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.

The Importance of Being Right

When I was 14 I had a huge crush on Michelle Pockock. She was 5’8″, had black hair down to her butt, dark, button eyes and a small mouth with thick braces. At the time, I had no experience with women and was pretty much a nonentity in my high school’s social hierarchy. Despite these handicaps, I managed to invite Michelle back to my house one afternoon. I got her into my bedroom. I remember sitting there at the edge of my bed, talking about nothing. It was the perfect setup for a makeout session. And yet…I did nothing. I did not kiss her, touch her or even hint at the depths of my passions.

Later, she joined the debate team right after I did. You could say she followed me. We had many the overnight trips that lent themselves to secreting away. Michelle and I did none of that. Perhaps frustrated by my lack of initiative, she ended up hooking up with this short, pudgy-faced douche named Kirk–a Junior who boasted that he plucked her virginity to anyone who cared to listen.

Sure, I was clueless in a way common to 14 year-olds (though this cluelessness had a long half-life). Perhaps Michelle didn’t actually like me and that’s why we never hooked up. But I believe there was another phenomenon at play; a phenomenon that thwarts plans and intentions to the present day. I was being right. In this case, I was right that she was not interested in me. Had I not been so certain about my unattractiveness, had I entertained the possibility that she liked me–a possibility affirmed by countless actions on her part–I would have made at least one move. Sure, I might have been wrong. I might have made an ass out of myself. But I wouldn’t have wondered what would have been.

I’m happy to report that I’ve come a long way in the last 21 years with my relationships to women. Though far from completely evolved in this area, I acknowledge a few possible reasons why, for instance, my wife finds me attractive.

Nonetheless, there are many areas where I cling to my righteousness. In fact, wherever I feel stuck or disempowered, wherever I fail to take action, wherever I suffer, somewhere underneath it is the determination to be right: I am being right that something is not possible; I am being right that a situation is untenable; I am being right that a person can’t change–a particularly malevolent influence when that person is me.

What if we could all be a little easier with our relation to being right? What if we could accept that all of our knowledge, the basis of righteousness, is inherently limited, and therefore an unreliable barometer for what is and is not possible? Often, this new relation doesn’t even necessitate action on our part, just a willingness to entertain possibilities outside the scope of our knowledge.

In the spirit of not being right, here are few things to think about today:

  1. Name an area where you are suffering or lack power.
  2. What do you know about this area that keeps you from taking action or finding peace?
  3. What would be possible if you were wrong about what you know?
  4. Practice being wrong. Take one action that corresponds with your newfound wrongness. Step outside the boundaries of your knowledge.

 

 

Hazy Lovers

Dear David,

I’ve been friends with this guy for about 7 years now, and we dated for awhile in high school. We go to the same college and we’ve been hanging out off and on and sometimes we make out or sleep together (no sex). Last month he texted me randomly after not talking for 6+months and asked me out to lunch. It went well and then I left to go hang out with some friends. He texted me later and asked me to hang out again. And we’ve been hanging out like once a week since then. The other day he came over and I gave him a blow job for the first time and then I had to leave for class. He told me to txt him and when I did he didn’t respond. His phone is kind of messed up/broken and he doesn’t receive txts and calls sometimes. I was waiting for him to text me back or to think, Hey this is weird she usually always texts me and my phone is broken, why don’t I text her?? But he didn’t… Does this mean he doesn’t really care about me? After a couple of days I called him and asked him why he hadn’t texted me back and he said that he never got them.. Do I have a right to be mad? We’re not together, but I was kind of having feelings for him.

Tiffany

Dear Tiffany,

“But I was kind of having feelings.” I believe this last line holds the key to all the preceding ones. What’s overwhelming me in your situation is a decided lack of clarity–lots of “kind of’s” and few “is’s” and “are’s”.

My initial–and cynical–reaction is that he kept you around until he had sex with you (or the Clintonian equivalent thereof). When he got what he wanted, the challenge and sexual mystery disappeared, he lost interest and he wanted out. I could be wrong. There could have been an issue with his phone, but the simultaneity of the blowjob and cell-phone breakdown seems a bit too convenient. Guys will find a way to be in touch with a girl they’re hot for. Continue reading “Hazy Lovers”

Relationships and Contract Negotiations

Image via forbes

Dear David,

I am a young professional living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. I am dating a wonderful guy who happens to be 15 years my senior (he’s 40), for a little over a year and a half now. We started dating casually but eventually fell pretty hard for each other.  After a few ups-and-downs, we moved in together last September.

