“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)

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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.

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

The tiny shift that changed my life

What’s this about? A simple little substitution with ridiculously disproportionate effects in my life – for the better. Will it change your life? Probably. What is this magic, you ask?

The shift

“I have to…” → “I get to…”

That’s it. It digs into one of the points from my last post – that our thoughts and words often play a bigger role than we sometimes realize (or admit to).

The effect
The power of this is that it re-frames… everything. It immediately takes something from obligation → privilege. This is what gratitude in practice looks like for me.

• I don’t have to pay my bills. I get to – because I actually have a smartphone, access to transportation & the Internet, a place to live, etc.
• I don’t have to figure out my life. I get to. How many people have this freedom to steer their life trajectory?
• I don’t have to go to the bank or the grocery store. I get to – because I actually have money of my own to deal with and easy access to food.

Note: I still complain about these things sometimes – I’m human. I’ve just gotten better at realizing when I am, stopping, and going through the reframe-for-gratitude process.

Fair warnings
Making this shift will change your relationships – and this can go either way.
“Ugh, I have so much stuff to do tonight” ← this is relatable. “I get to clean, cook, write a report for work, and do my readings; I’m so freakin’ lucky” – not so much. (It might earn you one of these.) Of course what it actually means is: I recognize that I have a home to clean, food to prep, a job to contribute to & earn from, and the privilege of education… But where I’m from, defaulting to misery & complaining is always a lot easier.

So expect a few feathers ruffled when you’re going against the masses. You might become irritating to some. Obnoxiously positive to the point of extremely annoying, even; any current relationships based primarily on co-miserating will have to adapt or die. But that’s what happens when you think different. That – and being viewed as someone with a rainbow stuck up their butt – was a risk I was willing to take. I’m just doing my due diligence to let you know some of the consequences of taking this advice. There are too many up-sides for me to do it any other way.

Putting it into practice
Still want to do it? Brill. It can be simple, but I found it hard to do at first. Assuming you’re coming from the same “woe is me” privileged sense as I, you’re up against re-programming a habit ingrained through years of practice. There’s no flick of the switch that will undo that – it just takes cultivating a new habit to override the old one.

Bad habits are overcome by learning new routines and practicing them over and over again. – Timothy Wilson covering Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit

While we’re at it, let’s step back from a quick assumption: that “tiny” = “easy” or “inconsequential”. See: butterfly effect.

Step 1
: Take a few days to just become aware of how often / seldom you say “I have to ___”. The toughest step is usually to recognize that. Count if you must.
Step 2: Start subbing in “I get to ___” instead, and go down the quick path of ‘what that actually means’. Resist the urge to roll your eyes at yourself. (It can seem ridiculous when you’re in the throws of an all-nighter to stop and think “I get to study for this, because I’m lucky enough to be in school. Do it anyways.)
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 & 2.

Don’t just take my word for it
I Googled “i have to i get to” after drafting this post and lo and behold – someone’s thought this exact thought already. Beauty. So if you’re on the fence about taking my word for it, perhaps backup from a New York Times best-selling author holds more clout for you (it’s a spot-on post, I suggest a read). Many others have thought the same, of course. Sometimes it’s not about who you choose to believe, as long as the message gets across. I always gladly connect people to other great thinkers if the alternate source will be taken more seriously. I’m just trying to make change happen.

So read. Believe. Do.

Humbly, ~ H

ps: Another wildly powerful “little swap” was when I got more deliberate about “I don’t / I won’t have time” → “I don’t / won’t make time”. BOOM. More on that next time…

The big dots of the post

Think in a certain way long enough and I swear you’ll start to believe it – for better or for worse.
Co-miserating is usually easier than co-marveling. The latter is way more worth it.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It always starts small.
It’s about being happy with, and grateful for, “now”, even as we look forward to different things “one day”.
Yes, it might actually suck. Who said privilege was supposed to be easy?

What do you get to do? What do you make time for? Any other powerful swaps that have been game-changers for you?

Related:
#firstworldproblems
Everything is amazing and nobody is happy (start at the ~2 min mark)

Baby Steps+

There are baby steps.

