2012: The Year of the Experience

One of the unexpected benefits of “Letting Go” is the door that opens. It’s a door that opens to a hallway filled with more doors. And, having let go, the opportunity to walk through any one of those doors is instantly available. Because, if what’s behind any of them turns out to be something less than what you wanted or even expected, you’re free to turn back around, or to open another door. And another. Letting go of doubt, fear, judgment and overall insecurity means that, whatever the outcome, you have the confidence of knowing that you’re going to be just fine in the end.

The reality, of course, is that “letting go” isn’t easy. It’s filled with starts and stops. It’s filled with missteps. It’s oftentimes very much a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of process. Or, from time to time, even three-steps-back. You’re moving forward, just not at the brisk pace you had hoped for yourself. So, while 2011 was personally dedicated to the idea of letting go of all those things that I had hoarded over the years, I saw glimpses of what my life could be like if I really, truly just set all that baggage out on the curb. If I’m successful in my ongoing quest to let go, well, then, 2012 will truly be The Year of the Experience.

I’ve realistically probably only scratched the surface of letting go and even that opened a world of wonder for me. 2011 saw the greatest adventure I’ve ever been on – a trip that was as far outside of my comfort zone as I’ve ever been. I also played in a drum circle, which has long been an experience I’ve wanted to try. Funny, the drum circle was far scarier than the mountain, as I was judging myself with every strike of the djembe. I was worried what others might think if I were off rhythm. I started to say yes to things that I might have, for any reason (traffic, parking, weather), previously deflected. In 2011, I even consulted with a psychic. (Though, I hesitate to mention that, as I can imagine the potential grief I’ll receive from some. You know who you are!) In short, I was not only surprised by the doors that opened, but also by new doors that were previously completely invisible to me. All I had to do was start letting go. All I have to do now is keep letting go.

You see, I’m hooked. I’m hooked on those open doors and new opportunities. For the first time ever, I completely understand the psyche of the adrenaline junkie (to a certain extent!). If I continue on this quest of letting go, 2012 will be the Year of the Experience. I’ll be able to try all kinds of new things and achieve any number of unforeseen milestones. This isn’t to say that I’m going to be reckless. I’m just not going be afraid of trying new things simply because of fear alone.

One of my many thoughts as I hiked through thigh-high snow in the Colorado backcountry was how cool the “experience” was. I was thinking that, despite how difficult the climb, I was digging the experience. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, it wasn’t necessarily fun, but it was an amazing experience. It was a memory. I was reminded of a friend who once explained how he hopes to teach his son about money. As a result of working his ass off, this friend has some discretionary income from a successful IPO. As we spoke, I gently chided him about the fact that he was the guy who took his family away for a last minute long weekend to Mexico because the summer in the Bay Area wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He replied, “I want to teach him that money is best used on memories and experiences, not things.”

Naturally, I think about how this all affects my own son. He’s like me. Though only six-years old, he’s quick to say no to adventures and experiences. Whether it’s a trip to the City or a new restaurant, oftentimes the only way to get him out of the house is by enduring an avalanche of whining about how badly he doesn’t want to go. It’s too far. He’s too tired. There will be too many people there. The kid is quick with the excuse. Of course, it’s almost always fun and I try to remind him (without that annoying “I told you so” tone) that he didn’t want to go. I try to point out how much fun it is to experience new things.

We (guilty as charged) spend so much time attached to media that we sometimes forget that there’s a big, awesome world out there waiting to be explored. Media should be a platform on which we can show our friends and family about our grand adventures. It almost seems that sometimes, hanging out on Facebook or Twitter has become the adventure. Sadly, checking in at the dry cleaners is cause for some kind of celebration. I’m not one of those people who suggest we put down our social media. To each his/her own, right? But, if you’re like me, you like the pictures showing your friends and family doing amazing things and enjoying awesome adventures together.

Life can be complicated. We have bills to pay. Kids to parent. And have all kinds of jobs to do. But as the economy continues to be the hot topic, let’s not get lost by the fact that despite all of this – we still only have but the one life to live. Hector Belioz wrote, “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.” The older I get the more I learn that I’ve given far too much importance to “little things” that haunt me. And I’ve learned that my life is made ever more exceptional by the experiences I share – whether it’s a simple cup of coffee with a friend on a lazy afternoon, a backcountry trek, or the long-anticipated country roads motorcycle ride I’ll take later this year. But, with a nod to my favorite movie, we have to let go and once we do, we can really start living. Otherwise, with passing time, we’re just dying.

It makes me wonder, what if we stopped making New Year’s resolutions about losing weight or getting our finances in order and instead focused on experiences? What if we said, “This year, I’d like to ride a Century.” Naturally, the weight comes off. Or, “I’d like to go to Europe.” The finances would take care of themselves if it were an genuine experience you wanted. If we focus on experiences, amazing things can happen.

Happy New Year. Wishing you a 2012 filled with exceptional experiences.

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