Our Proposal – 10.21.13

October 21, 2013. 💍 A day that was just magic.

I had told @mrsdanacarey that we had a work dinner to go to, and she was not happy about it. But I persuaded her to dress up and come with me, and we drove to Blackhawk Plaza – me all full of adrenaline and excitement, hoping my plan would work out.

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We got out of the car and I said to Dana, “Hey, I want you to listen to something I’ve been working on. Let’s listen while we walk to the restaurant!” 😏

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So I grabbed my iPhone, we each shared an EarPod, and I pressed play on our song. This song. Then I led her through the plaza, to the waterfall at its center.

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Our song played through its verses, and when the lyrics came to “Would you be ok with a diamond ring and spend your life with me?” I got down on one knee. 💍

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Magic.

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Thank you so much to our friends and family that made this day so special. Having you there to surprise Dana was just the best. And thanks Jared Casstevens for capturing these moments.

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Love you so much @mrsdanacarey! It was the best decision of my life to ask you to marry me, and I’m so thankful for the life we’ve created together. YTB. ❤️

14 Years: Some thoughts on my journey with mental illness

#WorldMentalHealthDay

10.10.20

“Kevin, your Bi-Polar is in remission,” she says.

It is Monday, October 7, 2019. The first few minutes of a 45-minute, afternoon appointment with my knowledgeable, thoughtful Kaiser psychiatrist. The appointment is a yearly requirement to continue receiving the medications that keep my brain from spinning out of control with thoughts of grandeur or despair – the same medications that help me sleep each night and help stem the deluge of anxiety that comes relentlessly, every day. The medications that have kept me stable, without a major episode, since 2006. The medications that, in all honesty, keep me alive.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing as remission for a mental illness,” I say in response.

It’s a plain office in the Kaiser Mental Health Department, and I hope that what my doctor says is true. Or at least that it could be true some day. Remission. Remission. But I also silently commit, in no uncertain terms, to not. change. a. thing. about my mental health routine with this remission possibility.

I will continue on as I have done for the last 14 years: a regiment of a regular sleep/wake schedule, daily strenuous exercise, a mindfulness practice via the Headspace app, moderation in my consumption of alcohol, a healthy diet, journaling, repetition of passages from important texts (from the Bible and other readings), being honest with my loved ones about how I’m holding up amidst the ups and downs of life, checking in with my doctors whenever a need arises, prayer, and always, always staying on my meds.

Maybe it’s the memory of my descent into darkness – one that took place over my final quarter at UCLA – that keeps me so focused on this life-saving routine I’ve constructed with the help of my Kaiser team and my family. Maybe it was spending my graduation day from UCLA in a mental hospital in Oakland – being diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder after trying to take my own life – that keeps me from fully embracing my doctor’s remission possibility. It’s been 14 years without an episode. But 2006 still haunts me.

What I know for sure is that living for more than a decade with a mental illness takes work. And it will continue to take work as long as I live. In the beginning, it took humility to listen to the doctors as they prescribed a new way of living – for me, a life without the hard-driving, high-achieving mania that had been my bread and butter up to that point. It took reading everything I could get my hands on about my mental illness so I could know what was coming and what I, my family and friends, and my doctors could do to manage it.

It meant that mental health became my #1 priority, through the ups and downs that hit all of us, because I knew that if I wasn’t able to be mentally healthy, my mental un-health would upend my work life, destroy the relationships closest to me, and/or even end my life.

Today, October 10, 2020 is #WorldMentalHealthDay. With the ok from my family and colleagues, I wanted to share some of my story as a way of grafting my experience into today’s larger discussion of mental health across our various platforms. The diagnosis of a mental illness is devastating. Living with a mental illness can be extremely difficult and isolating. But I know, from my myriad conversations over the years, that mental health is a topic that affects everyone. Nobody is immune to the realities of Depression, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, severe Anxiety, Postpartum, or any number of mental health challenges. Mental illness touches us all, and COVID has only exacerbated that reality.

I just hope today, as you read this, that you know you are not alone as you do your best to stay mentally healthy. Mental illness is a hard road, especially in 2020. It takes humility and work, and it is sometimes two steps forward, one step back. But you are not alone in this fight.

You.

are.

not.

alone.

in.

this.

Maybe #WorldMentalHealthDay can be a day where we link arms and practice mental health awareness – while working to end the stigma of mental illness. That’s my hope, anyway.

Take care of yourself and each other today. We all need the support in this and every season.

-KGC

Books September 2020

This month was a really productive month of reading: a Christian take on the pandemic, joining Oprah’s Book Club in a selection about race in America, the fantastic sequel to The One and Only Ivan, a reread of a Brene Brown classic about perfectionism, and my first foray into Jewish spirituality.

Hope you find one in this group that you can add to your reading list!

