Diversify Your Life

Image result for diversify

But I Like My Life The Way It Is

Some people love change. They’re always creating, running around; they make the rest of us look boring. They need change in order to feel alive. Think of people you know who love to travel and meet new people. For them, the excitement of not knowing what the day will hold is great. Most of us, however, don’t like change all that much. We like our routine. I eat the same thing for breakfast everyday so I don’t have to think about it. I don’t get bored with it, I love it.

Diversification is a Super Power

To be alive is to always be on the verge of change.  We don’t have a choice. Sh*t happens. But we do have a choice of how we deal with it. We are told to diversify our money, but we are not told to diversify our lives. James Altucher, an interesting guy, created a chart called, how to diversify your life. He says, “The only way to survive, to get off the floor, to build, to have ideas, to create businesses, to have flourishing relationships is with diversification.”

Pick a Place to Start

Here are a few places to start:

  1. Diversify Ideas –  write down 10 ideas a day to exercise your “idea muscles.”
  2. Diversify the People You Meet (and Where You Meet Them) – Schedule meeting new people on your calendar, make a conscious effort to find people that are “different.” If this seems like too much, diversify where you meet them. Go to meetups, take classes, travel.
  3. Diversify What You Read – Do you get your news from the same sources every day? Try new ones. Ones you don’t agree with. Practice keeping an open mind about why they hold a different view. Get books out of the library. Ask people what they are reading. “Just 20 pages a day equals 36 books a year.”

None of this is easy, but I guarantee you will see unimaginable benefits from the effort. If you have children, think of the power of what you are modeling for them. The way to be happy and whole and able to adapt to change.

Image credit: SEO ppl

The Case for “Abby Normal”

Image result for if you are always trying to normal maya angelou

Who is Abby Normal?

In one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein, the lab assistant (Igor), has to steal a brain from another lab (for Frankenstein’s monster). Igor makes a mistake and takes a jar marked.. ‘abnormal’ brain. When confronted, Igor says that the name on the jar was, Abby Normal. Watch the clip

Normal is Overrated

I have a split personality. Part of me wants to be abby normal. I have always said I am, “too weird for the normal people and to normal for the weird people.” I meant this as partly reality, partly to justify why I am happy and proud to not care what people think. The other part of me is desperate to be normal. Growing up with limited parenting, I often had to guess at what was ‘normal’. The truth is, I still have to guess, more often that I would like to admit.

The amount of energy I have spent to appear ‘normal’ is well, crazy. Had a listened to Maya Angelou (quote above), I would have stopped trying to be what other people think is “normal”. I would have embraced my inner weirdo and been proud. Instead, I spent years looking to ‘fit in’ or be someone that people think is okay. Why? Right now, I’m not sure I know. There is human/biological need to belong. Could that be part of it? But really, reflecting on this, I don’t understand … why did I feel this was necessary?

Breaking the “Normal” Mold

It’s good to be normal, AND there’s nothing wrong with being weird. If you’re like me and feel a little too weird for the normal people, then I ask you to love yourself. We are big tribe!

Image credit: Zero Dean

Destination = A New Way of Seeing

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

Where Am I Going?

Many people see life as a series of destinations. Go to school, get married, have kids… like items on a checklist, we move on to the next destination without thinking much about the alternatives. In fact, you might be thinking, there are alternatives? What are they?

  • Don’t Go To “School” – I’m not recommending that people NOT go to school. What I’m suggesting is that we think about choices. If someone decides not to get a ‘formal’ education… do we think ‘less’ of them? Do we wonder about their intelligence? their ambition? Probably, because we are programmed to check off the items on the list. I have the good fortune to have relatives and friends who have formal educations and others that, for all kinds of reasons, chose not to. Both of these ‘categories’ of people in my life are the same. They love me, they teach me, they see me, they inspire me. Level of education doesn’t factor into it.
  • Don’t Get Married – This idea, fortunately, has changed since I was young. In my early years, an unmarried 40 year old woman (not a man) was see as an ‘old maid’, unlovable, broken, unattractive. Our culture is geared towards couples. If you are single woman… after a certain age, you are considered strange. In 1900, if you were 22 and unmarried you were lost forever, a spinster. (note that there is no male equivalent for this word.) In 2017, being a single woman is more acceptable, but we are still viewed less favorably than women in relationships.

