Unfolding Outcomes

In her book Packing Light, Vesterfelt also writes, “Most of life is unfolding on the road in front of us. The “outcome” can change as fast as the scenery.”  This quote is important for me because it represents a lot of the thoughts that I have about my future. I am unsure of what I really want in life, and often have trouble with answering questions along the lines of where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, or any length of time. In the past I know that I was locked in to an image of what success was, and I knew the outcomes I wanted: a big house, a classic muscle car, lots of medals and awards from running races.  Over time, I have had to try to identify what skills I have and what opportunities present themselves to me, matching the skills I have. With this process I have had to look at what goals or images of success I had in my mind (the outcomes) and get to the base of those goals and ideas of success to try and understand where they came from.
With life constantly changing, and new opportunities presenting themselves to me I have learned to let go of the outcomes, and focus instead on trying to be the best version of myself that I can be. It is an incredibly stressful process because I am constantly looking for security, but the things that seem to be “secure” to me don’t seem to be interesting or rewarding. Learning that the outcomes can change, and allowing the outcome that I desire to shift has allowed me to have a more dynamic approach to my every day life. I do not feel so locked in to a particular goal or vision of success, and allowing those goals to change reduces the stress I feel, and also seems to provide me with more time to allow myself to reach a state where I feel successful with the person I have become.

Success & Judgement

The next quote from Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light is one that has proven to be hugely important for me recently.  She wrote, “We can’t measure the value of our decisions based on outcomes.” This simple idea was true for Allison before she took her 50 state road trip, and over the course of her journey it held up.  In my life this idea connects back to our American image of success, and the importance of money in determining success.  Listening to a recent podcast, I can’t remember which podcast or who may have been the guest, the guest on the show said that we tend to make judgements about people and gage how successful of a person they are based on their income. He said that we do this not because it is the best metric of success, but because it is the easiest. Money he said is not always the right way to measure success, and wealth accumulation is not the best way to judge our value.
For Vesterfelt the quote represented the idea that we do not always have to make decisions on what actions we will take with an end goal in mind. For instance with this blog, I don’t have to worry about having followers and achieving any outcome, it is simply a place for me to reflect on what I have read, and process my thoughts as I revisit and write them.  In my personal running, each run does not have to have a desired calorie burn level, and the end goal of running consistently does not have to be winning races. If I approach running as each day getting the opportunity to do something that feels good and that I enjoy doing, then in the end I will be more successful. Somehow this idea is easier to apply to the non-monetized aspects of our lives. I struggle daily with understanding the value of individuals, and seeing people as successful, even when their bank account, car, house, and clothes do not align with the American standard of wealth and success.

Fear & Goals

“After all, we’re all scared of wanting something.” I think this quote from Allison Vesterfelt is a good place for us to base our views of ourselves and others.  Too often I find that it is easy for me to look at other people and ignore the fact that they want something, an object, a promotion, to be in better shape, or to be more confident, and think of them as self content bubbles without goals or motivation. I think that it is important for us to look at the things that scare us, and ask why we are afraid of those things. Are they things we desire but are not sure how to take the first step towards action? Are they things we desire but are afraid to tell others we want? Are they things we desire but we fear that they do not fit in with the identity that we have created for ourselves?
Understanding your own fear of attaining something, and identifying the ways in which that fear lacks a true base can help you overcome it. You may find that the fear does not go away, but that you find a new way to be confident about your goals because you know that the fear you bring with you is irrational and can be overcome.
This quote also helps me see other people in better ways. I try hard to look at someone and see that they have interests in certain areas and goals and desires related to those interests. Perhaps once one masters that, they begin to be the person who can help connect people with the paths towards their goals and desires, I do not know because I am not at that point.  For me, understanding the fear that I have and how it affects me, helps me to remember that other people may face the same or greater fears, and once I understand the base of my fear I can better see that the fear that other people have may be based on something more concrete than the anxious worries of my fear.

Dots

Continuing with Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt, I highlighted a section reading, “What if the decision that was good for now was also good for later? What if I just couldn’t see it yet? This quote reminds me of the previous post, and making that decision to get going with something new. It may seem like a good decision, but it may be very difficult, and the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, and the overall fear of starting something new may block our vision of what is good for us in the future and now.
A quote by Steve Jobs is passed around frequently, “It is only until we look back that we see how the dots connect.” and while Mr. Jobs was absolutely correct, I prefer to look to the advice of a writer I really look up to, Paul Jun. Paul is an impresario of sorts, someone who connects people, and he makes connecting the dots an all day practice, not just a reflective exercise.  He wrote a breezy 70 page book called, Connect the Dots in which he talked about how our daily decisions build up to something more.  He talked about being intentional about creativity, learning, and self-awareness to harness the power to connect the dots in our day to day lives. In this way, Paul is being mindful with everything he does to see the way that what decisions are good for now will be beneficial in the future as well. He focuses on understanding himself, and where he wants to be, and brings in an idea of patience to change the focus from worrying whether a decision will be good for now and later, and instead trusts that he can make the right decisions to build bridges that will connect his dots later.

