Tag Archives: identity

The Friday Edition: Following A Vision, Creating A Legacy

3 Dec

I noticed I get a lot of continual readers from my Boston University Alumni group, which thrills me!  I follow BU’s Alumni updates on Facebook, and this morning they posted an intriguing story about 4 BU students who formed a rock band in 1964.  And although Barry and the Remains’ tenure on the Boston music scene lasted a mere two years, their following was so popular that they were invited to be on Ed Sullivan and open for the Beatles!  Today, fans still wonder if these guys, had they continued on, could have been the next (or first) Rolling Stones, or something of the like.  Not bad for a few college guys in Allston.  Now, out of focus for the better part of four decades, they’re being inducted into the  Boston Music Awards Hall of Fame, joining the likes of fellow Boston rockers Mission of Burma and a little known quintet called Aerosmith.

And sure, I’m probably still wearing my theoretical red and white hockey jersey and beaming with alumni pride for my alma mater, but I read this blurb and I had a thought.  What are we each doing today, socially, professionally and creatively, to build our own legacy for tomorrow? What do we want that legacy, and our impact on our community to look like?   And how can we take steps to start forming that today?

In an age of instant gratification and having the world at our fingertips, many of us tend not to look 40 years ahead in the future with real clarity, or even regard.  But at the same time we have higher goals, or vision, of what we want to create for ourselves professionally and personally, than extend beyond tomorrow.

Speaking of alma maters, last weekend I attended my 10-year high school reunion.  As I sat pondering scenarios of what everyone would be like a decade later, I said to the fiance, “Everyone’s going to ask me if I”m still

Could have been a great comic book artist.

drawing.”  Because that’s the legacy I created for myself  earlier in life, since the day I was able to hold a pencil.  I had good grades, stellar rollerblading skills and one terrible haircut circa late elementary school, but my artistic abilities were what people remembered about me, what stood out above any other  accomplishments or shortcomings.  I’m approaching 30, and the image I inadvertently created for myself at 10 still sticks like glue.  And it always will, and fortunately for me it’s a legacy I’m sincerely proud of.

At that young age, it would have been hard to fathom creating something so lasting and impactful on our idea of self, given our minimal life experience on earth as children.  Now as adults, it’s easier to understand how reputation and character are formed over time, by the actions we take and the decisions we make.

So what influences all those decisions and (re)actions?  When you think about your vision for your career, your relationship, your life, chances are the vision you have for yourself extends several decades into the future, simply because we want to build lasting, fulfilling results for ourselves that we can continue to build upon.  It’s okay to stumble along the way and find happiness & fulfillment by accident – many of us do.  But for the other many of us, we value careful consideration and planning when it comes to the direction of our personal and professional lives.  And while chance and unforeseen events will always be a part of that pathway, much as we try not to deviate, it’s important that we check in with ourselves regularly to make sure what we’re doing and creating is truly keeping us on that path toward our higher vision.

Because it’s easy to get sidetracked by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, to make bad decisions or take impulsive actions.  But what we can do when we recognize that negative shift is remind ourselves how committed we are to that vision, how important that legacy is to us, and then get back on the road.  Whether the vision is 4 months or 40 years ahead of us, keeping it in plain view each day will allow us to keep focus and create action and decisions in accordance with attaining that.

So what is your vision for living the best possible version of yourself? When you’re living that life, what kind of legacy will that allow you to create, and what will that say about you?  Food for thought, for the weekend.  Mmmm.

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Get Out of Their Head, and Into Your Own!

4 Oct

Everyone I know is trying to get into someone else’s head lately.  No one is concerned with the inner workings of their own psyche, at least not when there appears to be a plethora of confusing, cliche, emotionally-withheld and skeptical single men and


Photo by mitopencourseware on Flickr

women whom we can date and dissect psychologically until the cows come home.  Everyone I know wants to know, “What is he/she thinking?”

“What are you thinking?” The fiance asks me this as we’re sitting on the couch on a Friday evening, watching the 90s Alternative music channel.  More often than not, this question annoys me, and not by any fault of his, but mostly because I rarely know the answer.  This is due largely in part to my tendency to have 25 different thoughts running through my head at one time, and an unwillingness to commit

to just one as the dominant thought the moment, worth discussing.  Because then I wonder if he really wants me to start a discussion about whether Port Salut cheese is better with or without a dash of salt, and should I or should I not eat what’s left of it in the fridge with a couple of saltines?  Or maybe I should reserve the bit of information about “Step by Step” being my favorite New Kids on the Block song, as of not that long ago.

See, this is the dilemma.  There’s no one really interesting thought, just a bunch of small ones that give the illusion of me contemplating something really deep and noteworthy.

