Tag Archives: #Reverb10

Hello, Future Self. Enjoy the Ride

Yesterday’s #reverb10 prompt asks us to play time traveler. “Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)”

While reading others’ responses to this prompt, I ran into Grace Boyle’s take, which included a link to the FutureMe site, where you can literally write an email to be delivered to yourself at any point in the future. So I wrote myself a long letter that I’ll receive on my 30th birthday next summer. It should be interesting. (And now I must promptly forget about it, so it’s a surprise.)

But if I was looking back at the year ahead from a vantage point of five years from now (I nearly need a diagram to sort that out), I would remind myself to stay in the moment, not get too caught up in the minutiae and to stay focused on the big picture. Self, I would say, dreading the next two quarters of Statistics will NOT make the class any easier. Just buckle down and take it one week at a time. Getting through two quarters of tough math will likely be the biggest obstacle standing between you and a master’s degree.

Remember to keep saying yes to new opportunities and people, while being smart enough to know that it’s okay to say no sometimes. Don’t automatically discount things because you haven’t done them before.

Self, I’d say, strive for balance. Busy is good, indeed, but remember that it’s no good if you don’t appreciate moments when you feel fully alive. Work hard at work – that enables everything else – and treat school just as seriously. But make sure to make time for friends and adventures, and also the occasional night to sit on the couch and watch tv or lie in the back yard under the stars. Each of these is such an important component of who you are and what makes you tick.

And remember to take things offline, too. Twitter, Facebook and whatever new platform that will become popular in 2011 are important for creating the connections, but they don’t really matter until you take them offline.

Most importantly, take care of yourself, self. Get plenty of sleep – no blog post or YouTube video is so important that it’s worth sacrificing much-needed rest – and eat well. Keep running and lifting. Remember how great you feel once you’re done. But also remember that you’re never really done – fitness is a life-long, daily activity, just like brushing your teeth.

And to my 19-year-old, college second-year self, I shake my head and smile. I would encourage that self to not hurry so much to graduate in three years, because September 11 created a terrible economy to graduate into. Instead, I would suggest that self go for the dual BA-MA program and graduate in the normal four years, and take some time to join extracurriculars, too. Oh, and there might be some sage words of dating advice, too.

What would you tell yourself from either vantage point – five years in the future or ten years ago? And are you writing a letter to yourself?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.


Avoiding Regrets

Talking about what you’ve done in the past year is relatively easy. But thinking through what you didn’t do is a wee bit more nuanced.

Yesterday’s #reverb10 prompt asks, “Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)”

When I read first read this, I started thinking about regrets. What am I disappointed I didn’t do this year?

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with all I’ve accomplished. Sure, not everything has gone to plan, but I’m happy with how the year has turned out.

Though there is one big thing I didn’t do this year.

I didn’t really travel. I took two short trips: to San Diego for work in February, and a long weekend in New York for a September wedding. Neither was a destination I chose out of my own interest, and the dates and timings were picked for me.

I absolutely love to travel, to get out of my comfort zone and explore new places, wander through neighborhoods and just take in an area. Growing up, my family traveled a ton, using the “explore everything until we collapse from dehydration or exhaustion” method. It was fantastic. I’ve seen just enough of the world that I’m hungry to see more.

I was on the verge of booking a trip to Ireland for late summer. After a lot of research, I had finally found the perfect itinerary that would let me see all I wanted to see (from Dublin all the way west, including biking the Dingle Peninsula) while coordinating the minutiae of lodging, transfers etc. But I couldn’t get dates and flights to align before school started, so I put the trip on hold.

So next year, I vow to travel more, to make a conscious effort to see and do more. (I reached the end of the year and had taken barely any days off – I hope not to have that “problem” next year.)

What do you regret not doing this year?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

The Healer Within

I’ll admit it. When I saw today’s #reverb10 prompt on Healing, I may have rolled my eyes just a little bit. (The prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?) When I started #reverb10, I was a little concerned it would be a little too new agey, touchy feely. Some of the prompts can certainly be interpreted as such, but this is the first one that merited an eye roll.

How have I been healed this year? That would imply I was sick or needed healing!

But once that train of thought cleared the station, I realized that I have indeed done a lot of healing this year. I look at where I was a year ago compared to where I am now, and I marvel at how my life has done a 150 or 160 or so. And along the way, I have healed some of the old bruises and mindsets that were holding me back.

