The last few years, I’ve had some challenges in my journey.
Putting time and energy into projects that fizzle out, or not getting the results I had hoped for.
There were several times where I felt like I had gone down the wrong path completely.
When I arrived at those roadblocks, I didn’t handle them the best way I could.
Instead of learning from my work and trial and error, I would throw in the towel instead.
I’d cocoon myself. I’d fill my time with distractions. Seeing what other people were doing on Facebook. Or prioritizing lower level tasks that had nothing to do with moving forward on important and meaningful projects in my life.
Yeah there are a lot of times we’ve got to do things we just don’t want to do.
I don’t like doing dishes, I don’t like doing laundry, I don’t like going over finances and doing taxes.
Yet, they have to be done.
I know the ideal is to only do things that we want to do. But life is also not a happiness cloud made of cotton candy.
I’m not sure where the idea of living a life devoid of pain came from.
I know for myself, pursuing happiness in my work came from being exposed to people who absolutely hated their work, but they continued to show up and do it for a paycheck.
That idea of showing up day in and day out in an environment that I loathed, spending a majority of my time and life in those circumstances was not attractive to me at all.
But that doesn’t mean that we get to avoid things that we don’t want to do.
Sometimes we’ve got to put our nose to the grindstone and get the work done.
I can think of two times in particular where I had to grow and make the right choice.
The first was in high school at the age of 14.
I grew up in the 1980’s and saw the birth of Must Watch TV on Thursday nights on NBC. It was one of television’s highest ratest nights with the line up of: “The Cosby Show”, “Family Ties”,”Cheers” and “Night Court”.
For me it was a staple of my week, something I really looked forward to.
By the time I hit freshman year at Loyola High School, I realized I was neck deep in some serious school work along with sports and activities. My schedule was getting crammed and I was coming to a crossroads in my life.
There have been many times in my past when I’ve let projects build up. Whether it’s housework or creative projects, at times, I’ve drifted away from showing up to do the work. When I finally decide that it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get back at it, I look at what needs to be done and I get overwhelmed. I think to myself “How am I ever going to do this?”
The work doesn’t go away, so I had to figure out a technique that would help me tackle it.
Not bad, but even 48 minutes seemed too much for me. Then I started to break that 48 minutes down into chunks that I could work with.
I discovered that I could focus on anything for 6 minutes at a time. Once I did six minutes I’d check off a little box. Then I thought “Well, I can do another 6 minutes.” And I’d do it.
Before I knew it, I had hit 48 minutes and it was time for a 12 minute break and I had some work completed.
I’ve used different timers over the last year. Currently I’m working with the Pomodoro Time app which is based on the Pomodoro Technique (pomodoro is Italian for “tomato”). This technique uses different time increments, but I can adjust it to my 6 minute segments.
I realize that I have tackled daunting tasks in the past, by just doing the work in little chunks.
A few years ago I was hired to be part of Castle Fantasy Fair at the Royal Theatre at Disneyland. A fun musical comedy style retelling of classic Disney stories like Beauty and the Beast and Tangled. I was grateful to be a part of this cast, but there was a challenge. I could do comedy, I could sing. However I’d never really done musical theatre dancing. I wasn’t sure how well I would do.
At the time, I paired up with a friend of mine who had also been hired, Mark McConville (from Superego), and together the two of us worked our tails off to get those routines down. I would film the other actors and choreographers performing the dances and I would go over and over and over it again. I would use my breaks. I would play the video in slow motion so I could build the routine into my body.
There were some days where I felt I would never get it. And then, slowly, it started working and I was put into regular rotation for the show.
I have such an appreciation for the celebrities that go on “Dancing with the Stars” who don’t know the first thing about dancing. I have gone through it myself.
But with continuous effort, focus, and just taking it a little bit at a time, that which looked unattainable and impossible was done.
I encourage you that if you are facing a task that looks to big, try the 6 minute technique. You’ll slowly start to make a dent in whatever it is that’s been looming over you.
I promise, you will make progress and you’ll feel better.
Do you use different techniques for tackling projects? If so feel free to share on my Facebook page.
Went to the dental hygienist and was in and out in 40 minutes. It was an easy visit.
That was not the case as recently as five years ago. I used to be petrified. I’d have to get myself mentally and spiritually prepared for a visit to the dentist.
I had terrible experiences as a child at the dentist’s office. I won’t go into the terrible details, but it really did a number on me mentally. It took me decades to get over this. I had a couple a decent experiences in my 20’s and 30’s with other dental offices, but after another long absence of check-ups and exams, I needed to do something. In my late 30’s I went back again and worked with my current dentist to get through my phobias.
I had a couple of advantages going back. Dental technology and practices have greatly advanced. Pain is not the norm in 21st century dentistry in North America. I also had a doctor and dental hygienist that were able to talk to me and explain uncomfortable processes, like deep cleaning and a root canal.
You’re probably facing a challenge in your life that’s like the dentist. It could be taxes, debt, finishing school. Maybe you’ve been running away from them for a long time. Running away doesn’t work. It delays that which has to get done. Running away also feeds the “fear monster” that has the habit of turning reasonable concerns into imagined gigantic unconquerable fortresses. These imagined fears of what will happen get so large that we continue running away from what needs to be done.
It’s not helping you. It’s hurting you. It’s hurting your forward motion.
Have you been running away from something that’s just been weighing on you for a long time? Is it a commitment that honestly you just can’t keep and you’ve got to let someone down? Is it something that you hope will go away, but it has to get done no matter what?
Other people have gone through the same situation. Seek them out, give them a call for help. Listen to their story online. You’ll soon discover there are other people who came out the other side of a situation very similar to yours. And they survived. And it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
I’m sorry you’re going through this. But believe me, with a little time, a little focus and a lot of support you could have the same feeling of ease I did coming out of the dentist’s office the other day.
Share what you’re fighting through on my Facebook Page. It might be a great first place to ask and receive the help you’re looking for to move forward.
“How am I going to get this done?”
It’s a question asked constantly when we look at what’s requested of us, our responsibilities, or goals we are trying to accomplish.
You may ask different versions of this question:
“How am I going to do work I really want to do?” “How am I going to lose this weight?” “How am I going to get out of this debt?”
It can be really depressing and overwhelming.
The way it gets done is a little bit at a time. You start. Action is the most important thing you can do, no matter how small it is.
The alternative is to do nothing. And that inaction is also a choice. That choice will keep us repeating the same bad habits that have you stuck in your current job,with your health or in debt.
It takes a little something to get us moving. We need encouragement. We need little victories in our lives.
Sometimes it’s as simple as making the bed, or washing those dishes that have been sitting there for the last few days. Or finally paying the bill you’ve been putting off.
A little action leads to a little more, which leads to a little more.
Before you know it, you can look back and see all the little things add up.
Try something today. Put on some music that will put you in a good mood (or at least in a focused mood) and set a timer for at least five minutes. Write down some accomplishments you’ve achieved over the last year, two years, or how ever far back you want to go.
Look at the things that you’ve done and celebrate them by sharing your victories on my Facebook page.
If you’ve been able to accomplish things in the past, you can accomplish them in the future.
I’ve got some great tools and techniques I want to share with you next month that will help you keep making that forward motion. But for now celebrate the little victories and the big victories and realize you’ll be able to do it again. Onward, upward!
It’s something I’ve seen again and again in the entertainment industry, different areas of business and life.
The idea that you must be young to accomplish meaningful things in life.
If you don’t do it when you’re young, well, it looks like you’ve missed out. You’re too old. The party’s over. The train has left the station. All that’s left now is to accept how thing’s turned out and trudge on with the rest of your life.
To that I say “No, no and no!”
Let me give you two examples of people who lived their lives fully with purpose until the end.
Katharine Drexel and Noah Purifoy.
Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) was heir to the fortune of her investment banker father Francis Anthony Drexel. She was a woman who was drawn to help Native Americans and African Americans in the United States. Her life took two major unexpected turns. The first occurred when both of her parents died leaving her and her two sisters an estate worth $14 million dollars ($400 million in current dollars). The second unexpected turn came when at age 31 she made the decision to not marry and instead enter into religious life as a nun.
