Let's Be Unreasonable


I’m not going to call them excuses. Because if I call them excuses you may shake your head and say, no, no, they are reasons.
Reasons not to start that novel right now: my room is too messy, and I need to figure out the ending first anyway.
Reasons not to exercise today: gym memberships are expensive, and I have a headache.
Reasons not to travel the world this year: I have to plan it all out first, and I have no one to go with.
To some they may sound like excuses (emergency exits out of your dreams), but no, I hear you, I understand that these are reasons. They are even good reasons.
But if we let reasons stop us now, then there will always be a reason to stop.
If we are always reasonable, then it will always be unreasonable to do the things that make us come alive.
Because swimming into dark, uncharted waters is technically crazy, just like writing a novel, starting a company, running for president, falling in love.
The chances of success are so small that it is unreasonable to think that we will succeed. But in the end, only the unreasonable ones among us do.
So today, right now, at this moment, let’s put our good reasons aside, and let’s be unreasonable.

On Being Lost and Being an Explorer



It’s been a while since I’ve written my open letter to fear of failure. And my fear? She still comes and goes. I can’t say that I feel less fear, but now, when the fear knocks on my door, I can undo the locks, welcome her in, pour her a cup of tea even, and chat with her until she’s ready to leave. I ask when she’ll be back and, as usual, she winks and says: “when you least expect it.” Somehow, I’m okay with that.
What I’m not yet comfy with is a new sensation, a new terror: the feeling of being completely lost.
Maybe this is just part of being an entrepreneur - especially of running a business the likes of which no one has run.
Maybe it’s an extension of living in this new, speeding-past-you world we’ve created.
Or maybe it’s the experience of every human, and I’m the only one whining about it.
I don’t know. But I will tell you that it can be crippling. Not in the sense that I tuck myself into a corner and do nothing, but in the sense that time that could be spent on action gets spent on imaginary quests like getting a sure-thing plan or the perfect advice or finding a map. But a map to where…?
No one can tell me just how to get there. Especially since no one, not even I, can know where I am going.
Maybe that’s the problem. This obsession with the where. Sometimes even the when.
I spoke to my husband Brian about this terror-of-being-lost as we were peddling side by side on stationary bikes at the gym (a perfect metaphor for how far I felt I was getting in life). Without slowing down he said: “You are an explorer. Explorers are lost. If they knew where they were going, they wouldn’t be explorers.” (That little husband of mine says some really profound stuff).
I’m an explorer then. Which means that there is no map for me - only the desire to discover. And perhaps once I’ve made my discoveries, I will draw a map filled with zig-zagging lines leading to “X marks the spot,” but when I hand it to the explorer who comes after me, I will tell him:
“If you choose to follow this map, remember that you will only be a tourist in somebody else’s land. Being a tourist is fine and great for photo ops, but there will come a time when you will wonder what lies past the sharp edges of my map. And perhaps you will even find the courage to get lost and step past these boundaries that I have drawn. And when you do - you will discover a whole new world.”
(P.S. The photo above is my favorite map from my favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth.)

An Open Letter to Fear


Dear fear of failure,
Buzz off. Seriously. Stop insisting that it’s absolutely critical that I do the dishes this very minute. Quit pretending that I’m too exhausted to write (when I’m obviously not too exhausted to google images of what Lady Gaga looks like without makeup). No, I don’t have to prepare my taxes right now; it’s August. I can put my clothes away later, and my dog will forgive me for not playing tug of war with her right now. I don’t even think she wants to play tug of war. She’s sleeping.
Look… you’re sweet. I know that you’re just trying to protect me from the not-very-farfetched possibility that my deepest dreams will result in something like an F or (worse) a B+ on the report card of my life. I know that you’re just shielding me from the pain of rejection slips lining my little mailbox. That emptiness that sinks so low you wonder how you’re ever going to manage to fish it out and feel whole again. That impossible to pin-point ache of hopes crushed and resuscitated then crushed again.
I know you’re just looking out for me.
But listen. I’m okay. Okay? I want to try, alright? You’ve gotta let me try. Because if I don’t, then that little bit of emptiness will always be there, and sooner or later it will become a part of me. I don’t want that for myself, and I don’t think you want it for me either. Deep down, I think you actually want to see me succeed, and maybe sometimes you even catch yourself thinking that I have a chance.
So let me do what I love, okay? I’ve spent a lot of time believing in you. I think it’s time you believed in me too.

