‘Cause we got the right foundation…

March 28, 2014

After closing a very delightful Gala Celebration for the students who just completed the Foundations program, I stopped for a snack – really to pause and take in all the wonderfulness that had just been shared.

And as I often do in such moments, I queued up a little break-time music. And as also so often happens, Pandora serendipitously served up something just right.

Moments after honoring what everyone had learned and accomplished over the previous twelve weeks of foundation building, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were singing…

Cause we got the right foundation
and with love and determination
You’re all I need to get by…

I’m occasionally tempted to make writing a Love Letter to Systems part of my curriculum – and here was a love song! Imagine feeling that way about your systems…

• • • • •

We were certainly feeling the love during the Gala. There was a great deal to celebrate, but what most struck me was the way radical self-acceptance – of your strengths and weaknesses, the nature of your work and creative process, your current circumstances – were at the heart of the biggest transformations.

Combine that understanding and acceptance with some solid know-how about organizing your activities in a right-brain way and next thing you know you’ll look back on how you used to do things without recognition. Who was that? What was I thinking? Thank goodness that’s not how I do things anymore!

It’s not that students graduate from the program different people, rather that they become more themselves. Having stopped trying to work like everyone else and learned to create the unique conditions that bring out their best, their innate awesomeness emerges.

You don’t have to change who you are to become more efficient and effective in how you use your time. In fact, becoming more comfortable and productive with your time hinges on the radical self-acceptance of your quirks and superpowers, lifestyle and preferred ways of working.

I’d love for you to experience the same affirmation and transformation in your relationship with Time and what needs doing.

The next term of Foundations begins Monday, April 14.

Early registration dollar-stretchers are available through noon Pacific tomorrow, Saturday, March 29.

Click here to learn all the details and register now.

• • • • •

I leave you with this groovy cover of You’re All I Need to Get By.

In a love duet with your systems, which lyrics would you sing and which would you want your systems to sing back to you?

• • • • •

Now go forth and celebrate all you have learned and accomplished this week and quarter – because rest assured you too have done something fabulous.


Organized under systems. none

On Kryptonite and Keeping Promises

March 20, 2014

This week I was reminded of a blog post written by the always insightful and to-the-point Alexandra Franzen that can be summed up with this:

“People, we need to stop flaking out.
… We need to stop. Because it’s gross.”

Like Alexandra, I was tempted to keep this thought to myself. [I had a completely different topic in mind for this essay – a fun one about the role of games in developing time management skills. Why make things so heavy?] And yet I reached the same conclusion that something needs to be said out loud. Now.

I was reminded of her words because I was on the receiving end of a broken promise this week – a long string of them, in fact. And it did not feel good. At all.

Besides having to feel those not-so-nice feelings, the situation also forced me to clarify and communicate a boundary in my business I never dreamed I would need. And, quite frankly, I’m a little sad it’s something that needs to be said between adults. On the upside, because I’m generally surrounded by mensch-y people, I doubt I will have to enforce that new policy again any time soon. But it still has to be communicated from here on out.

[Note: Unfortunately, this is how a big chunk of our systems end up being created: lessons learned from unpleasant experiences we really don’t want to repeat. It’s just the nature of Systems Crafting.]

The Woman in the Mirror

And because I was taught not to throw stones unless free from sin myself, I’ve since been wondering if this is how other people feel when I break my promises.

It happens far more often than I want to admit to myself (let alone publicly) and it’s something I never feel good about, but neither do I think about it having the kind of impact I’ve experienced this week, especially when those failures of commitment seem relatively small in the big scheme of things.

But just because they’re not a violation of big commitments like my marriage vows or formal contracts like my mortgage agreement with the bank doesn’t mean they aren’t significant.

We enter so many small social contracts, explicit and implicit, every day of our lives. And it’s easy to forget that with those responsibilities comes tremendous personal power to affect others for good or ill. It’s easy to forget how our own small actions have a ripple effect. How my broken promise to you prevents you from keeping your promises to others, who in turn can’t keep their commitments – and so on and so on.

Or how a promise kept leads to many promises fulfilled and communities built on trust and confidence.

This is yet another reason George Bailey is my hero. His story has a happy ending because he upheld his social contracts over a lifetime. And the people of his community upheld theirs in turn.

We love to talk about our big dreams and world-changing ambitions, but it’s choosing and keeping our everyday promises that actually brings about transformation.

And it’s the harder work. Showing up and doing the ordinary things you’ve promised you’ll do day in and day out can be quite challenging.

• • • • •

“The real trick is to realize that the excuses you make for small things are exactly the same as the big things. And they ALL feel bad.”
Amy Hoy

• • • • •

Kryptonite Konditions

Before this happened, I was already thinking about the notion of personal kryptonite, our individual Achilles heel. That is, a particular type of situation that, when it arises, not only causes us to abandon our systems but also causes us to rationalize poor choices as acceptable ones.

I’m not talking about situations outside our control, when the Universe throws something unexpected our way that requires amending our commitments. Nor am I talking about proactively and respectfully changing your mind about something. I’m talking about situations of our own making that bring out our most selfish and shortsighted behaviors.

One of the things we talk about in the Foundations program is knowing our Top Ten Early Warning Signs Things Are About To Go To Hell and having a way to notice and act on them long before a hellish situation actually develops.

Somehow, a Kryptonite Kondition (I just made that up – like it?) feels distinct from the general hell of overwhelm and chaos. Making selfish and shortsighted decisions under those circumstances is just the result of exhaustion. A tired mind makes poor choices after all. Refill your well and it’s pretty easy to put things right again. But a Kryptonite Kondition brings out a part of ourselves which can rationalize any kind of breach of personal standards or the boundaries of others – long after we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.

Problem is, you can’t rationalize breaking a promise without making yourself and everyone else involved smaller. Telling yourself it doesn’t really matter is the same as telling yourself I don’t matter and oh-by-the-way neither do they, nor does what we are exchanging. It might seem arrogant on the surface (Who do you think you are?!), but underneath you have to diminish yourself somehow to feel justified in your choice.

Talk about gross.

• • • • •

• • • • •

So the question is: how do you recognize this when it’s happening and put a stop to it? More importantly: how do you prevent a Kryptonite Kondition from developing in the first place?

Prevention starts with identifying your particular Kryptonite Kondition. I’m pretty sure mine is Urgency – as in: Something Needs To Happen Right This Second So To Hell With Everything Else. This Kondition is especially pernicious because whatever I’ve delayed becomes the next urgent thing and the cycle just perpetuates itself ad nauseam leaving a trail of broken promises in its wake.

That Kondition can’t develop unless I over-commit and under-prepare. It can’t develop when I make choices with brutal honesty about my skills and capacity.

It can’t develop when I remember that small actions are what change the world. And it can’t develop when I remember that I matter, that all work matters, that everyone matters.

In vetting a plan, I clearly need to double-check that I haven’t created an optimal environment in which my Kryptonite Kondition will likely arise and thrive.

And so do you.

Because, lovelies, we need to stop flaking out. It’s gross. And, to echo Alexandra once again, completely unnecessary.

But using your personal power for good? That’s a beautiful thing. And totally worth the effort.

• • • • •

I dictated my first draft of this essay down by the river. This is for those of you who like it raw…

Please write back soon and tell me…

- in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

What are your Kryptonite Konditions?
How do you recognize and prevent them?
What systems help you to keep your promises?
What is your experience of flaking out – as both flaker and flakee?
Wishing you flow in all your promise-keeping,

Organized under choosing. none

On Sacrificing Boredom

February 19, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about boredom lately.

About what boredom looks and feels like. About what I do to avoid it. About what I do when I am bored.

Also about what boredom looks and feels like to my clients. What they do to avoid it. And their behaviors when they are bored.

And this much seems clear: boredom does not bring out our best.

Not unlike Sherlock Holmes. When the great detective is bored he abuses drugs, the people around him and his very walls.

For us, boredom can result in some decidedly odd self-destructive behaviors.

In the absence of properly engaging and satisfying challenges, we do things that are not at all in alignment with our values or talents.

We might not be shooting up ourselves or our houses, but that angsty restlessness and resentment about what’s on our to-do lists? Our overactive Worried Hurried Mind Hamsters? The unnecessary dramas and crises that come from procrastinating until the last minute and letting the little things pile up until they can’t be ignored? The distractions and shadow comforts of games, tv or social media? That’s often boredom at work.

Just as I’ve discovered much of my occasional resistance to work is a simple case of the zoomies due to a lack of sufficient exercise before I sit down at my desk, I’m now wondering if much of the remainder of that resistance is just self-induced drama manufactured solely to alleviate my own boredom, to create needed novelty and challenges where I haven’t given myself a sufficient stretch.

I’m also thinking that if I’m not occasionally relieved and grateful to have nothing more challenging to do than enter a few receipts, answer a few emails, fold some laundry or load the dishwasher – that’s probably a sign that I’m not spending enough time on my leading edge.

I’m becoming so convinced of this phenomena that I’ve moved boredom to the top of my list of Top Ten Early Warning Signs Things Are About To Go To Hell.

Turns out I’m not the stereotypically moody and neurotic artist I sometimes worry I’ve become. I just need to go on a lot more walks and do more things I’m not sure I can do.

What if Pierre feels he must sit, not from the mistaken belief that his art is better for a little suffering, but because he’s just plain bored?  [Postcard brilliantly observed and illustrated by Everett Peck.]

• • • • •

Given the nasty side effects, boredom is clearly something to be avoided. The obvious thing to do instead is to seek out properly engaging and satisfying challenges.

But in doing so, we encounter a couple pesky problems.

First: Properly engaging and satisfying challenges are goals and projects we can’t get right the first try.

And me and my little tribe are generally used to getting things right the first try. At least that’s how things typically have gone down, especially in our early years. So any attempt that falls short of that expectation can both bruise our egos and leave us confused about our very identity. Wait, that wasn’t supposed to happen, I’m a Quick Study!

To choose properly engaging and satisfying challenges requires us to drop the egos and identities that are built around instant success and immediate gratification – egos and identities to which we may be rather attached.

To choose such challenges requires us to enter the unexplored and unfamiliar territory of practice. Of get back up and try again. Of 10,000 hours.

And that brings us to our second dilemma: entering the territory of practice requires repetition – repetition that looks like it might be pretty boring.

• • • • •

The thing is, we do often choose properly engaging and satisfying challenges. We do enter that territory. For many of us, the opportunity to have such challenges is a key reason we chose an entrepreneurial path.

We really don’t want to be bored. The easy A hasn’t done it for us for a long time.

But that doesn’t mean we always recognize that territory for what it is. Nor does it mean, though we are attracted to it, we know what to do once there.

We tend to be Quick Studies in everything but the skills and techniques of consistent persistence.

Ironic, isn’t it?

• • • • •

So if we are to choose engagement over boredom, that’s our homework: becoming skilled in the techniques of consistent persistence.

Those skills and techniques are many, varied, and largely foundational – far more than I could cover in this already lengthy missive.

But here are the four strategies topmost in my mind right now as I think about how to remedy my own boredom.

Raise your bar.

I know that’s not the advice I’m supposed to give to people prone to perfectionism and over-commitment. I’m supposed to tell you to lower your bar. I’m supposed to be lowering my own bar.

And while we do need to shift our expectations of instantaneous success, I am discovering that I am much more willing and able to engage in the small repeated actions of consistent persistence when I am working towards an  audacious (and well-articulated) goal than when I am faced with a project I know I can do.

The uncertainty of I-wonder-if-I-can-actually do-this? gets me to pay attention. To prepare. To think through the details. To stop being so cocky. To stop resting on my laurels. To pace myself. To take care of myself. To practice.

Raising my bar forces me to stop doing it in my sleep. It forces me to turn off autopilot.

And the uncertainty is what keeps the necessary consistent persistence from feeling boring. While the creative tension of an audacious goal isn’t exactly comfortable, it is exciting. Like the plot twists of a really engaging novel or movie, one can’t help but wonder: What’s going to happen when I do this? How’s it all going to turn out?

Raising my bar automatically plugs me into curiosity and puzzle-solving, two of my core motivators. But lower the bar, lessen the creative tension, and that curiosity is lowered along with it. I know how it’s going to turn out. Yawn.

Lower my bar and I fall back asleep. Lower my bar and I slip back into the dysfunctional behaviors of boredom.

Find the sweet spot of flow.

Low challenge + high skill level = boredom. High challenge + low skill level = stress.

But high challenge + high skill level = flow. Flow is found in that sweet spot between too easy and too hard. And it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

Flow is never, ever boring.

Flow has it’s own energy and momentum. It seems to fuel itself.

And when we’re in flow, we’re so engaged we lose all sense of time, surroundings and self. It’s all about exploration and realization of the idea. Ego and identity don’t matter. You don’t have to do any sort of pop-psychology anything to leave them behind, they just fall away.

