Let go of what you think you need

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” -Thoreau

Most of my life, I didn’t have a problem with building castles in the air. Instead, I was laying solid, immovable foundation, hard and fast… on a swampy marsh. But I was totally invested in that career path to be a doctor. The familiar path. Without realizing it, I became that path. My identity was becoming that one thing, and all other things were unacceptable. Other options would be failure. Mindless, thoughtless, I was putting down a foundation for the foreman in charge, society at large, the unseen owner, for his approval, for the reputation, for my ego. I might as well been a bank thief, because I was taking something. Rather, I was a Wall street bank executive, because I was violating a trust. But I was violating my own trust. My self’s needs, and freedom. I was so focused on the goal, I lost sight of the why. The most important question of all. Why do you need it?

Let go of what you think you need. And then you won’t be afraid to risk big in order to get what you really need.

What, or who, do you need to let go of? Or what have you already let go and where has it taken you as a result?

Comment and let me know.

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Occupy yourself

Don’t think and the days go by, never to be done again, except in our heads. If only I’d done this, if only I’d done that…

But doing what? I’m often busy doing things as the days go by, but not really any thing. I’m buying things. Moving things. Cleaning things. Trying to maintain a steady state of constant activity. A mind occupied by everything but my self. Activity is the appearance of production, like a big leafy top to a little carrot.

More important is YOUR thing. That which will make you happy. It will leave you smiling at the end of day. But then I think too much on my thing, and the same situation is created. Stymied by thoughts and words. The paralysis of analysis. I find the best is when I plan. Then do.

The thinking comes first, so that the doing will flow… eternal, unconscious and unrestrained.

TED Talk Tuesday : Carl Honore praises slowness



We’re speeding up. Honore has looked into this, and talks of fast education, fast parenting, and fast sex. He tells us we should slow down. At the end of this article, I will tell you how.

Honore:

“Now, if you think about how our world got so accelerated, the usual suspects rear their heads. You think of, you know, urbanization, consumerism, the workplace, technology.”

Honore describes the Slow Movement. How European countries appreciate their time so much that they work less but remain in the top competitive group (not to mention their students are ahead of the US in math and science). He recollects the poster he saw at a New York City business for 20 minute yoga sessions, and in a magazine, the title of an article, “How to bring your partner to orgasm in 30 seconds”

“I like a quickie as much as the next person, but I think that there’s an awful lot to be gained from slow sex — from slowing down in the bedroom. You know, you tap into that — those deeper, sort of, psychological, emotional, spiritual currents, and you get a better orgasm with the buildup. You can get more bang for your buck”

That’s right. “Bang for the buck.”

So, why are we rushing?

“I think there’s a kind of metaphysical dimension — that speed becomes a way of walling ourselves off from the bigger, deeper questions. We fill our head with distraction, with busyness, so that we don’t have to ask, am I well? Am I happy? Are my children growing up right? Are politicians making good decisions on my behalf?”

Slowing down gives you more time. We often feel helpless that we can’t stop the clock. But what we may not realize is that we can stop it. Here’s how: When is it that you’ve felt like time has stopped? When you’ve been doing something that you love. You’ve directed your attention to living in the present, engaged in your passion.

When else have you felt like time has stopped? When you’re connecting with another human being. Alan Harrington describes it well: “When in love we get to co-mingle with one another like gods outside of time.”

The answer is obvious: Find something you love. Something you love to do and someone to love. A passion that doesn’t distract you from that someone. And someone who doesnt distract you from what you love to do. Live in the now. And if you’re doing something and you start to worry… Stop a minute.

And take some time.

TED Talk Tuesday: Social networking isn’t so social

Sherry Turkle hits a little too close to home:

“Across the generations, I see that people can’t get enough of each other, if and only if they can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control. I call it the Goldilocks effect: not too close, not too far, just right.”

I don’t even have a smart phone and I’m getting sucked in. The instant companion, the reassuring presence of people in my texts. They’re there, but not too close. Technology is good at providing what we want. But not what we need. Sherry describes it well:

“…I believe it’s because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy.”

Isnt it true? The prickly pear. The conversation with someone that seems like you’re peeling an artichoke to get to the goodness inside? Well, that’s ok. TV and movies has us thinking we need to have the perfect response and the right gestures, but that’s not life:

“Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves. And over time, we seem to forget this, or we seem to stop caring.”

