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In between worlds

The flames from the kitchen fireplaces roared, and the dim lights flickered. Music was making people a little too loudly, or maybe that was the drinks. I’ve chosen not to drink this trip, sticking to coffee and water, yet now I feel like I’m stranded here by the food table, not knowing how to break in to the little pockets of conversation. I ask the server for a cup of coffee, even though it’s 7:30 pm.

We chat as he brings it over to me, and I ask him how he is doing.

“I’m in a good place,” he says.

“What makes the place good?” I ask back.

“Honestly?” he asks.

“If you’d like,” I offer.

“I’m launching my business this weekend, in a couple days, and it’s going to be a global brand. I’ve been so anxious about it. But lately I’m just settling and and ready for it.”

“That’s amazing,” I say.

I wanted to ask more but he was pulled away like pork

The server has helped make sure the food table is stocked with a grazeable selection of elevated southern cuisine — pulled pork, fried green tomatoes. And I’m standing here alone, shovelling it in my face, trying to get the courage to talk to the other people that are here.

This is day zero of the conference; we’re at the speaker’s reception. It’s at a classy southern kitchen five minutes away from the hotel, and I’m last one here. I arrived from the day of flying, checked in, showered, and headed over. I’m committed to talking to people, because, well, let’s make this thing worthwhile, right? From business development to plain old friend-making and story-telling, the point to travel isn’t to stay reclusive. But it takes a while to summon the social energy to make my presence known and try to start conversations.

I finally break in, thanks to the efforts of the conference organizer, Jen, who recognizes me and pulls me over — and then, the conversations become a little more fluid.

I’ll paint you a picture of Farahd, from South Africa. He’s wearing a furry-hooded parka indoors in Atlanta in December, and he’s travelled 27 hours to get here.

Farahd described to me the conditions in Cape Town, where 2-3 million people live in “informal settlements.” He describes that homelessness has always been a problem, and that he strives to have compassion in his heart when he has interactions with them. It upsets him when his partner treats disadvantaged people with disdain. Here in Atlanta, he’s noticed, though the streets are clean, there is still a sharp divide between the haves and have-nots.

Lately, he says, there has been a growing refugee population, and it frustrates him that his fellow South Africans treat them with such xenophobia. The refugees are protesting, holding up signs which show pictures of the physical mistreatment of their fathers and brothers in South Africa.

This week, he will be giving a talk about a campaign he helped launch to market the business school. However, he’s also taking some post-graduate studies at the business school, where his class is having conversations about values-driven businesses — and he’s frustrated that the faculty don’t seem to practice what they preach in the actual workplace.

I’ll tell you about the trio of guests from Mexico I met. With big smiles and hard-working English, we talked about life in our respective cities and countries. Mexico City, with its 23 million inhabitants, is a city for cars, not people. “If you come to Mexico, you will have a fun time. You will be stuck in traffic a lot, but anywhere you get out, you will have fun.”

They describe that there used to be a river here, but now it’s under the city, and the city’s old buildings are sinking. One of them is leading a workshop at the conference on hand-lettered typography.

I’ll tell you about my fellow Canadian here — he guessed I was Canadian because I had a hoodie on that said “peacemaker.” On the lookout for opportunities in Atlanta, he’s heading to an ASAP Ferg concert tonight. (I had no idea who that was either.)

From Scotland, America, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, we have arrived here in Atlanta, mixing our stories and cities and expectations and cities into one new blended experience. Each of us have talks to prepare, stories we’re telling, connections we’re hoping to make.

Tonight was valuable because it’s the first sense I can get of where people’s hearts are, and where their interests lie, which will invariably influence my own talk.

I notice Farahd’s eyes most intensely interested when talked about themes of “organizational justice.” Of why organizations feel the need to be bullying, exploitative and unethical, even though they may know better. There’s a clear and attentive thread about bringing humanity to the workplace. I will bookmark that.

