Tag Archives: courage

Progress Check: Your 3-Month Report Card

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” –Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Hello friend,

My kids brought their report cards home this week. I always get excited to rip open that envelope and see what their teachers think of the last few months of their time in school. Have they improved or regressed? Met expectations or exceeded them? How well are they learning, and how well are they behaving? Are there any red flags? Is there cause for a celebration?

As first and third graders, my kids are not the least bit interested in their report cards. Still, I like to sit down for a minute with each of them and do a quick review of their teachers’ assessments. I get to remind them of our values and tell them how proud I am of them. It is time well spent.

As I finished hugging them and basking in my fatherly pride, it hit me that I was about due for my own progress check. After all, it was almost three months ago that I sat down at the precipice of the New Year and, full of fear and uncertainty, wrote “Next Year In Review” to get my mind focused and ready for action.

We are almost a quarter of the way through the year already, and I can already feel how fast it is zipping by. I cannot wait until December to look up again and make sure I am on the right track. If I do, I know that I will have let busy-ness overwhelm me and let my priorities slip through my grasp as I juggle the rest of my circumstances. That year-end check-in will be all frustration and disappointment if I don’t get clear right now.

I need a report card.

Thinking about myself three months ago—picturing both how I wanted to BE and what I wanted to DO—what I remember most is that I wanted to feel BRAVE. I knew I had a lot of challenges to face and that Fear would threaten to paralyze me, but I wanted to respond to that Fear with Courage. I wanted to be BRAVE.

My biggest tasks for this first quarter of the year have revolved around my wannabe writing career. I knew going in that if I was going to feel at all good about myself and my progress, I would need to make some serious strides in the direction of completed projects and paying work.

My biggest goal was to finish my book. I am so pleased—and relieved—to report that I can check that off the list. The next goal was to learn how to pitch a book to agents and publishers, and then, of course, to actually do that. It turns out that that part can be nearly as time-consuming as writing the book itself! Still, I am happy to say that I have learned a ton and have started the process. I don’t have any takers yet and have no idea when or how this book will be published, but I know I am on the right path and that I have put in the hard yards to get this far. Despite my lack of tangible success, I am actually going to score myself pretty well on this front. That feels good!

Beyond the book, my other writing goals have revolved around learning about the other ways writers pay their bills with their craft and which of those avenues might work for me. This one is definitely still giving me fits of terror and uncertainty, but I am learning and am not giving up. Score: Incomplete.

As a guy who sets high standards for himself and is easily disappointed, this is actually one of the best progress reports I have ever given myself when it comes to working hard enough to make my dreams happen. I guess I think that I am usually failing completely, so anything above that is a step in the right direction.

There is more to life than just a dream job, though, right? These past few months I have also tried to keep tabs on myself in a few other areas that affect my overall wellness.

Historically, I never have doubts about how much time I am spending with my children and how high the quality of that time is. This quarter, however, I have tried to be particularly aware of that time. I worried that because of the intensity of my focus on all of this writing stuff—stuff that has me feeling uncertain and sometimes unworthy—that I might let those feelings bubble over into my interactions with the kids in the form of distraction or impatience. I have definitely felt those inclinations and caught myself a few times, and that has made me all the more grateful that I am paying attention to it. I will keep at it. They are worthy of my best in every single moment.

I have also tried to be more mindful of my eating these last few months. I am particularly focused on my nemesis, sugar, but also on the overall amount of food I am consuming each day and at what time. It seems to have helped on most days. Even though Girl Scout Cookie season was rough, I have many times caught myself wanting a snack but instead deciding on the sugarless gum in the cupboard nearby. I am trying to make friends with that gum and my water bottle. While it hasn’t helped me lose any weight, it seems to have temporarily halted the gaining. And I feel better. Little victories.

My final challenge for the first quarter has been to limit my time on both the news and social media. I have been up and down with this as well, but I think my general disgust with the news has helped me to cut down on my time on both. I am more aware now of when I am on social media and what I am looking for instead of just mindlessly scrolling and later realizing what a waste of time it was. It’s a work in progress. As John Mayer sings, “I’m in repair. I’m not together, but I’m getting there.”  

That line might sum up my first quarter progress report across the board. I have made some good strides, but I have certainly had my stumbles and setbacks, my moments when fear or weakness have gotten the best of me. But I think that my awareness has improved. I know every day what I am working toward, and that makes it easier to catch myself slipping and get right back on my feet and on the right track. If I can continue to iPmprove on that awareness in the next quarter, I’ll be well on my way to an amazing year. I’m getting there!

How about you? How well did you do with your first three months of the year? Open up your journal and give yourself some grades. What were your biggest priorities and tasks for the quarter? Take them one by one. What was your biggest rock? On the whole, how would you score yourself with that one? Were you like me and had periods where you were good and periods where you fell off? What dictated your worst periods with it? Fear? Distraction? Lack of confidence? Wavering priorities? What got you back on track? How consistently aware are you of your goals and how well your actions align with them? Do you think awareness of them—keeping your priorities on your mind—is the key to scoring well on the progress report? What else works? Will you keep your big items the same for the next quarter? How about the small items? What will you add? Does the act of making this progress report make it more likely you will improve next quarter? Are you satisfied with your efforts for the first three months of the year? Leave me a reply and let me know: How do you grade your year so far?

Keep shining,

William

P.S. If this was a good check-in for you, please share it. Let’s make it an amazing year!

The 50 Words That Describe You Best

“The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink, Stank, Stunk!” –Dr. Seuss

Hello friend,

I told you recently that the way I want to feel this year is BRAVE. After saying goodbye to my trusty old job at the end of the year, I knew that, in order for this year to turn out alright, it would have to be defined by my courage. So far, I would say it has been.

There are many passages in my journal that show me propping myself up, reminding me of both what is at stake and how I have stepped up before. Those journaling sessions have been invaluable, as I have used them to propel myself toward finishing a book and submitting it for lots of potential rejection. I have risen to the challenge. I have been brave.

I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to describe myself as brave! That adjective is hard won, and I am savoring it now. I have realized something else, though, in these days of summoning my courage: I wouldn’t need to be brave if I wasn’t so darn scared!

That’s the thing about courage: it doesn’t show up unless you are afraid.

So, while I am still proud of myself for being brave lately, I would be lying if I said I haven’t spent even more time racked in fear. Fear of going broke. Fear of failing as a writer. Fear of a future in a soul-crushing job. Fear of not being enough. Sure, I have stepped up and worked through it most days, but it has felt crippling anyway.

