Change Today?

In the Zone – The Comfort Zone

“Change today?” the beggar asked.

I had passed him earlier. He smiled. His teeth were yellow. The coins rattled in his cup.

“Change today?”

Perhaps I am the beggar.  Or you.

Will I change today? Will you?

Of course, the answer is yes. We always do. And yet… .

I don’t much like change. Like many of us, I like things to stay the same. I am “comfortable” with “the way things are.” I like constancy, predictability.

Here’s an especially disturbing revelation: I put my coffee cup in exactly the same place next to the coffee pot every single night so that it’s ready for my coffee the next morning. It troubles me if someone moves it. If you want to toy with my emotional well-being, move my cup.

Yet change is what renews, what breathes new life.  Change brings us color and texture and dimensionality. Change is what makes life vibrant and exciting.

Without change, life is monochromatic and dull. Without change, there is no zest.

Resiliency in the face of unexpected change, the ability to accept change, to seek it out, and welcome it: these are markers of a rich and full and satisfying life.

We can rely on change – it’s a sure thing

For indeed change is the only thing that does not change.  It is the only constant.

Suffering is resistance to change. And because we don’t like suffering any more than we like change, it makes change especially difficult to face.

I was at a bar association social recently, speaking with a young attorney in her late 20s. We were talking about the demands of the practice of law and her desire to travel and adventure. She told me how “stuck” she felt; how “trapped” she was; how she wished she could explore a new career, a new way of making a living. But alas, she sighed, it was too late to change.

I was astounded. Who says shit like that?

(Of course, we all do!)

But guess what? It’s never ever too late to change!

We’re not locked in.  You can change

  • your partner
  • your socks
  • your political affiliation
  • your job
  • your state
  • your apartment
  • your religion
  • your entire world view

In an instant. We can change. We can make the choice.

Shake It Up!

So go ahead, mix it up.

This week:

  • Try a new restaurant
  • A new job
  • Drive a different route to work
  • Join a gym
  • Attend a new church
  • Explore a museum
  • Take a different vacation
  • Try a new sport
  • (Move your coffee cup)

Can we be open to change? Can we explore change? Can we embrace it?

Can we be the change we want to see?

How about it? Change today?

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43:19

The Recreation Department

I objected to it. I railed against it. I didn’t want to do it.

It seemed wasteful. Lazy. Uninspired. Counterproductive.

Take a rest day. Who does that?

Turns out, a lot of (smart) folks do. I’ve joined the bandwagon.


The rest day is not a foreign concept to me.  It’s always been part of the rhythm in high-altitude mountaineering. There, long ago, I learned to relish those much needed breaks in the action.

Carry a load up high and return to camp. Move the camp up. Take a rest.

Every three or four days, a rest. Read, write, sleep, talk. Be.

In mountaineering, I could understand the rationale: the altitude. Physiologically, the body can only move up a mountain at a specified rate. Stopping, resting is necessary in order to acclimatize. Stopping has some utility!

But when we started our training for the ultra marathon, the rest days seemed wasteful. And counter-intuitive. How would we be able to push up the mileage significantly if every two or three days we weren’t moving?

Turns out the rest is an integral part of the training.

It’s when the frame recovers. And the muscles heal. And the emotions regroup. We mend.

It’s where the quantum leaps occur.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this during these long lazy days of summer. Those of us “A” types have such a propensity to drive ahead come hell or high water. Even our “vacations” are epics.

Sometimes it’s good just kick back, relax and just be.

Excellence demands that we take one whole day off each week for peak performance, leadership expert Robin Sharma suggests.

There is precedent in this for those who observe a sabbath. But rare is the observer who really stops.

Yet it is in this stopping that the quantum leaps occur in our lives.  It’s then that our spirits rest and our creative souls renew and our resilience is restored. We mend.

It’s a very difficult principal to teach, especially in business. Time is money; and money is time; and all of that. Conventional wisdom has always suggested that the more hours we put in, the harder we work, the more we will produce and the higher our profit will be.

But just the opposite is really true.  When we take the time to renew ourselves, we are more productive, more imaginative, more creative, more flexible. Our vision of what is possible expands.

Often working not at all is the best work we can do.

Our creative work – the work of our hearts, the work of our souls – requires sacred space in which to grow. Without activity or motion. A place of groundedness, of stillness, of stopping.

It is one of life’s great paradoxes: that in the stopping we can start anew.

Holy leisure, the Carmelite mystic William McNamara calls it. The time to recreate.

To re-create.

The opportunity to re-create is always ours.

All we need to do is stop.

Can we do it? Will you try?

