“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Godfather

I just revisited the movie, The Godfather, and this line shared by Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro coincides with a recent measure I’ve enforced on myself, making myself an offer I can’t refuse. I’ve given myself no choice. I must be present, I must show up, or I fail. More and more people are doing it every year, and it’s happening across the world: We are addressing our primal need for danger and challenge.

Surfing, skiing, mountain biking, mixed martial arts, powerlifting, Crossfitting, entrepreneurship. These require your full attention. Your diligence. And once there, you find yourself in the ecstasy of presence, of productive bliss, of conquering and understanding. Of truth.

And you don’t need to go skydiving to experience this. What I’m talking about is getting focused at your task, like when the coders were “wired in” in the movie The Social Network. It’s called the flow state, as coined by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi from the studies he’s done with people. It’s a primal state of clarity. It’s simply when you flow from decision to decision, without fear, without confusion. You are wired in. You are fully present, and experiencing life.

So one way I put myself on the line is simple, harmless, but highly effective: I set a timer for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes. For each task I have: writing, a work task, reading a chapter, cooking. I click the timer and I go. I am “on the clock.” I don’t have any other options once I click that timer. And it works. There’s no time to think. Your bike crests the hill and gravity grabs you, nature takes hold, and there is no turning back.

The flow state is where we aren’t thinking of any other task but the task at hand. Anxious, fearful, impatient, embarrassed? Then you’re not in flow. Flow means we’re focused, we’re present, and we’re totally invested. There’s no time to worry. You’ve isolated a slice of your life. I’ve given myself a 15 minute mini-life. You see ‘death’ coming up, the end, and there’s no time to procrastinate. No time to think, “maybe this won’t work, maybe this will suck”. You just need to push off down that hill, you need to grab that breaking wave, and go, go, go. There’ll be time to judge yourself after you act.

The cost of not getting into flow? No bliss. Marginal levels of happiness. Imagine crawling when you could be running. Imagine a potted plant on a window sill compared to flourishing in the full sun of a meadow.

Can we soak up all the experience in our life? Can we live it like it’s going to end?

Of course we can. It’s going to end anyway, right?

Because we’ve all been given an offer we can’t refuse: Death.

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Meditating and then…cat attack!

boat in storm

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.

How to be a superhero

captain-america

I just saw the movie, The Avengers. It was a disappointment to me, but this scene was so different from the rest of the movie. Really, I felt it to be the best part. It delved into defining humanity…a quest that men have faced since men became men. Do we lead, or do we follow?

In the video, Loki tells everyone to kneel and follow, because he believes himself better than the rest. Only one man stands up against Loki.

As in most movies, only a few are willing to stand up, leave the safety of numbers, and face the fear, the danger of changing things, making a difference, and doing what’s right.

Life is not the movies. But if we want to be in a movie, let’s act like we are the hero in our own movie. Maturing is not only about accepting the way things are, but accepting your responsibility over them. Each of us lives in his own world, and makes his own decisions, but those decisions contribute to the sum of worlds from all the humans around him.

Loki is everywhere: The criticism without encouragement. The norm that keeps you safe and distracted from improving anything. The fear of the unknown. The culture that keeps us investing in irresponsible corporations and choosing leaders who encourage their existence.

There is no select few who can be superheroes.

Superheroes are just people who show up and do the right thing, for themselves and for the world they live in.

And it’s time we all stand up to the Lokis in the world.

Today’s soldiers fighting our war become tomorrow’s veterans

The United States, the country, the citizens, you and me, our President, the Congress… we are at war. Our govt has made the judgment that it is worth putting our citizens, our soldiers, in harm’s way, spending billions of dollars, accidentally blowing up or shooting the civilians of other countries, to prevent terrorists from targeting the US.

If there was a draft, would you be making the sacrifices these soldiers are making? Not only putting their life on the line, but realizing they are going to be killing civilians accidentally?

War is a last resort.

How big a threat is terrorism to justify this perpetual war? That is the question.

What do you think?

Are we in the times of last resort? Does it feel like we are at war? If it doesn’t, then shouldn’t we feel like it is? Otherwise, what is war? And are we more willing to have one, to send troops to fight, to have civilians die, if we aren’t facing its consequences?

Thank our veterans. Then ask yourself when they should be put into the terrible conditions of war for us.

