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Month: October 2016

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

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Today is my birthday!

When I was in college, my dear friend Ibi organized a birthday party for me freshman year. Later she became my girlfriend and sophmore and junior year she organized surprise parties for my birthday.

The summer before senior year we broke up. Senior year my birthday came and nobody noticed.

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I was very sad and I felt very sorry for myself.

I realized that I really valued the acknowledgment of my birthday and I also realized that no one but me was keeping track of that date. It was really my responsibility to take care of myself and if something was important to me, as an adult, I needed to communicate that.

From then on I took responsibility for the day. I used to warn people months ahead of time that my birthday was coming. One of the things I love about Facebook is that it makes it very easy for people to send a quick birthday message and it reminds people. The hundreds of little notes I get really makes my day!

It’s good to take time on your birthday to celebrate yourself and your life. It’s good to do that on the other 364 days of the year. (Actually 365 days this year because it’s a leap year.)

It’s actually good to take responsibility for each day as well the way I take responsibility for my birthday. Make each day special by letting people know that you value them.

  • Give a stranger a smile.
  • Give a friend a hug.
  • Give a loved one a kiss.
  • Send a note to someone far away and tell them that you thought of them.

I’m going to start doing those things every day this year and see how it works.

I’m also going to change up my morning routine a little bit. I’m gonna add 3-4 minutes of disco dancing every day. It’ll get the blood pumping and the smile primed and put a little pep in my step.

 

Summary

  • If you want a day to be special it’s up to you to make it special.
  • You can decide to make every day special.
  • You can make every day special by treating yourself and people around you well.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Smile at a stranger.
  2. Hug a friend
  3. Dance!

 

PS

Speaking of dancing, I wanted to mention that I have started an intergalactic movement. It’s a new non-political party called the Friday Morning Dance Party. Every friday morning at 9:35 ET (6:35 PT) everyone in the party dances to the same song.

Join us for a real live dance dance revolution!

Check out my facebook feed for details.

 

Do It Now

Do It Now

Dad Diving
This picture is from the early 60s. I think that’s my dad. I think he’s about to do a belly flop.

Here is a lesson I learned many years ago from Dave Pasquesi, a brilliant Chicago-based actor and improviser. Our group was doing a long-form improvisation (a Harold for you in the know) in rehearsal and Dave was watching. It was tough because he was squirming and sighing with frustration during some of the scenes until finally he just exploded.

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“Just f***ing kill the f***king guy already!”

(I don’t remember the details but I think we were hemming and hawing about hanging someone in an old west scene.)

“You knew you were going to kill him so just kill him already and find out what happens next,” Dave said.

He was absolutely right. We didn’t go through with the killing because we had no idea what was going to happen after that.

But that’s the best place to be when you’re doing improv. That’s when the real creativity happens.

The point is a very good one for improv, writing and for life. If you know something is going to happen in an improv scene you should go ahead and have it happen so you can discover what you don’t know. The same is true with writing. If you’re writing something and you have a great ending, try making that the beginning and see what happens AFTER that. Terrible storytelling talks a long time to get where you knew it was going. Great storytelling surprises you at the end.

Most of the time it surprised the writer as well.

I have a good friend from Seattle who never really committed to anything long term because he always knew he was going to someday move to LA and “sell-out.” He was going to write screenplays and television. About 22 years ago he did it. After 8 months in Los Angeles he realized Hollywood wasn’t interested in what he was interested in so he went back to Seattle and, unburdened by this someday dream, he became one of the most important people in the vibrant theater scene there.

With no regrets.

I have done a bunch of things immediately and I’ve put off a bunch of stuff. In college someone said to me that if you wait until you’re ready to start a theater you’ll never start one because you’ll never be ready. I took that to heart and started and theater right after I graduated when I had no idea what I was doing (30 years later it’s still going strong). Everything I put off I regret putting off.

What happens when you do it now is that you get it out of your head and into reality. Your vision may come true or it may die but either way it makes your life richer and it leaves room for other visions to grow.

Like the story of my friend from Seattle illustrates, sometimes the someday dreams you don’t take out can get in the way of you living your life. Sometimes the someday dreams can’t breathe real air and when they hit reality they die.

Sometimes that’s sad but often it’s a very good thing.

So if you have a someday dream, do it today so you can make room for the thing that comes next.


This may be very obvious to you but as someone who resisted organization and to do lists for years I found it a revelation.

Summary

  • If you have something that you intend to do, it’s better to do it now.
  • Doing it now will make it live or die that much quicker.
  • Doing it now will give you room to create new dreams.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Choose something you want to do someday.
  2. Figure out the first step you need to take to do that thing.
  3. Do it…now!

 

Write It Down, Get It Done

Write It Down, Get It Done

pencil-918449_1920Here’s something that everyone has in common, whether they are a US Senator, an NFL quarterback or a dishwasher.

You can only do one thing at a time.*

This can be very frustrating because reality can do an infinite number of things at once and our minds can think dozens of things at once on multiple levels.

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On top of that there are all those people that are not you. There are billions of them and they can do billions of things while you can only do one. Of course each one of them can only do one thing at a time but there are so many of them it’s not fair.*

So it can be very discouraging and overwhelming if you compare how much you can get done (one thing at a time) to what you can think about doing, especially when you’re thinking about all the things that everyone else is doing while you’re thinking about what you should be doing.

