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In the pause: Write and live like you’re running out of time—another lesson from Hamilton

“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” ~Aaron Burr, “Non-Stop” from the musical Hamilton

Sometimes the best thing you can do with your neuroses is accept them and work within them. I think that might be the secret to life.

Hamilton has a way of teaching us so many lessons, about history, economics, and life. There are many ways to describe Alexander Hamilton and I think there is one that stands above all others—non-stop. Something in him knew his life would be short; he had seen so much loss at such a young age. He understood how fleeting life can be. He wrote and worked and loved and lived like he was running out of time because he was. We all are.

I’m not suggesting that this is the only way to live. I’m not even suggesting that it’s a good idea to focus so maniacally on what we’ve lost as Hamilton did. I just know that this is how my mind works. I see time ticking by and do what I can to make the most of it because I can’t make it slow down. This is what keeps me moving forward, especially in times of difficulty.

I’ve never been good at waiting and biding my time. No one I know would ever call me patient. I sit for 18 minutes a day meditating, and that’s about what I can handle. I don’t dwell on things I try that don’t work out—and that goes for baking a pie to landing a job and everything in between. I learn from my experiences and try something else. “Netflix and chill” is never going to be a phrase I embrace (and by that I mean the clean version, friends). I wish I could; I just can’t do it and be happy. And I like to be happy so I embrace my work, my friends, and my curiosity. Those are the things that matter to me.

We’ve just got this one life, and no one is ever going to find a way to manufacture more time. Time is the most equitable resource on Earth. We all get the same 24 hours. Let’s use them in ways that mean something to us. Hamilton certainly did.

In the pause: The courage to go your own way – a lesson from Mitch Albom and Tuesdays with Morrie

“What if you just did it your own way? No rules, no right or wrong, just what you think is beautiful?” ~Sandra Magsamen, Living Artfully

There’s really something to be said for going your own way. I often talk about my Darden professor who warned us to “stay away from the boxes”: the ones people (will try to) put you in, the ones you put yourself in, and the ones you put others in.

I was reminded of that idea again today when I watched an interview with Mitch Albom.  He was a sports writer who wanted to write a book about his dying professor and the important lessons he was learning about life by visiting him. Publishers didn’t want the book. They told him to stick to sports writing. That’s what he was good at. That’s what he knew. And this book was too depressing. “No one will want to read that,” they told him.

Albom persisted because he wrote the book in hopes of being able to pay for Morrie’s medical bills. One publisher finally took it, several weeks before Morrie died. And it was a very slow build, not an instant best-seller. Fast forward 20 years: Tuesdays with Morrie is read all over the world. It’s sold over 15 million copies in 45 languages and is read by kids, seniors, and everyone in-between.

Albom has grown, too. He’s gone on to write novels, nonfiction books, and stage plays. On one of those now famous Tuesdays, Morrie asked Albom how he supported his community and Albom told him he wrote checks to charities. Morrie told him he could do more. And he has. Albom founded an orphanage in Haiti that he visits once a month and has 9 charities total that he runs. So much for all those publishers who told him to stick to sports writing. Thankfully for us, and the world, he didn’t listen to them. He refused to stay in that box.

Albom, and so many renaissance men and women around the world and throughout time, teach us that it’s okay to not be neatly defined. It’s okay to do a lot of things as long as they are meaningful to you. Look at the people who founded our country—not a single one of them was just one thing. Somewhere between then and now we got into this rut in our society of having one narrow focus for our careers and our lives. Let’s embrace the idea that we are complex, intricate, and multi-talented beings. Be proud of always growing in new directions. Let’s be all that we are.

Wonder: The greatest lesson of life

One of the greatest blessings of being Phineas’s mom is that he makes me remember that every moment counts. There isn’t a single walk, snuggle, or smile that I take for granted with him. Yesterday when I had to take him to the ER for his back again, I was reminded, painfully so, that we have only so much time and that every day is a gift that we are never promised. Each day deserves the best we can give. There isn’t any time to waste. While I wish that realization wasn’t so heavy, maybe it needs to be. Maybe that truth is so significant that we need to feel the weight of it to really understand it.

