more time and energy in the long run for the writing. All of these things have been positives in theory—they speak to my heart and are intended to help the cause—but they also have taken up tons of time and energy. As I look at them now, I can see that, at their core, they are my Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. They are safety nets. Enjoyable and meaningful safety nets, but still, at the end of the day, just safety nets.

I have been dodging this issue of just going all-in on Plan A for all these years behind my justification that I need to keep guaranteed money coming in so the bills can be paid. It’s a legitimate-sounding excuse, and I have clung to it with all my rationality. And hey, maybe I still should. Is it selfish to take a financial risk for my family in order to pursue my personal dream? How does one give himself permission for that? Is it brave to do so, or merely self-indulgent?

I am wondering, though, if it is just plain cowardice that keeps me from narrowing my options to Plan A/writing only. Am I scared that if I go all-in and can’t make it go, that I will have blown all of my options and left my family without income? Or maybe I am scared that failing at my biggest dream will be a devastating blow to my ego, as I will have no excuses if I have focused all my energies on it. Now I have built-in excuses because I don’t “have” time to devote myself fully to the writing. What I am doing is still not making my dream happen, but I guess I am making that more palatable by bleeding slowly out rather than being bombed to bits by going all-in and failing. The more I think about it, the more cowardly this seems. It is weak. I know there is the family excuse—and I could stomach this course much less easily if I was single—but that is not sufficient.

So, what am I going to do? Is my shame from the admission of cowardice going to be enough to get me to change course, to throw caution to the wind, eliminate my other interests and potential income sources, and go single-mindedly at my writing as though there is no other option for me? Honestly, I don’t know if I can do that. I hate how scared I am about staying financially afloat. On the other hand, I hate how far I feel from making my big dream come true. And frankly, I am greedy. I want to be able to pursue all of my passions and interests at the same time. I have said before that I am spoiled. I feel like there should be time for everything that I want. I understand that I probably have more hobbies, curiosities, and passions than most people, and darn it, I want the Universe to accommodate the way it made me. I don’t want to “be realistic” and narrow my allowances to only one pursuit because that is all the clock says there is time for. I want to be me: idealistic, optimistic, and fully believing that I am going to change the world with more than one of my gifts. Perhaps I am delusional. Perhaps the combination of my spoiled nature, my greed, and my delusions will keep me from ever going all-in on my biggest dream and thus keep me from ever really succeeding in the way I imagine that I will. But maybe this letter has been the beginning of something for me. Maybe in finally stepping out of my denial and facing this issue head-on for the first time, I will actually make a move toward “reality” and narrow my focus to writing only. Perhaps it is not a bridge too far for me. I am glad to have at least begun the negotiations.

How about you? Have you gone all-in on your biggest dream, or do you spread yourself thin amongst other things that don’t speak to your soul as loudly and clearly? Open up your journal and think about your version of reality and what that allows you to do. What is your Plan A? When you close your eyes and imagine yourself in your dream job and giving your gifts to the fullest, what do you see? How dedicated are you to this vision now? Are you either living it or making your best efforts to see to it that you will get there as soon as possible? If not, why not? What holds you back? Is it the usual trappings of a secure job and needing to keep a certain lifestyle going, or is it a lack of self-belief? Do you believe that if you put all of your eggs in the basket of your biggest dream, that you would succeed at that dream? How sure are you, either of failing or succeeding? Could your gift make the world a better place? Does your answer to that question influence how passionate you are in pursuing it? How much denial do you live with around this issue of your dream and your life purpose? If it is true that most of us are not doing well in the pursuit of our passions but have instead settled for something “safer,” doesn’t that suggest that we must live pretty deep in denial? After all, how well could we live with ourselves if we consciously ignored our calling? Not well, I am guessing. So, back to my original question: how many passionate pursuits do you think we are allowed in this lifetime? Is it best just to stick to one? What is one thing you can do today that moves you closer to your Plan A? What are some aspects of your Plan B or C or D that you are willing to give up in order to put more resources into your Plan A? What is the worst that could happen by going all-in on Plan A? Could you live with that most negative outcome? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are YOU ready to go all-in on you? 

You are worth your best,

William

P.S. If this post spoke to you and made you think deeper about who you are, please share it with others who might appreciate it. Let’s raise self-awareness together! Thank you.

The TIME of My Life

DSC_0756“You may delay, but time will not.” –Benjamin Franklin

Hello friend,

It is Birthday Week at my house! My son turned five a couple of days ago, and this week my daughter will turn seven. They are super-excited, of course. They have been talking about this week for months and months. “How old am I now, Daddy???” “You are four and one-fourth.” “How old am I NOW, Daddy???” “You are four and one-third.” On and on we go, all through the year. Because to them, a month is like a year, and a year is like FOREVER. They cannot wrap their beautiful little minds around having to wait a whole year for something. It sounds like torture! So, I started thinking the other day—you know, when my son was four and three hundred sixty-four three hundred sixty-fifths–how differently we view Time as we progress through it.

Kids have an amazing connection to the Now. If you never mentioned to them the idea of something occurring tomorrow or next year or when they are grown-up, they would never bother fretting about the future the way we adults do. They would just stay happily in the moment and flow with it. They stay totally connected with their current process, and then they shift gears immediately if someone suggests something more appealing. They don’t battle with Time like the adults around them. They live in the precious present. If you jar them with the prospect of doing something “later”—especially a whole year later—they cannot stand it.

