All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.Havelock Ellis, 19th Century English physician
The Secret of Life
I’ve had several conversations lately with clients and colleagues about life stages. In 1977, James Taylor wrote The Secret o’ Life. The full lyrics are worth a read, and here’s an excerpt:
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got
To the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride.
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.
I am struck by Taylor’s wisdom at the age of 27 when he wrote this, and the lyrics remind me of a personal experience with an older man years later.
I was sitting on a bench at the old Union Station. The man sat down next to me, and we engaged in conversation. I asked him where he was headed, and he replied with glee, “San Francisco!”
“Wow,” I said, “that is a long way to go on the train.” His reply: “There is as much fun in getting there as there is in being there.”
Taylor’s lyrics and the words of the man on the bench have stayed with me, and I often think of their words in these situations:
- When I am too focused on getting to the outcome
- When it’s time to pause
- When it’s time to remember to be in the moment
As I embark on a trip to Japan in May, I plan to practice the in-the-moment secret, beginning with a hiatus from Sunday Stories. I will publish my usual end-of-month quote next week, and I will see you in June
Nurture Your Butterflies
When was the last time you wasted time? When you were “wasting time,” did you feel joyful and creative, or — if you’re like me, did you feel even a tiny bit guilty for “being unproductive?”
How much better might it have been? How much more would you have enjoyed your time — how much more would you have gotten out of it — if you didn’t feel guilty about it or feel the need to explain it?
Here’s a fact: downtime is vital to our lives.
As human beings, we often find ourselves caught in the never-ending cycle of productivity, constantly striving to achieve more.
Contrary to popular belief, wasting time can actually be beneficial for our overall well-being. However, wasting time poorly is a sin (or whichever word you prefer) because not only are you forgoing the productivity, generosity, and art that comes from work, but you’re also giving up the experimentation, creativity, and joy that comes from wasting time.
If you’re going to waste time (and I hope you will), please do it well; and find inspiration by nurturing your butterflies within.
What Is Your Story?
As human beings, we are all storytellers. Our lives are filled with experiences, memories, and emotions that shape our unique narratives.
Each of us has a story to tell, and the story about who we are today may differ from the story we want to write about tomorrow.
Reflecting on our past and present stories is an act of self-awareness that enables us to write our story of tomorrow. It’s about understanding the patterns, themes, and lessons that have emerged from our lives. It’s about recognizing the choices we’ve made, the challenges we’ve faced, and the growth we’ve experienced.
The good news is that we have the power to shape our stories, and we can rewrite the narratives and create new ones that align with our true selves.
Here are some suggestions to help you explore and understand your story:
- Reflect on your past: Take the time to reflect on your past experiences, both positive and negative. What have been the defining moments in your life? What lessons have you learned? How have these experiences shaped your beliefs and values?
- Identify your beliefs and values: What do you believe about yourself, others, and the world? What values are important to you? Knowing your beliefs and values can help you understand how you view the world and make decisions.
- Recognize your strengths and weaknesses: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you proud of? What do you want to improve? Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you make choices that align with your abilities and aspirations.
- Embrace your uniqueness: What makes you unique? What are your passions, interests, and talents? Embrace your individuality and celebrate what sets you apart from others. Your uniqueness is what makes it your story.
- Write your narrative: Once you have gained clarity on your today story, you can create a tomorrow story that aligns with your authentic self. Set new goals, take calculated risks, and pursue a path that resonates with your heart.
So, ask yourself: What is your story? And take the first step towards shaping a story that truly reflects who you are and who you aspire to be.
The Privilege of Choice
I frequently ask my clients, What are you willing to give up to get what you want?
The ‘give up’ may be something we believe. It may be fear (of failing, being wrong), comfort with what we have or know, or it may be tangible, a cost associated with a choice.
When we are talking about giving up something to get what we want, the key questions are these:
- How much do I want the “something” I say I want?
- What am I willing to give up to get it?
We live in a world of abundant choices. From the clothes we wear to the career choices we make, we are constantly faced with decisions that shape our lives. While having choices can be a privilege, it can also be a source of fear and anxiety. The fear of making the wrong choice or FOMO can paralyze us and prevent us from taking action.
