The More Things Change …

For a little while in high school I totally got the coffee bug. Over winter break in my senior year there was this girl I was dating and we would occasionally meet at a coffee shop.

Most of the time I sat there sipping on my coffee (until it was lukewarm, then drinking it WAY too fast) and making things out of those little stirry-stick things – whatever they’re called. Which may actually just be stir-sticks. Anyway the point is that the reason I was there was to see her (and make things out of sticks) and not really to drink coffee.

But it totally seemed like what I was supposed to be doing. I mean, everyone else was drinking coffee and jumping off bridges, so why not me? OK well the bridge part may have been an exaggeration, but you know how peer pressure is. You start thinking that if you don’t do something everyone else is you’re not being … right. You’re wrong. You’re broken.

So I would drink the coffee after adding a lot of milk and sugar, I would sit there chatting with this girl I was infatuated with, and I would make little houses and forts and crazy contraptions with what I shall henceforth call stirry-sticks.

Occasionally I’d end up feeling butterflies in my stomach or just overall nervous. After a while it was more of a place thing – it was a question of “OK I’ve crossed the threshold into the coffee shop so … I can’t really NOT order coffee.

Sometimes I’d get this thought like I shouldn’t actually be drinking coffee, but then I’d feel kinda awkward and just order it. Baristas can be intimidating.

A few years later when I was in college I started smoking for much the same reason – I was a theater major living in Manhattan in the late 90’s … it might have actually felt ILLEGAL to not smoke. Plus I thought it was the “mysterious and cool yet emotionally complex” thing to do. My lungs thought it was really stupid but I didn’t listen to them for a while.

In the mid 2000’s I went to a great business school and got my MBA. I got a good job at a good company, and I worked in corporate America for 5 years alternating almost every month between “I ❤ my job!” and “SO UNFULFILLED!”

But that’s what I was supposed to be doing, right? Drinking the coffee! Doing big work for a big company and making big money! … well ok maybe replace the latter big with  “moderately proportionate to my experience level”. And yet every now and then I had a moment of clarity just like at the coffee shop, but then the barista would look at me funny and I’d just go back to work and pretend I hadn’t thought anything at all.

And then after a few years something snapped and I decided to act on my gut feeling that I didn’t really want to order that cappuccino. I just wanted a water, thank you. Maybe a beer.

So here I am, living my dream instead of someone else’s, trying to realize a vision I started piecing together almost a decade ago. I have full and complete control of my life and all the ups and downs in it. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think “Holy crap. Really? This is my life? I’m not dreaming?”

But you know what? When I walk into a coffee shop I still order a cappuccino. Small. Regular milk. Even if I really don’t need the caffeine or want a coffee.

Baristas can be intimidating.

The Bridge

It’s hard to accept that you will never achieve the perfect realization of your dream or vision.

A topic I’ve found myself discussing frequently this last week is how it’s difficult to get yourself going towards a goal or action when you want to achieve that goal or execute that action perfectly.

You can end up spending years plotting your startup and never do anything about it because “you aren’t quite ready yet.”

One of the conversations I had with a friend recently revolved around that issue and the question of when enough would be enough. The outcome of the conversation was a fairly simple metaphor: “You’ve been waiting for this boat to get closer so you can jump to it from the one you’re on, but it’s gotten so close that now it’s just incremental. You had two big barriers to entry and they’re both gone. Now the boat is within a few feet, easy jumping distance, and every day it’s only getting a few centimeters closer. It will never get right up next to you… Just jump already.”

Of course not everyone wants to jump from one boat in life to another, but that’s different. If you don’t want to jump, don’t! But accept that you don’t. No sense in looking longingly at the other boat wishing you “could” – you always can, but you have to decide to pursue it or let it go.

Another great conversation recently revolved around artists and led to this quote: “an artist is a person who can accept the difference between what they see in their head and what they create. Most people who say they’re not an artist can’t accept that difference.”

I’d say the same rule applies to a lot of things. If you want something you have to be able to accept that it will never be as you imagined… Not exactly anyway. continue reading…