You don’t even know what the thing is yet.



One line has stood out to me from The Social Network movie to the point that I think about it almost daily.
Business-minded Eduardo Saverin wants to make plans and pick goals for Facebook’s growth, to which Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerberg reply: “you don’t even know what the thing is yet.”
You don’t even know what the thing is yet.
Today much of the North East is stumped by the same question when it comes to Hurricane Irene. It could be the worst hurricane to hit New York since the 1930s or it could be another Y2K false alarm. It could hit North Carolina or it could come barreling right down Broadway. Do we evacuate? 
Well, as Bloomberg put it: “we don’t have enough information yet to make that call. There are still too many unknowns.”
We can understand this when it comes to forces of nature but it gets trickier to grasp when we think of human stuff like business, school and relationships. And yet, perhaps the majority of the time, no matter what the thing in question might be we don’t even know what the thing is yet.
So what the heck do you do?
Maybe you don’t try to understand it immediately. You don’t interrogate it and dissect it. You just lie in the mud for a while and soak it all up. You melt into the entropy. You accept the uncertainty and unpredictability of the thing. You accept that we cannot control the hurricanes; we can only prepare to react to them. Hurricanes, businesses, people, and systems won’t tell us where they’re going or when they’ll get there. So you watch and listen until…
That’s the part I’m not sure about yet. A pattern emerges? The truth reveals itself? The hurricane gets close enough that its path becomes clear?
I don’t know. But for now, I’m patiently present and holding onto my umbrella rather than trying to stop the rain.

The Wisdom of Mud



One day my husband Brian and I ran all the way to the park to play in the rain. It was warm and chilly at the same time, and the tree bark was saturated with brown. Like dark rows of velvet and green leaves that made Harlem look almost tropical. Every time you see beauty like that it hits you right in that spot of the throat where lumps form. But I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting as we raced up the steps to the grassy clearing was the mud.
Patches of earth that were perfectly respectable just a few hours earlier had now turned into goopy, squishy, manure-colored ponds. And I was wearing my new (near-white) sneakers. So I hesitated. Or at least I think I hesitated, but it’s hard to say because before I could even catch my breath from all that stair hopping, I was flying backward into the mud.
Sploosh! It was cold, and it spit all over my face as I sunk into it. I tasted soil. I saw a flash of white sky and then Brian lying on top of me laughing, laughing, laughing.
I never did salvage those sneakers. And after several months of keeping them just outside the door (telling myself I’d have them cleaned), I finally let them go. I don’t think it hurt their feelings. They had been on an adventure of a sneaker life-time, and it was worth it. And despite the cold, the squishiness, the general grossness of it all, that hour of splashing, dunking, and dancing in the mud with my husband was well worth it too.
***
Today I got some disappointing news, and I felt very sad and tiny. Like Alice after she eats the shrinking mushroom and can’t reach the key to unlock the door to the magical garden. After some solitary moping, I called Brian, and he listened to me mope some more. Then soon after we hung up he sent me this email:
“Ami, [that’s what we call each other]
I was just thinking about something… we have these little let downs in our lives,  these disappointing events that feel like mud. But then you look at our successes, our victories and the smiles we create around us and we see the building blocks of who we are and who we want to be. Bricks. And these bricks build and build to create the world around us. Ami, my first instinct when I got off of the phone with you was to call everyone we know and have them call you and cheer you up. Every time Letia would have a disappointing day or event Matt would call em immediately to cheer her up. And as I began to draft the email calling the troops to heal you I realized something beautiful. That mud you feel when you are down or have been let down… well, what do you think holds all of those building blocks, those bricks that are everything good and strong within you, together? We need these moments like we need air and sunshine.”
As soon as I read those words, I felt the sadness getting soft and cozy inside me. I didn’t feel less sad, but I felt comfortable with my sadness. I let myself sink into the mud, look up at the cold, empty sky and smile.
So what if my sneakers get dirty? So what if I shiver in the cold? So what if I get mud in my mouth so it looks like I’m missing a tooth? Later on, when I’m good and ready, I will peel off my clothes and soak in a hot shower. And I will remember the mud with the truest of smiles even when I’m warm and clean.