We adults laugh at their anguish at the mere thought of holding out for a year, as we know how quickly Time marches on in our lives. We seem to blink and five years have passed. But think about it: relative to the total length of our lives, Time should be perceived differently. I have lived more than EIGHT TIMES as long as my son. One year is 20% of his life! Telling him he has to wait another year to go to the lake cabin with his cousins—his favorite event of the year—is the equivalent of telling me I have to wait 8 ½ years to go. That really is torture! I see now why they cannot fathom the idea of waiting until Christmas to get that forgotten item from the birthday list. That is FIVE MONTHS away after all, or 3 ½ years in my world. This new calculus for the perceived length of Time’s passage is totally enlightening to me. I am actually starting to feel pretty bad about not getting him that other birthday gift now!

I look at adults—myself included—and see how our time slips by. I don’t know if it is because of this calculus and the stretching of time as we age, or perhaps it is laziness and apathy, but whatever it is, we certainly have a tendency to watch it slide by. In some situations, the speed of Time passing is just what it is: it roars by even when we are savoring it to the fullest. In this vein, I think most specifically about raising kids. Every parent of older kids I have ever talked to tells me how unbelievably fast their children’s youth flew by. They say this whether they took it all in or not. I already feel that with my own kids. I like to think it is just a case of “Time flies when you are having fun.”

In other ways, though, I feel like we adults are guilty of letting our time slip by, of allowing the years to get away from us. I think particularly of people I know who are in jobs that are neither enjoyable nor fulfilling, and yet they have been doing the same job seemingly forever. Maybe the paycheck and security for the family seem more important than fulfillment. And hey, maybe those things are more important for a while. But then the kids are gone and nothing changes. They poke their head out one day and realize that they buried themselves years ago and have been going along unconsciously ever since. This seems more like, “Time flies when you numb yourself to the pain of boredom and emptiness.” I don’t want that for myself. I want to be engaged with my life.

I know Time is flying. I know it is. Still, I don’t want to be the guy who wakes up and says, “How in the world did I just turn 70??? I haven’t even done anything with my life yet! I didn’t follow my Bliss. I didn’t chase my dream. Now it seems too late.” I don’t ever want it to feel too late. I think I have started to do better with this in the last few years. I have to admit that the prospect of turning forty really scared me straight. It was around that time that I began gravitating more toward the idea of living my best, most authentic life, of making sure that my dreams were not being neglected. With this theme as my driving force, I began work on my personal labor of love: The Journal Project. Eventually, that led to the start of this little project in front of you called Journal of You. It also led to my Life Coach training and a much more focused schedule to maximize my efficiency and contribution to this world. Now every day is packed to the gills with things that are important to me, and I am becoming highly sensitive to activities that may be a waste of my time. I am determined that my time on this Earth will be meaningful and fulfilling, and I want to know, in the end, that I have been of service. I am on my way, one blessed day at a time.

How about you? What is your relationship with TIME? Open up your journal and take an honest look at the way your sands flow through the hourglass. How quickly is your life passing? Does it seem to pass more quickly each year, more slowly, or about the same? Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? Are you following your Bliss? Are you on a path toward the life of your dreams? If you are on that path, how long have you been on it? If you are off the path, how long have you been off? Do you seem to jump on and off frequently? Can you find your way back soon? Does it feel too late for you to be who you really want to be? How well do you stay in the Now? Do you know anyone who is on that unconscious slide through their years, just seeming to be paying the bills until it is time to die? Are you one of those people? When you leave the present, is your mind more likely to visit the past or the future? What do you think that says about you? Is that a good thing? When the day is over, how often do you feel like you have wasted it? When you get to the end of your days of Earth, do you think you will feel like it all went by too fast? Do you think you will be content with the way you lived? Would you like to go back and be a kid again? At what age do you feel like you were living your best life? What about it made that so? Can you capture that feeling today? Are you willing to do what it takes? Leave me a reply and let me know: How will you make TODAY the best Time of your life?

Lead with Love,

William

Which Dreams Are The Real Ones?

IMG_2405“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello friend,

At 42 years of age, I can now say that I have been following my dreams for half of my life. Oh sure, when I was little, I wanted to play wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and be the lead singer for Loverboy. And then I wanted to play on the pro tennis tour. But really, I always knew I was going to be a doctor. Not because I dreamed about it, but because that is what I was told and what I believed. “You are smart. You should be a doctor.” Doctors were the only “rich people” we knew about as kids. They had money and status, so it was the best thing to become if you had the brains for it. I did, so that was what I was going to be when I grew up. It wasn’t a dream; it was a fact. It was my destiny. I never questioned it. Never thought twice about it.

Until I did. Yes, one day in my twenty-first year, as I was working my way through Pre-Med classes, I began to awaken to the idea that other options existed. It was a slow awakening, with each new day finding me feeling more like a stranger in my own skin. It struck me that I was living someone else’s life. I had taken on faith what everyone had told me all along, and I reflected it right back to them, to the point that I really believed it was my dream to be a doctor. Maybe you could say it was society’s dream. Maybe it was my parents’ dream. Maybe it was the dream of the compliant, uncontroversial son and citizen that I had always been. What I woke up to realize was that it wasn’t my dream at all. It was just my plan.

