Sunday, November 11, 2012

Be Your Opportunity

Navigating the waters of opportunity...
Life has been good since the last time I wrote an entry on Lift Living.  I took the past few months off of blogging to dive into my new job and absorb the lessons I was learning along the way.  

Some highlights of my transition include working for an incredible company, sleeping in my own bed every night, putting roots down in the Chicago business and philanthropic community, and, most importantly, deepening my relationship with my hot wife and son.

There are some more challenging aspects to my "new normal" including adjusting to a sales role with cold calls, refining my approach to selling our services, and, on a more personal level, dealing with the aftereffects 8 months of chemotherapy does to one's fertility...

I am super blessed to have what I have, but cancer always seems to find a way of reminding me of our "relationship."

Of all the lessons I learned over the past few months one stands out above them all and the funny part is that I already brushed up against it when I was making sense of my cancer diagnosis a couple years ago.  I've talked about being uncomfortable in the past (Blog Entry: Welcome the Uncomfortable) and how feeling uncomfortable is a physical indication from our body that we are at the cusp of an opportunity for personal growth.

My new job has a lot of uncomfortable moments for a guy that hasn't done a lot of traditional "selling" in the past.  So much so that I caught myself falling back on an old habit of procrastinating said moments and just knocking off easy things on my to do list to feel like I was making progress.

Just trading personal growth for the short term feeling of satisfaction...

The moment I realized I was not heeding my own advice I sat back in my desk chair and thought about how much I sacrificed to get to that moment.

I focused on the time I spent on the road away from my wife and son over the past 5+ years and the work I did with my whole-life coach during my cancer journey to understand my personality, strengths, and values to find a more purposeful life.  I also thought about the time and resources my new company invested in finding and accommodating me and the huge amount of trust they have in me to be a part of a team that brings their unique brand to the Chicago market.

What an opportunity I was not taking advantage of...

To add another layer of "Deep Thoughts" by Roger Lumpp, I contemplated the raw fact that had I not been so fortunate with my diagnosis and treatment result, it would be someone else in my chair on the 42nd floor of an office building in Chicago with the opportunity to do something really special.

Hello humbleness...

This lesson hung in my head for weeks as I walked to meetings, sat in traffic, or watched the sun rise over Lake Michigan waiting for my morning train.  Over time I came to the deeper realization that every role we hold in our lives is an opportunity we are just lucky to be in...  

It is up to us to take it as far as we can by pushing ourselves through those personally uncomfortable moments.  If we are spending time doing the easy tasks and not advancing our roles it is only a matter of time until someone will replace us whether as an employee, a husband, or a father.

There's a gut check...

So this is my call to you.  Think about the roles you are in: student, employee, parent, husband, wife, public servant, soldier, coach, etc.  If there was someone else in your role, would they take it further?   Would they put in the hard work to evolve it?  Would they press through the failures in search of a better solution?

Or would they just do the easy tasks on their list and maintain the norm?

We are all fortunate to be living various opportunities in our lives.

Go be (everything to) yours.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Revolving Doors of Life

Go ahead... Give it a push...
I spent the last nearly 5 months of my life commuting to and from the New York City area during the workweek for my job as a consultant. This past week I was coming up from a New Jersey PATH station to my client site and per the routine, walked through a revolving door to the street and then another into my client's building where I would remain for the day doing my work.

Only this time the ride through the revolving door caught my attention.

My general nature is to figure out how things work, find parallels with other personal experiences from my life, and translate my understanding into potent metaphors. Occasionally these metaphors are worth sharing and my revolving journey is one of these instances.

Since my cancer diagnosis in April 2010 I've been working hard to understand my values, personality, and strengths in an effort to get to a better place in my life. For as long as I remember I bought into the paths to success that were laid before us through schooling and employment:

If you do what others did to be successful, you will be successful...

Follow the proven methods that worked in the past...