In fact, I started running as my relationship fell apart, in those odd few months between calling off the wedding and actually breaking up. Running was – and still is – so therapeutic, a chance to clear my head and get away from distraction. Running lets me process everything happening in my life, even if I’m not actively thinking about whatever’s troubling me. I come back from runs with a very peaceful, satisfied feeling that helps fuel the rest of my day and week.

I also finally admitted that I need more sleep than I did when I was in college, so I push myself to bed earlier. (Lately, that push is more like a gentle nudge – I’ve adapted to the increased sleep, and don’t need to be reminded of the benefits.)

In general, I’m taking much better care of myself than a year ago, eating better, exercising better, sleeping better. And as a result, what could have been a very tough, very terrible year has gone fantastically well and is ending on a high note.

So while I may not have gone to a healer – heck, I barely go to the doctor except for routine checkups – I’ve found ways to heal myself and proactively prevent further damage.

If that’s what healing means, I’ll take it.

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Trying to Do

I’ve been really good about trying new things this year, from new food to new activities, new friends and new priorities. So when today’s #reverb10 asked about “trying,” (Try: What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?) I was intrigued to think about next year’s possibilities.

But then I was stumped by what I actually want to try versus what I want to do. Reading through several other #reverb10 posts for today, several people quoted Yoda’s wise, “Do or do not, there is no try.” They make a good point.

Even so, there are indeed some things I want to try to do.

I want to try to take more pictures of life as it happens, and then do something with those pictures.

I want to try to ride my bike more consistently so I can do a half century ride at some point. (Obviously, this one I can’t really start until the thaw.)

I want to try to listen more and talk less.

I want to try to push myself just a little bit beyond my comfort zone.

I still want to try to learn how to dance, but I seriously doubt this will actually happen. I took two years of lessons as a kid, and a Zumba class last winter. The latter just confirmed that I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever.

I want to try to be satisfied with every decision I make. Maybe not happy – but at least satisfied.

I want to try to blog more frequently than I did before I started #reverb10.

How about you? What are you going to try in 2011?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.


Lesson Learned: One More Block

#reverb10 seems to be all about the lessons you’ve learned over the past year and how you can apply them towards 2011. So today’s prompt (Lesson Learned: What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?) feels a bit repetitive. But perhaps that’s the point: by asking us the same questions in 31 different ways, maybe true enlightenment is around the corner. (At the very least, I’m building good blogging habits.)

I’ve learned a ton of lessons this year, from cooking and glazing windows to calculating the price elasticity of demand. I learned how to take better care of myself. I learned how to run. I learned to embrace the rain rather than cower from it (to a point. I still won’t run in a downpour).

Mostly, though, I’ve learned to push myself harder. Not to the point of futility and frustration, but to the point where I can do better. By constantly raising the bar and pushing myself a bit, I force myself to stretch, which leads to growth.

It’s one thing to stay in your comfort zone, to know that you can accomplish something and keep doing it. It’s a completely different thing to push yourself just slightly beyond what you think you’re capable of doing and then celebrate when you reach it.

That’s one reason I run so many races: having a goal on my calendar pushes me to train regularly and work to get faster. I constantly set goals, and I like checking in periodically to remind myself to push towards them.

In fact, when I ordered my RoadID, I knew exactly what to put as the “motivational” line of text after my emergency contact info: One More Block.

During every run, I look at those three words and push myself one more block, and then another, and then another. Every extra block I go before the turnaround translates into two blocks. Those extra blocks add up to extra miles.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be setting some aggressive 2011 goals to push myself to go just one more block. And hopefully a year from now, I’ll be thrilled with how those extra blocks added up to achievement.

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Reverb10: Friends

My friends rock. I have some I’ve known since first grade, back when we rode the school bus together and played on the school playground. Others have been in my life since high school or college, and still others I’ve met only this year.

So when yesterday’s #reverb10 post asked about Friendship, I was intrigued. The prompt asks, “Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?”

The best friends shift your perspectives in ways that you don’t realize at the time. They don’t force you to change; rather, through invitations to new events, new ideas, offhand comments, suggestions, etc – they enhance and enrich your life, opening new doors. Your world expands in ways that you don’t see or grasp until you step back and think about it.

But if I had to nail down one who really changed my perspective in 2010, I’d point to Jenn, a relatively new friend I met through my boss. We’re both newish runners who work with social media, but I’ve learned so much from her. Jenn’s creativity in the kitchen has inspired me to start actually cooking – and enjoying it. Her approach to food is wholesome, natural foods. I had dabbled in such cooking but couldn’t really translate it into daily life. Now that I’ve cracked the code, I feel so much more energetic and capable – huge wins. Meanwhile, watching someone who started running after I did run a half marathon in August pushed me to set the bar high for myself. We commiserated after the Hot Chocolate 15k and plan on sharing the F*cking Freezing Frozen Lake Half Marathon next month – we’re already questioning our sanity. Essentially, she’s just plain cool.

