Eclipsing 40

I sit atop this hill, soaking in the darkness of a total lunar eclipse, verbally dictating this short reflection to celebrate my own 40th trip around the Sun.

As our pale blue dot moved between the moon and our closest star, I first noticed the moving shadow’s blurry edge. As I think about the time we spend on Earth, so much of it is devoted to finding our place in the universe. Even when we are so close to perfect alignment, the blur of subtle distractions will remain constant.

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Perhaps this transitory quest for totality is the impossible pursuit that makes life so much fun.

Anticipation takes over as the final sliver of moonlight goes dark. The orange haze of this blood moon is now the only cloud in the sky. Even with the cool breeze, city lights, distant traffic, and frogs burping, the twinkling stars seem to serenade the silence of this moment. As the darkness holds time still, an eerie peacefulness is accompanied by a welcomed loneliness.

My thoughts soon sync into the shadow of this cosmic darkness. This makes it useless to resist the overwhelming appreciation I have for so many people who have given my life meaning. The past 40 years are a tribute to those who brought me to this place and to the family I’ve chosen every step of the way. Thank you.

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Jodie and Kate, you are the light of my life and my own totality. Together, you set me free to wonder and have taught me the meaning of life. I’m only 40 years old, so while I look forward to much more of our story being written, whenever I do turn my final page, know that I’ll always be with you and wouldn’t have changed a single thing. I appreciate these quiet tears, knowing that my greatest achievement will always be the honor of being part of US forever.

Within the darkness of totality, I’m soon struck by the discomfort I feel, not knowing when the moonlight may return. We’ve all heard how dark it is before the dawn, yet it still feels natural to consider things that have not gone to plan. Accepting past failures, broken relationships, and the future challenges we may face was not an expected emotion, but perspective determines how we respond. I’m thankful that it’s hard to think of anyone who may need to hear this, but if I’ve ever wronged you in anyway, I want to say that I am sorry and only wish the best for you.

As the first sliver of moonlight returns, eminence joy and assuring enthusiasm seemed to rush over my mind and body. It was as if the light of our cherished moon had never been brighter. The subsiding shadow of our planet slowly released moonlight back into the night sky, which lit renewed optimism for all that is still to come.

I am so blessed to have brewed 40 remarkable years into this life. As the full moon shown brighter than ever, so will my appreciation for all that we share.

Anxiety

Our mind is divine. It gives everyone super powers and the dots we electrochemically connect makes us human. Such biological capacity allows us to achieve extraordinary things. At the same time, this mysterious grey matter can also hold us back, even cause havoc.

Anxiety is assuming failure in advance. As a mental cousin to fear, anticipation, worrying, and perhaps even desire, anxiety is like an unspoken agreement you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. While some may argue that this exhausting emotion is all in your head, the way anxiety effects your body can be absolutely real.

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“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben, Spider-Man

The connected era has made the world smarter, stronger, and more efficient, but the pressure of never-ending progress leaves us vulnerable to fear and anxiety. For those who pursue greatness (which I might suggest is anyone reading this), the more we try to achieve, the tighter we wind the strings of life. When harnessed, this creates strength, artistry, grit, and persistence. As the tension tightens however, there’s bound to be a break. Being mindful of your personal bandwidth will help reduce the frequency and severity of such breakdowns, but it seems impossible to completely avoid anxiety.

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Accepting that anxiety is inevitable, may be a secret to finding equanimity.

The most common way we attempt to manage such angst, is to stop the pain by seeking reassurance. The nourishment of overthinking every scenario in an unknown future may satisfy  the moment, but scratching this itch usually makes things worse. Even if we answer every possible question, the willingness to indulge the worry sets a precedent that keeps you coming back to what can become an endless loop.

It’s much harder, but an alternate approach is to acknowledge the suffering. Don’t run from it. Appreciate the relentless internal narrative you’re dealing with. Breathe. Be thankful for having something you care this much about. Find peace knowing you’ve done your best to tip odds in your favor, but invite doubt and welcome an opportunity to be wrong. The anxiety is here and it’s dramatic, but it’s also normal. Let thoughts float by, focus your attention on what’s good, and allow time to heal the pain. Yes, this is like letting a forest fire burn without soothing it with water. It will get wild at first, but eventually burn itself out. The scorched land is then ripe for renewal and less likely to burn again. When we acknowledge anxiety this way, the resulting clarity provides an awareness that helps us understand this energy. Our courage also helps to break the cycle and over time, often reduces the frequency of such misery.

The ability to appreciate anxiety, an eagerness to lean on those who support you, and confidence in knowing the temporary pain will pass, allows the mind to need less dramatic swings to stay centered.

Dark Matter

Something that looks like nothing can still create gravitational effects.

Invisible forces may not get as much attention as the shining stars of our evening sky, but they fill our universe and impact everything. This metaphorical dark matter may be a misguided mindset. Maybe it’s an experience that altered the trajectory of your life. Perhaps it’s a habit, a relationship, or a mysterious feeling you often sense, but don’t yet understand?

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“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” –@NeilTyson

No matter how your own dark matter manifests itself, the gravity it wields will attract the light of your life. As the renewing energies of Spring begin to bloom, we’re invited to look up and reflect on dark matter that may be pulling us in the wrong direction. Even the slightest reduction on a negative charge, creates a refreshing void that welcomes positive growth.