Just as raising my bar automatically gets me to pay attention and plug into my curiosity, finding the sweet spot that is my leading edge (but not my bleeding edge, that would shift eustress into distress) automatically gets me to drop my Quick Study identity and her problematic expectations.

Gotta love that automagicness.

Learn to work with creative tension.

To work with creative tension, we first have to learn to recognize it for what it is.

Our resistance to that stress and the stresses of boredom can feel much the same, yet there is a discernable difference between wondering if and how you can do something and wondering if and how you can make yourself do something. If it’s the latter, you’re probably more bored than challenged.

Creative tension will also eventually resolve itself. With some consistent persistence, it will turn into something tangible, useful, beautiful, satisfying and worthwhile. The stress of boredom, however, will just turn into, well, Sherlock Holmes shooting holes in his walls.

Once you’re able to recognize it, learning to work through creative tension that cannot be immediately resolved is largely an act of discipline.

Discipline is about creating working conditions that bring out our best, keeping our eyes on the prize, a willingness to be uncomfortable, and the ability to bring ourselves back over and over and over again.

Discipline requires a solid, stable foundation. With a foundation comes the self-care and emotional skills that give us patience, resilience and tenacity in the face of repetition, setbacks and shifting moods and energy.

If raising the bar is what forces us to pay attention and take better care of ourselves, having a foundation is what helps us to know exactly how to do that.

A foundation is what allows us to be fueled rather than stressed by a prolonged creative tension that we’re not yet used to.

See yourself as more than a Quick Study.

If you’re working on your leading edge, you’re leading – a role that might be as uncomfortable as the creative tension itself.

To work from your leading edge, you have to get honest about the actual magnitude of your intelligence, talents and abilities relative to others.

And working from your leading edge probably means letting your light out from under the bushel of easy A’s you’ve been using to dim it down. And letting your light shine more brightly may not get you the same applause and rewards as those easy A’s. In fact, you’ve likely already had experiences that have taught you to be cautious.

Yet we are oh-so-much more than Quick Studies. Underneath that identity is something – someone – much more true and whole and needed.

But we can be neither authentic nor of service when we’re walking on eggshells lest we inadvertently trigger doubt, fear, anger, disappointment or pedestal-putting in others. As always, Marianne Williamson says it best.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

Like learning to work with creative tension, getting comfortable with leadership has its challenges, but it also comes with rewards – not least, rarely being boring or bored.

• • • • •

Of course, this is all easier said than done.

As Richard Bach points out in The Messiah’s Handbook: “In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.”

  • It’s not always easy to sacrifice ego, identity, immediate gratification, and ready applause for pulling rabbits out of our hats at the last minute.
  • It’s not always easy to identify a truly engaging sense of purpose that is feels better than all that, one that makes creative tension bearable and can fuel a challenge until the reward of the results are achieved.
  • It’s not always easy to find the sweet spot of flow that’s neither too easy nor too difficult.
  • It’s not always easy to stop using initial setbacks as the sole measuring stick by which you choose whether or not to continue pursuing a goal.
  • It’s not always easy to practice patience and master the skills of consistent persistence.
  • Nor is it always easy to let go of the fear of threatening and alienating others.

And thank goodness for that! Because if sacrificing boredom was easy, well, we’d find the problem too tedious to bother with!

So, my friends, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I’m challenging myself to knock off the boredom-induced drama already and find some engaging ways to stretch myself.

And I’m challenging you to do the same.

If it’s possible that your lack of productivity is not caused by overwhelm or disorganization, but primarily because you are under-challenged in some wayexplore that!

If the suggestion that your distraction, resistance and angst are simply the byproducts of boredom rings true for you – do something about it!

Experiment with raising your bar and finding your sweet spot of flow. Learn to work more skillfully with creative tension. Stabilize and solidify your foundation. Expand your sense of identity and purpose. Embrace the responsibilities that come with all of that.

Let’s sacrifice our boredom. Let’s offer it up in exchange for more freedom and happiness.

Please write back soon and tell me…

- in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

I’d love to know your thoughts on boredom.

  • What does it look and feel like to you? What do you do to avoid it? What do you do when you are bored?
  • How do you think boredom affects your productivity and satisfaction?
  • What would you have to let go of if you chose to sacrifice your boredom?

Hope you are feeling the stirrings of spring wherever you are,


Organized under energy/how. 2 comments.

George Bailey Is My Hero

December 23, 2013

Years ago I worked with a coach who taught excellent annual classes on choosing a theme for the coming year and I’ve loved having one ever since.

This past year my theme was inspired by Tina Fey‘s Rules of Improvisation “that will change your life and reduce belly fat.” This year I’ve been practicing Yes, And. As in: Yes, I’d rather throw myself into the holidays. And, I’m going to finish writing and sending this article anyway. It’s really just a formula: Yes _____ [insert seeming impediment]. And I will [insert chosen action or commitment] anyway. While it hasn’t turned me into a rock star of productivity (though, come to think of it, it has reduced some belly fat), it has very effectively dialed down the drama – which is a very real impediment to getting things done.

In the coming year, I want to dial down the drama even further by really embracing ordinary, everyday life and finding not just momentum but useful beauty in small actions taken frequently and consistently.

While I’ve been a huge fan of immersion and working episodically – something the creative process so often seems to need – I suspect that approach has shifted from preference to necessity and now to routine. And the habit of all-in/all-or-nothing is not creating the stability and spaciousness I want in my life. It’s creating chaotic and reactive drama of last-minute-rabbits-pulled-out-of-hats rather than the harmonious and proactive thrill of genuine achievement built over time.

While the latter is far more satisfying, it’s not as sexy as the former (at least not on the surface). And I’m coming to recognize the razzle dazzle of all-in/all-or-nothing as the siren-song of my ego, as the music coming out of the right speaker of what Anne Lamott calls Radio Station KFKD.

“If you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over a lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to sh*t, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on. You might as well have heavy-metal music piped in through headphones while you’re trying to get your work done.” — Anne Lamott

There are many good resources out there for turning down the volume on the rap songs of self-loathing, for quieting the mean voices of the inner critic/gremlin/monster. So many resources you would think that fear is the only thing that ever gets in anyone’s way.

But my reality is this: my ego and the heavy metal of self-aggrandizement get me into far more trouble far more often than my fear. The confidence that comes from my sense of giftedness often turns out to have been overestimated. The arrogance that comes from my sense of specialness often results in avoidance.

And another reality is this: true confidence comes from actual accomplishment. And something special is built by small, ordinary actions taken over time.

