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Presence of Mind

Adventure, Hiking, Leadership, Presence of Mind

Why We Are All Meant to Be Climbers

March 3, 2017


After sitting most of the work week and being inside for so long, I knew I needed some time outdoors. I can sense it when my energy gets pretty low, and my surroundings start to feel too confined.

 

That Sunday morning, I drove down to Crowder’s Mountain. The moment that I stepped out of the car and I smelled the pine and saw the trailhead, I felt myself begin to relax. Oftentimes at this point, I feel the urge to snag a picture or adjust my music. But, this time, I left my phone in the car.

 

I set out on a run. I set out on a climb.

 

As I ran deeper onto the trail, I started to see some rocks and boulders. Running on rocks is almost meditative – as much as they make me pay closer attention as I climb the trail, navigating their natural puzzle, they always seem to relax me.

 

I looked over my left shoulder. The morning sun was beginning to come out over the mountaintop.  It was a beautiful view through the trees and I started to lose track of time.

 

I was about halfway up the mountain when I felt my body and mind settle into the pace of the run. That felt about right; it usually takes me just about 20 minutes to settle into it and then see what’s around me – the greenery, the path, my dog running ahead looking back with that “this-is-so-awesome-Dad-let’s-keep-going” face.

 

I approached the top. The trail got steeper. And my run turned into a slower hike.

 

As I hit the last few steps to the summit, I could feel the air on my face. It was much colder. Almost out of breath, I started to see the view from the top.  The sky was so open and so clear and so blue.  There was nothing but open space in my view. And, in that moment, an overwhelming sense of wonder hits me.

 

That sense of wonder turns into a sense of possibility and excitement.  I wonder what else is out there; I wonder what else could be?

 

This wasn’t simply a Sunday morning run. This was a climb – a purposeful move into and out of a confined space; a shift from the thick of a forest to the open view of a mountain’s summit.

 

I think we are all meant to be climbers; not social climbers or actual rock climbers. Climbers as in seekers of open space.

 

There’s clearly great power in the climb but as much as we think our work is the actual climb, there’s a step before that. In order to climb, we must identify the confined space in which we find ourselves.

 

For me, I am inside a lot during the day. So when I have been sitting for a long time and I feel the natural urge to move I know immediately what my confined space is – the office – and I know what I need to do – get outside, run, explore, climb, wander.

 

During the week, I find being outside on a run, bike ride or hike keeps me centered. But what seems to feel really impactful is a weekend climb up the mountain and a view of a wide open vista.

 

I climb for a few reasons. To feel that sense of freedom, curiosity and wonder. To feel more alive and in the moment. To see new possibilities and open up my thinking. But, also to feel more connected to what’s important; what’s simple. Those are all the things that will get me out of any confined space.

 

As I make my way down that mountain many times I find myself laughing out loud like a little kid.  I think I laugh at how something so simple can also be so profound.

Energy Management, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Embracing Minimalism

March 30, 2014

I had stuff everywhere. Every shelf was full, closet was packed, furniture in every corner and I found six travel toothpastes. If there was a bit of white space on the wall, I put something up on it. In the course of a recent move, I realized I had way too much stuff and way too much clutter.

I didn’t really notice this until I was inspired after reading a fantastic blog about Minimalism. Two guys named Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus tell the story about getting rid of unneeded possessions and demoralizing jobs to free up space for a more meaningful, fulfilling life. The posts on this blog are like brain candy, and I couldn’t read enough of them.

The minimalist movement is fascinating to me with some people living with less than 100 things. Not sure I will go that far, but the concept of reducing the number of things in life that weigh us down has produced some amazing results for me.

