Tag Archives: Time

Silver Linings: In Search Of The Positives In A Pandemic

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” –Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone 

“In a time of destruction, create something.” –Maxine Hong Kingston

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” –Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Hello friend,

I have had moments of anger during this pandemic, such as when I see my neighbors having yet another play date with their children’s friends and parents, ignoring all science and government warnings and putting the rest of us in danger (and keeping us home even longer) because they lack either the will power to resist their social nature or the moral fiber to care about their potential damage.

I have had moments of deep sadness, too, such as when I read the social media post of the nurse who had flown to New York to help in a hospital, who had just had her patient die, and she reported that they had 17 deaths in their 17-bed unit that night. How does that NOT break you?

I have had moments of fear and anxiety as well, each week when I go to the grocery store and when I think about the possibility of my wife losing her job or a family member needing a hospital visit.

I have felt at least some degree of all the negative stuff that I am guessing you and your loved ones have felt during this unusual time. And though currents of them dash in and out of my atmosphere like phantom winds, I can say with some certainty that–with the notable exception of the first few days following the cancellation of my vacation, as I shared in my last letter–I have not let the negative overtake me. Some of that, I am sure, can be chalked up to the fact that I have been lucky. My family has money coming in, food in the refrigerator, health insurance, and none of my loved ones have contracted Covid-19. Relative to what other people are dealing with and will deal with, I have a dream gig going here right now.

The rest of it, though, seems to be attributed to my psychological make-up. I am a glass-half-full kind of guy by nature, and I tend to have my radar up and tracking the potential blessings in any situation. In the course of my day, I tend to find the fun, the kind, and the beautiful that is available to all but seemingly noticed by few. I have been blessed by an inclination toward those things and a willingness to train my eye to find more. It leaves me uncommonly grateful and, by extension, happy.

So, amidst the throes of the rampant sadness, frustration, anger, fear, and anxiety that seem so common and expected in this unprecedented age, I have found myself all the more determined to uncover the blessings and the good that might come of it. In this storm of storms, I am looking for silver linings.

It is easy to latch onto the most popular ones, which start with the frontline medical personnel. These people are just amazing to me. I look at me, not wanting to so much as leave my yard because I don’t want to closely interact with anyone and risk getting the virus and subsequently passing it to my family members. Then I look at the emergency room staff and first responders, going into work every day nearly certain that they are going to get it, if not today then tomorrow. There was the video that went viral a few weeks ago of the man in scrubs coming home and his tiny child running to greet him. It broke my heart to watch him have to suddenly keep her from excitedly running into his arms for a hug. Anyone who has ever been a parent knows that is probably the single greatest feeling in the world. To think that there are people like that all over the world, voluntarily eschewing the proximity and affection of their loved ones in order to continue serving the sickest among us, well, that is simultaneously both deeply saddening and incredibly inspiring.

All of the other frontline workers are so uplifting for me as well, even as I fret for their safety. I go out to the grocery store once a week and, as I am standing in the long, spread-out line for my turn to pay, I am absolutely spellbound watching the employees–these folks barely, if even, making a living wage for their services–ringing people up. It boggles my mind how they keep doing it day after day. I am so grateful for them.

Obviously there are very few people who signed up for this gig, whatever it is they are doing in this new age. Nearly everyone’s job, if they still have one, has changed. So many public-facing difference-makers–the teachers, the coaches, the therapists–can no longer do their jobs in a way that they can feel the daily difference they are making. There are a lot of teachers in my life, and I know that it pains them to have to “only” deliver educational modules to their students through a computer every day rather than their usual nurturing of the whole, complex person for the 25 or 30 growing souls in their classroom. They don’t get to directly help them through their challenges and witness that spark in the eye when the light bulb comes on or the hug of gratitude and love when it is most needed. I exchanged a message with one of my colleagues about this, and she lamented, “Distance learning is like planning, shopping, wrapping, and sending the perfect gift for someone you adore, but never getting to see them open it or know if they even like the present.” But teachers keep pouring their all into it because our children depend on them even in their absence. Those kind of people inspire me.

There are so many others, of course, whether they work on the front lines or are struggling because so much has changed behind the lines but they keep putting one foot in front of the other because the world needs them. I am even inspired by the people who, unlike me, are so wildly social at their core and need company like they need oxygen, but are choosing to be good humans and stay home. There are admirable sacrifices all around if your eyes are open to them.

