Illuminations

Build a Bolder Mindset and Re-Think Misadventure

Time to re-think misadventureIf you look at the dictionary definition of misadventure, you might think they're something to be avoided at all costs.

We should avoid driving off a cliff.

We should avoid ingesting poisonous plants.

We should avoid jumping into a pit full of hungry tigers.

Some of the more common words used to describe misadventures include mishap and misfortune. Even tragedy. And misadventures can be these things and often are. But let's talk perspective and scale.

Common mindset based on what we often learn about misadventures: Misadventure = something to avoid.

Consider another, bolder mindset about misadventures: Misadventure = opportunity to live full out and have a more vivid experience.

But how do we avoid driving off a cliff but welcome trying driving with no destination in mind or map? How do we avoid eating a deadly berry but welcome experimenting with new foods?

Misadventure as opportunity is a mindset that nudges our every day habits closer to the edge of our comfort zone. Eventually, misadventure as opportunity is a mindset that routinely takes us out of our comfort zones, but not irresponsibly (like jumping in a pit of tigers).

This week: Reflect on what misadventure as opportunity might mean for you. It's different for each of us, because our comfort zones are at different places.

For me, nudging or blasting through my comfort zone could mean:

  • Being really open and nurturing, spending time in this way.
  • Transcending what I think I'm capable of physically.
  • Engaging in a new enterprise that requires strong teamwork and co-leadership to succeed.
  • Cooking something new from scratch.
  • Taking a trip with no agenda or plan.

Yes, I'm a recovering control freak. I'm currently cooking up potential misadventures for all of these types of experiences. What might your list look like? And if you embraced your list, how might this impact your work or life? I think the more we nudge or blast past our comfort zones, the more interesting and fulfilling our live will feel.


When We're Relentless

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I admire those who simply MUST do X (and X is a good or decent thing) and ensure they do X even when barriers make doing X hard or near impossible. Case in point. David Sedaris' commitment (obsession) with racking up huge numbers of steps  on his Fitbit.

And by huge, I've learned that Sedaris routinely gets thirty thousand, forthy thousand, even sixty thousand steps in a day. He's even walked 20 miles in one day. And he loves beating the total daily step numbers of his Fibit pals. 

I first heard about his walking habit a few years ago in a New Yorker story. Then Bill and I saw Sedaris perform and he talked about it there. While getting him to sign a book, I told him I also used a Fitbit. He signed it accordingly (see pic).

That was when Sedaris could walk through his neighborhood in Normandy (or wherever he was). Then the covid crisis occurred. This recent story from the NYT shares how David got his steps in while being home-bound and restricted in NYC. At first, he walked around his apartment for hours each day. Then, when it was allowed, he started walking the New York City streets while wearing a mask.

That's dedication! That's grit! It might be a few other things, but I admire his resolve.

But this isn't a story about steps; it's about discovering something that is important enough that we become unstoppable. What would you put in that category and how might you like the targets of your grit and determination to change?

If you made one small change in the right direction, I bet it would make a big difference. Like the Butterfly Effect. 

For me, I need to get a more assertive hold on my various health issues. I have an appointment with my oncologist in a few hours and it's time to be decisive. I've been dinking around the corners and welcoming delays and inaction (some of it covid related, sure). But this is something that is keeping me zoned out and inactive. Barriers be damned. I'm ready to get this surgery over with and re-health back up to whatever my new normal can be. I've got some projects waiting for my focus and concentration (which is low right now).

Is there something that you could recommit to that would help put things on a clearer track forward


Rock Your Morning/Day/Week by Using Todoist in a Creative way

I'm as Type A as they come and my swirling mind constantly takes an inventory of how things are going. I'm a world class list-maker and until recently, this was the problem. WHY? Because I was listing the wrong stuff. The silly little gnatty items that, when checked off, felt momentarily satisfying. 

But then left me feeling hollow inside thinking. Is this all there is to my life - tasks? Which is silly, I know, but a problem I created.

I don't want to die a person who crushed to-do lists filled with meaningless, soul-sucking tasks. 

Epiphany time! What if I changed what I put on my to-do list? 

I love the Todoist App. This is the first to-do list app that I've enjoyed, stuck with, and feel is totally worth paying for. You can make it "do" whatever you want. And when you check things off, you get "karma" points which I psychologically love earning. And this is the first app that has flawlessly synched across all my devices (had major frustrations with others in this regard).

Want to create a list of dumb stuff? Check. It can do that.

Want to create a list of micro-misadventures? Check! Ding, ding, ding! Let's do this.

And so that's what I'm doing now, and it's helping me have better days. I still have basic reminders on my list, but I ensure I have 2-5 items that have misadventure potential. Apps work great when we put great data into them. Here's an actual pic of today's to-do list in my Todoist app. You'll notice a mix of the usual boring stuff (take pills) and more interesting stuff.

Give it a try!

And now I get to check off a fun thing I've done today.

