A New Year’s Resolution You Can’t Fail

In this first full week into the New Year, many of us have been busy scribbling away in our new planners/ notepads/ Evernotes — goals, plans, ambitions and aspirations. In a recent post, How to Set Goals for 2014, Scott Britton writes:

“‘[G]oal lists’ are rarely accountable to all areas of our lives that are important to us. If you have a bunch of goals that are solely focused on one area of your life (cough work), you’ll probably end up feeling unhappy even if you crush them.”

Scott suggests that the first step towards setting and achieving goals is to “Identify the areas of your life that are most important to you” based on the 400-year-old Buddhist tool called the Bhavacakra or “Wheel of Life.”

Then, Scott says, identify areas of your life where you want to see improvements and then set measurable, completable goals in each area. According to him, this way you avoid setting goals  in one or two areas exclusively (i.e. career) that will leave you feeling “empty” and unbalanced once you achieve them. The key is setting goals that are “holistically ambitious.”

Full disclosure: I am no expert at setting goals. I make lists, then forget about them.  I don’t log-in results and don’t track progress. I’m very uncomfortable asking for help. But, like most people, I have accomplished short-term and long-term goals in my lifetime. And yes, it feels good to succeed. And yes, it burns to fail, because there is no bigger demotivator that keeps you from going than the feeling that you are getting off track.

But the Wheel of Life changed the way I looked at resolutions, goals and success overall. It showed me that one can never, ever fail. If you get off track in one area, it’s because you have been focusing on another. No effort is ever lost. All your actions count towards at least one of the wheel spokes and you make progress. Always!

So what if you didn’t lose those 10 pounds. You spent more time with your kids.

You didn’t learn how to swim? Maybe you started your own business!

You are not completely debt-free yet? Maybe you needed to move to that new place that finally felt like home.

I challenge you to revisit some of your resolutions from 2013 that you didn’t accomplish and think about what you did instead. Have you really failed? 

Life balance is a constant give and take from one life area to another. Prioritize. The goal is not to obsess about getting off track with goals, but to never lose track of Life. And you couldn’t fail at that even if you tried. Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution I can finally get on board with.

Curious to see what your Life Wheel looks like? Take the assessment.

Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

Music to Your Ears

In this week’s lineup, we put on our records (and dancing shoes). Because it’s Friday, and because, well, as if we needed another reason …

Listening to music competes for our brain’s attention. Research shows how music impacts our creativity, reveals our personality, improves our motor skills and boosts our exercise routine.

What 24 hours of happy looks like. Pharrell and a cast of hundreds star in the world’s first 24-hour interactive music video — check out the amazingness.

A piano book shelf, an organ pipe bed frame, a harp-infused chair … 30 more things that belong in every music lover’s home.

– Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

The Problem With Solutions

I have a solution for you … 

When I hear these words, I get excited and I cringe at the same time. That’s because the advice I’m most eager to hear is often the advice I’m least likely to follow. Sure, I’ll take your perspective into account — I value you and the sum of your experiences that led you to this specific workable solution. And how could I possibly stay indifferent when you are extending a helping hand and a good intention. But until I see your good-case scenario as my best-case scenario, I will keep pondering. (Otherwise, I’d feel that I’m putting on eyeglasses of someone else’s prescription).

This week’s lineup won’t offer you solutions, but it may inspire you to start thinking about “problems” in a slightly different way:

“If you aren’t committed to the problem you are solving, you may not have enough resolve to stick to your goals through challenges and turmoil.” Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of global crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, shares the powerful obsession that keeps her going.  

35 days of meditation. How a woman’s personal challenge taught her to start “directing people toward their own solutions with detachment instead of fixing the problem.”

“Sometimes you don’t discover the problem you’re solving until after you’ve solved it.” What is “edgecraft” and why Seth Godin says it’s better than brainstorming.

Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

A Balancing Act

(Artwork “Balancing Life” by Stephanie Ackerman, via Forbes)

Life and business coach Jerry Colonna is adamant about one thing:

“Work-Life balance is bullshit.”

He explains: “One third taking care of business. One third taking care of the subtle and gross bodies–the inner you and the physical you. And one third for family, friends, community, the world at large. Now that’s a balance that makes sense.”

In an effort to lead a balanced life, we compartmentalize. We create divisions, put up labels, break down life into comprehensible pieces — career, finances, family, love, community … It’s easier that way — less intimidating, more figureoutable and doable. Dividing and conquering, and then striving to make undivided sense of it.

Check out our balancing lineup this week:

“Everything needs to get done yesterday.” One entrepreneur comes to terms of with her “addiction” and shares how she deals with it.  

How do you juggle your life roles? This simple assessment sheet (used by counselors at Berkeley University) identifies your major life roles and shows you the relative priority you place on each one of them.

“When you are struggling in any area of your life, it creates stress in every area of your life.” The best visual rant that may just convince you to ditch the concept of work-life balance and strive for a well-rounded life instead.

Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

Decisions, Decisions

You are faced with an important-ish decision. All eyes on you to call the shots. But how do you pull the trigger when the thought of breathing the subsequent smoke can often be so mind-paralyzing?

Of course, you’ll hesitate. And possibly stall, perhaps long enough for a solution to present itself (that’s a technique Tina Fey says she learned from Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels).  Deciding not to decide is a decision too, right?

To gain some more understanding of what goes into a decision — and perhaps make choosing a little less horrific, here’s our lineup this week:

Are you decisive by nature, by training or by incentive? Here’s where strategic decisiveness comes from and how to find more of it. 

Put a bunch of smart people into a room and ask them to solve a problem. What could go wrong?

“Life is more complicated now.” From passing cars to choosing shampoos, what Ellen DeGenerous thinks about modern-day decision making.

– Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

To Retreat or Not to Retreat

Taking a two-hour personal development workshop can be refreshing. Attending a day-long urban retreat is even better. But allotting several days to taking a trip inward can be outright scary.

There is a social isolation component to retreats that can be quite unsettling. You leave your loved ones behind (so there’s the guilt component), and even if you are going with friends, there’s no way around doing the work (waking up sinfully early, meditating, journaling, doing yoga). It also usually means that you have to like yourself (preferably a lot) so that you can have a decent time alone with your thoughts.

For me, taking personal retreats didn’t make all my problems go away. It meant learning to tolerate myself just a little bit more each time I came back to reality.

If you ever thought of taking a retreat — or you are contemplating going back for seconds– this week’s lineup is for you:

“Going into a retreat is really about breaking down the constructs of ‘you’…” The personal story of one urban professional who took social isolation to the extreme.

Silence, nature and heartfulness. How unplugging can help us change our awareness and perspective.

Meditation: then and now. An animated video about the origins of meditation and how it evolved through the years.

– Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

How I Met Jerry (and Why I Want to Help the Younger Me)

“Well, I want to learn how to become a better entrepreneur,” I told him, sitting on the plush couch in his office. My mind wandered over and found momentary stillness in the soothing sound of the trickling water from a Zen fountain near his chair. My eyes couldn’t help but fixate on his record of career success, depicted in glossy magazine articles and prominently displayed on the wall. He smiled and looked at me with curious, supportive eyes. He then leaned back in his chair and said: “Tell me more about your parents.”

I didn’t come to NYC looking for a coach, or a therapist or a fix. I came here because I needed a change, a new place to find myself, to push my limits and to connect with people who would challenge me. I told people the real reason I came here was because I wanted to play the big game. I wanted to be “successful.”

I had experienced the thrill of entrepreneurship in Columbus, Ohio where I had attended school and had (and still do today) a very strong belief in my ability to at least generate opportunities for myself. So I wanted to do it in a bigger way in NYC, as I imagine a lot of people dream of doing. But deep down I was lost, very lost. My mom had just died after a battle with breast cancer, and despite recurring bouts of tremendous grief, I had somehow managed to convince myself that I was more or less “over it.” I wasn’t. I’m sure everyone but me could tell just how lost I was, especially a guy like Jerry Colonna.

I connected with Jerry in early 2007. When I first moved to NYC, I was an overly eager networker. I attended just about any event I could find that was related to tech, entrepreneurship, web, even web 2.0, which now sounds so archaic. Bouncing from one event to the next, I found myself at a NextNY Panel on Angel Investing where Jerry was one of the panelists. I’m not exactly sure what about him stuck out for me, although I do remember him mentioning he was doing less investing and more teaching, mentoring and coaching. I felt a compelling sense of urgency to speak with him. Unfortunately, after the event was over, he was mobbed by people, and I didn’t get a chance to connect with him.

Upon returning home I did a google blog search for “coach board member Jerry Colonna.” I found a business owner who had written about his experience of having Jerry both as a board member and as a coach. I emailed him, he forwarded my email to Jerry, and Jerry got in touch with me. We set up a meeting.

When I was learning to ride a bike, I remember being so angry with my mom. “Why can’t you just tell me how to balance,” I would shout at her. I was convinced there was some trick she was simply was not sharing with me. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to watch me fall, repeatedly, and try as she might, be unable to tell me what to do. As I learned, and we all know, balance isn’t a trick you learn by watching or listening. It’s a skill you acquire by feeling.

I had to fall. Get back up. Fall. Get back up. Lather, rinse, repeat (except, a lot dirtier) until I felt it for myself.

That’s how my coaching experience has been with Jerry. He never told me what to do. He was just there, alongside me on that bicycle of life, supporting me while I was pedaling hard . He also made sure I was OK after a fall. He shared his stories of falling and his stories of success. He gave me permission to cry. And sometimes, he cried with me. He never told me how to balance in life, but he told me how I could get up after a particularly big fall. He also taught me how to make amends with the falls, how to connect and find support in others and how to open myself up to the full richness of life.

