The Good Life Project

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.”   ~Carl Rogers 

Jonathan Fields runs a website called The Good Life Project. He interviews amazing people and gains their perspective on life, and at the end asks specifically what they define as living a good life. The answers are, of course, as interesting as the discussions.

I wish I had more time to watch them all. But for now, here are some of my favourites:

The last name on the list has landed there by chance, not because I like the talks in order, or chronological of when I first watched them. The position of Simon Sinek’s name is almost serendipity, which is the topic of where this list started. Kind of spooky, but awesome at the same time.

In a way, the content of these interviews is far more impressive than a TED talk, because the setting is so personal. A one to one chat. You almost feel like a third person sitting to one side forming a “C” shape.

I thrive on this kind of thing. And to think, there are so many projects like this going on today, but we don’t hear about them. Tell someone about this, watch them, share.

Rainy day fun

I grew up on the prairies of Canada where there was a good chance you would be “snowed-in”, for a number of days every winter. Sometimes it was just the school being closed, other times it was already a weekend or vacation day and the snow and cold left us house bound. So our winter routines included lots of inside activities to hold us over until better weather returned.

We did go outside and take advantage of the snow, (not so much the cold). Once the wind chill was down to minus 20 C, my parents would let us stay in. And that is what I loved. Doing stuff inside.

As expected, “old habits die-hard”. I still really enjoy working on projects and activities inside the house. (However it is now the heavy rain that drives us inside, not snow and freezing temperatures.) My list includes:

  • cooking big batches of stew in the slow cooker, the house taking on the fragrance of my creation, (currently we are deep in Mexico with a double batch of salsa)
  • reading, having that perfect spot to curl up in with perfect light, where the hours can slip by
  • organizing – I know how weird this sounds, but I like to spend time getting papers in order, taking care of my personal inbox, which is otherwise badly neglected by too much focus on my work inbox
  • knitting, so many things to knit, so little time as I knit slowly and with limited skills
  • sewing, much easier to do and has been a standby for me since I was a child
  • photo albums, used to be the actual touching paper photo’s but has been replaced by iPhoto, just as fun
  • writing – too many projects on the go
  • Spanish lessons
  • watching movies and TV, netflix and iTunes have been amazing

Then there are the things I want to do, but either don’t know how and/or don’t have the space to work on:

  • stamp collection, started as a child and is packed away
  • coin/money collection, same as above
  • beading – actually adding beads to knitted projects
  • quilting
  • crochet
  • paper crafts, my daughter would love this, but we need more supplies, more space to lay everything out, more time

There is more, I’m sure, but these come to mind right now.

In my dream house by the water and in the woods at the same time, I have a studio. All my creative pursuits will be set up and easy to work on any time. Once inspiration strikes, I will be ready to create. For now, I share every corner of this house with 3 other people and 2 of the smallest ones take up so much space wherever they are. Their little voices, the barrage of questions and problems or a scraped knee which needs a kiss.

Before I know it the little ones will be bigger, grown up and gone. I’ll miss their presence and count the days for their return. I’ll miss the way they could fill a room. They made the house feel alive, that is how I will remember these days.

So for now, I steal moments of creativity when I can. I pull out a project from a bag that has been tucked into a corner. I knit a few rows, or pull my computer off the shelf and write a few words. This is how I feed that part of my soul while my children still need so much from me.

It is all about balance, not too heavy to either side.

Web_rain collage

Great thinkers

This extract is attributed to Loren Eiseley:

“The journey is difficult, long, sometimes impossible. Even so, I know few people who have let these difficulties stop them. We enter the world without knowing for sure what happened in the past, what consequences this has brought us, and what the future may have in store for us.

We shall try to travel as far as we can. But looking at the landscape around us, we realize that it won’t be possible to know and learn everything.

So what remains is for us to remember all about our journey so that we can tell stories.
To our children and grandchildren, we can tell the marvels that we have seen and the dangers that we have faced.
They too will be born and will die, they too will tell their stories to their descendants, and still the caravan won’t have reached its destination.”