Starting Something & Feeling Overwhelmed

It is so perfect that this quote resurfaces for me right now. Just six pages after I made the highlight which I discussed in my previous post I highlighted a section from Allison Vesterfelt’s book Packing Light which read, “It’s just one little baby step at a time,” she continued. “If you try to figure out how to do everything, all at once, you’ll get overwhelmed.” in this passage she is referring to her friend who convinced her to go on a life altering road trip and explore her writing talents. Leading up to the trip Allison was very nervous, and not sure where to start, what to say goodbye to in order to go on the trip, and what she expected from the trip. This quote really works perfectly for me because I feel as though I have so many expectations for success, my life, and the person I want to be, that at times I become overwhelmed. I want to be a successful runner, a consistent podcaster, and a good boyfriend all while working full time. This is an incredible undertaking for someone who has just graduated, and I think I need to hear this message more often.
For me another powerful piece of advice has been simply to allow things to take longer. My running coach recently said to me after an achilles tendon injury, “You’re not going to the Olympics, so you have no reason not to take some time off and let things recover.” That piece of advice has combined with others in my head from other books and podcasts, to help me understand that I need to remove the pressure to be great immediately. I can allow everything to be a process, and allow myself to have times where I start back at square one to build a solid base and foundation in areas of my life that I want to be complete.
Allison explained this advice as a way to help you take the first step, avoid the fear of the unknown and starting something different, and try doing something new in your life. I think what I have combined with this advice is that your action can be small, and even seem inconsequential at first, if you understand that one day it will be a building block to your own pyramid, tower, or peak of what you want.

Dynamic Ideas

This quote from Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage is all about those ideas we get when we are off running, having a good shower, and just relaxed enough to let our mind create. Vesterfelt writes, “That’s the thing with ideas.  They start small, somewhere inside of you, and nothing will happen with them until you finally speak them out loud.  We hold on to ideas for years sometimes, because we think they’re meaningless, or impossible, or that people will laugh at us when we tell them.”  For me over coming the fear and doubts of my ideas has always been a challenge. I have always had plenty of good, difficult, adventurous, and meaningful ideas, but fear, doubt, and apathy have seemingly kept me from even speaking my ideas many times.  A current idea with ideas is to tell everyone you can about your ideas. To open up to people you know, strangers, and the world to tell them you plans, desires, and ideas. This forces you into action because you have already told everyone what you want to do, how you are going  to do it, and why this idea gets you excited. The fear that stops us seems to be the fear of failure and the fear of having everyone see our failure.  We hide in a caccoon with our idea silently working it over in our mind  in the hopes that we become huge successes, but hedging our bets by not telling anyone our ideas and plans so that if things don’t turn out, no one else sees our failure.
I have recently been playing with the idea of opening up to everyone about my fears and insecurities. I have wanted to hang out with a group of friends and say things like, “hey, so I always feel like I should be doing more, and like I am always trying to reach a new level of good enough, do you guys all have this same pressure?” I want to speak to people who I would consider more accomplished then me and hear about their struggles, and I want to talk to people who I consider myself to be more accomplished than, and tell them that I frequently feel like I am not skilled enough to match the idea of success that I have in my head.  Too often we look at others and compare our lives to the awesome Facebook lives of our friends. The refrain I tell myself is not to always compare my every day cuts to another person’s highlight reel, because after all, we only put our best selves out there on social media for all to see.
Getting back to Vesterfelt’s quote, I think the real thing is to just be aware of your ideas and to find a way to act on them. Maybe not all of them, unless you really really want to be the one to produce that toaster-fridge (see the Clockwise Podcast Episode 71), but definitely act on the small ideas that can snowball the change that you want in your life. Tell others about your plans to volunteer, to write more, to start learning about astrophysics, you never know who may also be interested in the same thing, and who can point you in new directions and build new bridges and connections for you. And once you start telling people who share common interests, they will check up with you, and hold you to your word to help give you more motivation to actualize your idea.

A Novel Beginning

This blog is my common place book. An idea I first came across while reading Paul Jun’s blog at Motivatedmastery.com. I loved the idea of naming this blog Novel Learning because this collection is of all the interesting and important discoveries I make while reading. Not just novels, but self-help books (I’m not too cool to say I don’t read them) science books, biographies, and even good old fashioned murder mystery novels.  I read by Kindle and by paper back, and everything I highlight, scribble in the margins, or just spend all day thinking about, I plan to record here, in my novel common place blog. The idea for a common place book is as old as Marcus Aurelius, so the idea itself is not novel, but the idea of learning from books and combining it into a blog feels a bit novel for a young millenial.
The first passage I find highlighted in the Kindle is from January 8th, and I am pretty sure I read it in San Francisco on a work training trip. It reads, “Do you really want a couch and a couple of dressers to keep you from what could be the best experience of your life?” This passage comes from Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage by Allison Vesterfelt. I first heard of the book while working at my previous job and listening to a podcast hosted by Erik Fisher called Beyond the To Do List. In the episode Allison talked about letting go, building bridges, taking leaps, and how to do exactly what the title says, live life with fewer things. The passage above to me speaks about how attached we can get to things, ideas, desires, and memories. Recently this has been a huge theme in my life, and I am grateful for reading Allison’s book. It really spoke to the importance of being able to move on and evolve without feeling constrained by things that we place on ourselves. There are certainly constraints that we all have that we can not just let go of, but by stepping back and examining what we are holding on to, and what is holding us back, sometimes we find that we an move forwards when we decide to let go.
For now I am going to cut this first blog post short. But I have many more passages and quotes from Allison’s book on the way. I plan to examine each and write my thoughts on each passage that I read. This will give me an opportunity to reflect on what I read back in January, reprocess it, and see how I have or have not applied it to my life. I can’t wait to share, and remember what I have learned.
J.A.