It was nice to use “brave” to describe what I am all about, but if I am being honest, the adjective “afraid” fits me at least as well. That seems weird, right? I have been wrestling with this seeming paradox this week, trying to understand who I really am. Am I brave, or am I afraid? If one of those words defines me, does it mean the other one shouldn’t? Am I a walking contradiction?

I decided that the best way to work this out is to come up with a bigger list of adjectives to describe who I am. That way I would know if I am being pulled apart on other issues, too (and if I am a good candidate for the loony bin!).

The list, I decided, should be long enough so I am not just a cartoon figure, but not so long as to cover every single thought or emotion I have ever experienced, making me a mere blur of every adjective in the English language. I went with 50.

So, without further ado, this is how I would describe myself, in no particular order:

  1. Brave
  2. Afraid
  3. Curious
  4. Sentimental
  5. Self-confident
  6. Impatient
  7. Sincere
  8. Optimistic
  9. Driven
  10. Altruistic
  11. Mindful
  12. Insecure
  13. Open-minded
  14. Spiritual
  15. Competitive
  16. Pacifistic
  17. Principled
  18. Kind
  19. Stubborn
  20. Unsocial
  21. Grounded
  22. Progressive
  23. Opinionated
  24. Passionate
  25. Compassionate
  26. Silly
  27. Independent
  28. Spoiled
  29. Intuitive
  30. Positive
  31. Non-confrontational
  32. Generous
  33. Grateful
  34. Introverted
  35. Selfish
  36. Happy
  37. Playful
  38. Unforgiving
  39. Wise
  40. Adventurous
  41. Inclusive
  42. Cerebral
  43. Demanding
  44. Nostalgic
  45. Sensitive
  46. Authentic
  47. Caring
  48. Self-isolating
  49. Wonder-filled
  50. Serene

Okay, that is enough! There are plenty more I can think of to cover all of my moods and my worldview, but this is good. It is a fairly clear picture, at least from my eyes. I know we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us, but I will not worry about the others for now. It is challenge enough to clarify my own view.

In looking at it now, I can see that the brave-afraid duo is not the only seeming contradiction in my personality description. I am definitely both selfish and altruistic. I am both cerebral and intuitive, passionate and serene, open-minded and opinionated. And I am certainly, depending on the moment, very often self-confident and very often insecure.

In those combinations, I can see how foolish we are when we try to put others in a box based on one thing we know about them. After all, if I am any indication, the opposite characteristic might be just as true for that person we have tried to trap in the box. So, making them into a cartoon character so that they can quickly fit into a box in my mind simply doesn’t tell the truth and shortchanges both of us.

Much like the contradicting combinations, there are some of these qualities that have both positive and negative aspects, and I can see myself covering the full spectrum. Sensitivity is one. It can be wonderful when appreciating art and being compassionate toward my fellow human beings, but it can also make everything sting more than it should and make me resistant to hearing criticism of all sorts. I can see this range of positive and negative outcomes with my fierce independence, too. As with the combinations, this broad-spectrum view reminds me to be more open-minded when observing someone else’s personality.

That, I can see now, points to the difficulty in gleaning any meaningful conclusions from the list taken all by itself. If I just looked at this list of 50 adjectives and didn’t know who it represented, I couldn’t be sure if I liked this person or not, precisely because each characteristic can show itself in a number of different ways. Sure, some characteristics are almost certainly more favorable than others—kind is better than unforgiving, right?—so we can get hints from the list. But, without the context of the actual person, it is a challenge.

So, though I wouldn’t necessarily use this process as the answer to finding your soul-mate, I found it immensely helpful for examining myself (and that is exactly what our journaling is all about). I learned a lot from those very first words I wrote in my notebook after I said, “GO!” And then later I learned a lot from the end of the process, when I had written around 80 words and had to narrow it down to 50. That is when I started digging harder: “Who am I REALLY?” My answers were revealing, more so than I would have guessed before I started the list.

In the end, I think my biggest takeaway is that I am complex, that I don’t fit very well in any neat box, not even one of my own making. That is an important lesson for me, not just for my own self-awareness, but in how it affects the way I need to walk the world. I have been journaling every day for 20 years, so I know myself extremely well and know that I have well-defined views and attitudes on just about everything. If I am still revealing contradictions and wildly divergent personality traits about myself–and if I am feeling more certain than ever that I don’t belong in a box–then I ought not be so quick to put anyone else in a box, either.

This process, then, has been a necessary reminder to make better use of some of the adjectives I listed in my 50: open-minded, curious, kind, compassionate, altruistic, generous, caring, and inclusive. Yes, I think I will work on those. If I walked out of the world tomorrow and could leave the people in my life with any words to describe me, I would be satisfied with those.

How about you? Which words describe you best? Open up your journal and your vocabulary. What are the very first words that come to mind about you? What is it about those characteristics that make them so prominent in your description? Are they things that you have always thought about yourself? Are they things that other people usually mention about you? How close are they to the core of you? Which of your words are ones that maybe only you think about yourself, words that would surprise other people to read? How much of your personality do most people see? How much of that is because you intentionally protect certain sides of yourself? If I gave a list of 200 words—including the 50 you wrote about yourself—to your three closest loved ones and asked them to pick out your 50, how many would they guess correctly? What if I asked your co-workers? Do you feel like you are honest and authentic about who you really are in most situations—e.g. at work, with friends, with acquaintances, with family, etc.—or do you mostly wear a bland mask until you are with your closest loved ones? How much has your list changed in the last 10 or 20 years? How different, if at all, will it look 20 years from now? How many contradictions are on your list, like my self-confident/insecure combination? Are you more or less complicated than most people, or about the same? How much do you cling to the boxes you put people in? Did this exercise change the way you think about that? Do you like who you are and what is on your list? Which words do you hope to get rid of? Which are your favorite characteristics? Which ones are not on there now but hopefully will be soon? Can you add a new one today? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which words describe you best?  

Live free,

William

P.S. If today’s challenge made you look at yourself differently, please pass it on. Let’s all be our beautiful selves!

Learning to Flex Your Brave Muscles

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time he can be brave,’ his father told him.” –George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Hello friend,

I am attempting a new workout routine to start the New Year. Like any new workout, it is causing me lots of aches and pains. Lots of grumbling, too. It is hard to keep going every day. It’s even harder to step up to those crisis moments, when it feels too daunting to continue, when giving up is the greatest temptation. They say that’s just how new workout programs are. The muscles need lots of time and repetition to get accustomed to lifting the load over and over again. After a while, it will get easier, or so they say. Right now, though, it’s hard to believe them. It just feels like a lot of work and pain and doubt.

