Worry-wart

When I was taking some classes in the Eller School of Business, we were told to manage ‘our brand’, meaning, our personal brand.  That if you say the wrong thing in a business meeting or if you are continually cracking jokes, you might end up with a label (or brand) that you won’t be happy with; ‘can’t be taken seriously’, ‘awkward and insecure’, ‘motivated by the wrong things’.

You have to always be circumspect with how you carry yourself, the image you exude, and never give anyone any kind of ammunition against you.

I suppose, on a level, that’s good advice but, as in all things, it has to have some balance.

For myself, personally, I definitely have it in my conscious mind that the things I say and do resonate with others in different ways and ripple outward to form a general image of who I am.   A perception of myself in the world isn’t just the next best thing – it’s the only thing.   Navigating each encounter, coming off too earnest or not earnest enough, taking things too personally or not personally enough, guessing what it is that others might be expecting and either giving it to them or being calculating enough to do something else that they hadn’t thought of but might be equally pleased with – or moreso.

It’s a very complicated dance with shadows and immaterial unknowns.   It’s not good.

When I begin to worry about what others might have said about me – and I’m embarassed to admit that I do this all too often – I begin to form a narrative that is unceasingly and unsurprisingly negative.   I don’t actually KNOW what was said about me or how the zeitgeist of my received perception in the world actually manifests – but with my narrative in hand, I begin to see how it could be plausible that my suspicions are true, after all.

This is called confirmation bias because I only count the instances that support my theory as evidence that my theory is true while not even registering all the instances that disprove or diminish my theory.

So I have this idea that people have sullied my image by gossiping about me and saying negative things or harping on my failings – damaging my brand, as it were.   And the McLelland side of things puts that blame right back on me; “If you don’t want people to say negative things about you, don’t do things that will cause them to say negative things about you!”.   Well, that’s true enough.  I have done and said things that I wish I could take back, behaved in ways that aren’t making me feel too good about myself, and I’ve failed more times than I would like to admit.   In that vein, I’ve also done some incredibly kind and amazing things and actually been a damned close version of myself that I really admire and love too.   I’ve done everything in between.  You could say, I’m all over the map.

And maybe people are saying things that aren’t flattering and that hurt me without me knowing.   But here’s the thing – I don’t control that.  I can’t control that.   That’s not on me – if it’s even true – that’s on them and that’s on those who listen to them.   Not everyone has to love me or be supportive of me.   There’s no law that states my opinions and actions can’t be criticized.   There are no edicts that say I have any bussiness messing around in the thoughts of others – even if those thoughts concern me!

No.

Sometimes I think we really are meant to be somewhat idiotic in the manner in which we conduct ourselves; immune to the hostility of others, single-minded simplicity to our own endeavors, impossibly kind to everyone and innocent to all.   And stop worrying so damned much about useless shit.

The pain is the path

When you put yourself in uncomfortable and usually new situations, you have suddenly gained access to a whole chain of possibility that was closed to you previously.   The veins of binary decisions made from that single turn fan out like branches, then leaves then tiny veins – all destinations that were completely closed to you when you refused to even consider making the tough choice or the choice that would inevitably make you look dumb, vulnerable, weak and stupid.

When you put yourself in that position where you don’t have enough strength to push out one more repetition, or you don’t have a chance in hell of getting the job or the hottie you have your eye on – when you get in these areas of your life where your brain is screaming, “You have no business here!” or “Who the hell do you think you are?” it gets really fucking scarey really fucking quick.   You choke.. and then you choke some more. It’s a waking nightmare really, to be in that position where you’re less than nobody. Instead, you’re annoying and you make everyone else uncomfortable.  It’s like watching someone implode on stage while performing or giving a speech and it’s obvious they’re so lost that it makes you want to cringe.

It hurts to be that vulnerable.

