Long-Term Thinking

In order to achieve long-term goals, we must focus on implementing daily/micro-habits, which ensure our ability to generate momentum (micro habits + macro goals = productive worker-bee human). Have a think about where you will be 1-year from now, 10-years from now, or 50 years from now. This morning, in a journaling session, I described the importance of being aware of my long-term goals (to myself). So often we get caught up in the manic nature of society/ peers/ professional & or personal life. It is easy to forget about what is important to you. In my list, I wrote that some of my long-term goals include pursuing interesting work, contributing and being of service to something or someone that is bigger than myself, and becoming independently wealthy in order enhance my perception of personal freedom.

"Eternity is the opposite of a long time." - Stewart Brand

I once heard someone say that people are not born interesting, but rather people become interesting.  This mean's don’t be afraid to be your true self. Thrust yourself into your interests and passions and live unapologetically. You ultimately have a choice, which is whether you want to be like everyone else around you or be yourself. Sometimes I find myself “zigging” when everyone else around me is “zagging”. I am trying to remember to be confident in my choices and just know that my decisions are rooted in my own personal experience and perception of what is right. In that sense, I feel myself being pulled into topics and situations that I find interesting. I am trying to give myself permission to dive in.

I once heard someone say that if you are having a difficult time making yourself happy, just start by trying to make someone else happy, first. Contribution and service mean letting my intrinsic desire to leave this world better than I found it run wild. I don’t think that I am special in any way, but I do know that I am capable. I am capable of contributing and servicing others to collectively improve the shape and status of the world that we live in. You are capable too. 

Finally, I think that the trick to achieving independent wealth is living within your means and being smart about investing your money. Now, investing can be a scary topic. The best definition of “investing” I have ever heard is to allocate your cash/money in a position of high yield, rather than low yield. For example, if you store your cash under your mattress, this is a position of low yield. Meaning, it will not grow. Instead what you could do is take your cash and put it in a low-cost index fund, which is where (over the long-term) it can grow as a result of compound interest. Working to achieve independent wealth includes not reacting to the manic nature of the public markets. I think this is a skill. Don’t sweat it. Unless, of course, that includes buying when everyone else is selling, or vice versa. In order to win in the public markets, you must bet against the consensus and be right. Ultimately, you are hedging your bets and doubling down on a thing that will generate/or be worth perceived value in the future. In this game, you get used to just doing your own thing, marching to the beat of your own drum. You can benefit greatly from looking through the long-term lens. I love that.  

I know that to put myself in a position to scratch the surface of these goals I must remain of sound body and mind. For me, this means taking care of myself physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. This is important. I need to be in charge of my time and energy and choose to live proactively in a manner that meets the requirements above. I cannot just sit back and passively let happenstance variables dictate what I become. 

This post is a reminder for me to think about the long-term impact of my actions on others and myself. “The big picture”, as they say. 

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” - Jack Ma

Thought Patterns

Two skills I have been working on are the skill of remembering and the skill of forgetting. With technology, we routinely delete old messages, photos, and files to free up space for new things that are potentially more valuable/positive. It seems like the rational thing to do, once you receive the “disk is full message” or you are no longer able to download a podcast or take a picture because there is no more memory on the cell phone. So what do you do? You go through the folders and you do some “spring cleaning” or more like “purging” of things that were once important to you.

I am making an effort to train myself to not spend too much time thinking about things that are not productive or positive to my human experience. I am learning to forget, which is a skill that can be cultivated. Once you are at peace with memories, or decisions passed it is irrational to spend your days worried or stressed about them. If you don’t need the file, make peace with it, be kind to yourself, and forget it. 

Similarly, I have been trying to improve my memory. This mostly comes in the form of simple interpersonal interactions. When I meet someone for the first time, I find it helps to immediately start using his or her name in the conversation. It seems to help quickly condition my brain to connect human with the word.

In either case, forgetting and remembering are both valuable tools in your toolbox. They are skills that can be cultivated. 

Rational Optimist

I identify as a rational optimist. I am not sure that it is inherent. I think it is a choice. This means I intentionally choose to be optimistic because I believe that the mindset of working towards what is optimal is more conducive to positive outcomes than the opposite. Rational optimist means believing that things will work out because you are committed to doing what you can to augment your reality. Things don’t always work out. That’s fine. Things are temporary. Over the long-term, we will learn to carry on. Go back to the drawing board. 

As a rational optimist, I am sometimes said to be a dreamer. I think that is part and parcel of the approach. But a dreamer isn’t even that closely tied to the act of ‘dreaming’. Rarely do I experience dreams, that I can remember, that involve goals or scenarios that I am interested in achieving. Most dreams I have are just strange stories that my brain tells itself for entertainment purposes, while my body is recreating itself for 8 hours each day. I do think it is fascinating, the stories we tell ourselves at night. It is curious what that imagination can do when it is set free, or simply bored. Most dreams, which are associated with future goals or experiences, occur in my mind's eye when I am awake. So maybe I am a daydreamer? 

