Saturday, November 5, 2011

What's In Your Hoard?

Today, I exposed my mind to a reality show called, Hoarding: Buried Alive.

You can probably figure it out from the title, but it's about people who can't let go of things; their houses are literally packed with random stuff with no rhyme or reason to what or why something is there.  The show also features clinical psychologists who come in and talk to the hoarders to determine the cause for their hoarding behavior.  These psychologists are extremely important because often (if not every time) this hoarding  stems from some psychological hang-up.

I imagine that many people watching this show are looking at the hoarders with judgement in their eyes; in disbelief that someone could let their homes, in some cases their lives, deteriorate to such a point.  I take a different approach.

I think these hoarders are better off than many.  If you walk into their homes, their attachment is apparent; a clear marker pointing to some other deep seated issue.  Many of us, aren't nearly so lucky.  Our hangups, our attachments only become apparent under specific conditions i.e. when we're criticized, in a relationship.  These situation based attachments are easily ignored because they don't plague us everyday, but their influence is no less powerful; both preventing us from being more balanced and living the way we are capable of living.

I'm not saying that everyone has an unhealthy attachment, but if you did, how would you know?  What would your markers be?  Are you self-reflective enough to honestly ask yourself, "What's in my hoard?"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Background Noise

Most people don't remember their flight attendants.  We ignore them until they bring the drinks and peanuts and remind us to buckle our seat belts.  The thing is that they are delivering information that could potentially save our lives and we don't even bother to listen.  That's not because we don't care, but rather that many of us have heard the information before.  They become the background noise of the airplane experience.  

My flight attendant today was the most memorable ever.  He said, and I quote, "If you don't like our service today, this plane has six exits." I couldn't stop laughing.  There after, every time he announced something I listened attentively.  He reminded me that any message, any thing that is consumed regularly loses its appeal to familiarity.  You don't have to change everything about yourself, your message, etc. but at some point you do need to shake things up a bit, even if only for a while.

Everything that lives changes and grows, why wouldn't you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Death By Indecision

I'm enjoying my morning walk to work and I see this woman approaching me.  That, in and of itself, isn't remarkable, but how she was approaching me was the issue.  She wasn't walking.  She wasn't jogging or running, but she was trying to do all of them... at the same time.  Just imagine what that looks like.

This isn't new to me.  I've seen people move like that before, in fact, I'm sure I've done the same myself but I've never considered what's really going on.  So, this woman obviously thought she was going to be late, but rather than commit to a single course of action, she tried every form of bipedal movement.

Who hasn't seen this phenomenon happen; where we have a person with so many possible ways of doing something, that they choose to do all of them.  With so many options you can't even do one half-assed because you have more options than ass! Now you're quarter-assing it. (still with me?).

The lesson here is learning to commit completely.  My jog/run/walk/sprinter wasn't committed to the goal.  If being late isn't an option, choose the fastest way of getting there, not the path of that helps you barely  reach the mark.  Choose your target/goal/plan, pick an approach and use it until it you reach it, a better approach appears, or your goals change.

Whatever you do, please commit to not looking like her when decision time comes...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Upgrading Productivity 2.0

In my previous post on Upgrading Productivity, I described how I organize my day.  As an update, I'll describe the principles that guide my approach.  I call it the 4C-Block Method!  (I'm still working on the name).

The 4C Block Method is characterized by the following 4 Blocks:

Create Value:  This is the block where you focus on the work you were hired to do.  Let me be more specific; the lasting work that leaves a lasting impression.  Your accomplishments during this block are the ones that you want to be known for.  This work will positively affect  your customers, your department, and your ability to create value in the future.  Subsequently, this block's work will fuel your supervisor's responses as a reference.  For example your supervisor may say, "Mr/Mrs. Smith was an integral part of the team not only because of their excellent attitude and work ethic, but their work on [insert awesome value created here] was exemplary and still impacts us today."  This block should be the largest part of your day.

