What knowledge is important to you? What will make a difference? And how often have you opted in to receive the best, the greatest and the latest time-limited “knowledge” in your email inbox that you just have to have?
I’m culling. That’s right. I’m unsubscribing like crazy. Yet I know people who say they get several hundred emails a day, and seem proud of it until they have to deal with all that chaotic information. You’re one of them? Why am I not surprised? We’ve become hoarders of email, and is there any stopping it?
The original word “cull” comes from early French “coillir” meaning to put through a strainer. That’s kind of interesting because the original word for to collect was the Latin “colligere” meaning to gather together. Ironic, isn’t it. Now I’m going to sort through what I’ve gathered so as to discard it!
Am I making any sense? For me, yes. If you were to look at my email inboxes and see how much is in there, you’d agree. The trouble is so many of these emails are much the same. If you know anything about online marketing the practice is to send out at least seven emails or more until the customer you’re after finally relents, opens it, and takes you up on the offer. “I’ll buy. Just stop sending me any more messages.”
Do they? Fat chance! There’s a new product, a new service that you simply have to know about. How can you stop this new offer? At the source. You unsubscribe and even then, you’re not totally certain that their unsubscribe button actually works because some messages keep showing up.
Of course, there are emails that we actually do want, that are important to us. They’re the ones that have no hook to proclaim they’re the greatest and best, or demand that you take up their offer by the expiry time – which is an hour from now based on that ticking clock.
Unfortunately, because of the hype and noise, I have missed many an email that meant something. It slipped through the cracks.But do I care? I’ve gotten to a stage where the answer is yes and no. I’ve missed items that I should have dealt with. That can hurt. But I have far more than I need, on topics I don’t care about, with absurd offers that both my practical and intuitive mind have determined are a waste of my time.
What about you? How deep is your email “in basket”? A thousand or more? I’ve been there. Not any more. I’m committed to zero my inboxes. For those I want to keep, I’ll have a few special boxes that I’ll check a couple of times a week.
Otherwise, I’ll cull them! You should join me!
Is it possible to do a workout with words?
I wondered about that as I finished my stint on the treadmill and proceeded to another machine to do pull ups. Those pull ups are tough by the way. Are words any easier?
My workout is designed to help me stay in shape and deal with specific problems like my shoulders. Working out with words happens every time I write, or read, or have a conversation. Can I find the right words, or combination of words, or word sequence that conveys what I’m thinking? That can often be very difficult, especially when you don’t want to use the same word twice and your thesaurus gives you virtually no options.
You know where it’s tougher? When you’re trying to rhyme something and matching words don’t exist. But back to the point: What do you do when you know in your mind the kind of word you’re after – to convey that exact meaning – and it doesn’t show up.
You play with it. You turn a sentence around. You come up with a phrase of seven words when you’d like to have only one. That’s when you step away from this particular exercise and focus on something else.
I read what I write out loud. You should too. There’s a trap though. Half an hour ago you were happy with a particular sentence and its word combination. And now you have this niggling doubt that what you’ve written doesn’t quite do it. So you play around some more.
You try different words, another combination of words, until you are semi satisfied. That’s like going half way through a workout on a stationary bike and deciding that you should have been on an elliptical or rower instead. And it’s not perfect. And therein, Shakespeare says, lies the rub. It’s not perfect.
I confess, I like to find the right word; because the right word fits like a glove. But what if you can’t, or you’re in a rush to complete something and it has to be delivered to a professor, or an employer, or part of a competitive bid, or a government report. As long as what you’ve written conveys the meaning, the gist of what you want to get across, then maybe you leave it.
So it's not perfect. You’ve done your best, your verbal workout, and you send if off. In so many cases it is better to get what you’ve written into action, imperfect though it may be.
Then what happens? You’ve delivered your work, and you go to bed. And voila! At 5:35 am your brain delivers the perfect word sequence you were after. But that’s life!
Will you remember what you did a year, five years, twenty years after the fact. Will you remember the names of the people in those shots you took? And, where was it and when?
