Saturday, December 17, 2011

Take Off Towards a Full Life

Not sure if my wife and I are the only ones in TV Land that watch ABC's PanAm on Sunday nights, but there was an extremely metaphoric event for Lifting your life a few weeks back.

To give you some back story, the PanAm flight of the week was headed down to South America when a passenger on board had a heart attack and they were forced to land in Haiti at an old dilapidated airport that was shut down for the night. As predicted, the crew got in touch with someone on the ground who then switched on the runway lights just in the nick of time for a successful landing. Once on the ground the co-pilot and one of the stewardesses took off into the night in search of a doctor to help their ailing passenger.

Fast forward to the end of the episode when the flight crew realizes the runway is damaged to the point where it is too short to take off given the weight of the passengers, their bags, and the fuel on board. In attempt to lighten the load they ditch all of the bags on the tarmac and begin to burn off fuel in an effort to (hopefully) get to an acceptable takeoff weight. Sure enough, when the bad rebels are storming the airfield to try and seize the airplane, the pilot hits the throttle and barely scrapes off the ground for a flight back to a more friendly location.

There is a great lessoned to be learned from this failed flight to South America as it relates to improving our daily lives in that we are often allocating too much mental energy to certain events from our past or general themes that it restricts us from taking off towards our dreams.

Take the theme of social acceptance as an example. From the time we are in grade school through the end of our lives there will be some part of us that thinks about measuring up to our peers or society in general:
  • Do I have more friends than average?
  • Am I in better shape than people my age?
  • Is my retirement lifestyle better than my friends?

Or look at an "if only" event from your past:
  • "If only I would have sold when the market peaked I wouldn't be in this financial mess"

When we let these thoughts run our lives they become bigger and bigger users of our mental energy. Since we only have so much mental energy in a day that means that other, more productive uses for that energy are being neglected.

Say the energy you allocate to your passion.

Or the energy it takes to stay present in a conversation with a loved one.

While the effort to come to terms with an event in your past or to unwind these habits is not small, you can start chipping away at these thoughts by becoming aware of their presence. When you catch yourself you will start to notice their destructive tendencies and feel empowered to win back that wasted energy.

And a funny thing happens when you start allocating your new found energy to things you love:

Lift off...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Latitude Update

Very exciting news to share. In addition to recently celebrating my 5th wedding anniversary with my wife and son in downtown Chicago, on December 8th I celebrated the one year mark since my last chemotherapy treatment.

Wow does that feel nice to say.

A lot has happened during the year to say the least. One of the things I am most proud of is the Latitude concept I rolled out earlier this year. For those of you who are unaware, here is the original launch post: Latitude Announcement.

In short, your Latitude is a place you mentally escape to when you are stressed or in a situation you would rather not want to be in at the current moment. Think of it as a highly nostalgic place or feeling you default to when day dreaming. For me, it was a place I thought of frequently when going through a chemo treatment or in recovery at home on the couch.

While not everyone in the world thinks of the word "Latitude" in this way, it is my intention to change that.  Over the past year the Latitude concept pops up on a frequent basis, often cloaked in another form such as a Corona commercial:

Or the lyrics of a Coldplay song ("Paradise"):

Life goes on, it gets so heavy
The wheel breaks the butterfly
Every tear a waterfall
In the night, the stormy night she'll close her eyes
In the night, the stormy night away she'd fly
And dream of para-para-paradise

My theory is that if we can spend more time in our lives practicing the emotions associated with our Latitude we can lift our lives above the stresses that inhibit our growth as individuals and as a society.

Some great friends, family members and complete strangers helped me launch the Latitude concept by writing entries on I am happy to announce that we are continuing the Latitude love beginning this Thursday where we will hear about my buddy Jon's Latitude, which is just tremendously written.

Also, as a holiday/re-launch special, all shirts on will be 50% off through the end of the year and as always include a $5 donation to the associated charity.

Come check out the Latitude website this Thursday, be sure to hit the Facebook "Like" button, and tell all your friends!

Will 2012 will be the year you start to Live Your Latitude?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Experience of You

Trophy from Buddah's Golf Tourney
What do you and I have in common with the reason why Starbucks can charge $5 for a grande-nonfat-with whip-white mocha or Apple can charge $600 for an iPhone?

If you said because we are delicious and pleasing to the eye you are only partially right...

The bulk of the price of the items is for one thing:

The experience of the product.

I received the unfortunate news of a dear family friend passing two weekends ago, which sparked loads of memories and subsequent reflection.  In short, "Buddah" was an amazingly gracious man that touched an incredible amount of people in his time on earth and will continue to do so in our memories as we live on our days.

The more I thought about Buddah, the more I realized my memories centered around the experience of being with him versus any particular event. Whether it was around a dinner table, on a golf course, or on Christmas morning when he would show up at our house in full Santa gear (a perfect match!) there was something about the mood that would consistently change for the better.

The concept of the Buddah experience got me thinking about how others experience me in my daily life in different environments.

Pre-cancer I was absorbed in the popular concept of personal branding from the perspective of what I wanted my target audience (boss, client, friend, or even family member) to take away from an interaction with me. These takeaways were often generic traits of what "experts" from books and magazines believed were necessary in our current society.  The problem with this approach is that it frequently involves trying to be something you think others want to experience versus who you really are as a person.

Better known as acting...

Or, as I like to call it, the antithesis of authenticity.

Anytime I am forced to face mortality time slows down, priorities shift, and my daily approach to life changes for a period of time. It happened at Buddah's funeral this past Thursday, and it happened on April 9, 2010 when my oncologist told me I had cancer.

It's at these crossroads that one can choose to continue on the path they were on, or make an adjustment based on the lessons they learn. Shortly after my diagnosis, I chose to adjust by hanging up my acting career and starting to live life in a manner consistent with my true self.

Over the past (almost) year of blogging on and 300 consecutive days of sending out Daily Lift Tips on my Twitter account (@LiftLiving), I've attempted to chronicle this new approach to life and the lessons I've learned along the way.

It wasn't easy to make this shift, but as I continue on in my daily life I am confident that I am delivering a true experience of me in everything I do and every person I encounter.

And the best part is I will never forget to "act" a certain way as I am simply being me.

At its core, authenticity is built from consistent interaction. Whether it was a joyous occasion such as Christmas or after a crummy round of golf, Buddah was Buddah. He showed up as his authentic self in everything he did and as a result had a profound impact on all he touched through his life.

So, next time you are waiting in a Starbucks line checking your iPhone don't just think about the consistent experience Starbucks or Apple is presenting to you, remember that you also leave an impression on everything you touch and with everyone which you interact.

Make the experience of you a consistent one in line with your true self and you will lift your life to a whole new level.