For this reason, it could be more appropriate to say that, as a rational optimist, I am goal oriented rather than a dreamer. Together we can set actionable milestones, and collectively work to achieve said milestones. I will choose to be optimistic because I think it is more productive. It feels better too.

I think life is too short to spend your days being overly cynical or always negative. Those folks aren't fun to co-exist with either. Today is a gift. I am trying to train myself to use that mantra more.  

For my grandfather

I figured, wherever you are, there could one day be Internet there. Technology is impacting the world in incredible ways. Over the long-term, who knows what is possible? In an effort to hedge my bets (you know me- the rational optimist, the inherent bet-hedger), I figured I’d send you this note.

- - -

This morning I found out that my grandfather (Pappy) passed on, and I feel sadness. I feel sadness for him, but what’s more, is that I feel sadness for my grandmother. It will be incredibly important for her children and peers to support her through this difficult time. With death, it either brings people together or it pushes them apart. If given the chance, I would pound the table with my fist, in an effort to stress the importance of letting the passing of my grandfather bring us together.

Since moving to the Arctic, Pappy and I had become closer. He would call me every few weeks and we’d just shoot the shit. How lucky am I?

This seems to be a trend, there are some individuals whom, despite our vast geographic distance, through the act of moving away we’ve cultivated a stronger relationship. This was the case with Pappy and I.

As a thought exercise, I wanted to write down some of the good stuff that my grandfather was lucky enough to experience in his life. Note: this is only my perspective; there could be significant events (good or bad) that I am missing. I do not know the whole story; I am only pulling information from what I have learned in my life. The purpose of this thought exercise is to help me view his life with a sense of gratitude and positivity, rather than focusing on his recent death in a negative way…

·      You are born healthy, and you grow up in a time and country that is filled with possibility.

·      You marry the woman of your dreams.

·      You have 4 beautiful and healthy children.

·      While working a fulltime job, and raising a family, you go back to school to complete a business degree (during the evenings and weekends).

·      You buy a country home, on a large plot of land, to raise your children surrounded by nature and animals.

·      Professionally, you become the CEO of a large privately held company.

·      Your kids have kids. You and your wife become loving and supportive grandparents.

·      Your grandchildren have children. You become a great grandfather and you get see the growth of your multiple generational family.

·      You retire.

·      Together with your wife, you build a new small farm to have a few horses.

·      In a tragic accident, you become trapped under the idling machine for hours. Your wife finds you. You are in very rough shape; a disastrous accident like this should have killed you.  But this does not kill you; you manage to carry on despite a laundry list of shattered bones, and reconstructive surgeries. Turns out you still have many healthy years ahead of you.

·      You are approaching the celebration of 60 years with your loving wife. Together, you have been lucky enough to build a loud, passionate, healthy family. What a life!

·      At 81, you celebrate Christmas and your birthday with over 40 family members.

·      Less than a month later, you have a heart attack 2:30am in your country home, surrounded by your loving wife, and your loyal dog. The ambulance comes, but unfortunately it is too late.

·      After hearing the news, your children come to your country house; they drive your wife to the hospital, following the ambulance. After you have passed, your wife says her final goodbyes to you in the hospital bed. Your body is lifeless. Together you have achieved and experienced an incredible life. It is hard to imagine a deeper personal connection, than the two of you have displayed.

·      Three hours later and thousands of kilometers away, your son-in-law sends a text message to your grandson who lives in the Arctic. It says, “Pappy has passed away this morning, we are with your grandmother now.” Your grandson, reads the message, he doesn’t know what to say… He cries. Your grandson calls his mother (your eldest child). Together, they cry over the phone.

·      In an effort to make sense of all of this, your grandson completes this thought exercise by typing on his computer. Writing appears, for him, to be a coping mechanism.

·      When your grandson thinks of you, he remembers you as a humorous and intelligent man. Additionally, he wishes to one-day experience a life much like your own. In particular, he hopes to find a loving partner to build a life with (60 years! Wow!). He wants a relationship just like you and your wife shared. He wants to have a large family and live surrounded by nature, just like you.

·      Congratulations, you have had an incredible life. You have been very lucky. You have experienced and achieved things that others can only can dream of having.

Thank you, Pappy. For me, it hasn’t set in that you are gone. On weekday evenings, I expect the phone to ring, with your voice greeting me on the other side of the line. I will miss you.

I am trying to think about what I can say, to really articulate how I feel…

When I grow up, I want to be just like you.

Reading and Writing

Reading helps me connect with some of this worlds greatest minds. When I read the words of others, I hear their voice in my head. If I do not know the sound of their voice, I imagine what they may sound like. These voices guide me, and they are there for me when I need them. Some of my most intense mentorships are with individuals, which I have never met. With this in mind, I view reading books as a simple and reliable method of self-care when I need it most. Books are an incredible resource. The words on paper help me hear the voices I need. The voices I need help me learn from the trials and tribulations of others. The wisdom passed on to me via books is distilled from those who are much more gifted than I. 

