Creating our own maps by Evan La Ruffa

Ding! Ping! Swoosh! Boom!

Alerts of mundane happenings can make us feel like life is one big game of whackamole.

Bam, bam, bam with no rest in sight.

But what if we set a goal, built a plan, and executed it? What if alerts about sales, discounts and events receded because we already knew what we had to do?

Creating our own map is about seeing a future worth working toward, a project to complete… it’s also about believing we matter.

Making our own way isn’t about who signs our paystubs, it’s about whether or not we are part of the process of creating our own map.

Once we are inclusive enough, the maps will multiply.

You don’t have to be Magellan to chart a new course.

Purposeful by Evan La Ruffa

No matter who we are, what we do, where we live, or what eyes we see with, there’s a disconnect when we don’t feel purposeful.

As I chatted with Len Samborski, Principal of the Adult Education Community Hub in Detroit, MI about our upcoming project installing art for their newly remodeled facility, I got the chills as he told me about the services and programs they offer families in inner city Detroit.

In that moment I thought to myself…

This is why I do this.

As much as I love working with artists and business leaders, and anyone who understands that art changes the world, it’s the moments when we’re working with teachers and community leaders, who are the backbone of their neighborhoods and cities, that I feel most purposeful, activated, engaged, positive, helpful, and connected.

Once we understand what makes us feel purposeful, it’s all about finding the nexus. Some place where ‘purposeful’ and ‘strategic’ come together.

It’s important that we isolate these moments so we know what we’re actually looking for.

It’s important because purpose + strategy is an antidote to the hamster wheel.

Wiggle room by Evan La Ruffa

When interacting with the world, we’re always calibrating to figure out where we fit in amid the current landscape.

“What does someone like me do in a situation like this?” … as Seth Godin might say.

In a recent post about personality testing, I touched on the notion that we can test out who we are, what feels right to us, and what it is we want to be.

Wiggle room is a related idea. It has to do with specifications, stories we tell ourselves, and fit. Wiggle room is the space we give ourselves to operate outside logic, outside measurables, outside fact.

Most of us love to think we’re not one of the billions of humans who have ALL done this. But we are. Each one of us cuts logical corners, cherry picks, and externalizes the information that doesn’t jive with who we perceive ourselves to be.

Wiggle room can also pertain to our ability to step back from that reflexive way of being in a way that makes us softer to others.

Sure, we can get hung up on the little differences. They buy this, we buy that. They do this, we do that.

While I don’t see this organizational way of thinking leaving us anytime soon, I do think we have something to gain by using the wiggle room we often ignore to be more open to others - because the superficial variations just don’t matter that much.

Wiggle room is as much for us as it is for them. It’s a gift.

And if people like me (you) use that space to connect instead of divide, everyone we interact with will be one step closer to allowing themselves some wiggle room too.

You only have to be right once, but... by Evan La Ruffa

I saw a quote on Twitter recently that said, "you only have to be right once." I think it was posted by a startup incubator. While I think there's a lottery mindset in many startups, fundamentally, the statement is valid. (Notice I didn't use the word "true.")

But the quote resonated with me. With some savvy, strategy, and love for what we do, a lot can be achieved.

Luckily for us, the distance from where we are to where we want to be is shorter than it has ever been, if only because we have more tools than ever before.

The present is cool that way. It always will be.

What's more, I think there's plenty of room for all of us to be right once. 

We have to be discerning as well as hopeful. We have to find better ways to listen and work. We have to find the right partners. We have to be attuned to timing.

It can be hard, but we have to pick our spots.

Let’s pick intentionality over chance.

Personality testing by Evan La Ruffa

Personality testing - is the practice of stepping back from the individuality of personage long enough to try out different ways of being.

All too often we use external data or imposed ideas about who we are as starting points for developing the rest of our-selves. The reality is, who we are is a mix of programming and choice.

We can decide to be the type of person who likes a ton of cream & sugar in their coffee or we can be the type of person who drinks it black. We can push buttons or we can follow rules and social mores. We can like cities or rural areas. We can prefer Pepsi to Coke. We can rise early or sleep late.