The fear of making the wrong choice is a common experience that can prevent us from taking risks and pursuing the change we desire. However, we also know that making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is a natural part of growth and learning.
Here are some strategies for navigating the privilege and fear of choice:
- Consider what REALLY matters to you: Take the time to reflect on your values, passions, and goals. When you are clear on what matters, you can make choices that align with your authentic self.
- Prioritize and simplify: While having choices can be empowering, it can also lead to decision fatigue. To avoid this, prioritize your options and simplify your decision-making process. Consider what’s most important to you, and focus on the choices that align with your priorities.
- Take action: Making a choice involves taking a risk, but that doesn’t mean you have to be reckless. Instead, just as you do in business, gather information, weigh your options, consider the potential outcomes, and then take action.
In summary, having choices can be both a privilege and a source of fear. By cultivating self-awareness, prioritizing and simplifying, and taking calculated risks, we can effectively navigate the complex world of life choices.
Time Is Not Measured…
Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India
Is It Time to Wait or Time to Act?
A once well-known brand, Paul Masson wine, is best remembered for its 1970s marketing association with Orson Wells, who promised on behalf of Masson: “We will sell no wine before its time.” In this ad, Wells is discovered by the camera listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, “It took Beethoven four years to write that symphony” Wells says, “Some things can’t be rushed. Good music… and good wine”.
Steve Jobs was famous for delaying production and, ultimately, the release of products until he was satisfied that the design met his goal. He was reputed to have sent his product development team back to the drawing board, time after time, to get the design exactly as he wanted it, e.g., perhaps the most well-known example, “just one button.”
On the other hand, in 2012, Elon Musk forever changed the automobile landscape when the first Tesla rolled off the assembly line. At the time, many believed this car was sold “before it was time.”
When considering a transition or pursuing something I want, I remind myself to reflect on these stories and ask:
Is it time to wait or time to act?
What Is the Leadership Message in All Quiet on the Western Front?
Last night my husband and I watched All Quiet on the Western Front. It was my idea to watch it because it has already won several awards and was nominated for several Oscars, including best picture. Right from the start, I wanted to turn it off and yet felt compelled to continue.
This movie was graphic and harrowing; I think it felt real because of this. For two and a half hours, it was as if we were on the front lines, experiencing the horror while somehow safely tucked away from harm.
The book was required reading for most high school students of my generation. Upon reflection, I wonder why? Was it an attempt to prepare young men called to fight in Vietnam? Was it a silent protest on the part of educators? I don’t know, and I couldn’t find an explanation in my research.
It’s a story of humanity and the loss of humanity while at the same time a story of leadership. Not the traditional message that military leaders are the best leadership examples and should therefore be role models. Instead, it portrays all types of leaders, fallible humans, capable leaders, and those that are completely incompetent. Most importantly, the writers showed us the human cost of hubris.
I always remembered the book, especially the scene when the protagonist is in the trench with a French soldier. The movie brought home the message of humanity even more.
Sadly, as the horrors of war continue today in Ukraine and elsewhere, the following quote from Einstein reminds us how far we have not come.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and his feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Perhaps the message the author and the screenwriters are sending is:
It is time for those of us who have the responsibility and the honor to lead to also take on the responsibility to practice humanity.
How Do You Define Professional?
I am a member of a peer group of other coaches. Each month, one of our members poses a thought question to the group. Recently, he asked, “How do you define professional?”.
As intended, both the question and the answers caused me to pause. The answers included:
- Respectful and honest
- Speaking candidly while being kind
- Keeping my self-awareness higher than my self-confidence
- It depends on the circumstances; what may be professional in one case may be considered unprofessional in another
- Showing up and doing your best even when you are tired, stressed, or otherwise dealing with challenges in your life
This last response triggered a memory for me.
Years ago, a woman I knew told me she learned her father had suddenly died just as she was about to go on stage to give a speech. She proudly told me that she put on a smile, went on stage, delivered her speech, and afterward sat down and cried.
I felt unsettled about her choice, and her comments stayed with me.
- Was this “professional” or something else?
- When does our desire to “be professional” overtake our responsibility for self-care?
- How do we recognize the difference and apply the “it depends on the circumstances answer?”
Rules Are For Guidance…
Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.Sir Douglas Bader, Group Captain,Royal Air Force WWII