For the next few days I’ll be home for most of the time monitoring Phineas to make sure his medication and rest is working. I’ll be writing, doing yoga, and meditating on just how lucky I am to care for a being that has taught me the most important lesson of life with absolute certainty—that we must do as much good as we can wherever we are with whatever we’ve got, and be grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Wonder: Fill your time with work that feels like play

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between work and play.” ~L.P. Jacks

There are so many reasons that I’m excited for my new job that starts a week from today. There’s the one phrase about the respectful and professional culture in the job description that told me this is the place for me: “This is a very egalitarian operational environment…everyone has a say.” There’s the great opportunity ahead to build products based in AI, AR, and VR technology that will help people live healthier, happier lives. There is the sense of starting from a blank canvas that will rapidly be filled in to develop a prototype product in a quick handful of months. There’s the small, experienced team that will work closely together around a single table for a single goal.

And still, above all of that, what has me most excited about this opportunity is the quote above by L.P. Jacks. The roles and companies I have most loved in my career are those that didn’t feel like work at all because what I was doing was so interesting that is took my curiosity and sense of wonder to a level that felt like play. I didn’t mind the long hours, I barely noticed the time flying by, because the work itself was so satisfying that it gave me energy rather than draining it. And I am so ready to return to that kind of work.

When people ask me what I want my career and my life to be, I have to turn to L.P. Jacks and say, “Thank you for putting my whole purpose into 15 words.”  

Wonder: Be patient with yourself

“Nothing in nature blooms all year. Be patient with yourself.” ~Unknown

You won’t be at the top of your game every hour of every day for your entire life. It’s a balance. Sometimes you’re flying high and sometimes you’re hiding under the bed. Life is a wild ride, not a steady path. I spend a lot of time being very tough on myself. I know a lot of you do, too.

So as a reminder to us all, let’s remember there’s an ebb and flow to our days. Enjoy the highs and learn from the lows. Understand that it’s all a cycle, and eventually all we really need to do is take care of ourselves, take care of others, and do as much good as we can wherever we are with whatever we have.

Wonder: Born to live

Do-more-than-just-exist“The purpose of this glorious life is not simply to endure it, but to soar, stumble, and flourish as you learn to fall in love with existence. We were born to live my dear not to merely exist.” ~Becca Lee

I’ve spent the last few days taking in the sky. I walk to work, and during the blizzard this weekend I went outside very little. For the past couple of days I’ve been walking the same route I’ve been taking since May, but it looks different now. It’s not just the snow. It’s me. I’ve missed this route, the time to walk, think, and notice the world. The sky is open and soothing. The winter sun has this pure, cool light that’s calming and rejuvenating. I realized this morning as I walked through Rock Creek Park that everything really is going to be okay. It’s not okay now. It won’t be okay today. But eventually, it’s going to be fine. I just have to keep showing up, taking care of people, and doing my best to make my corner of the world a little bit better than it was yesterday. And that’s my way of really living.

This just in: The art I made for my dog, Phineas, for Christmas

What do you get for the dog who has everything he needs? The same thing you get for people who have everything—art. I made this paper collage for Phineas to capture his philosophy on life. Merry Christmas, Phin!

Here’s the Phineas Way:

  • Join a parade whenever possible
  • Don’t be afraid to lead the way
  • A first snow is a very happy thing
  • Sometimes the best thing to do is sit and be quiet like a yogi
  • “How good can you feel?” is a question you should ask every day, and answer
  • Share something wonderful with everyone, always
  • Fall in love with as many things, and people, and animals, as possible
  • There’s cool stuff out on the edge
  • Be excited
  • Embrace the wild
  • You’re perfect just the way you are
  • Stay unique
  • Learn how to be a good copilot
  • You can never have too much joy
  • New York is my soul city, and always will be
  • Embrace tomorrow, no matter what happened today
  • Live color fully, in many different directions
  • Sing loud and proud like a bird
  • Be unstoppable
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the greatest places in the world to hang around
  • I love snuggling; snuggling’s my favorite
  • I have one goal: to be the best dog ever. (And, for me, he absolutely is!)

This just in: Advice from Erma Bombeck on how to live

Erma Bombeck

Erma Bombeck

Yesterday I came across Erma Bombeck’s essay entitled, “If I Had My Life to Live Over”. I’ve decided to take her advice. I hope you will, too.

“Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

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