This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.
"We have the human trait of holding on, past the seasons and cycles of our lives. We can miss the preciousness of the beauty of the moment and hold on, often when it is too late to hold on. We fear endings. We resent change. We ignore the seasons and cycles of our lives."
From "The Path of Least Resistance" by Robert Fritz [Book]
I recently finished reading The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. Peter, Barrel CEO and fellow partner, mentioned it a few times, so I decided to move it to the top of my list. It is now a favorite!
The book is written entirely in dialogue. It explores a fictional conversation between a philosopher and a young person, looking for guidance in their life. Many of the concepts offered by the philosopher have stayed with me, but there is one I returned to last week: life is not a linear path...
"Life is a series of moments, and neither the past nor the future exists. You are trying to give yourself a way out by focusing on the past and the future. What happened in the past has nothing whatsoever to do with your here and now, and what the future may hold is not a matter to think about here and now. If you are living earnestly here and now, you will not be concerned with such things."
In other words, our future is unwritten and is not a result of our past. We can create our desired future by living in the moment, giving our focus and energy to the here and now versus chasing an idealized future. The philosopher likens this to dancing:
"Think of it this way: Life is a series of moments, which one lives as if one were dancing, right now, around and around each passing instant. And when one happens to survey one’s surroundings, one realizes, I guess I’ve made it this far. Among those who have danced the dance of the violin, there are people who stay the course and become professional musicians. Among those who have danced the dance of the bar examination, there are people who become lawyers. There are people who have danced the dance of writing and become authors. Of course, it also happens that people end up in entirely different places. But none of these lives came to an end “en route.” It is enough if one finds fulfillment in the here and now one is dancing."
Before reading the book, I had discovered the importance of finding fulfillment in the journey toward a goal or outcome. I even wrote about it. But, the philosopher takes it a step further by zooming in to the moments that make up the journey, a perspective that was new to me.
At the end of last week, I looked back and saw nothing but positivity. It was my birthday, so besides a nice night out with Dana and birthday wishes from family, friends, and their little ones, I thought to myself, what was different? Why did the week feel so good? I realized that it was less about any significant changes and more about how I experienced the week.
Like any other week, there were curveballs, from long meetings that were supposed to be short to disagreements to difficult conversations. Taking my own advice on curveballs, I chose not to swing at everything coming my way. As a result, I was more dialed into every moment, more aware of how I was relating to every situation, not worried about the past or future.
The fascinating thing about a moment is that it is fleeting. It comes, and it goes. Yet, a moment is all it takes for a situation to change shape, for better or worse. Whether we realize it or not, we are in control.
For example, a meeting running longer than planned does not ruin our day; it is how we handle the moment when we realize it is heading in that direction and the moments that follow.
Too often, when a meeting is running over, I worry about the impact of being late to what is next and rush the conversation along or urgently leave. I am no longer present in the here and now, concerned only with what is coming up and not what is happening. I end up feeling flustered, not only losing focus but losing time by becoming distracted.
When this happened last week, I opted to stay engaged. I chose to take extra time with the client, re-prioritizing what I was supposed to work on next. In essence, when the meeting did not go as planned, I changed the plan. In turn, I left feeling in control and grounded.
With many similar moments throughout the week, I was feeling pretty good by Thursday. After wrapping up the workday, Dana and I started packing for a long weekend in DE with family. We planned to leave the same evening. As I rushed to get everything ready, I could feel myself getting stressed. The feeling subdued as I loaded the car, but just as we got ready to attach our bikes to the car, it started pouring. Within minutes, the street looked like what I remember of the river rapids water ride at Disney World.
Dana tried holding an umbrella over me as I attempted to attach the bike rack to the trunk, but it was hopeless. I was getting soaked. The stress I felt earlier was returning as anger. We ran back inside.
I realized that the past was informing the present. I let the stress from the last couple of hours build; the rain was the icing on the cake.
After a few angry complaints, I stopped myself and thought, do I want to be angry? Is this how I want to experience this moment? I turned to Dana and asked: do we want to struggle through this together or give up? Much more composed than me, Dana suggested that we power through, adding that the rain would likely let up within 15 minutes. I cooled down, and we waited.
The rain let up enough to finish the job, and we were on our way. Much like the meeting, I got in the car feeling more in control and grounded.
When the philosopher talks about moments, he refers to achieving our goals and becoming who we want to become. It is natural to tie this to our careers or ambitions, but this past week helped me see that everyday moments are what matters most.
Lesson? A day, let alone a week or month, is filled with a myriad of everyday moments. It is these moments that inform our experience in life. If we live our lives based on what came before or what we think might come later, we miss out on the moment right in front of us. If we cannot make the most of every moment, how can we ever expect to make the most of ourselves?
Where do I need to let go of the past so I can experience the present?