Groundhog Day 2019: Priorities and Prediction

It's Groundhog Day. Again. My silly tradition of using this day as inspiration for self-reflection continues for another year. Throughout my groundhog day reflections, I've written about many things. As I sit here thinking back on the past year and life in general, I find myself thinking about priorities and prediction.

Life can be beautiful in its chaos and entrancing in its opportunities for connection. Today, we are the person who was molded by our life up to this point. Tomorrow, we will be a slightly different person, changed by the experiences of today. If we attempt to predict who we will become in the future, at the whim of our daily lives, our predictions are increasingly inaccurate the further into the future we imagine. We can better predict who we will be in one minute than who we will be in one year. Life changes us, very much so, but we too can change our lives.

Prioritization is how we determine the importance of our life's components (e.g. activities, interests, people). We set that priority through the application of our time and engagement. That priority then defines the thing's impact and integration into who we are. For example, I have spent many many years being interested and engaged in adventure seeking. That interest has become a part of who I am, all the way into my daily personality. Our choices today will form routines, those routines will become habits, those habits will solidify into our minds and become us.

We should be intentional with how we set our priorities everyday. Today, my first priority -- having finished a bit of breakfast -- is writing this article. Tomorrow, I'll set my mind to other tasks that are of priority as well. In the film Groundhog Day [IMDB], Phil Connors develops a routine, setting his priorities of the day such as to maximize his impact on the town around him. Through the routine exercise of these experiences, he becomes someone whose personage reflects his forming priorities of kindness toward people, development of self, and an exploration of art.

Who do you want to be? Define yourself with a goal in mind and build routines that will move you toward that goal. Set your priorities in life such that who you become is who you wanted to be.


Groundhog Day 2018: Connection

Looking at my blog and seeing that I haven't published an article since last year, one might think that I'm stuck in Groundhog Day of 2017. The fact is that a year has passed -- and what a year it has been. If you're wondering why you haven't seen an article from me in a while, it's because I have been largely focused on writing for my academic pursuits as well as some other fear related research. However, my mind is not on the intellectual parts of my life, it's on the people.

As I spend time in my usual Groundhog Day reflections, I find myself thinking about connection. Human connection and our connection to our own individual lives. In past reflections, I've written about chaos, time, fear, change, and tradition; the things that make up some constituent parts of life. One piece that seems to be missing is connection.

Today, as I watch the film Groundhog Day [IMDB] on repeat, I'm noticing how Phil connects with others. Throughout the film he forms greater connections with himself as he forms greater connections with the people in his life. The essence of connection is in our intention with it. When we connect with a person in our life, we must be conscious of the significance of the mutual impact of that connection. When we connect with a hobby or interest, we must acknowledge our investment of time and effort into developing a new skill, knowledge base, or practice.

In the film, Phil Connors recognizes the significance of connection as he considers the impact he can have and has already had on the lives of the people in Punxsutawney:
"When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope.
Yet we know winter is just another step in the cycle of life.
But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts,
I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

"Ciao!" Image captured from Groundhog Day (1993) [IMDB]

When we focus our minds on our activities and reactions, we become lost in the day-to-day. To find substance in life, we must connect with it. We must become active participants in our own choices, not simply reactants to outside influence. That's not to say that outside influence has no place. In fact, it is through our interactions with the outside world that we discover ourselves. Without connection, life would be bleak and disjointed. Without compassion, life would be cold and empty. Without outside interaction, we would be stuck within our own inner worlds. Outside influences will always impact our lives, situations and people will always exhibit attempts at control over our autonomy. How we respond to those influences and how we choose to influence others is what defines a life of suffering or one of happiness.

Phil frees himself from his daily repetition through his connection with others. His freedom in life comes through his embracing the way that he can be a positive influence toward others. At the start, Phil views the repetition of life as doldrum and torment. For as long as he views the repetition as torment, it is his torture and seems to have no end, even in death. Once he uses the repetition to change his life and the lives of others, the cycle ends and he is free. He has transformed himself and countless others who are connected to him in life.