Life as a Series of Lens Changes

Another way to look at life, is to think of it as a series of ‘lens’ changes – the way we see the world. The goal then becomes, seeing myself, other people, poverty, politics, my home town, my job, my friends… everything… in a new way. Imagine if you set the goal to re-evaluate your world view and all it’s component parts every 5 years. Not, did I hit the societal norm milestone, but did I grow? Did I change? Do I understand my responsibility to the world in a new way? Have I worked to make the world a better place in my own way?

Some of us have this way of looking at the world pushed on us by circumstances. Some of us; the artists, the change makers, the thinkers, the poets, the philosophers… accept that this is how we’ll live. Some of us are afraid to not be ‘normal.’ Afraid that we will be alone and lost.

Not everyone can be an artist. But everyone can shift their perception just a bit. Practice it. Make it a priority. Look for role models. Let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: Never a Place

Small Things, Great Things

Image result for great things are done

All Things, Great and Small

When we are young, we are told that the decisions we make on things like, getting good grades or which college we go to, are the biggest decisions of our lives. The pressure to make the “right decision” is tremendous. Certainly in light of the cost of college and the associated debt, there is merit to this. But the truth is, the really important decisions are, small and occur daily.

Did I eat healthy food and rest enough? Did I talk to someone I love today? Did I get a hug? Did I remember to be grateful for my senses? My ability to walk and talk? For the beauty of the world around me? These may seem like ‘small’ things. But fortunately for many of us – they are huge, free and easily accessible. Yet, we take them for granted. We don’t see that these ‘small’ things are, in fact, ‘big’ and ‘great’.

Do I Hold On to Pain?

Some sadness and difficulty is part of every person’s life. How we take that burden and then grow (wallow) or shrink from it, is what separates those living fully, from those who are stuck. Modern living encourages quick solutions, instant information and self-gratification. If we can figure out how to harness the power of discomfort and/or learn to let go gracefully, then we can learn how the small things; a tweak to my attitude, a short conversation with someone I love, admitting I’m wrong, reaching out to someone else instead of thinking of myself, are the most important decisions we will make today.

Be Bold And Great Forces Will Come to Your Aid

I wrote a post in 2012 with this title. I remember the first time I heard it. It blew me away. Being bold seems like something someone else does… they take chances, they seem to get over failure easier than I do. They seem to be able to fight the ‘good fight’ and be a role model. I am here to tell you that you can too. You just need to find your way. Don’t do it because someone else is… do it because you believe it’s right.  Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s counterproductive. Be happy in failure, humble in success, joyful in our shared humanity.

Image credit: Life Hacks

Belonging

Rick Medina, right, a Yaqui Apache whose tribe is centered in Arizona, and his son, Miles Medina. They were among the participants at a Colorado Springs Native American Inter Tribal Powwow and festival in that central Colorado city

Where Do I Belong?

Belonging… as humans, we have an innate desire to belong, to be a part of something. And yet many of us don’t like to be part of a group. For whatever reason: the need for independence, the fear of rejection.. we find it difficult to assimilate.

There are origin stories… stories of our family, our town, our country, our history, etc. that remind us that we are part of something larger than ourselves, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Some of those stories are happy and make us proud. Some are shocking, sad and even brutal. Each of us probably has a little of each in our background.

How Do We Belong?

If you stop for a minute and think about the idea of where (and to whom) you belong, you may think of it in a few different ways. Family may the first thing you think of. But if you have a family story like mine, the story may be filled with sadness, so I need to find another way to feel like I belong.

Religion may be another way that we can feel that belong. We identify ourselves as a Christian or a Jew, a Muslim or a Sikh. Even being an atheist is a way to belong to a group that sees the world through the same lens.

Race is an important way that we find identity. Whether we are aware of it or not, it shapes our daily life.

