Archive for May, 2012

the luckiest cowboy

05/24/2012

“I’m the luckiest cowboy ever.” Truer words are rarely spoken.funny cowboy

Not a cowboy? Not a problem. Insert [woman] or [man] or [girl] or [boy] in its place and you’d still be spot on.

We get so caught up in the melodrama of daily life, in all the petty ups and downs, it’s like riding an emotional roller coaster.

And we never look out to see the view.

the lessons of skidboot

The whole world can learn powerful lessons from said cowboy, David Hartwig, and his dog Skidboot.

If you’re too lazy to watch the video (your loss), the one-liner that inspired this blog post was when David said, “Life is too precious to be upset.”

how to appreciate life

Think about it this way: in all the history of the world, in all the people that have ever breathed a breath on this earth, those of us alive right now make up the most minute percentage. Sounds obvious, but that’s the point. It’s so obvious how appreciative we should be for the simple fact that we’re breathing breath, and that’s likely why we miss it. The things that are right in front of us are sometimes the hardest to see.

For all those that came before, here are some things they can no longer do (that you can do):

  • Laugh at a joke
  • Smell a rose
  • See mountains
  • Build a snowman
  • Watch a solar eclipse
  • Feel the rain on their skin
  • Smell the rain
  • Dream
  • Listen to music
  • Orgasm

The simple pleasures in life are too often overlooked, even by those hypocrites who host blogs telling you to notice them.

And the simple pleasures are not the nice things you buy at IKEA or Amazon or the car dealership. David appears to be a minimalist at heart, when he says, “He’s brought more joy into my life and lots of people’s lives, than all kinds of TV and fine cars and motor boats.”

Less stuff = more clarity about what matters = living a more meaningful life.

But the cowboy knows he hasn’t figured it all out. However, he’s content with that because he found love. Even if it was for a soulless canine ­čÖé

And David leaves us with his final words of wisdom: “The theme is the question, not the answer.”

Think about it.

Then punch yourself in the face.

running and intuition

05/18/2012

Running is like sex. If it doesn’t happen at least once a week, we feel like something is missing. Sunday comes around, we look back on the week and think, “Shit, what did I forget to do…?”

There’s a certain mental calm that takes over in the latter half of a good session (now we’re onto running here, people). Fatigue takes over and it’s all you can do to maintain proper form. And when this happens, when your lungs feel ready to burst and your legs feel like they have ankle weights wrapped around them, something strange happens.

Bliss supersedes the misery.

no mind

How often do we find ourselves governed by the mental chatter abound in our brains? How often do we lose perspective because our emotional status is based upon the last imaginary scene we staged? Our minds have a terrible tendency to distract us from everything the world has to offer. It keeps us from doing our best work. And from fighting our best samurai sword fights.

How many times have you been reading a book and gotten halfway down the page, only to realize you have no idea what you  just read? Or driven a car some place and not remembered anything about the car ride?

This is sad.┬áRunning makes me less sad. Here’s why:

I did a four-miler last Monday. Not crazy high mileage, but for getting back onto the running scene I was content with it. But the last half mile I hit a wall (see second paragraph above).

When this happens, a meditative exercise I try to do is to eliminate thought. Because at this point my mind is my arch enemy. It will tell me that it’s not a big deal if I stop. I mean come on, you did 3.5 miles already! That’s pretty good, right? No one’s watching . . . no one will judge . . . you can walk the rest of the way as your cool down and save some time . . . better to start sweating like a beast now than right when you walk into your house . . . you’ll do better tomorrow . . . you already ran some miles this week! What’s the big deal?

Hence, the elimination of thought. And funny things happen when your mind stills and your body is worn out. When you hit what you imagine is rock bottom.

intuition

That last half mile gave me some of my best ideas for my current project. By focusing on not focusing on anything, I’m focusing on one thing. Silence. And silence is a beautiful thing.

Because what you hear in the silence, what crops up in the void, is unfettered and uncorrupted. It’s intuition.

Nobody talks about intuition in the real world. On the job, it’s hard to tell your boss you should do something based on a hunch. They want statistics. They want the ROI. They want to be reassured that they’re not paying you for just having fun. Great Scott! Never that!

