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Turning Off the Noise

It’s a strange thing, getting away.

I imagine it’s a bit like the molting process—it’s a shedding of sorts. A shedding of tension, of old behaviors and habits, of the noise in your head. In mere days you step out of your old self, anew.

As many of you know, my family and I recently took a technology break. Thanks to Airbnb, we escaped to a little lake cabin almost eight hours away, sheltering-in-place reading books, working on puzzles, playing games, swimming, kayaking, and bobbing around in the water. My husband and son even fished (with no success other than the joy of being together)!

As if there was no such thing as the internet. Imagine…

Like many things, the internet has proven to be a life-altering invention that has both a light side and a dark side. It has made it possible for me to connect with you. You may be hundreds or thousands of miles away and we can engage in the same conversation, which is truly miraculous! Information is at a touch of a button. My husband and I were trying to explain encyclopedias to our son and he just laughed at the idea. Imagine having a question in your mind and having to go to a library to look it up! It was beyond belief!

I stopped trying to multi-task. I was present with the people I love. I discovered how wonderful they are! We laughed. We found we enjoy being in the company of one another. We had conversations that went beyond “yes and no.” We played silly car games.

We connected.

When we returned home, I hungered to hold on to that feeling. As we all went our separate ways, in the same house, our minds occupied with our mile-long to-do lists, how could we care for the tender gift we have been given? The rebirth?

We rediscovered one another.

At the same time, I came back to myself.

This has been a painful year. My dad passed at the end of February, then the pandemic hit. Add to that politics, protests. A country hemorrhaging. So much pain in the world. I think I’ve been pretty numb these last eight months, turning my feelings down so they don’t boil over.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

But when we numb our pain, we also numb our joy.

So in re-entry, I’m bringing mindfulness to all that I’ve gained. To all that is precious. To the full breadth of what it means to truly live.

Not just survive.

In my mind, as I write, I hear author Mary Oliver whisper, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Live. Not just survive, but LIVE!

The thing is, we forget that truly LIVING doesn’t necessarily mean DOING. If we’re so busy, busy, busy trying to accomplish and achieve and reach and get, we find we have no space to simply be.

Be connected. Be ourselves. Be. Breathe. Live.

I’m reminded of an old parable about a fisherman that goes something like this: A businessman goes on vacation and he decides to go fishing, so he hires someone to take him out on a boat. He asks the fisherman, “How often do you do this—take people out on your boat?” “Not very often,” the fisherman replies. “Well what do you do with the rest of your time?” the businessman asks, incredulously. “Oh, I spend time with my kids, take long walks with my wife, play guitar with my friends, and enjoy the sea.”

After spending a glorious day in the sunshine fishing, the businessman says to the fisherman, “This was really wonderful! You know, you should offer this fishing excursion every day! Then you could buy more boats, catch more fish and make more money! Then you could move to the city and hire other guides to run your fishing excursions and make even more money! You could have a huge business and be very successful!” “How long would that take?” inquired the fisherman. “Oh, probably 15 – 20 years, if you work hard.” “And then what?” asked the fisherman. “Then you could sell your company and make a fortune!” “A fortune? And then?” asked the fisherman. “Then, you could retire, move to a little coastal village, buy a boat, take long walks with your wife, play guitar with your friends, and enjoy the sea.”

Often when we think about bravery, when it comes to work, we think about what we want to achieve. But today I’m reminded that, perhaps, true bravery demands that we ask ourselves “who do you want to be?”

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t reach for the heights, dream of doing great things, and having a big life. But I am suggesting that perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “what does a big life mean to me?”

It’s okay to dream your dream, not someone else’s. To live the “one wild and precious life” that is true for you. Do you know what that is?

Maybe it’s worth turning off the noise to listen to your own heart. At least it was for me.

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Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davishttps://www.braveleadershipbook.com/
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

19 COMMENTS

  1. What a beautiful peace, dear Kimberly! I’m a fan of your writing. It’s an example of what I’ve written about in my last article here about verbosity and brevity. Good prose goes down smooth and easy, almost like dancing with words.
    The content of your piece resonates with me. My husband has long since embraced the life philosophy of the fisherman from your fable. :) He left corporate and now live a less stressful life.
    Not all can afford to do so. After all, and the fisherman must occasionally work to earn. :)
    But perhaps being less busy trying to “accomplish and achieve and reach and get” can help to make life, actually, more tuned for living.

