We’re never ready

Oh sure, maybe we’re ready for the easy stuff. Ready to leave for work, make dinner, hop in an Uber, do the laundry, pay the credit card bill.

But the work that matters, that enlivens the spirit, that changes us, our tribes and the world around us? That’s another thing entirely.

Naming our fear is helpful, because it is our fear that keeps us stuck.

Letting go of any notion of perfection–the right time, the right skills, the right conditions–is useful as well.

Being willing to get started–to accept that the only way we can ever really know that we are on the right path is to start walking; slowly at first, but faster and faster as we gain confidence–is essential.

Because here’s the thing…

The conditions will never be perfect.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. And neither do you.

Chances are you already have everything you need to take that first step.

And sure it might not work.

Like it or not it’s later than we think.

The fact is we’re never really ready for what really matters.

But we can still start.

What better time than now?

This post was simultaneously posted on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

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Consumers and producers

Consumer or producer?  At any given time we are likely one or the other.

As consumers we read what somebody else wrote, purchase what someone else made, ponder ideas someone else created, observe problems we hope someone else will fix.

Going to a movie, listening to music, attending a sports event, relentlessly checking Facebook or keeping abreast of the latest scores on ESPN are all about taking in content generated by someone else.

Being a consumer is passive and typically enjoyable. Little is required of us. And it’s virtually always safe. I might feel a bit guilty about spending my Sunday afternoon watching golf on TV but hey, no harm, no foul.

As producers we are doing the work, writing the blog post, making that new product, bringing our art to the world, challenging the status quo, embodying the change we wish to see in the world, putting ourselves out there. But as Seth reminds us, this might not work.

By its very nature, producing takes more energy, more focus, more grit and is riskier than mere consumption. Producing something with the potential to be truly meaningful and remarkable is more challenging and riskier still. It demands vulnerability.

Of course we are all consumers and producers. There is no such thing as a pure consumer or a 100% producer. On any given day, we will spend our waking hours engaged doing some of both. Life, as we know, is ebb and flow, yin and yang, give and take.

So it’s not about being one or the other. And it’s not about labeling consumption as inherently bad and production as fundamentally virtuous.

But I do think it’s worth thinking about whether we’ve got the right mix.

And then working intentionally to produce a better outcome.

 

A version of this post originally appeared at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

 

When we live in fear

When we live in fear we spin endlessly in worry about the future, rather than seeing the beauty and potential available to us right here, right now.

When we live in fear we assume the immigrant is coming to take our job–or even to kill us–rather than appreciating that they might be the next Einstein or Hamilton. Or that they are simply deserving of compassion and safe refuge.

When we live in fear we cling to the false idolatry of perfection, rather than celebrate our inevitable mistakes, our rough edges, the cracks that let the light in.

When we live in fear we seek validation from others, rather than accept our inherent worthiness and warmly embrace our differences.

When we live in fear we only see the worst case scenario, rather than have faith that we can handle just about anything that might come our way.

When we live in fear we are alone, disconnected, detached, instead of being held safe in the knowledge that we are all in this together.

When we live in fear so much of our energy is wasted trying to control the uncontrollable.

When we live in fear our starting point tilts toward hate, not love and toward revenge, instead of forgiveness.

When we live in fear we see change as the enemy, the dragon to be slain, when dropping our sword, taking off our armor and letting down our guard might just allow us to tap into a world of abundance and unleash a little bit of magic.

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Holy stuckosity Batman!

“Stuckosity” isn’t a real word. It can’t even be found at Urban Dictionary. Well, at least not yet.

But certainly most of us are familiar with the quality of being stuck. Perhaps you’re feeling it right now.

We get stuck telling the same old stories about ourselves that are familiar, but serve no useful purpose.

We get stuck trying to solve problems with the same level of thinking that got us into trouble in the first place.

We get stuck defending the status quo, even when we know it’s not working.

We get stuck in self-righteousness, which almost never changes the other person’s mind or behavior, but frustrates us to no end.

We get stuck fighting reality, re-litigating the past, trying vainly to predict the future.

We get stuck striving for perfection, when perfect is both impossible and, ultimately, only a recipe for suffering.

We get stuck waiting for precisely the right time and to be fully ready, failing to see that those exact conditions will never ever come.

We get stuck in relationships because we fail to speak our truth and ask for what we want and need.

We get stuck unleashing our full potential because we wonder how other folks will judge us if we were to go out on a limb.

And on and on and on.

The key to getting unstuck is to first see it for what it is. And most of the time our stuckness is merely our habitual reaction to an irrational fear; to a fundamental misunderstanding of risk.

Once we become aware that staying in our fear–and being unwilling to let go of our story, our need for control and our desire to be right–is actually the most risky thing we can do, the door is cracked open to change.

