The unexpected joys of insomnia

I don’t get enough sleep. I know that. There are several reasons for that, none of them easily remedied, but there is one fringe benefit to it: I’m learning a lot.

Around 3:00am, my body decides it would prefer to get up, move around, drink water, and stare out at the Moon (and lately, Mars). When I can coax it into laying back down, I try to keep it entertained by listening to podcasts.

Generally, the podcasts in my playlist relate in some way to storytelling, doing work that matters, taking better care of our hard-working bodies and minds, or having a balanced and meaningful life. Good Life Project, Sounds True, The Minimalists, The Moth, Caffeine for the Soul, The Urban Monk… All have populated the pre-dawn hours of my life recently.

Here’s something fun that happens, though. My “other brain” is still listening even after I’ve fallen asleep, and it’s paying close attention.

Invariably, I’ll wake up again “for good” at 6:00 am, with one earbud still plugged into one ear, my iPod wedged in my armpit, and the podcast long finished. But I’ll remember very clearly something I heard while I was sound asleep. I stumble to my desk, grab the nearest pen-like object, and write a few words down that allow me to go back and find it again (there’s a special place in heaven for podcasts with transcripts…)  At the very least, it’s good food for thought, and at its best, it’s the answer to a perplexing question I’d been carrying in my heart.

It happened on Tuesday. And I’ve never shared this with anyone before, but I wanted to share today’s with you. It’s a little magical.

I woke and scribbled down a line from Alisoun Mackenzie’s wonderful “Give to Profit Podcast” in which she explores how to use our work and our businesses as “an opportunity to be kind.” I could remember something beautiful, so I went hunting for it and eventually found it:

“I didn’t have the time to keep my charitable giving separate from my business. So I brought my desire to make a difference in the world into the heart of my business.”


I’d been thinking about the mindset that many good people are attached to, the one that goes like this: “I need to make a lot of money with my business so I can support the causes and charities that matter to me. Once I’m bigger and have tons of cash, I’ll finally be able to give to those causes/volunteer more/change the world.”

Is that true? Do we have to wait?

Isn’t that something like, “I’ll be a nice person just as soon as my life is better”?

“I’ll stop patronizing that awful local business just as soon as a new one starts up”?

“My job tires me out too much to look for another job”?

What lies at the heart of your business? What can you be doing now with the work you already do, that doesn’t require any special income level, any special success metrics? How can you shape your business to be an engine for good – AND a livelihood that supports you?

Alisoun’s podcast is just brilliant, by the way:

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