I Envy You

She ran up behind me and matched my pace.

I didn’t know her. But she clearly knew me.

“I loved your Facebook pictures from Ireland,” she said. “I envy your lifestyle.”

“Yeah, thanks, it’s pretty fine,” I gasped as I crested the hill.

She peeled off to the right.

If I hadn’t been hypoxic in the moment, I would have said more.

I would have said that envy is good. How-to-get-rid-of-envy1

Envy is a voicemail, a text message from your heart.

Envy tells you that there is something that is lacking, something that you want, something that your Spirit seeks, something that would bring you joy.

I would have said to her that you need to listen to your envy.

What’s it saying?

What’s not working? What needs to change? What needs to be subtracted? What needs to be added in?

What are the goals you are not attaining? What are the dreams you are not fulfilling?

Yeah, my lifestyle might be good. But what are you thirsting for? What is it that you want; that you really, really want?

Know your envy, befriend your envy, understand your envy. Deconstruct your envy. Hear its siren call.

And after you’ve snuggled with your envy for a bit, harness its energy.

Put it to work.

Too often envy can be turned inward; and become bitterness, resentment, victimhood.

Know that envy calls you higher.

Get clear. Take action. Grab hold of the life you want.

Envy is not a deadly sin. It is a gift.

Get busy. Use it.

 

 

 

 

Why Wrong Is Right

Mistakes, wrong turns, blind alleys: they are part of the adventure.

I thought about this as I paddled on into the driving rain…and darkening sky.

Hours earlier we had ventured out onto the Killarney Lakes in kayaks. Even with a map in hand, the exit from one lake to another – the route to our pick-up destination – was ‘discreet’ and difficult to find. Two or three times we missed it… paddling windward into blind cul-de-sacs, only to turn around and try again…and again.

What started out as lighthearted fun turned into a bit of an epic… as adventures sometimes do. But it was difficult to feel too sorry for ourselves wandering around as we were in the magnificence of the National Park, surrounded by mossy forests and dramatic hillsides. We were beat for sure by the time we were done. But the wrong turns had allowed us to see more and experience more and enjoy more of this incomparable beauty.

Would that we could take this perspective into other areas of our lives! We (you can read this as ‘I’ or ‘you’ or ‘someone else not me’) often get pissed off when we make mistakes that take us off our intended course, that require extra time, that take us down paths that don’t appear to lead us to our destinations straightaway. They seem to ‘cost’ us; they appear unnecessary; we consider them ‘wasteful.’

But maybe they’re just part of the adventure. Maybe they allow us a fuller experience of this wondrous journey of our lives. Maybe we might discover something new along the way… if only we might see it differently.

‘Mistakes,’ ‘and wrong turns’ led to the discovery of penicillin, the invention of the pacemaker, and the ubiquitous post-it note… to name just a few life-altering ‘ah-has’ down what might have appeared to be blind alleys. DSC_0640

Maybe the delay at the airport will lead to a chance meeting with your next business partner or boss. Maybe the wrong turn will lead you to the site of your new home. Maybe getting stuck in traffic will give you that rare chance to connect with your daughter, listen to a beautiful piece of music, or just be still.

Maybe these things that look like errors or wastes are really opportunities.

Yes, let’s go with that frame this week.

The Secret to Tripping Out

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. -W. Clement Stone

Imagine, if you will, that you’re about to embark on a long trip. Maybe it’s a drive across the country; maybe it’s a tour of the grand capitols of Western Europe; maybe it a sabbatic leave in the South Pacific.

Now, imagine imagining that trip; imagining that destination; picturing yourself walking down the cobblestone streets, climbing the Eiffel Tower, taking long strolls down those beautiful white sandy beaches.

Where did it begin?

Maybe you saw it in the travel section of the Sunday paper. Maybe you saw an ad in the window of a travel agency. Maybe it popped up on Facebook. But somewhere you saw an image, a description, a picture. Maybe it was just in your mind!

And you imagined yourself… there.

Then maybe you Googled a bit; popped onto Trip Advisor; or maybe you ran out to the bookstore for a Fodor’s or Lonely Planet Guide.

You got out some maps; went to the AAA; began to lay out the route.

If it’s a drive, you plotted your course, planned your stops, booked your overnights. You know where you’re going and what you want to see.

The car’s been tuned, the oil changed, the radiator checked.

On your GPS, you’ve locked in your waypoints. Your destination certain.

You’re good to go.

