Archive for Life

The Women Who Have Made a Difference In My Life

In honor of International Women’s Day, I reflected on all the women who have made an impact and difference in my life and wanted to share and thank them here.

They’ve served as role models in unique ways, and loved and supported me throughout my life and at different points.

Mostly in chronological order … here goes:

  • Charleen Green — my mother. A single mom who raised two boys, while getting her college education. She inspired me in so many ways to become the man I am today. I’m so grateful to have had the most amazing mother ever. Hope I make her proud!
  • Betty Chaney — my maternal grandmother. Her elegance, her intellect inspired me. When I’d stay the night at her house, we’d have breakfast together and she would engage me on topics I didn’t feel worthy of discussing with her. Those conversations pushed me to think bigger and better. (I wish you were still with us to see your kindred spirit, red-headed great granddaughter!)
  • Dorothy Miller — my paternal grandmother. Her quiet love and commitment of our family, without any judgment, is why I’m so loyal to the people I love. She was from New Hampshire and I loved her accent too. She raised four children while her husband was on the first U.S. Navy nuclear submarine, The Nautilus.
  • Summer Mills — my cousin who is like my sister. Wherever I go, I always know we have a brother-sister connection. We’ve been through tough times and always had each other’s back, no matter what. Her sense of humor is incredible. Even though I am the butt of her jokes, I know it’s always in love with a tinge of truth. She’s also an incredible mother. And one of my best friends.
  • Kathy Porter — my aunt. My second mother. She loved me like a son. Fierce defender, but always encouraging and loving and there for me. And makes the best cookies ever.
  • Sandra Miller — my aunt. She was 16 when I was born and I was her first “baby.” She’s called me Cor-oreo ever since I can remember. She’s always been the warmest supporter and hugger in my life. And has showed up at every time I needed her most. She’s the premiere example of a caregiver. I try to love like her.
  • Diane Worsham — my aunt. From her example I got a profound competitive spirit and also insane family loyalty and commitment. And she was there for me in one of the toughest times in my life. Right there. Ready to protect me.
  • Charity Flowers — my sweet friend who nominated me for Student Council which was the start of a whole lot of leadership opportunities and eventually a full ride scholarship to the University of Central Oklahoma.
  • Sue Daugherty — my high school counselor who encouraged a rather insecure kid with silly ideas and urged me to run for Student Council President and helped me start our high school’s first newspaper. Incredible cheerleader who believed in the next generation.
  • Jasmine Long — my high school BFF and sidekick. She supported and believed in me even when I didn’t. We shared lots of laughs and tears together through the years. One of the most amazing friends.
  • Delaine Perkins — my boss at my college internship. She balanced family and work and inspired me to be a true professional. The greatest lesson she taught me was to always take the initiative. She was a fantastic writer and editor, and she’d never accept my second best. She also took a chance on a punk college kid and I’m forever grateful.
  • Farzie Razak — my editor at our college newspaper. She showed me how to be a real journalist in so many ways. And was a dear friend to me.
  • Louanna Miller and Shonda Miller — my sister-in-laws but more like just sisters. Both ran into my life while others ran out. Uniquely strong amazing women. They’ve loved my brothers and nieces and nephew (and the rest of us) while maintaining a keen sense for who they are and what they offer the world. Special special women to me who add their flair and spunk and smarts and beauty to all they touch.
  • Lisa Sabin-Wilson — my dear dear friend who I met through holding her gum at WordCamp Chicago and eventually helped me accomplish a lifelong dream of being an actual book author, when she asked me (maybe told me) to co-auothor WordPress All-in-One for Dummies with her. There are countless other ways she’s inspired me, encouraged me and just been there for me.
  • Rebecca Gill — my dear friend who has supported me and collaborated and partnered with me, and never kept score. She’s always about my win, as I am hers. A true giver, an encourager but straight and honest talker and a doer.
  • Kristen Wright — my teammate at iThemes and so often my right hand dude. Fiercely loving, committed, loyal, hard working and supremely talented. She makes my life awesome by the work she does and her presence in my life. I’ve seen her blossom and bloom in the past 5+ years and I’m honored to be her friend. But perhaps most importantly of all, she’s been an example of openness vulnerability, writing her memoirs, and helping me to do the same.
  • Patti Ream — our incredible office manager at iThemes. She gave me perhaps the best gift ever by sharing her “56 lessons in 56 years” letter to me. I’ve found myself reading it over and over to savor and unearth all the wisdom in it for living an incredible life like she has. She inspires me most by her consistent positive and delightful attitude. She makes everyone smile around her. She’s a light we’re all drawn to. Such an incredible example for me, especially when I’ve felt down or out about something or myself, I’m always reminded of Patti’s living, walking example.
  • Pam Owens — the best mother-in-law a guy could ever have. She’s adopted me as her own, embraced me (when I don’t wear orange) and been there for me and us. The best part is we’re friends (and now teammates on our volleyball league). How often does that happen?! That you can be pals with your mother-in-law and go on fabulous trips together like to Portugal and have a blast?! Additionally I’ve gotten to see another side and perspective of being a woman in today’s world.
  • Mary Owens — my adopted Grandma aka Mo. One of the strongest yet most loving people (not just women) I know. She knows who she is and doesn’t apologize for it either. Again, she’s loved me as her own and never thought or treated me as anything different. Her relationship with Papa Doc is one of the most endearing examples of love and life I’ve ever seen. A true, equals in all things, partnership.
  • Amber England — my dear childhood friend, once coworker and just amazing human being. She cares deeply about people. She’s work fiercely for others’ causes who might never know her name. And she’s someone I lean on for strategy and advice for almost anything I can think of.
  • A couple more I’ve met in the last couple of years — successful entrepreneurs and dear friends Deemah Ramadan and Valerie Riley and now my newest friend Sherry Walling, a Ph.D. psychologist working to help entrepreneurs.

