Drive By Wisdom: Letting Go of the Outcome

In this Episode of Drive By Wisdom we’ll look at how letting go of the outcome can help you achieve your goals with less stress and more engagement.

Play the short video below.

You Know It’s Been A Good Summer When Your Feet Are Tan

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down.  Here in Minnesota the Minnesota State Fair starts soon and wraps up on Labor Day.  Nothing in Minnesota signals the end of summer than our State Fair.

Take a look at your feet and notice what shade of color they are.  Do they look like they’ve been exposed to the sun?  Are they a darker shade than normal?

You know it’s been a good summer when your feet are tan because that is a  sign you’ve been outside.  Not only that, you’ve been barefoot and your feet have been connecting with the earth, the sand, and water.

Is that so important?  If you think about our evolutionary history, we have spent more time as a species outside than in.  We have spent more time barefoot, connecting with nature, than we have been with shoes on.  We have been exposed to fresh air, sunshine, and solid earth below us.  We are wired to be outside. But most of the time we are relegated to being inside most, if not all day.

This summer I’ve made every attempt to be outside. That’s easy on weekends and on vacations, but I’ve given my best effort during the work week too. Over lunch, I’ve walked outside in the park behind my office complex and I’ve taken most of my conference calls outside as I walk.

I’ve found that I get more out of my conference calls when I’m walking. When I am at my desk, it’s too easy to check my email, surf the web, or look at updates on LinkedIn. (You know you do this too) But when I’m walking while on the calls, I’m more focused and find it easier to pay attention. I think it’s because I’m outside and I’m moving.

This summer my feet have been exposed to the sun, earth, and water through spending time sailing at the family cabin, walking barefoot at the park, and swimming in both lakes and pools. My feet have a healthy glow (even though my arms still have that farmer’s tan).

As Summer winds down I want to encourage you to get outside every moment you can. Walk in the mornings, at lunch, or after dinner.  As the days get shorter, take a flashlight if you need it. Go to your local park or trail system. Walk, hike, or run.  Regardless of your ability, get outside.

I’m a stickler for being outside because it’s so good for our mental and physical health. My goal is to get outside regardless of the season and temperature.  For those of you that live in cold country like I do, you’ll understand the challenge with that.  But I find even when it’s cold, its great to be outside as I shovel snow, cross country ski, and take winter walks.  It’s all good (but I do prefer warm weather).

My feet will start to lose their tan as the days start to grow colder here in MN. That’s OK and I’ll look  forward to being outside in beautiful  MN fall weather.

 

(What questions or topics would you like me to write about?  Send your ideas to dennis.robert.bird@gmail.com)

Flawed and a Little Crazy. It’s a Good Starting Point.

I have to admit it, but I’m deeply flawed and a little crazy. Aren’t we all?

Much of life is geared about trying to seem normal and healthy to all those around us. In the workplace and around our friends and acquaintances we work hard to show only the positive things in our lives. We are smart, witty, and engaging. Everything is going well and we are all happy.

Sometimes I’ll hear people say, “Wow Bob and Mary seem to have it all together. They have great jobs, a beautiful home, and their kids are amazing”.  While  that looks true I usually think, “That can’t be true. Nothing is ever that perfect”.

What’s with the negativity?  If I’m honest I am flawed and some of my thinking is a little crazy and I’m not the only one. My wife and kids are flawed and their thinking can be a little crazy too.  Flawed and crazy is a human experience.

The sad truth is that we all work too hard holding up a facade we hope people believe because we are afraid of social and psychological rejection.   But trying to be perfect and maintaining that facade takes a tremendous amount of physical and psychic energy. Day after day and year after year of trying to appear perfect only adds stress to an already complicated life. It’s not worth it.

Why is admitting that I’m flawed and a little crazy a good starting point for life? 

First, because it’s true.

Second, because we don’t have to work so hard trying to look and behave like perfect people.

In the On Being podcast, host Krista Tippett interviewed relationship expert and  philosopher Alain de Botton.  In this interview Alain states that healthy relationships are those where individuals understand they are deeply flawed and that their partner is deeply flawed too. In this relationship the couple is not looking for their partner to meet their every need, but see the relationship as a way to help each other become their best selves.

If we start our relationships with the ideal that other people are and should be perfect, then we are headed for disappointment and disillusionment. If our friends or partners expects us to be perfect, they are headed for the same disappointment.

Here’s a link to the blog and podcast: On Being With Krista Tippett

By embracing my flaws I can have compassion on myself  and that compassion can extend to those around me. I believe that we all do the best we can given the context we are in and the knowledge we have. No one is trying to consciously try to screw up their lives. We are all doing our best and if we could give each other a little compassion for being human, we will all grow in the right direction.