To do list


Misadventure: Making Thyme for What Matters

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One of the ways I experiment with making my life more misadventurous is to go against my type and strengths and try something that falls into the category of "things I usually botch." Often fabulously and flamboyantly botch.

Today's story is about a wee thyme plant (pictured above).

I'm a hit and miss gardener. Not much in the way of good instincts, but I've learned a few things that seem to work for me. As a result, we tend to have a decent herb garden each year. If you've read my stuff for a while, you know that my husband Bill does all the cooking. The herb garden is my contribution to our food preparation. And placing pick up orders. 

I decided to broaden the narrow list of things I managed not to @%$* up by one or two but knew I'd need to find a coach or take a class. Not read a book. Have you read gardening books? Most are far too detailed and so boring they make better sleep aids than skill builders. No offense to gardening book writers out there (but, come on...).

I found and decided to take Ron Finley's gardening class on Masterclass. He calls himself the "Gangster Gardener," and was the perfect teacher for me because he cut to the chase and gave practical, doable advice. He talked action, not science. 

One of his lessons was on propagation - making new plants from other plants. Propagation is a 301 level gardening class, and my capabilities had proven to be 101 at best. But Ron made me think I could do it.

I had a dead thyme plant that had been undone by Lexington's cold and wet winter and spring. Poor thing. I had cleared it out of its planter and was about to throw it in the compost bin (another thing Ron taught me to do). I looked at the ugly mess on my planting bench. Was it really all and completely dead?

I decided to try propagating a part of the brown, brittle herb plant. I cut it down to the base and separated a small piece that felt less dead. I stuck the new creation in the corner of one my raised beds. I vowed to talk to it every day to encourage my creation to spring to life.

At first, it did not look promising. The wee twig/plant just sat there. But then, weeks later, I saw a tiny green leaf. And then another. And although I've never really had motherly instincts related to humans babies, I found myself proud of my little creation. I starting planning for when it would grow up big and strong and change our culinary world.

Ron had been right.

Propagation is the slow way to go, though, and after three months my wee thyme plant is still just two inches tall. During this same timeframe, I've managed to plant and kill a dozen other herbs and vegetables (the confidence I gained from taking Ron's class might've gone to my head). 

So while home grown tomatoes, broccoli and melons will not be featured on the Haneberg dining table this year, we will have, in time, very special thyme.

This misadventure has been a circuitous but resounding success (she says with her fingers crossed behind her back hoping not to jinx herself given that much can go wrong in matters involving outdoor gardening). 

What new against-type-and-strength skill shall I try next?


Progress: This could be messy (expect and embrace this).

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Just a short and reflective post today. It's Friday, June 19th - Juneteenth. And while I've known for many years the top line meaning of Juneteenth, I'm glad that my awareness is deepening regarding its modern-day significance.

Today I'm thinking about several big challenges. Racial bias and inequality. Increasing divisiveness. And a terrible pandemic very much affected by this inequality and divisiveness. And there are other challenges that pain me, disturb me, and worry me.

On this blog, I write about misadventures - those times we play full out to handle surprises and barriers. When we tap into strengths we might not remember we possessed. I often apply this idea to fun things - travel or personal goals - like biking across America. 

I think we'll need to offer the same type of grit help to make our town/state/country/society/world better. And like other misadventure stories we'll recall years from now, it will be the full-out efforts we gave and the positive impact we had on others that we'll relish. 

It's ok that things will be messy and unpredictable. That's how progress happens. Human systems are chaotic and trying to predict outcomes when many individuals and circumstances are at play is not a good use of time. Forward movement is highly dependent on, and sensitive to, each of our small actions. It's the butterfly effect in action.

And it's the journey and keeping it moving on a directionally correct path that will serve us best.

Here's to messy progress wherever it is needed most. And here's to each of us figuring out the small and large ways we can best contribute to progress.


Ask Catalytic Questions; Make Big Things Happen #breakthroughs

Untitled design (8) copy 3Strictly speaking, a catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction. Although they participate in reactions, catalysts are neither consumed by nor incorporated into the products of the reactions. There is just as much catalyst at the end of the reaction as there was at the beginning. Catalysts will not cause reactions to occur, but they will help reactions that would have occurred without them to proceed more quickly or at lower temperatures. In most cases only small amounts of catalysts are needed to increase reaction rates.

Catalysts work by providing easier ways for reactions to occur. In technical terms, they provide alternative reaction paths with lower activation energies.  Every chemical reaction has a certain threshold, known as its activation energy that must be exceeded in order for the reaction to occur. A catalyst does not lower the activation energy of a reaction, but instead provides an alternative that produces the same results with a lower threshold. A good analogy is a bridge over a valley. Without the bridge, it might be possible to cross the valley by driving down one twisting road and then back up another. A bridge allows the valley to be crossed more quickly and with less energy. It does not reduce the amount of energy needed to drive down one side and up the other, but instead offers an alternate way to achieve the same results while using less energy.