Books August 2020

I spent the first part of the month getting my book ready for its next steps, and then read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and the new Hunger Games prequel.

Meditations was a great follow up to @ryanholiday’s The Obstacle is the Way, and I’ll continue to dive deeper into Stoic thought in the months to come.

The Hunger Games prequel was engaging, and, although it was a bit long, it was fun to be back in the Hunger Games world. Thanks James Cooper for the recommendation!

Looking forward to September, where I’ll work on my own book and also join @oprahsbookclub in reading Caste by @isabelwilkerson .

Meditations 8.28.20

The tasks at hand.

Last week’s meditations reflected how overwhelmed I felt by all that’s been thrown at us. The addition of the wildfires to an already tumultuous season was a lot. I had to just make it through each day, and last week’s meditations helped me just get through the week – a victory in itself.

But I wanted this week to be different, mentally. I started this week with the Stoic practice of a “pre-mortem,” a “premeditation of evils.” i.e. What are all the possible negative outcomes from this insane season – a season of pandemic, of continued police brutality against Black Americans, of economic instability, of political uncertainty, and now of raging natural disasters? The premeditatio malorum allowed me to mentally play out those scenarios to their extremes. Once those were laid out, it was time to “acknowledge the pain, but trod onward in your task,” as Ryan Holiday says in The Obstacle is the Way.

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So the tasks at hand this week:

Leaning into faith.

Hoping for the best but planning for the worst.

Acknowledging the pain but moving forward with what needs to get done.

Recognizing the strength to be found in every crisis, the strength to be gained in every struggle.

Loving our country enough to let it break our hearts.

Answering the highest calling of our hearts by standing up for what we truly believe.

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This week’s meditations are below.

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“You’re my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb. Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide […] I want to hide in you. I’ve put my life in your hands. You won’t drop me, you’ll never let me down.” (King David, a prayer from Psalm 31:3-5 MSG)

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Premeditatio malorum (the premeditation of evils): “Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation […] nor do all things turn out for him as he wished but as he reckoned—and above all he reckoned that something could block his plans.’” (A Stoic practice, writings by Senaca)

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“The Stoic maxim: sustine et abstine. Bear and forbear. Acknowledge the pain but trod onward in your task.” (Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way)

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“If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place.” (King Solomon of Israel, Proverbs 24:10 MSG)

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“If this country hasn’t broken your heart, you probably don’t love Her enough.” (Cory Booker, US Senator from New Jersey)

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“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe […] When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” (Rep. John Lewis, from his New York Times essay published posthumously on the day of his funeral)

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Hope something in these helps you or encourages you or empowers you as we finish out this week.

Meditations 8.21.20

As brownouts and wildfires add to an already tumultuous time.

Record heat leading to rolling brownouts.

Lightening storms leading to several large wildfires.

All in addition to COVID-19 fears and social-distancing protocols, stress about school logistics, continued fighting for civil rights, and our politics on edge with the upcoming election.

There’s a lot on our plates in August 2020.

These are the Meditations and Prayers I’ve been practicing this week, all from the Christian faith tradition that I’m a part of.

Hope you find something that is helpful for you in this tumultuous time.

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1.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, / When sorrows like sea billows roll / Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say / It is well, it is well, with my soul”

-The hymn “It Is Well” by Horacio Spafford, 1873

This hymn was written after two horrific events in the author’s life:

1) Losing his son and all his investments in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

2) Losing his four daughters in a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean in 1873.

To be able to still have faith amidst immense loss and grief is a great example to follow during these times.

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2.

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’”

-Jesus speaking in Matthew 11:28-29

We are weary and burdened as a community, as the fires have added yet another threat to our well-being. I’m thankful that Jesus invited people exactly like us into relationship with Him. He offers rest for our souls.

What a gift – rest – during these tumultuous times.

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3.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”

-King David of Israel, Psalms 46:1-2 NIV)

An ever-present help in trouble.

Our refuge and strength.

Therefore we will not fear.

Really applicable to these times.

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4.

“There’ll be another in the fire / Standing next to me / There’ll be another in the waters / Holding back the seas / And should I ever need reminding / How good You’ve been to me / I’ll count the joy come every battle / ‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be”

-“Another in the Fire,” Hillsong UNITED

God joins us in the fire.

He joins us in the pandemic.

He joins us as we balance work and our kids’ education.

He joins us in the battle for civil rights and the moral character of our government and country.

He is with us and for us.

He is here.

We have Him. And each other.

We are not alone in this.

Thoughts on Productivity

Introduction

I’ve been asked multiple times to speak on the keys to my productivity. These discussions allow me to speak on the practices that help shape my day in day out work. I’ve been fascinated with organizational productivity and efficiency since my early 20s, so I always enjoy the thinking and learning that come with preparing for a discussion on the topic.