Once we we accept that our behavior is simply habit, the debilitating result of a lifetime of bad conditioning, we can work to establish new, more healthy and useful ones.

Once we are committed to take action, we are finally free. Free to start before we are ready. Free to embrace failure as a natural outcome of growth. Free to be okay with our imperfection.

And that’s good thinking Robin.

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This post also appeared on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

Our own Kellyanne Conway moments

Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway is off-the-charts good at what she does. If you care to witness a master class in denial, spin and gaslighting, just watch just some of her interview from the other night with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. And if after viewing it you feel like clawing your eyes out, perhaps this will cheer you up.

I don’t believe in Hell, but if it turns out to exist there will definitely be an extremely special section for her. But I digress.

Anyway, it seems clear that Ms. Conway is a very intelligent, well educated and highly skilled political operative. So for most of us it’s easy to conclude that she knows the truth, but is very intentionally setting out to mislead. That should be rather easy for any and all of us to judge quite harshly.

What is perhaps harder to see–and accept–is that many of us engage in our own Kellyanne moments; sometimes with great frequency. It’s just that the target of the denial, spin and gaslighting is often ourselves, and we do so unintentionally and subconsciously.

We can have an interesting argument as to how damaging the incoming Trump administration’s propensity for manipulation will turn out to be. We can debate the degree to which we might affect a different outcome and what tactics should be taken to stand up to this often dangerous and malicious nonsense. We can prop up our own egos by blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook our various forms of righteous indignation. In fact, most days I wonder if that is precisely what social media was invented for.

But we shouldn’t discount how pernicious our own capacity to ignore reality is and how we can often do everything in our power to avoid confronting our own stuff.

Deflection and intellectual tap dancing my amuse or horrify when we spot in others, but we are only harming ourselves when we can’t wake up to the little bit of Kellyanne in all of us.

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First, get naked

Never let them see you sweat. Have all the answers at the ready. Don’t let those pesky emotions fog up your logic. Be impervious to the Sturm und Drang of every day existence. Know where you are going at all times.

Nonsense.

We can’t ignore the need to pick a lane at some point.

We shouldn’t get stuck and spin endlessly as we mull over a sea of options.

We ought not to totally collapse in the face of challenges or throw up our hands in despair.

And yet…

And yet we should fight the urge to pray at the altar of a culture that values perfectionism over our flawed humanity, materialism over essentialism, quick and convenient decisions over considered choices that emanate from a deep understanding of ourselves and how we derive our passion and purpose.

When we are doing the work that matters the place to start is not borne out of snap judgment, reactivity or trying to sort out and conform to what other people think. And it’s rarely continuing what we’ve always done or what feels the most comfortable.

The place to start is to get naked; to strip ourselves of our worn out and tired stories, to give up the need to be right or in control, to eschew the habits that no longer serve us.

On our path to a life of greater love, kindness, passion and purpose we need to get raw, to experience our feelings directly rather than stuff them or try to navigate around them. We need to expose ourselves to the light. To be vulnerable. Laid bare.

Whether we are trying to figure out our next career move, how we wish to show up in important relationships or simply trying to decide how to best prioritize our time, I’ve found it’s worth digging deeply into three core questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I really want from my life?
  • How can I serve?

The answers that will keep us on our path aren’t likely to come easily or quickly. And they won’t come at all if we aren’t willing to get naked first.

 

h/t to Deepak and Sheepak for inspiring this post.

 

Misteaks were made

Our culture tends to reward perfectionism. Never say die, never fail, never let them see you sweat, be all you can be. And so on.

I’ve worked with–and for–a lot of perfectionists. Some of my best friends are perfectionists. I might have even fallen in love with a perfectionist or two. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve had my own bouts with setting impossibly high standards for myself and then falling short time and time again. Let the self flagellation begin!

It’s a trap.

In fact, more and more research suggests that perfectionism actually hampers success, while being a major contributor to depression, anxiety and even suicide.

Unfortunately, the growth of social media only exacerbates the situation and sets us up for a ridiculous game of comparison as our “friends” share all the fabulous things they are doing, all the great relationships they are in (“best boyfriend ever!”) and all the wonderful food they are enjoying (“nom”).

All these crazy comparisons only make us crazy. When we stop worrying about what others will think we are truly free to embrace being ourselves, warts and all.

Our fear of looking stupid or vulnerable hinders the possibility for intimacy. Letting go of our desire for control and certainty paves the way for real connection.

And it’s precisely our unwillingness to fail that is the biggest barrier to innovation (of all kinds) and personal growth. As Seth reminds us, “if failure is not option, neither is success.” Fear of failure, of making a mistake, keeps us stuck in so many ways.

Perfectionism is a curse.

Imperfection yields many gifts.

What do you say? Let’s go make some mistakes.

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