Creating authentic connections despite lame networking questions

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You know the moment…you’re out with a friend and y’all bump into someone they know from high school — so everyone gets introduced.

Shortly after the small talk dissipates, the person you just met looks at you and says: “So…what do you do?”

And you freeze.

Maybe your face flushes.

You wonder why they’d ruin such a beautiful evening with such a basic question…but your anger soon morphs into shame.

Shame because, despite the fact people ask you what you do all the time, you’ve yet to create a thoughtful response you’re proud of. So you kick yourself after fumbling…

How will you spend it?

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I talked to a mentor of mine recently — he’s getting pretty old. He said something that’s stuck with me the past few days.

When I asked how he was holding up he said, “Grateful. I’m living on borrowed time” — like most old people who’ve lived long enough to collect an arsenal of quippy responses.

But then he said, “And, though you don’t realize it so are you…”

And I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

Regardless of what season you’re in — whether you’re busy and your schedule is packed, or things are slow and you have lots…

We achieve our goals when we build habits to reach them

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Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

[A brief and uncomfortable update: 2020 is halfway over.]

My girlfriend and I spent a few hours recently crafting our vision for the next several years; during this process it hit me how quickly time is passing.

Each morning I sit on my front porch and watch our dog wade through grass, snapping at flies and soaking in the morning sun.

Those mornings and these days seem to be blurring together — and I often worry about whether or not I’ll be able to fit everything into my life before I don’t have any time left.

If you’re anything like…

We cannot control pain, but we can dance with it

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My cab slows to a stop and I’m already 20 minutes late for a four-day personal development retreat in Chicago, and I’m feeling stressed. I don’t like to be late.

I step in a puddle while crossing the intersection toward the nondescript building I’ve been instructed to find, wheeling my suitcase through the murky street water.

I’m in my early twenties and have journeyed from South Dakota, where I teach 10th grade English, for a much needed break to focus on myself and my life plan.

The prior year I lost my childhood dog, my college mentor and both grandparents…

We become who we practice being

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A few months ago, I was on a walk with a good friend and mentor at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We caught up for a while, enjoying the brisk morning, before planting our feet near a fountain where I asked him what enabled him to do his work at such a high level.

A field trip of cheerful children marched by, and he smiled at each one of them, then looked at the ground before replying, “The practices. For me, it’s all about coming back to the simple practices.”

I inquired further about his practices and he shared…

A guide

No one can know what we need until we tell them

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We have peace lilies in the corner of our breakfast nook. They are my favorite plant in the house, blooming with white flowers every week.

What I’ve come to admire about this plant is its ability to communicate; it slumps every seven days to let us know it needs to be watered.

I’m amazed each week. The plant doesn’t complain, it doesn’t blame us or the world for failing to water it sooner — it just tells us what it needs with clarity.

Each week when watering our plant I feel slightly indicted as I reflect on the moments I…

A Parable

How to foster healthier and more productive collaboration

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The day after Thanksgiving a semi-truck rolls in to Austin, Texas with over 500 Christmas items — including about 50 trees ranging in height from 5 to 13 feet.

And I’ve got a problem.

We need to get all of this greenery organized before our pop-up shop opens in 36 hours and the hired Santa shows up along with families, excited kids, and holiday shoppers.

My girlfriend has a holiday greenery business called Gracious Garlands. Every Christmas season she ships in Frasier fir trees, white pine garlands, boxwood wreaths, Leyland cypress garlands, and magnolia swags straight from the Blue Ridge…

A Parable About Practice

We must fall in love with the process of growth, not the idea

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A few years ago I decided to prove to myself I could keep up with high performing athletes.

As I’ve written before, I’ve never been secure in my athleticism — but I needed to do this.

I began by finding one of those gyms where former marines work out and they do tricep dips with chains on their shoulders like The Rock and have weekend retreats where they shoot assault rifles. My goal was to get to the point where I could keep up with their regular training sessions at 100% intensity.

I was starting from zero, so I began…

Whether we like it or not, we become who we practice being

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On the bass at an Also Like The Wind show in Pierre, South Dakota

This is a love letter to anyone who has ever wanted all the results without any of the effort.

To be clear, when I say all the results without any of the effort I’m talking about:

  • Trimming up the waistline + chiseling the gobble-neck under your chin while still microwaving cheese rollups and dipping them in homemade sriracha ranch.
  • Delivering a standing ovation level speech with minimal prep because the ideas are solid, you did theater in high school, and strung together a year of improv classes as an adult. Should be a cake-walk, right?
  • Having deep and connected relationships…

An Exercise in Awareness

How to identify and abandon the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves

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Our phone call is wrapping up and I have a choice to make:

Do I ask the question I’ve been waiting the entire conversation to ask, or do I keep my mouth shut so I don’t risk coming off as woo-woo or too sensitive?

I’m pretty insecure in my masculinity.

My insecurity began when I, like many late bloomers, was terrified to discover the concept of locker room showers after basketball practice. …

Reagan Pugh

Keynote speeches and workshops to inspire your people || Videos and more writing @

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