Reflection

I took a moment today to look back at videos of my kids over the years. Jaiden is 11, Jensyn is 8, and I’ve recorded fantastic moments all the back to infancy (though, admittedly, more of Jaiden then Jensyn). It was great and I sent a few around to friends and family.

I showed up in a video or two and as I scrolled back I noticed how much younger I looked. Hearing myself talk in one of the oldest videos seemed like listening to someone else.

I had a conversation with my brother Joshua today and over the course of our chat we traced the history of our work together, back to our late teenager years and early twenties.

I also took a moment to re-read my first blog post entry today, which is over 16 years old now. (Sidenote: I love WordPress, it’s so fantastic to have a history on the Open Web, warts and all, that’s there and it’s mine).

One thing in particular that I know has changed, besides the beard, is I’ve become more accepting of myself. I’ve got a long track record of giving myself a hard time. You can see it in that first post and in quite a few others.

Not too long ago, I would have looked back with at least a degree of shame at my younger self in those videos and blog posts. So naive, so certain.

Books like Daring Greatly and The Four Agreements, conversations with my coach, and tools like Positive Intelligence have helped me see myself differently and, consequently, change how I see others.

As I look back, I’m grateful for who I’ve been at each step of the journey. Open, even as I’ve been uncertain, sincere, even when I’ve been misguided, and committed to learning and growing, especially when it’s been hard.

And I’m grateful for the folks who have accepted me for who I was, who I’ve always been, and who I am.

Here’s to reflecting and I look forward to reflecting again.

Beginning Again

It’s been a fantastic week. We’re off to the races in my new role at Post Status and, between that and supporting clients and growing businesses, I’ve had multiple moments of wondering throughout the week, “How am I going to get it all done?” And when I do manage to get the most important things done, I’m tempted to ask, “How do I have time for anything else?”

And I love it. I thoroughly enjoy the work and the people I get to work with.

Then, at 6 PM, I get into my car and drive to my local theatre. And for the next 2-3 hours, that’s all I do. I step inside the auditorium and I’m a beginner again.

We’re rehearsing and preparing for a performance of Into the Woods that premiers next month and, outside of an Easter drama at my local church, I’m brand new and far outside of my comfort zone. Most of my fellow cast members have extensive experience, and it shows – I love being in the room and just hearing them practice.

I’ve been cast in two minor roles, the Mysterious Man and the Steward, which, frankly, are both perfect for my newness and also a significant stretch. I’ve got 12 condensed pages of dialogue to learn and a solo performance in a song that pushes me.

And I love it. What I realized this week while texting with Cory Miller during a break, was the value in what I was experiencing as a beginner again. Each night of rehearsal pulls me out of the world that I love and puts me in another, bringing my creativity, my focus, my attention, and energy into a new area of work where I go from being often the most experienced to the least.

It gives me a chance to step away from the WordPress world that I love and rest my brain, activating different areas of thought and growing new creative capabilities. And I find that the forced break, the disconnecting, leads me to think about ways to bring more of that into the rest of my life and making sure I get the rest I need. Which, ultimately, helps me keep getting better at what I do.

Do you have areas in life where you’re able to step outside of what you’re good at, give yourself a break, and be a beginner again?

Post Status

10 years ago, my wife and I, along with our year old son, pulled up to a building just outside of Oklahoma City. My new friend, Cory Miller, had invited us to stop by the iThemes office.

As an entrepreneur falling in love with WordPress, I was impressed with what Cory and his team built together. BackupBuddy had become an essential part of my developer workflow and it kept getting better.

What impressed me more, though, was Cory as a person. From our first meeting, and through each interaction in the years that followed, Cory was the same – genuine, other-centered, giving. He shared insight and perspective freely, and stayed approachable.

When I left Automattic earlier this year, Andrea Middleton encouraged me to reconnect with Cory and explore opportunities together.

Cory is awesome. I love what he’s built over the years. I love the consistent value he delivers and his approach to working in collaboration. As we started talking, our aligned experiences and shared philosophies coalesced.

Cory shared his vision for Post Status. I loved it and I wanted in.

And now we’re working together! I’ve joined the team at Post Status, where I’ll be working on partnerships.

We’re also starting a consulting practice together, focused on helping WordPress businesses grow.

As Cory says, “Summiting isn’t a solo act. Great summits take a team.”

I’m excited to join the Post Status team and look forward to the magic we’ll make, together.

Not a member yet? Join us today!

Environment Design

In my reading of Willpower Doesn’t Work, the concept of “environment design” stood out especially and prompted me to take a fresh look at my work / life environments.

Environment design, for me, starts with the end in mind. What am I trying to accomplish? Where am I trying to go? What do I value?

Personal Values

In my recent reflections on the next few years of life, a few areas of personal value stand out:

  • Personal Growth – Continuing to get better, every day.
  • Creating Value – Creating exponential returns for the folks I serve.
  • Inspiring Options – Having choice and variety in what I do and how I do it. Choices that are motivating and interesting.

With those values in mind, I then set out to design an environment that aligns with and supports those values.

Environment design, in my experience so far, includes three key areas of focus:

  1. Physical Space – Where I work and live.
  2. Mindset – How I think, daily habits, and mental fitness.
  3. Relationships – Who I spend time with.

Physical Space

I’ve developed the ability to work (or even sleep) just about anywhere. I can tune out distractions and focus in. Sometimes I’ll listen to ocean waves to facilitate a sharper focus.