Which muscles am I working on, you ask? My Brave Muscles.

That’s what I call them anyway. The Brave Muscles are the ones you need when you feel the most self-doubt. They are the ones you need when you feel afraid, unsure, and embarrassed. You need your Brave Muscles when you feel alone and not up to the task ahead. You need them most when your dreams—the very life of your soul—are at stake and you feel like giving up and playing small.

I have felt all of those things lately. None of them are any fun, believe me. That is why I started my workout routine. I need to build up my Brave Muscles, because they seem to have withered over the years.

The place where I worked for the last few years just shut down, so I am out of work and hoping to avoid a family financial crisis in the coming months. When I started that job, I planned for it to be the last “real job” I ever had, before my writing career took off and I could work from home around my family’s schedule. Well, I wasn’t exactly up to speed yet when the axe fell, so now I am in a minor panic about my future, my dreams, and my family’s well-being. I desperately want to get to some writing projects that could be the transition to that career of my dreams, but the tension is rising as the clock—and my bank account—counts down.

Looming on the other side is the “safe route” of a real job and more money, but that translates to the loss of my dreams and a coinciding loss of my family’s charmed existence of maximum quality time together. I despise that safe route right now! Still, it sings its siren song of safety and certainty.

Needless to say, I am at war with myself. I know I am supposed to feel weak and embarrassed—and I do–about threatening my family’s financial stability by being without a guaranteed, regular income. I know I am supposed to feel guilty—and I do—about selfishly going after my dreams instead of settling for something more stable. The uncertainty of it has me feeling quite alone on my island. Those feelings—weak, embarrassed, guilty, selfish, uncertain, lonely–don’t sit well with me at all.

But on the other side of all of that weakness is this fire raging in me to burst upon my dreams with all the gusto I can summon, to demand from myself and from the Universe that THIS IS MY TIME!!! My soul demands that I seize this little moment—despite it being forced upon me—to lay claim to my purpose and Follow My Bliss. And of course, to make it work.

The path of least resistance—at least on the outside—is the safe route. There is such a powerful allure to that. It doesn’t require the workout routine. My soul can be a couch potato and sloth away the years of my life. When I am not guarding my thoughts closely, I fall prey to all of those self-defeating thoughts and emotions. “It’s too hard (or risky, new, unlikely to succeed, selfish…..). I’m not good (or prepared, talented, connected, wealthy, lucky…..) enough.” They spread like a gasoline fire through my heart and mind.

They come whenever I get stuck at a tough part while writing my book. They come when I am reading about how hard it is to get an agent or a publisher. They come when the bank statement arrives in the mail. They come when someone asks me, “What do you do for a living?”

This is where the new workout routine enters the picture. I decided, entering this year, that how I wanted to feel most this year is BRAVE. So, whenever one of those weak moments arises—it happens many times per day, believe me—and my confidence starts spinning away into oblivion, my job is to recognize it as soon as possible, before the devastation is too widespread. This early recognition is an enormous challenge, but I am getting lots of practice and learning the telltale signs: constricting chest, pit in my stomach, frown on my face, and that twisting, sinking mind. Once I recognize it, it is time for those Brave Muscles to go to work. I remind myself to take a deep breath. Then I clear those awful thoughts from my mind, replacing them with visions of what my soul is called to do. Finally, I speak some words of conviction and determination: “I’m doing this!”

And I am. One crisis moment at a time, those Brave Muscles are getting stronger and stronger. I know there will never come a day when I don’t need them anymore, so I might as well get lots of repetitions in now, to build that strength and endurance for the long haul. The biggest dreams need those things.

The workouts may be exhausting and the signs of progress frustratingly slow to reveal themselves, but I can already tell that it is worth the effort. These Brave Muscles are flexing, and every time they do, I can feel my soul begin to rise. I think I might just soar.

How about you? In what part of your life could you use more courage today? Open up your journal and let yourself feel around for your weak spots. In what part of your life are you operating out of fear? Is it in a relationship? In your career? Your finances? Your politics or spirituality? In what area is your self-esteem the lowest? Where are you in relation to your dreams? Are you following your Bliss? If you are not, why not? What would being more brave look like in your life? Would the changes be subtle or dramatic? How does that image of a Brave You feel in your heart? Pretty awesome, right? What specific things are keeping you from flexing your Brave Muscles and demanding that life? How good are you at catching and correcting your mind when it starts spiraling out of control with thoughts of fear and self-doubt? It’s hard! But your best life is worth the effort. What small act of bravery can you take today to better yourself? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: How strong are your Brave Muscles?

Stake a claim to your greatness,

William

P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please share it. And make sure you are signed up to receive every post in your email inbox right when I publish them. Make it a brave week!

Love It or Leave It? What Respect Do We Owe to Our Flag & Anthem?

DSC_0641“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” —Muhammad Ali 

This week has found me totally captivated by the story of Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and his decision to remain seated during the playing of the national anthem before a preseason football game. When asked after the game about this highly unusual action, Kaepernick explained himself: 

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. …This is not something I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. …If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.” 

BOOM! Fire started.

The backlash was instantaneous and venomous. Social media was flooded with videos of people burning their Kaepernick jerseys—this age’s trendy way to protest a player’s actions—images that were quickly picked up by the mainstream media. Memes slamming him were everywhere on Facebook and Twitter. Everyone seems to be weighing in. I have heard commentators in and out of the sports world, as well as other professional athletes, describe his actions as “ungrateful,” “unpatriotic,” “selfish,” and “pathetic.” There has not been a lot of support. That much is clear.

I have actually been pleasantly surprised, though, by the number of sports people who have at least acknowledged that the cause he is trying to stand up for—or, rather, sit down for—is an important one. But most of these same folks still think the anthem is the wrong way to address it.

Much of the pushback seems to be military-related, as in, “You disrespecting the flag/anthem is a slap in the face to all of the people who have ever fought for the freedoms you are exercising with this action.” Another argument seems to go more like, “How dare you disrespect the flag of a country that allows you to earn millions for throwing a football? This country has given you everything!” There are certainly others, but these themes are pretty constant.

Nobody seems to be questioning if he has the right to do it but just whether he is right to do it. The most common answer: No matter what your issue is or how big it is, you just don’t disrespect the flag or ignore the anthem.

But, really, why not? Is the answer that black-and-white? Should it really be that simple? I don’t know.