My ego loves the voices of affirmation that populate my online world. When Fabeku says: Use your superpowers! my ego says yes! When Leonie Dawson says: Ride your wild donkeys! my ego says yes! When Charlie Gilkey says: Do epic sh*t! my ego says yes! When Jen Louden says: Be a shero! my ego says yes!

And while that’s all genuinely great advice (don’t get me wrong, I admire and respect the bejeezus out of those people and I doubt any of them would fundamentally disagree with the gist of this essay), these days it’s George Bailey who is my hero. A man with dreams and ambitions prevented by circumstance and conscious from pursuing them, who ends up creating a substantial legacy anyway built from the ordinary actions and decent choices of everyday life.

And like most of us, he’s blind to what he’s created until shown what could have been had he not been alive to make those decent choices and take those ordinary actions.

“If you knew of the differences you’ve already made, you’d now see yourself as wildly successful. It’s time” – Mike Dooley

Since an intervention from my own guardian angel doesn’t seem imminent, it’s up to me to stop being blind to the beauty of the ordinary, unable to see the verdant in my life for gazing at the greener grass of if-only-then.

It’s up to me to stop seeking the drama and the high of all-in/all-or-nothing, thinking that’s where accomplishment and satisfaction lie. It’s up to me to stop dismissing small actions and decent, everyday choices as not enough – as not epic, sexy, rapid, lucrative, challenging or special enough to be satisfying or worthwhile.

So I’ve been experimenting with turning my day upside down and ignoring the conventional advice to do my most important work first, in part by redefining what my most important work is.

“Hey, artists? Note the way George Harrison looks at the floor and sees it needs sweeping, but does not ditch his guitar to go find a broom.” – Lisa Baldwin

Conventional wisdom – at least in creative circles – is to go to your garret studio and make what you feel called to make before you do anything else. Nothing else is considered more important. Everything else is considered a distraction or form of procrastination.

But I’ve been wondering. Because the garret-first guideline hasn’t exactly made me a prolific creative. Instead, I suspect it has just turned up the volume on the heavy metal of my self-aggrandizement. And it has resulted in a backlog of maintenance that is distracting and has created the wrong sort of drama (drama that is totally avoidable and unnecessary).

“Whether you’re trying to garden or take a picture or write a book, your ability to make a creative mess is your most productive state. You want to be able to throw ideas all over the place, but you need to be able to start with a clear deck. One mess at a time is all you can handle. Two messes at a time, you’re screwed. You may want to find God, but if you’re running low on cat food, you damn well better make a plan for dealing with it. Otherwise the cat food is going to take a whole lot more attention and keep you from finding God.” – David Allen

I think Allen is right. One mess at a time is all you can handle. Until you’ve reduced your non-creative messes, maintenance is your most important work.

That’s the hypothesis I’m testing anyway. And my initial experimentation seems to be proving this theory true.

In turning my day upside down, I’m starting with caring for my body, then my immediate environment, then my finances, then my professional work, with communication coming before content creation.

That’s right, creation is last on my to-do list.

It feels backwards and vaguely wrong. This experiment definitely requires breaking a rule and a habit.

And it also feels great.

The shift in the frame of mind with which I enter my creative work is markedly different. I enter my garret much more fueled and confident and far less distracted.

For me, that floor really does need sweeping before I can make my guitar gently weep or create anything else useful or beautiful.

And – another hypothesis – it may take me less time to get into flow (my favorite state) since so much less of my energy is going into trying to focus because I’ve handled my legitimate distractions. Immersion may not require the large swaths of time I’ve always assumed.

In short, this upside down approach to my day is turning me into a rock star of productivity.

Except rock star is completely the wrong metaphor. Because, again, it’s George Bailey who is my hero and guide for the coming year, my reminder that world-changing legacies are built from small, everyday actions taken over a lifetime.

Or as Patti Digh would say: “Put down your clever. Pick up your ordinary. Because at your ordinary, you’re at your most potent.”

And so with the turning of the year, I will shift from asking myself How can you say Yes, And today? to What would George Bailey do? I’m not just going to pick up but love up my ordinary. Because I suspect that’s how you love up your extraordinary.

foundations-sidebarIf you want to dial down your own unnecessary drama, reduce your own non-creative messes or experiment with turning your own day upside down to find greater stability, spaciousness and creativity, please join me in the new year for Foundations: Right-Brain Time Management 101.

This is just the sort of thing we play with.

Please write back soon and tell me…

- in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

Let’s talk about this fear vs. ego thing. Which gets you into more trouble? (Be honest.) How do you counterbalance or keep yourself from straying too far into one or the other? How do you quiet both speakers of Radio Station KFKD?

What was your theme/word/song/image/color for the past year? What new one is emerging?

Sending you lots of warmth, peace, rest and love during this liminal season,

Organized under maintenance, time/when. 2 comments.

You Don’t Suck, You’re Just In Transition

November 21, 2013

Throughout the second half of 2013, I’ve been aware that change is afoot in my life. Of course, this is always happening in some way, but some periods of change are more fast, deep and wide than the average – and you can’t help but notice that a more significant transformation is underway.

This is one of those periods.

It didn’t exactly arrive out of the blue. I tend to shake the snow-globe of my life every four to five years, as though I’m perpetually graduating from college. It’s a rhythm as reliable as my mid-afternoon slump. I can generally feel it coming on and sooner or later recognize it for what it is.

And what initially gets me to turn that snow-globe upside down and let those flakes settle anew on the little scene that is my life, is this: things stop working.

My professional activities, my systems, my comforts or my social connections don’t have the same outcomes they used to. Sometimes that creates chaos and exhaustion. Sometimes crickets and tumbleweeds. Sometimes I just notice it as boredom; nothing feels engaging anymore.

So I start tweaking – mostly by simply dropping what no longer works and seeing what wants to fill that empty space.

And in that liminal space between knowing what doesn’t work anymore and discovering what does, when I’m not feeling all that curious and open-minded and patient about the process, when I feel irritated and less than competent in my daily activities, it’s easy to forget that I don’t suck, I’m just in transition – and that it’s not me, it’s my systems.

I’m especially apt to forget this when dealing with tasks that I can’t drop. My commitments require me to see them through. So I slog away at them, feeling stupid and at a loss, or ignore them altogether and suffer the consequences.

And in evaluating the systems that used to work for those tasks, that should work, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. In being so focused on the steps of the thing, looking for the one that’s broken or out of place, it’s easy to forget that everything is connected.

A task and the system that supports it don’t exist in a vacuum. Our lives are ecosystems of interconnectedness. Systems are web-like in structure. Changes elsewhere that don’t seem like they would have an effect on this thing actually do.