My twenty-first birthday was my last one spent as a full-time planner. After that, I started dreaming. On my twenty-second birthday, I was performing a monologue in an acting class in New York City, after which my Oscar-nominated teacher announced to the class that I was going to be a big star. I finally had a dream, and I was definitely living it! It wasn’t approved by anyone I knew—not my parents, not the culture that I came from, not my old, safe self—but it was completely me. I had taught myself to dream and convinced myself of the absolute necessity of following my dream if I was ever to feel alive and at peace with myself. Following my dreams was my way of being true to myself for the first time. And as frightening as it was, and as much as I felt alone and outcast, I had also never felt more free.

I never stopped dreaming of being an actor (or a big star). I just started dreaming of other things. Eventually, it felt more authentic to me to leave that life. I dreamed of seeing the world, of learning every skill or subject that caught my fancy, of becoming a professor, and of reconnecting with Tennis, my first love. It was a lot of dreaming, a lot of trying to stay true to what stirred my soul.

And then I had my first child. Suddenly, I had no more dreams for myself, but only for her. What I was doing mattered only insomuch as it made things better for her. That only increased when my son was born. My most passionate pursuit was spending every possible moment with them. If I had to be away from them, it was only so I could provide for them. A personal agenda—and dreams, as I knew them—seemed to no longer exist. I disappeared into my kids, and happily so.

A few years later, though, a part of me began to reawaken. Maybe it was the imminence of my 40th birthday, or maybe it was just time to reclaim myself, but suddenly I felt a bit of a panic about making something out of my life. I wanted to feel that stir of excitement in my soul again. I wanted to feel passionate about more than just my children. I wanted to dream. I began to learn more about living my purpose and following my Bliss. I was hooked!

As I searched my soul, the thing that kept coming to me was The Journal Project, something of an autobiography told through my daily journal entries. It spoke to me on many different levels. I was undaunted by the fact that it would take several years to complete. Something inside me knew that I needed to share my unique voice. It was my new dream. I plugged away at it in my very limited “spare time” for over a year, making slow but certain progress and feeling alive inside from feeding the beast.

It wasn’t long, though, before I became impatient to get my voice out there. I could see myself working on my project with great passion and purpose for years, but I wanted to help people immediately. A new dream was born, and it was named “Journal of You.” As instantly gratifying as Journal of You became, its unfortunate side effect was diminished time for The Journal Project, which was definitely still a big dream. I felt as though I was betraying it, and I began to feel torn. I eventually rationalized my dissonance away by determining to make a book out of these posts that would serve as a companion piece to The Journal Project. All of my writing would become part of the bigger dream. I liked that.

Meanwhile, all of this pursuit of my dreams was having a ripple effect across my life. I decided that my “day job” must become more fulfilling and fit into my life purpose and my dreams. To that end, I began my Life Coaching courses, determined to change lives more directly and deeply. It was wonderful and right up my alley, but the unfortunate side effect reappeared: I had to put The Journal Project on hold altogether to fit my course work in along with the blog posts and the rest of life. Bummer!

Then, as if I wasn’t busy and torn enough, I added my skin care consulting business to the mix. Admittedly, I have never harbored a skin care dream—though it actually fulfills me to help other people feel better about themselves–but rather the dream of one day being my own boss. This is where the hard line between a dream and a plan becomes a little murky. I definitely dream of one day becoming self-employed. It suits my personality perfectly. But self-employment is a concept. To get there, I need a plan. It has been clear to me from the start that this is where my skin care consulting fits in. It is the means to the end that is my dream of being self-employed.

Until this week, I didn’t realize that my Life Coaching business might also fit into the same category. I love coaching people. It excites me to partner with people in the pursuit of their dreams and to help them create their version of a more fulfilling life. Sounds kind of like a dream job, right? I thought so.

Then this week, I had a rare window of time after my kids went to sleep, and I spotted my notebooks and journal from The Journal Project gathering dust in the corner of my desk. It had been ages since I had last worked on it, those notebooks losing their spot in favor of homework assignments and other tasks. My soul and curiosity were stirred. I opened them up and read a few pages. Excitement brewed. I popped open my computer and started to type. I was transported back in time to the days when writing—specifically The Journal Project–was my dream du jour. Intoxicated by the work, I pounded away at the keys at a feverish pace. When bedtime came, my adrenaline was still pumping. It was a real treat. The next night, when I had a few minutes to spare, I ran down to my desk and sneaked a few more passages in, my heart beating like I was getting away with something. It lit me up inside. It was clearly the calling of my soul. My whole system was reinvigorated by it. In that moment, it was obvious to me what was, amongst all of these other pursuits, my real dream.

A couple of years ago, when my mind was coming back to life and reminding me of the need to pursue my passions, I subscribed to a blog by Mastin Kipp called “The Daily Love.” One day, as part of a promotion, he issued a video in which he was the subject of an interview. At the end, the interviewer asked him, “If you could leave your readers just one thing, what would it be?” He turned from the interviewer and looked directly into the camera and said something to the effect of, “SCREW PLAN B! Go all-in on Plan A! Life is too short to do anything but follow your Bliss. Live your dream!” Every hair on my body stood on end. He was speaking directly to me, and it resonated deeply. That memory returned to me this week after working on my Journal Project. Coincidence? I think not!