If you’re flying or cruising, you’ve bought the ticket. (It’s non-refundable.) You know where you’re landing; you know your ports of call. You’ve booked the hotels and reserved the excursions.

You know those little restaurants you want to visit, the museums you want to see, those sites and vistas you cannot miss.

You’ve got the clothes, the suntan lotion, the cameras, the cash, the credit cards, the traveler’s checks, the passport.

You’ve got it all laid out. It’s crystal clear. Treasure2

You can’t wait.

Because, you can see yourself, so clearly… right there.

Now, imagine, if you will, that you’re about to embark on a long trip.

It’s called 2014.

Where will your imagination take you? And what exactly do you need to do to get there?

Quiet

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
1Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)

I have a buddy who studies anomalies… things that are at odds with the norm… things that don’t necessarily make sense at first blush. He does this as a means for predicting market trends… and making investments. He ‘picked up’ the purchase by a Japanese airline of automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs) long before they became expected fixtures in nearly every public venue.

I came upon an interesting anomaly recently: The population of monks resident in monasteries around the world is at a record low… while the number of guests visiting and staying in those monasteries is at a record high.

Why?

One reason is that we crave the ‘sound of sheer silence.’ void-of-silence

I’m reading a fascinating book right now written by George Prochnik: In Pursuit of Silence, Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. Prochnik postulates that as the world becomes more noise-filled and chaotic, we search ever more desperately for respite, for ways to control our acoustical environments, for islands of quiet and renewal.

We seek peace.

There is, of course, a rich tradition for this search: From before the mystics and the Desert Fathers to Thoreau’s stay at Walden Pond. Indeed, the Jewish mystic Isaac Luria posits the pursuit of silence as nothing less than the foundational act of the universe. As in, out of silence, creation comes.

But this search is not just about some existential ideal. It is integral to our well-being: We cannot possibly be whole when constantly fragmented and bombarded by the world… the roadway noise, a TV in every checkout line, an iPod in every ear; connected and available, online and amped up, 24/7/365.

We need quiet not only to survive… but to thrive. Did you know that your breathing, your heart rate and your blood pressure increase when exposed to noise, even when you think you’re ‘used to it,’ … and even when you are asleep and don’t ‘hear’ it? (!!!)

Noise can kill.

I spoke recently at a professional conference. The conference was fairly ‘cutting edge’ in that it included a track for personal development in addition to the traditional tracks on the tools and tricks of the trade. My workshop was on emotional well-being. I shared a guided meditation… a four minute island of refuge in an otherwise crowded day. I couldn’t believe the palpable hunger in that room for those few moments of quiet.

I used to believe that I was the anomaly… the introvert who needed silence in order to re-charge. (And introverts do for sure.) But the truth is that all of us, introvert and extrovert, need quiet to rest, renew, recharge and restore.

The flight to the monasteries may be a trend worth investing in.

A Spiral Staircase

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes life feels like a scene from that old Bill Murray movie: Goundhog Day. Every day the same thing. The progress we want to make, the goals we set… all seem to elude us.

What’s true is that, if we are mindful and earnest in our efforts, we really do make progress… it’s just sometimes difficult to see.

I am a fan of the religious writer Karen Armstrong who wrote a beautiful memoir entitled The Spiral Staircase. She likens her own growth (and the growth we all experience on this grand human adventure) as something akin to climbing up a spiral staircase… not necessarily repeating the ‘sins’ of the past… but turning back on those experiences, returning again and again, often from a higher perspective, to those certain lessons that continue to be necessary for us to learn.

Places that feel like old ground; places that feel familiar… but are not the same.

Our journeys, lived deeply, sometimes – necessarily – take us through these places. In our relationships, in our studies, in our jobs.

Growth… maybe not in that linear way so many of us strive for… but growth none-the-less.

One of the great gifts of the coaching process is the ability of the coach to see across the stretch of the road, to see the grand arc… to see progress when it feels, in the moment, like quicksand. And to re-assure that the way is sound, the ground secure.

Fall can be a time of new beginnings. But, as we return to our routines, it can also be a time of re-assessment… and frustration.

If the road ahead looks uncertain, don’t despair. The twists and turns can feel quit daunting. And circuitous.

Stay the course. It’s the slow, steady steps over time that lead to those magnificent results.

Be A Slasher

One of my least favorite questions in the entire world, asked at nearly every business meeting, networking function, and social gathering, is, “So, what do you do?”

As if what we “do” – for work – defines us.

Of course, for many folks, it does define them. What they ‘do’ is all they are.

