#9 – You Don’t Fit In a Box

This is #9 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


Sometimes I wear a button down, sometimes a hoodie.

I go to church every weekend.

Almost every weekend.

I love to sing and have been doing so since I was 14 years old, in choirs, in a band and as a soloist (weddings, funerals).

I would like to be better at math. I don’t plan on doing anything about this.

I read poetry. Not every day, but a lot.

I write poetry. Not a lot, but sometimes.

Health is one of my most important values. I work out almost every day. It keeps my brain happy.

I’m effective as a teacher and speaker.

I’m also a good listener.

I daydream about making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (The Way) and of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail.

I am no good after 9:30 pm.

I’m good at my job but my impact is tough to measure.

I take consolation in other measurable things: yard work, folding laundry and doing the dishes.

I have my wisdom teeth but have not seen any advantage in that department.

I feel vulnerable most days.

I am a very confident person.

I cherish being outside, moving along a trail.

My dad had Alzheimer’s. I’m scared that I will get it, too.

I’m an extrovert and I love being alone.

I’m a 49-year-old white male who cries easily and always watches the UFC highlights.

Don’t put me in a box. I don’t fit.

I’ll work hard to remember the same about you.


little boy crying inside a box

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#8 – Take a break

This is #8 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes,
including you.”

– Anne Lamott


If you are reading this on Sunday afternoon, I hope it’s from an easy chair or the sofa. I hope you’ve just returned from a hike, or even a walk around the neighborhood with your pup. Or maybe you just popped in from the garden for a glass of water (a cold beer?!) and took a quick peek at your phone.

I hope you are taking some time today to reconnect to activities you love and to recharge by taking some time to read for pleasure, to call a friend, to watch a great movie. You need that time. We all do.

If you struggle to slow down, you’re not alone. Dividing up a two-day weekend between activities, commitments and relaxation can be tough. The truth is that we are pretty lousy at giving ourselves permission to step away from the grind of our responsibilities.  A quick search reveals that in 2018, the US workforce allowed 768 million vacation days to go unused. Approximately 70% of employees did not use all of the time they had coming to them.

That’s both a waste and a shame especially when it’s a safe bet that you aren’t going to be sitting around in 10 years telling stories about how great it was to do more work when you could have used that time to do anything but.

For our sanity, for our health, for our families, and just for fun, we have to do better. You can start this weekend. There’s just enough time.


woman lying on blanket under man on her legs holding hands during golden hour

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Poem for a Sunday Morning

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade 
{Brad Aaron Modlin}

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.


art background batch blackboard

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#7 – Get Moving

This is #7 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


I feel an energized anticipation when I am getting ready to move.

I feel engaged – challenged, curious, motivated – when I am in motion.

I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, stimulated, creative, purposeful, accomplished, and unstoppable when I return and come to rest again.

Some version of this is true whether it’s a sniff walk with the dog, an aggressive uphill run or a long meander on a forest trail.

I am not made for sitting at a desk for long stretches, though moments of insight, inspiration and even revelation do occur there.

I have determined, however, that those moments occur at a frequency proportionate to the quality of movement that I practice when I am not there.

There is no doubt at all that how well I work, and how affirmatively I live my life, depends on my resolve to get and to keep moving.


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#6 – You Are Creative

This is #6 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”



There is no such thing as creative and non-creative people, only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.

— Brené Brown


Say to a room full of 1st graders, “Raise your hand if you are creative” and every hand goes up.

Say to a room of college students (in this case, business school students but I find it true for most adults), “Raise your hand if you are a creative” and about 10% will raise their hands.

What’s the difference? At a certain point in our development and our concurrent passage through traditional educational systems we are taught that creative expression is no longer valuable, that it is disconnected from skill and knowledge acquisition. This is not universally true, of course, and there have been rigorous efforts to change this model.

But we’re not there yet, not by a long shot.

This is a serious problem. First, because of the wholesale belief in a patently false narrative of personal devaluation. And second, because organizations consistently describe creativity as essential to their sustainability.

But back to you.

You may not paint or draw, read or write poetry or care much for museums. You may not play an instrument or design landscape features. None of these is large enough to contain your creativity.

You are creative because you are alive in the world, and by being so you engage the world, one decision, one challenge, one relationship, one opportunity at a time, every single day.

You can’t do that without creativity.

The 6-year-old inside of you knows this and is just waiting to introduce it to you once again. All you’ve got to do is invite them out to play.


brown wooden animal figurines on white table

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#5 – Speak Your Aspirations

This is #5 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For”



Declaring what you want requires courage.

It takes a lot of vulnerability to name a goal, especially a big one. Once you do so, you’re on the hook to follow through, and that is the moment that separates fantasy from reality.

And no one can help you until you do.

And the thing it took me a very long time to learn is that people want to help. People will and do help once they know what you are hoping/trying to accomplish.  

Do you aspire to write a book? You can suffer in silence or you can spread the word. Telling people about it doesn’t free you from the responsibility to sit down and write, but it may unlock a community of support, a wealth of resources, a path through the maze of a difficult process.

And it’s the same for starting a company, turning pro, leading a team, running a marathon, inventing a product. The courage to name a goal like that is the courage to trust that once you do so, “mighty forces will come to your aid.” (Basil King)

But what if you let them down? What if you fail? What if change your mind? I can only offer what experience has taught me about that: you pick yourself up and move on.

You name your next aspiration, tell the world about it, and get to work.


grayscale photograph of a hook hitch

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#4 – Know Your Strengths

Between now and March 22, I am happy to share “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


What are you doing when you are at your best?

What are you doing when you feel the most accomplished, competent and confident? What are you doing when you feel energized, when time flies by, when your work is not work but a natural extension of yourself?

As you answer these questions, you are describing your strengths.

And your ability to do so – with clarity and conviction – is the best chance you have to make sure you get to use them as much as possible.

We are shy about our strengths. There is a common cultural conditioning to be experts at naming our deficiencies and novices at naming our gifts. This is a huge mistake, a massive cultural gap that will only narrow when you and I decide that it’s not just ok but necessary to name, to own, and to live out the very best of who we are.

We too often defer to others – especially authority figures, especially bosses – to tell us what we should be good at. Some know better than to do this but most do not. And so, it’s our responsibility to define them first so that we can be our own best advocates for doing more fulfilling work and living more fulfilling lives. It’s our responsibility to make it clear so that we can teach others how to work with us for mutual and sustainable success.

If after reading this you are scratching your head, wondering what your strengths are, go ask a few trusted colleagues and friends. Go ask them for examples of when you are at your best. Ask them to describe your strengths. And then listen, really listen, and trust what you hear.

The sooner you do so, the sooner you’ll give up on the temptation to fit the square peg of yourself into the round hole of that “great” opportunity. The sooner you do so, the sooner you’ll discover the consolation of awareness that leads to insight, and the insight that leads to action.


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#3 – Know Your Values

Between now and March 22, I am happy to share “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


Our values guide our decision-making. Clear values make it possible for us to assess any significant question (Should I move there? Take that job? Work with/for those people? Build a stronger relationship with this person? Fight for this idea? Spend my money on this initiative, project or idea?) and make a decision that resonates as true and appropriate to who we are and what we stand for. It’s the feeling of clarity, especially with the big decisions, that allows us to get to sleep at night once we’ve made them.

Your values, whether you understand them explicitly or not, are always at work. One simple way to find this out is to do a monthly review of your calendar and your bank statements. Undoubtedly, you will see a pattern of time and money spent that reflects your value system.

For example, if you notice a lot of time spent at the gym and a regular investment in workout gear, chances are you value fitness or health or wellness, however you choose to name it.