So, I suppose I have to admit that my skin care business—and yes, even my Life Coaching business—are in the Plan B category. They are just that: plans. They are ways to make enough money (while being self-employed) so I can spend more time writing. Writing is Plan A, also known as “my dream.” I understand that everything is not going to be given to me just because I am passionate about it. I also understand that I will have to earn the time by being more successful at my Plan Bs. Finally, I understand that I haven’t worked hard enough or long enough at my dream to make any demands upon the gods. My head understands all of that. My heart and soul, on the other hand, just don’t get it. It pains me deeply that I am not allowed to work full-time at Plan A. It is my calling, after all. Don’t The Fates understand? Can Destiny not see the injustice in denying me this? Apparently not. This is why artists have patrons. Because they cannot stomach denying themselves their passions and having to work at the tasks that everyone else does. Ah well. I understand that I must earn my way to my full-time dream job by slogging away at the Plan Bs for a while. My consolation is that I love my Plan Bs. Sure, they don’t stir the passions of my soul as much as writing does, but they are still meaningful and fulfilling in their own ways. Onward I go, dreaming every step of the way.

How about you? How have your dreams panned out? Open up your journal and uncover the depth of the dreams from the many phases of your life? What did you dream about when you were a little kid? Were you just pretending, or did you really believe you would become those things? At what age did you let them go? Was it gradually or instantly? How about your dreams from college or early adulthood? Were you making plans or dreams still at that age? If you were dreaming, how long did the dreams last? Do you still have the same dreams? How many have come true? If you know those dreams are still there but you squashed them in favor of more practical things, do you recall the moment when you decided to settle for less, or was it a slow and imperceptible slide? When was the last time you had a new dream? How did it make you feel? How passionately did you pursue it? How do you feel when you write about your old dreams and things you have settled for? It brings up a lot of shame and disappointment in me, which I am trying to use as motivation to stay focused and more true to myself going forward. How far off is your current career from your dream job? Is your job more of a plan or a dream? How acceptable is it to you to work your plan for a while to set yourself up for your dream? What percentage of people actually get to the dream part? Are you going to be one of them? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which dreams are you following?

Dare to be amazing,

William

The Storm Before the Calm? Does BUSY Ever End?

DSC_1155“Our life is made up of time; our days are measured in hours, our pay measured by those hours, our knowledge is measured by years. We grab a few quick minutes in our busy day to have a coffee break. We rush back to our desks, we watch the clock, we live by appointments. And yet your time eventually runs out and you wonder in your heart of hearts if those seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades were being spent the best way they possibly could. In other words, if you could change anything, would you?” –Cecelia Ahern, Love, Rosie 

Hello friend,

Busy. I cannot stand that word. Busy. Everyone is busy. Whenever you ask someone how they have been or what they have been up to, the answer is the same: “I have been so busy!” I get it. I see how scheduled up everyone is. I see how the kids don’t just play much anymore the way I did when I was a kid. Instead, they go from one scheduled activity to the next. Adults keep working more and more. It is a busy world. Period.

I guess I just don’t like it when BUSY is the reason that important things in our world get left out. I like it when kids get to simply play. I like it when adults get to relax and connect with one another. I like it when extended families get together for long weekends to continue traditions. I like the concepts of leisure and self-reflection. These things take sacrifices, of course. People have to step out of their busy-ness—the stuff everyone calls essential–to carve out this quality time for one another and for themselves. Important things require sacrifice. Life balance is worth that sacrifice.

So, why have I been running around like an absolute madman lately? I have put enough on my plate to fill ten tables! So, I have to occasionally remind myself, as I am going around like the chicken with his head cut off, that I actually chose all of this stuff. Let’s face it: I already knew I have two young kids who I want to shower with attention. I already knew I have a job. I was already trying to squeeze in this weekly letter to you with the last bits of my time and energy. So I can see why my sanity would be questioned when I decided to also return to school to become a Life Coach. It was a huge undertaking and cramped my already suffocating schedule. Then I began to actually start to build the business of it, too. Constructing websites, business cards, bank accounts, government filings. Then, while beginning to go underwater with trying to fit all of that into the day—and stubbornly not wanting to give up anything else from my priority list—this other great business opportunity came along. Any sane person would have either passed on the chance due to lack of time or cut something else from the priority list to make room for this new gig. Not me! Like a man drowning with a load of bricks in my arms, instead of letting go of them and swimming up for air, I simply grabbed another brick on my way down. I am swamped!

My journal entries of late are littered with commentary on this latest run of overwhelm. Every day I use the journal to unload thoughts and baggage from the day. It relieves me of stresses and things that might otherwise linger to disturb my sleep. Journaling is my therapy. Lately the most frequent comments are about “chipping away at this enormous To-Do List,” “I am in such a rush,” and “This is exhausting, but I have to stay focused and be efficient to keep afloat.” And on and on and on. It is a daily challenge, and I need that journal entry to both unload my fears and to remind me of why I am doing it all.