Connect with People: This block is very important.  As important as it is to create quality work, it is also important to know the people you work with.  Social capital, or the lack thereof, will impact your reputation; ignore it at your peril.  Who would you rather be: A) the one who locks themselves away in their office for 8 consecutive hours -or- B) the one who can produce and builds positive relationships with their co-workers?  No brainer. Yet, be mindful that your social time may not align with others; don't start knocking at doors while others are trying to create value.  Also, think of relationships outside of your immediate work space and/or area.  Schedule a meeting if you must.  Remember that person you've been meaning to get in contact with for that one thing you wanted to start?  Yeah, its that time.  Never underestimate the power of external relationships.
    Complete Tasks: During this block you can answer email, return calls, and fill out paperwork to your heart's content!  Although not what you were hired to do, these tasks affect your influence.  Don't trim this block unnecessarily short.  You don't want to be known as the person that habitually never returns calls or emails.  If you are one of those people that struggle with electronic communication (I promise I'm trying to get better), one way to circumvent this trait is to let your colleagues know that it's best to meet in person; then schedule the meeting during your Connect Block.
      Complement Yourself: Please do not spend this block of time patting yourself on the back.  The word is COMPLEMENT. [enter dictionary]

       "Add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect."

      Sorry, you'll never be perfect, but you can enhance and improve your competencies in your chosen field.  Staying on the cutting edge; keeping abreast with the newest research or trends will keep your knowledge and skills relevant.  Do whatever it takes to professionally develop during this time; read books, articles, journals, blogs, interview someone, brainstorm about your field, ANYTHING!  It's important to not only do, but to think about how and why you do.  The information you fail to update is the basic information your replacement is learning in school.  Don't. Get. Left. Behind!

        CREATE, CONNECT, COMPLETE, COMPLEMENT.  These blocks don't have to be in this order.  For my work day, it makes sense to start with Create Value before my students seize my time.  You may have a fast paced morning and a slower afternoon.  Choose an order that works for you and STICK WITH IT!  You're not only training yourself to adapt to the schedule, but also your co-workers to adapt with you. 

        Good luck with the method and feel free to share any success or tweaks!  

        C. Valentine

        Tuesday, July 19, 2011

        The Primal Man

        For the past 6 years, I've had what many would call a decently healthy lifestyle.

        I ate the appropriate foods most of the time (save for a couple of months occasions here and there when I would frequent restaurants... frequently), I never smoked, drink regularly but not to excess (usually), and exercise regularly; cardio and weight training.

        That's great.

        Recently, I've been playing around with diets due to knowing people who are passionate (like, hardcore) about the appropriate diet being the foundation of optimal health; a sentiment I wholeheartedly share.  For the past 2 months, I've been 95% vegetarian.  It wasn't that bad and was actually an interesting challenge to see if I could adapt to that lifestyle since it was my third attempt at making the switch.

        That being said, I've recently been reading MarksDailyApple; a blog about the primal/paleo diet.  This diet essentially says that eating grains = silliness.  Proponents of this lifestyle say that mankind evolved eating animals and vegetables/fruits, grain was introduced into our diet relatively recently and has properties that are unhealthy for human consumption.  Your diet, according to this school of thought, should consist of protein, fats, and low carbs (compared to conventional wisdom) attained from vegetables and fruits.  They state that the Inuit people eat high fat, high protein diets, and are still healthier than us!  

        Wait, it gets weirder.

        The Primal diet is also a fan of something called Intermittent Fasting. Get this, they say that the primal man operated on a feast and famine schedule: essentially if they didn't hunt successfully, they didn't eat.  Makes sense.  We see the same thing happen with carnivorous animals today.  The benefits of intermittent fasting are the most striking.  They state that it manages insulin levels, increases growth hormone, increase neural plasticity, reduce proliferation of cancer growth, and more!  

        I should have starved myself sooner...

        I have to be honest, I don't know if I buy it all quite yet, but I'm intrigued enough to give it a try and see how I feel.  If I get the results they say I should, then consider me converted.  I'll keep doing my research, but so far everything is looking legit.  I'll try to stick with this for the next month while keeping up with my exercise.

        Next Steps?

        FRIDAY I'm going to get my body fat and weight measurements to track my progress.

        RIGHT NOW, I'm eating some pasta, cheesy potatos, porkchops, and a hearty serving of apple crisp (consider it a last meal before Jurassic Park),

        and TOMORROW...


        I can't WAIT to look and feel like this guy! ;)

        Sunday, July 17, 2011

        Upgrading Productivity

        I want to more be productive...  

        But there are so many distractions!  There are the obvious ones i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Sudoku, then I have the ones that seem important, but prevent me from adding value that matters by ruining focus, i.e. email, phone calls, etc.

