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You Gotta Jump

All I can say to this bit of inspiration from Steve Harvey is…damn right.

Jumping off the cliff – even knowing you have a parachute – is scary as hell.

And I’ll be absolutely candid. I’m still falling, tugging at the ripcord. I’ve been torn up and beaten up on my way down. I’ve experienced things that, at the time, made me wish I never jumped at all. But I’m glad I did. I’m glad I took the risk of jumping into the unknown. I’m glad I tried different careers and moved to different places with no idea what was on the other side. I have scars and I appreciate every single one of them. Each one is a reminder that I am alive, I am whole, I am worthy, I am enough.

And here’s the kicker…I do have faith that my parachute is opening. And yours will too, if you choose to jump.

However, as Mr. Steve says, if you never jump your parachute will never open and you will never soar.

So tell your fear – no matter what shape it takes – to go to hell because you gotta jump.

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10 Things I Learned In 2013: The Year Of The Existential Speedbump

It’s taken me the better part of a month to assess the past year and take in the learning. I re-read my 2012 review post and I’m rather unnerved by how it’s eerily similar to my initial thoughts on 2013: the importance of love, courage, and vulnerability.

Well, no sense beating around the bush: last year sucked. There really is no other way of putting it. For the better part of 2013, I was a nervous, anxious wreck. I was frequently visited by a sense of fear – almost bordering terror – that clouded my sense of self-worth. I was mired in a depression that was horrific in its depth. All of which led to some bad career decisions (and subsequent professional ass kickings) from which I’m still working to recover.

Yet, I am incredibly thankful for my experiences from 2013. Every single one of them. The few highs and the many lows served as a kind of existential speedbump that helped me to slow down and reassess my life, my choices, my expectations, my faith, my purpose.

Here are 10 things I learned (or at least learned how to appreciate) in 2013:

1. Take care for my health – both physical and mental. Recognizing my own long-time struggle with depression and anxiety has helped me to be a more compassionate advocate for all mental health issues. I’m starting to find the courage to be a voice for mental health and want to ease the stigma our society still has around mental illnesses.

2. Stop trying to have all the answers and start asking more interesting questions. I’ll always struggle with this. I found an early identity in school as The Kid Who Knew The Right Answers. That’s a shitty identity to assume, particularly when you get older and have to contend with the reality that there are often no right answers in life. I’m learning how to ask more questions and being comfortable with uncertainty.

3. Stop comparing myself to others and letting my Inner Critic beat me up with his horseshit. My Inner Critic looooves playing the social comparison game. He’s the LeBron James of his grotesque sport. And as I approach 40 years old, he relishes each opportunity to remind me that my life isn’t what it should be when so many other 30somethings have already achieved personal and professional greatness. Well, it’s all a load of steaming horseshit. It assumes there’s only one way to live a purposeful life. Some of us just take longer to figure out what that means.

4. Stop chasing. Did I ever chase the wrong rabbits this year. I chased money in a high-demand profession and for a company that was such a poor fit for me, my talents, my passions. And I not only did it once…I did it twice in one year. Why? See #3 above.

But if I can pull some positives away from these two experiences: both were my attempts to do things I had never really done before (business analysis and product marketing). So I can continue to take pride in my ability to take risks even when those risks don’t pan out (much like unsuccessfully starting businesses in 2012).

5. Stop settling. Settling is a Siren’s song. Sure, accepting a paycheck in exchange for doing work that doesn’t fulfill us sounds like a decent compromise, but the cost can be our soul getting smashed on the rocks. For me, I’ve discovered that I would rather live frugally and do work that improves the world than settle for a bigger salary that ties me to work that doesn’t matter. Does that sound idealistic? Fine by me.

6. Quitting a bad situation is sometimes better than sticking it out. No one likes a quitter, but there’s a certain idiotic futility that comes from not leaving a bad job situation. See #5 above. Life is far too short to do work that provokes panic attacks, causes us to doubt our competence, or simply isn’t bringing out our best self.

7. Failing is not an end but a beginning. As a recovering perfectionist, failing has never been easy for me to accept. Actually, that’s not true – if I fail, I’m more than happy to accept the blame. However, I’m trying to practice a different way of thinking. Failings are just data suggesting we make course corrections. They’re learning experiences. They’re guides toward better ways of working and living.

8. I am responsible for my own happiness. I can’t pawn this off on anyone else. If I want to live a happy, fulfilled life then I need to own it. It’s not going to come from wishing for better life situations (better job, nicer house, badass truck, etc.). That whole “I’ll be happy when…” internal dialogue is full of lies that keep us from embracing the changes we need to make in our thoughts and actions.

