Lifestyle Design

Life Is Bandwidth

Art by Hugh MacLeod

Art by Hugh MacLeod

From Hugh:

There are only so many hours in the day. There’s only so much one tiny, 3-pound collection of human neurons can handle. There’s only so much outside world you can afford to cram down your pipes. So don’t overload your system. Choose carefully.

It’s only after you stop trying to do everything, that you really start getting anything done. Exactly.

Life balance is a really tricky concept, because everybody seems to have a different definition of what it means. I do know one thing: you might be able have anything you want, but you certainly can’t have everything you want.

If a great life balance is achievable, it’s only by making great choices.

Virginia’s Birth Story

virginia-rose-blog

Jason and I are officially outnumbered! It has been a wonderful blessing getting to know our little Ginny Rose these last three months. I’d be lying if I said it’s been all rainbows and lollipops. Sleep deprivation combined with the winter blues is a bad combination. I’ll admit to having Googled at one point, “How do you know if your baby has colic?” The biggest disadvantage little Ginny had coming into this family is that she followed Ben, who was officially declared “The Most Chill Baby of 2012.” Seriously though, Jason and I agree that he probably cried a total of an hour during his first year of life. Ginny is more “normal,” I believe.

ginny-lucy

The biggest joys come from watching Lucy and Ben eat her up with love and affection. Lucy’s prayers of having a little sister were answered and she is 110% smitten. Ben took a little longer to warm up. He thought she was nice, but she did bump him into middle child status. Needless to say, “DaddyBen” was a real person the first month after Ginny’s arrival. Ben did not leave his father’s lap for the entire month! Poor Jason was dealing with a postpartum wife (with a cold), a newborn, AND a two-year-old who would not leave his side. I have an AWESOME husband who is also the most wonderfully patient and loving Dad!

ben-new-sister-600

When we posted the story of Ben’s home birth two years ago, I was surprised how many birth junkies we have out there. The story of Ginny’s birth is a really neat one which I am honored to share… [Read more...]

Everyone Else

Leaf Peer Pressure by Jason Kotecki

Leaf Peer Pressure by Jason Kotecki


Tarzan 2 is terrible compared to the first one with the Phil Collins soundtrack. At least that’s what Kim said after half-watching it with the kids while I was on the road.

I know, I’m just as surprised to hear that as you.

You know what separates the Oscar-winning movies from the ones that go straight to DVD? The ones that win awards are telling stories we haven’t seen before. Throughout the entire process — from the screenwriter to the producer to the casting director to the cinematographer to the director to the cast — everyone has the opportunity to do things the way they’ve always been done or to take a different tack.

Not different for the sake of different, mind you. Movies that are different for the sake of different may play well in art houses, but they’re mostly just…weird. It’s usually better to shoot for different for the sake of better.

When it comes to the story of your life, you’re wearing all the creative hats. You decide how you spend your time, your money and your energy. You get to pick your friends, your attitude, and where you live. Your dreams, your traditions, and your beliefs? You own those as well.

This may go without saying, but your story sucks a little more with every choice you make that’s just like everyone else.


[ About the Art: This piece gets its inspiration from a baby moon trip Kim and I recently took to Rhode Island. We visited an art gallery in Newport and there was a big painting I liked that featured some falling leaves on a stark background. It stuck with me. I'm sure my recent stint of raking leaves may have had something to do with it as well. If you look closely, you'll also see an organic leaf texture incorporated into the background. ]

Poor Monday

Mondays-dont-suck

Monday wishes he was Wednesday. He has giant posters of Saturday on his bedroom wall. Everybody turns the other way when they see Monday walking down the hall.

Poor Monday.

I used to suffer from a condition known as Sunday Night Dread, that sinking feeling you get when the freedom of the weekend is gasping its last breath. I used to think Monday was the worst.

And then I realized that Monday is just a patsy.

It’s convenient to throw Monday under the bus when we’re unhappy about how our story is going. I propose that we quit picking on Monday and try a different tack. Here are a few options.

1) Change your job.
LIfe is too short to be stuck in a job you hate, or even one you only kind of like. Find one that makes you excited to get up in the morning, eager to share your gifts and tackle the challenges in front of you. Of course, this is not something you can magically wave a magic wand to achieve. It’s not recommended to up and quit a crappy job without a plan, for in almost all cases, a crappy job is better than no job. What you CAN do is make a plan. Figure out what might be a better fit, and start taking baby steps to get there. It might involve taking some night classes. Or getting up an hour early to send out resumes. Or building that website for your new part-time business. The Mondays in your immediate future may not be too appealing, but at least you’ll know you’re not resigned to a lifetime of them.

