Holy crap…I'm living in Mongolia!

my do-over notes


It’s never too late to become what you might have been.
– George Eliot

So, I know football season ended a few months ago. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m that ‘fan’ who watched exactly two games of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning season: the NFC championship game, and Super Bowl XLVIII itself. I’m just not a sports person. Never have been and probably never will be. Those who know me, however, understand that my general ignorance of all things sports has never, in any way, prevented me from liberally using my own (mostly inaccurate) sports analogies when sharing my various and sundry observations of life. The metaphors are always deeply flawed, but my friends somehow still manage to get what I’m trying to say. My friends also know I’m nothing if not a sucker for those awesome, redemptive/defeat-to-triumph/human interest/self-help/gossip stories that sports publicists are so great at churning out.

So while the action on the field didn’t do much for me this past Super Bowl (I mean, c’mon) I was pretty engrossed in the conversations around Richard Sherman’s outburst with Erin Andrews, Marshawn Lynch’s superb Media Day performance, and Jim Harbaugh’s brilliant sideline antics. But as I’m a certified self-help junkie, the story that trumped them all for me was about Pete Carroll’s do-over notes.

In a nutshell, after being fired by the Patriots (that’s New England, right?) and almost every day for the better part of a decade, Carroll took pains to document all the things he’d do differently were he ever to get another NFL coaching gig. What struck me most was that much of what he wanted to do (focus on the whole athlete, not just the results they delivered on Sunday) wasn’t new for him. He’d tried some of it in New England, but it was counter to the culture of that team, and frankly to most of the NFL. Of course, that’s what makes this story so People magazine- (and Joanna Fuller-) worthy: that, years after being fired, Carroll got another shot to pursue his vision in Seattle, potentially creating a new culture in football and becoming one of only three coaches to win both a collegiate national championship and a Super Bowl title.

We all know I won’t be coaching any sports teams any time soon. But Pete Carroll’s story did make me stop and think: what are the things I want to do differently in the second half of my career and life? What are the things I’ve been thinking about for the better part of a decade, that I’d like a shot at implementing now that I’m moving into a completely new and different culture? Here’s a start:

  • SLOW DOWN: One of my favorite books is In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré. I’m bringing a paperback copy with me to Mongolia and am looking forward to re-reading it—multiple times if I have to. This time, I’m hoping to actually act on the inspiration. The great thing is, I might not have a choice in Mongolia.
  • Read more, write more: The way I’ve been living for the past couple of decades, you’d never know I was a Literature & Creative Writing major in college. I’ll have to balance my reading and writing with teaching, chopping firewood, and doing the laundry by hand, but I can’t wait to dig into some of the books that have gone untouched on my GoodReads list for years now. As for writing more, hopefully you’ll see evidence of that on this blog. Just ignore the span of emptiness between November 2013 and April 2014.
  • Hang out more: I’ve learned that in Mongolia, instead of going to bars at night, people actually visit with each other in their homes. Imagine that. I remember my Grandma Fuller talking about how Sunday in her neighborhood used to be a day set aside for going around and dropping in on people, passing the time in actual conversation—not just keeping to oneself, tending to yard work or household chores. As I prepare to leave Seattle for 27 months, I’m keenly aware of how much I’ll miss the people I’m leaving behind. I have a heightened sense of regret around the time I squandered surfing the web or catching up on work, when I could have been hanging out with people, hearing about what was going on in their lives. I want to fix this. Whether it’s building relationships with the people in my village, or connecting with folks back home via Facebook and Skype, I want to make sure I’m not feeling this same sense of regret two years from now.
  • Worry less: I’m not sure how successful I’ll be here. I’m a worrier by nature. But I’m gonna try. Top of the list is trying to let go of being so self-conscious, and instead learning, little-by-little, to show up as the person I really am….not just the one I think I should be. (But that’s for my other blog/e-book/direct-to-DVD special, Confessions of a Self-Help Junkie: A Daily Devotional).
  • Be present, do what I’m doing: Sort of goes hand-in-hand with slowing down, but I really hope that I’ll be able to focus fully and absorb my experiences each day in Mongolia.
  • Optimize for joy: I’m convinced that the single-most important thing we can do to contribute to the world is to pursue joy (and it goes without saying, love). Not in some pie-in-the-sky, greeting card sort of way; I’m talking about a dogged, relentless, daily pursuit of the things that make us light up inside. I’ve been lucky enough to be around people who live their lives this way, and they leave a wake of goodness behind them wherever they go. I want to be one of them.

Well, those are the first few notes anyway. I’m hoping there will be more to share, and I’ll try to update this post as there are.

PS – I’m also inspired by the much more eloquent list posted by the author of zenhabits.net. I recommend checking it out. (That is, if you can spare the time).

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