        Why not try something new?

        I recently read about something called the Pomodoro Technique.  Basically, you get a timer.  You commit to working on a task for 25 min.  When the timer stops.  You stop your work, make a mark on your sheet, and move to the next task after a short break...NOT MY STYLE!!!

        I need much more flexibility than 25 minutes with a timer.  My tweak was to bunch my hours into blocks.

        For the last month my work day looks like this:

        Block 1: 8-11am - WORK My first three hours at work are spent on the important projects; the ones that I affect my value.  I make this time sacred by blocking it on my calendar to prevent my administrative assistant from scheduling any meetings during that time.  I also turn off my IM, my Groupwise Notify, put my phone in my desk, and close my door.  The only windows open on my computer are ones that I need to work on my projects.

        Block 2: 11-12pm RESTORE  This is an hour of relaxation.  I go check my mailbox and connect with my colleagues and student employees, read some blogs, check my social media.

        12-1pm  LUNCH!

        Block 3: 1-3:30pm  TASKS   This block of time is dedicated to replying to emails, returning phone calls, and paperwork.  I log into my IM, open my door, and just react to people's needs as they come to me.  I make it a point to ONLY check email during this time, so once per day! #winning

        Block 4: 3:30-4:30pm  ME  I like to spend this time doing some personal professional development.  I spend my last hour reading articles about higher education, student development, etc.

        This works like a charm!  

        A simple and effective way of focusing my energy.  I've made remarkable progress on projects that would have sat on my desk for far too long before this tweak.  The only difficult part of this process is getting my colleagues to recognize my blocks.  You have to be adamant about this process or it won't work.  People expect replies, feedback, etc immediately; the trick is being consistent to train them to know when you will deliver.

        How do you structure your day to stay productive?

        Tuesday, July 12, 2011

        I Got The Blues!

        There was time when to be considered a learned man/woman, you had to have ability in the Arts; whether that be composing, playing an instrument, painting, sculpting, etc.  Nowadays, most Americans "artistic" ability is seen during a drunken karaoke rendition of "Brown Eyed Girl."  To make matters worse, several states are seeking to cut funding for the Arts in the upcoming fiscal year.

        My personal artistic ability has been displayed in my years of recorder playing and choir; my 2 years of clarinet and tenor sax in high school; and in my college visit with guitar (the only song I learned was "Ode to Joy") and penchant for the beauty that is karaoke.  Sadly, the musical part of my life is more commonly expressed through I-Tunes.  

        My plan is to become a Guy With Skills (GWS).  So, I'm going to undertake learning how to play an instrument, specifically the harmonica or blues harp.

        Her name is Harmony.  And she's Beautiful.

        I've only had Harmony since last week Friday and I'm already in love.  I won't post all my jam sessions, but I'll keep you posted on the milestones I'll reach.  If any of you play the harmonica, know someone who does, or have some suggestions, please feel free to comment!  I'll need all the help I can get.  Ciao!

        Tuesday, July 5, 2011


        Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
        I'm not a travelling man, but three or four of weeks ago, I traveled four hours from home because someone had caught my eye.  Four hours to determine if I was mistaking my imagination for memory.

        So, I hopped in the car with no intel and an extremely underdeveloped plan.  And I started driving.  It was in that instance that I came Alive.  The car ride is still vivid.  I can see the sun slipping below the horizon as I glanced out the window.  I remember the meal I ordered at the Wendy's in St. Cloud.  Every mile brought me further into the unknown and I became more aware; my senses absorbing information in preparation.   

        I stayed in Minneapolis for two nights.  Every waking second is imprinted in my mind.  This isn't an instance where someone asks you what you did last weekend and you try to piece it together.  No, I can tell you 

        • that I walked out of my room at exactly 11:57am, 
        • that the old lady at the T-mobile store was wearing a red blouse,
        •  that the cashier at Gap was a brunette with a white blouse and black pants, 
        • that a spanish speaking woman had a crying baby in the dressing room next to me,
        •  that I had the new grilled chicken and cheddar sandwich from Potbelly's with harvest cheddar sun chips, sat in the booth directly behind an Indian couple, and a pregnant wife w/ husband came in as I sat down
        • that at the first park I visited an elderly couple walked past me as I left the car, there was a young black woman with three small children on the swings and a trio of black men sitting by a grey car in the parking lot 
        These are a few of the many details I remember. These details that people would call "minor" are literally burned into my mind.  Being in a situation with no plan, with no sure direction of what you're going to do, or how the day would end forces the mind to anchor every seeming minor detail.  

