Reading Notes #1

Because this obsessive annotation habit has to go somewhere.

Ready or not, we’re talking about books.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

by Robert M. Pirsig

First of all, this book made me cry, which I didn’t expect because I don’t expect anything to do with “motorcycle maintenance” to evoke enough emotion to make me cry, unless it’s the emotion of boredom. Yeah. But I wasn’t crying from boredom, and (you guessed it) this book is not really about motorcycle maintenance.

“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”

I mean, it’s in there: the motorcycle. The maintenance. But it’s a METAPHOR. I dig metaphors. There’s a lot of Zen, and there’s a lot of philosophy, and heavy tough thinking, and relationships, and helplessness, and falling apart, and finding peace.

“You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.”

A couple of the ventures into the history of philosophical thinking made me sleepy. Or it might have been that I was reading on an airplane after being awake for, like, 40 hours. Who knows!

“But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

This book has been recommended to me numerous times by numerous people, and I don’t know what I thought it was, but I didn’t expect what it is. This was a serendipitous book encounter. It came with the kind of timing that is a little too good, frankly.

Who is planning this? Who’s in charge here? *looks around suspiciously*

“We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.”

If I’d read it a year ago, I’d probably have been like, “Hm, okay, whatever, it’s pretty good,” instead of weeping in an airplane as I read the last few chapters.


Maybe it was the sleep deprivation. Maybe it was the recirculated air. Maybe it was the fact that some books speak to your core, at exactly the right time. Some books tell you that—whatever else is happening—you’re not alone. That’s more important than almost anything else.

Here are a bunch of quotes. Read them. Then read the whole book.

“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.”

“It's a problem of our time. The range of human knowledge today is so great that we're all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them has to forego closeness with the people around him.”

“…the idea that one person’s mind is accessible to another’s is just a conversational illusion, just a figure of speech, an assumption that makes some kind of exchange between basically alien creatures seem plausible, and that really the relationship of one person to another is ultimately unknowable.”

“In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions. The sweep goes on and on and on so obviously much further than the mind can grasp one hesitates even to go near for fear of getting lost in them and never finding one’s way out.”

“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.”

See? Metaphor.

Myths to Live By: The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell

Good news! This book did not make me cry.

It’s a collection of Campbell’s lectures, a dozen or so, in a neat little package. I started reading it months ago, got distracted by other newer shinier books, then came back around. As one does.

“To become—in Jung’s terms—individuated, to live as a released individual, one has to know how and when to put on and to put off the masks of one’s various life roles.

The aim of individuation requires that one should find and then learn to live out of one’s own center, in control of one’s for and against. And this cannot be achieved by enacting and responding to any general masquerade of fixed roles.”

Campbell can be dry reading. But I kept hearing Alan Watts’s voice narrating in my head, so that worked out. I mean, they were friends. So it makes sense, right?

“Significant images render insights beyond speech, beyond the kinds of meaning speech defines. And if they do not speak to you, that is because you are not ready for them, and words will only serve to make you think you have understood, thus cutting you off altogether. You don’t ask what a dance means, you enjoy it. You don’t ask what the world means, you enjoy it. You don’t ask what you mean, you enjoy yourself; or at least, so you do when you are up to snuff.”

This book is about (surprise!) mythology: what it is, where it comes from, how it interacts with out social conventions, what it means, what it means about our world, what it means about us, what we can learn from it, and (most of all) how we can understand ourselves better by understanding mythology better.

“A lion has to be a lion all its life; a dog, to be a dog. But a human being can be an astronaut, a troglodyte, philosopher, mariner, tiller of the soil, or sculptor. He can play and actualize in his life any one of any number of hugely differing destinies; and what he chooses to incarnate in this way will be determined finally neither by reason nor even by common sense, but by infusions of excitement: “visions that fool him out of his limits,” as the poet Robinson Jeffers called them.”

I walked away with a long list of books/authors to read next, which is both bad and good, I suppose.

