Rehearsing the drama by Evan La Ruffa

It's a problem a lot of us have. It leads to anxiety, and it's hard to curtail once we're on a roll. One thing is amiss and then all of a sudden we're 10 steps down the rabbit hole fabricating disastrous situations, worst-case scenarios, and tales of it all going to hell.

What's more, sometimes the most innocuous thing can set us off in the wrong direction.

For those of us who feel deeply, there is plenty of potential for our intuition to work in the wrong direction, where an overactive imagination becomes the pretext for throwing in the towel.

Rehearsing the drama takes us farther away from solutions.

Let's not go there.

P.s. A mentor of mine acquainted me with a breathing technique that helps reset when shifting into new spaces, roles, situations, and interactions. 4-count of deep breathing in, 7-count of holding that in-breath, and 8-count of exhaling. 4, 7, 8. It's working for me, you might give it a try.

Needing less by Evan La Ruffa

For someone who likes the finer things as much as I do, I see value in needing less. Overhead is a son of a gun, and I'm cognizant of the fact that what we expect to "have" can inflate over the years. Especially considering the reality that as we get older, we hope to progress, earn more, do more, have more free time, etc etc etc.

Where we are now is a springboard for a better tomorrow. The question seems to be, "what do we have to do or not do, to sustain the types of lives we want for ourselves and our families?" 

Budgets work in two directions and getting caught up in the maelstrom of things is a temptation most of us relate to. Needing less has to do with being intentional about how we spend our money, and perhaps having that awareness allows us to be more conscious about why we buy in and to what end.

What's more, forgoing a few things to ensure we have more time is a trade most of us would be willing to make.

The cutting edge is sharp, unless... by Evan La Ruffa

The thing about doing something new is that there's inherently more risk. There's no data as to whether or not it will work, not to mention the fact that this new path also needs to be messaged decently to catch on. The cutting edge is sharp because that's where we make new things, whether art, businesses, products, communities, or projects.

The thing is, it's less and less sharp the more we add skills that increase our ability to be creative in building new solutions. Specificity is important, but so is uncharted territory.

As long as we add more paintbrushes to our toolkit, the cutting edge is a great place to be.

(It's also where the most upside tends to reside.)

Authenticity and positioning by Evan La Ruffa

Authenticity and positioning don't always have to run counter to each other. We can be our real selves while also making sure we're not valuing responsiveness more than making, building, or organizing. As someone who is very expressive, I tend to give too much away. I tend to respond too quickly, which in business can indicate to whomever you're relating to that their time is more valuable than yours.

Since time is an increasingly valuable quantity in my mind, I've been thinking a lot about when I do what I do (as per a recent post), thus prioritizing my own production and workflow while staying responsive - just not immediately, responsive.

If we're positioning, it's easy to lose our authenticity. Ego games and the rest. But we don't have to. We can be fair to ourselves by making sure OUR WORK gets done, while simultaneously offering the level of service, care, personality, & mission that levels up everything we do.

Prioritizing the making, building, and organizing ensures that we contribute our best.

If we do, that's all the leverage we'll ever need.

Social testing by Evan La Ruffa

We usually think of our lives from one semi-cohesive vantage point. The plot, characters, and themes are the same, and we use those experiences to auto-extrapolate a way of being in the world. We react to a certain type of comment or input in pretty similar ways.

In that sense, what we offer is often the same. The energy, presence, or contribution we have carries a certain vibration and has its own tenor.

If we're putting the same thing in, we're probably getting the same thing out.

So lets test. Let's try approaching a certain type of situation in a different way, look at the data, and compare it to what we normally experience, social testing in that we switch up the equation.

Both in our overall offering and the possibilities that open up as a result.

P.s. I'm working on a rhetorical pivot that is all about changing one element of the equation and seeing what the data tells me. I'll keep ya posted.

Myatribe by Evan La Ruffa

myatribe - when our contribution to someone else's comment reflexively shifts back to a theme, topic, or opinion that we currently ascribe to. Real listening isn't happening, and the other person in the dialogue is rendered unimportant, insofar that they have merely paved the way for us to come back to our thesis of choice. We've all done it, some less opaquely than others, and it's the product of a species of restlessness; an energy which is single-minded and often well-intended but functionally precludes real connection. If the subject at hand is something directly mentioned by our conversation partner, then by all means, we should add, brainstorm, and contribute.

