“If you feel stuck, move. You are not a tree.”~ Germany Kent
“Don’t wait for the right answer and the golden path to present themselves. This is precisely why you’re stuck. …”
I love Seth Godin. I took his altMBA class and learned to trust myself. Together, the other students and I learned how hard it is to get unstuck. In 30 days we shipped 13 grueling assignments that challenged our “stuckness.” We found that our growth came from getting unstuck and challenging the resistance (fear) we had as we faced change.
Three months after graduating, I’m trying to stay unstuck. It’s hard to get unstuck, but staying unstuck — outside with the wind whipping around our psyches, slapping against our egos, and whistling the “you’re not good enough” tune is unsettling. And daunting. I have to revisit the cycle again and again and again.
The rug gets pulled out with a tug from fate. From the competition. From an employee, a manager, a brother or sister. And we flip upside down.
We can choose to quit. On the other hand,
“…You might not end up with perfect, but it’s significantly more valuable than being stuck.
Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”
Seth Godin (again, still)
Here’s another quote about being stuck.
“If you feel stuck, move. You’re not a tree.” — Germany Kent (American print and broadcast journalist)
If you want to get unstuck and stay unstuck, try something new every day for three weeks. See how it feels. If you want to step it up, level up, play up, check out the altMBA. OR check out any of the many other Akimbo.com workshops.
I like being unstuck. Some days are scarier than others, but unstuck is better. I’m never bored. My unconscious blow-through-the-day-in-a-haze self can rarely file its nails and rock on the front porch of life. That self is always wondering, “What’s she going to do NOW?”
It’s a quintessential business question but like a free lunch–the answer is decidedly not free.
The group of especially intense entrepreneurs sat in a Zoom meeting discussing the question above. But it was not the question we were asking each other. Rather, it was the question we ask companies who come to us for advice or help with projects, whether it is marketing, growth, design, education, perhaps, or personnel. It can be anything.
It is not surprising that companies like yours look outside for startups and creatives like those in our group to help you gain clarity on your next challenge.
Is it one of these?
Sales are down. | Employee turnover is up. | Deliveries are late. |It’s time to hire, fire, grow, move, add a product, cut a service. | It’s something else.
You’re stumped, because you don’t know what’s wrong, OR what you want to do to fix it.
We don’t either. But here’s what we’d like you to know. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you have seen it. Sometimes, that means looking at one option, and another, and another with nothing that looks or feels quite right. It’s like looking for a home. You kinda know what you’re looking for, but you have to go through a lot of no’s before you get to a yes. The kitchen is too small, and even though it appeared there was enough room to expand it, it wouldn’t work. You move on. You haven’t paid the agent a dime. But that’s their job.
That’s the difference. A realtor’s job is to show you a bunch of homes until you find one you like. They don’t “charge” you for that time, and you think small businesses shouldn’t be charging to show you different answers to your problems. That there is a problem. Here’s the thing. If you had some department in your company doing the analysis, scenario building, and defining the resources and assets, boundaries, and constraints for various paths, you would be paying them. The “cost” gets buried in their salaries, but in truth, the opportunity cost is that they’re working on your project, not on someone else’s, or perhaps they’re moving deadlines on their regular jobs for that day.
No Free Lunches
“Do you know what you want?” is not a free question anymore than there are free lunches. Everything costs. When I’m asked “that question,” I can say “No, I don’t know what I want.” But if I begin the analysis seeking solutions so I can answer the question, I should expect to pay for the time it takes to do it.
If it’s MY time, I “pay for it” by pushing another project aside for the moment. I may “pay” by not watching television or by not playing a sport that day. In the generous world of my ZOOM group this morning, we help each other freely. But we pay each other back by asking them “the question” and helping them to answer it honestly and with due diligence of reflection, clarifying comments, and respectful, necessary disagreement sometimes.
Seth Godin says a lot of pithy things, but I’m going to pick this one for now.
“If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position.” – Seth Godin
If you can’t answer the question, you don’t know what you want and that’s okay. But knowing what you want has immense value. And everything costs.
If you want more content like this, check out Mickey Mellon’s blog posts. He’s a Seth Godin fan and a deep thinker (and a member of the thought group that originated this blog’s question).
At our weekly altMBA check-in meeting, one of our braver souls shared her plan to take six weeks off before embarking on her next “thing.” The thing was not defined, and the six weeks would be time to ponder, reflect, and choose. Or not.
What if you did that? Would you plan a vacation? Take a class? Sneak in some work?
OR, could you somehow push a magic slow-motion button that is spelled break or brake (either one) and step out of your skin to live in the gaps without filling each one with breathless busy?
