Cats Eyes, Incense, and Hustle Porn - What is Time, Really?

Cats Eyes, Incense, and Hustle Porn - What is Time, Really?

You are afraid of it slipping by. The more it elapses, the closer you are to death, deadline, judgment, completion, and meeting the expectations of others.

It is your friend. It deepens flavors, develops character, illuminate insight, allows for evolution, and ages wine just right.

How ominous. How exquisite.

Your relationship with time creates different realities and experiences in your life. At both extremes, your relationship with time can cause breakdowns or breakthroughs for different reasons. 

What is your relationship with time?

There are at least two ways to look at time.

  1. We can see it tick by in uniformity in clock time.  A minute always equals a minute.

  2. We can feel it slowly.  In felt time, time can feel like it stops, drags, slows down, or speeds up.  

If you can identify and differentiate both experiences of time, this will empower you to consciously choose how to use both constructs for good, and avoid breakdown in favor of breakthrough.

Clock Time

Clock time can motivate you, push you to master your craft, and provide boundaries for achieving your goals.  It is certainly important to work well in the time you have, honor your time, and know that your efforts lead to outcomes.

I love the thrill of working hard and reaching a goal.  It builds my confidence.  When Britney Spears’ Work B***h starts playing on my Spotify playlist when I’m on a 6 mile run, I pick up the pace. 

But taken to the extreme, pushing yourself to achieve all the time means making choices that can neglect your relationships, health, and connection to yourself.   Speed can take you out of conscious and strategic choice and into reactivity. High achieving business leaders and entrepreneurs who have big goals can easily fall into this pattern.

Have you heard of Hustle Porn?  It’s a raunchy term that Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian coined last fall to describe the drive to grind, hustle, and work endless hours in order to get ahead. Hustle porn celebrates the martyrs who suffer to create something astonishing in business. 

But overwork and self-neglect is not actually that astonishing (or sustainable) for you or for business.  It can lead to health breakdowns, heart problems, memory loss, dropped IQ, loss in focus, loneliness, and performance decline.  Overwork and self-neglect can also lead to lapses in judgment (think Elon Musk smoking pot on air and Tesla shares plummeting). Overwork and self-neglect can actually make you lose your edge. 

Feeling Time Slowly

Can you imagine measuring time by looking into your cat’s eyes?

In Eastern cultures of the past, people told time by looking at the shape of their cat’s pupil. Time was also marked by the burn time of incense crafted to have a uniform burn rate.

Imagine the shifts in our culture if we all marked time by breathing in fragrant woods and flowers. Beautiful breath and inspirational markers of time would move us through connecting with others and creating our work. Consider that the Latin root of inspire is spirare, which means to breath.

Being in the material world is not just about linear clock time, being industrious, thinking rationally, being productive, and having a focus.  Life and work is also about elevation of the spirit, presence, energy, purpose, and conscious connection. 

Your time can be a conduit of beauty, inner peace, and connection to awe.  You can move through time while breathing deeply and making eye contact - while you work and while you step away from work.

In felt time, you think by feeling, as Theodore Roethke writes in one of my favorite poems, The Waking.  Time slows, and you are absorbed and open to what is.  

In felt time, you can move into what positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as flow.  Flow gives you a natural high and a feeling of oneness. 

In the space between boredom and high stress, there is flow.  If you have so much mastery over your work that it’s not challenging, then you’ll get bored.  If you’re not great at something, then you’ll feel stressed out.  Finding flow slows your inner experience of time.

Slow time is a host for creative and strategic thinking. 

A broad sense of time creates an internal environment where you are more capable of creative thinking, according to positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson.  Positive feelings (and not being in a heightened stress response) broaden your perspective and builds your social, physical, and mental skills.  In contrast, speeding through work can trigger the stress response.  In stress, you go into fight, flight, or freeze mode, and that narrows your thinking.  In tunnel vision you have focus, but you can’t see the bigger picture. 

Slowing time also helps you to get things right. 