As I sit here today, over six years later, I can without a doubt say that meeting Jerry was one of the most important moments of my life. Thanks to Jerry’s coaching, support, guidance teaching AND my work I can claim to be a better man. More importantly, I now have the tools and perspective for continual improvement. I’ve found more balance and meaning in my life. I’m more energized and less burnt out: I have a loving, open, supportive relationship and partnership with my wife. I can find more joy and beauty in the ordinary moments. I can find richness and beauty in the falls, the pain. I still miss my mom, but at least now I’m aware of the pain instead of hiding from it. And perhaps most importantly, I have the desire and ability to extend that help to others.

About two years ago, Jerry connected me with Kevin Friedman. It was a casual, agenda-free meeting where Jerry floated the idea of exploring ways in which he could help more people. Since my first meeting with him in 2007, his coaching business had grown quickly and the client requests exceeded his capacity. He found it challenging to keep up with the increasing demand. Cojourneo evolved from that conversation and was ultimately born a few months later.

Fast-forward to last month. A friend asked me, “So what is the big picture for Cojourneo?” and, for the first time, I felt like I had a really clear answer: “If I can help just a few people experience the growth and richness I find now in my life due to my work with Jerry, then it will be an enormous success.” I want to support the 24-year-old lost Dan.

That’s what we’re aiming to do.

And by the way, somewhere along the way, Jerry managed to make me a better entrepreneur, too.

-Dan Putt, Cojourneo

What Others Think of You

We all want to be liked. By most people, most of the time.

We want to fit in, be agreed with and get approved. And often, we do our best to make others see what we want them to see. To avert the disapproval that flares an inferno of weaknesses, flaws and insecurities, standing in the way of the perfect picture we are consistently laboring over.

That’s not only unnecessary — it’s also exhausting. It sucks the life and passion out of us and deprives our goals and achievements of the very authenticity that makes them of value to the outside world.

If you struggle with how other people perceive you, our lineup this week may help:

“Most of the time, you’ll aim to delight the masses and you’ll fail.” Seth Godin says creating work that matters for “a trusted, delighted tribe” is the way to go (plus the viral music video of the moment, in case you missed it).

Are you addicted to validation? Kute Blackson explains how getting other people’s approval is a form of control and what you can do to shake it off.

Ever received an email that wasn’t meant for you but was about you? Tim Kreider did and shared in this New York Times article what the unsettling experience taught him.

Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

3 Reasons Why You Should Get Outside More Often

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” ~ Dale Carnegie

In this last official weekend of the summer, our lineup is about all things outdoorsy:

Nature’s Ritalin. The ”forrest effect,” the “attention restoration theory” and five more studies on the radical benefits of spending time outdoors.

What would happen if you stopped going outside altogether? If you spend most of your day indoors, this animated video may just convince you to change  your habits.

Not just fun and games. What nature can teach businesses about dealing with threats.

– Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo

That Thing I Don’t (Normally) Do

I went out for a run today. Outside, in the rain.

Why am I making a big deal out of it? Because I don’t usually run. I’ve done it a few times in the past, but I never considered myself a runner. In fact, I am one of those people who will insist on the long-term toll that running takes on the human body.

Endorphins and epiphanies aside (you can get these through other, lower-impact forms of exercise), I find it unnatural for us humans to run as a recreational activity. Yes, our ancestors were runners, but it was primarily for two reasons: they were either being chased by savage animals and were running to save their lives or they chased savage animals to sustain their own lives. Both reasons — arguably obsolete today. Besides, back then, humans needed their functional joints and ligaments for 30 or so years on average. Today, we are expected to need them for close to a century.

So that’s why I was quite surprised when a sudden urge made me put on my sneakers, turn on my Pandora to the Lady Gaga station and go out for a run along the Hudson river.

I really, really enjoyed it. Can’t vouch that it will become part of my weekly fitness program, but even this one-time, really enjoyable run was a nice change in itself.

Lillian Gershwin once said “People change all the time and forget to tell each other.” I agree. And it’s not because we are ashamed or we don’t notice the changes we make in our lives. It’s because we take them for granted and prefer to downplay their significance.

Just that one time? How significant is that?

Oh, you gave up meat? Like, forever? You don’t know? Not noteworthy.

The list of things to “fix” always seems way more important, so we often talk about that instead.  We hardly stop and marvel at the ordinary ways in which we manage to surprise ourselves, and we much more appreciate a surprise from the outside — an unexpected refund, a touching gesture from a loved one, an open parking spot right when and where you need it… Now that’s what counts, right? These things can make our day.

But change is change. Small changes lead to bigger changes. And surprise changes are even better. And today, my surprise change made my day, so I am happy to give it proper credit. And tell other people about it.

– Tonka Dobreva, Cojourneo