One thing that tickles me these days is seeing so many people out walking, running, or bicycling in their neighborhoods. I have always loved visiting “active” towns–usually in places embedded in the mountains or by the ocean–where it seems like everyone is an outdoors enthusiast and people are moving their bodies wherever you look. My community is not typically one of those hubs of energy, but it sure has become one in the last month. I have never walked so much in my life, and I get the sense everyone else could say the same. I love seeing them all out and active. It energizes me. I hope we can keep that outdoor momentum going even when gyms and stores open up again. There is new life in the fresh air.

I also take great joy and inspiration in some of the new opportunities that people, especially artists, have created and made available online during this time. The actor John Krasinski’s YouTube broadcast from home, Some Good News, has been a delight, and I highly recommend it. I have also loved the “quarantine concerts” that so many musicians have put on their social media, whether it is a daily song (I have been digging Michael Franti on Facebook) or weekly concerts (I adore Matt Nathanson’s weekly events from his home office on YouTube, during which he sings songs and reads beautiful passages from books of poetry or wisdom that inspire him) or those big sing-along collaborations that artists have been putting together through ZOOM. There is nothing like music to lift the spirit, and these times ought to give us a greater sense of the necessity of the arts in our society. I have also appreciated those virtual tours of some of the world’s greatest museums and our national parks, both the sights themselves and the thoughtfulness of the people bringing them to us.

Though all of these inspirations have flashed regularly across my radar throughout the pandemic, the one ray of Hope that has grown exponentially in my mind as the weeks have passed falls under the theme “How We Might Grow From This Experience.” I am enchanted by the possibility of some sort of simultaneous mass realization of the errors of our former, “normal” ways and a subsequent move toward a more highly idealized society, perhaps even to the extent of an evolutionary leap in the behavior of our species. Might we take advantage of this collective pause in our society–one that is unlikely to ever happen again in our lifetimes–and use it to gain wisdom in the direction of a world that is more peaceful, equitable, and just? Might we come to value each other more? Might we come to value our time more? I desperately hope so.

What kinds of things might this translate to? Maybe it is as simple as choosing our commitments–whether to individual people or activities or groups–more discerningly. Now that we have been pulled out of our sports, clubs, churches, stores, meet-ups, coffee shops, restaurants, classes, and gyms, I hope that we are using the time away from them to better understand how much we (individually) need each one of our diversions. Even though most of us are going stir-crazy in our homes, we may also be realizing for the first time that perhaps it would be wise to begin prioritizing some downtime at home when “real life” resumes. As we have been removed from nearly all of the people in our usual routines, I hope that we are realizing which of those people are really not a positive influence on us and perhaps which are more deserving of our time and energy. Maybe we need more quality and less quantity, both in people and scheduled activities.

I also hope that this time–with its isolation, its anxiety, its uncertainty–leads us to put a greater premium on our mental health and self-care. I hope it becomes easier and “more normal” to talk about mental health and to understand that the issues that we have been hiding are so very common in our community.

I hope that it becomes more obvious–and more painful in the realization–that the poorest among us consistently bear the burdens of our crises to a far greater degree than the wealthiest. It is the poor who are both put on the front lines of exposure in times like this–cashiers, janitors, delivery drivers, etc.–and also more likely to lose their jobs, being in positions less likely to have a work-from-home option. I hope that in this time that we suddenly have to think more clearly and become more aware of the realities of our usual set-up, we find it in ourselves as a society to become more compassionate of those most in need and more aware of our own, typically-unearned privilege.

Along the same lines of this potential growing awareness, I have been increasingly hopeful that this health-crisis-turned-economic crisis might make it more clear to the average citizen how much more humane a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health care system would be. I think of the more than 22 million people who have lost their jobs in the first four weeks of this collapse, and how many millions of people that takes off of health coverage. I am up-front about the fact that I have long been in favor of a universal health care system in America, seeing health care as no less a natural right than a “free” public education or police and fire protection, as I have written to you about in the past. It has always seemed crazy to me that we don’t have this system in place and instead spend far more per capita on health care than other “civilized” countries for generally worse results, not to mention leaving tens of millions of our citizens uncovered and poorly covered to the point that they don’t take care of basic medical needs. It embarrasses me as an American. If we have to go past the idea that it is a basic human right–which we should not; that ought to be the start and end of the discussion as to the necessity of universal coverage–I have always found it sad and tragic that the reason so many people stay in jobs rather than quit or change or try to start their own business or pursue a dream is because of the loss of health insurance. The current system is, in so many different, insidious ways, breaking our spirit. And now we have tens of millions of newly unemployed, resulting in millions of families losing their health coverage. How many people lost their coverage due to the pandemic in the rest of the world? Zero. Because they have humane systems. I have been surprised and disappointed that we have not seen more spoken and written about this in the traditional and social media as the numbers of unemployed pile up. It is my hope that people will see that now is the perfect moment in our history to do right by each other. Health coverage for everyone would be a giant step in the right direction. I remain hopeful that hearts and eyes will open.

