The best thing about vacations is the way they change your thinking. They open it up for new ideas in that new flow outside of the routine.
We traveled for 16 days last month, primarily in Italy. The plan had been to train around to a new city every day or two, but after about a week, I was tired of moving. We stayed in Bologna the rest of the trip, it being a very easy city. Right-sized, with lots of good food, and an interesting mix of people and culture.
Once we settled into the Bologna days, I found my mind freer, and wanting to explore new things. Without my studio, or my computer, or my piles of books, or even cellular, I couldn’t think about the things I normally do, and started having new thoughts.
It wasn’t truly an unplug vacation- we had wifi on our phones and an ipad- but there was no looking at the phone during dinner or while we were away from the hotel.
Some of my primary observations and realizations, and the subsequent plans that emerged:
1. We are super, super affected by the people we surround ourselves with. This sounds trite, as everyone knows this. But who acts on it? We continue to work with individuals who are underperforming or holding us back- because we feel sorry for them, or think they might change. This is especially true in partnerships, and often even true in employer/employee relationships. My new resolution: anytime a relationship (professional, friendship, etc) seems to be not moving at the speed I am moving at- I’m going to re-evaluate, immediately. Every situation is unique, but, if I look back at the past ten years, I could have ended dozens of such relationships about 70% sooner than I did. The problems were evident in month one. And I’m not talking about romances- I’m talking about all kinds of relationships.
So the question becomes- what do you do about family?
Question and Answer process for evaluating relationships:
2. Along the lines of being affected by people around us, we are affected by content. I find reading the newspapers addictive and good-mood-destroying. So what happens if I supplement positive reading, positive inputs? I came back determined to try a month-long immersion of daily meditation before coffee, of inspirational reading, and so on. You know, an experiment, to see what else changes in my thinking. Generally, I’ve enjoyed the meditation. The reading has been another thing entirely, where it’s clearly separating into “true-for-me” and “total-bunk-for-me” book stacks. Looking for a very specific type of truth and support at this moment, I could almost write it myself- but I want the external re-inforcement of reading instead. Some of the books I’ve picked up (Flow, Osho) aren’t working, while others I’m re-reading (Louise Hay) are feeling exactly right.
3. When we were in Bologna, I started a project of “reading and summarizing the words of wisdom from the top 100 blogs in the self-improvement arena.” I’m a fascinated by the business of blogging. Having often scanned über popular blogs like zen habits, or read deeper on über popular and controversial blogs like steve pavlina, and read with skepticism the most popular blog and book, (like, ever, in this arena,) 4 hour work week- I know can state this: Every popular site represents a piece of the idea-puzzle that is vibing with the collective consciousness of the moment. Through reading significant content (i.e. 4-5 hours of reading) of the 100 most popular blogs in these arenas, and summarizing them, I’d have an idea of what is really trending in the collective consciousness. It’s quicker than reading books.
I started this project in Italy, it’s ongoing. Several of the top blogs are, in my opinion, total crap, shitty writing without content, somehow on top by virtue of SEO and for the purpose of ad revenue. Some of them, like zen habits, are very, very repetitive, but, ultimately, good advice that bears repeating. Some others, like Michael Hyatt (in top 10 based on alexa rankings of that genre) are from a world I never see via my side of America, where he casually references his relationship with god. However, his clear advice of “take care of yourself first, then your spouse, and then your children” very much aligns with how I would try to live. I call this the “Tend your garden” philosophy which is a quote from Candide. (Or, rather, it was my interpretation of Candide when I was 23, perhaps I should re-read it and see if that’s what it still says.)
4. I looked at what I worry about. Most of us have some things we repeatedly worry about. Everyone knows worry is never useful. So why do it? My new hypothesis that worry keeps us at the same level as the thing we are worrying about- i.e. connected to it. Often the things we are worried about are things we are afraid to let go of. When we have the opportunity to think/live/feel at a newer, fresher, higher level, why would we continue to worry about the thing that is functioning at a different level? Everyone has their reasons. Figuring out the reason- and negotiating it to a better place- that’s the key to diluting worry.
My question process, with fictional answers:
Q. What am I worrying about?
A. My cat. She’s old and I don’t know if she’s happy about that. Maybe she doesn’t feel good about how her life has been, and she’s old now and can’t do much about it.
Q. Is there something I should do to make her life better?
A. No, I believe I’m doing everything I can, while still taking care of myself first. She gets the best food, spring water, and we give her lots of love. I keep her litter box clean and the house is clean too. She gets catnip occasionally.
Q. Ok, so what do I ‘get’ by worrying about her so much?
A. Well, it keeps me feeling connected to her. Maybe if I didn’t worry so much, she’d feel like I don’t care. Since I think she’s worried or sad, I’m mirroring her feelings back.
Q. Well, that’s obviously illogical. Mirroring her feelings back doesn’t help her, it magnifies the problem. And the problem might not even exist. She might be happier if I listened to her feelings, but then just petted her and told her everything will be ok. She will be better off if I am free of worry.
So. It’s back to “Tend Your Garden.” Worrying is trying to tend someone else’s garden.
P.S. New and Future Items:
1. We relaunched seawallshop.com in collaboration with Portland Dry Goods. It’s now soft-live, we’re adding new editorial shots next week (I hope!) I’ve fallen in love with magento CE.
2. FENG SHUI TIME! we rearranged our house, and are making some new furniture – after researching fengshui for a day, and working out how to apply the principles, they could be reduced to: make sure everything is clean and uncluttered, well-considered, and beautiful. Basically, intention and follow through in your environment translate to intention and follow through in your life.