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Now Be Do: Reflections on 2014

My 3 words for 2014 were Now, Be, Do.

These three words came to me, like a gift. No need for contemplation. Now, Be, Do just popped into my head immediately in December 2013 and I knew these words represented my mandate for 2014.

At the time, I perceived Now, Be, Do to be about taking purposeful action and focusing on now, rather than past or future. Over the course of the year, however, I came to realize these words were given to me with other intentions.

This post is about what I learned, generally, during 2014 about the meaning of Now, Be, Do.

The basic meaning and intention I ascribed to Now, Be, Do at the beginning of 2014:

  • Now: Stop putting things off into the future, don't dwell on the past.
  • Be: Be myself, live true to my purpose.
  • Do: Take action.

My intention was to use Now, Be, Do almost like a mantra to focus my efforts on action to move forward in some areas where I felt I had, to some degree, dawdled during 2013.

Was I successful? To some degree, yes.

I was definitely true to myself (for the most part) and I was a decision-and-action machine.

I made forward progress on various goals, although as the year progressed I did not progress in the direction that I really wanted to be going as fast as I'd intended at the beginning of the year.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's a quick look back at how my life evolved in 2014, using the words in slightly different order, because of how I came to understand the meaning of Now, Be, Do over the course of 2014.

BE

In 2012 and 2013, I put a great deal of time and energy into really digging deep to rediscover who I am, what my values are. I knew that I'd be making some big life changes in 2014 or 2015 and I wanted to be sure I made the right changes, rather than simply changing for the sake of change.

Finding My Why

In other words, I'd spent two years exploring and rediscovering my “why” and identifying the things I think I'm supposed to be doing. Myy aim for 2014 was to really begin to BE that person, to make choices consistent with the “real” me.

Overall, I was successful at becoming a more true version of myself. I continued to “take off the mask” simple “be myself.”

A lot of the posts I've published over the past few months (about telling my story) relate the Be philosophy I've been following, so I won't restate all the details about who I am and what I'm about.

I also discovered that Be had a more philosophical meaning that is hard for me to express here. Rather than belabor (pun intended) that here, I'll cover the deeper meaning of Be in future posts.

NOW

I conceived the word “now” to be about a mindset tilted in the direction of action, rather than more planning, dreaming, visioning. Now was about the intention that it was time to move forward.

As we moved into February, March and April, I got side-tracked (more on that momentarily) and I became frustrated at myself for getting side-tracked.

That mindset of frustration and self-judgment sort of violated the philosophy of “now,” as I'd defined it. And “as I'd defined it” is a key qualifier.

I Misunderstood “Now”

As the year progressed, though, I came to realize that I'd misunderstood the meaning of “Now.”

Now wasn't about taking immediate action, Now was about living mindfully in the present moment. By November I was no longer in the place of self-judgment over my inability to accomplish everything on my goals list for the year. Instead, I was in a place of self-acceptance.

Reading Leads to Revelation

I'm a reader and I'm always reading several books at any give time. I choose from a variety of topics, always pursuing my curiosity. Over the course of 2014, I read more than a few books from a variety of philosophies and disciplines that can loosely be classified under the heading of spiritual growth and self-awareness.

As a result of my readings, I came to understand “Now” to be about living in the immediate moment, being present in each moment, rather than referring to taking action today.

I started to take 10 minutes to pause and breathe in quiet. This was my attempt at meditation (which I'd tried briefly back in my law practice days, unsuccessfully then).

It wasn't a daily practice, but on the days that I remembered to pause, set the timer on my phone to 10 minutes, and just watch my breath I noticed a huge difference in my outlook and my productivity.

This practice led me further into the practice of focusing on the present moment. Now is all we have. I simultaneously experienced the power that comes from now, as I practiced my breathing and continued to read.

This brief explanation of how my understanding about “the power of now” evolved in 2014 is pretty superficial. Suffice it to say, my growth in this regard has been profound, even if it's not visible yet on the outside.

As a result, as we begin 2015 I feel much more centered and prepared to move into the next phase of my life.

Although aspects of it seem to be taking shape, I do not have a well-defined understanding of what is coming next.

