Distracted by Distractions

The Bean - Chicago

Oh,  look at that shiny thing!

Do you ever look back at what you’ve been doing and realize you’ve spent far too much time consumed by stuff that has a lot less worth and long term value than you thought? That’s been my summer for the last week or two, and it’s frustrated me that I have let myself get distracted by distractions. My eyes have been diverted off what’s important. I’m not running in such a way as to win the prize. I’m not giving it my best.

Midwest summers conjure up childhood memories of riding bikes aimlessly, spending warm days doing little beyond sleeping in, hanging out with friends, or watching TV when it’s way too hot out. Breaks are good and even healthy. Speaking as someone without kids, sleeping in on Saturdays is amazing. And while a binge session after work feels like a good idea, (even when it’s “The OC”), the fact is it like many other small shiny objects have grabbed hold of my attention and energy in quiet but significant ways.

I am the first to admit that I have let tasks sit idly incomplete while I catch up on late night TV or the latest political news articles that fill my social media feeds. I turn on any device with a screen to scan social media or read an article that doesn’t have any bearing on anything I currently need to be concerned about. My writing frequency continues to be a source of personal disappointment because I haven’t left enough time in my day to be still with my thoughts long enough to let them fully form. I’ve let myself sweat the minutiae in situations I should have let go of days or weeks ago. Books go unread because I am sucked into other distractions that will provide some semblance of enjoyment quicker than finishing those three chapters on a topic that will likely be more enriching to my entire being.

I’ve learned that I also give into distractions when I’d prefer to not focus on myself. I’ve started asking myself what it is I’m hiding from. What are the Netflix binge sessions and extended screen time reading anything that isn’t edifying a deflection from? What am I avoiding?

I’ve done myself and ultimately everyone around me a disservice. I fail to be a better version of myself. All pay the real costs of distraction. Decisions to not focus on what’s important impact lives beyond ourselves.

Thankfully, every day is a new day with a fresh start. I was reminded today that “lost time” can still be redeemed. For that truth, I am grateful. It’s time to get refocused and set aside what doesn’t have lasting value.

 

Challenge Accepted!

challenge accepted

If you’re paying attention, you’ll often find that everything that happens in your life is more interconnected than it seems on the surface. Themes and life lessons often are simultaneously applicable to professional and personal Greg. The first few months of 2017 are saying, “It’s lesson time!”

I am not much for personal boasting or for being as confident in myself as I could be. I don’t often tell myself I’m particularly good at things for fear of becoming too proud or seen as arrogant. Maybe it’s a mentality of “I can always do better” or a false humility that prevents me from appreciating and owning the fact there’s stuff I’m legitimately good at. I often need some reinforcement and reminders from friends and others that I should be utilizing my strengths more often.

In my head, I know I am capable of quite a bit and probably more if I seriously applied myself. I can look at my life so far and find some notable accomplishments. There are also those less visible achievements that almost nobody besides myself is aware of. There are natural fits for where I should utilize my skills and expend my energy.

I’ve mentioned before in previous posts that I often end up in positions of leadership and influence, even in times when I wasn’t seeking those roles out. In reality, most of the time I wasn’t looking to be “the guy” who took on the responsibility of collecting money for and tracking the apartment’s utility bills or of discerning the next best steps for optimizing work processes. All paths lead me to a place at the front of the pack and in most cases has stretched me beyond my original capabilities and made me see the world with a different perspective.

 

This is a year where I am strongly sensing and seeing a need to bring my best to the table. If life is a constant training ground for that next big moment to step up, 2017 feels like that moment for me. There isn’t time for coasting and watching the world go by. The only exception to that rule is if I’m outdoors on a run training for a race.

What goes along with being given any skill is a responsibility to use and share it for the good of the world around you. I’m not trying to present myself as some superhero here to save the day in every situation I find myself. Though when the time comes when I’m called to do my part, I can’t be hesitant to step up to the task for fear of standing out or of failing.

The hardest and sometimes least prominent part of accepting any new challenge is choosing what needs to be removed to make space for what lies ahead. For example, I can’t successfully simultaneously train for a marathon and eat fast food daily or go to bed at 2 AM. For me to increase my intake of books and write more, that means I have to make a conscious choice to cut back on TV, Netflix, and Hulu.

The overall 2017 challenge theme for me is this: lead. Lead by example. Lead by doing. This is no simple feat. It will require discipline, rest, time, focus, and help to succeed.

I mentioned recently that I need to make space in my life for what’s important and I’m continuing to figure out how to properly do that. Because like most humans, I fall into my old habits thinking I can take on new ones without internally breaking. Removing the excess and unimportant is difficult and requires some uncomfortable decisions that force you to face the priorities you have set for yourself.

So, to 2017: Challenge Accepted! I hope I succeed more often than I fail and try more often than the times I give up.

You Are Who You Are When Everyone’s Watching

“You are who you are when nobody’s watching.”

Stephen Fry

Be on your best behavior! Whether you are a leader in an organization or a parent with kids or someone else altogether, who we are is on display for the world to see and take in, In the minds of others, internal notes and understandings about your character and demeanor are constantly being logged, revised, erased, rewritten, tweaked. In case any of you are wondering, yes I am doing this with some or many of you on a semi-regular basis and reflect on who you are and how you became the person you are today and who you may become in the future. Call me curious about the human condition.

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Sometimes You Wanna Go…

… where you can be with friends. At bars. With free waffles.

I’m a creature of habit and comfort. I go back to the things I know and am familiar with more often than exploring what’s new. I will rewatch shows such as 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation (or most recently, How I Met Your Mother) over a new show. The familiar backdrop of offices, apartments, coffee shops, or bars combined with characters I’ve come to know far too well allow me to focus on the deeper themes and tiny nuances of the stories upon subsequent repeat viewings. I start to look beyond the face value jokes and conversation to the deeper meanings and messages of what’s being said.

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Adequately Present

Figuring out who you are is supposed to get easier as you get older, isn’t it?

For a couple of days each November, my body, heart, and mind go into this quiet state of anxiety and fear. I’ve written about it for the last two years (2014’s “Six Squared” and 2015’s “37”) as a way to more publicly reflect upon and share what I’ve been processing internally. This year is no different.

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Gaining, Losing, & Regaining Trust

In relationships, politics, even our interactions with businesses, there is a level of tacit understanding to trust that the other party will do what they say will do or be who they say they are. We expect parents or a significant other to unconditionally love and not intentionally hurt us; we vote someone into office to serve the country and needs of the people who voted them in; we buy from companies who create products and services we assume to be reliable and consistent.

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Empty Fullness

In the pursuit of many endeavors and goals, it is easy to be caught up in the act of chasing what excites you. Adrenaline rushes in, and you tell yourself you can take on a new book right now and knock out a blog post this week and start a new friendship and kick off that initiative at work you’ve been dying to find significant chunks of time for.  But then you look at that list and realize that 1) many of your goals are not related to each other, 2) you are just one person and unable to do it all – at least do it all well, and 3) you’ve lost some of the energy and joy in the pursuit.

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