Katharine Drexel began a Catholic religious order that used her share of her inheritance to build schools for African American and Native American children throughout the United States. This was a woman who lived her life as a prayer and spent her life and every last portion of her money to help others who were not seen as equals in society. In 1935 at age 76 while traveling across the country, she suffered a heart attack. Her doctor instructed her that she would have to cut back on her work and change her lifestyle.
For the next twenty years she spent every day of her life praying and writing to those other sisters of her religious order. It was what she described as the most spiritually productive period of her life. At age 96 on March 3, 1955, Katharine Drexel passed away after using her entire life as a work and prayer for others.
Noah Purifoy (1917-2004) was an African-American artist, sculptor and assemblage artist who lived in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, CA.
Born in Snow Hill, Alabama, he was a veteran in the Armed Forces and eventually made his way out to California where he developed his art. He received his BFA in art when he was 40 years old at what is now Cal Arts.
His work “66 Signs of Neon” caught public attention in 1966 when he used salvaged remains to interpret the Watts Riots that had occurred several months earlier in August 1965. He was one of the co-founders of the Watts Tower Arts Center. He served on the California Arts Council from the late 1970’s until late 1980’s. He then moved to Joshua Tree and at age 71 began a prolific work in the desert. Over 15 years until his death at 86 in 2004, Noah Purifoy created nearly a hundred pieces of art on 10 acres of land in Joshua Tree. These included large scale assemblages, environmental sculptures, and installation art. No small feat.
The land is now know as The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum. Kate and I saw it on our recent trip to Joshua Tree and it is quite impressive. To think that a man in his 70’s and 80’s could produce that much work that is driven by his purpose and passion… it is an example for all of us for how we should live.
Both Katharine Drexel and Noah Purifoy remind us that we are not bound by our age. Our work on this earth is not done until we have drawn our last breath. Until that moment, every thought, every conversation, every work that we do is something that can help or inspire others on their journey.
I have a friend of mine named Duane who is a musician. He plays bluegrass here in Southern California. Yes, a good old country boy who was raised just outside the Los Angeles area
He’s just a salt of the earth kind of guy.
An incredible talent and a really killer fiddle player.
He also loves to fix and tinker with things. He’s put together hand crafted steam engines and made jellies and juices from his homegrown pomegranates.
A couple of years ago, his regular gig at The Disneyland Resort was coming to an end, and like any working musician he was looking for his next gig.
I hadn’t seen him for a while, but when I saw him a few weeks ago, he shared a story that I found quite inspiring.
Throughout his career as a musician, Duane has been a master at fixing broken instruments. It was just something he could do and he would work side jobs for various music shops and schools.
When his regular gig went away he proposed to his local school district that he could contract out to fix musical instruments for more schools in the area. The local school district said “Great idea, we’ll think about it and get back to you”
Meanwhile a job position opened up for a larger school district. It was such a big opportunity, that the school district selected 50 applicants to show up for a hands on test to see how well they could fix instruments in a time tested environment. Duane tested in the top 5 applicants.
And he didn’t get the job.
A few weeks later, the larger school district called him back and said they had another position open that was in their main operations center where all the schools in the county sent instruments that needed to be fixed.
He took the job.
Now he spends his days fixing broken instruments and gets them sounding amazing and even better than new.
And on his breaks, he gets to play bluegrass with the other fellas at the shop.
And the other school district wants to work with him. And Disney has been contacting him about more work.
I wanted to share this story because, like Duane, we all have those gifts, abilities and talents that we instinctively do. Duane loves to tinker and fix. He was able to use those talents so that he could support himself during a lean time.
It’s never too late to use these talents. Duane is a mature gentleman, but he’s now entered a new chapter of his life and couldn’t be happier for this opportunity that’s come his way.
Here’s the other thing I love about this story. Duane’s a positive guy. When a trial came into his life, he hunkered down and did what he could. He’s not the type of guy who gets despondent when a hardship comes along. Like fixing broken instruments, he learned how to tinker around and find a fix for his loss of income.
I never saw a man who was so grateful for the opportunity that came his way and now his bucket is overflowing with opportunities.