It is their identity; their stature; their worth; their significance; the entire core of their being.

They are their job. Their job is their life. There is nothing else.

That leaves some folks feeling frustrated, lost, trapped… and sad.

Boomers are particularly plagued. And men. They (we) were raised with this model: Go to school, work hard, really hard, get a job, a ‘real’ job (ya know, the one with the benefits), toil for 40 years (with the requisite perks and promotions), retire, move to Florida, and die. Deviation from this model meant (still means) something went horribly ‘wrong,’ accompanied by a concomitant sense of failure, embarrassment …and shame.

A “doing” that defines their being. For all time.

In my coaching, I meet many folks who are tired of what they ‘do.’ They want desperately to break free of their ‘personal hell;’ their ‘rat race’…. To be more. To discover a richer, fuller, more satisfying life, a life that resonates more deeply; work that makes their hearts happy; a way of being in the world that makes their spirits soar.

And they have no idea where to start.

It starts with:

Stopping long enough to open up a space within ourselves for hope;
• Giving ourselves permission… to imagine, to dream again; and
• Having the courage to say ‘no’ to what’ s not working.

It’s about being playful about possibility. It’s about a willingness to experiment, and bravery enough to try things out. It’s about having the audacity to step out from behind a role; the courage to face the fear of our own nakedness; and the resolve to dust ourselves off and begin… again and again and again.

It’s about being willing to let go of a ‘role’ in order to embrace a life.

And it’s scary shit.

When I walked away from being a full-time lawyer, it nearly paralyzed me. (Still does from time to time.) Being a lawyer was a safe secure identity… an accepted role. An ‘important’ one even! Who am I without that mask? An adventurer? A photographer? A speaker? A coach? What does ‘doing’ all those things mean? Are they as ‘significant’ as the role I played? And if I’m many things and not just one thing, am I really ‘serious about what I ‘do’? And who am I now in the ‘pecking order’ of folks who continue to ‘do’ just one (really) ‘important’ thing?

Of course, now I’ve met a slew of folks who ‘do’ so many cool things: Folks like me who are coaches/speakers/authors/mountain climbers/ocean sailors/adventure photographers; accountants who are recording artists; runners who are dental hygenists; doctors who play in rock bands; lawyers who are triathletes. Folks whose eyes sparkle when they tell you what they ‘do.’

Each of us possess so many gifts and talents that are uniquely ours to share. Gifts that no one else can give. To define oneself as a single activity is not only an anachronism. It denies the world the richness of who we really are.

Gail Sheehy, in fact, suggests that “a single fixed identity is a liability today.”

We – all of us – are complex. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own that complexity, to stand authentically in every facet – every ripple – of who we really are? Wouldn’t that be freeing? Wouldn’t that be fun?

It feels scary to loose oneself of what one ‘does.’ But it is no longer expected or required that you ‘do’ just one thing. fonts-slash

So who do you want to be? What slashes do you want to add to your identity?

A guitarist/sales person/bike rider? A lawyer/rower? A water- colorist/psychologist? A rabbi/comedian? Or maybe an entrepreneur/inventor/writer/printer/politician like Ben Franklin?

We get to choose.

Brene Brown, in her beautiful book, the Gifts of Imperfection has the perfect answer to the question ‘what do you do?’

She responds by asking, “How long do you have?”

You’ve Been Framed

“I cursed the fact I had no shoes until I saw the man who had no feet.”

— Persian proverb

Our frames of reference can so distort our vision.

“I have to go to the gym,” my buddy kvetched. This after finding out about a medical condition that will weaken his bones over time.

“No, Sam,” I said,  “You get to go to the gym.”

We teach what we most need to learn, of course. I’m as good as a kvetcher as the next guy.

Especially on these hot summer days going out for a run… or “having” to work in the yard.

It’s especially irritating when I “have” to vacuum the pool again.

It’s so easy to forget how very blessed we are.

We get to:

➢ Go grocery shopping;
➢ Work on our health and fitness;
➢ Take care of our homes;
➢ Sit through another elementary school band concert;
➢ Care for our relationships;
➢ Go off to school or work.

There are a billion and a half people in the world who subsist on less than two bucks a day.

A quarter of the world’s population is without access to electricity… so if you’re feeling irritated about last month’s electric bill, take a breath.

I’d like very much to rant about this week’s car repair bill… until I remember that, of the 6.76 billion folks in the world, I can count myself among the lucky 9% who even have a car.

