“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.

Advertisements

“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”

manwithblinders cartoon

Nick eats eight meals a day. He has little containers of food that he brings to work. He goes to Sam’s Club to buy the big bags of broccoli and diapers.

Kevin takes long bike rides with a group. They stop at a buffet after their rides.

Rick has 2 dogs which he misses every day when he comes to work.

So my story is… these people. Their stories become part of my story. The story of our lives is the background in our lives. The stuff that gets blurred out as we acclimate to the noise or don’t bother to ask.

As we get more focused on getting from point A to point B…apartment to house, house to bigger house, less pay to more pay, this partner to that partner, single to married, searching for the cool place to go and hang…we miss all the infinite points between. Those points are the people, places, and opportunities. They form the canvas of our life. When they’re connected, they become our life drawing.

That’s why when our actions are made without context, without others, without a why, without looking around first, then those actions become indefinite, their borders hazy, and after years of this, our life ceases to be meaningful.

The aim is not make a straight line. The point is not to hit each point, each milestone, checking the box, then seeking the next one. The point is to expand over our canvas, not stay isolated in our office, career, home, or family. The intent is to learn, and absorption doesn’t work unless you’re listening and putting yourself out there.

We do need goals. But what are the goals? Career, personal life, family life…how much effort to spend in each bucket? The tangibles can be met fairly easily, especially here in the US, but what happens when you realize that you’ve lost years of experience, potential friends, lovers, and new places, because your goals became your life, and living the moments fell off the list?

“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”
– Geoffrey Wolff

Choose carefully, but just make sure you choose. The tangibles are easy to measure. The intangibles are not. Thing is, we’re here for the intangibles.

“Do you want in?” she asked.

Mr burns

“What’s that?” I said.
“We’re buying powerball tickets.”
“Ah, no thanks,” I told her.
Then I heard some of my co-workers talking about what they’d do if they won the money.
“The first thing I’d do is pay off my house..” one man said. “Then I’d set aside money to pay for my kids’ college, and then..I’d figure out what I really want to do with my life.”
I felt kind of sick to my stomach after hearing this.

In this day and age, having our biological needs met, the things we think we need are now the things we think we need to pay for, which is quite the opposite of the truth.

Career has become a situation of the estranged…a process to acquire money, a separate experience that is not about developing the self, but about developing a portfolio. A job that is donned, like a coat, and then taken off at the end of the day. Or maybe we never take it off, because we’re scared to look at ourselves naked.

We may even enjoy playing that dressup, but we’re tethered to that custume, it has become our birthday suit. We come to embrace our raises instead of our colleagues, and perhaps we only tolerate them because we cannot will ourselves to jump off the safety of this ship. We think we don’t have the strength and the stamina to swim to a place where our career ceases to be work, where we stop working to live and instead start living to work.

But our ability to compromise is powerful. It’s one of our greatest strengths, and maybe also our greatest weakness.

Work hard. Play harder… because without it, work becomes an uninspired trial, waiting for the play of the weekends and vacations. But make work and play inseparable, and you are in the best situation of all, waiting on nothing, and instead living every minute.

Sofia Vergara doesn’t care about your biceps

Sofia-Vergara

I walked into the gym the other day and looked for a cage. The cage is mainly for squats and deadlifts. Those are the exercises that form the foundation of my workouts. But from what I’ve seen in the gym over the years, the most popular exercise for guys is the bicep curl, which it was for me many years ago. Polishing the guns, in every way possible. Standing or seated, barbell or dumbbells.

Sometimes when I see bicep curls being done, I’m reminded of a conversation between an old girlfriend and me. She said that she sees guys doing those exercises in the gym while staring at themselves in the mirror. She said, “I think they’re in there doing it just for themselves.”

I disagreed: “They do it to be more attractive to females.”

But now I think she was right.

This focus on the thing, the form, and not the person, is clearly seen in marketing (big surprise). Sofia Vergara prefers soda pop to men in her diet Pepsi commercials. And the guys in beer commercials pass up the girl for beer. This should be funny because it runs against what we do in real life. But does it actually? Do we chase stuff, like the job, money, beer, or bigger biceps, over relationships? Do we spend more time getting a paycheck and attractive physiques or more time learning to have a conversation, more time trying to connect and build relationships?

Building up a bank account or body is in many ways easier than building a solid relationship, but it won’t get us the kind of people we need in our lives. These kinds of commercials and my days in the gym remind of this almost every day. The challenge is getting into the habit to focus on what others want and what they do. This genuine curiosity can’t come from a place of insecurity, and security doesn’t come from external wealth. It comes from you knowing who you are, and accepting who you are, so all the attention that would otherwise be tied up in stabilizing yourself can be turned outward. I think when that happens, people realize you care about them. And that’s what it’s about in the end…being valued.

And putting diet Pepsi and big biceps in their proper place.

She told me, “Love is a feeling. It’s not about anything else.”

co-dependent hug

Our relationship had been broken almost from the start. A tentative dance between two people with two left feet. The final break was years later, and it was the first time after a break-up that I didn’t rush to fill that void that was left. I felt neither happy or sad. I felt..nothing. Maybe that was what was meant by “being at peace.”

Anyway, her and I. We still talked.

So I sat and listened when she said, “Love is a feeling. It’s not about anything else.”

I shook my head. “Love needs an object. You love something or someone because of some value you get from it or him or her. You need to define love in that context.”

I thought about that some more, and realized that there was something significant in what she said. Love is a feeling. And feelings originate within you. They are created by you. And the saying how you can’t control love has a little truth in it, too. Love is when you value someone more than yourself, which is an irrational state. It’s totally emotional, illogical. But when that love ceases to come from you, and your control over love is given over to the object or person, this is where it can slide into a coup, where you become helpless to the situation or the other person.

There is a fine line between seeking love from another, and finding someone to give your love to.

Relationships can be two people who are seeking validation and value from each other and their trade results in a balanced relationship. However, I don’t know if they love each other..maybe they like the attention the other is giving to them. The latter is not love.

So she was right. Love starts with you. Who you choose and the time and effort you’re willing to spend on them. You control that decision. No one else.

How to fix most all relationship problems

If I can’t live in the present, then I can’t love. Love is NOW. Living in a future of wants prevents me from sustaining love for anything, or anyone. And expecting love from someone who looks ahead, dissatisfied with himself or herself, is a losing proposition. And sure to make you unhappy in the process.