Search Results: 'digital fast'

Preparing For A Digital Fast

I started taking weekly digital fasts about a year and a half ago at the prompting of friend Tiffany Shlain. I have found that to do it well you have to prepare. But first, let me explain a bit about these fasts.

My career centers around digital connectedness. After watching Tiffany’s film Connected, ( now available on iTunes) she and I had a conversation over dinner about  digital addiction, losing touch with the analog world and the impact on our relationships. That day she was in the  middle of one of her weekly fasts she calls digital shabbat.

I remember thinking at the time that it was going to be tough doing one. I had become accustomed to working just about everyday of the week. Being involved in a tech start-up required a lot of work and it seemed to never end. But I was feeling burned out. Monday would roll around after another weekend of mixing family time with sporadic working. I noticed that I was losing my passion when it came to the things I love in my career, connecting with others, tech and communicating. Tiffany urged me to give it a try.

I took the challenge. At first it was a bit strange turning off my phone, ipad, kindle and any type of communication on my Macbook. To be honest I felt a bit panicky.

Wow, maybe I had become addicted to a digital world.  But then the panic subsided and I began to enjoy my day a lot. Now it has become a time I look forward to every week.  Here are a few things I suggest if you plan to take a weekly or monthly fast.

Come Prepared

  • Notify others that you will be unavailable. I made a voice-mail message saying that I would be unavailable from sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I send out a simple message “Shutting down for a 24 hour digital fast.” Those closest to me know they can reach me through my home phone or my wife. At first I even had a few people upset that they could not reach me easily for 24 hrs. They soon adjusted.
  • Try to not schedule activities that require you to be on a smartphone or social network. Sometimes this is unavoidable. With a little planning I have found that I have only had to break a fast a few times. Pick a day that makes sense. Takes one on Saturday if it is more convenient.
  • Gather resources that can replace content like ebooks or computer note taking and writing. I keep a few books around specifically for this purpose as well as journals and sketchbooks. I reserve my paper copies of Fast Company and Game Developer to enjoy during the fast.
  • Plan time outside since it is a great time to reconnect with nature without the handy iPhone in hand to distract you from the moment you are trying to enjoy.
  • Encourage your family or those you spend the time with to join you. It can be tough hanging out with others that are glued to devices when you are all analog. I have yet to convince my own family to join me.
  • (Oh, and one last addition. I added this after my latest fast.) Don’t get overwhelmed by the chaos you might come back to after the fast. The world does go on with out you and yes there might be some work that piles up. You will be able to approach it with much more clarity though.

For a great conversation about these fasts I encourage you to listen to Aaron McHugh’s podcast with guest Jon Dale. Jon has some great suggestion for getting your family to join on.

One thing that I also do is not take this too seriously. I will watch a film with my family or even play a video game. Each of us has a different digital lifestyle. Some may need to fast from TV or other types of tech. For me I try to eliminate anything that keeps me from the natural world and the people closest to me. I would love to hear your thoughts if you are doing a weekly fast or are thinking of taking one.

Refresher on the fast

I will be offline for the next five days. Posts have been scheduled daily. Anything that comes up will need to wait till next Monday. I found it helpful to review some of my own writings on tech breaks, in my own prep to be inaccessible to those other than the people with me in person.

So here are some of those posts I have written on the subject as well as one I found very helpful.

Feed the innovator, connector, world changer
The connector recharged
Preparing for a digital fast

And one from John Eldredge on And Sons MAgazine:
Cutting the Cord: Cell Phone Addiction

What is real

What is real and what is perceived? Perception, perspective all weigh heavily on how we interact with ourselves and others.

The mood we are in, the prank we fall for (most of all today), the food we eat (can easily be tied to mood as well), our medical condition or even the amount of sleep we have had last night all play a part in our perceptions.

Before we react, take offense or even get excited, step back and asses. Get your bearings first.

And if you find yourself being pulled to one emotion over the rest, take a break and unplug. Go inward and take inventory.

If you do decide to unplug here are some way things that might help.

Preparing for a digital fast.

Pay attention to the horse

I had just put my phone away in my chest pocket of my jacket and was about to put my glove back on my right hand. It was not snowing but the weather was changing fast and the sun was just about to disappear behind the mountains. The horse I was riding, Diamond Dan had never given me any problems in the 5 or 6 times I had ridden him, but today he was acting a bit jumpy. I hear people let down their guard when they become good at something. Motorcycles, flying, driving, all the accidents show that inexperience is not the killer, overconfident experts are.

