Purpose and Life

Loneliness

It’s not what you think it is, loneliness.

Loneliness is not actually about being alone. It’s about being quiet. It’s not the lack of people that you might happen to have around you. But rather the thickness of the filter you feel you have to have in order to actually communicate with them.

Loneliness is the voice in the back of our heads that tells us to quiet down, the idea’s no good, or that no one wants to hear what we say. It’s trying to play the part were supposed to play and but never actually feeling like we are fully part of anything.

Overcoming it is not what you think either.

It doesn’t require more people or more talking. There aren’t groups you need to join or club memberships you need to buy.

What it takes is one person, one conversation, one honest sentence spoken from the heart. Overcoming loneliness is about being heard. One time. Completely.

Who have you listened to today?

 

 

What They Want Me to Say

If there is any single thought that clouds my decisions more than any other, it’s this one…”what do they want me to say?” It leads me to putting things in my resume I don’t care about, not say things in a conversation that I do care about, and, if it guides me too long, start forgetting what really matters all along.

It’s a hold-over question. An inquiry designed for a time when being yourself was not valued as much as just being the person needed to fit in this part of the production line. In a primarily industrial based economy, where consistency matters more than creativity, knowing how to act like, produce like, or even be like someone else is a great way to get ahead.

Today, the spot on the production line changes every day. What may be needed from you, relative to what you might have originally signed up for, can often take a 180 degree turn without notice. And now, because you only said what you thought they wanted to hear, you find yourself further outside of what you actually want to do. To make matters worse, because you did not say what you wanted in the beginning, it is much harder to go back on it now.

We do this because we have been trained to do this. Because giving the teacher the answer they wanted was valued, because we had the boss who only wanted you to say what he wanted to hear, and because we bought into the idea that, if we just do what this college person is telling us, this recruiter is telling us, or this friend is telling us, then ultimately we will get what we want. Only, by the time we are in a position to say it, we’ve lost the ability to say it, or worse, the understanding of what it is that we actually want in the first place.

So now, when I hear that question from the back of my mind, when it habitually creeps in like a nicotine craving, or when my own insecurity is starting to get the best of me, I take it as a challenge to ask a couple of different questions. What do I want to say? What needs to come out into the world? What am I afraid of saying? What could I say that would make me proud? What can I say that would inspire someone else, who is also being quiet, to say what they want to say?

We are lucky to have moved out of that old economy. Lucky we get to pursue careers and lives others only dreamed about. Lucky to be in a learning economy that values creativity, ingenuity and uniqueness. But what is it worth if we only know what to say and not how to be heard? What value is the gift if I never use it to open my own creativity? And how will I know my potential if I never give voice to my passion?

What they want me to say is none of my business anymore. What they really need me to say, whether they know it or not, is that my passions have value, my purpose has direction, and that I’ll only work for or do business with those that believe I matter. Cause I do, we all do, and we just need to keep saying it until we become they.

 

Kilmer – Pursuing Direct Experience (Interview and Podcast)

When Doctors, CEOs, and very wealthy people come up to a person and say “I want your life!” the first question a person might ask is, what the heck does that person do? When you figure out the person is both a Sailboat Captain and a writer the real question is, how the hell does a person make that happen? Which is exactly what I wanted to talk with David Kilmer about on his awesome Tug Boat on Lake Coeurdalene.

Maybe it was because he was born in Kenya and had a non-traditional beginning, or perhaps it was his decision to sail from California to Hawaii without any sailing experience at a young age, or maybe, as he puts it, it is simply about following a small series of decisions throughout his life. Whatever it is, Kilmer’s path has allowed him to experience some amazing things in life, like sailing through the Panama Canal and chasing the path of Hemingway, because it was less about a specific point on the horizon he was trying to reach and more about a process of answering the question, “what is life?”

As he tells it, the process never really followed a straight line and was often times scary. While he committed to a less than traditional path and believed in it, he found himself frustrated, angry and, according to his wife, led him to be selfish and superficial at times. But it was all in the pursuit of direct experience, which seemed to be a good enough excuse to do something foolish.

In the end, getting to live a life that others believe they would love to have is not easy. The process of asking, “What is Life” has lead Cappy back to where he started for the first time, it has allowed him to love humanity after being angry with it for a time, and as anyone who knows him will tell you, it has allowed him to become a person who truly lives.

“Keep your bags packed and never turn down a trip” was the advice he had for the rest of us mortals. And, as I sat on his tugboat sipping wine and looking out at the beautiful Coeur’dalene Lake, I realized that maybe it wasn’t so much that all of those other folks wanted his life, as much as they simply wanted to feel alive. A feeling that seems only available when we seek, as David does every day, those direct experiences life has to offer when we decide to look.