Writing helps me understand what I feel. When you are forced to put pen to paper and tease out the words that describe your stance on a thing, it helps you define what you believe and why. I write when I feel good, and I write when I feel bad. I often revisit and reflect on the words, and they help me understand things about myself.

societies relationships, lifestyles and social expectations

There is a causal relationship between your perceived quality of life and the quality of human relationships you invest yourself into. You will live a more fulfilling life if you are able to share your experiences with others in a meaningful way. There is an adage that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. 

In Sebastian Junger’s book, Tribe, he describes the many ailments associated with living a comfortable life in a location that is densely packed with human activity. He explains that the modern day mental illnesses including depression, PTSD, and the general disconnection felt is due to our overly comfortable, connected, and populated societies. 

He explores research, which suggests that tribal societies led much happier lives with lower rates of depression and suicide. He considers the role of “intrinsic” human happiness versus’ “extrinsic”.  He explains that mental health issues do not decline with growing wealth. In fact, the more an individual relies on extrinsic values to supply happiness (for example; beauty, money, and status) the more likely they are to develop depression over their lifetime. As one researcher put it “the economic and marketing forces of modern society have engineered an environment… that maximizes consumption at the long-term cost of well being”.  When we lead a sedentary, overfed, sleep-deprived life void of challenge and exposure to the earth’s natural environment we are putting ourselves in a position to be unhappy.  

He also points out that hardship, including war, plays a pivotal role in contributing to a decrease in crime, depression, and suicide. For it is during times of crisis, challenge, and hardship when we are forced to focus on the well being of our family, our peers, and our tribe. Noticing they trends emphasize the fact that human relationships matter. If you are having a difficult time making yourself happy, try making someone else happy first. 

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar describes the notion of the maximum number of relationships we can meaningfully manage as Dunbar’s Number.  He argued that humans could sustain more relationships than apes because our neocortex was larger. It requires significant cognitive effort to socialize with other primates, and so this was a large contributing factor to a number of friendly relationships an ape could behold at any given time. Due to our larger neocortex, Dunbar estimated that humans could sustain no more than roughly 150 people at any time. If we take on more than this number, it will equate to the degradation of our existing relationships. 

These themes point to the fact that you cannot be everything to everyone. It is best to focus on the intrinsic forces, rather than extrinsic, as they are a more reliable contributor to long-term wellbeing. In order to take a proactive approach to your happiness and fulfillment, you’ll need to be realistic about your lifestyle, relationships, and social expectations.

Why I walk Barefooted

We’ve been told all of our lives the dangers of walking barefoot. We’ve been advised to stay on the well-worn path, for the path is a corridor to safety. There are many risks lurking, which we will experience when and if we walk barefoot. Walking barefoot involves risk, effort, and curiosity. When we are children, we are taught to dream and explore; yet as we age we forget how to do these things.

They say…

When you walk in barefooted, you will cut yourself.

When you walk barefooted, your feet will get cold.

When you walk barefooted, your feet will become dirty.

When we stop walking barefoot, we stop being curious. All too often we forget that there lays a world waiting to be explored outside the confines of the well-worn path. I think that there is more too life than just playing it safe. Author Chuck Palahniuk was quoted, as saying, “I don’t want to die without any scars”.  Helen Keller once described, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”. These two maxims, articulate the metaphor of walking barefooted.

I like to walk barefooted so that my feet, skin, and muscles become calloused and more resilient.

As my feet strengthen, I too feel stronger, and more stable. This is an incredibly valuable state of mind and being.

I like to walk barefooted so I can feel the temperature of the environment.

Our feet are our most utilized touch points by which we experience the earth. It is a shame that we spend so much of our lives with shoes on. We filter the connection described; we circumvent this ever-present link to our environment.

I like to walk barefooted so that my feet become dirty.

I don’t want to die without scars, and I don’t want to live without dirt on the soles of my feet. The dirt serves as that proof you’ve dreamed. The dirt is a reminder to get out and explore.

 

Showing up and saying yes

By showing up and saying yes to things you have already put yourself in a position to succeed. 

Both aspects require courage (I.e showing up, saying yes). The easy thing to do would avoid approaching an experience, which entails a degree of vulnerability and an unknowable outcome. Just stay home, make up an excuse and convince yourself it is legitimate. Carry on, forget about it. It will always be simpler to stay home and manufacture a reason why you cannot do something. 

Saying “yes” to things is a verbal contract between you, and someone else. There are social pressures and expectations that come along with that. To say yes and approach a situation where you will undoubtedly make mistakes is unsettling. But this is life. If you are pragmatic and honest with yourself, this should be a non-issue. When we remove the ego, it gives us space to admit that we know we don’t know anything. As noted by John Archibald Wheeler, “As our island of knowledge grows, so too does our ocean of ignorance.” 

Whether you are a beginner or an expert, there is no immunity to mistakes, and nobody is perfect. We can have an awareness of the fact that a variety of mistakes will be made in our future. One thing that can be a constant, is our response to our mistakes. Just be honest with yourself and say, “I know I don’t know what I am doing, and I know that I’ll make many mistakes. I know that when the mistakes happen, I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again”. 