Location can be one of the least understood and respected form of belonging. There are national and local identities. In many places in the world, the village where a person is born defines a great deal about their sense of belonging. Here in the US, with our ability to (relatively) easily relocate, we take for granted the ability to be American and keep that identity regardless of where, in the country, we live. Think about your “place/location.” I moved over 20 times before I was 22.

We Belong to Each Other

It’s important to understand how we define ourselves so that we can clearly see ourselves in relation to others. Regardless of our beliefs, country, skin color… we are all one, human. We love our children, we want to work and have meaning in our lives. Think about the things that make you feel a part of something and understand how that either joins or separates you from others. Let’s talk about this more in the future.

 

Image credit: Rick Medina, Yaqui Apache & son  Carol Highsmith (via the Library of Congress)

The Whys Have It

Strobist: Shoot-through umbrella 430ex at 1/4 power up and to my left about 2 to 3 feet from subjects. The cousins get together for a photo shoot at Grandma's house. There was very little cooperation. Note to self: Bribery works better than ...

But Why?

I am visiting my 2 year old (soon to be 3) granddaughter. If you have kids, you know what happens around their third birthday… everything becomes, why? And not just single, why is that? but a continuing stream of whys. Once I answer the first why, it is often followed by 4,5, or even 6 why questions in a row.

The Power of Why

If I become even slightly impatient with the steady stream of questions, I remember that asking why is one important way to learn. It’s unfortunate that we, as adults, stop asking why. We assume that we know the answer… so we don’t ask why. Or we’re afraid to look silly or worse, not all knowing. Somehow, by virtue of our age, we’re suddenly supposed to know ‘everything.’

Growing – Personally and Professionally

On a personal level, we can ask why of people we love to better understand their thoughts and feelings. This requires us to listen to the answer. If we just ask why and don’t work to understand the answer, we are missing an opportunity to connect to those we care most about.

Professionally, have you ever heard of root cause analysis (also known as the 5 whys) ? In this problem solving exercise, a series of why questions are asked in order to get at the ‘root’ of the problem. When there is an issue, we can keep asking why (of the people who best know the answer, i.e. maybe not the manager, but the worker) until we get some at the root.

Ask Humbly

When we ask why, we have to defer to the other person’s knowledge. This is not easy for those of us who think we’re smart and know a lot. I have to practice humility, daily. I have to remind myself that things change, often. Remind myself that other people know a lot, that they see things differently from me. And that is good. Every day, I look with gratitude at the people in my life, at the work I have the privilege to be engaged in, at the beauty of the world around me.

I don’t have to ask why nature is beautiful and powerful, I just know it is. It’s there everyday, unchanged in it’s power. There are other things that don’t require a why, but not that many. ‘Why’, fills in the blanks, updates the database in our heads, changes the way we interact with people in the world.

 

Photo Credit: The Three Hams  Make Less Noise

Never Try to Up Sell an Unhappy Customer

But I’m Not Wrong!

So, you’ve had a problem with someone. Your spouse, your customer, your kids… anyone. And now you need something from them. But you don’t want to apologize because:

  1. You didn’t do anything wrong
  2. You don’t like to apologize
  3. You’re sick and tired of taking other people’s crap
  4. The other person was wrong
  5. On and on and on…

There are 1001 and reasons why you shouldn’t have to say you’re sorry. All of them perfectly justified in your mind. So I’ll ask you this one question.

Do you want to be RIGHT? Or do you want to be HAPPY?

Some people will say, well, if I’m right, then I’m happy because I know I’m right. Oookaaay. If that’s how you feel, then you are all set. Or maybe you have a great example of how being ‘right’ is more important than being happy. I’m sure there are some. My point is that when we have conflict with someone, it may be because … we want to be right.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Of course the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is ‘righter’ than we are, because we need them. They are the lifeline to our business. They have the power to influence others, positively and negatively. The same goes for our friends, loved ones, co-workers. Every day we have a choice to be ‘right’. Every day we have a choice to graciously acknowledge that other people have a right to their positions.

