The sport of skiing is one that I did not acquire until I was well into my twenties. My wife took me for the first time while we were engaged. I enjoy it but because I learned to ski later in life, I feel a certain amount of hesitance about pushing my limits. Skiing is an activity that allows for a good amount of self-policing. Generally speaking, there are no official representatives of the mountain telling you what trails to take. You need to have enough self-awareness to know if you’re a green circle, a blue square or a black diamond. Incorrectly gauging your level could have disastrous consequences. Despite this possible peril, most people make it down the mountain unscathed because they accurately police themselves.
It is amazing to me that in certain areas, the idea of self-awareness is ingrained and almost automatic. While in other places people are seemingly unable to see themselves at all. Perhaps it is the number of variables in the given situation. Or it is the perceived risk of bodily, emotional or social harm. Whether it is in sports, dating, business, school or any other area, we all know someone who does not know their own level. Either they think they’re an expert when they’re truly a novice. Or they think they should be on the bunny hill when they could truly handle or deserve so much more of an experience. Regardless of the situation, there are rewards to reaped from self-awareness.
So where do you belong in a particular area that means something to you? Are you a green, a blue or a black diamond? Take a real look inward and decide where you think you belong? Then take your self-assessment and bring it to people that you trust. Depending on the area, it may be worth it to take it to the streets and see what the common person thinks. Regardless of the outcome, the exercise is valuable because a map of Chicago is worthless if you’re lost in New York. Having a knowledge of where you are is a key component to getting where you want to go. Denial is not a strategy for progress.
So go out there and hit the slopes!
In the English subway system, there are both visual and auditory reminders to “Mind the Gap”. This is a call for attention to the space between the platform and the train. It is a helpful reminder but probably almost unnoticed by most local people. However for the American tourist this is an out of the ordinary bit of speech. “Mind” is rarely used as a verb in American English and “the gap” is a store or possibly brings thoughts of Michael Strahan. Due to its unique wording and situational use, it tends to have sticking power with tourists. It is helpful to “Mind the Gap”. While it is a everyday practicality in the UK, it seems as though there is a gap issue in the USA.
The gap that I am referring to has nothing to do with the subway but rather the “gap” between you and your goals. It is a space that many people do not want to acknowledge. The gap represents all of the undesirable aspects of the goal: the work, the discipline, the sacrifice and persistence. These are the bricks that form the path to the object of our desires. Unfortunately the easy road is so seductive that you forego logic and buy the false lottery promises. So you ignore the gap and sit on the couch to dream the impossible dream. The only reason that the dream is impossible is that you never take enough action to get there. All of that action happens in the gap.
Since the gap is a necessary part of eventual success, why not mind the gap or even better learn to love the gap! It’s the place where you will be spending most of your time. So why waste it by avoiding or hating it? Take it as the place where you find out who you really are. Anyone can sit on the thrown of triumph without effort. It takes a totally different mentality to wear a medal that was buried under a mountain of muck. So can you mind the gap? It is a difficult task but your up to it. Don’t get discouraged by the other people (even those who care about you) who are afraid of the gap and try to protect you from the gap. They are invested in their own comfort, not your goal. If you succeed, then they might have to mind the gap. So take the step! Start now because the gap isn’t going anywhere and right now, neither are you. Your goal is not magnetic, you need to go to it. Get in the gap!
This morning on my run I had a glitch with my headphones. Only part of the sound was coming through. The guitars, bass and backing vocals all came through crystal clear while the drums and lead vocals were inaudible. Occasionally the vocals could be heard but only as a kind of echo. Each song that played was a muted version of what it normally is and those echoes were the only reminders of the lyrics of the normal song. The only song that came through relatively clearly was “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction because it was from live recording rather than a chopped studio version.
As I ran, I thought about how we are always living in the present but we experience the past as a form of an echo. The moment that we remember is long gone, much like the source voice to an echo. However these echos shape much of what we think about ourselves. Some of these memories are more than echos because they push us in particular directions, more like waves of water rather than sound. If you’re anything like me, there are probably memories that act more like tidal waves that can crush you at a moment’s notice. The question becomes why? Why give something that much power? The answer should be simple, only give that much power to constructive rather than destructive forces.
Since the past is gone and only represented in these echos, they should be used to serve and not to destroy. It is possible to turn up the volume on those echos that can carry you forward and mute the ones that do not serve. It comes down to a decision about focus. Take the memories that will help you and make them a daily part of your. Make them a tidal wave if it’s warranted. If you don’t have any that will do that, make future memories, if your mind is inundated it cannot tell the difference. The waves of your past can put you on the rocks! Unless you use your rudder and your sails to get caught in the positive current. The future should be a destination to behold not a rerun of the old.
In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge famously said that “The business of America is business.” Almost a full century later, those words are still quoted often enough for it to be recognized. Since the proliferation of the internet to most households, the pace of information exchange and communication has continued to increase almost exponentially. The problem is that with so much information flying around, very few people are taking the time to communicate or do anything to the best of their ability. It seems that with technology as our guide “The business of America is BUSYness.” There is no soap box under my feet. I am not chastising, judging or pointing a ridiculing finger. This post is as much for me as it is for anyone who reads it.
Distraction is a way of life in the country at the moment. Not only is completing tasks without getting distracted difficult but the fear of missing out (FOMO) seems to be an almost pervasive issue. People have divided their focus between too many activities and are simultaneously getting distracted from them. It’s a recipe for disaster no matter how you slice it. No one can be everywhere for everyone every time. Distraction always comes with a price tag and it is not you who is profiting. The losses are felt by you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and classmates. The people who are actually in your life are the ones who are missing out on a key component of their experience and that is you. All of you, not the partial you that has a technological device in hand “JUST IN CASE!” The cyborg version of you that cannot let go of the phone, tablet or computer has a distinct weakness, it is never fully present.
So many of our systems are built largely upon attendance but that model is at best flawed and at worst catastrophically broken. Absence, attendance, presence, engagement and immersion are very different levels of an inverted pyramid of human involvement. While attendance is a nice start, it is just barely above absence and meets only minimum requirements. Showing up is just not enough. To really take full advantage of this life that you have been gifted, you must strategically move up the pyramid with the things that you have decided really matter. And there lies the problem we must DECIDE. Decide comes from the Latin meaning to cut off. We must cut off the things that don’t matter in order to preserve the things that do. Our focus needs to be cut down to that which we value most.
The only person who can win this focus battle for you is you. Anyone can suggest, plead or punish you to do it but you do not have to comply until you choose. In the end there are so many companies and individuals who want your focus. It is your job to divvy it out as you see fit or scatter it without a care. Where you put your focus determines your life. If you decide to immerse yourself in Facebook, that is your choice and far be it from me to judge. As long as it is a decision and not a resignation to the world of distraction. Choose what you want for yourself before others choose for you.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt