How Roving Mars is Like Finding Life on Earth

My friend and pastor of the Vineyard Church in Peoria, Ben Hoerr, wrote this article about similarities between roving Mars and finding life on Earth. I’m grateful for the opportunity to feature his article this month. Here’s to discovery…

The Opportunity Rover — formally known as Mars Exploration Rover B — landed on Mars in a giant airbag on January 25, 2004, bounced twice, and eventually settled on the surface of the Red Planet where she slowly unfurled her wing-like solar panels to begin collecting the Martian sunlight and transmitting data to NASA. “Oppy” and its twin robot, named Spirit, had the ambitious goal of investigating whether the planet ever had the conditions necessary to support life.

The mission team believed its “mobile geologists” would work for at least 90 Martian days and have the capability to travel up to ½ mile. In the end, the golf-buggy-sized rovers surpassed all expectations.

Continue reading

Where You Want to Be When You Disagree

One frequently-asked question about how to handle differences is: How do I respectfully maintain my own convictions when I disagree with someone?

This question arises from two common fears:

  1. Either my empathetic response to their differing perspective will make them think I agree
  2. Or the fact that I remain unpersuaded by their argument will give them the impression that I don’t care about their point of view. (While it may sometimes be true that we don’t actually want to hear differing perspectives, let’s assume for the moment that we’re appealing to our better selves.)

To help overcome these either/or fears, I offer this both/and model.

Continue reading

What Would 2019 Say to 2018?

My son, Caden, and I drew this cartoon together over the break. What’s fascinating is to imagine what a fresh and eager 2019 would say to a beleaguered and retired 2018. Reply to this post with what you think 2019 is saying in this illustration.

Looking back on my 2018 personal goals, it was easy to fall into a trap of wondering what I had actually accomplished. It seemed like time had passed with little to show for it. But jotting down a few highlights from the year helped me remember that, actually, a lot happened.

Continue reading

7 Habits of Highly Annoying People, and How Not to Be One of Them

I recently ran across this article in my archive and find the post just as relevant today.

In particular, social media interactions about polarizing topics are challenging, to the point where I find myself choosing not to engage in the conversation. It’s hard to find ways to meaningfully contribute online without causing offense or eliciting backlash.

What approaches have you tried? What has worked? What hasn’t worked? And why?

How Showing Your Work Gets You Top Marks in Life, Not Just Math

While consolidating my previous writings in preparation for the launch of my new website, I re-read this article.

It’s interesting that Amy and I are still having this conversation with our boys about the importance of showing their work, although now they can lip sync the words right along with us. So at least we’re consistent.

Mind the Fuel Light – Recognize Different Perceptions

At the end of June, my wife, Amy, and I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop called Across Lines of Difference. In that workshop, we fostered a conversation about improving how we deal with differences in our families, workplaces, churches, and communities. One story that Amy and I shared was from a memorable experience when we learned that the same exact event can illicit two very different responses.

The inciting event

I was driving the van. Amy was in the passenger seat. And our two young boys were in the back. We had just left my grandmother’s house, with an hour’s drive to get home, when the low fuel light came on with a DING.

Continue reading

New Website Coming Soon

I’m excited to announce that I will soon be launching a new website. I will launch the site as a blog that will replace Your Work Has Purpose (YWHP). The new blog will have a broader scope than YWHP where I will write about my book project, share perspectives from my travels, and talk about things I’m learning on my writing journey.

Over the course of several months after the launch, the site will grow to become my online author platform: encouraging insights from a semi-sociable engineer. I will expand the site to include samples of workshop materials that I’m developing, announce speaking engagements, publish videos I’ve created, and highlight stories of how people are being helped by what I’m sharing.

Stay tuned for more updates over the next several weeks as I approach the launch date.

Actively Including the Outsiders in Our Lives

At the end of June, I had the opportunity to speak at a regional church conference called Living and Leading Well. I was part of a five-person panel where we each gave a “TED-style” talk followed by Q&A. The intent of the talks was for each person to share a “nugget” of wisdom from their experience about living and leading well.

During my talk, I shared my heart about insiders and outsiders. Through several stories, I illustrated how we all know what it’s like to be included and excluded. I highlighted three ways we can actively include the outsiders in our lives:

  1. Humbly let go of stereotypes
  2. Courageously confront exclusion when it happens
  3. Use words that everyone can understand

You can watch my 8-minute talk beginning at the 32:35 mark of this Facebook Live video. Don’t miss my 8th grade photo, featuring big-rimmed glasses, plaid, and what looks like a pocket protector. It’s a doozy.