My sister and my daughter had continued on our path ahead in a gallop. Dan obviously did not want to get left behind. He lunged ahead with out my command and as I held his reigns back he reacted with a decent sized crow hop lunge while breaking into a run. As I tried to gain control of him he went into a full buck. In seconds I was off the horse flying toward the dirt road. Wind knocked out of me lying there in severe pain I knew exactly what had just happened. I stopped paying attention to the horse.

I have had two weeks now to reflect on those few seconds that landed me in the hospital. I sustained no broken bones. I did though have severe bruising and my conscience was jarred awake. What else am I not paying attention to? What have I been missing. That night the distraction was taking a video. There is nothing bad about that at all. But in the circumstances it was completely the wrong thing to be doing. And in my life I have realized that there are many things that need my attention way more than all that seemed to consume me lately.

Continue Reading…

White Washing the Canvas

One of my best painting teachers ironically was not at the world class fine arts school I began my college career at. He was an instructor at a community college. He challenged all of us to paint something and then without thinking white wash the canvas and begin again. I had my greatest breakthroughs in painting when I embraced this crazy illogical way of learning. And I learned even more when I took that first stroke of white paint and covered over what I felt was some of my best work.

paintingThe pain of covering over the work and beginning again at first seemed pointless. I wanted to show someone, hear their praises and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.
But the brilliance of it started to emerge immediately. I started to paint for me. I relaxed and just painted for the sake of painting. I started to care less whether anyone liked it or not. I became bolder with my strokes and experimented more. I had an audience of one. The painting took a second role to the true main character, the art.

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the character Sean O’Connell played by Sean Penn says “beautiful things don’t ask for attention”. In the scene below, he has been sitting in the cold waiting to see the elusive Ghost Cat, a Himalayan snow leopard. As the cat finally appears he chooses to take the moment in and not take the photo.

Letting go of so much as I white washed my first painting set me free to enjoy the art. That was over 23 years ago. And to be honest what my teacher initiated with the canvas white-washing began to wear off and was only recovered about 8 years ago. I have noticed that the artist that does their craft for an audience of one impacts the world the most. The artist that ignores the critic and continues to do her art over and over again brings an unfiltered beauty to the world.

So where do we start? What is the equivalent of white washing our paintings today? Here is a list of just some examples I am trying and few suggestions too. Please feel free to comment and add your own.

-Use a DSLR not linked to any social sites. Of course feel free to post photos to instagram, FB or Flickr but let them rest first and post later.

-Take digital fasts. You will be amazed how hard it is to write, play music, laugh and engage with a small audience in real life. Take a few notes and pay attention to your digital addictions. I bet you will find some places where your art has become a crutch or pathway to gaining approval from others. (if you need help getting started you can read a few things I have found along the way.)

-Sit alone with your thoughts at least once a day. Allow yourself to get past the fears, clutter and must-do’s.

-Write a blog, post a picture or record a podcast and then choose to not look at how many comments it receives or likes (dislikes) it gets. Ignore everyone, even if it drives you crazy.

-Try a new language, skill or art.

-Start a journal.

-Delete all your old emails.

-When someone compliments you, say thank you and leave it at that. And for my Christian friends reading this, please consider this. My good friend Chris Skaggs has a great reply he compliments someone’s art and they say “all the glory to God” or “it is all Jesus”. He replies, “It wasn’t that good!”

-Publish something anonymously.

This is just a start. I would love to hear about your own artist journey on the topic as well as any challenges you could add to the list.

Margin To Connect

marginJust think of your day, week, or year as a piece of classic ruled notebook paper. All the space in the middle is where we fill up with as much content as we can. But the margins are the areas that are mainly left blank. In school this is where we received back comments from our teachers. If you are like me it is the place in book where I leave notes about a great passage or a quote I want to use later. The point is that there is space…..for more. For more thoughts, dreams, corrections and….in life time for friends.

This week I had lunch with an old friend from my early college days. Mike was one of my pack and we shared so many great adventures, challenges and formative experiences. But like so many people in our lives we lost track of each other until a mutual friend, Matt Singley, brought us back onto each others radar.

Over our lunch Mike wanted to know more about my digital shabbats or what I refer to now as my online fasts. (You can read about those here) Where the conversation quickly went to was margins. Mainly that none of us have any left. We both realized that if there was space we quickly filled it up with busyness instead of deeper things like quality time with friends and family. As I have travelled around the world I have noticed that in the US we lack any significant relationship time. There are no after lunch siestas or 5 hour dinners starting at 9 pm.