But the difference is that the fiance’s quest for this information and insight into my brain isn’t driven by his desire to uncover some breakthrough, some long-awaited clarity on how I feel about him.  He already knows this. He’s just curious as to why I’m staring blankly at a wall. And only when you can ask this question without the resulting answer determining your self-worth and your legitimacy as a potential partner…is it  safe to ask.

One good friend of mine is navigating a breakup while another is navigating a new relationship, and both want to know what the other parties in each of their situations is thinking.  In the case of the former, she feels that knowing exactly what he’s thinking about her (and how often) will better help her determine whether they’ll get back to together at some point, which will assumedly ease her feelings of loneliness and longing.  She’s made it all about him, and not her, which is more common than we like to admit.  We all do it. The other friend  wants to know what her partner is thinking so she can better determine whether they’ll STAY together. Again, we all do it, we all try to figure out our potential based on vague clues and references from the other party. The point is that both share the same inconclusive theme of “What does he want from me?”  And now here is the magical answer that will answer this every time for you without fail:  It doesn’t matter.

Here is why it doesn’t matter: Because no matter how well you know someone (or how manipulative you are), you absolutely cannot control either 1) what someone else thinks of or feels about you, and 2) how someone else reacts to any given situation.  If you want a great book on this and how you need only focus on “your 100% of what you bring to a relationship”, check out Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Mastery of Love”.  And he explains this theory in depth.  Of course, the answer here isn’t to just sit back and hope, it’s not to wait to see if the person echoes your sentiments and your desires to remain or become a couple.  It’s about understanding that every time you ask yourself “What is he/she thinking?” you are taking the control away from yourself, and giving it to someone else, whom you may barely even know.

When you give up control to someone else, whether it’s by becoming emotionally dependent upon a partner, a job, or allowing yourself to be manipulated in any way, you are putting yourself in the victim seat. Plain and simple. Trying to figure out what is going on in someone else’s mind or heart, so that you can feel better about yourself, the relationship or your future, is allowing yourself to be a victim at the hand of someone else.  Even if they didn’t ask for that control, you willingly gave it to them.  But luckily, it’s very easy to take it back.

And it’s important to note that when I say “regain control” that does not mean having the upper hand.  It simply refers to regaining the control you have over you… not anyone else.  The mistake we commonly make upon entering a relationship is forgetting to clearly define to ourselves what we want out of this potential partnership.  Unlike relationships, we do typically do this with jobs…we figure out what industry we want to work in, what our core strengths and talents are that we bring to the table, the types of people we want to immerse ourselves in, the desired outcome, etc.  So why do we throw values to the wind when it comes to seeking a successful, fulfilling relationship, and instead just rely on hope that it turns into what we want?  Why are we not asking ourselves first and foremost, “What do I want out of this relationship… and does this person fit into that which will support my objectives?” Instead we assume we’re the ones that need to prove our worth and fit into their picture.  This is why so many relationships fail – we don’t set any expectations, for our partners, and more importantly for ourselves.

Just think – if you know confidently what you are looking for in a person and what you need out of a relationship to feel fulfilled, energized, motivated and loved, won’t it be much easier to determine whether it feels right, rather than trying to decode their every thought, movement and word?  This isn’t an invitation to be close-minded, or saying that you will be happy if you’re committed to only dating a guy who is 5’10, makes X dollars as a pediatric surgeon and says things like “I completely understand how you feel…please, tell me more.” It’s about establishing your non-negotiables, the underlying aspects of a person and a relationship that you want and need, that are based on your values.  These are the  things you’re not willing to bend on – like monogamy, or someone who is legitimately interested in a serious relationship that has long-term potential.  But do be aware that once you know what you want, you’re not wasting your time trying to mold someone else who’s not on the same page as you, into the ideal partner that they’re not.  Be honest with yourself.  If the shoe doesn’t fit, there are a million other pairs potentially more flattering.

So start by asking yourself these revealing questions:

  • What does a successful relationship look like to me?
  • What do I need from someone to feel appreciated and loved?
  • What are my non-negotiables?
  • What level of commitment am I looking for right now at this stage of my life?
  • What qualities does the person I want to be with possess?
  • What am I currently tolerating, or have I tolerated in the past, that I won’t tolerate going forward?
  • What excites me about a person?
  • If I found this person, am I in a position to give to them what I want them to give to me?

I can give you a bunch more, if you want.  But the general idea here is to construct your own vision of your  successful relationship, to build awareness and confidence around that, know that you deserve it, and then be able to use that vision as a foundation for moving forward.  Knowing what you want and need eliminates that typical early-on scenario of the blind leading the blind, where neither person knows what page you’re on, what the other person wants, or what’s okay or not okay to say.  And yes, being the one to stand up and admit what you need can be scary, as you’re essentially putting yourself on the line, hoping the other person accepts you for that.  But know that our fears of doing this simply stem from our own  limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves as a partner, or about what we think other people expect of us.  They’re not necessarily true, but they certainly hold us back.  What are those limiting beliefs keeping you from voicing what you need, even if it’s just to yourself?  They exist…we all have them.  It’s time to break them down.