A fundamental tenet of Stoic philosophy is imagining negative future events, and preparing mentally for and if they were to occur. In a practical sense, this notion means identifying the worst case scenario, and building a game plan outlining your response. Once you have done this, you are prepared. When we imagine future negative events and our responses, we erase irrational fears. When we control our irrational fears, we give ourselves the space needed to be able to show up and say yes to things.
 

listening and working

You will be more desirable to be around if you consciously attempt to be a good listener and hard worker. There are many things outside our locus of control, but these two features can be formed over time.

The opposite of that, of course, is not listening to what anyone says and having a poor work ethic.

I am of the opinion that most things in life can be learned and improved. 

The thing about inner work is, it is hard. When we work on our external human vehicle, there are visible differences in how we look. This positive feedback is a reinforcement for us to keep doing the thing we are doing.

Conversely, inner work requires empty space and inward reflecting. For most, it is a lot less appealing. Most would rather continue to carry on with their version of reality, which has piled up in front of their inanimate eyes over the years. This is simpler than having a hard and critical look at how they can be a better human to themselves and others. 

While it is important to be kind to others, it is even more important to be kind to yourself. This is a difficult balancing act, but it is an important contributor to our perceived quality of life.

When we try to put ourselves first, many feel a sense of social pressure and guilt. Of course, we all have family obligations, some more impactful than others. The family is important. It is my opinion that you must take action each day to make yourself happy. Friendship and romantic relationships should be viewed as a mechanism to augment your life, not lessen it. It is beneficial to have awareness for this notion. If a person is consistently taking from your energy source, and adding more stress to your human experience, remove them from your life. 

Becoming a good listener and cultivating a strong work ethic will augment your life. 

The Gaiman Principle of Adventure

Neil Gaiman, described a systems-based adventure standard, in a 2012 commencement speech when he said the following, “I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.”

It seems simple, but this system was a significant contributor in establishing Neil Gaiman as a prolific fiction writer. It gave him the slack and the space to unapologetically work on his craft. What if more implemented that system to ensure that the decisions made led to adventure and not passionless work? How would the world change? 

But wait, “What does Neil Gaiman mean by adventure and work?” I don't know what he meant, but here is what the dictionary says...

'Adventure' is:

A verb
 
To engage in a hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
 
'Work' is:

A verb
 
To be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result, especially in one's job; as a means of earning income; employment.

With these definitions in mind, we ought to take incremental steps towards things that are exciting, exploratory, and may involve hazard or risk. Additionally, we should do our best to avoid things where the only reason we do them is for the income. By doing so, we are building a life that feels like an adventure and not like work. 

Does this feel like adventure.png

 

Choosing adventure is difficult because, most often, there is no clear path. Choosing passionless work is easy. Each day, you just have to show up and someone else tells you what to do. It is easy to follow, and simple to do what you are told. It requires little upfront thought, and only follow through to meet the status quo. It is much more work to lead others.

It is understood that people need income to pay the bills, I get that. I also believe that when you let your passions fall by the wayside, you are only letting yourself down. If you have further excuses to tell yourself regarding a lack of time, visit the following link; 

http://andrewrandall.me/new-blog/2016/5/26/get-up-earlier

The truth is passionless work is not sustainable.

I leave you with Neil’s parting words;

“So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would…

And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art”

You can find the whole speech here at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI
 

Keeping Dogs

What if the measure of a quality human life was the same criteria used to determine the quality of life for a dog? When you are in doubt during life’s trials and tribulations, you could just ask yourself “if I was a dog, what would I do right now to make myself feel better?” 

I hear all the time people say things like “Oh that poor dog, it stays inside all day” or, “it’s sad that the dog is chained up all day.” I find myself thinking, “well despite your human liberty and free will, you seem to spend most of your time inside all day too...” or “one could argue that there are many things that you are chained to, which hold you back”. As people, I think we could to do a better job taking care of ourselves. Self-love and self-care are important contributors to perceived quality of life. As described by Kamal Ravikant, “we must love ourselves like our life depends on it, because it does”. 

I don’t mean to say that there is a causal relationship between a happy dog and a happy human because there are times when a dog does something that makes the human unhappy. I do think there could be a correlation between the types of things that contribute to a happy dog, and the types of things that contribute to a happy human. This thought exercise may provide guidance to said correlations. 

Humans like to make things complicated. What if we just lived in accordance with the principles below? Seven basic characteristics of a dog include;

1)    Dogs seem to enjoy being around humans they love. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, spend time with people you love. Enjoy it, and show affection. 
2)    Dogs love to be outdoors. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, spend more time outdoors. Don’t overthink it just get outdoors. Breathe deeply, and never lose the curiosity of exploring your ever-changing environment. 
3)    Dogs respond well to strong leadership. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, seek mentorship. We are all byproducts, in some capacity, to mentorship. If you cannot find a quality mentor, read more books. “The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries." - Rene Descartes. 
4)    Dogs love to play. Dogs play every day. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, play each day. To play is defined as “engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose”. As children, playing is a fundamental component to how we learn, and to how we make sense of the world around us. Sometime between childhood and adulthood, we forget how to play. 
5)    Dogs live in the present moment. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, be here now. Mark Twain once said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” This speaks to the issues associated with concerning yourself with decisions passed, and stressing over future outcomes. 
6)    Dogs love food. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, eat and share good food. There is something innately human about this practice. You get the sense that humans have made a habit of this practice for thousands of years when you prepare, consume, and share good food. 
7)    A tired dog is a good dog. In order to make a meaningful contribution to your quality of life, find activities that you love and do them. I have found little to be more satisfying than spending an entire day exerting energy doing something I love, with people I love. There is something fulfilling about running full speed throughout the day. It ensures that you will be ‘out like a light’ when your head hits the pillow.

