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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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My Vacation To The Lake And Learning To Care Intentionally

Lake TimeThere I floated on my bright yellow raft, not too far away from the dock. It was the first morning of our summer lake vacation and was starting to warm up into one of those typical late July hot southern days. But instead of feeling the peace of being on the water and the relaxation of being on vacation, I unintentionally brought something else along with me. A big, nasty ball of feelings that I had slowly and gradually crunched up in the pit of my stomach: bewilderment, anger, sadness, and more.

Yep, I made the critical error of bringing my job – and the frustrations of the last few weeks – along with me. I wager that every single person who works inside a nonprofit wrestles with an existential crisis at times. I was wrestling with the question of whether anything I was doing in my work really mattered. So there I floated, eventually coming to a point where the constant refrain in my head was, “…I could so care less.” I had gotten to a point where I was starting to find easy solace in apathy. 

Eventually, the slow ebb and flow of the water did its job and I felt my muscles and mind start to relax. The sounds of the birds and the cold beer in my hand led me toward some much needed inner solitude. I questioned how I had arrived at this place where “Screw it all!” was an acceptable landing spot.

I needed to confront head-on the confusion of experiencing this apathy in work that I deeply enjoyed and was exceptionally good at for an organization in which I believed in its mission. What the hell was going on that would make me accept the possibility of caring less?

Then, I recalled something a trusted mentor told me not long ago. I didn’t actually want to care less. My problem was that I was caught in a pernicious trap of caring too much. How is caring too much a bad thing? For me, caring about the outcome of every single experience, every single event, every single opinion in my workplace was exhausting. Further, it only led to disappointment and cynicism when those outcomes failed to match up with my expectations. It was a sure-fire road to burnout and I was on the express bus. 

Fortunately, I was able to pause. I quieted the thoughts about how I should care less or care more. Instead, I started to reflect on how to be more intentional as to what I truly do care about.

Not everything is worth the battle or engaging in the fire drill. We don’t need to actively participate in everyone’s drama. So many things exist far outside our control. However, what we can control is our thoughts and reactions to the daily dramas. When we get clear about our values and goals, we can make better choices about how we want to matter.

Later that evening, I sat on the deck overlooking the lake and spent time with the person I am at my core. I took some time to recall my values and why I returned to the nonprofit world. I sketched out the big picture goals for my work. Anything I could use to reorient me toward giving my best effort to my organization as well as my career. Shortly afterward, I let go a great sigh of relief and settled into enjoying the next few days of special quality time with my family.

By the end of the vacation, I left the lake with what I call my Roadmap for Intentional Caring.

For those of us working in nonprofits (or really any occupation where we know our work matters), the temptation to care too much is always there. And the relative “safety” of trying to not care at all is always there, as well. It’s locating the sweet spot in the middle and being able to get back there to intentional caring when we swing toward either end of the spectrum.

We passionate nonprofiteers tend to be a curious lot who strive to improve ourselves. However, it’s also not always about learning about how to write a better grant or develop a better campaign or host a better event. Sometimes it’s about learning how to look after ourselves so we can continue giving our best and being of use in this world that still clearly needs us to care.

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Every Hero Needs A Theme Song

Leathers - Deftones“They’re my theme music. Every good hero should have some.”
Bernie Casey as Jack Spade
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

Bernie Casey is absolutely right. If we’re to be the hero of our own movie (and we damn well better be) then we’re going to need a badass theme song to match.

To this day, my theme music is Leathers by Deftones.

When I was living through my own hellish nightmare of depression a couple of years ago, when all seemed lost and felt empty, this song was my constant companion. There was rarely a day when I didn’t plug earbuds in to my iPhone and let the ferocity of the song wash over and drive through me.

Chino Moreno – through his lyrics and voice – was able to help me rediscover (at least for short periods of time) my inner power that had become elusive and difficult to grasp. While I know Chino wasn’t writing specifically for me, the timing of the song’s release in late 2012 and its intense message felt like an uncannily personal plea. It is an anthem challenging me to be courageous, to not allow the diminishment of my self by others, to own my wholeness that includes strengths as well as inadequacies, to show what I am made of.

The song opens like this:

This is
Your chance
revolt, resist!
Open your chest, look down, reach in.

Shedding your skin,
Showing your texture.
Time to let everything inside show.
You’re cutting all ties
Now and forever, time to let
Everything outside you

Even though I’ve moved beyond this dark place in my life, Leathers continues to hold meaning for me. It remains my theme song…so much so that I have a t-shirt for days when I want to openly claim my badassery. It reminds me not only of where I’ve been but also galvanizes me to create a present and future in which I am unafraid to express my full self.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m moved primarily by metal and hard rock. Your groove may be more geared toward pop, country, or gospel. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you have your own theme song that brings out your hero or heroine.