        And when I encountered the reason for the journey, I was ALIVE (notice the caps).  I felt as if I was picking up cues, making judgments, and walking a path that I didn't make but that materialized one step at a time.  The nervousness and excitement that swept over me was thrilling.  I was attuned.  I was completely There.  That doesn't happen often enough.

        Harnessing that level of awareness, being Alive at that level would be amazing.  What could I create and accomplish if I could train my mind to Be There and grab the answers from around me.  Easier said that done, but a feat worth attempting.  Great weekend overall.

        Oh and it was definitely Memory.  

        In response to...
        When did you feel most alive recently? Where were you? What did you smell? What sights and sounds did you experience? Capture that moment on paper and recall that feeling. Then, when it’s time to create something, read your own words to reclaim a sense of being to motivate you to complete a task at hand.

        (Author: Sam Davidson)

        Saturday, July 2, 2011

        Personal Recipe

        I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

        I've never been much a chef, but this is a recipe I think I can handle.  So, let's begin!


        Things To Do:
        • Continue to learn new things
        • Laugh at life often
        • Make decisions based upon your values
        • Try to be better than the year before
        • Keep reading words that inspire

        Things To NOT Do:
        • Blame others for your situations or circumstances
        • Be negligent of personal finances
        • Ignore the relationships that matter most
        • Forget what's important to you.


        In response to...
        Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.”

        (Author: Harley Schreiber)

        Friday, July 1, 2011

        Call to Arms

        The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        Today marks the beginning of Something New.
        Today the dynamic of the job has changed.  Although you are in my employ, you work for yourselves.
        Own your work.
        Together we will set a direction, but you will set the path.
        Feet draggers will be left behind.


        In response to...
        What if today, right now, no jokes at all, you were actually in charge, the boss, the Head Honcho. Write the “call to arms” note you’re sending to everyone (staff, customers, suppliers, Board) charting the path ahead for the next 12 months and the next 5 years. Now take this manifesto, print it out somewhere you can see, preferably in big letters you can read from your chair.

        You’re just written your own job description. You know what you have to do. Go!

        (bonus: send it to the CEO with the title “The things we absolutely have to get right – nothing else matters.”)

        (Author: Sasha Dichter)

        Wednesday, June 29, 2011

        Most Ordinary

        Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
        Recently, I've been reading a lot about the idea of False.  In a past post, I wrote about how there was no one I was dying to meet; a post about creating false stories of other people and learning to see people truly.  These Falsehoods are pervasive and tend to seep their way into other areas of my life and mind.  

        Valentine's Falsehoods

        1.  I can't write a book because I haven't had any "extraordinary" experiences.
        2.  This person is a much better writer than I.  I should just read his/her work instead of creating my own.
        3.  I wish I could work more like that person, I feel incompetent in comparison.

        What purpose is served by looking at another and saying to yourself, "I'm less because I'm not like them"?  I have to remember that these people are nothing more than a combination of ordinary experiences and they only seem extraordinary because I haven't seen their journey.  

        Magicians are only exciting because you haven't learned the trick.  


        In response to...

        We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.

        (Author: Patti Digh)

        Monday, June 27, 2011


        The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
        If my Intuition had an incarnation, I imagine he would look like the following:

        My intuition is a young man; at that age where imagination and reason co-exist harmoniously.  He looks identical to me; full lips, bald head, clean shaven, chocolate brown skin and eyes.  No glasses adorn his face because its his nature to see life clearly.  His eyes dance as he walks around with a knowing smile as if he alone is in on some grand joke.  He is dressed simply; wearing only a plain white t-shirt and shorts with no pockets because he always has what he needs.  He prefers to walk barefoot, but since we are eating in a restaurant he's wearing a black pair of the five finger shoes.

        As we sit down to eat our Chicago deep dish spinach and sausage pizza he gazes at me intently.  He looks at me, through me, for an uncomfortably long time before he calmly says, 

        "We work well together, you and I.  Since before you knew who I was, you followed me and my path and your steps have been true."  

