I’ve Done this Every New Years Eve Since the Year 2000

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” – the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland

One of the most important things we do as social change leaders is to create reality. Think about it. We see what’s missing and we commit ourselves to filling that gap. We dream up whole new systems and structures and then we bring them to fruition. We craft and pilot innovations that we hope will make the world a better place. Then, we endlessly tinker and improve our approach. Eventually, we attempt to spread them to everyone who could possibly benefit. Indeed, the work of social change leaders is literally to create reality. 

Between you and me, I think it’s the best part of the job. 

When I was a Captain in the Army, I had the good fortune of working for Colonel (Ret) Howie Cohen. Howie is one of those people who never stops learning, even to this day. And way back in 1997 he formed a book club for all the officers in his charge. Most of the books were what you’d expect – analysis of famous military battles and such. But he also kept us on our toes with some books you might not expect. Maximum Achievement: Strategies and Skills that will Unlock Your Hidden Power to Succeed by Brian Tracy was one such surprise. I remember when Howie announced we’d be reading that one, the rest of us made jokes about the “touchy-feely Ranger” book club, but I stopped laughing once I read the book. I underlined, highlighted, and dog-eared darn near half the pages. 

Somewhere in the middle of the book, Brian Tracy includes a handful of questions intended to help the reader get clear on the vision and the purpose for their life. I dog-eared that page and left it on the shelf for a couple of years. But, as the millennia came to a close, and Y2K loomed large, I pulled it back off the shelf and created a worksheet out of those questions. On New Year’s Eve, in the last few hours of 1999, I journaled my answers. Then, I tucked them away and went back to celebrating with my friends. 

The next year I did the same thing. Then again. And again. This year will mark the 21st year of doing this practice on New Year’s Eve. I introduced it to my wife, Christine, when we started dating back in 2010 and now we look forward to this meaningful time of reflection and dreaming up what’s next for our lives each year. 

Here’s the kicker. Every now and then I go back and look at what I answered in previous years. To questions like, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” or “What would you do if you found out you only had six months left to live?” And though I have not won the lottery, I have done most of the things I said I wanted to do. And I have this moving record of who I was, and what mattered to me most, over time. 

Here are some examples of things I wrote down years before they happened: 

Back in 2000, I was a closeted LGBT Captain in the US Army. The question was, “What have you always wanted to do, but been afraid to attempt?” My answer: Get out of the Army. Be completely “out.” Love someone completely. Check. Check. Check. Before the end of the year! 

To the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” I wrote: do a NOLS Semester in the Southwest course. So. ok. I didn’t get around to taking a NOLS course until 2012. And it was in the Wind River Range, not Arizona. And it was only two weeks, not a semester. But my instructor happened to be the director of the Southwest Branch of NOLS and remains a friend to this day. So…not too shabby. 

Also in 2000, in response to the question, “What would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?” I wrote, “become a teacher of social justice and empowerment/conscious raising.” 

This was in 2000, y’all. When I was a Captain in the Army. 

Here’s another example. In 2003, in answer to the question, “What would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?” I wrote, “an international women’s self-determination underground.” 

In 2004, I built on that theme, answering, “start my own kick-ass company with a merry band of followers leading the charge for social change. Eventually, move our headquarters to a mountain town.” I am laughing out loud as I write this because while I’m not 100% sure what a “women’s self-determination underground” is if you attended one of our fellowship meetings – in the shadow of Mt. Baldy here in the mountain-college town of Claremont, California, you might think I knew exactly what I was talking about! 

Bear in mind that in 2003, I was just getting started in my job as the Director of the Street to Home Initiative for Community Solutions in New York City. My answer to the question above was not one or two adjacent moves on the chessboard. It was a leap to a completely different game. And yet, here I am, 17 years later, doing exactly what I had dreamt up in my wildest imagination from my tiny apartment in the West Village on New Year’s Eve.  

So I’m not even sure what that’s about. I wasn’t tempering my answers. I was swinging for the fences. I was really going for it. And then I’d tuck the paper away in some file, and go about my life. And yet…so much of it came true. 

Kind of unbelievable, really. 

Or maybe this is exactly how it works. 

