There’s a theory of mine. Ok, it’s not just *my* theory, I’ve actually read a book, watched a documentary and heard a famous comedian talk about it. It’s called the “Pro You Decision” theory.
See, I’m a big believer of making your own fate. I think there’s a lot of self fulfilling prophecy out there. If someone is always feeling like a loser who can’t lose weight, I’m fairly sure they’re going to be a loser who can’t lose weight. If you take that same person and shift their mind in to a positive “I can totally lose weight! I’m able to make those decisions to move in that direction!” I think eventually it will happen. It’s been my own experience in many areas of my life at least.
To get out of a spiral of despair, I try to make a Pro Me decision. It’s a small decision, can be seemingly inconsequential, but necessary. This morning I chose to get up early, take a brisk walk, and start work early with a todo list in hand. It has shaped my entire day. One Pro You decision leads to another Pro You decision. It’s not cosmic magic. It’s the simple fact that by placing your mind in a positive position, you’re more able to see the positive choices presented to you in a day. By working out in the morning I’m more willing to select healthier foods during the day. By selecting healthier foods I’ll have more energy. The afternoon will be more productive because I have more energy and my productivity will boost my self confidence at work and help me feel satisfied when I return home. One small decision this morning will set the stage for an entire day of awesome.
What is your Pro You Decision?
“How can you share everything from your life to The Internet?”
This is a question I’ve been getting asked since 2003. I give the exact same answer I gave before blog ads existed, conferences were popular or marketing pitches went out en mass: “I don’t.”
There is a vast difference between sharing all your personal information and sharing fun, personal stories. Believe it or not, most bloggers still filter their content. As personal as the stories I have shared throughout my time online, there are many details of my life nobody knows except those involved.
It’s a false sense of closeness you’ll get from reading someone’s blog. You might feel that you understand them entirely, could be best friends, have the EXACT SAME thoughts. The wonderful truth is that you might have or be all those things, but you can only find that out by experiencing a true friendship. In the past few weeks I’ve reached out to many of the wonderful women I’ve met online. They have shared snippets of their lives and I know them well enough to understand the bigger picture that lies underneath. The amazing fact is that if you ask, offline, off record, in earnest, you can share things so much more intimate than what The Internet can ever know. “I had no idea,” a friend might breathe over IM. “I didn’t realize,” you might whisper when you read an email in return.
Many of us blog because we love to write and express ourselves best in this medium. Many of us find it therapeutic to work out the inner ideals we’re unsure of here on this screen where others can help guide or encourage the enlightenment. This form of communication, while cathartic, is still limiting.
So it is that The Internet may not know everything. There are times when a piece of paper and a pen still remain the most valuable psychotherapist. There are no indexes, no “way back machine”, no SEO meta tags. Pure thought, unfiltered, raw; one day I may even share those stories with someone as well. Perhaps.
“I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said—that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.” -Elizabeth Gilbert.
It was 1am this morning when I felt the first tug of regret. Not that I hadn’t felt this regret previously during my time working these insanely long hours, or pondering the overwhelming burden which I’d committed myself to, or the time away from the children that pulls at my core, but it was the type of moment where the regret wells up from a lost portion of your being and crashes to the surface in waves. I choked for a brief second and held back a waterfall of tears. I didn’t cry. I took a deep breath, I rubbed my weary eyes, and I looked around at the people helping and pulling for me to succeed. There are so many sherpas in my life right now, those who carry so much of my load as I struggle up an impossible task. There are champions, friendships, co-workers, partners. Amongst confusion, and at times delusion, there are those who take my hand and whisper, “Take another step forward. And another.” And I listen.
Being committed to a task is admirable but having a team of people who believe so heartily in your goal is even more than I can ever ask for. You know who you are. All of you. Thank you.
Bird by Bird - A business plan
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ -Anne Lamott
I’m overwhelmed to a ridiculous state. Somewhere along the path of amazing, whilst traveling and producing and speaking, my cart became full of expectations, deadlines and impossibility.
“If you say no too often, Leslie, they won’t ask you back to babysit. Be careful when you turn down a job opportunity.” -Oma Flinger
I was 7 when I started my first business. A friend from down the street and I ran in to the woods beyond our houses and collected rocks, interesting twigs and other “potentially beautiful” items. We ran home, painted each carefully, and set out knocking on every door asking if they wanted to purchase our art for ten cents each. I made about a dollar that day peddling my work amongst the neighborhood.
At 10 I decided to run an in-home daycare for an hour a day at my parent’s house. My mother wasn’t a fan of having 12 children in our small home, so I set up the garage as a small “school” setting and offered to take children who lived near by at a small fee to teach them a play that we would perform at the end of the week. It was a cabbage patch kid reenactment set to the tunes of a record I owned. At the end of the week, parents came to watch the play and praised the sweaty mess of children I directed in the two car garage in Houston.
