Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

2nd last post – reinvent yourself

11/15/2012

All things must end. And who’s to say what phoenix arises from the ashes of such endings.

Well, in this case, I’m to say. Because with the death of a theme, a brand I’ve loved and nurtured for the past seven years, it’s time for a rebirth in another form.

the process of conscious change

changeEverybody needs to periodically reinvent themselves. He who doesn’t change is either the wisest of the wise or the dullest of the dull. (I like to think I’m somewhere in between)

We are ephemeral constructs in a world constantly in flux. We are always changing, whether or not we realize it. We hear a snippet of knowledge that gives us a new perspective on politics. We learn a new fact that makes us decide to start eating organic. We stop working out and we watch how our body loses strength and functionality. We begin working out and experience a slow but noticeable increase in energy. Week to week, day to day, minute to minute, we are evolving for better or for worse.

The key here is not to fight the change, but to go along in its flow and fall into a state of conscious change. We develop an awareness of our own evolution, even if that awareness surfaces after the fact.

It’s not control we’re seeking, but the ability to effortlessly adapt without losing fluidity. When we become consciously aware of this process, we gain the power to seek out our change, or rather to become change.

reinvent yourself

The opposite of stagnancy is not progress, but evolution. They are not synonymous.

Only you, the individual, know when it is time for you to consciously reinvent yourself, to make a life-altering change. Perhaps it’s a result of some outward stimuli, some trend you’ve identified in the world around you, or some traumatic life event. Perhaps it’s in recognition of your own internal need for change. Extensive periods of stagnation have an inducing tendency in that regard.

Regardless, you will know when it is time. If you’re unsure, work on becoming more conscious, more self-aware. Intensive introspection and important conversations with close family members, friends or significant others are conducive to a higher state of self-awareness – although I’ve always found the former to be exponentially more effective. I also tend to be a more solitary person, so do what works for you.

Decide. Consciously. We must learn to flow with the ever-changing world around us while developing the ability to consciously alter that flow as necessary.

Tomorrow you will see firsthand how I have initiated my own reinvention.

How have you reinvented yourself in the past? How are you reinventing yourself now?

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got the magic in you?

09/19/2012

Feelings of inadequacy abound.

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I’m not naturally talented.”
  • “I’m not smart enough.”
  • “That person did it first, so now I can’t do it anymore.”

Why is it that we’re able to psyche ourselves out so effectively rather than just simply doing the damn thang? Is it fear? Is it anxiety? Is it an emotionless obstacle, like Steven Pressfield’s Resistance?

our deepest fear is our greatest strength

There’s a saying floating around that rings something like this: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

How many of us truly believe that? How many of us have witnessed within ourselves that capacity for power beyond measure? Perhaps that’s legitimate for some, and perhaps that’s a way of rationalizing inadequacy for others. I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t accept it.

The truth is, we all have magic in us. We all have an untapped well of power, of strength, of fortitude, that we’re simply too inconvenienced to tap into. Why dig deeper when we can watch TV? Why improve ourselves when we can settle and still get by? Why meditate when we can masturbate?

We find pleasant distractions and diversions that effectively turn us away from our goals, from our true directions.

The problem with bettering ourselves is it’s never fast, it’s never easy, and – the worst part – it’s rarely a brilliant flash of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve our goals. There is no shortcut to self-improvement, whether we want to become a better writer, a better doctor, a better student, ambidextrous, or a faster runner, it takes hours upon days upon weeks upon months upon years of dedication before we achieve sustainable results. Sure, we can achieve results tomorrow if we want. I could publish my first e-book by end of day today. I could grow muscle with one hour at the gym. But if we want lasting effects, if we want true success – what some call luck – that requires preparation.

Only then can we be ready for the opportunity. Think: you may be preparing for your success right now without even knowing it. If you’re not . . .

It’s time to start building toward it.

It’s time to start fearing our own power.

