Making friends with Unknown

Unknown and I have been friends for a while.

She was always hanging around like a kid sister, wanting attention. But she was pretty quiet about it and I didn’t really take notice of her until about five years ago.

She’s a loyal friend to me, but, to be totally honest, I’m a fair-weather friend to her.

Sometimes she’s exciting to be around. Then I’m totally on her side. She’s my bestie and together we blaze new trails up mountains and skip hand in hand down colorful neighborhoods in unexplored cities.

Sometimes, though, she’s downright scary to be around, I know it’s not her fault, but I blame her. Sometimes I lash out and cry and throw a fit. Sometimes I recoil and try to ignore her.

She just sticks around with a wise smile and waits for me to get it together.

My favorite thing about her are the surprises. Man she’s come up with some amazing surprises! I’ve been blindsided with bliss at some of the things she’s arranged for me.

One time she led me to a farm in the desert! We ate lots of chard and beets and carrots and hiked around on slickrock. There were a bunch of kindhearted people that became new friends there, too.

Another time she took me to Idaho. She pulls this kind of thing a lot.

“Idaho?!” I asked with a cocked brow. “Seriously?” I was really skeptical about this journey.

“Trust me.” She said, sweet but firm. (How does she never get irritated with me?)

So I did.

Of course more magic awaited that I never could have anticipated. (Have you been to Idaho?) She guided me to the most serene place I’ve been. It started from the outside; sitting watching those majestic Sawtooth Mountains brought me instant peace. Eventually the feeling seeped in through my pores, entered with each inhalation, and stayed with me internally.

The thing is that she’s always doing stuff like this. She loves it. It feels like a gift to me, but the truth is that it’s just how she is. She’ll do it for you, too. That’s just her thing.

Knowing her tremendous capacity to give, I’m not sure why I keep resisting her. She does get a kick out of that cocked eyebrow and all my skepticism and hesitancy. But, like all good friends, she sees the best in me.

She beckons my boldness. Whether I like it or not, she challenges me. I know she’d never lead me into something I can’t handle (even though at the time I can’t always see how). In that way she sorta knows me better than I know myself.

I learn a lot from her, too.

I admire her sense of adventure and play. She’s the kind of gal who walks smilingly through the rain and opens any unlocked door (they’re always unlocked!).

“What’s in here? What’s over here?” she asks constantly. She always wants to talk to strangers—“Just friends you haven’t met yet” she says—and try new things.

Comfortable is uncomfortable to her. When the days start looking too similar, she suggests we go on an adventure or call someone we haven’t talked to in a while.

“I know!” she’ll exclaim, “Let’s go to the library and pick a book at random to read. Maybe we’ll get to learn about covered wagons or Jewish history or bird calls!”

Again, my skeptical raised eyebrow appears. But with her by my side, I know I’ll learn something relevant—bird calls and all are just metaphors for life. She’s always pointing that kind of stuff out.

Her wonder and wisdom astound me. That’s why despite the rough patches, I think Unknown and I will be friends for life.

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The Game of Life and How to Play It.

I read Florence Scovel Shinn’s book (titled as this post is) recently and found a lot of inspiration. Her story itself is fascinating, an illustrator, actress, author and New Thought leader and teacher born in 1871. She was married then divorced (rare for a woman of her time) and in other ways seems like quite a maverick for her time. She feels like a powerful woman with such conviction in her writing.

Here are some of the gems from the book:

On facing fears:

This happens so often! If one is willing to do a thing he is afraid to do, he does not have to. it is the law of nonresistance, which is so little understood. Someone has said that courage contains genius and magic. Face a situation fearlessly, and there is no situation to face; it falls away of its own weight.

Minding your speech:

There is an old saying that man only dares use his words for three purposes: to heal, to bless or prosper. What man says of others will be said of him, and what he wishes for another, he is wishing for himself.

Harmony and nonresistance:

The inharmonious situation comes from some inharmony within man himself…So we see man’s work is ever with himself.

The Chinese say that water is the most powerful element, because it is perfectly nonresistant. It can wear away a rock, and sweep all before it.


Embracing “darkness” by looking towards “dawn”:

One of my students once asked me to explain the “darkness before dawn.” I referred in a preceding chapter to the fact that often before the big demonstration “everything seems to go wrong,” and deep depression clouds the consciousness. It means that out of the subconscious are rising the doubts and fears of the ages. These old derelicts of the subconscious rise to the surface to be put out… It is then that man should hap his cymbals like Jehoshaphat, and give thanks that he is saved, even though he seems surrounded by the enemy.


Good one-liners:

Many should watch himself hourly to detect if his motive for action is fear or faith.

So often, one goes for one thing and finds another.

One’s ships come in over a calm sea.

Unique self-expression, talents, and contribution/purpose:

There is for each many, perfect self-expression. There is a place which he is to fill and no one else can fill, something which he is to do which no one else can do; it is his destiny!

The thing man seeks is seeking him—the telephone was seeking Bell!

Steve Jobs and Turning Don’ts Into Actionable Do’s

As a lover of TED and other inspirational talks, I’m shocked I didn’t listen to Steve Job’s popular 2005 Stanford Commencement Address “How to Live Before you Die” until today (hat tip Scott Dinsmore). He reminded me of the importance of moving forward by following our joy, even when it doesn’t make sense at the time. For example, he took a calligraphy class and fell in love with fonts and spacing even though it seemingly had no “real world” value. He later used this know how in designing the interface for Apple’s Macintosh computers.

It’s a wonderful speech and I recommend you carve out 15 minutes to give it a listen. He ends with some advice. Here’s what he says:

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drowned out your own inner voice. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I love the sentiment behind Job’s advice. As a language enthusiast, I got hooked into the words themselves. For me, how we say something isn’t mere semantics or word play. It directs our thoughts and ultimately our actions. “Don’ts” instruct us on what to stop doing but do a poor job of instructing us on what to start doing instead. This is pretty major in the case of Job’s advice because what he wants us to stop doing is living the status quo which is, by definition, what most of us are doing! What are we to do instead? When his advice is reframed as “do’s” a new path unfurls before us as does a new direction. We begin to draw the map of a brave, new life. (This is an internal process some of us do automatically.)

Here’s Jobs’ advice reframed as “Do’s” (I kept the last line intact because it’s already a stellar “do” statement):

Your time is limited. Be certain you are living your life by your design. Protect it  from outside influences like cultural expectations and the status quo.Think for yourself. Live by the results of your own deep thinking and understanding. Draw your own conclusions. Listen to your inner voice. When others opinions get noisy, get quiet. Hone your hearing. Create practices to dialogue with your inner voice. Give it permission to speak up. Give gratitude when it does and act in ways that honor what it’s told you. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

When I initially had this idea I thought it’d be easy because, I conjectured, I would just change “don’t” to “do” and write the opposite of what he said. But, as in any translation, I found myself with many options. Perhaps you’d like to weigh in on how you’d reframe any given piece of his advice as a do or tell me how you thought I did?