Then, there are “baby steps” that, for the person doing the stepping, are actually pretty giant leaps. You may know what I’m talking about – to anybody else, what you’re about to do – or are doing, or have just done – is just a little thing. Another line item on the To-Do list. Practically inconsequential and potentially met with an “Oookay… great. You did that. Good for you!?” from others, punctuated with the “?” of their confusion as to why you’re making such a big deal out of it.

These are what I mean by Baby Steps+. They’re the “little big things” that keep getting bumped, keep not getting done… and usually not because we lack the know-how to make them happen. I seem to have had this conversation with a lot of different people lately. It could be pitching that client. Trying that yoga class. Cleaning out that closet. Putting pen to paper and drawing. Applying for that grant. Sending that email… Here’s a small selection out of a buffet of my recent Baby Steps+ (as they came to mind, in no particular order):

Go snowboarding for the first time Attempt a back hand-spring Donate my hair Get contacts  Start a blog

They seem simple enough, no? Innocuous, even. Here’s why they were more than “just a line item” for me, in brief:

Boarding Despite living a hop and a skip away from Whistler, this was 7+ years in the making. Seriously. (Right?!) My biggest hurdle was not the boarding itself – I’m a bit of a speed junkie & thrill-seeker. My biggest hurdle was actually “I can’t afford it” – negotiating my mental relationship and invisible scripts around money & value. There’s a long story behind this, of course, but it essentially boiled down to this: Spending a couple hundred dollars on a one-time ‘frivolous’ adventure (gear rental, lift ticket, travel, food) that I’ll have “nothing to show for” afterward was _____ (irresponsible, unreasonable, not realistic…) considering everything else that money should be earmarked for.

Hand-spring Long history on this one, too. I’d never been in gymnastics, dance, or sports as a wee tot, and recall being a somewhat cautious kid when it came to anything physically out-of-the-ordinary. Both feet off the ground, physically suspended in mid-air? Definitely qualifies. Paired with a conservative Eastern cultural upbringing (this “kind of stuff” is not for girls, it’s hardly lady-like, you’ll get hurt/bruised, what’s the point?, etc.) and believing the “window of learning” had long-since closed for me, this meant that a back hand-spring (or even falling into a back-bend, for that matter) was something to behold in awe when others did it, but not something I could do.

Hair On-again, off-again, I’ve had what I consider to be an unhealthy dependence on my hair. At times I’d cling to it as a major sign of my femininity & something that was beautiful; other times as a differentiator or an accomplishment. (Since I think that sounds weird, I’ll explain.) I wasn’t a fan of the way I looked growing up, and don’t consider myself to be particularly ‘pretty’ – but having nice, long hair was a tether. And I hung on TIGHT. Plus, growing / maintaining it takes a certain commitment & dedication, and I got a lot of compliments when it got stupid-long. It’s always nice to feel accomplished and be noticed / complimented…

Contacts A “pffft” point for many – but I’d been afraid of putting things in my eye since as far back as grade school. Why? Who even knows. What I do know is that my blink reflex has always been stuck on ‘hyper-drive’ and I was mad uncomfortable at the prospect of the whole process. (Sticking something in your eye? We have this blink reflex for a reason, people…) And what if you can’t get it out?!

Blog Excited, but extremely anxious & terrified. ‘Nuff said.

What made all these things fall into the big-hairy-monster “+” category? A few commonalities:

1 “I can’t”

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.
– Author unknown

This quote may be very familiar to you, but it’s so true it hurts and I’d post it a hundred times more. It’s funny we sometimes don’t even know how powerfully persuasive we can be, just by repeating something: silently, then out-loud, then in our actions… and how they turn into our beliefs. (Advertisers & marketers have been on to this for decades, if not centuries…) For all five of the “little big things” above (and so much more!) I kept thinking “I can’t”… so I kept saying “I can’t.” So I didn’t. I shut myself down before I even gave myself a chance.

2 Those lurky, “ninja” bits that I held as ‘a-given’s – and didn’t even know

There was always something bigger behind any supposed “baby step” that blew it out of apparent proportion – and kept me from doing it, even when I wanted to. Boarding wasn’t about boarding – it was about money and guilt. Contacts and acrobatics weren’t about wanting to see clearly and flip around – they were about my convincing myself I couldn’t, based on some outdated beliefs. These “iceberg-under-the-surface” bits were usually things established years ago, dangerously left unexamined and unchallenged, that still effected some of my ‘today’ decisions. (In my defense, I didn’t know! The mark of a good ninja on the lurky bits’ part.)

