You’ve gotten used to reading drive bys. You scan reddit, hacker news, email newsletter subscriptions, or your blog feeds for interesting articles. Then you proceed to open multiple tabs. Then you quickly scan the first paragraph and article to see if it is worth your time OR you read the comments to do the same. You’re being efficient!

But are you really?

Did you really understand the article from a skimming? Did you really get the gist of it from reading the comments? No, not every article will be worth your time and skimming is a useful skill. However, when it becomes your standard operating procedure, you can’t help but wonder, what’s the point in the first place?

Data extraction? Give me the hit of knowledge heroin, and I’ll be on my way. But for what? You are not reading the article so you are not getting the pleasures of reading it and you are not applying the advice so you are not getting the usefulness of the article.

You are more in love with the idea of wisdom than actually acquiring it. It’s like when you scan Facebook profiles and like your friends posts thinking you are being social, rather than actually hanging out. It’s efficient, sure, but satisfying, not really.

Maybe it’s time to go on a media diet or actually read the tabs you have open.

I love watching Netflix! Have you seen stranger things!

I don’t understand people who watch TV all day and easy entertainment like movies. I rather immerse myself in books and deep conversations. 

Let’s party and go to the hot bar and get drunk and try to hook up!

I don’t understand people who drink and do drugs and the hangovers

Let’s eat fast food and shitty GMO things

I prefer to optimize my diet and eat healthy all the time, often eating the same meal again and again to save decision making power.

Just how one side poo poos on the other, it’s easy to become the other side of the coin doing the same thing. Throughout most my adult like, I have found myself on the other side. Because it’s so much easier to say screw mainstream culture, screw pop music, clubs and nightclubs, stupid, superficial!

How many times do you actively seek out information that runs counter to what you already believe? If you identify as a democrat, how many republican books are you reading? If you do not like pop music, how many books/articles are you reading that confirm your view versus those that show you what you are missing?

Just like there is safety in following the heard, there is safety in following the counter melody. As easy as it is to be for, it’s easy to be against.

Much harder to say, “damn, I really understand what’s going on here” and play in both worlds.

For some, sex is a race to orgasm the quickest. But is that really the point of sex in the first place? Has the best sex you had been the quickies or the drawn out sessions, with teasing and foreplay?

Like trying to shoot loads the quickest to relieve a raging hard on, we can be quick to approach our careers, relationships, and everything else in the same way.

We don’t want to enjoy the pleasures of a relationship, we want a boyfriend or girlfriend.

We don’t want to enjoy the pleasure of improving week after week developing our bodies, we want to be beach ready in 4 weeks for Cabo.

We don’t want to enjoy the pleasure of building skills in our field, we want the dream job yesterday.

Even if it took 10 years to make it, but you never enjoyed the 10 years of getting there, was it really worth it if you are not fulfilled?

In attempt to make things more efficient, optimized, and profess hacks over the internet, it’s easy to lose sight of the point in the first place.

It may be more inefficient to only have phone customer service vs emails, but would your staff + customers be happier?

It may be less profitable to include gifts with customers orders for free they do not expect, but would that make your company and customers more joyful?

It may be a lot of work outside work to plan an awesome date for your girlfriend, should you choose the quick technique found on the Internet?

It’s much easier to do a 15 minute sex drive by before bed. Easier to choose the cheap clothes that never quite fit right. Easier to regulate your relationships on Facebook and through texts. Easier to default to your standard company policy than be a human being with a customer.

It takes work to break the mold and choose joy and delight over efficiency. But if you enjoy your life more, isn’t that the point in the first place?

Beautiful smiling cute baby
 

Following up from Till H. Gross‘ challenges, this week’s challenge was to smile at strangers as I walked down the street.

For starters, it was surprisingly difficult. The same mental chatter chimed in. Why would I smile at people? Am I smiling creepy? What if people don’t want a smile?