Thinker-galaxyLoren Eiseley (September 3, 1907 – July 9, 1977) was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s. During this period he received more than 36 honorary degrees and was a fellow of many distinguished professional societies. At his death, he was Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, the feeling and philosophical motivation of the entire body of Dr. Eiseley’s work was best expressed in one of his essays, The Enchanted Glass: “The anthropologist wrote of the need for the contemplative naturalist, a man who, in a less frenzied era, had time to observe, to speculate, and to dream.” (Wikipedia)

Where are these great thinkers today? Maybe I am as guilty as the rest of society. For the most part, the famous names I know are the ones plastered on the glossies at the grocery store. The heroes that we worship today, have insignificant accomplishments, in the grand scheme of things.

It is time to discover some of the great thinkers of the last hundred years. I suspect there are many out there, going about their work, with very few paparazzi chasing them down.

Purpose

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.   ~George Carlin

It is interesting to think the your purpose will affect the outcome. Here are a few examples:

  1. Flying – no matter how much you repeat the mantra, “Miracle of human flight”, the overnight flight to Europe is a drag if you are doing for work. But, imagine you are alighting the doorway of a 777 with your loved ones for a fun-filled vacation, all expenses paid?
  2. Digging dirt – is a back-breaking task that represents the ultimate in mindless drudgery. But, digging into rich soil and preparing it for plantings that are beautiful or will produce wonderful food, (or both), is a wonderful job that I look forward to.
  3. Washing dishes – yucky, stinky, slimy, gross, is how I would have described this, every time my name came up in the ritual “draw” at my parents dinner table. But, what about the time to have a nice, quiet think? And if others have caught onto the thinking bit, what about the time to have a nice quiet chat with people whom you love?
  4. Grocery shopping – the novelty of shopping for entertainment wore off some time ago. This can be viewed as a rather routine job that just about anyone could do. But, if you have spent a couple of hours very carefully planning out your week of menu’s using multiple cookbooks, would you trust the procurement of the supplies to just anyone? The sourcing of the perfect tomatoes, the wonder about what will be available, local and in-season from the farmers market, these are pleasures.
  5. Commuting – this is akin to wasting time and who in their right mind would consciously do this? When you look around you at all the other drivers in all the other cars, you wonder, have we all gone crazy? But, you can slip in an audio CD and your mind moves into a space of learning and entertainment. In a weird way, you begin to look forward to the drive. (The library lets you borrow all this content for free! My library system even lets you request titles from all other branches and transfer it into my location, for free!)

Next time you find yourself cursing under your breath about how bad something is, (I do this all the time), try to turn that energy towards the positive. You might say, “Well what if my plane ride is always for work?” That is when we must turn to that amazing human ability called imagination. It is available anytime you call on it and it is free.

Life changing

Every May for 3 years, we have taken a journey. It involves a trek back into Richmond on a sunny Friday night. (For those of you living here and contending with the tunnel traffic know exactly what this means). We eat incredibly early, (before 5pm) and take our place in line at the Gateway Theatre. Then we wait and wait for the event to start, after securing our perfect seats.

The lights finally go down and the music starts to blare from the sound system. The curtain goes up and within a dry smoke effect and a fantastic light show, the Grand Master takes the stage with a big sword. It is like watching a movie full of special effects, but it is right there, in real life. Adding to the drama is the fact that the Grand Master is not a youngster, (I don’t know what his age is, but I’m sure most men even half his age could barely lift that sword).

So begins the black belt ceremony for Tong Moo Do mixed martial arts. Each class of young people take their turn, grouped together by the their current level of belt. The white belts are the ones starting out, sometimes very young and so very cute with their fists raised in the sparring stance.

My children have advanced from that stage and are towards the middle of the pack, on their own journey towards a black belt. The reason for the evening is the awarding of the black belts, but it is so much more than that. And it is the circumstance and ceremony of it all that is so life changing.

In a fast paced world where we need to be reminded to turn off our cell phones and give loud cheers for all the participants, (not just for our own family or friends), this type of ceremony is a welcome breath of fresh air. Throughout the evening you witness the evolution of what the black belts have physically achieved as they moved through the belts. The advanced level belts wearing colored jackets are athletes of the highest calibre. It feels like you witnessed a miracle to watch the performance and remember they all started as white belts with a half a dozen moves.

