Category Archives: Life

Saying goodbye is a gift

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My life is filled with goodbyes these days.  I’m moving from San Francisco to Austin, leaving a city that I’ve been connected to since 1994, and my entire family is coming with me.  We’re saying goodbye to the house where my three sons kept us up with their scared newborn cries, where they stood on their tiptoes to look taller against the mark on the wall showing their height…where we tearfully took a home video of our son taking his first steps around the living room corner.  Countless other precious moments stare back at me every step I take through my increasingly bare home, and my heart alternately drops or soars throughout the day.  It’s an emotional time.

I’m saying goodbye to friends I’ve written music with; friends I’ve sung my heart out with, friends I’ve laughed with to the point of my stomach hurting, friends I told excitedly about this awesome girl I met who then became my wife and mom to my three boys.

I’m saying goodbye to my brothers (all three live here) and my parents, as we enter a phase where dropping by on a whim is no longer available to us, and Skype with the grandparents replaces meeting up with the cousins in Grandma’s basement.

Yes, goodbyes can feel sad.  It’s hard to let go, to know that those types of memories and the circumstances that created them will no longer be there.  That the chapter is ending.

Yet what a privilege to have the opportunity to KNOW things are ending, and to have whatever time we are given to honor those moments, to reflect on their meaning, and by doing so give them a rightful place as they are part of the fabric that you are woven from.  What a privilege to be able to tell people how much they have meant to you, to laugh or cry as you retell the stories together, of knowing that the good ol times are always happening all around you.  We so often don’t get those opportunities – nobody announces that it’s going to be the last time you have a pillow fight with your son, or the last time you share a beer at your favorite bar with your buddy, or the last time you get to tell a parent you love them.  We are in fact, always saying goodbyes, since never again will we experience what we are experiencing now.  Know that and honor that.  Life is really one goodbye after another.

I am so thankful for the chance to really honor this chapter of my life.  And yet, as we say our final goodbyes to our life in San Francisco, we are making room for a new life in Austin.  We have no idea what this will be like, and in this light I have been inspired by a quote from Joseph Campbell:

“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm.  Jump.  It is not as wide as you think”.  And jump we shall, holding hands, enthusiastically, and confident that we will find our way.

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7 Best Tips for Getting Things Done

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Today’s post is different.  It’s not about spiritual matters, it’s about the very concrete and practical; specifically, how to get a project done.  I’ve been reflecting on it as I tackle my own project of creating a new melodic line on a several hundred year old Bach piece.  I’ve had a lot of training in this: project planning, GTD method, etc.  What follows is a distillation of the ones that work best for me.

1)   Have goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realizable, and time bound.  For more, click here http://topachievement.com/smart.html.  But essentially, you need to state your goal as “write a one hundred word post and put on my blog by tomorrow at midnight”, rather than “blog more”.

 

2)   A related point: many goals are too enormous and daunting when faced in their entirety – break it down into smaller steps.  A useful if overused example: it is overwhelming to try to “climb Everest”, but rather achievable to tie your boots on and take one step.  A good tool for breaking down a goal is the Work Breakdown Structure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_breakdown_structure .  Sometimes the most important thing we can do is define the elements necessary to really get a project done.

 

3)   Related to #1, make a “next action” list rather than a “to do list”.  Saying you need to “repot plant” requires you to think every time (and likely get hung up on) what you actually need to do to make that happen.  Try “go to ACE Hardware and buy new 12” pot”.   http://www.gtdtimes.com/2011/02/10/how-is-a-next-action-list-different-from-a-to-do-list/

 

4)   A nice tip for things that require daily involvement: “Don’t Break The Chain”.  This is a simple technique where you put Xs on your calendar every time you do something (workout, meditate, post on your blog, whatever).  The goal is to keep the chain going!  Apparently Jerry Seinfeld credits this method as the most important element of his success. http://lifehacker.com/5886128/how-seinfelds-productivity-secret-fixed-my-procrastination-problem

 

