“The word ‘passion’ is often tossed around casually as something necessary for great work. What’s ignored is that the root of passion means ‘to suffer.’ When you are passionate about something, it means you are willing if necessary- to suffer a bit on behalf of it, because you care so deeply. Great contributors have discovered a productive passion, or an outcome that they are so committed to that it fuels and animates their work.”

Todd Henry

The Accidental Creative

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Do you have an un-bucket list?

Have you ever seen the movie, The Bucket list, in which the characters played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson make a list of all the things they want to do before they die? I watched it a few years back and was hugely inspired by it.  I made my own bucket list- a very long list of fantastically adventurous things to do, places to visit, new things to try – until reality hit me on the head and I realised that I didn’t have nearly enough money, time, or energy to do half the things on that list. This is my problem with bucket lists: more often than not, they focus on the failure of the things that I haven’t done and often leave me with a sense of anxiety for the future.

Instead of sharing with you a list of the things that I haven’t done, I’ll share with you a list of the things that I have accomplished in the last year or so. Welcome to my un-bucket list:

  1. Quit drinking soda-I challenged myself to quit soda right before I started fasting for Ramadhan last year.  I’ve been drinking water and very occasionally, fruit juice. These days, I won’t drink soda even if it comes free with a meal.  My clothes fit better and my skin feels more hydrated.
  2. Turned my wardrobe into a ‘joy’ only zone-I went through an intense purging period where I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit well, didn’t look good on me, or that I just flat-out didn’t like. I read about Marie Kondo‘s philosophy on surrounding yourself with only things that ‘spark’ joy, and I have slowly started cutting out the joyless stuff out of my life. Which brings me to….
  3. Picked my battles-This is another big un-bucket item. I try very hard to allocate my time and focus on people that fill my life with beauty and laughter, and really, really try to stay away from anything that will make me angry or sad. There are always the inevitable sad/angry situations of course, but I intentionally keep these to a necessary minimum. When confronted with a conflict, I tend to ask myself “will this matter in 5 years time?” and proceed accordingly.
  4. Explored my city-Remember how I mentioned that bucket lists often involve significant chunks of money, time, and energy? This specifically relates to travel. As a working mother with two active toddlers,  I have little of those three resources to spare. I haven’t been travelling to many new countries, but I have been a very busy local tourist.  I make a point of visiting a local attraction at least once every week. London has many fantastic free attractions like museums, parks, gardens, and events. I pack a lunch and snacks for the road, load up the kids in the stroller, and off we go to explore the city. It’s so much fun!
  5. Started a library-This is probably the biggest un-bucket item on my list. Since childhood, I’ve always enjoyed reading immensely (I talked about it in this blog post). One of my dreams was to start a library in the coastal region of Kenya, where literacy rates are so low compared to the rest of the country. In late 2014, this dream came true. The library started out with a collection of a few donated books and now has grown so big that we are running out of space! You can read more about the library here.

How about you? What’s in your un-bucket list?

The 500 word pledge

typewriter
It is 11pm. The clock is ticking and after a long and busy day, the bed is loudly calling out my name. I would have succumbed to its sweet siren except I made a pact today. It was an aspiring writers pact I made with my brother in law to write 500 words everyday in the attempt to be better bloggers, and thus better writers. We both have blogs that we had guiltily abandoned over the last few (gasp!) months and our attempts to write from inspiration had long withered.

“I haven’t been inspired lately”, he said.
“I don’t think writers wait to be inspired”, I said.

At this point I was really referring to a brilliant article I had read recently, penned by the beautiful Elizabeth Gilbert of the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame.

“The more important virtue for a writer”, Ms. Gilbert points out, “is self-forgiveness.”

She had me at self-forgiveness.

I tend to flagellate myself pretty badly for my writing. The word ‘fraud’ comes to mind a lot during my writing process. There are so many great writers out there and how dare I, a common woman with no formal writing achievements, write. Also, I have a deep paranoia of placing commas in the wrong place in a sentence. And did I mention my strong need for privacy, thoughts included?

But I digress.

Liz (I think of her as my really cool and wise friend) continues “…your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

After sharing these words with my brother in law, we quickly came to the realization that we had caved into comfort; comfort in nonjudgement and in the perpetual vows of ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’. We wanted to develop better writing skills but like everything else, mastery comes after a lot of practice. To be good at something, you must do it consistently. The forgiveness part comes in when you fall short of your expectations. You may not be the world’s greatest ____ but to someone, your work may mean something. In my case, it was Haytham.