This is a group of people that are practitioners in their specific fields — in universities, focused on visual design — and they will workshop with each other to get nerdy. My role, as the keynote, is to help provide a different perspective than usual. The talk I’m working on is heading more into the direction that Farahd was most curious. I’m thinking that with the right blend of humour and practicality, we’ll be able to find a good thread here.

My talk is on Thursday. I’ll be using tomorrow to continue to listen, learn and adapt.

For now, I find myself in a spacious room at the Hyatt in Atlanta, waiting to FaceTime my family back home, writing up a blog post.

It feels like I am in between worlds.

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See you Sunday

Three new sheets await Addie, Ben and Theo for tomorrow morning on the breakfast table — Rosie can’t read yet, so she doesn’t get one.

Addie’s says:
Addie. You are a caring, smart person with powerful joy. I love you and think you’re amazing!! See you Sunday.

Ben’s says:
Ben. You are a thoughtful creative person with big feelings. I love you and think you’re amazing!! See you Sunday.

Theo’s says:
Theo. You are an expressive, dynamic person with a magnetic personality. I love you and think you’re amazing!! See you Sunday.

Tomorrow morning, 4:45 am, I’ll be up and boarding a plane to Calgary, and then to Atlanta. I’m gone until Saturday. That’s the longest trip I’ve taken all year long. Five entire days, I’ll be without my family, and my family without me.

The parts I feel worst about being absent for are the parts for which there are no substitutes or helpers: early mornings, and the middle of the nights, when nobody else but parents will do. It’s a lot for a solo parent to handle.

Kendra’s says the hardest parts are the dinner hours, trying to get food prepped, while also managing kid homework, with end-of-the-school-day wild energy, and solo parenting.

I’ve got a keynote talk to give on Thursday.  I’ve got lists of tasks and jobs to do on airplanes and hotel rooms in the meantimes. I’m hoping to make it worthwhile, using downtime for creative output and reading, seeing the conference as a chance to give a compelling talk and meet new contacts. And, oh yeah, I’m getting sick.

Last time I was in Atlanta was in the airport on our way to the Bahamas for our honeymoon.

I will breathe deeply, and hope for rest, creativity and connections. I will hope that my family back home will thrive during this significant absence.

4:45 am will come all-too-soon. I never sleep well on the nights before flights with early-alarms, awake at every second moment to check the clock.

Bedtime.

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Ben’s Traffic Lights

I was putting the kids to bed in the BAT Cave tonight (that’s Ben, Addie, and Theo’s bedroom, get it?), and frankly, it was not going very well.

Probably it was Theodore’s fault, but I’ll take the blame, since I’m the Parent. I was getting quite huffy, grumpy, upset and not-having-any-of-it.

That’s when Ben interrupted.

“Dad! I have an idea of what we can do when we start getting angry.”

(I love that he said “we,” and that he’s problem-solving together about ways to manage big feels. Dream come true.)

He goes on to explain that we can use the traffic light system.

“When you’re mad at Theo, you can say, ‘Theo, my light is red, I need your car to stop. When you are fine with what’s happening, you can say, ‘Theo, my traffic light is green, you can keep doing this.’ And when you are starting to get upset you can say ‘Theo, my light is yellow, I need your car to slow down and get ready to stop.”

I tried it out. The red light had a nice, clear, expectation-setting firmness to it. When I laughed a couple times during stories and songs, Ben asked if my light was green, but I assured him it was still yellow.

As I was getting ready for Ben’s part of the night, I knelt down next to him in his bottom bunk and told him I really liked his traffic light idea. I asked him if they’ve been practicing that in school.

He shook is head, no.

“You made that up?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Just tonight?”

He nodded with a smile.

“Is it okay if I write about that on my website?”

He agreed.

Benji is inventing emotional management tools to teach his parents (and now the world) as a six-year-old. The next generation is gonna just fine, folks.

