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July 2010
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January 2011

How to "Catch and Release" 2010

Imagine pulling up to your house at night.  As you approach, something feels odd, out of place, amiss.  It's dark as the familiar lights on your street guide you along, though you don't notice because you're on automatic pilot.  But, something has changed and your brain can't quite fill in the blanks, so much so that you nearly pass your house entirely until you recognize the Christmas tree in your front window.  You catch yourself at the last minute, so that you're fully alert, no longer on auto-pilot.  You pull into the driveway, get out of the car and cautiously turn back toward the street.  That's when you realize that the 40-year-old California Oak Tree that graced the front of your yard has been chopped.  To the ground.  With barely a stump to recognize its memory. 

That's exactly what happened to me recently.  It was a big beautiful tree owned by the city, a tree with dead limbs that often dropped without warning onto the street and nearby yards.  So, after several inspections the city took it out. 

It took the wind out of me, particularly the next morning when I saw it in the light of day.  It created a huge open space that completely changed the complexion of my landscape as well as my view.   After mourning the loss, it got me thinking about how healthly the open space is now, no longer full of Oak-tree
impending decay and potential catastrophe.  So, I released the dear, old tree and started thinking about what kind of new seedling I can plant in its stead. 

It also got me thinking about applying the same thought to the last year.  The phrase that keeps coming to mind is "catch and release."  It sparked memories of fishing with my dad as a kid when we would spend hours in the early morning quiet, on a calm lake, fishing for trout and Northern pike.  More times than not, we caught the unsuspecting fish, gently removed the hook and then released it back into the water where it swam anew.   It's a great metaphor and exercise for reflecting on 2010, capturing the events, both the good as well as the challenging, and then releasing them, thus creating lots a open space for creation, new adventures and abundance in 2011.

Author and businessman Alan Cohen said, "It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."  

It's a great way to complete the year.  Take a few moments to catch and release 2010.

  • Take stock of your environment and make note of what's working and what is not.  You don't need to focus on the bad stuff, but it's healthy to acknowledge what you've come through.  This has been a difficult year for many so take time to celebrate and honor your challenges and the fact that you've conquered some of them!  Acknowledge them and then release!
  • Go through your calendar and make note of all of your accomplishments. Los Angeles Life Coach Andrea Quinn calls this the most profound way to create a powerful launching pad to begin the next year.  When you make a complete list of everything you've done in a year's time, it's pretty rewarding.  Remember the little things too.
  • Examine your relationships. Where do you stand with your old relationships as well as any new connections you made this year?  When you explore how you're connecting with others, your year takes on a richer tone.  Capture and recollect momentous relationship moments from the year.  What have your learned?  What can you release and what can you carry forward?
  • Where have you given?  Take some time to honor your own generosity, and personal philanthropy. They don't have to be major donations of time and money; the small gestures and moments of giving are just as important.

Once you're done with your 2010 "Catch and Release", you will also see, as I did in bidding adieu to my oak tree, how it will shake up your own landscape and allow it to change and renew your view for 2011.

Now go bravely forward, with a clear mind and wide open path before you.  You never know what magic lies ahead!

Happy New Year!

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The Impact of Being a Precedent-Setter

"You've been given a great gift, George. The chance to see what the world would be like without you." ~ Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life"

What a great line from an iconic movie.  I saw the Frank Capra film on the big screen for the first time this year at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  It was such Wonderful lifea treat seeing it as a feature film with 300 other rapt moviegoers, popcorn and all.  The comment we made as we left the historic theatre was "they don't make movies like that anymore." 

Then, last night a friend took me to see "West Side Story" at the Pantages Theatre.  It's truly the perfect evening of musical theatre, the brilliant re-telling of Romeo & Juliet set to music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. West-side-story

After seeing both of these treasures that have stood the test of time and whose stories still hold up today, it got me thinking about how when they were both made they were original and fresh, truly the exemplars in their arenas, setting a new ideal.  Even though "West Side Story" was an update on Shakespeare's tale, the way it was told made WWS, itself, precedent-setting.  It was done so well that any attempt to re-tell or update its tragic love story would be futile.  The theme behind "It's a Wonderful LIfe" set a precedent that many storytellers have tried to emulate, but none so well as in the black & white original.

It got me thinking about how, in this copycat information-junky society, it's important to remind ourselves that we all are true originals, to set precedents of our own, to be remembered for being unique and for contributing value to the world and to the lives of others, to build a legacy that is ours and ours alone.

  • Be yourself, instead of trying to be something or someone else.  Imagine how much more work it takes to keep up the appearances of being someone else inauthentically, rather than in being yourself authentically.
  • Chart a fresh course.  Expand your mind and your ideas by trying new things and learning new subjects. Take a class, read an author you're unfamiliar with, skydive, belly dance, snowboard, climb a mountain, camp by the ocean, walk a country mile, buy an espresso machine, learn an obscure foreign language, meditate, sing in public, tour a museum, eat something you've never eaten before, do whatever "charting a fresh course" means to you.
  • Make note of original ideas.  By keeping a regular journal or notebook you can keep track of small seeds that are divinely or organically planted in your mind.  Then, go back and expound on them. 
  • Pay attention to sparks.  My best ideas have come from paying attention to odd images, interesting words or phrases I read or hear, or a question or need I need answered.  I grab the spark, storing it to chew on later.  Think about Post Its, or paper clips, or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or "Gone with the Wind."  The spark for the idea came from a need, a twinkling of a thought or a slice-of-life experience.  Pay attention to the sparks.

Establish your own standard to be followed by yourself and others.  Examine the areas of your life and career where you are the example, where others follow your lead.  Where do you set a precedent?  No matter how small it may seem, notice where you are original and unique.  Take some time this weekend before the new year begins and honor your originality.  Many times out of those moments of self-reflection and reverence come more sparks.

Pay attention to the sparks!