Making Time

You don’t find the time to make things, you make the time to do things.
Debbie Millman

This is putting it mildly: You either make the time or you don’t — and which you do defines who you are. Makers make things. Gardeners spend time in the garden. Activists spend time in the community.

Making time for an activity means it matters to you. The reverse is true as well.

Practice: Your choice. Would you rather update your identity or realign your schedule?

Advanced practice: Explore your reasons to  hold onto an identity that doesn’t reflect the ways you spend your time.

Related practices: Busy, Busy, Busy, Boredom


Do you allow the world to come to you or do you pounce on it? Are you acting from impatience? Enthusiasm? Anxiety? Eagerness?

Practice: Close your eyes and let your eyeballs rest comfortably in their sockets. This may take a while. (My breathing slows and my shoulders drop before my eyes relax.)

Slowly open your eyes. Notice whether you use your eyes to take in the world or to advance towards it. Or something else entirely.

Noticing what you tend to do allows you to play with alternatives.

Related practices: Loneliness, Perfect

Go Deep

All social issues are temporary and brief. Go deep.
Howard Thurman

Reading this, I want to say “Huh?” and pretend I don’t understand. But some part of me does understand; something in me knows that confusion is a hiding place.

To learn more about Thurman’s ministry, watch:

Practice: Replace “all social issues” with content of your own:

My business dilemmas are…
My health problems are. . .
My feelings about . . .

Advanced practice: Identify what gets in the way of you “going deep.”

Related practices: Accordion, Self-attack

Gods of Creativity

Remember: The gods of creativity are not obliged to explain anything to us.
     Elizabeth Gilbert

Creativity, like faith or courage, simply is — which suggests taking a naturalist’s approach. Observe without expectation. Avoid sudden moves. Collect data until you have enough to form a theory, then test the theory.

Practice: Do something you hypothesize will lead to creativity. Notice the results. Do something arguably the opposite. Notice the results.

Related practices: Please, Alert Emptiness, Tuesday nights


Simplicity is a sound ambition but in a complex world we should also check for unintended consequences.
Tim Hartford

Optional soundtrack for this practice: “Simple Gifts” by Cantus

I value simplicity. That said, the status quo is simple. Fearfulness is simple. Passivity is simple. Anything, unexamined, seems simple.

Unconscious bias means people favor those who look like them (gender bias, racial bias) and sound like them (class bias), an unintended consequence. Unless it’s intended.

Practice: Identify a value you hold. Now look where it has led, and whether those consequences are ones you also value.

Related practices: Fresh Peaches, Fluency

Practices for a Pandemic: Tracking

All is not well, but today is a good day, good at the personal level and beyond. I even know the steps that led to me feeling good, that is, I can track what led to my current emotions. Treating tracking as a practice and doing it regularly — I feel good; how did I get here? I feel bad; how did I get here? — reduces the odds of getting blindsided.

1)I got an email from a woman in Oakland that read:

Thinking of you and hoping you are safe and feel safe with the awfulness going on in Portland.

Continue reading


Please select one of the following and then we’ll move on: Life is hard; life is cruel; life is random; sometimes good people are forced to do bad things; sometimes innocent people die; yes, Myron, you screwed up, but you’ll do better this time; no, Myron, you didn’t screw up, it wasn’t your fault; everyone has a breaking point and now you know yours.
Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben

Clichés and platitudes crowd the brain, making genuine thought and authentic emotion harder to access.

Practice:When you’re about to say something hackneyed, don’t. Go silent instead.
Wait for something else to surface. The words that come next may sound awkward or even embarrassing. They will also enliven you in a way that no cliché can.

Advanced practice: When an exchange leaves you feeling dissatisfied, locate where you shorted yourself — either by saying less than you actually meant or by making an all-purpose response when you could have been specific.

Related practices: Fresh Peaches, Fluency

Sweeping the Staircase

In the intelligence tests given immigrants at Ellis Island, “they were asked how a staircase should be swept: Do you sweep from bottom to top, top to bottom, or toward the sides. A Polish girl answered, “I haven’t come to this country to sweep staircases.”
Eduardo Galeano

860678_origKathleen Nestor Owens

You get to decide what you have — and have not — come here to do. Where does skipping  breakfast fall?  How about running yellow lights. Failing to vote. The list is as personal as you’re willing to make it.

Practice: Chose something you don’t approve of but find yourself doing anyway. Then decide whether it’s something you “came here to do.”

Applying unfamiliar language to a familiar behavior can help you work with it more effectively.

Related practices: Trousers, Author’s Statement, Permission


Never in the history of calming down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down.
Hoda Kotb

Rick LePage

True. But taking slow, deep breaths with long exhales has been known to work. Also effective: going for a walk, loading up on salsa (the capsicum relaxes your airways), helping others.

Practice: Initiate conversations about what helps you calm down. Going public can aerate your relationship to stress.

Related practice: Self-care, Fluency, Anger

Bright Blue Sailboat

There was a rude remark I could have made back to her right then
and I watched it go by like a bright blue sailboat on a long gray river of silence
Tony Hoagland

Such a lush portrait of restraint. To me, Hoagland’s bright blue sailboat is a fitting tribute to his — my, your, our — judicious decision not to add to the world’s distress.

Practice: Observe a conversation that’s going well and notice how many times each participant decides not to say something they were about to say. Skill involves selection.

Related practices: Seek silence, No easy jobs