5 years ago, I wrote “The Last Monday Motivator“. Today, I’m back in the saddle again with some learnings and lessons..
In the interim a lot has changed. People are more addicted than ever to our devices, the Internet, to Netflix, to Facebook. The list of things competing for our time and attention is a long one.
A year ago, I test drove the idea of abandoning social media. I closed down every identity I had on line, save this blog.
There were benefits:
I suddenly had a lot more time. My iPhone even asked me if I was ok, because it tracks the hours I spend looking at it and it wondered if something was wrong.
I was able to focus on face to face moments. One thing I noticed immediately was how many people are glued to their screens out there. The classic image of two lovers at a romantic dinner, both texting, was played out again and again.
The rants, instant analysis and emotional outbursts disappeared. I’m still on a number of email channels where friends share articles of importance, often with impassioned commentary attached. But that was fine. That’s what we talk about when we are together. A world without trolls was damn peaceful.
I found I spent a lot more time thinking versus the constant consumption of a never ending feed that left little time for thoughtful contemplation.
But there were also downsides:
I missed watching my close friends’ lives unfolding on their Facebook timelines. Gone were the pictures of kids growing up before my eyes, celebrations of life milestones and commiserations when bumps in the road threw us off of our game.
I missed the immediacy. I realized that there were a few social feeds that added real value to my days. The challenge would be separating them from the hundreds of others I blindly followed, too.
So I decided to come back above the radar.
Last month I returned to Facebook. Within 48 hours over 250 of my friends had found me there. But this time, I was more selective. I still will friend just about anyone who asks, but many I “unfollow” on my timeline. I don’t see their daily hand wringing about politics and un-fact-checked “news”. That’s been a good thing.
I did an analysis of which Twitter and Instagram friends were adding the most value. My reading list on those platforms is much smaller; more manageable and digestible.
I test drove several new platforms and staked out an identity on a few.
But mostly, I re-launched my check-in and check-up routine.
Some of you are in that rotation. Every day, I write two personal emails, send two texts and call one person on that list. It’s a personal connection with 5 people I care about every day.
That’s been interesting.
Here are some learnings and lessons
Learning: Some of the people I considered to be more than just acquaintances lost interest when I was no longer the leader of the now defunct MSU Alumni Association. We tend to care about people in direct proportion to what we think they can do for us. My friend, Tom Anastos, recounted how people stopped calling, and taking his calls, the day he resigned as MSU’s hockey coach. He was philosophical about it. “It happens,” he said with a smile. “But I’m finding that I now have more time for the special people who still DO call.”
Lesson: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ~Attributed to Malcolm Forbes
Learning: I was reminded that all of you are navigating your own ups and downs. We hide behind a facade of confidence when inside, we may feel uncertain, unworthy and terrified.
Lesson: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~ Wendy Mass
Learning: Everyone has something to teach us. The key is to listen and ask the right questions. I’m continually surprised at the depth and breadth of the knowledge and experience you all have, and the treasures of wisdom that are revealed when we peel back the top layers of our public personas.
Lesson: “Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candour.” ~Tom Hanks
Learning: Unless you share your story, people will construct their impressions based on things that may not be true. My amazing friend, retired cop rock star, Traci Ruiz gave a powerful presentation to a large audience this week. A woman came up to her afterwards, confessing that, until that moment, she had a negative impression of law enforcement. Traci’s profound message and compassionate approach changed that perception.
Lesson: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~Isaac Asimov
Learning: Count your blessings. This November will mark ten years since Colleen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Only 3 in 10 with her type of tumor survive that long. We celebrate each November 27 as the commencement of our second life together. Every extra day we’ve had since has been a blessing that we never take for granted. We continually seek opportunities to add value and pay this great gift forward..
Lesson: “Don’t just count your blessings. Be the blessing other people count on.” ~Anonymous
Learning: We are in a constant state of becoming. Everything that happens to us, good and bad, is an opportunity for growth and reflection. That’s been a particularly painful lesson for me this year, as Colleen and I discovered that you can do everything right and still have your most well intentioned efforts blow up in your face. It was a reminder that enlightenment is revealed in the wake of our failures, just as every success should be wrapped in humility.
Lesson: “Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. – Give the world the best you have anyway.” ~ Kent M. Keith, The Paradoxical Commandments.
Life goes on. The world keeps spinning. The change continuum and the laws of cause and effect continue to play out. I love reading about examples of how you are getting smarter and stronger as the white hot fires of life’s challenges forge your constitution into unbreakable steel. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share your orbit, in good times and in bad, realizing that friendships deepen in the tough times and personal growth happens, not in times of comfort, but in moments of trial and tribulation.
Each of you, in your own way, have inspired me to want to keep exploring and sharing the secrets of a purposeful, productive live. Thank you for that!
So let’s do it. Let the next chapter of our adventures begin! We’re all in it together!