In paging back through the last week of entries, besides seeing those themes run over and over, I struck upon a passage that really sums up what is becoming my main concern in all of this busy-ness. After writing out the million things I had done that day to advance my new businesses, and then relaying my fears and stresses about when it was all going to start working, I wrote:

I just really want to change my life for the better. I want to DESIGN the change. I will keep plugging away. It can’t be this challenging and anxiety-producing, can it? I want to break into something that feels like a clearing, without the slogging, grinding feeling. I want to come up for air. Sure, I could do that now by not taking on so many things, but I feel like I need to in order to break out of this mire. I want to be on my time and my purpose. So, I keep plugging away, grinding in order to become free of the grind. I suppose it is a parallel to the argument that in order to have peace, we must make war on the bad guys. Fight so you won’t have to always fight or be oppressed. That seems to be me now, slogging away at a handful of big rocks so that I can get to the spot where I only need a few. I don’t know if it is logical or wise, but it feels like my best bet right now. I will keep at it, trusting in the sunshine on the other side. 

That is me right now in a nutshell: hoping that this crazy busy-ness that I have chosen is just the storm I have to pass through in order to see the rainbow. I guess I just want some assurance that it is 1) just a passing phase—that it won’t always be this busy and stressful; and 2) that I really am going to reap the benefits of all of this effort. I want to see that glimpse of sunlight at the edge of this storm, to know that there is an end to it, and a lovely one. I want to believe that the Universe is going to acknowledge my commitment and my deeds, that I really am going to come out on the other end of this with the thing I am doing this for: a chance to pursue my passions on a full-time basis.

Of course, I know that there are no guarantees in life. I may work and work and work and still never make that breakthrough. I may fail to move people as a writer. I may never make the connections to get my two new businesses off the ground. For all of my efforts to improve people’s lives and make the world a happier, more connected place, I may end up broke and burnt out from driving myself too hard. Maybe being this busy is my new normal, that there is no rainbow in the form of a balanced life to look forward to. Maybe BUSY never ends.

I can’t buy that. Maybe I am being too optimistic—or even delusional–but I really believe that good times are on the way. I believe in paying your dues and earning your way, and I hope that is what I am doing now with the gas pedal continuously down and juggling all of these big rocks at once. This is my storm, and there is a rainbow coming. BUSY is a phase, not a lifestyle. So yeah, I am going to keep chipping away at the giant To-Do List and doing without television or down-time. I am going to test my limits. I have to. The reward means too much to me, and the alternative is an unfulfilling life. I want to play a bigger game. So, I am breaking out the storm gear. Rain on!

What about you? Are you busy designing the life of your dreams? Open up your journal and think about how much you are willing to endure to live the life you have imagined. How busy are you? Is it busy doing things that you are passionate about and that are improving you, or just busy to be busy (e.g. busy on Facebook, busy binge-watching television series)? How busy does your career keep you? How much of that is up to you? Could you spend less time and be equally effective? Do you work as long and hard as you do because you want to advance, because you are just trying to keep your job, or is there something else involved? How much does it exhaust you? Do you allow yourself some true leisure in your “spare time”, or are you more like me and just drive yourself continuously? Do you have the right balance in your life right now? Have you ever created a storm like my current situation, where you took on too many projects—“big rocks,” I like to call them—at once in the service of making a major life move? How long did the storm—the busy-ness—last? Did you find the rainbow at the end? Was all of the hard work and sacrifice worth it to you? When you consider your current schedule, what sort of changes would be beneficial for you to make to improve your life? Is it being more efficient, setting better boundaries, changing jobs, removing yourself from a storm, or perhaps jumping into a storm in the service of a greater long-term good? How busy are you willing to be? Leave me a reply and let me know: How do you distinguish between a healthy challenge and running yourself into the ground? 

Be the light you seek,

William

What Choice Do I Have?

DSC_0893“We are the choices we make.” —Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go

Hello friend,

When I was a kid, I heard the same thing you did: “You can be anything you want to be.” But, as my youth passed and young adulthood emerged, it seemed that everything was preordained, that I was powerless to Destiny. I would go to college, just like they always said. I would become a doctor, just like they always said. And that’s pretty much how the rest of my life would go. How much of a choice is that, really, when everybody said I was going to do it since elementary school? At 21, I felt like I was stuck in a trap that had been set before I had even hit puberty. My life was on rails going only one way.

And then, I jumped off the track. The straight-A, destined-for-doctorhood guy quit school altogether. It felt like the first time I had ever made a real choice in my life. It scared the heck out of me! It shocked everyone—including me, frankly—and I don’t pretend that I wasn’t a big disappointment to those I loved the most, especially my parents. And yet, as outcast and alone as I felt after making that fateful decision, it was also strangely liberating. There was a freedom in finally ignoring the “shoulds” of all of them—whoever “they” are—and taking the reins of my own life. Yes, in the midst of all of that fear and anxiety about how I could succeed while going against the grain in this world, I felt powerful. I had given myself the greatest gift I had ever known: CHOICE.

That gift emboldened me, and after that I spent a good number of years marching to the beat of my own drummer, choosing a path rich in experience and enrichment. I was floating, really, quite blissful in my empowered state. Years later, I fell in love and found myself feeling enormously conflicted about what to do with that. I feared that making the big commitment to a life partnership would once again trap me into being a giant expectation and that I would spend the rest of my life “shoulding” all over myself. Eventually, I made my peace with the idea, and I instead found some freedom within the form that is Love. It was a good choice.