And so the detective work isn’t about finding the broken part, and it’s certainly not about asking what’s wrong with me? It’s about figuring out what has changed? and how that’s affecting being able to follow through with a task in an efficient and effective way – you know, like you used to be able to.

Some changes and their effects are more obvious. A birth or death, entering or leaving a marriage or partnership, a health diagnosis, moving to a new home, or a career change are going to mess with your routines and systems.

But sometimes the connections aren’t so clear and direct, and it’s not so easy to identify where the fallout began or what’s missing.

Sometimes improvements have unintended consequences.

Let’s say you’ve been forgetful and moody lately – two things that could certainly leave you feeling sucky about yourself and lead you to download the latest to-do list app or make an appointment with your favorite therapist.

But when you step back and look for what has changed you might also remember that recent switch to eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. That change might have left you feeling better on so many levels it didn’t occur to you that the forgetfulness and moodiness might be the result of a lost nutrient.

But it is a significant recent transition. So, as an experiment, you add a B12 supplement to your diet – you address what changed – and shazam! the fog lifts. A minor tweak in your nutritional systems eliminates any need to adjust your other systems – and suddenly you don’t suck at everything anymore. Hallelujah.

[ True story that perfectly illustrates my maxim: Health before self-improvement! ]

Sometimes you’re in a boat on the river Nile.

For instance, in recent years, my bookkeeping habits have eroded – resulting in a backlog of receipts, unopened envelopes and unfiled paperwork that has me wondering, “I used to be so good at this! What the bleep is wrong with me?!”

So what changed?

At first glance, it’s easy to point to a shift to online/paperless banking that led to updating the old, kludgy bookkeeping software I had been using (YNAB, I love you), and just not yet being used to that routine. But that made things easier, so those clearly aren’t the changes at fault.

Stepping back from those trees, I can see the grove of unstable cash flow. A system based on steady cash flow doesn’t work well with the ups and downs of a prolonged period of unpredictable income and expenses. My timing was all off. But adjusting for that would hardly have been rocket surgery…

So when I step back even further and really look for what changed, what becomes clear is the forest of good ol’ denial. I didn’t want the events that led to the roller coaster cash flow to have happened, so they didn’t happen. And if they didn’t happen, then I don’t have to change the way I do things. Lalalalalalala.

In the end, it’s addressing the gaps in the skills and systems that help me to navigate change and keep me from arguing with reality that will resolve my neglected bookkeeping routine.

And sometimes our evolution is so gradual we don’t even notice it – until things stop working.

Like the snow-globe tipping period I’m in right now.

Seemingly overnight (though of course it wasn’t) many of my familiar forms of R&R and comfort (both shadowy and healthy) have stopped working. Not in a way that has created horrible outcomes, but in a way that has left me … eh. Like food that didn’t make me sick, but neither did it taste good. Those activities are somehow no longer satisfying.

That has left me un-rested and un-nourished. Which is a problem come Monday morning.

I’ve not been one to gripe about Mondays since becoming self-employed, but when my weekend R&R isn’t restorative, Monday morning moves at about the speed of molasses. And when my evening R&R isn’t either, by Friday I’m in a bit of a caboose-dragging hell.

Which throws everything else off.

The morning’s peak creative time that I rely on for writing content: not so peak. Overall productivity and follow-through: down. Time wasted by going back to usual forms of R&R again and again hoping for a different outcome: significant. Length of to-do list: getting longer by the day. Level of stress and frustration: way up.

And in that stress and frustration, I’ve tended to focus on the trees. I’ve tinkered with procedures, I’ve planned in more detail, I’ve put more post-it notes on my wall calendar and tried to become BFF with Basecamp. But it’s all band-aids. And the fundamental problem keeps coming back because I haven’t been looking at the forest.

I haven’t stepped back and asked myself: what has changed?

In this case, my best educated guess is this: I’m no longer in healing mode. The years of this last “college cycle” have been peppered with health scares, surgeries and lifestyle-altering diagnoses. (Okay, that sounds alarming when I type that. In the end none of it was serious or even unusual. I’m totally fine now – and in some ways healthier than I was before it all began.)

I’ve been in healing mode for so long, I really didn’t notice I had mended until all my here’s-what-I-do-to-rest-and-nourish-myself systems stopped being restful and nourishing.

What my mind and body are craving now that I’ve regained some resilience is apparently much different than what they needed before.

It has me rethinking the basic framework of my days – when I do things and in what order, how I fuel my work, my environment, and how I connect with people – even the ratio of my intellectual pursuits to hands-on activities.

Good thing I teach a basic right-brain time-management course. I really need to do my own homework.

Save the dates!


foundations-sidebarSpeaking of… Registration is now open for the winter term of Foundations: Right-Brain Time Management 101.

Follow up your annual review and visioning by developing the energy-management, planning and systems-crafting skills you need to turn those plans into achievements – and in a way you can sustain throughout the year (you know, without your enthusiasm fizzling out by February like usual).

I’d love to help you build a solid, stable foundation for your ambitions for the coming year. I hope you’ll join me. Learn all the details and register here.

• • • • •

openstudio-sidebarYou can also sign up for the f.r.e.e. Open Studio Open House happening Tuesdays and Thursdays from December 3-12.

Virtual co-working is one of my favorite things ever – mainly because, when it comes to boosting your focus and productivity, nothing works better, not even stepping out to your favorite café.

The Open Studio program is a space that asks only one question: What will you do today? You declare it. The Studio will support and hold you to it. You get your essential work done. Rinse and repeat. Simple as that.

Try it for yourself and see if it makes a difference!
Learn all the details and register here.

Please write back soon and tell me…

-  in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

We’re entering that liminal time of year when we reflect on the past and plan for the future. What has changed for you? How are you in transition? And what do you need to do to accommodate those shifts?
peace and love,






Organized under transitions. 4 comments.

Art of the Debrief: Just Move

October 4, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 30…

How did the unexpected show up this week?

Those awful side affects. I firmly believe in self-compassion, nevertheless, this item falls under the I-Am-An-Idiot category. Last weekend, in an unthinking moment of a really bad headache, did I choose one of the two over-the-counter medications in the cupboard? No. I spied the prescription drug leftover from a long-ago surgery and chose that instead. I listened to the devil on my shoulder that said: Yessss, let’s obliterate this thing! - completely forgetting the drug was a narcotic and narcotics and I don’t get along well. They are to be used only when absolutely necessary and under supervision. In the end, I just traded my headache for some pretty awful side affects. Like I said, I am an idiot.

