Appreciate the Seasons

My wife and I have a beautiful 4-month old daughter.  She is chubby, full of smiles, and loves to be held.  If you put her down to explore by herself, she always ask to be picked back up.

Until she didn’t–just last week–and started to enjoy time on her own.

We used to joke about how we’d have a tough time dropping her off for middle school still in the baby carrier, because it’s a funny image.  And carrying a baby for 20 hours a day is hard work.  But as we watch her becoming more independent, a part of us was sad that she is, in this small way, growing up.

Life arrives in seasons.

I think this happens with many of aspects of life and work.  All sorts of things come in seasons, not just weather.

…if current trends continue, I’ll say to myself, I’ll still be in the same place in five years.  I’ll be fighting the same struggles and frustrations I am now.   …and I won’t be able to handle it.

Instead, I need to remember that most of life arrives in waves, like the light and the weather.  There will be struggles and victories, uncertainty and simplicity, more and less.  There will be stable times when it seems like things will always be the same, and times when everything changes all at once.

More importantly, I need to appreciate the seasons.  They are a time to focus, to devote greater attention to a few particulars, to learn gratitude and exercise patience.  They should be enjoyed, because they will certainly pass.  I’ll take the lessons and memories forward, and be better for it–if I have the perspective and openness to learn from the gift of time I’ve been given.

Because life isn’t always an even-tempered journey, and great careers don’t always follow a steady path of predictable growth.

Four things I’m doing to appreciate the seasons in my life:

  • Acknowledge them.  Noticing a string of rainy days is much more discouraging than seeing the first signs of Spring.  Knowing I’ve entered a season allows me to appreciate the present and look forward to the seasons that will surely follow.
  • Have gratitude and perspective.  Every season has it’s joys, even if they’re not obvious–something that I’ve learned since moving to Chicago.  When I find a season stressful, I remember that it will end eventually, and that I can be grateful for the gifts that this time will bring.
  • Make changes, knowing they are temporary.  The equivalent of changing my wardrobe as I start to notice an autumn chill.  If I resist the season, I end up spending more time miserable.  Instead, I try to make a change to allow me to appreciate the season as I find it.

I hope this helps you enjoy the seasons in your life a bit more.  Take care!


Leveraging our Strengths

Doesn’t it feel good to be engaged with something you love?

When you’re talking to someone about something that the truly enjoy, their face lights up, their posture improves, their voice quickens—you can tell they’re excited about what they’re talking about, enthusiastic about where the conversation is going.

We love to follow our passions.  But we need to engage carefully to get where want to go.

And when it moves on to a more mundane topic, that spark disappears.

People love to be engaged with their strengths, with the activities that they love.

So why don’t we spend all our time here?

The answer is simple: if something in our life is holding us back from engaging more deeply with the things we’re passionate about, then we need to change something to take the next step.  And change—particularly within ourselves—is really hard.

And here’s the bad news: if something about how we approach our strengths and passions is holding us back, we’ll need to change our relationship to the thing we love most in order to be successful, in order to deepen that relationship in the long term.  Or, if one of our weaknesses is holding us back, we’ll have to spend time on something we don’t like in order to advance our dreams and goals.

Fortunately, we should feel comforted about this–for two key reasons.

First, the most difficult part of taking the next step is realizing the need for change.  Our actions flow from our decisions, from our mindset.  Once we accept that we want to continue to grow at the cost of a change to ourselves, everything else will be easy.

Second, at any given time, there is only one thing holding us back from incremental improvement.  The biggest reason people don’t start an important project is because it seems daunting at the outset. They get discouraged because they don’t have the knowledge, time, or willpower to start.  Overcome this by finding the one, tiny change you can make at zero cost to test your solution.  Lasting success is built on steady, sustainable growth, not dramatic overhauls.  Build your journey with consistent, small steps.

If you’re helping someone else who is facing this problem, remember that their mindset is why they are here.  You can try to change someone’s mind with data or a well-reasoned argument—but only if they are already open to your point of view.  If not, be patient.  Build your relationship.  Be willing to be influenced by them.  Keep your opinions to yourself.  Remember that we learn when we are ready, when we enroll ourselves, not when someone else thinks the time is right.  And be available to your friend on the day when they decide to change their mind.

This blog is my first small step in a new direction.  I love to think and write about personal entrepreneurship, about doing better the things we need and love to do in daily life and work.  I’m using this forum to test whether my insights can help other people, and I’m excited to see where it goes.  Stay tuned!