But if we can hear our inner monologue interrupt real listening when the subject is unrelated, it's time we cultivate the skill to sit back, listen, and forgo our latest rant.

It seems appropriate, if only on balance, but it might also help us prove that our presence isn't a one-way street.

Whether we're too far inside our own heads or overly transactional, either approach seems destined for black holes.

Here's to squashing our next myatribe.

And here's to taking my own advice.

No substitute for intentionality by Evan La Ruffa

I recently started working with a coach to do some distilling and processing in an effort to think about how I might be limiting myself, or how I might be operating from places that serve me and others less, or impede growth. I've been using the word "uplevel" as the most concise way of describing how I'm thinking about the process.

I've been fueling my body better and being intentional about health and fitness, and whether it's physical wellness or mental and emotional wellness, I realize that to show up, serve, produce, and provide the way I want to, that I can't just wing it.

I can't just assume that the how is going to sort itself out in any catalytic way if I'm not being intentional about it.

As I discussed with Lindsey last night over the dirtiest of martinis, there's just no substitute for intentionality.

P.s. I'd love to hear what you're trying to be more intentional about. And whether you reply to this email or share it with someone else, an example of intentionality seems like a worthwhile offering.

When-to? by Evan La Ruffa

I've been thinking a lot lately about when I do what I do.  I'm also thinking about how being more strategic in that regard can influence my state of mind and productivity. I'm currently reading When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink and it's inspiring a lot of ideas regarding when-to.

I highly recommend the book, especially because it speaks to biological and intellectual patterns of flourishes and fatigue that we all have recognized most of our lives. Instead of struggling against that and slogging through, this book is making me be even more intentional about when I put energy in its corresponding bucket.

'Timing is everything' is a ubiquitous and self-evident truth, why not embrace it more?

What the wind blew in by Evan La Ruffa

It's amazing how quickly our moods can change. Yesterday I was tense in the morning, then had an awesome time working with an artist, an art teacher, and a bunch of 6th graders, and my vibe totally flipped. I often tell folks that some days I wonder what the hell I'm doing and other days I feel like I'm rocking shit.

And I think we all experience that to some degree. Days where we're in flow and things feel rhythmic and effortless, and then other days where everything is a struggle and we wonder if we'll succeed.

I'm trying to learn to not get too high or too low. Keeping things in perspective and not swaying as much could stand to benefit me, both from the point of view of how I experience things and as far as the results I am able to generate.

What the wind blew in + my current state = ??

Tendencies by Evan La Ruffa

Understanding our own tendencies is a matter of awareness in practice. We all have an idea of our shortcomings, deficiencies, blind spots, and areas for improvement, but it's whether or not we apply that fair understanding of ourselves to our continued growth in those areas.

One of the things that afflicts many of us, is the tendency to lock into a certain narrative about how we tend to be in an area of our lives.

If we have fair and critical knowledge about where we believe we have room to improve, we have to give ourselves a chance to do that work. Old narratives are about heading those off immediately, and we've all gotta work on setting them aside.

If we can develop the practice of awareness by hitting the pause button when one of those narratives pops into our head, the following questions can help rebuild our approach:

  1. Why do we keep rehearsing the same narrative? ANSWER: Because it's easier to not do the work, and if we're being honest about where we lack then at least we can act as if we've given full disclosure, for better or worse. This is a pure cop-out, we all know it is.
  2. What would it look like if we redoubled our efforts to improve this area of our lives and ditched the old narrative? ANSWER: Fucking awesome.

Our tendencies tell us a lot about where there is room to uplevel. Which means that's probably a pattern worth bookmarking.

Our buddhas are all around us by Evan La Ruffa

Our buddhas are the people closest to us. Our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, cousins, best friends, coworkers, & partners. And it makes sense, we value their opinion more. Their stances on us, the world, and themselves are of great importance & relevance to us.