The other friends who have had a huge impact me are the #runnerds on Twitter. I can’t count how many (usually weekend) mornings I’ve felt like lounging and being lazy with coffee and newspapers, rather than going out for a run. I do love to run, but on weekend mornings, there’s a certain freedom that comes with laziness. But then I flip to Twitter and see how many of my #runnerds friends have already come back from their 4 or 7 or 18 mile runs, and I know I should do likewise before the day falls apart. Having such a community celebrating shared successes has gotten me off the couch. And they’re awesome in real life, too.

Do you have a friend who has changed your perspective this year?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Just 5 Minutes?

Memories don’t always present themselves as important as they’re happening. Rather, as time passes and you gain distance from the event, you start to realize what was really important in the greater scheme of things.

That’s why today’s #reverb10 prompt intrigued me:

5 Minutes: Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

I don’t yet know what was really important in 2010. Sure, there are big things, but which of the little moments will I come to treasure as time passes by?

Hence, this challenge:

Decisions. I remember the moments I made big decisions. Sand squishing between my toes in Coronado in February. Holding an acceptance letter in hand as I stood on my front porch and opened the mail one stifling August day, backpack still heavy on my back.

Accomplishment. I’ll treasure those moments finishing my very first 5k, and I’ll always remember the Cross Country Challenge, sliding down a snow- and ice-slicked hill on my ass, loving the freedom of it.

Worry and uncertainty. There were a lot of worrisome moments, when my company was acquired, when I wasn’t sure about grad school, when I willed myself to land on my feet after a breakup. But they pushed me to work harder and see things for what they were.

And so many breezes. Warm breezes on a sticky summer night, escaping the air conditioned cocoon, flopping a blanket in the grass of the backyard, lying quietly and stargazing, when all was right in the world. The first really cold wind of fall in October, when I realized one of the best summers ever was over.

The ticking of the clock, so many evenings when my house, finally quiet after too much TV for too long, the gentle hum of the whirrings of the house itself – the furnace, the dryer, the snoring cat.

The taste of the couple good tomatoes from my very first real garden, paired with fresh basil from the same land, picked barefoot for lunch one day while working at home. I stood in the middle of the backyard and wrapped the cherry tomatoes in basil leaves and bit in, letting the juice dribble down my chin.

The freedom of more working from home, of not working under those horrible fluorescent lights that give me a headache. Working while the cat curls up in my lap and purrs.

Christmas lights and my stained glass lamps casting soft light around the living room while I lounged on the new couch with wine, feeling very adult and peaceful.

Lying in bed on chilly fall mornings, watching the sun come up over the Fox River once the trees lost their leaves, stretching every muscle in my body slowly, gently while the sun transformed my bedroom from a dark, cold chamber into something warm and alive, the sunlight reflecting off the mirror. This is the very best way to wake up.

Late nights on the Metra, coming home from class, so very very tired but energized about all I’m learning and doing, and the possibilities. Then, getting home and being too wired to sleep, singing and dancing along with a random song on my iPhone until I finally fall into bed.

Note: apparently grammar goes out the window when on a timer. How would you capture your year in five minutes (or less)?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Appreciating the Questions

Another day, another #reverb10 post. Today’s prompt prompts us to appreciate and consider, “What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?”

Sitting through an Intro to Statistics workshop this evening, trying to frantically absorb all the basics I’ll need for Statistics I next quarter, I realized my answer to this question:

It’s about the questions, not the answers.

This, of course, is a ginormous shift from what we’re trained to do in school. Throughout our standard K-12 education, we are taught that it’s the answers that matter. Sure, by high school the teacher wanted to see the “work” associated with getting an answer, but as long as the answer you circled or the number you scribbled onto the blank was accurate, it was good enough for at least partial credit.

As an undergrad, many of my professors used the Socratic method – that is, they asked questions of questions of questions and rarely gave us a straight answer. Rather, we came to understand the problem at hand in a whole new detail. It meant that our exams weren’t simple multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank affairs. Instead, we wrote long (loooooong) papers, sometimes due at the same time for solid weeks of caffeine, writing and CSPAN (then, my background-noise-of-choice). One hellacious week my third year, I wrote over 60 pages worth of double-spaced exams. Thank goodness it wasn’t all in blue books.