It’s time we recognize that using our smart phone isn’t so smart sometimes. It’s time we unplug. If the cell phone is making you happy, by all means, keep it up. But if it’s not…? If it’s just calling you back to the instant connection to everyone and no one, the intimacy that feels good, but doesn’t satisfy, then it’s time to listen to Sherry:

“Technology is making a bid to redefine human connection — how we care for each other, how we care for ourselves — but it’s also giving us the opportunity to affirm our values and our direction. I’m optimistic. We have everything we need to start. We have each other. And we have the greatest chance of success if we recognize our vulnerability.”

TED Talk Tuesday: Graham Hill says “Less stuff, more happiness”



Graham Hill gives one of the best TED talks I’ve seen. We have three times as much living space as 50 years ago. But happiness has flatlined since then. Why? Because more stuff doesn’t make you more happy. The right stuff does.

It’s all about turning our paradigm on its head. I’ve been there. I’m in the store, and that ‘As Seen on TV’ car window scrubber looks really useful. So I grab it. And I do use it. Maybe a handful of times. But then I think about how a simple towel would have worked just as well.

“We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, “Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?” By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we’re going to love for years, not just.. stuff.”

Less stuff means more freedom, means more time. When I go camping, somehow my worries are reduced, which relates to having everything I own for that trip in a backpack. My day is wide open and free. (Seeing a sunset over the Appalachian mountains helps prioritize things too, of course.)

“We’ve got to clear the arteries of our lives. And that shirt that I hadn’t worn in years? It’s time for me to let it go. We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow.”

What stuff do you think you could let go of in your life?

What stuff truly makes you happy?

The joy of finding over keeping

I was cleaning my bathroom the other day. It was long overdue a wipe-down. I noticed a seashell lost in the midst of other things. It had come from a trip I took to the Siesta Keys. After I returned home, my experience in the Keys made me realize a lesson that everyone learns, but some of us forget. I am good at forgetting. So I sit and write about things.

While I was down there, I went running along the beach one morning and I came across a whole unbroken shell. I was excited. Most of the shells covering the beach were broken. I palmed the shell and kept running, enjoying the surf crash reassuringly but keeping an eye out on the sand. And then I saw another whole shell! It had a sheen that the other didn’t have. I palmed this one in my other hand. By the end of the trip, I had collected several perfect shells. I packed them carefully and took them home.

After a time, I realized the shells sitting there meant little to me. It was discovering them that made me happy. We often get lost in the collecting. Then, when we stop and think about it, we realize we’re going the wrong way. We’ve made a ritual of this action, and forgotten why we’re doing it. All we wanted was a happy experience, not a subservient one to collecting shells. Or money. Or following a guru.

Our actions come from who we are. Our creative process makes life worth living. Not our consumption or holding onto our creations in fear of losing them.

I threw all the shells away, except for one.

It’s the one I kept to remind me to focus on the discovery and not worry about the collecting.

TED Talk Tuesday – Gary says do what you love

A little entertainment for you this Tuesday, but it’s a funny and inspiring video by the most excitable guy I’ve seen in small business:

“Lets start with passion, there’s way too many people in this room right now that are doing stuff they hate. Please stop doing that. There is no reason in 2009 to do crap you hate. None. Promise me you won’t, because you can lose just as much money being happy as hell.”

His name is Gary Vaynerchuk. And he’s real:

“nine to five, I don’t have time. If you want this, if you’re miserable, or if you don’t like it or you want to do something else and you have a passion somewhere else. Work nine to five. Spend a couple hours with your family. Seven to two in the morning is plenty of time to do damage. But that’s it. It’s not going to happen any other way.”

Stay hungry, my friends.

I was confirmed at Catholic mass



I attended a Catholic mass last Tuesday and heard the Bishop of Columbus speak. He said something that has changed my view of religion in a deep and meaningful way. In fact, after he confirmed the class of young people, he confirmed my formula to power.

In conclusion to his talk, the bishop said that unless you know, love, and serve God, you cannot be happy. I found it important that he concluded by mentioning the key to personal happiness.

So God brings us happiness…but how?

