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The Lion in the Wild

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A lion I saw on safari in Tanzania almost exactly a year ago

The last month, I’ve been just about incommunicado.  There’s a good reason for this– I promise.  Four weeks ago, I told my boss I was leaving Microsoft.  The next two weeks, I prepared for my departure, making sure all of my areas of responsibility were in good shape before I took off, and then, two weeks ago, I went in to the office one last time.

I’m now a freelance user experience designer.  What’s a UX designer?  Someone who makes websites and apps easy to use.  Ergonomics of the mind.

But that’s not what I’m writing to talk about.  I’m writing to talk about being a freelancer, lions, and my theme for 2013– “the lion in the wild”.

I’ve never been a freelancer.  For the last 2.5 years, I’ve had a full-time job.  I’ve been hand-fed a nice paycheck every 2 weeks– more money than anyone my age should be allowed to make, I half-seriously think.  Excellent benefits.  But it’s not without a cost.  At an ultra-large company, things move slowly.  Everyone knows this.  Layers of people to ask for permission; battalions to argue against anything new.  Bureaucracy.  You can receive non-negotiable instructions changing your day-to-day life from people you’ve never met, never even seen in person.  They don’t know you either.  They don’t know what you’re good at, bad at, or want to learn.

They can’t though.  They literally have no time to do so– there are thousands of such people they are responsible for managing.

The whole situation– that of unparalleled comfort yet unnaturally Read More

Making Things Happen is a Skill

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Image credit: Sarah H. Dee (flickr: 31floors)

In the two years that I’ve been running The Finishing School and preaching the gospel of Getting Out There and Doing Stuff, I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t understand why they should have life goals.

Why go out of your way to list these arbitrary and random things?  Why bother trying to achieve something that doesn’t directly benefit you?

Or,

Isn’t that a first-world luxury?  Something you can only think about because you’re satiated to boredom?  Some people are starving, and you’re checking off continents and crap just because you can?

Having a list of life goals is not about arbitrary timesinks.  Nor is it about boredom and privilege.

Having a list of life goals– and, more importantly, doing them– is about something totally different.  It’s about Read More

Oh hey there, Austin, Albuquerque, and Boston– you now have Finishing Schools

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Finishing Schools, dear readers– they are popping up everywhere.  Groups of people meeting to hold each other accountable and help each other with the goals most important to them.  It’s spreading.

Indeed, the following cities around the US are having their first meeting this month:

  • Austin, TX — Nov 2
  • Albuquerque, NM — Nov 4
  • Boston, MA (after a false start last month) — Nov 19, 20, or 21 (TBD)

If you’re interested in attending any of these, give me a holler.  If you want to start one in your city, same deal.  It’s an exciting time to be working on your goals.

We’ll be back to your regular scheduled programming soon.  Of course, tomorrow’s the 2-year anniversary of the Seattle Finishing School, so it may be few days ;)

All the best,
-Erik

The Finishing School is starting in Boston!

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Almost two years ago, I went to Seattle’s Zig Zag Cafe with a handful of friends, acquaintances, and strangers on a Wednesday night to discuss the things we most wanted to do in life.

It was a group we called The Finishing School, and we’ve been meeting almost every month since to discuss what progress we’ve made on our life goals.  Whether it’s learning the cello, meeting a personal hero, or losing 15 pounds, we hold each other accountable and help each other however we can.

In fact, that’s really what the Finishing School is– an accountability group for your life goals.  And given enough interest, I’d like to start one in Boston, Massachusetts when I visit next week.

Here are the details:

Monday, October 8th
8:00 PM
Location TBD in Boston/Cambridge

If this sounds interesting to you, let me know– I’ll make sure to include you.

Personally, I love the Finishing School.  We’ve grown to be great friends and accomplished some really cool goals– goals like writing a novel, climbing Kilimanjaro, and yes, we even had two members whose goals included “fall in love and get married” fall in love.  And get married.  To each other.

The FS Seattle

You can read more about the story of the Finishing School here or a brief overview here.

If you want to join the Finishing School starting in Boston, MA, contact me.

 

Art of Manliness Readers: Welcome!

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For everyone arriving at this blog from The Art of Manliness (a fantastic blog, if you don’t know about it), good to have you!  My name’s Erik and I write about life goals.  Feel free to look around– or here are a few things you might particularly enjoy:

 

What are you doing before you die?  Here’s specific advice for creating a bucket list.

 

For the polymaths and renaissance men among us: the 4 commandments of reading for self-education.

 

Do you think networking advice seems sleazy and awful?  Yeah, that’s why I tried this.

 

Want to be held accountable to accomplishing your goals in life?  See if there’s a Finishing School in your city– or start one.

 

Feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback!

Introducing The 99¢ Goal Coach

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Friends–

I am now selling something on this blog.  I call it “The 99¢ Goal Coach“.  If there’s a goal you have for which you want advice, help, or accountability– ask your friends first– but then ask me.  Throw a buck in my hat and I’ll give you my best shot.

If you want longer-term coaching, there’s that as well.  That, unfortunately, is closer to market rate than 99¢.  Check it out.