Respect, Understand, Debate – Get the Order Right [Video]

Earlier this year, I wrote this article about getting the order right between respecting each other as humans, seeking to understand, and rigorously debating the issues. When we get the order wrong, our conversations are upside-down and unstable. But when we put the elements in the right order it creates the kind of relational stability that can withstand even the most vigorous debates.

For the first video in a new series, I unpack this concept a bit more, with a little help from some building blocks that I borrowed from my boys.

20 Years Together, One Second at a Time

For our 20th wedding anniversary, I made this video for Amy. I wrote her a song and put it together with long-lost photos from closet shoeboxes.

The heart of the song is that, for as many years as we’ve been together, I just want to live each second with her – one at a time.

Six hundred fifty million seconds together with her is far too few. All I want is a couple billion more.

This exact second, this breath you’re breathing, is the only moment that is now. It’s the only moment that exists.

The past is in your memory. The future is in your imagination. But the present is the only space in which you can live, learn, and love.

So here’s to living each precious second of our lives, one at a time.

geoffcmills 2017

Where Are Your Listening Points?

For Father’s Day, I took my three boys to Forest Park Nature Center to hike one of our favorite trails. The temperature and humidity were such that you couldn’t feel the difference between your skin and the air. It was sublime. Our favorite trail cuts a path up a densely wooded bluff through a series of steep switchbacks. There at the crest of the hill stands a lone bench marked by a square post that simply reads “listening point.”

The four of us clamored onto that well-located wooden seat to catch our breath from the climb. I told them I wanted us to be quiet and to just listen. I challenged them to listen deeper than the initial sounds they could hear.

We sat quietly and listened. (Mind you, one of my sons is 4 years old and he did not sit still, but he did a phenomenal job of fidgeting quietly.)

Sixty-three seconds may as well have been sixty-three years.

When we couldn’t take the silence anymore we erupted into conversation about all the sounds we heard, practically competing for a trophy for who heard the softest sound.

Continue reading

Use Minimum Effective Doses to Reclaim Your Margin

Whenever I’m tempted to say something like “I don’t have enough time to do what I really want to do,” I’m reminded of what New York Times bestselling author, H. Jackson Brown Jr. said about the subject.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

Yes, it is true. Every person on the planet has 168 hours in a week. But when you subtract the time required to manage your life, it often feels like there’s not enough left to actually live it.

In his Harvard Business Review article, “Relax, You Have 168 Hours This Week”, Scott Behson suggests that people generally have about 20 hours of discretionary time in a week. His “back of the envelope” math accounts for:

Continue reading

United They Stood, United They Fell, United They Rose Again

Now that the dust has settled on the whole United Airline’s debacle, I thought I could share a perspective with a bit more objective distance from the initial fray.

Although United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, later deepened the sincerity of his apology and announced several reforms in his letter to frequent flyers, it goes without saying that a leader’s first reaction is the one that people pay the most attention to.

But consumer sentiment and investor confidence don’t always agree. While social media continued to burn hot with outrage against the company, United’s initial setback of $255M in market cap was quickly recovered when their stock price returned to pre-incident levels. In fact, as of Friday, June 1, United’s stock price had never been higher (at least as far back as 2006 where Yahoo Finance data for the company begins).

In terms of what we can learn from how Mr. Munoz initially handled the situation, I appreciated the following three “nuggets” that my friend and pastor, Ben Hoerr, shared in a note to his leadership team about what happened.

Continue reading

How My iPhone Saved Dinner

The refrigerator was desolate. Our cupboards were hollow. We hadn’t been to the grocery store in what seemed like weeks. The preservation of my family – nay, my entire bloodline – was squarely on my shoulders.

All I had to do was bring home dinner that night after work.

I hatched a plan at mid-day, nibbling on the last vestiges of food that had been entrusted to my lunch tote. I decided I would turn to a trusted partner in the business of feeding people. Jimmy John’s.

Five #6 sandwiches (veggie, no mayo, no cheese) should do the trick.

At the end of the workday I badged out and headed for the car. Everything was going to plan.

Until…

Continue reading

Fly Your Life with Amazing Authors

Libraries are airports.

Each book is an airplane.