However, the next phase of adulthood showed me the other way people get out-of-choice in life and get lost. I became sucked into working way too many hours and exhausting myself. My other passions went completely out the door, and the years passed by in a mindless fog. I was well on my way to being one of those guys who was going to blink and be 65, wondering where my life went (if I hadn’t already had a heart attack). I was on autopilot. I was living by default, not by design.

I am so thankful to my daughter for bringing me back to life. Her birth was my re-birth; she woke me up. I got my priorities straight. Work became secondary, mostly just a means to take care of my family. My time and energy suddenly felt very valuable. I wanted to give it all to her. And for the most part, I did. I cut down my work hours drastically, and all other outside interests as well. I was family only. Everything else went to the back burner.

And so, the pendulum swung back the other way. Any foray into marriage or parenthood brings its own set of shoulds, and one’s dreams for himself can become tempered by the dreams of others, or for others. Sometimes you willingly give away your choices. The big decisions to enter these relationships become obligations that both fulfill you and bind you at the same time. I would not go back and choose anything different on the family front, but it certainly has changed the arc of my pursuit of my dreams.

I was really at peace with that trade—some might say “sacrifice”—at least until a couple of years ago. Turning 40 very much changed my perspective and got me back into the mindset of my dreams and my purpose. It literally “re-minded” me. And now I continue to make the choice to put my kids and family first—they are, after all, deeply entrenched with my purpose here on Earth—but I don’t do it mindlessly. I don’t just drift into it without thought. It is also not because of someone else’s “should”. I choose it because I want it. But I am simultaneously aware of what I am giving up in order to prioritize these people so highly.

My other dreams—to be a writer, speaker, and coach—are not allotted much time in my day. That is difficult for me to swallow, I admit. But it is still a choice. And that is also why I choose to drive so hard when I am not doing family stuff. I have chosen to give up most leisure activities and social engagements in order to use what little “spare time” there is to press on with my mission, to follow my Bliss. So, I write my journal every day to know myself better so that I can be more grateful and thus more happy. And I write this letter to you every week, because it means a great deal to me to help you know yourself better and feel more grateful and happy, too. And I take my coaching classes and do my homework to prepare myself even more to help people.

I do all of that so that one day, instead of trying to squeeze my dreams into a couple of hours of spare time to the exclusion of other things that might help me lead a more balanced life, I will actually have a profession of these passions that I can do during the normal work day, leaving the “spare time” for such bucket list items as teaching myself the guitar or creating movies of my kids’ lives. Or, maybe I would just let myself dive into leisure, such as my beloved books or movies. Leisure. Yes, I like the sound of that. That would be a nice reward for some good choices made and executed. Some day.

That is my vision. That is what has driven my recent choices, including the big-picture moves—job changes and a return to school—and the daily choices to fill my schedule and go hard at my passions. I am trying to ignore the shoulds of other people’s plans and expectations for me, trying to listen to the drum that is beating inside of me (in the back of my mind, I always hear my old pal Thoreau saying, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”). I hope I am choosing wisely. I am heartened by the fact that if I fail today, I can wake up tomorrow and choose again. Life is beautifully generous that way. The challenge for me is to accept the offer. Every. Single. Time. That is the best choice I can make.

How about you? Are you living your life by choice? Open up your journal and think about why you do what you do. How much do the expectations of others and obligations—“the shoulds”—play a role in your life? Is it only in certain areas—your career or where you live, for instance—or does it go across the board? How different do you think your life would look without those shoulds? A lot or a little? Do you see marriage and parenthood more as chains that bind people and limit their future choices, or rather as choices they make to express their love and their passions more freely? How much is on each side of that spectrum? To what extent is your life just a mindless routine that you go through the motions of without really making choices anymore? This numbing is, I think, at least partially what Thoreau is referring to when he says, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Does that resonate with you? Are you living by default, or by design? If you woke up tomorrow and decided to design your life from now on, what would be the first choices you would make to be more authentic and purposeful? Are you ready to commit to that? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: What choice do YOU have? 

Your life is now,

William

Time Well-Spent

IMG_1669“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” –Marthe Troly-Curtin, Phrynette Married

I woke up today feeling like such a kind and generous soul. I had decided last night that I would be giving my precious personal time away today, sacrificing my many pressing projects to make someone else happy. I was patting myself on the back for my magnanimity, thinking this wonderful gift of my time—scarce and valuable as it is—would surely get me on Santa’s good list as the holidays approach. “What a guy,” I thought, “selflessly sharing myself for someone else’s good.” Boy, how I had it wrong! As it turned out, the one who got the most out of the deal was me.

Sometimes I think that we punish people for being self-sufficient and doing a good job in this world. Well, maybe punish is the wrong word; maybe we just fail to reward. People in school or at work who aren’t keeping up seem to get lots of the teacher’s or boss’ attention and guidance, whereas the people who are getting the job done are denied the attention that might help them actually excel rather than just get by. Our “reward” for doing well is often to be ignored.

This seems to happen in relationships, too. The “squeaky wheels” in our circle of friends—the ones with the issues and the drama and the special needs—get the extra time and attention. It might take the form of a bonus hug or special lunch, or it may be as simple as having all of the conversation centered on them. The others—the friends who seem to have it all together and aren’t so aggressive with their demands—end up like the model student or co-worker. Their reward for their solidity is to get NO attention at all. No conversation focus. No extra hugs. No lunch or party in their honor. No love.

