I sat down to meditate and felt a whisper of a touch on the hand resting on my knee. It was the shy cat, I called her Demure Swat (about that name, I’ll tell you later). She had avoided me for days, until now, but now I was still and quiet, and she showed up. I think this is how many of the wants that escape you finally come around: When you’re still, focused, and controlling your energy from the bounding waves.
It seems then, that all you need to do is wait for what you desire. But I’m not talking about the Secret, where you visualize and think positive thoughts and hope for the best. What I’m talking about is the discipline to stop and tune out everything else – the girlfriend, boyfriend (or the search for one!), the house that needs cleaned, facebook, and all those emails.
My meditation was the perfect way to attract a shy pet, but it’s not the way to create something, or learn to play soccer, cook a tasty meal, write a book, build a product and sell it…those things require work. However, all these things need discipline to stop running around and focus.
At a certain point, we must ignore the crashing waves of distraction, get our ass in the seat and start paddling our boat. That way, we’re controlling things, and not at the whims of everything else in the sea of life.
After over 10 years of research, experience, trial and error, I’ve found it. The essence of the good life. I’ve distilled it down, but it’s already quite simple, although not easy. It will not fatigue you, but not doing it will. Not doing it will wear you down until you are a compromised shell of the real you, living not for you, but for the distractions.
The key thing you need to do in order to be happy is…
Yes, I know…
The question is, How?
Realize that we’re all going to die.
With that perspective, how can you worry about much at all?
Start doing stuff.
For a reason.
Not because, “I don’t know.” Find a reason, using your reason. Whatever reason, that’s up to you. Something meaningful for YOU.
And do it with abandon. Because you’re going to abandon everything you have anyway, whether you like it or not.
Being a true creative takes consistent courage. The courage of curiosity…of untethering the boat from the moor and seeing what lies in the confines of your brain and imagination. It means risking sinking into the darkness of the mind to find the light of your product.
Creating is floating free in a brainstorm and seeing what you find. Hardest of all maybe is letting go and accepting all the imperfections that come from you.
Hemingway: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
You harvest the good stuff, not caring that there was so much rubbish churned up in the process. Limiting the flow, editing your thoughts before they emerge into a whole is like getting in your boat with a plan but never casting off.
Boats were not meant to stay in the harbor.
If you want to create something you’ve got to cast off and see how your ideas float in the tumultuous waters of the real world. Limiting yourself is a fearful practice, a practice of no true creative.
To have discipline, training yourself almost like an animal, while fostering the creativity and imagination of being human is one of the grand struggles of humanity.
And creatives are the ones who step up to face this challenge.
Creatives don’t get embarrassed.
Facts change. And they grow in number as life and technology evolves. But truths are eternal. They stay the same, whether you percieve them or not. And as your perspective grows and you become aware of them, they will be new to you, as if they had never existed at all.
Seth Godin: “I’m all in favor of self-driving cars and advanced robotics that will change everything. But few of us get to do that for a living. Mostly, we find new ways to do old things, better. No need to fool yourself into holding back just because your innovation or product doesn’t contain a flavor that’s never been tasted before or an experience previously unimagined. Find something that will touch us, move us, improve us or change us. Then ship.”
The things that “touch us, move us, improve us” are all based on fundamental, immovable truths of being valued, by honesty and communication, and growth. Tap those in what you’re making -your art, your product, your service, your life- and what you do becomes infinite as well.
“Thanks,” he said. “This helps out a lot. And I got my job lined up!”
“No problem at all.” I answered. “Once you’re ready to buy the airline ticket, I’ll cover it.” He smiled.
“Where’re you ending up?” I asked.
“I’ll be working for the Saudi Arabian government, overseeing the oil companies there.”
“Oh,” I said. “I can’t pay for your ticket there.”
His face fell, surprised. “Why?” he asked.
Now it was my turn to be surprised. “I’m morally against their government. They subjugate women.”
He shook his head. “You know what? You’re imposing your morality on me. You’re keeping me from my livelihood.”
I was amazed. “I’m offering to help you.”
“No,” he shook his head. “you’re restricting me.”
“Do you realize,” I said, “I don’t need to give you any help at all?”
When I see a post about how businesses are restricting the reproductive rights of women, I’m alarmed that we’re sliding into Orwellian doublespeak. Saying someone is prohibiting you from doing something makes them an authority over you. And when they won’t pay you for something you want to purchase, it makes them your parents, and you a child.
Your employer is neither an authority over you or your parent. It is an organization that you have made a deal with to pay you for work. If businesses are considered authorities, then we’ve truly given up our individual freedoms to the institution, both the corporate institution as subjugating us, and government institution who we expect is the only one who can save us.
They are only words, yes, but after a time, they will change the attitude we have about our selves. And I fear that they will drive us to seek protections, which we do of course need, but if we seek them from a place of victim-hood and helplessness, it’s a protection that’s coming at great cost.
Certainly, there is a discussion to be had about why contraception is a right and should be funded by the state. Let’s have that discussion without muddling our words and confusing our identities about who we are as free and empowered people.
This will try to be an unbiased observation. But, full disclosure, I hate like.
Nothing against the word itself… to approve of something, to like it, as facebook offers us. I have no problem with that. (Well, the facebook ‘like’ does discourage conversation and make things superficial, but that is what facebook does…but that’s another article.)
No, what I’m talking about is what conversations have become, we no longer “feel” or “say”, instead we “were like”.
It works for anything…
The “like” will work. My friend says he wrecked his car. I was like, What happened?
Your friend has free tickets to the U2 concert and invites me.
I was like, Awesome.
Or it could be a response to a simple statement:
“I’m going to go get some Chinese food.”
I was like, I’ll go.