I just know that I have to stay present today, “do” whatever I must do for each moment I'm given. The outcomes, the results, are not within my control.

DO

At the beginning of 2014, I perceived “Do” as the action-orientation to complement the philosophy of “Now.”

Rather than spend a great deal of time in early 2014 with efforts to plan where I was going, I more or less jumped in with both feet. I was very busy “doing,” pretty much all day every day, beginning January 1.

I committed myself to making decisions quickly and stop revisiting past choices and actions.

I was very proactive. Very action-oriented. I was definitely executing. In short, I was a DO-ing machine in 2014, although I didn't always seem to be doing ALL the things I wanted to do each day. Again, “I wanted” is a key qualifier.

Embracing Change

Early in 2014 I made the decision to leave my job at Samford, although I left the exact date open to give me time to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I'd known since 2012 that I would be leaving Samford within a couple of years. That preliminary decision was what had, in part, sparked all my self-exploration and reflection that began in the Fall of 2012. I knew I would stay through 2014, since that would qualify me for particular employee benefit.

In January 2014, I met with the Samford Provost to identify the official deadlines I would need to meet and procedures to follow to formally implement my choice to leave, whether I decided to make that May 2014 or May 2015.

I also decided to attend the ABA TechShow as part of my exploration of idea that I might start a consulting practice focused on social media marketing for law firms and other professional services providers. Related to that, I did several big freelance writing projects for major clients and also worked with another client on a smaller scale.

Tar Sands Fight

In March, I got heavily involved in unpaid research and strategic communication work on the Alabama tar sands mining challenge.

Ultimately, as the summer turned into Fall I felt like I allowed my efforts to understand and fight the tar sands mining proposals distract me from my own paid consulting and farming activities between April and mid-July, and I started to beat myself up over that. But, at the end of 2014, I wasn't sure. I can't judge myself on that. I did what I felt needed to be done at the time, and I don't regret it.

But in light of where things stood in late July 2014, I decided the wisest and most responsible financial and professional choice would be to return to Samford for one last year.

I'll save the details on the Fall 2014 semester for a future post, because this one is already too long!

But…..and this is key…..I would not trade the 2014 delay for a different outcome.

A Look At Now, in 2015

Today in early 2015, I feel much more prepared to  move to the next stage of my life than I ever would have been if 2014 had turned out like I had intended or hoped one year ago.

 In other words, I had more to learn in 2014 that I needed to learn and experience before I could move forward. I also had some things I needed to let go of that I didn't realize I was still holding on to. 

Now, Be, Do.

I'm continuing to contemplate and use these words as I move forward in 2015. 

My three words for 2015 are: Sceptre, Beams and Orchard.  For these three words to have full effect, I had to experience and grow through Now, Be, Do.

And it all leads back to my vision reflected in Zoom, Vivace and Jazz. That vision is just beginning to come to fruition.

I am grateful for today and this moment and everything in my life. It's all just what I need at any given moment.

All the best to you for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015.

Categories
Grow Inspire

Do You Know Your Story?

Your story is about the defining experiences that shaped you, molded you, refined you.

Embrace your story, whatever it is. Your story reveals who you are, and your story reveals what makes you unique. From your story you find your strengths and talents that will enable you to make a contribution to this world that only you can make.

I've been writing a lot about myself lately, and that's mainly to help me think through my own story and find the threads that connect all the dots. It's my hope that by doing this exercise in public, I'll inspire others—like YOU— to dig deep to uncover and understand your own stories.

Bo Eason is all about using the defining moments in your life to tell your story.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and, over the past few months, Bo has turned up as a guest on a few of these.

Bo Eason is a former pro football player. For that reason, he's not the type of person I'd normally seek out as a source of inspiration. To be honest, I almost skipped the episode the first time he turned up because I didn't want to hear a former pro football player go on about his story of playing through injuries. But…..

Gaining New Perspectives

One strategy I use to make sure that I'm taking in new ideas is to listen to or watch interviews with people that are outside my realm of experience or direct interest. I like to expose myself to new ideas.