And last but not certainly not least … the two starring women in my life:

  • Lindsey Miller — my beloved partner in everything and my wife and best friend. We met at a tough time in my life and she was there for me every step of the way, sometimes at great sacrifice. Her love has never wavered. She’s shown me who a great woman is, how to love, cherish and respect women like never before, and I deeply respect and admire and love everything about her. Beyond being an incredible mate and mother, we have the most balanced, empathetic and stimulating conversations that challenge me, from parenting to politics. And her confidence and belief in me, props me up, every single damn day.
  • Lillian Miller — my daughter. She’s inspired me to be a much much better man than I am. And the man I want all men compared to in her life. When I look in her beautiful eyes and her mesmerizing smile, I want every single good thing for her in life. I want her to have every right and privilege I have and more. She’s smart, sassy and beautiful, and the clone of my beloved wife. So watch out world. Having a daughter (and a son) is the most incredible gift ever. (Thank you again, Lindsey.)

I’m the man I am today … and a better human being … for all of these women and the countless others who have inspired, taught and encouraged me in their unique way who I haven’t mentioned here.

Happy International Women’s Day to you all.

How To Find Lasting Meaning and Purpose

I just devoured The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith and have added it to my All-Time Reading List.

It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read about finding purpose and meaning. And very honestly it came at the ideal time in my life.

I found the book originally through my friend Kristen and also Emily’s excellent article titled Pursue Meaning over Happiness.

Here are some of my highlighted notes and comments from the book:

“Global suicide rates have spiked 60 percent since World War II.”

“In the United States, the rate of people suffering from depression has risen dramatically since 1960, and between 1988 and 2008 the use of antidepressants rose 400 percent.”

“Each year, forty thousands Americans take their lives, and worldwide that number is closer to a million.”

“Wealthier nations, it turns out, had significantly higher suicide rates than poorer ones.”

“Happy countries like Denmark and Finland also have some high rates of suicide.”

“The countries with the lowest rates of meaning, like Japan, also had some of the highest suicide rates.”

“Four in ten Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose.”

The “four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence.”

1. Belonging

“We all need to feel understood, recognized, and affirmed by our friends, family members, and romantic partners. We all need to give and receive affection. We all need to find our tribe.”

Research shows the a “sense of belonging” rates as the most important benefit in a relationship or a group.

Belonging is about two thing: mutual care and “frequent pleasant interactions” with others.

Even “small moments of intimacy” matter called “high quality connections,” which are “positive, short-term interactions between two people, like when a couple holds hands on a walk or when two strangers have an empathetic conversation on a plane.”