“In the Orient the guiding ideal is that each should realize that he himself and all others are of the one substance of that universal Being of beings which is, in fact, the same Self in all. Hence the typical aim of an Oriental religion is that one should experience and realize in life one’s identity with that Being; whereas in the West, following our Bible, the ideal is, rather, to become engaged in a  relationship with that absolutely other Person who is one’s Maker, apart and “out there,” in no sense one’s innermost Self.”

The contrast of Eastern to Western mythology was particularly interesting. There’s something very sinister in the way Western mythology presents an ideal of engaging with an “Absolute Something” outside of and apart from the self. This idea of External Authority—and the obligation to seek it out, serve it, get its approval, submit to its will—is damaging in ways so deep we don’t recognize them anymore. They’re too deep, too familiar.

“And now, to say just one more nasty thing about our religious institutions: what they require and expect is that one should not leave the womb that they provide.”

Think about the last time you were stuck, hesitating in indecision: what kept you stuck there? Probably you were seeking more information, a way to know you were making the right decision. But what is the right decision? There are no right decisions (or wrong decisions) unless there is some sort of external standard by which we can judge decisions, i.e., an external, higher-than-thou authority which “sees the big picture” and is just kind of, I don’t know, waiting for you to guess right and probably ready to punish you if you guess wrong. Which is, first of all, a very silly way for an omniscient authority to judge and govern, and second of all, turns us all into perpetually dependent children, never able to see things from the (authoritative, all-knowing) adult level, always grasping for signs and clues, hungry for validation and feedback because it seems that Somebody must know what the hell is going on, but it sure isn’t us.

“Life as an art and art as a game—as action for its own sake, without thought of gain or of loss, praise or blame—is the key, then, to the turning of living itself into a yoga, and art into the means to such a life.”

If we release the idea of external authority, then decisions aren’t about guessing the Divine Will, lining up with a preconfigured Correct Path, or choosing the One Right Option out of an infinite array of other, all (apparently) wrong options. Making a decision is simply about choosing (WAIT FOR IT, THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY) what you want.

And whenever anything is experienced that way, simply in and for and as itself, without reference to any concepts, relevancies, or practical relationships, such a moment of sheer aesthetic arrest throws the viewer back for an instant upon his own existence without meaning; for he too simply is—“thus come”—a vehicle of consciousness, like a spark flung out from a fire.”

It’s about picking the decision that lines up best with your values, your priorities, your interests, your desires, your energy, etc. It’s maybe about guessing at potential consequences and picking the decision that gives you the most favorable set, or helps you avoid the least favorable set.

It could be about a preferred decision, or even a better decision, but it’s not about the “right” decision.

That takes a bit of weight off.

“The ultimate divine mystery is there found immanent within each. It is not “out there” somewhere. It is within you. And no one has ever been cut off.

You are not now to lose your nerve! Go on through with it and play your own game all the way! And of course, as everybody knows who has ever played at games, the ones that are the most fun—to lose as well as to win—are the ones that are the hardest, with the most complicated, even dangerous, tasks to accomplish.”

Now it’s time to roll into the weekend. May yours be filled with books and friends and naps and other worthy endeavors.

There is no substitute for value

Making low-value activities more efficient is the opposite of efficiency.

We’re back home after a month of travel and I have drunk a gallon of delicious Puerto Rican coffee every day since we landed. Bless this island, bless these coffee beans, and bless the people who grow and dry and roast it.

We were in Chicago, St. Louis, Zurich, and Little Rock, and many points between. We traveled by train, plane, and automobile. Also: boat (briefly), cable car (really, a gear car but the experience was like a cable car so let’s go with it), bus, tram, and on foot. I loved almost every minute: the last 30 minutes of our last flight back home felt like it lasted a hundred years. Otherwise, all good.

When people say, “I love traveling,” what they often mean is, “I love being in a different/new place.” They love the experience of being in a new/different-than-home place. They tolerate the process of getting to the place as a price that must be paid.

