Are You Arguing with Reality?

ah, the good life.

I spend the majority of my days in front of a glowing computer screen. Though my job involves building, I am a facilitator of building rather than a builder myself. My fingertips are more calloused than my palms.

My situation is far from unique. Most professionals nowadays, regardless of profession, are stationed in front of glowing boxes. I also work from home, so the majority of my face-to-face interactions are Skyped or with clerks at the grocery store.

I often romanticize about what it’d be like to get back to the earth, living off of foraged lingonberries and caribou meat; maybe start a farm growing tubers and chard. Streaming would be limited to water (FYI, I’m from the suburbs and grew up in with a remote in my hand).

It’s possible that a wholesale withdrawal from society is the answer–that there’s some sort of fundamental flaw with the trajectory of humanity and a modification of the status quo is insufficient to restore balance to the planet’s ecosystems, much less my inconsistent levels of sanity.

Then again, my fantasies might have different causes. I have a tendency to make reality wrong and fantasy right. For example, if only I were tilling the earth instead of typing on a computer, I’d be happy; if only I had a new carbon fiber road bike instead of my heavy, steel one, I’d be happy. And so on.

There are a couple delusions inside these fantasies:

  1. That the current thing/person/state/activity is the problem.
  2. That the ‘instead-of” thing/person/state/activity will solve the problem.

I know this because I’ve been quite happy typing on a computer and riding a heavy, steel road bike, and I’ve been miserable in the country and riding a sweat new carbon fiber road bike.

The real function of these fantasies is that they allow me to shirk responsibility for being happy right now. Because there is something in the way of my happiness (be it a job, possession or person), I don’t have to do anything. It’s their fault.

What if we all let go of the certainty that reality–the here and now and all that entails (including who we are)–is wrong? This is not to say the world isn’t falling into an intractable psychological and environmental tailspin [couldn’t resist the opportunity to editorialize], but rather that our happiness need not depend on things being any way other than the way they are. Happiness never comes later, when. It happens now, with.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. What fantasies are you holding onto that prevent you from being happy now?
  2. Ask yourself, “If I had that thing/was that way/etc.” would I really be happier? Prove it without resorting to memory or assuming based on ideas promulgated by US Weekly.
  3. Ask yourself, “How would I be and what would I do if nothing were wrong with things as they are?” 
  4. Stop waiting for things to change or get better and start living. 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Life An Untested Theory?

Last May I wrote about how I got a job. I did not, however, say what the job was. It was with a company called LifeEdited, which, despite its literary name, involves little writing outside of countless emails and occasional copy-writing. We are constructing a new breed of American home, meant to breed a new way of American life. The first apartments are designed to test the idea that people can have everything they need from a home with a far smaller spatial and ecological footprint. The first unit, a 420 sq ft Soho apartment dubbed LE1, is extremely energy efficient, will have great indoor air quality, will be able to accommodate sit down dinners for 12 and sleep 4.

I don’t want to say I BS’d my way into the job, but I confess that when I pitched myself, I speculated, rather than pointed to, my abilities. They needed a Project Manager. I figured I had done stuff before, I had opened Excel spreadsheets, I wrote lists. How hard could it be?

It was a lot harder than I had anticipated. Turns out people go to school and get degrees for project management. Compounding this difficulty was my near complete oblivion of the design, architecture and construction industries.

My lack of skills weren’t my only problem. I knew I couldn’t do something I wasn’t aligned with philosophically. I was an under-qualified, idealist snob.

But I was undeterred by my handicaps. I needed a job pretty bad. I was getting married, running out of money and pretty done with the getting-by way of life I had been living.

And here was a job that had it all. It involved skills I believed I could possess in less than 6 months. It had a mission that brought all my literary aspirations–brevity, intelligence, purpose–into the design and architectural realms. It paid.

There was also an unanticipated benefit: it signaled a shift in my life from being an ideas-based person into a results-based one. I had always been able to construct ideas, but results–things you could touch or point to–were conspicuously absent.