What is kind of funny is that I moved from 700 sq ft to 880 sq ft, however I probably got rid of a 1/3-1/2 of my stuff. Here are some of the things I did to experiment:

1.  I reduced the amount of furniture in my living space to keep things more open with less clutter.

2.  I gave away over half of my clothes and shoes away to Goodwill. I only kept 10 button ups instead of 20. I realized I mainly only really wore about 5-6 pairs of pants, so I got rid of a bunch. I just have my favorite shoes and clothes now. I only keep one suit and two sport coats out and put the rest in storage to see if I really needed them. I realized that someone else could probably use a lot of the stuff I wasn’t wearing as much.

 

3.  I gave about half of my kitchen stuff away. I only kept the things out I use all the time. I realized I had four wine openers, 8 serving platters, etc. all of which I barely used. One of the concepts I love that Joshua and Ryan talk about is the 20/20 rule. Don’t hold on to anything that you don’t regularly use that you can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes.

4.  I only put my favorite things up on the walls. I resisted the urge to fill up all the space.

5.  I went from probably 50 spices in the kitchen to 11. I had spices I hadn’t used in years and it was distracting when I only really use a few of them. If I need them for a recipe, I will just go get them again.

6.  I am now almost entireless paperless with my files and use Evernote and Box for all my files. This allows my office to essentially be anywhere I sit with my laptop, so I don’t need a separate office/desk area now.

Here is what I am noticing so far about embracing my own version of minimalism:

I feel like I have more time for myself.  This is my first blog post since November.

The clean physical space creates a sense of freedom, and I feel more creative and energized when I work from home.

I am spending less money because I am not worried about buying anything that isn’t essential. Now I spend my money on things that really add value or I enjoy.

I spend less time looking for things or organizing.

I am spending more time with good friends and doing my favorite things like doing a Madabolic workout or hitting up Atherton Mill Market and Luna’s Living Kitchen.  It was actually a friend of mind at Madabolic who first posted the article on Minimalism that inspired me. I generally just feel lighter and happier.

I definitely laugh at myself more about some of what I used to hold on to. I no longer keep trinkets from conferences :).

I have been applying these ideas to other areas of my life and plan to share those in the near future. Until then, I didn’t want to clutter up this post :).

So as you look around at your space and the things you own, what could you let go of? What is getting in the way of more freedom, productivity and being able to spend time on the things that matter to you?

So my challenge for you this week is to see where you can embrace your own version of minimalism. Experiment with works for you and see what you notice.

Energy Management, Exercise, Gym, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Is exercise the access to greater performance?

November 3, 2013

A few months ago, I noticed I was starting to slack on some of my workouts. I had been running but not really putting the time in for some of my workouts at the gym. I would try to squeeze in 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there and always validated reasons to cut it short. Did I really have time for a whole hour????

However, this all changed when I joined a gym called Elite Wellness with a trainer named Jason Boudrie who puts together some amazing group interval workouts. After the workouts, I immediately noticed I was more focused and my energy levels were through the roof into the afternoon.

On one particular day when I did a really tough workout, one of my colleagues said my some of my work was the best she had seen in several months. I could tell my heart rate was up more than ever during Jason’s workouts. And lately, I have I started doing some fantastic group interval classes at Madabolic. Not only is it a great workout, but I leave feeling refreshed by the sense of community and comraderie.

What I have noticed over the past few months is that I am able to get difficult tasks done quicker and with better outcomes than usual. My concentration levels and general sense of well-being and aliveness have been great.

box jumps

What I experienced is that making my exercise a priority is the access to greater performance. A noted Harvard Medical School professor and brain science expert named Dr. John Ratey outlined these ideas in a fascinating book called “Spark.” Dr Ratey’s research showed that “the real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping (through exercise) is that it makes the brain function at its best…building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are essentially side effects…the point of exercise is to build and condition the brain.” This has some interesting implications for leaders that want to tap into greater creativity and innovation in themselves and others.