I thought about this and realized that God has absolute power. We do wrong and he tells us to accept him as having this power and he will take away that sin. Fault is our feeling from doing wrong. If God takes away that fault, we can be happy and that’s the only way we can be happy.

So why are people, both Christians and others, still unhappy?

Christianity is misused. Some followers rely on others for their connection to God. Their minister, their priest, other authority figures. But Chrisitianity tells us we need a personal relationship with God.

There is another misuse: We help others before we help ourselves. We feel good about ourselves through these actions, but Christianity tells us that the crux of finding happiness isn’t through our actions, it’s through recognizing we make mistakes and are imperfect. And this knowledge, not action, is where we must start:

We must accept ourselves

Religion fails -rather, WE fail- when we jump ahead of this state of mind: We fail as Christians when we think going to a church and giving to others will make us happy. We cannot be happy unless we know ourselves. Knowing God and knowing ourselves is the same thing. The saying God is love makes sense: When we know God, we love ourselves despite being imperfect.

But God cannot accept our guilt, only we can. The Bishop did not say God knows us. He said WE must know God. That’s why when we’re unhappy, it’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. And once we accept this fault, we accept responsibility for ourselves. We lose that ego, we lose that worry. We become free and empowered.

Once we’re free from worry, we immediately become connected to others, because we see that everyone else is imperfect, too, and we’re not separate from them. And we see that when we don’t help them, it’s like not helping ourselves.

Freedom and connection are the consequences of accepting our imperfection. And freedom is happiness.

The Bishop was correct that we cannot be happy without knowing, loving and serving this idea: Accept your imperfections.

I thank the Bishop for confirming this in me.

The most difficult decision of my life

There are some actions that are not right, but context defines our decisions. Sometimes we must do the wrong thing at the right time. Me walking away from a medical degree, for instance. It was what needed to be done at the time, much to people’s disbelief. But I wasn’t living my life. My life was living me.

What is indisputable is that we’re here to do something worthwhile. And who is the one that’s going to tell you what that thing is?

Well, that’s going to be you. Not society. Not your parents. Not your neighbors, and not your partner.

The how and the why is answered by you, and you alone.

Your values are what make your actions your own.

“Yea, but we do.”

I was in the gym the other day and there were weights all over the place, but they weren’t on any racks. Some dumbells were strewn on the floor and the barbells were left on the bars. I arranged the weights that I needed, racking some to make room for the weight I wanted, and I did my exercises. When I was done, I started to put the weights back, but I hesitated, thinking, “Why should I? No one else did.” Then I thought of Erik.

Erik is one of my most interesting friends. He is a writer, which might explain why he was so interesting. He likes Goth clubs, but he always seemed to be an outsider, like he was researching a book he was writing. He dresses their way, he likes the same music, and he is highly tolerant of their unique lifestyle. But Erik isn’t angry at anyone. In fact, he likes everyone. His smile literally beams as shiny as his shaved head and black combat boots. I like Erik because he simply does his thing, with adventurous heart and a thinking mind. I visited him soon after he had moved to Las Vegas and we found ourselves in his gym.

We did bench press and the weights were not racked. We arranged the weight for ourselves and did our sets, taking turns until I finished the last set. Erik started putting the weights away, and I said, “Erik, let’s leave them. Other people didn’t put their weights away.” Erik didn’t look up as he continued pulling off barbells, “Yea, but we do.”

I thought about this a few days ago, although I’d shrugged it off at the time and helped him begrudgingly. I thought about how easy it is to pass up doing the right thing. Our actions are lost in anonymity… all of us shop at the big superstores which use greeters now as they try to replicate the feeling of the mom and pop shops that they (and us) are putting out of business. We buy things made in the China because it would require serious effort to go without that item or find an alternative to it that was made here. It’s easy to keep our money and retirement accounts with the Wall St banks after they defrauded people, because everyone else is. What difference does it make when there are so many people out there doing the same thing?

The difference is because it’s wrong.

So I returned my weights to the rack. No biggie, I know. And I’m only one person. But I’m part of a larger environment, and if I don’t think about that, and more importantly, if I don’t do something about it, then I am part of the problem. Other people may not do anything, but Erik’s words are still strong in my head:

“Yea, but we do.”