Move for a better life

How I’m Using a Blank Slate Approach To Improve My Life

I got far, I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I knew I hadn’t yet “crossed the finish line.” Not only in my health, but certainly my wealth, and my contributions to others.
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It’s Time For Me to Start Crossing Finish Lines

About a year ago my wife Kim and I started talking about the possibility of moving to Manhattan. The place where we first met, at Parsons School of Design, the city where we got married, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and where we started our careers.

Even though the majority of our families lives have been spent in New Jersey I always found an excuse to get back in the city for something. And with our kids more than grown and on their own, there was nothing holding us to still live across the river.

After lots of discussions and letting go of 2,500 square feet of stuff, Kim and I packed up the only things that really meant a lot to us and we headed to our 500 square foot piece of Manhattan happiness.

In a future article I’ll share the backstory of what we learned in letting go of a lot of our stuff, but for now, I just wanted to set the stage for the project name.

My Time in Manhattan

When I first came to the city I was 18, and very green.

I grew up in Maryland, and I had had some adventures and travel under my belt, but I had never lived in a city, let alone a city as big and bold as Manhattan. But I loved every minute of it, even though in ’75, it wasn’t nearly as amazing as it is today. It was very dirty, run down, and crime-ridden. And yet, I actually miss some of its earlier grittiness.

I’m no stranger to the city, and I’ve always felt very comfortable and at home here.

But this move for me was much more than just a physical move, it was a mental move.

It was an opportunity to start a whole new chapter in our lives, an opening to really take the lid off of my life to see what I could create connected to all of the amazing resources that exist here.

So, as I’m about to live thru the last year of my 50’s, I decided to give myself the gift of a year to reflect, explore, and take actions to “create a life I really loved, and to live it well!

The Manhattan Project

That’s the inspiration behind creating and living what I’m calling “The Manhattan Project,” a year-long journey of explorations and actions.

That’s the gift I’m giving myself, my family, my friends, and everyone I meet over the next year thru my writings, videos and interviews connected to this project.

Now don’t get me wrong I am very blessed and grateful for the life I’ve lived and am living every day. And my life is certainly not obstacle, challenge or frustration free, but I also know that I haven’t more than scratched the surface of what I know I can create and contribute, and that’s the game I’m interested in playing well into my 60’s, 70’, 80’s, 90’s and yes hopefully 100’s. Why not? what else is there to do with this one life!

I imagine this all sounds very self-serving, and I know I’ll personally get a lot from it this exploration. But for the project to be the kind of success I would like it to be, I’m hopeful that what I share along the way will inspire others to discover and “create a life they love, and live it well!” too.

I have no idea where this journey is going to take me, or what it’ll reveal along the way. And it’s not my intention in this article to lay out a grand plan or a whole big list of BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). This is just a stake in the ground to share my intention, a general direction, and a 30,000 ft. view of the journey I’m taking on at this stage of my life journey.

Using a Blank Slate Approach

I’m starting this project on 7.26.2016, my 59th birthday, and over a span of 365 days, I’ll be beginning each morning as a “blank slate”, a term that my friend and coach Andrea believes many people don’t really understand what it means.

For me a blank slate approach or mindset is a powerful opportunity to come from a place of exploration and creation, and it’s not about coming from a place of starting over or regret.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs

A blank slate is the space to look at the opportunity or challenge at hand, notice the dots [ people + experiences ] that have already come into your life, connect those dots, and from a place of exploration, connecting, building and expanding what you want to create.

Any time in my life where I’ve given myself the gift of using a blank slate approach, and connecting the dots, I’ve created some of my most rewarding projects, adventures, and life changing experiences.

And whenever I’ve found myself in a tight spot, or against seemingly impossible odds, clearing the slate, starting from a blank slate of possibility has always served me well.

For example, a blank slate mindset was the last thing I shared on a call with my wife Kim before I had to hand in my phone to the producers of Biggest Loser.

My closing declaration to Kim was that if I didn’t approach each day on the Ranch with a blank slate approach, open to listening and learning, I might lose weight on the show because I’d be in a controlled environment, but when I’d come home I’d most likely gain back all the weight and more, like the 100lbs I had lost and gained a dozen times before and had gotten me to living life as a 435lb man.

So whenever you hear me creating a “blank slate” about anything, that’s the context.

Crossing the Finish Line

An idea, an action you’ll hear me share a lot about over the next year also is “crossing the finish line.” A mantra that has been forever burned into my thoughts by Stefan Danis, author of Gobi Runner who I was introduced to by my friend Caryn Saitz, CEO of Global Corporate Retreats, when I was doing an opening talk at “The Gathering of Titans” conference at MIT.

I opened the morning conference with my story, and then Stefan followed me with his story. I’ve had an opportunity to hear many powerful and “against all odds” stories, but Stefan’s is really in a league of his own. Read his book to get the full impact, but in brief, having never run a marathon, Stefan took on the challenge of only training for 6 months to run the Gobi March, which is the equivalent of running 6 marathons across the Gobi dessert in 6 days. A marathon is brutal enough, but 6 in 6 days across a desert…?

Impressed with what Stefan shared, I wanted to acknowledge him for an amazing accomplishment and for whatever reason I felt a need to share with him what he asks people … “What is your Gobi?

My “Gobi” was that I was feeling OK with where I was on my wellness journey, but I also knew in my heart I was quite settled with where I was, as I said “I was OK…”

Stefan generously listened to what I had to share and when I was done, he shared exactly what I needed to hear, and something that has been bouncing around in my head ever since.

Jay, it’s quite clear from what you’ve shared you’ve accomplished a lot, and what’s missing for you is that you haven’t yet ‘crossed the finish line.'”

That was it, that was true, and that was the “missing” I’d been feeling ever since the lights went down, the show was over, and we all went home from Biggest Loser. I got far, I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I knew I hadn’t yet “crossed the finish line.” Not only in my health, but certainly my wealth, and my contributions to others.

So this has gone on long enough. Hopefully, by now, you’re getting the drift of what I’m exploring, creating and intending to do over the next year. Cross lots of the “finish lines” in my life that I’ve not crossed that are connected to my health, my wealth and my contribution to my family, friends and the world.

In Conclusion

So there you have it, that’s the beginning bones of “The Manhattan Project,” and I look forward to not only sharing this journey with you, I hope you’ll join me too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments along the way, about my project, using a blank slate approach, or crossing finish lines. But what I’m really hoping you’ll get from following what I’m exploring and creating for myself is that it’ll inspire you to create your own “The _______________________________ Project.”

And it certainly doesn’t need to be a year-long journey.

It could be some project that you’ve really wanted to complete, a “finish line” that you want to cross that might only take a week, or a month. But it’s something that you know you want to complete, a “finish line” you want to cross.

tag we’re it!” #crossingthefinishline

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