Amidst the go-go-go and the self-assumed pressure of perceived expectations and obligations, it is easy to forget the core questions of Who and Why. In the pursuit of "progress," I've spent much of the past year inside, checking the boxes for certification and working to make tangible headway in my practice, often based on what the experts say and on what other folks are doing. And while I'm grateful for what I've received and created, I am reminded how delicate the balance is, between making time for my business and my learning, and making time for the passions and pursuit that don't initially seem to contribute tangibly to those pursuits.
When starting down this path a year ago and I had to make some conscious concessions regarding how I allocate my time, rock climbing was one of the activities I decided to shelf for a while. I've missed it at times, but felt content with my trade-offs. Of all the outdoor pursuits I enjoy, I find rock climbing's skill set to be the most perishable--the technical skills, fitness, and trust in gear and feet all quickly fading without maintenance--making the coming back to climbing at times a daunting and humbling endeavor.
Finishing up an intense weeklong Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Training with Jim Coffey, an amazing multi-ninja of whitewater, rescue, instruction, with the rare, wonderful sort of hospitality that makes you feel more welcome even in your own backyard.
I feel beyond grateful for the high quality instruction I’ve received this past year. And while SWR instruction and coaching may at first seem like totally unconnected disciplines, what I’ve learned from these masters of their domains reveals much more in common than what was initially apparent.
Regardless of whether I was being taught the nuances of mechanical advantage or the finer points of the coaching arc, I noticed a few overlying qualities that profoundly and positiviely shaped my experience.
Whatever the subject, I’ve seen these folks share with a generosity of spirit the full breadth of their knowledge and experience, creating a feeling not of a transaction but of a gift, an offering. I’ve witnessed a consistency of character, that these people aren’t so much teaching curriculum as they are sharing a piece of themselves. I’ve felt these instructors bring their full selves to the material with a passion and unbridled enthusiasm that by sharing and learning these skills, we can make the world a better place.
So while in the course of these trainings, I’ve gained a lot of skills and taken in a lot of information, my biggest take away isn’t about any of the material itself, but instead relates to my intention for what I plan to do with that knowledge.
I intend to bring infectious generosity and passion, knowledge as well as my own personal experience, and my own unique hybrid blend of knowing and curiosity to each of my interactions, whatever the context.
I intend to pay it forward, share what I have received, and hopefully ignite Stoke! in others along the way.
Earlier this year, I brushed the dust off my pencil and started writing a blog, not knowing where it was going, and not needing to know either. The good thing about starting is there are no prerequisites of knowing: to start, we just start.
Since then I’ve given a lot of consideration to the questions of What it is, and Who is it for?
Having stumbled into a wormhole of reading a lot of the ironically classic writing-about-writing and the myriads and multitudes of articles about having a successful blog, content creation, and growing your brand/business, I found there is a dreadful amount of advice out there: 12 Key Steps to This, 7 Things to Know About That. I’ve read enough of it to know that I don’t want most of it. It’s not that it’s bad advice, it’s just other people’s advice, written by--and seemingly for--other people. If you want advice, you can save yourself some time and stop reading this.
I’ve given a lot of thought to voice and contribution. My voice and my contribution. The Peanut Gallery is all too happy to tell us what to do to be a success. Unfortunately, no one seems to pause to reflect on what being a success means. And I think I know why: Success is a highly personal term. It is each of our own privilege to define, and it is to our great advantage to do so. As one gal’s trash is another lady’s treasure, as my vacation might be your worst nightmare, so too may one person’s success be another’s nervous breakdown.
My voice and my contribution, and indeed part of my own rendering of success, is to cut thru the mounds of cookie-cutter advice. To offer an alternative perspective: that while yes, there is good information and choice tidbits to be gleaned from the flock of advice-givers, to make the leap from survival to our own thrival, the knowledge we seek resides in our own knowledge of self.
But wait! The Peanut Gallery screams from their perch high atop BlogLand. To be a success, you must Be An Expert!
I hear y’all, but I’m just not sure I’m buying that.