Drop the labels, drop the rules.  Know your relationship vision and stick to your plan.  Leave room to improvise, of course, but build that awareness around where you’re coming from and where you want to go, and you will eliminate that feeling of being at the mercy of someone else all the time, and the god-awful  drudgery of trying to decode someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  Because that should be the fun part – finding someone who really compliments you, some in ways you’ve always wanted, and in ways you never even know you needed.  Personally, I think relationships are self-discovery at its best.  And the next time someone asks you “What are you thinking?” maybe it’s not a bad idea to <gasp>… let them know.  For the love of God, (and hopefully the love of someone else) get out of their head and into your own.  If you’re like most people, you already have your work cut out for you there.

To Have it All…Is to Move Diagonally.

28 Jul

Yesterday I celebrated my one year anniversary with my fiance, Adam.  We hit up our favorite Indian restaurant in the East Village, followed by a trip to Whole Foods, and ending with a couple of beers at this great little old-timey tavern nestled in a corner of Boerum Hill in Brooklyn.  I love Brooklyn folks – no matter where you go, it’s always Friday for someone, and my oh my, do they appreciate their local craft beer.  Very economically-minded.

Some folks at the 12-month mark in their relationship might find themselves still contemplating whether to introduce their significant other to their crazy family.  Adam and I, on the other hand, are planning a wedding – so I supposed I did something right.  Truthfully though, things moved quickly and happily because when we met, we had hit it off so well (we both appreciate talking about HTML) and after a steady string of dating people not right for either of us (me), we just knew what we wanted, and that the other had it, hands-down.  And after nearly 30 years of filing Single-and-1 on my W4, I’m pretty satisfied with the present outcome.  Relationships are hard work!  So are jobs.  I have days where, combined with how I’ve managed to balance the other important areas of my life – career, friendships, family, money, creative endeavors- I’m very satisfied with where I am, and it’s like I’m on top of the world.  Other days though… it’s still a work in progress.  And I’m fine with that!

See, hitting this “one year” mark, while initially symbolic of the healthy lifeline of my relationship, is pretty significant for me in a lot of ways.  Because it’s really the year anniversary of many successful changes that I’ve made in my life in a short amount of time – changing cities, lifestyles, relationships, financial status and essentially careers.  And while I’m beyond satisfied and proud of my accomplishments, as I said earlier, I try to always remember that it continues to be a work in progress.  And it’s going to be…for a very…long…time.

How are we currently balancing our lives?  Are we progressing along a diagonal line of balance, or simply laterally or upwards (one or the other)?  What I mean by simply upwards, is the act of thinking just about the next step, and then the next big thing after that, and what we want after that (thinking upwards, essentially)?  When we do that, are we omitting the importance of allowing ourselves some lateral movement, the days where we’re not moving up… we’re just being… just enjoying where we are and what we have, before we attempt to make the next jump or climb the next step?  Conversely, are we overly content with moving COMPLETELY laterally, or on a straight, flat sideways line, without any plans to move upwards toward something bigger, a better self, and just accepting complacency as a way of life?  Both are extremes, but if you balance lateral movement (the everyday enjoyment and being) with upward movement (the achieving and moving forward with your goals), you have diagonal movement.  And that’s exactly what I said it was – balance between being and doing.

On the days where I’m clearly doing more upward movement than lateral being, I certainly feel it, and it comes in the form of burnout, frustration and feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.  But that doesn’t happen often, because I’ve learned how to identify when I’m moving too quickly on that upward road and putting myself in danger of getting to that catabolic place.  The red light goes off, and when I feel myself going that direction of upward burnout, I slow down, and go back to being… being in and around the things that I appreciate and make up the authentic individual that I am. For me, it’s art, music and enjoying the company of close friends and family in environments that offer the kind of positive, uplifting energy I thrive upon.  And then I get back to work.

So what’s your acceptable incline?  At what degree of diagonal movement do you feel balanced?  90 degrees is complete upward movement, while zero degrees is complete lateral movement.  For me, I’d say right now I’m around 60 degrees, because while I enjoy simply being the things I love and taking time to enjoy them, I also thrive on the thrill of my business, my customers and coming up with fresh new ideas to move that forward.  Some days I might feel more like 40 degrees, like on Friday, when I will be at the beach all day in New Jersey, winding down with my best friend and taking a day completely devoted to fun, sun and beachey cocktails.  Maybe I’ll even go 35.