When you open a book, you board the plane.

The author is the pilot.

You Can’t Catch Your Flight if You Don’t Board the Plane

The author-pilot flies their story such that you can see the world below from their point of view. Their view is unique enough to inspire, yet familiar enough to understand.

Amazing authors make you feel like their co-pilot. Alongside them, you get to hold the controls too, bringing who you are to the pages of their narrative. In an airport, the destination drives the journey. If you’re headed to Boise, you board the plane (or planes) that get you to Boise.

But in a library, much like life itself, you don’t really get to choose your destination. All you get to do is choose which “plane” you’re going to board next.

Continue reading

Airports, Cereal, and the Problem with Sampling

Sampling Seems Like a Practical Necessity

If I wanted to know the world’s favorite breakfast cereal to near-100% certainty, I would need to ask every single person on the planet.

But since that’s not going to happen, I take a pragmatic shortcut. I build a sample, a much smaller cross-section of the population, and ask them instead. Once I understand the preferences of my sample, I can draw conclusions about the entire population, with a fraction of the time, energy, and money.

This is generally accepted science. But there’s a huge catch.

Continue reading

Respect, Understand, and Debate – Get the Order Right

There are 7,428,901,356 humans alive on planet Earth (plus or minus a few tens of millions). As a collection of people we are radically diverse in every conceivable way: food and financials, generation and gender, politics and pastimes, race and religion, sociality and sexuality. The dimensions of our differences are virtually endless.

But it’s not our differences that create such deep divides between us. It’s how we deal with those differences that has the power to unravel or mend the fabric of our societies.

When it comes to dealing with differences, our tools are respect, understanding, and debate. I would like to show why getting the order right between these three things is what separates constructive conversations from loud multi-person monologues.

Continue reading

Reframe THEY – Be the Change You Wish to See

Things are turning out differently than you imagined. You’ve done everything you can, but THEY haven’t.

This is when you are most tempted to blame THEM instead of looking at what more you can do.

When you shift the focus from what you can do on to what others are doing, you subscribe to the victim mentality. Seeing yourself as the victim causes you to concentrate on what is being done to you rather than on what you are going to do.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you find yourself using these three THEY phrases, remember that you have the power to re-orient your thinking to focus on how you can make a difference.

Continue reading

Give Yourself Permission to Miss Your Goals, It Might Help You Achieve Them

Trust me. I did not intend to write my first post of the year about goals. But I’m learning something unexpected and I wanted to share it.

Two of my goals this year are writing goals. My aim is to make writing an integral part of my life, not just another thing I “bolt on” as I’ve done in years past. I hesitated to even set writing goals because I have such a history of failing to achieve the consistency I really want. Predictably, I begin with great enthusiasm only to fall prey to other interests as the year wears on.

But what kills my consistency quicker than anything is discouragement. When I miss a week I get down on myself. One week becomes two weeks. Two weeks become four, and so on, until I’ve completely “fallen off the wagon” of my goal.

The unexpected lesson I’m learning is that when I “fall off the wagon,” I can improve the aim of my landing. If I fall to the side I can climb back on. Whereas landing in front of the wheels makes the chances of recovery remote.

So this year, I’m giving myself permission to miss my goals in order to achieve them. Here’s what I mean.

Continue reading

Tell Your Inner Critic to Put Down the Red Pen. It’s Time to Work in Pencil.

Image: http://www.overstock.com/guides/how-to-use-a-pencil-sharpener

Image: http://www.overstock.com/guides/how-to-use-a-pencil-sharpener

As my wife and I were saying goodnight to each other, I lamented to her that I was contemplating skipping this week’s post. We had both just finished an extremely challenging week and I hadn’t written a single thing for my self-imposed deadline of 6 a.m. the next day.

Not necessarily expecting any particular response, I was stunned when these words just rolled off her tongue.

“I hate to say it, but no one will notice.”

(I have a hypothesis that the more seasoned your relationship is, the more capable of tough love it becomes. Our relationship is quite seasoned. Love you, hon.)

Continue reading

When Your Alarm Blares, You’re Not the Only One Who Can Hit the Reset Button

Image: emergency24.com/cp/monitoring_services.aspx

Image: emergency24.com/cp/monitoring_services.aspx

I stand at the intersection of all the many roads of my life. Normally, I direct traffic. But yesterday, I was run over.