That's how I came to be listening to School of Greatness podcast to begin with. Lewis Howes happens to be a pro football player who talks about playing through injuries and has become a motivational speaker and “lifestyle entrepreneur.” His guests are kinda guy-oriented, but the insights are universal so I listen to most episodes from the School of Greatness. But when I heard Lewis introduce Bo Eason I almost hit “skip” because the idea of TWO former pro football players talking about playing through injuries just seemed like a bit much….

Whenever I feel a strong urge to avoid something harmless (like an interview with a former pro football player-turned-playwright and motivational speaker), I take it as a sign that I'll learn something from the experience.

So I didn't skip Lewis Howes' conversation with Bo Eason and, as is usually the case, I found some nuggets of wisdom that I could apply to my own life. In short, I learned about his approach to finding and telling your story through the defining moments in your life.

In some ways, it was that first podcast interview that sparked the “how do I tell my story better” exploration on this blog.

What Are Your Defining Moments?

Quite honestly, once the semester kicked me into overdrive trying to get everything done at work, I forgot about Bo Eason. I was so busy that I was only blogging occasionally, when I could squeeze something in, and focusing on the Teach Social Business site because I could use my blogging there for course preps. I knew I wanted to explore my story, but I was concerned about blogging too much about myself, yada yada yada.

This weekend Bo Eason turned up again in my podcast feed. At first, I didn't remember his name so when one episode of Bulletproof Radio ended and segued into the next one I ended up hearing once again,  an intro to Bo Eason. I ALMOST skipped it once again.

But I'm so glad I listened to this episode of Bulletproof Radio to hear Bo Eason explain the importance of finding your defining moments and building your story around them.

Sometimes it takes repeat exposure for messages to sink in.

I'll be honest, some of my defining moments are still somewhat private and I'm not sure that I'm ready to publicly announce my take on those experiences. Others know about them, but I feel that talking about some of those defining moments in public would hurt other people and I don't care to do that. I don't think it's necessary to hurt others to succeed.

In any event, I think it's how we RESPOND to what we experience in life, rather than the experience itself. I like to think that I'm not defined BY my experiences, but rather how I've responded to both adversity and success.

[Tweet “It's our response to events in our life that define us, not the event itself.”]

Many of my defining experiences are easy to share. I've recognized them as defining moments for my entire life—so much so that I've never considered blogging in detail about most of them. But I will, soon. Here are a few highlights of defining experiences that happened before I was 6 years old.

The Lawnmower Accident

When I was 3-1/2 years old I was in a lawn mower accident.

My dad had me sitting in his lap on a riding lawnmower and it started to “rear up” on a slight incline in the yard. He tossed me off to the side, trying to get me out of harms way. But instead, the mower tilted over on top of me. The left side of my head was crushed.

My parents rushed me to the hospital. I can actually remember every detail about the accident AND the trip to the first hospital, my head on mom's bloodstained shirt and her stroking my hair saying “It will be OK.” Everything did turn out OK.

I call it my Harry Potter scar.

The Not-Dorothy-in-Oz Experience

A few weeks after that lawnmower accident, a freak tornado sent everyone scrambling for shelter. My dad literally got stuck in the mud as he ran across a freshly-plowed field toward the storm shelter with me in his arms and we fell face-forward into the mud. We survived, of course.

I didn't end up in Oz. Instead, my freshly-changed bandages were a muddy mess.

I learned about the power of storms and, for a while, I was afraid of them. But another defining moment changed that a few years later.

“I Have An Idea”

I started first grade when I was 5-years-old, having never been to kindergarden or pre-school. My parents didn't want me to wait another year and I'm glad they found a way to get me in school early.

Since I was so young, I was placed in the “can't read” group. By the end of the first week, I had progressed to the strongest reading group. I knew I could read.

I also appeared as Martha Washington that year in my school play and got to proclaim at the Constitutional Convention: “I have an idea.” Yes, I remember that vividly. I still have ideas.

“Mrs. Peel, We're Needed”

Sheree Martin Emma Peel 1967Around the same time, I discovered a TV show called The Avengers. Even though I was much too young to understand all the irony and nuance, Steed and Mrs. Peel became a role models. My mom would let me stay up and watch the show every week.

