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How Resolutions Constrain, Rather Improve Us

I’ll make this a quick one. Seems that this year, there’s a lot less talk about making specific resolutions. Ok, well I saw one gay rag talking about how to “get a boyfriend in the new year” but that’s besides the point.

Resolutions have always seemed to me to be doomed from the moment you make them. Personally, I’ve always favored the “better decisions” resolution but even that one falls by the wayside after a couple of months.

The problem for me, and I’m guessing pretty much everyone else, is that life happens. We get busy, we get distracted, we have other things that take priority. None of us say “I think I’ll gain 5 founds in the first quarter of the year despite my new, fancy gym membership” but it happens anyway.

Let’s just leave it at this, we are busy people. Resolutions are fun for the first seven to ten days of the year but then they’re just anchors dragging us down.

I, for one, am elated to see fewer of those resolutions posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I say this not because I think we should just say “f-it all” but because it frees us to focus on more important things. Resolutions drag us down, handcuffing us to commitments that we make in overly idealized versions of reality.

Let’s just say we’re going to make today better than yesterday and see how that turns out. How’s that for something we can stick to?

Separating Who You Are From What You Do

When the agency I was working for hit rough financial waters and I was laid off, I decided to try a bold new experiment…getting a life.

Don’t get me wrong. Getting laid off with more than a half-dozen of your coworkers during the holidays is not something you build into your five-year plan. In fact, because the holidays are not the easiest time to find a job, I had to resolve myself to the reality that I might have six weeks of free time on my hands.

While searching for a job I wondered what would happen if I gave myself time to explore who I was? For the first time in my adult life would I be able to separate the idea who I am from what I do?

There are dozens of studies that show that we, as a society, are increasingly building our identifies and our sense of self-worth around our jobs. In fact, people who lose their jobs experience depression and identity-related crises at more than twice the rate as those of those still employed.

Finding a sense of self-worth that is more independent from what we do is not just a matter if short-term happiness, it’s a long-term requirement for happiness.

Based on my experience, here are a few potential ideas that proved out their usefulness in helping me find out what really mattered to me (click on any photo to start slide show):

In retrospect though being laid off wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to me it also wasn’t the worst. With nothing better to do, I had to take life day-by-day. Through putting things in perspective, I rediscovered the things that mean the most to me.

Ultimately, my period of unemployment only lasted two weeks. My new job offered me the chance to start right away and I had to think seriously about taking them up on it. However, I opted to give myself more time in the experiment and the results are pretty self-evident in the photos.

Though I am ready to get back work, I am doing so more mindful of what it is that means the most to me in life. By trying to separate who I am from what I do, not only I am going back to work happier but I am going back to work with more appreciation for my life as a whole.

If you find yourself laid off or with some time on your hands, I can’t recommend highly enough conducting your own experiment. Treat yourself like you would your job and invest in your own happiness. It’s worth every second.

Social Media Intellectualism Outside The Bubble

Though I don’t credit my time at a “big box” social media agency for a lot of personal growth it did do one thing for me, instill a hefty respect for the exchange of real-time, valuable social media intellectualism. You know the kind I’m taking about…water-cooler exchanges about the changing nature of social media and it’s implementation, right then and there for the benefit of a client.

Once you leave the bubble, you’re faced with keeping up with news and trends without the support network of being face-to-face with dozens of other social media fanatics, like you.  This week I encountered two very different reminders of this and why social media intellectualism outside of that bubble is still an ongoing search.

The first reminder came during a networking event I attended with bloggers here in Atlanta.  By all accounts it was a fabulous event and I got to meet a ton of really smart individuals who were using blogs to turn their passion into some sort of profit.  The challenge was that the event was heavy on the doe-eyed, new-to-the-social media sphere kind of mentality.

I shared my frustration with a friend of mine who I had accompanied to the event, lamenting the fact that in terms of our own takeaways, we weren’t able to learn that much.  Instead, it was a great exposure to other points of view which is, I guess, just as good if not better.  Still, it left me hungering for networking opportunities that would teach me something new.

The second reminder came with a comment posted to one of my work blogs.  Unlike my personal blog, I try to simplify social media strategy down to the bare essentials as that’s what the audience is looking for.  I should have known, however that simplifying things would carry its own set of problems.  An author whose work I had cited found the article and proceeded to “rip me a new one.”  She accused me of missing the entire point of her work by failing to disclose the complexities of that particular issues.