Slowness allows you to move down a path with wise action, and doing things right so you minimize gargantuan course corrections.

Consider a research study from the University of Texas at Austin in which classical piano majors from Julliard learned three measures of Shoshtakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  The researchers found that the most successful pianists slowed down during practice at the right points.  They intentionally paused to get the piece right, and they avoided learning the wrong notes.

This is known as strategically slowing down.   You can’t always learn by speeding up and getting things done fast.  That method reinforces the wrong notes.  If you put all of your resources and time in to the wrong notes (your decisions, relationships, products, and services) that’s a big opportunity cost.

Choice

You have a choice in how you relate to time. 

Knowing that clock time can motivate you to stretch your capabilities and achieve big results will help you to choose the clock time strategies that work for your goals, while also avoiding potential pitfalls.

Knowing that slow time is great for creativity, flow, strategic thinking, intimacy with your work, and learning will help you slow your experience and allow yourself slow time when your goal calls for it, and speed up when slow time isn’t a match for your goal.

Experiment

The writer Annie Dillard says that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

So beautiful.

Spend a day noticing when you’re in clock time and when you’re in slow time. 

Are you making the right choices for your relationship with time given your goals? 

Consider the experiences, feelings, and support that help you move you through clock time in an energizing and inspiring way. Write a list or draw a picture (or sing a song or make a sculpture). Consider the experiences, feelings, and support that help you slow down and be present in slow time. Make another sculpture (you get the point).

Choosing how you relate with time, and being able to toggle in and out of different rhythms, will help you be fully present no matter what rhythm you’re in.

Listen to Your Emotions

Listen to Your Emotions

If you can identify your feeling and listen to their message, your emotions can empower you. 

Anger tells you a boundary is crossed.

Sadness signals loss.

Fear signals danger. 

Joy is uplifts your energy.

Having feelings is richly human.  Your truth matters. 

But we’ve all experienced emotional hijacking. Something triggers you, and it’s usually an old wound. On impulse, you move to old behaviors that somehow helped you to take care of that old wound. Icing someone out. Telling someone off. Collapsing into a puddle of unworthiness. Numbing out with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, or work.

Different results will happen when you give yourself space to respond to situations with calm instead of reactivity. 

When you have mastery over your feelings, you learn to avoid your knee-jerk impulses that could hurt you and your relationships. That gives you more choices in how to productively respond to triggering situations or your own triggering thinking.

Tending to your emotions can help you increase your resilience and your ability to sustain awesome performance and high character regardless of the stressful situation that might be happening, or to take a pause long enough to process your emotion and return to work when you are able. 

Not only does tending to your emotion help your performance, it also helps your emotional, mental, and physical health. There’s opportunity to heal yourself, and byproduct of that might be to offer healing to others who will learn from you how to be present and responsible with your feelings.

Mark Twain said this:

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Working through our emotions and stresses, we have the potential to create something beautiful.

So how do you grow your emotional mastery, and positively perfume your world?

Knowing your triggers will help you increase your inner and outer resources to work through a stressful situation, and to find some ease and calm.  In working through stressful emotions, you can learn to cultivate the “relaxation response”, a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School in the 1970s.  You can cultivate your ability to create calm at will.  In creating this ease in your body and mind, you can improve your health, relationships, and decision-making skills.

An emotion lasts about 90 seconds, at most.  If it lasts beyond 90 seconds, it’s because the emotion is continuously being triggered – either because you have not left the triggering situation, or you are perpetuating the emotion with your thinking.

You can learn to create space between the trigger and your response so your emotions are neither dismissed nor overblown. You can increase your ability to identify your emotion, listen to your need, and respond to your need.  

No matter what your emotion is, there are strategies to identify your emotions, listen to your needs, and respond with your best outcome in mind. There are so many fun emotions to look at - here we’re going to look at anger.

Anger

Anger comes out of the the need to protect and restore a value, an idea, or a position.  Someone has crossed your boundary.  Your client is late to a call. You missed your own deadline. A technology glitch messed up a group call. You have a disagreement with your partner about the nature of love.

