I’m in a murderous mood: kill off the old me to find a new me

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My Grade 13 English teacher, Mr. Hillen, was the first one to call me a writer to my face. I brushed him off. Then I spent the next 30 years of my life doing stuff I’m not sure I should’ve been doing. Every chance he gets, a friend needles me about that: “It’s amazing how good we can become doing things we don’t like doing.”

Scan the story of my life in seconds.

No complaints, though. Born in Montreal, grew up in Toronto, now living in St. Paul, MN, I’ve made a living…


"Use index pages from the Sears catalog." Imagine a top govt. official telling us to do that a few months ago? ;-) Great perspectives, thank you! Still right on a year in. Funny, I always saw TP hoarding as another example of how we go to any lengths to reactively rein in, wall off and live in a smug complacency believing we have it all under control. Admitting we're at the mercy of a new threat, being honest about our real weaknesses, thinking of others, checking our true motivations and actions? Well, apparently that's harder than a quick trip to a big box to stand in line for hours to purchase a grocery-cart full of TP. Thanks again Elaine! Sears' catalogue index pages is my new reminder I have other options ;-)


How I’d use sports tech to sweeten the sounds & voices in my head

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Photo by Shutterstock and John Nielson

“He shoots! He scores!” Goal-horn blasts. The crowd goes wild. The horn blares. Arena rocks. Stoked players on the ice hug, hop, holler, and spit at each other, celebrating the goal, “Fuck ya!”

Hockey’s back. The NHL is into regular-season play with no fans in the stands, of course. But I’ve been impressed: the boys in the production truck are doing an awesome job piping in synthetic audio — a suite of crowd noises and sound effects (SFX) — masterfully mixed to give viewers the sense of a pro hockey rink packed to the gills with 20,000 rabid fans.

Time to fill the empty seats in my mind.

I’m…


Three quirky ways I get through choppy, career waters as a change expert

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hethePhoto by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Who cares if I’m an experienced change leader? These days can bring us to our knees in a heartbeat. I’m as anxious as anyone about where I sit today and where I might land tomorrow. I’ve worked at five companies in the past three years, spinning on a carousel of constantly changing project assignments — eight at last count.

Before that, I co-owned a change management and marketing company for 15 years, called Frank. At the heart of our success with Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike was the core belief that frank conversations are critical in the heat of…


Twisted times call for twisted inspiration, right?

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Photo by Ianja Mbola from Pexels

I’m cleaning out my basement, and there it is, our family’s beloved footbath. It had been missing in action for years since my daughters and I would pass it around after long days hiking the Minnesota State Fair. Dusty. Lopsided. A little crusty. “Donate it,” was my first instinct. “No friggin’ way!” screamed a loud voice from within. So I brushed it off and saved it for a special occasion. Little did I know it’d save my life on a soul-sucking conference call for work.

Screw cute Zoom backgrounds: I prefer piping hot footbaths.

Guys wear their gitchies on conference calls. People have Zoom-background wars to survive long, boring…


What it taught me about unclogging my life.

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Photo by John Nielson

I’m not stupid. Just a dense dude who’s super lazy at times.

So what if the fine print on the packaging of my lint screen clearly states, “CAUTION: Failure to frequently replace lint filter can lead to serious damage of washing appliance, burst water pipes, and excessive flooding in your washing area.” I read it. Ignored it. Paid dearly for it.

The warning signs were obvious.

I knew my 99-cent mesh screen was seriously clogged with pounds of gross gunk from weeks of washing. It was an easy fix: Change the damn thing! But hey, I was on a work call. Give me a break. I had to focus.

It’s true. I did hear the water surging…


COVID can’t crush my craving for Canada’s beloved meal

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Photo by John Nielson

Name: John Nielson

Age: 57
Occupation: Organizational change leader
Location: Saint Paul, MN

No. of days in quarantine: 108
Quarantine happy hour drink of choice: Molson Canadian beer
Ideal quarantine partner (real or imagined): Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys
Most ambitious cooking project attempted: Lobster Poutine

I remember it well. March 12th, 2020. Early in the day, we were pre-gaming the Las Vegas Knights @ Minnesota Wild contest we planned to attend with pals who had invited us to their suite. Awesome. Until the NHL canceled the season that afternoon. I was pissed. Stuck at home. No sports. No friends. …


My personal awakening at 38th Street & Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis

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Photo by John Nielson

I finished my toasty, Thomas muffin smeared with fresh guac, a thick slice of Canadian bacon, plump tomatoes, and overflowing sprouts shipped to my Whole Foods from a quaint farm in northern Minnesota. Then I headed to 38th Street & Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis: the intersection where George Floyd was murdered.


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Photo Courtesy of John Nielson

“You’re feeling it now, fish,” he said. “And so, God knows, am I.”

I’m in a hell of a battle myself. Cornered by COVID. No control over the situation. At sea with so much uncertainty. Nauseous from the same ol’, same ol’ daily routine. Dizzy from squinting behind TV talking heads to see what novels they have on their bookshelves. (At least that’s what I do.)

Clearly, I needed new ideas to stay steady, healthy, and productive.

I turned to a classic, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea. It’s a legendary Man vs. Nature conflict. …


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Photo Courtesy of John Nielson (Sorry!)

Wait. Is that my feet? Ewww. When was the last time I used pit spray? Yuk. I really need to brush my teeth. Gross.

Yes, I’ll take an extra-long shower today and scrub behind my ears like mom always said to.

There’s another stench I need to get rid of: stinky thinking.

Another work week alone in the basement is complete. Along with spiders that unknowingly dropped onto me, I fear many poisonous thoughts also crept into my head.

You too? Be honest. Take a whiff around you. Icky questions and existential concerns plaguing you during isolation?

Here are five I wreak of today.

“I gained 20 pounds, at least.”

Merciless, mirrored closet doors next to my…

John Nielson

BUBIA! BUBIA! Be Unreasonable. Be In Action. Live, laugh, share it all with humility & hilarity. Join me at https://www.jmnielson.com

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