Success is: connecting.

Riding on last week’s ideas of letting go of entitlement & being inviting, I love this second line from Charlie’s post:

Making yourself inviting means enjoying the conversation, in and of itself. Even if that’s the only interaction you have with someone, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t go anywhere. Let go of the notion that success means anything other than a good connection.

(emphasis mine)

My mind  links it to the following “notes to self” that I visit often:

1. Be here now. Enjoy something for the sake of it. Don’t keep looking to “what this is going to get me” or “where is this going to go”. The “where” is here, and the “what” is now. Dive deep. Engage fully. That is enough.

2. “Producing, ergo worthy” can be a damaging belief. I’ve struggled – and still do at times – with “having something to show for” what I choose to spend my time on. It’s become second nature to tie my worth to roles, titles, products, achievements, awards… that’s a tough bond to break.

Connecting to self
Sometimes, though, the most important work – being alone, engaging with thoughts, reading to absorb ideas, diving in to meaningful conversation – doesn’t produce anything immediate & tangible to easily “signal success” to the whole wide world (or the world wide web).

It can be hard to live out that knowledge in our hyper-connected, achievement-driven present, where it seems almost ridiculous not to keep an interaction going, given all available channels. (Phone, text, email, Twitter, Facebook… “stay connected” is essentially the default expectation.) Add to that a layer of “entrepreneur culture”, and you’ve got a recipe that thrives on FOMO – where every conversation & connection needs to be followed up on, lest we miss out of something that might come of it.

A recent story
Last  Wednesday, I took part in the SFU Public Square event “Our Voices: Creating a Connected Community”. The day-long conference was extremely well-run (hat tip to all involved in organizing!), and lunchtime was a fantastic conversation with a great woman and fellow attendee. She came up and sat beside me; we proceeded to bond over common beliefs, ideas, and experiences (and thoughts on the great food  – here’s a plug for Potluck Café Society, a non-profit social enterprise & registered charity doing great things in the DTES since 2001).

Our chat touched on issues of feeling isolated & lonely in a crowd, of culture clashes in connection, of how Vancouverites seem to glib past each other like ships passing in the night – in broad daylight. I fully enjoyed the conversation, in and of itself.

Wrapping up at the end of lunch, we both seemed to choose not asking for / offering any contact information. It was a very deliberate and somewhat difficult (in)action on my part – one I had to actively think about not doing, as the definition of “connection” was probed throughout the day.

Maybe she and I will cross paths again. Maybe we won’t. What I do know is that I wish her well, that I think she has a kind heart, that I hope she and her husband keep enjoying life in Vancouver as it sounds like they do, and that she continues being involved in the things that make her heart beat. Choosing to leave our interaction where and when it happened, pristine & impactful, was me living the knowledge that respect for the already-shared connection is not negated by the choice not to pursue further connection.

I spend hours and hours in conversations – challenging, stimulating, illuminating, terrifying, humbling, uplifting, uncomfortable… most with those I know, some with strangers passing through my life. These conversations are incredible, and they are my inputs: what I have to show for them is who I am. That connection to myself through others – that’s my measure of success; that’s my “enough”.

Sometimes “then & there” is where the value of an interaction is seeded; the continued value lives in us, and how we were shaped by that connection. Keeping that in mind, I find it easier to live “the beauty of letting go”.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

Sometimes connecting demands letting go.
There’s a certain joy in fully experiencing the moment, with no ulterior motives or further expectations.
Defining our experiences as “success” or “failure” based on something other than future outcome can be extremely liberating.
“Connecting” can mean many things; the notion of “staying connected” is but one definition.
We don’t always “have something to show” for what we’ve done; this doesn’t negate the worth of what we’ve done, nor our worth as the do-ers.

Do you struggle with leaving a moment or connection behind? Can you see success in letting go, do you think that is a missed opportunity and that I’m jabbering non-sense?

Related:
JOMO! A favorite blog post that flips FOMO on its head.
Achievement addiction – which I think has trickled right down through to childhood.
• Feelings of social isolation are prevalent in Metro Vancouver. The Vancouver Foundation has done some community-based research to back this up with data. So no, we’re not imagining it, and yes, it’s a big issue. You can read the results here.