So, what do you do with your anger?

If you slow down your response, you can feel into it and choose how to respond for the best possible outcome.

  1. Thank it. Celebrate it. Your anger has a place in your body for a reason. Tell your anger that it is absolutely welcome here. Have a personal experience with your anger in your body.

  2. Notice and feel it. Is it hot and sharp? Where is the anger in your body?  You might feel tight in your neck. You might feel a sharp sensation in your chest. You might have a headache. Your stomach might feel tight.  Feel it. 

  3. When it has passed, think about it. How do you typically work with your anger?  Do you back down, explode, get frazzled, numb out, or repress your anger?  Do you get sarcastic, self-righteous, or overcome with rage?  Does your anger empower you or give you clarity?

  4. Consider how your anger impacts your well-being. You might experience anger as powerful and energizing.  You might experience it as nauseating and debilitating.  When you know your patterns with anger, you have perspective to think about whether your habitual responses to anger serve you, or if there are more productive ways of working with your anger.

  5. Remember your values and choose yourself.  What message is your anger telling you? What is important to protect, maintain, and value in this situation?

  6. Choose your response. What will you say or do? Your response could be an internal action or an external action. You might decide to sit in the heat of your anger and let it pass while you remind yourself that you cannot control others.

    Or, you might have something to say or do that involves other people. If you do have something to say or do, ask yourself, does it have to be now? Your aim is to communicate your boundaries so you are most effective - direct, empathetic, and clear.

Whether you’re working through anger, sadness, or fear - your emotions can be powerful messengers. It takes time and practice to refine your emotional skills, and no situation is the same so it’s a constant practice.

When you’re emotionally triggered, it’s often because you attach negative thoughts to a situation.  A friend is succeeding and that means you can’t. You didn’t get a project that you wanted, and that means that you won’t get any future projects. Someone interrupts you and that means that they don’t value your ideas. 

When you are going down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts related to the feeling, pause, and think about alternatives.  A friend is succeeding and that means you can learn from them. You don’t get a project that you wanted, and that means that you have space for something even better. Someone interrupts you and that’s because they’re excited about your collective ideas.

The negative thoughts you have about a situation are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. Imagining positive alternatives is not about denying a shitty situation, but about expanding possibilities and channeling your feelings towards something better.

So, choose yourself when you have strong emotions.

Cultivate a positive intention to use your feelings for good.  Anger can lead you to making a clear request or stating a clear need. 

Consider how you’d like to feel and be supported. Maybe you need to self-soothe by pausing, taking a walk, wrapping yourself in blankets, placing your right hand on your heart and left hand on your stomach, or breathing in for 3 counts and out for 4 counts. 

Consider how you want your customers, clients, and community to feel as you respond to situations that anger you.

Nobody but you can take care of your feelings and needs.  Listening to your emotions and responding to them empowers you to lead with your values and your value.

New Voices In Your Head - A Genius Dinner Party

New Voices In Your Head - A Genius Dinner Party

How would your life and your life’s work be impacted if you mastered understanding of your greatest sources of inspirations, and sought counsel from them?

Who are your muses, living and dead? Who are the artist, leaders, master in your field, explorers, social changers, business icons, performers, innovators, musicians, and philosophers who are dynamic, compelling, and inspiring to you?

Your muse can also be a piece of art, a poem, a country, a constellation, a myth or story, a historical time period, and beyond.  When you think of your muse, you feel alive. Your soul is sparked. Your intellect is bursting. You feel empowered. You feel positively transformed. Your thinking, being, and feelings expand. You shift your perspective. You feel a deeper connection to yourself and what matters to you. 

Here’s the fun part.

Write a list of 7 muses, and the qualities of each that inspire you. This might take a while, and that’s ok. You get to comb your life and consider what really matters to you.