5)   Set aside dedicated, distraction-free time on your calendar to get the tasks done.  Turn off your internet (really, the best thing to do is actually force it off using a tool like http://macfreedom.com/), turn off the TV, get away from other people, turn off your phone, and have all the things you need in one place.  Then work, distraction free, for up to 90 minutes or as long as attention allows.   Some people swear by the Pomodoro Technique – I personally need more time in a block but agree with the general concept http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

 

6)   “Climb the right wall”.  It’s really important to keep checking in, with yourself, others, and/or experts who have done it before, to make sure you are following the right action path.  It’s a terrible feeling to be getting a lot of the wrong things done, so make sure your ladder is on the right wall.   I recommend checking in weekly to ensure that your idea of how to get things done matches the reality of how it should get done.

 

7)   A related and important point: know when to ask for help from others.  One of the biggest problems is not knowing the next step to take, or being unable to do it without the help of others, or more information, or different resources.  Life is about having allies to help you out: have a group of experts, counselors, friends, etc. who can give you thoughtful advice when you hit those inevitable times when you don’t know what to do next.  Bonus: if you still can’t find the answer, just try to move in the right general direction.

 

Hope you are all doing well on your projects!

Chris

3 Quick Thoughts about Fatherhood for Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day, and this past week has involved a lot of thinking about fatherhood.  One friend is creating a time capsule for his newborn to be opened in 18 years and is wondering what to write in a letter to him; another friend wakes up today to his first Father’s Day without a father; I personally have been “missing the mark” in my own fathering and have been reflecting deeply on how to be a dad.

Three quick thoughts

First, if you have a living father, speak to him today – not just a quick hello, but hopefully to truly connect for a moment – laugh, share, reflect.  For my friend who lost his father, today he wakes up and knows he can never speak with his dad again.   It doesn’t take time, it takes heart.

Second, if you are a father, remember that your overarching responsibility/role is to let your children know and feel that you completely love them.  Every dad is imperfect.  Ever dad regrets things he didn’t do or say, and other things he did do or say.  However, studies show, and intuition confirms, that if your children know you love them, things will probably work out ok.  And if you answer every question with “how can I act in a loving way”, it’s pretty easy shorthand for the right answer.

Third, encourage your sons (in particular) to have other “father figures”.  Many dads (including often, yours truly) really want to be it all – the mentor, the parent, the friend, the counselor, etc.  But it turns out that the most centered and happy men find and develop second father-like figures in their life who often balance and support the things that their father didn’t provide.  Rather than resist that, we should encourage it.  You don’t have to do it all, and in fact, developing other close mentors is an important driver of growth later in someone’s life.

Happy Father’s Day!  Share your tips in the comments section!

Difficult times, and “thinking” mythically

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Yesterday Michael said “we will all grow old and die, and that’s if we’re lucky”.

There’s been some difficult news around me recently of those who haven’t been so lucky.  The premature death of former classmate Laudan Nabizadeh Fariborz, our friend’s newborn struggling to survive in the ICU, a relative’s loss of a baby in the second trimester, and a close friend’s struggle with a chronic and difficult health condition.

I recently said to someone that these types of things are not “fair”.  Yet the statement felt trite and inappropriate.  The truth is, words are very poor at articulating complex emotions, and for those of us who maybe live a little too much in our head, we can trap ourselves trying to “think”/verbalize our way out.

In times like these, I find tremendous solace in relating to things symbolically.  Recently, I’ve been struck by the symbol of water – washing things away, renewing, giving life, yet sometimes dangerous.  I was lucky enough to get to a yoga class today, and as I lay in Shavasana, we listened to the sounds of waves crashing…my mind began to wander.  I remembered lying on the beach as a young child, just far enough in so the waves could push my legs around.  And I imagined letting myself be carried out far to sea, and finally surrendering and letting it wash over and around me, yet feeling safe as I was buffeted about by an increasingly rough sea.  Somehow it is only from this place that I feel prepared to finally relate to everything, and simple words have absolutely nothing to do with it.