Most of these things are choices. We choose one, decide that’s who we are, and keep trucking.

But what if we decided we were the type of people who try new things on for size? Who view from different angles? Who appreciate differentiation to the rigamarole of habit? Who consider flexibility, variance, diversity, and newness as valuable personality traits?

We don’t have to pick reflexively. We can test.

After all, there’s no prize for never wavering… but there is a beautiful silver lining to discovering who we really are.

Switching costs by Evan La Ruffa

Many of us have thought at some point in our lives that our scattered way of bouncing between projects was actually really productive.

There’s plenty of data out there now about how multi-tasking is really divided attention, which leads to lower efficiency, even though the maelstrom of consciousness might have us feeling as though we smashed epic amounts of work.

I have also noticed that I feel free and activated when I am able to move between projects. There’s a freshness of mind there that is invigorating, but I also want to make sure that my switching costs aren’t obfuscating an inefficient reality.

My wife, Lindsey, just told me about a Chrome extension called Dayboard that helps reduce switching costs by helping users focus on a concise to-do list while keeping us from the frivolous browsing that can derail digital work.

I have been thinking about short to-do lists a lot over the last year and I think this tool might help me get more efficient and impactful with my work.

I’ll test it and get back to ya. Lemme know if you use it and how it goes.

A list of my favorite things from 2018 by Evan La Ruffa

It’s funny how the calendar gets us thinking thematically or with an air of reflection. In doing so myself, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorite businesses, products, or experiences from the past year.

Being a conduit is pretty essential to who I am, and if we hung out in person, you’d certainly end up hearing about one or more of the items in the list below.

Have an awesome year and stay in touch. I love hearing about the things you all are chewing on……..

Uma Fox La Ruffa - this year my wife Lindsey and I had our second child on March 2nd, 2018 in the comfort of our home. She’s perfect and adorable. I do what all parents do… post photos of their kids in Instagram. You can see how fantastic her cheeks are there.

This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See by Seth Godin - Seth is certainly one of my greatest teachers as a professional and we’ve never met in person. His books are all must-reads, and his continued wisdom and perspective which he offers through his daily blog is the greatest free gift you can give yourself. HIs latest book is more poignant than ever, showing how marketing is really about serving the people you care about, not spamming until folks succumb. Read this book if you care about being a better person and professional.

Whole 30 - we did Whole 30 twice in 2018 and plan on doing it again here in a few weeks. It’s a diet that focuses cutting out sugar, grain, dairy, alcohol, legumes, etc. It taught us a ton as far as learning to cook with new foods, creating new recipes, and making delicious food that hinges on great spices, quality protein, and tons of veggies. I lost 20 lbs the first month I did it and felt great. Digestion was tops. I think I need this diet a lot more regularly. This article tells you more about what you CAN eat on Whole 30.

Tinker Coffee Roasters - we discovered these guys on our drive down to Florida in late 2017 when we had their coffee at a local restaurant in Indianapolis. Super skillful stuff, and the last year has been good to them. They recently opened a roastery with an awesome new mural on the outside of it. We stopped by on our way to Florida a few weeks ago and the hospitality was great. A small business making the best stuff you can find in a town you’d probably never go to. We subscribe and get two bags of expertly roasted coffee delivered to our door monthly.

Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon - I set a big goal and did it!!! In July I ran all 13.1 miles of the Rock N Roll Half Marathon along Chicago’s lakefront. I’m doing it again in 2019. Join me.

Misfit Inc - for the majority of 2018, IPaintMyMind worked closely with the creative geniuses as Misfit Inc, a nomadic digital agency whose co-founders AJ and Melissa Leon committed to building IPMM a brand new website from the ground up. A huge, in-depth build that will launch soon. They run a foundation and a publishing house too… I’m convinced there are 3 of each of them. It’s been such a pleasure to work with professionals doing mission-aligned work and IPMM has been so grateful for their contribution to our mission.