As I walked and passed about 100 people on the way to work, no one really cared. In fact, most people look like they are zombies.

Possible explanations: 

1. It’s early in the morning, so people are just waking up.

2. People are so wrapped up in their own bullshit, that they are unaware of their surroundings.

Most people are not even looking at others. A good percentage are just staring at the ground when they walk. The other majority look like they either have to take a shit or had a bad argument with their partner this morning. Rare is the person who looks like they are happy to take on the day.

And why should people care?

Of the 100 people I smiled at, what are the odds I’m going to see these people again? We are all extras in each other’s lives. So why smile at others?

1. For your own benefit. Smiling made me feel happier.

2. For the 1 out of 100 that does catch your smile and gives a slight smile back. It feels good. Additionally, just because the other people did not react does not mean they do not enjoy a smile.

If you start a new diet and exercise program, largely I have seen praise by others. But what if you want to change your personality?

What if you are generally known as the “chill” one, which is a polite way of saying “you are low energy”, and want to become more enthusiastic?

It’s hard because if suddenly today you turn up the energy massively, those closest to you will notice. Are you drunk? Did some really amazing life event happen?

It’s not their fault. They are used to you being one way. They did not get the memo that you are going to start acting different today. That was something you declared to yourself and only you know.

And those closest to you may never recognize the “new” you. It’s like when you see old high school friends and very similar dynamics are still at play 10 years later. You’ve changed, but somehow you still feel like you are that person who is 16 again.

So do you not change because it’s not “authentic”? We are cool to accept you deciding to want to advance in your career, but how dare you decide to change your personality that helps you navigate the world more joyfully. Are you supposed to resign yourself to poor childhood models and conditioning that made you adapt the super shy, low energy, and trouble communicating personality?

Yes, in a way it’s weird because it’s unfamiliar. But so is altering your weekly schedule. If you used to be a couch potato and then decide to go to the gym 3 days a week, it’s going to be weird. But at some point, about 6 months+ later, that schedule becomes normal. It becomes part of your identity. Why would you expect changing your personality to be any different?

If you want to change how you interact with the world, it starts one weird step, today. You think that some life event will be the cause of making you more optimistic, joyful, compassionate, smiley, etc., but looking at the biographies of many who chased money and fame only to see its emptiness, most likely that day is never coming.

Better to start doing the change today. To become more courageous, courage. To become more joyful, joyful. It’s a practice.

If you want to get a six pack, start altering your diet and get consistent exercise today. The process for getting there would be the same today as it is 6 months from now. Yes, you will not be lifting as much weight or start with a super optimized diet, but the process is basically the same thing.

If you want to become a writer, you can start writing today. The same process of working through your ideas and putting them to paper or a word doc can begin today like Stephen King or Seth Godin. Your writing may not be very good, but the meat of the process is basically the same.

But odds are you did not come for the process. You came for the end of the rainbow.

When are my six pack abs going to come! When is my book deal, money, and fame going to come! 

That mindset assumes “If I do X, I’ll feel Y.” “I’m betting that the years of suffering through X, will be worth it once I reach Y”. But if you don’t like the work now, what makes you think you’re going to enjoy it a year from now?

Many things can be fun for a few weeks, before it becomes unfun. “I have to do this thing again. Ugh. It used to be so fun, but now it feels like a chore.” 

Inherent in that mindset is the expectation that you are supposed to be constantly stimulated, rather than anticipating you will hit a boredom dip, and have to renew your sense of enthusiasm.

It’s why you hear the common relationship complaint that the relationship was so great in the beginning, but soon their partner stopped trying (or perhaps you stopped trying) and got stale. “Ugh, I have to keep planning dates, finding new ways I can be romantic, keep being vulnerable, forever?! Best to just give up and be single again.”

For almost every endeavor, this will be how it goes (credit Seth Godin):

seth-godin-the-dip

The work today will basically be the same (just more optimized) as a year from now. The hard part then is bringing enthusiasm to the party again and again and again.