I suppose I grew up thinking of the anthem—and the American flag—as “sacred,” something that you just didn’t mess with. No matter what. Sort of like The Bible, I suppose: you could Pinkie Promise or swear on your life and maybe get by unscathed if you broke it, but you didn’t dare put your hand on The Bible and swear your oath unless you were absolutely certain. It was flirting with the Devil. I remember being in complete shock when I first saw someone burning the American flag on the news. I couldn’t believe it. I just didn’t know that was even an option. I suppose that for most people, something like that happened when they heard about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, like “What? No. You don’t get to sit for the anthem!” 

For some reason, though, I didn’t have that reaction. Don’t get me wrong, I was startled by it, because I knew it was taboo. But I wasn’t outraged. I wasn’t even really dismayed. More than anything, I was fascinated.

I think I was fascinated as much by my own reaction as I was by his motivations and how it would be received. I was aware that I was okay with what he did, but I felt really odd about being okay with it? I wondered if I should be as outraged as almost everyone else seemed to be. But I just wasn’t. I think it was because the more I considered the issue, and particularly his motivation for sitting out the anthem, the more I realized what a complex web of issues was involved. It was a lot more grey than simply black or white.

I know that much of the sentiment against Kaepernick and his statement can be summed up something like this: “He’s a disrespectful coward, and he has no gratitude to the country that has made him rich and famous. Pathetic!” 

I understand that sentiment. I really do. I think it’s the easy reaction, and if things were only black or white, I would probably end up with that reaction, too. But, as I try to empathize with him and really take the words he says seriously, I find myself feeling another way.

My guess is that Colin Kaepernick grew up a lot like I did, and probably like you did. He probably cheered “U.S.A.!! U.S.A!!” at the television during the Olympics like I did. He probably looked at the flag and the anthem as sacred, too, and was probably shocked when he first witnessed a flag burning. And because I am inclined to see him as more like me—just like most everyone in the world—than different, I have to believe it took some serious soul-searching, lots of inner turmoil, and finally some real bravery to take this bold action. That much I can definitely respect. I also figured out something important: that I can separate the fact that I respect him for his convictions from the entirely different issue of whether I think the final display of his convictions—sitting for the anthem—was a wise or foolish choice.

I also look at the flip-side of the argument that he has no grounds to sit out the anthem because he has made millions of dollars by living in this great country. The flip-side is that he actually has a lot to lose by making this statement. Endorsement dollars, potential job opportunities, fans, relationships. He didn’t ask any teammates to join his protest because he immediately felt the public backlash and didn’t want to subject them to it, too. But he was willing to kneel for the anthem for this week’s game, too. With all that he had to lose, he did it anyway to keep getting his message out there. I can appreciate that kind of courage.

Finally, he didn’t seem to be pulling this as some immediate reaction to an incident that happened to him. As far as we know, he was not recently a victim of police violence or profiling. So, it wasn’t obviously a personal thing. He has previously been outspoken on social media about civil rights issues. This is all just to say that I give some credence to the idea that he was actually using his large public voice to speak for the voiceless. He was taking a stand for others who had less power to stand for themselves. That, all by itself, is admirable to me.

In the end, I still can’t say for sure whether Colin Kaepernick sitting out the anthem is “right” or not. I definitely think the cause he is speaking up for is a worthy one, but I don’t know if sitting out the anthem succeeded in bringing enough of the right kind of attention to the cause or not. The issue of him sitting clearly blew up in the media, but did the issue of racism and police violence against people of color blow up as well? Are people talking seriously about that now, too? I hope they are, but I am not sure. I think the jury is still out and waiting for time to tell us if the protest will be successful.

So, would I do it? Would I sit or kneel for the anthem? I never have before. I like to think that I am quite aware of and sensitive to the way our country and our culture has systematically failed large groups of people, including the ones Kaepernick is standing up for. America has a history of deep, dark injustice that has not been well addressed and thus continues to be a cancer on us all. Those things are worth a protest. But America—and by extension, the flag that stands for it—is also about ideals. There are lofty philosophies—freedom, equality, justice, and more—that our nation strives to be a model of. The flag symbolizes those ideals and also the people who fought and died to give the rest of us the chance to keep striving for them. In my mind, of course I know we haven’t lived up to those ideals. Societally, we fail regularly and miserably at that. I get that, and I can see why Colin Kaepernick wants to remind us that we need to do better. But I also understand how, at least for me, it is important to stand for a couple of minutes sometimes and listen to a song that reminds me of the ideals that we all so desperately need to keep striving for.

How about you?   How do you feel about the idea of someone sitting out the national anthem in protest of America’s shortcomings? Open up your journal and see if you can flesh out the complexities of this very polarizing issue. First, what is your initial, gut reaction to hearing about this protest against the flag or the anthem? Is it a strong feeling, or just mild? On a scale of one to ten, how patriotic would you say you are? Do you think that patriotism dictates the severity of your reaction to this issue? Is Kaepernick’s cause—racial injustice and police violence against people of color—important enough to tread into such a volatile (though peaceful) form of protest? Has it so far succeeded in getting you and those around you to think about or discuss these issues? In your sphere, has the racial injustice discussion been overshadowed by the anthem/flag discussion? Do you agree with me that it required courage and conviction to protest in this way? Can you respect and admire those qualities in him even if you disagree with his actions? Would you sit out the anthem for this cause? Is there anything our country could do—e.g. enter into an unjust war—that could make you sit out the anthem or desecrate a flag? Should we honor our anthem and flag because of the ideals that we would like the country to stand for—and the people who fought for those ideals–or because of how the country actually is? Should the flag simply be out of bounds when it comes to protests, i.e. should Americans salute it no matter what is happening here or what types of conflicts the country is participating in? Leave me a reply and let me know: What do we owe to our flag and our anthem? 

Be your best today,

William

P.S. If this helped you to consider this difficult topic in a new light, please pass it on. Let’s spread the empathy around! Bless you.

Permission to Fail: Learning to Grow by Taking Risks

DSC_0678“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” –Henry Ford

Hello friend,

I have been faffing all week, and it is beginning to drive me crazy! “What in the world is faffing?” you may be asking. Good question! Well, it is not exactly a word in every dictionary. I think it is British. I heard someone explain it once, though, and I appreciated the concept so much that I have adopted it as a real word (with my own slant). Faffing, at least for me, is when you busy yourself with lots of tasks that, even though they may be somewhat important and productive, aren’t the primary thing you really ought to be doing. While faffing, you may be keeping yourself so busy that you aren’t even fully conscious that you are avoiding the important thing. You have an alibi, an excuse. It is a subtle form of procrastination or stalling, masked in productivity. And if you are not honest with yourself, you can really make a habit of it. Trust me, I know.