3 “What if…”

Whether closely tied with “I can’t” or as a stand-alone, “what if” always crept in at some point, the leader of a barrage of doubts and worries. It pushed uncomfortable boundaries and poked at insecurities – but in a bad way. Often followed by “… I’m not ___ enough?” (rich / strong / pretty / careful), it was also a great way to catastrophize. (What if I couldn’t get them out? And they got infected? And I went blind? I’ll put up with blurry if it’s my eyesight on the line, thank you…) “What if….” is usually laced with implications and really cares what other people will think – I’m too old. It’s too late. I’ll look stupid. I might fail.

• • •

I went snowboarding for the first time in April. I attempted my first (and second and third and fourth…) back hand-spring in February. I chopped my locks and donated 12″ in January. I first got contacts back in October 2010. I started two blogs this month. BOOM. How?

• • •

Incremental progress over (a long!) time. (Sorry, if you were looking for some magic bullet – there’s no such thing). The trail & error eventually turned into a framework of tiny habits. Anytime I’m faced with a new Baby Step +, I try to live through my learning that came by doing (and then reflecting):

Say it. Out loud. To myself at first if that’s all I’m comfortable with. Something that I don’t think I can achieve, that sounds completely ridiculous to me. Something that I really want. I say it in the positive. I say it on paper / on screen.

Swap out little words. I don’t shut myself down before I even start; I stopped saying “I can’t”. First I sub it for “I’ll try”. Then down the line, “I will”. And eventually I do. My words have so much more power than I ever gave them credit for. I used to think it was fluffy and all the rest, but my life has shown me otherwise – little words, big impact. (Note: I start at “I will” much more than I used to. “I can’t” often creeps back in. I just have to go through this “can’t → try → will” cycle for each new big scary thing that comes my way.)

Dig deeper. There are likely still some deeply-held beliefs / fears of mine that won’t jive with what I want to do. In my defense, they’re very ninja, and I don’t often know that they were behind my actions / inactions right off the bat. I believe that I can’t change something effectively until I understand what’s going on, enough to take the appropriate step. So now whenever I get stuck, I get brutally honest with myself as to why I’m not doing the things I want/need to – am often surprised by what I find – and then get to steppin’. (Don’t be fooled if this sounds pretty; it can still be a long, tough, ugly process. It’s just worth it.)

Break it down. Potentially obvious, extremely important. I’ll turn any giant leap into a series of what I (not someone else) actually consider to be legit baby steps, no “+” allowed. Even if I’m just moving a hair forward – it’s better than sitting still or spiraling backwards. Knowing what I’m actually stuck on (by having dug deeper) helps me move in the right direction, at my pace, by focusing on the right things.

Share it. To me, including other people makes it real. It holds me accountable. So I share my Baby Step+ with someone I trust. Then with a few more people. I’ve found it’s a great way to built that foundation of support & encouragement, since that’s the type of crowd I’m surrounded with. (And I will say – I’ve found it important when in my fragile “someone batting an eyelash at me will shut me down” phase, to tell the right people first. Build up enough gusto. Seek out some tough love to get a balanced view. Then do.)

 Link it to something bigger. Anything to remind me why I want this in the first place, why it’s important. I tend to tether things to my values (e.g. following through on something / keeping my word to someone).

Slap on a “by when”. Sometimes it’s a milestone. Other times an arbitrary date or time. Having some point in time to work towards it makes things (1) less daunting and (2) more real. My sister’s destination wedding was my catalyst for the contacts. A gift certificate expiration date got me on the mountain. A somewhat-sudden group decision had me flipping over backward by the end of that class.

Not all of my Baby Steps+ have needed going through all of the above, nor necessarily in that order. Sometimes one of the above turns into a Baby Step+ of its own (e.g. telling someone else). In the end, these are just some of my tried & true that I wanted to share with you. Maybe it helps you as you do your incredible things. Even when the world sees it as nothing more than a baby step – we know it’s something much more than that, don’t we?