The demands I place on myself for work, family, friends, church, and all the goals I’m chasing just stacked up on top of each other in a single moment. I reached a tipping point where, instead of leaning into the challenges, I was leaning away from them.

Then it happened. My internal alarm system went off.

Your internal alarm makes a deafening sound that no one hears but you. It’s your mind’s early warning system telling you, “I don’t care how you do it, but you need to change something right now.”

Continue reading

What if Fear is Afraid of You?

Image credit: https://writemyessayonline.com/blog/top-strategies-for-writing-a-good-conclusion/

Image credit: writemyessayonline.com/blog/top-strategies-for-writing-a-good-conclusion/

Most of the resistance I face when I try to do anything meaningful or creative comes from fear.

Fear that I might be rejected if the new thing I try flops. Fear that if I share my vulnerability with the world I’ll only hear the chirp of crickets. Fear that my experiment might succeed and that I won’t know what to do with success.

But what if it were the other way around? What if Fear were actually afraid of me?

Could it be that the only reason Fear is so aggressive is because he knows he’s on a tight timeline? If he doesn’t strike quickly, he might be too late to stop me from creating – from finishing something meaningful.

Continue reading

Give it a Rest – When the Only Way Forward is to Pause

http://unisci24.com/315444.html

http://unisci24.com/315444.html

This past February I read Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

It kicked my butt. Twice.

He made me disdain the fact that I had been treating my writing as a casual hobby instead of as a serious and meaningful part of my life.

When I turned the last page of the book, I committed to writing every day and posting every week.

Now, looking in the rear-view mirror, I can see from what I’ve written over the past twenty consecutive Saturdays that my best work is still in front of me.

Summer is in full swing (in the northern hemisphere) and I can tell from my waining writing habits that it’s time for a break.

But I’m resisting.

I’m fending off a strong part of me that feels like pausing is losing. That if I stop now then all of this momentum will go down the drain and be for nothing.

I’ve decided to trust the process. To believe that rest is right and good and necessary.

So I’m pushing my chair back from the keyboard for four weeks.

My next post will be Saturday, August 13. I’m declaring the date so that I don’t have the option to show up empty-handed. If you don’t see something from me on that date, please poke me with a sharp stick.

I want my next twenty posts to be better than my last twenty. And I’m trusting (hoping, praying) that this summer break is the best (and only) way to get there.

Why the Cardinal Rule of Brewing Is Good Advice for Life and Work

flight

Some friends of mine are brewing enthusiasts. Though they don’t know each other, they seem to be united by the sacred law of brewing:

Always drink your mistakes.

These scenes from my life form a “flight” of reasons why this brewing rule makes great advice for work and life.

You Remember What You Taste

One time in grade school I learned a particularly fascinating word during recess. I had no clue what it meant, but I was impressed with my friends’ command of the term. So I started looking for my chance to try it.

Continue reading

Why I Don’t Delete People from My Address Book When They Die

exdez/Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

exdez/Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

Not long after my mom died, she called me.

I about dropped my phone. I was so shocked to see her name on the screen.

RING

I miss you so much, Mom. I wish this could really be you.

RING

It can’t be you. Somebody else must have your phone!

RING

I finally answered it. It was my step dad calling from their home number, which was still linked to Mom’s name.

After sorting through her papers and photos and things, I hadn’t deleted her contact info from my phone. And after she called me, I decided I never would.

Continue reading

The 7 Habits of Highly Annoying People, and How Not to Be One of Them

7 Habits

Ever wonder how certain people climbed the ladder to become so successfully annoying? Well, simply build these seven habits into your daily life, and you, too, can become a highly annoying person.

#1   Insist That Yours is the Only Valid Point of View. Ever.

Complex issues have only one right answer. The key is to identify the correct perspective before anyone else. That way you’re positioned to stand for truth, no matter who else raises their competing point of view. Calmly resist others’ attempts to suggest alternative viewpoints, no matter how factual or persuasive their case may be. Most people will quickly tire of being on the losing side of the argument and leave. Being the last person standing will prove that you are right.

For Practice: Always tell people when they’re wrong as early as you can. Letting them get too far with the wrong opinion only makes it harder to correct them later.

Continue reading

What an Hour with Ed Thigpen Taught Me About Thanking My Mentors Before It’s Too Late

Photo Credit: Michael Bloom

Photo Credit: Michael Bloom

I walked out onto a large stage with a 4-piece drum set in the center. It was lit only by a handful of lights above, but the rest of the concert hall was dark and empty. The only other person there was a tallish black man in his 60s who reached out to shake my hand. This is how my 1-hour drum lesson with Ed Thigpen began.