I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned about the keys to productivity as a way of starting a DM/Text/Phone Call/FaceTime conversation with all of you – as I know many of you are better read than me on this topic and have your own best practices that you put to use in your work life. I would love to know what books, practices, and/or models you’ve put to use in your own work, so feel free to add those to the comments, or DM or text me.

My three keys to productivity are:

1. Have the self-awareness to know your strengths and weaknesses.

2. Efficient processes are essential.

3. Incorporate proven mindfulness practices into your work life.

Let’s jump in…

Have the Self-Awareness to Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

My first key to productivity is to have to have the self-awareness to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and to play to those strengths as much as you can. Through self-analysis, you can learn what you’re naturally good at (or what you have developed a strong proficiency in), and then you can use those strengths to your advantage. Regular self-analysis allows you to both lean into your strengths while also becoming keenly aware of your weaknesses. And then you can be honest with your team about both – using your strengths to better yourself and your team, while also relying on your team to excel in areas that you might not be as strong in.

For example: While I’m very good at connecting personally with my Clients, I know that I am more book smart than I am business smart (full disclosure: I’m the nerd on the team LOL). But my Sr. VP is very smart business-wise and has an extremely high social IQ. Because we know our strengths and weaknesses, and discuss them often, we’re able to leverage our individual strengths in tandem so that the service we provide to our Clients is of high quality while also being effective across a wide range of situations.

Efficient Processes are Essential

My second key to productivity is having smart, efficient processes in place. I try to have efficient processes in place for every facet of my job. Every interaction, every phone call, every email is unique, yes, but, if they operate in conjunction with smart processes, those processes provide much needed structure to the work day – and that structure allows for efficiencies to be gained with every step along the way.

Take basketball as an example of this: the game is a free-flowing game, with lots of room for creativity and unknowns in every possession – not unlike a work day. However, in basketball, there are processes/systems in place – designed by the coaching staff – that the players work within. The better the systems are, the more efficiently a talented team is able to operate offensively and defensively. To say it a different way: the ability to problem-solve amidst repetitive but unique situations is greatly aided by smart structures.

The same goes for the work day: the better your processes/systems are, the more efficiently you can handle the uniqueness of each business day, and the less you have to recreate the wheel amidst your every day grind. Efficient processes allow you to handle each unique situation – and be creative in your problem solving therein – while also keeping wasted time to a minimum.

Lastly, to use another basketball example for this subtopic, I would add a quote by John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Efficient processes are not about being fast or rushed. Mistakes happen when you rush. Quality suffers. You cut corners. All not good. But there is something to be said for being quick – meaning operating at a high level of quality while also moving with purpose and controlled speed. If you can tighten the screws on every one of your processes – that is, shaving 30 seconds off for one task here, or saving a minute for another task there – there will be big productivity adds over the course of your day, week, month, year, and career as all those efficiencies add up. But the goal is high quality and controlled speed, not rushing through a task to the detriment of your work.

Incorporating Proven Mindfulness Practices into Your Work Life

It might seem strange to talk about mindfulness as a key to productivity, but having researched and practiced mindfulness for the last 15 years, I can absolutely attest to its benefits. A mindfulness practice helps most practically with my relationship to stress, as I’m able to observe my stress objectively and put mental distance between my thoughts and my actions. Instead of my stress being in the driver’s seat of my actions, mindfulness trains my brain to rely on objectivity and logic rather than emotion. And that benefits my ability to interact with my Colleagues and Clients, it benefits my professional judgment on the myriad decisions I make each day, and has far-reaching benefits for my personal life.

I would add that numerous top-level performers have said mindfulness has been critical to their success:

Steve Jobs

Oprah

Michael Jordan

LeBron James

Derek Jeter

Kerri Walsh Jennings

Super Bowl winning NFL teams (ex. the 2014 Seattle Seahawks)

If mindfulness can help them, it can definitely benefit us in our daily grind.

Conclusion

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how these three keys to productivity relate to our current COVID crisis.

Firstly, self-awareness about strengths and weaknesses is paramount in this new normal, as COVID has taken the comfortability out of every day life and has forced us all to rethink our current roles and responsibilities. Regularly thinking through how we can lean into our strengths while also acknowledging our weaknesses can be cause for great flexibility and rapid improvement amidst our quickly-changing economic, financial, and personal landscapes.

Secondly, efficient processes are even more paramount in this COVID season because, to quote Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way, we can “replace fear with process.” Replacing productivity-blocking fear with smart, efficient processes allows us to stay productive amidst the uncertainty of this protracted pandemic.

Thirdly, mindfulness is a great tool in the toolbox to navigate stress – and I think all of us can agree that COVID has brought added stress to our lives. Whether it be work stress, financial stress, stress about getting exposed to COVID-19, relational stress, or stress about our kids’ schooling, a mindfulness practice can be a great helper in keeping us objective and logical as we juggle the myriad important decisions that need to be made every day.

So those are my thoughts. As I said, I know many of you are better read than I am on this topic, and probably have your own (better) thoughts and models on how to be productive in the workplace. I’d love to hear them – via comments, texts, DMs, phone calls, or FaceTimes. Looking forward to the conversation.

-KGC

Letter to a Friend: Keep. Going.

*Another in the series of “When text messages and FaceTimes become letters.”

Dear Friend,

I got your text, and I know there’s a lot going on right now – COVID, BLM, the business climate and constant financial instability, and school starting. And I totally identify with the mixed emotions you’re feeling:

– Tempered confidence about the economic recovery mixed with anxiety about school uncertainty and the continued spread of the virus.

– Thankfulness about the financial planning you did while the economy was booming, but now a healthy fear about how long those reserves will last as your business slowly recovers.

In all, I just wanted to write you today because I know that we all need encouragement at various points – me included. And Pastor’s message from today has got me thinking about how vital encouragement is, especially in a time like this.

To start, COVID: You’ve done an amazing job keeping your family safe as best you can. I absolutely understand that base level of stress that sits with you day in and day out as you try to navigate healthy, socially-distant choices while also acknowledging that life has to still be lived. You’re doing an amazing job in a really hard season – with yourself, with your family, with your neighbors and friends. Keep going.

BLM: I love that you continue to charge ahead with regard to Black Lives Matter. This was important to you long before our current events, and I’ve always loved that you’ve taken an action-oriented approach as best you can as a supplement to your reading and study. And I love our continued discussions on the topic. You continue to teach me how to personally address this topic, as well as how to teach my kids about the realities of systemic racism. Thanks for your leadership there. Keep going.

The Business Climate / Financial Instabilty: You did a great job saving while the economy was strong. You and I both talked extensively in 2018 and 2019 about how the booming economy was eventually going to turn negative – as all bull markets do. Yet, even though we knew some type of correction/recession was coming, nobody could have predicted COVID and its effect on the economy. But you did your best to save during the good times so that you could weather the downturn. So great job with that. But I also know that you’re concerned about whether or not your reserves will last long enough for your business/income to recover. That’s stressful, and I want you to know you’re not alone in that stress. I feel that same stress every moment of every day. It’s hard, for sure.

But know that you are not alone in your stress about finances. We’re a whole group of friends (and a whole nation, really) who’s finances have been battered and bruised by this pandemic. Keep going. Keep showing up every day at work, working your butt off, and trust that God will provide in this season. I know we’ve talked about how God doesn’t promise that we get to keep all our material possessions amidst hard times. What God does promise is that He’ll be with us in good times and bad, in times of plenty and in times of want – so take heart in that, and know that we will stick with you no matter how finances play out in this season. Again, just. keep. going.

Finally, School Starting: I totally hear you on the ups and downs of school. I know the district and school leadership teams are doing their best in a really, really tricky situation. And I know it’s super hard for you to plan for the school year with things changing seemingly every day. But I just want to encourage you that you’ve done your due diligence on this. You’ve done everything you can to set your kids and your family up for success this school year. But you (and me too!) have to give the rest to God – that means giving the logistics of our kids’ learning up to God, giving the safety of our kids up to God, and giving the logistics of juggling work with remote education up to God. You’ve done everything you can up to this point. Now it’s time to trust. And maybe even try to practice a bit of amor fati.

All said, I just want to tell you you’re doing a great job. You have a lot on your plate, but you are handling it all so well – as best you can. Just know you don’t have to be (nor will you be) perfect. But you’ve done a great job so far. Keep going.

-KGC

Meditations 8.7.20

Some meditations I’m practicing and praying on. Hope you find something in these meditations that resonates with you during this season.

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“Replace fear with process.” (Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way)

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“Give yourself the same grace with your anxiety that you would give to someone else.” (Kendra Zierau)

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“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time)

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“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (Jesus speaking in John 12:24, NIV)

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“Objective judgement. Unselfish action. Willing acceptance.” (Marcus Aurelius)

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“The rising of the sun had made everything look so different—all colors and shadows were changed—that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

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“Jesus was meant to be the guarantee that divinity can indeed reside within humanity.” (Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ)

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“‘Good intention’ is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me)

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“There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves. There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.” (Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning)

Books July 2020

I started the month with books focused on the BLM movement. All three don’t need my praise to stand squarely on their own. Profound, educational, sobering, action-inducing. Baldwin, Coates, and Kendi 💯

Then two children’s books to get me ready to return to my own book in August. Both were wonderful.

And finally some good theology. My first book by Richard Rohr, and he did not disappoint.

Reviews are in below. Hope you find a book that makes it on to your list!

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