So, today, I encourage you to ponder the lives entwined with your own. In what ways can you positively influence others. How will you transform yourself and free yourself from the repetition of the day-to-day?


Groundhog Day 2017: Thriving in both chaos and order

It's been ten years since I wrote my first Groundhog Day article and even longer since I made the day something of a personal holiday. Here I am again noting the prognostications of various groundhogs, playing the film Groundhog Day [IMDB] on continuous repeat, reflecting on my journey in life over the past year, and revisiting the thoughts and writings of past Groundhog Days. These traditions are, for the most part, invented for myself by myself. That said, I also appreciate the company of others who choose to celebrate the day that has become uniquely special for me. It's a day that is oddly balanced as a visitation to both the repetitively routine and the excitingly evolving.

This past year has been tumultuous for many. Things have shifted in unexpected directions locally, socially, globally, politically, and environmentally. For better or worse, chaos is upon us. And yet, I find myself unafraid in the face of the unknown. I don't mean apathetic when I say unafraid; I mean that I feel ready and energized to experience new challenges. I have grown as a person thanks to the challenges I've experienced in life. Every new mountaintop -- whether literal or metaphorical -- has given me a new perspective. Sure, climbing each mountain was an arduous journey, but the experience has made me better able to climb the next mountain. Every challenge to my resolve has strengthened my willpower, every sadness has taught me new depths, and every smile has brought me new light. My journeys through chaos has become my new order.

In the ten years since I started writing each Groundhog Day, a lot has happened in my life. I have had more than a few perspective changing experiences coupled with more than a handful of "significant life events". I've learned well to embrace adventure and to seek challenge for myself both in my mind and the world around me. And yet, every year, I still circle back to a day of familiar routine and tradition.

Last year, I wrote about the value of perseverance and action. I expanded on those thoughts in a reflection on time. No matter how you choose to spend the time you have, be present in it. This year, I find myself thinking about the way that chaos has formed me into who I am, but how a personal foundation of meaning has given me purpose.

If life feels like a never-ending repetition, as it was for Phil in Groundhog Day, I invite you to find a way to create a little bit of chaos to stimulate fresh perspective. If instead you find yourself surrounded by chaos and turmoil, find a way to stay in the moment. If you panic, you allow the chaos which surrounds you to become a chaos within you. I invite you to thrive in the external storm of chaos while creating meaning and purpose within.

My life has been an amazing journey these past ten years; amazing in both its unexpected challenges and unanticipated growth. I expect that life will always present the unexpected and I know the future is unknown.
Life is a beautiful mix of chaos and order, routine and the unexpected. To live is to embrace that beauty and to heed the words of Douglas Adams in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" [Goodreads]... Don't Panic.


Review: A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way

A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your WayA Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way by Ariana M. Friedlander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was approached by a mutual friend to review Ariana M. Friedlander's book A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way. I later met with Ariana to ask her about the style and subject matter of her book, I wanted to be sure that it would align with my interests. I warned her that I don't alter my book reviews based on popularity of a book nor the source of its recommendation. She understood and still invited me to receive and review it.

I'm happy to say that my initial warnings were unnecessary as I very much enjoyed A Misfit Entrepreneur's Guide to Building a Business Your Way. Whilst reading the book, I found myself often thinking that this was not only a "guide to building a business" but a guide to building a great life.

I enjoyed Ariana's use of cycling metaphor and her overview of related works to each chapter's topic. Unlike many other books of this style which spend too much time telling readers of their own success, Ariana kept her personal stories on topic and down-to-Earth in the reality of her challenges. The book relays a number of tips for overcoming challenges (internal and external) to reaching your goals. Many of the books she recommends for further reading are ones which I have enjoyed. Better still, she summarizes the ideas from those books well for people who have not yet read them.

I feel more than comfortable giving this easy read 5 out of 5 stars. Well done, Ariana. Your journey is one which I hope can inspire other misfits to reach for their goals in both business and life.