It is this and so many other structural, systemic issues that I am looking toward in this time, hoping we open our hearts and minds to find the compassion and the wisdom to see our “we’ve just always done it this way” as a compilation of attitudes and tactics that have simply not served us all as well as we may have hoped. But I see people doing right by others, helping and giving and supporting. And I see others who want to be a part of a better world, who want fewer people to suffer and more people to get along, who want the resources spread out more equitably. I see all of that good action and good intention, and they make me hopeful. They give me light in a time that could too easily turn dark.

There are so many good people out there. You know that. So many lights. So many silver linings to this storm. You can find them almost anywhere you look. It seems to me that with this many good people, we deserve to live in a world whose structures–be they social, political, economic, or otherwise–serve to provide or facilitate all of those positive intentions and gestures of good will. But the responsibility is upon each of us to both do better in our own little corner of the world and to raise our voices to demand better of our larger structures. We must use this collective, reflective moment to consider the ways that our religions, our education systems, our health care systems, our political institutions, our judicial systems, our use of science, our natural resource consumption, and our philosophy of diplomacy and warfare facilitate the kind of goodness that is in our hearts. If we deem that those systems are not representative of our goodness, we need to rise up and demand that changes be made. And we must do whatever is in our own power to see those changes through. We must be the bringers of our own light.

This pandemic era is difficult. It is angering, frustrating, depressing, and anxiety-inducing. But it is also so much more, and its potential for a positive outcome is massive. Even with the scars that we will no doubt carry from this era, we could actually come away with a more caring, compassionate, equitable, just, and peaceful planet, both the humans and the systems designed to help the humans live their best lives. I see the possibilities all around me. I see it in hearts and gestures. If you are having a hard time seeing that light in your world, I hope you will find it in yourself. It is there, my friend, just waiting to be discovered. I am happy to lend you some of mine in the meantime. I have hope for you, hope for us. With so many beautiful examples out there to use as a guide and this quiet moment to steel my resolve, I am inspired to find out just how high we right rise. Together.

How about you? Where do you look for hope and inspiration in this time of crisis? Open up your journal and your heart and uncover the source of the light shining in? Where are you finding your positivity these days? Do you see it in the people in your community and the actions–or inaction–that they are taking? Which profession seems to awe you the most at this time? Medical personnel? Grocery store clerks? Delivery drivers? Janitorial workers? Teachers? Are you inspired by people’s willingness to stay home to limit the spread of the virus? What acts of personal generosity have you witnessed or been a part of that remind you of people’s goodness? Which people–individuals or groups–have you come to see in a more positive light as a result of the their actions during this pandemic? Are your own actions worthy of someone else’s inspiration? What other sources of positivity have you used lately that are unique to our current situation? Are there live events that you “attend” online, whether workouts or concerts? Do you watch TED talks? Have you started reading any books that you might otherwise have neglected were we not in a pandemic? What sorts of hopes do you have in the “How We Might Grow From This Experience” category? What realizations would you like us to have about our ways of living? What personal “A-HA”s have you had about your own lifestyle and priorities? Which aspects of our society has this crisis exposed for you in a way that you never realized before? Do you believe in our ability to at least begin large-scale, structural changes to the way we do things based on the lessons we are taking from this period? If so, what part do you see yourself playing in the positive change? How much light do you have to share? What sources of inspiration will you use as your fuel? Leave me a reply and let me know: What positives do you see emerging from this pandemic?  

Bring the light,

William

P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please share it with your community. This is a team effort!

P.P.S. If this type of introspection stirs something in you, consider buying my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers. Namaste.

How Valuable Is Your TIME?