Got the magic in you?

creating our universe

09/09/2012

We learn from an early age how to create the world around us. We learn labels, we learn definitions, we learn classifications, sub-classifications and distinctions. A toddler learns that a tree is called a tree, a cloud is called a cloud, and Mama and Dada are called Mom and Dad. An adolescent learns the difference between rich and poor, strong and weak, nice and mean. An adult learns what class warfare is, what God is, and what antidisestablishmentarianism could possibly mean.

But at what point does this really continue to benefit us?

the death of the senses

There is an economic principle called the law of diminishing returns. It means, in terms that I can understand, that the more we continue to invest in something, the less we get out of it (see Wikipedia for a MUCH more accurate definition). A marathoner plodding along an 18-week training regimen sees more marked improvement in the early stages of training than in the later stages. Early on, his average race pace may drop from nine-minute miles to eight-minute miles in the space of just a few determined weeks, while in the last few weeks of high-intensity training he will see much less of an improvement than that. Granted, it’s still marked improvement, but the point stands: the return isn’t as great.

So how does this apply to labels? To definitions? To distinctions? How do we measure returns on something like learning? The truth is, most people don’t even try. Learning is a wonderful thing – I believe lifelong learning should be a cornerstone of everyone’s daily experience. But after a point in the learning process – for most of us, in our teenage years – it becomes easy to lose sight of true value. So if we really tried measuring the returns on learning, we’d realize that there are things that are more important. Thus, we accrue knowledge for the sake of accruing knowledge. We learn what a tree is but then forget to experience the tree. Think about it: when was the last time you touched, and felt, a tree? Felt its bark, listened as its branches swayed in the wind, smelled its leaves? Go outside and touch a tree. Right now. I’ll wait . . .

Back already? Good. Carrying on. . . as one of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, says, “The birth of the mind is the death of the senses.”

p’u, the uncarved block

Moments in life can trigger the resurgence of this child-like appreciation for the world around us:

  • Having a child
  • A near-death experience
  • A religious experience
  • Emerging from an emotional depression

But it should be natural (shouldn’t it?), as human beings gifted with life on this wonderful earth, to consciously appreciate the universe around us during what we deem mundane experience. During the ordinary moments. To appreciate the universe, not necessarily in the form in which we initially created it, but rather through direct experience. To sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation. To simply be.

Much like Winnie the Pooh. Open to, but unburdened by, experience.

winnie the pooh, the tao of pooh

one-year anniversary – why i quit my job

07/15/2012

On June 28, 2011, I walked into my boss’s office, filled with anxiety, the majority of my hairs standing on end. I said, “I think it would be in my best interests, and yours, if I put in my two weeks.”

One year later I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Hoboken, NJ, staring across the Hudson at the glow that is Manhattan.

I do not regret my decision for an instant.

But, if I could do it again, there are definitely things I would do differently.

reading between the lines

For those of you unfamiliar with that situation, here is my [poorly written] post from a year ago explaining it.

The past year, however, is slightly more complex than sitting in coffee shops in and around New York City. More than anything, this has been a year of self-discovery. It has been the kind of year I wish upon all my friends, and my enemies, though it’s not as glorious as I’ve likely made it sound.

This post is here to set the record straight.

By impulsively quitting my job, I was able to take a step back from my life and examine it as an objective observer. I allowed myself to ask the important questions, free of the cloud of responsibility and pressure.

  • What makes me happy?
  • What can I not live my life without?
  • What do I envision as my typical happy week?
  • How can I live my happy week 52 times a year?
  • Why do I associate hypocrisy with screw-top wine bottles?

Above all, I have finally been able to come to terms with my flaws (most of them). This may sound trite, but it is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I was able to embrace them, thereby becoming consciously aware of their presence, thereby minimizing their negative effects on my life. Here are my top flaws I identified:

  • I over-promise and under-deliver
  • I lack discipline
  • I am inconsistent (case and point, this blog)
  • I am easily distracted, primarily on the interwebz
  • I am selfish

On the flip side of this, I have also been able to identify what I believe to be my strong points:

  • I am authentic – I say what I mean and I mean what I say
  • I am driven to produce the best work possible
  • I am always learning
  • Yeah, short list…

All in all, quitting my job was one of the best things I have ever done with my life. But there are some distinct shades of gray to that deed as well.

