Weekly Insights and Inspiration for Flying Higher in Endeavors that Make a Difference
I find a "to-do" list to be a seductive way to "hide" from the "real" work I need to do. What about you?
Too often my to-do list is full of non-essential tasks like "organize my top desk drawer." Just as often, my to-do list is made up of outright distractions or tasks that get done "automatically" and don't require being listed at all.
What helps me move forward in meaningful endeavors is a "must-do" list. This is a one-item list. The one next best small step forward into the change I seek to make. One thing that, when accomplished, will serve as a large lever ratcheting me and my enterprise forward.
Everything else gets put onto my "stop-doing" list and is ignored until my must-do list of one is done.
What's on your must-do list? What will you move to your stop-doing list until what must be done get's done?
Let's keep flying higher together!
How do you reply to queries that come up in the everyday exchange of pleasantries? You know, questions like "How are you?" or "How's everything going?"
My response is, "Perfect in every way."
Am I a Pollyanna or just delusional? I mean really, even the magical Mary Poppins was only "Practically perfect in every way!"
Let me explain. I know I'm not perfect in every way, and neither is "everything." But at the moment someone asks me how I am or how everything is going, I am who and where I am. I find myself and the circumstances "perfect in every way" simply because they are as they are.
At the moment I'm answering these questions is:
I was initially introduced to the concept of sonder by Seth Godin.
Sonder is defined as that moment when you realize that everyone around you has an internal life as rich and as conflicted as yours.
Sonder brings to mind the Stoic practice of not judging others too harshly when they speak ignorantly or behave badly.
“To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose.” - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.22
Your actions are informed by your beliefs which are in turn informed by your observations and experience. All of this filtered through your inner narrative and drive for “self-preservation.”
Accepting that we’re all imperfect beings doing the best we...
Compassion is often conflated with empathy, but they are very different impulses. Empathy is the ability to feel and understand the state of mind of another. Compassion is feeling compelled to act on that recognition and to assist.
But empathy is not enough. It is only a step, albeit an important one, on the path to compassion. Paul Bloom’s masterful and compelling book, Against Empathy, offers scientific research that supports this claim.
Empathy requires effort; compassion demands action. Indeed, compassion is empathy in action. But there are still several important distinctions.
Empathy is subjective; compassion is objective. Empathy is exhausting; compassion is energizing. Empathy is most often singular; compassion is more often plural.
Empathy is the gateway; compassion is the way.
For your endeavor to be done with intention and integrity, compassion is required.
And like grace, you must extend compassion to yourself if you are to effectively and honestly extend it to...
Who are you? Who do you seek to serve? Who are your collaborators? Who’s in your tribe? Who are your fellow travelers?
These questions are worth asking with intention and answering with integrity at the beginning of any worthwhile enterprise. Get the “who” right and you’ve done “the hard part” first. The what, where, and even the why of the work you're meant to do now will reveal themselves more quickly and clearly when you’re working with the “right” people.
Great ideas, vision, and community can fulfill their promise only when you're surrounded by great people.
Before you decide what you want to do and where you want to go, it’s important to remember that the journey almost always takes longer than you think and you may end up somewhere different than you first intend. It’s easier to change what you’re working on or toward with the “right” people." The “right” people don’t...
“What’s it for?”
Embracing this question is at the heart of every Seth Godin program. Why?
Answering the question, “What’s it for?” helps you determine if what you’re about to do or say is worth your time and talents and those of the people you seek to serve through your thoughts and actions.
When you answer the question, “What’s it for?”, you’re stating an assertion whose “trueness” you seek to test. You're not merely reverse engineering a narrative to prove what you already believe to be true.
The practice of asking “What’s it for?” is a powerful lever for the thoughtful and professional creative to ratchet in service of the change you seek to make.
It's not, of course, an either or question. There's certainly a time and place for both hope and faith.
Hope is a desire for a favorable future outcome.
Hope is passive. Hope happens to you.
If you've been shipwrecked and are drifting about the Pacific in a leaky liferaft, hope may well stave off despair until a tanker stumbles across and rescues you. But if you open a restaurant in town and merely hope that people come to dine, well that's just dumb.
Hope is not a strategy. It can, however, be an effective tactic that helps get you through a tough time.
Faith is trust that things happen "as they should."
Faith encourages deliberate action. Faith happens through you.
If you want to learn a language or to play an instrument, it's perfectly reasonable to have faith in your ability to do so. Having faith that good things will happen for you simply because you behave like a good person is a bit delusional.
Faith is not a tactic. It is an effective strategic filter...
Last time, I discussed the virtues of "going." Today, I share the value of pausing.
There's no authentication for the source, but this is a favorite quote of mine.
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is your power to choose your response. And, in your response lies your growth and your freedom." - Viktor Frankl
To be clear, there are circumstances when stimulus leads directly to response without a chance of pausing. If I step on a garter snake in the garden there will be instant screaming, leaping, and hyperventilating. In situations like this, stimulus goes straight to the amygdala and initiates the fight or flight response immediately.
But even in cases that at first bypass the neocortex (where conscious thought resides), at some point you can stop, reflect, and frame your experience. And in any situation where there's a possibility of consideration, such as a conversation or email exchange, you have the power to insert a...
“As the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, so should you stop off your miscellaneous activity and concentrate your force on one or a few points.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's been years since we sold the farm where my wife and I raised our boys. We also raised chickens, dogs, cats, gardens, and more than a few eyebrows there. But the centerpiece was the small apple orchard.
Our farm was blessed with an abundance of fruit trees and berry bushes. The real treasure was a collection of dwarf apple trees that were grafts of stock that came from Thomas Jefferson's orchards at Monticello. These heirloom apple varieties had captivating names like "Arkansas Black," "Cox's Orange Pippin," "Duchess of Oldenburg," "Roxbury Russet," "Spitzenburg," "Stayman Winesap," and "Liberty."
I can't possibly describe how delicious these apples tasted. Imagine how an organic apple bought at the supermarket tastes...
When is it time to get going with your endeavor?
Here's a hint, it's almost always time to go.
"Learning that does not lead to action is useless." - Epictetus
Sure, you could read another book, take another course, spend a little more time practicing and polishing. There may even be virtue and value in those activities.
But the most valuable lessons are learned through the experience of doing the thing you wish to do. It might not be pretty and it might not work but whatever the result, you'll learn far more than you would than by reading about the thing or listening to someone talk about it.
And you'll already be in motion. You can reflect, iterate, and pivot as you go. You'll be cultivating your curiosity, courage, and creativity. You'll nurture resolve and resiliency. You'll be developing will, forging meaning, and building identity.
"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming." - Dory, Finding Nemo
A fish that...