Letting go and controlling how we react

I am not sure my parents really prepared me for all the curveballs that life has thrown at me starting at an early age. In some ways the curveballs have made me incredibly agile to which way to swing, when to duck, and when to let the ball pass right by me. That does not mean that all that movement and reaction is not exhausting, and it also does not mean that I have always reacted, or presented myself in the best of ways. I have high standards and expectations at work and in my personal life. Maybe my dad overly ingrained in my head: “Do it right the first time.” Now to me that does not mean only try once and get it right the first time. What it means in my mind is give it your all and keep at it until you get to where you are going.

A recent book I finished began with a quote that to me speaks to the truth about the curveballs in life. The book is called: “The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do” by Jeff Goins.

“We can’t control what life throws our way, but we can control how we react to it. As we do, maybe we come closer to a meaningful life than any plan could ever take us. To do this, though, we have to let go of what we think we deserve and embrace what is, which just might lead to something better than we could have imagined.” Page xxvii

The part I love about the above quote is about letting go and letting ourselves be lead to something better than we could have imagined. While I have high standards I also have witnessed how taking a step back and listening to intuition allows for life to sometimes fall into place.

I will give you a tiny morsel from my day on Monday. All morning things kept changing — meetings moved, deadlines shifted, and when I tried to unravel it all it was just horribly frustrating and time-consuming. I kept (as often happens) getting pulled into other things and dealing with requests and the thought that came to me during it all was: ‘Let it go. you will figure it out later… as messed up as it all happens to feel right now.’ Later in the day when I had a moment to look at the mess, each conflict and deadline had actually all moved again and all the things I would have had to unravel were put in a place that worked out. I did not have to do anything other than respond to a few emails and accept moved meetings. No rearranging needed. Now — that does not mean that I think you should procrastinate or that my morsel of happenstance from Monday will occur all the time. What I honed in on from Monday is that I listened to my intuition to let it go for that time and it all worked out.

That is just a small moment in time. Think about what can happen if we let go more often, for the small and the large events in life, and let things naturally be designed in front of us. Somehow the universe has a way of bringing color, hope, and a graceful design that often surpasses what we can imagine for ourselves.

For more on this same topic, you might like: “Better than you ever imagined.”

Your financial role model?

Did you ever have a financial role model growing up? I did not. I had “learn-from-my-mistakes” role models, in that I decided I never wanted to live in the way that I grew up and made a voracious effort to work my ass off and live frugally in order for that to never happen. Some days Chris asks me if I am still on that road and if I will ever slow down and realize I can chill a bit.

It is an interesting conversation (well maybe to me). Who impacted how you view money? Did you ever have a financial role model? Did you grow up watching Suze Orman on TV telling you when you might be DENIED? Were you given everything, and never taught that money does not grow on trees, and that there are consequences to racking up a crazy amount of credit card debt in the tune of never freeing yourself from the monthly payments? Or, did you learn how to know about your net worth, an emergency fund, and the importance of your credit score? Additionally, that your credit score can also be a causing factor in getting a job or not?

Money and finances are a reoccurring blog topic for me. Somehow over time money and sex seem to be taboo topics. No one really wants to talk about either. And, yet “Fifty Shades of Grey” became a mainstream movie (not without some backlash) what will be the movie about money that potentially starts the conversation amongst us? Somehow I think that movie will not be of much interest to the masses. Yet, how do we actually shift the world to start taking care of itself?

This recent Daily Worth article shares one woman’s experience and what she learned from her dad, or…like me what she learned not to do. Her dad is now retired and has to live on a fixed income. The potential for many who do not plan accordingly for the future, save, and approach retirement in a way that allows you to really “retire.” Chris and I look at today and what we save as a way to prepare for our future. For a time when we hope to have been savvy enough to find a point in time when we can make the choice for ourselves rather than be forced to work past relevancy. That way we can pamper our family and truly enjoy life.

We all have to start somewhere, but somehow I think many just never start. Or maybe it starts with who our financial role models are and what they teach us about today, tomorrow, and the future.

Do you know him/her — today?