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” –Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

“No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.” –Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

Hello friend,

I think I have finally reached the point in life when I understand that the worst thing you can do to me is take away my time. I see now that it was always true but that I just didn’t realize it. I was running around in denial or confusion, I suppose, never minding too much if you dragged me along somewhere on your agenda or if my time with you did not inspire or engage me. I was not much offended by that. I went along. “What else do I have to do?” I passed the time. I wasted it. I spent it. But I didn’t really use the time. I didn’t make the most of it. And I didn’t realize what a tragedy that was, what an abomination. I realize it now.

I don’t know when it started for me. I know I was acting on my repulsion to time-wasting before I was aware of it. Somehow my soul knew. It sent the signal to my body. I would get antsy and irritable.

I once worked as a low-end manager for a large corporation. It was part of my boss’s duties–as assigned by his boss and the boss above him–to have a weekly one-on-one meeting with each of the managers who worked under him. I should probably mention that I have never known a mentally lazier, less invested or engaged person in my life; the one and only reason he held his job was because of who he knew above him in the chain of command. It was like a character out of a farfetched movie. Anyway, in addition to the weekly management team meeting, he and I had our one-on-one meeting in his office. I would enter and sit in the chair in front of his desk with a pen and a notebook open just in case anything important came up (spoiler: it never did). He would say hello from his desk and then swivel in his chair and sit with his large back to me and look at his computer for several minutes as if he were engrossed in some deep reading and I were not even in the room. Then he might come out of his reverie and say something like, “Uh, I guess your numbers are looking pretty good again this month…” and then drift back into remote silence. (As I said, it was like a movie scene.) He would do that a few times over the course of a half-hour, then finally swivel back around and say, “Okay, buddy, you got anything for me?” By that point, even if I did have an issue that I could use some executive assistance with, I was too exasperated with the time I had just spent doodling on my note pad and looking at his large back that I was ready with a quick “NOPE!” and a sprint to the door. Beyond just the disbelief that this type of person could exist and be well-paid for his time, I always left that room thinking, “With all that I have to accomplish in my jam-packed twelve-hour work day, that part did no one any good.” That was when I also grew accustomed to the thought, “Well, that’s 30 minutes I will never get back!” I came to hate that idea.

I think my experiences in the wasteland of unnecessary–and unnecessarily long–corporate meetings probably ushered me directly into the next phase of my working life, when I downgraded my responsibilities and time commitments so I could be efficient when I was there, have hardly any meetings, and get out of there to do the things with the people (my wife and kids) that made every moment feel sacred and priceless. I didn’t care that I had to give up money and prestige to do it. I just wanted my moments to count.

It is from this vein that sprung my efforts to be the best and most present father I could be. That vein is also the source of this entire Journal of You experience, including a book and more than five years worth of letters to you. I want to make the moments–even the “spare” ones–meaningful to me and impactful to everyone whose lives I touch.

I see this sensitivity to time all over my life now. I have become highly averse to traffic and other unnecessary time spent in the car. I avoid most errands like The Plague, unless I can string them together into one trip. I chose a job that was about four minutes from my house and feel like I hit the logistical jackpot with how it fits into my children’s schedules (and I have almost no meetings!). I had a follow-up appointment after a surgery that ended up being basically a “How are you?” kind of deal that I could have handled with a one-minute phone call, and I was at least as annoyed with them for wasting my time to go there as I was for the crazy money they charged me for it.

As I write this and perform this scan of my life both past and present, it becomes so much more clear as to why I have always hated small-talk. I always thought it had only to do with a lack of depth and true connection, just making noise to pass the time–like watching television–and keeping everyone (except me) comfortable/unchallenged by keeping it all superficial. Because that alone would be enough to make my skin crawl. But I see now that the previously undiscovered part of my frustration with the small-talk experience that characterizes most interactions in this society is the time-wasting aspect. I think of all the times I have finished a conversation and thought to myself, “Well, that was a complete waste of time! Neither of us know each other any better now than we did five minutes ago. What a missed opportunity!” It is like death by a million cuts, all of these conversations that eat up the days and years of our rapidly-dwindling lifetimes. I have donated enough blood to that cause. I don’t want to die that way anymore.

I feel like I need to set up some sort of fence or filter through which every request upon my time must pass to make it onto my docket. That filter is probably just a simple question or two, maybe something like Does this make my life feel bigger? or Does this resonate with the Me I am trying to become? I imagine that keeping only the engagements and the people who can pass that kind of test would leave me feeling much less buyer’s remorse for the way I have spent my time.

