Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

Act

Growth. It is what brings forest to being, rockets to space, and love to one another. It’s a powerful, powerful force. But I’m not here to talk about growth. I’m here to talk about its brother: destruction.

Okay, let’s dial back the theatrics a bit. By destruction I do not mean Armageddon, but instead simple failure. Shortcoming, insufficient effort, the lack of success, whatever you want to call it; it’s present and, to be perfectly honest about our condition, it’s here to stay.

The general rule of thumb is to see failure as, well failure. But I propose an alternative perspective. What if we strip the emotional and personal judgment from the term entirely? What if we remove the ego from the process and simply look at failure as, well, failure? What we get, is the very opposite of failure: opportunity. The potential for growth, the antithesis of inadequacy, and the very converse of a closed door.

So let’s take stock of what has happened here: by seeing our actions, not as extensions of our self-worth, but instead as the honest, good-natured efforts of people doing their best in the world, then we really only ever do one of two very positive things. We either grow, or we see potential for growth. That folks, ain’t bad.

So act. If this is our true situation (and it is) then the only negative choice is inaction. The doldrums strand good sailors and inaction stalls growth. In either situation we have the sails, it’s just a matter of putting them to the winds.

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Habits, How-To

Eat Your Veggies

I am big into nutrition right now. I may or may not be depending on how great my craving for cookies is in the next couple of months (seriously, I have less nutritional discipline than a Biggest Loser contestant without extreme external-monitoring) but for right now I’m big into nutrition.

Each day I eat a balance of proteins and fiber, less carbs (gotta look good for bikini season) and plenty of water. It wasn’t until I was enjoying one of my colorful meals with my paramour that I considered: what if the food pyramid could be applied to our time budget?

I often speak about priorities here on CFiST but today I’d like to give you a tool to make that concept a reality. So even though Time Pyramid would make an awesome 80’s sci-fi title, in this context I’d like to harken back to the now retired food pyramid.

The Plan

Start by considering all the different activities you do during the day. For example, my list would look like the following:

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones
  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal
  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write
  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

It’s pretty busy to say the least. Now, here’s how I would break that down, carrying the food analogy:

Grains

The essentials. Require the most servings and form the building blocks of your happiness.

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones

Fruits and veggies

The enriching activities. Substantial, colorful, and tasty!

  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal

Dairy/protein

Essential, but fewer servings. Build mental strength and get some “culture”. Get it? Yogurt joke.

  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write

Sweets and oils

Delicious, but to be partaken of… sparingly.

  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

The result is a coherent metaphor for time “nutrition”; a way to balance out your activities in the best way possible using knowledge you already know. Pretty cool, right?

So how about you? What does your time nutrition look like? List your activities and try breaking them down into these groups and see how many servings you get in an average day. Feel free to post the results in the comments below and think about eating healthier. I have a hunch that you’ll be glad you did.

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Philosophies

Ask the Right Question

Today’s message is simple:

Sometimes when you ask, “what is wrong with me?” the answer is, “nothing.”

This is a personal anecdote, no hard scientific evidence, but a full week of grappling with this question, finding no answer whatsoever has enlightened me to its importance. Often when we cannot find the answers we need, we are asking the wrong question. In my case, the question was not “What is wrong with me?’ but, “What is causing me to feel this way?”

Our circumstances have a powerful effect in our lives, but it takes maturity to remember that.

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Inspiration, Philosophies, Productivity

Live

It’s a challenging thing, the drudgery of work; not simply the hours of tedium or the necessary evil of doing what we must so that we may do what we wish. It’s a cognitive tap-dance masquerading as a normal life: go to work, do something I don’t want for someone I don’t like, come home, do what I want for 4 hours, then jump to the weekend and eek out what substance I can, drained, demoralized, and frustrated from a week of choices made for us. So how do we reconcile it? How do we make it work for us? A recent personal revelation has lead me to a solution: balance.

115% of all teenagers, young adults, adults, young old-people, medium old-people, and old-old-people will end up working a job they hate at one point or another in their lives. It’s an unfortunate if not ubiquitous fact that to a great degree, our career path chooses us and not the other way around. And I don’t mean that in the good “oh, you were always destined to be a hot doctor” kind of way, I mean it in the “good luck getting a job as a Lego master builder without about eight grand, a personal connection with Alfred Lego’s nephew, or an acute lack of gag reflex” way.

The common response to this way of thinking is, of course, the “you have to pay your dues” speech. Simply work the job you hate and someday you’ll land the job you love (and let me be clear, when I say “love” I mean, you get up in the morning fucking pumped up because of what you do and who you came to be). But that’s simply not true 100% of the time either. Most of us will end up in jobs we tolerate or that we enjoy simply because the pay justifies that new waffle iron we’ve had our eye on. The corporate world is unforgiving and frankly, doesn’t give a shit about our dreams and aspirations.