View all my reviews


Janus in June

[Image source: https://takingawalkthroughhistory.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/ianuarius-the-month-of-janus/]

Earlier this month, I was visited by an old friend who had been a supervisor of mine many years ago. Through our years of working together we had created many new processes, projects, and teams which have continued on even after he and I had moved on to other duties in employment and stages of life. I fell out of contact with him when he retired years ago and had sometimes thought to find a way to reconnect.

We happened to come across eachother when he was visiting an old office of ours while I was there making an inquiry of the current occupant. We both immediately shared a look of pleasant surprise and recognition upon seeing eachother. We made time in our day to catch up about all that had happened since his retirement and to reminisce about our time working together.

I'm certainly accustomed to bouts of nostalgia and gratitude, but I found myself notably introspective as I came away from our conversation. I gained a unique -- almost third-party -- perspective in talking with him about all of the changes since his retirement and also noting the things which remained the same. That perspective provided the kindling for a thought: You don't realize how far you've come until you look back at where you've been. I find myself pleasantly captivated with how applicable that thought is to both practical things such as hiking and metaphorically with life.

We spend so much time and energy setting goals, pushing forward, and looking toward new horizons that we sometimes lose touch with the accomplishments we have had and the improvements we have made both within ourselves and the world around us. I'm always eager to experience the next challenge and welcome new opportunities; I hope I will never lose that eagerness and excitement about change, but I now also hope that I can give myself pause in order to appreciate the paths of the past which have brought me to the present.

I'm not advocating for dwelling on the past; I find that people who are stuck in mindsets of bygone times and out-dated ways often stifle innovation, curiosity, and progress. Rather, my thought is that one should attempt to gain satisfaction with the present and motivation to form future goals by intentionally taking note of one's past progress, tasks accomplished, and challenges overcome.


Embrace the adventure, Part 2

I’d had a pretty normal day, but due to work-related events I ended up heading home on a different bus route and a later time than usual. I arrived at a connection point just in time to watch the next route I wanted to catch pull away. No worries, I’d just sit and wait, with plenty of ways I could occupy my time and mind; “boredom doesn't come from a lack of things to do (activity), it comes from a lack of action and intention.”

I sat at the stop, while continuing to listen to an audiobook, but decided I wanted to use the time creating/engaging rather than only absorbing. Remembering that there was a Pianos Around Town [fcgov.com] piano nearby, I walked over to play while I waited for my bus.

Photo source: http://www.fcgov.com/artspublic/pianos.php

I started playing a melody which always seems to tune my mind into music and spread a peaceful calm to the world around me.

As I played, I heard the strings of a guitar being plucked. I concluded my song and turned my attention in the direction from which the sound of the guitar had come. My glance was returned by the smiles of two travellers I had seen sitting together against the wall of the bus station. One held a small guitar in her hands, the other clapped his hands together in applause.

They complimented my music and asked about the song. The guitarist said she’d been trying to find the right notes and chords to play along. Many people might have ignored or even passed judgement on these two travellers, based only on their appearance and gear. However, I saw an opportunity to welcome the discovery of a new story -- or in this case, music. I offered to attempt a song I thought they’d appreciate and recognize.

“Try this one. Let’s see how quickly you guys recognize it.” I said, as I started to play again.

I’d barely started playing the first notes when the guy exclaimed, “The Pixies!! I was just thinking about this song!”
Exactly. The three of us called out the well-known title lyrics: “Where is my mind?” I continued my attempt to play, broken as it was due to my recent lack of practice. I named the chords as I played, so the guitarist could play along.

After a minute or two, she began to sing. Her voice was incredible. The smoky rasp in her singing voice gave it fullness and character which fit perfectly to the song. I immediately wished I could record her vocals for this song and combine it with my version of the piano arrangement.

I’d love to say that we played beautifully to the end of the song, but the reality is that I was so out of practice that I could barely play the first stanza. Eventually, I noticed the time and saw the bus I thought mine pulling in. We exchanged names and social media information and I hurried toward the bus. Had I been sitting in passive waiting, I might have been disappointed that it ended up being the wrong bus, but instead I found myself relieved… I could return to continue the conversation with my new acquaintances: “Travelin’ Trav” and Cole.

