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.

Let's take aim by Evan La Ruffa

In the new economy, self-preservation is like chum in the water. Those that merely work to beat people away from their little perch will find themselves among the remnants cast aside from old systems. Sounds kinda wild, right?

Well, it only is if we're thinking about keeping our spot versus creating insane value in it.

No boss likes a problem being put back on her desk, and no position on any team preserves itself only because it currently exists.

When thinking about what we each bring to the table, essence and skills are different.

In our essence, we show up with the vibe, approach, and can-do attitude that puts the best aspects of each one of us on display, making our unique value all the more apparent.

In self-preservation, the view is defensive, unoriginal, pejorative, and reptilian. We shrink up, stop short, and do work other people are better at.

In a world where value isn't attached to time and creativity lives beyond the canvas, the essential question that tees up good ideas, strong strategy, and collaborative creation seems to be...

What types of energy & contribution are essential to who I am, and put me in the best position to knock someone's socks off?

I don't know about you, but that sounds like the good shit.

Let's take aim.

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.