But here’s the good news.

Language is linear.

We can think about dozens of things at once on multiple levels (I mean thinking about something and thinking about the fact that you’re thinking about it and subconsciously thinking about something else) but we can’t talk or write that way.

That’s one of the main reasons why it really helps to get your to do list out of your head and onto paper.

If you want to do it write it down.

This will get it out of your head and into reality, at least on paper. This allows you to see how many things you want to do, remember them and put them in order. This is much more effective than just thinking about stuff. Because language is analogous to individual action (as opposed to being analogous to reality, group action or thinking) it’s super helpful to write down the things you want to do.

Another way of looking at it is to see that the limitations of language can be very helpful. The bad new is that you’ll never see a poem as lovely as a tree. The good news is that writing tasks down will help you get them done.

This may be very obvious to you but as someone who resisted organization and to do lists for years I found it a revelation.

Summary

  • You can only do one thing at a time.
  • Language is linear so it’s analogous to individual action. You can only SAY one thing at a time.
  • Writing down your tasks will get them out of your non-linear head and help you get things done.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Take 30 minutes and write down everything you want to do.
  2. Pick 1 task from your list.
  3. Get it done.

 


*There are two things that might make it seem like you can do more than one thing at time.

  • Multitasking: This is not really doing two or more things at once. This is just doing one thing that accomplishes two or more goals.
  • Getting other people to do stuff using nifty new inventions like language, money, civilization and twitter is another way to get things done. This is not doing more than one thing at a time, however. This is getting other people to use the one thing they get to do at this time in service to your goals.

**Imagine that the world is split into two teams and you’re on one and the rest of the world is on the other. We’ll call your team “The Ewes.” We’ll order jerseys. Go Ewes! We’ll call the other team the Knots (because they’re not you). The teams are not even (it’s 7 billion against 1) but a lot of people make the comparison between the Ewes and the Knots and find the Ewes sadly wanting. In fact, while your were reading this the Knots had like 100,000 babies, built a few houses, finished 157 novels, fell in love a million times, ran a few marathons and lost a ton of weight (several tons actually). You better get busy!

Mathematical Proof That You Are Incredible

Mathematical Proof That You Are Incredible

There are billions of people alive on this planet right now and, unless you’re a search engine spider or a cat who can read, you’re one of them.

Have you ever considered how unlikely that is?

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Of course it probably seems inevitable to you that you exist. Aside from George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and a few other fictional characters, no one has ever experienced a world that they were not in.

When I look at my son I see a growing human being that I am incredibly proud of who I would give my life for without hesitation. He exists because my wife and I fooled around and one of my sperm fertilized one of her eggs. 8 months later (he came early) he was born.

Something similar happened to me several decades ago. My mother and father fooled around in February and in October** I was born.

Something similar probably happened to you and to everyone you know as well.*

Genetically, we are all unique and recently scientists confirmed that each sperm and egg are unique as well. So what is the likelihood that that particular sperm fertilized that particular egg?

It turns out we don’t have to take into account the likelihood of fooling around on Tuesday night versus Thursday morning. We can just multiply the number of possible eggs produced by a human woman (two million) by the number of sperm produced by a human male (500 billion) to get one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) possible combinations of all the sperm and and all the eggs that your parents produced.

So you are not one in a million. You are one in a quintillion.

Not unique enough for you? There’s more – a lot more.

It now seems inevitable to me that my wife and I would meet and fall in love and get married and have a baby.

But the chain of events that led to us meeting is mind bobbling. Two years before we met we lived 3,000 miles away from each other and we knew no one in common. Even before we get to one in a quintillion we are talking about extremely unlikely. Let’s be super conservative and, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the chance of any one person meeting and having a baby with a particular other is at least a million to one. Obviously some are more likely (the couple who are both from the tiny, isolated village in Canada) and some are less (the guy from Zimbabwe and the girl from China who met at a rave in France) so it’s an average.

If this is the case then you are not one in quintillion.

You are one in septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

By comparison, the chance that you exist at all is one million times less likely than the chance that you will be hit by lightning three times in the next 12 months.

And here’s the truly mind blowing thing.

Every generation of ancestors is just as unlikely.

So thats one in septillion for your Mom and one in septillion for your Dad and so on and so on and so on (as the ancient shampoo commercial said).

If you add it all up (actually multiply it all up) it’s just about impossible that you exist. It is so unbelievably unlikely that it’s not hard to call it a miracle.

So if you ever think that you’re not that special or not unique please check your math.

From a practical standpoint it is very clear that no one has ever lived who is exactly like you and no one will ever again. You are. literally, unprecedented. What you have to offer, your blend of talents, experience and point of view, has never been seen in the universe and never will again.

Please don’t hesitate to share.

(I mean your talents and your point of view but if you are moved to share this post please feel free as well!)

Thanks!

Summary

  • You are unique. You are more likely to be hit by lightning 3 times this year than to be born.

Three Steps to
Take Today

  1. Write down at least three things that are unique about you.
  2. Write down at least three things that only you can do.
  3. Pick your favorite thing on this last list and do it today.