I love ideas, theories and philosophies. Today, my ability to think surely exceeds my ability to make shit happen. But I now realize that tangible results are important–mostly because it’s where ideas, theories and philosophies are tested. Untested ideas, theories and philosophies are like trying to live in a blueprint rather than a home. A blueprint can look great, but unless it can be built, it’s useless (and yes, I know people don’t use blueprints nowadays).

9 months after starting LifeEdited, we are about to complete our first apartment. I’m really excited. To be a part of it, to convert an idea into a home, to make errors, to correct, to edit, to construct, has been an amazing experience, one that enriches and beefs up my thought life.

With these thoughts in mind, here are some things to consider:

  1. Where in your life do you linger too long in abstraction? Perhaps it relates to dating, your work, a spiritual/religious conviction, etc.
  2. Where are you avoiding testing your theory? In other words, where are you avoiding taking action surrounding your theory–e.g. actually dating, taking action to save the environment, being kind/sacrificing, etc.
  3. Start building. Take one action right now to test your idea, theory or philosophy.

 

You Give Me Reason to Shower

In 2010 and 2011, 2 of the coldest years in New York City history, I lived in a house with no heat. When I got home at night I put layers on. My around-the-house uniform included long johns, fleece pants, double wool socks, a t-shirt, fleece pullover, heavy wool sweater, parka, a scarf or two and a hunter’s cap. I slept in the same outfit under a sheet, a fleece blanket, a light cotton blanket I never bothered removing from the summer and four thick, down comforters.

In an incident I chronicled in this blog, my pipes froze, forcing me to perform midnight, 30-degree, water-cascading-from-the-ceiling household triage. Shortly thereafter, my landlord (a very loose designation) shut the pipes off. It had become so cold that the water in the toilet froze, forcing me to concoct creative waste removal operations. Because there was no drinking water, I walked around with jugs to fill when I had access to running water.

I lived this way partly because I was convinced that I was being spiritually tested. I was proving that I could find peace and meaning in the face of really uncomfortable circumstances. And I achieved that. I developed a physical and spiritual toughness, cultivating an ability to cope–and occasionally thrive–in harsh conditions.

But it was uncomfortable. Without so much as a fireplace, I was living in conditions that a neanderthal would probably find intolerable.

So why did I do it?

There was the spiritual thing, which had more than a trace of truth to it. Though the spiritual test conveniently coincided with diminishing savings and nearly nonexistent income.

The other reason is this: People can put up with some pretty lousy shit if they believe their behavior only impacts them. I can be miserable when I believe I’m the only one who’s subjected to it. I can live in a freezing home if I’m the only one who has to bundle up. I can let my personal hygiene fall off in tragic ways if I’m the only one smelling it.

What changed–the reason I type without gloves on a January night–was that my life became about more than myself. I got a girlfriend, girlfriend became wife, wife will one day be a mother. The guy who was okay porting collected rainwater from the roof to flush the toilet had little or nothing to do with being a great boyfriend, husband or father. It’s not that one is wrong and the other right–they’re just two different people.

In an ideal world, my motivation would be purely intrinsic, the voice of God would speak through me, divining me an intuitive wisdom that shows me the way of strength and goodness. Every so often, that’s how it goes.

More often, my motivators are extrinsic–something I cherish outside myself compels me to step into a bigger role. I want A, but A is not possible as long as I’m being B.

Let me clarify one point: I’m not promoting betraying oneself. The changes I’m referring to are aligned with who we are (our intrinsic motivation). The guy who got a job, a heated apartment and wanted to take care of others is more aligned with who I am than my previous incarnation as Nanook of Brooklyn Heights.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. Name an extrinsic motivator in your life. Preferably this is something you want to have or have but are not feeling fulfilled by (e.g. relationship, job, goal).
  2. What way of ‘being’ is preventing you from having this situation work? For me, I was being lazy and proud. Lazy about creating income and too proud to admit that I didn’t enjoy hanging around a sub-zero living room.
  3. What impact are you pretending doesn’t exist by holding onto this way of being? For example, saying you don’t care about something or want something when you really do.
  4. What way of ‘being’ could make the situation work? In my case, I had to grow up–or ‘be’ responsible.
  5. Take one action today inside of this way of being.

