Life Lesson #2: How to Avoid Drama

This is the 3rd in the series around the life lessons I've learned since June 2011.  It expanded on the illusion of control and now we come to this: how to avoid drama. People who have a lot of drama in their lives come in two flavors.  Let's start with the most obvious types--the one I know you thought of when you read the title of this post. They're the ones who enticed you in--just as they're wont to do in real life. The Drama Creators.

Their hallmarks include numerous, messy entanglements, excuses and a general lack of concern for your feelings. These Drama Kings and Queens and oh yes--both genders have 'em--will entice you--at first. My experience has shown them to be shockingly charming, drawing you in like a moth to the dangerous light. Aliveness may permeate throughout you in those first few interactions, soon to be replaced with a feeling of confusion, exhaustion and a serious case of emotional whiplash. And there isn't a carton of ice cream or bottle of Tequila big enough to anesthetize it. 

The only thing you can do when you find yourself faced with a Drama Creator is to move away. Exclude. Minimize. It's a hard lesson to learn but one you'd be wise to do the very moment you discover you have a life filled with these kinds of people. Or, even just a few especially if they're a primary relationship like a boss, client, lover, best friend or family member.

The thing is...they're not whole. Not yet. They're so filled with their own internal angst that baby they don't have an ounce of energy left for you. In fact, they're more likely to rob you of your precious energy rather than fill you with more. They're stuck in inner trauma---probably from a bygone era. Unwilling to do the true hard work to heal, they're stuck frozen.

They're not going to change.

Identify. Leave. Exclude. Minimize.

Then there are those who have drama surrounding them. Let's call them the Drama Allowers. This sort of type seems to attract drama without directly (or intentionally) causing it. Except they do have a part in this melodrama. Being passive may not seem as harmful as those who actively create drama but this alas, is untrue.

The rub is that passively allowing others' drama to seep into and pervade your life leaves you spent, unavailable for good to infiltrate and ultimately leaves you feeling disempowered. This in turn leaves you much more susceptible to other Drama Creators, creating a cycle which is a bit like a dangerous undertow that churns you around, scrambles you up and renders you useless. If this is you--stop it. When someone injects a bit of drama in your life pay attention to the big old yellow flashing sign. Slow down, take care to see if this is isolated or the way this person lives their life. If it's the latter--well, do I really need to tell you what to do?  Drama Creators will hijack your life, taking it over with their narcissistic concerns and you farther away from your dreams.

Identify. Leave. Exclude. Minimize.


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver

I hope you won't spend one more moment squandering your precious time on creating or allowing drama. It's simply an luxury you can't afford.

I used to be a dyed-in--the-wool Drama Allower, whipped around in a frenzy by Drama Creators until I just got tired of it and let them all go. Bosses, boyfriends, friends--really, anyone with a penchant for the dramatic. These days my business is snap, crackling and popping along with all sorts of goodness. My life is too busy, too precious to waste it on drama so I simply don't allow it in my life. The result in my life has dramatic itself. My productivity and happiness levels shot straight up like one of those hockey stick charts investors are always looking for. If I was investing in myself I'd say it was the best one I could have made.

All this talk about drama has me a bit drained. But if even one of you lets go of being a Drama Creator or Drama Allower it was worth it. And now, I'm off to gain some energy by working on a project that invigorates me: writing my book I've been dreaming of for years.

Postscript: Credit goes to Cheryl Strayed for reminding me of the Mary Oliver quote. It's a good one and should be taped to everyone's refrigerator.

Lesson #1: The Illusion of Control

The 11 Important Lessons I Learned This Year post was so popular that it spurned a great deal of conversation on Twitter and in real life. So, I thought I'd unpack the lessons a bit more. Since I think in circles, swirls and stars this may not be a completely linear process so we'll start with #1 and see how it goes.

Here we go.

1. The more control you try to assert the less you actually have.

Control is just an illusion. We can have some control over some mutable things. But there are plenty of things that are immutable and some that are purely out of our control. It's true wisdom to learn when you can enforce some measure of control over a part of your life. Pay attention to the part about "your" life. You can't control anyone else. No matter how much you think you might be like a hypnotist who can make anyone do anything you wish. You may get a small measure of control for a bit but it will always be fleeting. The reason? Free will baby.

The other way that people try to exert control is in getting the job done. You seen or done this right? In this case, a person gets so focused on getting. the. job. done. that they all end up trying to control everything--including you. Oh, they would tell you that the job just needs to get done. It seems like in their head it's life or death. They take over your job--and everyone else's. They yell, scream, demean, manipulate and generally engage in all sorts of other unbecoming behavior--all as a means to gain control in order to get the job done. You know what happens when a person is faced with something this acute. Yep. Frantic efforts for some measure of control.  It's also just as useless. Oh, you might get the job done but you'll piss off so many people in the process that you'll lose relationships like water from a leaky bucket.