For those of you looking to quit your job, for those of you looking to start doing work you love, for those of you unsure as to where you want your path to take you, let the juvenile lessons learned by yours truly help you get started on the right foot.

Because I certainly didn’t.

shattering the illusionsi quit my job

The easiest part of quitting our jobs to pursue our passions is the actual quitting. While nerve-wracking at the time, it is overshadowed by an exhilaration that cannot be replicated. For me, this made it an easy choice. But once I came down off that high, I knew it was time to get to work.

The hardest part, by far, has been the financial strain from not having that nice regular paycheck. I went from a bi-weekly paycheck with a coveted comma to a bi-weekly paycheck that rarely rose above $400.

In light of this, my #1 piece of advice is this:

1. Have some money put away before you quit your job

I altered my lifestyle but, granted, it didn’t keep me from experiencing life. I was still able to go skydiving for the first time, whitewater raft the fifth most dangerous rafting river in the world, and have my first Central American adventure in Nicaragua. But once those adventures were over, the reality of my financial situation set in and I’ve been severely restricted in what I have been able to do since then.

If you have no problem living the lifestyle of the starving artist – constantly – then this does not apply to you. To everyone else, I recommend having a little cushion before you go Bohemian.

My second lesson is this:

2. Know what you want

This sounds simple, but it’s harder than we realize. When I quit my job I knew I wanted to be a novelist. That was good direction, but the more I learned the more I realized the difficulties involved with going the straight novel route. A novel is not written in a month, unless you’re Stephen King. That first novel, especially – Carrie was denied a number of times before he got it published. So I needed other income streams in the meantime, and I needed to improve my writing tenfold before I put anything as substantial as a novel on the market that wouldn’t get torn apart and push a potential audience away.

So I made it my primary goal – and it still is to this day – to always improve my writing. To always experiment with different styles, with different voices, with different structures. That being said, my third lesson is this:

3. Never be stagnant

In December and January I experienced a period of overwhelming stagnation, resulting in my first – and hopefully last – anxiety attack. I was barely writing and had let life get in the way of my creative endeavors. In order to achieve any kind of growth as human beings, we must always be learning, always seeking knowledge. If we feel stagnant in our job, it’s likely because we feel we aren’t learning anything new, that we aren’t growing.

If we want this to change, we have two options: 1.) We can wait for an opportunity to come along and seize it, or 2.) We can create the opportunity ourselves. Robert Greene’s The 50th Law has a very motivating chapter on how to do the latter of these two. He titles it “Turn Shit Into Sugar.”

final reflection

Ultimately, as I said earlier, I would not change what I did one year ago for anything.

  • I experienced more rapid personal growth than I had in the past eight years
  • I am a better writer than I was 365 days ago, although there is still quite a ways to go
  • I have become more aware of those important questions
  • I am happier
  • And, of course, as my best friend so poignantly told me, for the first time in seven years I finally lived up to the title of this blog

Now if that isn’t worth impulsively quitting one’s job and living in poverty for the next year, I don’t know what is.

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 🙂

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. Running 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.

it’s the principle

04/06/2012

Think of the last time you got mad.

Got it in your head?

Tell yourself why you were mad.

Now ask yourself, “Was it worth it?”

Now ask yourself, “Really . . . was it worth it?”

I posted the other week about how I got angry at a coworker. In that time I’ve watched other people get angry and, as an objective observer, I can see the triviality of, well, of simply getting angry. Not to say they were wrong in the principle, mind you. But this has nothing to do with principle.

societal pressures

We feel a need to be angry because society tells us we should be. Our teachers, our parents, books and television have instilled in us what we dub “values” or “a code of honor” that we think must be correct. We get angry at something and then hide behind principle. We think we understand what’s right and what’s wrong.

When someone invades our privacy, we should feel violated. When someone shoulder bumps us in the hallway, we should feel indignant. When someone goes too slow on the highway (60 in a 60), we feel a personal affront to our character. We may say that we shouldn’t get mad at things like this, but as Seth Godin so aptly states, “We say we’d like people to think first and act later, but we get cut off in traffic and all bets are off.”

