Category Archives: Making Connections

Organizing Your Junk Drawer of Fears ~ Sweat The Small Stuff

In his book, An Astronaut’s Guide To Life, Chris Hadfield emphasizes the  importance of paying attention to the small things. His ideas resonated with me and these are some of my personal precepts I gleaned from his book.

Sweat the small stuff and slash your fear. Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 8.16.16 AM
I think the root of most of our fears, especially those fretful reels of “what ifs” on rewind in our heads emerge from missing information.  Most “cerebral cinematics” keeping us awake at night are spliced together with snippets of limited information that we often perceive to be unpredictable and thus out of our control. Some of this information is easily accessible and it just takes a level of intention to search it out and create systems for easy retrieval.  Minimizing some of these apprehensions requires a discipline to search out the facts in order to form and hold a broad understanding of all possibilities.  The parameters of any given problem are often much more expansive after further inquiry and thus less frightening. Hadfield suggests that,

 “fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew the facts. An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut. Part of it is ‘how do you deal with fear?”

We all have fears. They jumble together with real and perceived threats in our personal junk drawer.junkdrawer

When my junk drawer can no longer be slammed shut I reluctantly take stock of what’s knocking around together and empty out knickknacks I no longer want. There may be answers and even insights if I resolve to organize my junk drawer of fears. Maybe I can repurpose this junk drawer by taking a little more time to scrutinize their diminutive purpose in my life.

Sweat the small stuff  and cultivate competence. Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 1.55.21 PM

Competence is not dazzling – it’s discipline. Hadfield defines competence this way:

“Competence means keeping your head in a crisis, sticking with a task even when it seems hopeless, and improvising good solutions to tough problems when every second counts. It encompasses ingenuity, determination and being prepared for anything.” 

Competence requires courage. Courage to gaze beyond the clutches of our perceptions and consider our past and present choices.

Sweat the small stuff and experience wonderScreen Shot 2015-05-26 at 1.39.33 PM

“Life off Earth is in two important respects not at all unworldly: you can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones.”

I want to experience wonder every day and sometimes it will randomly happen but most of the time those “ah ha!” moments are a result of my discipline to clear the landscape of niggling irritations and fears so that I can appreciate the spectacular. I did some junk drawer cleaning today. Part of the task was writing this post and experiencing sparks of wonder in the process.

Your Purpose Is In Perpetual Beta

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 7.26.23 PMI just finished writing an essay about the number of rabbit trails I have found myself traveling down while seeking out a specific goal or dream. I entitled the piece, In The Meantime and the writing itself was a meandering discovery of amazing encounters I have experienced while wandering around the bulls eye of purpose. Here’s a segment.

Where would you like to be?

I scour my memory for my favourite places. I think of the time I watched the sun set over the ponds that crotchet the Longji rice terraces. On our first afternoon during the last embers of the sun I lingered on the perilous deck of a mountain chalet. I gazed across the alluring vista and I was mesmerized by the local women lumbering home under the yoke of their bulging rice sacks. As the sun retreated behind the mountains I smelled the aroma of Szechuan food frying in the impossibly small chalet kitchen. I was hungry despite the questionable meat being specially prepared just for our group. I tried not recall the villager I saw just earlier that morning skinning a scrawny rat with a pairing knife while we trudged by him on the narrow the path leading to this mountain village.  Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.31.23 PM

I came here when I realized I was shrivelling with grief and boredom. I couldn’t figure out how to draft the next chapter of my life so in the meantime I traveled to this uncomfortable land. I almost lost my life to altitude sickness but the journey also showed me how to breathe again. I learned how to take a breath and let life unfold before me and endure the discomfort of waiting before attempting to shape and mold its edges and corners. This is where I have spent most of my life – in the meantime. While striving to achieve the dreams I precariously draft again and again I find myself straying to transitory trails and places. Are these ventures meant to distract me from the boredom of the not yet, or the despair of the never? I don’t know but in the meantime I’ll savour this sleeping beauty next to me, his fingers on my spine, his breath soothing me to sleep. Maybe, I’ll try to grasp just this moment just as it is right now – more life than I could ever imagine and more perfect than I could ever design.

This is a whisper of encouragement to those who also wonder if the circuitous experience you find yourself in is a misleading distraction or a constructive course of true purpose. Ask yourself, “What results do I want to create?” Don’t worry about how you will achieve your intentions/goals/dreams. Focus on what you wish to create and if you feel energized, excited and even a little unsure then that’s enough clarity to keep moving towards your target. Donald Miller says, Meaning is found in the movement. Even if you are not sure whether this experience is the right turn to achieve your vision, you will gain insights along the way and live the life you never dreamed possible.

