Illuminations

You Are Amazing Even You're Off Course Today

I thought I would end the week on a high note and with a call for self-forgiveness as a vehicle for refocusing on generating the life and work you desire.

You are amazing.

I know this! If you and I enjoyed a chat over foaming lattes, I am sure that your greatness would shine bright and I would find your hopes and dreams inspiring. Everyone I meet possesses clear and special talents.* I love to discover the source of a person’s passions and am fascinated by our diverse natures.

Every night on the TV, we see people at their best, but more often, they are at their worst (crime shows, reality TV, droning cable news).

If everyone has the potential for amazingness, what’s going on?

I think that stress and the dizzying circumstances of our lives can push us off course. 

Especially. Right. Now.

2020 has been one of those years when many of us are being challenged in new and uncomfortable ways. But we still have dreams and vision and goals, too.

We know this is not how things ought to be. We know that we have something greater and more compelling to offer the world. Even so, we might get farther off course with each mismatched turn.

You are amazing even if you're off course today.

You have the potential to contribute to others and live a wonderful and fulfilling life. You can get back on track. You can flap your butterfly wings fast and furious, manifesting joy and wonder along the way. You can ooze exuberance and become flexibly strong, like a tall Sequoia tree swaying in the wind. An awesome force of nature.

What’s your goal? Do you need an adjustment? Is there a new temporary goal that you should consider?

You can start right now. Define – Answer – Act – Use that energy to repeat.

  • What can I do in the next 12 hours to get unstuck? (Do one big or five tiny things then rejoice.)
  • Which is more powerful – physical or mental barriers? (Hint: it’s likely mental – obliterate the barriers by taking on a new perspective.)
  • What two things can I do for the next five days to get back on track?

Isn’t it more complex than this? Yes, of course it is, but if you act like it isn’t – guess what? It will become simpler.

We all get off course sometimes and that does not make us any less amazing.

And if you're not ready to get back to it, then you should rest. Reflect on a temporary way forward that you can get excited about and, when you're ready, start flapping. 

* I know some of you are thinking that this is not true. Not everyone is amazing. There are evil and thoughtless and manipulative people in this world. Sure, OK. But I choose to default to the belief that everyone I meet is amazing until and unless they prove otherwise. 


Moments of Truth Sting and Crush Toward Progress

I have had the phrase “they are all moments of truth” stuck in my head this week. Directed at myself, for the most part; I have been using this mantra to improve my focus and action.

To do our best we need to recognize moments of truth and bring our A-game to the situation. And each one might call for a different extraordinary you.

Moments of truth – moments that reveal the truth about who we are, what we care about, and how committed we are to results.

I mentioned last week that I'm working on a my plan and approach for generating a breakthrough in physical health. In spite of chronic health challenges and previous failed attempts.

This morning I felt another gut punch moment of truth as I read a well-sourced new article about how any covid-19 vaccine will be less effective for heavier people. That's the case with the flu vaccine, too. Obesity is a risk factor for worse outcomes if infected and will reduce the efficacy of vaccines and therefore increase chances of becoming infected. Moment of truth!

I have a long list of reasons to lose weight and now there is one more. Some reasons sting or weigh more than others. Feel the pain, Lisa, and let it steel your resolve.

Moments of truth test us. Are we really interested in doing something amazing? These are daily tests that we must pass to stay on path. But then we're reminded that the stakes are high.

How many moments of truth will I need to experience to get this done?

Or is this enough?


Knowing Your NOTs

I find that knowing

what is NOT right

what we DON'T want

what is NOT interesting

where we DON'T what to go

what we DON'T want to spend time doing

the actions that WON'T lead to success

and what we can't do

is really, really helpful when trying to determine how to best live. And if we want to experience more adventure and misadventure, then it is doubly important that we acknowledge what we should not allow to get in our way.

What should not be on your list? 

Identifying our NOTs can be painful because we've invested time in energy in them - sometimes a lot of time and energy. Maybe our persona is wrapped up in this thing that is no longer fueling our energy or interest.

  • I'm an athlete
  • I'm a best-selling author
  • I'm an inventor
  • I'm a community leader
  • I'm female comic of the year
  • I'm teaching

Uncommit - decommit - not sure what the right word would be - from a something (or someone?) that is no longer a good use of time and is getting in the way of your progress and opportunity.


What "In the Middle of Greatness" Feels Like

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I was thinking about what it must feel like to be in the midst of doing something epoch - a grand accomplishment.

And here's the odd thing. It feels like ordinary living with healthy progress. I suppose there are big adventures that start off and remain larger than life, but most are big ideas executed with quiet daily perseverance. It's something to consider if you are, like me, drawn to the idea of epoch adventures and misadventures.

Instead of asking, what's next, maybe we should notice what's now, because our adventure is unfolding and we would hate to miss it.

This might also be why many of us give up on things too soon - because the reality of getting it done does not match our romantic notions of what we thought manifesting the endeavor would feel like.


Misadventure: Al Jarreau, No Money, Needing a Ride Home

This is a true story of a misadventure from 35 years ago that has impacted how I think about success today (in good and bad ways). In 2005, I attended an Al Jarreau concert. As I soaked in every word he sang, I remembered the night I was first introduced to his music. I was about 20 years old and in a pickle caused by my drunk roommate.

I was living in Florida at the time. My roommate and I went to a club to dance. We were both broke and nursed our drinks for hours. The drinking age was eighteen at that time. We went our separate ways in the club after a couple of hours. I preferred to be on my own and she was more of an extrovert. I got alarmed, however, when it I couldn’t find my roommate thirty minutes before closing time. I circled through the club several times, checked the lady’s room, and looked for her in the parking lot. She’d left - probably with the cutest-guy-in-the-world-du-jour.

The bad thing about this situation was that she had driven us to the club. And I didn’t have enough money for a cab. Ft. Myers didn’t have public transportation at this time, either. I was stranded well beyond walking distance to my apartment.

After brainstorming options, I knew I’d have to ask someone—a stranger, because I didn’t know anyone left at the club—for a ride home. I didn’t want to make a request that seemed like it was more than I intended (no quid pro quo, if you know what I mean).

I observed a well-dressed middle-aged man at the bar. He seemed poised, pleasant, and not yet drunk. My nerves made my face go flush as I walked up to him. He smiled, but it was a reserved smile like perhaps he was surprised I was approaching him (maybe he thought I was a prostitute?). I explained my situation as humbly as possible—party-animal roommate, no money, apartment across town—and told him I needed a ride. He was gracious, sweet, and agreed to help me out.

I worried that he might not be as nice as he seemed—people are often no what they seem—but didn’t have a Plan B. This happened before people had cell phones, so there was no way to call or text a friend or family member for help.

Unimaginable, I know!

We left the bar and walked through the thinning parking lot. The man pointed toward the passenger side of his car, which was a Mercedes two-seater convertible. He got in, unlocked the doors to let me in, started the car, and put down the top.

Remember, I was twenty. I was thinking what I now know are highly illogical thoughts like how even if this guy was a perv, it might be worth some trouble to get to hang out at the riverfront mansion I imagined he owned. The car was cherry, so it was reasonable to assume he owned an enormous house and boat. And maybe a helicopter.

As we got onto the parkway, he turned on the built-in cassette player (cassettes were hot then, having just replaced the 8-track player in cars). What did the man play?

Al Jarreau.

“Mornin'” and “Boogie Down” filled the air and my head with their complex and upbeat vibes. Fast car, cool breeze, and jazzy tunes. It was unlike anything I’d done or heard, and I was hooked.

The man didn’t say a word during the drive, although he smiled a few times when he noticed I was enjoying the music. I leaned back in the passenger's seat and soaked in the experience.

This was success.

As he reached my apartment parking lot, I thanked him, and we parted ways. I never knew his name, just that he was a gracious man who had impeccable taste.

Fast forward to today. When I need to feel successful or nudge myself out of a mental funk, I play jazzy tunes in my car, windows down, and let the breeze carry my hopes and intentions through my breath and body. And if I’m in a tough spot, I turn up the Al Jarreau. It works every time.

We all have metaphors for success—things, places, or situations emblematic of how we want to live. It’s helpful to reconnect with these experiences and explore why they resonate. I mentioned that this experience affected how I’ve thought about success in good and bad ways.

The good is obvious, I think. That music is evocative and can lift our moods and energy. The right song can make us smile.

The bad is likely obvious, too. That having a Mercedes and lots of money equals success. While this might be true for some, it depends on how we define success (an important topic for another day!).

At twenty, getting stuck at a bar because I didn’t have a car or enough money to call a cab shaped my view of the man’s success. He seemed to have it all, and I wanted a life like I imagined he lived. That’s the kicker, right? My imagination. All I saw was the outfit, the car, and the cassette tape. For all I knew, he might’ve been unhappy or lost. He was drinking alone. Or he might’ve been in town to close a lucrative new deal and was heading back to his blissful life on his private island.

I’ve written a lot about the power of small actions (the Butterfly Effect) and this is an excellent example of how a particular moment can reverberate in ways that change who we are, how we define success, and how we live.

We all play the role of Lisa-at-twenty at some point.

And we’re also the-man and have the privilege to transform how another person perceives their world.

I’m glad I experienced this mini-misadventure. Al Jarreau died in 2017, but he remains one of my favorite singers. “Mornin'” and “Boogie Down” are magical songs.


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?