Dr. Ratey’s research also showed how organizations can produce powerful results when their culture is built around wellness. A school district in Naperville, IL started educating students on a healthy lifestyle versus just getting them to play sports. At some schools they started using heart rate monitors to make sure students did some hard physical activity before their most difficult class. This was all designed to make sure the brain was ready for their most challenging tasks of the day. In 1999, Naperville district students scored first in the world in science on the Trends in Mathematical and Science Study (TIMSS) and 6th in Math.  By comparison, the rest of U.S. students ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

Unfortunately, many times our exercise is the first thing we drop when life gets busy or we just try to “fit in a few minutes” like I was doing. What could this be costing us with the performance of our organizations and our overall well-being? I know I feel like a new person every time I leave a great workout. It isn’t always easy to commit an hour to exercise, but the results are too strong for me to ignore. As Dr. Ratey points out, exercise is huge catalyst for greater performance and can also take us to the next level with our happiness, satisfaction and energy. Instead of trying to fit in exercise, what if our lives and organizations were built around when we exercise?

 

This was also posted on the blog for The Center for Intentional Leadership

 

Leadership, Presence of Mind, Uncategorized

What Exhilarating Hills Do We Pass Up?

June 2, 2013

“This is crazy, I can’t expect to do this…this isn’t for me.” I muttered this a couple weeks ago as I looked over another giant hill on my mountain bike and decided not to ride down it.  As I held down my brakes, my mind was convinced that there is a certain type of hill I am able to ride down and this clearly was not one of them.

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( This is just the path and I promise the hill was much steeper then this 🙂 )

As I walked down the hill I took a moment to reflect and had a brief flash of insight. I had really just created a story about what was and was not possible – out of thin air. I realized that the belief that I couldn’t make it down that steep hill was completely made up.So I decided to test it. I decided to go down another hill just like it (and several more) and the ride was one of the most exhilarating I can remember. When I was done, I spent a little time thinking about what I would have missed if I had given in to the voice in my head.  Luckily, on that day I was able to pause and see that I was getting in my own way.  So without pausing from time to time, how do you and I know what is really possible for ourselves especially in our personal and professional life? If things are good for you now, what would make them great? What exhilarating hills are you passing up and not realizing it?

We will be exploring these ideas and more at our next course at The Center for Intentional Leadership on June 24-25. Contact me at jon@centerforintentionalleadership.com if you want more information.  Enjoy your week.

Culture, Leadership, Presence of Mind

Why am I in such a rush?

March 17, 2013

My neighbor was outside near my patio and wanted to say hello. However, I could hardly say hello and definitely didn’t have time to chat. I was in a hurry again heading to the airport. And I felt terrible as a drove away having rushed off when a friend just wanted to catch up for a few minutes.

Later that night I was at an amazing dinner in Arizona at this place called Different Pointe of View that overlooked the mountains.

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And probably still in a pattern of hurrying. As soon as we got our salads, I was almost ready for the entrees. Until a co-worker said lets slow down and just enjoy this meal. It was just what I needed. The chance to pause, really slow down and experience dinner. We were there for four hours and had an incredible time.

A few days later, we took a three hour hike up the mountains. We had some tunes going and just had a blast. The three hour hike felt like a whole day.

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It was like my 25th hour idea all over again. If only I could keep reminding myself :).

As much as I strive to be present and create more space, I can still fall into this pattern of rushing and hurrying sometimes. So I have started to think about…what am I in such a hurry for? I sure don’t want to miss life. I read this quote from the Dalai Lama recently that sums it all up.

the-dalai-lama-when-asked-what-surprised-him-most-about-humanity-answered-man-because-he-sacrifices-his-health-in-order-to-make-money

(source)

So this week I invite you to experience what you are doing more and take it slow. It made a difference for me and hopefully my neighbor will notice next time.

Leadership, Presence of Mind

What we can learn from a 4 year old

February 10, 2013

I was pretty blown away by this stat in a book I am reading called Presence.  The research was from Howard Gardner’s Project Zero at Harvard that compared intelligence tests for babies and older people.

