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My first interview!

Regular blog posting will resume shortly. In the meantime: I got interviewed!

I met business and lifestyle coach Mallie Rydzik of The Off-Road Millennial on Twitter earlier this year, and we hit it off over some shared humor. One of Mallie’s awesome offerings is a weekly podcast with young entrepreneurs who are doing “off-road” things with their lives. She’s interviewed life coaches, musicians, storm chasers, people who live in tiny houses, and quite a variety of others. And as of today (well, technically as of about a month ago, but it went live today), she has interviewed me!

My first interview experience was actually really great. Mallie is very laid back, so it was pretty much like having a conversation with a good friend. We talked about what being a word coach means, the impact editing and coaching can have on your words, some common misconceptions about the work those people do, and what it’s like to work with me in those areas. We also talked about World Domination Summit, holding for Ranson, and why I’m on the road trip I’m on. It was a lot of fun!

Check out the interview here. It’s not crazy long, only about 30 min, and there’s a lot of laughter. If you hear something that moves you or makes you laugh or makes you think, let me know in comments what it was. :)

Thanks so much for listening to my first interview! And make sure to check out what Mallie‘s got to offer as well–she’s doing some awesome things these days and I’m so excited to know her.

 

Stranded!

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was Treasure Island. (Still is, actually.) Those of you familiar with that book will remember the character of Ben Gunn, who was marooned (left on the island by treacherous shipmates) three years before Jim Hawkins and company showed up. I think Ben Gunn may have been conceived as the story’s main comic relief, as a wild man dressed in goatskins who dreams of cheese every night was a welcome break from the throat-cutting and betrayal that marked much of the book up until Gunn’s appearance.

But over several reads of Treasure Island (and at least as many viewings of the 1990 film made of the book, starring Charlton Heston and a very young Christian Bale, which remains a favorite of mine to this day), Ben Gunn became one of my favorite characters. Despite having forgotten a lot of social courtesies after spending three years alone on the island, it is Ben Gunn who helps Jim and his friends, Ben Gunn who knows the island best, and Ben Gunn who (spoiler alert) has already found the treasure and moved it to safety. His uncouth demeanor hides a sharp mind and a strong sense of moral loyalty, and in the end it is his support that allows the forces of good to prevail and the story to have a happy ending.

I’ve been thinking about Ben Gunn a fair bit these past few days. Not because I’ve been digging up treasure or dreaming of cheese, but because for the last week and a half I’ve essentially been stranded. I arrived at my friend Val’s house near Gainesville, FL, on August 21, intending to stay for about 5 days, maybe 6 at the outside. Instead, I’m leaving today, just over two weeks after I got here. Val and her mom already left (the house is their summer home), and her dad has been in and out but is getting ready to leave as well. Thankfully they’ve been gracious enough to let me stay as long as I needed.

And believe me, I needed. Every single one of the options I had lined up for where to stay after here fell through. It literally took me until yesterday to figure out new ones, a process which involved finding and juggling several different puzzle pieces of who was available where when. Hence my feeling stranded. I had a place to be for the moment, but nowhere to go if I left. And while central Florida might be a bit more hospitable for me to traverse than the middle of the ocean would have been for Ben Gunn, I still was loath to strike out into the unknown with no immediate destination. Maybe later on in the trip I’ll be ready to do that, but not yet.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m also feeling financially stranded. Several editing clients that seemed really promising two weeks ago have either disappeared or dragged their feet long enough that I haven’t seen any actual work from them. Which means that several hundred dollars in up-front retainer fees that I expected over a week ago has not arrived yet. I’ve got other potential clients coming up, as well as various freelance writing gigs, but most of them will not start to pay off for another couple of weeks, so the immediate short term is looking pretty damn skint.