Or you can keep trying to chase another hit of the cocaine, think another notch on the bedpost is the solution, or switch jobs, again.

Yes, commitment takes work. But the great thing is, you have a large say in how fun that work can be. It’s a lot easier blaming the career or boss, rather than taking responsibility for bringing the party.

Yes, there will be traps along the way (bad jobs, bad relationships, etc) that you will have to escape, but largely the joy in your life can be self-generated. So from now on if you hit a wall, you can shift your mindset from “This thing sucks, it used to be so fun,” to “How I can I bring joy to it? How can I make it fun.”

Two people can go on a vacation to the Bahamas, with sunny weather and beautiful white sand beaches. One person can make it seem like it’s the equivalent of doing their taxes, while the other has the time of their life.

It’s an attitude. Yep, that thing. 

A popular TED talk studied people over the course of 75 years and found that close relationships were one of the greatest predictors of overall happiness. Well I guess it’s time to invest in some relationships then…

Romantic relationships, friendships, love, courage, and the like are not commodities in the sense that a new pair of sneakers are. The pursuit of friendships for a longevity gain or resource gain is some robotic shit.

Often pursuing self improvement advice in the first place is a trap. It implies you are lacking something. It implies that once I do X, then I’ll be happy. The point is to be happy along the way. Yes, all that journey platitude talk.

Always return to the simple question, “Does it bring me joy.” HT Marie Kondo

 

Take your relationships and think of the qualities you hate(d) about them. What lesson do/did these qualities teach you?

You hating his anger could be a lesson for patience, acceptance, and listening – what is behind his anger? What is his need? Why is his anger causing me to be so angry?

You hating her ambition could be a lesson to be more assertive, lead, and take more care in your own life. Why is her ambition such a threat to me?

You hating her self-defeating thoughts could be a lesson in self-compassion and patience. Why do I hate her getting down on herself so much? What does this reflect in me?

The things you hate the most can bring to light the shadow sides of you unexplored. These are the qualities of you that you stick deep down in the basement. The anger. The fear. The racism. The sexisim. The macho guy loving Bravo. The good Catholic girl loving to suck dick.

The point of the shadow is not to eliminate it. The point is integration. And that begins with watching and understanding what you hate, not with judgment, but with curiosity.

Such and such is better at following up with people.

Such and such is better at making money.

Such and such is a great cook.

Don’t get caught too much in the comparison. You don’t know if they are two paces into their journey or 100.

While you can use them as inspiration of what’s possible, take stock of where you are. Don’t sugar coat it. The goal is progress, not reaching the end of the rainbow this week.

Don’t just look at the icons, look at people also in the same league as you. They just climbed the hill, so they know the terrain best.

The recommended sleep for people between the ages 18-64 is 7-9 hours.

Now that you know of this research, you’ve just inherited a story about sleep: “To function with high energy and a good mood, I need to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.”

When I get less than this amount, it gives me an excuse. “I am tired because I did not get enough sleep. I am not as motivated today because I did not get as much sleep. I am not as kind today because I am tired. Etc.”

However, there have been a good number of times when I’ve gotten below the recommended amount of sleep and had a productive and energetic day. Could it be that I got less sleep, but higher quality sleep and/or just skipped the story?

If you are getting around the recommended amount of sleep, let’s say with an hour, there’s a lot of grey area aka a lot of storytelling involved. Sleeping pills for example usually help people sleep just a bit longer, to the tune of 15 minutes, yet people think they cannot live without them.

Don’t get too rigid in your sleeping patterns. Enjoy a late night out during a weekday from time to time. Stay up late to watch a movie. Make memories. Of course, you can’t do this every night. You want episodic, not chronic.

Just because you mimic the sleeping patterns of successful people will not ensure you become “successful”. It may help, but it may just be you need more guts and humanity rather than more sleep.