What if you don’t take any time between this thing and the next? Our professional CVs used to shout “loser” if there were gaps, as if to say, “So, you couldn’t find work, huh?” Or, “What was wrong?” or “Did you have a breakdown? Were you sick? You what? You stayed home with your kids?”
So you switch out of Drive and put yourself in Neutral. What if you have two days pass and you have nothing to show for those two days? Can you put away the I’m-useless, this-was-a-bad-idea fear and believe that creating space for your Self to find itself will be a good use of your time, however long that takes?
What if you honored this time? Protected this time? What if you came into an inheritance or won the lottery? And so what if you took even longer? What if you knew you were facing a risky surgery? What if your chance for survival were only at 10%?
Someone in the group talked about the need for reflection in everything we do. Another person asked our brave six-week-off person if she would be fed or drained by the process, or by the decisions she faced at the end of the six weeks.
What if we all had time to ponder our lives, visit our Selves, and find our truth as we’re living through each of our my-brakes-are-broken days?
What if we made a special appointment time to reflect, like we put it on the calendar and didn’t schedule on top of it?
As with most growth stuff, it doesn’t happen over night. We have to do the work.
I was going to write on something else today, but I had a Headspace meditation this morning that showed a ray of sunlight into working on my impatience (my only flaw) that tries to hide around my persona like a cockroach under the kitchen sink.
You: “Wait. What’s that? Impatience? I want to know too. And make it quick!” Me: “Hah. You wear the impatience mantle too, I see.” You: “So, what did Andy Puddicome say? He’s the Headspace guy, right?” Me: “Yes. That’s correct. I’m paraphrasing, but what I got out of it was the following. Impatience stems from the difference between what we’re expecting and what is really happening.” You: “Yeah, I see that.” Me: “Wait. That’s not all.” You: “Okay. Hurry up, though, please, I have things I gotta do.” Me: “Well, the next thing is that somehow, in our hurry-up world, we manage to blame someone else for the dissonance. As in, whoever is around is causing you to feel impatient because they’re not moving fast enough, talking fast enough, accomplishing enough, and so on.” You: “So?” Me: “So, Andy says that the one to ‘blame’ is ourselves and we need to try to understand in that moment that we have control over how we choose to feel. That realization on its own can reduce the aura of impatience, dare I say, the habit of impatience if we catch it in time.” You: “Wow.” Me: “Yeah. Wow, indeed.” You: Silence. Me: Silence.
As with most growth stuff, it doesn’t happen over night. We have to do the work. Awareness of the behavior starts the ball rolling, awareness in the moment in time to catch and switch the knee-jerk rutted road of reaction to something different is the hard part for me.
… while they were totally safe, they were also totally stuck
The _______ (person or persons) chose not to go to the _________ (place) with their _________(another person or persons). It was a scary venture. [Cold. Steep. Deep.] (Pick one or add one of your own).
Instead, the ________ (person) stayed in a ______ (different place) where it was __________. [Warm. Quiet. Shallow.] (Pick one or add one of your own).
After a while, the ______ (person) looked out the window [portal, bars, door, etc.] of the ________ (place) to see what s/he was missing.
It had been a mistake not to go, of course, because . . .
while they were totally safe, they were also totally stuck.
I am listening to a Headspace meditation series on Focus this week. My middle name is “distractible.” You too?! We all struggle to stay on task with everyone and their brother or sister clamoring for our attention.
Wait… what’s that over there? A shiny object! The to-do list calls. “Yoo-hoo. You forgot something.” I add Something. Capital ‘S’? Little ‘s’? Either way, is it necessary? Did I stop what I was doing? YAASSS!
Workus interruptus. It’s a new Latin term recently resurrected from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. Really. Just last week. You didn’t hear about it? WI as they called it to save time was brand new back in the day just after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and the Latin speakers then (yes, there were a few) coined the term. A careless tourist to Los Angeles dropped the WI write-up while visiting the area that is now the La Brea Tar Pits, where the dinosaur bones were buried in the muck.
No one wanted to go in to fish out the term at the time, and WI only reinserted itself into the lexicon as the tectonic plates shifted ever so slightly, bubbling new tar and the term workus interruptus to the surface. Last week. It was in the news.
What a find!
[P.S. Spell Check is having a FIT right now. “Fix it. Fix it!” she says underlining furiously. I think she’s having a fainting ‘spell.’]
The Headspace app does not mention this phenomenon directly. But it does mention, of course, the importance of being aware of distractions and interruptions. One of the tricks Andy Puddicombe (the founder of Headspace) mentions is clearing your workspace. Think “Outer Order, Inner Calm” as in Gretchen Rubin’s book.