I was greeted with when I returned to their spot, “You even have the hat!”; they’d already pulled up my website and saw me wearing my fedora. Our conversation turned to a discussion of adventure and travel. There I was standing among kindred spirits, not wearing the appearance of Indy the adventurer but of Indy the tie-wearing professional.

Embrace the adventure. http://blog.indy.cc/2016/05/embrace-adventure-part-1.html

A photo posted by Indy Hart (@insta4indy) on

We discussed the magic of our meeting. How our inner mantras had brought us to the same place with compatible attitudes and openness. My desire to seek adventure throughout life, Trav’s enjoyment of peaceful meandering and exploration, and -- most significantly -- Cole’s draw to “always follow the music”.

In the first part of this writing, I described how I found paradise instead of despair. In the adventure of life, we’re sometimes the ones stranded in the wilderness, other times we’re the tow truck driver. Had I not decided to play the piano and had Cole not followed the music, our lives would be short one story and another amazing adventure.

Someday, I might try to combine Cole’s spectacular vocals with a piano arrangement of that song by The Pixies. Regardless, I hope I can continue to “embrace the fun and adventure of each day and strive not to take things too seriously.” Because…
With your feet in the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
If there's nothing in it
And you'll ask yourself
Where is my mind


Embrace the adventure, Part 1

Tonight, three adventurers met at a bus station. Before we get to that story, though, I should explain what made one of them an adventurer in the first place.

Three years ago, I was sitting in an engine-dead vehicle in the backcountry of a wilderness area. I had been on my way to the trailhead of a big mountain hike. In fact, the trailhead was just beyond the small hill on which the engine of my vehicle had seized up and quit. I was stranded. My week of multiple big mountain solo hikes had been cut short.

I flagged down some ATVs and got help moving my vehicle out of the way of potential 4x4 traffic. I was overwhelmed with despair, but I made up my mind to allow myself one last hike. Afterall, I was nearly at the trailhead. I slept in my car and hiked as planned the next morning. Perhaps it was the knowledge of what troubles awaited me back at the trailhead which made the hike one of my favorites; everything on that less-travelled side of that mountain seemed more full of life than any other prior hike.

I returned to the trailhead, ready to handle my challenges with a clear head and open mind. I stopped a passing vehicle and was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face. One of the passengers was an old acquaintance. I asked for a ride back into town and they agreed. Considering my circumstance, it was an enjoyable drive to be able to catch up and truly understand the meaning of the word serendipity.

After arriving in town, thanking my companions, and sending them on their way, I found my way into an art studio. I introduced myself and explained my predicament. The artist graciously allowed me to use her space and internet so I could make arrangements for an off-road tow truck. Conversation passed the time quickly as I waited for the truck to pick me up in order to retrieve my vehicle. Soon, I was on my way back toward the mountain.

On the drive to my vehicle, the tow truck driver and I discussed arrangements for the evening. Once we returned to town, he would have to transfer my vehicle from the off-road truck to one suited to highway driving. He asked where I’d like the vehicle taken. I decided that, with the engine likely destroyed, I might as well just get a ride all the way back to Northern Colorado. I would have to get back there eventually anyway.

Considering the lateness of the hour, the driver asked if we could make that long drive the next day. I agreed and suggested that he drop me and my car off in a grocery store parking lot or somewhere I could put my tent for the night. This is what I heard next….
“I could do that, if that’s what you want, but I have another idea. Before I came to get you, I’d been camping with my family near the lake. Why don’t you camp at our campground and stay there for the night?”
I remember taking a moment to consider his invitation. I didn’t want to impose, I’d already interrupted his vacation... but, then again, it was a better option than a parking lot.
I agreed.

The campground exceeded my expectations. His family was friendly and welcoming, the food was spectacular, and, after the fire died down, I wandered out to the lake and watched a beautiful show of inside-cloud lightning. With the distant rumble of thunder, I slept wonderfully. At dawn, I awoke to take in the daytime view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Photo by Indy

To this day, that place in my memory is paradise and it all came about because I embraced the adventure instead of accepting defeat when challenged. However, tonight, I didn’t seek out adventure. Adventure came to me.