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

What’s easy for you isn’t easy for someone else, and vice versa. Work on you.
Our thoughts and words often play a bigger role than we sometimes realize (or admit to).
Achievements are our habits manifest. Drill down on the habits and awesome things will follow.
Build in tiny wins & celebrate them. They’re huge, and often lead to snowballing.
Create a framework to guide your “conquer Baby Steps+” process. Make your own, borrow mine, remix what works…

Have you hit any Baby Steps+ lately? What’s your approach to getting past the roadblock?  Any tiny-win celebrations to share?

Gentle Reminders from Ramadan

A bit of context

I grew up in a Muslim family. Though I don’t categorize myself as faithfully religious, I do practice many of the traditions and customs of Islam because they hold personal meaning and align with my values. Observing the holy month of Ramadan is one that has been a constant since grade school – one that I look forward to each year, and try to practice humbly when the time comes.

For me, it is physical meditation; a palpable practice of mindfulness, compassion, gratitude; it is community, connection, solidarity; a delicious juxtaposition of control and surrender. Ramadan also has a knack of kicking my propensity toward big / random / abstract thinking up a notch. So, naturally….

On to the Lesson(s)

Many of us have the luxury of knowing this during our month of practice:

Fast all day; abundance awaits at sunset.

Last night, my mom & I had our first Iftar of 2012 (1433 Islamic calendar). About halfway through, we exchanged a “wow, my stomach kind of hurts” sentiment. The irony of this was not lost on either of us. That this came from having too much, too fast, not yet 15 full minutes removed from an 18-hour day of abstaining from all food and drink… a sort of growing pains, if you will. We were now aching a similar ache — but for a very different reason. Cue head-shaking.

On the menu: Spinach, cucumber, tomato & baby shrimp salad; Rice noodle & veggie soup; Mixed fruit (peach, mango, kiwi, cherry, raspberry) & yogurt; Apple slices with cheese cubes. Dates (not pictured). Water. A far cry from the traditional Bengali-influenced Iftar we’ve historically had.

I will never forget my mom telling me once, years ago (this is the 90s, people) about the realities of many of the beggars in Bangladesh. About how sometimes after fasting all day in the sweltering heat, all they have to break their fast with is a  glass of water (not Vancouver-sparkling-clean, either); maybe some rice or lentils or some bread, if they’re lucky. There is no clock ticking down to “GO”, letting them know the instant they can dig in to the feast within arms’ reach. No 30-day countdown until “things go back to normal”. I heard this sitting at the Iftar table: warm and safe, hungry and waiting.

(Aside: I’m so grateful for my mother being such a vivid and impactful storyteller. She somehow intuited that my sister and I were in humble — rather than self-centered “I’m so hungry, CAN’T THAT CLOCK TICK ANY FASTER?!” — mode, and delivered those few powerful and sobering words that shaped the way I try to live my life to this day.)

Last night, I was feeling guilty about my abundance, my luxury, my relative gluttony. There I was, too full to eat everything we’d prepared for ourselves, knowing that in that instant, poverty and food security – local, national, global – were very real issues for countless others. Knowing that this was not just a far-away, “them” problem; knowing that for some it doesn’t end when Ramadan does. Knowing what it can feel like, and then easily being able to move on to the other side, like a visitor… a poser. I dwelled on the guilt for awhile. Turned it over in my head. Then I stopped, and re-framed.

This is privilege, in all its glory – the simultaneous blessing and curse. Acknowledging this, I chose gratitude over guilt.

Stepping back to a global big-picture: I could easily be living a very different life. Considering the sheer chance-filled & arbitrary nature of the major decisions that shaped my family’s trajectory, it’s kind of a wonder that I’ve landed exactly where I am today. It blows my mind on the daily.

I think we’ve all been in those situations when, no matter how badly we want to change the it (or the world), in that instant we just can’t. The only thing we can change is ourselves – how we think, feel, act. My guilt in that moment was not going to feed those without access to food (it could act as a motivator for future action, but that’s another topic). The only thing it was doing was robbing me of fully appreciating the gift I’m living. In that moment, in choosing gratitude, I chose acceptance. (I hurry to add: this is not the same thing as complacency.)