2) Change your attitude.
There is no perfect job. Even though I don’t dread Mondays anymore, not every part of my job is peachy keen. But I focus on the good stuff, which far outweighs the bad stuff. If you are honestly in a job that is a good fit for you and that you actually enjoy — but still dislike Mondays — perhaps you can try on a new perspective. List out all of the things you love about your job and focus on those instead of the negatives.

If you’re bored with your current job, maybe it’s time to initiate a new project that excites you. It will give you a new spark and sense of purpose (and will probably impress your boss.)

Getting your story to the point where Mondays don’t suck is not easy. But it is doable. It just takes a bit of honesty, a plan, some hard work, and maybe a new attitude, all of which are things you can do, starting today.

Monday has been bullied enough, don’t you think?

Pardon the Mess

messy-ben

I’ll admit it: I prefer a tidy house. I feel good when the dishes are done and the counter is cleared. I’m easily disturbed when piles stay piles for too long. I like the structure of a good plan.

Is it an Adultitis-fueled trait? Perhaps. But I do find that I am more present, relaxed and creative when clutter and chaos is minimized. In general, I don’t think it’s a terrible trait to have. And I don’t believe that an Adultitis-free life is one that disregards any sense of order.

However. I do find it helpful to regularly remind myself of some simple truths: [Read more...]

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy

“How do you do it?”

That’s a question I’ve been getting a lot these days. That’s because my life is a bit weird. I grew up with a stay-at-home mom and a dad who worked a normal 8:00 – 5:00 shift. Of course there were little league games and school events and birthday parties on the weekend, but for the most part, the basic structure of our weeks and months were pretty static.

My life now is nothing like that. I am on the road about 125 days a year. Sometimes, my family is on the road with me. Most of the time, they’re not. Every single one of our 52 weeks is different from every other. The only constant is that there isn’t one. Kim and I run a business together and are in the midst of preparing for our second annual Escape Adulthood Summit. We are both work-at-home parents, split childcare duties, and also homeschool. Bambino number three is on the way, which means we’ll have three kids five and under. It’s pretty crazy.

Let me be clear. I’m not complaining at all, because I LOVE the variety of my life. Nor am I the busiest person I know. Not by a long shot. But I’m not a stressed-out mess, either.

And I think that’s why people ask, “How do you do it?

The real answer? We have had to be ok with disappointing people. A lot. Which is really hard, because we’re both people pleasers.

But we also believe in preaching what we practice. And our insistence on being authentic overrides our people-pleasing desires. Kim and I have embraced the truth that we — and we alone — are responsible for our own story.

And so sometimes we say no to extended family get-togethers in order to say yes to a family day at the fair. We turn down a lot of opportunities with friends in favor of date nights to make sure we’re getting enough quality time with each other. I say no to a lot of volunteer positions because I know that being on some board will take me away from my family even more than I already am.

All of these no’s disappoint a lot of people who want us to do their “thing.” The tricky part is that their things are usually good, fun, and worthwhile invitations, and it’s really hard to say no. But we regularly remind ourselves that saying no to something good allows us to say yes to something even better.

Despite all of the advancements of modern technology, we are no different than cavemen in that we still only get 24 hours a day. When it comes to guarding our time, we protect our sabbaths and we’ve gotten pretty good at imitating a mama polar bear.

Now. These choices we make are not always easy or fun or even right all of the time. But we try our best to be mindful of all the choices we make.

I don’t presume that the choices WE make are the ones YOU should make. My only hope is that you are aware of the choices you’re making, and more importantly, WHY. It’s easy to shirk responsibility by acting like other people are making choices for us, but unless you’re still going to school and living at home, that’s not really true, is it?

None of this is easy peasy lemon squeezy, but it’s the only way I know of to avoid the regret of looking back one day to realize you’ve been living a story you never intended.

Let me ask you: How do YOU do it? What’s your best tip for making sure you’re living a story that’s your own, and not someone else’s?

Rejection Therapy

jia-jiang-wds

One of the most inspiring people I encountered at the third annual World Domination Summit earlier this month was Jia Jiang.

