The Best Laid Plans

Ray of lightI’ve previously written about how grateful I was to be able to take the time I needed when my father passed away (Time Stopped But Just For Me). I couldn’t have known then that just three short months later I would be walking that same sad path once again.

Losing both parents in such a short time span is difficult, even as an adult. How little we realize what a day-to-day backdrop our parents provide, as we muddle through our own hectic lives. In their absence, the void is an echo. Life goes on, but the loss reverberates around me.

I’ll get back to my regular blogging schedule soon enough, but not today.

For now, I can offer only these very few, painfully obvious thoughts.

Stop making plans. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate.

Don’t bank on a tomorrow that may never be.

Life is for the living.  So live!

Life asked Death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’

Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.’

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And so this is 2016


Now that January is half over, it seems like the right time to take stock and look ahead to 2016. No? Not buying it?  I don’t blame you. The truth of course is that I didn’t have my ducks in a row on January 1st. My ducks were all over the pond, with seemingly little interest in my attempts to corral them.

So while the rest of the blogosphere was diligently sharing their thoughts and perspectives upon ringing in the new year, I was still sipping my wine and contemplating not much more than whether I needed to go out and get more wine.

Life and it’s many surprises pulled at me in November and December, and it wasn’t until the end of that last month when I could even catch my breath and actually return to travelling my path. After I paused for a brief rest.

Two weeks later, I’m slowly regaining my balance and able to consider both the responsibility and the excitement of a being given the opportunity to embrace a minty fresh new year.

It’s been a tough year personally and a great one professionally, which makes for some bittersweet reflection. But then that’s life, isn’t it? Rarely do the stars align perfectly so that all things can be said to be in harmony. It’s why some people fail to even attempt to live the life they truly want. As they continue to wait for that perfect moment, the years continue to roll in and fade away.

I never make New Year’s resolutions, and in keeping with tradition I’ve neglected to make any this year as well. But I love January 1st. The promise it holds, the visceral optimism of a fresh canvas.

Yes, logically, I know that events of the past can bleed into the present and burden the future. We can’t control what the world throws at us. But we have absolute power over how we react.

And while a calendar date rolling over from one day to the next is as ostensibly insignificant as any other twenty-four hour period, taking a few moments to consider a year gone by, while standing on the precipice of another 365 opportunities to make it count, opens your eyes to a vast sea of gratitude.

I’m glad I decided to follow the path I’m on. I’m not a brave person. But I made a few brave choices which have led me to where I am now. And for that, I’m immensely grateful.

Hello 2016. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Time Stopped, But Just For Me

If someone had suggested to me a month ago that I could take a few weeks off, without planning it, just disappear one day and not return for several weeks, I would have laughed in their face. Are you kidding? Spontaneously walk away from my work, from my business, from my clients and committments, for almost a month? Insane! I have so much to do, so much to juggle, so many people counting on me, there’s no way I could possibly shut it all down on a moment’s notice.

Then my father died.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I didn’t think about it, at all, of course. My dad was sick, and then he died, and then arrangements needed to be made, and there were things to do, and people to tell, and an obituary to write, and a funeral to be planned. There were pictures to go through, and clothes to be packed away, and memories to be remembered.

It never once occurred to me that the world did not in fact stop spinning. That work continued, without me. That time passed, without my notice.

But it did. And once again, I’m struck with enormous gratitude that I’m a solopreneur. That I wasn’t constrained by the limited number of bereavement days a corporation determined was appropriate for my grief.

And how immensely thankful I am that I was able to take the time I needed to take, without severe professional consequences. That I had a safety net that I could rely on when I needed it most. That no matter how busy I am, I can pause, prioritize, and re-set.

Life goes on, it always will. But how comforting to know that I can occasionally stop time, when I need to.

The Underrated Productivity Tip

OverwhelmedI love productivity tips.  Figuring out how to squeeze more and more out of the same number of hours allocated to a day is a beautiful kind of scientific magic.

But there are days or weeks that go off the rails and no amount of productivity efficiency will help you get them back on track.

I’ve been having one of those weeks.

Where work and personal and urgent and emergency and important and necessary all collide to produce a perfect storm of frantic fire fighting.  In the midst of this fire storm, no amount of checklists, to do lists, and time management techniques will help you.  You likely don’t even have the time to think of a list, never mind write it down.