It was many years ago when Ed, one of the drummers for the Oscar Peterson Trio, came to the University of Illinois as an interim jazz band director. Everyone who had the privilege of learning from him that semester was fortunate. He was an incredibly expressive player who understood how music works from the inside out. If I hadn’t already known he was famous, I would never have guessed it. He came across as just a regular guy.

He started the lesson by asking me to play something. I wanted to make a great impression, so I crammed in as many tasty fills as I could muster. When I finished my impromptu solo I looked up to see if he would ask me where they’d been keeping me all this time.

He didn’t.

Continue reading

Use the J.E.D.I. Mind Trick (on Yourself) to Become a Conversation Master

CONVERSATION MASTER

Listen. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of your brain racing at about 2500 RPM. That sound is the baseline noise level in your head that your friends and colleagues are competing against to be heard and understood. It’s the internal noise that you have to tame in order to become a better listener. And becoming a better listener is a crucial step toward becoming a conversation master. Here’s how.

Use the J.E.D.I. mind trick. On yourself.

Continue reading

How Showing Your Work Gets You Top Marks in Life, Not Just Math

SHOW YOUR WORK

Show your work. This is undoubtedly my wife’s and my most consistent message to our boys about their math homework. They often cite cruel and unusual punishment as their pushback. (That’ll teach us to educate them on the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments.) Yet despite their resistance, I attempt to reinforce the desired behavior when grading their tests. I give partial credit for incorrect answers when they’ve shown the correct thought process on the page. I generally give no credit for incorrect results where no work is shown because I don’t know what steps they were attempting to follow. I have not yet started to give zero credit even for correct results when no work is shown, but that is my plan should next semester require a last resort.

There are several valuable applications for the show your work mentality in life and work beyond just making the grade in math. I will elaborate them here if for no other reason than to document justifiable rationale to defend myself the next time my boys accuse me of violating their 8th Amendment rights.

Continue reading

Why Heart Work is the Hard Work Worth Doing

HEART WORK AHEAD - SKY

I think somewhere along the way we may have developed a misunderstanding about the relationship between emotions and work. There seems to be an unspoken belief that emotions must be set aside in order to get stuff done. For example, here are just a couple of the phrases I’ve heard most often in reference to this topic. You may recognize them.

“We just need to take the emotion out of this.”

“Let’s not make an emotional decision here.”

When people utter these words, they probably mean things like, “We don’t want to let frustration get the best of us,” or “Let’s make our decisions with as many of the relevant facts as we can.” These intended meanings are fine. But there’s one particular unintended meaning, a virus delivered by the very same breath, that infects its unwary host with a toxic message:

“Leave your heart at home. We don’t need it here.”

Continue reading

Face To Face

connect limit ahead

Skype. FaceTime. Hangouts. WebEx. MeetMe. The list goes on and on.

These technologies put faces to the voices we hear over the phone. They help us see, not just hear, what’s transpiring on the other end of the call. If 70% or more of communication is entirely non-verbal, then these technologies are helping thousands, if not millions, of people increase the meaningfulness of their communication by enabling them to see facial cues and body language during their conversations.

Organizations of all shapes and sizes are increasingly reliant on virtual meeting tools to cope with the challenge of communicating across multiple sites and time zones. Also, global economic uncertainty has forced many organizations to dramatically tighten their travel budgets, making virtual interactions even more necessary than they were already becoming. But, as with any technology, there is a point of diminishing return. So many of the subtle cues that make our interactions most meaningful and memorable simply get lost in digital translation. We cannot shake hands through the screen. We cannot reach through the Internet to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea together. And it’s just not a good idea to try to eat a meal together virtually, even if the phone is muted.

The ultimate form of communication is, has been, and always will be, face-to-face. Person to person. Human to human.

There is no doubt that organizations’ multi-zone challenges and financial pressures will continue to demand utilization of telepresence technologies. But the forces that are driving us to a digital solution are the same forces crying out for an analog response. Nowhere and at no time has the need for face-to-face communication been more desperately needed and fiercely coveted than in the digital era in which we now live.

So, yes, by all means use the technology. AND make human connections whenever and wherever possible. The future of our world depends on it.

