In the Now

In the movie "Hook", the pirate lackey Smee suddenly has a new thought, and says "Captain Hook, I think I've just had an apostrophe!" Hey, Smee isn't the smartest guy in the world . . . apostrophe, epiphany, whatever. Anywhoo, I had an epiphany a few days ago that I needed to share.

Four or five years ago, I was a bald man in crisis; I was struggling to find out what my passions were, what I wanted to do career-wise, with my leadership ability, lots of things along those lines. Family was great, but work stuff was in shambles. I was lucky to have an amazing mentor in my life, Paul Carozzoni, who had no problem delivering a strong message (like telling me when I was choking on my own b.s.) Paul was helping me work through some of my concerns one day, when he asked me a profound question:

Paul: "What is your happy place?"

Jeff: "What do you mean?"

P: "What image from your life gives you the most joy?"

J: "I guess the day I met Ginger. Maybe the days my kids were born."

P: "Blah, blah, blah. Tell me the truth; be detailed, be specific; tell me what you were doing, what the weather was like, what you smelled . . . what captured the moment."

J: "Uhh . . . okay. I remember a day when Kade was about 18 mos and Kai was just 4, and we went to the UC Davis campus and hung out by the fountain. Kai stripped out of his clothes and went right in, and Kade was running around laughing. The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze . . . it was amazing."

P: "Assuming you'd like to feel that way often, what does that tell you about where you'd like to be in your life?"

Smart bastard, huh? From that day until recently, I thought that it meant that I wanted to be on a college campus - maybe as a student again (God forbid) or as a lecturer, or a worker bee. I thought that there was something about being on a college campus that really "sang" to my soul. But that's where my "apostrophe" comes in . . .

During the most recent Live and Learn conference, I brought a whole bunch of punch balloons and glow sticks into the lobby, put on a pair of devil ears (quite a classic look, I assure you), and spent the next several hours interacting with every single person that came in. I blew up balloons until I almost passed out; joked and kidded with everyone there; and passed out more glow sticks than I could count. For that few hours, I felt so amazingly wonderful - so wonderful, in fact, that it has since become another "happy place" for me.

Then today it hit me: it wasn't the college campus that I needed . . . it's the freedom of being completely and utterly in the moment. Free of distractions, free of fears, free of "have-to's." Able to experience an event the way a child does, with no preconceived outcomes, no sense of right and wrong, no "internal editor" holding me back, and with an open heart - to experience a moment in complete and total innocence, for all it's joy and wonder.

Cool and balanced as unschoolers are, we all get overwhelmed with the minutiae of life once in awhile; appointments we need to keep, things we need from the store, blogs we need to update, clothes we need to wash . . . you get the picture. And as soon as we give into that and let it consume us, and let it drive the way we interact with the people we care about, we've stopped living in the now. We've slipped over to the dark side - we have stopped living, and started planning/solving/lamenting/whatevering. I think our kids deserve and demand more from us; they deserve our best, and to see us at our best, and to see us happy. Growing up with unhappy parents sucks; I'm sure many of us know that from experience. Our kids deserve to have us not only willing, but COMMITTED to dropping the crap we sometimes let sneak into our lives and to focus on the now - and on them.
This one is a bit tricky because the ability to plan and solve goes a long way at work. That said, there is always a balance. Planning is a good thing, but not to the extent that it impacts your ability to execute today and accept new information. Solving is critical, but it is just as critical for leaders (formal and informal) to leave some things unsolved so they can hep others develop skills at problem identification and solving. And I've personally benefited many times from adopting a "don't worry, be happy" and "in the now" attitude at work; it tends to bring a level of optimism and engagement that is very appealing, particularly in tough times.
So try it; take your good, positive, engaged, "in the now" attitude out for a test drive and see what that puppy can do!


  1. wow, this couldn't be more timely. scotty is working through some of his work/life stuff lately (he actually started a blog on RUN and posted about it last night). i'm forwarding this to him now =)

  2. Jeff, I really enjoyed this post. And my kids loved the balloons and glow sticks--of course, I enjoyed my glow sticks also. :)

  3. On ~k~/katherand's suggestion, I've linked this post from as "be now."

    It's very cool. Thanks for sharing all that.