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When Faced With Adversity…

March 25, 2011

Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like air. – Sarah Kay

Adversity can be a real $*%&*. It rears its ugly head not only when we least expect it but also when we have some sort of sneaking suspicion that it’s coming.

No matter how we prepare, no matter what we say to ourselves in anticipation, our gut reaction when faced with adversity almost always involves a mixture of panic, fear, disillusion and anger. We think to ourselves, “I can’t do this,” “I can’t overcome this obstacle,” “there’s no way I’m coming out on top.”

The first thoughts that race through our mind are panic. We freeze up, unable, for a brief moment, to move. Nothing makes sense, our mind is spinning and we feel trapped inside our own body.  Then an icy prickle of fear starts to take over and, while we regain mobility, we have no idea what move to make next.

Then, slowly but surely, things start to get a little clearer and we’re ready to stand up tall on our own two feet and face adversity head on.

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind. – Mahatma Ghandi

Adversity can be a real $*%&* but it’s also a defining moment in the many crossroads we face during this journey called life. It separates the strong from the weak and the impassioned from the unimpassioned.

The impassioned people, the people bursting with emotion and a zest for life, they are the strong and the ones that will stare down adversity as they pass it by. They are the ones that take in every moment and learn from it. Yes they experience the fear, the panic and the anger that comes with adversity but they embrace them. They grow from them. They take in the lesson they’re being given and instead of saying “I can’t” they say “I will.”

What inspired today’s post? Today I was faced with adversity. I buckled at its approach and, for a moment, felt myself giving in and giving up. But that was just for a moment. Because I’ve discovered that with every moment of adversity comes the opportunity to learn. And when it comes to learning, we can never, ever, learn enough.

Learn as if you’ll live forever. – Dr. Ben Dunlap

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Where Do You Find Inspiration?

March 24, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about passion. I’ve wanted to write about passion for weeks now but never knew how to get started or where to turn my focus. As I said, passion has the ability to make everything seem crystal clear the one moment but then foggy and discombobulated the next. I’m still trying to find my way out of the fog and when it came time to write about my passion I was at a loss for words.

I sat. Staring at a blank screen. Watching the cursor blink at me, on, off, on, off. Willing me to write. Daring me to say something inspiring and earth-shattering. Why I continually set the bar that high is beyond me. It’s ridiculous and idiotic.

So instead, I just wrote. I wrote what I was thinking and feeling at that moment in time and good lord did it feel good to finally just get words down on “paper.” I need to get it through my head that I’m never going to be the next Seth Godin, Darren Rowse or Gary Vaynerchuck. They have passions all their own and, try as we might, none of us can replicate those passions.

Passion is individual and unique. It cannot be duplicated and mass produced.

But I digress because this is not another post about passion. It is a post about writing and finding the inspiration to write.  I’ve had many people tell me that I should “write from the gut” or “if you have time to write a grocery list you have time to write a blog post.” While these are sage words of advice and I know them to be true, I have found that I can only write, and write well, when I’m inspired. Not necessarily motivated, but inspired.

Inspiration ignites something within me and pushes me to move beyond that mental block that too often holds me back. So, to find the inspiration that I so desperately need and crave, I’ve been taking 20 minutes out of my day to watch a TED Talks video that I select at random.  These videos are undoubtedly some of the best sources of inspiration I’ve found and for part of my day it is a pleasure to watch rather than read inspiration.

Yesterday I watched this video. I dare you to feel un-inspired after watching it.

Experiencing Passion

March 23, 2011

Passion. It ignites the fire within us. It pokes at us. It pushes us.

Passion. When it finds its way into our lives, dares us to move faster, think harder, reach higher and take on more than we ever thought we could. At times, it makes us feel superhuman, as if nothing could break us or tear us down. With passion in our pocket, we feel invincible.

Passion. One of the strongest and hardest desires that we, as human beings, can feel and express. One moment you know exactly how to define and harness your passion. The words cascade out of your mouth like a waterfall and everything is crystal clear. It’s effortless. You know where to turn, what to do and how to act. Then, before you know it, passion has taken over and the world is spinning. You don’t know where to turn, you don’t know where to focus your attention and words are trapped like flies in a spider’s web. For a moment, you feel completely lost.

Passion is funny that way.