It pains me to admit that this is what I have allowed to happen in my circle. I let things slip. I have been unfair with my time and attention. My circle is tiny, mind you. It essentially includes me, my wife, and my two young kids. So, when someone starts to get shorted by me when it comes to my time and attention, you would think I would notice it and immediately rectify the situation. You would think. Sadly, that is not the way it has happened.

I like to think that I am a good Dad. Since the day my daughter was born six-plus years ago, I have totally transformed my life and priorities. I have scaled back my career–more than once–and given up most other hobbies. I have definitely gone all-in on fatherhood. I love it, too. I gladly accept all of the exhaustion and frustration in exchange for the way my heart overflows with Love and Gratitude as a result of their presence in my life. So, I give my every moment to them, from the time they rise in the much-too-early morning to the time they drift off to sleep at night, by which time I am usually so wiped out that I don’t have a lot left in the tank before I have to retire for the night. In that short time, I feel compelled to write my daily journal entry, as well as do my homework for my Life Coaching classes. I am committed to writing these letters to you as well. My labor of love, The Journal Project, has been lately relegated to the back burner due to a lack of time, and that hurts my heart more than you can imagine. There is, quite simply, never enough time or energy to do all that I am driven to do. Those darn kids, as awesome as they are, sure soak up a lot of me.

Oh, did I mention that my sacred circle has another member? Yes, while the kids are busy being the squeaky wheels that get the grease—the Drama Queen and Drama King of the group—my wife plugs along in her self-sufficient way. She seems to understand the deal—that the kids are a huge handful but worth every bit of energy and time spent—and puts no demands on us to make it about her. She willingly gives us her energy and time—she is a fabulous Mommy and wife–and she makes no demands in return. She is that high-achieving, low-maintenance kid in the class. But, like I said, those are sometimes the ones that don’t get the attention they deserve simply because they don’t stamp their feet and demand it. The teacher is occupied by putting out fires with the loud ones instead.

I am the teacher in this case. I am so, so guilty of giving all of my time and energy to my kids, then sneaking in my personal projects in the tiny window of free time after they go to bed. Day after busy day, week after busy week, year after busy year. The blinders go up in the mad dash to “accomplish” anything on the kids’ or my To-Do List. As my old friend Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Wise man, that Ferris Bueller. Well, as I have been rushing around meeting the needs of my kids and then trying to squeeze me into the equation in the day’s last breaths, I have forgotten to stop and look around. And I missed something vitally important. My best friend.

Yes, my wife’s reward for being a self-sustaining, low-maintenance member of my inner circle has been to be virtually ignored by me. I haven’t given her the energy, the time, or the appreciation that she deserves. I have been very unfair about that, and I need to do better. So yesterday, when I realized that our schedules were going to match up to both have the same day off today, I decided that my moment had come to begin the process of making it up to her. I looked—with some longing, I admit—at the list of pressing things I have been wanting to do with my rare window of personal time, and I turned the paper over. It would have to wait for a different day. I went to my wife and offered her my time.

It turns out to be a fairly small window between getting kids to their morning destination and having to return to get them in the afternoon. But we took advantage of it. We drove my son to daycare together. We did some shopping. We went out for lunch. We even went to my daughter’s Science Fair at school. Pretty mundane stuff, sure, but that was not the point. The point was that we did it together. I gave her my time. I gave her my presence. I gave her a husband and best friend again.

As it turns out, though, I was the one who got the most out of it. In not being a very good best friend, I forgot how great it is to be with my best friend. To sit down over lunch and have a great conversation. To do something entertaining like a first-grade Science Fair. To simply be together. In thinking I was giving a gift to her, I was missing the bigger picture. It was at least as much a gift to myself. And I discovered a third party in the room—something called US—who benefitted even more.

I learned a lot today. I learned that I was a fool for forgetting about someone so awesome in my life. I learned that it is okay to take a break from my To-Do List once in awhile. And most importantly, I learned that, to someone you love, there is no greater gift than your time and your presence.

How about you? Who do you owe some time to? Open up your journal and take a mental walk around your sacred circle of loved ones. Can you find the ones who, perhaps, don’t get enough of your attention and time? Why is it? Do you take them for granted? Is it because they don’t bring any drama to demand it? If you could offer them a few hours of your undivided attention, how would you spend the time? What if it was only thirty minutes? If you cannot make the time, what small gesture can you make today to bridge the gap? A quick text or voicemail, perhaps? Maybe a link to a song that binds you together? How do you show your loved ones that you care? Is that the best way you can think of, or might there be more? Leave me a reply and let me know: What, for you, is time well-spent? 

Rise to the occasion that is your life,

William

On the Verge of the Purge

DSC_0160“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” –Albert Einstein

Hello friend,

There are many things in this life that I am really terrible at. Home improvement projects. Staying in touch with loved ones. Painting pictures. Keeping my opinion to myself. Stopping when I am full. There are many other things that I simply have no inclination to do and thus fail at. Opening the mail. Bill-paying (and everything else related to finances). Dusting.   Answering the phone. Listening to someone telling me what to do. Between the two, it is a wonder that I stay afloat as an adult member of society (thank goodness for a responsible spouse!).