I just want everything I do to feel like it is worth it. The people I hangout with. The work I choose. The media that I consume. The curiosities and passions that I pursue. The meetings I take. The conversations that I join. The causes that I take up. I want every last bit of it to feel like it was worth the investment of the most precious resource I have: time. From here on out, I will guard it with my life.

How about you? How ferociously do you protect your limited time? Open up your journal and consider the ways you pass your days. What are the things in your life that feel most like a waste of your time? Do you have hobbies–e.g. watching TV, Facebook, YouTube, drug or alcohol use, video games, etc.–that eat up large portions of time but don’t make you feel any better? Why do you continue to give them your energy? How about the people who aren’t worth your time or energy but still receive your attention? What is it about these people? Is it logistically impossible to remove them from your life? If so, how could you make your interactions with them more valuable? Are you too afraid to have the uncomfortable conversation that could help them rise or remove them from your life? Is that conversation more uncomfortable than keeping them in your life and dragging you down? Are there certain places that always leave you wishing you had never gone there? Can you stop? Are you aware of the things that waste your time as you are doing them, or is it only in hindsight that the recognition comes to you? How much of your job/work life ends up feeling like a waste of your time, and how much feels very productive and worthwhile? How much do you drag things out at work just to fill in your required hours? If it were left entirely up to you, could you streamline your workplace and significantly shorten everyone’s work week while maintaining productivity? What are the very best ways that you regularly use your time? Is it in communion with certain people? What makes the time with those particular people so valuable? How can you get more time with them or people like them? How about your best activities? What about that activity time distinguishes it? Is it the mere doing of the activity–e.g. I love the feeling of hitting a tennis ball–or is it the things that come along with the activity (the exercise, the camaraderie, the connection with Nature, etc.)? How can you work more of that activity into your schedule? Is there a different activity that you have been wanting to try that you sense would also be worth your investment? Is there some place that always nourishes you and makes you glad you went there? Can you get there more often or find those same feelings elsewhere? Better yet, can you bring its qualities to you? What would your life look like if it were filled with only things that felt like a good use of your time? Starkly different than your current life, or only subtly so? How close could you reasonably get to that ideal version? What would you choose as a filter question(s) to help you make better decisions about who and what to allow into your life and your schedule? Would that be enough? Can you begin to use that filter immediately? What is holding you back? On a scale of 1 to 10, how selective/picky are you about what you allow onto your docket? Does all of this really boil down to a question of your own self-worth, i.e. is this about believing that you are worthy of only things that lift you up and speak to your soul? Are you worthy (Hint: YES!!!!!)? Leave me a reply and let me know: How valuable is your time?

You are so worth it,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it with loved ones or your social media network. It is a profoundly important topic with an answer whose deadline is pressing.

P.P.S. If you enjoy the challenge of questioning yourself and examining your life, check out my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.

Soul Sucker or Soul Stirrer? The Role of Screen Time in Your Life

“If you are losing your leisure, look out! It may be you are losing your soul.” –Virginia Woolf 

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” –Neil deGrasse Tyson

Hello friend,

It is no secret that I am seriously prone to guilt? Well, let me clarify that. I am not much for guilt from other people; in fact, if you try to guilt me into doing something, I will almost certainly withdraw from that situation (and you) entirely. Self-inflicted guilt, however, is an unfortunate staple of my personality. I can make myself feel bad about the least transgression, like skipping a day at the gym or not writing letters to you as often as I once did. If it involves me not taking advantage of every opportunity to live my best life, I am vulnerable to an internalized flogging. And anxiety. I get antsy when I am not obviously growing.

So it is that the other day, while taking stock of my current life and my degree of contentment and longing, I noticed a most interesting and unusual phenomenon: despite the absence of any “big rock” that I am progressing daily in the direction of my dreams, or any major soul-stirring new dream that I am forming in my mind, I am feeling uncharacteristically serene and accepting of my status. At least for the moment, my relative lack of “progress” is not freaking me out. And I am starting to wonder if that alone should freak me out.

Am I getting complacent in my middle age, losing my passion and idealism? Am I allowing my dreams to slip from my once-stubborn grasp? Is my spirit dying, its light snuffed out by laziness and busy-ness?