Through my introspection I realized who I was and what I aspired to personally was not lining up with the path I was walking down. So, I began to make changes to my personal and professional life by pushing through some uncomfortable situations in an effort to get closer to what made me happy (i.e. my passions).

Kind of like pushing through a series of revolving doors...

The way I see it, somewhere out there between you and a life more in line with your true self are revolving doors just waiting for you. Unfortunately, like real revolving doors, along the way we run into forces that keep us from finding and/or getting through our own doors.

I present you with The Workhorse, The Freeloader, and The Hesitator.

You know The Workhorse. They are the ones who push the door so fast it's almost scary. Professionally they will follow orders and tell you that the only path to the top is to do what the bosses did to get there (e.g. more hours, sacrifice of personal life, etc). In many companies, being the Workhorse who will "run through walls" for the organization is the one that's rewarded in the near term. The Workhorse may never find their own revolving door, but will provide the horsepower to push those at the top further along just hoping that the mental bargain of doing what they are told will pay off in the long run.

Then there's The Freeloader. They sneak into the door under the radar and have others push them through rarely offering to reciprocate the effort. This is the person who is stuck in a door (maybe not the right one!) waiting for someone to push them through to the other side not knowing where it will lead just that they are supposed to go through it. Unfortunately for them, unless they wake up and realize the only way to their true talent is to find their door and push with their own power they will be stuck in a life of blaming others for their lack of progress.

Finally we have The Hesitator. These types cause traffic jams by messing up the rhythm and flow by waiting until they are sure they can make it through. This person is standing in front of the right door that will lead them to more happiness, but are too afraid to leave the safe harbor of their current state and will tell you to do the same. On some days The Hesitator may go in and push all the way around only to keep going until he is right back where he started for fear of doing something different. Kind of like riding to the top of a ski lift, not getting off, and riding all the way back down the slope.

Good idea, poor execution.

Me on may way out...  Look out life, here I come!
Chances are you are like me and have bits and pieces of these traits in you and that's OK. Acknowledging their existence so you can harness their energy in a positive way is the first step in moving towards finding your own doors and moving to a better you.

This Thursday around 4:15pm I will make my last journey out of my client's revolving door in Jersey City, NJ before starting a new job in Chicago.

Will this be my dream job?

I don't know, but it's closer than I've ever been...

And I am going to keep pushing through my doors because I know there is a better me on the other side.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cancer is a Team Sport

Huddle up!
Physically, cancer is a lonely road to travel.

Only you and your body go through the blood work, biopsies, and scans... Oh, and the chemotherapy, radiation, and recovery. And oh yeah, the hair falling out, skin complexion issues, and weird tastes in your mouth...

Not to mention fun things like constipation and infertility...

The good news is that there are thousands of people working around the clock to make the physical aspects of the cancer journey less intrusive and painful than ever before. By no means did I enjoy my biopsy, chemo, or days of recovery when I went through 8 months of treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, but my oncologist and team of nurses were on call 24/7 to help make my journey as comfortable as possible.

And I love them for it...

Big time.

While there have been too-many-to-count advances in the physical treatment of cancer, I found there is a lot of progress to be made in how we approach cancer from a mental perspective. I say "we" because unlike the solitude of sitting in a PET scan tube, you, your caregiver, and closest support network have the opportunity to create an environment where all energy and focus are concentrated on healing and beating cancer.

It sounds like an easy task, but believe me when I say that when you and your support network are all of the sudden forced to face death square in the eyes and reexamine life, all bets are off in terms of predictable behavior.

With the benefit of hindsight, I've found 3 themes to practice with your support network in order to create a lower stress environment from which to mount your battle against The Big C:

3.) Don't Hold Grudges

I've written about this before on my blog in a concept I like to call The Score Sheet (Post HERE). When word of your diagnosis spreads through your relatives, friends, coworkers or classmates you will receive a ton of support from everyone whether it's a "you are in my prayers" or a "what can I do to help?" As the time tics on and you enter treatment you are going to notice that the people you expected to be there for you are nowhere to be found and the people you haven't spoke to in months are pulling through more than you ever would have expected.