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How to make every day great

Have you ever noticed how sometimes the best days are those completely arbitrary ones, like that random Tuesday in March? Those days that don’t hold much expectation for anything extraordinary happening per-se – and nothing particularly extraordinary (in the oft-defined sense) happens – yet the resulting joy is somehow completely ninja and so special?

Making yourself inviting means letting go of your attachment to the outcome of your desire. When you can engage with someone without expecting any particular result, you can receive any reply without taking it personally.

(Marinade in that for a bit.)

Some things that jumped to my mind? Soliciting feedback on something (that first attempt at making roast lamb / leading a 250-guest event). Asking someone out. (These are the people-focused ones.)

I also extrapolate this to engaging with something – a day, an event, a book, an experience, a trip – without expecting any particular result. The “reply” can then be how a road-trip plays out, what you get out of a concert / conference experience, how that dinner party went that cutie the other night, etc.

Hopping back to the opening idea of ninja-happy days, I propose a few examples:

Your bestie surprises you with a small and incredibly thoughtful gift. (This could be the gift of uninterrupted time on a phone call amidst mutual schedule chaos.)
It’s a wonderfully sunny day.
Some stranger you’ll never see again initiates a pleasant conversation for a few minutes during your day.
Your partner clears their Thursday evening so that you can both do anything – or do nothing at all – together.

Warm & fuzzy, right?

Now imagine the impact of each of the above if:

It’s your birthday.
It’s your wedding day. Outdoors.
You’re at a mingler event.
It’s your anniversary.

Do things change? Should they? The happenings, unchanged, suddenly range anywhere from being just a “drop in the bucket” to absolute day-makers… and I contend that it’s all on us, as the recipients. We actually have full control. (Awesome.)

Note: I distinguish between (a) not being attached to a specific expectation and (b) not having any expectations, period. The latter I view as extremely useful, especially when striving towards a goal or ambition. It’s a fine line, but I’m more swirling in the former, which for me equates to letting go of a sense of entitlement.

So I propose:

Enough of the unhealthy expectations.
Enough of the vice-like grips on that one result / outcome.
Enough of the entitlement.

Instead, live with a wonderful lack of expectation just a little more often. Take in life with open eyes and gratitude. Reclaim “ordinary” and tack on the “extra” yourself.

This plugs into the whole “the journey is the reward” concept for me. By being more inviting (living & interacting more flexibly in our expectation of outcomes) we make it much easier for ourselves to see the extraordinary in the everyday. I see so many good days ahead.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

Expectations are not so bad. It’s when they morph into entitlement that we sabotage great days.
Take back ordinary. Marvel in what’s around us all the time.
Redefine extraordinary. Try living your next big event (anniversary / Mother’s Day) as “just another day” and see how incredible it becomes.
Be a little unconventional. Don’t wait for the “special” day to do something for others. (Those days are expectation booby-traps anyways). Delight someone with a birthday-caliber surprise on any old Wednesday.
If you hit “change something” in the flowchart above, here’s the empowering tidbit: the thing we change is us — total control. BOOM.

How inviting vs. entitled do you think you are? In this wonderful mess called life, how do you balance this notion of “letting go of expectations” with being “ambitious and driven”?

