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Work Life Play with Aaron McHugh Aaron McHugh

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 69 Ratings

Get the real stories of how entrepreneurs, artists, heretics, authors, liberators, athletes, and innovators pursue their ideas and aspirations.

From TED speakers, national broadcasters, New York Times best selling authors to Ultra-marathon runners and start-up CEO’s you’re guaranteed to be encouraged to swing for the fence in your own pursuits.

Accept my invitation to:
Do your best work
Live the life you want to live
Play a lot more

    A good story is not a straight line

    A good story is not a straight line

    Friends, today I wanna talk about how zigzag lines make for a better story. So, good story is not a straight line I heard a friend say just recently. And it really arrested my attention mostly because I wish it wasn't true. Intellectually I know this idea, like, it makes sense. Like when you listen to the arc of a story, the hero's journey, all of that is like, oh, of course, a hero wants something. They have to go through some challenge and obstacle to overcome, to become someone different, to then arrive at the other side and, [vocalization].
    However, living that is really challenging for us. I remember the reason this really hit home for me recently is decades ago in the beginning, I really wanted to be a mountain guide. And I was working in outdoor retail and was apprenticing as a guide under a guide service and just couldn't wait to be like, that was gonna be my career. And then I would be out exploring the rugged blank spots on the map. And really at the time I just had a lot of internal grapple when that didn't come to be.
    And, you know, I thought that if at the time if I went into the business world that I was somehow going to lose my friendship with the heart of God because for growing up, I didn't really know anyone in business. The only few that I did know were not necessarily inspiring humans. And so I thought that the mountains was gonna be the way that I could, you know, become the person I'm intended to be. So as my wife and I began to have kids and I got a full-time job selling radio advertising and, you know, home by 5 PM for dinner and bedtime stories, my outdoor life shrunk substantially. And really at the time, I remember just, not only were we having a great time, but internally I just felt like, well, I guess I kind of misread the' tea leaves' there and, you know, oh, here we go, this is the story that's in front of me right now.
    And so maybe you're like me, maybe you really just prefer an A plus B equals C plan. The one that's linear, it's sequential, has predictable outcomes and only straight lines. And if you're like me, then maybe my friend Jon Blase’s poem will help land this idea a little bit. He writes the same apparently. So he is talking about people with, you know, five-year plans, forged through life with a plan, a map they chart by bolder stars. I, on the other hand, wake to mild confusion, most days, not about the tiny aspects of self-respect, such as brushing my teeth and paying my bills, but more like the big things. Like my destiny, etc. Thanks, John. So for me, I'm not a celestial navigator either. But I do wake and this is I guess a path that I found to bring life. I do wake most days and start with radical surrender and asking God to accept the path that's in front of me for this day. There's a great writing by King David I'll add here too from Psalm 119, from The Message translation. And he says, "You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You're blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him. That's right you don't go off on your own. You walk straight along the road He sets." David White calls it the pale ground beneath our feet.
    So in this desire for straight unbroken lines, linear paths from A to B, and oftentimes just losing the path along the way of feeling like, well, I guess that was never to be, or I guess I misread the 'tea leaves', or I totally got that wrong and botched it, that'll never come to be. What I'm learning now, as I stare down age 50, that inclusive of all of my jagged lines, the cliff jumps, the plummets, the high places, unbroken lines as Wendell Berry writes, all have culminated in a story that I would love to tell you over a campfire sometime. That now here I am wholehearted, still friends with God. And now I'm finding myself accompanying clients in both the frontiers of business and wilderness settings.
    My conclusion is I've been led. So my invitation to you today, friends, is embrace