Check out the entire interview here…

Own Your Shit!

I used to be confused as to what that meant – own your shit. Whenever someone told me to do this, they were generally talking about something I was doing wrong. It generally meant taking responsibility, owning, my poor decisions, transgressions, and deficiencies. Owning my shit was about realizing those things were mine, that I have the potential to really mess things up, that my flaws are real.

 

The trouble with this approach is that, as much as I did try to own them, and to humble myself with the knowledge that I have some pretty obvious shortcomings, the focus did not make those shortcomings go away. I’ve wasted a lot of time owning my shit, focusing on my limitations and trying to get better at all of those things that I was not good at. Eventually, however, I got tired this not working. So I decided to redefine what this phrase means to me.

 

Changing behavior almost never happens by focusing on the behavior a person wants to get rid of. Every time you talk to a person trying to quit smoking, the first thing their brain thinks about is smoking. The more I think about my limitations, the more I remind myself of those feelings, and often indirectly re-create them. Owning that shit has no benefit to me.

 

The only shit I need to own is the good shit. Those things I do well, those activities that make me feel most alive, and the skills I have that have brought real value to other people. Instead of spending all of my time on repairing the screw ups, I’ve learned it is much more productive growing the good parts of myself so that there is less room for the screw ups to occupy my mind. It works, it’s effective, so I think I’ll keep doing that instead.

 

If we truly own our shit, we will do it more. It’s not to say there will no longer be screw ups, it’s just that we can simply choose to accept them, deal with the consequences, and move on. Owning the bad shit any more than that takes away from the potential for a more productive investment in ourselves focused on the things we want to bring more of in the world.

 

So from now on, if you ever hear those words – own your shit – just remind yourself to focus on that great stuff that’s inside of you already. Own your potential, your greatness, your passions, and those things you do better than anyone else. Do it because it’s more productive, do it because it feels good, but most importantly, do it because the greatness inside of you is real, it has immense value, and is worth owning however you are reminded to do it.

Why I’m Working on Memorial Day

I’m doing it again. Working on Memorial Day. To be fair, it’s not “work” work, it’s more work I want to be “work” work. I’m working on a dream. A project and projects that have long been passions of mine, the things that inspire me, and the not so secret dream I have for my own future.

While other people spend the day camping, going for a picnic and visiting the memorials (and there is nothing wrong with this), I’ll spend most of mine at the computer, working (most, not all). I’m not telling you this to brag or to guilt you into going to work yourself. I’m writing about it to offer you a different perspective about this day.

My mother is a veteran. In the first gulf war she left for months to a place I knew nothing about, and it scared the shit out of me. She was lucky enough to come back, many others were not. Others kids had their fears realized, their parents did not come home .

Sufficed to say, much has been sacrificed to give me the opportunity to work on Memorial Day. Countless people have fought and died so that I might sit here at my computer and explore dreams, hopes, passions and purposeful ideas without worrying about a bomb overhead or censorship sending me to a work camp. Whether by choice or by conscription (draft) millions of people before gave up this opportunity, directly or indirectly, for me.

I work today because it is my responsibility to these people. These sacrifices were made so that I might work, so that I might have the relative comfort to pursue something bigger than myself, to explore things I struggle to truly believe are possible, to take a moon shot, to make things better, to create something, even the smallest of somethings, that might leave this world a little better than I found it.

I work today to acknowledge fully the idea that people have risked death for ideas, for dreams, that today I only need risk my time and my income to pursue. They put their life on the line so I might only have to put my lively hood on the line, to give up one sunny spring day. They paid the ultimate price and it allows me to dream out loud with the very nominal cost of my time.

The end of the fight, or the absence of it at my doorstep, does not remove the need to keep fighting. What it allows is the ability to dual with words instead of weapons, to attack ideas instead of people, to convince others of a better path by destroying fears instead of cities.

I will challenge my own thoughts and the thoughts of others out of respect. I will push myself into uncomfortable ideas, challenge myself to dream bigger, and take steps in that direction as an act of reverence.

I will work motivated by the idea that great people died not to simply let me have a relaxing Monday off work, but so I might take advantage of this day to pursue dreams they were unable to pursue. And I feel their presence with each keystroke.

I will work because I am fortunate enough to do so. I will work because working on something I care about is my gift, my responsibility, and my opportunity as an American. The flag outside says work is in session, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m working on Memorial Day because I can, and that’s a big deal.