As a young child, my father would ask, “Don’t you want to become the CEO of a company one day?” For the longest time I would avoid eye contact and answer, “No, I don’t.” Looking back, I realize now that my father, a passionate person himself, knew that I had yet to unearth my fire within. He knew what it meant to have a passion that poked and pushed. And looking back, I realize that he so desperately wanted the same for me.

Passion doesn’t happen overnight.

Fast forward several years and my answer to that question could not be more different. While I’m still learning how to harness, understand and manage, I have finally found that spark that makes me want to do more, learn more and experience more. I have found something that completes me at one moment, then turns my world upside down the next.

Have you found your passion?

Can We Agree to Disagree?

February 14, 2011

I’m currently in the midst of writing a series of blog posts that stem from an email that was simple yet powerful. 46 short sentences in the form of ideas, thoughts and opinions. Some deep, some lighthearted, some spiritual, some theoretical. While I couldn’t relate to each sentence (I’m not in a relationship, I don’t have kids and I’m not overly religious), I was inspired by their simplicity and wanted to take on the challenge of writing about every one of them. I’ve done two so far and when I went to select my third I was immediately struck by the following:

You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Opinions. We have ’em. They’re part of what makes us uniquely human and, more often than not, we want them to be heard in some form or fashion. Before the arrival of social networks, we voiced them to anyone who would listen. Our family, our friends, our neighbors. Anyone. We made our opinion known and that was that. It hit the ears of those listening and those ears only. If they agreed, they agreed whole-heartedly. If they disagreed, they told us politely. We may have argued but eventually someone would back down because, let’s face it, most of us are not programmed to embrace face to face conflict. We simply put discord aside and wait for another opportunity to have our voice heard.

Now, things are different. We don’t have to wait for someone to lend us their ears. When we have an opinion, we can make it known to not just our immediate circle but to any and every circle we can get our hands on. We clamber, rush and run to post it on Facebook, blast it out on Twitter and write about it on our blog and the blogs of others (just for good measure).

The fear and unease of face to face conflict has also been diluted by the computers and smartphones we can, and often do, hide behind. When someone agree’s with us online we shower them with “likes” and words of praise. But, when someone disagree’s with us online we’re less likely to back down and put discord aside. Words on the internet live forever and we’d hate for those words to indicate that our opinion was in same way wrong. The dawn and rise of the social online world has empowered us to speak up and speak loud. Today, we defend our opinions with more passion, stronger intent and deeper determination.

Is this behavior of standing up and speaking loud a bad thing? No it’s not. Thanks to Mr. Kenneth Cole and Groupon, I have been more captivated and enthralled by people’s opinions than I have in a long time. In fact, I, myself, have been more “vocal” about my opinions than I normally would have been.

What I do fear at times is that all this “power” we’ve been given may soon prove to be too much. Will we no longer be able to agree to disagree? Will our desires to win, be right and be heard soon outweigh our respect and appreciation for differing opinions?

Only time will tell.


Preparation + Chaos = ?

February 4, 2011

You’ve heard the following once and you’ll undoubtedly hear it again:

“Success is when preparation  meets opportunity.”

I have a few questions when it comes to this wonderfully overused phrase:

  • How do you define success?
  • Is the opportunity one you are expecting or is it one that shows up unexpectedly and out of the blue?
  • How often does opportunity really come knocking on your door? Once, twice, maybe three times if you’re lucky?

Photo courtesy of Motivated Photos

These are the questions that run through my head every time someone utters those words. This is not to say that the aforementioned phrase is confusing to me in any way. Believe me. I get it. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Because, if you do, when opportunity comes a knockin’ (and you’re hoping, sort of expecting, that it will) you’ll be ready. And, due to all that preparation, success will be waiting for you on the other side.

I get it.

I’m all for preparation and planning. My life would be in complete shambles if I didn’t prepare, plan and map things out. What I get hung up on is the opportunity part. The way that I think about that phrase is that, on some level, you’re expecting that certain opportunity to come around. Whether it does or not is a different kettle of fish. Until it does, you prepare, hope that your preparation is enough, and wait. But, what do you do if all that preparation is greeted by the unexpected? Are you going to be as successful?

Let’s change the phrase so that it reads:

“Success is when preparation meets chaos.”

That’s right. Chaos. Success is when preparation meets chaos.