Embracing the fact that we are all flawed isn’t a justification for our behavior, but it does explain it. The goal is to continually evolve and grow in life and embracing your flaws is a part of it.

Here’s are handful of my flaws and crazy thoughts that I know my friends and family have to experience:

  • When I feel I’m right, you’ll know about it
  • If I  believe it, I want you to believe it too.
  • I’ll convince you of what is right.
  • If you are not convinced, then it’s your fault.
  • I need to be right to be OK.

As you can see these are not very generous ways of living with others, but these are flaws that I’m working on and my goal is to have awareness of my crazy thinking and behaviors. I don’t have to act out on them and let them interfere with my goals and relationships.

Having awareness of our flaws and crazy thinking is a great starting point for living a intentional and meaningful life . Living without awareness will hamper our ability to authentically connect with others.

Embrace your flaws and crazy thinking as a great starting point for having meaningful and intentional lives.

 

Why I Love Flawed Heroes

Credit: Martinm

Credit: Martinm

In pop culture we have a lot of amazing hero characters that entertain us and any of them are almost flawless. James Bond is good looking, tough, and has the ability to work his way out of any difficulty.  If he has flaws in his personality you don’t see them, but in general he is portrayed as someone always in control.

Superman has a weakness around Kryptonite, but his drive to doing good and saving lives is unthwarted in most situations. He has unearthly powers that every kid would love to have and he has a goodness in him that radiates through his character.

There are many characters in film and literature that portray strength and consistency in their thinking  and behaviors, but I don’t think they are as compelling as heroes with deep flaws.

In contrast, there are characters who are trying to help and do the right thing, but have a dark side that they continually fight against. I can relate to that.

My new favorite is a British detective series call “River”.  The main character, Detective River, is a brilliant and effective investigator yet has mental illness where he has hallucinations of the victims who’s crimes he is trying to solve. He talks with them, fights with them, and asks them questions while people around him are perplexed at his behavior. At times he is comfortable with his hallucinations and at others he is terrified by what is happening to him. But it’s in his interactions with his hallucinations that give him the clues to solve crime.

Why am I writing about this?

I believe that deep in each of us, we want to do great things.  We want to make a difference in the world, our community, or the people around us. We also want to be recognized and seen for who we are and what we do.

But many of us connect with the flaws of these heros because we know we are deeply flawed too.  In my life it seems that I can take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back in many of my goals. My motivations go up and down. My behaviors are consistent and sometimes erratic. And as soon as I think I got life figured out I realize I have much more to learn.

Do we need to be flawless in order to do make a difference and do good things?

No. Our flaws, short comings, and quirks are part of our lives but they do not have to define us. Living with awareness of how our flaws affect us can give us insight to what we need to do to mitigate their impact.

Acceptance of our flaws can create greater self-compassion and compassion for others. One of the reasons I like the Detective River character is that he has deep compassion for those is society that struggle and are marginalized . If we have connected with the fact that we all struggle and need help, I believe we will be less judgmental and more compassionate on those around us.

Becoming our best selves is not a perfect process.

Becoming our best selves isn’t living life without failure or struggle. Rather living an excellent life is about focusing on our strengths and working on our flaws and weaknesses so they don’t hold us back. If perfection were the prerequisite for success, then no one would achieve it. Trial and error can be the clues to success. Our flaws can help us find people who can work along side us and balance out our weaknesses.  Giving up perfection can save us time and energy trying to achieve something that does not exist.

So do we embrace our flaws?

I think by acknowledging our flaws they have less power over us. When we make mistakes we can correct our plans or repair our relationships. We can seek out help in humility. We can partner with others who have similar goals.

 

Be the hero you are; to the people you love, the people you work with, and the people around you. Don’t let your flaws get in your way of being the excellent person you are.

 

 

 

Crazy Things We Do When We’re Not In the Momement

 

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Let’s be honest with each other. Sometimes we say or do stupid things when we are not paying attention.  My family has a good laugh when remembering one of the random things I said during a dinner time prayer.

It was one of those evenings when I was on autopilot.  It was my turn to say the dinner grace and my mind was anywhere but on that prayer. As I said thanks for the food and for family in the same way I usually do, my mind went somewhere else, but my words were on autopilot.  Instead of saying, “Amen” I said, “Thanks and good night”.  The laughter started in a nanosecond.  “Thanks and good night” while not altogether wrong, sounds more like someone ending a talk show than a prayer.

This is yet another reminder of how easy it is to live outside of the present moment. Our minds can pull us toward thoughts of past events and future events and the present moment before us gets lost.