And my response to that reaction. And why don’t narcotics and I get along? Because in addition to the typical nausea and general wooziness, I don’t breathe right. It’s a decidedly unpleasant sensation. And while the wooziness seemed like a good reason to go lay down, the breathing thing seemed like a good reason to stay upright and moving. Not just moving, but hopping on the elliptical on the back patio and really getting my circulation going for nearly half an hour.

Somewhat to my surprise, it worked. Moving was the much better choice. It still took another three days of hydration and movement to flush it all out of my system, but I’m pretty sure that process would have taken longer had I chosen the prone route (not that I’ll be testing that any time soon).

In the end, the real surprise isn’t that moving worked, but that I chose it. A year ago, the option wouldn’t even have occurred to me. As I gradually become less and less of a couch potato in the second half of my life, the more often I find myself choosing motion as a solution.

And that brings me to…

What did you learn? What do you now need to explore or learn more about?

Feelings are feelings. I’ve always thought of emotions as a special type of thought – a thing of the conscious mind. But what if emotion is a special type of sensory, physiological experience? – a thing of the mind as an organ, as a part of the body?

Maybe there’s a reason they call feelings feelings, you know?

It explains why exercise is as or more effective in changing mood than medications. Why I feel mentally refreshed after a massage. Why I can’t talk or journal my way out of a funk.

Now, you may be reading this thinking well, duh, but for me – a gal who pretty much lives in her head – this is a revelatory shift in perspective.

You’ll often hear me say good time management is good energy management – and that there are five types of energy you need to take care of: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial.

In working to better care for my emotional energy, I’m curious to find out just how much that’s tied to my physical energy. So I’m conducting an experiment to find out just how far that connection goes by treating them as the same thing.

I’m pausing to notice what’s going on in my body about once an hour.

Shoulders tense? Might be the way I slept or my posture where I’m sitting. Then again, I might be stressed about deadlines. Stomach tight? Maybe I’m hungry or maybe I’m excited about a presentation. Foggy? Maybe I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Then again, maybe I’m sad about a loss.

In this experiment, the reason doesn’t matter. The only thing I need to do in the moment of noticing it is to move in what ever way seems appropriate to the sensation. Emotional or physical, the remedy must stay in the physiological, non-thinky realm. (I wonder how much this will expand my repertoire of what-to-do-when responses?)

But here’s my real hypothesis: Will this approach help me to better travel the middle way between drama and repression, neither ruled by emotion nor buttoned-up, but living in the space in between that fuels my creativity, integrity and satisfaction? Stay tuned for results…

And speaking of motion…
Thanks to Pandora, I also learned She’s a Bad Mama Jama is a great workout song (and everything Brick House is trying to be). She’s poetry in motion, a beautiful sight to see… Just sayin’ in case you want to add something new (okay, old) to your own playlist.

Where did life take you this week?

The farmer’s market. It might be even better in the fall, when all the fair-weather shoppers stay home and there’s more room to explore and savor. Plus: crepes for breakfast. Yum.

What are you thankful for? Who do you need to thank?

Shannon. For setting me on this experiment in the first place. (You didn’t think I’d be doing something so radical alone, did you?)

What moments of awe, wonder or fun did you experience this week?

That extraordinary spider. Despite being disturbed by the mailman every afternoon, a huge glorious spider found shelter from the fall storms and spun an extraordinary web by our front door almost every day this week. Amazing.

Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What are you exploring and learning more about right now?

How do find and navigate that sweet spot between emotional drama and repression?

Where did life take you this week?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?

Organized under week-in-review. none

Art of the Debrief: I Love Back-to-School Season

September 27, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 23…

What was the worst thing about this week?

Being so excited/nervous about the opening of the course I’m currently teaching, I didn’t sleep properly for several nights in a row. Sleep deprivation is the worst. Thank goodness that passed.

What was the best thing about this week?

The opening of the course I’m currently teaching! Talking with people about Time is pretty much the best thing ever. And I am so loving getting back to basics and revisiting this foundational material that I haven’t taught in years. I’m geeking out on it all over again and feeling so inspired to deepen and widen my understanding of this most favorite topic.

What did you learn?

Again: that nervous moment before you go on stage (literally and metaphorically) is temporary. Once you’re out there all your preparation will kick in and you will be more than fine. Note to Self: plan for this predictable period of wobbliness.

Also, while I could watch Tim Gunn teach all day long (make it work!), there’s something about Project Runway that leaves me a neurotic mess. Perhaps it’s the tense music that underscores the entire judging process. Perhaps I’m identifying a wee bit too much with the designers. It doesn’t matter why. All I know is it gets my Worried Hurried Mind Hamster on its Wheel to Nowhere and, like broadcast news and crime dramas, it has got to go (even though I’m super curious about who will be going to fashion week).

And in a moment of celebration involving rice krispie treats, I was reminded why I don’t make them: they are just a sticky mess that results in a total sugar bomb. Ick. Lesson (re)learned.

What do you now need to explore or learn more about?

That big stack of library books on my desk about time, willpower, transitions and habits says it all. I also want to explore using more improv skills in daily life.

What worked? What needs a system? What systems need tweaking?

What became immediately clear this week was that my existing system for tracking student progress is not up to the demands of what I’m currently teaching, especially given that this group is three times larger than any I’ve led before. It’s not just time to update, but to scale up. Systems crafting!

What did you observe or experience that should be added to your Almanac?

[ an “almanac” being my notes about seasonal changes in myself and the natural and social worlds around me for future reference when planning my year ]

Now that I’m over my annual Not-Ready-For-Summer-To-Be-Over! whine, I’m remembering even more of what I love about autumn: the changing light and colors, especially of the trees, migrating geese, cozy sweaters and blankets, fleece pajamas, pulling out your favorite boots from the back of the closet (the brown buttery leather ones and the pink polka dot rubber ones), resuming knitting projects, chai lattes, apple cider and hot chocolate, dinners baked in the oven, roasted squash and pumpkin muffins, and classical music (that was a new and unexpected association).

I’ve even lit up the digital fireplace. (Don’t scoff. It’s surprisingly effective, especially when combined with a few candles and the simmering of something evergreen.)

What are you thankful for? Who do you need to thank?

I am blessed with the most delightful, intelligent, well-read, thoughtful, self-aware, curious, inspired, ready-to-do-this, hilarious clients a gal could wish for. You teach and inspire me. And I adore you. Thank you for including me in your lives. I’m so grateful you’re a part of mine.

What moments of awe, wonder or fun did you experience this week?

