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Making a Difference

Making a Difference

“One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”

John F. Kennedy

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders got into the race for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. I’ve heard several analysts point out that he may be a victim of his own success. He didn’t win the nomination in 2016 but many of his policy ideas, things that set him apart 3 years ago, are now embraced by every dem.

So even though he didn’t win, he made a huge difference.

About 15 years ago, the late, great Aldrich Allen introduced me at Ten Tops, a sort of open mic night that Sacred Fools has been doing for over 20 years. Aldrich, who was one of the most iconoclastic people I have ever met (and that is saying something–I know a lot of weirdos), said of me: “I love the way his mind works.”

I have remembered and cherished this compliment since then. Honestly, it’s why I write. It made a profound impact on me. Because Aldrich was interested in what I had to say, I have continued to say things, and try to make them interesting, long after Aldrich was gone.

So the moral of these two stories is that anyone can make a difference and everyone should try.

That anyone and everyone includes you and me, just in case that wasn’t obvious.

So encourage someone today. Tell someone you love them or you like them or you appreciate them.

It’ll make a difference.

Goal, Stated

Goal, Stated

Preface

If you’ve been reading this for a while, you know that I have a structure that I’ve been developing called The Three Simple Steps.

The Three Simple Steps are”

  1. Step Back – Look at the big picture, set goals, define self and purpose.
  2. Step Up – Take responsibility and set up structures to support accountability and integrity.
  3. Step Forward – Take action.

I have just added another step so it’s going to be The Four Simple Steps or maybe The Four Fundamental Steps.

The new step is:

Step Out – Celebrate your accomplishments, step out of the realm you’re familiar with, and make new connections.

Not everything in this blog will be about the Four Steps but it will probably all relate.

Having said that, here’s the meat.

The Meat

The Four Steps are a dance. They are not meant to all go in a certain order all the time once you get started. To begin something, however, it’s almost always a good idea to take a step back and create a goal so you know where you’re going.

I’ve been thinking about setting a goal every two weeks and then applying the Four Steps to that goal and seeing how it works. My hope is that you, gentle reader, will join me in this endeavour.

Finding a goal for the next two is not hard for me. I’m in pain and I want it to stop.

The Goal: Spend at least 20 minutes a day (10 in the morning, 10 in the evening) stretching and foam rolling.

Here’s the backstory. Over the past few years, I’ve been getting achier and achier. I’ve been to a rheumatologist and, based on my blood work, I don’t have arthritis. The problem is just that I exercise and I don’t stretch or do foam rolling.

Lately, it’s been bad. My quads, my hips and my lower back are all painful. When I stand up after sitting down for any length of time I walk like Frankenstein’s Monster for several yards as my back cries out in protest. When I climb stairs I quietly grunt in pain.

It’s ridiculous and it has to stop.

My ultimate goal as it relates to my body is to be fit and healthy. One thing that is OBVIOUSLY missing is a daily stretching practice…or any stretching of any kind ever.

Duh.

So my goal is to develop a daily stretching and rolling practice. I will also make an appointment with my doctor. I hope that he will set me up with a physical therapist/trainer who can design a routine for me.

Step up means take responsibility (whose fault is this? Mine! Done). It also means setting up accountability structures. I will set up an agreement with two other people (and with you, gentle readers), to support me in doing this every day.

Step forward means taking action which I will do as soon as I finish this post and publish it.

I actually started today with 5 minutes of rolling my muscles before I stood up and it made a huge difference.

I promise to keep you posted.

Now it’s your turn. What is your goal for the next two weeks? Post it below in the comments and I’ll help you reach it.

Excelsior!!

Re-defining Yourself For Fun and Profit

Re-defining Yourself For Fun and Profit

I have a bunch of songs set up as alarms on my phone. The one that goes off at 8 AM is the song “Who Are You” by The Who. It’s a great song and I love being asked the question by Messrs. Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle and Moon.

Who is this?

So who am I?

I could try to answer that by regurgitating all the conflicting stories and beliefs I have about myself or I could ask other people to answer that question based on how I impact them. The funny thing is that we typically define ourselves based on our self-conception and we define everyone else based on how they behave.

