I shouldn’t be here…

It’s all so completely arbitrary – who, how, where, and what I am.

When I start to think of all the things– the chance, the luck, the chaos, the opportunities, and missed connections – that have brought me to here and now… well by all accounts, I shouldn’t be here.

Not to say that I am a complete puppet in all of this. I have done. Acted. Created. Impacted. I have made certain things happen based on where I find myself, taking ownership and interacting in my own unique way.

Yet, in the grand scheme of things – in the sheer mind-boggling magnitude of the series of systems and events that culminated in life as I know it?* I’ve had a pretty miniscule amount of control, let’s be honest.

     •   •   •

I want to do everything remembering that I am entitled to nothing.

I’ve found acknowledging my lack of control to be really powerful. (When it’s not overwhelming… practice makes that a bit better, each time.) I feel like living in graceful humility, without losing my agency, will be my life’s work.

Understanding context and being grateful-out-loud helps. Because honestly, everything is a privilege; a fascinating happenstance. I’m sometimes dumbfounded just thinking about it.** I shouldn’t be here…

But I am. And so, I’m determined to work and play and breathe and be in a way that merits the incredible mix of randomness that’s formed this life I’m living.

~ H

* Nationality. History. Policy. Economy. Freedom. Citizenship. Rights. Gender. Home. Family. Influencers. (…)
**
And I’m only thinking back in a very limited scope – just one generation, and parents’ immediately personal histories.

Connected:
• Q & A with Malcolm Gladwell about Outliers
Bah, Humblebrag – New York Times

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‘Unconventional’ – it’s not pretty, and it works. Start now.

Living, working, being ‘unconventional’.

It’s definitely not safe. It will necessarily be polarizing, and can seem like utter madness.

It is not ‘normal’.

Yet if we take the leap, take it with heart and from a place of respect and curiosity, of service and dignity onto others – remarkable things can happen.

(Source.)

(Image source: Steal Like An Artist.)

This requires us to divorce ourselves from an overwhelming need to be liked. It pushes us toward being OK with living in a certain degree of uncertainty and doubt. It flirts with the possibility of hitting rock bottom.

It demands that we stop making excuses and start owning that what we have right now is enough to start.

•  •  •

We were lucky to have Mark Brand speak his story at TEDxVancouver 2012 in October. Having lived quite the eclectic story growing up, Mark brought his fire to Vancouver in 2006, and pours everything he’s got into his now soul-home(s) in Gastown.  I actually only watched his talk for the first time last week. (Funny how leading the action Front Of House and being so close to the event actually led to my missing out on the very talks that TEDx is all about… But I digress. That’s what labors of love are – sacrifice in service sometimes comes with the territory).

Make 17 minutes in your day to watch & listen to Mark’s thoughts and words on “The Impact of an Unconventional Solution”. Listen to what a story of user-centric design and ‘living your work’ can looks like. Listen for the difference dignity makes. Listen to the full story – not just the ‘highlight reel’. Listen for the real.


There is nothing more invigorating than understanding how flawed you are, and still believing that you can do good. – M Brand

•  •  •

If the incredible souls mentioned in Mark’s talk can do what they do, you can sure as hell do what you’re yearning for.

The question is not whether it will be easy. (It won’t be). The question is: is it worth it? If your answer is “yes!” then I say – whatever that leap looks like for you – do it.

Leap, already.

Humbly,
~ H

Those special days.

When your face hurts from genuinely smiling so much. When your heart aches from being so full, and all you can do is grin it out. When you shake your head in disbelief at how lucky you are to be living what you’re living, and how many incredible people surround you. You are proud, content, secure, and grateful.

Get curious about those days; you’re probably on to something.

• • •

Who were you with?  What is your history with them? How do they make you feel? Who do you become when you are around them? Why?

Where were you? What were the comforts surrounding you? The challenges? The sights, smells, and sounds? Who were you because of those cues?