Related:
A note from the ever-lovely Amber Rae

~~~

The above quote was one of two striking lines from an article written by Charlie Glickman. You can read it here. The second line is waiting its turn for the next post – for the sake of brevity, and to give these thoughts the space & time they deserve. So, connect away. More from me next week.

It’s never the right time

Always Earned | Never Given

Image source: bonusbling.com

We’ve all been guilty of wishing away our time away at some point or other. Wanting, yearning… but never quite getting – something else, something better.

We look forward to the vacation. Graduation. The next stage. The next project. Life after I quit this job. Life after I get a job. When I meet “that someone”. When the kids are old enough. The new year.

*Bubble-pop* There is no perfection period in life where everything just gets easy. I think if you really want it, it’s worth the work. (I feel the need to add: I’m popping my own bubble on the daily. “The Good” and “The Bad” are two sides of the same coin.)

“But…” “That’s a nice thought, but I’m just too ____ right now”. Busy. Cash-strapped. Over-stretched. Under-rested. (Fill in your bit here.) “However” is just a fancy but.

I’ve been lucky – making my way down an unconventional path sans “typical” time & resource constraints, I’d made it easier for my brain to break down (and rebuild) ingrained thinking and monotony by breaking out of routine. No longer a full-time student or employee, now living the life of a freelance / contract worker, I began figuring out this thing called life and how it works for me. And yet it didn’t all just magically come together. (What the hell, life? Didn’t you get the memo?…)

The grass is always greener… It’s like being an adult watching kids that wished they were grown-ups and shaking your head thinking “if you only knew…” (how good you have it / what it’s really like, etc.). In my case, “be careful what you wish for” couldn’t be more true. My life is full of peak highs & deep lows. I won’t bring you through the full roller-coaster today, but I will share the terrifying realization I came to a few months back:

I’m holding the reigns.

For the first time ever, I am actually fully autonomous in the education & career realm of my life. No-one to congratulate – or blame – but myself. Let me tell you, after years in school and work, being truly responsible for everything, including how to spend the majority of my day — is equal parts incredibly awesome and completely petrifying. And it shone the spotlight on a fact that was true all along – what I wanted to be doing, but wasn’t yet (fill in your blank here) had more to do with me than I let on; it wasn’t my situation “holding me back”.

The Lesson
Don’t romanticize. Even if external situations change dramatically, the situation we want to break out of (that uneasiness) can stay the exact same. Common denominator? Us. More specifically, our habits.

So, action plan?

> Start today
Start small, but start. Define “enough”. Define what you even want. Figure out why. Make a plan. Then start.

It doesn’t have to be a massive overhaul. You don’t need to quit your job / drop out of school / sell all your possessions and run away. Life doesn’t work like that for everybody. What does work is mastering the art of tiny shifts. These are actually the most powerful and sustainable. Check out Professor BJ Fogg’s work on tiny habits – you can start this today. It’s free. It barely takes any time. No excuses.

Don’t put it off until school starts. Or until school ends. Not until you land that job. Not until you put a few more years into that job. Don’t earmark it for your birthday, or for the start of the month, or the new year, or the next season. Don’t wait until you have that vague “enough”.

> What is enough?
Define it. I mean, really DEFINE IT. Put pen to paper and write it out: time, money, contacts, knowledge, experience. Even if it’s fuzzy, it’s better than nothing. If that’s all you can muster right now – well, then that’s enough.

> Next steps
Get creative. Get ruthless. How can you start moving towards some of those things starting this week? Break it down. Focus on what you have instead of what you lack. Make it happen. Again, Fogg’s tiny habits are great as baby steps.

An example
> My spending has been, let’s say, lean for the past few months. Other than essential bills (mortgage, smartphone, internet at home, groceries, transit pass, student loan repayments, etc.) I’m pretty thrifty. In short: I can’t afford Bikram Yoga rates.
> I love the practice, and feel it’s on the cusp of want / need — tipping to need. What to do?
> Trade the currencies I am rich in, even when the bank account is lean – time and talent. Toss in a case of right place, right time (mixed with a bit of hustle, and the all-important step: ask) – I brought regular practice into my life without spending a cent.

~~~

Whatever your goal, whatever your style (chip away at it or take a grand leap) – just do it already.  Often the biggest thing standing between that “right time” and the present moment: you owning it.

So the liberating thing about it never being the right time?

It’s actually always the right time.

It’s now and it’s never. “Now” is usually much more exciting…

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

“Always” takes work. “Never” is easy. The former is worth it, and easier than we think sometimes.
 Today is as good a day to make it happen. Don’t keep waiting for that mythical “right time” — it’s not something that anyone is handed on a silver platter.
Baby step #1 counts every bit as much as a huge leap towards making “it” happen.
Create an environment & situation that helps you get to where you’re trying to go. Start in your head. Work outwards from there.

What have you been putting off for “someday”? Have you ever explicitly defined “enough”? If you care to share, I’d love to hear it.

That time I was guilty and fessed up: today.

Perfection overboard: taking the joy out of play

Perfect? Or painful?