This is because, no matter how loud they are, the voices in our heads can’t be heard by anyone else. Because they don’t exist.

Yet they have a huge impact on how we view ourselves. For most of my friend’s those voices are full of criticism and negativity and they really should be ignored.

Now I could go on and on about negative self talk and where it comes from and how damaging it is and, in the future, I probably will.

Today, however, I just want to focus on the construction of self for a minute.

We create an idea of ourselves based on our experiences and beliefs. We also create a view of the world. There is also an objective view of the world and there’s a view of other people in our lives and our relationships with them.

We tend to think of all these as separate things that are real. Like there’s me and there’s the world and there’s my world view and there’s other people.

But all those things are made up and they are all intertwined.

To see this clearly, look at someone else. Think of anyone you know. They have a view of themselves and a view of the world. You can see that their view of themselves has a huge impact on their view of the world and their view of the world has a huge impact on what they do with their lives.

Got it? This seems really obvious to me. Please let me know if you think I’m wrong.

Now that you see that there is this relationship between a person’s idea of themselves and their view of the world, you can understand, at least intellectually, that this must be true of yourself.

My point is that it’s all made up. Much of it we inherit from our family and our culture and most of the rest we make up ourselves. And there is no clear boundary between our conception of the World and our Idea of Ourselves.

Since we’ve made all this up, we can change what we’ve invented. Write a different story and, in doing so, change ourselves and the world.

Easy?

No.

But very possible. In fact it happens all the time.

So here’s the one little thing to do today.

Redefine yourself as the person you want to be. Watch this:

I’m a writer.

Believe it or not, that’s the first time I’ve defined myself that way. It feels good. It actually took a number of drafts to write that sentence. It’s very powerful and I know that it will cause me to interact with the world differently.

So…who are you?

Make your declaration in the comments below…all the way below.

Weekend Rhythm

Weekend Rhythm

Getting it done every day means getting it done even on days that are not normal.

I am currently a freelance writer and video editor, an adjunct professor, a novelist and blogger, a coach, a part-time podcast host, a father, husband and triathlete.

None of my days are normal anymore.

This has made it difficult to create healthy habits more difficult. Back when I had a full-time job I exercised and meditated more regularly. During that time I actually created daily videos for months at a time.

So I’m creating a daily habit of blogging every day, you’re reading the result of that right now, and I’m going to create more healthy practices that I will share on these pages.

One of the biggest problems I have faced over the years when I’m trying to create daily habits is weekends and holidays. I’m sure you’ve run into the same thing. Special occasions disrupt the regular structures that we construct to support the changes we have made in our life. Holidays, for example, are the worst thing for maintaining a diet or an exercise regime.

So I’m very glad that I am writing this now, on the Sunday of a long weekend.

This special occasion, at least, did not kill this new daily habit.

If you have any thoughts on this, please scroll down to the comment link at the bottom of the page.

Thanks!

Why Bother?

Why Bother?

My son and I build sandcastles together. He’s 17 now but we still collaborate at least twice a year on a sandy version of Minas Tirith or Edinbourgh Castle.

It’s fun.

(That’s a wild understatement but it’s difficult to put into words how simple and profound and wonderful and soul-lifting it is.)

We always try to time our builds so that we have time to create an elaborate castle and get to see the waves knock it down.

Not sure if this the same castle as above. Looks like it…

Ideally we start near the edge of the water about an hour before low tide. Then we have about two hours to build and carve before the waves start hitting our site.

This timing tradition goes back to when Yogi was little and we HAD to wait until the castle was completely washed away. A five-year-old boy has, in my experience, an insatiable desire to witness mayhem and destruction. (I think that disaster-porn movies like San Andreas, Godzilla and Independence Day appeal to the five-year-old boy in all of us.) As he grew a little older it became important to do everything we could to prolong the life of our castle against the encroaching tide. No matter how hopeless it obviously was to me—or how late in the day it was—Yogi would insist that we rush to construct walls or even lay down our bodies to keep the last towers standing for a few more seconds. Meanwhile, I wanted him to be more reasonable. Our efforts would end up being fruitless so, why bother.