No matter how many hours, days, weeks or months you’ve spent preparing, your success will, at times, be defined by how you handle the unexpected. If you can’t tackle the unexpected and handle the chaos, then you have to wonder…were those hours, days, weeks and months of preparation even worth it?

The amount of time you spent preparing for something won’t mean squat if you can’t think on your feet.

While we’re often told that our success is defined by how we handle opportunity, I think our success is better defined by how we handle life’s unanticipated ups and downs.

Over prepare, then go with the flow.

When in Doubt…Take Small Steps

January 28, 2011

There is so much noise today.

As individuals and consumers we are constantly bombarded from left, right and center with tweets, videos, campaigns, contests and status updates. “Look at me!” They all cry out for our attention, begging us to take just a few precious moments to look harder, read further and act now.

The noise is so loud it’s deafening. And it’s only going to get louder.

Brands, businesses and companies are responsible for creating and bringing that noise. Today they are doing everything in their power to create unique noise, ultraspecific noise and urgent noise because they’re either told or savvy enough to realize that that is the only type of noise we will listen to and act on. Attention has become one of the hottest commodities around. Its value knows no true number and the competition to acquire it is more than just stiff.

Before today, all they had to do in order to snag our eyes and ears was to, forgive the cliché, “think outside of the box.” Think outside of the box and they had us. We listened and acted because, before today, they held the power.

Things are different now. The “they” which used to represent the brands, the businesses and the companies now represents the blogger, the tweeter, the Facebooker and the YouTuber to name a few. “They” now refers to us and to get our attention “thinking outside the box” just isn’t going to cut it.

This morning, a good friend, Nathan Richie, posed the question on Twitter of ridding “think outside the box” from our marketing vernacular. I personally couldn’t agree more. It’s been done and continues to be done. People are thinking so far outside that box that they’ve lost their way and can’t even see it anymore. But the question now becomes…what will take its place?

Do we get rid of the box completely? Start fresh and, instead of focusing on constraints and parameters, focus on what works and not what doesn’t work or couldn’t work.

OR

Do we think inside the box? Do we force ourselves to go back to the basics and remember what it was that grabbed attention before the dawn of social media and all its shiny gadgets? In all of the excitement to jump on the digital and social media bandwagon it seems like the basics got lost or misplaced.

It’s a toss up and I’m not sure that I know the answer. What I do know is that “thinking outside of the box” is just going to create a lot more noise. Noise in the form of monstrous ideas that may work for a minute but fade in the long run.

My advice…When in doubt, just take the next small step.

Are We Too Quick To Criticize?

January 14, 2011

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned since I first joined the working world is this:

Never complain about something or present a problem without offering a solution.

Too often are we quick to criticize, grumble, nitpick and nag. Too often do we turn the other way when we’re presented a problem we can’t immediately fix. And too often do we join the masses before daring to take that step forward and go against the grain.

I’ll 100% admit that I’ve been at fault for all three of the above more times than I care to count. It’s easier to turn a blind eye and, while it pains me to say this, sometimes it’s easier not to have to think. Does that get me or anyone else committing these crimes anywhere? No. In fact, it’s gotten me into quite the pickle on several occasions. I know it too. I know when I’m turning away, tuning out or complaining along with my peers, coworkers and friends that I’m hurting myself more than anyone else. I also know that when I encounter a problem and idly sit by without offering up a solution that I’m taking 10 giant steps backward. I take no comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. It’s happened to you and it’s probably happened to the person in the coffee shop, standing in line behind you.

So, why do we do it? And has the prevalence of our crimes increased since the introduction of the social network after social network?

With regards to the latter…my jury is still out (probably sitting on a fence somewhere). Part of me wants to say yes and part of me wants to say no. I’m leaning towards yes.

As for the first … the answer should be clear. Fear. Doubt. A need to belong. That’s why we do it. We fear being wrong and we fear being the target of that “arrives before we have time to blink” criticism. We doubt ourselves because at some point in our lives we were told we were wrong. And lastly, there is that part within each of us that always yearns to belong and fit in.

BUT…when we are brave and confident enough to put fear and doubt aside and take the reins we’re reminded that we are good enough, smart enough.

SO…

Be the person who finds something to praise when everyone else complains.

Be the person who offers an idea or a solution when the rest of the room falls silent.

Be the person to walk forward while everyone else takes a giant leap backward.