Four months after quitting his job to launch a career as an entrepreneur, Jia hit a major roadblock. He was rejected by some major investors and the business idea that seemed like a sure-thing instantly vaporized. It rocked his world, and he considered giving up. After a kick in the pants from his supportive wife, Jia began to delve into what he called “rejection therapy.” [Read more...]

The Dreamy Old Quiet Days Are Over. (Again.)

kubrick-subway-newspapers
Sometimes I chuckle at the thought of parents wringing their hands over Elvis’s gyrating hips. Especially in contrast to the stuff I have to keep my kids from seeing on network TV these days! I have also decried the negative side of modern technology, where it seems that most people spend more time staring at smartphones rather than starting real conversations. Don’t even get me started on things like sexting.

I often wish I could trade the problems of today for the problems of yesteryear. In retrospect, the old days always seem simpler and more idyllic.

It’s easy to blame technology for the speeding up of our lives, for the loss of true connectivity, and for the cheapening of our stories. But before we embrace another seemingly modern trait of blaming something or someone else for our troubles, take a look at this passage from William Smith’s Morley: Ancient and Modern, which was published in 1886.

With the advent of cheap newspapers and superior means of locomotion… the dreamy quiet old days are over… for men now live think and work at express speed. They have their Mercury or Post laid on their breakfast table in the early morning, and if they are too hurried to snatch from it the news during that meal, they carry it off, to be sulkily read as they travel… leaving them no time to talk with the friend who may share the compartment with them… the hurry and bustle of modern life… lacks the quiet and repose of the period when our forefathers, the day’s work done, took their ease…

Interesting, huh? Replace those newspapers in the photo above with smartphones and tablets and it wouldn’t look all that different from a modern New York City subway. There are new problems that didn’t exist 100 years ago, sure. But there are also solutions to problems we enjoy that our grandparents never did. Technology has always been an easy scapegoat, but it has never been the biggest threat to us being able to live rich, meaningful, adventurous stories.

The biggest threat to living those types of stories has always been…us.

Photo credit: Stanley Kubrick, Hat Tip to Jason Kottke.

Your Life in Jelly Beans

YouTube Preview Image

Ze Frank made a cool video that shows your life in jelly beans. Using one jelly bean to represent each day of your life, he provides a visually stunning look at how much time we spend eating, sleeping, working, etc. Even more stunning is the small pile of jelly beans that remains when we factor all the “stuff” of living.

Borrowed time, indeed.

Living Life as an Adventure

living-without-risk-isnt

What is the role of a parent? Obviously, keeping them alive is a big one. I’ve learned that feeding them semi-regularly and redirecting them away from hot stoves and wild animals helps with that. Teaching them morals, and how to be a positive contribution to society are important next-level responsibilities.

But what about being brave? Isn’t it important to teach them how to chase a dream and how to take risks and strive to reach their potential? [Read more...]

Do You See Weeds or Wishes?

hundred-wishes

A backyard flush with dandelions can inspire an hour of exciting adventure for a five-year-old. The exact same backyard can also inspire an hour of expletive-laden adjectives for a fifty-year-old.

Believe it or not, most of the things we don’t like about life are changeable. The tricky part is that in order to get the result we desire, the first thing that needs to change is…us.

If you’re disappointed or frustrated by your spouse, your job, your boss, or your kids, you always have the option of waiting for them to improve. Or you can instigate a small rebellion and spark a magical turnaround by changing the way you look at them.

On Borrowed Time

build-something-wonderful

We went to the funeral of friend’s mom recently. She died suddenly of a heart attack while at home with her husband, who was only into his second week of retirement. When my father-in-law Gary heard the news and learned that they were both in the same age range, he reflected, “Wow. I guess I’m really on borrowed time.”

He’s right. But not just because he was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis in his twenties and probably hasn’t had a pain-free day since then. And not just because he continues to amaze his doctors with how long he’s been able to keep on going. He’s right because we are ALL on borrowed time. [Read more...]

How We Spent Our 13th Anniversary

medieval-times

Kim and I always do something childlike on our anniversary. One year we went to the circus. Another time we visited Toys “R” Us on Times Square. This year, we took the kids to Medieval Times.

Actually, that happened the day AFTER our anniversary. On our real anniversary, our sister-in-law watched the kids so we could play hooky and have lunch on a beautiful day. (Pretty childlike in its own right, I guess.) At lunch overlooking Lake Monona, we had a chance to chat about many things, gloriously uninterrupted.

We reminisced about our anniversary adventures.