        He leans forward and looks at me again, his chin resting on his thumbs and his steepled fingers against his lips.  
        His voice takes an urgent tone as he says, 

        "Remember, do not see me in everything.  I do not exist in all places or in every decision you make.  While every experience has lessons to teach, do not cause yourself avoidable suffering.  Do not confuse following me with following Chance.  I see things clearly, Chance walks blind."  

        In response to...

        If you could picture your intuition as a person, what would he or she look like? If you sat down together for dinner, what is the first thing he or she would tell you?

        (Author: Susan Piver)

        Thursday, June 23, 2011

        Courage to Connect

        Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
        I used to be the guy who had an answer to questions like this.  In college, I would see those people that everyone knew and say to myself, "I need to meet that person."  Eventually, I would meet them and in many cases befriend them, only to come to the realization that they were, in fact, also human. duh.  Nowadays, I just connect with the people that motivate me to want to connect.  There is no longing for an opportunity, especially no dying for one! 

        To quote Jubei from the popular anime "Ninja Scroll", "No matter where you go, people are people."  
        So Wise.

        In response to...

        Who is one person that you’ve been dying to connect with, but just haven’t had the courage to reach out to? First, reflect on why you want to get in touch with them. Then, reach out and set up a meeting.


        Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        One trait that my life has made abundantly clear that I do not possess is discipline.  Don't worry, I've come to accept this.  If you live a life without discipline, it is essential that you have an abundance of positive energy and enthusiasm or you will accomplish very little.  Thankfully, I've been blessed with both in ample quantities.

        One trick for me to get more enthusiastic about my work is to have it truly be my work!  I'm not self-employed which means that much of "my" work is given to me or guided by my supervisor. My strategy was to wait to tell my boss what I was working on.  Doing this allowed me to ride my enthusiasm towards creating my vision rather than my supervisor's.  **warning** This doesn't work in every scenario!

        Harnessing my enthusiasm is also tied with doing work that matters.  I can't get revved up to alphabetize folders... unless those folders would save the life of a child!  Part of the meaning I take from life is tied to the work I do.  I want my work to impact people.  Seeing how my work can touch someone's life makes me want to create an experience they won't forget.

        I understand that sometimes you just need to work where ever you can get a job, but if you have the capacity to choose, why work somewhere you don't get excited about?

        In response to...

        “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” is a great line from Emerson. If there’s no enthusiasm in what you do, it won’t be remarkable and certainly won’t connect with people on an emotional basis. But, if you put that magic energy into all of your work, you can create something that touches people on a deeper level. How can you bring MORE enthusiasm into your work? What do you have to think or believe about your work to be totally excited about it? Answer it now.

        Tuesday, June 21, 2011

        You Know

        Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
        Every day I realize that I don't know much about anything.  There is literally more information created in the last 20 years than ever existed in human history, so I don't feel bad about that fact.  Despite how little I know and the sheer volume of info, I make it a daily point to explore new ideas, read various perspectives, and reinforce those few things I do know.  The process of gathering new information always ends with two questions "What do I know about this?" and more importantly,  "What do I know about me?"

        If you think about it, "What do I know about me?" is really the fundamental question.  Let's face it, escaping information would require herculean effort.  That's asking that you not take a weekend digital sabbatical, but get exiled from the digital world!  Quite frankly, Twitter is growing on me, I'm quite fond of Facebook, and the internet, well, the internet makes my soul smile... so, I am NOT leaving.  The only filter I have is knowing myself.  Am I critical and stable enough to read or see a new concept/idea without arbitrarily assigning expert status to the presenter?  On the other hand, can I give these ideas a fair chance to influence me if they contain truth?  

        If everything you're exposed to causes you to change your ways,  you're standing on shifting sand.  While improving your life is a possibility, it's haphazard at best because many of your changes won't stick.  It's those that are critical, without being cynical, that create the lasting change; forming new habits to foster intentional growth. 

        In response to...

        We live in a society of advice columns, experts and make-over shows. Without even knowing it, you can begin to believe someone knows better than you how to live your life. Someone might know a particular something better – like how to bake a three-layer molten coconut chocolate cake or how to build a website – but nobody else on the planet knows how to live your life better than you. (Although one or two people may think they do.) For today, trying asking yourself often, especially before you make a choice, “What do I know about this?”