The theory of intuition is not new. It’s been embodied in the third eye, in various forms of God, in a (supposed) small deposit of metal at the tip of a man’s nose. The only trouble is so few people spend time developing this intuition. Instead of getting down to the bare bones of what makes us human, we immerse ourselves in pleasant distractions, in browsing our Facebook feeds, in watching the Kardashians, in Modern Warfare 3. We set ourselves within walls of vinyl and atop finished wooden floorboards and think ourselves wise. We cease experiencing lives for ourselves, letting the mental chatter rage on unchecked.

Running, and many other forms of exercise, can help us re-establish that connection with our intuition. Can help us to slow our minds and take a look around.

And in a world gone so awry, the last thing we want to do is lose perspective.

motivational mondays – how bad do you want it?

05/07/2012

Life is a series of ebbs and flows. When tides rise, they fall somewhere else. When tides fall . . . well, you get it.

It can be easy to become complacent with our lot in life. Too easy, it seems, to simply roll with the tide. We get up. We go to work. We come home. We pursue pleasant distractions that enliven or deaden us (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference). We go to sleep.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Push that button, flick that switch, and we’re in cruise control. Doing the same thing interminably, hovering in second gear, barely aware of the tide or potential eddies we get stuck in.

paddle hard

Enough with the analogies. Time for jeffspeak:

Life’s fucking hard. Plain and simple. If it’s not hard, we’re not doing something right. “…that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

I’ve fallen into the complacency trap so many times I’m embarrassed to even try counting. I don’t feel like doing or learning anything and the last thing I want to do is become self-motivated. I succumb to the overwhelming influence of Steven Pressfield’s Resistance.

Life’s constant challenges can continually confound us. But somehow, some way, we have to find a way to crawl out of these slumps. Sometimes it’s our own indomitable will (of which I tend to sorely lack). Sometimes it’s someone else telling us to wake the hell up. And sometimes it’s the offhand comment, the chance-read web article, seeing someone do something selfless, a good book, or any number of minute instances of incidental inspiration. Any number of things can pull us out of that swirling eddy and toss us back on the path we know to be right and true.

One of my mentors continually tells me that one of the only things worth living for is seeking constant improvement of yourself. Seek knowledge, seek health, seek humility, seek open-mindedness, seek love. Find answers. Find more questions. Continue improving.

So this begs the question: is there a way we can quit relying on outside sources and incidental inspiration and find a way to continuously do work we love?

seek self-discipline

This, I believe, is the hardest of all the things we seek, and is the ultimate answer to that question.

For three years I showed up every day to a 9-5 job, shirt tucked in, tie in a half-windsor with a smile painted on my face. For three years I cashed a decent paycheck twice a month, then wasted it on alcohol and entertainment. For three years I kept telling myself I would become a full-time writer some day. But I lacked the one thing that would enable me to do it: self-discipline.

Is self-discipline showing up every day to a job we aren’t passionate about? Is self-discipline doing work we don’t love for a cause we don’t buy into? For some, maybe – especially if you have others to support. But for me, in my position – and I know for many people who read this – no, that is not self-discipline. Subjugating dreams with job security because the former is too difficult is not self-discipline. It’s an excuse. And I did it for years.

Self-discipline is overriding those doubts. Is taking risks in the pursuit of passion, of dreams. Is not listening to that devil on our shoulder telling us we’re not good enough.

Self-discipline is dedicating our precious time to pursuing the life we want to live.

And the one question you really have to ask yourself is this: how bad do you want it?

the minimalists were here

05/03/2012
Minimalist meetup in Cleveland

Josh and Ryan talking to 30 Clevelanders about minimalism – sorry about the glare!

Last night Cleveland was visited by two intriguing men. They spoke to a room of 30 open-minded people at Deagan’s in Lakewood, telling their stories and answering questions about how to live a minimalist lifestyle. They told us how they quit their six-figure jobs and got rid of all their stuff, effectively becoming the nationally renown minimalists they are today. Bear in mind the over-simplification for the sake of brevity.