What I appreciate about my willingness to swing for the fences on New Years Eve is that I didn’t constrain myself by what was “realistic” or “responsible” or “mature.” I simply answered the questions with what felt true for me at the time. One important aspect of this seems to be that I answered them from a place of spaciousness versus scarcity. 

Part of doing the work we are all called to do as social change leaders is to envision a better system and then create it. To live in balance, it’s important that we do that for ourselves as well.

And I want to share this practice with you. If you go here (XXXX) you can get a worksheet with the questions written out. Just print this worksheet out, complete it yourself, and go about your business. See what happens. 

If you’d like some company, I will be doing a Facebook live on December 28th at 10:30 AM Pacific Time where we will work through these questions together as a group. If you’d like, you can share some of your reflections as we offer our encouragement and support to one another to create a new reality going into 2021.

Goodness, gracious – yes, please, let’s create a new reality into 2021!

Follow us on Facebook here! We’ll be posting reminders on our page and through our weekly newsletter. 

Permission Slip to Be Imperfect

Hi Friends,

Last week I poured all my creative energy into completing the third draft of my book. It’s taken me over a year to complete this project that I thought would take six weeks and it’s been way harder than I imagined. 

Reflecting on my process with writing the book got me thinking about two related ideas that I want to share with you today: the power of commitment and permission to be imperfect. 

My all-time favorite author, Annie Dillard, advises authors to write a “shitty first draft.” Just get your ideas down on paper, even if it’s messy. I’ve been thinking that I can bring that embrace of imperfection to whole swaths of my life, far beyond writing. Just get it out there and do the best I can,  while bearing in mind Maya Angelou’s instructions: “Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”

Today I want to give you a permission slip to lean into your own imperfections. To look at the aspects of your own work for change where you have perhaps submitted a shitty first draft, and ask yourself, do I know better now? And now that I know better, how can I do better? 

Inertia will keep things going in the direction they’re going. It takes a willful, conscious effort to shift our choices and actions into a new direction. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to be imperfect. We all are. The magic move is in catching ourselves and making a new choice.

I’ll give you a concrete example.

Most of the time my day-to-day life with my partner, Christine, is a textbook version of living happily ever after. But every now and then we get caught in a little bit of a rut. Maybe there’s some criticism back and forth. Maybe one of us is feeling misunderstood or unappreciated. Who knows exactly what it is. The key isn’t in the precise diagnosis, it is in the ability to catch ourselves in that dynamic and interrupt the pattern. 

One of our favorite hacks is the do-over. Here’s a recent example. We were both in the kitchen, cooking dinner, and things just felt off. Christine declared, “I think we need a do-over,” which is our code word for this hack that always works. Even knowing that it always works, I will confess that part of me was like, “No, let’s just stay here and keep being bitchy a little longer.” 

But I’ve learned to discipline myself to ignore the adrenaline junkie in my head that wants to land one more zinger for the win. So I agree. At which point, Christine literally stops chopping vegetables, heads out to the driveway, circles back to the front door, swings it open with dramatic flair, and announces in a cheery voice, “hey family, I’m home!” At which point the kids get all excited and greet her at the door, I join in, too, and we all enjoy a good laugh and a big family hug. We don’t go back and relitigate whatever was the cause of the spat. We just move forward. We knew better and we did better. 

You can get a do-over at work, too. The key is that someone has to call the do-over and everyone has to be in on the game. But it’s entirely possible. Just decide not to go down that rabbit trail of blame and criticism another minute. Because there’s no prize at the end of that trail.

What enables this do-over hack to work is a commitment to something bigger than being right. In my relationship with Christine, it’s our commitment to a conscious loving relationship. In my work, it is a commitment to helping social change leaders make their big dent in the Universe. The do-over is a reliable way to recommit ourselves to the bigger picture. 

I’m curious if any of you have attempted a do-over before – at home or at the office. Or if there’s anything that’s wanting a do-over right now. Maybe this is a message from the Universe to call it. 

When you know better, do better.

Need some help finding a starting point? Take our free course “What’s Your Big In The Universe”. Have fun with this one!

– Becky

p.s. If you’d like to be notified when the book is published, sign up here!

