Canadian geek in Myanmar

Choosing easy

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. – J.R.R. Tolkien

It’s only been a few weeks so probably a little too early to call it but 2016 is shaping up to be the best year yet. A series of changes and shakeups, some planned and others forced have put me in an amazing place recently, both professionally and personally. It’s rare that we take the moments to slow down and recognize happiness but I have to say, right now, sitting on a rooftop watching the sun go down on the other side of Shwedagon, I’m happy. Really happy.

I’ve been mulling over this, trying to determine what’s different and how I can consciously, proactively keep living like this. I think it’s tied to a conversation I had with a friend about a week ago. I rather blithely announced that 2016 was the year of no assholes and more importantly, choosing the easy path. We laughed about the first but had a surprisingly deep conversation about the latter.

We both agreed that we needed to stop always taking the hardest, most challenging paths laid in front of us. It was time to stop proving that we could conquer and accept that we have. To start choosing ourselves over our reputations. To provide some context, this was a person who was also in their late 30’s and running a major conglomerate. I was shocked that I was getting not just support but active agreement from someone who is wildly successful and simply didn’t have an off switch that I could ever see.

As a society, we are so ingrained to believe that the easy path is the opposite of the rewarding one. That by choosing easy, we are choosing to forego rewarding. I’m hellbent to prove this wrong this year. Like I said earlier, it’s a little too early to call it but I suspect 2016 is going to be highly rewarding AND one of the easiest I’ve had in a long time. Who’s with me?

2015 wrap up

I write one of these every year and usually it comes really easily to me.  But I’ve been mulling over this particular wrap up for days and still am not entirely sure how to view 2015. Generally I can look at the past 12 months and give it a grade but 2015 was just all over the place.

One one hand, I launched a second company, met some incredible people and overall got my life back on track which was no easy feat given what 2014 looked like. I’m proud of my accomplishments and recognize that there’s been a lot of significant milestones. I’ve done things that that I didn’t think could do again and overcame a hell of a lot of insecurities and fears to get back on the entrepreneur train. All good things.

And yet, 2015 probably saw me do more things that I regret than at any other time in my life. I don’t normally live with regrets, what a useless emotion but as I sit and write this,  I also know that 2015 will leave more scars than I care to admit. But I also know that scars are character building and the lessons learned are important. The below is also an important reminder to find peace with 2015.

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Those who know me, know how much I love the Christmas season. And there’s nothing as rejuvenating as going home and surrounding yourself with people who love you. This week has given me more clarity and balance than I’ve had all year. I can literally feel the stress melt away as I sip on eggnog lattes, eat gingerbread and catch up with people who have known me for decades.

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Now is not the time for regrets. Now is a time for peace and joy. A time to reflect on all those who entered into my life, however briefly, to share a story, a laugh, a tear. To all my friends and readers, I hope you have a beautiful Christmas full of love and laughter and a 2016 that is successful and full of rich experiences.

Beginnings

I was talking to a friend about upcoming NYE plans and mentioned that I’ve not partied on the 31st for years now.  I know that the normal tradition is to ring in the new year with a big countdown and some champagne but January 1st has always been more important to me.

For the past 5 years I’ve been on a plane on the morning of the first which seems to set the right tone for the year ahead. Travel has always been a huge part of my life and starting it by going somewhere makes sense. Also, flying on the first is actually quite pleasant – the airports and planes tend to be quiet and the hassles of holiday travel are greatly reduced.

More importantly for me though,  I’ve always been on the plane alone which allows for me to reset for the year ahead. There’s something about the forced down time with no connectivity right after the craziness of the holidays that is deeply relaxing. While clean slates can be done at any time, there’s something about Jan 1st that is special, giving you some mental distance for the year behind and, good or bad, put it to bed. I’ve never been much for traditions but to my surprise, this has become one and something I don’t think will end anytime soon.

 

 

Why I write

I was talking to a fellow blogger the other day about why we love to write. I’ve been a life-long scribbler and have books and books filled with random notes from when I was young. When the Internet arrived with blogs, I moved over because it was faster to type than to hand write (but I still keep a journal where I try to write about things I’m grateful for every few days).

