Success

No 7. A Perfect Reflection

I have always wanted to be a father.  I am fortunate; my dad is a genuine, loving man, my mentor, my soccer coach, and biggest fan.  He has always been supportive and passed on many essential values:  honesty, integrity, charity, service to community, commitment to family, respect for others, humor; the list goes on.

Amidst all the excitement and joy of being a new father, I was shocked to realize the depth of self-awareness and the crystal clear reflection, mirrored by my twins.  Wow!  After fifteen years of deep, inward work, the dense mass and burning in my solo plexus was often charged as if I saw an ex-lover with a new beau.  Ouch! 

The first and most salient emotional response I experienced was when either (or both) of the twins would cry for longer than a couple of minutes.  After extensive writing and conversations with several conscious fathers, I realized that this anger was common.  In truth, I was experiencing fear that my own needs would go unmet.  My mind wanted to blame them when the projection of my own emotion was the cause, preventing an empathetic response. 

Additionally and contrary to the suggestions of some “professionals” (with which I vehemently disagree), I lay down with the twins every night until they fall asleep.  I found myself getting very upset during the squirmy, frustrating twenty minutes it took them to finally fall asleep.  I wanted so bad for them to instantly be quiet, close their eyes, and turn off their engines.  After dinner, bathing, drying, brushing teeth, several bouts of intense negotiation, and dressing two babies, I was exhausted.  I wanted to clean up the house and kitchen so I could relax or tackle a couple of critical work tasks, i.e., my selfish agenda. 

One of the most powerful practices I developed was meditating during this time, focusing on the feeling that was rising in my stomach, allowing and acknowledging the emotion, not the bullshit meaning my mind created to distract me from the discomfort.  After eight months of practice, the upsetting response dissipated.

We now enjoy some of the most intimate and sweet moments together during this time.  Fear has transcended into love and connection.   

Situations that incite the most poignant emotional responses:

-    Incessant crying and/or whining

-    When I have an agenda, need to get something done, and the twins demand my attention

-    The twenty minutes of squirming and delay tactics before bedtime

-    When I am agitated or experiencing F.E.A.R. (false events appearing real)

-    At night or in AM when I am tired (and fussy!)

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) I have come to realize I often act in similar ways.  After all, our kids are simply an expression of our own nervous systems and the physiological and emotional lineage of our ancestry.  It is humbling to imagine what they carry into the world and what a beautiful gift it is for them to teach us. 

To develop empathy and compassion during these frustrating situations, and to better understand myself, I have found the following questions to be helpful. 

 -   What situations incite the most frustration or irritation in me?

-    In what ways does this situation remind me of my behavior?

-    How would I want to be treated in this situation?

-    How can I guide and share my experience while allowing them the freedom to be themselves?

I still find myself fussy when I am tired and occasionally when the kids cry for long periods.  Writing and talking about my emotions has transformed my experience as a father.  Through consistent, personal reflection, I have been able to name my part, take responsibility for my reactions and develop a deep sense of empathy and compassion in situations that used to frustrate and overwhelm me.  I anticipate so much growth ahead, so many more layers to peel away as we pass through stages of maturity in ourselves. 

Before the twins were born, a spiritual teacher told me that they would be the perfect medicine.  I had no idea, the extent to which her prophecy would become true.  As is always the case in my limited experience, the best opportunities for personal and spiritual growth arrive when our emotions are aroused fully.  It is in this place that we are undoubtedly human, can witness our imperfect nature and grow toward God if we choose. 

My children are the most important reason for living today. They teach me how to love, unconditionally. They offer a perfect reflection to round off the edges of my character, like stones in a raging river. Being a father is not always pretty, but it is always love, and always about about self-acceptance. My children are my best teachers.

No 6. - The Root of Happiness

Gratitude…... 

Gratitude gives us the power to reclaim our joy and puts everything into perspective, like looking at the stars in a dark sky.  It melts away want and self-centeredness and plants our feet firmly back on the ground. 

It's easy to remember on a beautiful, sunny day like today, as I write, sitting on the banks of Barton Creek.  The times I am most in need of this sacred practice are when I find myself, intolerant of others, afraid of a future (and unlikely) event, or lost in the past.  Gratitude brings us back to the holy now, this moment.  The moment that nourishes, engages all of our senses and, reminds us of oneness. Often, I need to be reminded.  When I'm struggling, when bombarded by negative, subconscious thoughts or when I've eaten poorly, the day (or two) before, and feeling depressed or unmotivated.  Establishing regular practices of gratitude keeps wind in our sails and allows us to tap into our most humble, authentic self. 