My Visual Interpretation

It all comes down to one thing – balance.  It means balancing the different areas of your life that are all equally important, equally prioritized, and to which you are equally devoted.  Whether it’s your job/career, your relationship, your hobbies or your down time with your friends, each of those things has a uniquely important place in your life, and needs continual nurturing.  It’s an ongoing process, and we are never quite done, because so long as we are living, it is possible to throw it off balance by investing too much or too little energy in one area or another.  And we do it everyday, sometimes unknowingly.  After all, we’re only human.

So what do you do each day to make sure that you are currently in, and staying in balance?  Are you doing a check-in with yourself to make sure you’re fostering each of your important life interests?  Are you working too hard at a dead-end job, or focusing all your time on your new career venture, and unknowingly neglecting your friends or significant other in the process?  Are you, in this case, pushing yourself upward too quickly in the act of “doing, doing, doing” and not being?  Conversely, are you not doing ENOUGH to achieve your career goals, moving further and further laterally each day in sheer complacency because you feel burned out, and not reevaluating your game plan to incorporate more “doing”, more upward movement?  There’s no rule that dictates that if something in your life isn’t working for you (like your job search tactics or your dating habits), that you can’t take it upon yourself to make modifications that will lead to a better outcome.  As my former boss LOVED to say on every conference call, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”  Think about it.  And today, figure out ONE thing you can do, RIGHT NOW, to get yourself back to 45 degrees… and then grow from there.

Creating Awareness Around What We Never See Coming

23 Jul

The other night I joined some friends for leisurely activities in the Lower East Side.  After completing our “20 minute walk” from Washington Square Park, which realistically was more like 45 minutes in 90 degree weather, we arrived to find the restaurant we were planning on going to closed.  So while we formulated plan B, we waited for another member of our entourage to arrive.  When she did, she was frazzled and distraught.

On the way to the restaurant I had been informed in bits and pieces what had happened earlier that day to my friend-of-a-friend.  She had been traveling several weeks earlier in South America, and feared that while she was there she had forgotten to log out of her email account while in an internet cafe, and now someone had hacked her email  account, changed her password, and emailed all of her contacts soliciting money.  Posing as the young woman, the assailant contacted friends, family and work colleagues explaining that she had lost her wallet whilst traveling in London and needed immediately to be wired money from the US, so that she could pay her hotel bill and fly home.  And the worst part?  While perhaps it’s reassuring to know that she had a number of contacts willing to help her out financially, several of them were all but a keystroke away from divulging their own credit card and bank account information to a third party thief.  Including the CEO of her company!

Unfortunately, be forewarned that it is close to impossible in a situation such as this to convince your email carrier that your account has been hacked.  She tried.  Several faltered attempts.  And without sufficient physical evidence of these activities, which she couldn’t provide because she no longer had access to her account, GMail would not shut off the account.  A complete stranger with less than innocent intentions now had complete access to her friends, family & employer’s contact info, her personal emails to and from her ex-boyfriend, contacts for which she was utilizing to apply to new jobs, and her online bill pay information.  In other words, all the relevant ingredients for a professionally crippling case of identity theft.

In an age where many of us take for granted our enormous range of access to information at our fingertips, we also take for granted the security of everything we put out there.  Whether it’s your contact information, your personal life plastered all over Facebook, or your credit card information with every online transaction we make, we so detrimentally assume the “it can’t happen to me” attitude.  Ladies & gentlemen… NOT TRUE!

I had to leave shortly after our acquaintance joined us, and so I’m not yet privvy to the details of any kind of resolution to the situation, but I can imagine she’s in no easy spot right now as far as damage control.  And you – are you aware of what you’re putting out there to a bevvy of virtual strangers on a daily basis?  Does all of New York City know that you’re on vacation for the next 6 days in Cabo and not even your dog is at home because your best friend is taking care of him while you’re away?  Are you opening up the doors to your apartment and welcoming the neighborhood to come in and snoop around wherever they want, so to speak, because you left your Facebook account logged in at the bubble tea cafe? Or maybe it’s just your jealous coworker emailing your less-than-appropriate IM conversations to you boss because you rushed out of the office to meet Cindy for drinks at 6 without logging off of your computer.  Wait- wait- one more- how about the TIME STAMP on your blog post that your coworkers and boss can access from your online profile.   Did you every think that might throw a red flag out there and screw you over?  Don’t laugh…it happens.  (Okay, you can still laugh, so long as it’s not happening to you.)

Let this be a lesson to all to create complete and total awareness around everything we do online, where we provide access to our information (internet cafes, work, other people’s computers, etc.) and how we present ourselves to the digital universe.  Whether or not you’re in the market for a new job, needless to say, it can all come back to bite you in the…

Have a great weekend!

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