I attended SXSW interactive this past week and took away so much from it. One of my all-time favorite talks ever was “Build a Life, Not a Resume” given by Nathan Gebhard, cofounder of Roadtrip Nation and Holman Wang, lawyer turned children’s book illustrator.
Roadtrip nation is a tv series where people drive all around the nation interviewing people to understand their “roadmap” or path in life. What they found is that no one’s life paths were linear, or A to B. They were always curvy and up and down, and no one was able to say that years ago, they knew where they would end up. Even the people who had their “life figured out” from an early stage found out that they actually had not.
They introduced a simple but understandable framework on how to build a life you love: Let go. Define. Become.
Gebhard says that we’re always, “Living life in beta.” Life is cyclical, and if we are in tune to our ever-changing needs, interests, and circumstances, we can continually evolve to live greatly.
The biggest hurdle to living your dream is dealing with the noise – external factors, parents’ opinions, friends’ failure stories, your own internal dialogue. What’s your noise and how do you deal with it? Wang talked about practicing law and having a Tiger Mom who always pushed him to follow an expected path and make lots of money. But then he talked about how much he struggled with his health as he gave his life to the job. Now his kids see him as “happy dad” always building sets and playing with toys to photograph for his latest children’s book.
My noise is constantly my own internal voice telling me that I’m not good enough. I hear people talking about their dreams and goals and feel like I need to achieve more. I look at my own list of accomplishments and think that I should be better. It has taken years for me to start to change the conversation. For the last few years I’ve had one foot in the tech start-up world and the other foot in the yoga studio. I am constantly asked why I don’t teach full time. People tell me, “You can’t do both, or you’ll never be great at either one.” My biggest ah-ha moment during this talk was that I can do whatever the heck I want to as long as it enhances my life. I love the work I do and the constant challenge of a start up company. I love teaching and the connection I develop with my students. They both help to build a life I love.
Gebhard told us, “The people who give you noise don’t have to live your life.” Amen.
I love people, but I sometimes hate the process of meeting people. Most conversations are doomed to fail when the first question that pops out is, “What do you do?” A career is a container, it gives you a finite idea of success – your “career path” – and it starts to box you off from what you can’t do instead of what informing what is possible.
Pursue your interests, not an occupation. I spent a few years truly trying to understand what I love. My trip to India was a Room to Read trip where I tacked on some yoga; I never expected it to lead to yoga training and now becoming a teacher. We did an exercise in the session where we had to write a basic foundation and two areas of interest. I wrote: Connecting with Others, Yoga, and Technology. The intersection of these ideas led to me offering corporate yoga and meditation classes to my own company and another start-up, bridging the two worlds I live in…and getting paid to do it! But I now feel like there is even more out there. We discussed “the adjacent possible” or what is possible just outside your periphery. How can I use technology to enhance the yoga experience? To target a new audience? To show a new path for people like me? Ideas are swirling through my mind, and it’s exciting to feel inspired. What is your basic foundation? What are your interests? The exercise itself sparks ideas and conversations.
The final thought I took away from this talk is this: Instead of considering life choices as safe vs. risky, what if we considered our choices to be necessary vs. unnecessary? If I made choices to support not only my happiness and interests but also my mental and spiritual health, I think I would consider more things a necessity to my life and act upon it. I have invested a lot of time and money on programs that elicit self inquiry so that I can better understand my truth and live more freely. I think the act of “becoming” is total acceptance of who we are and also claiming our self worth so that we give ourselves opportunities that nourish our soul. It’s also acknowledging that life is constantly changing, so we need to make this proclamation over and over again as a reminder that we owe it to ourselves to evolve.
I just bought Gebhard’s book Roadmap and am excited to dive deeper into this topic of building a life worth living. I think that I could give a talk at SXSW one day on my own roadmap and story.
Also check out this great online program called Thrive by Arianna Huffington and Oprah. I just registered. Join me!