But beyond the physical achievements there is a recognition of the personal changes each member has gone through. Black belt candidates are asked to write an essay, detailing how Tong Moo Do has changed their life. The excerpts that are read at the ceremony and posted on the blog are very profound. I always feel a close connection to these letters, because gymnastics had a similar effect for me.

This form of MMA also teaches one key value that I think is missing from most childhood teachings; respect. There a number of moves that pay respect to each other, the instructors and masters. In a modern world, it is so nice to watch this quick and easy way that people can honour each other.

I leave the evening feeling inspired, enlightened and optimistic for my children’s future. They are learning positive, life changing skills. That is good stuff.

Serendipity

Definition from merriam-webster: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Or from Wikipedia: is when someone finds something that they weren’t expecting to find.

I’m not sure if this is what I am experiencing. But it sure has been a nice string of circumstances.

As I was getting ready for summer vacation, I was book shopping. I’m not sure why I do this. I have so many un-read books on my shelf already. I even have 2 or 3 on the go standing on my bedside table calling out to me. I was strolling through the aisles and I came across, “The Art Of Possibility”, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. I had no knowledge of the title or the authors. The cover is very plain. But something in the look of it and a quick flip through made me buy it. I put everything else aside and read this book through, taking notes the whole time. A fantastic book, which I plan to read again many more times.

Tonight I was scanning through my news reader and came across coverage of a speaking presentation by Benjamin Zander. I would not have known enough to read the article had I not read this book. And the analysis was so consistent with what I had thought of him from the book, it was, I don’t know – serendipity?

My husband sent me a YouTube video a couple of years ago by Simon Sinek. It talked about what motivates people to do great things. Then, I started using the TED talks app on my iPad and realized that is where the video came from. Turns out that this author can deliver daily inspiration right into your email inbox which is a brilliant way to start the day. This one was almost serendipity in reverse.

What started me on the quest to write this blog was reading “The Happiness Project”, by Gretchen Rubin. I stumbled across this title in a small book aisle of our local discount department store. I carried it around for a while. I started reading it (and fell in love with it) while waiting for my Chinese Visa in the Consulate Office. For some reason they would not allow any kind of technology in their waiting room – nothing. (And they were enforcing it). So I had to go back in time and pull out a bundle of paper containing millions of words and flip through the pages with my fingers. Since then, I seem to stumble across mentions of Gretchen all the time. And to think she was MY muse – a little serendipitous?

Those are just a few examples. It is almost as if the information or experience I need becomes available to me just at the right time. I suppose too early or too late, it would completely pass by without my notice.

Gjøa

It never ceases to amaze me. The tenacity of the human spirit. A person gets a kernel of an idea and then, over time, it grows into a fully fledged enterprise. Of course, it is not magic. The truly great accomplishments require a multitude of resources, both human and financial. Or do they?

Roald Amundsen was the expedition leader and Master of the Gjøa, which was the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. The first thought that comes to mind is how small the ship is, as you can see by the photo. But Amundsen wanted a small crew, they were to live off the land and avoid all the excess, (cargo and people) which had plagued John Franklin’s expedition.

It was built and served for 28 years as a herring fishing vessel. And Amundsen had little experience in Arctic sailing. When you look at all these facts mounting up against him, it is a wonder that this mission was completed at all.

But there were a series of things that happened and contributed to success. Preparation was key. Technical knowledge had to be brought on board. But the people involved on this epic journey must have possessed the most important skill of all. For me, that would be the ability to effectively communicate. That is the pre cursor to everything in life that turns out well.

When the going got tough in the high Arctic, they turned to the Inuit for help. On display at the Maritime Museum in Oslo, there are many, many photo’s showing the details of surviving and even thriving while locked in the ice for 3 winters.

I have not personally spent time in the Arctic, but I have 2 family members that have. Stories from them detail some of the hardships that life up North can dish out. There is a level of preparedness that is required as winter sets in that us Southerners can hardly comprehend. And then put this into the context of the time and circumstances of the Northwest passage.

Truly a worthwhile visit, if you find yourself with a free afternoon in Oslo, Norway.