When I say, “I love traveling,” I mean that I literally love the process of traveling. All of it. Packing, preparing, loading, leaving, getting to the point of embarkation (saying words like embarkation), being on the train or plane or bus or automobile or tram or boat or whatever. I love experiencing a new place, too, but sometimes I’m a bit disappointed to arrive; it feels too soon, because the getting there part has ended, and I was enjoying it.

Neither approach to traveling is “right” (or wrong), but it’s an interesting distinction. When you say, “I love to travel,” what do you mean: That you love the process of traveling, of getting from one place to another? Or that you love the experience of being in a place that is new/different from normal? Or both?

Value is or value isn’t

You can find adequate substitutes for a lot of things, but not all things. There’s no substitute for self-acceptance. Love for others, fulfilling work, deep relationships, meaningful contribution, excitement, adventure, even freedom: these are amazing, good things but if there’s not self-acceptance…. there will still be a distinct lack, and all those good things will not be enough to fill it.

There’s no substitute for self-acceptance because there’s no substitute for value. And self-acceptance is recognizing your own value. When we’re blind to our own value, we tend to do a lot of work to make up for what’s missing.

Gain skills! Become popular! Act happy all the time! Take care of others! Never be a burden! Look good! Keep up appearances! Fill a role! Help people! Do good! Achieve things! Be better than ___ at ___! Never need help! Be funny! Be dependable! Make sure everybody else is happy! Be a caretaker! Hide those flaws, and hide ‘em good!

It’s all compensation for the perceived lack of value.

None of it works, because we know what we know (even when we pretend not to know):

There’s no substitute for value.

For example, making something that’s low-value or no-value more efficient doesn’t increase its value. It merely reduces the (energy) cost. Reduction of energy cost can have a long-term negative effect, causing us to tolerate low-value obligations and activities much longer than we should.

I’ve been thinking about efficiency more than usual lately, and that thinking crashed into the minimal approach to social media that I’ve been taking. I’ve taken apps off my phone, been conscious and deliberate with my use, and downgraded the time/attention that social media gets from me; I did so even more while traveling. So much, in fact, that I realized I was making a silly mistake: spending a good amount of energy (in time, configuration, self-imposed limits, set-up) striving to make something with very low value (social media) give me… more value?

Streamlining a low-value activity doesn’t make it more valuable; all it can do is reduce the energy cost.

If there were enough value for me, then reducing the energy cost so I got more for less would make sense. But there’s not enough value to justify any energy cost, really; in fact, what I notice is a net negative, a loss. So I’m trying to become more efficient in order to… gain a loss?

Hmm. Smells like stupid, a big heaping bowl of it.

Note: I’m not saying that social media has no value for anyone; I’m saying that, when an activity has little or no value for you, there’s no point trying to make it more efficient. Just cut the damn thing out.

So that’s what I’m doing. An easy move at this point, and one that won’t have much effect except to close a pointlessly open mental loop.

Which brings me back to another open loop, the one I left dangling a few paragraphs earlier. The loop about self-acceptance. About your value. My value. Recognizing our own value. About what we do when we don’t know our value and love ourselves: all the things. We do ALL THE THINGS to try to make up for the perceived lack of value. None of them are adequate substitutes: that’s the bad news. The good news? There is no lack of value: not in me, not in you, not in anyone. All that’s missing is the recognition, the ability to see and accept our own value. That’s a matter of perception, of finding those internal beliefs that keep us from seeing who we are, of stripping away the lies and expectations and judgments that cover up the reality of self. You’re good, all good. You don’t have to do anything to prove it. But if you can’t perceive that, you’ll keep trying.

Can you sit alone, with all the identities and roles demolished, all the compensations exposed, the covers blown, the appearances tarnished, the castles crumbled, the problems and needs dissolved, and be okay with your self, as you are?

Are you okay with being seen not as you want to be seen, but as you know yourself to be?