It’s the Information Age: the totality of human culture, information, and misinformation are all instantly available in the palms of our hands. It’s all out there already. Personally, I prefer to not spend my days and early morning twilight hours jostling about, elbows out, just to rehash, reshape, and respin information that’s already available, as The 3 Steps to Becoming an Expert suggests.
What I see is that we’ve collectively become lost in this Sea of Information. We’re drowning out here, clinging to the Experts’ Advice like so much flotsam amidst the floating wreckage. Amidst the deluge of external advice and information, it's easy to lose touch with the knowledge that resides inside us and comes thru us, our own creativity, and our individual and collective humanity.
What I hope to offer, what I aim to contribute, is a reminder of that humanity. A glimpse at my path towards my own self-knowledge. A view of my own internal insights as they dance their way thru the outer world. And, maybe, on a good day, provide a tidbit that reverberates with just one of you, that sings out to your innate wisdom, creativity and knowing. That it jostles awake a dormant piece of you yearning to paint, run thru a field, or stare at the stars. If in doing so, I can invite one person to move just a little bit closer in to their deeper self, well, that is my definition of success.
The people around us make a difference. As I ooze my way into the freelance world, I’ve intentionally been populating my surroundings with the goal of creating relationships of mutual support as we each face the inevitable challenges, hiccups, setbacks, and celebrations inherent to start-ups. I feel fortunate to have included myself in a weekly ‘mastermind group’ shared with some really great people.
Yesterday when we talked, when it was my turn to speak about my about the progress I hoped to make this week, I felt awkward, like I went to the right station, but got on the wrong train. The words coming slowly, lumbering, landing like spoonfuls of wet mashed potatoes splopped to the floor.
But as I listened to the other folks in the group talk, each of them dropped nuggets of knowledge that hit me like signal flares, lighting up the darkness around me.
Of course-- I can’t think my way to where I’m going.
It seems so obvious...now. I’ve driven the vehicle called grit till the wheels came off. Till I’m staring at my own mental and physical wheels gone cartoonishly far out of true.
That conversation turned the floodlights on for me: I had been struggling to build things in the dark. Not having much fun with it, and abusing myself over the difficulties and lack of progress. Somewhere along the lines, I settled into: Just. Do. The. Things.
Somewhere along the lines, I had forgotten to dance. I had lost the groove.
(This post's soundtrack. "god help us, help us lose our minds," at least the thinking part.)
I was losing track of the joy in my work. The stoke draining away and in its absence the vacuum claimed by a cocktail of fear with a shot of desperation floated on top.
Not backsliding: A new hole in a new place. But a hole all the same.
The end of my coach training looms on the horizon. So close I can almost taste it. But I hadn’t stopped to think about what it might taste like. The realization: Right now it tastes acrid and metallic. Fear, like a penny under my tongue.
You can hide anywhere if you want to. We are ninja disguise chameleons at our core. As it turns out, we can hide everywhere if we’re not careful. Even if it’s not what we want. The line is thin and it shifts and billows in the breezes, internal and external. What yesterday was showing up and being fully present is today’s place to hide. Last week’s learning and new experience is tomorrow's camouflage, known and comfortable. The same training program that each day and each week pushed me a little bit further into unknowns, discomfort and a new way of being so quickly, so insidiously, became a comfortable place to hide. Yet, as soon as I’m realizing this tendency, I’m watching my hiding place being dismantled from without and within brick by brick.
I didn’t come here to stay here. And this space and time wasn’t created for permanence. I can’t go home and I can’t stay there. And where I’m going, that is where the metallic taste comes in.
The advice and strategy provided by others can’t get me a step further. Not without my own internal advances. The new software won't run on the old hardware. I have to upgrade my own tech to get the results I want, and more importantly, to know when to run someone else’s program and when to toss it and write my own.