Things have been going wonderfully, and we have spoken about marriage and having kids and he was on board, especially because he is older than me. Because our building is going condo and offering buyouts, the idea of buying a place of our own together seemed great. We were looking at properties and discussing options; and yes marriage was only a step after that.  Then things cooled down after we decided to take our time and not rush anything because of a buyout. Then one day I was joking about just getting married at city hall and it got very serious and he said he was scared to get married again (he dated a woman for 4 years, got married to her to keep her in the country and she left him for another man 6 months after). He’s afraid of me leaving him. After all the talks we had about getting married and how he was so excited to have kids, I was shocked.  After 3 days of flipping out in my own head, I told him straight out: I expected us to be engaged by the end of this year. He said he was being silly and I caught him at a bad time and he promised me we would be engaged by the end of the year.

Only now, he discusses things like kids and our wedding whenever he wants, but when I ask legitimate questions about our future like when he is thinking of really making an effort to get a new job (because without a new job, he won’t be able to afford an engagement ring), or if we can move into a new apartment together (I love our place but it’s small) or anything concrete, he freezes. He starts getting annoyed and blames my need to over-plan things and just says we’ll see. He is very independent and doesn’t like me “checking in” on him but I feel like these are normal questions to ask for a woman who is going to spend her life with another person. I want to know what his plan is, and it seems he has no plan.  Although this doesn’t stop him from seeing a beautiful cake and saying how nice a cake like that would be at our wedding, or randomly saying on a walk “lets have babies”.

I’m not quite sure what to do at this point.  I cant really get a straight answer out of him when I talk to him (one minute its babies, the next he is scared to get married again, and a minute after that he is sure I’m the one). Any advice?

K

Dear K,

It appears as though your guy wants to marry you and have kids, but I think he’s scared that he’s not good enough—for you, for the woman who left him, etc.  That’s why he spazzed out after the City Hall suggestion.  This fear of not being good enough makes him reticent to commit to you.

The first suggestion I have is assuage some of his fear.  Let him know that he is good enough (if you mean it, of course).  Tell him that you love him no matter what type of ring he gets you, no matter what type of dwelling you reside in.

By you writing about those details in your email to me, I suspect some of your love might be conditional on those things (however small an amount) and he might be buckling under the weight of that conditionality.  People fall in love with people, not their circumstances.  Let him know you love him for who he is.  When the love is established, you can get into the nuts-and-bolts.

First off, it’s not ridiculous to discuss conditions of a marriage and family.  Marriage isn’t merely a matter of loving someone.  It’s a contract.  And like all contracts, the terms must be laid out from the outset.  I do freelance writing which requires contracts.  My client and I first discuss the project, its terms and expectations, and then a contract is drafted, which is either signed or not.  Only when the contract is signed is the project is carried out.

So once the love is established (basically saying that you want to work with him), you can discuss what you both want out of a marriage specifically.  This is the negotiation stage of contract making.  When I proposed to my girlfriend, it was after we had established our love for each other and discussed what we both wanted for our futures—values, family, lifestyle, etc.  If there was a huge rift with these things, I might not have asked.  As it was, we were in alignment and we agreed on the contract (or agreed to formalize the contract in the near future).

Keep in mind that discussing the terms and entering a contract is not the same as fulfilling on them immediately.  Like any contract, many of the items discussed won’t be fulfilled on for some time.  It’s just an agreement about what you both want out of your contract.

I think if you’re willing to accept him as he is, understanding that he might not immediately fulfill on all the terms, he will probably be more inclined to propose a contract.  He might even be more motivated to get into action when he knows you’re okay to be where he’s at.  That’s what happened for me:  my fiancée allowed me to be where I was at, with my not-so-enviable circumstances.  Her love and acceptance gave me space to start moving toward what I wanted, rather than feeling inadequate for not being where I “should” be.  It was only after I proposed that I got the ring she wanted and the job that would make our contract work.

If he’s not willing to talk about the terms of a marriage specifically, if he’s dismissive, lackadaisical or unwilling to make plans, then you might want to ditch him.  Give him an opportunity to step up, but if he doesn’t take it, it’s probably an ominous sign of things to come.  I haven’t been married before, but I imagine it requires a lot of stepping up and uncomfortable discussions.

Lastly, you mentioning his age reminds me of the fiction-writing adage:  “if you’re going to write about a gun, it better go off.”  I don’t want to overstate this as an issue.  It sounds like you guys are into each other.  But if you are going to marry this guy, be super clear that this is your guy.  It’s not so much that he’s older and all the issues that entails—different peer groups, different physiological issues, etc.  What’s more disconcerting is that he’s exhibiting behavior appropriate for someone in his mid-twenties.  If he’s not cool with committing by this age, if he is not willing to have tough conversations and make plans with you for the future at the age of 40, when will he be ready for those things?  60?