What was happening?  Doing? Being? Learning? Sharing? Making? Thinking? Feeling? Why?

• • •

Sometimes the answers are far from obvious. Dig deep. Get to those really ninja things that we can so easily overlook.

For example, Colin Farrell hit on the underlying dots when he connected his old drug habits and his current Bikram Yoga practice: they both satisfy his need for ritual.

When you’ve got your answers, that’s when it gets fun. That’s when you get to use them as your tools & starting blocks, as you become an intentional architect of your own life. Here, you can design your everyday so that more of those special little things are peppered throughout. Slowly yet suddenly, those special days then become the default rather than the exception.

Just make sure you’re ready for the pain. Great risks, great rewards.

Humbly,
~ H

(This post was inspired by my day at the 2013 UBC Student Leadership Conference.)

The big dots of the post:
• Be aware. Notice. Question curiously. Adjust. Repeat.

Related
• Brene Brown on The Power of Vulnerability.

A lesson in growing up: SLC edition


Stop chasing what you want and start chasing who you are. Magic happens when we approach life this way. #2013tips

The UBC Student Leadership Conference was this past weekend. As my 5th SLC experience, it ranks in my heart as the best yet; I struggle to articulate how blessed, humbled, and catalyzed that day has left me.

A bit of context.
I’ve been lucky to play different roles at the SLC since 2008 (day-of volunteer, workshop presenter, panelist, full-day delegate, alumni mentor…) – most years I was more than one. Translation: “always on & hustling from one thing to the next”. Non-stop all day; exhilarating and exhausting.

Each time, a part (if not all) of my intent was like a hungry child unleashed on a buffet: the focus was me. What could I get from these incredible workshops to satiate this hunger? What secrets could I learn from these extraordinary speakers? What did I want delegates to walk away with from my workshop? In short:

Full of entitled expectation.
“What’s imperative for me to get and give?”
Devour and deliver accordingly.

Case in point: SLC 2011. It was the first year (1) as an alumni presenter (2) partnering with a dear friend, creating something ‘all our own’ and (3) presenting a workshop of independent content (i.e. not tied to / dictated by a place of employment). All exciting things. Yet, in all honesty — my eyes were also on a certain prize. The conference has these “Best of the SLC” awards; I wanted one.

So we designed and delivered an un-workshop called “Flip” – to challenge assumptions, and rethink buzz-words & cliché concepts. No doubt, the process and product were both good. I wouldn’t trade the experience in for anything. Yet, in having that award as a disproportionate driving motivation while not admitting to it (hello, denial & dissonance!), I robbed myself and everyone involved of something great.

I know this because I remember sitting in tentative hope at the closing ceremonies while the award winners were revealed. I remember feeling disappointed and confused when we didn’t win (the former for obvious reasons; the latter because I wouldn’t let myself admit to the former). I remember smiling at the winners, feeling happy for them, and simultaneously small within myself. Fueled by the fundamentally flawed focus on an external reward, I’d fallen into playing tactics and dressing them in noble robes. By being dishonest with myself, I sabotaged the very thing I was after.

Success sabotage, and how to avoid it.

• • • Fast forward to this past Saturday • • •

For the first time, I attended this conference with a solid understanding of who I am and what I believe in. The focus was “what are delegates looking for, and what value can I deliver to this end?” It’s like my brain transitioned more fully from “leadership as selfish” to “leadership as service”.

With this shift from “me” to “everyone else”, I presented a session called “Two peas: the keys to unlocking limitless leadership.Magic happened.

 I felt settled and powerful in being vulnerable, living the content, sharing openly, and leading by example.
The possibility of impact is worth any personal discomfort or embarrassment.

 Overwhelming support showed up in the form of a couple of young women I respect, and am so proud of.
They can chat with me at anytime. They could have capitalized on the workshop buffet today, and they chose to be here so we could create a unique ‘us’. (Thanks for being there, ladies!)