        (Author: Jen Louden)

        Monday, June 20, 2011

        Speak Less

        What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know I. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
        I've been part of Trust30 since it started.  I've reflected on the prompts, written the posts, and read several other participants posts as well.  Despite all of that, it wasn't until I started to write this post that I realized that I have been sitting on, thinking about, dreaming about, discussing... essentially doing everything but writing!  I would write for a couple of days, then stop.  Start again later, then stop.  The funny thing is, for the longest time I didn't know why.

        Several of my older posts came to mind, particularly the ones about fear and failure, and I realized (you can see where this is going) that I was afraid of failing.  At some level I didn't think I had anything to say; I haven't lived the life that the authors I follow have.  I haven't had similar experiences that motivated me to read their stories.  I would dream big and falter at how far I'd have to go.

        This post has been a reminder that most often the things that stop us are internal.  We defeat ourselves before we start and sabotage ourselves as we progress.  Recently, a blog buddy of mine, Denise, wrote about having a "dream-inspired moment" and those are exactly what dreams are made of.  

        In response to...
        I once received a fortune cookie that read: “Speak less of your plans, you’ll get more done.” What’s one project that you’ve been sitting on and thinking about but haven’t made progress on? What’s stopping you? What would happen if you actually went for it and did it?

        (Author: Laura Kimball)

        Sunday, June 19, 2011

        Facing (and Fearing)

        Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

        It's so much easier to follow our mind.  The path is already clear before us, many others travel with you, and success is very clearly defined.  There is much on the line when one decides to follow their intuition.  You can never be quite sure where you'll end up,  Others, ignorant of the heart's journey, will look upon you with scorn in their eyes.  Lastly, you'll endure much of this alone.  For all of that, it's the path of the heart that makes people great.  

        When the brain leads, your steps are ordered and planned.  You worry less because you can see the process.  The heart's method is less apparent because the path is veiled.  This obscurity will make some people freeze, losing faith in the heart's way.  The intuitive path asks that you see clearly and at the same time walk blindly; having the clarity to know when inaction is caused by waiting for the right moment/opportunity or fear and the faith to walk into the fog without knowing what lies beyond it.

        The people I've met in life who follow their intuition seem to be more grounded.  Following your intuition is a process of revealing values.  Though the path you walk is uncertain, your concept of who you are gains focus.  Also, not knowing where you're headed forces one to rethink the concept of a good or bad situation and trains you to instead ask why you're there.  This critical look at experience helps one to see meaning in positive and negative situations and to remain stable in turbulent and calm times alike. 

        Following your intuition is not for the faint of heart.  In my eyes, its designed to make us more resilient, capable of walking with others or alone with equal competence.  

        Can you let go long enough to see what you can become?

        Trusting intuition and making decisions based on it is the most important activity of the creative artist and entrepreneur. If you are facing (and fearing) a difficult life decision, ask yourself these three questions:

        1) “What are the costs of inaction?” I find it can be helpful to fight fear with fear. Fears of acting are easily and immediately articulated by our “lizard brains” (thanks Seth) e.g. what if I fail? what if I look stupid? If you systematically and clearly list the main costs of inaction, they will generally overshadow your immediate fears.

        2) “What kind of person do I want to be?” I’ve found this question to be extremely useful. I admire people who act bravely and decisively. I know the only way to join their ranks is to face decisions that scare me. By seeing my actions as a path to becoming something I admire, I am more likely to act and make the tough calls.

        3) “In the event of failure, could I generate an alterative positive outcome?” Imagine yourself failing to an extreme. What could you learn or do in that situation to make it a positive experience? We are generally so committed to the results we seek at the outset of a task or project that we forget about all the incredible value and experience that comes from engaging the world proactively, learning, and improving our circumstances as we go along.

        (Author: Dan Andrews)

        Saturday, June 18, 2011


        Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        I need to go a different direction with this post.  It seems self defeating to spend so much time writing about the future, while today floats by unnoticed and unappreciated.  Being a student of philosophy, this prompt immediately made me think of Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, who said: 

        "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not, remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for"

        Dreams are important.  I can't deny that, nor would I try.  That being said, a line must be drawn.  A line between what is and what might be.  How long can we spend focusing on the things we don't have before what is within our grasp loses its luster?  Spending my life and mental energy chasing an idea or ideal is not only unfulfilling, but also entirely unsustainable.  When does the cycle end?  Is success/happiness then the process of always reaching for a new benchmark, goal, or standard?  If we continue to obsess about our perceived "lack" we will fail to see how full our lives really are.