Practices for Gratitude:

-    Meditation and Prayer

-    Surrender – When stuck or overwhelmed, a simple acknowledgment that our control is limited and often an illusion.  We can instead, turn over the outcome to the God of our understanding. 

-    Gratitude List – at times I have done this daily, it is a powerful way to re-center

-    Be of service - a simple act of kindness

-    Embrace or engage with a child

-    Say thanks before every meal

Gratitude has the power to reset our priorities, allow healing tears, and deeply connect us to the state of joy, the root of happiness.  I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my life, this moment, the nature that surrounds me, my family, my beautiful, sweet twins, my health and the health of my family, my teachers (i.e. everyone I attract into my life), my self-awareness, my commitment to personal and spiritual development, my assets and all potential areas for growth. 

In the Lakota tradition, the word Aho implies agreement and is loosely translated, "Amen." The simple practice of gratitude offers so much.  Aho.

No 5. - 5am Start and Monk Morning

In high school, I vividly remember dad coming into my room four-five times, at increasing volume, to wake me and essentially drag me out of bed for school.  Needless to say, I historically have not been much of a morning person.  I’ve always enjoyed staying up late engaging with hobbies, working or studying. 

For years in my professional life, I started my day at 8 am and worked late into the evening.

I would often start with email and other tasks that led to instant gratification and frequently found myself at 5 pm, without having made sufficient progress toward my long-term goals.  As a result, I would stay up and work until 11:30 or 12 am.  While I found productivity with this workflow, my mind was not as flexible and sharp late in the evening and, I experienced regular bouts of burn out.  Inversely, I always felt great on the days I would rise early, meditate, and get a head start, focusing on critical, creative work first. 

Enter twins.

Either my routine is changing, or I am going to need a clone (and a psychiatrist).  My twins wake up between 6:30-6:45 am and I love to spend 30-45 minutes with them at this sweet hour.  Chalk up an hour to get everyone dressed, fed, and ready for school.  By the time I drop them off, it’s 8:30 or 9 am.  A 4:30 pm pickup leaves a very compressed workday.  After an exhausting few months of working late nights and desperately trying to catch up on sleep, I decided to make a major change.

Income the 5 am Start and Monk Morning.

I’ve reclaimed my productivity and morning self-care routine by waking up at 5 am.  I co-parent the twins on a 50/50 schedule, alternating between three and five days a week.  On the days they are with me, I meditate, do 15-45 minutes of physical movement (yoga, stretching, Qi gong, or resistance training) and work for one 45-60 minute interval, before they wake.  As soon as I drop them off, I head to the office to continue my day with no emails, meetings, or distractions until lunch.  On days I don’t have the twins, I wake at 5:30 am.  This routine allows ample, uninterrupted time for critical, creative work and leaves the afternoons for meetings, responding to messages and other essential tasks. 

“Waking up is not hard to do”...although, it does require commitment and, regular recommitment.

Tips on how to establish an early routine:

 -    Set the alarm for 5am

-    Go to bed at your usual time

-    No snooze, when the alarm goes off, wake up and start your day 

-    Anticipate being a little tired for a few days as your body adjusts

-    Eat something light (berries, nuts or fruit) to wake up your body

-    Allow a flexible day to sleep in for occasional late nights or when recovering from a hard workout

-    It’s not about perfection, if you miss a day, simply recommit to your routine

Few things compare to the quiet, solitude of an early morning.  A peaceful meditation and a cycle of creative work that moves us closer to our long-term goals is a great way to begin each day.   In my experience, this practice has led to increased productivity and a more nourishing and rewarding workflow, resulting in greater joy and satisfaction. 

No 4. The Most Simple Time Management System

Years ago, I attended a Franklin Covey, time management course, which has been one of the best investments I ever made in myself.  It forever changed the way I approached my daily, weekly and monthly planning and was the beginning of my quest for ultimate productivity.  The course inspired me to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which became a bible to me; a book I read, outlined and studied for over two years. 

One of the core concepts is the Four Quadrants (see diagram below).  The top row represents important tasks, the bottom row, unimportant tasks; the left column urgent tasks and the right, not-urgent.  The goal is to shift our focus away from unimportant and urgent tasks and create increasingly more space for Quadrant 2 activities, which are important and not urgent.  In essence, we do “first things first,” essential tasks before they become critical. 