Do me a favor, or rather, do yourself a favor. If you’ve never kept a journal before, consider starting this spring break, and in any other traveling you do. Why? Because it’s great to remember just what you did, what you saw, who you met, how you felt. And there it is, saved. You’ve got it down on paper.
Here’s a recommendation. Don’t take a laptop or tablet with you to record your days – or nights. Write it by hand. For whatever the reason, hand written memories have better sticking power. You are very “present” with the writing – no distractions. You don’t want a video camera either. The last time I did, I was at the edge of the sand and forgot about the incoming wave. The wave won and the camera, though repaired, never worked as well again. Hopefully you won’t lose what you’re writing in your journal. And you can take it anywhere – on the beach, in a bar, hiking by a lake, shopping for groceries.
From my perspective what’s most important is the act of writing itself. You can say anything you want – that’s part of the point. The other part is that it lets you see - and you’ll probably surprise yourself - just what you can accomplish. A basic dictum for writers is that “Writers write!” The way you improve, whether you consider yourself a writer or not, is by practice, preferably daily. Doesn’t have to be long; just do it.
So when you’re on spring break, use the opportunity to get in some writing practice. Record the experience in your journal, what was beautiful, what made you sit up and listen, what blew you away, what was funny, or sad, what surprised you, especially about yourself?
When you record it, you can recall it – and how I wish I’d taken the time to write down personal memories from earlier in life. Today only the highlights stand out, not those smaller, everyday details that give so much vivid color to an event or situation and the people in it.
Don’t hold back on the writing. And don’t edit yourself, please. Just keep it raw. That gives it vitality. Do that, and you’ll find you’ve brought renewed energy back to your college work. Writing will be easier, and flow better.
Trust me, the effort pays off. It always does..
You made it through college. Congratulations. Now what are you going to do?
You know what most people do? They go try and find a job. They don’t reward themselves for completing one of the toughest assignments of their life to date. So what about you? Yeah, are you ready for the great experiment we call life? Without a scrap of experience?
Next question – how do you get experience? Well you work at it. But funnily enough, that experience is wherever you want to find it. You can volunteer. You can travel. You can hike the West Coast Trail in British Columbia. You can climb Mount Washington. You can go spend time in Spain and immerse yourself in a new language. The possibilities are endless.
You can go alone. You can go with a friend. You can go with a group. And you’ll learn something. Because life is about learning, whether you like it or not. Far better to go with a spirit of learning because you’re curious. You want to know. And this is the kind of learning that you can’t get in school. For sure it’s not learning by rote. It’s learning by putting yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to learn.
That situation may be very uncomfortable. Many experts suggest that you deliberately put yourself in uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations in order to grow. When I was 18 I had to enlist in the British Army. I sure didn’t want to. But then I learned that I had certain capacities I had little clue about. And I gained confidence where before I was reluctant to step forward. You actually show up. You don’t take a back seat. And I was one of those that used to take a back seat in class, anything to avoid interaction with the teacher or anyone else. Today I wish that had been different.
But that was then, before the army. I remember coming back after completing military service, way better prepared for college because of what I’d gone through. It’s the kind of thing you can’t buy. It’s where life takes you. And what I love about that are the tangents.
The tangent is the discovery. Robert Frost called it “the road less traveled.” Where you decide to go, how you get there, what you do there, and with whom you interact, are all part of a magical process. And it’s usually the unexpected that makes the difference. The marketing agent you strike up a conversation with in a steaming, thermal tub in Reykjavik. The master vintner in a small winery in Keri Keri, in New Zealand’s North Island; and the Chambertin red he told you to put away for two years, and turned out to be one of the best wines you’d ever tasted. And the Colorado Outward Bound course, you weren’t sure what to do, and the instructor simply told you, “read the map, it’s all there.”
Who knows what tangents, side trips, discoveries are waiting for all of us. And what will we ourselves uncover?
One of my favorite quotes comes from astronomer Carl Sagan.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
So I repeat the question I posed at the beginning.
“Now what are you going to do?”