Help For Heated Conversations

I’ve got 2 fiends, each of which are on opposite sides of the political aisle, and each one has a lot to passionately say about the position. Fortunately for me, these 2 friends don’t know each other, so I won’t be finding myself in the middle of an ugly shouting match between them.

While I have my own opinions, when talking with either of these 2 friends, I find I learn more about them and their beliefs by asking questions related to why they believe what they do, and then listening to their responses. By doing so, I can quickly determine what’s important to them, what they value, and whether or not they are doing anything constructive with their opinions or merely parroting someone else’s talking points.

I’ve always been curious as to why people think and believe they way they do.  While discussing heated topics, I’ve also found that when I ask the other person questions about their beliefs, they are usually more ager to at least hear an opposing or challenging belief from me.

I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ll be able to convince someone against their will. However, I do think questioning, listening to understand, and sharing thoughts is a more favorable approach to challenging conversations than the screaming and yelling that seems so pervasive in conversations today.

Venturing Off The Grid

In 2017 I did a 3 day backpacking trip across the Grand Canyon. We started at the North Rim and hiked to the bottom of the canyon, across a suspension bridge over the Colorado River and hiked up the other side to the South Rim. It was a memorable trip that I will never forget. Especially the last 3 hours.

As you can imagine, cell phone reception in the canyon is non-existent, so we were totally off the grid, which is always fine with me. Three days without the distractions and technology was a welcome treat. All my smartphone was good for during that time was taking picture. No email, no notifications, no bombardment of the world’s affairs continually clamoring for my attention. It was great! Everyone on the trip seemed fully engaged in the hike and on enjoying the surroundings.

However, with about 3 hours left of our trip, people began checking their phones for coverage and, realizing they had it, they began checking email, getting on social media, and seeing what had been going on in the world for the last 3 days. I could tell that people were already distracted from the hike by concerns of next week’s schedule, the US decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, and other details of everyday life.

I left my phone in airplane mode, wanting to enjoy every last minute of solitude and natural beauty this hike still had to offer. I wanted to yell to the others in the party, “Put your phones away and be alive in what we’re experiencing! All those things will be waiting for you when we get to the rim, but who knows when you’ll have an experience like this again! Don’t waste it!”

I love technology. I even work in IT, so I’m surrounded by it every day. Yet for me, I think there are times when technology can detract from an experience. It’s at these times when I decide to voluntarily take myself off the grid in order to remove distractions that would lesson my experience.

So how about you? Would you benefit from voluntary venturing off the grid?

An Extraordinary Life

On Tuesday evening I heard former Secretary of State Madeline Albright speak at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland Oregon. It was interesting to hear of her experiences and get her take on current events. She has most certainly had a front row seat at historic events, and worked with the biggest names in world politics. As I heard more than one person comment at the end of the event, “What an extraordinary life!”

The thought that has stuck with me since that event is that we can all live extraordinary lives, based on the choices we make. Ms. Albright didn’t just happen into an extraordinary life by accident or by chance. I heard nothing from her experience that led me to believe she sat around waiting for the extraordinary to come her way. Rather, she pursued something she was interested in and continued to improve along the way. Doing so created opportunity that she was willing to take advantage of. Over time, it was this process that led to her extraordinary life.

This event left me encouraged that anyone is capable of living an extraordinary life by the choices they make. While we may not be Secretary of State, we can choose what we do with our lives, the things we pursue, the decisions we make, and the people we surround ourselves with. We can choose how we treat others, and what we invest or efforts toward.

On the contrary, we can also choose a path of minimal resistance, one that is easy and well within our comfort zone, or we can just wait to see what happens to come our way.

For me, I choose an extraordinary life. What that means to me is I’m choosing to spend my life pursuing things that are meaningful to me and by doing so, will have a positive impact on others.

Let’s all decide today to live an extraordinary life.

Minimal Progress Still Counts

Most worthwhile goals we have require a degree of consistent effort in order to achieve. Consistent steps. Said another way, achieving our goals requires work. For me, there are some days where I, for whatever reason, don’t feel like doing the work.

When I feel like this, I remind myself that I’m either moving toward my goals or farther from them. I find this thought motiving because it reminds me that:

  1. I want to be making progress toward my goals and not falling behind
  2. Even small progress toward your goal on a specific day is better than no progress at all

With this in mind, I’m compelled to at least show up and make minimal progress versus making no progress at all. While it may not be my best effort, I’m at least making progress toward my goal.

Be aware of the days when you may not feel like putting the effort toward an important goal of yours. Instead of punching out and doing nothing, decide to at least show up and give something toward your goal, no matter how small. And remember, even small progress is better than no progress at all.