    • Thank you so much, Lada. Yes, I agree, not everyone has the opportunity to make such a choice. I think my first-world-country-privilege is likely showing a bit here. But for those who are fortunate to have choices, I think this points to a powerful opportunity that many tend to overlook. I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness and insight!

  2. This sounds like an awesome experience, Kimberly.
    I recall from when our oldest were kids and we would go sailing over the summer and the entertainment was very limited. Read alouds, fishing from a pier without catching anything (thank G..), telling stories from our childhood, cooking together after having gone shopping together. Watching the seals play or a couple of small whales. Sometimes it would be raining. Sometimes we would go swimming. Picking seashells and finding pretty rocks. It was definitely being over doing.

    When my father died and we were all heartbroken, that is what our kids did: Took us walking on the shore looking for seashells and pretty rocks. It gave some hours of respite to just be.

    Thank you for bringing back these memories.

  3. My heart smiled as I read this, Kimberly. I love the honesty and vulnerability of your thoughts about your experience. And I’m so glad that you and your family had this special time together.

    I travelled a lot and worked very long hours during the years our children were at home with us. I know I missed out on a lot. But I also tried to make the most of the time we did have together. Sometimes it was the simple things of just being with them as they did something they love doing. Sometimes it was taking the family on my business trips (especially the trips abroad) so they could explore while I worked… and then I would take a few days off so we could enjoy it all together. We have such fond memories from our travels together.

    As the kids reached teenage years it was more and more difficult to get quality time with them. They had school, activities, friends… and (soon) a drivers license. About this time, we introduced “Family Night.” Sunday evening at 5pm… we would all get together to cook, eat and enjoy some activity together. Friends were welcome… as long as the focus remained on us all spending the time together.

    They fought against this at first. Just another silly idea the “rents” had. Over time, they “gave into it” and started to invite friends. Then friends became a regular thing… and we loved it. We were lucky enough to have both daughters attend university less than an hour away. We didn’t know what to expect… and were blown away at what did happen.

    Not only did they come home every Sunday for Family Night… they always brought friends. Sometimes… lots of friends. I think the biggest group was 26!!! We ate together, played together, listened, shared, loved. It was amazing. Then our daughters started moving away. Another (wonderful) surprise… their friends kept coming to Family Night.

    It was so wonderful to see that the true connections we made (through this time focused on each other) made such a lasting impression…not just for our immediate family… but our expanded Family Night family.

    Thank you for reminding me of the importance of making time to truly connect…and stay connected with the people we love.

  4. Kimberly — Your writing is like a symphony to my head and heart. So many words struck a chord. I need to turn down the noise….

    Perhaps related, I read an interesting article recently about a growing educational trend: microschools. These are basically much smaller institutions designed to give more direct attention to kids. What if we looked at our lives the same way – asking ourselves what we don’t need, what we don’t want so that more of what we do want comes through?

    Sometimes I feel like Mac’s turtle at the curb – and I’m semi-retired with no kids!

    Thank you, dear friend, for capturing it once again.

    • I love the micro-institution idea, Jeff. Maybe that’s what we’ve already done in some ways, in starting our own businesses and having the privilege of choosing the people we surround ourselves with. Sometimes I think half of the battle for all of us is seeing the gifts we already have. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of having my own business in an “micro-institution” kind of way, but your reframe really helped. So glad you are in my life!

  5. Amen to all of this, Kimberly! When I left corporate, naturally my income went down (by quite a bit at first). But what I soon realized is that I could live on so much less. I didn’t need to constantly shop for clothes or buy something new for the house. Little by little I stripped all the “stuff” away. I spent more time in nature. I journaled. I read. I can say with 100% certainty that it’s “worth turning off the noise…”

    Carol xo

  6. Hi, Kimberly.
    Turning off the noise indeed! One of my favorite activities is to walk and listen – the trees, the squirrels, the geese this time of year, even the air passing the wings of a low-flying vulture. A couple of weeks ago I heard a very odd noise, kind of a scratching, but very faint. I found the source – a box turtle who couldn’t get up and over the curb. How many turtles don’t we hear?
    Be.
    Mac

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