I’ve had conversations with my wife where I was physically there but mentally far away.  When I get the question, “Are you listening?”, I have to admit that I wasn’t.

I’ve had too many mornings where I’m thinking of  the things I need to accomplish at work and I think, “did I brush my teeth?”. My thoughts were so consumed with the future that I wasn’t paying attention to the present task of getting ready for work.  I think that happens to many of us.

I’ve missed off ramps, turns, and  destinations because I’ve been so engrossed in something I was thinking about.   Some might call this ADD. I call it not living in the moment.

Living in the moment allows us to connect with the work we are doing, the people around us, and ourselves. But I’m learning that living in the moment is not something we do, but rather a skill we build.

It takes time and practice to live in the present and to not allow our minds to lead us to past events that we can’t change or the future events that haven’t’ happened yet. I find the more our thoughts are centered on the past or the future we are missing out on life because life only happens in the now.

Mentally living in the past or the future is not innocuous. It causes real stress in our lives and heightens our anxiety. It causes us to miss out on meaningful experiences in our relationships. It leads us to ignore the beauty around us. It slows down our productivity at work. It’s not helpful.

The culture around us doesn’t make this easy. We are bombarded with news, marketing, and advertisements that pulls our attention away from the present. Our lives our busy with work, family, and activity.  There is always something to do and somewhere to go.

In my life I’m working on practicing more presence in my day. Here’s what I try to do:

  • Take deep breaths throughout my day
  • Turn off the news and the news feeds
  • Stop checking my email every 2 minutes
  • Get off of social media when I need to focus at work
  • Go for a run/take a walk
  • Pull my attention to the present when my mind wanders

Like I said before, living in the present is a skill we build and with more practice the easier it gets.

My call to action for you is to adopt one or two strategies each day to pull your attention back to the present moment. Living in the moment is a life practice and small steps each day will make a difference.

We All Do Better When We All Do Better

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We all do better when we all do better is not a redundant statement. It’s a saying I used to hear from the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Senator Wellstone was a champion of the working and middle class.

paulwellstonespeaking640_0In 2002 Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, and daughter Marcia, along with the pilot died, in a plane crash on their way to a campaign rally in Eveleth, MN.  Outside of Minnesota, Paul may not be a household name, but here he was known for being a feisty advocate for those being left out in a country as successful and rich as the United States. He is also one of the few Senators who voted against the Iraq war. Good call.

We all do better when we all do better is considered a “lefty liberal”, “socialist” idea.  But is it really that liberal?  Maybe, but this more of a pragmatic statement than one would think.

There has been a growing income gap between the richest Americans and the poorest. As that gap gets wider, more people are struggling to feed their families, provide housing, and afford healthcare.

Does it matter that some people are succeeding when there is a growing group of people who are not? If you are succeeding in meeting your needs and the needs of your loved ones, it may not matter to you. If you are struggling it matters a lot.

For those of us that are doing well in this economy (myself included) there is a temptation to overlook people struggling around us. They live next to us, around the corner, and in our towns.

The concern is that those at the bottom of the economic ladder are going to push back through protests, boycotts, and ultimately violence.  In recent days we have seen how millions of people have protested the presidential election results. Except for the city of Portland, most of these protests (thankfully) have been peaceful.  But if people continue to feel marginalized, discriminated against, and not included in this economy my fear is that violence will break out at increasing rates.

We have seen this same dynamic in countries around the world where masses of citizens have risen up against their governments and changed the political structures. Think Egypt. In other situations the disaffected have resorted to armed conflict and violence. Think Syria and Palestine.

It’s easy to distance ourselves from the conflicts around the world and to believe that because we are Americans that can’t happen here.  That’s delusional thinking. If people live too long with hardship and a lack of hope, anything can happen.

If we are not all doing well, we are not all doing well.

But…

If we all have jobs that pay a living wage, we all do better.

If we all have access to affordable health care, we all do better.

If we all have affordable, decent places to live, we all do better.

If we all have quality education, we all do better.

If we all live without discrimination, we all do better.

If we are all able to pursue our religion with freedom, we all do better.

If we live in an environment that is clean and healthy, we all do better.

 

Even if you care only about yourself, you will do better if the rest of us are succeeding. We’ll be happier and less likely to cause you problems.

If believing that we all do better when we all do better makes me a left leaning liberal, then so be it.  But liberal, conservative, or somewhere in the middle I think we all have an intuitive sense that this is true.

My call to action for you is to engage in small ways (and some large) to make our world a better place for us all.

My call to action to our elected leaders is to work on behalf of all American and bring just and fair laws that benefit us all.  If you don’t, you’ll be hearing from a lot us. Because…

We all do better, when we all do better.