If those thoughts scare you (and they’ve definitely scared me) maybe try a step in this direction: not trying to cover up, but uncover. Little by little. Less doing, more peeling away. Less helping, appearing, deciding, trying: more asking why you feel the urge to be more, do more, offer more. Maybe nothing will shift for you, but maybe something will. Maybe your perception will widen and force a crack that runs jagged through the shell. Maybe you’ll be able to look deeper into yourself and see a glimpse of the value that’s been there all along.

Worth a try.


  • What’s your chronic care-taking style? Chronic care-taking is something you fall into when you’re unsure of yourself, of your own strengths and desires, of your own worth. The real story is that you’re trying to prove–to yourself–that you can fix whatever you feel is broken in you. [PositivelyPositive]

  • Why Efficiency Matters for Everyone: Before you put thought, time, and effort into improving efficiency in some way, consider whether it will have any real impact on your life. To know if an area matters or not in your life, consider these four factors. [Teamup Calendar]

  • Balancing the Art of Feedback: Feedback that’s delivered well but instigates no change is as useless as too little, too late feedback. Some essentials must change to make feedback welcome and effective: timing, delivery, and support. [INSIGHT]

  • Unearth the voice that keeps singing: (An old one, but relevant to our little self-acceptance chat. Contains some of the cursing words, so skip it if you don’t like those.) The path itself is predictable: What’s the thing that makes me feel safe, that wraps me up in an identity I can easily label, quickly define? That’s the thing I need to walk away from. [The Urban Howl]

Riding the waves

There's a thin line between exhilaration and terror

“Setting the expectation that things will be easy results in disappointment and quitting at the smallest hiccup. If you prepare yourself for massive challenges and no such challenges crop up, it will be a pleasant surprise.”


It’s been a challenging week, to put it mildly.

The financial reality is strain, with back-to-school enrollment fees and tuition for our four kids, and a long-awaited trip to see family, with flights, hotels, and trains booked. Yay! It’s going to be great if we can keep ourselves alive till the end of the month.

The work reality is almost-overload, as I’m at beginning point or wrap-up point for several client projects—which is when they require the most time and attention—plus taking on a few new writing gigs and working to document and systematize my own processes so I can outsource more of them. This will pay off, in multiple ways, but it’s a head-down-and-work-hard time until then… which has been made a bit more difficult by…

…The emotional reality which has been mostly terror. (You know I’m going to talk about my feelings. ALL OF THEM.) We found ourselves at the center of—we’ll call it community drama, for lack of a better term. I don’t really know what to call it. A mess. Painful, confusing, and full of lessons. I think we will be processing these lessons for a while. We have so much to learn about communicating, parenting, awareness, dealing with rumors, asking for help, and realizing that people will ultimately think what they want to think, and you have to be okay with that.


I wish I were mature enough to let all the bullshit float on by and be unaffected, but… Clearly, I am not. My emotional spectrum has been wiiiiiiiide this week, friends. From complete panic and terror to intense anger and hurt to a deep sense of loneliness and separation and fear of never being heard, never understood, to a “fuck-it-all” attitude that was, clearly, my attempt at self-protection.

I keep coming back to one thought:

We’re all doing the best we can.

All of us have the same goals: we want to be happy, we want the people we love to be happy, and we want our lives to mean something. We all have different ideas of happiness, and we all have different measures of meaning. That’s okay. All our differences create beautiful variations in life.

The tricky part is getting past those surface differences and recognizing our similarities. And looking at intention is important. It’s easy to feel attacked when someone spreads nasty rumors about you, but what’s the intention? How can I know that? How can I make that assumption? How can I judge someone’s motives, someone else’s understanding and choice, from the outside?

Obviously I can assume and I can judge, but I have no way of knowing what’s real and what isn’t until I talk to someone directly. Even then, communication can be difficult. If I go into a conversation with assumptions and predetermined judgements, can I really listen? Will I really be able to separate the facts from the feelings?

All I know is that community is worth the effort.