But you know what?   Turning your face into that uncomfortable sun will lead you places you never dreamed of when you begin to ask yourself, “Why not, me?”.   Putting yourself in the apex of all eyes will introduce you to others who don’t judge you on what you did, or even on how well you did it, but only on WHY you did it.   Believe me!  You will meet some of the most extraordinary people if you do extra-ordinary things.

Let this be of some solace to you that, when you feel uncomfortable, growth is in the offing.  When you feel scared, being strong is around the corner.  When you feel weak, strength will be yours if you do not quit.   And in all of these and more, your progress will be of the highest quality when, in the face of vulnerability, pain, discomfort – you lean into it.

The pain is the path.

On Being Ready: Next Level

I wrote about being ready two days ago and it felt good –  I sometimes like what I write and I thought that was a good one.   This idea of being SO ready that the action is anticipated and wound up like a spring just waiting for the trigger to set it in motion.

It keeps going like that too.   Question: Can you be suprised if you’re ready?   That’s kind of hard to think about because they seem to be mutually exclusive, don’t they?   If you’re ready, then you have anticipated something and prepared for it, but you can still anticipate something and be wrong about what it is.   Something could come out of left field that you didn’t consider and then you’re not ready for it.

This morning in Browns Boot Camp, coach called on Angel to lead some of the exercises and I thought, what if coach had called on me to lead the exercises?   Am I ready to do that?   And if I’m really going to take things to the next level, how am I going to prepare, not just for the things I can reasonable expect but also the things I’m not expecting or surprises?

Honestly, I think next level would be if coach called out anyone in the cirle randomly to lead the Jumping-Jacks and they would be ready to do it.   That would be awesome and motivating – taking accountability to a new level.   Talk about readiness!

Imagine showing up to your workout and being ready to lead.   Imagine showing up to work and being ready to conduct the meeting or take the initiative.   Imagine what you might be able to anticipate and being ready to act on it.. right on the edge of your seat: readiness.

It goes beyond knowing the formula and knowing what’s coming next.   It’s a level of readiness that is active-readiness: searching for the thing that is the silent trigger that everyone else missed – following instructions and then helping others follow instructions, seeing an opportunity and fleshing out the ways you could act on it before anyone else sees the opportunity in the first place, having an idea of how to move forward, deal with the past, stay in the present.   When there is no formula for behavior and no flow-chart, being ready anyway because you are in a ready-mind state.

That state-of-mind is an active spotlight, jerking this way and that searching, looking for the hidden opportunity to act, to move forward, to grow.

Be ready.  Be active.  BE READY in whatever it is.. be ready.

Next Level: ME!

So you’ve heard of Destination U!, right?   That’s the group I created to help beginners train for and run their first 5k race.  It started out as “Champions 5k”, but it didn’t take long for that name to sour a bit because it’s so presumptive and lofty.  It reeks of comparison and judgement and that’s not what I’m going for.  What I wanted, was a group that allowed each person to focus on themselves and compare themselves only to themselves; “To be the best version of yourself that you can be: Destination YOU!”.

This morning in Browns Boot Camp, we were asked to imagine what it would look like to take ourselves to the next level.   Next level YOU!   Next level ME!   What does the next level ME look like and how do I get there.. next level MOM or DAD, next level HUSBAND or WIFE, next level STUDENT or EMPLOYEE.. EMPLOYER.. next level FITNESS, next level NUTRITION, next level MIND, next level SELF-CONFIDENCE, next-level FRIENDSHIP, TEAM-MATE, PARTNER… on and on it goes.

It’s such a RAWR moment when you really think about it.   It’s intense and it supposed to be that way.  BE intense about it, because when you have intensity, you’re getting REAL. You’re getting closer when you take it to the next level.   And the closer you get, the more uncomfortable you’re going to become because this is new territory for you and me. This is where you always f-up or give up because you think you can’t handle it and you think you’re not good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, professional enough, smart enough, confident enough.   You’re right there at your limit and on the other side is a place you haven’t been before; You have never YOU’d at this level before, you have never been a MOM or DAD at this level before, you have never been this kind of STUDENT or SPOUSE or EMPLOYER or FRIEND.. or whatever before.