For now, I need sleep. I’ll split this into two parts and tomorrow I’ll finally tell you about those three adventurers at the bus station.

Part 2: http://blog.indy.cc/2016/05/embrace-adventure-part-2.html


All of life is now

"To find ourselves in a situation in which the gravity of the moment -- the weight of the now -- is so powerful that we find ourselves outside ourselves.... So that our neurotic inner-critic, the voice in our head that is nagging us -- anxious our future or saddened by the past [and] paralyzed by the past -- instead goes silent. And there is a grace in this moment [that] the weight of the now... can serve to purge you of your angst." -- Jason Silva, Shots of Awe (watch the full video and the bottom of this article)

Image Source: The Times of India

Life is a series of moments. Every moment is gone as quickly as it occurs. Neurologically, the moment you perceive as “now” is actually fractions of seconds in the past. Your perception of the present moment extends further into the past through the contextualization of memories and instinct. By the time you are cognitively aware of what is happening, your mind has already analyzed, categorized, and organized your experience.

Our minds are bound by our biology and our perception of time. However, there is power within the boundaries of our perception of time. We can harness the metaphysics of perception to free our minds from dwelling on the loss of the past and from a future limited to routine and repetition.

Last month, on Groundhog Day, I wrote about time and growth and my opinion that one should “never do nothing”. Consider the impact of the intention and focus I wrote about in that article. That intention and focus can be applied not only on growth and self-definition, but also into the perception and experience of time.

Albert Einstein colloquially explained our perception of time and relativity by saying, “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.” The reality of relativity is proven within physics. The reality of relativity within perception can be altered within our minds.

If you find yourself lost in a whirlwind of life, where every day speeds by you, try observing the details surrounding yourself and especially the details of the experience you wish to treasure. If your treasured moment is the one described by Einstein, acknowledge and intentionally remember every detail of that girl’s face. Pay attention to the way her lips move as she speaks, watch her eyes as you listen and respond, observe the way her hair and skin move in the wind or appear in the light. Make every moment an eternity of memory.

If you find yourself bound in boredom or suffering, feeling every second arduously pass within your mind, consider “zoning out”. Release your mind from the constraint of what’s at hand. If your suffering is the suffering described by Einstein, look into the distance (literally or in your mind), detach yourself from the feelings and pain of each moment. Perhaps allow yourself the space to think of your small consequence in the whole of human existence and time’s passing. Find a thought which quickens time’s passing, such as a familiar song, a memory of a slow movie scene, or the slow rolling of waves on to a beach.

Despite today being the equinox, all of time is not equal. Our minds are our perception. The power of thought allows us the power over perception and, therefore, experience. I opened this article with the rousing words of Jason Silva on the power of the present moment. You can use intention and focus to embrace that power and free your mind from the boundaries of the past and future. It all begins (and ends) within your mind.

URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWrHCCYgGSQ


Happy Groundhog Day! Pace yourself and never do nothing

Time. Hours inside days inside years inside decades. All passing in a span we call life. Our lives are defined by time. Even creatures which care not for the actual passage of time still rely on its passing for the continuance of existence. What if you had an infinite amount of time? How would you define your life then?

Another year has passed and Spring is again approaching. Today, I am once again enjoying the silliness of my Groundhog Day tradition and using the film Groundhog Day as a catalyst for reflection and assessment. This is my tenth year writing my Groundhog Day reflections. Ten years ago, when I documented my enjoyment of Groundhog Day, I had no idea what lay ahead in my life nor any thought of what transformation lay between then and ten years later.

Imagine if you awoke within your life ten years ago but with your current mind in your body. Life then would have an entirely differently feeling and your perception of yourself would be completely different. Now, imagine twenty years of perception... Groundhog Day 1996, but you know all that you do about yourself and life up to this point in 2016. Phil Connors, in the film Groundhog Day, spent near infinity in the same day, but he learned, grew, changed, improved, experimented, and explored through it all.

