A story about car keys

I don’t know if it’s because of the inspiring speech from the Great Oakland Public Schools fundraiser tonight, or if it’s my hypersensitivity to the caffeine from the Thai Iced tea I had at lunch, but I can’t sleep right now.  So why not spend this time doing one of the things I wanted to do more of this year – write on this blog!

I want to share a story with you about car keys, that Mike Johnston told during his keynote speech at tonight’s fundraiser.  For those of you who don’t know of Mike Johnston, he’s someone who has been very active in education reform.  He helped found New Leaders for New Schools, is currently a State Senator in Colorado, and wrote a transformation ed reform bill in Colorado, that has sparked similar ed reform bills in 14 other states.  He’s also recently been featured as one of Time Magazine’s 40 under 40.  Look him up.  He’s awesome.
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What were you doing when time just flew by?

In the past year, I’ve made a habit of asking folks who seem to be contemplating their future:

What were you doing when time flew?  What were you doing last when you completely lost track of time, and when you finally did check the time, wish you had more to keeping doing what you were doing? 

I first encountered this set of questions in Professor Randy Haykin‘s class, Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship.  He was introducing us to the concept of flow, that sweet spot when we have the highest potential for creativity.

I like asking this set of questions because it feels easier to answer than the “What do I do with my life” question.  That’s because when time is flying, when you are in the flow, you are so fully immersed in what you are doing that you are unfettered by the usual thoughts and constructs that keep you unhappy.  (This is the exact same feeling described in my previous post here, except that it’s being prompted by something you’re doing instead of something external to you.)  And somehow by simply recalling that moment, you experience freedom from the pressing thoughts of shoulds, coulds, and imaginary boundaries that prevent you from answering the “life” question.

Ok, a couple of the instances when time flew were when I was making my Up Halloween costume and when I was creating clues for The Game.  But I didn’t go to business school to become a costume designer or clue writer.  How does this have anything to do with what I want to do as a career?

It might.  It might not.  But if you were so fully enjoying what you were doing that you lost track of time, it does point to a part of what to do with your life.

These things that I love doing don’t necessarily need to be how I make my living (although I am toying with the idea of being a full-service themed children’s birthday party planner, complete with invitations, decor, costume design, and cake decorating options).  I just need to make sure that I make time for them in my life.

Often our dilemma is that we think that by dedicating time to these pursuits that we love, we will have less time for the “more important” things in life, like work, our partner, our family, etc.  How could I possibly find the energy to do that on top of everything else I need to take care of?  That’s the magic of it.  It isn’t a zero-sum game.  In fact, dedicating time to these activities give us more energy at the end of the day, and re-energizes us for the other parts of our lives.

Think about it.  What do you LOVE doing?  What were you doing the last time you were really excited about what you were doing?  When were you last in your element or in the flow?  How did it feel?

Have you felt that way in the past week?  In the past month?  In the past year?

If not, I think you owe it to yourself to think about why not?