Stop Waiting for Things to Get Better

My total income last year could purchase a late-90’s Chrysler Sebring convertible.  I tempered this lamentable situation with the certainty that financial providence was right around the corner.  My well-thought-out plan was that Oprah would read my blog and say, “holy shit, how did the world ever exist without David’s prophetic prose?  Get him a book deal and TV show stat.”  Money problem solved.

Perhaps Ms. Winfrey has read my blog and is conferring with her people about how to present her generous support.  Or perhaps I am completely deluded.

Most of us have difficulty owning the results in our lives.  We see the unhealthy relationships, crappy jobs and flabby bodies, and recognize they’re problematic.  But we are certain that something is going to change real soon (read:  Oprah’s intervention).  That dude/chick from OK Cupid with the picture of him/her with his/her dog is going to be our soulmate.  We’re going to leave our job and start an organic cupcake shop.  We are going to get a PX90 Workout System, cut out carbs and be totally lean and ripped by summer.

But what happens?  The date was annoying and couldn’t stop talking about his/her dog.  We made elaborate business plans that collect dust because things got so busy at our jobs.  PX90 and no-carbs are trumped by “Breaking Bad” episodes and organic cupcakes.

The reasons we don’t change are:

  1. We are deluded about who we are and where we are at.  We have distorted views of ourselves and the facts of our lives.  It’s impossible to map a journey before setting one’s bearings.
  2. We believe the problem is out there—that it’s about finding the right person, the right business opportunity, the right workout system and diet, the right whatever. But the problem is never out there, later.  It’s right here, now, and it’s us.  And unless we change now, nothing else will.

My girlfriend and I have been talking about our future—cohabitation, procreation, other -tions.  These are real world plans; ones that require more than dreams for realizing.  You can’t buy diapers with delusion.

Our future will not happen if I wait for Oprah to call.  Our future, if we get this far, will feature two babies, one baby-sized and another 6’3”/170 pounds.

If I want a future where I might be able to take care of someone other than myself, I had to get real.

The first thing I recognized is that I need paid work.  I’ve recognized this for a while , but recognizing and doing are vastly different things.  Until I have a job, my realization is an abstraction—devoid of meaning or reality.

Based on some coaching I received, I was asked, “What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference in this situation?”

What was missing for me was humility.  I wasn’t humble enough to say that I needed and wanted work; I wasn’t humble enough to say I didn’t know what kind of work I wanted; I wasn’t humble enough to say that my resume is pretty shitty for most jobs.

I also saw boldness was missing.  Boldness meant being willing to do whatever was necessary to get a job. It’s a tough market.  I suspect few would say, “Let’s hire that timid guy.  He’s really going to be an asset.”

Out of the “what’s missing,” I generated actions that corresponded with them.  What I came up with was a letter sent to around 100 contacts.  Here it is:

Subject:  Request for Help

Dear Friends,

A few years ago, I had an unexpected, middle-of-the-night move (aka breakup).  At that moment, I needed my friends’ help more than ever, so I spammed you, requesting shelter.  You answered that request with love and generosity, landing me a great place within 12 hours of making it.  Few things are as sublime as genuine dependence.  Having no shame in asking for what you need.

Today, I find myself at a similar crossroads.

I need and want work.  I’ve been plugging along with Lucid [an event I produce] and my blog for a while now, and will continue to do so.  But frankly, I don’t make enough money to support myself, much less the family that’s in my future.  I’m also eager to show up someplace where it’s more than me making the breaks–where I can contribute to a large team.

So I’m making a request:  If any of you have ideas or leads for jobs, I want to hear them.

What I’m looking for:  I’m open.  I see my chief competencies as communication (written and spoken) and relationship forging and maintaining.  I do event stuff obviously, but my main joy is working with people.  I believe these qualities would lend themselves to writing, sales, marketing, HR, PR or advertising positions.