2. Purpose

It’s not about saving baby seals.

“Living purposefully requires self-reflection and self-knowledge.”

Researchers found that “knowing oneself is one of the most important predictors of meaning in life.”

“Living with purpose may make us happier” but ultimately it’s about making the world a better place.

In studies about finding meaning in work, the people who see their jobs as a way of helping others rank their jobs as more meaningful.

Although research shows raising kids can make for unhappy parents … it’s also a powerful source of meaning. (Amen to that!)

Parenting is often tough, stressful work, but extremely rewarding.

3. Storytelling

Storytelling is a fundamental way we make sense of the world and the things, people and events in our lives.

We use stories to help others understand us, and to help understand others better.

It’s all in how we tell our stories.

Redemptive stories tell about the transition from bad to good.

Contamination stories tell about transitions from good to bad.

People who tell contamination stories “tend to be more anxious and depression and to feel that their lives are less coherent compared to those who tell redemptive stories.” They are also less inclined to “contribute to society or younger generations.”

“We are all the authors of our own stories and can choose to change the way we’re telling them,” and in fact, can “edit, revise, and interpret the stories.”

4. Transcendence

My new bucket list item is go to a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.

“A transient, or mystical, experience is one in which we feel that we have risen above the everyday world to experience a higher reality.”

Two things happen in transcendent states, “our sense of self washes away along with all of its petty concerns and desires,” and we feel “deeply connected to other people and everything else that exists.” The result is a sense of peace and well-being.

“Awe challenges the mental models that we use to make sense of the world. Our mind must then update those models to accommodate what we just experienced.” And we are transformed.

The paradox of transcendence is that we can “feel insignificant and yet connected to something massive and meaningful” at the same time.

One unique and rare transcendent experience is called the “Overview Effect” that astronauts get when they travel into space.

Astronaut Jeff Ashby said, “You cannot view the thin blue arc of our atmosphere from space without developing a great concern for the protection of that fragile band of life and a desire to contribute to its preservation.”

“The self-loss felt during a transcendent experience is sometimes called ‘ego death,’ and it prepares us for the final loss of self we will all experience: death itself.”

***

I’ve been digging in on practical ways to use these four pillars to finding meaning in my life and I’ll have more to share on the subject very soon.

Be sure to go get The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith – it won’t disappoint and you’ll get to read all the stories and things I didn’t mention here.

How to Survive and Thrive in the Future

I had the opportunity to give the keynote talk at WordCamp Ann Arbor in October 2016. In this talk I share what I think are the keys to surviving and thriving in the very future — Pivot and Purpose.

Here is the full video:


Here is the slidedeck:

Impact Is So Incredibly Simple

This week I got notes from two people who just thanked me for simply being a decent human being to them.

Although I’m always incredibly encouraged and grateful when I get notes like this, it just reminded me of how simple it is to make an impact in other people’s lives.

So I wanted to offer some simple yet profound ways I’ve discovered to making an impact in another’s life:

  • Be generous, good and kind, treating all sincerely as equals and worthy yet unique and special.
  • Ask for and remember people’s names. Then the next time you see them, call them by their names. It’s tough sometimes to do this and sometimes I go blank, but every time I do it, I see the remarkable difference it makes in people’s lives. And I’m no different. I want people to remember my name too. It reminds us, “I matter.”
  • Simply smile, showing you are open to connecting with other human beings. It offers affection and acceptance.
  • Listen, giving your full attention. It’s very hard to give everyone equal time and attention, but listening shows respect and worth. Listening says, “I care.”
  • Be vulnerable and share your struggles too. I admit this is a tough one. But it reminds people we’re all human, in the human experience, together. The talks I’ve been giving for the last two years have included intensely personal stories of my own pain, suffering and struggles. Every single time I’ve done so, I hear and see relief in others who know … they aren’t alone.

***

I want to have an impact in other’s lives.

I want my life to matter and that means using my time, talent, treasure to make other people’s lives awesome.

And it’s amazing how simple it is to do so.

What I’ve Learned in 40 Years About Maturity

It only took me 40 years to really see how life moves along in themes.
At least in my experience.

Themes of Maturity