Why bother?

One beach day it struck me that this was analogus to young progressives demanding change while older folks sat by and shook their heads at their foolish idealism.

Why bother?

Of course, we’re all going to die someday. Life is tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Why bother?

In fact the sun is going to explode in a few billion years so any thing we make on this planet will be cosmic dust. A few billion after that will come the inevitable heat death of the universe.

So really…why bother?

What I get from this reductio ad absurdum argument is that since anyone can dig meaninglessness out of anything, you don’t really need a bullet-proof reason to do something. Just answer the “Why Bother?” with “Why Not?”

Plus it’s more fun to do stuff than not.

(Again…understatement)

Let me give you another example. I used to not make my bed. I figured it was going to get unmade the second I used it again and no one would see it in the intervening hours except maybe me. What was the point?

Of course, there really is no point. Except of course that it looks nice and my future, going-to-bed self likes getting into a made bed. It’s also a good way to start the day. It demonstrates a commitment to neatness and excellence in all things.

Those are reasons enough if I decide they are.

So, why not?

So if you’ve been thinking about doing something but you couldn’t figure out a good reason to justify the effort, do it anyway before the tide comes in or the sun explodes.

Why not?

If this inspires you to start something, scroll down and leave a comment below.

PS: Full disclosure: I usually get out of bed first so my wife usually makes our bed. When she’s away I don’t always make the bed.

Just want to be upfront about this.

Everything Changes All The Time

Everything Changes All The Time

A long while ago I was talking to my friend Mike about this that and the other thing and I mentioned that I found it remarkable that the Rutherford-Bohr planetary model of the atom was taught in high school science when it was replaced by full-blown quantum mechanics just 15 years later. This model is good at explaining how chemical bonds are formed and why the periodic table works and so it’s easy to see why it persists. It also looks cool and an approximation of it has become the symbol of atomic energy.

US_Atomic_Energy_Commission_logo

But it was replaced almost as soon as it was proposed AND it was replaced by one of the people (Niels Bohr) who came up with it.

Quantum mechanics envisions the electron orbits as spheres of probability rather than little chunks of matter whizzing around. Quantum mechanics envisions electrons as waves and particles at the same time and Niels Bohr interpreted the wave nature of small particles as probability wave functions that collapse into particles when they are measured.

Of course, this mind-bending theory might stop a high school chemistry class dead in its tracks. Bohr said that “if you can fathom quantum mechanics without getting dizzy, you don’t get it.”

Mike was surprisingly confused and upset by this. He was quite attached to the idea of electron particles zipping around the nucleus in planetary orbits.

A few days ago I listened to the podcast Hidden Brain where psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains that the popular idea that the right brain is creative and the left brain is logical has long been debunked by science. (The two hemispheres do have different functions but their differences are not what most people think.)

All of this just points out that our understanding of the world is constantly changing. Theories are refined or debunked all the time but popular understanding tends to evolve more slowly than science.

And people don’t like to change their minds.

So, be open to changing your mind. In fact, change your mind about something today. How’s that for an assignment?

It could be hard to isolate a belief you have that needs to be updated or changed but here’s a simple way to do it.

  1. Pick a person that you don’t like.
  2. Pick a quality or behavior about that person that makes you not like them.
  3. Now, imagine that person as a cute little baby
  4. Imagine loving the heck out of that baby.
  5. Make up a story to explain why they behave in the way that you don’t like as a defensive reaction to something in their childhood. For instance if this person is always interrupting you, imagine that they had a family who never let them say anything so they have an unmet need to be heard.
  6. Take 10 minutes to do this so that your feeling about this person goes from antipathy to sympathy.

Let me know how that goes in the comments.

Beginning a New Experiment

Beginning a New Experiment

Seth Godin recommends blogging every day no matter what.

As he says in his 7000th post, “the discipline of sharing something every day is priceless.”

I agree with almost everything Seth says and I know that a daily practice of writing will be very good for me. Good for me in the sense that it will improve my writing and focus my thinking.

