personal development

Leave Room For Discovery

Always bring a pencil to class.
Take an umbrella.
Do your research
.

BE PREPARED (bee-pri-paird) verb a command, threat or warning. Disobey at your own peril.

But imagine for a moment…

You forget your pencil.
You get caught in a downpour without your umbrella.
You go to the movie without reading a single review.

Maybe

You get to write with a fat shiny marker.
You pretend you’re the star of Singin’ in the Rain.
You howl at a scene the critics found “utterly derivative.”

What if the best moments of the trip aren’t the ones you scheduled and mapped out and underlined in the 5 different guide books — but, instead, the afternoon you got completely lost and ended up in a roadside tavern with the local celebrity brewmaster?

What if the breakthrough idea comes not in the meeting where you brought your giant binder, but in the impromptu gathering in the hallway?

What if all the tried-and-true, never-fail strategies you’ve always relied on proved not to work in this case, and it’s time to ditch all the rules?

What if not knowing “how it’s done” is your best weapon for doing it better?

Easy Does It

Don’t go all “if it’s meant to be” on me. This isn’t about leaving everything to chance and it’s not about being unprepared.

It’s about being brave enough to not over prepare.

Gutsy enough to leave room for discovery, instead of walking in armed with certainty.

Courageous enough to say “I know this is the answer — and I have nothing but my gut to back it up.”

Make Room

Maybe that rock solid wall of preparation has been keeping the revolutionary ideas at bay, like a blinking No Vacancy sign.

Open the door.

Don’t over-script.

Go in with an outsider’s perspective, with the wide-eyed naivete of a novice.

The next time you think, “I should be more prepared,” stop there.

You’re plenty prepared.

And if you get caught in the rain, dance your way through it.

Why I'm Done With Being Nice

This is not a parenting story, but parenting is the avenue by which this particular lesson was delivered. Raising human beings has a way of shining light into dark corners.

I’d get that look in my eye, my brow furrowed. But before I could utter a sound, my children would shake their little heads and mumble, “We know. Be nice.” High fives all around for parenting success, or so I thought.

Have you ever gotten one of those beautiful shiny chocolate rabbits at Easter? You go in for a bite of dense bunny ear goodness only to have it crumble in your hands. Hollow. That’s what being nice had become — this shallow thing my kids did just to get me off their backs.

How had we gotten so far off track? I’d been snookered by the easiness of nice and my kids totally exploited it to appease me.

What is Nice?

Nice is sly. He’s banking on you being so dazzled by his shine you won’t bother to take a closer look. Oh, but I looked and you should too. Go ahead. Lean in and squint until it comes into focus. Uh-huh. You see it too? All hat and not cattle as we say here in Texas.

Nice is pleasant, but you wonder if he’s sincere. Nice may not lie, but you doubt his true currency is honesty. Nice cares for others, but it’s out of obligation. Nice is the easy way out. Which is exactly why we so easily fall prey to his allure. He makes us look good, as long as we don’t go poking around too much.

An Alternative to Nice

You might think that while not noble, Nice seems harmless enough. But “harmless enough” is Nice’s cunning lie to keep us on auto-pilot. To keep us at arm’s reach from each other.

So, what’s the alternative?

Kind. The dictionary says Nice and Kind are synonymous, interchangeable. I disagree. Kind is of a higher order — solid chocolate gold. Whereas, Nice is the cheap hollow knock-off.

Kind is pleasant and her sincerity is rarely in question. Kind is honest and demonstrates what she believes in with her actions. Kind cares for others out of compassion and empathy. Kind picks a side, even if it disrupts the status quo. Kind requires effort.

She looks outside herself and asks: What is needed? How can I make this situation better? Kind insists we get involved. Make eye contact. Speak up. Stand up. Notice.

Why This Matters to Your Work

Do you think you can go through life on Nice Mode, barely skimming the surface, then turn around and produce unmistakable work? At best you produce beige — doesn’t harm anything, but certainly doesn’t bring about change or provoke a response.

But something remarkable happens when you heed Kind’s beckon to become actively engaged with the people around you. A deeper, wider world opens up to you. As you discover new things the world becomes a more interesting place and it informs everything you do, think and produce.

Imagine being immersed, all in. You create work that fills the gaps, creates new paths, that has an opinion and is decidedly not beige. All because you cared enough to notice then act.

The question is, which will you choose? Quick, easy Nice or deeper, more demanding Kind?

As for me, with a furrowed brow and a glint in my eye, I now ask my children, “How can you be kind?”

What To Do When Autopilot Leads You Astray

Is this all there is?
Yep. This is it.

And you chose it.
Yes, you did.

With every non-choice you made.
Passive
Autopiloting through your own life.
Like the shortest route was your only priority.

Take a long soak in the dissatisfaction.
Let the toxic rain of uneasy wash over you.
Feel it.
Burning.
Remember it. (You’ll need it.)

Turn off the default.
Open your eyes. Examine. Question.
Slow down when you’re going too fast. And press the pedal in the places you’re hedging.

Do.

Choose.

It’s exactly that easy.
And exactly that hard.

So hard you’ll retreat, often.

Remember
The Burning
Feel it.

Choose.