If you’ve had to shell out a few bucks for a plumber lately, you’re actually pretty lucky. Sixty percent of the world’s population has no toilet!

The young daughter of a colleague was hit and killed by a careless driver a few weeks ago. If you’re having an argument with a teenager today, say a silent prayer of thanks.

Joan Didion writes, “Life changes in an instant; in an ordinary instant.”

Don’t miss this instant.

Yes, step up; think bigger, play bigger.

Want more; envision more; strive for more; be more. Don’t settle.

But never lose sight of how you frame the world. 7e3c3e4d-d917-42c0-b13e-e1963abc4db0

In living for the next moment, a better moment, don’t miss the magic of this moment. This very moment.

The sands slip quickly through the glass.

“Somebody is in the hospital begging God for the opportunity you have right now. Step into your moment,” said Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Yes, step into your moment… and hold it dear.

And next time you find yourself kvetching, as I most surely will before this day is out, why not try on a new frame?

What is this thing that you get to do?

And how wonderful it is that you get to do it!

Stuck. In a Ditch.

“I’d slow it down if I were you.”

(My friend Dave always prescient.)

I glanced in the rearview mirror, smiled or perhaps smirked… and pressed the gas just a little bit harder. Around the corner on the icy road I swerved to avoid a log.  And unceremoniously impaled the Subaru in a ditch. 138337-medium-01_stranded-how-to-survive-snow-winter

Deep in the New Hampshire backcountry; miles from the main road; not the faintest hint of cellphone coverage.

Stuck. Stuck in a hole with no clear way out.

I hate feeling stuck.

Feeling stuck sucks.

I was reminded of this last week as I was fielding questions from an audience after a keynote I had given.

He was well-dressed; professional; mid-forties.  A parent.

He looked – and sounded – beleaguered.

“Aren’t we just stuck with the commitments that we make?” he asked.  “It’s not like we can just walk away from our kids, our families, our jobs, even if we feel like it.”

Almost a sense of desperation in his voice.

The core of my message: To listen to the call of our hearts; to fulfill our dreams; to make our lives extraordinary.

I remember well that sense of desperation. Single parenting, three young boys, trying to run a business, managing a staff, keeping clients happy, struggling to pay bills, and, yes, desperately endeavoring to keep all the balls in the air. One day melting into the next wondering whether I could ever possibly reclaim a life of my own.

Here’s what I learned: Commitments matter. Relationships matter. Family matters. Careers matter.  Giving matters.

But none of it matters if we lose ourselves.

There’s a reason we’re told by the flight attendants in that tired old safety schpeel that, in the event the cabin loses pressure and oxygen mask drops down, put your own mask on first. Before helping others. Because you can’t do a damn thing for anyone else if you are dead on the cabin floor.

We simply can’t take care of our children, our partners, our clients, our colleagues, our staffs if we’re empty and depleted.

And for some reason, culturally, we’re told that that is what we “should” do.

What message do we send, what example do we set, what lesson do we teach if that the way we live?

And, really, what impact do we really have if we’re constantly running on empty?

The core of my message is not to tell your boss or your wife or your kids to go screw themselves.

But it is mission critical to carve out those moments, those hours, those opportunities, even in the midst of chaos, even in the midst of all of our obligations, to feed ourselves, to nurture ourselves, to claim what is oxygen for us. An hour at the bookstore. A commitment to the gym or to a yoga practice. A couple of hours on the bike. A walk along the river. A boundary, an oasis, some small sanctuaries for yourself.

I found that I needed to “steal” those moments at first: getting up an hour earlier;  setting limits; saying ‘no’ when it would be easier to say ‘yes.’

Gradually I discovered the road: ways to reclaim my dreams without abandoning the ship, ways of sharing my passions with my kids, and ultimately ways of crafting a life that was finally balanced and complete. And filled with joy.

An icy way at first. Lessons hard fought. And hurt along the way.

Imperfect to be sure. God knows it would take a few more lifetimes to get this stuff right. And I’m fairly certain that I, like many struggling parents, will have endowed more than a few therapist chairs.

A way that was not all or nothing. But a way that was – and is – whole.

So to the man in the back row:  Put on your mask. And breath. Breath in the air. Claim what is yours. Rediscover again what brings you joy. And as you do, notice the space around you.

And the possibilities. Not only for yourself, but for those you love.

Slow down. Even just a bit.

So that you don’t end up. Stuck. In that ditch. With nothing left to give.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfish Dreams

“I have a bone to pick with you.”