Catalytic questions, then, are questions that provoke alternative reactions and easier ways forward. You might not know if a question is going to be catalytic, but you can practice asking more provocative questions and will find that some energize the discussion and enable new or better paths forward. 

During a 1999 flight from New Mexico to Sienna, Italy, I asked my husband the following: "If you could be any place, doing any kind of work, where would you be and what would you be doing?" This question ended up catalytic because it encouraged Bill to express goals he'd not shared, and this started a conversation that five weeks later resulted in us moving to Seattle where Bill started his own company. BAM!

The catalyst does not have to be so life changing to be powerful. Consider these questions, which could be catalytic for some in some circumstances:

Think about what you pull into the most these days. The activity or topic that energizes you. What adjustments could you make to increase the time you spend doing this activity?

Who would you like me to connect you with? (or, let me tell you about Sally...would you like me to connect the two of you?)?

Evangelists are passionate, loyal, and dedicated fans jacked up on caffeine. What would you hope your evangelists do?

In the scheme of things, does this really matter? If you stopped, what would happen?

If you had all the courage in the world, what would you do or ask for?

Embedded in catalytic questions is a deep and authentic curiosity. This is the key, because when we're engrossed in a conversation and curious, we inquire about more relevant topics.

It's fun to ask questions that end up being catalytic. We should all strive to help those we care for move forward more easily. And there's no reason we can't ask ourselves catalytic questions.

What's the question that would open up new possibilities for you?


Our impact on nature - the small things.

FledglingI don't know about you, but I get pretty nervous when faced with a new-to-me mother nature situation. Last week, I was watering the plants in the back yard and two adult cardinals started chirping at me. They seemed upset, not that I speak cardinal. I realized that the large hydrangea bush had a wee fledgling in it. 

Their fledgling.

The little bird hopped around and tried to fly. It flew into the wooden fence on the other side of our yard, which is just 15 feet away. I shut off the water and moved away but watch. I didn't know if I should DO something.  My first instinct (generally wrong) was that yes, I need to get the little bird back up into the big tree from where it presumably fell.

I grabbed a rake and wrapped a towel around the end, so it would be a soft perch. Somehow I thought that if I extended the rake, the little bird-brained cardinal would realize I was here to help it and jump onto my express ride back into the tree.

You know that didn't happen. The parents got closer and pitched a fit. They looked ready to dive bomb me. The little bird kept trying to fly away but could only get a few feet off the ground.

The moral to this story is: Google before you do anything. 

A quick search confirmed the error of my initial approach. Leave the bird unless something bigger is about to eat it. The parents will continue to feel the fledgling while it is learning to fly. It will never return to the nest.

For three days I kept checking to see if the bird was still in our back yard and alive. Because we have a very small yard surrounded by an 8-foot fence, I worried the fledgling didn't have enough space to get aloft. I worried the parents would give up if the bird did not learn quickly enough. I worried some other creature would kill it.

After the three days, there was no sign of the fledgling. Dead or alive. A promising sign was that the parents were gone too. 

I choose to believe that the baby cardinal made it out and is an accomplished flying machine, versus that it was consumed whole by something else.

Did I impact its chances? Am I a big dummy? Probably. You likely know how fledglings work and what to do. 

Every first offer a tiny adventure (or misadventure) and it's fun explore and learn about how other creatures live. 

Now, if someone could just tell me whether I've killed my chances of getting broccoli from my broccoli plants if their leaves are filled with holes and no broccoli-the-vegetable looking shoots are shooting? 


Micro-Misadventures - Your Daily Wee Dose of Full Engagement

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I'm digging this new hack. Life is big and heavy - especially NOW - but we can find the time and energy for micro-misadventures. Even me (drugged up on hormones and oral chemo).

What's a micro-misadventure?

Five to thirty minutes of delicious mischievousness that has the following qualities:

  • You're quite interested and engaged to do this (hardest part for me).
  • High potential that things will go way wrong. In other words, this is not something you already know how to do and do every day.
  • It's a new or slightly new. Some aspect of this action is unknown to you.

Here's a brainstorm of potential MMs - these are my ideas, your results will vary. The point is to be deliberate and to seek at least one MM each day. Start with right now. 

  • Play You Tube Yoga Class Russian Roulette - search for 30-minute ______ (chair, standing, dancing, crazy) yoga class and select the fifth one you find.
  • Paint something in the house a bright color.
  • Try something (legal) that is known to have psychoactive properties.
  • Sit outside, select a bird that's making some noise, and practice mimicking it's call. 
  • Go live on Facebook right now and talk about something that is fascinating you at the moment. Invite input or support.
  • Offer to do something new for someone that you've never done before. Like cutting their hair, sewing a shirt, making a happy hour cocktail with different ingredients than you've used before.
  • Bake something for you've never baked before (basically anything).
  • Die your hair a weird color.
  • Re-plant a plant so that it is happier.
  • Take a ten minute walk and photograph everything _______(round, blue, spiky, gorgeous). Post on Instagram; explain your selections.

What do you think? Make your list and use it to have micro-misadventures throughout the week. Report back!