I understand that my fortune is privilege, is opportunity, is obligation. My struggle is in seeing my own place on the spectrum of inequality, in negotiating empathy and compassion with circumstantial powerlessness. My struggle will always be in remembering this momentary discomfort that connects me to the daily stories of millions. These are just some of gentle reminders Ramadan affords me.

The biggest loss last night wouldn’t have been the unfinished food; in that moment, it would have been my not learning from my blatant little brush with over-abundance, my not appreciating right now. This is my life, my reality (and I ain’t afraid to show it…) – I am ridiculously blessed, and I know it.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

We want (or feel we need) much more than we actually do. Life is a constant dance with the concept of enough.
That saying “Poor little rich girl” holds such diverse meaning; struggle and fortune can be physical, mental, emotional, ethical.
We’re so damn fickle sometimes.
Gratitude seems to have this magical ability to make the current moment perfect.

Have you re-framed something in your life recently? Chosen gratitude over something less giving? Changed yourself when you couldn’t charge out to ‘save the world’?

So, what are you…

As I stretch and settle into this blog, I’m still searching for my voice. This post is maybe a bit more story-telly & me-centric than the tone I’ll strive to hit. Or it could be the magic right here right now. Regardless, it comes straight from the heart, as the first has and the rest will. So, I post – in all its imperfect glory. A day not challenged is no way to live.

My recent past has been filled with conventionally-questionable activity. A quarter-century into this adventure we call life, I am not in school, nor am I working full-time – both of these by choice, and much to the chagrin of my well-meaning South Asian parents. (Don’t get me wrong: I love them, they love me, and they want what’s good for me. I know this and am so grateful; it’s just tough to negotiate that gratitude with the challenges & tensions that come from me going off the beaten path and not quite having a satisfactory answer on lock.)

So what am I doing?
I ask myself this question sometimes every morning now. (I should have been asking it more often before this little adventure started, but that’s for later.) A snapshot of my life as of today looks like me living, learning, and working by:

Ÿ Reprogramming many of the habits & personal scripts that had historically held me back – proudly doing some major damage to my bucket list & life goals as a result.

 Following a cross-disciplinary, self-curated curriculum consisting of online courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, events, books, scholarly articles, websites, videos, TED talks, blogs, conversations with incredibly intelligent people… learning more diverse content than ever before and honestly just becoming a big life-nerd.

Ÿ Doing lots pro-bono work with some great organizations.

Ÿ Getting creative (e.g. bartering) to keep things I value in my life during a time where my budget is quite… exclusive.

Being better to my body than maybe ever before, by making sure I eat, sleep, and sweat – well, and enough.

Ÿ Nurturing relationships with countless ridiculously amazing people who I’m somehow blessed to have as friends, family, mentors, thought-twins, tribe members, co-conspirators…

Ÿ Having many barrier-shattering, candid conversations about the stuff that really matters, with people I used to have my “Everything’s fine! I got this!” facade on around – and realizing that true strength lies in being really vulnerable & vulnerably real.

So, the more fitting question would be “what am I being?” since the common theme has essentially been “figuring out this thing called life & learning how to BE.” Specifically on the career front (the thing on the front-burner of my obsessive mind), I’ve been:

Ÿ Honing in on that sweet spot where my passions, knowledge, and skills intersect. (I feel like I’ve figured this out for the time being. The fun part is – it’s always going to change. Consider it a never-really-checked-off item on the life To-Do To-Be list.)

Ÿ Quieting the voice inside that keeps nagging at me with “you think you can actually do this?” and to just go out there and DO, guns blazing (having researched proper firearm use & safety precautions; I’m nothing if not thorough).

That last little point has been my biggest hang-up. I roughly know the steps I need to take. I’ve got a solid skill set to start with, a good foundation of knowledge, enough sense of direction to forage forward; I have value to offer. I just need to put myself out there, occupy my right-now niche, and find my audience (oh you elusive bunch!).