Having recently decided to take life by the unicorn horn (if you will) and start a new, more amazing, better freelance business than I’d ever had before, I opened up my contacts to accept new work. Happily, Joyfully, Thankfully work flew in the front door, even more than I knew I could take. My mother’s words bubbled to the surface and her years of an incredibly strong work ethic and high expectations of her own life replicated in my own. I took the work, even when the deadlines were smashed together, with travel booking both ends, and said yes to it all.
I said YES to it all.
A good businesswoman can handle this, I decided. I’ll sub-contract out what I can’t do, I’ll do what I want to focus on in the future, and I’ll continue to grow because clients will be happy and my role will change to project manager slash mobile web prototype dev. This seemed the perfect plan.
I’m sure every tiny business owner thinks this at the start. But starting a business is like bringing home your new baby to an empty house that first day and suddenly it wakes up pissed. The invoices aren’t paid, the subcontractor fails to do their work and the client is calling hourly asking where said work is.
I’m not foolish enough to think those who last beyond the first year of business did not work 80 hours a week at some points. I have great friends who succeed regularly and work diligently in their business that I model my own after. I know they, too, stay up nights in a row working, laboring, building because they are passionate in their lives and their futures.
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is this one fact, this one reason, I am still walking ahead, one foot at a time, producing code one tag at a time, writing this lesson one bird at a time. I’ve been drinking tea at midnight across friends who also care deeply of their work, listening to music and slamming furiously away at our keyboards. We share a goal, I their contractor, they my biggest fans, and we stay late, rise early, work diligently. I am away from my family but I am not alone. I am aching but it is not in vein. I am wary but it is not forever.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” -Robert Collier
The solace I find in those who overcome is immeasurable. Each of those people who inspire me to be greater than that I am now, who achieve what I long to achieve, who share in honesty their own struggles and triumphs, who are transparent in their joys and failures, and who believe in me beyond what I think I am capable of, remind me that seeing the dawn again from this side of my laptop is worth this small sacrifice of time. One day my daughter will ask me about my work and I will tell her with absolute certainty, I love what I do, I love you more, but I love, absolutely love, my life. I hope she finds a passion worth staying up for. There is no other way to live.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
There is so much for me to tell you. There’s the conference I spoke at in Manchester with some pretty fantastic people last week. There is the amazing opportunity for work that I have right now pushing my own boundaries to places a sherpa is necessary. There are the stories from Japan, where I am now, working with a team of people who are brilliant and outspoken, winning clients and conducting business in which I am proud to be part of.
I’ve been on 8 planes in less than two weeks. I’ve touched three continents, four time zones. If I was to write down my perfect life, it would include these two weeks of chaos, exhaustion, work, people, sleeplessness. I am happier than I have been in a long time, finally actualizing dreams.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
So much of my twenties was spent reading travel books. I would camp out in the “Travel Essay” isle at Powells and read through books and essays of people living their lives in a variety of cultures. During insecure times, difficult decisions, uncertainty, I always open these books, my favorites, to read quotes of travel, searching, finding, learning.
Finally, I write my own chapter.
Finally, I go. I go. I go.
There is a misunderstanding surrounding people with a strong travel instinct. It is less about running than it is about being present. I fly, yes, I run, yes, but ultimately my flight, my path, is to something greater than that which I left. I am seeking to be here, in this space, in this strange country with new smells and people I can not understand or words I can not read. I am here at a shrine, I am here at this restaurant. I am here at this train station lost in a sea of people. I am talking to these people, I am experiencing their world. I am grateful to be here, right now, in this space. I am on the wrong side of the road again, I am lost in my life but I am here, presently, realizing my “lost.”
I will take this home with me, I will not forget what I learn while I am gone. I will remind myself to be present in my own country, surrounded by people I love, who are familiar, who know me. I will stand on the proper side of the street, I will understand the menus, the signs, the streets. I will be there, in full, knowing I will leave again. And I will leave again. I will repeat this pattern until I can no longer breathe the air of our world, until I can barely shuffle the lines at the airport. I will be this person, having shed my uncertainty, and when I wake up in my life after this one, I will hold not a single regret; for those I met in every country, those strangers who became friends, those cuisines that became familiar, will always be a part of who I am, who my children know, who my grandchildren will strive to be.
At least, that is what I hope for. Perhaps, even, one day my children’s children will stand in a travel isle at their book store reading a story of their Grandmother and maybe, I can dream as much, they, too, will go. They will go. They will go.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
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