This time last year I was interviewed for a research study at Columbia on grit and passion. One of the things we talked about was how I turned everyday routines into a game. My example was - commuting to work every morning. We get stuck on autopilot, take the same route every morning, and sometimes don’t even remember driving to work once we get there.
When I moved to NYC I decided that my morning commute would be the one time of the day that I didn’t make any decisions except to be present. The game was to go a different way every time, to follow the crosswalk signs, and to take pictures so I was looking up instead of down at my phone.
His next question was: “Don’t people think you’re weird?”
I laughed. He was the first person I had told about this and I guess I had never thought about what other people would think.
It solved a lot of “problems” for me though:
1. I realized in order to grow I would need to push myself out of my comfort zone. For me that meant getting comfortable with not always being in control and trusting that if I give up some of that control then I will still make it to where I want to be.
2. I had always wanted to get better at photography and I found myself setting aside 3-4 hours on the weekend to take all of my stuff to somewhere beautiful and then wander around and force myself to take pictures for an extended period of time to “practice”. It started to feel like work - the planning, the scouting the location, the carrying all of my stuff on the subway... By incorporating 30 minutes of photography into my morning commute I was getting to do something I love every single day without turning it into a burden.
3. I am pretty independent. When I say independent I mean that I make decisions - all the time. I realized that sometimes I would get irritable when I felt like I was always the one making decisions. Have you ever been the person to ask a group, “What would you like to have for dinner?” And everyone responds with, “Whatever you think. I’m fine with anything.” And then you decide and people start complaining about the decision you made? That’s what I’m talking about. But what I found is that when you are used to being the one making all of the decisions for your life, sometimes it’s nice to make ZERO decisions. For me being guided by the crosswalks telling me which way to go is my time in the morning where I don’t make any decisions and I am a better person for it when it comes time to decide (especially on really important things).
I had completely forgotten about this until I met my new friend Francesco on Saturday and he mentioned he likes to “play a little game called follow the white man” and I looked at him and exclaimed, “the crosswalks!” And he said, “YES! How did you know?” And I said, “I do that too!”
Sometimes it’s cool to be weird, especially when you find other people who do the same weird things as you! #twinning
This morning my game took me to Grand Central Station and I saw this Christmas tree in the window of an office building. There was something magical about the way the lights of the hotel across the street were glowing as people were just starting to wake up and start their day.