All you can do is be there and flail around like an idiot and be so uncomfortable that you want to run screaming, away from the pain and discomfort and settle back into something familiar and easy.  You want to check out, quit, stop, disappear, apologize and excuse yourself – what do you do when you’re in that SUCK, but you still want to go to the next level whatever it is?

You can sit there and hate yourself and that’s fine but what are you going to do with it? How are you going to get to the next level of yourself? When you put yourself in that situation where you have no business being, where you think everyone would laugh if they knew how undeserving you are of being there, where you think everyone else would think you are weak because you can’t do as many pushups as they can, or where you get tongue-tied when you’re around people you’ve already assigned to the folder named, “Better-than-me!” – when you find  yourself in that place where you’re so naked and vulnerable and afraid and at the very limits of your ability or self-confidence I want to ask one thing of you (and myself), take.. another.. step.. forward.

That’s next level ME! right there.   Speak up, stand up, grit your f’ing teeth, go wild-eyed and push out one more set, scream, cry, roar, or quietly dwell in that place you don’t belong in, and own that shit anyway.

And here’s what you’ll notice – Next Level ME is always on the other side of the hard thing.  Always!   If it’s hard and uncomfortable and vulnerable and you hate yourself and your failures and weaknesses and you’re beating yourself up – THAT is when you have to opportunity to turn about-face and step forward, cross the line, break new ground and go to the next level.

Gotta love discomfort with a mind-set like that.  Can’t wait to put myself out there!

On being ready

We lined up for sprints, left foot on the line and coach would call out someone’s name. That person would then say, “On your mark.. get set.. GO!” and off we’d run.   Each time, I was certain he would call my name.   Each time I was already wound up like a spring ready to bellow out “GO!” without any of the preamble, and take off.  I was so ready that my name became the trigger; “Geo-…”, he would say, and my own, “..GO!” bled into each other.

I was ready.   Poised.   I was so proud of myself.

Just yesterday, I was bragging to a friend that we ‘entrepreneurs’ were that breed of person that saw opportunity where others only saw obstacles or problems.   I went on and on about being in that mental space where ideas seem to percolate and pop, where connections are made that never occurred to anyone before, and where the chance to do something amazing presents itself seemingly out of nowhere.   It’s the vital energy of creative thinking and progress.

So you might imagine how horrible it feels to have such a moment thrust on me when I wasn’t ready.   I wasn’t paying attention or I got nervous.   When I got this great chance to talk about things I know about, and offer some helpful thoughts and insight from my own experience, but instead I shrink, I doubt, I stammer.

I wasn’t ready.

Being hungry and being driven and being ‘on’ means having my toe on the line and waiting, listening, and looking for that cue or that moment when it’s on me.   Holding my breath in anticipation and almost falling over the line with the excitement of the inevitable – I’m going to get called on and I’m going to be ready – it’s going to happen.   It means having all the pre-requisite work done already and only that final piece remains – wound up like a spring and ready to shoot off into the distance.

“Go!”.

Why’d I say that?!?

More and more, I’m noticing that when I am talking to an authority, a boss, or a coach, I get tongue-tied and say things that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard later on.   So my hand goes to forehead and I think, “Why’d I say that?”.. “Ugh!”

When asked ‘why it was that I wanted to be a coach’, I gave this stupid ass answer – and I wish I could even call it academic – but it was just this dumb answer about helping others because it lifts me up.   I mean, it’s not entirely untrue but my second-guesser was going into over-drive on that one and has been beating me up ever since.   Of all the things I could have said, and there really were much better things I could have said, what did I come up with?  That it’s ALL about me.. me..me.