9. Self-compassion means accepting my weird quirks, embarrassing flaws, and contradictory thoughts. Self-compassion is one of the greatest gifts we can give our selves. It’s also one of the most difficult gifts to give. It means accepting and boldly claiming our own oddness and eccentricities. It means acknowledging that there are some folks that are just not going to get who we really are. It means being cool with our own innate contradictions because life is messy and non linear.

10. Don’t give up on finding my soulful work. Finally, never give up on the idea that our work can be meaningful and inspiring. For me, it’s coming to a place where I am choosing to go back to the work of the nonprofit sector. I left it several years ago largely for reasons outlined in #4 above. Since then, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of experience, skills, and insights in the for-profit world. I’m excited to bring my ideas, passion, and commitment to achieving great things to nonprofits that share a mission to create a positive impact in the world.

My sincerest hope is that at the end of 2014, I’ll look back on this post and remark on how it was a year of success, of growth, of courage and love and self-acceptance. And may it also be your greatest year, as well.

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Video: Being Real, Telling My Story

A continuation of my last post on letting go. I was out for a brisk walk this morning and felt inspired to offer my thoughts on having the courage to share not only all the awesomeness in our life, but the sadnesses, struggles, imperfections, and everything in between. I feel called to Be Real in 2014 and hope you’ll join me.

What steps can you take to Be Real? Share them here or through social media using #bereal2014. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

Love, Chris

P.S., Once upon a time, I would have been too self-conscious to do this. I would have worried over the lighting, sound, messy hair, shaky picture. And forgive the vertical resolution…I’ll remember to record horizontal the next time. Taking baby steps, though. Hope you can see through the imperfections to the deeper message.

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Three Things I Learned In 2012

pathway into woodsHow was your 2012? Now that we’re on the 2013 side of things, I find it makes it easier to reflect on the year that was. Personally, 2012 was both hellish and magical. It was a year when I got my ass kicked…A LOT. But it was also when I discovered some important things about myself. About the direction of my life. About what it means to live, love, dream, and fail. Through it all, what I have come to know is that a year in our lives isn’t all bad or all good. It’s a complex and messy mashup of wonder and loss, where each experience offers learning if we choose to accept it.

Throughout December, I started to write down some of the things I learned (or relearned) in 2012. The list was long, but here are some of the highlights:

Find your rock.
I simply do not know what I would have done without my wife, Carrie, last year. When I had my bad days, she was there. And when I had my REALLY bad, curl-up-in-a-ball-in-the-corner days, her strength and presence helped me stand back up. See, we can’t do this thing called Life alone. I discovered a new level of gratitude for her that I may never have known without living through 2012. (I’ll say the same thing about my absolutely wonderful parents, Linda and Dennis.) If you have a similar rock in your life, stop reading and tell them right now how much they mean to you and that you’re glad to have them in your life.

Failing is an act of courage.
I left a well-paying job to start a solo business in 2012. Actually, I started two of them when counting the venture I started with Carrie called BabbleRousers. And neither of them took off. We sunk a huge amount of money into these ventures and the whole process nearly bankrupted the family (Access to Capital is now my new entrepreneurial mantra). And if there’s one thing that I am not able to handle very well, it’s the idea of bankruptcy and losing everything. A couple of times, I was visited by panic attacks where it felt like Jabba the Hutt was lounging on my chest.

It took a few weeks for this struggling perfectionist to start to relearn something important: failing takes guts. There are plenty of really good blogposts that speak to the necessity of failing in order to succeed. I don’t plan on launching any new business ventures anytime soon, but I’m grateful for the experience and wisdom I gained from the process. Namely, learning and failure must co-exist together if we are going to grow into who we were meant to be.

Dare greatly.
Related to failing, is the act of daring. And no one influenced me to dare greatly more than Brené Brown. Her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead was a tough yet welcome read for someone with an undiagnosed vulnerability phobia. Prior to mid-2012, I was doing a bang-up job of extracting as much uncertainty and emotional vulnerability from my life. However, that came with a cost to my creativity, sense of adventure, and desire to leave a powerful legacy. I’m still not where I want to be in terms of living a more daring life…but I’m again moving in the right direction.

What Greatness is ahead…in 2013 and beyond?
It’s a terrific question, isn’t it? It acknowledges that the very best we can achieve is directly in front of us. It offers hope when we feel stuck in neutral or (worse) wondering if we’re traveling down the wrong path.

Here’s the truth: this path each of us are on is exactly where we need to be. If we feel like we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in the past, we can take comfort knowing there are no “right” or “wrong” turns. They are just choices we’ve made. Every choice offers an opportunity to embrace the totality of life’s experiences, both good and bad. I’m very grateful for everything I am and have. I know I wouldn’t be where I am right now without encountering the magic and pain of life in 2012.

So, here’s to a 2013 full of inspired thinking, bold action, and personal evolution. I look forward to walking it with you.

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