We talked about the logistics of bringing the kids to a funeral the next day. It was for a friend’s mom, who passed away suddenly only two weeks after her husband had retired.

We talked about the fleeting nature of life, silently hoping that such a thing would never happen to us.

Then I asked Kim a question: “If this was our last anniversary together, how would you wish we’d have spent it?” [Read more...]

This Week’s Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us

meant-to-live

When I was a kid, I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. Not sure if they still have this, but every week there was a little blurb entitled, “This Week’s Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us.” It always featured some absurd factoid that was too ridiculous to believe but nevertheless, painfully true.

Well, the other day I heard a radio commercial for a local cable provider. It heralded as one of its biggest selling points a DVR that could record four shows at the same time.

Four shows at the same time!

Look, if you are in the target market that finds this a must-have feature, you need to seriously take a hard look at your life. Surely you were meant for more than this.

The most depressing thing? The apparent reality that the number of people who would jump at this offer must be somewhat significant, or else it wouldn’t have made it into the commercial in the first place.

Heaven help us.

Something Wonderful

something-wonderful

Good advice. And when you take into account the fact that none of us actually knows what the future holds, doesn’t the alternative seem downright masochistic?

Kind of weird (sad, actually) that this good advice is “advice” at all, and not normal operating procedure.

What Success Really Looks Like

just-stick-to-it

Everyone has their own definition of success. Mine is not to own a jet, hobnob with CEOs, or work a mere four hours a week. My definition of success is to be a force for good in the world and to make a decent living doing what I love while spending lots of time with people I care about. So far, so good.

The middle part — the “making a decent living doing what I love” part — THAT took the longest. Way longer than I’d imagined or hoped.

Success is not that hard. But it is rare because not many people are willing to do the work. The biggest requirement for success is just sticking to something for as long as it takes until you get the desired result (or something better.) [Read more...]

Career Is Never As Important As Family

the-lincoln-family

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently wrote an article for Esquire magazine entitled, 20 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 30. This one is my favorite:

9. Career is never as important as family. The better you are at your job, the more you’re rewarded, financially and spiritually, by doing it. You know how to solve problems for which you receive praise and money. Home life is more chaotic. Solving problems is less prescriptive and no one’s applauding or throwing money if you do it right. That’s why so many young professionals spend more time at work with the excuse, “I’m sacrificing for my family.” Bullshit. Learn to embrace the chaos of family life and enjoy the small victories. This hit me one night after we’d won an especially emotional game against the Celtics. I’d left the stadium listening to thousands of strangers chanting “Kareem! Kareem!” I felt flush with the sense of accomplishment, for me, for the Lakers, and for the fans. But when I stepped into my home and my son said, “Daddy!” the victory, the chanting, the league standings, all faded into a distant memory.

I struggle with this one almost daily. It’s hard when we are wired to spend more time on the things that give us an immediate or financial payoff. And it’s especially tricky when one’s career is very mission-based, like mine.

Adultitis will use anything it can to distract us from the things that are most important. Sometimes it can be pretty darn convincing. [Read more...]

Help Wanted: Family CEO

mom-upside-down

Help Wanted: Family CEO
Applicant is responsible for the management and safety of her subordinates at all times. She will be responsible for the overall health and development of those under her supervision, including, but not limited to, ensuring proper regular hygiene, ethics instruction, and recreational activities. She will foster appropriate communication and team building skills within her unit, which shall require expertise status in the areas of conflict resolution and communications. Being particularly fluent in primitive languages is a plus. [Read more...]

Play This Game Like the 8-Year-Old You Used to Be

play-the-game

This tweet was about baseball, but if we looked at “life” as a game, it would still serve as a stirring rallying cry.

When you were a kid, you spent a lot of time imagining the day when you would finally be grown up, with all the amazing powers that came with it, like independence and height and a drivers license. You had dreams and visions of the great adventures to be had, once you finally had the chance to call your own shots and live your own story.

So, are taking advantage of the opportunities now before you?

Are you playing this game of life with the heart and passion and fire of an eight year old?

If not, get to it. This game only has so many innings.

Small Talk in 140 Characters

iphones-unconnected
Sometimes I long for the days when an Etch-a-Sketch was the most technologically advanced gadget I owned.

Yes, I love my shiny iPhone and all the wonderful things it lets me do.

