Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Full Bleed

Back when I was in high school I was the editor for our school yearbook. I learned loads of publishing skills including developing photos in a dark room (with actual chemicals, as this was way before anything digital), writing corny captions, and designing creative layouts.

As part of making layouts, I learned the term "full bleed". This is when you take a photo, or some text, or any design element and run it right up to, or even over, the edge of the page. Normally you would have a margin around each page, but with full bleed you have a picture that breaks out of the traditional constraints and extends off the edge.

For high school yearbooks, full bleed is a good thing. For your life, it is not.

Far too often in my life I have been existing in a state of full bleed. Filling every square inch of my time, pushing myself to the edge, living without margins. Fully bleeding myself out.

For me one of the greatest reasons for this is technology. Now don't get me wrong, I love technology and it can certainly be a force for good, as it has often been in my life. Technology has allowed me to make amazing friends from around the world, improve education for children, and have a rewarding career.

But there is also a dangerous side to technology. It is so powerful and so convenient and so expansive, it can consume your entire life if you let it.

  • There will always be another email to read or write.
  • There is always one more blog post or website or YouTube video to explore.
  • The Twitter stream is actually an unending river.
  • Facebook has no bottom. You can scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll forever and you will never reach the end.

And it is all very justifiable.

  • Retweeting a great resource from an edtech friend.
  • Staying up until 1 AM writing a new blog post on a creative way to use a Google tool.
  • Working late to record a webinar to teach others.
  • Squeezing in time to stay up to date on the latest and greatest tech tools through podcasts or Facebook groups or RSS feeds.

Unfortunately our culture rewards full bleed. We wear bags under our eyes like a badge of honor, and take pride in how few hours of sleep we can get by on.

But we need margin in our lives. We need time that is not committed.

Margin is there for our safety. Think of the guardrail along the side of a twisting mountain road. It provides a space between you and a hundred foot plummet. There is no actual danger at the guardrail. The danger is another six feet away. The margin is there for when, not if, there is an accident, so there will be room to swerve and adjust and recover.

In the same way, life will go wrong. Maybe an unexpected illness, or loss of a job, or end of a marriage, or passing of a loved one. We need margin in our lives to see the warning signs, to have time to make changes, to avoid making things even worse.

But margins are not just about avoiding the bad. Margins are where real life can happen. In a book we use the margins to jot down notes about what we have learned, how we have been inspired, and what we want to explore. The same can be true in life.

When we work ourselves to the bone, fill up every spare moment, and split our attentions multiple ways, we can miss out on the best of life.

  • Life happens in the margins.
  • Life happens when we take the time to have a meal with a friend.
  • Life happens when we turn off our phone and look someone in the eyes and actually listen to what they are saying.
  • Life happens when we walk away from the computer and take a walk through the woods.
  • Life happens when we intentionally choose to do nothing. To give ourselves the gift of no agenda. To stop. To be present. To play. To simply live in the moment. To see the wonders all around us that are so easy to miss.

I don't share these thoughts as someone who has this figured out. I share this as the guilty party. Far too often I have lived in full bleed, with no margin in my life.

But I am trying to change.

You may have noticed my production of technology resources has slowed quite a bit. I have not blogged as frequently or made as many videos or shared as many tweets. I am still doing these things, but not as much. I am trying to find margin.

I have been catching up with old friends. I have been playing with my grandson. I have been questing in World of Warcraft with my daughter and son-in-law. I have been weeding and painting and cleaning. I have been reading books and going for walks and listening to music.

And I encourage you to do the same. When you work, work well. But know when to stop, to play, to live.

Leave margin in your life. And I will leave margin in mine. And I hope to meet you there.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Passwords and Positive Self-talk

I have never been really good at positive self-talk. And there I go again. That is a great example of how I am not very good at it.

However, I do believe in the power of self-talk, both positive and negative, to have a great impact on our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Psychology tells us that what we say aloud to ourselves really makes a difference. Negative statements can bring us down, while positive, encouraging words can build us up. It may be just bit by bit, but every bit makes an impact over time.

Historically I just have not been very successful at taking advantage of this. If anything, my self-talk is often negative, pointing out where I fell short, or forgot to do something, or let someone down, or don’t feel well, or am tired. Hearing these words from my own mouth day after day after day becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I have been working on how to improve this.

At first when I think of positive self-talk, I can’t help but visualize Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. I can see him sitting in front of his mirror saying “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”. As much as I love that character, I am not sure if that approach fits my personality.


As I have said many times before, I am a nerd. So I have been trying out a technology solution to this problem.

Passwords.

Yep, I said passwords.  Passwords are something everyone has, and probably more than one. They are also something that we have to type in often, maybe multiple times per day.

Plus it is important to have a strong password that will not be easily hacked, to improve your security. A common suggestion for this is to use a passphrase rather than a password. A passphrase is a group of words or even an entire sentence. Since it is a sentence conveying an entire thought, a passphrase can be much easier to remember. Of course you can still get creative with capital letters, numbers in place of some letters, and use of punctuation.

So I have decided to make my passwords stronger, and in the process try to make myself stronger as well.

What I have been testing out is making my passphrase a sentence of positive talk. It could be anything like:

  • 4GiveYourselfAndMoveOn!
  • BTheChangeUWant2C!
  • Stop&CTheGood2Day!
  • I*Love*MyselfAsIAm!
  • IAmGr8ful4MyLife!


There are endless possibilities for the positive passphrase you could use. The key is to choose something that builds you up, helps you heal through the pain, and grow toward your goals. Something that acknowledges your value and the value of others. Something that helps you process the past and embrace the present. It will be unique for you.

On our work domain we have to change our password every three months. Of course I can change it sooner if I want. On my Google accounts I can change them anytime I wish. The point is I am now creating a passphrase with a positive message for myself.

Now for the next three months, day after day, maybe multiple times per day, I have to type in that message. When I log into my work computer first thing in the morning. When I unlock it after lunch. When I log in on a different computer for a training. And on and on.

Each time I do this, I am reading a message I sent to myself weeks ago. I am being reminded of a powerful encouraging truth that can help me heal and move forward in my life.

And sometimes it is perfectly timed. I have had those mornings at work when life has not gone well. Maybe nobody in the cubicles around me know that I am struggling, that I feel like a failure, that Facebook just had to choose this morning to show me a picture from 9 years ago of a happier time, that I am feeling lonely, that I am anxious, that I am depressed, that I am angry.

And then I type in my password. A message from myself to myself. It reminds me to forgive, to grieve, to stop beating myself up, to find the beauty, to take one day at a time, maybe even just one step at a time. And sometimes that is exactly what I need.

So everyone needs better passwords. Well if this is something you are going to have to type in hundreds of times over the coming weeks or months, then I encourage you to choose something that will literally encourage you. Create a passphrase of positive self-talk. Strengthen your password and strengthen yourself!