Here’s my list for today, and a super brief explanation of why they inspire me:

  1. Antonia’s character in the Dutch film, Antonia’s Line - she’s fierce

  2. Starhawk, author of The Fifth Sacred Thing - she fights for a better world

  3. Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet - he is wise and beautiful

  4. Krista Tippet, Creator of the podcast On Being - she goes deep and listens well

  5. The Book of Poetry by Sam Taylor (it’s a poem) - unfurling hilarity of difference

  6. James Cordon (I love carpool karaoke) - so fun and down to earth and touchable

  7. Rhinoceros, a play by Ionesco - absurdity and a message to be yourself (or turn into a rhinoceros)

Now you try it. Write a list of your muses, and the qualities about them that you greatly admire.

Ask yourself:

How does each muse show me areas within myself, my life, and my work that I would like to further deepen and cultivate?

Next, invite these muses to hang out with you. You can do this a myriad of ways. One way, which I’ve done several times with great fun, is to invite 7 friends to my apartment for dinner. I assign each of them a muse to study before the dinner, and then they show up to dinner as a hybrid of themselves and their assigned muse.

From there, I run ideas, projects, and personal conundrums by my team, and they advise me in the voices of my muses. It’s enlightening for all, we get to know each other through our creative and philosophical interests, and it’s joyous,

Another option is to have imaginary conversations with your muses in your head or as you journal. Take them in. Listen to their voices. Sense their energy of wisdom, protection, strength, and other qualities specific to them. See what comes up.

This method of talking to your muses can apply to so many creations and decision.

Want to launch a project? What would Gloria Steinem, Warren Buffet, Joan Baez, Nicola Tesla, ambergris, and Aphrodite say to you about your project?

Showing up to a tough conversation or meeting? How would Ghandi, Michelle Obama, Amelia Earhart, Mick Jagger, Shakespeare, Robyn Davidson, and Tim Ferriss advise you?

The possibilities are limitless.

We can all listen to the voices in our head. Sometimes the voice is our vibrant wonderful self, and that voice is really what matters. To get creative and shift your perspective, welcome new voices to the conversation.

But sometimes the voices in your head represent your inner critic. You know, that voice that says you’re not enough and you don’t deserve the chocolate, the time off, the accolades, the dream, the money, the person, the peaceful resolution. That voice can feel so real. Your 7 muses offer you an alternative to your inner critic - inspiration, elevated thought, refuge and safety.

See what happens when you curate the voices in your head with your purpose, values, and inspiration. Of course, the voice that I want you to ultimately listen to is your own.

Higher Purpose in Business

Higher Purpose in Business

Break a million dollars. Outperform your competitor’s product. Write a best-selling book. Land a star client. Add zeros to your income.

For business success, we’re taught to set goals that make us money.

I do love money. But it is not happiness (sort of). There have been lots of studies that examine the threshold of how much money we need to be happy. A Princeton University study reports that when we make $75,000 per year, we’re happy - but making any amount more than that doesn’t necessarily increase happiness.

But there’s a twist. While making above $75,000 per year will not impact your general day-to-day mood (your daily feelings of stress, anxiety, joy, sadness, and so on) it can raise deeper existential life satisfaction and give you the feeling that your life is working out.

On the surface, outperforming your competitor’s product or breaking a million dollars is not that deep of a goal by itself. You’re better than someone. You’re worse than someone. That’s an endless and dissatisfying loop. Big goals and big numbers might juice up your motivation, but in a grander sense, it’s not that moving. If you want to feel a deeper sense of life satisfaction and personal meaning, your business goals have got to tap into something deeper and emotionally driven.

Aspirations are different than goals. They point to a higher purpose, a social and emotional reason for existing. Aspirations are your vision for transformation that you want to lead in the world, and that is also aligned to your business objectives.

Aspirations not only move you, they move everyone around you to support your vision. Your team members, clients, potential clients, family, and media rally around your idea and vision to transform the world.

Your aspirations make others willing to change their behaviors and actions to align to your vision. This is huge.

For a solopreneur, that could mean the difference between hoping you get a new client to buy your product - to having a message, brand, and solution that inspires others to engage with your work. Your exponential and viral satisfaction leads to growth.

