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.

Standard
Commentary, Habits, Philosophies

Is This Real Life?

Context: this particular post was written a couple of weeks ago while the misses was away for a business trip and my work was exceedingly stressful. The commentary is, however, no less universal today than it was then.

Barring a stroke of pure genius, welcome to my ham-fisted introduction, pounded out beligerently on the keyboard well past my bed time on a school night. I’m tired, my head hurts, my eyes are extremely dry, and the cat will, not stop, jumping, into, my lap. At this point, it’s hard to appreciate my tea or find the patience for studying Japanese, my physical circumstances simply don’t permit my attitude a sliver of optimism or enthusiasm. Yet, at the same time, I cannot ignore that my perspective as a self-improvement junkie, aspiring polyglot (knower of many languages) welcomes the reluctant learning as a badge of honor; a moment when my willpower and intellectual curiosity won out over my physical circumstances.

You see, today was a difficult day. Besides the brow-beating a 9-to-5 work environment can regularly lay on unsuspecting victims, the absence of my paramour (business trip) has made maintenance of my usual (pardon the term) “swagger” exceedingly difficult. Physically drained, emotionally exhausted, and mentally taxed beyond my usual burn-the-bitch-at-both-ends work style, normal circumstances simply aren’t what they would be in the right lighting. My persistent pesimism born of a physical inability to muster a smile makes crackers bland, tea uninteresting, and conversations labored.

On the flip side, my usual sunny demeanor has its benefits, pardoxically serving as a hindrance to my dispassionate evaluation of the world around me. The same day, viewed with a good night’s sleep, a warm hug from mah bebe, and a fresh batch of esoteric albums to listen to would taste the same crackers with delight, sip the same tea with appreciation, and lead to joke after hilariously delivered joke (I’m a God damn delight). Unfortunately, what this means is that regardless of the circumstances, you and I both are bound and determined to have our subjective evaluations swayed more by our physiology than by the flavor of crackers in front of us (I’m really hungry and all we have are crackers).

So what defines us? Clearly we aren’t serial killers one day and happy-bunnies the next. You see, the common thread that runs through all of our perceptions is our perspective. The perspective that comes from many years of living our own lives, walking in the shoes of others, and having cultural experiences that expand our minds. No matter how pissed off you get that X didn’t do Y or Z doesn’t taste like Q, down at your core you know who you are: a person capable of patience and empathy, unwilling to rely on heartburn and assumptions when making judgments or decisions. You are capable of doing better.

I’m not saying it’s easy, God knows it isn’t. But seeing the world objectively, not attaching a label or a positive/negative evaluation to everything you perceive will help you be a more calm, secure, and happy person. I speak from experience. Look beyond your assumptions and ask yourself, what is happening in this moment? And when you’re done, come back here and tell me about it because once my knee stops hurting and my complexion clears up, I will be a person that wants to hear about your life.

And you will be to.

Standard
Commentary, Philosophies

We Can Build It, We Have the Technology

I’m a self-help and productivity junkie; on that there is no argument. I’ll try any to-do list app, download calendar programs that make me breakfast, and use flashcards to memorize my strengths and weaknesses. During my perusing I came across two very interesting ideas: 1. Dreaming is usesless without doing and 2. social media is not a gathering, but a stage. The former is easy an extremely important idea, the latter a paradigm shift in the way we “act” in our lives, and the implication is a simple question: what are we really doing with our lives because of these truths?

The aforementioned calendar applications I have their uses, but the reality is that, until recently, I had been living my life for productivity. The flaw with this method, of course, is that productivity and creativity are not the end goals in themselves; they are the vehicles for greater action. For example, my unflappable determination to find the best to-do list has been long-developing and had, in its own rite, turned into a hobby of sorts. I would sift through the app store, mentally crossing off all the solutions I had tried and discarded. Once I finally found the holy grail (Any.DO, I highly recommend it), my immediate response was to go back to the app store and see if anything was better! Really? I had to ask myself “what am I really trying to accomplish here?” and, since answering that question, I have since been happier, more productive, and less broke on 99 cent apps.

Part of my new, more productive lifestyle was the utilization of news reader services, which led me to another truth that impacted my life significantly. Sifting through the news feeds of my favorite websites, I stumbled upon (using reddit, ironically) an article pointing to research that suggests that, though our methods of communication are more numerous/ubiquitous, our actual number of friends and meaningful activities had greatly declined (by as much as 40-50% in most cases). The research concluded that social networking of all kinds are not really a substitute for our in person interactions, but instead a platform upon which we may express ourselves in the presence of others. The principle makes sense: what requires a greater and, hence, more meaningful expenditure of personal resources? “Liking” a comment or going to have coffee with someone?

So I considered it and I came to a pretty confounding question: if tools facilitate action, and action dictates substance, why aren’t we using our tools to their fullest potential? Think about it: we can instantly exchange messages with friends, why not message them that their favorite band is playing right now? If we can post links on each others’ walls, why don’t we post the website of a restaurant we could go to? Extend the principle past social networking: if we can access the Library of fucking Congress, why can’t political junkies get their American history straight? I would never disparage pictures of cats (because I love them), but if we can instantly chat with someone of another nationality instantly, why aren’t we using the tool to become fluent in a new language?

Are we really using our tools to their fullest potential? Furthermore, are we really exercising ourselves to the fullest potential? I believe that we are not disinterested, but distracted; lost amongst the constant stimulation and too burdened by light-hearted entertainment to confront the real questions in our lives. Unable or unmotivated to learn and grow our intellectual garden, why not invest in and utilize the proper tools?

It’s really not a question of why but when. We have the tools, we have the information, and dreaming about our favorite endeavors is as useless as throwing coins in a fountain without the action to make them a reality. So consider, while you watch 300 and consider how bad ass Leonidas looks, why not work out? When you watch a cooking show and think “boy that looks good…” why not learn how to cook it? The world now more than ever is oversaturated with potential energy, the question is, when will you get up and start moving?

____________________

What do you think? Are you ready to get started? Have you already started? Join the conversation on the Facebook and Twitter pages.

Standard

Willpower is a complicated animal. Sometimes we’re forcing ourselves to accomplish things and this is healthy, sometimes we do the same and it’s not. Personally, I just want someone to tell me what to do with my life.

In this video, the folks over at Epipheo talk about the differences in willpower: “I Will-Power”, “I Want-Power”, and “I Won’t-Power”. Since willpower is like a muscle, tiring after prolonged use without rest, tapping into these different sources becomes incredibly valuable. Personally, I use “I Will-Power” every time I do my household chores, and “I Want-Power” every time I go to the gym and the results are palpable.

How do you get the job done? How do you tap into those personal resources and make awesome stuff happen?