For better and for worse, this is one of the most important parts that my reprogramming hasn’t quite addressed yet: undoing ~20 years’ worth of training that helped me be a little too good at being loss-averse, at minimizing risk & avoiding failure – the exact things that need conquering to really live life out loud. Blazing a trail and creating something new – in relationships, in work, in life – is equal(?) parts romantic and terrifying. I’m still living somewhere in the negotiation process, as I have been for a few months now. When getting disheartened or frustrated, I remind myself that things worth doing are rarely easy, or quick.

Luckily, I also have the love and support of many wonderful, intelligent, no-nonsense (WINNing) people that push me to see myself as they see me (you know who you are, and you should know that I can’t get enough of you). They are my champions, who hold me to greatness so that I can reach my true potential.

[If we overestimate and overrate man, we promote him to what he really can be…] (Idealists) are the true, the real realists… If we take man as he is, we make him worse. But if we take man as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be. – Viktor Frankl quoting Goethe, circa 1972. Check out the video – so spot on.

I am an instigator. I strike up conversations about passions. I catalyze people getting to their “point B”. I share everything I know with anyone open to hearing it. I feel like the conversations I’ve been having with said WINNing people, and the mutual lessons we’ve shared and reinforced, are just too important not to broadcast so I’m just bringing real-life me online. If this brings you, questioning & pondering the same things, into the conversation or acts as a starting spark, then I’m a happy puppy. I’m certainly not the only one creating community around this, and maybe not the all-round “best”. But this is as selfish as it is selfless, and is uniquely m; that’s enough for now.

Humbly, ~ H

Ps: In writing this big post, I found (of course) that specific phrases sparked giant thought tangents that could easily fill up entire other entries. Adopting a sane method, I will thoughtfully package & post each in turn, rather than turn this one into an encyclopedia (losing my 3 readers in the process). So, look out for the future postings that I know will inevitably link back to this one.

After all, thoughts are dots; the connections are everywhere.

The big dots of the post

Regularly checking in with yourself and asking the “What am I doing / being” question should really be mandatory of everyone. Personal opinion.
Letting go of ‘should’ and being really vulnerable & vulnerably real is one solid path towards success. Being held to greatness is another. (Once you get over the little – or HUGE – hurdle of terror at the prospect.)
Great ideas are timeless.
Struggling with putting ‘work-in-progress’ and ‘imperfect’ out to the world is still a vice. I stare right at that fear and charge along anyway.
There is not a chance that I could do any of this without much support & encouragement. No man is an island, and I owe oceans to countless; my cup runneth over.

Where do you think you fall on the un/conventional spectrum? Is there something about yourself that you’d love to reprogram? Thinking about your own champions… have you told them lately?

Here, now. Go.

Deep breath. Calm yourself. Now: go.

Hi friends. I’m happy you’ve joined me here. After much thinking, talk, and hesitation, this blog now officially exists outside of my own head. Some may thinking “Um, starting a new blog? That happens about… 8 times a second?” The answer to which is: likely. But throw in a modicum butt-load of fear of doing things that make me feel exposed to ridicule (I won’t even start on perfectionist tendencies here), and an apparent baby step easily transforms into something much more. Thanks for leaping with me.

Past

I’ve been by-the-books and obedient of categories & authority more often than not throughout my life: – the product of a unique mix of eastern cultural influence / family dynamics / personality / societal dictations (among other things). So throughout high school and university, I got great at tapping into that to become a master of checking off the boxes, seeking definitions, meeting (or exceeding) the clarified criteria, figuring out what other people wanted and delivering… basically, I got very good at working the system, doing what I was told, and getting things DONE. These are great skills to be sure – but lacking as stand-alones.

Until a few years ago I feel I largely lived, studied, and worked as if business, sciences, design, computer sciences, engineering, arts, etc. were mostly independent disciplines. They have overlap of course, but big picture: they just don’t mix. I mean, they’re in separate faculties for a reason! A scientist has no business working with an artist in the real world… (sadly this false assumption seems to play out heavily in the actual ‘real world’). In the same vein: school, work, volunteering, family & friends, life – these were somewhat siloed categories that I struggled to juggle; they just didn’t fit together in a way that made good sense, and a couple of things always took the backseat.

I was somehow missing that crucial piece of knowing: the relatively recent overarching understanding that it all ties together, and that everything makes everything else make sense.