I think it is best to keep dogs around you, in some capacity. In a way, they act as a dashboard indicator of your life. They help you understand if your checks and balances are aligned. I sometimes imagine that they function like a 'check engine light' in a vehicle. Seeing a happy dog running around, in your peripherals, is a reminder that you are doing things right. In this manner, the dog takes care of the human, and not the other way around. 

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The deep end

There are two types of friendships in this life. There are shallow relationships, and there are deep relationships. From a quantitative perspective, the amount of shallow relationships we have vastly outweighs the amount of deep relationships we experience. This is just the nature of how our society is organized. From a qualitative perspective, shallow relationships have very little impact on us, while deep relationships prove to be impactful on our well-being and perceived quality of life. 

I want to do things that provide the context to build deep relationships. Similarly, I find myself involuntarily avoiding things, which involve the interaction of shallow relationships. The kicker is every deep relationship was once a shallow interaction. 

Shallow relationships are a mile wide and an inch deep. Shallow relationships are forged upon the foundation of small talk. The total word count for shallow interactions is low. It may include asking a peer “how are you”, or “what’s new”, or exchanging vague comments on the current status of the weather. These relationships only scratch the surface of who you are. Each shallow relationship only takes up a fraction of your time. Shallow relationships are all the same. They consist of other people, that don’t have a significant impact or influence on your life. Conversely, you are just another human to them, as you don’t have a particular influence or impact on what they do. Like two ships passing in the night, you acknowledge the presence of the other person as someone sharing your physical environment, but you have no particular desire to drill deep down into what makes that person tick. 

Deep relationships are an inch wide and a mile deep. They are few and far between. The conversations you have within a deep relationship are the opposite of small talk. These are hard to build. They require an investment of your time and effort. You really have to mutually share the drive and desire to dig deep to generate this quality of a relationship. These interactions may include asking what makes a person who they are, what was their childhood like, what are their strengths and weaknesses, what are they working on, where do they want to be in the future, what are they passionate about, and what do they believe that most of the population would disagree with them on. These exploratory questions really put the fabric of another human under a microscope. Investigating these questions will provide insight to what makes your peer unique. 

Cultivate deep relationships, and prune the shallow ones. Most things are better when they are shared with another human. It’s nice when you have invested time into the person that you are sharing things with. It’s more meaningful and it makes life more fun. Have a big influence on a few people and not the other way around. 

Food

Food is the delivery system for the nutrients we require for survival. But, food can be much more than that. Food gives you things. If you don't give it the time of day, you are missing out. If you don't feel a connection to your food, you aren't trying hard enough.

Here is some food for thought:
1) Do you know where your last meal came from?
2) When was the last time you made a recipe from scratch?
3) When was the last time you harvested (hunted, gathered, or grew) the food on your plate?

When we invest our time into food, we gain the opportunity to influence and be influenced by others. Harvesting, preparing, and sharing the consumption of a meal provides the context to build better relationships. It also connects people, literally and figuratively, to their environment and peers.

Food gives people an excuse to gather round, work together and socialize. Food breaks down barriers and builds bridges. Some of my most formidable conversations, which have helped shape my perspective, have been manifested via good company, food, and drink.

When you sit around the table and eat there is something humanizing and communal about the experience. It is my belief that accomplishing hard things with others is the fastest and most effective way to forge strong human relationships. I have found the second most effective way is to build and consume a meal with others. When we sit to eat, that is not all we are doing. From start to finish, this ritual has been one of the most consistently rewarding activities I have experienced in this life.

When we use this tool, we have to remember to slow down. This notion is really the foundation of the slow food movement. Slow Food is an international organization, which was started by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980s with the initial aim to defend traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life. The original protest was in response to the development of a McDonalds at the Spanish Steps in Rome. 

Not only is slow food viewed as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional food systems and encourages methods of local food procurement. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.

At the heart of this group is really a point of view. Being a proponent of slow food indicates that you have put some thought into your relationship with the food you consume. Life is better without the total reliance on factory farming and processed food. 

It’s true, you are what you eat. It’s also true that the things you eat, had a life of their own before you ate them. Within the context of an animal protein, the life of a living, breathing thing was taken to supply you with nutrients. We are quick to thank other people for their time, why not thank the animal on your plate for their life? There is an underlying principle of gratitude, which is vastly non-existent in the food system in North America.

It is a helpful thought exercise to have a think about that notion. There is a lot of work, love, and life that goes into food, which includes growing, harvesting, butchering, prepping, cooking, plating, and consuming.

We are in a perpetual hurried state, and we don’t have the time to know what we are eating, and where it comes from. There are innate connections between people, the planet, and animals. Many have stripped away the inherent association with their food. This is because of the time investment required.