What sorts of things have I persuaded myself were important this week? It suddenly became very pressing that I take care of some long-neglected financial stuff. I just had to find out how to unsubscribe from a service that I have been a part of for too long. My desk area needed a re-organization. The old basketball hoop demanded to be disassembled. On and on. You get the idea. I was filling the time with tasks, checking things off the To-Do List. Good, right?

WRONG!

I have been slowly growing more anxious and irritable by the day. I feel like I have cabin fever. I am pent-up, ready to burst. You see, even though all of those things were important tasks that I have been needing to accomplish—I tend to put off all unnecessary tasks in favor of my absolutely most important pursuits, so these things tend to build up—they definitely could have waited for a different day. So, why was I doing them?

I was hiding. Scared.

I have recently made a commitment to myself to write a new book I. I wrote a quick opening last week, and just the feeling of being started was a wonderful relief. But, I also knew that the next phase of the book would be by far the most difficult for me to work on. I had a grind ahead of me. I was feeling insecure about so much of it—how long I should make this part, how much detail was just the right balance between being informative but not boring, whether I was skilled enough to write in a style that I was not accustomed to, how I was going to find the time to sink my teeth into the research—and that insecurity began to freeze me. I was afraid. Afraid that once I dove in, I might not be able to swim as well as I want to believe I can. So, unconsciously at first, I started looking for a way out.

Faffing was my way out. It allowed a psychological warm blanket. After all, I hadn’t quit on the project, so there should be no guilt. I was just too busy to work on it for a few days. That’s fair, right? Life is busy. It’s a great excuse.

I used to be able to faff for long periods of time. Years, even. I am not a good faffer anymore. Thanks to my daily journaling, the persistent call of my soul is too unmistakable now. I cannot shut it out for more than a few days without getting that anxious, pent-up feeling. I am too aware of it, even from the first day. I have, over the years, become an expert at recognizing things that waste my precious time. I cannot stand to waste time.

So why would I allow myself a string of days with no productivity on the thing that my soul is shouting so determinedly in favor of? Fear of failure is a powerful beast.

As I recognize my faffing for what it is, I am starting to see that perhaps the greatest gift I can give myself right now is permission to fail. If I continue to focus on how difficult the task is and how I might not have the tools and talent to pull it off, I will never dig in and try. I will just sit here with my fears and my excuses—always masking as BUSY-NESS—as my prime slips past me and my passion slips away. That sounds like a fate worse than death.

In my case, I think I need to just plow through what writers often refer to as “my crappy first draft” so I can get all of my thoughts out there, however jumbled and unclear. If I can release my fears and insecurities about how bad it could be and who might read it and just write the darn thing, I know that I will be able to see the whole project more clearly and learn what it will take to be better. Then I can set about to actually doing it better in the next draft. By the third one, I should have it.

Better than that, though, is that I will have the confidence of knowing that I stood up and acted in the face of my greatest fears, that I made a bold move on behalf of my dreams. I have to think that can only help me in calling upon my courage the next time. And the next time. And the next time. Exercising those “brave muscles” will make them stronger and more used to working, making it easier and easier to call upon them when the old fears creep back in, as I know they will.

I am bound to fail, of course. I will mess up. This first draft will be horrible. Probably the second draft will, too. Maybe I will even recognize later that it is just not going to be a book that will be as helpful as I had envisioned when I was starting, and I will trash it. Maybe. But even if this one works, my next idea might not. Failure is part of the deal. I like the inventor Thomas Edison’s quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This from the guy who is also known to have claimed, “I failed my way to success.” He sounds like a brave guy to me.

Of course, “failure” is a relative term. There are bound to be bumps in the road, missed marks, and rejections. If I can recognize them as parts of the learning process rather than finalities, I think I can do this thing. Or at least keep trying to. I will try to follow Einstein, who said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” I plan to keep trying—and failing—to make my dreams come true. That is the path for me. No more faffing. I am ready to get back to work!

How about you? What do you aspire to but often wrestle with your insecurities about actually doing? Open up your journal and get real about what holds you back. What do you want most to do that you aren’t currently acting on right now? Think big! What is it? Okay, now write down your list of excuses. What are the things you tell yourself about why you aren’t pursuing that passion? How many of those excuses are based in fear? What would you be risking in taking a shot? Would you look foolish if it didn’t work out? Would it threaten your financial future? How embarrassed would you feel if you failed? How many people know about the thing you want to do? If you could take the risk to try it without anyone else knowing, would that make it easier? How crushed do you think you would be if your first attempt did not work out? Is it important enough to you that you would keep trying anyway? Will you keep trying no matter what happens? If your big thing is too big for you to make a full go at it right now, is there a small step you could take today in the direction of your dream? How tough will it be to give yourself permission to take it? What is the worst that could happen? What is the best that could happen? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you willing to take a leap today?

Bet on yourself,

William

P.S. If this made you think a little bigger or had you feeling dreamy and tempted, please share it. Let’s build an audacious community!

Shy, Humble, or Totally Afraid?

IMG_1811“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –Ambrose Redmoon

Hello friend,

I am an introvert. I never realized this critical fact while I was a child, or even as a young adult. I had friends. I socialized. To be shy seemed like a thing for “nerds” and the otherwise socially impaired. It never occurred to me that I might be shy or introverted. Never. As with everything else up through those years, I saw myself as having the characteristics that everyone else expected me to have. Shy was not one of those characteristics.

As I got into my twenties, found my voice, and struck out on my own, I started spending time alone for the first time in my life. Whether it was camping out in the mountains or navigating the anonymity of big city living, I came to know what it was like to keep mostly my own company. Before I knew it, I had grown to like being alone. It wasn’t long before I preferred it, even. Finally, I started demanding it. I roadtripped solo up the coast, hiked the mountains of Montana, and wandered for months across Europe, hardly speaking to anyone along the way.

I felt myself growing and thriving more than I ever had in my more social years. I loved solitude. I craved it. I also recognized that it was in solitude that my battery was recharged. It was in solitude that I built up my reserve to “act normal” in social situations, something I had never been aware of or had to work at before. In this realization, I was claiming my natural introversion.

Most of the jobs I have worked in my life have involved being “on” in public and speaking with groups big and small. I have had to teach, inspire, console, and take entrée orders. I laugh now about this with the realization of my introverted nature. I guess I needed all the alone time outside of work to charge my battery for the stage of work!