So, I will busy myself cleaning my desk drawers. Talk about workus interruptus!?!?
“If you don’t have the experience of something you’re not at liberty to write about it.”
Do you agree?
Can I tell if I’m telling my truth? Am I writing for an audience that I’m trying to impress? Am I trying to impress you right now?
Here’s what I want you to know: I struggle to tell the truth because sometimes I don’t know what it is until I write about it. Which… is probably why I write.
What’s the truth?
In recalling from altMBA that we are all irrational, I can assure myself that even if I think I’m telling the truth, I’m probably not. Or maybe, it’s my truth today, but it will be different tomorrow. Is that possible? Does truth change day-to-day?
Do you want the truth? “You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson’s character says in the movie A Few Good Men. The truth can remind me of something. It may remind me of hurt. I don’t know. Or happiness? OR wishes, that are not the truth… just wishful thinking.
Here’s the thing: Stuff “above the fold” or at the top of the iceberg above the water may or may not be the truth. The stuff below is the ‘truth-y’ stuff. And I should go there more often to write my truth, even if it hurts, and maybe even if I have not experienced it directly. Is that cheating?
“Is it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice.
* (The name of this painting is “California Street.” See below for artist and detailed publishing information.)
Retaliation in Red
A Short Story
No one knew how the red spots got there. They just appeared one day, and they were spreading. People’s brains were worn thin from trying to figure it out. The spots grew on the street and slid up along the walls. Sometimes it got in your hair if you weren’t careful. Mildred Lee took her ten-year-old son Tony to the cable car that day. As she dropped him near the cable car stop it seemed there were more red dots on the streets than last week and even more than yesterday. “Is it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice. “I don’t know,” she said glancing at her watch. “But I gotta run or I’m going to be late for work. Hop on the cable car and I’ll see you tonight, Honey.”
But she would not see him as he was that morning. No. Tony ran after the cable car, but he didn’t reach it because he slipped on the red goo and got a mild concussion. When he woke up he was in a land far away. It was red. The sun was red. Tony’s clothes were red. His hair and skin were red. The people around him were red. They wore red clothes. Bright red. Cinnamon apple red. He was afraid at first, but then, he realized it must be some joke his friends had played on him. He was not hurt. And the color would wash off. He was sure of it. The people seemed friendly enough but they smelled funny, so he wanted to leave right away, but how?
Tony seemed to have found a way out of the red city, because the next thing he knew he was standing outside his home.
“Hi, Mom,” Tony said, skipping into the house through the kitchen door. Tony’s mom fainted. Who faints anymore? Well, she did.
She came to with smelling salts that Tony’s dad administered. He whiffed some himself.
“What happened to you?” both Tony’s parents said at the exact same time.
“I don’t know. I was running toward the cable car and I slipped. When I woke up, I was in another place. And I was red. But then I fell asleep again and I woke up outside the house, but I was still red.”
“Well, I hope this washes off,” Tony’s mom said, licking her thumb and rubbing it on the back of Tony’s arm. Nothing changed. Tony was still red. Very, very red.
“Tony! Who did this to you?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool,” Tony said admiring his face in the dining room mirror.
“It’s not cool because it’s not washing off. I’m calling the school.”
Tony scratched his red head with his red fingers. “I never made it to school that I remember.”
“What? Where were you?” Tony’s dad said. “Now don’t make up stories.”
“The place was different. Like, the people there were red, and the buildings and streets were red.” He paused. “Even the dogs were red.”
“Maybe you slipped and passed out. You were dreaming is all. Now let’s see if we can get this off you. Come with me, young man,” Tony’s mom said. Then to her husband, she said, “Call the Sedgwick’s. Their son is in Tony’s class. See if he was at school.”
While Tony’s mom scrubbed Tony’s skin with every thing from spot remover to cleanser and steel wool, Tony’s dad had called five other kids’ parents. It took several tries as the lines were busy. Finally it was determined that out of those five, the three children who were anywhere near that particular cable car line were red. All reported going to the same strange place where Tony went where people, clothes, and dogs were red. And all the children had remained red with no amount of washing that would alleviate the stain. The children peed red. Finally Tony’s mom stopped scrubbing. Tony was crying. She was crying. And the next morning Tony’s mom and dad were red, along with everyone else in San Francisco. The lobsters had retaliated. But they didn’t like the taste of humans, so they let them live.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
* Please note: Do you see the red spots on the street? The story popped upon the page from this wonderful piece of art! This post is a pure fantasy riff on the above painting in the book Bay Area Scene Paintingsby Gordon T. McClelland & Austin D. McClelland, Copyright 2018. No disrespect is intended.