Conflict, misunderstandings, assumptions, hurts, offenses: these things come and go. Sometimes they come in mighty waves and knock us over. Sometimes they drip-drip-drip, a slow leak, and we overlook them until great damage has been done.

The doorways to connection look different than I expect them to. Every conflict is an opportunity. Every misunderstanding can lead to clarity, to deeper honesty and greater openness. That’s the path I want to walk. Here’s hoping I can figure out how.


Not much on the link list this week…

  • Is freelancing worth it? Freelancing, especially when you’re starting out, is not easy. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as I made it on myself (pro tip: don’t have four kids in five years and try to build a freelancing business at the same time unless you have serious masochistic tendencies which, apparently, I have). But it does require dedication, focus, hard work, and time. It’s easy to become disillusioned if you have expectations of ease. 

Enjoy your Sunday evening!

Watch the sunset, read a book, have a drink, plan your week, take some deep breaths, or… something completely different. It’s your life, and what you fill it with is entirely up to you. Make it good.

Let's drop this shared illusion

We wouldn't like it if we could attain it.

“I used to resent obstacles along the path, thinking, “If only that hadn’t happened life would be so good.” Then I suddenly realized, life is the obstacles. There is no underlying path. Our role here is to get better at navigating those obstacles.”


We have one weirdly entrenched and utterly false belief that gives us lots of trouble: the belief in a static place of being. 

We throw this belief onto the past, and it results in an idolatry of the old. Back in “the good old days” things weren’t static, secure, comfortable, or better than they are now. But it’s easy to think they were, to pull out a few rosy details and imagine that life was a postcard, that culture, economy, politics, and lifestyles were firmly established, accepted, and successful. That everyone knew what to do and when to do it. That life was, in a large sense, predictable, understandable, and static. 

We throw this belief onto the future, and it results in a relentless drive to get somewhere else. Somewhere else in time, somewhere else in space, somewhere else in situation. We have the idea of a peaceful plateau, or an enlightened mountaintop. Once there, we think, we’ll know. We’ll be free from confusion, out of uncertainty. We’ll be set up, good to go, a-ok for the rest of life.

It’s alluring, this idea. It’s also unattainable, because static anything is an illusion. 

Here’s what we’re made of: moving moving always moving particles of energy, waves of energy, mixing and meshing and changing energy. The most solid arrangement of atomic stuff is spinning at crazy speeds, is always coming together or blasting apart. It happens slow and it happens fast, and it happens in a way we don’t notice, but it’s always happening. 

A truer belief is this one: if we could invent or find a static place, a life of ultimate stability, we would enjoy it for approximately 10 minutes… and then we would hate it and find a reason to destroy it.

We’re not static beings, and we’re not made for any kind of unchanging existence. The ebb and flow of life gives us stuff to work on.

The obstacles are challenges, reasons to learn, to grow and expand, to draw forth new powers.

Even the terror—the insecurity, the self-doubt, the imagination of all those bad things that might happen—even that has its place. Fear wakes us up, shakes us out of complacency. Offense, anger, and dissatisfaction are weapons against lethargy. 

If we can drop the idea of some single, fixed, safe way to live, we can see what is and learn to love it. It’s not the obstacles of life that create pain: it’s our resistance to them. It’s not the ever-changing nature of life that makes us feel insecure: it’s that we’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, feeding ourselves an illusion, twisting ourselves into tangles and knots.

We resist change because we tell ourselves we’re supposed to. And we believe we’re supposed to because we accept the idea of “static success” (in one form or another) as the pinnacle of achievement, the ultimate goal in life. 

In a sense, there is a static goal: for all of us, the story ends in the same way. If life is ever-changing, an endless flow, a room full of moving parts, then death is the door we close on it. I have a suspicion, though, that we don’t find any more stability after death than we do before, at least not anything that fits our current definition of stability. Why would we think of death as changing the essential nature of what we are, of existence? What reasoning do we have for this? 