Which leads me to this revelation about Ben Gunn. By the time Jim Hawkins met him, he’d been on the island for three years. He’d had plenty of time to learn his way around, find the best places to sleep, learn to hunt wild goats and find edible plants, follow the clues to the treasure, and transport it to his cave against the return of Captain Flint’s piratical crew. But for the first few months on the island, I’m sure Ben Gunn was pretty miserable. He was completely alone, with limited resources (a musket and a shovel were all Flint left with him), nowhere else to go, uncomfortable surroundings, and no guarantee of survival. He could have easily given up, crawled into his cave and waited to die.

And if he had, Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett and the rest would all have died horribly at the hands of Long John Silver and the remnants of Flint’s men. The story of Treasure Island would have been a tragedy. And all of that was prevented by one man deciding, three years earlier, to look the most adverse situation of his life in the face and refuse to crumble before it.

Here’s where I’m going with this. This quest I’m on isn’t just about the treasure I’m seeking. For all I know, there’s something I have to do three years down the road that lives may depend on, either literally or figuratively. I won’t know what thing will be until it happens. But if I give up now, whatever that thing is will never happen because I won’t be there to do it, and those lives will be lost. And as scary and difficult as it is to be where I am right now, the prospect of letting those unknown people down is unacceptable.

I’m poor Ben Gunn, I am. I’m tired, I’m scared, I’m alone, and I’m just getting started. But I refuse to give up.

My (First) Five Lessons From World Domination Summit 2014

One of the themes of holding my life for Ranson is doing things I’ve never done before, both in areas of travel and personal development. And right around the time I settled on the concept of holding for Ranson, it occurred to me that it was time to go to World Domination Summit.

I’d known about WDS for a couple of years through various entrepreneurship and lifestyle design contacts, but it had never seemed like the right time to go…until suddenly it was. Everything fell into place: I had the money for the ticket, I had enough Southwest points left to travel hack my flight, I had a place to stay with some friends from The Conference for Men, and (largely due to that conference) I was ready to show up in another conference environment and soak up everything I could.

I’m not going to summarize all of the insights I got from the WDS speakers here, partially because there were far too many great points for me to take good notes on and partially because bloggers who were there with me have already done so really well here and here. What I am going to do instead is talk about the lessons I learned from the experience as a whole. Here are five of them:

Lesson #1: Punctuality Isn’t Everything

Full disclosure: I missed taking part in The Great Namaste, the world-record-breaking yoga chain that took place on Friday morning of WDS, because my buddy Josh Barad and I got there late and all the spaces were taken. We were understandably bummed about this, but as we sat on the steps of Pioneer Courthouse Square watching the Namaste begin, we met up with a couple other people in the same situation we were, and ultimately decided to go sit by the river with them rather than baking on the bricks with no yoga mat. Josh already knew these people, but I didn’t, and they ended up being two of the best connections I made the entire weekend, to the point where we reconnected and spent time together almost every day after that. Would it have been cool to get to The Great Namaste on time? Sure, of course. But if I had to choose between that relaxed, shady and uber-connected morning by the Willamette and doing yoga in the blazing sun, even for a world record, I’d choose the first option nine times out of eight.

Lesson #2: Everyone Is On The Same Page

One of my biggest worries when I first started thinking about coming to WDS was that everyone there would be way the hell ahead of me in life, doing awesome things that I hadn’t even considered yet, let alone figured out how to do. And to be fair, yes–there were a lot of people there who WERE doing amazing things, and had been doing them for a while. But there were also a lot of people who were just as close to starting out as I was, maybe even closer. And more importantly, I realized time and again throughout the conference that everyone was figuring it out as they went, not just me. Even the people who seemed to have it all together didn’t know everything. Everyone was vulnerable, everyone was courageous, everyone was interested, everyone was open to feedback, everyone wanted to learn from everyone else, everyone who had perspective and experience was more than willing to share them. And everyone I told about what I’m doing–my writing and editing business, my upcoming road trip around the US, my experiences of growth at and since the Conference For Men–was immediately and completely supportive.