Control is a tool often employed to make up for insecurity. It's a lack of trust. When we say we don't trust others it's actually more often true that we don't trust ourselves. Or we don't trust that things will turn out exactly as they need to without our intervention. I know it may be hard to hear that your attempts to control are misguided, insecurity-driven and ineffective. I'm open to other reasons people try to control--I just haven't found a legitimate alternative yet.  And I don't want to pretend as if this is a method that will ever give you true happiness, success or peace of mind.

The more you try to control another person or a situation the more it will slip out of your hands like a loose knot that easily unravels with one good pull. Worse? It just makes you feel worse and makes you feel even less secure. And that's not helpful.

True strength comes from trusting yourself. Trusting yourself is actually something you have a measure of control over. That's a really good place to put your efforts to control someone or something.

11 Important Lessons I Learned This Year

June 2011 really sucked. Sorry. I'm doing cold immersion into this blog post just the way it happened to me. Three endings happened in rapid fire within 2 weeks leaving my life unrecognizable. It was a simply awful time in my life. Usually I might try to pass of this kind of life suckiness with a bright "I'm fine!" but there was just no getting around this particular cluster. There were times I wished I could have jumped in a time machine that would take me to one year in the future. But since that technology hasn't been invented yet I lived through it...one day at a time.

As I look back a year later ultimately my life is 10x better because of those endings and the new beginnings I created as a result. There were many insights that came to life. Thought I'd share 'em with you just in case they might be helpful to you one day. Or, this day.

1. The more control you try to assert the less you actually have.

2. Drama is a luxury. One you can't afford. Especially Other People's Drama.

3. Trying to control yourself in a relationship will kill it. Let be what it is.

4. When three separate people urge caution about a person--believe them.

5. You're always worth way more than you think. Ask for more.

6. It always takes much longer than you think. 8 times as long. Factoid from: Deep Survival

7. Self-respect isn't just important. It's the only thing.

8. Conversations that start after 11pm never end well. Don't start 'em.

9. Things just work or they just don't. Forcing something is just sheer folly.

10. Being gifted is a gift. Embrace your natural talents. This is how you'll be successful.

11. Today is the only one you have.

Are Beliefs Really Just Masquerading as Excuses?

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

Anais Nin

In my work I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs and wannapreneurs. Either one can fall victim to the problem of seeing the world from a particular lens. The ones that are successful are aware of their lens. They're careful to let go of perceptions that get in their way. The least successful ones can't see that there's a lens in front of their eyes.

Perception is Everything

There are plenty of things we see as truths that aren't. A truth is really just a belief. We just *think* it's the Truth with a capital T. But really, it's a belief. And that means it's changeable. Why is this important? Sometimes what you think is a truth is really just masquerading as an excuses. Here's the thing.

I'm tired. Really F*&%ng tired.

I'm tired of people (including moi) using the something masquerading as the truth as a shield for an excuse for not living up to themselves. All of that potential that we keep dammed back, held hostage by beliefs. Yes there are limitations but they're not nearly as restrictive as our beliefs would have them seem. There's a whole lot more space there.

Does this sound like you? Some of these sure have sounded like me on occasion.

I'm too old to start a business. To date. To start over in my career.

I'm too weak to complete a marathon. To end that toxic relationship. To be brave.

I don't have time to write that book. I don't have time to take care of myself.

I could never bring in enough money on my own. Ask for investment funding.

I don't have enough money to properly market my business. To take that international trip.

I can't market myself. I can't save money. I can't do what I love and make money.

Cut it out.

Just stop telling yourself, your spouse, your investors anyone these "truths."

They're just excuses.

That's all they are.

I know I'm not the first to say this. I'm just the one saying it to you now. The next time you think something is a truth check to see if it's really just an excuse in disguise.

Now go get cracking on living up to your potential.

You're welcome.

A Simple Question

It's that time of year. Yep. New Year's Resolution time.

If you're anything like me let me tell you what's going to happen. Feeling fat and loathsome after a long holiday of eating, being sedentary, spending too much and not doing much you...

Step 1: Make a whole bunch of resolutions that are largely unachievable.

Step 2: Break all of them within a month.

Step 3: Feel like crap about yourself so go back to eating, being sedentary, spending too much and not doing much.

Step 4: Feel guilty. Berate yourself.

Step 5: Go back to Step 1. And repeat.


Don't do this. Now, let me offer you something that really works. Something I also do randomly all year-round is to ask myself a very simple question.

Is my life better or worse than a year ago?

It started as a random wandering of my brain many years ago and has evolved into a practice. This barometer check allows me to quickly break things down in a very black and white way so that I can assess and take action. It's like my very own Timehop but with action.

I did it reflexively today. My mind wandered back to what I was doing a year ago today. At that time I was in an unhappy relationship. I didn't know what I wanted to do next. Trust in myself. Pretty close to negligible. This year? I'm happily single, I'm doing work I love and I trust myself to make decisions that put myself first. Also? I trust that everything I need will come to me.

Like my assessment today the answer is generally yes. On the rare occasion I can't honestly answer in the affirmative it means it's time for a reinvention, refocus or double down.

So...Is your life better or worse than a year ago?