The origin of this phrase goes back to the Valley Girl speak most of us made fun of back in the 80s-90s. But over time, it has crept into everyday use. And when I hear a conversation of likes strung out together like rusty barbed wire, snagging at the flow of the conversation, it makes me, like, sick.
Maybe it’s a better way of filling space, like the uh, or um… but that’s debatable.
Maybe it’s a way of distancing our self away from our feelings. Instead of saying I think, I feel, we interject a like, so those feelings are easier to talk about at a distance.
And if you are “like” something, you don’t need to be exact. If someone says that didn’t happen, or that they didn’t say that, you can counter, “I never said you invited me home with you. I just said, you were LIKE that.”
Or maybe it’s just a saying that enough people use that it bothers me to write a blog about it.
I am watching the water crash on the rocks. It foams, seething, shifting its millions of molecules into a writhing mass before settling into the Pacific ocean once again. The sun was coasting into a radiant shower of gold and white and red on the horizon to my right. And then without fair warning, it was gray and raining and cold. Because it was Ohio, and I had returned home. And my spirits plummeted.
But then, almost as quickly, the melancholy lifted away, and I focused on the tasks in front of me, and it was easy. Everything was easy. My mind had changed, my tendency to immediately catastrophize was gone. Everything was fine, how it should be. This could be because of the meditation that I’d begun months ago, a regular meditation to bring control back over my mind and its racings and musings. It could also be the recent loss of friends who passed away and made me stop worrying so much and instead start doing things to enjoy the present.
But I think the way I adapted to the muck of my current atmosphere was due mainly because of my vacation…two main things about it. It was long enough to immerse myself into where I was. After day 7, I was all there, not thinking about the future and returning. Instead, I was in the moment, so I truly experienced my get-away, instead of the usual 5-7 day scheme of the standard vacation. Second was the vastly different landscape from the the unremarkable flatlands of Ohio. It was new and uncommon. It was a fresh perspective on what it means to live. The earth was presenting itself to me like never before.
So take a long vacation from what you’re doing or wherever you are. You don’t need to go across the country, but you do need to get out of whatever it is you’ve acclimated to, whatever safe haven you think is permanent, and take a bite out of some new food for your brain. The risk and potential discomfort of that adventure are nothing compared to the resilience you will develop for those familiar gray days. Days that will always be there, wherever you reside. We’re here for new experiences. They not only keep us happy, but they keep our mind limber and fit to keep going in whatever our day to day presents us.
I had two friends pass away recently, in such a short period of time. I’ve never lost anyone in my life who I’ve had much interactions or connection to. Even the family members I’ve lost have been disconnected from me. So it’s a strange feeling these past few weeks. A feeling of emptiness, the same that I saw in a friend’s family who lost one of their own, but this time the space missing is in me.
Time is a commodity, but our most precious one, because after we expire, we know of nothing that comes after, except for what our faith and hopes tell us. The end of our time is the end of the world. When I think about the rest of the time I have lost with my friends, I get a true sense of the emptiness.
Our expiration date is a permanent time stamp of the end. My friends’ deaths make me think about my time more carefully. I not only want to do more, to produce something positive for my world, but at the same time, to forget about changing or impacting anything, and instead just living day to day, being present in everything that I do. The pleasure of walking, feeling the ground sending my force back up through my torso, the simple sensation of water against my face, the feel of a steering wheel in my hands.
I stop to look at the sunrises now, more than ever. I enjoy holding someone in a hug, instead of waiting to pull away, I give a smile just because, and I go someplace without a rush. When I get agitated, I stop and am grateful that I can feel this way and let that feeling linger without becoming embroiled in it.
Because that’s the point of death. So that we can appreciate life. The paradox…to fully enjoy life, we must accept the fact that it is going to end. And all our petty anxieties are just that. It’s time to enjoy life…not postpone it for a later that never comes.
The time is now to be responsible for what we’re choosing. Nothing is permanent, so the important thing is to choose SOMETHING. You can change your mind later. But do not wait on circumstance or the bridge to death to make that decision for us.
There is not much to life, its purpose is not complicated, however much we complicate it with our drives and desires. Life is all about being happy, and accepting the sad parts, too. And at the end of the day, it’s about feeling valuable, and doing something of value. And my friends were valuable to me.
You will be missed, guys.
I hope that you lived a life without regret. I will remember your lives by living mine fully present, and trying to contribute to make others’ lives better.
A friend of mine died recently and it got me thinking about life. Our most precious commodity, how much I waste of it, while pursuing other less satisfying commodities, chasing the next thing, the next girl, the next pair of shoes, the next paycheck, stymied by things that I’ve made into problems in my mind.
But my friend simply lived. Wherever he was, he was present. He listened, he offered help graciously and without expectations or pride. He did not judge, he remained calm in the face of life and soaked it all up, knowing both the good and the bad was part of the experience. And he planted a seed in me to do the same, to pay attention. To be mindful of life. But that seed wasn’t in the right conditions. I didn’t listen, though I heard his silent lesson and saw his example of a life well-lived.
I wasn’t ready, but years later I awoke, and the seed sprouted, and the fruit appeared. But he has disappeared, forever. And I can’t say thank you. I can’t tell him how his little part of my life grew into so much later, and made me a better person. All I can do is spread the uncalculated love he showed me and everyone else in his life.
You will be missed, Patrick. You helped make me who I am today. And if I don’t appreciate my life, if I don’t live it fully, helping, sharing, contributing, then I am not remembering you, and I am not honoring you. But I won’t forget, and I think that is the best way to honor someone. It’s applying their good in your life and forgetting your petty anxieties and appearances and instead, finding your love and then giving it away.
I rebound my efforts to live as you did.
And I don’t know if you can get this message, wherever you are, if you even still exist… but thank you. Thank you from my heart, truly.