Oddly, the more I release the idea of a static point, of reaching any stage of life that stays the same, the less I long for stability. The flow of life, the movement itself, becomes the stable foundation. It’s a matter of changing our definition, opening up to a new idea of what safe can mean. We’re not really after a static, unchanging existence: we’re after a feeling of safety. We just think feeling safe requires everything being predictable, repetitive, glued in place.

But if we loosen our grip on that particular requirement, maybe we can find safety elsewhere: not in some external point, but in our own internal being. In our ability to learn and adapt. In our depth and creativity. In our honesty and connection.

There’s freedom in the movement and change of life, freedom and flow and a shitload of fun. Challenges, yes. Obstacles, plenty. But these are the experiences that become most rewarding. These are the moments when we become more than what we are, and sense that our own development, our own daily changing and growing, is the most radical transformation of all. 

There’s not really a choice of what kind of life to have: a static, safe one, or a flowing, free one. Life is not a river with a calm shoreline. You don’t get to choose whether you flow with the current or sit tight on the riverbank. You don’t get to opt out of the movement.

Life is a river without a shore, an endless stream of movement and change and energy, fluctuation and expansion. The choice we have is whether to fight it or flow with it. We can react and resist and seek an illusive point of stillness, grabbing at every rock or tree branch that seems solid. Or we can turn our faces forward, take the rudder in hand, and learn to ride the waves.


  • All of us in this moment. Appreciating the transient experience it is, knowing it will never—in a billion billion lifetimes or realities—be repeated, that this moment is unique, unknown, unrepeatable, and I get to be here in it. I get the gift of this experience.

  • I’m singing all the love songs to myself. Super introspective this week! Oh WAIT THAT’S EVERY WEEK.

  • Through a glass darkly. One of the deepest pains in changing, growing, becoming who you are, speaking your truth, living your own fucking life, is the pain that is not your own. It’s the pain you cause others.

Go forth and do the thing, whatever it is.

It’s a hot date, for me. I love having an oldest child old enough to babysit the younger children. This parenting thing is starting to pay off.

How does it make you feel?

Values, schmalues. Let's talk about your emotions.

“So then I learned, at least in part, to only say things that made me feel like I was together, and that’s part of that coming-together: you can feel that, physically. If you say something deceitful, you shrink and you cower from it. It makes you embarrassed, and it makes you weak. You can feel the weakness. It’s like: Stop saying things that make you weak, if you don’t want to be weak, then. If you want to be strong, stop saying things that make you feel weak. Try it! Try it; see what happens. You can test this out. In a year, things will be way different for you. In five years, you won’t even be the same person. God only knows what’ll happen in a decade.”

[Source: audio, transcript]

We think of deception, lying, as a moral choice to be made. Rather, honesty is the moral choice. Dishonesty is the immoral choice.

And we’re right.

But what we don’t think about is how often we make the immoral choice—dishonesty—without realizing it.

There are a few principles, or ideas, that I strive to live by daily. They have changed the way I view everything, the priorities I have, the decisions I make. As a result, they have changed my life.

One of them is this:

A commitment to complete honesty in word and action

Simple? Should be. Sounds like it. But I’ve discovered that the most difficult honesty is being honest with myself.

Who am I? What do I want? What am I satisfied with? What am I not satisfied with? What works for me? What doesn’t? How does each experience affect me? What values do I really care about? How do I want to spend my time? What kind of people do I want to be around? What strengthens me? What makes me feel weak? What feels right and whole and “from the core”? What doesn’t? What am I allowing in my life for someone else’s sake? What am I doing out of guilt or fear or obligation? What lights me up with joy? What doesn’t?

I’m all for introspection, but introspection alone doesn’t lead to honesty.

I can spend a lot of time in my own head thinking and reflecting, and still avoid real honesty. Surface-level emotions and experiences can keep me busy for a long time. They’re real, but they’re not the whole story. If I’m ignoring a big part of my own story, how honest can I be?