For a larger company, that’s the difference between trying to improve performance through measures and agreements and awkward trainings - to having a greater purpose that taps into your employees’ emotions. That shift will transform your organization into a collection of people who fully own their part in driving your company’s purpose. Again, your exponential and viral satisfaction leads to growth.

Having and sharing your company’s higher purpose not only creates massive accountability and higher personal standards for everyone (including you), it also turns everyone (including you) into an evangelist for your company. You, your clients, team members, leaders, colleagues, and others in your community will be excited by what you are creating, and share that within their respective worlds.

So if you or your team members are looking at spreadsheets all day trying to figure out how to make improvements, great - data is hot. Robots, AI, yes - it’s the future. It’s now. But the way to connect to your higher purpose is to connect to people.

Your higher purpose and your company’s story already exist. All you have to do is listen to understand. Ask questions, get curious, listen, notice what you hear, learn about who you are. Your curiosity, self-awareness, and understanding of others will guide you to surface the purpose that is already there.

When you see your higher purpose, then the magic can begin. Infuse your higher purpose in all that you do. Tell your purpose over and over again. Love it. Share it. Integrate it into your systems, communications, branding, processes, business direction, goals, customer experience, and beyond.

I have worked with many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who love and repeat their higher purpose over and over again. It is deceptively brilliant. Your ideas and messages might not be that seismic. In fact, they’re usually not.

But when you fully own it, live it, and embody it, your message will become your own transformation and the transformation that your followers want to join. Your purpose tells you who you are and who you are not, and your actions, conversations, and offerings align to that. You can drop what’s not aligned.

Know your higher purpose in your business, and once you do that, feel free to look at a few spreadsheets from time to time.

Creative Discontent

Creative Discontent

I love to be positive, but let’s get a little negative for the fun of it.

Creative thinkers and innovators might be bursting with ideas, but sometimes you need some inspiration. Negative inspiration.

Let the problems in your world or the greater world spark your creative solutions.  Creative thinkers can focus on what most people want to avoid. Personal problems such as fear of intimacy, a need for respect, perpetual conflict, identify-based discrimination, miscommunication, loss, addiction, depression, illness, or financial insecurity can move you to develop understanding and creative solutions. Global problems such as hunger, war, xenophobia, addiction, disease, overconsumption, disproportionate wealth, unclean water, crime, and poor sanitation can press you towards new solutions.

Big problems call for big solutions. Creative thinkers can sit with problems, pain, and complexity, and see a new world where these problems no longer exist, or at least not to the magnitude that they exist today.

Dissatisfaction drove Jonas Salk to discover a cure for polio, Maria Montesorri to design a better way of educating children, Gandhi to create a more effective means of nonviolent social change. 

Your dissatisfaction can be big, or it could be simpler everyday problems, like rude drivers, telemarketers, unpredictable trains, and perpetually late doctors.

Take a moment to be dissatisfied. Sit with the awfulness of it.

  • What causes you creative discontent? 

  • What do you complain about the most?

  • What is something awful that moves you to take action?

Flip your creative discontent to expansive solutions using your imagination. You know what you don’t want - so what do you want? What is your insight? What world will exist with this problems solved?

Get turned on by your ideas. Create through curiosity, joy, and love. Solve problems in ways that are intriguing and fascinating to you. What experiences do you want to have as you solve this problem? Who will have perspective and energy that will add value to your impact?

As you expand, consciously expand your framing. People tend to solve problems knowing what they already know. You have a frame, a lens through which you look at, process, and think about life.  Your frame is your cognitive belief system that makes sense of complex information, behaviors, patterns, and decisions. 

Your frames are based on all of the complex experiences and emotions of what makes you who we are. It’s what you’ve studied, and why. It’s how you were raised, It’s your gender, sex, and sexual orientation. It’s your race, culture, and nationality. Religion and spiritual experiences shape your frames. Your relationship status shapes your frame.  Your relationship with your frame shapes your frame.

