At the End of the Day

You’re tired, burnt out and ready to crash.

There are still a million items on your to-do list and your plan for the night to get some of it done goes out the window. You just don’t have the energy to deal with it.

The thought of leaving it for tomorrow seems logical, but in the back of your mind, the thought of it even needing to be done wears you down more.

You reach for your phone, the remote or something distracting to take your mind off things.

Then you feel disappointed for having wasted time on it when there were other things to do.

Tomorrow comes and the cycle repeats.

The weekend arrives and you spend the entire time catching up with work you left for yourself from the week. It’s not much of a break.

If any of this sounds familiar, there is a way out of it:

Give your mind a break by creating a ritual for yourself that transitions you from the day to the evening.

It could be a fifteen minute nap. It could be listening to a particular song on the way home.

If you’re home all day, it could be an afternoon walk in another outfit.

Meditate for five minutes, read something inspirational, make a healthy snack or have a cup of tea.

Until you’ve programmed yourself to know the day and evening are separate, you will always think every day is longer than it should be.

35 Things I Learned by 35

Tomorrow is my birthday. If you’re getting my updates by email, then it’s today.

Last time I did any sort of reflection on my age was when I hit 30. I realized the previous five years flew by and wanted to pay attention to the next five in hopes it would move slower.

Nope – the last five years flew by even faster… which is hard to believe considering I celebrated the birth of my first child and those early days seemed to last forever.

I still have a tremendous amount to learn in life, but the last thirty five years have given me some pretty valuable lessons. In a rare occurrence, I’m making a list post.

  1. Ten years is not a long time – The idea of thinking ten years ahead isn’t so ridiculous because the time goes by much faster than you anticipate. If you’re planning, do it for the long term.
  2. Some people stay and some go – Some people come into your life for a season and some will always be there. You can’t always tell which will happen, so appreciate each person as they come your way.
  3. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything – At one point, I wanted to be an avid reader/professional magician/writer/speaker/teacher/chess player/bassist/programmer. Some of those are now passing interests, or in the background and I’m fine with that.
  4. Take small steps towards change – Slow, steady progress trumps flash in the pan tactics every time.
  5. Index Funds – They’re the most boring investment, but they do so well in the long run.
  6. Your parents were right about you – they truly know you better than you think they do.
  7. Parenting is hard – but absolutely rewarding after you come out of the fog of the sleepless nights.
  8. Happiness is not on the other side of the fence – if the grass is greener there, start watering your own grass.
  9. Fulfillment comes with honesty – only when you are 100% truthful about who you are, will you begin to find fulfillment in your own life.
  10. Overnight success isn’t a thing – thinking there are shortcuts in life will only result in disappointment.
  11. Ignore the comment sections as much as possible – unless people are posting informed opinions… which usually isn’t the case.
  12. Ignore the naysayers – “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” -Dita Von Teese
  13. Being healthy is worth the effort – there’s a world of difference when you eat healthy and exercise versus eating junk food and being stationary.
  14. Time is more valuable than money – money you can lose and get back.
  15. You can’t find God – the quest for developing your spiritual self doesn’t start with finding anything. It was always there. To quote Charlamagne tha God – “God was never lost, you were.”
  16. Be willing to forgive yourself – there were times when I went to bed, unable to sleep over something I said or did in high school. Seems ridiculous to dwell on it twenty years later.
  17. Relationships take work – a lot of it involves letting go of your own ego.
  18. Chicken wings are always a good idea – never once have I felt chicken wings was a bad idea for a meal… or snack.
  19. Don’t take life too seriously – it has its moments, but the universe is over thirteen billion years old. Your time here is the briefest of flashes, so appreciate it while you can.
  20. Your workplace can survive without you – there was a time when you weren’t there and that time will happen again when you leave.
  21. Throw pillows – learn to accept them even if you don’t understand them.
  22. Listen to your elders – follow the advice of people twenty or more years ahead of you (age or years experience in a field). They’ve seen enough to know what they’re talking about.
  23. Don’t be afraid to try something new – the worst that happens is it doesn’t work and you go back to doing the old thing again.
  24. You don’t have to die on every mountain – some battles just sap more energy than they’re worth winning.
  25. We landed on the moon – it was the one conspiracy theory I held on to the longest (17 – 24).
  26. People can change – but only if they’re willing to change. You can’t force it on them.
  27. You can respect a person without agreeing with them – some of my best conversations and friendships have come from people who think drastically different than I do.
  28. The world might end tomorrow – or twenty years from now, or two hundred years, or a thousand, or a billion. Stop worrying about it and do your best with the world we have right now.
  29. Embrace boredom – it took humanity tens of thousands of years to even come up with a concept called “boredom.” This is the most opportune time to do the hardest work of self-reflection and personal growth. Don’t be scared of it.
  30. Learn to say no – you have limitations and people will appreciate you more if they know your boundaries.
  31. The kids are all right – the next generation of young people are amazing and growing up during a paradigm shift in our history. All things considered, they’re embracing it and are incredibly more self-aware than we ever were.
  32. Focus is a superpower – if you can build it, there’s no stopping what you can accomplish.
  33. Define your level of success – learn how much is enough for you and use that as your metric instead of the outliers and top 1% in your field.
  34. Find a group – it wasn’t until a bunch of dads and I decided to get together once a month that we realized we’re not alone in our struggles and joys as partners and parents. Not only do we find support in each other, we’ve become better as a result.
  35. It’s the everyday moments that count – you don’t need to travel across the world to have a profound experience, nor do you need x,y or z to happen. Writing every day has taught me there is something about each day that can have an impact on us if we’re willing to dig deep and look for it.