So I did it again. Getting ahead of myself, in a not-so-good-way, I chased myself back into one of my vices: perfectionism. The result this time? I stopped blogging consistently. Ok, at all.

I have ideas dancing through my mind constantly. Life experiences begging to be captured in words, shared. Posts banked up in various forms of draft, some nearly ready to go.  A post a week coming along nicely for over a month.

Then a Sunday went by when I didn’t post.

Slippery Slope
It began innocently enough. It was almost there… but not quite. There were a few more dots to cleverly connect; a slightly stronger, more effortless flow to be achieved; a better overall package. Then life, in all its unplanned glory, happened and Sunday evening came and went – “perfection” unachieved and Publish button un-clicked.

“I can just post retroactively this once. The beautiful, blue-hued glow streaking the Sunday column will continue, uninterrupted, on the lovely little sidebar calendar. No-one will be the wiser.”

Oh hello, guilt & scheming. Here I am, suddenly thinking of ways to cover it up. (Red flag: justifying an action that would go against what I say I’m about – living out loud.) In the grappling process, I let it grow into a bigger mess – begging more guilt & scheming.

I may sound like a crazy person at this point to some, but if you’ve ever had a notebook you’re hesitant to start writing in for all that it implies – you know what I’m talking about here. In any case, I am positive that we’ve all lived through the underlying “guilty & quiet” situation at one point or another, ranging from mundane to intense.

Here was my process for learning through this experience:

Step 1: Does it even matter?

Sometimes we do (or neglect to do) something, and could care less / face no consequence. Sometimes it’s freedom from an imposed criteria, situation, or schedule (by self or by other) that makes us realize that we didn’t actually want or need to do “the thing”. (Having personal values & priorities defined helps a lot for this step.)

I knew that this was still important to me because it’s been nagging in the back of my mind, even as I was happily engaged in other things. Feeling guilty, with no-one holding me to this but me, and simultaneously missing the whole process.

So the first important question is “does it even matter?” If the answer is no, happily drop it. If yes, proceed to:

Step 2: Figure out what went wrong

In sitting back and reflecting (asking the tough questions; asking “why” seven times) I know where I went wrong in this specific situation. Specific systems were missing that I needed to make this work. Oh, I had the mechanics set – post on Sundays, draft on Thursdays, time blocked off to write & edit… but I didn’t build in the human part into it, the part that would tether me against my mental pitfalls. This left me wide open to my vices, that are always all too ready to rear their ugly heads if I let them. They are all right up above there: more. stronger. better. The not-so-good thoughts that held a good, strong, valuable piece from seeing the light of the inter-ether.

Step 3: Figure out what to do differently

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.

Systems. People. Conversations. Environments. Habits. Figure out what you need & build those things into your life. Figure out what holds you back & drop ’em like they’re hot.

Step 4: “Shout it from the rooftops”

The single most powerful thing is to own it. So here I go:

My archives will forever show 4 blank Sundays in Aug-Sept 2012 that did not see me post. This is my confession, untempered with the “but” of any excuses. In my books: I made a mistake, I let it turn into something bigger, and didn’t make it a priority to “fix” until now. I plan to keep this blog up for years; those 4 little blanks are now 4 little lessons, 4 little reminders, 4 little forevers.

Step 5: Do it.

~~~

Sliding along the spectrum of perfectionism is, and will always be, a constant journey for me. This was just another little life lesson teaching me how to deal. Not that the order of the steps will always be the same, but the above are definite stages I move through for any time when I’m slammed with “guilty & quiet”.

It’s so good to be back.

Humbly,  ~ H

The big dots of the post

 There is a such thing as too much of a good thing – including planning, hoping, forecasting.
“Failing is OK” only holds true if you own up to it & extract the learning from it. Sitting back and doing nothing while pointing to a plaque that reads “failure is part of learning” does not count.
 Sometimes “failing” is part of the process. In the long run, it’s not failure.
 Covering up a stumble just to look good is cheating – yourself above anyone or anything else.
Owning up to something takes strength and feels freakin’ fantastic (even if not at first).

Have you been guilty of something lately? If so, did you fess up or cover up? Either way, how’s that going for you right now?

Related:
• ...When the pursuit of success turns toxic