The Dali Museum - Located in St. Petersburg, FL and home to over 90 original works by the master himself, if you are anywhere within a few hours of St. Pete, make the drive and get yourself a taste of mastery. The story behind why the collection is there is a hoot. Spend time to enjoy the audio tour and really let it the works sink in. It is a treasure. I call The Dali, my church.

Run Like Clockwork - if you run a business and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, it’s because you need to revamp your operational efficiency, period. This book helps you get serious about moving beyond the ‘spinning your wheels’ vibes of being overly busy and not effective enough.

Cafe Integral - a great coffee shop in River North, located in the lobby of the Freehand Hotel on Ohio St. They only roast and serve Nicaraguan coffees and the lounge space in the back is perfect for working in a relaxed atmosphere.

Pod Save America - it gets me riled up, and that’s what it’s for. I know being endlessly tied into the news cycle is crazy, but being uninformed because of some general pessimism seems to be a more of a threat than anything else. Daily politics and analysis. Produced by former Obama aides.

Fellow Coffee Kettle - unparalleled gooseneck electric hot water kettle for pour over coffees.

Official 2018 World Cup Match Ball - bad soccer balls suck, and really nice ones are awesome. That’s why I wait until right after any large tournament to purchase the very high-quality official match ball… because it’s more than 50% off at that point. Winning! It lives in our living room, it keeps us nimble.

Hu Chocolate - this stuff is amazing. Out of NYC and run by a friend, I am a huge proponent of their ethos and products. Try the Orange Dream and Raspberry Jelly. Oooiiieeee!

Instapot - this thing is the bees knees. Make a meal that should take all day in 40 minutes. We make everything from hard boiled eggs to pot roasts and curries in this thing. It’s a very worthwhile kitchen gadget.

Slack - the chat client that most businesses are using so that email doesn’t take over. Works great on a laptop or your phone and helps keep teams connected and efficient.

Loba Pastry - an awesome bakery and coffee shop on Lincoln Ave (Chicago) doing some of the most creative pastries around. Serving Madcap Coffee, a super cute location, and awesome ownership.

Hewn Bakery - a lovely sourdough starter bakery on Main St. in Evanston, IL. Croissants, kouign-amann’s, brioches, and country loaves.

Green Bean Battery - heads up to any hybrid owners out there and some FYI to the rest of ya… you know how everyone always talks about the boogie man of needing to replace the main battery in a Prius or other hybrid vehicle? Sure, the dealer wants $3600, but Green Bean Battery will come install a reconditioned battery in your hybrid and give you a 5 year warranty for $1600. Our car has never run better.

The list goes on … but maybe we can do this again.

Be good and take care!

The case for optimism by Evan La Ruffa

Despite all the crazy shit that’s happening in the world, most of us are really optimistic.

The majority of people we come across are looking for a proof of the brighter side, the more favorable result, the good, the positive. This is even true for those of us who present as cynical or jaded (we just don’t mention it as much).

The true upside is all the ways we can support one another’s bias toward positivity.

Little bumps to our optimism can go a really long way because they encourage others to see the silver lining. To assume it CAN be done. To try.

If tiny bumps to our optimism make real people even more inclined to favor potential, we’re sure to build more great solutions.

And we’re sure to have been a part of it.

Unwavering UX + reduce the sauce by Evan La Ruffa

The IPaintMyMind website has been down as we motor toward a new version of the site, and it’s been funny to look at the conversion rate of the email sign up that still lingers at the top of the page.

Despite no content loading on the rest of the page, we’ve been getting more newsletter sign ups than ever before.

Why?

Because the only thing you can do on the page is enter your email address.

It’s not fancy, it’s not even good. It’s functional, and the UX, or user experience, is unwavering. It dictates where you go and what you do. Clearly.

While I’d rather our brand new site be up now, I found this unintended UX test yielding a lot of perspective…

We have to be clear, concise, and direct. There are times for details and commas, but if we want our ideas to stick, we probably need to reduce the sauce a little bit.