Just as important as what I will do is where.  I want to be in a dynamic, progressive, conscious/non-evil environment (i.e. no big pharma).  I’m open to big and small organizations alike–from Google to start-ups. Regular work is preferred to freelance, though I’m open to the latter.  Some areas I’ve been considering are tech, marketing/branding firms/shops, food (e.g. Whole Foods), conferences/events and media; but again, I’m open to suggestions.

My corporate resume is thin, but I’m not afraid to start at the beginning.  I’m happy to prove myself (a well-placed character reference is always appreciated if you’re inclined to do so).

I will reach out to you personally, but I want to first cast a wide net.  If you have any suggestions or are willing to lend your insights, please let me know.  I look forward to spam-free communication meeting.

Until then, with great appreciation,

David

The response was amazing.  Within five days, I am contemplating two very attractive job possibilities, not to mention several others.  But none of this would have happened if I had continued to wait for something outside myself to remedy the situation or delude myself to think that things were going to get better.  Who I was being—unrealistic, complacent, timid—would not propel me to the next level.  I had to be something else if I wanted something else.

With this in mind, here are some things to try out:

  1. Name one area of your life you are hoping will get better.
  2. Get honest about what will most likely happen in that area. For example, if you’ve been underemployed your whole adult life, you will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  It’s not guaranteed, but it’s likely.
  3. What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference in this situation? For me, it was humility and boldness.  Other examples include trusting, open, honest, generous, playful, etc.
  4. Name an action that corresponds with the “what’s missing.” For example, my email represented both humility and boldness.
  5. Take that action now. Like, really.

[I’m still looking for dating and relationship questions.  Please email them to me df at davidfriedlander dot com.  All correspondences are confidential.  Thanks.]

The Case of Mistaken Significance

Oh man, I’ve got problems

First off, I’m trying to realize my dream of writing for a living.  I’ve been at it for 6 months and I’m not making money.  I’m not broke as I earn money from other sources and have savings to draw off for living expenses.  I also have a supportive girlfriend, family and friends.  But I am afraid I won’t be able to realize my dream.  If I don’t, it’ll mean I’m a loser.  It’s a big, horrible problem.

Another problem is my diet.  A couple months ago I started practicing the Paleolithic diet, which suggests that humans are not genetically set up to consume domesticated foodstuffs like grains and sugar.  The diet mostly consists of eating vegetables and meat—no grains, no legumes, no processed foods.  I was doing good for a while, but my girlfriend and I started holding community brunches every Sunday.  Between 10 and 30 people show up each week, each contributing dishes.  The brunches have been great, but I’ve had trouble not consuming grain products.  It’s been tough to get back on track the next day.  My blood sugar fluctuates quite a bit and sometimes (like now) I feel a little lightheaded detoxing from the sugar.  If I don’t stick to this diet, I’ll be a flabby, energy-deprived loser, which is an awful problem.

I have communication problems.  My phone was broke last week, which was a huge clusterfuck.  I relented and got an iPhone the other day.  It works great, but I can’t seem to figure out how to sync my Google calendar with with my iCal for realtime updates.  I’m afraid I’ll put an appointment in Google and it won’t sync with iCal (or vice-versa), which might cause me to double book or something.  People will think I’m a flake.  My life will unravel around me.

I have housing problems.  My girlfriend and I are discussing moving in together.  We want a nice place in Brooklyn, preferably around Park Slope or Cobble Hill—two beautiful, tree and brownstone-lined neighborhoods.  But we also want someplace to duck out on weekends in the country—maybe something in the Catskills or in Pennsylvania.  We’re not sure where we’ll live or how we’ll make the country thing happen.  Without quiet, spacious homes, we might not achieve inner peace and enlightenment, which is a pretty significant problem.

I can’t think of any other problems at the moment, but I’ll post them in the comment section when I do.

If a problem is a flame, significance is its oxygen. No significance, no problem.