I have many hobbies and thoroughly enjoy finding ways to newly experience life. I consume media (books, films, articles, etc.) like a hungry man at a buffet. I'm sometimes asked how I read, watch, and do as many things as I do. My answer is simple: I never stop. Sometimes a task might seem overwhelming at first; a thousand page book, a thirty mile hike, a mountain of debt, but each challenge becomes smaller once you face it and start into it. Pacing matters, of course; find a rhythm that allows you to consume AND enjoy, but never stop.

Don't waste your time with idleness. No more whatever-is-on-the-radio while driving when you could be listening to that audiobook. No more mindless TV watching when you have so many films you want to watch but never start. No more impulse buys when you have a list of things you want to have but haven't saved for them yet. Boredom doesn't come from a lack of things to do (activity), it comes from a lack of action and intention. Sitting and watching TV is only "a waste of time" if you have no intention in what you watch. It's the difference between wandering while lost and wandering while exploring.

Time defines us and can constrain us if we do not first define ourselves. So, how would you spend your time, if you had a limitless supply of it? What growth would you seek? How would you change your connections with the people around you? How would you redefine your life? Now, ask yourself, what makes today any different than a day in Groundhog Day? You have an unknown amount of time ahead of you. You might have thousands of days more or only a few. Either way, if you define yourself and take action with intention, you will learn to define your time too.


Practice feeling afraid

You approach the podium. Your palms are sweaty. The audience is silent except for a few quiet coughs. Your mouth is dry. Do you remember what you are going to say? Will the words even form coherently? You swallow hard, briefly close your eyes, but when you open them again you're at home. You breath a sigh of relief, remembering that your presentation isn't for another three weeks. That exercise was effective though. Repeated exposure to associated stimuli is a common method for helping individuals address and overcome both minor fears and major trauma1. The usefulness and accessibility of exposure goes beyond professional therapy and can be brought into your daily life.

Image source: Clipping of a movie poster of "The Fly" (1986) [IMDB], the film from which the pictured quote became famous.

"Be afraid. Be very afraid."
That phrase become well-known thanks to the 1986 film "The Fly". In it, when faced with a frightening situation, one character attempts to reassure while another states, in a matter-of-fact way, that one should be afraid and not pretend away from it. A similar embracing approach to fear is what I read in the short book "The Flinch". I have invited readers on many occasions to embrace fear and welcome the challenges of life. Taking it a step further, I invite you to make experiencing fear a familiar occurrence.

I'm certainly not encouraging you to go out and place yourself in dangerous and life-threatening situations. What I am saying is that you can incorporate the thought exercises and a safe implementation exposure therapy into your experiences with fear. (Beyond the minor common and/or irrational fears, I highly advise the inclusion of a mental health professional.)

I laid out a common fear in my opening, the fear of public speaking. Utilizing a similar thought exercise might enable you to feel less fear when facing the actual situation of public speaking. I don't just mean "practice your speech". I mean imagine the fear and anxiety of going through the scenario, even messing the scenario up. Take yourself through a worst case scenario and then mentally work through how you would handle it and why it's not worth the worst of your fear response. If you're afraid of spiders, learn about them and begin to understand how unlikely it is that they are a danger to you. If you're afraid of heights, sit comfortably on your couch and slowly look through images of high places.

Do these activities daily. Make it routine. You'll feel uncomfortable, you'll feel anxious. You'll react as if you're experiencing the real scenario. Meanwhile, inside your mind, the fear itself is diminishing. What was once a flutter of panic that lit up your amygdala and triggered your fight-or-flight response has now become familiar.

Be afraid, be very afraid, until your mind has learned to recognize and process that feeling as easily as hunger. Fear is manageable and accessible. After all, even if the scenario is often real, the way you think and respond to it is all in your head.

1 For more information about exposure therapy, I suggest starting with this article from the US Department of Veteran Affairs [ptsd.va.gov].