        In response to...

        Write down your top three dreams. Now write down what’s holding you back from them.

        Thursday, June 16, 2011

        Invent the Future

        A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. Ralph Waldo Emerson

        I'll have a wife and 2-3 kids and 3 ferrets.  My family and I are living in a suburban home.  It will be the ideal location because it isn't far from a major city or from the country.  Yup, even my house is in the middle of two extremes.  

        At this point, I will be working in a teaching focused higher education institution.  I'm not sure what I'll be teaching, but I'll love it and my students will be engaged because of my enthusiasm.  I'll also be involved with students outside of the classroom.  We would meet for dinner to discuss ideas and talk about life.  I would also be writing a successful blog that is largely followed by student bloggers; another venue for the marketplace of ideas to occur.

        My invented future isn't too complex.  Regardless of what I do, I want my impact to be focused on people.  I'm not concerned with being renowned for the impact I have; but hope to not to be forgotten too quickly and remembered with a smile.

        In response to...

        My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: ‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.’ I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.

        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

        Wholly Strange and New

        It's not often that I immediately have the answer to one of these prompts dancing at my fingertips!  

        My moment hasn't come, but I look forward to the day of its arrival.  At some level, I'm following my father's path; not his footsteps, but his direction in life.  I think I will truly start cutting my own path when I become a husband and father.  Of all the ways one can define success, I believe that creating a loving, supportive environment for my future wife and kids is tantamount.  

        My dad is an excellent example of what a father/husband can and should be.  He worked hard and played equally as hard with my siblings and I.  I learned a lot about manhood and fatherhood from my dad.  Even though he is a shining model, my methods of expression of love and support will be distinctly different.  I can't be the man my father was, but must learn from his example and choose my own path.  

        Currently, my life is pretty selfish; I live alone, no pets, no girlfriend and yet I know I have a lot to give.  When my time comes and I put those hats on, I'm sure I'll wear them well and build a great family.  In my mind's eye, I see me holding my first born, the moment when my wife and I stop being the married couple and become a family...  

        Wow.  Definitely wholly strange and new.  

        When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

        Remember the moment when you stopped walking a path of someone else, and started cutting your own?

        Write about that moment. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, let the miracle play out in your mind’s eye and write about that moment in your future.

        One Thing

        Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. 

        I think there are two different extremes of people (this is a gross simplification btw).  One type is the doer, they imagine a destination and start walking, until they reach it.  The other is a thinker.  This person, to quote some Mos Def, is wrestling with words and ideas and the process of thinking is the journey to who knows where.

        I state this because many of the things that prompt me to say, "Geez, that would be cool to do" do not inspire me to action.  Often I'm content to imagine what could be and move on to think about something else.  This isn't to say that I don't accomplish anything, but rather when something moves me to action, it also moves me to completion.  So, in my mind, if I haven't done it yet, I'm either waiting for it to be revealed to me, or its already a done deal.  

        Very intangible, but its how I work my mojo.  

        Today showed me the importance of taking risks.  

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        Alternative Paths

        When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

        In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them.

        I'm a big fan of personality assessments.  One of my favorite assessments is called StrengthsFinder.  Out of 34 themes of talent, this tool selects your top 5 strengths.  My test results showed my number talent to be Adaptability.  The description of this talent is, "They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time."  I illustrate that aspect of me because not only am I open to new opportunities, I actively seek them out.  

        Much of my life, up to this point, has been a process of opportunities presenting themselves and me taking full advantage.  I often feel as if I've been placed somewhere rather than choosing to go; my heart and mind working in concert.  To repurpose a little bit of Christian Scripture, my heart picks the path and my mind devises the way.  Seriously, what fun is a journey that moves in a straight line?  

        Today I rediscovered the Art of Doing Nothing.


        I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
        Think of a time when you didn’t think you were capable of doing something, but then surprised yourself.  How will you surprise yourself this week?
        I Can Do Everything!
        It would seem that I don't get surprised easily. That isn't because of amazing resourcefulness developed by  studying the ways of MacGyver. When I stretch myself, I tend to ask a little help from the Big Guy; whether I fail or succeed, there's a lesson to be learned.  Oh, Big Guy is my nickname for God... Yeah, we're that tight.  
        All that being said, I can't honestly say that nothing surprises me.  Whenever I learn that something I said or did inspired someone close to me to change I'm always pleasantly surprised.  It's so amazing to me to see the seeds that you plant in others suddenly sprout, without ever knowing you touched them in that way.  It's especially impactful to me because I was never the example growing up; how I lived wasn't exemplary.  I can't really say that how i live today is exemplary, but it has its bright spots.
        So, how will I surprise myself this week?  
        Let's give it a week and be surprised together.   