Coming from this 35 year-old, 25 is not that old.  Don’t feel the need to rush yourself because he’s getting older.  This is an important contact.  You want to be sure both parties are committed to fulfilling on their agreements.

Hope this helps and many blessings to you both.

 

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.]

Dating Advice: How to Handle Babies Big and Small

[This question is a bit on the long side, but a perfect example of hastily embarked upon relationships, dating when you want kids, and a bunch of other nuggets.  Many thanks to the sender.]

Dear David,

I started dating someone about a month ago that I met online. We have a ton in common (he’s presently getting a degree that I also have) and when I met him I found him cuter in person than in his pictures. The first few dates were some serious “Whoa, You!” stuff and we kind of jumped in fast—he asked me to be exclusive very early, which made me uncomfortable but which I agreed to because I liked him so much, and we slept together soon afterward.

We’ve talked generally about some of the important “wants” and he mentioned in passing that he wants to have kids eventually, which made me feel like we were on the same page. For the record: I’m 35, freelance/self employed and still look and live like a younger person, but am getting tired of it. My last serious relationship lasted three years but ended two years ago—the ex and I were definitely on the track to marriage, etc. but got derailed and after a year of couples therapy, I left. This dude is 40 and was in a long relationship/marriage for most of his 20s and 30s. She wanted kids but he didn’t—with her, he says, because he knew the marriage couldn’t sustain it. He’s been divorced/out of the relationship for two years, during which time he sold his house, left his lucrative professional job and basically changed his whole life to enroll in a masters program that he’s serious about. He’s in his first year and making a stipend.

One night we had a date where I hear some things that make my ears perk up. I bring up the topic of whether we’re in the same place given that he was in a longterm committed relationship for so long and may want to sew his oats for a while, whereas I’ve been moving around the country more or less single for a long time and may be ready to settle down a bit more. I mention that I want to have a family and ideally would start within two or three years (again, I’m 35). He basically freaks out and says he “doesn’t know” whether he will be ready to have a family within my time frame, and that he doesn’t want to start down a road that will lead to my disappointment, my leaving him when I’m 38 to find someone who’s ready or staying with him and resenting him. He’s particularly worried about all of this because of guilt from his last relationship where he “ruined someone’s life” by not having kids with her. Continue reading “Dating Advice: How to Handle Babies Big and Small”

Send Me Your Dating and Relationship Questions

In an effort to find out what people are reading and writing, I have feeds on several personal development blogs:  Zen Habits, The Minimaliststs, EV Bogue, Jonathan Fields, Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind and even Tim Ferriss.

These guys (yes, they’re all guys) speak on a variety of topics like goal setting, overcoming obstacles, being happier, health, fitness.  Some, like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits espouse simplicity.  Others, like Ferriss, espouse over-the-top living.

I’ve been trying to figure out where I fit in the personal development blogosphere.  Here are some places where I don’t fit:

  • Money.  I’m running low on the shit and can’t seem to generate more.
  • Career.  I’m asking my readers for jobs, which kind of blows my credibility there (got one?).
  • Diet.  A couple months ago I was vegan, now I’m eating meat three times a day—I wouldn’t dare take my readers through my dietary vicissitudes.
  • Fitness.  I work out regularly, but I’m hardly organized enough about it to share it in a systematized way.
  • Happiness.  Though quite happy, I don’t want the burden of being an expert on the matter.
  • Time management. Do you know how long it took me to write this post?

A couple weeks ago I wrote a series about dating and relationships.  They were my most popular posts to date.  So many of us struggle with these topics, and while I won’t claim mastery, I know a thing or two.  When I was single, I was able to meet women fairly easily.  Through past relationships, I acquired vast knowledge that prepped me for the great relationship I’m in now.

So I’m offering up my dating and relationship, um, expertise.  I would like to know what you’re dealing with—your situations, your questions, topics you’d like to see addressed.  More specifically, here are some things I can offer:

  • For women. I can offer a man’s-eye-view of your situation—whether you are seeking or are in a relationship.  Many women are pretty blind to some of the things they do when meeting men.  Same goes for relationships—you do things that set up lose-lose situations with your partners.  I believe I can cure your blindness…or at least get you some glasses.
  • For men.  For years, I unconsciously did things that destroyed my chances with women before I even met them.  I attracted either no one or the wrong one.  I also did things that consistently ruined my chances for being in or maintaining happy, healthy relationships.  I’ve come a long way and I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

Whether single, in a relationship, man or woman, gay or straight, please shoot me your questions or topic suggestions at df [at] davidfriedlander [dot] com.  All correspondences will be strictly anonymous.