“The researchers found that up to age four, almost all the children were at the genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence that Gardner talks about – spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, interpersonal, and linguistic. But by age twenty, the percentage children at genius level was down to 10 percent, and over twenty, the genius level sank to 2 percent.”

So what happens over those 16 yrs and beyond that creates this dramatic drop? The author references a Stanford Business School professor named Michael Ray who talks about how as we get older we encounter the “fear, judgment and chattering of the mind” called the “Voice of Judgment.” And this Voice of Judgment slowly pulls us away from our best or “genius” self. It limits our creativity and ultimately our happiness. And then we forget we even had this genius.

We were completely wide open when we were 4 yrs old. We didn’t have these deeply held beliefs about how the world is that limit us or make us feel that we “have to do” certain things. We didn’t have that little voice inside our head that says “that’s a stupid idea” or “you have to do it this way” or “you can’t do that.” We had the power of choices. And we just ripped it up and lived in the moment.

Steve Job’s certainly figured this out in one my favorite quotes… “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

Like Steve and other innovative minds, we had this simple genius when we were 4 yrs old. We still have this genius, it is just covered up by years of listening to the Voice of Judgment. So I invite you to drown out that old voice and reconnect with your 4 yr old self. You may just find yourself back in a world of endless possibility.

Hiking, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Time Management

The 25th Hour

December 30, 2012

Time flies when you are having fun right? I happen to disagree. I think time just flies when we are busy and have a million things going on. It sure flew this last month when I didn’t get a blog post out! Some days I look at the clock only to see 5pm and wonder where the time went. So what if there was a away to have an extra hour in our day?

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Would multitasking give us that extra hour? Just fit more in, right? I have definitely been that person in the picture below.

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Well, my effectiveness at multitasking can also be summed up in a story about a girl I was once dating. We were in an argument and late for dinner with friends. While doing several things at once, I texted my friend that “I would be 15 minutes late because my girlfriend was being ridiculous.” The problem was the text didn’t go to my friend but instead to my girlfriend. She was not happy to say the least, and I spent days in the doghouse. I have countless other stories about trying to multitask but they usually end up with the same result. My attempt to fit more in results in more issues for myself, and it takes more time away from me.

And just to be clear it is not that we can’t multitask but it is more about how effective we are when we do it. My own experience seems to be backed up by brain science. In the book “Brain at Work” David Rock reviewed a study that shows when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an eight-year-old. Another study in David’s book showed that constant emailing and texting reduces mental capacity by an average of ten points on an IQ test. This effect is similar to losing a night of sleep. It is interesting to me that in an attempt to find more time we actually do things that takes time away from us. And  then we wonder where the time goes…

So it is not surprising that time continues to fly by, and I think we are pretty set with 24 hours in a day. However, after a recent hike I discovered something amazing. I found a way that time could feel more abundant and had my first 25 hour day. It started with one of my internet holidays and a hike up in the NC Mountains. I wasn’t checking email, had no cell service and was not on the internet. I was a little nervous at first to be out of communication for so long.

I hiked with a few friends and of course Brooks.

I spent an entire day doing one thing at a time. I was just present in the outdoors and wasn’t attached to my iPhone all day. And I remember leaving the hike and thinking it has to be almost 8pm. And it was only 4pm. I was shocked. And that is when I started to think maybe time goes slow when we focus one thing at a time. And when we focus on one thing at a time especially an activity that raises our energy, we could feel more complete with our days.

So my 25 hour day experience inspired the idea of “The 25th Hour.” I even did a talk on this recently at Ignite Charlotte 5. I wanted a way to replicate that feeling I had at the end of that day hiking, but I knew I couldn’t spend each day doing a full day hike. So the 25th Hour is an activity you do for one hour that raises your energy or gives you that feeling of coming alive. It helps create the feeling where time feels abundant and stands still.