        Saturday, June 11, 2011


        These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        *Is the insecurity you’re defending worth the dream you’ll never realize? or the love you’ll never venture? or the joy you’ll never feel?
        Will the blunder matter in 10 years? Or 10 weeks? Or 10 days? Or 10 minutes?

        Can you be happy being anything less than who you really are?

        I've been pondering these questions all day and have come up with nothing.  There is no fear or insecurity that comes to mind that is holding me back.  I completely agree that the things people often worry and stress about are, in the big picture, irrelevant.  Quite frankly, I think that's awesome.  I guess I feel that many of the things I want are, intentionally, well within reach.  

        I don't dream in detail.  I keep the things I want in life as broad ideas.  For example, I know that I want to teach.  Done.  No more detail.  Perhaps it will be as a professor, adult education, a fitness class, whatever.  All of those paths aren't created equal, I definitely would prefer to be a professor and am working towards that end, but I'm flexible to where life takes me.  The important thing is that I get to teach.  Let's look at this using a relationship model.  Some people have a list of qualities for their partner.  That list is so important that good matches are thrown aside because they lack line items 4 and 5. I think that's a little crazy, but its great if you can find it.  In my mind, what it all boils down to is people wanting someone to give and receive love.

        I guess my question is, what are you really dreaming about?

        Today was proof that sometimes the best outcomes come from the least planning.

        Friday, June 10, 2011

        Divine Idea

        Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?


        I may be off base here with my response but...

        Who doesn't imitate?  When did imitation equate with suicidal tendencies?  I love to change things up in my life, based upon things I see, hear, and read.  That's how I improve.  It's by seeing examples of others that I see what can be different.  It's how I learn how much more I can do.  I think the idea of imitation is too broad.  I think imitation comes into play if I say, "I'm going to incorporate this into my life, just because this person (i.e. celebrity, colleague, friend) does it."  In my mind, that is a suicidal tendency.  My divine belief is that I need to continually strive to be a better man.  To do that, I think I have to imitate the things I see, not because this specific person does it, but because it has universal appeal.  Eventually, that "imitation" becomes "incorporation" as I take the good I see in others and make changes in myself to stay true to my divine belief.  

        Imitation, in and of itself, is pure.  Neither good or bad.  The question is, how do you use it?

        Today was a reminder that good health is an important aspect of life that must be pursued to maintain.

        Thursday, June 9, 2011

        Your Personal Message

        To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

        What is burning deep inside of you? If you could spread your personal message RIGHT NOW to 1 million people, what would you say?

        Well, I do have a thought on my heart.

        Practice being content.  The biggest reason that people suffer is their attachment to expectations.  We go to college and thus expect to get a great job after graduation.  We've put 2+ years into XYZ relationship and expect it to work out.  We work SO hard at our jobs and expect acknowledgement and advancement.  Then, when those expectations aren't met it shakes our very foundation!  We cry out at the storm, shaking our fists vainly at the unjust gods. But, the truth of it is, you have no right to anything you expect in life.  

        See, life has different mathematics.  In our minds, Hard Work + Dedication = Success.  That seems like a solid formula.  That same equation in Life's eyes could lead you to financial failure, marriage, prison, the possibilities are limitless!  Whatever path we take, we can only see so far.  Thus the key is to practice contentment; being able to feel the lows and highs of life and knowing that they are temporary states.  Repeat- Lows AND Highs.  Some people spend their lives seeking only the positive only to find that they can't sustain it and suffer as a result.  Any extreme is exactly that.

        As I was writing this post, it reminded me of a song by the lovely, India Arie entitled, "Back To The Middle"  One verse of the song says, "

        You gotta take the good with the bad, and you might hit the wall
        Sometimes you'll fly and sometimes you'll really fall
        There ain't no way to avoid the pain, But it's
        Getting burned, that's how you will learn to come back to the middle

        Today showed me that a continual state of stress is harmful, but experiencing and recovering from stress allows us to grow.