The reasons so many people I talk to keep taking various online marketing, business, or self-improvement seminars and workshops. one after another, or repeating them for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times is that they are doggedly attempting to overlay the same external advice, strategy and format without systematically and intentionally working with their own interiors, their own operating systems. At their best, these programs force a deep internal dive, but at their worst, they give us a place to tether ourselves to the external world, and worse yet, give us another thing to beat ourselves up with, if and when, at the end of the process we don't feel any further along than when we started.
The same level of thinking that got me here isn’t going to get me a step farther. And we don’t think our way to the next level of thinking. The coaching and the work I did to get here can’t take me any further. I reached yesterday’s goals and let myself coast, but I reached the bottom of the hill and lost momentum. For the climb ahead of me, to get where I’m going now, I have to dive and drop back in, to my own interior depths, resources and knowing, to both stand on the shoulders of giants, and, be my own giant.
My experience doesn’t fit into tidy self-improvement bylines. What I have to say can’t be neatly packaged into the clear cut, easy-to-digest format currently popular for writing about personal growth. And it is that variability and nuance that most informs my own personal growth and expansion.
My past 6 months have been full value, vast and varied. I've experienced moments where I felt like a super-hero, periods of time with an unshakable clarity of purpose, weeks of seemingly endless energies, days riddled by doubts, the greater part of a month with lingering low energy and mood.
Running in the background throughout it all is striving for doing. Driven by an internal desire to grow, to create things, to make the world just a little bit better, and with the flames fanned by an external barrage emphasizing the doing:
Stand up and be seen.
The 5 secrets to X.
Find the others.
7 strategies for Y.
Go go go.
When the energy is high and the stoke seems endless, the doing comes natural. It flows forth as if from a mystical wellspring. It feels good. It's easy to sit back and say, "See! Look at all I'm doing."
But my experience is more vast and varied than that. For reasons I may or may not ever fully comprehend, my experience of being is fluid and variable, cyclical and seasonal. My mood and energy ebbs, my external productivity dips, yet the external song and dance remains the same:
Go go go.
The friction between these factors challenges my way of being. When things feel natural and the doing is easy, the being comes automatically and without question. But when the energetic tides recede, and the doing slows, it is the being that begs garners my attention as I simultaneously hold the notion of do.more.now alongside the awareness that today is different, today it isn't flowing.
The messiness of this experience shifts my focus and raises different questions. The don't hide notion reverberates in a different key. The notion arrives: today striving for doing is a place to hide from being. Raising the question: which is more important to me?
Such a simple and sometimes muddy question to answer. At my core, it is the being, and my own experience that trumps the doing. Doing is-- at its best--a way to the means of being. Yet it is so easy to get carried away, doing for its own sake.
We don't refer to ourselves as human doings, we are human beings. My experience of being is vast and immense. My experience of doing is smaller and more focused. When I become overly focused on doing, my sense of being becomes myopic as my experience narrows.
Trickling in with the persistence of water is the outside world. The notion that to be successful, we must focus on the 7 key X to achieve Y, that we must focus on the doing. And that as a coach, as someone whose goal is to lift others up, there is a distinct pressure to be up there, to have it all figured out, but that is not a complete view of my experience. As a coach, I endeavor to help people align with their own reality, but false notions about who a coach is and what a coach looks like, when unnoticed or unchecked, corrupt my motives, moving me to try to do something so that I might feel or be differently about myself and my present situation. The catch being that in doing so, I'm missing the chance in that moment to accept and align with my own reality.
So where does all this esoteric introspection get me? It brings the realization that the quest for doing, if left unchecked, will--when the weight of being feels heaviest--become another thing to beat myself up with and a distraction from being. It brings me to acceptance of life's ebbs and flows and a relief from always trying to change how things are.
This is full value living: The totality of the human experience; The immensity of being. This is what I came for: the immensity, the vastness of experience, Not just the 'good days,' type-1 fun, sunshine and full stoke.
These dips in energy and mood are the weather systems of my own personal eco-system, and by finding acceptance, the heaviness naturally, without striving without doing, begins to lift, my energy and mood rising a bit with it as well.
Creative Destruction: Golder Goldstein's Blog
Nearly every time I sit down to write, to create, something gets destroyed.