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Tears from today

As I watched Addie and her friends rush back and forth from piles of snow into the hot tub during her birthday party today, a tear appeared in my eye. I was thinking of this writing project, actually, and that many of the parents of kids at that party might actually read this. And how it’s us, really, just us flawed and faulty fathers and mothers, trying every day to make it possible for these kids to know they are loved. I thought of how it’s damn hard to make sure our own well-being is actually being well, and that our own deepest relationships are relationally deep, so we can show up remotely whole and steady for the job at hand. It’s not easy to keep it together, and yet these children here, who are at the same time so adventurous and invincible, while also completely fragile and vulnerable, they need us. There’s nobody else.

I watched their antics while a song played inside the house:

None of this is in your control
If you could only let your guard down
If you could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won’t let you go

And it was that combination of thoughts and sights and sounds that was responsible for a sudden rat-trap of squinting eyes clamping down on the instant appearance of watery droplets beside my eyelids.

I would have lingered with the thought a little longer, but a hot tub full of eight year olds and younger siblings doesn’t really let you loiter. Within seconds, I was up on my feet trying to prevent the consumption of pool chemicals and announce that the pizza was here, and the party continued.

That was the second time a tear had appeared in my eye today. The first was earlier in the morning, while I was reading a book. I had simply been trying to shore up some strength in anticipation of the big day ahead, and in search of some alone time, I had retreated to my bedroom.

I was moving through the last few pages of this particular book. It’s by David P. Gushee, called Changing Our Mind. It’s a book primarily for audiences who are Christians, and it serves as a call for healthier, more intentional inclusion of LGBT Christians in church communities. It’s a little more academic than usual, written by an ethicist, though written quite accessibly.

The squint to trap that lone tear happened as I heard the echoes of past boldness, of emancipators and activists staking their claim for liberation. I’m hearing Lincoln, MLK, and I’m blinking away a tear because…

After what has been pages and pages of painstakingly careful language, we get to one of the last chapters, where we read the transcript of a speech in which he is addressing a gathering of youth from within this community. It has taken a long while to get here. He says:

“I will henceforth oppose any discrimination against you. I will seek to stand in solidarity with you who have suffered the lash of countless Christian rejections. I will be your ally in every way I know how to be.”

There seems to me to be no greater risk and hope than to make a promise like that to a community who is suffering. How do I read a thing like that and come away untouched?

The third time a tear appeared today was when I finally got to connect with Kendra after she returned from the funeral service she attended.

When I first met Kendra, in university, there was a mentor she had in high-school that was still a letter-writer and an active influence in Kendra’s life. Kendra had gone to prom with her son, and been a mentor to one of her 3 daughters. And it was a different daughter, only 27, who passed away last week.

Kendra described her experience at the service today. She described seeing the father and son together carrying the casket, in which lay their daughter and sister. Kendra shared the message she had drafted for her mentor, who had lost her daughter — a stunningly sensitive and heartfelt note. Kendra reported that her own tear ducts appear to be functional and in working order. I could verify that mine were as well.

*

This morning, during the obstacle course, Benjamin came in last place. He cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cried. He wailed and howled. His tears were the loudest I had heard all day. He believed that by coming in last place, he would be the last to get a slice of Addie’s birthday cake.

I heard myself trying to logic him out of it: explaining that the obstacle course had been designed for 8 year olds, not 6 year olds. That it was for Addie and her friends, not for the siblings. That he had still done really well, and I was proud of him!

But I thought back to the book I mentioned a couple weeks ago, called It’s Not Always Depression, which mentions how our core emotions just are, and need nothing more than simply to be felt.

So I walked beside him with my arm around him back to the beginning of the obstacle course, and simply said: “This is sadness, Ben. If you think of Inside Out, Sadness is at the control panel right now, and she’s allowed to be there. We can just let her be. This is what sadness feels like.”