What I think suffers most in our lack of margin is our connections to each other. And I am not saying that mainly because we don’t have time for connections. We suffer most because we lose ourselves in our busy lives. We lose what Seth Godin calls “wall time”. We lose quiet moments with our maker. We begin to blend with everything around us and find at the end of the day that we have no grounding and little identity left. And from that we don’t connect with each other because we are lost ourselves.

About a year ago my wife Kristine told me she wanted to start getting up at 4am. I told her she was crazy. But I decided to try getting up with her. Now it is a habit. We rise at 4 am at least three days a week and around 5 to 5:30 on the days we don’t work out. I accidentally found a huge margin in my life. Instead of filling it up with more busyness I decided to read, pray and enjoy the very quiet hours of the early morning. If my day gets crazy I am not as stressed because I already have a reserve from every morning. And around 9pm I am too tired to stress about the day. All I want to do is be asleep.

I am currently reading Andy Traub’s book Early to Rise with a client. She wanted to start getting up early after hearing about my experiences, and asked “how do I do that too”. I had to answer, “I have no idea”, but Andy does. As I have been reading the book, a chapter a day for a week, I have noticed that it is mainly about disrupting many bad habits like going to bed late and choosing new healthy ones. One benefit is that I have found that I have a significant amount of time everyday for margin.

Do you have any margin in your life? If you had some who would you mindfully connect or reconnect with? Here is a challenge. The next time an old friend comes to mind, go one step beyond thinking about the good ole days and call them up. Invite them to coffee or lunch. Reconnect. And if you are finding yourself never having much to say in a conversation, then take a close look at your life. You may need some margin.

Responsibility for the taking

I hear a lot of grumbling (even my own) as the political parties approach picking their candidates for the 2016 presidential election.

What we need innovative responsibility for real change in our country.

Are looking for the next president who promise through authority to “make america great again”, “Heal + Inspire + Revive”, “reigniting the promise”, “rebuild the american dream”, put “people over politics”? On and on they go (you can see all of the 2016 slogans here).

But what is needed is not authority. We need responsibility. And the great part is we already have it if we are willing to take it.

Here is a list of 25 ways that today through taking responsibility we can make ourselves and our country better.

-Visit a veterans hospital once a week and hang out with a vet.
-Ask someone over 80 to tell you their story, then (with their permission) tell it to the rest of the country through a vlog, short film or blog.
-Hold a meetup on a hot topic where everyone is invited and they agree to some civility. We have a lot! (gun control, marriage equality, health care, mental health crisis, homelessness…)
-Get your passport and use it.
-grab a coffee with someone who has the opposite beliefs as you.
-Volunteer to be tutor so an adult can learn to read.
-Take a class on the American political process
-Vote (this little action set you apart from half of those in the US)
-Read more and talk less
Learn a new language
-Visit washington DC
Go offline once a week.
-Find something remarkable to do and ask others to join you.
-Educate yourself on all the candidates and issues (start at Project Vote Smart.
-Resist road rage
-Get to know your neighbors
-Watch less TV
-Learn to code
Get out of debt (stop using credit today)
-Take a history course (or pick your choice from free Stanford classes)
-Be inspired by past stump speeches
-Create your own media and news plan
-Make a campfire or patio fire and invite friends over with one rule: no gossip
-Don’t take yourself too seriously
-Tell others your own story (know your own story).

None of these need authority. All of them take responsibility. So take it.

Over the next month some of my daily posts (including this one) will be assignments from a leadership class I am taking from Seth Godin.

Wes Roberts: Connectors Series

This is the 2nd post in a series on connectors. Read the 1st one about C.C. Chapman here.

This past month Wes Roberts and I started communicating daily. We’ve known each of each other in the digital realm for a few years and have so many mutual friends (dozens in fact). But through mindfulness Wes took a step further recently and offered up his time and best of all his heart.

wesI speak often on the subject of the stages of men’s lives from boyhood to death. One thing I have realized is that it is rare to find a man that is truly alive in his “sage” years (60s and up). Too often I see down turned eyes of resignation, regret and sadness. Many men have given up or relish in a lifetime of stored up treasures, giving little back. I have found a few that are out-competing their earthly bodies, racing to the finish line with vigorous excitement only to be matched by a young boys aggression and love for adventure. Wes is one of those men.