We are so busy keeping busy that we are unable to allocate time to harvesting, preparing, and consumption of food in the same manner that we have done for thousands of years. I understand that our society is now built on a socio economic structure that has been manufactured on the basis of a five day work week. I am simply here to suggest why you should invest some of your precious time into food.

In summary, food is an avenue to connect with your peers and surroundings, if you are tuned in to listen. It is a great tool, you ought to learn how to use it.

Relationships

I have spent hundreds of hours of my life with people that, at face value, I have nothing in common with. My age, birth country, ethnicity, culture, sex, and stature, would prove to be vastly different than the folks that I seem to past the time with. Adding up all the differences is not enough to make up for the one commonality that we share, which is the enduring desire to seek adventure.

I have built genuine human connections with individuals I am vastly different from. This has been impactful for me, as the diversification of my perspectives have been shaped via the various mentorships I have been lucky enough to experience. These relationships have changed me. The elusive pursuit of adventure is a strong enough link to forge human relationships that are as odd and irregular as they are robust and unwavering.

Together your confidence and perception for what is possible compounds, and your collective unrest dilutes. Teamwork and partnership contribute to a bonded reciprocity that is required when individuals work together to overcome difficult feats. Bonded reciprocity is the source of mutual respect. The respect others have or don’t have for you drives your reputation. Accomplishing hard things with others is the fastest and most effective way to forge strong human relationships.

There will be times when people are brought into your life for the sole purpose of teaching you something. Although they know nothing about you, often they possess the great talent for teaching you things about yourself. For a brief moment in our lives people appear, and they burn brightly, and provide the warmth and comfort we need. This type of thing can take many forms. It could mean helping us get over something, or tilting our perspective of our own narratives. While you may perceive that these interactions are a one-way transaction, I would argue the contrary. For what is the knowledge holder, if not having someone to pass the knowledge onto? We are all simply a product of mentorship. Although, it’s not always clear when we are the one mentoring someone else.

When you look back on previous human relationships, that once were, that are no longer, you gain an understanding of this at play. Those people, who they were in that moment of time, they taught you things. Our peers contribute and shape who we are.

Life is a series of relationships, which teach you things about yourself, then you die. If you are lucky, along the way, you discover things you love and you get to do them. If you show kindness, you will have an enduring impact on others. This is legacy, this is what we all long to achieve.

There is a causal relationship between your perceived quality of life and the quality of human relationships you invest yourself into. You will live a more fulfilling life if you are able to share your experiences with others in a meaningful way. There is an adage that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I believe this to be true. It is important you choose wisely, who and what you invest yourself into.

On Community

I have had the privilege of living in a few different northern, remote communities in Canada.  One characteristic that seems to remain consistent in places across the north is the strong sense of community. People treat you how they want to be treated.

I have experienced inclusion, which makes me feel at home. 

It was expressed that while eating polar bear is common in Nunavut, none of my peers had tried black bear. Having lived in a community prior where black bear was common, I decided to try and track down some to share. I reached out to a community member from a territory I had previously lived in, and before long, there was black bear on its way to Nunavut.

I told the man, I’d cover the cost of the meat and the shipping. Name a price, I said, and I’ll send the money as soon as possible. Below is his response:

“I can’t accept money, food, in our culture, is meant be shared. It is meant to bring people together.”

This quickly reminded me what community means. His gesture was anonymous. It is this type of selfless kindness that builds strong communities.

Remember to share things, because it will make life more fulfilling.

If it scares you, do it.

This is the most effective trigger, I have found, to push the envelope. There are many types of feelings that we experience that can present themselves as fear. Fear is often disguised as nerves, anxiety, laziness, and or self-consciousness. 

Fear comes in two forms, which are rational and irrational. Rational fear is a survival mechanism that has allowed us to avoid real danger and develop as a species for millions of years. In contrast, irrational fears provide a daily excuse for you to remain in your comfort zone and not push forward. As a screening test, ask yourself if what you fear will result in a high likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome. For example, if you step in front of oncoming traffic on the highway, there is a high likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome. Yet, if you feel fear about having a conservation with someone, this situation will not result in a high likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome.

Give yourself permission to feel fear. Get comfortable with it, and explore its roots.

Fear is common. Embracing the feeling, exploring it, and stepping out of your comfort zone is uncommon, and uncomfortable.

When you feel fear, first ask yourself if it is rational or irrational fear that is surfacing. Once you have identified that it is an irrational fear, proceed to lean into the situation. Use fear as a mechanism, as a telltale sign that you need to pay close attention to the fork in the road that you are approaching. I say lean in and take the path that scares you because this is how you will ensure that you are continuing along a path that will challenge, and change you for the better. In fact, it is one of the only ways I know how to ensure these themes remain a priority.

This notion was first introduced to me in the link below. It has changed the way I operate and arrive at decisions.

https://sivers.org/scares

On Art

Art is the expression or application of human creativity, skill, and imagination. Art is used to impact people.

Seth Godin, infamously preaches the idea that art is not art, unless it is shared. If it is not shared, then it cannot impact anyone (check out Seth Godin’s blog for daily wisdom at : http://sethgodin.typepad.com/).

Here are some common types:

Painting, singing, playing an instrument, writing, drawing, cooking, baking, movement, photography, dancing, poetry, and or woodworking (and many more).

Most of the population wouldn’t consider themselves an artist. But, the truth is you are.

Ask yourself this…

  1. Have you ever created something that has had an impact on someone else?

Congratulations, you are an artist.

Art should be prioritized during your daily practice. Art, like sport, is a tool that teaches. This argument is built on the notion that art is inherently positive because it requires creativity, internal reflection, and courage. By building art, you will strengthen these characteristics, and be better for it. 

Creativity stems from the need for inventiveness and unconventional thinking. Art requires you to build something that may at some point help someone else. In order to change somebody, you have to make something that is different. An automotive factory line does not build art, it uses mechanical efficiency to produce replicable parts, which will contribute to a reliable car. Now, in defense of your Prius, your car did not come off the factory line to change anyone. To make art, we must get creative, we must provide something to the world that is through our own unique lens.

Art requires reflection. Reflection requires being proactive. In order to build something that helps someone, you will likely need to turn down the noise of everyday life. This noise includes gossip, the news of the day, social media, and ‘urgent’ non-important issues. In order to be able to tune into this internal dialogue essential for building art, we must engage in reflection. There is something very proactive about looking inward, introspectively to create art. In contrast, when dealing with ‘everyday noise’ we put ourselves in a reactive position.

Art requires courage. Sharing your art with the world is difficult. In many cases it makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. The fear of ‘what will other people think?’ or ‘what if other people think what I am doing is stupid?’. These irrational fears are enough to make people not share their work. Sharing your work will push you out of your comfort zone. I once heard a friend say something to the effect of, “the largest concentration of brilliant ideas can be found in grave yards”. This is because people don’t share their ideas. If an idea has been taken to the grave, it cannot help anyone. The fear of rejection is too strong. The fear of the unknown is enough to make people hoard their ideas, and not share their art. This is tragic.

James Altucher  ( http://www.jamesaltucher.com/ ) a popular author, once went on to explain the rule of 1/3’s. This notion describes the fact that generally 1/3 of people will love you, 1/3 of won’t care about you, and 1/3 of people will hate you and the work you produce. It’s a great way to keep things in perspective. Whenever someone expresses that they like what you are doing, just remember that represents only 1/3 of the population. There is another 2/3 of the population that don’t care at all, or dislike what you are doing. This is the natural balance of the world we live in.

There is nothing else like art.

Below are some characteristics of art, which are important to keep in mind when the voice in your head tells you that you are not capable…

  1. There is no right answer…

  2. Art that is worthless to one person may be life altering to another…

  3. If you are truly creating your own original art you are creating something in a pin pick of time that can never be recreated again. Don’t over think it, just do something you enjoy.

  4. Art can have a formidable impact across multiple generations.

“When in doubt, make good art”
Neil Gaiman

Innovation calls for creative minds

Innovation is about making changes to the way things have been done, with the intention to improve things for the future. There is something inherently human about innovation, as most often what we ‘humans’ are working to innovate will be seen as just a stepping stone for future innovation. Things are not the way that they are because of anything I have done or anything you have done, it was like this when we showed up!

 While it may be true that most innovation is created to ‘scratch one’s itch’, solving little problems often leads to solving bigger problems. The little things add up to the big things. With this notion, ‘brain-power’ of the human species is cumulative. Due to recorded history, and the advent of the internet we can continue to build, grow, and improve. Yesterday’s solutions help us arrive at tomorrow’s innovation. We are standing on the shoulders of the creative minds of the past. Innovation from centuries ago, paved the way for the way things are done today. By learning from the trials and tribulations of others, we are put in a position to go further.

If creativity is the heart, innovation is what fills the arteries that pushes the human body and race forward. Without creativity, there is no innovation. Without the heart there is nothing pumping through our arteries. Through technology and innovation, humans continue to redefine what is and is not impossible. It seems, at the rate we are going, the question is simply  “how much cumulative brain-power is required to solve todays big problem”

How many more generations until the human race is a multi-planet species?

How long till we transition completely to the usage of sustainable energy sources?

When will the human race stop killing one another over religion? When will we learn?

These are big questions, but as previously described big problems are solved by doing the little things right. Momentum is generated through creatively solving little problems, which over time add up to solving the big questions.

Based on this notion, it is important to proactively engage in activities that cultivate your creativity. School will not do this for you. In fact, school will do the opposite. Students are taught that there is one right answer, which is found at the back of the book. In life, there is not only one right answer. In life, done is better than perfect. There is more than one way to arrive at a solution. There are multiple ways to get things done. And, what about the answers to the big questions? There are no answers at the back of the book. Big problems need to be solved with creativity.

Therefore it is important to proactively engage in answering questions that require creative solutions. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Creativity is not finite, you will not run out. In fact, I would argue the opposite. Creativity, along with your ability to generate innovative solutions builds and grows stronger the more you use it.