This is easy to see with problems as as shamefully bourgeois as mine—the kind of problems most of us deal with.  We have no “real” problems.  Most (if not all) of us have computers, which puts us ahead of at least 85% of the world’s population in wealth.  We are reading a blog, which suggests we’re on the younger side and are probably relatively healthy.  We probably live in America or some other first world nation and enjoy a stable, non-violent society.  The majority of problems that occupy our consciousness are probably pretty trivial, centering around ourselves and our unmet desires.

A fraction of us have problems that seem inherently significant.  Terminal illness, major health problems, death of a close friend or family member, eviction, impending or realized poverty, etc.  We believe there is no spin on them that would make them insignificant.

But what if nothing had any significance outside of the meaning we give it?  Let’s take terminal illness as an example.  It seems inherently significant, but, as Chuck Palahniuk writes in “Fight Club,” “On a long enough timeline. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”  We’re all going to die.  Every important figure throughout history has lost against some form of terminal illness.  Why are we or our loved ones so special?  What if death had no significance?

I’m not suggesting we deny that things have meaning to us.  For example, we might decide  ending war has meaning (surely a higher caliber issue than syncing calendars on an iPhone).  But what if we recognized that the meaning and significance we give something is ours, not the thing’s?  Believing this, we could act and whether we achieved the results we wanted or not, it would not mean anything about ourselves or the world.

The worst part of giving significance is that it often compels us to not act at all.  The results have such grave implications, so we just avoid the issue altogether.  For example, we won’t submit that manuscript or ask that girl out because if we don’t receive the result we seek, it’s significant.  It might confirm that we are the losers we think we are.  Better to do nothing instead and not receive confirmation.

What if we could just act without making the problem or the results significant?

With these these thoughts in mind, consider the following:

  1. List the big problems in your life?
  2. What meaning do you give them? For example, not getting a raise means you aren’t valued or important, or not getting a return call from a girl you like means you’re unattractive.
  3. What if these problems had no intrinsic significance? What if not getting a raise or not getting a return call meant nothing?  They lacked significance.
  4. In what ways would you act if the results of your actions lost their significance? What if getting rejected was not significant?  What if dying was not significant?  How might you act if these were the case?
  5. Choose one action you’ve been avoiding because of its significance and take it now.

Alpha Males and the Women Who Love Them

Want to go out on a date?

Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, my folks divorced before I was old enough to realize they were married.  When I was two years-old, mom got primary custody and dad got every-other-weekend.  Aside from 4 days per month, mom was both mother and father.

I love my mom.  She did a great job raising me.  But she’s a woman.  And there’s only so much a boy can learn about being a man from a woman.  I was like one of those boys who are raised by a pack of wolves, and think they are a wolf too.  Except I was raised by a woman, and…you know.

Being raised by a woman, I inferred a lot of things about how to behave toward women.  I inferred that men and women are the same thing with different bodies; that I must be polite and respectful; that I mustn’t make women sex objects; that I mustn’t be too assertive or aggressive; that I must listen to what women say.

I abided by these lessons for a long time.  I grew up to be a polite, benign, sexless, ineffectual wuss.  I had almost no relationships throughout my teens—living in a state of frustrated and unrequited sexuality.  I was 20 before I lost my virginity—not by any virtue, but because I was so sexually retarded.

Like many, the cure for my frustrated sexuality was alcohol.  Being drunk afforded me an opportunity to inhabit my masculinity—a state where I didn’t have to be polite or respectful; when it was okay to make women sex objects; when I could be assertive; when I didn’t have to listen to what women said because I could see what they wanted (2 very different things in my experience).

As it would happen, women responded far better to my drunken inappropriateness than my sober wussiness.  As a drunken lout, I had a chance.  As a polite and sober wuss, I had none.

Unfortunately, the more I drank, the more inappropriate and distorted my masculinity became.  I slurred catcalls to women on the street.  I hit on girls who were clearly not interested in me, once earning a black eye from a justifiably angry boyfriend.  I tried to sleep with any woman who’d have me—a population that decreased inversely proportional to my rate of alcohol consumption.

These drunken years gave me a taste of what it meant to inhabit my masculinity, but the consequences of drinking made it an unsustainable formula.