    • 6 min
    The Integrity of Yes and NO

    The Integrity of Yes and NO

    Friends, I've been thinking. I've been thinking about the slippery slope, the slippery slope of...as humans, as leaders, we find ourselves in a place progressively over time far from where we intended to be or accidentally just waking up one day and finding that we're in a place that no longer looks familiar or is no longer desirable. I've found myself on that slope many time. I just had a conversation with a friend this morning, and he was stating, after a year of really intentional work and changes in family, moved into a new home, found himself in a place of work rhythms, lifestyle rhythms that were unfamiliar and undesirable. Really not a place, like, "Why am I doing this? How did I get here?" And it's really helpful to know and have the awareness to start with. "Huh. This isn't working." Paying attention...what I talk about often is the dashboard lights of your life, and they start going off.
    For me, sometimes it happens in sleep where I notice, boy, I'm sure up a lot at 1 to 2:30 in the morning with lists of unfinished things in my head. Or, boy, I really notice that I'm way less patient than I wanna be, or I really notice that I'm finding the Zoom world of constantly switching of 30-minute or 60-minute blocks and the mental fatigue that that requires. I was just reading a book from Cal Newport on Deep Work, and he talked about how the mental...basically IQ points go down through the day from the progressive switching between topic and between task. That we actually become dumber effectively is what it means.
    So what do we do? What do we do when we find ourselves in a place where it isn't where we started, it's not where we intended to be, or, simply, where we want to be or what we want to be experiencing is something different than what we currently are. And I believe it usually, like, begins with two vocabulary words. One is starting to say yes to different things and say no to others. And those two words, yes and no, pulling those out, looking at those, one in our left hand, one in our right, and deciding, "Okay, now what are the mends and adjustments and trades I can make?" For myself, I notice this constant gravitational pull to say yes to more client work, to say yes to the next opportunity, to say yes to that next small thing.
    My wife was in a training program, and they called 'em, "The big things that you put in a bowl are oranges. The small things you put in a bowl are Skittles." And it's much easier to have a bowl that you start with oranges in than it is to start with a bowl, fill it full of Skittles, and then try and shove the oranges in. And oranges being figurative for the things, the big, juicier, meatier, chunkier pieces of your commitments, your yeses and then moving into, then, adding the small bits around those big blocks. So for me, personally, I find it really fatiguing when I end up with a bowl full of Skittles of just tons of little bitty penny ante small things I'm doing. And for me, as I learn to lead myself, learn to lead others, the impact I seek to create has to do with fewer yeses to Skittles, more no to those small little things, and stronger...my friend called them "straight spine" and "open heart" yeses, where the oranges are easier to place in, so that I don't find myself on down the road fatigued and surprised of the results of the impact of my experience of my work and my life and, in the end, finding myself on the slippery slope in some place I don't intend to be or choose not to be.
    So start with a yes. Figure out where those yeses need to be invested fully, and then where are some of the noes. I just, before recording this episode, said no to two separate invitations, so that I can keep the integrity of the yeses that I'd formally already committed to. You can do this, friends.
    Keep going. This is good for you.
    Aaron

    • 6 min
    To Be Lists

    To Be Lists

    Friends, this is Aaron. And I've been thinking. I've been thinking about to-do lists versus to-be lists. One of my mentors these last few years introduced me to the idea of a to-be list. I really shook my head at first. Like you mean like to be, as in like to be and to not be? What do you mean, to be? Well, she went on to talk about how each of us have, like, a to-do list, you know, shit-we've-got-to-get-done list, things that we want to make a difference in, things we need to accomplish, deadlines, timelines, deliverables. Great. But have we ever, have I, have you ever stopped to start with a daily to-be list? I kid you not, I remember months ago, I wrote down in the morning my to-be list. I wanna be patient, I wanna be open, I wanna be a non-reactive presence.
    And within 2 hours, maybe it was 60 minutes, it was short, I found myself with a client live and the client on the other end of Zoom, we were in a breakout room and we were doing this game, I pushed on the wrong tile button on this maze experience that we were doing, and it was my error, but the client really got animated. We came back into the big breakout room and the client in a tile full of Brady Bunch people of a hundred, said, "I blame you." And I thought, oh my, okay, here we go. Thank goodness I have a to-be list because I want to be a non-reactive presence. I had an opportunity to practice that, and if it wasn't for my to-be list of the day, then I wouldn't have had that orientation already in my operating system around who do I wanna be, how do I want to be today.
    My list for today, I want to be a mountaineer, I want to be a reader, I want to be a lover, a brother, a deep creator, I want to be a runner, an artist. What will I do with these today? Only time will tell. Very helpful to accompany my to-do list, who I want to be, and how I want to be. Friends, you can do this.
    Keep going. This is good for you.
    Aaron