Power showed up as a heartfelt comment and a hug at the end of the session, turning someone who was a stranger 50 minutes prior into a face I won’t soon forget. Another small comment humbled me to my core.
They may not realize how much of any impact they have just had on me. (Thank you, gents.)

 The best feeling showed up as my little sister coming to one of my workshops for the first time ever.
She actively does not listen when we talk about these things at home in our jammies, and she chose this session today – over all the others – to support me and hear what I’ve got to say.

In summary: the experience fundamentally changed when I was no longer out to be remembered, and was simply out to be a messenger. Just like that, the message and the content became more important than the fact that I was presenting. The audience – their wants & needs – were now at the forefront of every decision, and risk-taking with authentic design now trumped any question of “what would make the session look good… so that I look good”. Best.

The day somehow kept getting better, as I made space to live it as it felt right (pushed by intention rather than pulled at by obligation). Wrapping up the session, sat solo and jammed to the session playlist as I reflected on what had just happened. Proceeded to find and chat with 3 incredible women over lunch. Wandered and reconnected with familiar faces. Attended a workshop. Had a 3-hour conversation with 2 lovely souls about… everything in life. Fawned over amazing people at the Awards Ceremony. Had a heart-to-heart with Luca ‘Lazy Legz’ about the meaning of unintentional leadership. The day wrapped with dinner in such great company it makes my mind spin. (Seriously, life. Save some ‘incredible’ for the next day…)

Oh, and – surprise! I was awarded a “Best of the SLC” this year. Funny how, when it was the farthest thing from my mind and completely unexpected, this incredible gift chased me down. Dr. Frankl, you were so right.

So much gratitude, and huge congratulations, to the SLC team of 2013. Co-chairs, directors, coordinators, countless day-of volunteers, staff advisors, and all the rest: you created space for magic to happen. It was a hell of a day.

Humbly,
~ H

* Clarifying note: I think it’s absolutely necessary to travel through “leadership as selfish” to work to reach “leadership as service”. You can’t be of service to others if you don’t take care of yourself first. My journey took years of leadership development both in theory and practice, and is a work in progress always.

Other #UBCSLC talk
E – one half of the Passion Project founding duo – on her love affair with the SLC.
Matt – one half of crowd fave #TheCorkers – on how much of a BDF this SLC was.
Mel says stuff about her SLC experience.
• SLC thoughts by Paul Lee.

Do

You can’t just think your way to clarity.

•   

I was the overly-cautious type. Constrained in my exploration. Afraid to show imperfection. Shackled to past decisions. Hesitant to change. ‘Talking so I didn’t need to be walking.’

I have been changing. Slowly but surely. Intentionally & accidentally alike. By focusing inward and in giving to others.

My direction is to grow further into creativity. Revel in exploration. Take even more chances than I have so far. Consistently set intentions into actions. Execute on ideas.

Because I am always curious. More comfortable with myself. Ever-growing. Able to respond, rather than react, to challenges. Still a planner, and now one who can roll with the punches. A creative human, doing.

•   

Many things have been brewing in mind and heart, in scribbles in tucked away pages. My gift to myself in the coming months will be to unleash a few more of these, all the while reveling in the process. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, a relevant favorite tune that merits a share. (Lyrics.)


Nature always did leave me in inspired awe. Here’s to living out “Go Do”. Enjoy.

Humbly, ~ H

Who *were* you? What has been happening for you lately? Who are you now? Who do you wish to become?

Related:
Building identity-based habits (on LifeHacker)

So you want to change the world…

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

Image source: Safe Defense

H circa 2009 was a (surprisingly?) wise young woman. Here’s something penned on March 19, 2009 at 12:30am. (I was always the meticulous one.*)

•  •  •

Reflect on those less fortunate and feel not guilt, but gratitude. In an age where inaction toward a(ny) cause may draw raised eyebrows from judging peers, feel not obliged to act out of pressure to conform to this new social norm if it does not come from a conviction within you.