It is time with no email, phone or texting. Think about those things that make you feel more complete with your days. It could be time with your kids, spouse or family. Maybe it is playing music, art, reading, karaoke-ing (I think I made up a new word), cooking, exercising, yoga, building something, meditation…you name it. The root word of recreation is actually “re-create.” So what are things that re-create you after you do them. A good place to start for me is usually the things I forget about or push to the side when I get too “busy.” My activities could be writing, exercising, working on a speech, or just being outside with no agenda.

I have to step out of this…

And into something like this:

Cusco mt look

This young boy is a good example:

 

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Our days will keep flying by unless we get back in control of our time. Try incorporating 25th Hour activities into your day and share them with me on twitter at #25thhr. It may just allow things to slow down for you. The more you and I slow down and create space for what is important, the better we are for the people around us. And we will begin to create a context where people have the space and time to be their best self. And it may even just start to feel like our days have 25 hours. Have a great week and Happy New Year!

Culture, Leadership, Presence of Mind

That crazy idea that became a reality

November 18, 2012

Have you ever really wanted to do something but had no idea how and weren’t sure it would ever happen? And like me, when you told people about what you wanted to do, you had very little evidence or experience that it would work. And what if within a year, this crazy idea became a reality? That is what happened to me in the last six months. And it has been an incredible ride.

Back in February, I was still working in commercial real estate. However, I came to one of our courses here at The Center for Intentional Leadership. And it gave me the tools to go after the vision I had for myself and our world. I had been in other leadership and self-awareness courses starting with one in California with the wonderful people at LaL. And after being in a few of these courses, I saw that the majority of leadership development work was usually supporting executives and an older demographic. And I became very passionate about bringing this work to young people.

In particular, my life had been impacted in such a positive way by getting real clear on who I am and then getting committed to an intentional path for myself. I wanted to help people align their personal and professional lives around what is most important to them. So that people could bring their most authentic self at home and at work with strong sense of purpose and direction. I believe when this happens we can make a greater impact on our organizations and the people around us. And why not get this work to people as early as possible in life??

So at that course back in February, I wrote down that I wanted to start a leadership development program for young people. Then I declared it out loud in front of about 12 people in my course. The funny thing was I was still working in commercial real estate at the time and had very little experience with this work. But when I talked about doing I felt really alive, and it got my wheels turning.

So I left my job to go work for the Center for Intentional Leadership back in April. I started on a project called Intentional Leadership for the Next Generation which is a leadership development program for people in their 20s and 30s. And a few weeks ago, we completed our first course with 15 amazing people.

As I reflected, I just couldn’t believe things happened so quickly. It seemed to validate a continuous running theme in my life. For the longest time, I wouldn’t take big risk or make a major change because I couldn’t see the path to do it or the end result. However, what I continue to realize is that when I am able to get real clear on my purpose and have a really pure intention with something important to me, the path and people to make it happen seem to emerge. And even when I finally got started on this Next Generation project, there were plenty of times I doubted myself, wasn’t sure if people would like it and even thought about shutting down the idea. But luckily, I work with some amazing people who knew how important this was to me and kept pushing me. I was reminded that our work really isn’t about a “course” but about making a significant contribution in the lives of people.

So you may wonder, how did the course turn out? We recently had our follow-up day and below are a few things some of the participants mentioned about how the course impacted them.

  • I quit smoking.
  • I let go of my past and am creating a new life for myself.
  • I am not afraid about where I am going in life anymore.
  • I am comfortable in my own skin.
  • I have a more positive relationship with my husband.
  • I am now in charge of who I am and who I want to be.
  • I am replacing my madness with a smile.
  • I am done not trying and now bringing my full self.
  • I am more in the present, in the now and not lost in future.
  • I have a new perspective on my life and the world we are in.
  • I am ok just being me and that is all I need.
  • I am overcoming my fears.
  • I feel the power of my declaration in my life.
  • I have more internal calmness, self-love and compassion.
  • I am not worrying about trying to figure this out.

That sure makes one plus one more than two for me. Have a great week.