Photo © Robert Pollack


Ian’s home from jail!

“You did WHAT?”

I wasn’t sure that I had heard her correctly.

“I bonded Ian out.”

I didn’t know what to say next. Ian’s 22. Horribly addicted to heroin, he’d been in jail for nearly six months after being arrested for multiple burglaries. I had recommended (strongly) to his mother that she leave him in jail. Not only to detox. But also to allow me the time and the leverage to negotiate a plea bargain that most certainly would involve jail.

Now he was out. All the time he had accumulated is lost. And most certainly he will find his way back to drugs.

“Why did you do it?” I asked, knowing that she had spent her retirement funds in the process.

“I couldn’t say no,” his mom replied.  “He kept pleading with me.”

Of course she could have said no.

We can all say no.

But we don’t.

We don’t say no.

We don’t say no

  • to the boss who says you’ve got to work the weekend
  • to the phone ringing at dinner
  • to the teenager whose emergency requires a trip to the mall
  • to the parent who still has a knack for the guilt
  • to the client who says it has to be today
  • to the “urgent” emails and voicemails
  • to the constant stream of social functions that we “should” be seen at

“No” is a perfectly good word.  But few of us use it nearly enough.

We capitulate to the expectations of others. And sacrifice ourselves.

We get overwhelmed by the urgent at the expense of the important.

Sure it’s nice to say yes. Of course it’s important to give to others. But if we deplete ourselves, if we sacrifice ourselves on the altar of other people’s demands, there is nothing left to give.

There was a reason Robert Frost said “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Boundaries, I call them.

We need boundaries.

We all need them. Without them, we are

  • stressed
  • overworked
  • distracted
  • exhausted
  • short-tempered
  • burned out

I come across so many folks everyday in my professional life, among my colleagues, clients and friends, who are angry and resentful because they are doing something they “have” to do.

“I have to do it; I have no choice,” they say.

And yet they do.

We always do. We always have a choice.

The real question is, do we have the courage and the resolve to make the choice?

Can we set the boundaries?

Do we value ourselves enough? Do we value those we love enough?

Ian likely wouldn’t be in the predicament he’s in today had his mother learned to say no long ago.

I’m saying no right now. Not another damn word.

Fail For Fun

Failure Is Just Part Of The Process

“You’re not losing them if you’re not taking them to trial,” the senior partner said after a jury brought in a record-breaking multi-million dollar verdict against his client.

The size of the loss boggled my mind. And the concept that such a loss could just be part of a process stunned me.

Success – and not just any old success – but success at a high level –  was drilled into me at an early age. A “B” on a report card was nowhere as good as an “A.” And an “A-” never yielded the praise of an “A+.”  A score of 100 on an exam was cause for celebration. A 95, well not so much.

Failure: unfathomable. A dark abyss never to be contemplated.

The Opposite of Success Is NOT Failure. It’s Mediocrity.

So when I saw Randy Gage’s quote last week, it brought me up short: “The opposite of success is not failure, it’s mediocrity. Failure is part of the success process as you learn and grow.”

Intuitively, I know this to be true. We learn to walk by falling down. We learn to ride a bike by falling off. We learn to ski by landing in the snow.

In climbing, I know that I’ve advanced fastest when I’ve been willing to try new routes, new ideas, new techniques; when I’ve been willing to fall off and try again. When I’ve stuck with what I know, climbed inside my own margin of error, I’ve been “successful,” but I’ve failed to grow. Good enough. But not great.

Great comes through failure.

We Need To Poke The Box. And Be Willing To Fail.

Seth Godin’s new book Poke The Box is just awesome.  It’s thesis: our obligation as creators is to keep trying, keep experimenting, keep prodding, keep poking, keep searching until we find what works, what resonates, what excites, what sells. And then poke some more. Never rest, never stay static. Always poke.

And failure? Well it’s just part of the poking process. Poke and nothing happens? Then poke again. Poke differently. Try something new. And keep trying, keep poking, until you find what works.

Poke and fail to learn and grow.

Edison apparently said of his 10,000 “failures” before his success with the incandescent light bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,0oo ways that won’t work.”

I’m fond of saying that we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.

Would that I were better at living that.

So Go Ahead. Fail For Fun. And Maybe Profit Too.

What if, this week, we could:

  • Try something completely new. Dare to be a beginner. Dare not to be good.
  • Push the edge of something we do beyond our comfort zone.
  • Work on a project until we fail.

That seems like it might just scare the bejeezus out of me. But our journey on the edge is always between success and failure. How will we ever know how far we can go, unless we dare to go too far?