Rather, begin by acknowledging your privilege, and all that it affords you.

gender  race  country of origin  current residence  sexual orientation  education  wealth  status  “beauty”  age  ability  wisdom  support  religion  opportunity  possibility

Be conscious of your advantages. Be grateful for them.

This is a start. This is enough. More than money thrown to a cause can ever do. Because this could spark true understanding; deep appreciation.

Appreciate the power of words.  Appreciate the power of small actions. Never stop questioning. Learn curiously. Learn concern. Learn humility. Learn gratitude. Learn kindness. Learn the art of negotiation. Learn the value of communication.

Learn to love. Love to learn.

•  •  •

Stumbling upon this entry of mine was so refreshing, because it was a tacit reminder of both how much I’ve grown, and how very much I’ve stayed the same. Reading through it, the following thoughts comically strung together:

“I want to be this person.”

. . . “I was this person.”

. . . “I am this person.”

There are, of course, other things I would add to that quick list I’d blurted out 3 years and 8 months ago (e.g. mobility, security, spirituality, agency, connection, freedom, technology…). There are, of course, nuanced thoughts and great complexities merely caressed by those words, that remain unexplored above.

But from where I’m sitting, that simplicity and imperfection is what it’s all about. So, from where I’m sitting, it’s simply perfect.

Yes, I’m out to change the world. (I will, I guarantee it.) I’m starting with me.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

“Change is a process, not an event.”
Working on “me” first is even an airline industry concept (oxygen masks, anyone?)
We give our past selves less credit than is due (and our current selves more credit than is deserved). Note to self: stop that.
“Everything in moderation.” Reflection is powerful when it feeds into action; don’t get too stuck in either.
Action based on a solid foundation – of self, of knowledge, of cultivated empathy – is so much more impactful (IMHO). Pretty much unstoppable.

Do you still feel guilty when you’re faced with an issue you’re not currently “fighting”? How do you cultivate that much-needed strong inner conviction?

*Looking back on my calendar, it turns out I had come home sick from school that day. In the throws of work/papers/midterms/exec commitments that week… it was a rest day. Chased a recuperating nap with an 8 hour paper-writing stint – with these thoughts pouring out of me around the halfway mark. Funny how that works…

Related:
• Susanne Conrad’s “Above / Below the Line” concept visualized.
• “I Want to Be An Aid Worker” – on cultural tourism (a.musing)
• Taking care of the care-givers.
• Lehrer on The Virtues of Daydreaming.
• Bump that track; turn up the love.

Shortcuts to possibility

Sometimes upside-down is the right side up.
(Image source: 123rf.com)

Just over one year ago, on October 12, 2011, I turned my world upside-down. Literally.

It was a Wednesday. Mid-way through a week that saw me living 28 hours volunteering on amazing events with incredible people, spending a day training for a new job, making time for some quality catch-up with 5 wonderful friends, and conspiring with an incredible travel agent to lock down the details of my two-month “trip of a lifetime”.

I don’t remember what exactly possessed me to do it. But on that Wednesday, after my twice-a-week at-home mini-workout (so endorphins, maybe?), I did.

I walked over to face the wall and planted my hands on the floor. My head followed suit, making a tripod with my hands. I took a breath and pulled myself into a teddy-bear headstand. Then I went that crucial, uncomfortable step further – I worked my legs straight up.

Headstand.

It was probably far from graceful, hardly controlled, and likely too precarious to have an audience that would be able to stifle a laugh. It was supported by the wall.

But I didn’t care. Over 10 years of saying “I can’t” – overcome. Just like that.

Cheeks flushed, elated that I’d done it, I bounded giddily to tell anyone that would listen. I got a “aw, that’s so cute” reaction from my sister. A confused-yet-affirmative smile from my mom. And this “I can do anything” glow from within me. I may as well have jumped out of an airplane.

There are those little things in life that are symbolic of something much bigger.

A wedding ring. A candid photograph. A hard-earned degree. A cherished book. They are symbols of process; of promise; of possibility.