I’m sure there are at least another thirty-five lessons I’ve learned on top of the ones listed here. In this current moment, in this season in my life, these are the ones that stand out the most.

In five years, I’ll be sure to let you know what I’ve learned after turning forty.

Heh – five years… seems like such a small jump in time at this point.

Stop Thinking Like a Machine and Start Thinking Like a Human

In 2013, Magnus Carlsen, the youngest grandmaster in history, won the World Chess Championships by playing a completely different game all together.

Instead of relying on memorizing endless positions and running through millions of scenarios, he forced his opponent to get out of his comfort zone of computer analysis and think creatively.

Unfortunately, this was Magnus’ area of specialty, which garnered him the title, “The Mozart of Chess.”

He defended his title in 2014 and 2016.

It’s a brave story for our world where we are inventing artificial intelligence to beat us at our own games. We’ve programmed them to think like machines and take the most calculated responses possible.

Then we started programming them to look at all our work and calculate it based on a number we could measure and manipulate. We have terms like ROI, SEO, Analytics, Quarterly Reports, Unique Visitors, Engagement Rates, Likes, Favourites, Shares, Earnings.

Instead of seeing those metrics as good statistics to have, we became obsessed with them and started thinking in those ways.

We began writing posts on our sites to maximize our SEO in order to get the attention of search algorithms. Then we wonder why our content is so shallow.

We structured our social media posts to gain the maximum amount of visibility and shares, purely to see that number rise. Then we try to tell people to be authentic.

We made business decisions based on nothing but numbers for the past three months, ignoring any other factor that could’ve contributed to a short term gain or loss. Then our business leaders try to tell us to think long-term.

We started teaching in a way that will raise the number on a standardized test in order to appease the machine way of its approach. People get outraged when that number drops. Then we have the audacity to say we care about students.

Our usefulness in society is based on output – best returns on investments of time, money and energy. Then we forget that some people enjoy waking up every day and helping the less fortunate of society without any expectation of returns on their time and investment.

We wonder why we’re miserable when we do something just for the pleasure of doing it.

We’re taking the best and brightest students from the STEM fields and giving them positions where their job is to find ways to incrementally increase numbers instead of allowing them to apply their creativity to greater problems.

Talented artists produce content to market because that’s where they will find “success” (money). Then we complain it all looks and sounds the same… formulaic being the appropriate word.

We’ve created apps for meditation. We’ve taken a discipline that requires us to be completely disconnected and hyper-focused on the present moment and created a way for it to be disrupted by our subconscious knowledge that we are still connected to a device.

We complain our world is becoming more apathetic. People are caring less.

Maybe it’s time we stop thinking like machines and start thinking like humans.

You Still Need to Do the Work

We live in one of the most incredible times where the gateway to doing whatever you want is instant, accessible and (in most cases) free. I can write a book on my cell phone and publish it to the world the moment it’s done. Yes, I did that and just might do it again.

You can take a video of yourself, upload it to the Internet and have a worldwide audience.

Want help on being a good photographer? Quilter? Woodworker? Horticulturist? Theoretical physicist?

It’s all posted and accessible to you right this moment.

Need help with an issue you’re going through?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of communities you can reach out to where you can get the help you need and support of others in your position.

What you’re not going to get, however, is the push to do the hard work required. While there’s a glut of motivational quotes and social media posts, they can only take you so far. It’s just a hit of inspiration that only lasts until you take your eyes, or ears, away.

You need to be the one to make it happen.

You Are the Arbiter of Your Own Happiness

While I’m not the biggest fan of “Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs,”* someone who has their bottom pyramid needs met must recognize the next step is self-fulfillment.

This doesn’t come as a result of thinking about being fulfilled, or happy, all day long. If you’re constantly in the mindset that happiness or fulfillment is something that’s “going to happen” at some point (usually after some goal is met), that day will never come.

Yes, a positive attitude helps. What’s really needed is a complete re-frame of mind.

Are you finding fulfillment in today?

If the answer is no, the solution isn’t to just give up and try something else. That might just lead you to another shallow shore where you’re still in the same position.

