heart to heart

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A friend casually mentioned that I’m talented in many areas but not particularly strong in any of them.  We were sipping coffee as we conversed, and the comment slipped out somewhere between a bite of scone and a remark about career paths.

The observation might have bothered me in the past, but I took it in stride and felt pretty okay with the analysis. 
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Thing is, I’m busy exploring and writing and loving and reading and growing.  I’m busy living a life I love. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m busy living a life I’m proud of.  
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Tell me: what use do I have for success?

Success is not a feeling and cannot fill my heart with joy or my days with meaning.  If success comes, so be it, but I won’t waste a second regretting its absence.

master plan

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What do you want to be when you grow up?  The standard elementary school question makes us think about the future so that we can start working toward our career goals.

But why all the emphasis on what we want to be?  Wouldn’t we be better off considering who we want to spend our days with, how we want to impact our community, where we want to live, and why we want one job more than another?

I recently read an article in the New York Times calling for a new definition of success – one that focuses less on tangible things like money and fame – and places more emphasis on things like personal satisfaction and enjoyment.  The author believes we need a new vocabulary for the way we talk about accomplishment, and says that “we should have an expression that captures the level of success you’ve achieved when you do exactly what you love every day.”

Would rounding out ‘what we are’ with information about ‘who we are,’ ‘where we are,’ and ‘how we are’ help create a more well-rounded definition of success?  It seems to me that you’re already successful if you’re doing what you love and remaining true to your values.

Maybe we’re not all going to end up astronauts or CEOs or surgeons, but we just might find ourselves working on enjoyable projects or pursuing something meaningful – and isn’t that a success in its own right?

to rome with love

When was the last time you felt like anything was possible?  Childhood dreams have been on my mind lately, and, more specifically, how the dreams of our childhood shift and change as we grow older.  According to the Washington Post, the top 5 childhood career goals for children are the following:

Men
1. Professional or Olympic athlete
2. Scientist or Pilot (tie for 2nd)
4. Lawyer
5. Astronaut

Women:
1.Teacher
2. Veterinarian
3. Writer/Journalist/Novelist
4. Singer or Nurse/Doctor (tie for 4th)

How many people accomplish their childhood dreams?  Decide to pursue a goal at a young age, and then, slowly but surely, take steps to make their vision a reality?  Do you think that they are tempted and swayed by other opportunities as they proceed?  Do they feel fulfilled when they accomplish their dreams, or do they reminisce about missed opportunities?

And then, just as interesting and worthy of discussion, are the group of people who, either by choice or circumstance, leave their childhood dreams behind as they grow older.  Perhaps natural talents lead them toward a new dream, or they pursue something else that comes.. well.. easier.  Are these people content with the choices they made, or do they wish they’d pursued their dreams just a little bit longer?

The important thing, I suppose, is not about accomplishing our dreams, but about living a life that we find fulfilling.  With any luck, we are able to channel what impressed us about our childhood dreams (ie: teacher helping others, scientist making great discoveries) into our daily life.  In the end, it’s not about perfectly following the path you planned, but arriving somewhere  you feel content and fulfilled.

As for me, I grew up wanting to be the Ambassador to Italy.  Not a joke.  My eight year-old self told my father that I didn’t want to be the President, but I might like being the President’s helper.  My dad told me that the  Ambassador to Italy ate lots of pizza and helped Italians and Americans become friends.

The case was solved, the issue closed — I would become the Ambassador to Italy (I was also influenced by my dad’s assertion that Shirley Temple was an ambassador).  Until, of course, I realized I would much rather write stories than engage in politics.

Anyway, dear Readers, I was thinking about all this yesterday when I had some sort of divine inspiration for a fall dessert.  I love frozen yogurt enough to become the Ambassador of FroYo, and when I had a near perfect swirl of pumpkin pie and roasted marshmallow, I knew what I had to do :  I invented pumpkin-pie filled chocolate-covered marshmallows.  Can you say that three times fast?

It’s funny how life comes full circle, but I bet the President would make me the  Ambassador to Italy if he tried my marshmallow dessert.  It’s honestly that good.  ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

the art of failure

 

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Embrace failure.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You might fail?  Great odds, considering you will fail without doubt if you never even begin.  The good news is that every failure creates an opportunity to begin again with additional knowledge.  The second time you attempt something you will be in a better position to succeed, likely creating something much more successful than you attempted in the first-go-round. 

Failure lets you know that you can do better.  It’s the personal coach inside your head telling you to push forward and strive for your best.  Do you need to add something to your vision, or take something away?  What mistakes were made the first time, and how can they be remedied?

Failure presents dazzling opportunities for growth and creativity, and, if you play your cards right, success. 

To make failing easier, more of a routine, perhaps, I pledge to 1) Recognize failure as a growth opportunity; 2) Learn from mistakes and shortcomings; 3) Apply new knowledge to all future attempts;  and 4) Remember that I haven’t truly failed until I’ve given up.  

I spent the day creating a baby gift for a dear friend, inspired by the welcome wreath that I made my sister.  My hands and my mind were  clearly up to different things, right?  The thing is, I’ve been spending a lot of time contemplating my current situation, my future goals, and different ways of shortening the gap between the two points.  When I’m busy working with my hands, my mind takes the opportunity to wander freely.  Hope you don’t mind the disjunction between the are of failure and the art of crafting 🙂

As for the wreath, the entire thing was made from colorful papers, glue, and a little tape.  I wanted to put a unique spin on the traditional baby gift, and so I went with a “welcome to the world” shadow box.  You can see the process below:Image
I began by sketching the globe and making notes where the ‘welcome to the world’ would be written.Image
The second step was to create cut-outs of the necessary continents on colorful paper:Image
Tape your circular globe to a plane sheet of paper:
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And then stick your continent cutouts to the globe —  I used a thick tacky glue so that they would pop off the sheet just a bit:Image
Simple as draw, cut, & glue:
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graffiti mural in downtown minneapolis

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Graffiti art has been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to make an abstract mural with permanent marker on my favorite white wall in the city.
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Just kidding!

Did I getcha? 😉

What I actually did today was write letters to strangers on the backside of colorful construction paper, and then turned the notes into paper airplanes.  I placed the colorful planes around the University of Minnesota campus.
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The idea is that a stranger will take the plane out of the tree, and then the letter inside will come be a surprise.  A  discovery, of sorts.  Each letter is unique, and talks vaguely about the importance of taking chances.  When I was in college, I wasn’t entirely sure that studying art history was the greatest choice, but I had faith that the dots would connect down the line.  And you know what? Everything worked out better than I could have imagined.  Nothing at all went according to plan, however.

But still, the message that I wanted to share was simply to be patient, continue to follow your dreams, and don’t be afraid to take a risk.
ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageIsn’t the view of the city from the UofM bridge gorgeous?
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The bridge leads right to the art museum, and so, being me, I wandered into the galleries to see some art:
ImageImageImageImageImageAnd speaking of notes, have you seen the Disney short film The Paperman? It’s a ‘must see’ if you have 90 seconds: 

And just because this post is so quirky, I made you this:
quirk