Friday, September 27, 2013

My Short List

I was feeling a bit overwhelmed today, and I determined that it was coming from a question of priority. What we should devote our limited time to is a huge and important question, and one that's sometimes difficult to navigate.

So while I sat on the subway, I pulled out my phone and listed off the things in my life that are important to me. Nothing physical—some were big concepts concepts—yet still very concrete and definable. I went with the ones that came to mind quickly, so it wasn't hard at all to do.

When I finished, I had 11 items, and a condensed version I came up with could have as little as 3. Looking down, I pictured my life with these things, and I knew that the list was about right. Sure, writing them down didn't make them come true, but it instantly made the concept of priority seem simpler.

I think life is simpler than we like to think. I challenge you to make a list of what is most important to you, then ask yourself if you're letting other things get in the way. You may be surprised by how little you really need.

Perhaps I'll share my list in the future, but for now, let's let it be something personal.

Monday, September 16, 2013

NYC: My First Month

There is a beautiful and unintentional side effect to my semester away; I'm no more than ten dollars and a two and a half hour bus ride from my childhood home. I spent a refreshing two days there with my parents this weekend. On the way back, I started to reflect on my first month in New York City.

The time has been a whirlwind. I've gazed with wander at millions of lights from rooftop balconies, felt like I've escaped the city on the wooded trails in Prospect Park, and actually escaped on an excursion to the Jersey shore. I've seen the sites you find on postcards, as well as many, many more that you never will. I have loved the people-watching and connectedness that comes from a subway ride home to the heart of Brooklyn, and I've eaten enough pizza and bagels to make up for three years spent on the west coast.

By the stroke of chance, great friends from USC, Daniel Boone, and even my own family have wandered their way back into my life here in a new city. And I've worked running and yoga back into the picture as well. It's all given me a very welcome grounding.

Working at Letterman continues to be a dream come true. I grew up watching this very show, and I've since told myself I'd like to work at a place like this. No matter how I feel by the end of the semester, I've already succeeded. So bring on the gravy.

One of the biggest delights has been the new friends that I've made at the show. You ought to meet them. Because they're wicked cool.

There are of course things that I miss. I miss nature, naturally. And the people. I miss that I am not there to begin my senior year at USC with the rest of my class. I wish I could be there with my brother and his girlfriend as they enter their first fall on the west coast, too. Los Angeles has become my home, and it'll be a happy homecoming.

In the meantime, this is all more than worth it. It's an adventure that is exceeding my expectations, and I am thoroughly savoring it. Plus, with a month in it still feels like vacation. Which is fine by me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reflections: Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Since I moved to New York, I have gained a new understanding of the September 11th attacks, if simply because of proximity. To stand over the piers in Brooklyn Heights, it is impossible not to imagine what it would have been like to look out with that clear view of Downtown that morning. Walking the streets of the Financial District, the videos we've all seen take on a haunting new meaning.

Last week I went to a screening of a new documentary playing exclusively here in NYC. Out of the Clear Blue Sky tells the overshadowed story of Cantor Fitzgerald, the company that lost more lives than any other on 9/11, and its CEO Howard Lutnick, who was plagued with the emotional and practical responsibility of caring for the lost employees' families. 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees went to work in the World Trade Center that morning. 0 came home.

The film takes us back to the videos and newscasts of that day, reminding us of the shock and fear we all felt; but what was new to me was the incredible personal story of Lutnick himself. In the wake of the abrasive loss of 658 of his colleagues and dear friends, Lutnick was very publicly accused of not doing enough to support the families of the victims. But the true story involves him pulling together a company from near extinction to do just that.

As I have regained an awareness for 9/11, I have begun to notice the scars very visible all around the New York community. I promise that I will live more compassionately because of this.

If you have the chance to see this film, please do so.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Look Up

Next time you are with company and you feel that oh-so-familiar buzz in your pocket, I want you to consider the power of attention and the unwanted consequences that may come to your relationships every time your check your phone.

You receive a text, a notification comes in, and then what's your immediate reaction? Likely to pull out your phone that moment and read it, then maybe respond. Not a big deal, right? Perhaps not, if you're by yourself and the loss of focus doesn't bother you. But when you're spending time with someone, especially one on one, even a brief distraction can send a strong message. And unfortunately, it doesn't matter if it's intentional.

When you are engaged with someone in conversation, your undivided attention says to them "I am enjoying your company" and "I am interested in what you have to say". It makes them feel valued and appreciated, and they are likely to return the same attention to you.

But take that conversation, then imagine that in the middle of your partner's sentence you zone out and start checking your phone. They continue for a second or two before quickly noticing that you're in another world, then sit there wondering if you ever cared what they had to say. If giving your attention is to show you're interested, then checking your phone mid-conversation is to say, "I was enjoying your company, but oh wait...someone is trying to get ahold of me, and I'm going to bet that whatever they have to say is more interesting than you."

I bring this up because I know very well that this is not the intended message. Our smart phones are full of fascinating things, and they do help us live more efficient lives. But I look around and I see the closeness of real-life relationships at risk because of tempting technology that is grossly unsatisfying. I see beautiful real-life moments being muddled by split attention and the need to be two places at once.

So next time you're at dinner with friends and you feel the urge to flip through Facebook or check your email, just take a second to consider what really deserves your attention.

And then if you're not convinced, watch this video: