This is the Way the World Begins….Not with a Bang

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Part 1 – Pre In Person Conference Thoughts

And so it begins, not with a bang, but with a whisper. Yes, I know the T.S. Eliot quote is “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper” but like so many Agile Best Self things, I want to reframe a famous idea or quote.

I am getting ready to go to a conference. IN PERSON. Gasp! To put this in context for readers, I left my house about once a week in 2020. I haven’t seen Brian, my Agile Best Self co-creator, in person in over 14 months. It is May 2021, and I still only leave my house about twice a week. Even though I’ve had both Moderna vaccine doses, I kind of like staying home.

I knew this day would come. The day I get to decide intentionally which social events I attend, which I skip. The day I get to test my new mindset and only do things that energize me and make me happy.

It is not going well. My laptop has a fine layer of dust on the outer cover. Nothing disgusting, just a gentle reminder that I had pushed it to the back of my desk about a year ago, and it disappeared under the standing desk I use for my work laptop. And now, seconds after I started it up for the first time in a year, I have to restart it to install new updates – for about 30 minutes. Arggggh. I had to replace the batteries in my remote control.

This is an inflection point, and important turning point. As we all decide what we want our new realities to be, there are dozens of decisions we have to make. What do I want to keep from my pandemic life? These are the habits I want to keep:

  • Morning walks
  • Dance parties of one (three if you count the dogs). Perfect for waking up, cooking, cleaning, fixing things, etc.
  • Building out my garden
  • Being 99% vegan
  • Connecting with friends all over the world
  • Digging into the neuroscience of change and health
  • Getting rid of non-essential things in my life

These are the new habits I want to build:

  • A productive and satisfying office / home office balance
  • Going out to restaurants
  • Being intentional about taking ‘me time’ when I need it
  • Connecting with old friends – especially those I drifted from when I was married
  • Traveling to meet my new friends – those that I used to see once or twice a year at conferences and are now my epic 2 hour long phone chat friends

Part 2: Post-Conference Musings

Back to the conference. It was surprisingly easy to go to a small, in person conference of less than 80 people in a large conference hall. Some people wore masks, some didn’t. All were respected. The comradery in the room was palpable.

Half way through the day, many of us had removed masks and were chatting with the other attendees. I could feel the pull of pre-pandemic habits. At conferences, for me, that involves hugging old friends and getting into interesting conversations with people I don’t know. I was glad that many choose to remain masked, because that was a reminder to me that COVID is still out there. We are not merely coming back from a vacation, weighing a few extra pounds, great stories and weird tan lines.

I get the double whammy of going through a rather highly socially-isolated pandemic at the same time I rebuilt my own personal life. I’m not complaining; just noting it has been an interesting and sometimes disorienting process. Anyone who has split up from a long term partner knows that many old habits are held in place by that relationship, not necessarily by an individual’s need. And that is ok. It was just surprised to learn how many decisions I automatically ran through the filter of: “what will my partner need/want/think”. And based on conversations with friends of mine who have ended long term relationships, we’ve all gone through this.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to readers that I use these Agile Best Self posts to organize my thoughts and think through things. Usually, this is where I can insert an Agile Best Self principle to tie my situation back to our overall mindset framework. Today I’m having a little trouble making clean lines. So I’m going to mash them all together.

In order to be my best self (being a connector and a catalyst), I’m committing to double dip into curiosity and investing in myself via daily healthy habits. Those habits include engaging my trusted circle and science to create a motivating, supportive environment; being mindful and intentional – especially around doing what energizes me and helps me “be” more instead of “doing” more. To keep it all going, I’m going to keep weaving in the principles and share what I learn through the overall alignment process.

As I put each principle puzzle piece together with the others, an amazing image is emerging. It is frequently astounding how much Agile Best Self has impacted my life. Compared to 2018 when Brian and I met, my life has changed for the better in almost every possible way. I’m a better parent; my job is more gratifying; my personal relationships are better. And I wasn’t starting from zero. Things were already going well on most fronts. Most significantly, I’ve been able to embrace optimism and build emotional resilience in a way I did not know was possible. Looking outward, as Brian and I continue to inspect and adapt, we have created podcasts, new tools (aka: the Intention Canvas) and have over 6700 views in 75 countries. More importantly, more and more people are sharing that our principles and mindset are having a positive impact on their lives.