If you love to exercise but notice that you only ever do it with your friends and family, chances are that in addition to valuing fitness you also value relationships or community or an active social life, again however you choose to name it.

So, let’s run a little further with this idea that you are a person who, above all else, values your health and your relationships. Along comes an opportunity to advance within your company. This new role brings an expanded and exciting set of responsibilities, along with the requirement that you travel four days a week, three weeks out of every month.

Knowing your values of health and relationships does not mean that you would refuse the new work opportunity outright but it would help you to evaluate it in a more thoughtful and comprehensive way. You might take it as a challenge to get creative with your exercise and eating habits on the road. You might also invest more energy in coming up with new connection opportunities with friends and family both while you’re on the road and off it.

You might also decide that the new opportunity will satisfy another one of your values, let’s call it achievement, and that for the next six months you are going to allow that value to supersede the others, while keeping an eye on what happens to your health and relationships. You might decide, of course, not to take the job because achievement has never been as important to you as health and relationships. 

Whatever you decide, the point is that you know how to think about this decision, both critically and emotionally. You can do so because you have taken the time to conduct a values inventory, to identify, define and rank your values in a way that makes them readily available as perhaps the most important tool in your life management toolbox.

It takes courage to name and live your values. Doing so means that in addition to saying “yes” to a handful of core beliefs, you must also say “no” to many others. This can feel isolating, especially when others choose values that are not the same as your own. But over time it is nothing less than energizing and powerful to live a life that is guided by what matters most to you.

To me, this is the path to mature and lasting happiness.


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#2 – Change Starts Within

Between now and March 22, I am happy to share “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”


If I could only write about one thing it would be this: all meaningful, sustainable change starts from within.

For so many years I blamed my parents, my bosses, my siblings, my friends, my children, and even perfect strangers for my inability to get, to be, to have what I most desperately wanted.

I blamed them because I was not ready to accept responsibility for myself. I was not ready to accept the truth that I was the only one standing in the way of becoming the person I knew I could be, feeling the sense of security, composure and equanimity I knew I could feel.

I blamed them because that was much easier to do than to accept the fact that my old patterns of compensation were no longer enough, no longer capable of supporting my facade of competence and composure.

As many have said, “You are not responsible for what you received as a child but, as an adult you are 100% responsible for fixing it.”

When I finally did, the world opened up to me as it never had before. I found possibilities and experienced freedoms I never knew existed, because I was able to put to rest the old hurts that kept me from becoming myself.

All meaningful and sustainable starts from within.


green mountains and flowing river

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#1 – Read More Poetry

Between now and March 22, I am happy to share “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”



“Poetry is language against which we have no defenses.”

{David Whyte}

Do you know that feeling, that feeling of something being so overwhelmingly right and clear that you have no words to describe it? That’s what poetry’s for.

Do you know that feeling of being so immeasurably sad, grief-stricken and broken that you have no words to describe it? That’s what poetry’s for.

Do you know that feeling of being so overwhelmed with awe and wonder at the creation that surrounds you? That’s what poetry’s for.

Poetry is how we fill in the space between what we can explain and what we cannot. It is how we make sense of the in-between, our thresholds, our liminal space. It is how we celebrate what we do not know or understand. It is how we ground our self in our not knowing.

Poetry belongs in the bedroom and the boardroom. It belongs around the dinner table, at the cafe and in the classroom. It belongs in the hardest conversations when we are utterly vulnerable as well as in the most joyful ones when we are, yet again, utterly vulnerable. It belongs at every wedding and funeral and birthday and breakfast.

Poetry is the stuff of life, the language equivalent of our very lifeblood.

Here are a few recommendations for getting more poetry into your daily, working, living, feeling life. Please, please use them. It will be – it is – a far better world when we do.



“I’m less interested in people respecting poetry. I’m really interested in people realizing that poetry respects them.”
{Pádraig Ó Tuama}

woman sitting while reading a book

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