So lay the foundation for tomorrow’s innovation by exercising your creative mind today.

Why So Serious?

Try not to take yourself too seriously.

Try not to take yourself too seriously, because time spent laughing and authentically smiling (i.e. when you don’t have to think about it, when you just find yourself smiling-without consciously telling the muscles in your face to configure a smile) is of a higher quality than time spent being angry or too serious.  Do silly things, wear funny clothes, and make people laugh. What is the point of being the same carbon copy as everyone else? We don’t need more monotony in the world. Try and get someone else to smile today, when they would not have otherwise been smiling, just for sake of it!

It is important to emphasize,  I am not saying don’t work hard. So, let me just nip that in the butt before you think I am saying don’t work hard. I am saying, it is important to keep things in perspective. People work their entire life with the intention to stop working one day, retire, and then proceed to begin enjoying their life. I am suggesting to enjoy your life now, in the present, while working. Just sprinkle in laughter, smiling, and things that you really enjoy (see previous post on Flow States). Additionally, if you do not practice what it means to live presently and experience joy and laughter now, you will not be capable of doing once you reach retirement. We are what we repeatedly do. So, in order to enjoy your life later, enjoy your life now. It sounds simple, but it is hard to do. It must be intentionally practiced.

If everyone took themselves less seriously, together we would decrease the collective seriousness of our peers, and therefore, live a more enjoyable life. The fastest way to increase the temperature of an ice bath is to add ice cubes. Ice cubes are more effective in decreasing the temperature of the water, in contrast to large blocks of ice, because collectively the smaller cubes add up to a larger surface area, and therefore cool the water faster. Rather than living in prolonged chunks of anger and seriousness (large chunks of ice), it is more effective to engage in joy and laughter in smaller bouts (ice cubes) throughout your time. If this is practiced, those in our small little worlds will lead a more enjoyable life.

Go out and make somebody smile today. And always remember - not taking yourself too serious will provide you with a happier life and a colder ice bath.

The Most Important Training Philosophy

We’ve all heard it…

“Your brain is like a muscle, the more you train it the stronger it gets”

This is literally true, and proactively doing things for your brain can change your life.

We all know that physical exercise can change your life. If you don’t believe me, check out any of your social media newsfeeds, right now, scroll a few times, and you’ll undoubtedly see a post about someone changing their lives through the simple intervention of some form of physical activity.

Many people find that their whole identities change through physical activity. They change physically in their strength, shape and size. People change mentally, in their confidence. People change emotionally, in their self-worth. In the present day, we invest so much time, money and effort into putting ourselves in a position to be physically active.

So why don’t we emphasize training our brain in the same way?

This means reading, writing, engaging in reflection, meditation, making art, solving big problems and much more. Most don’t proactively plan the activities above. It is not easy to do these types of things. It takes a significant degree of discipline. This type of brain training, as a daily practice, can change your life. I’d argue that this type of training can be much more impactful than physical activity. This is because, at the end of the day, nobody cares that your Shhh-medium sized t-shirt is slightly tighter this week than it was 2 weeks ago. It literally doesn’t matter because it doesn’t have an impact on anyone else. Yet, if you can provide someone in need with an insightful resource, or perspective, in a thoughtful way it can truly change his or her path. This is sometimes an incremental change, and other times this is a significant change. Regardless, the fact that you are having a positive impact on another person is enough of a reason to make brain training a daily practice.

But the thing about training your brain is it’s a lot like training your legs because most people don’t do it. Most people that think they are strong, that strut through your local gym flaring their lats, aren’t strong because they don’t train their legs. So, you know, by the simple fact that they don’t train legs (and their physical appearance) that they lack mental discipline. Training your upper body is so popular because it involves immediate gratification. You do a few sets of back and or arms and you feel a pump. Stimulus, response, repeat, repeat, repeat. Your shirt then feels tighter, and so, you chose to devote the majority of your time replicating this feedback.

That’s the thing about training your lower body; there is no immediate gratification. In most cases, it’s the complete opposite as you can hardly walk after. Nobody cares that your jeans are slightly tighter than last week. It’s not easy to train legs for this reason. It takes discipline, and that’s why most people don’t do it.

“If you want to look like your strong, you have train in away that makes you strong. You have to lift heavy weights.”
Dan green

I would go so far as to predict that most people, who don’t train their legs, don’t make it a point to train their brain in any proactive way. This is because they are simply “out to lunch”. They don’t get it, they don’t want to win.

Training your legs is a lot like training your brain because nobody can tell you are doing it. There rarely is a sense of instant gratification. Yet, training both of these muscle groups, in the long run, will pay significant dividends. You will indeed be far better off than those only training upper body.

“Discipline equals freedom”
Jocko Willink

If you are someone who does not engage in consistent brain or leg training, it is my hope that this piece finds you. Luckily, I was taught early on in life the importance of leg training. More recently, I was shown the importance of brain training. I am here to pay that notion forward and tell you if you want to be strong, train your legs and if you want to have a positive impact on others train your brain.

P.s If you need some extra motivation about what it means to want to win, follow @jockowillink on Instagram.