Many years after getting sober, I recognized that my effectiveness with women—and life in general—was still lacking.  I still had trouble attracting women and, I later realized, attracting all sorts of things in my life.

This realization led me to the world of “Pick-Up Arts”—a subculture made popular by Neil Strauss’s book, “The Game.”  I can’t tell you all the things I learned while reading it in this post (it would get too long).  But one of the main points is that women are attracted to alpha males.

What is an alpha male?  An alpha male is a man who leads; he knows where he’s going and what he’s about; he doesn’t apologize for being who he is (including his sexuality); and he doesn’t seek other’s approval (probably the most important attribute).  Alpha status can be established by brute force (hence why a lot of assholes get so much action) or cooperative power (nice guys can and do succeed with women and in life).  Also, alpha status isn’t a hierarchal system; there can be multiple alpha males in a room.

I saw that I failed with woman because I believed what women said they wanted in a man—an open, respectful, caring guy.  It’s not true.  Women want alpha males—men who don’t apologize for who they are; who might want a women, but don’t need them or their approval.  Many of my drunken forays showed me that first hand.

This is not to say an alpha male cannot be open, respectful or caring.  My opinion is that real alpha males are inherently those things.  But an alpha male doesn’t do those things to please others.  He does them because that’s who he is.

With all this in mind, here are some things to think about today:

Men, stop being wusses! Stop being inoffensive.  It’s offensive.  It’s better to elicit a strong feeling, even if it’s a negative one, than no feeling (important note:  I’m assuming that I’m addressing responsible men, who know how to respect boundaries and know the difference between right and wrong).  Own your life.  If you don’t, anyone and everyone else will.

Also keep in mind that wussiness with women shows up in other areas of your life.  Where else do you bend yourself in the face of something you want?

Women, stop trying to out-alpha the men in your life! Stop trying to prove you are as strong as they are.  Doing this leaves no space for men to be strong for you, which is what men want to be for you.  And it’s what you secretly want to be done for you.  What many women end up doing is proving their strength, but doing so alone or surrounded by their commiserating women friends.  Neither situation is desirable.

You’re Not a Late Bloomer, You’re Just Avoiding Shit

Take if from me, nothing gets better.

I visited my grandma when I was 20 in her nursing home in San Pablo, California.  She moved there after my grandfather, whom she had spent 58 bickering years with, died.  She was sliding downhill from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, which put her lucid mind at the mercy of a rapidly disintegrating body.

One night while visiting her, we went to a Chinese takeout restaurant down the block from the home.  The walk was painfully slow and long.  My once solid and tall, German-born grandma inched her walker to the florescent-lit, formica-tabled destination.

After we ordered, my grandma revealed her hidden agenda.  She brought up the memoirs my grandpa self-published shortly before dying, in which he made ample and glowing references to his first love (not my grandma).  It was well-known in the family that he maintained an affair with this woman for many decades.  Meanwhile, he included a few passing and indifferent references to my grandma.  She was destroyed by this and wanted to let her grandson know.  Moreover, she believed there were hidden chapters of the memoir where he expanded on his love for this other woman.

My 84 year-old grandma sobbed and pleaded, petitioning me to get my dad to giver her these chapters.  I knew nothing, nor wanted to.

She had spent nearly 60 years carrying around resentment and hurt toward my grandfather.  Now, at the end of her life, there was no redemption, no healing, no resolution—just an embittered old woman with a crippled body weighed down by a huge chip on her shoulder.

Time heals nothing.  It just gives our problems wrinkles.

Most of us walk around like there’s a good time to get started on something, to address something that bothers us, to communicate something important.  We wait around for the right time.  When this time strikes, our lives will begin.  We’ll grow into the majestic creatures we know we were meant to be.  We think we’re late bloomers.

It’s bullshit.  We’re not late bloomers.  We’re procrastinators.  And most procrastinators die never having done the things they wanted to do, never addressing that which was important, never communicating that thing that had to be communicated.