The other part about my past jobs—or at least the way I played them—is that in all of their social-ness, I rarely had to really put myself out there. I didn’t talk about myself much, because, whether it was educating someone who came to be educated or serving someone who came to be served, the unspoken expectation was that I should make it about the student/customer/person paying my rent. I find that people who do best in service industries have a way of making the client feel as though you are friends even as the focus is almost exclusively the client’s wants and needs. The service provider has to be present and empathetic to the client’s concerns and their story, but the client doesn’t need to reciprocate. For me, this worked into my personality just fine. Some of it played into my introversion, but there was more to it than that. I liked to think of it as me just being humble, neither requiring the spotlight nor thinking my feelings and my story to be worthy of the client’s time and attention. I didn’t want to impose upon them.

This is also why I was never a good salesman of my services. For many, many years, it was my job—in theory—to sell tennis lessons. I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever tried to sell anyone a lesson in all of those years. I figured that the benefits would speak for themselves and that I didn’t need to impose my will on anyone else. I especially didn’t like the idea of putting someone in the awkward position of having to say, “No, I don’t want your services.” I know that for most people, it is difficult to say no to a direct offer, and I never wanted to make anyone uncomfortable. So, in my combination of self-professed shyness and humility, I never sold my services or my story. I never asked anyone to believe in me or how my product could benefit them.

Fast-forward to now and the two businesses I have just jumped into: Life Coaching and skin care consulting. From one perspective, both are right up my alley. They fit with my mission of helping people to gain more confidence and lead more fulfilling lives. I get to work with people individually and get to make a positive impact on them. I get to make a difference. Perfect! Oh wait, I forgot to mention the other perspective. Both involve extensive networking and self-promotion. I have to ask people to take some time and listen to me. I have to share with them how my services and products can be of great benefit to them. I have to put them on that spot that I have spent my whole life NOT putting people on: The Are-You-Interested-In-Me? Spot. Ugh!!!

So of course, I am in a bit of a panic. Network marketing and self-promotion seem completely antithetical to all that I am. I have spent years justifying myself by clinging to, “I’m an introvert” and “I’m humble.” But, as the reality of these two self-chosen businesses settles in, I am beginning to feel those two comfortable, sympathetic sentiments be bowled over by what may be my greater truth: I am scared.   Scared to put myself out there. Scared to not do it well enough. Scared of making people feel awkward. But mostly, I am scared of rejection and failure. What if no one wants my help? What if they tell me I am not worth their time and money? What if my calling is something that no one answers to? What if I have to reset my dreams again? What if I am not as great as I believe I am? What if I have been fooling myself? What if…..?

I have had a lot of these thoughts in recent days as I try to gather the courage to announce myself. It is why Redmoon’s quote at the top resonates with me. In my strongest moments, I can see clearly that the difference I can make in someone’s life is worth acting on. Despite my introversion. Despite my humility. And, most importantly, despite my fear. Helping someone live the life of their dreams through my Life Coaching practice, or helping someone like what they see in the mirror for the first time through my skin care products—these things are more important than my fear. I am going to do my best to remember that and to be courageous. Will it still be awkward for me? Absolutely! Will I still need to go home at the end of the day and be alone to recharge? Sure. And will I still be afraid of rejection and failure? Almost certainly. But I am going to choose to follow that fear, to face it and conquer it, buoyed by a courage borne of a belief in a greater good. I am ready!

How about you? How willing are you to tell your story and share your importance? Open up your journal and do a little self-psychoanalysis. Where do you land on the introversion-extroversion or shy-outgoing spectrum? Has your position changed as you have aged or stayed pretty steady? Do you like to talk about yourself? When something new happens in your world, how willing are you to share it? Are you comfortable sharing it face-to-face and over the phone, or do you only share things in the relative anonymity of Facebook or other social media? How humble are you? How much of a part does that humility play in your willingness to tell your story or advertise your value? Is humility in this case just a cover for insecurity and fear? How about that fear? When you think about sharing your new ventures with people, to what degree does fear take you over? Beyond just sharing, how fearful are you of selling your skills or products to others? Is it more or less scary to sell to strangers? How much does fear paralyze you? I think that for most people, the answer is “A ton!” So, don’t be afraid to admit it. It’s your journal, so honesty is the only rule. Finally, what is important enough to you to face your fear and find the courage to act, to put yourself out there, to take the risk of rejection and failure? What in your life is worth it? Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you courageous enough to share?

Do something that scares you today,

William

Making Friends With Uncertainty

DSC_1100“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.” –Confucius

These last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for me. My quiet, simple life has been shaken. First, I went back to school, finally starting on my official path to certification for life coaching. Big change! Then, as if juggling multiple classes per week amidst my other usual craziness were not enough, I just accepted a job offer for a totally new career. BOOM! Suddenly, it feels as though I have become the juggler who has just thrown all of the balls up in the air at once and is tasked with smoothly catching them all at the right time to continue the show. Except, instead of balls, maybe they are flaming torches.

In any case, it seems that I have found myself in one of those Life moments when nothing seems certain and I don’t have a clue how it will turn out, either next week or next year. I have moved to the very edge of the cliff, and then taken another step. Of course, I am crossing my fingers that it will be a “Leap and the net will appear” moment. But, it very well could be a Wile E. Coyote moment instead, with me doing a couple of mid-air strides before plummeting to oblivion. What have I done? Uncertainty rules!!!

I wrote to you last week about the mighty fear and self-doubt that I must overcome to make these kinds of life moves (See “Challengers of Change”). So, making two big ones in the blink of an eye is quite a feat for my psyche. But, before I can finish pinning on my Badge of Courage, the howling winds of change have blown the stark map of Uncertainty right across my face. Where are those old familiar landmarks? I used to know so well what the day ahead was going to look like, how much I was going to be challenged. Now, who knows? I have to wait for my cues from the day itself. It feels like I am on patrol duty in the middle of the night in the dark forest, completely on-edge in my vigilance because I have no idea what might be lurking out there. My adrenaline and cortisol are dialed all the way up. Every neuron feels alive and on fire. Hyper-awareness is the side effect of this drug called Uncertainty. In its own scary way, it is wildly scintillating and energizing.