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Obstacle course

I spent this morning before work creating an obstacle course around the back, for Addie’s 8th birthday party tomorrow. Friends will arrive, and we’ll gather for a fire, marshmallows, and a timed sprint through this ridiculous, ramshackle bucket-and-pipe course.

The day itself tomorrow will be a bit of an obstacle course.

Not only will seven eight year-olds, plus my own four kids, require hosting and guiding through the proceedings of a birthday party, Kendra will need to step out near the end. She’ll be attending a memorial service for a childhood friend who passed away unexpectedly.

An obstacle like grief doesn’t announce itself in advance; it just shows up, and leaves it up to you to figure out how to move through it.

What obstacles are you moving through right now?

Are they of your own design? Did you see it coming? Or is it taking everything you’ve got to stay balanced, keep on your toes, and keep moving forward?

I look back on the week this has been: the delicate dance of travel and emotions and Christmas and kids and work and relationships and grief and parties and all the other things that would never make it to a public blog like this, and I admit that I don’t feel safe, or comfortable, or confident or sure-footed. I feel short of breath. It’s a course that is challenging, and it’s tiring, even in the midst of great joy and lovely surprises. We are moving rapidly through an obstacle course that is only partially of our own design.

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Extra batteries

How can it possibly be true that I am in a good mood right now? It’s 8:47, and all the kiddos are finally in bed. For the record, that’s about 1 hour and 17 minutes later than I would tend to consider appropriate.

One reason is that I had a little breakthrough with Benjamin this evening: I helped him see that I “get batteries” when people listen to me and say nice things, and I “lose batteries” when people don’t listen me, and they say mean things to me.

It’s an obvious concept. We’ve explored it before. But tonight, for some reason, Ben really connected with it. And he made it his mission to be a good listener and say nice things tonight. What an extraordinary difference it makes to have people create kindness intentionally.

Extra batteries were necessary, needed and valuable today, because today made no sense.

My workday today consisted of co-facilitating a room of 6 clients from a video conference in my home office, and then connecting live every 30 minutes to a video call with different strangers to facilitate a separate interview, which were broadcast on-screen in the client-room from them to watch and take notes about. It concluded the fourth and final day of our design sprint this week.

After only a 20 minute break after the workday, I then had to join a video call with the board at our church to work through financial conversations.

Good mood, does not compute. Extra batteries required.

Batteries came from the events after work: Dinner was a new deep-dish recipe Kendra had discovered in a cookbook; a delicious beef stew with cremini mushrooms. We invited Frank and Kathy, aka, grandma and grandpa, to join us from their downstairs suite, and wine was enjoyed.  After work, after the board call, our family finally decorated and straightened yesterday’s naked and maligned Christmas tree.

There was also a moment after that long work day of remote facilitation, where I stayed still. I wrote 12 lines in my journal in the style of a rhyming children’s poem, that broke off into a 6-word prayer.

That moment, trying to shore up energy and focus and health and presence and well-being enough to recover from a draining day and get ready for some massive context switching into my remote mini-board meeting and then into family chaos…somehow, peacefulness found me, and persisted.

It’s now 8:57 pm. All the kiddos are finally in bed. I’m going to read aloud to Kendra some chapters from Octavia E. Butler’s Patternist series (we’re in Clay’s Ark), have a little more wine, and then it’s bedtime.

*

In one other quiet moment today, I found myself judging myself mentally for doing this project at all. The whole thing. The blog, the create daily, everything. A sneering, hateful internal bash of myself for this whole embarrassing wannabe concoction. A vile stew of internal hate piling upon me for even attempting it, for exposing myself to the world.

I wondered to myself what influences in my life have caused me to think that a writing project is silly and wasteful. I didn’t figure out the origins of that voice, but I recorded this simple note on my phone:

A voice in my head says this is frivolous.

A voice in my head says I don’t have time for this.

A voice in my head says I was made for this.

At least for now, I’m going to see what I can learn from this.