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Let’s stir in a friendly welcome and thanks again to all who tap into this weekly blog for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, educators, students, and community builders! After the release of YDNTB in 2021, the soon-to-be minted NFT collection commemorating its one year anniversary, and now 67 consecutive weeks writing into these Roasted Reflections, my hope is that this innovative energy keeps us all creating art in ways that feel like play to you, but looks like work to others. Stay curious and keep building!

Serendipitist

Do things always seem to work out for you?

Our internal narratives and external experiences make the cultural consequences of serendipity hard to refute. Serendipity may be pseudoscientific, but it makes sense that things we dedicate our focus and attention to, naturally attracts more of the same.

This mental model can be established in many ways. For me, the appetite for welcoming serendipitous collisions has been brewed from the eternal optimism that an entrepreneurial lifestyle constructs. No matter the source, I believe many of us are, or have the potential to be serendipitists.

Serendipitists seek adventures that invite, sometimes even require different layers of serendipity. The extend at which you control what you’re able to control (a dichotomy within stoicism), while also letting the winds of happenstance guide you through a sense of abundance, determines how often/deeply we experience this charming phenomenon.

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What’s normal for a spider, is chaos for the fly.

In the moment, not everything will work out. This is why serendipitists are often confused with just being lucky. Serendipity and luck both require preparation, openness, and opportunity. The difference between serendipity and luck, is perseverance. Over time, serendipitists share similar energies within their practice.

Serendipitists say “yes” more often.
Serendipitists consistently show up.
Serendipitists assume positive intent.
Serendipitists seek to understand.
Serendipitists are empathetic.
Serendipitists are generous.
Serendipitists stay curious.
Serendipitists fuel positive change.
Serendipitists play long-term games.
Serendipitists have fun and die empty.

As we experience serendipity, celebrate it. Recognize the random awesomeness that comes from the positivity you squeeze into the universe. Continue connecting dots, appreciate how things come together, and keep making a ruckus to feel it even more.

Airport Foot Massage

I’m not a huge fan of scripted ice breakers, but one that caught my attention, invites people to share something that others in the group may not know about you.

There are many ways to approach such a prompt, but a fun response I once threw in the mix, was my unassuming indulgence of foot massages in airports. There’s something luxurious about having your tired feet rubbed while endless strangers pass by, lol! Along with a very public layer of mental relation, the tightness of your body is basically fixed after a conference, golfcation, snowboarding, or any time you had fun while being away on travel.

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Now that you’re smiling, and also secretly planning to try this next time you fly, follow along to reflect on how we approach our endless transitions.

The thought of “transition” came to mind when a recent airport masseuse was melting my feet into mashed potatoes. The subtle tension of this mini moment arrived as the artisan prepared to switch from one foot to the next. There was an undercurrent of disappointment in that one foot’s rub was coming to end, yet this feeling disappeared when the next foot received its first touch of attention. This is quite a stretch, haha, but this tiny transition made me want to explore these kaleidoscopic moments.

Unconscious transitions are constantly happening all around us, yet some transitions bring forth extra weight or take more time than expected. The path for a smooth transition will be different for every situation, but here’s one tactic to try as you navigate your next transition: Acknowledge the past, then use the present to concentrate energy toward what’s next.

This seems obvious, but such centering can be challenging, as the ego often tries to pull us back to what we may be leaving behind. To surpass these ornery moments, take immediate action toward your forthcoming future.

For example, I think back to when we were first building the Regional Rep role for 1 Million Cups. I remember how hard it was transitioning out of my role as a lead 1MC organizer within the local startup community I care so much about. I had loved organizing 1MC in Des Moines for so many years, and every Wednesday morning felt like a ritual that never got old. As I transitioned into my expanded responsibility, whenever a sense of lose or thoughts of “what if” arose, I took abrupt action. Instead of dwelling on the comfort of what I was stepping away from, I twisted toward my own next. In these moments of uncertainty, I left a sense of lose behind by brewing new connections with more 1MC organizers I was excited to support/connect in the new Regional Rep role. This progressive action helped build relationships and a lot of constructive momentum. Over time, what first felt transitional, soon became my practice. This clarified my new role while also providing space to evolve for the new 1MC organizing team in Des Moines.

Wow. That was over four years ago! I’ll always be a 1MC organizer in Des Moines, but that progressive action helped me move forward and released personal bandwidth needed to help build my new role with the Kauffman Foundation. Fast forward to now. I’m still an active 1MC attendee here in Iowa, but I’m also blessed to collaborate with hundreds of remarkable community builders, ecosystem builders, and 1MC organizers throughout all 12 states that make up @1MCMidwest. Even more, after years of complex work with 1MCHQ and the other four Regional Reps, #1MCNation is now more aligned and supported within it’s connected era. As with most ventures, there will always be more to do and everything will continue to evolve, but it’s such a gift knowing so many lifelong friends are enjoying coffee every Wednesday morning, in over a hundred 1MC communities nationwide.

Hopefully the lighthearted ice breaker, followed by that oddly connected reflection, inspires you to stay energized as you grow from within your next transition.

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here’s a telepathic gift. Think back to when you enjoyed a relaxing massage, yoga, workout, or meditation. Alright, in that peaceful state of mind, close your eyes and enjoy five deep breaths. Ahhh…alright, get back to building.