One of the big self-help gurus, Tony Robbins, says, “The quality of our lives is directly related to the amount of uncertainty we can live with comfortably.” Basically, if you are good with Uncertainty, you are good with Happiness. I love this! I frequently tell my clients and friends, “Make friends with uncertainty!” and “Embrace the unknown!” Of course, it is easier said than done, but I believe in the message. I have a dear friend who is about to drop just about everything he knows for sure—his schedule, his paycheck, his home, his city, his career—and start again from scratch. Even as he has some grave doubts, he is still doing it. It is a beautiful move in my eyes. I have no small amount of both envy and admiration for what he is doing. It is a courageous leap, but I am certain he will be rewarded for his bravery many times over in both Happiness and confidence.

You see, I think that one of the primary components of Happiness is an atmosphere of growth. If we are to grow, we must stretch our limits, move past our comfort zone, live on what I call our “growing edge.” But when we go beyond our comfort zone, naturally we feel uncertain. Doubt creeps in. It feels like a risk. It is a risk! But embracing that uncertainty—indeed, making friends with it—is essential to the growth that is essential to the Happiness that we are talking about. It is like an equation in Mathematics, or at least Logic:

  • If you want Happiness, you must have Growth.
  • If you want Growth, you must have Uncertainty.
  • Therefore, if you want Happiness, you must have Uncertainty.

Well, I want Happiness, darn it! And I want to keep growing, keep learning, keep stretching my limits. I understand that the price of growth (and, by extension, Happiness) is uncertainty. I am going to have to live with some doubt. I will have to take risks and not know the outcome. That may feel like a heavy toll to pay. But hey, we are talking about The Holy Grail here: Happiness. Did I think it was going to be free? So, show me where the line starts. I am ready to pay. I am eager to take this amazing ride into What’s Next. I am already grateful for all of the magic to come. Uncertainty, you are about to be my best good friend!

How about you? How much uncertainty can you live with comfortably? Open up your journal and write about your dreams. What do you most wish you could do in your world? Are you living where you want to live? What about your career: is it the best fit for who you are as a whole person? Does what you really want require you to get some more training? Are you willing to both admit that you are in the wrong spot and do what is necessary to get on the right career track? How about your relationships? Are there any issues that have gone unaddressed for too long simply because you are afraid of what opening that can of worms might lead to? Is today the day you feel strong enough to take that risk?   Do you agree with me that one of the components of a happy life is an atmosphere of growth, or is that part unnecessary? Do people who play it safe with everything and never take any risks in their lives—never stretch themselves or make any big moves—really have any more control of the outcome of their lives than people who constantly challenge themselves and make a few mistakes in the service of growth? Is their safety real or imagined? Think of all of your friends and family members and try to place them in order, on one end the people who never take risks or try anything new or push themselves, and on the other end the people who challenge themselves and embrace new experiences. Which side seems more happy and fulfilled to you? Where do you fit on your spectrum? Leave me a reply and let me know: Have you made friends with Uncertainty?

Be unabashedly YOU today,

William

Are You Wasting Your Life?

IMG_1196“Don’t die with your music still inside you.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer

Hello friend,

Did you ever read or hear something that completely stopped you in your tracks? I mean, totally stunned you, and in that instant gave you a smack-in-the-face reality check that made the state of your life crystal clear? I did.

I mentioned to you in my last post, “Falling Off The Tightrope”, that probably my greatest fear in this world is wasting my life, that I am not making the most of my time here. I also talked about how I am desperately trying—and failing—to do everything I possibly can to be productive and fulfill my dreams……after 8:30 P.M., when my kids fall asleep. I have enormous ambitions for those late-night hours: write these blog posts to you, write my own journal entries, work on “The Journal Project” to eventually produce the story of my life, study all of the many things I still want to learn, and on and on and on. That is my window of time available, and I am squeezing hard to fit it all in. It is a tall order, and no wonder that I have had such trouble finding the right balance.

That imbalance—specifically, the desire to accomplish more of the things that I love and feel called to do—creates a lot of tension in me. Turmoil. Stress. Anxiety. Quite simply, I want to do better than I am doing now. MUCH better. Even as I have recently become more clear about what is my soul’s calling and what lights me up, at the same time it becomes increasingly apparent how I am failing to make that positive contribution to the world in the scope that I feel capable of. I feel like I am running a losing race against my potential. That hurts my heart much more deeply than I can find words to explain. So, I keep rushing around trying to pack more and more in so I can make a greater contribution to the world before I die.

With all of this as background noise, I was, not so many months ago, going about my busy way. To ripen me even more for a wake-up call, I had just that morning had a situation at work that had gotten my blood pressure up and soured me a bit. I escaped for a quick workout in hopes of improving my mood, and when I hopped on the elliptical machine and turned on my e-reader, I found a “Quote of the Day” message in my inbox. Here is what it said:

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else.” –Eric Hoffer

I was absolutely shell-shocked. Stunned. You could have just as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat. I stood there dazed for a few moments before I could do anything else, and finally I started reading it over and over to slowly dissect and absorb it. It was a total “A-ha!” moment for me. Suddenly my life situation was crystal clear to me. I wouldn’t be trying to squeeze in a book or a kayak ride or a nature walk or learning the guitar or even just watching an occasional movie if I were writing full-time. Those things get edged out because I have to write and do The Journal Project in the few “free” moments I get, always feeling rushed and compromised.

I like my job. I like teaching people and helping them to gain more confidence in themselves. I really like being a small part of one of the highlights of someone’s week; that never gets old. However, thanks to the clarity that has come from a lot of soul-searching, my career has become my version of “wasting my life” by not being what my true purpose is. And because it occupies the time that it does, I am trying to hurry to do the rest and never succeeding at that. Thus it feels, as Hoffer says, as though I have no time for anything else because I am not spending the bulk of my time and energy on my calling. What a glorious feeling it would be to live my purpose—to literally work on my calling—from nine to five instead of 8:30 P.M. to oblivion. I could actually use the evening hours for hobbies and rest, and not even be stressed or guilt-ridden by that. That is a happy thought.

And so, it seems that the gauntlet has been thrown down. What am I going to DO about this moment of clarity, this reality check? It is, after all, much easier to understand my situation than it is to change it. The time for thinking has passed; the time for doing is upon me. Starting Journal of You was a direct result of that “A-ha!” moment. It was my first step out of my comfort zone, and it was my announcement to the Universe that I am in the ring at last, ready to give my gift. I can see now that this was the first of many necessary steps. This one has kept me in the post-8:30 P.M. hours, though. I must take some bolder steps in the direction of nine-to-five. These are the steps that will take more courage, more audacity.