Quadrant 2 tasks are all the things that drive our business and often require large blocks of time: planning, revenue-generating activities, business and relationship development, identifying new opportunities, underwriting projects, design time, etc. 

The Four Quadrants - Franklin Covey

The Four Quadrants - Franklin Covey

While making a daily to-do list is helpful, doing the most important things first assures we create consistent space for daily action toward the attainment of our long-term goals.  We can easily become bombarded responding to email, messages, and interruptions.  Most emails and messages are not urgent, and many are unimportant or imply an urgency that is not consistent with our priorities.  In my next blog post, I will expand on this concept of working in shifts and “the Monk Morning.”

I worked at Cisco Systems for six years and, during that time, I learned that our CEO, John Chambers, who remains one of my heroes, set a daily goal to do just three things.  Building on this process, I refined my daily schedule to a simple, four-item task list.  To help narrow my selections, I ask myself the question, “what four things can I do today that will leave me feeling effective and joyful.”

Simple Daily Time Management System:

 •    Meditation and Movement (non-negotiable)

1)    Quadrant 2 task (1) - ex: Write blog and Social Media for online retail business – 1 hour

2)    Quadrant 2 task (2) – ex: 4 calls to new suppliers or equity partners – 1.5 hours

3)    Quadrant 1 task or an investment in myself – ex: research, reading, etc. – 30 min

4)    Personal item or an additional Quadrant 1 or 2 task

 Tactics that have helped elevate my focus and productivity:

-    Break things down into bites – staring at a list that is too long leads to disappointment and stress (as a over-achiever, this is my most challenging parameter to remember)

-    Restrict email to specific intervals – I check three times/day

-    Minimize distractions - only use notifications for meeting reminders, turn all others off

-    Be flexible – Work ebbs and flows, at times you have five, six or maybe only three items

-    This is real life - include necessary personal items in your daily lists

-    Embrace imperfection - some days are overwhelming and some days we have to respond to incoming distractions and emergencies.  Be gentle with yourself; tomorrow is a new day. 

Another of my favorite business philosophers is the late Jim Rohn who said, “failure is not a cataclysmic event that happens overnight, it is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” Inversely, success is a series of daily disciplines that ultimately bring greater happiness and the fulfillment of our long-term desires.

No. 1 - Renewal of Spring

In the modern west, January 1, is considered the annual beginning while in many other communities and cultures, spring and the Spring Equinox represent rebirth, bringing cleansing, fertility and the planting and budding of new seeds.

The modern, Gregorian Calendar, was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.  Before, the Roman Julian Calendar had been the dominant system proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC.  The Gregorian Calendar is adopted in most countries, although traditional lunar, solar and lunisolar calendars remain in use throughout Africa, Asia and parts of Europe to recognize religious festivals and holidays. 

Calendars play a critical role in the life cycle and workflow of agriculture and the celebration of the seasons. Depending on the location of a community and its orientation to the sun, will dictate how it organizes itself to harmonize with nature and the cyclical climate.

The zestful feeling of spring and its fever are among us.  It’s a beautiful season, a time to thaw, open the windows and enjoy.  The welcome warmth of this cherished moment brings communion, a sense of joy and gratitude, energy and excitement.  Spring is also a time to reflect, ground and plan for the coming year. 

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself as I surrender to and celebrate the rebirth of this new year:

-    What does success mean to me?

-    What things did I attract into my life last year and what lessons did they bring?

-    What would I like to leave behind?

-    Are there people with whom I would like to spend more or less time?

-    In what ways would I like to serve my family and my community this year?

-    Is there anyone with whom I have withheld forgiveness? 

-    What is my commitment to self-care? 

-    What things am I committed to working on, starting or finishing?

-    What do I want to create in the world?

These questions are just a few to stimulate a dialog with ourselves to reconnect our intentions and spiritual essence with the cycle of life. 

Do you want to begin a new hobby, create a consistent morning routine, spend more time with specific family members or friends?  Do you want to change your job, professional career or start a business?  The newness of spring reflects the limitless possibilities of our health, lifestyle and emotional state.  Joy and happiness come from within; our ability to create and take ownership of them is within our control.  In my experience, creating space to reflect on my growth, the lessons and blessings life has so abundantly provided and what I want to create, sets the sail for a great year ahead.

What do you want to create in your life and this world?  What do you want to leave behind?  What do you want to attract and therefore, what do you want to become?