I don’t know why those voices offer me shoulds and shame, but they are present and they are noisy. It takes a daily muting to leave them alone.

…but at the end of the day, I can’t tell you why voices in my head are sometimes mean to me, and why sometimes they abate and show kindness.

Must be the extra batteries.

PS – This song, Voices, is worth a listen, and connects with today’s reflection.

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Tree-farm freak-out


Family traditions are not very well established in our household; our oldest is now 8, and over those 8 years, it’s been challenging to establish norms and pathways that are age-appropriate for all involved.

Anyways, one tradition that is two years running is the act of hunting for a Christmas tree. We print off a permit, drive up into the forest hills with another family, bring hot chocolate, snacks and saws, and bring home a fresh-scented pine to occupy our home for the season…until it wilts sadly and sheds its needles and gets tossed off the deck in the New Year.

But this year, the friends weren’t available, so our forest hills were the Canadian Tire parking lot, where a local tree feller-and-seller fella had set up shop in a fenced-in area with a trailer and a dog and an axe and a beard. We pulled up in the pitch-black night of 5 pm, and emptied ourselves out of the van like the clown-car that we are.

Immediately, we dispersed, finding our preferred trees and asserting seemingly-random preferences. We moved from the $100 trees to the $40 trees, and clumps of children would form around certain trees that seemed to attract attention, where they would jump up and down in loud delight, hollering “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” in support of their deciduous decision. The adorable scene brought an affirming smile to the bearded fellow who waited for our tree choice.

We narrowed it down to two options: a $60 tree that shone a little glossier, and a $45 tree with more of a “matte finish.” Comparing heights, bushiness, and whatever other intangibles one evaluates when choosing a tree, we selected the $45 one, paid the man his money, and continued on our supposed-to-be-merry way.

A sliver of moon shone down on us, clouds obscuring it lightly with tendrils of cotton-candy fog. Pools of orange light puddled on the dark pavement. Nearby cars in the lot coughed idly as they came and went.

And like a caged wolf, our son wailed.

The howling that ensued — could we have predicted and prevented it?

The sheer force of the tantrum that followed — was there a hint that it was coming?

This was not the tree he wanted.

The ferocity was is if he was resisting an attack from a killer in the parking lot, as he fled to the van for safety.

Our saccharine family-portrait moment in front of the tree-seller became less than charming. We lashed our unwanted tree to the roof of the Sienna, and our son screamed as if it was his own body on the altar being sacrificed to the gods of Christmas.

Into the darkness, our perturbed clown-car (imagine us now with painted-on-frowns and smeared clown make-up) steered our loud-mobile away from our fake forest.

Dinner happened. Bedtime happened. No emotions were left to decorate the tree that evening, so it slouched against the wall, unadorned until morning.

When the sun finally rose the next day, while eating our breakfast next to our our slouching, naked tree, our son said, “I’m glad we choose this tree after all.”

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Airborne toxic event

What’s the difference between:
attentively drawing out a shared perspective
and
compassionately encouraging someone else’s point of view
and
passionately expressing a personal point of view?

I did all three today.

In a workshop setting, I found myself professionally engaged in mode #1. I listened, I heard, I rephrased. With a 16 eyeballs staring at me as 8 mouths expressed any combination of ideas, I took those clouds of words and stitched them together into sensible, coherent strings of meaning. (What a strange word picture.) I was wielding attentiveness, neutrality and care — dancing between statements and assertions and opinions and reactions to help point out what is similar, and suggest ways forward. I heard from the many, to help people see what we all had in common in our pursuit of the possible.

In that same setting, I found myself needing to zero in one just one key perspective. A person whose reality hadn’t been properly incorporated or addressed. It needed closeness. Direct affirmation. It needed authority to be given to it. It needed to be amplified. It was a voice being lost in the mix, and I needed to help make it matter.

