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36: Talk it out

My year in review.

Here’s what I had to say about turning 35 last year. The motto for the year was more presciently chosen than I could’ve known at the time. Love the Struggle.

Every year I chose a theme for the year. Here are a few of the previous:

Most of the struggle this year had to do with running a business on a tight budget, with a difficult problem, and a tiny team. I have some regrets for the year, mostly about not making decisions quickly and confidently enough. Maybe I was too tolerant of the struggle.

Overall, though, I do love the struggle. I love being close to the core, close to the most meaningful work. It was painful to stay focused on the meaningful parts of the life (trying to add value to the world, being connected to family, helping others) even while less important but more urgent items nipped at my heels. The strange thing about life is that nobody else can really know how difficult the decisions were to make, and they probably wouldn’t care if you told them.

For my 36th year, I would like my motto to be to Talk it out. I’ve been keeping a lot of my struggle to myself (and some close friends/family). It’s part of the default mindset one has when running a business and being afraid to show weakness to investors, press, the public, etc.

However, when things really did get difficult, and I had no choice but to tell the story with others, and ask for help, things got a lot less strugglesome and became more of a shared challenge. My fear of disappointing others was mostly unfounded.

I’ve been going to counseling too for similarly themed topics in my relationship with Kellianne. Talking it out takes two steps. It forces me to first think about what it is I am trying to say. And second of all, to say it in a way that the person/people I’m talking to are best able to hear it.

Most of communication is about creating or breaking connections. Even contentless small talk is about finding a point of relation between two people. As I’ve started paying attention to this, I’ve noticed just how many times the content of a conversation appears to be one thing (connect) while the tone or context of the conversation says exactly the opposite (disconnect).

As we’ve learned to be public on the internet, I think many of us (myself included) have created strategies for appearing sincere without actually being sincere. By trying to talk it out this year, I’m gonna try to think out loud a bit more, mixing up my personal and professional lives, sharing the difficulties as well as the successes and the boring parts.

Speaking of allowing myself to be boring, my birthday also marks the anniversary of my 8:36pm project, which has now been going for 4 years. I wrote a longer post about that that should go out sometime soon so I won’t say much more about that yet.

Every year since 2007 I spend a moment on my birthday reviewing and editing my list of “rules to live by”. Here it is:

  1. You must not dilly-dally, so that your fears don’t trick you.
  2. You must be your word, so that you speak confidently.
  3. You must have good intentions, so that you don’t betray yourself.
  4. You must admit to being the maker of meaning, so that you know what you’re getting.
  5. You must not feel sorry for yourself, so that you do not become a martyr.
  6. You must have a vision that you are striving for, so that you don’t get lost in incremental improvements.
  7. You must tie creativity and experimentation with survival, so that you don’t take your work lightly.
  8. You must be the change you want to see, so that you don’t blame others.
  9. You must rally others with your vision, so that your ideas are tested.
  10. You must stake your reputation on your better self, so that you become your better self.
  11. You must be comfortable with the consequences of being who you are, both positive and negative.
  12. You must share, so that your motivations remain clear.
  13. You must make your own advice and take it, so that you trust yourself.
  14. You must manage your stress, health, and clarity, so that you stay in balance.
  15. You must study your mistakes, so that you dont’ take them too seriously.
  16. You must retry things you don’t like every once in a while, so that your tastes grow.
  17. You must make time to enjoy things, so that you have time to enjoy things.

Part one of talking it out is that I’ve started using a public Github repository to share my rules for living, my beliefs, and my life list.

Read it or fork it here.

If you’re in Seattle, come to Saint Johns tomorrow (Tuesday May 29th) around 8 o’clock to have a drink with me.

Happy Memorial Day!

Added to the Self-reflection pile.
May 28, 2012

Buster Benson (@buster) is a writer and builder of things. If you're new here, check the about page or see my entire life on a page.


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