While it will be tempting to keep score of who's brought you dinner versus who hasn't, I strongly encourage you to put down your pencil and rip up your score sheet. The fact of the matter is that some people are more nurturing by nature and can process extreme life events while others need more time to adjust. By understanding this concept you will be able to allocate the energy it would have taken to maintain your score sheet (think resentment) and allocate it toward getting proper rest and healing your body.

2.) Get Present

It is completely natural to think about the future and all the "what ifs?" that come along with it while proceeding through life. When someone is diagnosed with cancer these thoughts are accelerated and mainly focused around death.

Not fun, but true.

Prior to my cancer diagnosis I was very fond of saying "I can't wait until (insert event here)." One of the most incredible lessons cancer taught me was that there are so many amazing things happening in this very moment that I would be foolish to sacrifice them to get to a future I drummed up in my head.

By staying present and enjoying each day, you will remove your thoughts about life and death and come to appreciate the environment you live in, the people you encounter, and the beauty of the life that was in front of you all along.

1.) Be Honest and Open

While honesty may not always feel comfortable around a cancer diagnosis in terms of expressing how the fighter or supporter are dealing with the situation, it is infinitely more productive than keeping it to yourself, stuffing it inside, and not addressing it. Airing your feelings may create a sense of vulnerability, but it is in this moment that both the fighter and supporter learn how each other are feeling in dealing with cancer and can come to common ground on how to move forward.

I am not a big weight lifter, but I do understand that when you work out by lifting weights you lightly tear the muscle fibers. As you recover, your muscles grow back stronger which gives you the ability to lift more weight in the future from a sturdier foundation.

Honesty does the same thing to your character as lifting weights does to your muscles.

So grab a couple of dumbbells of honesty and get Lifting...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Your Call

Choose to be strong and transform...
There is a fragile moment between the time you face an unforeseen life event and when you decide how you are going to move forward.

Whether it is experiencing the death of a parent at a young age, getting cut from a team's roster, going through a divorce, being laid off from your first real job, or receiving a cancer diagnosis, this moment can be raw, unnerving, and just plain uncomfortable. And here's why:

The future you were heading towards no longer exists.

Unfortunately, in this moment some people decide to hold onto the previous vision of their future and end up in a prolonged funk thinking about what might have been. With nothing left to live for these people will often make decisions that go against the same values they held prior to this defining moment. They may even search for ways to numb their feelings with drugs, alcohol, or other abusive behaviors and spiral further away from leading full lives.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

This moment can be harnessed to reset the vision of what you want to get out of your life and be used to propel you into a future with more personal accomplishment that you could have ever predicted. Once you accept that the previous vision of your future will never be the same, you will be ready to move on in a constructive manner.

You can make the hard choices that escaped you in the past...

You can stand up for what you believe instead of staying seated...

You can start doing the things you always wanted to do that were being stifled by the old future you were moving towards...

And here is the kicker:

You are no longer concerned about the future you are heading towards because you know it could be gone in an instant.

Instead of living in the future or in the past, you are living in the moment making decisions based on what's most important for you and those you care about most.

Speaking from personal experience, prior to my cancer diagnosis I was chasing someone else's dream of what a future was supposed to look like based on what my peers, classmates, and society in general dictated. Shortly after my diagnosis, after a walk with my Mom through a forest preserve near my house, I decided that I was going to use my cancer journey to learn as much as possible about myself and transform my life into one that was in line with my values and beliefs.

And man is it awesome.

Unforeseen life events can be devastating or they can be transformational.

It's your call.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Year of Daily Lift Tips

Besides eating, breathing, and sleeping (maybe…), what is something you've done for the past 365 days in a row?