It has been a while since I read a book that brought so much inspiration to how I approach life. The last one that probably topped this book was “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. The new book? “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer. Grazer is a Hollywood producer (known for Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, 24, and his crazy spiked hair), and while reading about a Hollywood producer would normally turn me off, the book is about his lifelong pursuit of curiosity. He lives and breathes it and it has contributed to how he has lived his life and his many successes. The book showcases his “curiosity conversations” where he has been led to talk to anyone and everyone about how they live their life. He is a listener and learns by asking questions. He talks about curiosity in relation to his professional and personal life.

I was one of those kids that always asked questions. I always wanted to know more and was never satisfied with pat answers — I wanted to know why. I wanted to understand how things worked and how people ticked. I am also someone who often talks things out. One of my favorite times of the day is my drive home from work with Chris. We have been married for 12 years, and have had only one car for 11.5 of those married years. I am usually quieter on the way to work. It is my last few moments of silence before a long and full day.

On the way home it can take us anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on traffic and I find it the perfect time to debrief about our days. Sometimes I talk the entire way home because I have so much to share, sometimes it is Chris that talks the entire time, and others we banter back and forth and share intermittently about our day. When I get home I am off to go for a run, or catch up on a few more pieces of work to get it out of my head, so those minutes in the car are precious. They are one of the ways we connect and learn a bit more about what we each experienced that day. Grazer mentions this specifically in his book — how many couples do not ask each other or talk about their days:

“How many marriages that drift into disconnection and boredom could be helped by a revival of genuine curiosity on both sides? We need these daily reminders that although I live with person, I don’t actually know her today—unless I ask about her today.” page 160

And later on that same page…

“We don’t just take our relationships to those closest to us for granted. We take for granted that we know them so well, we know what happened today. We know what they think. But we don’t. That’s part of the fun of curiosity, and part of the value of curiosity: it creates the moment of surprise.” page 160

I love this. I am voraciously curious about Chris and what continues to make him tick. I am curious about those I work with, my friends, and family. How are they changing? What is bothering them? What continues to make them happy? Promise me to not take each day for granted. Ask the questions. Be curious. And, if you want to read a good book, pick up “A Curious Mind.”

Winning or Learning?

I am a competitive person. Maybe it is because of being the baby of the family. I always had to keep up, and somehow along the way it made me competitive. Now that does not mean that I always have to win (although it is fun). For me it is the journey that matters. How hard did I try? How much did I care? How much did I push myself? How much did I sweat? Did I improve at all?

For me the competition is often against myself, not others. It is about making myself better, stronger, faster, sharper. Can I do something I have never done before and succeed? And, even if I do not succeed, did I truly try? That is what matters most to me. I have a hard time when folks are lazy, or when they expect something to be handed to them on a silver platter. I have what I have in life because I worked my ass off, not because it was delivered with lace, bows, and doilies.

I frequently read Seth Godin’s blog and a recent one made me ponder the idea of learning and competition.

“Did you win?”

“A far better question to ask (the student, the athlete, the salesperson, the programmer…) is, “what did you learn?” Learning compounds. Usually more reliably than winning does.”

Short and sweet, but to the point. Trying is learning. Trying and failing then trying again and again is what it is all about, even if in the framework of competition.

What do you think?

Random Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares

I can be very salty — you know in that sassy kind of way. Yet, I also have a sweet side. Maybe that is why I am so into things salty and sweet. Take brunch for example, while we do not do it often, there are times when I want to order a sweet dish like french toast or pancakes, and pair it with an egg dish and then split it with Chris. Then I want it on the same plate and so a little bit of the syrup oozes into the eggs and bacon. Why not, right?

Recently we found this easy peasy recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares. All good salty and sweet things combined. A nice treat or snack that hits the spot.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares [Adapted from King Arthur Flour]

Prep time: 30 mins
Total time: 1 hr 30 mins

Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup ground pretzels (measure only after grinding them)
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

Filling
2 cups chocolate chips (we used semisweet)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup chopped pretzels to sprinkle on top

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper. Use enough paper to line the sides for removing later.
2) To make the crust, combine the flour, ground pretzels, and sugar. Mix with your hands. Add the melted butter and mix again until you have a dough.
3) Press the dough into the pan and bake for 12 minutes.
4) To make the filling, melt the chocolate chips in a double broiler. Stir in the creamy peanut butter until completely mixed. Pour the filling over the crust.
5) Sprinkle chopped pretzels on top.
6) Cool in the freezer for about an hour. Remove from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Slice into your preferred size. Serve cold for best result.