Being Discovered

When will your work finally hit the tipping point? When will you break free from your humble beginnings and launch into the big leagues?

You only need to be discovered. 

A recognized leader could tap you on the shoulder for your next big break. A record label could ask you to sign that break-out deal for which you’ve been working so hard. A writing agent could admire your local piece so much that she invites you onto the national stage. Anderson Cooper could call you for an interview.

Or not.

But what makes it okay either way is believing that the person who most needs to discover your work … is you.

Learning to Sail

The act of sailing a boat is not at all what it appears to be from the shore. When you are standing on the beach, the sailor and his boat give you the impression that they are gliding gracefully across the surface of the water. But when you are in the boat with the frequent spray of water in your face, the constant scrambling between port and starboard, and the ceaseless handling of complex rigging, sailing is a grueling test of courage and patience.

Not long ago while in New Zealand for work, I was invited by a colleague to join his yacht crew for an afternoon outing. More accurately, his first choice had broken his foot and his second choice had a schedule conflict, so I was plan C. I didn’t realize, until it was too late to back out, that my first time sailing wasn’t going to be a nice leisurely cruise over placid waters. No. My first time sailing was going to be at the helm of a 23-foot yacht in an all-out race with 50-naught winds in Lyttelton Harbor off the eastern coast of the South Island. 

Every crew has a captain. Ours was a barrel-chested kiwi with a booming voice and a zeal for life who literally had a story for every situation. As we shoved off from the dock, his instructions easily overcame the steady roar of the wind and waves: “When I tell you to do something, do it. When I yell, do it faster.” During the race, there were plenty of close calls with other vessels, dock structures, and deadly subsurface reefs to reinforce the importance of his fifteen-word orientation.

The moment of truth arrived when he turned the tiller (rudder) over to me, a bit prematurely by the way. He pointed at the weather vane atop the main mast and told me to keep the arrow between the outer bounds that were marked. Then he motioned to the tell tales on the jib and main sheets where wisps of thread on both sides were indicating how evenly the air was flowing across the sails. He said to steer such that the tell tales stayed together and level as much as possible. Then he pointed to the enormous shipping cranes in the port and told me to hold that course for a while. I was comprehensively overwhelmed because there were just too many things to keep track of all at once. But in the midst of the waves, the wind, the other boats, the shouting, the rigging, the foreign terminology, and the confusion, I was learning to sail.

We lost the race. But we gained the experience.

When you do the work that matters most to you, you are learning to sail. Not from the point of view of the shore where it’s calm, but from inside the boat, where it’s overwhelming. You can’t control the waves. You can’t control the wind. You can’t control what other boats are going to do. The only things you can control are how you set your sails and which way you point the tiller.

It’s a grueling test of courage and patience. And sometimes, after you have dried off and warmed up, your only reward is to be able to taste the sea on your lips and know that, even though you may not have won the race, you have sailed.

The Blessing of Variety

In a given work week, it’s not uncommon for me to have numerous teleconferences with people from South Africa, Panama, New Zealand, England, or the U.S. People who are in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. People who work in the joint venture, in one of its parent companies, or in another company altogether. People who are single, engaged, married, or divorced. People who don’t have kids, have kids, and/or have grandkids.

In short, I am blessed by variety.

But if I’m not careful, I can easily take for granted the tremendous blessing it is to be immersed in such a heterogenous mixture of humanity as part of my day job.

It’s too easy to chalk it up to just being business as usual. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. To name just a few of the advantages:

– Variety helps inoculate a team against ‘group think’ where, as in the Road to Abilene, everyone arrives where no one wanted to be. 

– Variety endows teams with the ability to consider a much wider array of alternative courses of action. Without diverse perspectives, you are confined to an anemic list of options by comparison. 

– When confronting a challenge, each person sheds light on it from their point of view. The more radically diverse the team, the fewer shadows (unknowns) are cast by the challenge because people shed their light from so many different points of view.

A friend of mine is fond of saying, “all of us are smarter than one of us.” When I pause long enough to reflect on the beautiful diversity of the people with whom I’m so privileged to work, I’m reminded of just how true that saying really is. 

The Patience to Excavate

When miners dig for valuable ores like precious metals, they must often excavate the overburden first to access the more profitable layers beneath. Bringing forth your meaningful work resembles this mining process.