Lessons From The Cowboy Trail

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To really get the vibe of this post, listen to Corb Lund singing,  Alberta Says Hello by clicking on the play button below

I had the privilege of spending time with a friend who I have known for a long time. And every time we get together I experience what I call the intersection of all things good coming together- comfort, perspective, challenge and just knowing that the person you are sitting with knows you. We live in different provinces and sometimes months go by without hearing from one another but when we do connect, no excuses, no pretension, we just chill out and let each other in. It’s at these times when I feel the most blessed and humbled. Blessed because despite my personal baggage perceived or otherwise I know I have a friend who gets it and gets me. Humbled because I feel like I’ve won the lottery  in lifegood health, choices, freedom and a friend.

So if you haven’t chilled out with a friend for awhile I encourage you to call someone up right now, do it! Don’t listen to the negative reel, contact someone on a whim- the one who “fills your cup”  and gets you.


Inspiring People

On Saturday night I attended a presentation by two young men, Duncan and Jonnie Penn who are two members of the team called The Buried Life. These are four young guys who for the last few years have been traveling in a purple bus called Penelope to complete their “bucket list” of 100 things. They are the latest MTV Reality Show Sensation after being plucked from YouTube a couple of years ago.  There is no doubt that these guys are definitely entertaining with their “never say never” motivation to fulfill dreams that may seem impossible.

I would have walked away from the presentation on Saturday amused and entertained by their refreshing tenacity if it ended as all traditional presentations end – with a famous quote, joke or montage of footage from their recent exploits.

Instead the Penn brothers invited any member of the 300 member+ audience  to approach a microphone and declare their dream that they wished to fulfill before they die.

When this invitation to declare a personal dream was announced there was a rush of a few young girls to the microphone who predictably declared their dream to kiss one of the brothers on stage. But after the initial hugs and kisses were over, there was an uncomfortable transition in the evening.

Several young men and women tentatively described their struggle with mental illness, lost loved ones, abandonment and their simple dream to be healthy, or to be reconnected with people.  As I listened to one vulnerable story after another I became uncomfortable  because I was concerned with how the MTV  “hot shots” on stage would respond. My worry subsided as I marveled at Jonnie and Duncan’s tender, sensitive and sincere response to every person. They gave each young man and woman time to speak, weep, and find the words to express their heart’s desire. They took time to reaffirm each speaker’s struggle, pain, loss with a profound sense of empathy. Occasionally a clarifying question was posed or an encouraging statement was shared. Their responses were neither glib or patronizing. The MTV superstars on stage seemed to know this wasn’t about them it was about the people who bravely voiced their dream and those of us in the audience who were privileged to hear it.

This experience could have easily been a slick presentation to perpetuate the MTV machine but it became a catalyst event for everyone to consider themselves worthy of dreaming. Duncan and Jonnie showed compassion, wisdom and insight in their public interactions with each of the audience members who spoke. Instead of the the token 5-10 minutes at the end of presentation that is typically allotted for comments, 30minutes was given for people to share their stories and their dreams. This was one third of the entire presentation.

Walking out of the auditorium that night was like riding  a tidal wave of conversations, questions, declarations and laughter. People were actually talking- to one another!

And I experienced something I haven’t felt in awhile.


I realized that’s what I want in a presentation.

I’m done with sitting through and creating presentations with no or little time to connect with the collective inspiration of  those around us.

I’m done with technology tools that reinforce solo performances.

I want to create and attend presentations that promote the insights of others. I want to inspire people to really talk to one another againeven while in the same room.

Kudos to the men of  The Buried Life for not selling out as  just entertainers and for chipping out space in this crusty world to share the struggle and to dream.

© The Buried Life

Listening To Those Who Loathe Technology

itunesMartin Krzywinski’s photostream

I have had the privilege of working with many people who would consider themselves digital refugees. A digital refugee doesn’t care to know an iTune from an iGoogle and may demonstrate animated disdain for an answer that includes the phrase, “Oh that’s easy!” from the digital zealot who clicks the mouse button thirty-one  times to complete the “simple” task.  Digital refugees are sometimes frightened, threatened and/or  alienated by technology and they usually resist the prospect of using a computing or technology tool.

People who are ambivalent about technology have a lot to teach us. They are the barometer for which we should measure our assumptions for digital tools that are reputed to be intuitive and web environments that boast a seamless interface.

Digital refugees snag considerable  judgement both professionally and personally for not being riveted by the latest technology gizmo that frequently squanders our precious time with the promise of maximized efficiency. The question they often pose is, “Why would I want to do that?” A reasonable question that is frequently answered in condescending jingles about strategic plans or “enterprise value added deliverables” (sound familiar?). When I  expend the energy to listen to the opinions of one who is disinterested with technology I am often challenged by their insightful perceptions and the conversation usually becomes much more extraordinary than just merely discussing the tool. Questions such as, “What matters to you? What is an expert? What does it mean to learn?” often permeate the dialogue and these foundational ideals not only become the central inquiry but also form the neutral zone with which we can explore the purposeful use of technology.  When we don’t provide the environment for critical opinions to be heard about technology we have to readjust our notion of just who is the digital refugee in that situation. A humble reminder that technology does not alienate individuals – people do.