A lot of people… haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. – Steve Jobs on interaction design, 2005

The funny thing is, I had had plenty of diverse experiences throughout my life, giving me plenty of dots to play with. Doodle-potential like you wouldn’t believe! But I did what many kids do in high-school and onwards: cultivated an identity that fit in instead of standing out, that looked good instead of odd, and then worked damn hard to make that truth. This was especially salient for me as a third-culture kid as I tried to piece myself together from two often-conflicting “menus”.

And that’s the sad little catch-22 right there, isn’t it? In all our haste to conform, to fit into the mould & go after the big ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ pieces, we oftentimes sweep aside the very things that would actually make us successful. Packed away in a chest with the other frivolous things, in shoe-boxes under the bed – because now it was time to get serious, get in the game, and get ahead! So my dots stayed largely unexplored & unconnected; a treasure trove of incubated potential patiently waiting while I was off trying to conquer the world.

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say!— success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)

Recently

My unconventionally unconventional journey began somewhat accidentally. Allowing myself the freedom to step back and take a brief break, I slowly shifted from a focus of (over)”doing” to one of “being”. (This territory may include lots of introspection, thinking, reading, asking why until you’re sick of hearing yourself say it, etc.) In the process of pulling those dots out of storage and connecting with myself, the hazy silo-veil that I’d been perceiving the world through also began to lift away.

Now, progress is always incremental, sometimes so stealthy that we don’t notice, but always sprinkled with milestones that stand out in retrospect. An important event for me to recognize was a self-definition breakthrough I had in March; a seemingly innocuous exchange with someone at a conference made me really stop and realize: I’m seeing connections that some others are missing. Others with titles, with expertise, with insight. I have unique value to offer; I’m creative. (This event was a one-two punch in importance, because the ever-important event description didn’t include me as an invited type of audience; I thought it would be valuable and went anyways – a daring move to by-the-books me of yesteryear).

Fast forward >> this was my day just shy of three months ago, on April 18th: hit with such inspiration and drive that I actually felt it viscerally, I sat and started writing like a crazy person. Ideas were pouring out of me; cue cards were everywhere. It seemed to be the product of that incubated potential, unleashed. The phrase “jotting down thoughts; connecting the dots” flashed through my mind… and lazily hung around.

From the perspective of the brain, new ideas are merely several old thoughts that occur at the exact same time. – Jonah Lehrer on memory & creativity, How We Decide (2009)

thoughtsaredots was born to embody the constantly eye-opening, awe-evoking, knock-me-back realization that everything is connected. If this is a “no, duh” statement to you – beauty. I want to be more like you, and hope we get to chat one day soon. For those who didn’t roll your eyes all the way into your head, you’re closer to the space that I’d come from. Because when I say everything is connected, I do literally mean everything. Sometimes overwhelming, yet awesome in the truest sense of the word.

Here, Now

Thankfully, I’m still great at all those skills that my formal training helped me hone in. But now I’ve pulled back my lens to bring more diversity & potential into focus. Paired with a recent propensity to disregard divisive labels and bend boundaries – there’s really nothing stopping me but me (much more on that to come). I sometimes struggle now to to see things as parceled into separate entities. There’s not a single thing that I’ve experienced over the years – studying biological sciences & arts psychology, dance, event management, various leadership roles, acting, philanthropy, personal relationships, Bikram yoga – that fails to coalesce…

So here we are. This blog will be as I am: a work in progress. Part personal, part pondering, all genuine. Stick around if you’re curious – we can see where this goes together.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

Ÿ It’s always the right time to shift perspective, to change trajectory. I’m a 20-something born-again dreamer and reforming realist, mindfully overriding my old perfectionist & procrastinatory tendencies to make big things happen.
Ÿ There’s a place where life and diverse disciplines like the arts, sciences, business and technology intersect; I call it home.
ŸŸ My path is my own – not fully “conventional”, nor fully “unconventional”. I’m negotiating this as I have all the countless other in-betweens in my life, making my self-identity as a creative connector that much stronger.

What about you? Do you feel you’re stuck in silos  or do you draw diverse connections all the time?  Has any stealthy progress crept past your radar lately?