Back on February 9, 2011, I began writing Daily Lift Tips on my Twitter account (@LiftLiving) as a way to translate some of the lessons I was learning as I transitioned onto a path that will lead me towards more fulfillment in my life.

Originally, I set out to "simplify some of my thoughts and insights on ways to Lift your life" (read my original post HERE), but as the year wore on I realized that this quest to find a Daily Lift Tip made me more aware of the lessons that were right in front of me all along. Only instead of passing by some of these gems on my old path towards a concept of success that was defined by my peers, generations before us, and an evolving society, I was in tune to the inspiration I'd always searching for and it was in my own daily life!

There was the time my son was rummaging through a box of old CDs in our den and stumbled on a recording of a gig I played back in 2002. I was let go from Arthur Andersen 9 months into my first job and shortly after, during a night involving a lot of liquid courage, I got up at an open mic and played No Such Thing by John Mayer. The open mic host and bar owner asked me back and I ended up supplementing my unemployment income with tip jar money playing covers all night around bars in Chicago. Naturally, I started writing songs of my own and my son found the only evidence they existed from a gig at McDunna's (formerly Hog Head McDunna's) in a box in my den 9 years later. I popped in the CD and as we listened to my original songs, a lyric I wrote and forgot about jumped out at me leading to Daily Lift Tip #71:

DLT#71: "It's not what you don't have, it's what you can't live without."

Then there was the period of time where my wife and I were potty training our son, and as any parent can attest, there are plenty of accidents along the way towards the end goal of a diaper free child. During our potty training days I slowly realized there were parallels in my son's potty training journey with my transition into a different approach to life as my true self. Only instead of wet underwear, my accidents involved falling back on old habits I was trying to break free of that were leading me towards a life of average fulfillment. On the day I connected this parallel, Daily Lift Tip #103 almost wrote itself:

DLT#103: "Making big changes in life is like potty training. You will have accidents, but ultimately you're sitting on a new throne."

Or when I recently started to travel again for work and was taking off late in the afternoon in a light rainstorm from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of four consecutive nights away from my hot wife and son and the weather wasn't helping my mood. When our plane broke through the cloud layer I was greeted with a beautiful sunset that reminded me of the one that graced our wedding day in Marco Island, FL back in 2006. Suddenly my mood changed to one of peace and gratitude and Daily Lift Tip #350 was created:

DLT#350: "When there are clouds over your mood, know that the sun is shining above them."

With the exception of DLT#195 and DLT #216, all of the Daily Lift Tips were original thoughts of mine based on an experience or concept that struck me during the day. While the process of finding inspiration in my daily life and translating it to my Twitter account was sometimes stressful and at the 11th hour, for the most part it was very therapeutic and challenged me to create something new every day (DLT#312...).

I want to thank everyone that Liked / Favorited / Re-Tweeted / Commented on Daily Lift Tips I created over the past year. Knowing that something I was learning in my life resonated with what others were going through in their lives gives me the energy and confirmation that translating inspirational and motivational concepts is something I want to continue to pursue.

And I have a lot up my sleeve, so stay tuned...

With that said, I am going to heed the advice of one of my earliest Daily Lift Tips from my hotel room service menu in San Francisco, CA:

DLT#3: "Take time to celebrate your accomplishments. Even if it's a random donut break, you've earned it!"

Live Full,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Living the Dream

My son has a dream... And it involves ice cream
I think we've all had a moment in our life where one of our friends asked us how we were doing and we uttered these magical words:

"Just living the dream..."

Not sure where exactly the idea of "living the dream" originated, but I suspect it has to do with practicing the concept of the American Dream to which we are all supposed to aspire...

In the spectrum of dream concepts, there is one that stands above the rest and this past Monday we celebrated the man who delivered it:

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the keynote speaker at the March on Washington. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of more than 250,000 supporters, Dr. King spoke of the racial inequalities in the Union and his dream of a United States where all men and women are truly created equal and we are no longer "judged by the color of our skin, but the content of our character."