I’ve lost many of the wise men in my life to death and circumstance. Wes surprised me by offered up love, wisdom, and a watchful eye over my life. Best of all he offered sagely friendship. I answered YES!

This could easily be a post on mentorship, something Wes knows so much about. But really it is more about mindfulness, time and living. As a recent Fast Company article stated, there is always time for mentoring someone. Building margin into our lives to connect is a simple decision. It is one many of us forfeit for something else. I’m no innocent here. I get stuck in cycles of busyness to often.

C.S Lewis in one of my favorite of his writing said “…our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between two people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption”

Thank you Wes for taking so many souls seriously.

Wes’ Leadership Design Group is located in Denver Colorado and serves many leaders throughout the world with creative mentorship.


Feed the innovator, connector, world changer

Renently a friend shared an article on twitter from Fast Company that caught my attention. It covered Atari’s Founder Nolan Bushnell’s talk at Mindshare this past week. His main point was that we need to do analog things to keep our innovation alive. I have started to notice a pattern in my life in regards to my ability to be impactful as a connector, innovator and change agent. When I am drained I start to hide. By hide I mean connect less, innovate less and lose hope for a changed world. I lose my enjoyment in spending time with others. Life loses beauty and movement. It is a condition of our digital age. We are inundated with demands and opportunities but have lost what is needed to sustain.

Call it overreacting to the lizard brain, a factor of our economy, striving or digital addiction. Whatever you call it, the result is less of anything good and a lot of loss.

Below are a few ways that have helped me stay away from that list. These are ones that are working well for me and I would love to hear how you are keeping it at bay.

Digital Shabbats

I started taking what I call digital shabbats after getting to know Tiffany Shlain. She explains so well in her documentary Connected how our brains are becoming rewired due to constant digital use. In her own life she noticed she was less connected to the people she cared about the most. Taking one day a week to completely unplug changed it all for her. I have found the same result after making it a weekly habit. Judith Shulevitz has explored what the sabbath does extensively in her book The Sabbath World. You can see her here talking about what the sabbath has meant for her.

At first it was very difficult to practice because I was on a high from being so connected digitally. Now I look forward to my 24 hours of no iPhone, Twitter, Facebook or any other digital communication. I spend time reading, praying and getting closer to those around me in meatspace. It has really changed my life.


Bushnell mentions this and my friend and co-director at Soma Games, Nat Iwata writes about it in an excellent blog post. We need beauty. Again I find that as I strive and struggle to get ahead, beauty seems to fall off the schedule. I use tools like Instagram to post cool things I find through pictures. You can easily correlate the frequency of posts there with my level of stress. When I am relaxed and alive I post a lot of pictures. When I am under the gun so to speak they disappear.

Guarding our Hearts

Out of all scripture I think one of the verses that to this day has been most important to me is Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
This guarding manifests in many ways, and I think each of us has to explore what it means. For me it means being careful who I spend my time around. I pick up on moods and if people are constantly putting others down or stuck in mediocrity it can quickly steal my joy. What eventually happens is I lose drive and if I really let them in they will eventually steal more.
It can also mean being careful of the content I allow myself to digest. If it is bad for my kids it is usually bad for me. You are the best judge and can tell if your heart has stopped beating though. Go on a journey to find out when that beat died.

Staying Uncomfortable

Going back to Bushnell’s talk, I would point out that all of the recommendations he gave for keeping innovation alive could be grouped together in his first recommendation, staying uncomfortable. All of us, if we have slipped too far into busyness will find any of his recommendations terribly uncomfortable. I read a great quote this weekend (I can’t remember the source) that said it is better to disrupt ourselves before others disrupt us. I would say the same thing and add life. But that is another blog post all together.

Go make yourself uncomfortable today.

You may also be interested in my post: The Connector Recharged

Informal is in and Formal is OUT

have a running conversation with Paul McNeal about the changing role email is playing in communications. With his expereince as both entrepreneur and mentor, he has some good insights on the subject over a range of ages. I asked him to share his thoughts here.

Email and voice is on its way out as a mode of social communications and digital is all in. Why? Because it’s too formal. I will admit that the business scene is still a primary user of this archaic form of communication but I see that also changing very quickly.

There is a new breed of information users on the horizon and they process information much differently than we do today. Generation Y and Z — the youngest techies, born after 1995 — consider e-mail passé. They process information in quick snippets while on the go; you have …….