the first thing

The first thing you do when you sit down at the computer…

Let me guess: check the incoming. Check email or traffic stats or messages from your boss. Check the tweets you follow or the FB status of friends.

You’ve just surrendered not only a block of time but your freshest, best chance to start something new.

If you’re a tech company or a marketer, your goal is to be the first thing people do when they start their day.

If you’re an artist, a leader or someone seeking to make a difference, the first thing you do should be to lay tracks to accomplish your goals, not to hear how others have reacted/responded/insisted to what happened yesterday.

– Seth Godin

Awesome reminder for my days ahead – that I should never start the morning reacting or responding to what happened yesterday. Instead, I shall learn to be quiet, to listen and think…

And in the midst of impossibilities, make dreams come true.

20 makeup artists. 7 stylists. 230 performers. 3 outrageous costumes. 1 team. It’s all coming together. And it all started with a dream. Wow. Who will I be at the end of these three weeks, and what I have I learnt?

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why doesn’t it ever end?

Simple.

‘The challenge with being an initiator of projects is that you are never, ever done.’ (Seth Godin)

Amidst mountains of projects and to-do lists, battling the rising fear that I am doing something wrong because work never ends, it’s comforting to know that my place is one of privilege. If we are given the powers to initiate projects, we have unwittingly signed on to a life that constantly looks ahead.

I am not done because my dreams and goals aren’t. Not because my time management sucks, or that God didn’t give me the energy and 36 hours in a day I need to complete everything.

It’s because I still believe.

what to do next

This is the most important decision in your career (or even your day).

It didn’t used to be. What next used to be a question answered by your boss or your clients.

With so many opportunities and so many constraints, successfully picking what to do next is your moment of highest leverage. It deserves more time and attention than most people give it.

If you’re not willing to face the abyss of choice, you will almost certainly not spend enough time dancing with opportunity.

– Seth Godin

Hot on the heels of my last post on lessons learned, I read this blinking light of a post by Seth Godin. And dear god, it’s like someone peered into my head and summed up all that I’m facing. What am I really going to do next? Dare I answer, I don’t know!

It’s a little tough when so many of life’s choices are not actually within my sphere to decide. But wait. Hold on. Am I giving myself excuses to shirk away from really deliberating over what I can do? Let’s start small:

I can decide what to do with my health. I am drinking close to 2 litres of water a day; a marked difference from my coffee and tea diet previously. And I have scheduled three runs for this week (dudes! you better not back out!). And I shall determine to sleep earlier. I need rest. So there. Health issues settled.

I can decide what to do with my current career. I am researching (okay, do conversations with people who’ve been there count?) and I am planning my schedule for the coming week, including a list of videos that I must watch because if I don’t feed, I can’t get inspired. I guess I could read a little more… (sniffle, bye bye magazines, hello thick boring books filled with technical jargon)

I can plan my finances a little better. I have avoided online shopping for a week. And haven’t actually bought anything off the racks for a while. I guess I could forgo my lattes, and cabs, and return my library books on time…

But ultimately, what do I want to do with this life I now have?

I want to get Seth Godin’s latest book We Are All Weird. Something about that title resonates with me…

state of wonder

Woke up, washed the night away.
Made food disappear, painted my face.
Smelt the rain, rode on wheels
Pulled strings together, just like I did before.
Is there something wonderful, every single day?

*

The less we see the world around us, the faster the day passes by. I only noticed this phenomenon today as I tried to fill in my personal time sheet for last week. It scared me that I simply could not remember what I did a mere four days before.

Awakened to the fact that my moments were well and truly buried in the grave, I began watching and living in the now, purposefully noting people’s mannerisms, the words they said, food we ate, the chair I sat on… and the oddest thing happened. I grew happier. People are such funny creatures…

What would it be like if I were to live in a perpetual state of wonder? I asked myself. Will the world become a colour-filled playground for my fantasies? Will I find myself exchanging distrust and cynicism for belief?

I’m not sure if there’s a point to this exercise, but I’m going to try. I’ll find one thing each day to be mesmerized with and hopefully, be able to document it here. There’s nothing to lose. After all… if nothing changes, I’m already familiar with this life I know as mine.

*

Interestingly, I chanced upon this post by Seth Godin, that also talked about wonder (and anger).

What caused you wonder today?

managing this project called life

I have searched high and low, spent hours on the internet reading reviews, downloaded, tested and deleted said downloads, but I haven’t found the perfect app to help me manage my life. Yes, I’m looking for a good project manager.

I used to have one. Her name was Kitty. But now that Kitty is managing other people’s lives… I am stuck with searching for a program to take her place. I’m not too demanding, I swear! All I need in the app is:

#1: A calendar that shows my current project timelines – all colour-coded by me, by choice. And within these projects, I need sub-folders with their own set of tasks & deadlines.

#2: It needs to be accessible by other people, and have the ability to remind us with alarms. Which leads to the third point…

#3: It must have a mobile version that can be synced with our iPhones. At this juncture, you’re probably thinking that there are so many apps out there that can do that. But hold on…

#4: It needs to have a beautifully designed interface. Why? Simple. If I have to look at graphs and boring charts, I won’t be motivated to actually use the program. Shallow maybe. But hey, at least I know how to inspire myself to work.