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a student of Gandhi's non-violent approach to protest and used it to engage the nation in addressing civil rights. Whatever it took to advance equality, he was willing to address it through non-violent means. This inspired men and women of all colors and ages to do the same and resulted in major advancements in the civil rights movement.

The great part about effective dreams is that they pull you forward in such a way that you can reconcile your current actions directly to their completion. While Dr. King's dreams were grand in nature, he could ask himself if his every action was working towards realizing them.

That was the great part about Dr. King...

Not only did he lead with his vision, he led with the integrity of a consistent character.

Since I was diagnosed with cancer, I am way more reflective about life. And this past Monday I thought a lot about what my dream was and if I could deliver it in a speech in front of a quarter million people...

And would it inspire?

Over the course of my treatment and into remission I worked hard on understanding my values, goals, and beliefs. I realized that in my pre-cancer days my actions were not fully in line with my own dreams, but more towards a composite of dreams made up from societal expectations for my age, gender, employment status, etc.

Not very inspiring...

I've since taken a hard look at what I would like to give to this life and found my own dream that has the potential to help others. Lift Living is a part of that dream and has already connected with people in ways I never could have imagined.

It is in the process of inspire-ing...

While we may live in a society that is closer than ever to all men and women being created equal, our dreams should always remain unique. While they may overlap in content, dreams are tools to pull us forward (as individuals) towards maximum fulfilment in our lives.

When you find your dream and start living it in everything you do it will be apparent to everyone you encounter. Just as it was to those 250,000 people in Washington DC who crossed paths with Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963...

Not that's Living the Dream...

Link to Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ultimate New Year's Resolution

Happy 2012 from us, now resolve to be you!
If you were to die, who or what would you want to come back as?

This is the question Barbara Walters posed Barack and Michelle Obama the morning of December 23, 2011 on ABC's Good Morning America. I was in the lobby of a Marriott TownPlace Inn & Suites in Erie, PA preparing a complimentary waffle for my three year old son when I heard the question.

Michelle answered she would want to come back as their family dog Bo, which I could relate to having grown up in a dog family.

One little thing I noticed was that prior to answering Barbara's question, Michelle prefaced her answer with "Oh, God Barbara" which, coupled with her body language, I interpreted as she didn't want to think about passing on to another life.

Barbara assured the First Lady that "it was going to happen" after which Michelle gave her answer. I tuned out the rest of the broadcast as my son and I buttered and syruped our waffles prior to finishing the 12 hour drive back to my wife's hometown in northern New York.

And if long road trips are good for one thing... It's thinking.

As the miles past on the New York thruway I thought about the difference between my answer to Barbara's question on April 8, 2010 (the day before my cancer diagnosis) versus today as I live my life in remission.

Prior to my cancer journey I would have had a similar answer to Michelle, but more along the lines of coming back as a successful professional golfer. However, as my fellow cancer brethren can attest, when faced with the reality of a cancer diagnosis and an uncertain immediate future, all you want is more time as one person:


Not a dog, PGA Tour golfer, American Idol winner, or whatever you fancy.

Until we are forced to face the prospect of death square in the eyes we often lose sight of how fortunate we are to live our own lives despite our daily challenges. Which is why I am confident in saying that we all should spend more time improving our own lives instead of dreaming about how good things would be if we were someone or something else.

My New Year's resolution last year was to reduce the amount of time I spent in drive thrus for the environment's sake. Thanks to Barbara Walter's interchange with the First Lady, I've realized my resolution for 2012 will be to enjoy my life to the fullest and do what's right for me.

So the next time someone asks me what I would want to come back as if I were to die there would be no hesitation:


I hope that over the past 12 months of blogging on Lift Living I have inspired you to begin living your life in line with your True Self. I certainly have learned a lot about myself and will continue to share lessons I am learning along the way as I seek to Lift my (and your) life to a higher level of fulfillment.