But I hate when a family is out to eat and I see them all face down in their smartphones. I hate it because it reminds me of how the pull to check email or send a tweet or scan status updates on Facebook pulls ME away from actually being present in my real life. It often distracts me on my dates with my daughter. And it sucks up the mental space that could have been used to pray or think or — gasp! — just BE.

Oh, the internet and smartphones and wi-fi has gotten us more connected than ever. But are we making any connections?

Everything seems so surface level these days; our conversations have deteriorated into small talk boiled down to 140 characters or less. It’s boring, meaningless, and a tragic waste of our precious time. Perhaps the reason we are the loneliest, most depressed, most drug addicted society that has ever lived is because we are lacking real connections.

We deserve better. Our family and our friends deserve better from us.

If you agree, here’s a crazy idea: Next time you’re with someone, put down the phone. Slow down. Shut your pie hole.

Instead, look. Hear. Be. Practice being present once in awhile.

Open your heart, offer your attention, and make a real human connection.

A small thing, perhaps.

But it’s a Small Rebellion of epic proportions.

[ About the Art: Just a little drawing in Photoshop about one downside of our technological renaissance. I was going to draw iPhones starting at iPhones staring at iPhones, but I didn't want your head to blow up. It's weird to think that in five years (maybe less) this drawing will have become adorably antiquated. Maybe I should have cut to the chase and just drew bag phones. ]

Tinkering

tinker-toys

Sometimes living a better story requires making a big, hairy, scary change. Like moving across the country or taking a pay cut to do what you love. But most of the time we just need to be open to the art of tinkering.

The dictionary says that to tinker is “to repair, adjust, or work with something in an unskilled or experimental manner.”

Take special note of those words “unskilled” and “experimental.” For some reason, we grown-ups think we have to master something on our first attempt. Naturally, that’s impossible, so we don’t even try. Kids are under no such illusions. They tinker all day long.

And when you were a kid, so did you. [Read more...]

Are We Alive Yet?

are-we-alive-yet

When I was a teenager, I worked at a car dealership. The garage where I spent my days smelled of used oil, antifreeze, and in the summer, sweat (hooray for no air conditioning!). My job was to wash cars, run errands, and keep the shop relatively clean. It was good pay for a good job with good bosses and flexible hours. And I learned how to drive a stick shift and detail a car like nobody’s business, which will come in handy when I buy my Porsche someday :) By all accounts, it was a pretty great career for a teenager.

But that doesn’t mean I liked it. [Read more...]

Grammys, Mushrooms, and the Practice of Patience

patience

You know what there isn’t enough of these days?

No, not Twinkies.

Patience.

Here in Wisconsin, it appears that Spring didn’t get the memo about showing up. The weather suggests that Old Man Winter is holding on for dear life. I can’t help but wonder if the slight sense of panic that is bubbling up among citizens of the North is partially caused by our lack of patience. With smartphones keeping us constantly connected, our DVRs editing out commercials, and information on Twitter speeding by at warp speed, patience is more scarce (and valuable) than ever.

Marketers promise and the media celebrates fast growth and overnight success. And yet I was intrigued to hear the lead singer of of the band Fun accept the Song of the Year Grammy award for We Are Young. “I don’t know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song,” he said. “If this is in HD, everyone can see our faces and we are not very young.” He shared that he and his mates had been working at their craft for twelve years.

Later in the evening, they’d go on to win the Grammy for Best NEW Artist. Go figure.

It’s easy to search for the quick fix, the easy shortcut, the secret 7-step solution that will shave years off our learning curve. Dissatisfied with advice like “do the work,” “write every day,” or “put in your 10,000 hours,” it’s not uncommon to either give up altogether or keep looking for something less…time intensive. Only to find ourselves five years later in the same exact spot, while we could have been light years ahead, if only we’d heeded that old boring advice.

Sure, there are some flash-in-the-pans and one-hit-wonders, but those fade away. The stuff that lasts takes time to develop.

I once heard a brilliant comparison between a mushroom and an oak tree. A mushroom grows extremely fast. An oak tree, on the other hand, not so much. It takes years to fully develop into the tall, sturdy, impressive specimen that it will eventually become.

The practice of patience leads to great things.

For although the mushroom grows faster, in the end, it’s still just a fungus.

Just Out of Curiosity

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On any given day, we make lots of decisions. Most, like the decision to stay a bit later at work, never seem all that consequential. But slowly and surely, they add up to tell a story.

Take some time to be mindful of every decision, or else you may one day find that those choices have created a story you never intended on telling.