Understanding your frames and other people’s frames tells you how you think, and also primes you to mix it up and reframe so you can expand your frame and come up with something totally unexpected.

A single problem can be framed a myriad of ways by different people.  It is possible to see different patterns from the same information. 

Think about why you love to travel or learn about new cultures. People from different countries have realities different than your own. This illuminates your unconscious and tacit ways of being in the world. Behaviors and beliefs that are natural to you are juxtaposed to totally different way of being, and you get to question yourself with more awareness.

Thinking strategically and creating insight means tapping into new ideas by testing and examining your tacit thinking. Moving beyond your assumptions and your own worldview.

We frame problems according to our experience, so if you want to think creatively and strategically, include people with diverse perspectives as you create solutions. Know your own frames, their assets, and their limitations. Bring new frames into your world.

Travel and conversation is great for creative and strategic thinking. Go somewhere new. Live a new way.

What 9 Days of Floating Taught Me

What 9 Days of Floating Taught Me

I am already a regular floater. Twice a month I enter a dark room filled with salt water, close the door, and block out all light and sound. Floating in salt water at the exact temperature of my skin, I don’t know where I begin and end.

When I float, I let go of everything. I am peaceful. I surrender. I let go of everyone else’s voice or expectation. I let go of my own expectations, to do list, relationship dynamics, my age, and what’s for dinner. I am with myself. I am in my body. I can hear my heart beat. I feel the rhythm of my blood moving beneath my skin. My breath is loud in my ears. I go inside.

I thought I’d try 9 days of floating in a row, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - to reflect on my year, let go of what was no longer serving me, and have more clarity about the year to come. I wanted to contemplate how to write myself in the book of life, not leaving it to the almighty out there, but give it to the almighty within.

For me, part of feeling fully alive means facing and preparing for death. Accepting endings. Remaining myself during uncertainty and disappointment.

Floating has become one of the ways to release my ego and self-interest. I strip down and question the things that I think will protect me, but actually siphon my energy and deprive me of real freedom.

Would I feel vastly and deeply held by 9 days of floating?

Sometimes floating was like the equivalent of rushing to a yoga class. I have such full days (so yes, I am vibrantly alive) that it was challenging to devote about 3 hours per day to resting in a pool of water, plus the travel and hair blowdrying, and tea drinking involved. Sometimes I started out frenzied and then the experience became luscious.

By day 5, though, I was wondering - why am I doing this? Is this completely necessary?

No, not necessary. But good. I did this because that is me. I experiment. I contemplate. I do new things to see what will affect me. I also like the affect of floating. My mind becomes more clear and settled. I love working or relaxing after I float. I am clear headed and words and ideas tend to flow out of me without feeling rushed.

9 days of floating also helped me appreciate how to hold opposites at once. I slow down and I speed up. I think deeply and I eat turkey burgers. I can let myself be held by water, and I also work hard.

We sometimes believe that we need solid ground and permanence to feel steady. We need a certain dollar amount, a certain number of likes, approval from someone we think we need it from. But impermanence and liminal space is actually a very friendly place. It’s a lot more kind than building our lives on a false foundation of belief that everything is secure and will stay the same. It will not.

Floating reminds me of impermanence, of weaving in and out fast and slow, sacred and profane, your voices and my voices, of floating and standing. I feel safe in quiet and unsteadiness.

So, how can I write myself in the book of life when I know that the people I experience will change, the light coming into my kitchen window will change, the weather will change from Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer, my emotions will change, my body will change, the character on my face will deepen, and all the other invariable fluctuations?

The answer, as the hippies have said, is be here now. I want to face death, the book of life, the experience of aliveness. So I float to let go, to listen to myself, to remind myself of my animal ways, to practice receding from the world.

While there are twinges of sadness with time passing, I feel comforted that endings always lead to new beginnings.

Creating anew often means dropping something old - old behaviors, old frames, old relationships, old habits. It’s scary. We cannot know the future. But the more we can sit with impermanence, the more we can create on this day.