Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, posted a question on Facebook this weekend “Agree or disagree? ‘September is the other January.'” Having spent Labor Day weekend in somewhat of a sabbatical mode, I couldn’t agree more. Even though summer doesn’t technically end until the autumnal equinox on September 22nd, I’ve prepared myself for the start of a new season by saying goodbye to the summer ales and sundresses, cleaning house, assessing old projects, and teeing up some new ones. With the year being 2/3 over, it brings me back to the question asked in January in the post New Year’s Day; Renewable Enthusiasm Day: Are you living? Or are you merely growing old? How are you doing so far with that whole “living” thing?
What is really living, anyway? What makes you come alive? What if someone, (oh…say, me?) challenged you to choose your own adventure to find out exactly that?
I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books. Growing up, my girlfriend and I would act out these adventures across the large farm where her dad lived and worked.
Adventure was easy as a kid…
In the past month, I attended two conferences that have had a profound effect on me – so much so that I’ve spent reams of paper mind mapping my notes, trying to make sense of the shift that’s happening in my brain, in my psyche, my outlook. At the MIXMashup In San Francisco at the end of June, I heard Gary Hamel tell us that the 100 year old technology that is management is broken and we haven’t either been aspirational enough or angry enough to fix it. I have often bemoaned that organizations “suck the life blood out of you,” and here is a group of people saying, “nope – it doesn’t have to be that way, and we’ll show you how.” Their case studies are written up here: http://www.managementexchange.com/.
In Portland at the beginning of July, I attended the World Domination Summit, organized by Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and the $100 Start-up, who asked the 1000 attendees, “How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” One way is to become a micro-entrepreneur. Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, said that what the entrepreneurs in Chris’s $100 Startup book had in common was that they have something great to offer to others, they have a website that depicts this clearly, they have a means of accepting payment, they believe in themselves, and they’re not waiting for anyone to fix our economic problems….or, I’ll add, our organizations. Continue reading
Our organizations – private sector, academia, non-profits, public sector – are in trouble. Tomorrow, I will attend a conference that’s dedicated to rewriting the design rules of the organization, with the goal of creating:
…organizations that are resilient enough to change as fast as the world is changing, inventive enough to imagine a whole new way to create value, inspiring enough to invite the full passion, imagination, and initiative of the broadest mix of people, and mindful enough to find a way to win without others having to lose.
It’s exciting stuff. I’m interested in finding, following, living, and sustain my passion. It’s a topic that’s confoundingly easy to learn about and often difficult to execute given the state of the world. To find a group of people dedicated to making organizations a welcoming place for passion and imagination? I must be dreaming. But before I tell you about the MixMashup in San Francisco, a back story.
Yesterday, I answered the call to transform Valentine’s Day into Generosity Day. I decided to hand out quotable cards and magnets to random strangers on my commute to work. I wrote inside the cards and on the envelopes “Happy Valentine’s Day – Share the Love!” and then used the envelopes for the magnets. Armed with my small bit of generosity booty, I left for work. Operation Generosity had begun.
It was a lot more difficult than I expected.
Love is wanting to hug blogger Sasha Dichter for starting a movement. Because I used to be anti-Valentine’s Day. I used to think of it as a contrived, inauthentic excuse to make those of us in a relationship force something we may or may not feel in the moment, and to make those of us not in a relationship extremely uncomfortable and bitter.
Sasha Dichter encourages us to move beyond whatever we conceived of Valentine’s Day to be. Make it a true expression of the love that’s inside us. Make it Generosity Day.
For love is so more than just roses and chocolates. Love is what’s inside of us and just has to get out. When you follow your passion, you’re following love. When you give, you’re expressing love. When your generous with your time, your attention, when you listen, that is love. We are love.
Passion by neil conway, on Flickr
A year ago, I began exploring the topic of passion. A good friend of mine was frustrated. He was looking for something….more…something not quite nameable. As we explored the topic, we decided he was looking for his passion – that elusive thing that makes you excited to get up in the morning. Work, and by consequence life (since we spend so many waking hours at work) had become dull, unchallenging, gray.
One day, after chewing over the many conversations we had on this topic, I asked him, “How many of your friends are looking for their passion?”
“Almost everyone,” he replied, without hesitation. “Why?”
One of my guilty pleasures is to grab a cup of coffee on the weekend and read over the transcript of advice columnist Carolyn Hax’s Friday live chat. Why guilty? Because when you get your head wrapped around your own axle, it’s sometimes good to be reminded that everyone has their own set of issues. And Carolyn gives such practical, non-nonsense advice, that I almost always learn or reinforce some “get over your own ego” lesson that I needed to hear.
There are times, though, when the problems people face are sobering. Repeatedly, you read stories of people actively resisting therapy or counseling as an option. Just last Friday in Carolyn’s chat, one person wrote in about her chronically unhappy friend. Carolyn recommended encouraging the friend to get screened for depression:
“For understandable reasons, going from zero to therapy is actually more difficult than getting screened, in part because therapy often involves a burdensome search for someone who offers the type of therapy you need; is a good fit as far as location, hours and chemistry; and who is affordable and/or accepts any insurance, much less your plan. Plus there’s the obstacle that I find totally crazy-making, the perception of therapy as an admission of weakness, nuttiness or defeat, none of which is true.” [emphasis added] Continue reading
It was 2003 and I was working at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. I was a brand new officer with my eye on the ball. I made one of my first cold calls as a political officer to an office in the Ghanaian government. I dialed. A secretary answered the phone. “Hello,” I said, nervous, rushing my speech almost without breathing, “My name is Kerry and I’m calling from the American Embassy. May I speak with Mr. Mensah?”
Haste Not in Life
“Good afternooooon,”the secretary sang in her wonderful West African lilt. Then an expectant silence.
I tried again. “Good afternoon, my name is Kerry and I’m calling from the American Embassy, may I speak with Mr. Menshah?”
“Good afternooooon,” the secretary sang out, “How are you?”
Deep breath. Finally, I remembered. I wasn’t in Washington anymore. Continue reading
There’s a ton of information floating around about Steve Jobs. Since last night, I’ve been reflecting on his life lessons and what they mean for technology, design, management and personal leadership. What it means to really commit yourself to a vision. I’ve absorbed every kernel I can.
Yet, it’s The Onion that really brings it home:
Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies
Damn, the Onion is brilliant. They know – they know our psyche! They know our doubts.
I haven’t yet earned the right to write this irreverently in my own blog. This is only our second time together. It’s supposed to be inspirational. Renewable Enthusiasm. But maybe it’s time, on this second date, that I let you know that I’m the youngest child of family of Irish descent. I’ve got red streaks in my hair. I’m a Taurus. Born in the year of the Ox. I can be all diplomatic, but when it comes down to it…