Today would have been like any other day for me. I would have gone to bed with the cloud of guilt hanging over my head, but instead I spent an extra half hour to string words into sentences; I transformed thoughts into words. I can sleep in peace. Today, I wrote.

501 words.

Additional:
Check out Haytham’s brilliant work over at his blog http://haythambhalo.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/five-hundred-word-pledge/. Give him some feedback and brotherly love-I am sure he will appreciate it!

Read the full excerpt of Elizabeth’s Gilbert timeless article on writing. No matter what you do professionally or recreationally, I promise you will be inspired. http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/

(photo credits:http://www.mamakatslosinit.com/blog/)

5 Lessons in contentment

By Leo Babauta, via http://www.Zenhabits.net:

I sat in a crowd of 45,000 about 10 days ago, watching super-billionaire investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger riff off each other and deliver quick wit and worldly wisdom about finances and life in general, at the famous Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha.

As I listened to these titans of the investing world, it struck me how content they are.

Not just content because they have all the riches in the world and all their needs met (they do), but because they understand fundamentals of contentment with life, which I believe is a superpower.

It was amazing to listen to these two masters talk about investing, but learn lessons in contentment throughout the investing advice.

Today, in anticipation of my upcoming, free ebook, “The Little Book of Contentment“, I’d like to share what I learned from Warren and Charlie.

I’d like to thank my friends Jake & Lonnie of Farnham Street Investments(and Mike & Scott of Cumbre Capital) for the once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Lessons in Contentment from Warren & Charlie

The key lessons:

  1. “Find what turns you on.” Warren said this in response to a question about what advice he’d give to his younger self 50 years ago. He wasn’t talking about sex, but about what you do for a living. And while we’ve all heard “Do what you love”, it’s telling that this is the one thing he’d tell his younger self — it’s that important to happiness. If you do what turns you on, you will be much further along the road to contentment.
  2. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Charlie, who is impressively intelligent, said one of the big advantages that Berkshire Hathaway has had is that Warren & Charlie don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing (in the investment world). Too many people get caught up in watching everyone else, and letting that influence them, that they lose their inner compass. Instead, figure out the guiding principles that matter the most to you, and let go of the need to check on what everyone else is doing, and the need to compare what you’re doing with everyone else.
  3. Know your strengths. These two guys are very aware of their limitations — they almost never invest in tech companies, for example, because they don’t understand it well — and instead of feeling the need to go into their weak areas, they stay with their strong areas. They know what they’re strong at, and focus on that. Letting go of the need to do everything, and being happy with focusing on less, is an important contentment lesson.
  4. Fewer and higher quality. Warren & Charlie have a “fewer is better” investment philosophy, where they aren’t nearly as active as your usual Wall Street investor … but they focus on a handful of really strong investments. Warren suggests that investors imagine they have a punchcard with 20 punch holes … once you make 20 investments in your lifestime, your punchcard is used up. If you did this, you’d really make them count. This is the guiding principle, btw, in my book The Power of Less. You don’t need more — instead, be more discerning, and happy with less.
  5. Know what you like and forget the rest. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s wealthiest men, has a nice but modest house and a surprisingly modest Cadillac (that he drives himself), and eats at his favorite (but pretty ordinary) restaurants … he can afford much more extravagance, but forgoes it because he knows the simple things he likes in life. He could have much, much more, but knows that he doesn’t need it. How many of us do that? Just enjoy the things we like, and not worry about what else we could be enjoying, or what everyone else is enjoying.

There will be some who say, “Sure, it’s easy to be content when you’re rich and successful,” but I think this is missing the point. They are successfulbecause of these lessons.

I learned that inspiration for contentment can be found in surprising places, including in Omaha, where everyone I met had a kind word for me, and a smile on their faces. I left with a smile myself.

Every breath is a second chance

Every breath is a 2nd chance:
To give your bad mood a makeover.
To stop checking your 401(k) balance.
To wean yourself off of Wolf Blizter.
To remember the cloth grocery bag instead of leaving them in the car.
To break out of an old holding pattern.
To cultivate compassion from the inside out-we all need a little Me Tenderizer.
To shrink your elastic waistband.
To become a dog person (or cat or bird…any pet really).
To read yourself around the world if you can’t afford a ticket.
To bail yourself out of debt.
To talk face to face instead of Facebook.
To change the plot of your life story.
To do a somersault-how long has it been?
To give wings to your grounded dreams.

(borrowed from  an old magazine..name unknown)Image