Possibly because none of those things are true, or, just as possible, because I am unwilling to allow those thoughts into my head, I have decided to take a look at my habits from a totally different perspective. I need these new lenses in order to make more clear to myself just why my mind and soul are feeling pretty engaged without one of those big, obvious dreams or achievements that I am usually striving toward and that put wind in my sails. What are these more subtle forces at work that have been invisible to my eyes until now?

Interestingly, it was–quite literally–right there in front of my eyes all the time. Media. Screens. All of the information and art that I absorb on a daily basis.

When I have finished working and then spending the bulk of my “free time” face-to-face with my greatest inspirations–my children, my writing (either to you or in my journal), and Mother Nature–there are these last few fleeting moments of the day. They are usually found on a cardio machine at the gym early in the morning or in my bed as my eyelids get heavy at the day’s end, but I am always on the lookout for moments to steal.

It is in these precious moments that you can find me with my tablet–I hardly ever use my phone–which holds my books and, for the special occasion, my Netflix account. In recent months, I have found myself in turns fascinated, inspired, devastated, and mesmerized by what I have learned through that screen. And that is exactly what it has been: an education.

Allow me to share of the marvelous gifts my favorite device has bestowed upon me in recent months, just in case you are in need of some ideas for your own enrichment and growth.

Believe me, I wish I could share tons of movie suggestions, but my schedule and priorities don’t allow for two-to-three-hour blocks of time to sit and focus (if it did, you would get many more letters from me, or perhaps news of my next book). I did, however, catch the film Bohemian Rhapsody on a plane ride, and I recommend it. It jelled nicely with the main focuses of my education lately: the 1960s and 1970s (though the film is actually more of the 80s), and the culture around the music of that era. I have been drawn to this era for an unusual reason: because, in theory, these are the decades that would shape my parents’ late adolescence and young adulthood, yet neither my mother or my father has ever seemed at all engaged with the politics and music of that dynamic time–the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Women’s Movement, rock ‘n’ roll, the Motown sound, drugs, etc.–a phenomenon that befuddles me. It is also the era that flowed into my childhood, so I am trying to better understand my upbringing and the world I came into (better late than never!).

In the absence of Hollywood movies, I have used my random and stunted Netflix time (usually once per week at the gym) on documentaries, often about musicians. I have been fascinated by The Two Killings Of Sam Cooke, Bowie: The Man Who Changed Everything, Keith Richards: Under The Influence, 20 Feet From Stardom, and Studio 54: The Documentary. The one that I am completely engrossed in now, that I can see will take me some months to finish its multiple parts, is Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War. It is eye-opening, blood-curdling, heart-wrenching, and infuriating. But so detailed and informative. It is a lesson I have needed, one that perhaps we all need. I hope you will give it a look.

Prior to this one, the “special” (not exactly a documentary) that truly captivated me was Springsteen On Broadway. The things that most interest me in the world are people’s stories, especially if told by the people themselves. Springsteen’s performance in this, from a storytelling perspective, is brilliant. The occasional musical numbers are just gravy. I highly recommend it.

Watching these documentaries has only increased my thirst for more of them. The ones on my wish list after I finish The Vietnam War are Planet Earth II, Brené Brown: The Call To Courage, The Seventies, Our Planet, Bobby Kennedy For President, The Story of God, How The Beatles Changed The World, Mountain, One Strange Rock, and Ken Burns’ The Civil War and The West. I think Netflix mostly exists just to tease me about my lack of time to watch its countless delights!

But there are even more books to read. I read with my 8-year-old son, I read with my 10-year-old daughter, and I read alone. And even though the children get the final say on the titles we read together, most of the books are enjoyable and enriching for me, too. My son and I have been reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which, mostly because it has inspired him to become a Greek Mythology expert, has taught me so much about a subject that I have long wanted to study. And it is entertaining. Another clever children’s series that an adult can appreciate is Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories. Last week, I also finished (alone) a sweet book by Alex Gino called George, about the experiences with cruelty and courage of a fourth-grader who is transgender. I then passed it on to my son, who read and enjoyed it this week. My daughter and I are currently quite engrossed in Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting By 7s, about a young genius dealing with the sudden death of her family.

I have in recent years come to appreciate books for middle grade kids and have no trouble recommending them to adults. I had earlier caught onto that feeling about adolescent/”coming of age” tales such as Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, both of which I strongly recommend. I find that a great children’s book is, without trying to be, also a great adult book.

