Morbidly Optimistic

Here’s a challenge. For one week, keep a log of all your daily events and interactions from the time you wake up until you fall sleep. Label these experiences as either Positive, Negative, or Neutral. At the end of each day, tally them up. Then, at the end of the week, do a grand total.

What does the data show?

Does the data change how you felt throughout the week?

Does the data change how you currently feel upon reflection?

Does the data predict how next week will be?

Does the data predict how you will be next week?

Does the data change your perspective about how you will respond the events of the following week?

Does optimism help what has happened, what is happening, or what will be?

Does pessimism help what has happened, what is happening, or what will be?

Does neutrality help what has happened, what is happening or what will be?

 

Assumed Control

To “assume control” means to begin to take control or responsibility over something. Over the weekend, I read a passage from Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly where she mentioned that she is a fan of the band Rush. In my formative years as a drummer back in the late 80s and early 90s, it was almost a rite of passage to go through a Neil Peart phase, so I too am familiar with the band. For whatever reason, in that moment, the song “Grand Finale” off the band’s 2112 album came to mind. Side-one of the record is a 7-part, 20-minute composition that ends with a repeated radio transmission saying, “We have assumed control.”

I kept hearing this play on loop in my head for several minutes, and the longer it repeated, the more I started to hear a double entendre. To assume, means to suppose without proof, to reason, to think, to believe, to infer, etc. All of which are the opposite of the phrase “to assume control.” I started hearing the phrase, “We have assumed control” more as “We assume we have control,” “We have, what we assume, to be control.”

Choice is the one of the few things we have control over. Even when faced with an undesirable outcome, we can choose how we react to that situation. Furthermore, at some point, things are out of our hands regardless of how well we prepare. For the athletes that just ran the NYC marathon, there were two actual winners out of the more than 50,000 participants. Does that negate all the training, preparation and dedication of everyone else? Were all of the runners trying to win? For those that were, is their achievement fruitless because they didn’t win? Victory may sometimes have clear external parameters, however, we can also internally choose what success looks like. Beating ourselves up for a prolonged period for not achieving what we desired is more of a failure than simply choosing to own it and move on. What outcome will change the more we wish it had turned out differently?

Sooner or later, something more than us has a say in how things will play out. We can assume control over how we take ownership over things that happen, but we cannot assume control over things that are greater than us – that are outside our capacity to control.

Pyrrhic Victory

Competitive spirit is healthy in moderation, for victory is only sweet when the rewards outweigh the risks. If the only goal is victory, what some might call success, the danger is that the motivation for the win is tunnel-visioned on the win itself. For in order to define something as a victory, win, or success, there also must be a loss involved. Something was lost or someone has lost. In many cases, loses are felt by many. We see this in the worst scenario of war. We also see it in sports and business and in smaller cases in day-to-day life. It’s ever-present.

We are all leaders. Even if the only person you lead in your life is you, you are still a leader. The question then becomes, if you are an army of one, are you the general or the infantry?

If we are not in charge of our marching orders, and let our ego’s dictate our behaviors, any successes we achieve were done in servitude of our egos. These are Pyrrhic victories.

Blocks

Block is an interesting word. It has several meanings. Blocks as solid or metaphorical objects can be obstacles. Blocks can be descriptive of an area designed to keep things in. However, you can use building blocks to create something new or use starting blocks for stability at the start of something new. Our usage of the word shifts based on our current perspective.

Can a block be simultaneously viewed as the start of something new and an obstacle? Is the block preventing us from progress or triggering us to introduce a new way of thinking in order to push through? Build or raze: Opposites attract, even when opposites stem from the same word.

Dump the Bar

In weight lifting, the term “dumping the bar” is a phrase used to explain how to safely escape a scenario when you’ve attempted to lift more than you can handle at a given moment and there is no spotter present. Spotters are there to assist, and hopefully ensure one’s safety. In life, we don’t always have a spotter, and we do tend to occasionally attempt something more than we can currently handle whilst going it alone. This doesn’t have to be a feat of physical strength either; it can be a personal, professional, academic, social, or emotional too.

Dumping the bar means bailing out safely. Although we may have failed at achieving what we wanted in the moment, we are safe, which allows us to try again later. If we risk our safety for a final push towards success, the consequences can be deadly. Although a momentary lapse in judgement doesn’t have to necessarily be deadly, it can do enough damage to put us off our goals. It has the potential to sideline us, when all we really aspire to do, and what life is designed for, is to be in the game. We want to play! Sometimes success is knowing when to dump the bar. There’s great strength in knowing when going it alone isn’t safe.

The Vampiric Rut

Taking a few moments to decompress after a long work day is needed. But at what point does “me time” turn into time wasted? Most of us have lives that follow some form of routine. Routines are good when they work for us. However, if we tend to describe ourselves as constantly “busy,” but are hitting the pillow each night feeling that we haven’t been all that productive, we might be in a rut.

Ruts develop over time, and the bad news is that we will never get that time back. Ruts are defined as “long deep tracks made by the repeated passage of the wheels of vehicles.” Ruts exist for a reason. Ruts give us some form of traction (stability), but they don’t lead us anywhere new. When we are made tired by our routines, and in return spend a few hours every evening “decompressing” on the couch or in bed, what are we actually accomplishing? Do we feel better after this time has passed? Are we adding to our overall well-being, or stealing opportunities to get better in some way? If the point is to recharge or replenish our energy, how is that accomplished by doing nothing for an extended period of time? We a car is idling, its engine is running, but the car isn’t going anywhere. It’s wasting fuel. When we’re binge watching Netflix or scrolling Instagram, we’re idle. Our engines are running, but we’re going nowhere. We’re expending energy without purpose. That’s a formula for adding stress, not relieving it! For there is always somewhere more valuable to place our energy to improve our lives rather than into passively consuming. The creators of the content we consume put their energy into something for the sole purpose for us to mindlessly consume, and disguise it as entertainment. That form of consumption is vampiric. We cannot replenish our energy through energy already spent by others. There’s a difference between “time well spent” and “time, well, spent”.

What is the art of connection without excess?

When we tell our stories – when we explain ourselves – how often do we consider why we are doing so?  How often do we realize that when we say we are “speaking our truth” are we failing to realize that “our truth” and “the truth” are not always the same? The truth simply “is,” while our truths are complex webs of our experiences shaping how we see situations. At best they are near approximations. Yet, we love to talk. After all, talking is communication and communication is connection, right?

Speaking is a guaranteed method used to measure how in a given moment when you are speaking, you aren’t learning anything. Speaking and learning are mutually exclusive. The paradox here is that if no one ever speaks, then no one ever learns. At some point, someone has to be a teacher and someone has to be a pupil. These are positions, not hierarchies. Reading offers the chance for contemplation, because we don’t have the authors in our presence to engage in conversation or inquiry. This opportunity for introspection is an often missed opportunity whilst in the company of others. We speak up and speak out to be heard for the sake of social norms, politeness and/or the sake of our egos.

When we tell someone else’s stories – when we attempt to explain someone else’s experiences or perspectives – how often do we consider how we can be doing so, accurately? What right do we have to speak for anyone else? Especially when we’re not necessarily experts at speaking our own truths!

What is the art of connection without excess? Is it a lonely existence, or our fear of loneliness that keeps us from knowing the answer?