In many ways, your first writings, your first songs, your first business deals, any of the first fruits of your art, are the overburden you have to haul away in order to get to the richer, more valuable, material buried deeper within you. 

It’s not that your early work doesn’t have value. It’s just that the value of your early work is derived, in large part, by the extent to which it enables you to delve deeper into yourself. To mine the more worthwhile contributions that are hidden in your heart.

Excavation teaches patience. You learn self-compassion when you have to keep hauling away your material to unveil deeper layers of purpose more precious than you ever thought possible.

May you have the patience to keep digging deeper. 

Surviving And Thriving 

Maybe you’ve been told by a well-meaning person that if you’re living life to the fullest it should feel like thriving, not just surviving. 

I don’t know about you, but this line of thinking can demotivate me sometimes.

It can make me feel guilty for how much of my life feels like I am just surviving. I’m getting through things. And some of those things are getting to me.

Hard work doesn’t feel at all like thriving. It feels a lot more like surviving. Making it to the end of a very long day and getting up the next morning to go at it again.

Maybe what feels like surviving to you, behind the curtain of your life’s stage, can look a little like thriving to the well-meaning person in the balcony.

So the next time that person talks to you about how you ought to feel like you’re thriving, invite them backstage. Show them around a bit. 

But after that, let them take you up to at least the mezzanine level to appreciate their vantage point. Every stagehand should get to see their own production at least once in great a while.

Try A Different Angle

In the Digital Age, perhaps one of the great pastimes most on the verge of extinction is the Jigsaw Puzzle.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of working these multi-thousand piece creations with my grandparents in their air conditioned camping trailer when it was too hot outside to breathe. We would labor away at them one piece at a time. First the corners, then the sides, then the featured bits, then the Nondescript Middle. 

It was usually during this last phase that we would invariably get stuck on a single void whose surroundings would betray its precise shape. We would dismantle the couch and scour the floor to find what we had declared to be, after hours of search and rescue, a missing piece.

But try as we might, we wouldn’t find the missing piece on the couch, or on the floor, or down the vent where I went scavenging once. In exasperation, we’d temporarily give up. Retreat to another endeavor.

Then one of us, while casually passing the fold-out table, would exclaim, “I found it!” With a collective sigh of relief, the rest of us would ask, “Where in the world was it?”

It was right here on the table the whole time.

So when I get frustrated in my work, when I can’t find the missing piece no matter where I look or how hard I try, I remember that sometimes the thing to do is to get up from the table, to take a walk, to do something else for a while.

Then, when I look back on the same puzzle from a different angle, I just might see what was right in front of me all along. 

What’s In The Number?

TheNumber

You post an article that you care deeply about. You share your latest song or piece of art that took months of your life energy to create. You put a piece of yourself out there for some part of the world to experience. To hopefully enjoy.

But within minutes, and every minute thereafter, you’re checking to see how many hits, plays, or likes you’ve had. And when you discover that thousands of people did not instantly halt their lives to adore your humble contribution to Science and the Arts, you’re crushed.

Why?

Because you are looking to the Number. You’re searching for a sign, a clue, anything that will tell you that your work matters and that you should keep going.

And you already know that the Number couldn’t possibly tell you that. Not even close. But you look anyway because the statistic is so readily available. The Number is carefully calculated by server farms doing the bidding of their Computer Scientist masters. And the irony is: the Number people are just honest souls earnestly trying to help you share yourself with others.

But the Number is a cold-blooded killer who will choke your work, destroy your momentum, and keep you out of the game without ever even batting an eye.

So what’s in the Number? Only the power you give it.

Work And Rest Make Great Dance Partners

Over the long haul, work without rest is untenable.

And rest without work is unenjoyable.

But when work and rest start to move in balanced rhythm on the dance floor of your life, they’re like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

They move so gracefully together you can’t tell which one’s leading.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Think about the last time you had a dramatic difference of opinion with someone you work with.

How much of your colleague’s contribution to the conversation did you have control over? How much of your contribution to the conversation did you have control over?

It is so much easier to think, “if he/she would just ____, then we could move forward.” But that’s not how it works.

The only attitude you can directly influence is yours. And this doesn’t mean that you just yield to your coworker’s perspective. You can maintain your point of view and seek to understand theirs. You can maintain your differences and continue to move forward together.

By recognizing that your approach is the one you can change, not your colleague’s, you focus on what you can control. And you free your colleague to do the same.