Trying to convince them that their point of view is wrong… is, well, wrong. Even worse, trying to convince them that we are right (the up sell), is even worse. The best we can do is to listen and see if we can find a way to bridge the gap. We can maintain our dignity (no doormats allowed), and show that we are open to hearing something different.

I wish it were easier. I wish this was a skill we were taught in school, but like many important skills, we are on our own.

Image Credit: Steve  Steve Snodgrass

Holidays, Vacations, Life as We Know It

Holidays and Vacations

I took a vacation from the blog. Not on purpose, it just happened. I’ve been writing this blog off and on since 2008. So when one week turned into two turned into six… I realized that in addition to I celebrating the holidays, I was also taking a vacation; from my regular life, my regular responsibilities, my old self. As I celebrated a ‘speed limit’ birthday this month, I realized that there are all kinds of vacations. This particular vacation was very important to me.

Life As We know It

Every once in a while, I hope that you are able to take that same kind of vacation. It’s not like Disneyland, the beach or the mountains. It is the kind that allows us to look up at the clouds and take a long look at how we’re living. This isn’t easy. Who wants to question all the ways and reasons for the choices we’ve made? No one. And yet the importance of looking at our life – straight into it’s face – is important. Because there’s a big difference between living and surviving. If you choose to survive, because it’s easier… I understand. If you choose to live, even though it’s harder, much harder… I understand. You have my blessings to do either. It’s your life.

Photo credit: Cumulus Blue  Scott Robinson

If I’m Talking, I’m Not Learning

Image result for it's all about me it has nothing to do with me

“But there ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening…” Rod Stewart

Listening as Learning

I need to remind myself that learning to listen to others is one of the keys to a happy life. It’s a skill I have never ‘mastered’ and never will. The act of making the effort to learn to improve my ability to listen openly, is worthwhile.

The power of listening to the people we love is boundless. If we are able to listen without judging or thinking about what we’re going to say… we give a priceless and rare gift. It takes intention, practice and self-discipline. If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right, it is.

When we stop talking, stop telling our side of the story, reminding people of how smart we are, then we actually can learn; about other people, about their world, their problems and their joys.

But I Don’t Like What They’re Saying!

Part of the reason we don’t listen is that we don’t want to hear others because we don’t agree with their opinion or point of view. If I disagree with someone, why would I want listen to them? They’re wrong! This is a natural reaction, an emotional reaction, a dangerous reaction.

Modern living and the short news cycle, reinforce that those who “talk”, especially on television or on social media… have influence. We listen only to those people who reinforce our current thinking or point of view. When this happens, it strengthens the negative ‘we’ vs. ‘them’ thinking. We are called sheep by politicians and we don’t prove them wrong, because no matter what, we follow along. We avoid listening and thinking for ourselves because it’s easier.

Getting Started

First, I have to admit that I’m not right. My point of view isn’t correct.  Whether the person is someone in my house or my neighborhood or where I work, each person has a right to the way they feel. I don’t have to agree with them, but if I can honestly listen to them, I might learn what they are afraid of, what motivates them; not what separates us but what binds us together.

If you are sincere in your desire to learn to listen better, here are some resources:

TED Talk –  5 Ways to Listen Better

Listening Skills- The 10 Principles of Listening

Image credit: Quote Fancy

How The Light Gets In

Image result for crack is how the light gets in leonard cohen

Judgement as Separator

It easy to find fault. To judge. To say that others are wrong. It’s harder to see their point of view. It takes commitment, energy, patience, compassion, and strength. If we see the crack as ‘brokeness’, then we’ll forever be trying to ‘fix’ it.

If we see the crack as a way for the light to get in, to help us change and grow, become more accepting, then we may be able to learn something. When I sense there’s something far away from my understanding, I try to make a point to move towards it, to open my mind and not close my heart.

Empathy as My Teacher

This is hard because my way, no matter how painful, is the way I know. It’s easier to blame someone else than really look at myself. For today, I’m going to try to accept my own ‘cracks’ and other people’s different opinions as my teachers. Compassion is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.