Remember that your question might not only help you, but someone who is going through the same situation (the issues don’t vary that much).   I look forward to hearing from you.

Seeing What is Possible, Dealing with Reality

Emily Dickinson: Possibility/Bedroom Dweller.

Emily Dickinson wrote the famous verse, “I dwell in possibility.”  Unlike the famous poetess, many of us dwell in limitation, using the past as our main referent for the future—i.e. because we’ve have never done it in the past, it will not happen in the future.

Possibility on the other hand allows for unprecedented realities.  Something that has never happened can happen simply because it’s possible.  We might not know how it will happen, but when we acknowledge the possibility, we are more likely to take the action corresponding to realizing that possibility.

For example, if we think being physically fit is impossible, based on the fact we’ve been unhealthy our whole lives, we won’t do the things necessary to be fit.  Conversely, if we believe being fit is possible, even if we don’t know how, we can figure out ways to realize that objective.

There is a dark-side of possibility however.  It’s what I call “the narcosis of possibility.” The easiest place to see this is at 12:15AM after a few vodka-sodas.  You invent a possibility, like starting a business.  You can’t wait to start making it happen.  The dude on the next bar-stool is going to design your logo.  Any-fucking-thing is possible!

You wake up the next day with a vague recollection of what was so great about your idea.  You try to muster the enthusiasm of the night before but are preoccupied by thoughts of coffee, eggs and Law and Order reruns.  You think of your lack of business skill, money, etc.  Fuck it.  It wasn’t that good an idea anyway.  Reality trumps drunken possibility once again.

This phenomenon is not limited to buzzed brainstorming.  Many sober minds have conjured great ideas that do not withstand reality.  We get psyched about a project, relationship, fitness plan, etc., but we fail to deal with things as they are in reality.  We don’t acknowledge our level of business training, our emotional maturity (or lack thereof), our state of health, etc.  Instead of developing these things, we become overwhelmed by the gap between possibility and reality, often doing nothing.  There are others who use willpower and force to bridge that gap—these people can make things happen, but generally at the expense of their health and happiness.

Sometimes we can’t admit that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean we should do it.

Other times we create a possibility aware of the realities we’re dealing with.  It’s something we’ve considered well.  We have an idea and plan to carry it out.  But once the plan is in motion, we don’t ask ourselves often enough, “Is this working?”

Lest I be too abstract, I’m writing about myself.  I started this blog 6 months ago based on the possibility of writing for a living.  This idea was pure, uncut possibility.  According to the past, I had no reason to believe I would make it happen.

I love the writing part and the feedback I’m recieving.  I love processing my life and helping others process theirs.  But I haven’t been dealing with a couple nagging realities:  I don’t love not making money or working in isolation.  I’ve been trying to will these things out of my reality, but I can’t seem to do it.

Sure, it’s entirely possible I can make money if I refine my plan. I could find more ways to engage people.  I actively do both these things.

But the truth is I’m not dealing with reality.  I want to be better at working alone.  I want to be more of a self-starter.  I want to be one of these people—who seem so numerous on the internet—who through pluck and Twitter, amass great followers and fortunes.  But in reality I am not these things—at least not right now.

I have to assess where I’m at, based not on the narcotic effect of possibility, but on the sober truth of reality.  From there, I can create a new possibility.

The new possibility I’ve created is to continue to develop my writing, but with more human contact and steadier income.  There’s an ancient tradition I am going to employ to remedy this situation.  It’s called a job.

Maybe if Emily Dickinson took a similar approach, she would have left her bedroom.

It’s important to note that deviating from an original possibility is not killing it.  In fact, sticking to the original plan would kill it.  My new possibility affords me self-expression through writing, supported by the stability and relationship building of a job.

Here are some things to consider for yourself:

  1. What possibility in your life is being thwarted by reality? In other words, name a dream—one you may or may not be taking action on.  Within that dream, what realities are compromising your ability to take action or enjoy acting?  For example, you want to date, but don’t do so because you have trouble being open with potential partners.
  2. What new possibility could you create if you dealt with reality as it presently exists? Using the above example, based on your lack of skill, you could create the new possibility of being supported, getting a dating coach or asking someone who is romantically fulfilled to find out what he or she does.
  3. Take one action that based on this new possibility right now.