I was fortunate to come across Buster Benson’s website this past weekend, which also happened to be my 38th birthday weekend. On his site, Buster has been cataloging his life as a codex vitae (book of life). Seeing his annual review posts (done usually around his birthday) and his annual motto got me wishing I’d been doing the same now for years.
So I’m gonna start this year.
Figured I’d start with a short reflective practice that I also use for my coaching sessions with clients to capture some highlights and areas to focus on improving.
What Went Well This Year
The Road Trip – My 38th year was marked by our road trip as we departed our 7 year home in Manhattan Beach and set out to explore where and when the next chapter of our life might begin. On the journey, some part of me lamented not finding that perfect utopia, but we found a series of places that at least in a conversation came up between Katie and I as a possibility for calling home. If you’re wondering, they were Santa Cruz, Tahoe, Austin, Boise, Bozeman, Steamboat Springs, Durango, Fort Collins, Nashville, and Asheville. We also strongly considered moving back to Michigan where we both grew up and spent 3 months there as a trial period. It felt old to us though and we were looking for something new.
Boulder as our new home – We were on the verge of returning to California when Katie suggested we give Boulder (which we’d spent a week at already during our trip) a deeper look. A one-month rental just off Pearl Street became a summer rental and now a longer term setup for us. It feels so good here.
Bought a Guitar – I have a dream to be in a cover band with three buddies, oh say…25 years from now. Problem is I didn’t know how to play any instrument, so for Christmas I went to guitar center and bought myself the cheapest electric guitar they had (telling myself I could upgrade in a year or two if I stick with it) and a sick lightning bolt guitar strap. Metal.
What Could Be Better
Less Screens, More Art, More Outdoors – Both for myself and our kids, I just want to stare at screens (computer, TV, phone) so so much less and instead paint a picture or go for a hike or even just sit in the grass and wonder.
I Need to Compete – There’s no doubt that I’m at my best when I’m training for a race. It’s a forcing function to get me out there even in the madness of two young kiddos and work. Did 1 triathlon this year and I think that’s it. End result: I pushed my body for 2 months of the year and that’s it. Without a race, it’s too easy to let slip. More racing in my 39th year.
Why So Serious? – I used to build a lot of walls in my life in an attempt to keep things nice and tidy. It instead left me feeling divided. There was the work me where I dropped off some parts of myself that I deemed not welcome at the door every day.
The past year has seen a lot of these walls getting torn down and yet in my work, I still feel a different Todd showing up most days. This Todd feels like he needs to “get things done” and hustle all the time, every time. Sometimes he manipulates people and situations to try and get what he wants. Often he’s lost in his head trying to reason the absolute best path forward.
He’s a very serious Todd.
Which leads me to…
My Motto for my 39th Year on this Earth: Loosen Up
I can see clearly now that for my whole adult life I’ve carried a belief that it’s important to be serious about things if you want to succeed. This belief sucks. It’s antithetical to who I am and has been a tremendous source of suffering in my life. Growing up I loved playing outside with friends – recess and the playground were a primary source of joy. And then the innocence was lost. Somewhere around 6th grade, boys started fighting and hurting each other out on the playground. The entire landscape transformed into a place where I needed to be soft-spoken and meek if I wanted to stay safe. Play was gone. Seriousness arrived. I want to make a practice of letting that go. It may take longer than a year, it may never go away, but I’m gonna try.
Another loosening up to be had is around my thoughts and willingness to share them. With friends, I’ll wax for hours on even the craziest thoughts that I have. With strangers, including publishing articles like this, I feel the tightness in my chest. Will I be laughed at? Did I use the word ‘antithetical’ properly? I hope I’m not exposed as a fraud.
Tired of it. It’s time to loosen up.
What This All Might Mean in Practice
Finding ways to Loosen Up will be a practice for the year. I don’t expect things to suddenly snap into place or change, but I share this publicly to commit and create some accountability with you, the reader.
Areas where I know this will stretch me:
- Meeting New People – I tend to bring an agenda of “look put together, even impressive” to most events where I meet new people. I’d much more enjoy carrying curiosity and vulnerability with me to those conversations.
- Sales Conversations – I need to remember…the best sales conversations I’ve had have included giggles of excitement and wonder. The worst feel like I’m trying to convince.
- Quitting Time – The serious adult in me thinks it’s ok – even noble! – to burn the candle at both ends. To work until my energy is exhausted. I’d rather dedicate energy daily to my wife, the kids, and even my own hobbies. Could I be done every day by 5pm?
- Running Live Events – I want to bring people together for adventures. The serious side of me worries if I can get enough people to commit to coming. If I loosen up a bit I might just enjoy the adventure regardless of whether ten or even two people join me.
- Writing – I feel so clenched when I sit down at the keyboard. I want to believe there is a deeper, truer place that the words that I share might come from. Or maybe I could just loosen up a bit.
Here’s to experiencing all that my 39th year of life has to offer.