Scenes from one episode, in particular, always stayed with me. The defining moment of that episode: Mrs. Peel is on a conveyer belt, about to be sliced in half by a spinning saw blade. Instead of revealing fear, Mrs. Peel just displayed the unflappable, calm fortitude she's known for.

I began to emulate Mrs. Peel when I played. More importantly, the strengths of the Mrs. Peel character helped to define my own response to a whole host of situations.

I even dressed like Mrs. Peel.

Life, Then Death

Shortly after my first school year ended, I watched my beloved grandfather experience a fatal heart attack and die in front of me. He was only 46 years old. I learned about death and how it can come suddenly, but it didn't make me afraid.

Those are a few of the defining experiences from the first six years of my life. I'll be sharing more about these events and others in future posts. They're too complex to do justice here.

The key takeaway for me is not that the moments or experiences define us, rather it's how we RESPOND to the experience that defines us.

Honor Your True Self

Today, I know myself pretty well.

I lost myself for a while, in my 20s, as I floundered trying to be someone I really wasn't. I relinquished a lot of my creativity, energy and adventurous nature in an attempt to fit into the world of business law and estate planning. My intentions were good, but my soul and spirit were suffering.

What I've found is that when I honor my true self, by playing to my strengths, I get good outcomes. Trying to fit into someone else's definition of what's right for me is like wearing someone's else clothes—and that's under the best of circumstances. It usually doesn't turn out that well.

To get to this place in my life, where I know myself, I had to make some detours, wrong turns and experience some things that I didn't enjoy at the time. I never quit, never gave up. Those detours are part of my story.

You probably have some detours and wrong turns, too. Most people do, unless they never seek to grow.

Learn From Your Experiences

I am convinced that our experiences are meant to teach us something. If we keep having the same type of experience over and over, and getting the same outcome, repeatedly, we are not paying attention and not learning what we need to learn.

The point is that we all have life experiences that both shape and reveal who we are. We face a situation and we respond to it. We have to find those and look for opportunities to grow from them.

So look back at your life and consider your experiences. Find your defining moments. Find the “Groundhogs Day” moments when the same problems or issues keep cropping up.

Through those moments you can uncover the lessons you've learned, or still need to learn.

I hope this post will inspire you to find your own defining moments and enable you to tell your story with courage and dignity.

I'd love to hear from you!

Categories
Grow Inspire

Happy Life Manifesto: 19-30

Last week I introduced what I'm calling The Path to a Happy Life when I published the first draft of an introduction to the Happy Life Manifesto.

Then, two days ago, I published Theses 1 – 19.

Today, I give you Theses 19 – 30. I'm repeating Thesis 19, just to establish continuity.

19. Security is an illusion.

20.  Faith destroys fear.

21. Action is evidence of faith.

22. Action = effort.

23. You can only control the quality and quantity of your effort.

24. You cannot control how your efforts are received.

25. You cannot control anyone else.

26. You do not control the results.

27. Action requires energy.

28. Energy depends on health.

29. Health has physical and spiritual elements.

30. The quality of the food you eat directly shapes your health.

I'll be commenting more on these later.

Writing yesterday's post: Transcend & Transform on top of a super-busy week at work just knocked the wind out of me. But I'm committed to publishing a new, useful post every day this month. So I hope you find today's excerpt from the Happy Life Manifesto to be somewhat useful, even in skeleton form.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you identify with one of these tenets?  Why or why not?

 

Categories
Grow Inspire

Transcend and Transform

Sometimes situations do not always turn out as we expect or hope. This is usually a blessing in disguise.

Sometimes, perhaps, we think too small. Sometimes we may be charting a course that merely leads us to someone else's dream.

Sometimes there is a lesson still to be learned that can only come from facing adversity or overcoming some obstacle. Until we’ve learned that lesson we can’t advance to the next stop on our own journey.

Summer before last I spent a week in Vermont studying in a sustainable food systems leadership program. That turned out to be a transformative experience for me in two ways.

The obvious transformation comes from what I learned and the vision that knowledge helped to solidify.

An unexpected benefit, though, was a brief opportunity to experience rejection.