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Impact with Integrity (formerly Three Feet of Influence) 2021 Waitlist

We are so excited for the first cohort of 2021 to commence! Enrollment will open at the end of January and the course will begin February 9th, 2021! In the mean time, please let know us a little bit about yourself. Talk soon!

Some Fun & Good News!

 

We interrupt this nail biting election season for some good news!

Selena had her baby!

We would like to welcome our newest member of the extended Billions Institute Family!

Eliya Tomis Liu Raphael
Born at 10:41AM, October 28th 2020
6lb 15oz & 19.5 inches long

 

We also realize you might have Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” stuck in your head

 

 

Hi Friends,

If you’re not up on TikTok or this viral sensation you might be wondering “Why am I hearing this song?” Well, the whole world is hearing this song right now. And while I’ve been humming along, I had some thoughts about how something like this can happen.

This is Nathan Apodaca aka @420Dogface208 and on September 25th he made this 20 second video of himself riding his longboard drinking some ocean spray and listening to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. This video got more than 65 million likes in the middle of a heated election and debilitating pandemic. In this time of huge division we can all agree that for some reason we really like this video.

The neat thing about the TikTok platform is that it enables adaptation. All you have to do is push one button on the app and you can be making your own TikTok with the exact same song – but your way. There are literally thousands of TikToks that are a variation on Nathan’s theme. I even saw one of a kitten being pulled on a skateboard with some ocean spray. Stevie Nicks even joined in, lacking up some old school roller skates. We don’t know why this took off, but it definitely did and the repercussions extend beyond TikTok.

Today, the record label’s catalog division reported that in the past two weeks, “Dreams” has been streamed 36 million times, a 212 percent increase from the pervious two-week period. Meanwhile, downloads were up 1,188 percent. They estimate that across social media. streaming apps, and radio that the song has been heard more than 230 million times, thanks to the “Dreams Challenge” Apodaca’s video spawned.  – LA Times

 

Here is another example impressive impact – Ocean Spray Stock.
On the 29th of September, the stock value doubled in price from $12-$13 to $25 – and held.

Also, stores are out of Ocean Spray.
Forget the toilet paper –  it’s cranberry juice that’s hard to find.

The whole world is in on this one great big joke. Has it ever happened before that a song hits the charts twice, but separated by 43 years? It was top of the charts in 1977 and now again in 2020. So what’s going on here? I’m going to give Nathan credit, what he did was awesome, but what that have to do with you – someone who is working to advance social justice and make the world a better place? What can we learn about spread and scale? Here are a few lessons for you to have in your brain next time you hear ‘Dreams’.

Adaptability

There’s something about making it really easy for people to adapt your thing. The fact that any TikTok user can easily make adaptations – effortlessly, really – is a factor that enables rapid spread/scale. Contrast that with the social sectors where we sometimes see people being kind of precious about fidelity. Nathan doesn’t care if you copy him – he wants you to. And he wants you to make it your own. To the extent that you can make it easy and fun for people to adapt your innovation, you enhance the odds of achieving spread/scale.

Fan The Flames

When OceanSpray saw this was happening they showed up at Nathan’s house with a truck – filled with Cran-Grape Juice – and encouraged him to keep going. So how can we acknowledge and appreciate the people who are trying to do our thing?

FUN FUN FUN

2020 has kind of been a shit storm right? Here is something fun and light that can bring people together. It’s a small thing but it’s a big thing. Is there some small way you can inject a little fun, joy, light-heartedness, and music into whatever it is you’re doing?

If you’ve been thinking about this too I’d love to hear your thoughts! Hit me up, write me back on why you think the Dreams Challenge went so viral. I’m fascinated when this type of thing happens and just really appreciative towards human beings – how much it is in our nature to create and play and find joy in the small things. So I wish this for you and I hope this was a fun interruption in a very serious, very important week in United States history. I’ll be thinking of all of you!

– Becky

Skid Row School 2021 Waitlist

Skid Row School 2021 Waitlist

We are so excited for our 2021 Skid Row School to commence! We want to get you signed up asap. As soon as we have the dates finalized we'll reach out to let you know how to enroll. In the mean time, please let know us a little bit about yourself. Talk soon!
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