The problem with the author’s work was that though she had put a lot of smart theory forward, there wasn’t really any tactical substance to it.  Like many intellectuals in the social media field, she spent a lot of time working out the complexities of the topic without really connecting it to the realities of implementation on a day-to-day basis. Though I tried to fill in that blank by offering an operational example in my post, I guess the author thought my attempt to put her work to use devalued the complexities she had built-in.

Both experiences left me understandably sour on the state of social media intellectualism. Where are the social media geeks that both know their sh&^ AND make it work? There’s a lot of room in the middle to discuss sensible, practical applications of social media outside the constant parade of “5 Ways To {INSERT BUSINESS VERB HERE} In Social Media.”

Perhaps it’s that those of us who need it most are all too busy with work?

Though “big box” social media agencies tend to promote a very production-oriented rather than a client-centric vision of social media execution, that bubble does have a benefit.  Its create a “live-wire” environment of thinking and theorization that is applicable in real-time.

Agree/Disagree? I would love to hear from other social media professionals their take on things.

Of Dogwoods & Gratitude

I was originally was going to make this Part II of my Maslow post but I wanted to preempt it to share something that ran through my mind today.

Amid the insanity of a couple thousand OTPers descending on Midtown Atlanta, I was still able to make it out to the Dogwood Festival.  Though the festival was made up of mostly the same artists and food vendors you see year after year, it was the first time a couple of my friends had gotten a chance to see it so I agreed to be a guide.

Along our walk, I decided I wanted to show my friends the newer section of the park including the Legacy Fountain.  In contrast to the main sections of the park, the newer area was almost completely void of visitors.  It made for a nice calm and with the cool wind whipping around us, it made one of my favorite poems come to mind:

“I walked in a garden today
Where loving hands had wrought
She could not have known
As she toiled there tirelessly,
That I would come today
Despairing, lonely and afraid
And that her garden
Would restore my peace of mind
And give me hope and faith.
I walked in her garden today and
Tonight I thank God for her
Who toiled there tirelessly.”

O.R.W. – Cheekwood Botanical Garden

Though the last few weeks have been an interesting mix of productivity and drama, the thing that has stood out the most is how much I am learning about the finer points of cultivating serenity. Sure, it sounds kind of fluffy but you never know how important it is until you need it to kick your goals into high gear.

That poem and, in particular, the timing it had running through my head reminded me that building that sense of serenity is a two-way street. In one direction, we’re trudging a road paved by others.

When you’re looking for that serenity and you’re a typical “Type A” personality, that journey usually requires the help of people that have been there before.  There is an enormous amount of gratitude to be found for those people who are there for you be they family, friends or just someone with a big heart who is willing to help.

In the other direction, you’re maintaining or paving that road for people who may come after you. Like the poem says, you may never know who comes after you but that road may indeed mean quite a bit to them.

The friends I took through the park had a chance to experience what I’ve gotten to experience dozens of times before.  In sharing that experience, though – this time it was somehow more profound.

Like I said, it was kind of a fluffy moment but when you work hard and care a great deal about what you do, these moments help remind you of what’s important. If this sentiment means nothing, I promise the next post will be fantastically geeky enough to make up for it.

If the sentiment did mean something to you, that’s even better. In that case, I encourage you to try it out for yourself and pass the feeling forward.  You’ll be glad you did.

Photo Courtesy of brettlohmeyer

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Legacies Matter

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Overcommitted, Much?

We all like to think we’re more important than we really are. It’s just a basic fact of human ego.

This is why we blog, this is why tweet – it’s to get attention for ourselves because we believe the external validation is necessary to our very beings.

It’s also why we cram our schedules full of so much even though we realize it might detract from the overall quality of the output.  Take this past weekend, for instance.  Some time during the summer I had the great idea to run my first half-marathon.  I trained, I researched and found one to register for.  Only later on did I realize that it was the same weekend as a conference I had to attend AND, subsequently emcee one of the workshops. It was also Halloween weekend and parties-a-plenty to rock out at, in the evening.

A normal human would say “let’s rearrange some things here.” For one reason or another, I did not. I got up at 5, ran the half-marathon, attended the conference and still had enough in me [read “5 Hour Energy”] to attend not one but two Halloween parties.

It was great, it was amazing and I honestly can’t believe I did it all.  Neither can my body, apparently.  It was like “I see what you did there with the thinking that you could defy the laws of physiology.”  Suffice to say, I spent Sunday on the couch unable to move my legs without being reminded that I probably overdid it.

Morale of the story is that each of us has our limits. Extending ourselves is great but our lives balance the process of expending energy and renewing it. Sure, you can commit yourself to being superman/woman but know that everything comes back around in one way or another.

Oh, and for those of you who were wondering – 2 hours 10 minutes on the half-marathon ;-)…

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