This momentous headstand, alone at home on a Wednesday, is one of mine. For me, it was the tangible start of a new chapter – one in which I challenge long-standing, unquestioned “that’s just the way it is” notions with gusto and a curious “why not?”.

Today, I hardly go a day without inverting. If I miss it, I catch myself thinking “I haven’t been upside-down yet”.  A headstand, a handstand, hanging upside-down from monkey-bars, cartwheels… a little something to shake me, flip things, change my perspective, and get my blood pumping. A reminder of what I can do.

A reminder of possibility.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

Do it. Remember that once, that used to be an “I can’t”. Celebrate.
Do it again. Celebrate again. Build a little habit.
Use it as a foundation. Extrapolate. Feel awesome.

What are your shortcuts to possibility?

“Less talk, more walk”: on ninja habits & gratitude.

A visual aggregate of 365 days’ worth of reflection, using Wordle.

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving tomorrow! In the spirit of celebration, I dug through my personal archives for a very precious (and unintentional – hence the “ninja”) project, that became a defining piece of me for a time. The below is based on the daily practice from January 26, 2011 – January 26, 2012 (365 day span) that I kept up on Facebook. Each day, I would physically type out something positive that happened / something that I was grateful for, always starting with “Today I…”.

I have, since writing this back in February, deliberately moved away this daily habit (so some things make more sense in past tense). Regardless, most of the principles still hold to the present day.  So without further ado…

~~~

After crossing the threshold of one full year of daily updates, the data nerd in me got a bit curious. So, I decided to get *really* meta on this reflection thing. Here are some of the results, and the background info.

Top 5 “Today I…”
1.  … remembered that you don’t have to wait ’till something is gone to know what you’ve got. Realize. (July 31)
2.  … caught myself saying “I can’t”. So I stopped, and instead used “I can” & “I will”. Boom. (September 26)
3.  … left behind family, friends and the fully familiar. Adventure time. (November 19)
4.  … rediscovered the danger of a single story, and the liberation that comes with the discovery of multiple perspectives. (November 24)
5.  … experienced an inexplicable feeling of excitement, calm, gratitude, possibility… all mixed in to one. One thought that crossed my mind earlier about sums it up: “This is my life right now. And I absolutely love it.” (August 10)

BACKGROUND
“My Daily” (as I refer to it my head) is my conscious effort to focus on one positive aspect unique to the day that just came to a close.  WHY?

It makes me pause. There are days so jam packed that it’s tough to stop and really think, if even for just a few minutes. My Daily forces me out of the now, to somewhat meaningfully reflect on my past 24 hours.

It keeps me on my toes. Any man who knows a thing knows he knows not a damn thing at all” – K’naan Sometimes something happens early in the day that I think “this is it – what I’ll post about tonight”. But life happens, and reminds me to never, ever assume. The beautiful unpredictability of life is that, good or bad, unexpected can always happen: something that means more to you than what has already passed. There’s no real way to anticipate that, but being aware of this is huge for me; my Daily is a tangible reminder of this.

It is usually not easy. These posts are always authentic. Making shit up would just be me lying to myself and anyone reading.

the good Some days so many good things happen that I don’t know what to post about – that builds a ridiculous amount of gratitude. Most days, it just reminds me how obscenely lucky I am in the grand scheme of things, and that I’ve really got nothing to complain about. Instant whine-stopper.

the bad Just like anyone else, I have those days. One shitty thing happens after another / you’re hit with so much apathy that you can’t get yourself to accomplish anything / you’re hurting / tears are involved, etc. They’re tough, because sometimes it’s hard to pick myself out of that. But pain, loss, anger, frustration… just parts of life. I find confronting them / acknowledging them (or even ignoring them for the time being) and focusing on one positive thing pretty empowering.

the ninja Then there are the ‘whatever’ days. The ones that leave me feeling like “nothing really happened today. I just went through the whole day with nothing remarkable (good or bad) to differentiate it from any other.” Those days are probably the toughest; I really need to dig deep to find something to authentically post about. No matter how long it takes (once it took me a good hour+) I don’t stop ‘till I get it done.