I’ve kept a journal since I was… 10, maybe? When I can’t figure shit out, I write about it. (This is the primary motivation behind the work I do: I’m still just trying to figure shit out.) I set goals and track habits and make lists. But sometimes I’m tracking and logging and listing the wrong things: the should-do things, the must-do things, the obligatory things, the ego-driven things, the socially-approved things, the role-appropriate things.

How successful am I if I build a habit or achieve a goal that’s not something I really care about?

Not successful at all.

Defining our values is difficult. Values—like honesty, commitment, love, kindness, freedom, fulfillment—are loaded with meaning. It’s tough for us to admit we don’t value some of the things we think we’re supposed to value. So we try to keep up with all of them, juggling as much as we can. The result is that we live by none of them, have a lot of internal conflict, and keep ourselves too busy and stressed to notice what’s happening.

No good.

Here’s a better idea: notice how things make us feel. The effect each choice or activity or interaction has on us, in the moment. That’s a path toward finding out what we really value.

“Those questions that we never asked ourselves kept bothering me, so I started to question everything. What made me happy? What made a day worthwhile? What made life worthwhile? I really started to track, compile, list and organize what had an impact on me and allowed me to appreciate the moment. …as long as it was deep and real I took note and tried to embrace it. It was a work in progress but I quickly learned a lot. What made me tick became more clear.”


I just hired a business coach. My notes from our first call look like they’re about two different people. Essentially, they are:

  • Functional Annie, who gets shit done and makes progress and has ready answers and can describe her services and ideal clients and unique value proposition and five-year goals.

  • Then there’s Honest Annie, who has no fucking clue most of the time, is all over the place, and is mostly unaware of the stories she’s telling herself.

And now let’s pause while I have an existential identity crisis because I’m not only writing about myself in third person, I’m writing about myself as two people. Send Help.

I’ve been trying to set a few quarterly goals because 1) I like goals and 2) I like goals.

Three goals. Three quarterly goals. Three quarterly business goals. Shouldn’t be difficult.

I’ve thought of about 127 different options. I hate them all.


Because there’s a conflict.

Functional Annie wants to keep the boat afloat, no matter what. Chaos is pain.

Honest Annie wants to figure out what she really wants to achieve. Wants to venture to that field out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing. Wants to ask and answer the more important questions. Wants to notice what matters, not what should matter. Wants to be still long enough to hear every part of her own story and tell it true, tell it whole.


Tell it true, tell it whole.

No matter where it leads. No matter what it means. No matter who it might displease. Not matter what chaos it might generate. No matter what.

Tell it true, tell it whole.

Then live it true, live it whole.


  • Don’t start with goals; start with clarity: If I had a penny for every time I’ve written something and then a few days later I’m like “OH MY GAAAAAH I WAS JUST WRITING ABOUT THIS AND NOW I AM DOING THE TOTAL OPPOSITE THING OF WHAT I SAID TO DO,” I’d have like, a dollar.

  • How to build a content dashboard: Time to balance out all these feelings with some solid freelancy contenty content. Wheeeee!

  • What do we need to live?: A tiny shopping cart, first. Then an assortment of fine-point pens, fast wifi, and coffee.

❋I switched to “Source” with a link instead of the name/title because of something I noticed in myself: when I recognize the source of a quote, I validate or invalidate what it says based on my opinion of the person/organization/etc. Now that’s not entirely bad. If information comes from an unreliable news site, for example, it’s a good idea not to trust it.

But what about ideas? Concepts? Principles? Feelings? Opinions? These aren’t factual items to confirm with data and research, but insights and lived experiences. How many insights have I dismissed because of my prejudice against a source? Hmmm. When we dismiss the experiences of others—and the lessons they’ve learned from them—because we don’t agree with them on something else, we miss out. We miss the chance to learn. We miss the chance to gain a broader perspective. We miss the chance to understand, to connect.

I don’t want to miss those chances. I don’t want you to miss them, either.

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