So the picture we’ve got in front of ourselves is a bleak one. We’re not children anymore, we’ve all done things we didn’t enjoy and we’re all going to have to do some things we won’t like. But being a fighter, my natural question at this crossroads is “what can I do about it?” After 25 full years of contemplation I believe I have the answer:

Tolerate what you can, change what you must.

You see, we can all tolerate a stint at Chik-Fil-A (“Thank you”, “My pleasure”) because at the end of the day, we need food. We can accept that not everything we do is going to be the most dignifying because, on a very basic level, we need to survive.

But regarding the rest, that other 50% o’ our lives that we 1) can’t stand and 2) have other plans for, we can fucking do something about that! If we don’t like our job, we can browse listings, volunteer at activities that stimulate our passions, and get tips from people in the scene. We can research how to become better at a foreign language and travel to another country. We can spend $50 bucks on a midi keyboard and start making music. These are all changes that we can make that, with a little follow-through, can make this one-off go at life worth living.

Ask yourself, “if I don’t like what I’m doing, then why am I doing it?” If you’ve never asked yourself that question, then the world probably looks a lot like what was described earlier in this post. But if you have and you can’t come up with a good answer (need and survival are good answers) then change, what you, are doing. Make a difference in YOUR life. Don’t make excuses, don’t pander to anyone else. Care enough about yourself to make yourself a priority and for God/Allah/FSM’s sake, live.

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Commentary, Philosophies

Express Yo Self

Narcissistic, nihilistic, controversial and crass; a cacophany of cute, quaint, clothing choices and hollow creeds. It’s a fucking disgrace and it’s never been more possible, more enjoyable, or more engrossing than it is today: self-expression. Some abandon form to define their shape while others stick rigidly to the suit and tie in order to inculcate in themselves a sense of worth and in others a sense of attraction. It’s a disgusting display of self-pride, rejection of one cult for another, and construction of our consciousness that has never been more necessary in the era of niche chic.

Consider, for example, my recent trip to the the local mega-mall, as expositionally opportunistic as it is argumentatively convenient. Since re-opening my til-then-long-dormant quest to put together my “dream wardrobe”, I’ve come upon a til-now-undiscovered dimension of my own human experience: taste. I find it in all things: the liquor I drink, the music I ingest, the clothes I wear, and even the television shows I watch.

While all of these make for convenient Facebook likes, the dimension to which I enjoyed these many endeavors/activities/materials was, over time, tinged with the visual wash of my favorite photographers, appearing to the untrained eye to be as much an extension of myself as the sounds I hear and the foods I taste. In short, each was a conversation; a back and forth between my social consciousness, my disposition, my hopes and fears, and the invested intentions of the creating artists.

The vulgarity of my taste is not hidden. When I pull a jacket off the rack and try it on, I’m thinking exclusively about how good I look. Not the starving children in Africa, not the poor shivering coats I overlooked to make my selection, but myself. My actions, thanks to social media (the purist’s four-letter word) and our American culture’s incredible capacity for self-obsession (of which I am not known to mock/abstain from), are a giant fucking gaudy, neon-lighted monument to me and all the me’s that I love.

And the self-love is not entirely public either. Even sitting here listening to Lotus Plaza’s (no, you’ve never heard of them) album, recommended from a website that thrives on elitism, I get the warm-fuzzy-glowy feeling I can only imagine Mormons get when they chastise someone for not wearing the right underwear to the wrong church.

But before I (or honestly, anyone I know) head to the bathroom to wash the sticky nectar of self-indulgence off my hands and keyboard, I must plead that my personal hero-worship is not without external cause. When Lana Del Rey can make a living off of one song and en vogue hipster mystique while I slave away over a hot keyboard trying to convince myself without financial validation that my work is any better, the human ego can’t help but go on the defensive. We need ourselves to like ourselves, otherwise what makes our flying spaghetti monster any less fictitious than anyone else’s?

And in my expertly cultivated and totally unique/cool/desirable opinion, that is exactly why neon bras and three-wolf moon shirts make ego masturbation just as healthy as real masturbation. If you don’t know what you like and you can’t communicate it to others, then how can you approach that part of your life with any confidence? Furthermore, how can you approach that part of anyone else’s life with any confidence? In a world of fragmented niches, globalized reputations, diminishing fishes in ever-largening ponds, it has simply never been more essential to know who you are and accept the same of others.

I recently received a shirt for Christmas from a UK graphic design group called Ugmonk that was featured in the premier web-based men’s magazine Uncrate. To say I felt like the 1990’s middle-schooler with the shiniest Pog slammer would be an outright lie. But beyond confirming what I already knew about my bad self, it was the validation that my taste was dictated, not by others, but by my own sensibilities and identity and these sensibilities extend, now more than ever, into every aspect of my life.

Catharsis, thou comest in a medium.

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