What’s your theme music? Your anthem that propels you through the dark and rough times, inspires you to remember who you truly are, strengthens your resolve and focus needed to kick the shit out of anything that gets in your way?

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Look Inside Ourselves For Answers

This morning, I looked at my Google Reader and realized there was just so much good stuff out there. But then I was hit with a hard realization…

This is my first foray into audioblogging. Hope you enjoy it!

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Stay Focused And Work On Your Craft

How many of us have ever felt like Vince Young, quarterback for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans? He was once a heralded first round draft pick by the Titans but after a knee injury in his first game of the 2008 season, he was relegated to a backup role for the remainder of the year and first six games of 2009. It was only after the Titans started a woeful 0-6 this year that Young got a chance to start again. Since his return as a starter three weeks ago, Tennessee is now 3-6.

Vince Young’s story is still unfolding but haven’t we all been in his shoes before? I’m thinking specifically about our work. We’re good at what we do and receive accolades from our managers. Then, we make a mistake and are demoted to some form of a lesser role in the organization. Or we find ourselves entangled in a layoff. Or we simply find ourselves burnt out of the job. It becomes easy to just stop caring and giving our best. This quote from Young as told to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King shows how important it is to stay out of the muck and mire of self-defeating, internal dialogue.

A couple of times last year, when he was most frustrated, Vince Young would text Kobe Bryant, who had become something of a mentor. He’d write something like, “Man, I wanna play so bad. What do I do?” The answer would always come back from Bryant with something like this: “Stay focused. Work on your craft.”

When we’re faced with bad situations in our work, often the best solution is to remember that its temporary and can turn around at any point. We need to stay focused and committed to improving our selves and our capabilities. You never know when you’ll be asked to return to the starting lineup with a chance to be even better than before.

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Creating Our Own Great Adventures – It May Be Easier Than You Think

Some of us run with folks like Jory Des Jardins and some of us can only (for now) aspire to their adventures. Guess I sort of fall into that latter category. Perhaps I’m still basking in the afterglow of the big adventure that brought me and my family to Texas, but I’ve been less than daring in taking in new life experiences lately.

This morning, though, I find myself reinvigorated and ready to seek out some new adventures. My inspiration comes from Jory’s latest post where she talks about some of her own internal conflicts with seeking out real life adventure. But then she launches into her past month and reveals that – a trip to glamorous Monaco notwithstanding – her everyday life is actually rather adventurous.

There are two types of adventure we can seek out in our lives. The first is the grand version, which is what we usually equate to adventure. This is the bold backpacking trip through Costa Rica, sailing the Greek Isles, rafting the Gauley River in West Virginia, or just packing the car and setting off for a yet-unknown destination. These are experiences out of the normal flow of life. And for many of us who actually have responsibilities like jobs and children, these grand adventures are few and far between. That doesn’t mean they’re out of reach, they just may not happen as often as we’d like.

The second type of adventure can be found in the everyday. These experiences are accessible to each of us, it just requires more imagination and a willingness to think differently about what adventure really is. For me, adventure is about seeking out something new with some element of risk involved. It should get my heart pounding and evoke feelings of excitement and yes…a little fear. The everyday experience may then be chatting with a stranger (I’m kinda shy so this does get my heart racing a bit), volunteering for a meals-on-wheels drive (something I’ve never done before), or submitting an article I’ve been working on for magazine publication (I have no idea if my stuff is good enough). Those are a few of my examples…what about you?

Thanks Jory for the inspiration. And for you…what adventure can you get yourself into in the next 30 days? Any adventures – both grand and everyday – which have had a meaningful impact on your own life lately?

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It’s All Invented…So Have Fun with It

One of my favorite books is The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. It speaks to me both as a creative individual and as an impactful leader. One of the things that I prefer in books of this type is a mix of insight and suggestions for taking action. The best leadership and personal development books help you use what you’ve learned in new and dynamic ways. In this respect, it is a coaching-centered resource.

The first chapter forms the foundation for the rest of the book and centers on the notion that we perceive all that happens around us in very individual ways and then interpret them accordingly. Reality and truth are then very subjective. Once you understand and accept this notion, you have an incredible capacity to act in fresh and powerful ways. They call it “It’s All Invented” and go on to suggest since we have the ability to create new stories, we might as well create ones that enhance the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

So, what stories are you creating right now? Do they involve you as the lead character who lives a life of drudgery, misfortune, bitterness? Hopefully not, but perhaps its just a blah life in which you yearn for more. What if you decided to create a new story today, one that involves passion, excitement, laughter, [go ahead, fill in the blank]?

Remember, it’s all invented so have some fun with it. What do you think?

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