I am definitely scared of the risks required to make the next big move, but I am getting to that tipping point of being MORE scared of the regret I will feel if I don’t. Now is the time to engage my soul and my dreams with this world. It is time to give my gift. Along with the Wayne Dyer quote at the top, the other thought that keeps pecking away at my mind is, “This is NOT a dress rehearsal!” If not now, when? It is my time to act with courage, to embrace the uncertainty, to be radically myself. I can do it. I will do it. Onward and upward! Let me never again have to wonder if I am wasting my life.

How about you? How comfortable are you with the way you are spending your time on Earth? Open up your journal, and take a long look in the mirror. What is your potential? Seriously, how great can you be? How much can you contribute to the world? Don’t limit the meaning of “contribute;” it can be anything you decide (how many smiles you put on people’s faces, how well you raise your children, how honestly you share yourself with others, how professionally you do your job, and a zillion other seemingly invisible things are magnificent contributions). Does the difference between your contributions and your perceived potential bother you like it does me? How rushed do you feel? If you do feel rushed, is it because there is simply too much to do, or are you not spending your time the right way? How does your job and career path mesh with your dreams and your purpose? Is it integrally intertwined, totally unrelated, or somewhere in between? Is your work fulfilling? What one thing could you do today to more closely align your schedule with your calling? How can you live better? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you wasting your life?

Go boldly in the direction of your dreams,

William

Do You Dare to Bare?

IMG_1184“I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.”  –Jim Morrison

Hello friend,

My 3-year-old told me today, “Well, you don’t have to keep telling me that you love me all the time, Daddy, because I already know that.”  He knows everything. I responded, “Yeah, but that is how I really feel right now, so I am telling you.”  I bet that I tell my kids “I love you” 50 times a day.  Each!  I smother them with hugs and kisses.  My emotions are right on my sleeve.  Thankfully, they are positive ones.  I am trying to keep it real with them.  I want them to know just how much I love them.  But more than that, I am also trying to be an example to them about emotional honesty. I want them to feel confident in telling their Truth, to not shy away from their emotions.

We teach what we most need to learn. I wish I was a good example about owning my feelings and sharing them honestly. I want to be. But I have to admit that it is something I have always struggled with. Like the Jim Morrison quote above, my sensitivity has often gotten so squashed in trying to put on a tough, polished exterior that I have really blown it in some important moments. In trying to minimize and put a shine on my real emotions, I have come off blunt, even callous. I have gotten in my own way.

“But I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” So says Bob Dylan, and I hope I am becoming that way, too. Kids are such good examples of honesty. Their emotions are like mercury, changing drastically with the conditions from moment to moment. When they go from crying one minute to laughing the next, most of us jaded parents take that to mean they were faking the crying part. Though I don’t discount that entirely, I think it is actually more that they are so completely in the moment that they can move beyond the source of their tears instantaneously. Unlike us adults, they don’t work so hard to hold grudges. They get it out—honestly and completely—and move on. It is really these transparent kids that are the wise ones in this world. When we become “mature” and “control our emotions”, the unfortunate side effect is often that we hide from our Truth and squash down feelings that must be felt lest they destroy us (through addictions and chronic, mind-numbing activities like television). I have been that old. I want to be young again!

Yes, I have been one of the many bottled-up people in this world. Why do we do it, though? Why do we chicken out? Why do we lack the courage to own our feelings and express them—to tell our Truth—especially to those we love the most? Just this afternoon I was thinking about my great-uncle Lloyd, whom I have always thought of as the most kind-hearted man I have ever known. I was thinking of how grateful I am that he has been in my life and how I hope that I can be that kind of man for the rest of my life (he is about to be 89). It hit me: I have to write him a letter and tell him so! Yeah for me, right? But as I sit here writing to you about this idea of emotional honesty, I can’t help but feel a little cowardly that the only way I dare tell this hero of mine how much he means to me is by writing him a letter. I cannot tell him to his face.

I know how I am (or how I have been?). I would freeze up if I tried to tell him. I would take any sign of awkwardness from him as an excuse to clam up and not finish my thought, not tell my Truth. “I don’t want to make him uncomfortable” or “He doesn’t like to show emotion, so I won’t”. These are just crutches for me, reasons to avoid owning who I really am. The other one—I use this one to avoid honest conversations with my Dad—is “Oh, he knows how I feel.” But that assumes a lot. What if he doesn’t know? What if he thinks my silence means what I used to think his silence meant? What if he goes to the grave thinking that?

I think it is this reason—the brevity of life and the suddenness of its end—that has helped me improve over the years at sharing my emotions honestly. I just don’t want people to leave my life without knowing how much they mean to me. And it isn’t just the shortness of other people’s lives that concern me anymore; it is also my own duration. I am keenly aware that I could go any time, so I am trying to seize every moment, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” as Thoreau says. That includes building rich, authentic relationships, which requires me to own my feelings. It also includes not denying myself the simple pleasure of telling my Truth.

Telling my Truth, I have found, is wonderfully liberating. I now see those chances to tell it as little “dares”—as in, “I dare you!”—to jump at rather than shy away from, as I always used to. The dare excites me now. Each time I seize it, I become more confident, more comfortable in my own skin, and thus more willing to share my emotions—my Truth—the next time. It is a healthy snow-balling effect.

I also think that it becomes easier to own my feelings and live out loud as I care less and less about what others think of me (see Bob Dylan above; I am becoming younger). The less I look to the outside for validation and instead seek within, the more willing I am to share my emotions and my Truth. Who I am, it turns out, is enough, and I care not for the company of those who think otherwise. So, even as I write this I get more resolved to share my emotions even more freely. It may mean writing it down for awhile—sending that letter to Uncle Lloyd will still feel good—but I will do better with the face-to-face someday, too. Eventually, I will probably become that old guy who—tactfully, I hope–holds nothing back and makes people uncomfortable with his honesty. I admire that guy.

How about you? How bottled-up are you? Open up your journal and start telling your Truth. Tell yourself first. How do you feel about you? Be honest with yourself, and don’t judge your feelings as they come. Just let them flow along with the words, unfiltered. This is when writing is at its best: when you let yourself go. Have you told the people closest to you how much they mean to you? If not, what is stopping you? Try to make the answer something about you, not about them. The part you can control is yours. Pick a person and write out how you feel about them. Do you dare say the words to them face-to-face? If not, how about writing a letter? You already wrote out your feelings; why not just send it? I dare you! Go down the list of your loved ones. Who deserves to know your Truth? Who haven’t you told? The answer to those two questions—and the gap between them—is your challenge laid out before you. Do you accept it? Leave me a reply and let me know: Do you dare to bare?

You are enough just as you are,

William