Sunday, April 24, 2016

Goodbye Colorado, Hello Minnesota

What a week - Quite full of gratitude, and happiness for me!

Saying goodbye
Even though I'm only leaving for 6 months (and I'll even be coming back periodically during those 6 months), the last couple of weeks have reminded me how much I love my life, home, friends, and family in Colorado. I got a few more "Happy Clips" for a 3rd video, and I said several more goodbyes to friends who were camera-shy.

My daughter and her husband, at my urging, took a last-minute trip to Cancun, giving me the opportunity to get a full four days and nights of grand-parenting in before my trip.

And my house-mates, in their usual thoughtful way, made me a delicious going-away dinner and surprised me with a box full of snacks and goodies for the road.

ALS Never Surrender
Anyone who knows me, knows that my "Carpe Diem" way of living was influenced by my friend Craig Dunham, who lost his life to ALS in 2010. For the last couple of years, I've led Team Carpe Diem in the Walk to Defeat ALS. Last year, I met Steph Courdin at the Walk, who started the ALS Never Surrender Foundation. I'd been meaning to ask Steph how I could help, and last week we talked and it looks like I'll be able to do some blogging that will help the foundation.

Like Craig, Steph is not letting ALS stop him from continuing to live fully. Not only does he continue to live a full and productive life enjoying his family and photography, his foundation is actively working on an application that will help towards understanding the disease. I'm inspired and excited to be involved!

Road Trip
And finally, there's my move to Minnesota! A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post asking if anyone wanted to be my road trip buddy... and believe it or not, I got a taker! Kim and I worked together at Sun several years ago, and even though we've run into each other occasionally at an Agile event, we really were mostly "Facebook friends."

It was super-generous of Kim to offer to drive with me... in fact, she offered to drive the whole way! And that she did! We planned the trip using Agile techniques, with a "backlog" on Trello, and even though we were quite prepared to be entertained with music, audio books, games, and snacks, we spent the entire trip talking! Kim is both fun and funny -- what a great sense of humor -- and she was so open and authentic - she felt like another sister to me! The trip warrants a blog post all on its own, or maybe a private journal entry..  But I did want to publicly say that I so appreciate her willingness to give up her weekend to take this journey with me. I just love her attitude, spunk, and spontaneity and feel grateful to have shared this weekend with such a special person and earth angel!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Makes My Colorado Friends Happy?

Today I created the second in my "What Makes You Happy?" video series. I've been asking friends all week to contribute and, though there were some who were video-shy, I ended up with ten little clips (well above my goal of 7 per week.. I'm such an over achiever!)

I really enjoy these little video clips because I'm reminded of the many wonderful things that make us happy. Though many people talk about the happiness they get from family, friends, and loved ones, I like that many people also mention the little moments of every day life.

This week in the videos, a few people mentioned how beautiful it was to live here in Colorado, and I have to agree. I especially love Colorado from April to October... the exact months I'll be in Minnesota... but, those are also the months that it will be milder in Minnesota and I hear it's beautiful there, too. Besides, I hope to come back to Colorado every month or so, and so it's actually a little silly for me to be making such a big deal of leaving.

On the other hand, leaving Colorado has given me more reason to take a serious look at all the people and places that I love here and recognize how lucky I am. What a beautiful state and what a diverse and talented group of friends I have.

I have one more week of saying my goodbyes and then on Friday, I leave for Minnesota!

Monday, April 11, 2016

What Makes You Happy?

I tried a little experiment last week by asking people what made them happy, with a goal of getting a short video clip from a new person each day. I actually averaged more than one a day (I got 9 in 5 days) but there was one day when I didn't get any.

Why did I do this?

1) I love seeing the natural smiles and body language from people when they're talking about something that makes them happy. I think it's a contagious feeling, so I feel happier when I watch this.
2) Part of "social connection" with people is talking to them about something that matters to them. What better way to find out what matters than to hear about what makes them happy?
3) I thought this would be a good way to practice getting out of my comfort zone and talking to new people since I'll be doing that a lot when I go to Minnesota. (More about this below)
4) I wanted to get diverse perspectives. I love that I was able to get a range of ages who participated.
5) I felt a little closer to everyone who participated... not just because I found out what made them happy, but because they were willing to be vulnerable enough and trust me to let me film them.
6) I'm very interested in how we form bonds. Do we need to be face-to-face or can we bond to someone by seeing them on a video? I have a particular interest in this for my work since I write and speak a lot about "virtual teaming." Though I think face-to-face is the best and a video won't allow for 2-way conversation, I feel like you can feel a bond when you see someone talking about something they're truly passionate about, especially if you're passionate about that thing, too.

Is it a good way to get to know someone new?

Every person who agreed to do the video was someone I knew personally. I taught a class last week in Philadelphia, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how this would work when I was in a new place.  The only person who did it in Philadelphia was my Aunt (and it was really cool that I got to visit her since I hadn't seen her in 27 years!)

I asked the people in the class if they'd be willing to do a clip, but didn't get any takers. I asked the man next to me on the plane if he might do it, and though we ended up talking for 4 hours about life and happiness, in the end, he didn't want to do it because he said he was not in a happy place in his life right now. He took my card and said that he would connect and send me a video clip when he had overcome the challenges in his life.