And so much is happening right here.. sorry but Sidebar again:

That whole last paragraph up there is my negative talking.   What we call the “Flippo”.  It paints this picture of failure, disgust, shame, ‘stupid’, not-good-enough, not-worth-it and it hounds me and filters everything that happens into the worst-case possible scenario and says, “Damn!  You really screwed the pooch on that one!”.   So I’m going to need to respond to that with an emphatic, “No!”.  I didn’t fuck up.  I can’t help anyone if I’m a liar.. I can’t help anyone if I’m hiding from the hard stuff.. I can’t build you up if I’m dilappidated and broken down.  If I’m going to coach anyone, it has to make me better because it IS ALL ABOUT ME. (“Fuck you Flippo!).   And I’m ALL about YOU!   Building up my team and my team-mates make me accountable on a whole new level – I have to bring it, everytime.   I have to hold myself to a higher standard and start doing things I haven’t been doing.

And that’s not even as a coach.. that’s as a team-mate, a co-worker, a friend and most important of all, as a husband.   When you build up those around you, you get lifted and when you get lifted, they get lifted some more.. spiralling out of control and upward.

That’s some Next Level shit, right there.

So my coach is probably one of the most direct people I’ve met, which  is great and sad at the same time.  I’m glad to know someone like him and I’m sad that I don’t know more people like him.   It isn’t enough for him to just lay it out and say it, but he not only backs it up, he holds you accountable.   The very first time I went to Browns Boot Camp, he texted me the day before and told me not to be late or the whole class would be doing pushups until I got there.  That scared the hell out of me and while I’m not a fan of being late, I for damned sure wasn’t going to test those waters this time.    So I get there and he does roll-call and when he gets to a name that doesn’t answer, “212 check!”, he whips out his phone.. I shit you not.. he gets his phone out and he calls that person on speaker phone.   Accountability.   New level.

So he’s interviewing me – pretty much every time he’s talking to me I feel like he’s interviewing me – and he’s this direct and peering into your eyes to see you and be on you.   It’s a little unnerving because if you’re dwelling in Flippo-Land, you’re going to be shifty and averted.   Like me.. trying to listen, trying to think of what I’m going to say, too consumed with how I’m coming across instead of just being present and in the moment. I’m totally meta.

So he asks me where I see myself in five years with this thing and damn!  That’s such a good question, but it catches me off-balance because I’m not following that script.  I’m off on my own little script, I’m not ready – which wouldn’t matter anyway if I were just being real, but I’m not.. I’m flippo right now and I’m gaming it – so I blurt out something about how much I would love to be doing this kind of thing in five years.

‘What’s wrong with that?’, you might be thinking.  Well, honestly, NOTHING!   But here I am bitching about how I could have had a better answer and therefore, the answer I gave sucked.  It didn’t, but remember, I’m dwelling on Flippo-Street right now and everything I do is awful, I can’t trust myself to say whatever it is I need to say without massaging it somehow.. I just can’t trust myself to be smart enough, passionate enough, real enough.   So I’m going to need to respond to that, again, with an emphatic, “No!”.  I didn’t fuck up.   I didn’t do anything wrong.

When my coach tells me that I do have the passion – my wizard nods in agreement and my flippo flips out.   Gotta go with the Wizard on this one.   When I get an inkling of the sacrifice and work I’ll have to put in and my flippo groans, my wizard winks and it’s time to go to work.    You eat an elephant one bite at a time and that’s how it’s done.

This post is titled, “Why’d I say that?”.  That’s the kind of second-guessing that sabotages every good thing I want out of life.   It represents a deeply held self-doubt that I’ve been carrying for years – my own little prison with my own little bars. But I flipped the switch five years ago and I’ve done a pretty good job of facing myself and my fears since then. It’s been a process and as I keep moving out of my comfort zone, I keep meeting people and finding other souls who have the fire too.   When something scares me and I do it anyway, I come away from it a little stronger, smarter and wise to myself and my own bullshit.   It gives me the strength to say that I’m no better than my coach and I’m no better than anyone reading this – we’re all on the same path, just at different points along the way.

Nothing would be more rewarding to me than to help others come out of the prison of their minds with me and go on to achieve amazing things in their lives.   That’s something I could do everyday, all day.

Time to get to work..