But I still love to read my own grown-up books, which are usually something in the Biography/Memoir section but spread out into other areas of nonfiction and fiction as my intuition guides me. One recent, highly-detailed, biographical portrait that supplemented my study of the 1960s and 1970s–and the music thereof– was Joe Hagan’s Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine. It is fascinating (if a bit tabloidish). I have also recently had a very personal look at both mountain climbing and rape culture through the eyes of one of my favorite authors, Jon Krakauer, in Eiger Dreams and Missoula, respectively. At the moment, I am in the middle of Azar Nafisi’s thoughtful account of the myriad devastating effects of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Reading Lolita In Tehran. It is opening my eyes in a whole new way, taking my heart and mind to places I had never imagined.

But that is just what good media does, right? That is the potential of these screens we are always staring at: to stimulate our brains, to open our hearts, and to inspire our souls. In short: to lift us up, to expand our lives. Growth.

This, I can see now, is the answer to the puzzle of why, in the absence of any huge dream that is currently propelling me forward by the power of its hold on my enchanted soul, I am still feeling the tingles in that soul and the stretching of my heart and mind as they open with new knowledge and inspiration. It points to something that I clearly needed a reminder of: not only am I, at my core, a dreamer and a follower of my dreams, but I am also a student. It is in my soul’s code. I simply love to take in what is new and different to me. I get excited to try what I haven’t tried, whether that is a foreign language or a physical skill or another person’s story. I want to see, feel, and do it all so I can know better how the world works and how everyone else experiences it. When I feel those things stagnating in me, I become anxious and irritable. Unhappy. This is why I am in constant search of enrichment opportunities. My radar is always up. Basically, I am addicted to Growth.

With that realization, I can see why I have continued to be buoyed without my usual life-saving device: the big rock.

I have no doubt that before long, the pendulum will swing back the other way, and I will need to do something that satisfies my other soul compulsion: to contribute. I will need to help others rise in a more obvious way than I am now.

But for now, it is nice to know that when I my tank is running low, I don’t have to feel so guilty about turning to my screen for inspiration. There is some magical stuff in there! I plan to mine it well and allow myself to be lifted.

How about you? How do you use your screens and your media? Open up your journal and assess your relationship to your devices and your leisure time. How big of a role do your screens play in your life? What percentage of your leisure time is spent in front of a screen or page? What do you do with them? Movies? TV series? Sports? Video games? Books? Articles? Social media? Word games? Other apps? How much of that screen time would you describe as relatively mindless? Do you feel guilty, as I do, if you reach your threshold of “just passing time?” How much of your mindless time is necessary (i.e. you need it to decompress from daily stresses)? How much of it is really just wasting time? Which screen-based things that you do are inspirational? Which are entertaining? Which are educational? Which grow your life in other ways? What are those ways? Do you gain more of your leisure time enrichment via screens and pages, or via other hobbies? By what margin? What are the best movies you have watched lately? Which one(s) stand out as being particularly enriching? Which have moved you the most? Do you have any documentaries that have changed your perspective on the world? Which TV series do you find yourself recommending to others? A few weeks ago I was moved to tears by the comeback of Tiger Woods, and I always love the human stories covered during the Olympics. Do you watch sports? How engaged does the “human drama” element of sports get you? How would you rate your level of enrichment and personal growth via social media? Does the negative ever outweigh the positive? Do you waste time there? What other apps would you recommend to someone looking to be inspired and/or educated? What have you been reading lately? Do you prefer books or articles? Which blogs do you read? What have you read in the last year that has really stuck with you? Has anything changed your life dramatically? What has reminded you of Who You Really Are? Are you satisfied with the role of screens in your life? What would you like to change about them (e.g. more or less time on them, more books, less social media)? How about your leisure on the whole? Is it not just relaxing, but enriching? Do your hobbies inspire you and make you a better person? Are they enough to round out your work life and make the whole package seem fulfilling, even if temporarily? Do you cycle back and forth from being passive and content with your free time to needing to do something truly “meaningful” and life-changing? What is the proper balance? Leave me a reply and let me know, What is the role of leisure and screen time in your happiness?

Grow and grow,

William

P.S. If this letter resonated with you, please share it with someone who might be enriched by it. Grow your world!

P.P.S. If this way of introspection appeals to your sensibilities, check out by book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.

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