There is no right time other than now.  Just a reminder.

The Best Excuse Ever Told

I heard it once said, “Most people consider a good excuse and no result to be a result.”  Some examples of this adage:

  1. I was late because the subway was down (late + difficulty = I’m reliable)
  2. I didn’t talk to that girl because the bar was loud (no phone # + loud bar = I’m bold)
  3. I didn’t finish that painting because work got in the way (no painting + busy job = I’m an artist)
  4. I’m single because there are no good men/women out there (alone + lack of suitable partners = I’m a good partner)
  5. I didn’t lose that weight because of the holidays (fat body + social eating = I’m healthy).

A well-thought out excuse makes otherwise crappy results acceptable.  It maintains a peace—however uneasy, with whatever impact—between what we do and what we say we want and are committed to.  We say we want to be reliable, bold, creative, in a relationship, healthy, but because of subway delays and Stovetop Stuffing it’s okay that we behave differently.  The impact of the excuses is that friends and colleagues wait (or tire from doing so), we live afraid of talking to women, we feel creatively unexpressed, we live cut off from prospective mates and inhabit unhealthy bodies.  But it’s okay, we have a good excuse.

Excuses obscure a dark truth:  that we might not be committed to the things we say or think we we are.  A person who is committed to being punctual will be on time regardless of train repairs; he’ll get out of the train station and take a cab if he needs to.  A person who is committed to being in a healthy relationship will figure out what’s in her way of achieving that.  She will not blame a sparse dating pool.

Assuming we want to line up our commitments with our actions, we have to stop excusing our behavior.  We have to acknowledge results as they are:  that we were late; that we didn’t talk to the girl; that we didn’t finish the painting; that we are alone; that we are fat.  It’s not that these results are bad.  It’s that they don’t accord with what we want and are committed to.  In fact, the excuses verify that our results are not want we want.  If they were those things, we wouldn’t need to excuse our behavior; it and our commitments would line up.

All of this came into relief for me after a frank talk last night.  My friend bludgeoned me with the contradictions between what I say I want and am committed to and what I’m doing.  I say that I want and am committed to being a personal development author and speaker and that I want to make my living doing it—a living that could support a family.  What I’m doing is writing away without clear direction, much less remuneration.  I’ve been pitching a book idea to literary agents, but even that has been only half-thought out.  I didn’t do market research.  I didn’t run it by the people in my life.  I didn’t do the things necessary to make sure I fulfilled on my commitment.

My excuse has been confusion:  that I don’t know how to do the things I want to do.  I’ve reasoned that I will figure it out soon.  This excuse doesn’t not ameliorate my rapidly emptying pockets.

This leaves me with a pit in my stomach.  The pit is the turd of commitment, wondering whether it’s going to be released or if I’m going to get off the can upon which I sit.  Will I act now (the only time a committed person can act) or salve these contradictions with another, more elaborate excuse?  (I’m leaning toward the former route).

With this in mind, here are some things to contemplate for your life:

  1. What do you say you want or are committed to that you are not doing?
  2. What is the impact of not fulfilling on this commitment? Wasted time, dejected friends, unexpressed desires, poor health, etc.
  3. What excuses make your lack of results surrounding your commitments acceptable? Lack of money, time, a tough childhood, a rough time in your life, an unsupportive environment, etc.
  4. What are your excuses hiding? For example, that you are not in fact committed to the things you say you are, that you are afraid you won’t be able to fulfill on them, etc.
  5. Write out a list of the results in your life that contradict your desires and commitments. Write them undiluted by excuses.
  6. Commit to one thing for next week to fulfill on a desire or commitment.  For example, commit to meditating 10 minutes every morning without fail.  Note your excuses when you don’t want to fulfill.  See how these excuses stop you in every area of your life.

What Do You Want?

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

I had coffee with a new friend the other day.  He asked me the dreaded question—the same question I ask when I encounter someone who is experiencing confusion, powerlessness or frustration with his life.  Answering this question can threaten the delicate balance of the answerer’s emotional and physical ecosystem.  The question is, “What do you want?”