All the best,

–Erik

A Personal Note

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A few days after writing one of the first articles I posted here, I flew back to Chicago to see my mom, who was sick and in the hospital with cancer.  This was not a new development.  After her first bout with cancer, it appeared again six short months later.  At this point, she was in the hospital more than she was out of it, and things were looking worse then ever.  Far worse.

It was one of those “take the next flight out” situations, and I did.  About 12 hours after I arrived, she took her last breath.  And that was a year ago today.

* * *

Perhaps the most striking thing in the last years of my mom’s life was her decision to earn her undergraduate degree (which she never got while young).  She spent the last few years of her life in classrooms with students her childrens’ age, and at the end of those years, walked across the stage as the top student in the Communications Department.

Her first battle against cancer came shortly thereafter, but she was hardly off chemo before she was sending applications to grad schools.  I was impressed and proud.  Unfortunately, she was not a month into her classes when she had to email her professors to take some time off– the cancer was back.

Frankly, I have no idea what it’s like to tell your boss you’re taking time off to suffer through a life-threatening disease.  She did.  I have no idea what it’s like to pick out your gravesite.  She knows.  Designing your own tombstone?  Amateur artist to the last, my mom sure did. Read More

What I Learned at the World Domination Summit

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The World Domination Summit lobby. Photo credit: Armosa Studios

This weekend, I travelled down to Portland, Oregon for the second ever World Domination Summit.  This event has always been a bit of a challenge to try and describe.  ”The World what!?” most people ask.  Here we go again…  It’s basically a convention for people who are into micro-entrepreneurship, life-hacking, and travel.  It is a crap-ton of fun, and I got to meet a lot of people and learn some cool stuff.

This post is a bit different from my regular ones.  I want to tell you about what I learned this weekend– and also why I don’t think I’ll be going back next year.

 

Lessons from WDS

When you can’t be vulnerable, joy is foreboding.  The opening talk at the conference was on vulnerability.  Yes, we had to sing at our neighbor and dance in the aisle.  But it wasn’t kindergarten all over again.  The speaker was Brene Brown– and in case there’s any confusion, I mean the Brene Brown with one of the most watched TED Talks of all time.  And yup, she had some serious bombs to drop on us.

This one in particular stuck with me.  It’s about vulnerability and joy.

Vulnerability is tough.  Being yourself when everyone else expects something different?  That’s not as glamorous as it seems.  It’s all sweaty palms and worrying what people will think.  But the alternative is having your soul crushed and being false to yourself, so it’s worthwhile.

And beyond that, it’s necessary.  Life is uncertain.  You aren’t in charge here.  That’s vulnerability right there.  And tell me, how does it strike you knowing tomorrow you could be dodgin’ the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?  I don’t know, but if it doesn’t strike you so well, Brene Brown wants you to get over it.  If you can’t be vulnerable, you can’t live.

Does that make sense?  If you can’t be vulnerable, every peak is just something you could fall off of.  Regression to the mean and gravity are teaming up to ruin your day.  And Brene talked about just that.  She was on a long-overdue date night with her husband, walking back from dinner through the park on a summer night, when visions of masked muggers Read More

Welcome Pick the Brain and Change Blog readers!

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For those of you who made it here via my articles on Pick the Brain or The Change Blog, welcome!  Let me tell you a bit about myself and this blog in this post.

After leaving school, I decided to spend “the last summer vacation of my life” working on my life goals full-time.  I went through my list one evening, picked a few items I could start on that summer, and dove in.  That summer ended up being one of the best of my life.  I was spending my 40 hours a week training for a marathon, learning to rock climb, doing martial arts, and reading all the books I had always wanted to.

When I got to Seattle to start my job, I started talking to everyone I met about what I was doing.  I noticed something interesting: a lot of people wanted to live their lives with greater focus on their goals.  We couldn’t devote 40 hours a week to it, but we wanted to do something in our day-to-day that reflected greater priorities.

And so the Finishing School was born.  The Finishing School is a group of people that meets once a month or so for each member to report on what they’ve done on their life goals, as well as get encouragement and advice from the group.  There are two rules to the Finishing School:

  1. Every member must make at least some progress on at least one goal
  2. If this is your first night at the Finishing School, you must read your entire life goal list

So that’s where I’m at– writing this blog, being part of the Seattle Finishing School, and achieving my own goals (currently working on: climb Mt. Rainier).  If this sounds cool, here are a few recommendations:

  • Poke around here and see if anything interests you (recommendations below; my life list here)
  • Want to start a Finishing School in your city?  Let me know and I’ll hook you up with advice and other people interested
  • Join the Bucket List Society mailing list (see the side bar on the right)

And to get you started reading, here are a few of my favorite and most popular posts.

  • 5 Bold Rules for Journaling.  I think journaling is one of the best possible activities you can spend your time on.  Here’s why, and here’s what to do when you journal.
  • 5 Public Speaking Tips You Haven’t Heard Anywhere Else.  I’ve done a fair bit of public speaking, and I’ve never run across advice as useful as what I’ve had to find for myself.  Here’s that wisdom– let me know if it works for you too.
  • Eurisk: my theme for 2012.  I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but I describe my “theme for 2012″ here.  It’s about taking chances on the things that might help you the most.
Enjoy!