Who are you voting for?

When someone speaks reasonably about unreasonable things, they are either a genius, or a madman. Cast your vote carefully. If a person talks about spending money they don’t have, putting value in something that has no inherent value, taking away your liberties to fight an unseen enemy to protect your liberties, find another person to vote for. Gridlock ends when we elect people, from president to state rep, who will do the right thing, not follow what was done before because that’s the way things were always done.

Remember: There are many who are thinking just as you are.

Laws may fail us, but our morality will not

When government representatives allow immoral but technically legal corporate practices, are we being just as immoral in re-electing those same representatives back into office? Does more regulation help our moral standards or just focus on legal standards? Does it matter? Why do we need legal standards when the moral thing to do is not give our business to those who are doing wrong with our money?

The government announced that starting this month, they will be buying $40 billion worth of near worthless bonds from the Wall St banks every month to try to save the economy. Using our money.

Think it will work?

Willing to bet your retirement on it?

Because if you have a 401k, you already are.

Your strength is needed. Now…more than ever.

Some people think they know better than others. You know the type. They give advice on everything. They believe they have the system of do’s and don’ts that will work. They want what is best for you. And they believe they know what the best thing for you to do is. In fact, they think they know what is best for everyone.

Others believe it’s better for people to make their own choice. They believe people will strive, work, share, and care for others. Not because we’re forced to, but because in a stable system of laws, that is what we will do. They believe people should have the freedom to live how they want, but without hurting others. To choose what passion to follow, where to work, how much to pay, how much to get paid, what to buy, how to explore their own consciousness, and who to congregate with.

There are those who want a system of control because they want to protect people, not just from others, but protect them from making the wrong choices. They want to protect us from ourselves. They are cautious of people. Do they even trust people?

They like giving guidelines, and providing a program. They believe in a high standard of living, and they want everyone to have that standard, not just the opportunity for that standard, because they think everyone deserves it. And they will engineer a system using their formula of mandates that will get you this, regardless of how this effects the financial condition of the country. They will make it too affordable to pass up or they will cook it into the system so you have no choice.

These people truly want to help others.

And they believe they are the expert authority on that. And they believe in a central authority. Like a central bank that controls money, or a central insurance company that controls health care, or a central department of energy and agriculture to provide corporate welfare. Or a police authority that has taken our right to trial, so we can be arrested without charge.

Those who believe in people are different. They are courageous, because living an empowered life is damn scary. But that is why we are here. Not to make a perfect world, but to accept that life is not going to be perfect, and anything that is worth doing in life is risky. And caring about someone else is not about giving them something. It’s about being their friend and helping them face to face, not through a check delivered by a service taken from our paycheck.

We’re here to make choices, not have someone else make them for us.

We’re here to get hurt, mend, learn, and grow. And when we see someone else hurting, we’re here to extend our own hand and help them up. Not pay others to help them for us. Because people need to intimately know they are valued before they can do something of value. And because you cannot make someone care about you by forcing them to share with you.

We’re here to explore our passions and our own consciousness without being restricted on what we can do, unless it hurts another person.

We know that we cannot get as far alone as we can by joining others, but not in faceless networks. We’re here to share life in a community, because we must have the opportunity to learn that without guidelines or incentives, a rich life is one of honest collaboration with others.

We know that if we give leaders the authority to do things on behalf of us, we must remain aware of how they are using this power. And that we must stop them when we feel they are doing a disservice to us.

We know that we should treat everyone else how we would want to be treated. And so we act accordingly.

These people trust humanity to do the right thing.

Some might call these libertarian values.

But they are not.

They are called human values.

And I believe it is how we should live.

How bizarre, how bizarre

Last night, Romney was criticizing a law that doesn’t really exist, and Obama was talking about doing something that he said he would do when he ran for office the last time.

Romney said that the Dodd-Frank Act “designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government.”

But most of the Act is unenforced, since regulators don’t know how the Wall Street banks make-up what they sell. Bernie Frank (Democrat) even said that since regulators have not defined what a qualified mortgage is, the policy “has no effect” on loans now, which “will not be covered by this.”

And Obama talked about preventing loopholes and tax breaks for businesses shipping jobs overseas, and what has been done about that in 4 years? Will Romney be able to change any of this?

How bizarre.

Why do we continue to vote for these parties?

Let’s make the change.