Lesson #3: We’re All Badasses Right Now

There were moments during the course of the conference when everyone around me was having an incredibly fun time, and I was too self-conscious to join them. At one point it even took me more than two hours to get out of my own head and into the moment. But that was okay. I told a friend (one of the people from the river in Lesson #1) about that experience two days later, and her response was “you are such a badass. You sat with all that fear and frustration until you got through it, and then you went and danced your ass off. You didn’t let it beat you.” I’d never considered it in that light before. I’d always thought being a badass meant not having these kinds of mental struggles in the first place. But my friend was right. Being a badass is not about never having to struggle, it’s about facing that struggle and knowing that you’ll still be standing when it’s over. It’s not about being some fantastical future version of yourself, it’s about being who you are right now. And that’s not just true for me, it’s true for everyone. We are all badasses, right now. We’re all doing the best we can in the present moment, and that’s perfect. Which brings me to…

Lesson #4: Filling In The Blank

During the second full day of the conference, we all received stickers that had an unfinished sentence on them: “I _____________.” One of the speakers told us what these were for: we all got to write one true sentence about ourselves on them for future reference, whether that was something we are, we do, we can, we will, we love, or something else along those lines. I stared at my sticker for a long time before I wrote anything on it. I watched people around me writing things like “I help people find their freedom,” “I can fall in love,” “I am letting go and taking action,” and so forth. I considered several options, including “I am an amazing writer” and “I give fantastic hugs” and “I hold space,” but none of them seemed to fit. Then something came to me in a flash, and though writing it was very clearly an edge for me, it just felt right. I put Sharpie to sticker and wrote:

I absolutely fucking love myself. 

Because if it’s written down, it has to be true, right? ;) I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about this statement, and every time I think about it I feel more right about it. I DO absolutely fucking love myself, and now I get to discover what that looks and feels like from a first-person perspective. I’m pretty excited for that!

Lesson #5: One WDS Isn’t Enough

So…I’m hooked, people. Everything I did this past week, I want to do it again. I’m already planning next summer’s leg of my road trip to take me to the Pacific Northwest specifically so I can be there for WDS 2015. If I met you at WDS this year, I can’t wait to see you again…and if you haven’t been there yet, come and join me!

What is holding for Ranson?

My name is James Ranson, and I’m going to start with two things I love.

I love growth, and I love words.

It’s important to start with things I love, because the chronological beginning of my story involves a lot of things I didn’t love. I didn’t love the lack of direction I felt as a teenager and a college student. I didn’t love the low-wage jobs and unpaid internships I took after college. I didn’t love most the material I studied in graduate school. I didn’t love my first real adult post-grad job. I didn’t love the consistent presence of failure in my life. I didn’t love the feelings of confusion, frustration, futility, and inertia that I dealt with every day. I didn’t love work. I didn’t love money. I didn’t love women. I didn’t love life. Perhaps most of all, I didn’t love myself.

And, because a side effect of all these things I didn’t love was a lot of debt, it was very easy to feel like my life was literally holding me for ransom–holding me down or back until I somehow scraped the money together to buy my freedom, which at the rate I was going would be a very, very long time.

One day I woke up and decided something had to change. So I gave a good friend my Facebook password, told her to change it and not tell me the new one for 45 days. During this Facebook Cleanse, I kept a daily journal, and through my writing I began to understand that even over all those years of unloved activity, I was growing. And like a chick in an egg, or a caterpillar in its chrysalis, over time I had actually begun to outgrow my prison.

It came to me in a quicksilver moment, like the feeling of knowing the exact word you want to use, like delivering the perfect joke with perfect timing. Life holding me for ransom? No. It was time to flip the script: to hold my own life for myself. For Ranson.

Growth and words. The first got me to my watershed moment, the second defined that moment indelibly. Holding for Ranson means things I don’t love giving way before things I do love, things like growth and words and friendship and support. It means loving things I didn’t used to love, like work and money and service and women and failure. It means choosing to love myself.

And that’s where I am, right now. I’m holding my life for Ranson, and I love it.