Page in Book: Page 26 and Cover
Artist: Jade Fon
Media: Watercolor and gouache
Book Description: Looking down California Street from Nob Hill with China Town on the right side, the business district down below and a section of the Bay Bridge is visible through the towering canyon of buildings.
The four of us hesitated as if to say, “Is this a good idea?”
In their eyes, I saw their questions. “Are they safe? Are we?” We, too, had doubts.
Our little family had taken showers, washed our hair, and used hand sanitizer. The wait was over. I went first, and I hugged our older son, inhaling his shampoo-fresh scent. I didn’t cry.
Then I hugged his wife. We held back our tears, but I’m not sure why.
My husband hugged our son and then our daughter-in-law. Finally, we stood apart and took in with a reverent silence that these were our first human contacts outside our spouses since March 16, 2020, three and a half months ago.
Our fear-stiffened bodies surrendered. Our Covid stoicism breathed a tentative sigh of relief, wondering if before-Covid behavior could be trusted. There was only one rational thing to do.
And, that’s what we did.
Pop quiz. What do you do when family comes to town? RIGHT! You eat. And so, we cooked, and boy did we eat well! One night we had barbecued chicken slathered in a sweet-spicy sauce. Coleslaw with mayo/yogurt dressing. Corn salad with surprising roasted hazelnuts! Who knew? What a treat. Wait. I almost forgot to tell you. I made a turkey. We had Thanksgiving dinner in July with stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy. We had leftovers for days. Sandwiches with turkey and avocado on homemade sourdough oat bread. Turkey tacos with salsa, black beans, cheese, and piquant guacamole. Burgers. Hot dogs. Sweet potato fries.
We had a full week together. Over our many delicious meals, we shared what we knew had changed. The pandemic had forced us to revise our futures in ways never before imagined. We used to wake up with some silvery expectation—a chocolate raspberry smell in the mornings that today was going to be wonderful, and tomorrow “wonderfuller” still. We didn’t know any better. We thought our pretty purple petunia patch would be there next week. Next month.
Now, we realize the idea of planning has sharp edges. The round world looks flat. The melty chocolate chip cookies from yesterday could be a bread loaf now, baking in a neighbor’s oven. And that was only if they were lucky enough to find flour. Or yeast.
We could go down that road. Yes, we could. But, we could take the road less travelled by where we sign up for wet happiness in a paradise of waterfalls. The conscious mind lets us reimagine our lives—revise our reality—with a fresh inhale, and a subtle exhale that reminds us that we can choose how to respond. We have the power to react. Or not.
Man, it’s a scary power! But, I’ll take it because right now, I need it.
So, how are you doing with reclaiming your power? Revising your reality? You’re doing okay? Awesome. Yay you.
Craving fresh air, we head to the beach on a particularly fine winter day in Southern California. We do not go often, and yet we live within a 30-minute drive. The beach this day is gloriously empty.
The best part about the ocean is that she doesn’t change much. She’s so rare. And yet she doesn’t care. But to be fair, there’s so much to spare, whether it’s this ocean here or an ocean anywhere, she’s just there.
Take off your shoes and roll up your jeans. Approach the water like a merchant marine. Start with one toe, and then dip the other nine. After a while, you will feel sublime. You might pick up a rock, and taking a firm grip, toss it sideways and count the skips. My brother was good. He could do five or six.
The beaches are crowded in the summer months. Oh, and parking is diabolically difficult. The locals know to carpool and to come early.
If you go in the summer, you’ll see wall-to-wall sunbathers, families, boys, girls, men, and women. Umbrellas of all sizes, shapes, and colors dot the beach. People mostly just hang out. Read. Play. Talk. Eat. Relax. Seagulls hang around trying to look bored but give themselves away when a morsel of food drops. “Mine, mine, mine,” they seem to say. The best idea is to stay out of their way.
If the wind is just right, you might see kites fluttering in the sky. Don’t you like kites?
Be ready to smile as you watch the children splashing and playing in the waves. They don’t seem to feel the cold or get tired of being sandy, salty, and wet. I miss being a kid.
Almost any time of the year at certain posted beaches, you’ll see big dogs, little dogs, and medium-sized dogs of all kinds, on and off leash. It’s a sniffer’s heaven. They all seem to love being at the ocean.
We think the ocean doesn’t care. But she secretly likes visitors. I think so, or why would she be so inviting all the time? She even likes surfers.
Skip out sometime. Take your dog, your kids, and anyone else that needs a nature hit down to the nearest ocean. Or a lake. Or a park. Skip out. Take a break. It’ll do you some good.