Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, and like last year, I want to use it to help prepare myself for what is to come this year. I have been doing that by selecting a theme, a framework to help me understand the choices I am going to make and help build healthy habits. CGP Grey helped define the concept of a theme in his YouTube video about yearly themes and provided some helpful guidelines. A theme should be:
Last year, my theme I set for myself was Communicate. Within that broad idea, I had listed some areas that I wanted to focus on: read more, less social media, less drinking, more writing, talk more.
In my birthday post, 43, I reflected on some of the items to see how well I did with them. I did manage to escape Twitter for nearly 60 days, which gave me more time to consume more books and longer articles. There was definitely a lot less drinking being done compared to the prior year (especially that fall), but I don’t think I did as well with the writing as I had hoped. I have been spending more time going through my archives and uploading them back to this site. The main thing I notice is the volume of writing I used to do. For 2011, the first full year of Four Sides, I wrote nearly 60,000 words over 58 posts; for 2022, it was only 15,000 words.
And talking more, well, some things are never going to change with me it seems.
Get Back in the Box
When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep on going back to it.
— Marcus Aurelius, Daily Stoic
Long ago (nearly 20 years now), I started writing a personal blog. Shortly after I had started, I was inspired by a book to start writing about business and other serious topics. That book was Get Back in the Box: How Being Great at What You Do Is Great for Business by Douglas Rushkoff. It was published in 2005, when businesses were just starting to explore the power of the internet. Every business was eager to get online and copy other companies. Rushkoff recognized the danger of businesses trying to expand and do too much. The end result was being to spread thin and forgetting why the business existed in the first place. Some failed completely, others made expensive mistakes. His book was a message of caution for businesses to start looking inward and improving their current business. Seth Godin, another longtime writer and consultant, has a similar mantra when he instructs businesses to be a Purple Cow to stand out from the crowd, but not do everything that all the other cows are doing.
That phrase, getting back in the box, has stuck with me all these years. I believe it is one of the reasons why stoicism has resonated with me so much, and later mindfulness. The inward reflection of who you are and why you are is important to me.
When I felt myself spiralling last year, that phrase was in the back of my head. After so many years of giving myself up for work and getting burnt out, I lost a hold of the things I enjoy doing that energize me. For this year, I want to grab a hold of them again and try to live a better life.
A carryover from last year, but I am discovering how important it is for me to start my day reading something that is not work related and not the news. To help build this habit, I was allowing myself to read longer newsletters that were published regularly or dive into a longer article that I had been putting off. I also started exploring Apple News+ with subscriptions to New Yorker, New York Magazine, the Atlantic, and so forth. When I purchased my new phone, it came with a few free months of the subscription, which is far cheaper than buying the magazines separately.
Reading books is still important to me. I want to do more reading in the afternoons, more reading at the waterfront as the weather warms up too. I find it more difficult to read with the incandescent lamps during the winter months and do better with natural light. Audible remains a constant in my life, as well, which I listen to on walks. Which leads to the next item.
This was one of the biggest frustrations for me last year. Depression really knocks you on your ass and makes you not want to move. Early in the year, I strained or tore my rotator cuff in my right shoulder which made it painful to move it much. That prevented me from lifting any kind of weight, which was another demoralizer. My shoulder is a lot better now and I feel more confident in trying to stretch it out with some light weights, which should help me with at home workouts.
I feel better mentally now. I have been trying to get out for walks at least once a week, as long as the weather isn’t below -5C and it’s not snowing too heavily. I usually don’t like walking in winter because of the ice, but I will admit that the cold weather has felt good when I’m out there for 45-60 minutes. Once the snow has melted away, the aim is to get back onto the Greenway and then into the hills to start pushing myself again. The hikes I went on 4-5 years ago felt amazing to me and I really want to experience that feeling again.
When I was thinking about the activities I enjoy and that are meaningful, I started thinking about my days in University. Those days were full of challenges (getting up for a three hour class that started at 9 AM on a Saturday? What was I thinking?!) and at the same time full of energy. There was excitement in browsing the library to discover old theatre books or raiding the reading room in the Theatre Department to take the old theatre journals home to read. Some of the classes were quite engaging, learning about terminology used in media and culture, applying frameworks to view different plays, or seeing how different cultures interpreted Shakespeare’s works. More importantly, it was talking with other students and learning how they create and work.
That last part still continues from a distance, mainly from Facebook and news to see how some fellow students have continued on, like Maki Yi performing work that she started creating as a student in the Black Box Theatre; Anita Smith becoming the Executive Director at 25th Street Theatre; or Munish Sharma having a play he wrote staged at the Globe Theatre in Regina.
I enjoyed learning and perfecting my own craft those days. A love of reading, thinking, and writing started to develop which lead me to writing online. There was a similar feeling when I was taking the property management course and then the brokers course, both of which were through the Sauder School of Business at UBC, not an easy online course.
I don’t think I am prepared to go back to school right now, but I do want to continue learning. The best place I have found to do that is Udemy. Udemy is a site full of courses from established teachers and professionals on pretty much any topic imaginable. Screenwriting, interior design, photography, even house plants. You can either buy courses completely, or you can subscribe for a time and complete as many courses as you want (most are included in these monthly plans).
I am currently focused on areas to improve my business first, starting with Seth Godin’s Freelancer, which has been quite thought provoking.
Photography has been a passion of mine since University when I bought my trusty Kodak DX6490 after I graduated from University. I bought the Sony a6000 over five years ago which was a significant upgrade over the Kodak and the camera on the iPhone I was using then. It is still a great camera, and captures some incredible images when I use it in the proper lighting. When I did the photoshoot with Barbie in the fall, I had that pull again that I need to start creating more with the camera. What that means is still up in the air. I would enjoy experimenting with portrait photography, and maybe even selling some prints eventually. To start, it’s trying to build a habit again of taking more photos to practice the craft.
Capture more, create more, share more is my goal for the year. My Instagram feed has been atrocious the last few years and I already reflected on the quantity of the writing I have been doing. I believe the hiking and photography, along with the reading, will help inspire me to write more of my thoughts down to reflect on in the future.
Four areas to follow this year, four sides to create a box around me to bring the focus inward to improve who I am and how I feel. Four areas that have always been a part of my adult life that I need to continue developing to feel more like my true self.
Onto this year.