What's more, they are the ones with the unique ability to make us insane or cause us the most joy.

Even for those of us like myself who are lucky to really love and enjoy spending time with his immediate family, there's value in reminding ourselves that our closest relationships contain the greatest prospects for growth, learning, and transformation.

Whether our buddhas provide examples of what to be or what not be, they are the ones, who if we're mindful enough, can help us ask the most important questions about our place in this world.

What ideas are our buddhas hinting at? What questions are they provoking for us currently? And how might the story we tell ourselves about those questions in their current form be obfuscating the ones we SHOULD really be asking?

As much as we revere gODS, gurus, guides, and teachers, our buddhas are all around us.

What is the one thing you can't automate? by Evan La Ruffa

In an increasingly interconnected economy, everyone is the maker and the consumer at the same time. The entire world has opened up to competition, and if someone on the other side of the world can do it better and cheaper, you had better watch out. Whether American manufacturing or any other sector from a bygone era, it makes zero sense to hold on for dear life.

The worthwhile pivot is to be creative. But how could making art actually be more economically viable? 

Well, I'd say this... what is the one thing you can't automate?


Either make something unique or watch your market value tank. Make something creative or watch a machine take over. Make something creative, even if it's a service, an experience or a digital offering. The better bet is to flex our creative muscles and add to our artistic toolbelt.

The only thing that will survive automation is creativity. We might as well dive in.

Mindset and measurables by Evan La Ruffa

When it comes to self-critiques, one I've often had of myself is that I don't finish what I start. Part of being swept up in the feelings, the colors, and the vibrations, is that those sensations and input can completely supplant the need to finish anything. Simply, I love the idea enough that I've been less concerned with turning it into reality.

The thing is, I think that dynamic has also lent itself to a type of mental frailty that resides in some place adjacent to that concept of appreciation of beauty.

That frailty has allowed me to settle for less than the goal, too often. As I'm training for a half marathon in late July, I keep on reminding myself of one idea: 99% isn't enough.

Whether running 13.1 miles, publishing my poetry, submitting my photography to more galleries, or building a nonprofit development course, I want to get better at completing things.

It feels like an essential tweak that could yield exponential results, both in mindset and measurables.

Here's to experimenting with goals.

Real Darwinism by Evan La Ruffa

One of the main ways we can push the world forward is by applying takeaways from certain fields or disciplines, and overlaying them with new ones.  As in, 'if it worked here, it's at least worth trying over there.' Often times it's not a literal application, but a project-specific approach that is informed by findings from another sector. Darwinism has always been explained within a context of the evolution of species, but if we rotate that concept slightly, it has some interesting implications.

There's value in thinking about evolution primarily as something that happens within the span of a single lifetime, as opposed to the evolution of species over the span of countless lives.

The pivot isn't about traits losing out via competition, it's about ways of being losing out to better ones.

The question is, what is better?

What feels more important? Alive? Engaged? Connected? Happy? Fun? Meaningful?

Real Darwinism is personal.

And my hunch is, that it's all in those answers.

Learning to communicate by Evan La Ruffa

In the nature versus nurture debate, there are various silos that require unpacking. As much as folks tend to argue for one or another, most of us would agree that it's a mix of both. We might have differing opinions as to the percentages, but rationality tells us it's a Venn diagram. Learning to communicate is an exception.

We all have personalities that feel inherent, but communication is something that is modeled, practiced, and experienced after birth: nurture.

We have taken queues from our family and friends. We have replicated and deviated from communication patterns that serve and don't serve us.

One thing is for sure, communication requires intentionality.

If we want to be fair and compassionate communicators, what might we do differently?

Idea infatuation by Evan La Ruffa

We tend to be biased in favor of the latest "item" when it comes to our ideas. That latest flash of inspiration that blinds us to everything, much less how we'd actually make it happen. That's probably a bit harsh, because the digital revolution has certainly created more ways to make "it" happen yourself.

Even so, it's incredibly important that we not only fully revel in that moment of inspiration, but that we also foster the ability to be practically critical of our idea once the high wears off.