Sometimes we get pushed through a trial because there is something pretty cool waiting on the other side.
What talents do you have? What’s that thing that you just seem to naturally do and don’t think twice about? Maybe it’s something that you need to be sharing with the world. Let me know on my Facebook page.
I just saw the movie “Room” starring Brie Larson. I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but it’s about a woman who has been held captive for some time with her young son. She has made their prison as structured and alive as possible for her child. Incredible performances, writing and directing.
There is a point in the film that the mother must make a decision about their captivity. It’s one that I think resonates with all of us.
You may be in a prison right now. You may be confined to your job, where you are living, or physical challenges. You may have one of two mindsets that are shown in “Room.”
You may be like the little boy in the film who is unaware of the bigger world outside of his prison. You’re comfortable where you are. You’ve developed and learned what you can. You start to hear about the bigger world and it might scare the heck out of you. It might scare you so much that you don’t want to go at all. You’d rather stay right where you are.
But that’s NOT life.
Or you may be like the Mom, who knows what’s out there, but you’ve been imprisoned by a setback. You may have even tried to break out of your prison, but you got hurt doing it. So you’ve resigned yourself that “This is just how it is. I’ve got to get used to this, this is my life now.”
But that’s NOT life either.
It’s scary. I know it. I’m in it right now. It would be great if everything could be laid out nice and orderly so we could see how it will play out. But that’s not how a breakthrough works, and honestly that would take the fun out of it.
There’s a bigger world waiting for you. And it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to ask God for help, or your friends. Take the chance. It’s scary…
It will seem like an odd quote, but I refer to Brad Pitt in the zombie movie World War Z “Movement is life”
I know it’s scary. I know you may be at a job where you are qualifying for medical benefits, you’re working you’re 40 hours a week and it seems like the safe thing to do.
But something’s just not right. You’re probably not making ends meet. You’re not using your talents and your skills to the best of their abilities.
First, I want to compliment you. You are being smart, you’re being logical.
But it’s time for you to take the leap. You can’t stay where you are because it will lead to a long slow downward spiral. It’s the only way that you’re going to break through to your next level.
I wish I could tell you that it’ll be easy. I wish I could tell you that there’s an easy path laid out before you and that all you have to do it follow the dots. It’s not how it works.
I remember my early days working for The Walt Disney Company as a part time employee. I was a young man, married and raising children. I was only working a couple of days a week and had no idea how to make ends meet. I was making my “living” as an actor and had to take the scary step of finding money to take commercial acting classes. I had to learn the business to see if I could expand my earning potential. There were no guarantees that it would pay off. Eventually it paid off extremely well. But that never would have happened if I didn’t take that first step.
I want you to remember this: any little positive action is a step in the right direction.
The more action you take, the more things will build in your life. It’s difficult to explain and I can’t show you hard scientific data.
I can tell you this. If your efforts are true and tie into your talents and your passion… when you step out into the scary and into the unknown… you will eventually get to the other side and get rewarded for your efforts. It’s an unbelievable feeling.
You will look back and wonder “How the heck did I do that?”
You’ll have done it with friends and/or family and/or other travelers on the journey.
You will not be the same. You will be different. That will be all right, because you will be becoming what you are supposed to be in the world. You will be getting closer to what the world needs from you.
Where are you in your journey? What’s holding you back? What can you do today to take the step? Share and join in the conversation here or on my Facebook page.
I used to dread mornings.
I would wake up feeling as if I had no rest the night before and had no energy to face the tasks ahead of me for the day.
What mainly contributed to this feeling was that I was stuck in an uncreative and depressing cycle.
I was stretched thin between work, family and extra unnecessary commitments. There was very little time to do the things I wanted to do. Nor was I giving my family the proper attention they needed.
I believed that if I worked as hard as I did doing the frustrating, mind numbing chores or things that no one else wanted to do, someone would show up and save me.
A declaration would be made from on high. An awesome demi-god would arrive in my home!
He would declare that I have done everything I needed to do and now time would be set aside so that I could work without a care in the world on the projects I wanted to work on. Continue reading “Breaking the Cycle of Stinking Thinking”