Leading means asking questions by Evan La Ruffa

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the safety of not speaking up. It’s easier to not step up, to not give more, to not mention the visible folly.

It’s easier to not put our necks on the line by suggesting a new path forward or a better strategy.

While doing so avoids some risk, it also relegates us to the tier below the leaders. And maybe that’s a good place for us. But leading means asking questions… important questions. It also means we actually have to be open to the answers and doing something with them.

Questions + Dialogue = New Answers = New Action = New Responsibility

Sometimes we don’t lead, not because we haven’t thought about those important questions, but because we shy away from real responsibility.

Questions mean leading, and leading means responsibility… responsibility for our perspective, vibe, skills, and contribution.

What questions have you thought of but not yet asked? Are you ready for the responsibility?

There's a lot of battle in you by Evan La Ruffa

You ever interact with people and almost instantly realize that their gripe has nothing to do with you?

You know, those instances where a regular comment is met by snipe. An innocent question rejected. A fierce reaction to something tame.

The moments when others displace the current situation with an overlay of their own tension & making should provide a signpost to those of us who would rather not deflect, deject, or verbally lash out — especially when it doesn’t matter.

Is this really the issue? Did you need to make things awkward? How did you make the other person feel? Do you wish you would have said that in another way? Is there something bothering you? Could you have been kinder? Do you use that tone too often?

Some interactions reveal that there’s a lot of battle in you.

What if there wasn’t? And what is it about?

Actionable is the highest compliment by Evan La Ruffa

We all have dense lives. Work, family, fitness, etc.

It’s called the hamster wheel for a reason, which is why taking time to think about how we’re living and working is a position of privilege.

Even so, reading a book and doing the exercises outlined in the book are two different things. And if I’m going to take the time out to think about a new way of doing things, by golly, there better be next steps I can take to harness that new perspective.

This is why “actionable” is the highest compliment I can give. Frameworks are great, but action plans are real.

I’d like to thank the people at Run Like Clockwork, who recently awarded me a scholarship to attend their 3-day workshop in Tampa, FL. It was an eye-opening few days and now I’m back home making exciting changes to streamline IPaintMyMind’s operations to increase impact in 2019 and beyond.

I’m so glad they gave me a map (framework)… and a compass (action plan).

Onward.

Showing up... as ourselves. by Evan La Ruffa

The world is a dynamic place. A series of Venn diagrams that create the way we are. Imprints, emotions, places, times, politics, people, and how it all comes together.

Some people are good at construction, some people are good at writing, some people are good at speaking, some people are good at baking.

And some of us have existed at the nexus of a serendipitous space in which being ourselves isn’t a chore, a choice, or a problem.

Having the emotional clean slate to be able to show up in any space exactly as we are, is something that sets us apart.

Authenticity isn’t typically seen as a skill one learns the way we learn how to manage software or build a project, but it is indeed a skill one develops.

If we have that skill, we MUST use it. Because no matter what we’re doing, it’s who we are… and it’s the biggest gift we can give anyone.

Once we fold that into our presence on a regular basis, we become nearly unstoppable.

People will want to come with us. We just need to be ourselves.

Legacy by Evan La Ruffa

Legacy can be viewed in a variety of ways, but it’s often reduced to straight cash.

Conversations around how we define legacy have come up a lot for me lately, and I keep coming back to one thing….

I believe legacy is about how you made people feel.

Not how much money you left them, or how the things you bought proved your worth, but that quite simply, you made people feel OK to be themselves, that they were accepted, and that you showed them kindness, generosity, empathy or understanding.

Legacy is vibrational, not financial, and it’s not just our families that get left with our energy.

Every interaction is our legacy.

Just enough or thinking ahead? by Evan La Ruffa

It’s easy for me to feel when I’m doing just enough or thinking ahead.

Each level of effort and engagement has its own vibration, and it’s completely oppositional to the other. There are times when just enough will do, but most of the time, it’s a sure-fire way to exclude ourselves from the running.

Finding out what life-buckets never induce the just enough response is what it’s all about.