But really, that’s not what they’re about. It’s not about living with less stuff. That’s the path. It’s about living a more fulfilling, meaningful life, about being happier and being able to assess the true value of things. It’s about sifting through all the shit to find the gold that lies beneath.

They call themselves The Minimalists, and they just might be onto something.

what is minimalism?

Minimalism does require some explaining for the uninitiated, considering the term has only been around for roughly 100 years. In the overall scheme of language, this is a very young word. The term has been used to describe a bevy of concepts, from art to design to architecture, and to (most recently) minimalist running. So what is it that The Minimalists do differently?

Simply: they’re redefining the word. If Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for their definition of minimalism yet, they will soon.

Minimalism, so much as Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, our Minimalists, define it, is living a more meaningful life with less stuff. It’s trimming the fat. It’s separating the wheat from the chaff. It’s learning to find the true value of things.

my dabble with minimalism

I like to think I have always been a minimalist at heart, so when I stumbled upon Josh and Ryan’s page via a Zen Habits guest blog post, I was hooked. Since I was 16 I pictured for myself a Bohemian lifestyle filled with one-room flats devoid of furniture, living on a beach in Southern California, and spurts of time where I lived out of my car. My life has included none of these things, but my journey is filled with its own shades of gray that, I think, still allow me to guiltlessly dub myself minimalist. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite my two initial sources of inspiration for this lifestyle: Buddhism and Tyler Durden.

My view on life has ever been shaped by eastern philosophy when I first discovered Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. It was one of those things that as soon as you hear it, you simply know it’s right. The first two noble truths are: “Life means suffering; The origin of suffering is attachment.”┬áNow the Buddhists mean more than just attachment to material possessions, but for me it was a start. It almost immediately instilled into me an abhorrence of too many physical possessions.

Fight Club bore similar themes to eastern philosophy with a distinct Western slant – that slant being a bunch of dudes beating the crap out of each other in a basement. What Jersey shore bodybuilder wouldn’t appreciate that? But everything that Fight Club is for me is epitomized by Tyler Durden’s one-liner.

what minimalism really does

Me and the Minimalists

left to right – me, Josh, Ryan

Meeting Josh and Ryan at the Cleveland meetup, it’s easy to see why they’ve been so successful. They’re genuine. And they’re just nice guys.┬áThis may sound like an understatement, but it’s one of the best compliments one can really receive.

Josh and Ryan have spent the past 16 months of their lives helping people. They don’t just endure the drudgery of work every day, concerned with making more money, getting that promotion or just getting the job done. Every post resonates with sincerity and strikes home to much of their 100,000 monthly viewership. I am incredibly grateful for getting the chance to listen to them talk and to have gotten some face time with each of them. They are on a 33 City Meetup Tour, so if you find yourself in one of the remaining cities they have left on their journey, go. Listen. Learn.

Minimalism isn’t the answer – it’s a solution. As Josh and Ryan continually say, it provides a means of achieving happiness and meaningful living, those two things of which so many of us find ourselves bereft.

If you haven’t heard of them or read any of their material, here are some articles that might help get you started:

On behalf of Cleveland, thank you Josh and Ryan for your knowledge and wisdom so generously bestowed.

kid, you’ll move mountains

05/02/2012

oh the places you'll goDreams are a precarious thing. Prone to change, prone to falter, they can just as easily consume you as they can evade your grasp.

I’ve learned much about the pursuit of dreams these past 10 months – fortunately or unfortunately, I’m not sure which. As a friend of mine would say, “It’s not all kittens and butterflies.”

The intricacies of writing appear boundless, and my dreams seem to ride their own see-saw. One day inspired and the words flow effortlessly. The next day discouraged on a whim. When 1 hour = approx. 300 words, and the average short story ranges between 2,000 – 4,000 words . . . well, you get the picture. And that doesn’t even touch upon the rewrite, which takes longer.

This is not a craft for the weak-willed. Although I’m not sure any craft is, if one seeks to master it. Kittens and butterflies, certainly not.

But we’re just getting started. And in the words of Eli Young, keep on dreamin, even if it breaks your heart.

The submissions begin this week.

The need for motivation, self-discipline and perseverance – that lingers.