I had been stuffing my laptop back into its bag after the talk. I turned around and stared at the well-dressed gentleman in his mid-fifties. He had been in the audience on the right. His eyes drilled into me.

“Following your dreams is selfish,” said the man.

I had been speaking to a group of entrepreneurs and business folks about my book, Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters. Its overarching message: live your dreams before the clock runs out. In my talk, I say that our dreams are the engines of our hearts.; that they reflect the essence of who we are; that we must live our dreams if we are to live at all.

“Well, I must respectfully disagree with you,” I said.

I was about to say that, if we are to live fully, deeply and well, we must pursue what brings us joy; that when we live in joy, we bring our best selves to the world. I was about to say that, in order to serve others well, we must first be whole and complete in ourselves.

But before I could get another word out, the man asked, “What about Beck Weathers? Weathers nearly died! Think of the hardship he caused his family, all because he dreamed of climbing Everest! How selfish can you be?”

Weathers, a pathologist, was involved in the ill-fated 1996 Everest debacle. Left for dead after a brutal storm high on the mountain, Weathers staggered back to high camp and was later airlifted in a daring high-altitude helicopter rescue. He lost his nose and parts of both feet.

I told my listener that the Weathers accident was unfortunate.

I wanted to tell him about my friend Chris whose life slipped away in my arms after a head-on motor vehicle accident on an ordinary Sunday afternoon on a clear stretch of road not far from where I live. I wanted to share with him the story that Joan Dideon tells about how her husband died as they sat down to dinner. “Life changes in an instant, in an ordinary instant,” she says. (And it does.)

I wanted to tell him that we cannot give what we do not have; that in order to share the fullness of life, we must first know the abundance of life; that in order to share joy, we must find joy; that in order to give love, we must first love ourselves; that in order to reflect peace, we must first know it in our hearts.

I wanted to tell him that life is short; that life is risky. But that even in the face of risk, we are challenged – indeed we are called – to make our lives extraordinary.

And to be extraordinary means expressing – and, yes, sharing – the very core of who we are in the world. Without compromise.

He was in a hurry though. He said his piece. And off he went.

 

This is an encore of a post first published on November 17, 2011.

Get your signed copy of Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters. Click HERE.

 

Lost and Found

My eyes scanned the shelves. I nodded and I smiled.

I recognized that I owned nearly all of the self-help books in the store. And I knew in that moment that I was finally on the road to getting better.

That was well more than a decade ago now. Yet I remember clearly the bleakness of that time. How very lost I felt.

Divorced; single parenting; raising boys; practicing law.

Making lunches; taking kids to school; racing to work; getting the calls from daycare, the fever of 102º; the homework; the soccer games; the parent-teacher meetings; the calls from the principal; and, oh yes, the clients and the cases and the employees and the office management.

Falling into bed at night, exhausted and depleted. One day melting into the next; every day like the last.

And wondering: Is that all there is? What in god’s name is the point?

Dante wrote,

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost. To tell about those woods is hard — so tangled and rough and savage that thinking of it now, I feel the old fear stirring… .

(Yup. He sure had that right.)

The truth is: All of us get lost from time to time. We lose our way. The road gets rough and savage and really hard.

None of us escapes. (It’s what brings many folks to coaching.)

And there really is no way out of that dark wood.

The only way out is through.

Good teachers and mentors and therapists, and of course dear friends, can help us along the way.

But only we can do the heavy lifting.

Nietzsche wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’

Rediscovering our purpose, reclaiming our sense of meaning, finding again that grand vision for our lives, allowing for the possibility of our dreams, getting in touch again with what quickens our hearts, what fires our imaginations: This is where the work is done. These are what finally lead us to the forest clearing.

Because our purpose is our power; and a purpose driven life is a life on fire. SunStar3

I remember climbing Mt. St. Helens after it had erupted, the volcanic ash ankle deep, two steps up, one step back. A demoralizing slog.

But the view; oh the view from the top, across that landscape of renewal and regrowth: It was magnificent.

And the slide back down the hill such fun.

It’s kinda like that.

So don’t despair. You will find your way through.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Purpose work is some of the toughest work people do. I know that it’s some of the toughest I have ever done. Coaching folks along this path is a tremendous privilege. As a way of giving back in gratitude for those who walked the path with me, and for the lessons I have learned along the way, I’m teaming up next week with a friend and coaching colleague for an hour-long teleclass to talk about purpose and meaning and finding the way. Join us. There’s no charge, no up-sell. Just a bit of perspective from the top of the hill.

Click HERE to join us.