Instead, you must be willing to go deeper within yourself.

This is the hardest work you can commit to, but considering you have to live with yourself until your time here is done, it’s worth the effort.

Nobody can give it to you.

You must be willing to seek it.

*According to the hierarchy of needs, people who don’t have their basic needs met cannot be spiritual or happy. This has not been my experience with those who are in this position.

The Need to Unplug

There’s a need to unplug from everything periodically. We’ve built ourselves into a culture that rewards those who spend all their time and energy constantly connected to others (and supposedly the world), but what’s really happened?

We’ve taken the best minds in psychology, technology and business, then put them to work on finding ways to keep us hooked into our devices for just a few more seconds. It becomes almost impossible to defeat the multi-million dollar investments into those who want our attention all hours of the day.

It’s a loop of our previous issue with advertising. Companies would spend inordinate amounts of money (and still do) to convince us to buy their products, whether they were useful or not. We’ve only become aware of their attempts and have been leaving their precious dollars to be worth nothing out of our own pockets.

The climate of today is heavily manipulating our latest research in psychology to turn us into addicts. It’s gotten to the point where we know there’s no point in continuing to look at all the notifications, but just can’t stop.

What are they hoping to achieve through all of this?

A larger user base to show to investors in an attempt to convince them for funding or to be bought out. There’s value in our attention because we can be marketed to in the end, which by this point, has completely worn down our defenses that we once built. We’re helpless to do anything but give over our earnings.

It’s also created a bubble wherein we believe being connected is the same as having a connection with another. Yet, if you’ve watched the face of one who has an absolute stone-cold look, but writes with repeated exclamation points and smiley faces, you know there’s actually a disconnect.

We’re also made to feel guilty if we unplug and take time for ourselves.

That’s not social pressure telling you to do it, even if it’s coming from people you know.

It’s coming from research and money, all aimed at keeping you addicted.

Unplug once in a while and make connections again.

A Habit of Gratitude

When you take a moment each day to write down five things you are grateful for in life, something neat happens:

You are always looking for something positive in every day.

It’s amazing just how much we can be happy about when we take the time to appreciate everything around us. We look deeper than the surface level and stretch beyond to areas we take for granted.

This is a habit that will keep you grounded, recognize your blessings and increase your happiness year round.

Persistence or Insanity?

Persistence is being willing to push through and let nothing stop you from getting what you want. It forces you to work through obstacles, roadblocks and many stepping stones that seem impossible when you first set out to overcome them.

It’s a force that cannot be reckoned with when the motivation is in the right place.

No matter how audacious the idea may be, persistence is the key to trudging through and making it to the other side of what’s calling you.

Insanity, on the other hand, is persistence gone wrong.

It’s an ideal stuck in your head with only one possible outcome. Rather than persist, iterating and trying new approaches to test what may seep through, it’s the continuous bludgeoning along the same course.

Insanity is not understanding the current path is closed and being willing to use any means possible to get what is desired. It has an outrageously high possibility the action considered is a bad one with tremendous negative repercussions.

Persistence works.

Insanity works against you and others.

The Ancient Wisdom of Books

There is a story in the Zohar of man who lived in the mountains and didn’t know much about the city. He ate wheat and raw kernels. One day he finally visited the people and they offered him bread in three different forms, each one more delicious than the last.

When he asked what each of those loves were made of, they responded with “wheat.” He immediately dismissed the bread, stating he knew the essence of each one because he ate wheat every day. In doing so, he missed out on all the delights of the world, which were lost on him. So it is one who grasps the principle, but is unaware of all the delights deriving and diverging from that principle.

I use that story to teach students how fiction can teach us truth. Fiction can wrap up truths in many ways that are palatable to our senses, each one taking on a new form while still retaining the essence of what they are about.

 

Social media, fast news and online sharing have increased the frequency on which we dump information out into the world. We can try riding the tidal wave of trying to keep up with it all… or we can learn some of those same truths from our books that can still teach us something new today.

Each Moment is an Opportunity to Learn

I was supposed to be giving a meditation, but my mind was elsewhere. My students, who normally love taking time away from class to meditate, were excitable and not fully settling down.

As I began reading through the script, I could feel it in my own voice this session was off. I was supposed be leading it, but even I wasn’t into the moment. It was tempting to abandon the practice all together.

Then I remembered there were others who wanted to take part in this and were giving their full attention. They were listening to every word coming out of my mouth and following my example.

Reminding myself I was here to serve and be the example they should follow, I re-aligned myself and got back on track. Things settled down afterwards and the session went as planned. There were thank-yous to be had afterward.

We can set ourselves up to wait for some distant time to learn or we can ask what this moment is teaching us right now. When we bask in the present, looking carefully for what it can offer, there is always something to learn.

Learning never stops, but we can stop paying attention.