But there is one thing that I am both awful at and have no inclination to do, and this thing is on the verge of crippling my spirit and any sort of creativity that I fancy myself capable of. What is it? Organization. I am the King of Clutter! Not just right now, but forever. I have defended my crown for years and years on end, and no one can threaten me in this ring. I am—literally and figuratively—a mess!

My mother has been calling me “Pack Rat” since I was a kid, because I seem to be utterly incapable of throwing anything away. Tennis magazine from 1989? “No way! There might be an article that I will want to read someday.” T-shirt from 1994? “Why would I? It still fits!” Post-It note with a lesson plan from 2002? “What if I run out of ideas? I might need that lesson again someday!” Awkward sunglasses from 1997? “Fashion goes in cycles. I need to be ready when this one comes back!” Broken bike from high school? “I’m going to fix it up. What? I AM!” Garbage bag—yes, I said garbage bag—full of unworn t-shirts from a promotional campaign at an old job? “They’re BRAND NEW! I’ll never need to buy a t-shirt again in my life!” On and on it goes. I could probably start my own branch of Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Or, perhaps more wisely, I could bring it all out to the street, light a match, and roast marshmallows for all the neighbors. A win-win!

Sure, some things I keep for genuine sentimental value, as I am nothing if not nostalgic. All of the cards my wife and kids ever made for me give me happy tingles every time I read through them. I still have—conveniently (for me) stored at my parents’ home—every one of the trophies that filled my room as a child. I know it seems silly, but each one holds a crystal clear image of a happy or poignant memory from my childhood. Heck, even that old, beat-up bike in my shed is so saturated with memories–solitary rides on prairie roads to get over a break-up, following my fearless brother down treacherous mountain single-tracks I had no business being on, and exploring the beach towns of Southern California—that I can’t stand to give it up. I am such a sap for this stuff.

But what is really weighing me down is not these mementos and special pieces of my history. No, the piles that surround me on all sides when I sit at my desk are just ordinary, don’t-have-a-spot-for-this-kind-of-stuff junk, such as papers, cords, cases, and media. It is investment and retirement statements, old magazines, work papers, more of those lesson plans, CDs, camera stuff, cords from the portable DVD player that gets used every few years, books that seem like they should be kept within arm’s length instead of three feet away in the bookshelf, the pile of papers I was going to shred a few years ago but didn’t quite get to it, and the nine backpacks I like to rotate to suit my mood for the day.   All of these things surround me when I sit down to work. It is more than “surround,” though. They envelope me. They suffocate me. They seep into my soul and sap my creativity. They drain my energy. And, for all of the reasons I just mentioned, they are really starting to ANNOY me. It is time for a declutter.

Say it isn’t so! It is so much a part of me to keep everything, so I hate to even think about a purge. But maybe, just maybe, it is more a part of me to be free and efficient and energized and creative. Wow, just writing that makes decluttering sound so much more healthy and appealing! To remove the things that drain my energy and thus free up my heart, mind, and creative spirit—this suddenly seems like a most worthwhile project!

But if it is so wonderful to be organized, how did I let myself get buried in these piles? Didn’t I notice it before? Hmmm…..do I just need to own it, or can I make some excuses? Maybe some of each. I fully admit that I am bad at filing. If I had a file cabinet full of very specific folders for any kind of financial statement or keepsake or magazine, I think I could begin to see my carpet. Containers for electronics and CD cases would work so well, but I don’t do that, either. I simply don’t have a system, and I should. On the excuse front, I think I just don’t have the time. I never feel like there is a spare moment—much less a few hours–to address the growing piles, so I just keep adding to them. If a “free” evening appeared out of nowhere—when I didn’t have homework to do or a blog post to write or something else pressing to read or write about—I would like to believe that I would jump on this once and for all.

But I don’t. I haven’t. Something always pushes the decluttering down my To-Do List for the day, something more pressing. I think, however, that I am finally coming to that point where all of this clutter is sapping enough of my energy and diminishing the quality of my other pursuits. I am finally noticing it, becoming more aware of it, both physically and emotionally. It is the dreaded “unhealthy work environment” that should never be an issue when it comes to a home office. What have I done to myself?

Whatever it is, it is time to undo it. It is time to make the time. I need to take the advice I give so freely to everyone else: “SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES!” Now that I am recognizing this suffocating feeling and its source, I am beginning to see a Decluttering Day as something that has earned a chunk of my precious time, something schedule-worthy. I am ready for the freedom that will come from being organized. I long for the extra energy and creativity that will come from reclaiming my personal space. I am due. I can feel that now. I am on the verge of the purge!

How about you? What are the energy drainers that you need to clean up or remove from your life? Open up your journal and examine your mental and physical spaces. If you had to pick one room in your home that you could tackle right now, which one would it be? Is your clutter more the kind that just needs to be organized—like filing papers–or do you need to get rid of some stuff? Would it be a blessing if someone lit a match to your worst room, or are you not that far gone yet? What kinds of things do you keep longer than the average person? What is it about these things? Are they still useful, or is it mostly sentimental? Do you have any people in your life that act as clutter, making you feel confined and draining your energy? Is it time to purge them, too? Do you ever feel guilty that you have so much stuff? I do, but I still can’t bring myself to get rid of any of it. Why is that? I need your help! What thought makes this process easier? What is your motivation? What will it take to get you to tackle your clutter? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you on the verge of the purge?

Start your life over today,

William