Seem out of whack? It isn’t. You do it. I do it, too (although I like to imagine I don’t get as angry as most people, but who knows?).

The interesting aspect of these societal pressures, and one of the only things that can get people to understand this concept, is one simple fact: if we were raised somewhere else, in a different time or by different people, our values would be very different.

Not an original thought, but one people understand on a mere intellectual level, not an intuitive one. Someone raised in Tehran does not have the same values as someone raised in Moscow. Someone raised in the 50s does not have the same values as someone raised in the 60s. You don’t have the same values as someone raised across the street from you.

We can escape these societal pressures if we make a conscientious effort day in and day out, moment to conscious moment. But it’s hard. Very hard. And maybe, for some people, it’s not worth it. And that’s OK.

Is it worth it for you?

Understand: we can control our reactions to outward stimuli. Only it’s not as simple as reading this blog post, agreeing with the principle of it, and moving on. (see above regarding effort)

there is a reason

There is a reason that person goes so slow on the highway. And it may not be as vindictive as you imagine.

There is a reason that person shoulder bumped you in the hallway. And it may not be that they are an asshole.

There is a reason that person invaded your privacy. And it may not have been with malicious intent.

There is a reason for everything everyone does, and failure to feel empathy for other people’s stories will result in the downfall of the individual.

And ultimately – and I do not make this claim lightly – of civilization.

occupy time and space

03/29/2012

Do you ever wonder why we sometimes get incredibly mad, frustrated, annoyed or upset? I mean really: why?

The other day at work I found a coworker doing his best to slack off. He made no apologies for it, then proceeded to leave early without doing everything that needed to be done. My personal belief is that he left early for fear of my wrath; however, bearing no empirical evidence that this is the case, this cannot be confirmed.

Regardless, I was angry. I yelled at him – in front of our manager. I was tired of putting up with this employee’s poor work ethic that I snapped. Do I regret my reaction? No. It’s in the past. Could I have handled it better? Most definitely.

But the problem isn’t that I snapped at him. That’s the symptom. The problem was the source of that anger. Why does it exist? Why do I care? A typical mindset would say something like, “What he was doing was wrong!” And, from that mindset’s perspective, they’d be right. Right?

we all have our stories

This concept deserves a moment in the spotlight: every individual has his or her story. That being, every individual has something going on in his or her personal life of which we, being the other individual, have no knowledge.

For instance, what if that coworker, the object of my mighty wrath, had recently lost a relative? Or a close friend? What if earlier that day he’d received some bad news that put him in a funk? It could be anything. We all have those moments where something in our personal life affects our performance in other aspects of living. Some more than others, but it’s inevitable that this happens to everyone.

It goes without saying that this coworker could simply be viewed as lazy. No questions asked. But is he lazy in other parts of his life? Whenever I hear him talk about cars, his base of knowledge he views as common sense blows me away. (Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who just two years ago learned how to change a tire) If I broke down on the side of the road, this coworker is someone I wouldn’t mind stopping to help me out. Then I’d be grateful to him, right? I’d feel indebted and associate value with him.

But isn’t this all subjective anyway? Do I really care – I mean really care – if my coworker is having a crappy day? For most people, we only care if it affects our own day. Sure, we can show compassion, we can feel sorry for them and offer what sympathy we have it in our hearts to offer. But when we go home and say hello to our children, watch a TV show, or have sex, do we really care?

I, for one, don’t.

Am I wrong? No. Slightly insensitive? I don’t think so.

Because I have my own story to live. Do you care about my story? I mean really care? Probably not, or else you’d be thinking about me a whole lot more. (It’s cool, by the way, if you are)

an occupation of time and space

I would love to live my life with the mentality that I am simply occupying time and space.

Think about it. If that is our primary mentality – the occupation of time and space – how could we get mad? Does it change the fact that we are where we are, doing what we’re doing? When 50 all ask us for different things at the same time, why do we feel overwhelmed? You’re still going to be where you are, living each second, each minute, each hour. Why spend those transient moments in a stressful state of mind? You are where you are and it is what it is. We’d still be standing in that same spot, at that same time, working with the same people.

