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#007: Changing Our Minds

Steve Schlafman
Steve Schlafman
5 min read
#007: Changing Our Minds

Hello from New York City. I returned to work this week after a wonderful and memorable six-week paternity leave. Rather than jumping in with both feet and sprinting hard towards a few projects I’m excited about, I’m taking my time and easing back into things. This way, I can feel into how I want to structure my days, what I truly want to work on, and more importantly support Eliza while she’s still nursing.

On Thursday, I celebrated my 43rd birthday, which means I’m officially a “young old person,” a distinction my friend Ed Batista recently made in his newsletter. That morning, I published a deeply personal essay exploring the question, how did you end up here?, snuck in a long bike ride up the Hudson, and went on a lovely date with Eliza. It was a special day.

To mark the occasion, I got a tattoo yesterday that I’ve wanted for a few years. It’s a set of clouds, a reminder to not hold on too tightly or identify too deeply with any thoughts, that everything comes and goes, that everything is passing. Big thanks to my tattoo artist Bruno Levy of Bandit Studio in Dumbo. I’m so pleased how it came out.

You know what? For more than a decade I told myself and proclaimed to friends that I’d never get a tattoo. The righteous part of me reasoned that there couldn’t possibly be any design that I’d want on my body for life. And then, in 2018 at the ripe age of 36, and nine months into recovery, something shifted—I got my first tattoo. Since then, I’ve collected five of them, and plan to get more.

Here’s what changed for me. I realized that tattoos are personal artifacts that tell stories about our lives, identities, and histories. I wasn’t just getting a tattoo. I was getting something that represented my sobriety and a way of life I’m deeply committed to. Over time, as my rigid views loosened, I came to see and appreciate that tattoos are gateways to stories about who we once were, who we’ve become, and who we aspire to be. That’s why we should be curious and respectful and open to them the way we are to historical artifacts—these are personal histories.

You hear a lot that people can get more rigid as they get older, but I’ve felt the opposite. I'm so glad this is one of the many things I’ve opened up to over the years.

What’s something that you're happy you've changed your mind about?


🌱 Seeds of Change

Here are five things I’ve been pondering and exploring over the past few weeks. If any resonate, please feel free to forward along to friends.

️☀️ Attending to What’s Directly Before Us

This tweet from Dan Hunt deeply resonated with me because I often get fixated on finding “my thing.” Based on countless conversations with clients and mentees, I know I’m not alone. Dan’s words serve as a powerful reminder that what we’re seeking is right in front of us.

🌎 Aloneness to Oneness

One afternoon last week as I was holding my sleeping newborn, I discovered and watched this short documentary produced by Todd Perelmuter, a former New York ad executive who spent 9 years in over 35 countries living with and learning from 18 shamans, gurus, monks and priests. Each time I’ve watched it, my heart swells with love and hope, my eyes fill with tears, and I get chills. Everyone should watch this because its message is important and powerful: “Only 5% of the stuff in our universe is made up of normal matter, but that is where most of us put 100% of our focus and attention. This creates an illusion of separateness where we believe we are alone and that when our material body dies, that's the end. We even call this stuff "matter" because we believe it is all that matters. But, the other 95% of stuff in our universe is made up of energies and a mysterious dark matter, which actually govern our universe, our bodies, our experiences and our lives. This non-material universe can also be called the spiritual universe. As we tap into this spiritual dimension, we start to see how all things are connected, we see relationships, we feel energies, we sense intuition, and we discover the true nature of our mind.” Watch on YouTube (20 minutes)

⛰️ The Pathless Path

I recently devoured this excellent book by my internet friend Paul Millerd. I couldn’t put it down. There are few books I wish I wrote, and this is one of them. It puts into words so much of what I’ve experienced and felt the past 5 years. Paul takes us on his journey from McKinsey to MIT to Fortune 500 board rooms only to discover this “linear path” wasn’t for him. So he asked himself a radical question, what would my life look like if work wasn’t at the center? The Pathless Path is “about finding yourself in the wrong life, and the real work of figuring out how to live.” I can’t recommend this book enough, especially if you want to create a life and career that is on your own terms.  Purchase at Bookshop.org.

😢 Regrets of the Dying

I’m afraid of death, but I’m more terrified of living an unlived life. That’s why I was drawn to this article from Bonnie Ware, an author and palliative care worker. Over many years, she asked her dying patients about their regrets or things they would have done differently, and eventually identified the most common regrets of the dying. She even wrote a book about the stories she heard and what she learned. I often revisit this article, amazed at how quickly it puts life into perspective. It’s not until we face our own impermanence that we can identify the changes we need to make, that we can begin to see more clearly, and live more fully. May this have the same impact on you that it continues to have on me. Read at BonnieWare.com (5 minutes)

🪴 How to Live

I’ve long admired Derek Sivers because he’s an original deep thinker in a world filled with echo chambers. I’ve been meaning to read his new book, How to Live, for months, and finally bought it after my friend Justin Welsh said it was phenomenal. I’ve never read anything quite like this before. In Siver’s own words, “It’s a work of art about conflicting philosophies…Each chapter believes it knows how you should live. And each chapter disagrees with the next.” For example, one chapter makes a compelling argument to commit and another makes the argument to do whatever you want now. I’m slowly making my way through the book, “sipping and savoring” each approach to life. My favorite chapter so far has been “to live for others.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Imagine if you found out someone was going to die tomorrow.
Imagine how much attention, compassion, and generosity you’d give them.
Imagine how you’d forgive their faults.
Imagine what you’d do to make their last day on Earth the best it could be.
Now treat everyone like that, every day.”

Purchase at Sivers.com

Steve Schlafman Twitter

Exec coach. Writer. Student of Change.

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