Hands trying to catch dust motes in the air

During my search for past writings on Optimism, I came across this article from 2012, LONG before pandemics and 2020’s turmoil – and I was struck by how much of the wisdom from a “normal” year still applies, but feels different, in a pandemic year. With minor tweaks, I share this from the archives.

My ambition for this newsletter was to share highlights from a year of Learning.  So I sat down to review a year of writing and journaling, seeking the Big Wisdom of 2012.

Yet that’s not how wisdom emerges.  It’s not a lightning strike.  It’s more like the accumulation of dust. Tiny particles of learning and experience slowly settle on the surfaces of the mind and heart; movement and breezes swirl these particles into corners and along the edges of your consciousness, invisible until you go looking for them.

Wisdom, you see, is not in the particles—it is in the accumulation of them.

As 2012 (2020!) draws to a close I feel wiser than when the year began, and I hope you do too.  Here are some of the particles of learning and experience I discovered in the corners of my year.

NOTE: #13 is intentionally supersized. SO true this year.

  1. Just 2° makes a big difference. Water boils, ground freezes, rooms become (un) comfortable.
  2. Clean towels are a blessing you should never take them for granted. And hand sanitizer!
  3. Deprivation nurtures appreciation.
    There is nothing like sleeping on the floor of a foreign airport to help you appreciate what you have at home. Or not being able to do…anything.
  4. Manual labor frees the mind and relaxes the soul.
    It also helps you to sleep a LOT better.  And your shoulders hurt the next morning…
  5. No matter how heavy your burdens, you will find the strength to carry what is yours.  I met some amazing people this year, some of who are living with incredible challenges in their life.  Even as they doubt their own strength, they thrive.  This parallels my own experience in dealing with tragedy, trauma, and challenge.  Somehow, you figure it out and grow from the experience. (I wrote that in 2012, true in spades in 2020!)
  6. You become how you act.
    Act angry, sad, or afraid, your choice.  Act happy, joyful, and confident – go you!
  7. There is an upside and a dark side to every belief system…
    …and from the dark places, it’s much harder to believe in joy and possibility.  That’s where friends can make all the difference.
  8. Naps are good!
  9. Poetry can be found in surprising places…
    and often emerges without intention.
  10. It is easier to believe the stories about your flaws than it is to believe the stories about your brilliance.
    Beware: Self-talk is louder than anything others say to you.
  11. Everyone dances his or her own dance.
    It is not yours or mine to judge anyone else’s. Just dance.
  12. The question is: “What is mine to keep, and what is mine to let go of?”
    Letting go has been the most uncomfortable and the most rewarding part of my year. (again, ditto pandemic…)
  13. The ratio of Happy vs. Unhappy in the world is overwhelmingly positive.
    However, evil is louder and gets more media attention. Don’t believe it.

  14. Learning is always available.
    More so when you look for it. Context helps.
  15. Try fewer words and more hands-on with others.
    Touch is one of the most primal forms of Connection and Communication. (Oh, we miss hugs so much!)
  16. There are usually better ways to accomplish your goals that are not obvious to you.
    You can only see what you can see, so get other perspectives.
  17. Happiness is a high-quality sleeping bag on a cold night.
    I had to chip ice off my pack.  It was DAMN cold!  And it was the most beautiful sunrise, ever.
  18. The Body is wise, if you listen to what it tells you.
    You have to get past all the noise the Brain is making, first.
  19. When you let go of your stories, what you have is the experience.
    The experience is just an experience. The story/interpretation you tell yourself is what creates a memory, learning, suffering, or growth.
  20. No matter who gets elected, bad stuff will happen and good stuff will happen. (Uhm, this election year thing happens every four years…)
  21. I don’t always know where to start.
    And that’s the problem. Other times, I don’t know where to stop.
  22. “This might work” is a more powerful phrase than “I hope this works.”
  23. The stars are brilliant and uncountable at 11,000 feet.
    It is remarkable how much of the night sky we no longer see from cities.
  24. Everything is more fun when you do it with a two-year old.
    I had forgotten this.
  25. There is great beauty in darkness:
    dark coffee, dark beer, dark wine, and dark chocolate.
  26. “No” is not so much an obstacle as it is a stepping-stone to the next “Yes!”
    I read this wisdom from Mary Kay Ash 30 years ago, and deeply understood what it meant this year. Hearing “No” forced all of us to look for the next new “Yes”.
  27. Great ideas are worth sh*t if you don’t implement them.
    Corollary: 90% done is still unfinished. It’s the last 10% that’s the hardest.
  28. Compliance is not Commitment.
    If I could teach every leader just this one thing, it would be huge.
  29. Learning on the edge of your discomfort is pretty cool.  
    Leaping off the cliff and learning while you are in free fall: amazing!

As 2020 nears its end, I invite you to press the Pause button and reflect on the particles of wisdom you have accumulated since last January.  It may not be obvious, so remember to look in the dusty corners!

Remember, Leadership is not about a title:  Anyone can be a leader who nurtures Optimism, Hope, and Gratitude in others.