#5: As we are going to start using Clarizen in our department sometime in the near future, I didn’t want to pay exorbitant amounts of money for something that really, we were going to get free (although the interface is just absolutely boring). That basically limited my search to… oh… beta versions and free trials.

But I still needed to reign in my chaotic life. So with great determination, I started searching about a month ago for the app of my dreams, but sadly, haven’t yet found any that has hooked me in, making me want to use it.

My current solution?

iCal – it syncs beautifully with my mobile, is colour-coded and happily reminds me via alarms about my upcoming meetings. You have no idea how many times these alarms saved my ass. And it comes free with my Mac.

Klok – the only app I’ve used so far that makes me want to use it. It’s gorgeous. Seriously so. But it doesn’t have an iPhone version, only one for the Android. Bah! I’m using the free version that is limited to one user.

Awesome note – gorgeous for taking notes, setting to-do lists with alarms, archives tasks that I’ve already done and syncs with Evernote (that in turn syncs with both my laptop/mobile). But it can’t be shared with my team-mates.

*

Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.

– Jimmy Buffett

I have to admit, I did enjoy the search. I particularly enjoyed finding out about what works (or doesn’t), why that is so and how things can be improved. And while my personal life has come together with alarms going off every hour or so, my magpie-collection of apps still didn’t solve the issue of syncing our deadlines, updates and tasks as a team.

So putting all our brilliant minds together, we chose to do the next best thing we could do.

We went analog.

Paper + huge shared calendar + happy creatives who fill it in with marker pens, fonts of their choice, colours to suit our mood… don’t laugh but it actually works. And the lesson learnt?

There is no ultimate project manager application that can ever replace the human. And for that, I guess I can be thankful. We’ve still got our jobs.

*

Is something important because you measure it, or is it measured because it’s important?

Seth Godin

While hunting for the perfect app, I wondered about the importance of these additions to my personal life. I had, up till now, gotten by with my faithful organizer (and no, it’s not powered by a battery) for the past 15 years, and I’m still the sort that needs to edit things on paper. In fact, I like all things organic.

So why was I so hung up on searching for the perfect app? Was it a need to solve what was an intrinsically deeper problem – that I felt as if life was getting out of control and I needed some semblance of order?

Because finding the eye in the midst of my hurricane-life didn’t come with the installation of apps, wonderful as they are. No. Peace was found when I gave up wanting to be the person with the perfectly arranged life.

The quiet settled within when I, settled down with my flaws and decided I had nothing to prove.

And the apps? Well, they were just nice, pretty (and useful) things to have.

mad world

He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

– Rafael Sabatini

How often will two trains, on two completely different lines, fail the moment I am about to step in? Once on my way to work and the other, on my way home…

How often will cabs disappear when I need to get one?

How often will I walk out of the house on a warm day, wearing a cardigan & fishnet stockings?

How often will my fly be unzipped on my way to town?

How often will I make a Freudian slip and ask a total stranger to meet me at my place? Only to see him stammer in reply…

How often will I be woken up at 5.30am by the little girl, crying and asking for forgiveness because she’d stolen money from me?

Hopefully, not too often. It was a day filled with the most absurd of happenings. I threw my head back and laughed because like Akira Kurosawa said, ‘In a mad world, only the mad are sane.’

‘You truly believe that people always sing in life? Like in the musicals?’ Scooter Gal asked me.

‘Yes, I do.’ I smiled, before bursting into song for effect, and walking out, for drama.

*

I have this sense of impending doom. I know it’s largely due to the fact that the event is drawing closer and I have less than three weeks to see it all pulled together. The demands are quiet but strong, and while I can still laugh and find the humour in it all, I feel a little terrified. Like I always do.

‘What is your greatest fear?’ I asked Smiley last night.

‘Failure, and the shame that goes with that. I hate how it shapes some many things in my life. I know it holds me back, it keeps me from being happy… but I thank God it’s getting better.’ Smiley replied.

I do fear failure. I fear letting balls drop onto the floor. In my mind, when it happens, I can see the balls hit the ground in slow motion, the ‘clunk’ of their impact echoing all around me while a hush settles in the room of observers. I see myself looking up in horror, watching their faces, then…

Do I run away? Do I pick the balls up? Do I stand there and cry? Do I laugh, shrug my shoulders and try it all again?

It never lets up – Fear’s attack on my mind.

I find that I always need to make a choice to stand on what I believe in. If I can’t move forward, the least I can do is look up to the Dream Maker and cry, ‘help me, please.’

The beauty of it all is that He never once stopped to ask me what my plans were, or to evaluate my strategies, strengths or weaknesses. He always swooped in to gather me in His arms and meet my challenges, for me.

Am I mad for believing in His saving grace? I’ll let my life sing it’s song. If you listen carefully, it sounds like… hope.

*

‘Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.’

– Seth Godin