After our group dinner Thursday night we had the opportunity to hang out and socialize with each other and with some of the speakers and session leaders. As the evening progressed, we drifted away in small groups, some back to the residence hall where most of us were staying, some of us stopped by a grocery coop. After the grocery visit, I returned to my wing of the residence hall alone.

As I walked down the deserted corridor to my room I heard lots of laughter from a room just across the hall from my door. Just as I arrived at my door, I heard a familiar voice in an obviously mocking tone say something that included the words “in Alabama.” Peals of laughter drowned out exactly what was said.

I paused in front of my door to listen, suddenly and painfully aware that someone was making fun of me. I was the only person in this group from Alabama. I had probably rattled my key or something, as I approached, because as quickly as the laughter came, it ceased, as if someone had heard me arrive and signaled to the others to kill whatever impersonation was underway.

I unlocked my door, went inside, and settled in to read.

Although I wasn’t interested in dwelling on what had just happened, I’m human.

I’d just spent pretty much every waking moment, from breakfast until after dinner, getting acquainted with about 30 individuals who were equally committed to doing something about the food system. I’d gotten to know some better than others. It was easy to figure out some of the people who were not in the room, because we had parted ways at the grocery co-op we’d visited on the way back to our respective lodgings.

I was fairly certain that I recognized the voice of the mocker. It was somewhat distinctive, even though partially disguised by the attempt at imitating my voice. And I was fairly certain they knew that I’d overhead.

I’m not a petty person and I knew that I would never overtly say anything.

But I also knew that I had to decide on my response, or it would eat at me, despite my best efforts to keep the selfish, wounded wolf of pride at bay.

As I lay in bed that night, trying to fall asleep, these words came to me:

Transcend and Transform

That would be my response. Transcend. Rise above.

At that moment, I perceived the transformation to be more about working to transform our food system. But I quickly came to realize the transformation would be internal.

The next day, when I saw these folks at breakfast, I felt nothing more than collegial companionship. Maybe even a bit of compassion for the person whom I thought to be my imitator.

I was the one being transformed. My willingness to ignore what had just happened and let it go changed me in some major way. It was liberating to be free of chains that come from holding onto a negative feeling.

Although that’s not the first time I’ve faced adversity, it’s the first time that I’ve known first-hand that someone was making fun of me. I’m sure it’s not the first time I’ve been mocked. I’m a teacher, so it has happened, I'm sure. But it’s the only time that it’s happened in a context where I experienced it first hand, in real-time.

We often grow in ways we least expect.

For the past few years, I’ve been dealing with another form of adversity that I’ve come to realize has some parallels with what happened in that residence hall in Vermont last year.

Although I was chosen, I wasn’t the choice of the one person who holds the power that matters in the context.

Without using the word “transcend” at the time, when I first learned what had happened, I chose to focus on improvement and personal development. I was naïve enough to believe that if I expanded my skills and produced the desired results, the evidence would speak for itself.

I chose to focus on myself, not fixing the other person. I produced the right results, but the results didn’t yield the predicted outcome. When confirmation bias is in play, evidence isn't interpreted objectively.

In the process of trying to figure out how to deal with the situation and trying to control the outcome, I learned that just had to let go.

I had to let go that I could influence the other person’s response to my efforts. I learned that I had to let go, even of the results of my efforts.

I’ve learned that confirmation bias is a real phenomenon and that we humans are a fickle lot. We tend to only see what we want to see.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve come to the realization that I will never win over that person.

I can only control my response. And my ultimate response has been to transcend. Let go.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve grown in ways and in directions that I never would have predicted. I’ve learned new skills and I’ve learned more about human psychology than a Ph.D. in that field would ever yield.

But most importantly, I’ve been transformed.

Had I not experienced a fleeting and irrelevant moment of rejection in that corridor in a residence hall in Vermont, I don’t think I would have experienced transformation through this other situation.

And I've come to discern that everything I've experienced has been preparing me for something I never envisioned.

Life is funny that way.

Transcend. And Be Transformed.

 

Do you agree? How have you learned through adversity? I'd love to hear your story. Share it below in the comments.