I noticed, though, that my office had recently gotten a bit crazy. Papers all over. Larger than normal piles of unread books. Stuff piled up on my desk.

And while I can focus on through it, there is a cost. Reading Willpower Doesn’t Work prompted a fresh look and I gave my office a good cleaning.

As I evaluate and improve my physical spaces, I keep two key ideas in mind:

  • Relative Cleanliness – Items in my space have a purpose, even if its sentimental, and are where they’re supposed to be – at least on on a fairly regular basis. The end result is a relatively clean space. Minimal clutter and I know where things are.
  • Mode Support – What do I use the space to do and do the items within the space support what I’m doing? I keep my top 5 books on a table by my reading chair with paper and a pen handy to jot down notes and ideas. I keep 3 other books by my bedside, for easy access in the morning. If items are no longer relevant, time to move out and keep the space focused on the mode it’s intended for.

Mindset

I find what’s going on in my head to be a key part of achieving what I want to achieve. Carol Dweck introduced the concept of a growth mindset and it’s stuck with me.

The way I think and process my surroundings contributes to the mental environment I occupy as I go about life.

I encourage a growth mindset in my mental environment through two areas of practice:

  • Tiny Habits – Today is day 1405 in a row in my experiment with tiny habits. I use a collection of daily habits (around 20 at the moment) to create tiny amounts of momentum in areas aligned with my personal values. I find that these contribute significantly to cultivating a growth mindset.
  • Positive Intelligence – Shirzard’s work on Positive Intelligence has inspired me to focus on mental fitness. When I find emotions taking over unhelpfully I’ve been learning to strengthen self-command muscles and switch to a positive focus, practicing empathy instead of judgment, curiosity instead of avoidance.

Relationships

We tend to reflect the people we spend the most time with. If I value personal growth, if I want to deliver exponential value to the folks I serve, and if I want to have more and more options available that inspire and motivate me, then I need to seek out and invest in relationships aligned with what I value.

My focus here is on proactive investment. Reaching out and staying connected to folks who share similar values.

If you’re wanting to grow, if you’re focused on creating value, then a relationship with you offers another point of inspiration and more options of things to learn and experiences to share. Reach out, I’d love to connect with you.

Conclusion

Environment design is an ongoing process. I’m happy with my designs today and looking forward to experimenting and improving them tomorrow. I’ll keep what sticks, folding it into my daily habits, and move out what doesn’t. And along the way I’ll keep investing in relationships to learn more, to gather different insights and perspectives, to enjoy the best of what life offers.

What have you learned about environment design in your own experience? What works for you to align your environment with your values?

Seeking Discomfort

I felt sick to my stomach. I’d been thinking about it throughout the weekend and now I had an hour to go. I was about as ready as I could be, with my head full of questions about what to expect and how it would go. I thought about backing out, they’d understand.

Then I reminded myself, “You want this.” And I remembered a time I did back out a few years ago. Not this time. I chose to accept the discomfort.

An hour later, there I was. I pulled up to the Liberty Lake Theater and went inside. I still had no idea what to expect. A gentleman was singing the end of his piece and my escort guided me to a seat in the audience. He finished and we clapped.

“Who’s next?” I was fairly certain it was me and I made a noise of sorts. They called me up. The woman at the piano asked me if I had the music on my iPhone. I let her know I planned to sing a cappella.

I stood on the stage looking down at the table in front of me. The director sat in the middle, with her associate on one side. A gentleman on the other side stood up and took my picture.

Reality sank in. This was only my second audition (the first being with a friend in their home for an Easter drama) and the talking points I’d prepared giving background and explaining why I was doing this lost their relevance.

“You want me to go?” I asked. The director nodded. “What are you going to sing?”

“Celine Dion’s, My Heart Will Go On.” She nodded again and motioned for me to start.

I stalled for a few more seconds. I had mentally prepared for a cold open, I just thought I’d have a chance to talk first.

A few weeks earlier, I’d noticed the theater while out driving. I stopped in, curious. I looked at their website and noticed they had auditions for Into the Woods coming up soon. I remember looking at the audition form. The description said all were welcome. I’ve had an interest in acting for awhile. I had concluded that theater was probably the place to start and this seemed like a great opportunity. Why not? I filled out the form and added the auditions and the rehearsals and performances to my calendar.

I’ve learned that growth happens through discomfort, through investing time outside of my comfort zones. I’ve seen that proven over and over in my life. I’ve anchored that belief through my daily cold showers practice and I’ve learned to embrace the discomfort through practicing Positive Intelligence.

I still felt the nervousness, though, the butterflies that come from stepping into the discomfort of the unknown.

And I chose to do it again.

My inspiration for singing My Heart Will Go On was a video on TikTok my wife had sent my way. I don’t sound like that. I gave it my best, though. I decided that I would demonstrate my willingness to do hard things, to take a risk, and to be uncomfortable.

I finished, they thanked me, and a few minutes later I was back in my car heading home.

I was at peace. Inspired by my recent readings of Seth Godin’s The Practice, I reminded myself of my commitment to the process and not the outcome. I had done my best and I was OK with whatever happened next.

An hour later, they called me back and asked if I’d come in to sing for a specific part later in the week. I said yes and am heading over in a few hours.

I’m excited about this specific opportunity and will give it my best. More, though, I’m encouraged in my commitment to continue to seek discomfort, to stretch outside of what I know, and to commit to the process of doing so, for the sake of personal growth, regardless of the outcome.