At some point, you have to just let it go, give up some ground, and re-group to get back on track.  The day (or week) is lost.  Pause, accept it, put it behind you, and look forward.  After you take a little time-out.

This is the productivity tip that productivity gurus may forget to mention.  Sometimes, in order to be more productive (or become productive once again), you need to give yourself a break.

In that spirit, I offer this

The Case for Ordinary Success

SuccessSo much is said about extraordinary people and their incredible success. It seems like we’re bombarded with it these days, from viral YouTube videos to the non-stop diet of celebrity “news” served up by the media.

But what about the rest of us? Where do we fit in? Are we failures because we’re just not that special?

I am not extraordinary.  I’ve never been extraordinary.  I’ll never be extraordinary.  I’m about as non-extra-ordinary as they come.  I am, in fact, ordinary.

But I’m successful.  Rather bold of me to just go ahead and say that, don’t you think?  But it’s true.  I. Am. Successful.  And this is how I know.

People Don’t Avoid Me

I have friends.  Family.  Colleagues.  Acquaintances.  Relationships.  People don’t go out of their way to avoid me.  Don’t people generally try and avoid toxicity and failure and disease and despair?  But I have a support system.  I have people in my life I can count on, who will help me, who will extend a hand to me when I stumble.  Success.

I Don’t Avoid Myself

I almost never feel lonely, but I often seek time to be alone.  I like being alone.  Gives me time to think, create, dream.  Write.  I know people who hate being alone.  Or fear it.  I’m not sure why, it’s one of those things I can’t really relate to.  But they’ll go out of their way to avoid being alone.  Some will even spend time with people they don’t want to spend time with, doing things they don’t want to do, just so they don’t have to be alone.  What is it about themselves that they need to avoid?  I like myself.  I have nothing to avoid.  Success.

I’m Happy

This is the weird thing about saying, out loud, that you’re happy – people don’t believe you.  I’ve never been treated more like a liar than when I’ve told people I’m happy.  Why?  Maybe because they’re not happy, and misery loves company?  Or some sort of automatic cynicism in a world that reveres it?  Nonetheless, facts are facts, and I’m happy.  Some days are harder than others, always has been so, always will be so, but for the most part I’m content with who and what and where I am.  For this, I’m immensely grateful.  It’s a fragile thing, happiness, and it could change with a sudden turn of fortune, but for now I’ll relish it.  Success.

There you have it.  A completely unimpressive, ordinary, average, successful person.  Imagine that.

 

 

I Freakin’ LOVE Technology

I love technology. I freakin’ LOVE technology! It makes work easier, it makes scheduling easier, it makes connecting with people easier. It makes life easier.

I received my Apple Watch this week. Yes, I’m an Apple fan. I admit it. What shame is there in loving beautifully designed technology that just works?

I love that I can wear a watch that gives my wrist a quick tap, a gentle nudge if you will, to remind me that I have a meeting coming up.

I love that I can wear wireless earphones and venture outdoors without my smartphone or iPod, because my watch can now stream music directly to my earphones.

I love that I can glance at my watch face and quickly see what time it is in my customers’ time zones, so I immediately know whether it’s too late or too early to call, without having to spare even a moment to think about it.

I love that my watch reminds me when it’s time to stand, because I’ve been sitting at my computer too long.

I love that the apps I rely on most, like Evernote, are now just a wrist tap away. And yes, it’s very nerd-cool to add a new note by speaking into a watch.

Most of all, I love how seamlessly and gracefully technology, when done well, can not only integrate into my life, but can also help to better integrate my work life with my non-work life.

I don’t need to chain myself to a desk all day because I can work from anywhere. With apps like Dropbox and Hightail, my files are available everywhere. With Office365 and Google Apps for Business, my desktop is available everywhere. Apps like Evernote, WordPress, and Desk synchronize across all of my devices. Email, Texts, Facetime, Skype, and yes, even the telephone, make connectivity possible regardless of physical space.

At home, at the coffee shop, at the beach, at the airport, the only thing you need is an internet connection and your laptop. Why subject yourself to the human cage they call a cubicle when there are so many better choices available?