As someone who is self-diagnosed as having SIS, Shiny Idea Syndrome, I've found that the time I put into growing my strategic chops pays off exponentially.

Idea infatuation is about being absolutely strategically blind.

Can we make "it" happen without learning how to know when, how much, and in what order?

There are way too many variables to consider, but if strategy means thinking 5 moves ahead, I'd be hard-pressed to minimize it.

How about you?

It's all on the inside by Evan La Ruffa

When THAT happens, I'll be OK... When THIS stops, I'll finally be good...

When HE stops annoying me, I'll be able to settle down...

When THEY do that, I get so pissed off...

With all we see happening in the world, from our layered personal lives to a larger context that can feel upside down, it can be hard to calibrate ourselves to all the input. Even so, if we let other people determine our mood, it's fair to assume that we'll be precariously placed on the edge.

The thing is, I can see how these mindset things come back to the chicken and the egg.

To move beyond our reactivity to outside perturbances, we need to be sure our way of thinking can help mitigate that. If we're not sure it will, we neuter the upside before we've ever started.

Whether good or bad, it's all on the inside.

El Gringo by Evan La Ruffa

As a kid, I had the good fortune of being able to travel a lot. My dad worked in the industry and getting to see Argentina often (where my dad is from) and visit a host of other amazing places, was all part of growing up. Between travel and growing up in a bilingual immersion school gave me the privilege of being fluent in both English and Spanish from an early age. Language and travel were my gateways to heritage, culture, and the ethos our family lived by. It also was proof to me that it's not only OK but also cool to be one of the many permutations of people this world has to offer.

On one of our trips to Mexico, when I was 12 or so, I got into the habit of playing in the soccer game that happened every day at 2pm. I'd show up, like clockwork.

I remember planning my whole day around making sure I'd be there for the start of that game.

Most of the people playing were older than me, so when I showed up, not much was expected in regards to my output. There'd be jokes told, nothing nasty, but it was clear that I was the outsider. To their credit, I was included, but not really incorporated... until I scored a goal.

Questions about whether or not "el gringo" could play were put to rest.

In the instance I remember most vividly, some new guys had shown up and were making the same jokes (in Spanish) that I had heard over the past week, but this time I replied (in Spanish), "I understand everything you're saying and I can play pretty well."

"Entiendo todo lo que estan diciendo y puedo jugar bastante bien."

I scored a goal soon thereafter and followed up, "Didn't I tell you?"

"No te dije?"

In my mind, this was just an instance of people assuming things about me based on how I looked. It was an experience that obviously didn't tap into prejudice the way being black in America would, for instance, but it did prove to me that basing our judgments on things like skin color or hair type was insane.

It's always been clear to me that it's not what you are that matters, but who you are.

We all want a chance to earn it. Let's make sure we give that to each other.


At least we're looking in the right ocean by Evan La Ruffa

When we think about our place in the greater scheme of things, one can't help but come to some type of nihilistic conclusion about our inconsequential role. We're each just a tiny part of the cosmos, yet we find ourselves on this particularly beautiful, habitable, complex, unique, conflicted, imperfect planet.

Even though sometimes it can all feel like a crapshoot and we wish we had more control, we should be permanently buoyed by the insane, superlative beauty of our greatest relationships, loves, communities, and experiences.

When we zoom the lens out, it's a little easier to breathe.

We are small. It's true.

But at least we're looking in the right ocean.

Humans by Evan La Ruffa

One of my favorite Chicago coffee shops, The Coffee Studio in Andersonville, is a great place to grab high quality espresso or coffee. They make their drinks with care & serve Intelligentsia, for inquiring minds. That said, this post has nothing to do with their coffee. It has to do with the signage on their bathroom doors.

When you walk to the back of the shop to access the bathrooms, you see that they are both labeled, "HUMANS." I love that because it doesn't qualify or specify, it simply states that its intended use is for all humans.

That's the extent of the argument. No commas or logos, just a plain and simple ethos of equality. It's why the term "human rights" is used, and it's the basis for my entire outlook on ethnicity, language, culture, geography, citizenship, politics, and activism.

I have no desire or reflex to exclude.

What's that all about anyway? We're all humans.