It suited me, and I flourished. My mom says I was always asking questions as a kid.

But in the real world, so much of the Socratic method fell by the wayside. Especially in my first job out of college, no one cared about method, reason or strategy. Instead, we were very focused on the end result, even if that meant fudging the methods a bit. The people who set our priorities had a concrete idea of what they wanted to see, and they really didn’t care how we got there.

The curiosity was largely beaten out of me. Sure, I still popped off with questions in meetings, but nobody cared.

In my next/current job, that largely changed. Asking questions was no longer verboten; in fact, in a small startup, it was encouraged.

But really, in the past year, working with social media for my job and starting graduate school, I’ve come back to the realization that the questions do indeed matter, sometimes more than the answers. In social media, there are no answers, no right or wrong, no real bottom line magic ROI metric that clinches your case. We’re all still learning, and the technology and communities are evolving much faster than many of us can keep up.

And while that can be frustrating, really, it’s exhilarating. Such a lack of answers has lead to a whole fleet of social media networking and best practices groups. One of my favorites met this morning: the Social Media Breakfast of Chicago group is fantastic because it breaks participants into small roundtables, where we all raise questions, challenge assumptions, and walk away with stacks of business cards, twitter handles and new ideas.

School has really reinforced it, too, thanks in part to my excellent Marketing Management professor who refused to just give us answers and formulas. Instead, he urged us to think through the problem and determine what was actually being asked rather than immediately plugging and chugging through numbers. It reminds me of what my dad used to do when I came to him for homework help. It annoyed me as a teenager, but now I realize how useful it is.

Tonight, as class ended and we stared at the professor like deer in headlights (“Though the car hasn’t hit us yet,” a classmate quipped), he urged us to stop and think about what was being asked.

And I realized that I finally really appreciate the questions. I promise to keep asking.

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Lights, Camera… Action!

How do you translate ideas into action? Today’s #Reverb10 prompt directs us to consider: Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

Well, first you have to get beyond that pesky idea stage and make sure the idea has some legs to it. So many ideas are – rightfully – fleeting and never receive further consideration. (These are often the same ideas that wake me to scribble on a post-it. The next morning, 90% of the time, the idea either makes absolutely no sense or has already been done. (Hence, my morning Googling.))

So I massage that idea for awhile to weigh its merits. I go for a run or a bike ride and play devil’s advocate with myself. Will this idea benefit my greater vision? How does it fit in with other plans or actions or opportunities?

If it doesn’t, the idea gets filed away in some dark area of my brain, where, if it deserves a second chance, it will someday bubble back to the top. Otherwise, it remains on the island of misfit ideas forever.

But if the idea is worthy… oh, then the fun begins.

I love lists. Specifically, I love crossing things off of lists, staring at a list of items that can barely be seen beneath their completion.

And so, for me, action requires lists. It requires taking the big idea and breaking it down into a dozen, a score, a hundred individual items (depending, of course, on the scope of the idea), each one manageable.

And then those lists get put EVERYWHERE. I use Evernote as a centralizing tool, but usually also have a post-it at work, one at home on my desk, one on the coffee table, occasionally one on the corkboard on the cabinet in the kitchen. (When those post-its migrate, chaos ensues, especially when I find a cryptic note in the pocket of a coat I haven’t worn in six months.)

From there, action requires seeing those notes and reminders in my face enough times that I start feeling guilty about inaction. (Guilt is a huge motivator.) Every couple weeks, when I re-consolidate the lists and post-its, I have guilt pangs over the untouched items.

So really, it’s pretty simple. I have no shortage of ideas, and constantly weigh them against each other. I’ve got the theory of action down.

Ready, set, go!

What motivates you into action?

Stretching Towards Cohesion

Today’s #reverb10 prompt asks, “Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?”

I’m experiencing this more and more, as my workouts get better and I get stronger. I’ve already blogged about the 2010 moment when I felt most alive – finishing my first 5k – and in those moments, I felt completely integrated. My mind and my body were in complete harmony, working towards the same goal.

Every morning, while lying in bed, thinking about getting up, I stretch, starting from the tips of my toes, through my calves and hamstrings and abs and shoulders and neck, bit by bit, waking everything up. I flex my feet and wrists and shrug my shoulders and stretch, slowly and deliberately. It’s a good way of rousing the mind and body, reconnecting them for the day ahead.

I do something similar after I run, investing some time in thoroughly stretching my legs and hips so I don’t pay the price in the morning. And it’s always worth the time.

How about you?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.