I was flummoxed.  I thought I knew, but things had changed since the last time I wrote out what I wanted.  You see, every now and again I list out what I want for my life.  I get as detailed as possible, creating a material and emotional blueprint for my life.  The more detailed I get, the more likely I am to move in specific directions and ask specific questions.  Here are some examples of things I currently want:

  • To develop my writing such that it supports me and a family materially and spiritually in abundance
  • To start a family by the end of 2012
  • To live each day joyfully and filled with love

My wants exist as possibilities.  They are often unprecedented and have little relation to my past experiences.  The trouble is if my past dictated what I want now, I would content myself with a heated home and a girlfriend who doesn’t shoot heroin.  Not a particularly inviting future.

The most unsettling part of the question is what stating my desires entails.  If I want this, then what do I have to do?  Who do I need to be?  What if the actions I need to take and the person I need to be are different than what I’m doing and how I’m being?

Well they are different.  How do I know?  Because my current actions and states perfectly ally to produce what—and only what—I currently have.  In other words, I do what I do and I am what I am and that gives me exactly what I have.  These actions and behaviors are manifestations of unconscious desires (looking good, comfort, etc.), which are fine, but not necessarily gratifying in the long run.

If I want things other than what I have now, I need to supplant my old actions and ways of being for new ones.  For example, in order to make my living off of writing, I need to be bold, disciplined, organized, etc.  These new actions and states might not jive with last night’s engorgement on grass-fed beef and sweet potatoes while watching Deadwood on DVD.

I answered my friend’s question as best I could.  I’m not totally clueless as to what I want.  But I also saw the need for refining what I want.  It’s easier to chart a course with a map.

With these thoughts in mind, here are some exercises I’m incorporating into my life and suggest you do too:

  1. What do you want? Get as detailed as possible—emotional state, health, profession, relationships, living environment, etc.  These desires should be authentic—i.e. they are your desires, not ones shaped by the past or someone else’s conceptions; do your best to keep what your parents’ or a multinational corporation’s desires for you out of your answers.  Feel free to co-create with the people in your life; for example, make sure what you want aligns with what your wife or business partner wants.  Don’t butt desires.  Write them down and keep them somewhere you can see.  Be willing to amend if you’re wrong about what you want.
  2. Who do you need to be to get what you want? This step is aligning yourself emotionally with your desires.  For example, if you want to be a professional singer, but you’re too timid to audition, you will need to be courageous.
  3. What do you need to do to get what you want? Once you believe that what you want is possible, you will have to take certain steps—go to that audition, write that novel, quit that job, etc.
  4. Every morning, ask yourself “what do I need to do and who do I need to be to get what I want?” Write out your answers and let them inform how you conduct yourself in the world.  See what happens.

 

Forgettable…In Every Way

Happy freakin' birthday to me.

I decided to celebrate my 28th birthday at a West Village bar a friend worked at.  I envisioned a casual celebration, where from 6-9PM a steady stream of friends and acquaintances would play tag-team for my attention as I held court on my barstool thrown.

It turned out that my kingdom was not as mighty as I thought.  The first hour no one showed up.  Nor the second.  The third, my friend George showed up with a nice little notebook and pen gift.  A couple other people showed up near the end of my time window.  No more than 4 people showed up throughout the evening.

A realization became clear sitting there those lonely hours:  I was a person people didn’t show up for.  How did I know this?  Because no one showed up.

There were 2 options for handling my realization:

  1. Blame others for my misfortune.  I could have accused friends of being unkind, unreliable, dishonest, etc.  It wasn’t me.  It was them.
  2. Take responsibility for the results in my life.  I could have looked at what it was about me that was so easy to easy to ignore.

Fortunately, I chose option #2.  I saw people didn’t show up for me because I didn’t show up for them.  I saw that I gave up on people.  That I used friends for favors and to stave off loneliness.  I seldom actively took an interest in their welfare.  I rarely went out of my way to help them.  I wouldn’t have shown up for me either. Continue reading “Forgettable…In Every Way”