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

Without official rank or title

 

Perhaps we’ve forgotten that Martin Luther King Jr. was never elected to run the civil rights movement or appointed to the job. He didn’t have “take on the entire nation’s long history of racial injustice” in his position description as a Baptist minister. And I’m fairly certain he didn’t suddenly decide to go change the world because he was ordered to do so by his boss, a Board of Directors or some steering committee. In fact, while he was encouraged by many, he was also vilified and challenged by many more.

We can only wonder what might have happened had King decided to wait around to be officially anointed or had hesitated to act boldly in the hope that others might step up first to take the heat and scorn.

Decades after King’s work the “is-ness of today” still stands in stark contrast to “the ought-ness of tomorrow.”

And every day we remain confronted by opportunities to challenge a status quo that isn’t working across many aspects of our lives and those of our brothers and sisters.

Sometimes that challenge shows up as a minor slight, other times it’s a devastating hurt. Sometimes it’s a system that simply doesn’t serve clients all that well, other times it’s one that perpetuates systemic injustice.

Every day we get to choose whether we will assume it’s always someone else’s job to act or whether we will be an uncrowned leader. Every day we decide whether it matters whether it’s in our official job description to step up or whether it is our personal responsibility as a part of our shared humanity.

If we plan on waiting to make a difference in the world until we get promoted or it’s in our job title we are likely to be waiting a long, long time.

As President Barack Obama reminds us “the arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.”

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At the risk of stating the obvious… 

All we have is this present moment. Time spent trying to re-litigate the past or predict the future is time wasted.

It’s better to choose forgiveness over revenge, love over hate.

You are enough. We all are.

This too shall pass.

Gratitude is a super power.

We all get afraid. Keep going.

The wolf we feed is the wolf that wins.

If we are serious about change we need to do the work. Otherwise, we need to shut up and stop complaining.

Talk less, smile more.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

When given a choice between adopting a learning mindset or a judging mindset, choose the former. Spoiler alert: we always have a choice.

Let it go.

Seriously, just let it go.

We want to be finished. We’re never going to be finished.

If you are anything like me, you probably know all these things to not only be true, but rather obvious upon any level of basic reflection.

But knowing something to be true is not the same as doing it.

We can fully appreciate that knowledge is valuable, but that nothing actually changes until we put our knowledge into action. Until we practice what we preach. Until we make mistakes, recalibrate and get back out in the arena powered by a deep awareness that we all have an expiration date and that what we do makes a difference.

We can read books about heaven or we can practice actually creating heaven on earth. And more often than not we have to start before we are ready.

Obviously.

 

h/t to the Reverend Aaron White for helping inspire this post.

Trust the process

Last night my connecting flight from Heathrow to Johannesburg was delayed by 17 hours.

As the news hit the business class lounge about a dozen folks, myself included, leapt to their feet and descended upon the customer service counter which, as it turns out, was woefully under-staffed and apparently supported by a computer system powered by a steam engine. There were two agents working the desk and I was first in line.

40 minutes later I was still the first in line. When I was finally called up, for a good 45 minutes, the agent relentlessly pecked at his keyboard and made nearly a dozen calls trying to re-route me. Spoiler alert: it eventually worked.

As the time clicked by the customers behind me were, hmm, what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Ah, yes, “losing their sh*t.”

The entire time I waited I was treated to a chorus of deep sighs. Occasionally someone in the queue broke from their nearly contained agitation with an exasperated “this is unbelievable” or “you have to be kidding me” uttered to no one in particular. One (presumably normally charming) gentleman even passive aggressively exclaimed “this bloke has got to be the worst customer service agent on the planet!”

To be completely honest, I was hardly the perfect model of serenity. I was disappointed and frustrated. This WAS taking a ridiculous amount of time.

But a few things became clear. The delay was entirely out of my control. The British Airways system wasn’t going to miraculously improve just because I hoped it would. The agent was doing the best he could. I had done my part in stating my needs and wants calmly and respectfully.

Trying to control the uncontrollable only served a singular purpose: to make me crazy and unhappy.

Once I saw that it became easier to relax into the situation. To loosen my grip on the steering wheel. To have compassion for the folks behind me and their struggles with reality and ego (I had certainly been there before many, many times). To just breathe and let things unfold as they would–and know I was pretty likely to come out okay on the other side.

Sometimes we don’t get to our desired destination on the route we had planned, in the manner we had expected or on the timeline we want.

Sometimes we wake up to the fact that we were chasing the wrong destination all along.

Trust the process. Enjoy the journey. Smile at your fear.

And don’t underestimate the power of metaphor.

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