When picking up that stack of books from my neighborhood library, I was treated to the sight of kids playing at the elementary school across the street. Recess! Why-oh-why do we have to give that up once our age reaches double digits? We grown-ups could all use a little more recess in our daily lives.

Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What are you exploring and learning more about right now?

Where are your own systems are in need of an update?

What do you most love about autumn?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?


Organized under week-in-review. none

What Your Time Snark Is Doing To You

September 23, 2013

Time Snark: you know, those snide and sarcastic comments we make about Time.

Like this gem left on my Facebook page about a year ago…

 “Don’t know what the big issue is — give me some time to manage and I’ll manage it.”

On the surface, it’s funny. Because we all know that feeling. But only for about a second. Then… not so much.

Given my livelihood, all I really see when I read something like that is someone who feels powerless in the face of their own overwhelm, in their own life.

And that breaks my heart.

Well, after my blood pressure drops. And I take a few deep breaths. Because along with compassion comes frustration – and such statements will get me on my soapbox faster than anything else.

First, because it’s such a gross mistruth. Time is the dimension in which we exist. It’s impossible not to have any Time. (Duh. I realize every Snarker knows this – it’s sarcasm after all – and yet it still cheeses me off.)

And thank goodness we do have it. Without Time, nothing would ever happen. And life would not be possible in a world in which nothing ever changed (think: evolution, for instance).

And without its flow in one direction (that thing that makes Time feel like a force rather than a dimension), everything would happen at once (as Einstein famously pointed out). We wouldn’t be able to understand cause and effect and therefore make sense of the world.

Time itself and the way it works is a good thing. It’s one of the miracles of the physical universe. It serves us well. For that it deserves our respect, not derision.

And it’s not its fault for failing to be so infinitely malleable that we can shove anything and everything we want to do into a day or a lifetime.

It’s just an innocent, neutral fourth dimension that isn’t doing anything to us.

We can’t blame Time for our own refusal to make choices.

And that’s what bothers me about Time Snark. Not the disrespect. That’s just a cultural bias around busyness (it’s a badge of honor to be busy, but it’s also something one is expected to complain about rather than express pride in) combined with an outdated understanding of Time that’s stuck in the Newtonian age of science.

No, what concerns me is how Time Snark, and the habit of thinking that fuels it, keeps the speaker in a victim relationship with the events and activities of her life.

For the Time Snarker, life is something that happens to a person, not something that can be co-created.

[ Hat-tip to Molly Gordon for teaching me that you can be stuck in the Drama Triangle not just with people, but with more abstract realities like Money and Time. ]

Sure, much of what happens in our lives is outside our control. Yet there is just as much within our control. And we always have a choice about how to respond to what is beyond our power to direct.

So stop throwing Time under the bus. Own your life. Own your choices.

The more you relinquish responsibility, the more practiced in your victimhood you become. And the more victimized you feel, the less Time you’ll perceive available to you (amongst other unpleasant consequences which I leave to the therapists and life coaches – I’m just concerned about your relationship with Time here).

That’s what your Time Snark is doing to you. And I know you don’t want to play the role of victim in your life. So let’s do something to change that.

During this first week of Foundations, we are practicing being more honest in our statements about Time.

Rather than being shocked that it’s the last week of September, or expressing disbelief that it’s Monday already, we could observe instead our lack of presence in our daily lives – whether from stress and overwhelm or creative flow.

Rather than wishing it was Friday instead of Monday, we could note instead what’s so unpalatable about the present moment.

Rather than using a lack of Time as an excuse for not doing that thing, we might say instead that we didn’t have the energy, we chose other priorities, or we overestimated what we could do in a day or a week.

Join us and try it for yourself.

Try to catch yourself when you make sarcastic comments about Time, express disbelief or displeasure at where you are at on a completely predictable calendar, or blame a lack of Time or busyness for not following through on a commitment, and say something more honest instead – in your emails and on social media, in conversations with family and friends, wherever Time comes up (which is pretty much everywhere).

Note: This exercise falls into the simple-but-not-easy category. Bonus points if you actually say these things out loud to other people, not just in your head.

Notice what changes in your life when you change your language. Just this simple act of integrity can begin to shift a rushed and grumpy powerlessness into a more positive and empowered creativity in your life and a sense of calm spaciousness in your days.

Please write back soon and tell me…

- in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

… about the results of this experiment. I’d love to hear how it changes things for you.

peace and love,

Organized under choosing. 2 comments.

Art of the Debrief: #6 on the Roller Coaster of Shipping

September 20, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 16…

What did you enjoy about the doing (v. the finishing)?

- I didn’t.

There were things that needed to be written this week that I did not enjoy writing. In one case, sleeping on it brought needed clarity and ease – and a successful outcome. But the other was a total and complete slog. (If it hadn’t been for the Open Studio co-working sessions, it probably still wouldn’t be done.)

I usually discover the reason for my avoidance and resistance in the process of working (if you want to know, this is the best way to find out). But this time around, I’m still baffled. It was a straightforward task of modest size. And it kinda kicked my ass. All I can guess is this: finishing that meant doing the Next Thing. And that next step is intimidating the hell out of me. But for no good reason other than a bad case of nerves.

Since this has been going on for two weeks now, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about performance anxiety. About stage fright. About how the singer Adele vomits before going on stage – every single time. About how she’s not alone. About how common this is in a creative life. So common that I hardly know why I’m talking about it here.

Except that good time management is good energy management – and this type of energy is tricky to manage.

It’s tricky to outsmart your lizard brain, the part of you that just wants to keep you safe but isn’t always so great at recognizing what “safe” is.

And it takes some observation over time to see the pattern and rhythm of creation and recognize this moment of performance anxiety for what it is: temporary and meaningless to what you’re about to do. It’s just phase #6 of the roller coaster of shipping. It will pass.

And yet knowing all this didn’t make the doing any more enjoyable. (I mean, who likes barfing before going on stage?)

What worked? What needs a system? What systems need tweaking?

When I’m in a funk, I do 100x better when I have to show up in responsibility to other people. The more ways I can book this in advance, the better. This feels a strange turn for an introvert, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

And it’s time to revisit what I call my Interrupter Uppers – small, simple actions I can take to change my mood and direction when I first notice the slide into said funk. My list of emergency measures is a little stale and therefore ineffective. It’s time for a refresh.

What are you thankful for this week? Who do you need to thank?

Miriam at Ruzuku for solving my technical question by giving me a free upgrade. So kind and generous. Above and beyond. What people say about their customer service is true.

What moments of awe and wonder did you experience this week?