And in that same setting, I found myself feeling like an obnoxious blowhard, a gesticulating pontificator. Thankfully, it was after-hours and on a lunch break, but nonetheless, it was me in swagger-mode, making unverifiable claims, fishing for attention, aiming for provocation, making grand sweeping statements to ensure I was heard, seen and understood.

That third mode? I didn’t like it as much. But…

Quick side story?

Our gas line had been disconnected earlier today to allow some work next door to get done safely, and then reconnected. But the reconnection hadn’t worked — the gas wasn’t coming back on, our house was getting cold, and the technician was called back. I just finished chatting with him at the front door, as he explained what had happened.

An air bubble had gotten trapped in the gas line during the previous disconnect/reconnect. It was blocking the gas from flowing, which meant the furnace couldn’t light. The furnace tried once. Tried twice. Tried a third time, then the house went cold: the electronic nature of the furnace only allows 3 attempts to re-light the furnace, before disabling itself for safety.

But that meant the air bubble was staying trapped. To get the air bubble out, the exterior vent at the meter needed to be opened long enough to purge the air bubble by venting the “polluted” (air-bubbled) gas.

I didn’t like the moments today where I over-pontificated. I annoyed myself. And yet, it helped me hear myself sound like an idiot, so I could let go of those toxic perspectives. Sometimes I don’t realize how dumb my ideas are until I see the look on another person’s face reacting to my toxicity.

Letting go of those perspectives helps me get back to the main work at hand: amplifying the unheard perspectives of others, and helping others pay more attention to what they have in common, rather than what divides them. Or, if you will, lettin’ that old air bubble out, so we can light that furnace, and heat that house.

That’s one hella cheesy perspective, folks. But it’s whatcha get tonight — I’m back home after 2 days of travel, and this here Create Daily post is the only thing standing between me reconnecting with Kendra with some wine, cheese, and The Crown.

The moral of this airborne toxic event: If you’re finding yourself in a place where you’re ranting, let it be so you can get back to the work of listening to others, and pushing for what else is possible.

I’m out. Crown time.

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Fill-in-the-blank stories

It was my oldest daughter’s 8th birthday today. I made Addie and Ben some dad’s-not-here mad-libs to fill out.

Addie’s said:
“Today my dad had to go to the dump to help people figure out how to waste money. He loves me like a Komodo dragon loves a ninja line. I’m turning 5 million years old!”

Ben’s said:
“Today, my dad had to go to Atlanta to help MCC figure out how to watch television. He loves me like a big fat cat loves a waste of money!”

None of those things are true, but I love them both. So much.

Today, what dad had to do was travel to Vancouver to help a college figure out to use their content better. (And I love you like a dad loves his crazy banana-brains kids.)

*

I got to spend the evening at my colleague and co-facilitator’s place, where we ordered Indian food, and waited to hear if the offer they placed today on a new house would go through.

It didn’t. We were sad. We drank wine and felt sad, and told stories.

*

I boarded an ice-covered plane this morning, thinking about Victor Frankl. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, he talked of how one motivating factor through his experience was mentally-composing his book, and mentally-rehearsing talks for his psychology colleagues on-stage in Vienna, where he imagined recapping what he was learning about his experience.

Though he didn’t directly say this, he modelled that “the way we tell stories in our life gives us meaning.” When we see our current circumstances through the lens of “others can learn from this,” it changes how we experience it.

I wonder if that means that our current world of instagrammers, and bloggers are actually an incredibly meaning-filled generation? We tend to malign and demean those overly obsessed with documenting every waking moment. Yet what if they are simply working to see their current situation through a lens that transcends the now? They are imagining their own experience through the eyes of an unseen audience, are they not? Isn’t that a gift, to us and the world? Perhaps these are not mere selfies, but self-transcendence.

Perhaps that’s just me hoping that my own create-daily project has meaning…

*

The cabbie I rode with in Vancouver this morning explained why the softwood lumber industry is going away. Nobody wants to build anything with wood anymore. Use it in house construction? No thanks; most new homes in cities are condos, and are made of concrete. Ship it to overseas, to places like India? No thanks. A certain insect is destroying any wood that gets used in window-frames or doors; people are choosing aluminum as their material of choice.

