This past week was a tough one for me. The first week of November always is. In fact, it has historically been a difficult week for me, as it is for other busy professionals. It’s crunch time, that time of the year when we start to get pummeled with a multiplied force of personal and professional fatigue. In the face of a difficult week, I realized that the best advice I needed was my own.
Not only does the first week of November mark the true “beginning of the end" of the year for all of us working to beat the holiday clock, but this week is a particularly nostalgic one -- one that includes the birthday of my older brother who I lost suddenly to suicide almost six years prior. Each year, on November 3rd, I celebrate his life, his legacy and what would have been another year he would have played mentor (and big brother) to everyone around him. This first week of November always presents a thinly veiled high with an intense low, wrapped uniquely together around zero lack of irony.
But this year came with a harder struggle than most. During a year when I find myself juggling the management of multiple businesses, advising CEOs on the strategic direction of their companies, and working on the development and rollout of a start-up of my own, I found myself even more exhausted than I could have ever remembered before.
I was tired. I was exhausted. I was physically ill. And I was definitely not motivated.
So what did I do?
I took my own f***ing advice, and because of that (and in total transparency), I feel compelled to share that truth and journey with you today. My point is simple -- I realize we all have struggles, and mine are not unique. They are just as real as yours, and I imagine yours are just as tough as mine. However, the path to getting through these struggles shares similar detours.
Here’s what I did. And remember, take my advice, I don't use it all the time anyway...
CONNECT WITH NATURE, YOUR TRUE SELF
This past July, I took myself on a wellness retreat to Sedona, Arizona. The truth is that I actually thought I had signed myself up for a week of blissful massages and endless hot yoga.
Well, what I actually experienced was a week of silence.
When I arrived at my retreat, I was greeted with the keys to my “lakeside view” cabin and the instruction to be in the seminar room by 2pm and not a minute late. Wait. What? A seminar? What about my Swedish, deep-tissue massage or that amazing, organic clay mask facial I so desperately needed?
Not here, my friend.
I’ll spare you all the details of the week, except to tell you that I did end up meditating for an average of six to eight hours a day. A practice not for the faint at heart, but needed for those like me who are in need of a digital detox. You know who you are.
What I learned was how much I needed to get back to my “true self”. The same true self that guides my wisdom, creativity and is the source of all of my energy. This is the same energy that I found nonexistent this past week.
So I took the same learning from that Sedona retreat and put it right back into real-time practice. This past week, when I needed it most (and when the work seemed to be piled on the highest), I just stopped everything. I literally shut down my work, and booted-up my true self.
I spent hours and hours, and miles upon miles cycling all over Southern California. I rode, at first,
with resistance, then eventually with vigor. I connected with nature.
Hey, this sh** was working!
After about a hundred miles clocked on my bike, and less than four hours clocked on my computer, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel again. I started to feel myself again. I started to think like my true self. And I started to act like my true self again. It was exactly what I needed.
WRITE FROM YOUR TRUE SELF
Always a big fan of “writing it out”, I took to pen and paper. Each day during this digital detox, I sat with my journal and wrote what I called “a newness of self.” Instead of writing my goals, action items and daily strategic plans (which I would normally use as the structure for daily journaling), I wrote about personal reflections, potential sources of energy and about the essence of my true self. What truly makes me happy?
Paragraph after paragraph, turned into something new for me. At times I had no structure or formula. I was just writing my thoughts and ideas, activating a new place within myself.
And this sh** was working!
The hardest thing about writing without a framework is allowing yourself to write unobstructed, to write with courage, truth and vulnerability. Lately there’s been a ton written about the power of being seen and vulnerable. To be truly vulnerable with your true self, allowing your true self to be seen by even you, is the ultimate act of courage.
I used this process as a way to pull out my hidden ideas, emotions and energy – like moving furniture around to get a different feel for the room, I had to move my own energy and thoughts around to get a different feel for my presence.
And this sh** was working!
GIVE YOUR TRUE SELF PERMISSION
Last, but not in the least, I gave myself permission to no longer need to be perfect.
It’s funny that we now live in a world where we feel we need permission to unplug, to just be human, to be present with the moments we are given and to be real with the people we share those moments with. My friends, this is humanity. And we are f***ing missing the boat.
No other time is this more needed than today. Amongst the digital world of optimized profiles, maximized likes, shared images, re-tweets, and snap chats, it’s hard to understand that we are all feeling much deeper than our online images will allow you to see. We feel way more than we’ll ever admit to our #fambams, or share with our #fitfams through some of our favorite#latergrams. Seriously.
No permission is really ever needed, but go ahead if it makes you feel better. It worked for me. I gave myself permission to be tired; permission to feel the loss of someone who meant everything to me; permission to take another hour to ride another twenty miles (because that's what my true self wanted); permission to swear after every single flat tire (there were three in the first five days, by the way); and then the permission to feel gratitude from all of it. One day, one ride, one journal entry at a time.
In the end, I was grateful.
I was grateful for the obscure trip to Sedona that taught me how to sit in silence for hours and listen to my “inside voice”. I was grateful for the endless professional opportunities that remind me how much I’m needed to make a difference in this world (and the lives of others). And I’m grateful for every November 3rd that passes by, as each one reminds me that life is less about what happens to you, and more about who you become in the process.
And I’m eternally grateful to my brother, Todd William Geary -- I’m grateful for who your life helped me to become.
Now, #GoDo. Or not...maybe just go for a long ass ride.