It is a foundation. This exercise is a now-solidified routine in my life. I’ve since been able to use it as a springboard & reminder for other habits. Baby steps.

BENEFITS OF ‘GOING PUBLIC’:

1. I have an ulterior intrinsic motivation to post. Not only for the process itself, but the tangible product – a post a day; something to show the world. Also, it’s measurable data. Nerd attack.

2. Anything I’ve done that I viewed in the “just for me” silo has never stuck. Eventually something more social (work, school, family, relationships) would take precedent. Self-development on Solo Island isn’t for everyone. I now feel like My Daily goes beyond just me — but I’m still getting what I want & need out of it every day. Win-win.

3. It’s hard for me to consistently stay accountable to myself long-term without some external influence sprinkled in the mix time & again. Public posting was an easy way for me to mitigate that – even if nobody actually reads it, the mere possibility of others consuming what I put out there was enough for me to feel supported & accountable.

4. It’s become one of my ‘things’ now. I’ve always been pretty hyper-aware of others’ perceptions of me. Since I can’t be sure how many people (if any) are following the post on any given day, a neglected post could be very visibly missing. Image maintenance is a powerful thing, and I’m basically harnessing my need to be viewed a certain way into something that benefits me. Plus looking back at this consistency now makes me one happy clam.

5. My posts have become a catalyst. Whether a specific post or the “Daily” habit itself – good conversations with friends & acquaintances have come of it. Talking about pop culture, memes, food, politics, world issues… it’s all well and good. But oftentimes, more meaningful conversations for me involve the driving forces behind everything – aspirations, ambitions, hopes, fears, challenges… the ‘deeper stuff’. Everything stems from the human condition. I love it, and will happily talk about it ‘till the cows come home. This makes it that much more likely.

6. My ‘practice of pause’ has made others do the same. That’s why I keep most of my posts “horoscope-like” vague; too specific to me, and they lose personal relevance to someone else. Some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had stemming from posts involved someone’s radically different interpretation of my post as applied to their own life. If by publicly sharing something I do anyways can impact someone else positively, even remotely, then a thousand times yes. It’s pretty selfish of me to be honest – makes my life more interesting.

…I did this first and foremost for my own benefit, and honestly didn’t intentionally start it to be a long-standing habit.

POSTS
Total daily postings missed: 8
Total status ‘likes’: 464
Total status comments (not including my own): 151

PEOPLE
Unique individuals interacting: 139
Impacted enough to use this as a model for own daily reflection: 2
Things I hope to get out of this: Questions. Challenges. Conversations.

~~~

As is the unfortunate reality in many of our comfortable & privileged lives, we tend to focus on the gaps & what is missing rather than reveling in what we have – and it inevitably takes something jarring or tragic to focus on what really matters. My catalyst was a health-scare with my dad – a close-to-home reminder of the fragility of life. It started me on a different mental path, which grew into a daily gratitude practice. I can honestly say it changed my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Humbly (and with thanks), ~ H

P.S. The above was edited/added to for length & relevance. If you’re curious enough for the full, unedited version as I wrote it in February 1, 2012, it lives here.
P.P.S. It’s kind of funny, looking back, to realize that I was blogging before I gave myself permission to be a full-on blogger. Ain’t that always the way?

The big dots of the post

Constant practice will make a truly lasting impact. Ergo, be aware of what you constantly do.
Figure out your own strengths & weaknesses, and exploit the heck out of that knowledge to get what you want.
There is always, always, always something to be thankful for… It’s almost intoxicating.
Sometimes doing something for yourself is doing something for others, too. You can never quite know who’s watching, or how far your ripple will reach.
 Habitual practice over one-time shows. Every time.

How do you practice gratitude? 

Related:
Past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance (on behaviour-based interviewing)

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.

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.