Then again, knowing the difference between just enough and thinking ahead can’t be taught. What’s more, being fair to ourselves and others about what we can, and will give, is about an inner dialogue that informs how we show up.

If we’re asked to think ahead and we show that we’re preoccupied with just enough, they’re most likely going to move on.

I see the child in you by Evan La Ruffa

An incredible exercise when facing an impasse, is thinking of your counterpart as a child. It makes us inherently more compassionate and gets us to a softer, gentler place.

If we give others the chance to see the child in us more often, then that means we’d receive softer, gentler communication.

What might we do with that good will?

Email is a trap by Evan La Ruffa

In an instant-culture, the transition from idea to delivery is immediate. It's both convenient and incessant. It connects us but it also traps us. The wild part is, since we can get in touch immediately, everything gets raised to first priority.

The reality is, everything is NOT first priority.

Just because we can be super responsive doesn't mean we should be. To be super responsive, we have to be on alert. We have to be pending. We have to be waiting to pounce and reply.

But if we think about that state of being, it's not strategic at all. It reflexively reacts when we are dinged and pinged by email, text, messengers, Facebook, Instagram, and the rest of it.

If I was answering low-priority emails right now instead of writing, a whole variety of low-hanging fruit would be harvested to the detriment of a bigger goal.

Let's turn our alerts off and check email after lunch.

We've got real work to do.

Doing hard shit by Evan La Ruffa

I like comfort. I like good food, drink, and relaxation. Most of the time I feel like I'd have no problem doing nothing.

But there's no substitute for purpose. Doing hard shit is the persistent, dogged, explorer in all of us. And I'm not sure there's any substitute for flexing that muscle either.

One of my self-critiques is that I don't have the discipline to stick to tough goals. One brief scan of who I am and what I do, and it becomes clear that's not entirely true. But I do think there is value in developing perseverance.

At the end of the day, will we let ourselves stop short when it gets really hard or will we conquer the midgets in our mind that tell us stopping is OK?

We can't overuse practicality to buffer doing the hard shit that gives us purpose, engages a better version of ourselves and ultimately creates ripple effects of can-do.

We shouldn't avoid doing hard shit because it gets uncomfortable sometimes.

Doing hard shit is a privilege.

Hard shit proves WE can do it.

Strings & focus by Evan La Ruffa

Strings - when we relate to, truly hear, or have something resonate in a way that inspires us to focus. Focus - when we let all the irrelevant, untimely, misguided or disempowering squirrels in our mind run off without the slightest of chases.

Strings and focus feed off one another, and having people in our lives that are attuned to what might resonate makes all the difference.

If you're reading this newsletter regularly, you're someone that cares, works hard, lives for others, thinks strategically, is compassionate, and wants to grow. And you know people who are similar.

You also have antennas. We all do.

And to be our fullest selves we rely on relationships in which antennas are functional. You know, the kind where you communicate with someone in multiple ways - through conversations, interactions, and a 6th sense that relies on understanding how that person views their own experience.

Whether a helpful word or a bit of perspective, we have to remember that what we offer shouldn't be about us. Imposed views rarely do well, better to harness what's already there & not one-size-fits-all this thing.

But antennas need practice and relationships worth having put in that work.

We know we're doing OK when we feel the strings and focus.

Being judgy by Evan La Ruffa

Our judgments are the dark side of the moon. Not uncharted territory as much as a proportional reflection. Just look at the way people bring up judgments of others. The facial expressions, the energy, the biting attack. The lack of compassion, the intensity.

One thing I've learned about myself is that I critique others when I feel raw, insecure, unsure, uncertain, defensive, or angry. Lately, I've been trying to apply a built-in question every time I am being judgy...

'Interesting. You don't usually critique people. It's not about them. Their differentness is valuable, they are equal to you. This judgment is about your own insecurity. Be kind to yourself and the person you're judging. What's bothering you?'

Or some version of that...

It's a way to help break down reactionary otherness and keep our emotional vulnerability in dialogue with how we show up in the world.

We all could stand to be less judgy. Myself included.