This may seem simplistic, but 1.) I think we make things too complex as it is, and 2.) it’s a good starting point.

So the next time we get angry with someone, perhaps we can remember that they have a story that made them who they are, influences and forces we could never understand.

And the next time we get stressed our feel out of touch, perhaps we can realize that no matter where we are or what we do, we’re doing two simple things: we’re occupying time, and we’re occupying space.

The next time we’re feeling stressed our overwhelmed, no matter the cause, perhaps we can try to think this:

the will to live

03/20/2012

“This business of being a writer is ultimately about asking yourself, ‘How alive am I willing to be?'”
– Anne Lamott

I had my first anxiety attack two months ago. It was not a good feeling. For those of you familiar with anxiety attacks, you’ll understand the understatement.

I fell to the floor. Overcome by fear. By doubt. By misgivings generated by my own fear of the unknown. Of questions unanswered.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

affirmation

That anxiety attack preceded a second attack two days later. I was at work when I felt it start to set upon me. There was no collapsing this time around. There was no giving in. So I did what came naturally.

I found a quiet space and I wrote.

Within 50 words the knot in my stomach had unraveled into something akin to utter contentment. Before I was halfway down the page of my little journal I was soothed. All was literally right with the world. Well, my world anyway.

It’s moments like these, moments of intense crisis and panic that can be a determining factor in our lives. I’m not one to degrade the day-to-day, the pleasures of breathing in and out, or the supposed banality of daily living. But sometimes there come moments in our lives where we are defined by crisis. Where we see what we’re truly made of and what it is that truly matters in our lives.

For me, that answer is writing. I knew it before. I know it now.

a life of action

A book rests on my shelf entitled Way of the Peaceful Warrior. (if you haven’t read it, I recommend it – the ending seems a farce but the messages within are invaluable) One of the quotes of that book spoken by the protagonist’s mentor, whom he’s sardonically dubbed “Socrates,” is, “A warrior’s life is that of action.”

Now don’t think warrior in the classical sense — the sword-wielding, armor-bearing, rebel-yelling warrior — but rather someone who consciously strives to live the most virtuous life possible. And in the above quote, much of the bare essence of that peaceful warrior is revealed.

In hindsight, my anxiety attack was brought upon by my own inaction. December was not a fruitful month for me in the way of the written word, and this came to a head in early January when I was unable to come to terms with my own idleness.

Now I’m not saying don’t stop to smell the roses. If anything, this “life of action” encourages you to do just that. To take in all that is around us as we move forward in our lives, not living a life of idle speculation. Take advantage of all that beating heart has to offer us. Experience anything. Everything.

For me, my primary course of action is writing, and getting unforgettable experiences under my belt to feed that continual need for something new, for something creative, for something adventurous (define adventurous in your own terms).

I write to live. I live to write.

Not everyone’s answers are so simple. I’m sure mine ultimately aren’t. But for now, it’ll do.

What’s your answer?

advice is an ugly word

03/01/2012

“Let me give you some advice.”

When was the last time someone said that to you? And what was your reaction?

Simply put: nobody wants to be given unsolicited advice. Nobody wants to be preached at. Nobody wants to be talked to.

People want to ask for advice before it’s received. People want to be talked with, not talked to. There is a difference.

As Seth Godin might say, the difference is whether or not people have given permission.

It’s a delicate balance that finds itself even more precariously perched thanks to Twitter “gurus,” Facebook feeds and blogs. In the age of immediate gratification, the interwebz and social media, giving unsolicited advice is an easy trap to fall into when it’s just 140 characters away.

Why don’t we simply listen to people’s problems without the “Here’s what I think” response? Who are we to think we know anything about someone else’s situation based on five or ten minutes of conversation?

Bottom line: everybody has their stories that are unique to their own personal development that we can never fully comprehend. We can never know everything about a person or a situation, and only our pride and arrogance tell our egos otherwise.

Perhaps we should recognize this fact before we bring it back to number one.

I would say, “There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth,” but then I realized that regarding the keyboard this point is lost, as we also have 10 fingers . . .