I’d welcome any stories about how you have used our work to improve your life or cut through the chatter! What new mindset at your creating? What new results are you seeing?

Copyright © 2021 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Letter to My Younger Self

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Just by calling this a “letter” to my younger self, I’m dating myself. It makes me wonder how my teenager would frame this concept. A tiktok video to his younger self??? A Discord message? Who knows. The medium changes, but the overall intent stays the same. The overall intent is essentially to help your younger self learn from your more experienced self.

Dear Michaele,

It is the year 2008. You are in your mid 30s, with a toddler and a busy life. Right now, you are just trying to make it through the day, and maybe get 6 hours of sleep a night. Right now, you are rushing from thing to thing, overscheduled and overtired. You like what you do, you like your coworkers and you think you are at a good spot in life – when you have 5 minutes a week to sit and reflect.

Right now, when you hear people “I love my job!” You think they are bananas. Or maybe just a bit daft. Or perhaps just being polite and choosing not to share the nitty gritty details of a job they don’t care for.

You can’t even imagine fully backing that statement: “I love my job!” Because you see it as a binary statement, all or nothing, on or off.


Today is it March 3, 2021. Both of my jobs are 100% remote (you are still teaching and working full time – not a surprise, I’m sure) . There is this thing called Zoom that we all love and hate. There was a global pandemic in 2009 and another kicked off in 2019. The first one didn’t impact us much, the second has changed the world. How? You ask. We don’t know yet. A large portion of the world is still working from home – if they still have a job. This has been going on for over a year. At one time, restaurants, gyms, and hair salons were shut down. No, I am not making things up. I wear a face mask when I go out in public once or twice a week.

On the flip side, I use Zoom to talk to my friends across the word on a regular basis. Last week I was chatting with friends in Berlin. This morning, I had coffee at 8 am while recording a podcast with Arie Van Bennekum from the Netherlands. The biggest issue I have now is translating time zones as I log into meetings with people from Washington DC to San Francisco to Singapore.

Our country is still struggling with equity and inclusion. I’m not getting into the details, because it is too upsetting. Suffice to say that America did not learn from the Rodney King incident. Parts of Uptown were destroyed due to peaceful protests that turned into race riots in Minneapolis. The tragic event that sparked the Minneapolis riots also led to global protests. Yes, global.

On the work front, Agile has become a thing beyond just XP developers working with customers. CIOs are talking about Agile. Yes, really!

That toddler is now learning to drive. That still scares the stuffing out me, so I won’t mention it much here. I’m waiting for that letter from myself (our self) from 2030 to arrive and tell me the “having a teenager driving” situation cost. Not just the insurance, but also the damage to multiple cars.

So now to this moment, You/I woke up this morning an hour early thinking: “I love my job!”.

What??? You say… How could I turn into one of those people?

First, you have learned the loving something doesn’t mean you are “in love with it” all the time. Refer to the aforementioned teenager. Unconditional love allows you to weather the ups and downs, and focus on the good when the frustrations surface.

Second, you have learned that life has magic moments, but none of them are permanent. Value them. Live in the moment, because the good, bad and ugly will pass. You still live in the same house and have 2 dogs, but they are not the same dogs and you are no longer married.

Third, you have learned that you are happy and engaged when you are helping connect people to people, people to ideas and ideas to ideas. Keep doing that and find a trusted circle and a larger like-hearted community so that you can keep connecting and growing.

Fourth, you have stopped carrying the load for those around you.

Most importantly, you have distilled your learnings and hopes into a framework that can help others create a resilient mindset and approach to life.

Was it easy? No.

Am I “there yet”? No.

Am I happy? Mostly. But it is ok to not be happy every second of every day. Sometimes I take a moment to feel what I need to feel. I don’t force the emotions. Instead I listen to myself.

Do I love my job? Most of the time.

Do I love my job today? My Agile Best Self job? HELL YES! And that is what prompted me to write this. To give you some hope, some clarity and some possibility.

MIchaele – Agile Best Self Co-Creator, March 2021
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