I grew up in a large, rambling house in San Anselmo, California. It was built in 1906 by (rumor has it) drunk Irish brothers. It was a house that had “character,” which was a kind thing to say when the roof started caving in and the planks sagged on the front porch.
As the years went by, I faced common challenges just like my 1970’s peers: my parent’s got divorced, funds were tight on a single mom’s salary and later the teen angst related to having The Weirdo Syndrome.
It was not overly traumatic or material for a Lifetime after school special.
But there were times when I felt frustrated, sad and stuck.
So I would go up on the roof.
Looking out over the neighborhood, skimming the tops of trees and watching the birds land on power lines made me feel better immediately. There was something about being high above my daily life that made me feel powerful. Gazing at the clouds, I would dream about my future.
Fast forward about 35 years, and I still need a roof. Life and business have been moving at a breakneck speed, and I find it increasingly difficult to get the perspective that will allow me to answer the question:
Are you feeling it too?
Let’s get a birds-eye view, shall we? Here’s how:
- Identify your perch. I love being physically high in the air to gain perspective (like on a mountaintop or roof), but not everyone requires vertical scale. Maybe you think best by hiking in the desert, or lounging in a spa, or rafting down a river. The criteria for your “big picture-inducing” perch is that it allows you to step back and view your life objectively, and is outside of your day-to-day environment.
- Give your brain lemon sorbet. My dear friend Andrea Lee used this metaphor at her recent conference, where she described the need for creative people to “cleanse the palate of their brain” in order to invite bigger, better, more rigorous and impactful thoughts. Andrea suggests a deep inhale and exhale to cleanse the brain, as well as dumping all your random ideas into “Hell Yes, Hell No and Maybe” buckets.
- Ponder on three questions (any or all of them — whichever you can relate to best)
-What is my superpower? (Charlie Gilkey says envision your costume, tights and all)
-What problem in the world would I most like to solve?
-What special medicine do I have to heal (my corner of) the world?
I can take a guess at the superpowers of some of my friends and blog readers: Nathan Bowers, User Interface Ninja (and kicker of poor design’s bootie). Avien McCrimmon, Hunger Avenger, with sidekick (and younger brother) Andre Blackman, aka Public Health Morpheus. Pamela Wilson, Xena: Color Restrainer. Andy Pels, Captain Sarcasm, showing strong support for entrepreneurs while making you laugh. Willie Jackson, Mr. Brand Fantastic, able to shape young professional’s web presence in a single bound.
- From your bird’s eye view, ask yourself: what do I really want to do? Notice what bubbles up. Write down the few things that clearly fall in your “Hell Yes!” bucket. I know that I want to speak more. Larger events. Broader audiences. This will guide my business decisions moving forward, and shape where I spend my time.
- Create time in your calendar to take this big birds-eye vision and break it down into actionable steps. Use discretion: only work on the big new projects that feel right in your heart and leverage your superpowers. You can move in a new direction if you give it priority, space, time and energy for cultivation.
When I come home feelin’ tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat-race noise down in the street (up on the roof)
On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof (up on the roof)