I also know I have something to say. I originally wrote “important to say” but I erased that. It’s important to me but I don’t want to claim that it’s important to anyone else before I write it.

Maybe I’m being a little wimpy but let me get this going before I start making big claims.

The other thing that blogging every day may do is to find people interested in what I have to say. That may be impossible in this saturated attention economy but, again, we’ll see.

What I will be talking about will be what I talk about. As of right now, I intend to apply my 3 steps (actually 4 steps now, but more about that tomorrow) to my life and see how that works. I will also post reviews of the books I read, mostly sci-fi, and other thoughts I have.

If, somehow, this is the first post you read, welcome to the ride.

If you want occasional reminders of this blog. Please, sign-up on the email list. I’ll send out a bi-monthly digest to subscribers.

Thanks for reading! See you tomorrow!

How to Hack Reality

How to Hack Reality

Our experience of life is based on our interpretation of reality through language and culture. It’s not base on reality. in fact we can barely see reality through our interpretive filters.

This means that we can change our experience of life by changing our interpretation of reality. So if life makes you unhappy, change your interpretation.

What keeps most people from doing this is that changing your interpretation of reality REQUIRES that you admit that you’re interpretation was wrong.

And most people would rather be right than happy. Said another way, most people would choose to be unhappy rather than admit that they were wrong.

But you can recognize that other people have messed up interpretations of reality that make them unhappy, right? In fact, pretty much all Hollywood movies end with the villain realizing that he/she was wrong about their world view just before they blow up or get impaled.

Don’t wait to get blown up. Take a look at your assumptions. Look for place where you might be wrong or you might not be as right as you think you are.

This is the key to learning, growing and repairing damaged relationships.

The bad news is that it’s up to you. It doesn’t work on other people. Telling someone that their world view is wrong rarely causes them to change anything.

Watch the video!!

Set Ready Go

Set Ready Go

I took a little break from making daily videos but I’m back. The reason I paused was that I wanted to change the way I make these. I started out doing Facebook Live and that was exciting for a while. After some time, however, I realized that most people were watching these long after I created them. I also got feedback from a few fans that made me realize that maybe live wasn’t the way to go. Maybe if I took a little time to edit these videos they could be faster, more entertaining and have more impact.

But I didn’t need to take a month off.

What really happened was that I fell into the trap of expecting this new way to be perfect. I wanted to be completely ready.

But you can’t wait to be ready. If you wait to be ready, you’ll be waiting until you’re dead.

Watch the video! Thanks!

The Secret to Getting More Done: Embrace Boredom!

The Secret to Getting More Done: Embrace Boredom!

Yesterday I posted about a great interview I heard with Cal Newport discussing his latest book Deep Work. In the interview (on Zack Arnold’s Optimize Yourself podcast), Newport points out that, in a knowledge economy, the ability to focus is extremely valuable. Ironically we are living in a time when distraction is backed by trillions of dollars, big data and the smartest minds (carbon and silicon based) on the planet.

Focused work can only happen when you work one thing, uninterrupted, for at least 30 minutes. Every time you get interrupted or choose to interrupt yourself (by checking email, news, Facebook, texts, messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Hulu, Youtube…..) it decreases your ability to think deeply for a while.

Focusing, he points out, is not a habit. It’s a skill that needs to be practised. Like any skill, it’s not going to feel great to do it at first. For example, exercising regularly is a habit you can develop. Swimming or dribbling a basketball is a skill.

To do deep work you have to embrace boredom because you have to get over your addiction to stimulation. He suggests waiting in line or going for a walk or just sitting around for specific periods of time with no phone and nothing to do. This dovetails with what Manouch Zomorodi talks about on her fantastic NPR podcast Reply All and her new book Bored and Brilliant. (here’s her great TED talk http://ift.tt/2x0Nwgs). What Manouch and her listeners discovered (or rediscovered) is that great ideas come out of being bored. The enemy of boredom is that magically phone/internet device in your pocket.

So put down the phone for a while and you’ll be able to write that book or invent that better mousetrap.

So my advice. Create stuff. Switch off all your notifications except one. The one you’ll get after you subscribe to my Youtube channel!!!