It will be interesting to try this maybe on the road trip or when I meet people in Minnesota, but it might be kind of intrusive for people who I don't know at all. I guess you have to build up a trust level with someone before you ask them to be on video...  On the other hand, it certainly worked at opening up a conversation with the man on the plane, and I feel like we did have a great conversation during that flight, even if we never see each other again.

How did people feel about doing the video?

A lot of people weren't comfortable being video'ed because they are self-conscious about how they will look or how they'll sound. I think some also may have worried that they needed to figure out the biggest thing that makes them happy or say something profound. And, of course, they may have been worried about what I'd do with the video. Many people don't mind talking about what makes them happy, but don't like being on Facebook or social media.

So...  even though I think these people are so beautiful and I'd love to publicly thank them and acknowledge my admiration for each of them, I'll resist the urge to mention any names to protect their privacy.  I'm very grateful to them for being my guinea pigs in this first video.

Will I keep doing this?

Yeah, I kind of would like to do a video every week. It may not always be the "What Makes You Happy?" question, but that is a good question for now. I also hope I'll get participation from remote people who could send me a video.  A couple of people told me about "vine" so I'm going to have to experiment with that.

Want to participate?

Send me a short video clip (I've been trying to keep them to 10 seconds) of what makes YOU happy!

Friday, April 08, 2016

Road Trip, Anyone?

I'm about to embark on a new adventure: I've accepted a 6-month contract in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where I know no one, starting April 25th. Moving to a new place can be both exciting and lonely.

For the past few years, I've been really interested in positive psychology and understanding what makes me happy. Basically, my life goal has become to maximize happiness and minimize stress. In my studies of happiness, I've heard over and over again that "social connections" are the key to happiness. If that's the case, is it crazy for me to move away from my home here in Colorado where I have so many strong connections, to a place where I have none? Even though it is only for 6 months, I've come to recognize that every minute of life is important. In fact, "Carpe Diem" and living life fully is kind of my mantra.  Would I move to Minnesota for 6 months if I only had a year to live? Probably not.  On the other hand, isn't experiencing new things part of what makes life so wonderful?

Well, my adventure in Minnetonka, making new friends, seeing new places, and still fostering my current relationships.. those will all be topics for future blog posts (at least that's the plan).  But for today, my first adventure in this new sub-chapter of my life is "the road trip." How can I take this road trip and maximize the happiness and minimize the stress?

I actually love road trips..  I love to explore places along the way.. stop and notice the different scenery and the locals. Try a new unique restaurant, use apps to find unusual sites and stops. I love to have long conversations with whomever is in the car with me, sing along to the radio or CD, or listen to entire audio books. The one thing I don't like to do is actually drive...

Yeah, driving is not my strong suit. I hate driving by big trucks that are going fast, and especially being trapped in the middle lane between two big trucks. Of course, driving in bad weather, in the dark, or on curvy one-lane roads in the mountains are also on my list of why I suffer from "Driveaphobia," and luckily none of those challenges are likely to happen on a spring Denver to Minnesota road trip (though April does often bring some pretty nasty snow storms, so I guess there is the possibility..)

In any case, my first challenge in my "Minnetonka Project" is to do this road trip and figure out how I'm going to maximize happiness and minimize stress.  Since I like road trips but hate to drive, here are some options:

1. Buy a self-driving car

OK, now let's move on to the realistic options.

2. Get a friend to go with me

This is my favorite option. And, by the way, I'm happy to pay all expenses, including hotel and flight back to Colorado. I'd even drive half the time (ok... so you'd have to risk your life with this, but it would be an adventure, right? Having me drive is purely optional depending on how much of an adrenaline rush you want on this journey.)  The only requirement to be eligible for this exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is that you're already my friend. If you're not, but you still want to get to Minnesota from Denver for free, go to option 3.

3. Get a stranger to go with me

I could use Craigslist to advertise a Drive-share opportunity. This could be an opportunity to meet a new friend so it's intriguing. On the other hand, I don't know if I want to be stuck for that long with someone I don't know very well and I, personally, want to do this drive in two 7-hour driving days, rather than a 14-hour drive, so... then there would be the whole awkward conversation about getting a hotel..

4. Drive myself but enlist friends to be my "virtual road trip buddies"

This solution reminds me of my "virtual running buddy" plan I came up with when I ran the Disney Marathon in 2005.  I had friends call me every 10 minutes during the 26  mile run to cheer me on and help distract me from the pain of running... especially during those final miles.  It was awesome!

If I choose this option, I'd once again enlist friends and family to call me along the way with phone calls. We could sing, talk about some deep topic, or I could describe the driver of the car who's flipping me off because I'm talking on the phone and not paying attention to the road. It would be SO much easier than trying to talk and not pay attention to what I'm doing while running in a marathon! I really like this idea because it includes my idea of "staying socially connected" even though I'm heading out on a solo adventure.

So, if you're my friend, expect my invitation to be a virtual road trip buddy options 3 and 4 don't pan out. And in the mean time, let me know any great stops or tips you have for me to prepare. Songs? Audio books? Cool places to eat or stop along the way? Routes?

Let the adventure begin!