I am in awe of our celestial bodies. Bright full moons and the changing angle of the sunrise that momentarily blinds me in my favorite chair while sipping my morning coffee. Beautiful.

Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What did you enjoy about the doing?

What do you do to get yourself out of a funk?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?

Organized under week-in-review. none

What transformation and celebration can look like.

September 16, 2013

The more I learn about effective time management, the more I’ve come to take celebration very seriously. Because pausing to acknowledge all the good in what you’ve accomplished – even if it’s less in quantity or quality than what you expected or hoped for – hugely changes your sense of productivity and your relationship with your work, Time and ultimately yourself for the better. Plus, it’s plain good fun.

It’s something I do at the close of each week, each work party session, and each course I teach.

In preparing for my Foundations course this fall, I came across my presentation for the Gala Event that closed a similar course I taught last spring. The Gala felt like both a commencement ceremony and the Academy Awards – packed with as much virtual pomp and circumstance and red-carpet glitter as we could bring to the party. It was wonderful.

And reviewing it three months later, I was as blown away by everyone’s transformation as I was when I first wrote it. I felt like a proud peacock – actually more like a proud mama – all over again and that feeling inspired me to share it with you.

Because nothing better illustrates the extraordinary insight and progress that happens when people come together to practice shaping and moving through Time on their own terms.

So without further ado [and with generous permission from two participants to share their experience] – here’s what transformation and celebration can look like…


Welcome to the Studio for our last gathering under the virtual skylights.

Everyone have their glass of virtual champagne? Comfortable? Then let’s begin the ceremonies…

• • • • •

Twelve weeks ago, we imagined ourselves here to today. What we had done and how we felt about it.
Now we are here. Having learned and done and felt so much more than we pictured in our minds back then.

We surveyed our temporal landscapes – and bravely explored them.
We remembered our futures and took care of our Future Selves.
And we crafted compasses that kept us from getting lost.

We dared to leave empty space on our calendars,
to rearrange our sticky notes – often,
and wiggled in our wiggle room.

We stood at the crossroads of our days and weeks and navigated the intersection of our plans, our energy and the unexpected with honesty and integrity.
We listened for the turbulence and heeded our warning signs.
We learned how much we are influenced by the natural world.

We left ourselves many breadcrumb trails,
and drove by headlights with courage and trust when there wasn’t a clear path to follow.
We captured ideas without being distracted by them.
We freed our minds by writing things down.

We each found our rhythm and shook our groove things in that groove.
We created even when our muses didn’t show up to help.
We bridged the gap between our vision and the various imperfect states of our projects.

We shone a light on our should’s and shouldn’t’s – and called bullsh*t on all of them.

We now know that preparation is liberating.
That observation leads to efficiency and effectiveness.
That it’s faster to slow down.
That graceful exits make for graceful entries.

We stuck our landings,
found satisfaction
and celebrated.
We practiced practicing.

And most of all, we learned we need this. That all successful people plan ahead and use systems. And that needing this doesn’t say anything about us other than we have the maturity, intelligence, discipline and self-compassion to choose.

To choose in favor of what is effective even when it doesn’t come easily.
To choose in favor of our energy and capacity.
To choose in favor of what serves us and our work.

Brains have been exploded. Patterns shifted. Skills developed.
We have discovered self-acceptance. Confidence. Stability. Resilience. Pride.

We have been transformed. And each in our own ways…

• • • • •


Shannon discovered that working in 30-minute blocks is so ideal that maybe it should be tattooed on the inside of her eyelids so she never forgets.

She has learned that 90 minutes is all the time in the world when she is well-prepared. And that the more prepared she is, the more she gets done.

And that preparation and percolation creates not only ease, but anticipation and excitement.

Answering the question of what – having Clarity – is her key that unlocks the door that opens all the other doors. And answering the question of why – feeling the Love – is what fuels her work and gives her a sense of synergy and wholeness.

She has shifted from resistance to acceptance to embracing the truth that:

“To do this much planning, to keep checking in and to create those containers – all of that stuff that I feel I shouldn’t need – brings so much ease into my life. It’s so supportive and it makes such a huge difference.”

Shannon “well, that took less time than I expected” Wilkinson – please step forward to accept your award for Best Performance in Mise en Place Is My New Religion!

[ much applause and fanfare + heartwarming acceptance speech ]

• • • • •


In this course, Lisa discovered something more useful than calculus. Even her Time Monsters agree.

She has become the Queen of Checklists – both creating them and then checking them off. No longer demanding that that it remember the details, she has freed her mind for better things.

She has learned that different phases of a project require different containers. And learned to add those transitions to those beloved checklists.

Answering the question of what – having Clarity – is her key that unlocks the door that opens all the other doors.

She has given herself the gift of rehearsal. She has practiced practicing. She has learned to appreciate steady progress, choosing it over hurry-up-and-finish. She is cultivating steadiness. She is allowing herself to be supported by stability. She is allowing reflection to support her mission.

She is no longer willing to pay the price for pulling it out of her ass at the last minute. She is no longer willing to just get by. She is choosing self-kindness instead.

She discovered that Love isn’t enough; you actually have to do the work. And even when the work doesn’t go as planned, she now also knows she can make lemonade from some pretty sour lemons.

And she has learned how to celebrate that work. Instead of plowing ahead to the next thing, she now can pause a moment and enjoy the relief and accomplishment that come from completion even when there is more to do.

On her horizon is an excitement and readiness to explore more distant temporal landscapes and new projects.

Lisa “there will always be more chocolate” Gillispie – please step forward to accept your award for Best Performance as a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes!

[ much applause and fanfare + heartwarming acceptance speech ]

• • • • •

Thank you.

Thank you for showing up even on days when you didn’t feel like it.
For greeting me and each other with those silly Julia Child hello’s. [ hellloooo! ]
For laughing together.
For being kind to each other.
And mostly for trusting me.

This has been as huge and meaningful a learning experience for me as I hope it has been for you. And I’m deeply grateful it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have been the most calm, engaged and productive group I have ever led through a course. It has been a delight and a privilege to share this experience with you and I hope we have the opportunity to meet under the skylight again very soon.

Now go forth and party. [ching ching!]

I’d love to celebrate your own transformation with you.

If you’d like to be smashing a virtual bottle of champagne over the cornerstone of your new foundation twelve weeks from now, please join us. Foundations gets underway just a week from today. Learn all the details and register here.

Please write back soon and tell me…

-  in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

What award would you give yourself for what you’ve learned and done in recent months?

peace and love,



Organized under celebration. none