I looked out the window as we drove and the only wood I could see in Vancouver was the kind that was growing from the ground, in the form of trees.

Perhaps the best use of trees is to simply stay rooted. Sorry, local mills. It turns out that the downturn of your industry means the uprising of healthy forest ecosystems. What’s bad for the economy ends up being good for the environment, and helping us all breathe.

*

It would have been nice to be there for my daughter’s birthday today. I tried to change my work schedule, but couldn’t.

It would have been nice for my colleague’s house offer to be accepted. They tried to up their counter-offer, but it was a no.

It would have been nice for the forestry industry to keep thriving. People have tried, but it’s out of one person’s hands.

As it went today, a birthday got missed.
A house offer was declined. An industry is declining.
And somehow, what happened?

Humour happened anyway.
Relationship happened anyway.
Meaning and breath and health happened anyway.

*

Update: I’m circling back to this story at the end of the week.

Six days after writing this post, we hosted my daughter’s actual birthday with friends. It was deeply beautiful, and I was deeply present for it after all.

Six days after writing this post, I got a text from my colleague. The offer they had put on their house? It went through anyway! The financing for the other buyer didn’t work out.

Two days after writing this post, I can confirm that chopping down trees is indeed the worst.

When I was living these stories this week, I knew none of their endings. I filled in each blank as I travelled blindly through each moment. And yet each one came to have a surprising resolution or tie-in that very week.

When I was preparing the weekly email that gets sent from this blog, I wanted to get a reading-time estimate. The website I used displayed this quote: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

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Tasks and tiredness

Tired, today.

As in, ask Kendra if I can have 10 minutes to have a nap at 4:10 pm type of tired. (It’s amazing how refreshing/inspiring that can be.)

Still, tomorrow at 4:45 am I’ll be up to start a 2-day trip to Vancouver to help facilitate a design sprint. Which means tonight, I don’t have a lot of energy or time for #CreatingDaily. And still, I will.

Here’s what I want to share.

I recently created a system on my wall for sorting through tasks. But it’s not the system I want to tell you about, it’s three shifts in my thinking about tasks.

There’s a category I have called “How long will it take?” I use it to help estimate the time needed for any given job. After the standard intervals (2 mins, 30 mins, 1 hour, 1 hour+)  comes a new post-it, with these options:

  • A day, a week, a month
  • A year
  • Many years
  • A career’s time
  • A lifetime
  • A generation
  • An age

It’s my reminder that some things are worth pursuing even if they can’t fit into a workslot.

Next, there’s an area called “What type of work?,” which is meant to help me figure out the mode or zone of focus I need for the  tasks. After some common ones (like admin, performing/recording, writing, workshopping) there’s a new one: Empowering. It has a sketched icon of me handing a bag of money to a woman.

It’s my reminder that work isn’t always about me personally demonstrating competence in a task, or personally competing for success. It can be about giving away the power and authority and opportunity to other people. A conventional word might be “delegating,” but I chose a word that suggests it’s about granting a chance to someone from whom I might otherwise, obliviously, keep the work from.

Lastly, there’s a section called “When will it happen?” After the typical options like “Today, This Week, Next 4 weeks,” there’s one that says “Don’t.” It’s a reminder that not every task that comes my way is worth doing. Something things just need to be stopped, because they don’t bring value, or align with my vision. It’s a reminder to check the purpose of what I’m up to.

Beside all these notes on the wall, is my own personal vision statement for the year, to help me filter.

I’d share the rest of the system, or how it actually works, if you were interested, but the main things I want to share are:

  • Sometimes a vision takes a long, long time
  • Sometimes doing the work looks like empowering other people
  • Sometimes we need to simply not do a thing, in order to get on with what we’re here to do