No Longer A New Year

Success Ahead

Spring is in the air, almost, and I’m reflecting back on the past few months.  25% of 2015 is already gone.  For some of us, it’s been a particularly harsh winter, one without mercy.  I started this year with this blog.  Something new, something uncertain.  I wondered if it would hold my interest (so far, so good), and I wondered even more whether anyone would read it (yes!).

I’m still just dipping my toes in the water, but I love stopping by week after week.  Starting this blog, and updating it every week, was one my goals this year.  So far?  Check.

Professionally, it’s been a very good year.  I’m 100% focused on work that I enjoy, and have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with wonderful, brilliant clients who are engaged and committed to their vision.

I can’t say that I’ve ticked off every checkbox on my ever-growing To Do list.  But I’m slowly and steadily moving in a forward direction.  Not spinning my wheels, and not shifting into reverse.  I call that a win.  And with 75% of the year still remaining, all the possibilities remain.

So three months in, how’s 2015 treating you?  Are you 25% closer to reaching your goals?

Saying No With No Regrets

Saying No With No RegretsI said no to a great opportunity today.

I’ve turned down work before. Usually because I was simply just too busy to take on any more.  And even knowing that saying yes would put me over capacity, and increase my risk of not being able to perform well for my customers, every time I’ve had to turn down work, I would feel that flutter of butterflies in my stomach.  What if this is the last opportunity I’ll ever have?  What if people assume that because I have no time for them now, I’ll never have time for them?  Those butterflies are the harbingers of unfounded fear and panic attacks.

So in saying no today, I was fully prepared and waiting for those not-so-friendly butterflies to make an appearance.  But they never showed up.  No fear, no panic.  But instead, an overwhelming feeling of certitude.

I turned down work, not because I couldn’t take it on, but because I knew it wasn’t a good fit for where I am right now.  It would have increased my revenue, but decreased my motivation.  It’s a great opportunity, but for someone else.

I started this year with a commitment to myself.  To do the work I’m passionate about, and free myself from the chains and boxes and labels that others want to impose; the naysayers, the cowards, the followers, the madding crowd.  Every day presents a multitude of decisions, and it’s all too easy to blindly stumble along with where the crowd takes you.  Every decision is a choice.  MY choice.  The seemingly simple act of saying no is the foundation that underlies it all.

As I continue my journey, I realize more and more that it’s not just about first steps.  It’s about continual dedication, a daily affirmation of confidence and vision of the road ahead.

No matter what or who tries to take me off course.

It’s about continual dedication, a daily affirmation of confidence and vision of the road ahead. 

Because, Gratitude

Just a very brief post, as I’m already juggling too much while on the run today.  But I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude today and I thought I’d share.

I’m grateful that winter is almost over. It doesn’t seem that way, not in the moment, but it is, a few more weeks and spring is just around the corner.

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to escape winter, ever so briefly, and enjoy some California sunshine (and wine).

I’m grateful that I’ve had the courage to chase after a dream, and the fortitude to sweep up the shattered pieces with my head held high.

I’m grateful for the good luck I enjoy, and the bad luck that I overcome.

I’m grateful for second chances.

I’m grateful that I can live every day as I choose.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude

Time Diamonds: The True Value of Time

A few years ago, I wrote a post responding to a question posed by Michael Greer, asking “What is one simple thing that can improve projects and/or project management?”.  In my response, I challenged readers to stop thinking about time as an infinite commodity, and start viewing it as the precious, non-renewable resource that it is. How should we measure time?  In time diamonds.

Value of time

Last week I was travelling on business, and suddenly struck again by the immeasurable value of time.  The business trip was successful, and a great opportunity to meet some talented colleagues, but business travel uses up large quantities of time diamonds.  You are effectively working, or making a time commitment to work-related endeavours, 24/7 for the duration of your trip.  While travelling for business, your non-business life essentially stops.  Or, it continues on without you.  Either way, you forfeit a period of your life – a day, a week, more – for work.  What could be more expensive than that?!

I don’t need to travel for business frequently, which makes me grateful.  Grateful for the occasional opportunity to travel and meet people that I’ve only encountered on the end of an email or phone call, and grateful that I don’t need to spend my time diamonds in bulk.

I’m also infinitely grateful that I typically have the choice, each and every day, how to spend my time diamonds.  Who decides how you can spend your time diamonds?