    • 3 min
    Ten years of living forward

    Ten years of living forward

    Today I want to share something more intimate with you about pain and living forward. Earlier this year, my family and I we honored the 10-year anniversary of our daughter Hadley's passing and her death in 2011. And I found myself for a couple months, just feeling the... I don't even know if weight is the right word, but just the honoring of the reality of learning to live each of us individually and collectively as a family how to live forward. How to actually move forward. And it's definitely become easier by the year but doesn't mean the the pain or the loss is not there.
    It's just a new way of learning to live holding both joy and pain at the same time. So I wanna share with you a poem that I wrote. Her birthday is upcoming.
    This month I always tend to be reflective as well. And our holiday seasons are always bookended by her birthday and then her anniversary of her passing. I'll share the poem with you now and then reflect on it a little bit with you, 10 years living forward,  
    "Ten rings later in the oak tree. Ten rings later and the oak tree. Radius etchings tell the truth of living forward. Closer to fine. Empty bedroom, not to dinner. Quiet, deafening, disappearance. No search party assembled. Empty wheelchair affixed for helium flight. Unconvincing logic to limbic smells and sounds. Was that her shadow? Her cry? Hair clippers to mourn the reminder of not fine. Staggering, limping, walking, living again, rings seared chronicles of summers laughing. Winters ruminating, springs living. All the roots go deeper when it's dry."
    So as I reflect back on her death in passing, I envision this trees aging rings, a cross section of a log. And as you see like in the rings, each annual etching tells a different story. Some are like thick with growth. In a tree, it's like, "Oh wow, there must have been a lot of rain that year, was lots of moisture, easy for that tree to grow." Others are really thin, very small amount of growth, but the tree is still standing. And as I began to reflect on that as her passing, no search party assembled, she was missing at dinner. Her bedroom was empty. But we knew why. In our mind. But our soul and our body didn't. Our limbic brain, the part of our brain that stores meaning, and sense, and smell aroused by someone's presence. I remember just being haunted by that for years, "Oh, it sounded like her. Oh, that's not her. Was that her cry? No."
    And in the honoring of her passing, I had read a passage in the book of Job. And when Job's children had died, so many tragedies had become him. But it was the last straw when the house collapsed on all of his children. And the two things he did was he shaved his head and worship God. I remember having my kids, Averi and Holden, shave my head with me. And I wore my hair clipper down to skin for a year, just to remind myself, I'm not fine, and that's okay, but have a visceral reminder.
    I would go to touch my head in the morning and it would have these, you know, scaly bumps from no hair, or I'd be cold, or I looked not attractive in the mirror. But all of those were reminders. That's okay. I'm not supposed to be fine. And then as we progressed, moving through summers laughing, winters ruminating, and springs living, moving from staggering and limping to walking to living again, and all the roots go deeper when it's dry.
    So, friends, like you, I've lived long enough to know to live authentically, to become wholehearted requires us to embrace our humanities spectrum, and remind our souls that God is with us and for us, even when, even when. Friends, you can do this. It's worth it. You're worth it.
    Keep going,
    Aaron
     

    • 7 min
    Pierce the veneer of outside things

    Pierce the veneer of outside things

    Friends, today what's on my mind is piercing the veneer of outside things. Ernest Shackleton, infamous Antarctic explorer, at the turn of the century, the 19th century, did this expedition in Antarctica. His men famously were trapped in the sea ice over 23 months, they found their way back home, each of them living. And in his memoirs, he wrote called "South,“ I'll share with you, two sentences. "We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had reached the naked soul of men."
    I find this particular piece, the veneer, this... I remember in shop class as a kid in high school adding like a coating of veneer, a lacquer on top of whatever it was, we were creating. So veneer can be like a barrier, right? It could be thin, could be thick, could be many-layered, but how do we pierce the veneer of outside things? And I find often in our world that we live in, this modern world, the veneer of outside things exist in polished half-truths, phrases that I don't love like, "Oh, how you doing?" "Oh, I'm great. So busy, so busy," we say. Operating at 7,000 RPMs, drop the merit badge of busy and pierce the veneer. Real connection, real belonging, real community exists in the deeper textures. It's not on your phone. It's not on the flip. It's not in busy. Be whole, be intentional, be on purpose, reach the naked soul.
    You can do this, friends. This is good for you.
    Let's keep going,
    Aaron

    • 2 min
    Dream bigger dreams

    Dream bigger dreams

    Friends, I've been thinking, I've been thinking about dreaming bigger dreams. A friend of mine sent me a poem in the mail, a prayer over the summer. I've kept, keep going back and rereading these lines. And it reads, "Disturb me, Lord, when I am too well, pleased with myself, when my dreams have come true, because I have dreamed too little." So as I asked myself and wonder about these lines, what are my new dreams? Not the old, the vintage ones of yesteryear. What are the bashful whispers? The ones too big to say out loud. What if we whispered them with intuition? With heart, without knowing how? What if we speak it into the reality of the world as our prayer? We take it as a cue of the opening line of, "Disturb me Lord, when I am too well, pleased with myself, when my dreams have come true, because I have dreamed too little." Friends, danger is calling, danger is for good. Speak those dreams, those whispers, and let's begin to live into the questions of how might we bring bigger dreams to life?
    Friends, this is good for us. You can do this. It's worth it.
    Keep going,
    Aaron

    • 2 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
69 Ratings

69 Ratings

malfoxley ,

Great show!

Aaron, host of the podcast, highlights all aspects of how people purpose the passions and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!

JoshCrist ,

Empowering, insightful and actionable! 🔥

Whether you’re well established as someone who can translate creative energy into the impact you want to have on the world, or just getting started as a catalyst for change - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Aaron does an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of building a thriving enterprise and life you can be proud of - from leaders who’ve actually walked the path. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!

youniversalife ,

Life Giving

Aaron has created an excellent show that shines a light on many life-giving topics. He recognizes the importance of play and puts it into perspective. His content is inspiring and makes you wonder about your true capabilities. I'm glad I discovered his material. Keep going Aaron!

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