I write because it’s therapeutic. I write because I need to get things off my mind and there’s no better way to clear out the noise than to find a way to write it down in a concise way.  There’s nothing like reading through your own ramblings to unravel the knots and get to the heart of the matter.  Then, every once in a long while, I get a note like the following:

I adore all of your posts because I think they are enlightening while always bringing it back to a human element, but this post has been the most impactful for me and I just want to thank you for putting that together.

If sharing my (sometimes deeply personal) thoughts can have even one meaningful impact on someone’s day then that’s even more reason to keep going at it. So thank you for the kind note, and I hope that you don’t mind that I’ve shared a part of it – I know you’re reading :)

Incidentally, this is someone who used to work for me early in my EA days. The following is probably one of the most rewarding emails I have ever received about work so thank you so much for taking the time to write such nice words!

PS: I’ve been a digital marketing manager, leading a team of 8, for almost 3 years now, and at least once a week I find myself asking “In this situation, what would Rita do?”. While it was just a few short months in 2007, you have definitely left an impression on me all these years later.

Turning 40

In June I will be turning 40 which often shocks people who don’t know me well – thank you mom and dad for the Asian genes!!! Some of my older friends tell me that it’s pretty much a non-issue while others tell me that they were fine with it until it actually happened.  So far, I don’t have any real angst about my age. Well, rarely anyway. I did have an ex who charmingly compared parts of my body to that of a celebrity who is 15 years my junior. I lost. I guess it’s not much of a wonder why he’s an ex, huh?

In any case, I was thinking about turning 40 today. More specifically, I was thinking of turning 40 with some of my close girlfriends in Italy this summer (woohoo!). Other than using a big round number as a reason to drag my friends on a great trip, I really can’t see drowning myself in a bottle of pink bubblies. Well, yeah okay maybe I will but it won’t be in misery but rather in celebration.

I remember a conversation I had with a mentor while in my early 20’s.  She was 43, beautiful, single and by all corporate standards, wildly successful.  One night we had some drinks and she made a comment that has stayed with me for almost two decades.  She said, “I’m not sure how I got to this – in my 40’s still single and with no kids.” It was a sad and deeply personal insight into regrets of her life choices. It also scared the hell out of me.

As I face my 40’s also single and childless, I’m luckily not feeling this kind of regret. I think it comes down to being comfortable with my life. Could I have made better choices? Absolutely. I have the therapist bills to prove it too. But I’ve lived as large and bold as I know how, which isn’t always easy but definitely not dull. I remember moving back to Vancouver right before I turned 30 and thinking I needed to put down roots.  Today, I do not have that feeling. Today, I look forward to another 40 years of travels and meeting interesting people.  To learning new things and collecting more memories. To being a great auntie, sister, daughter and friend.  Those are labels I’m happy with and that’s all that really counts at the end of the day, isn’t it?

Besides, I look damn good for a middle aged lady.

Laughs for a Monday morning

I have this collection of quotes that I save and store. They range from the funny and absurd to heartbreaking and courageous. This morning I decided that I needed a good laugh so decided to share some of the good ones. Happy Monday!

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Rising Strong by Brene Brown

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book called Rising Strong. For those of you who do not know who she is, you MUST watch this incredible TED talk about the Power of Vulnerability. Amazing.

She has several books that are all worth reading but this newest one is probably my favourite. While it stays in the area of human resilience, Rising Strong focuses on the times when you have fallen flat on your face, trying to find a way to breath. This is best described by her words:

We much prefer stories about falling and rising to be inspirational and sanitized. Our culture is rife with these tales.

We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending. I worry that this lack of honest accounts of overcoming adversity has created a Gilded Age of Failure.

But embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause, or the complex journey that underlies rising strong, is gold-plating grit. To strip failure of its real emotional consequences is to scrub the concepts of grit and resilience of the very qualities that make them both so important—toughness, doggedness, and perseverance.

Yes, there can be no innovation, learning, or creativity without failure. But failing is painful. It fuels the “shouldas and couldas,” which means judgment and shame are often lying in wait.

At one of my lowest points I asked a wise friend why people kept betraying me and she told me something similar to this next part and now I think I finally understand.

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.

A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

The whole book is a powerful read and those people who live their life in the arena, versus taking pot shots from the cheap seats will relate. If you take nothing else away from the book, keep this close to your heart.

One final quote from her (though I literally want to cut and paste the whole book, it’s so good)…

Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being.

How true this is.  But the transformation does not need to be negative, it’s all about how you rise strong and come up swinging again.

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