Go With The Flow: Trust It

Growing up, my dad often told me to, “Go with the flow.”

As with other things he said to me growing up, this only came to have meaning to me after he was gone (…the people we love have a way of gilding us like that, even after they are gone from our lives…).

My father’s advice of ‘Go with the flow’ is majorly resonating me at this dawn of this new year; you could say it’s dawning on me now. Exactly when it is supposed to; for this is the flow. Things happen for us in their proper course and time.

While this notion of going with the flow may strike some as new-agey, it really is an ancient idea that goes back at least to the Tao Te Ching, or ‘The Way’, wherein we are taught that:

The most submissive thing in the world can ride roughshod over the hardest thing in the world – that which is without substance entering that which has no crevices.

This is why I know the benefit of resorting to no action. The teaching that uses no words, the benefit of resorting to no action, these are beyond the understanding of all but a very few in the world.

Lao Tzu

This non-action is known as the principle of wu-wei, or non-doing.

From the wu-wei Wikipedia we read:

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, thus engaging in effortless and spontaneous movement.

The Stoic philosophers, who were pantheistic and believed that the “divine spark” was in everything, held a similar view, in that nature ruled the world and that whatever happened was natural.

The Stoic Roman Emperor-General Marcus Aurelius, wrote in his Meditations:

Every instrument, tool, vessel, if it does that for which it has been made, is well, and yet he who made it is not there. But in the things which are held together by nature there is within and there abides in them the power which made them; wherefore, the more it is fit to reverence this power, and to think, that, if thou dost live and act according to its will, everything in thee is in conformity to intelligence. And thus also in the universe the things which belong to it are in conformity to intelligence.

In short, he’s telling us that there is an intelligence guiding things that we should revere, acting accordingly to its will.

Go with the flow.

And to the Stoic, anything else would be madness.

This is why they are stoic; nothing is disturbing their soul, which was seen as an “inner-citadel”.

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics were wise, in knowing what they could and could not control (Stoicism became the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), but they were neither fools nor new-age pollyannas. As Marcus Aurelius writes to himself:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

Go with the flow.

These words, of course, possess their own meaning for you.

For me, at the core of my personal mythology and center to my very being, there exists this deep and abiding “sense of destiny“. As if it is all going, and has always been going, according to some plan.

This plan does not mean I live in some ivory tower, free from pain. It means that the pain is part of the plan. As a programmer and sci-fi-minded person, I would say that my experiences have “programmed me” – perfectly.

The other option would be to believe that my experiences have been at random and that I wasn’t destined to write this, to be who I am at this moment in order to.

As Einstein said:

There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.

Or, as Jung put it:

Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.

Going with the flow is my eyes.

I lose my cellphone in my house before writing this: I’m not supposed to have it then. I walk around, stumble on an old journal in a box, and open it to a passage my soul needed to read tonight.

Whatever happens is supposed to happen. Maybe this is predetermined, my karma, I don’t know. I just know there is a flow to life – a plot if you will.

When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.

— Schopenhauer

And the river of plot runs both ways: forwards and backwards.

As Jung writes in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

When I was working on the stone tablets, I became aware of the fateful links between me and my ancestors. I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished.

So there is no resenting past, future, or present – this is not to say abandon yourself completely to wu-wei, but if you do, you are meant to.

Just as if you suffer some inner or outer situation willfully, and continue to, you are choosing to.

However, our pain usually ends up making sense – giving us meaning. It’s nonetheless difficult to endure, but I say aleap into trusting all of it. The pain too.

Leap into the wholeness of the flow. Release your assumptions about how things are supposed to be (Ego is the part of us that wants things to be or not to be a certain way).

Synchronistically, I’m listening to Van Morrison on shuffle via Alexa as I write this – he has a huge catalogue btw – and the song on now, he is singing:

On thing I’ve learned after all these years, you’re gong to save yourself a lot of tears….

You’ve got to roll with the punches. Man you’ve got to try and go with the flow.

We must. We really have no other choice when we think about it.

And I’m far from advocating passivity. I’m advocating receptivity.

This is a feminine principle. The Tao is feminine. Our western religions and ideas are very masculine. Our history is. But as we enter a new age, our thinking and our feeling can shift to a different state. One of allowing rather than controlling.

Jung writes in The Archetypes of The Collective Unconscious:

Emptiness is a great feminine secret. It is something absolutely alien to man; the chasm, the unplumbed depths, the yin.

The chasm; this is what Joe Campbell was telling us, same message:

A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.

We have to jump into the flow. You see, the chasm is not bottomless, waiting to spit us out: it’s waiting for us. We need only follow our bliss to find it.

Campbell again:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

And where there is bliss, there is flow. Where your flow is, there is your bliss. To borrow ‘flow’ from ‘go with the flow’ and apply it to the ‘flow-state’, we have a double meaning with a whole new level of depth.

My flow is in writing, reading, nature, exercising, dancing, singing, self-care, these are all flow spaces for me.

And while I wish I could exclusively apply myself to flow-activities, I’m not there yet. I still have obligations, spaces where I am having to push myself. But that’s flow too. It’s the yang to the yin. And we have to also direct the flow (of ENERGY).

We can’t just float lazily down the river of life. We are the authors of our stories. We have to swim against the tides too.

From Hamlet:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

We must oppose our troubles. Life takes will. Life takes work. But often we are suffering from troubles that are really our own children, in that we have borne them in our minds – yet, were we to go with the flow and focus our energies on the true causes and effects of our lives, we might find a lot more power available to us.

Flow is focus. It’s focusing on the things that matter and accepting the things that don’t.

While none of us are Gods yet in a truly omnipotent sense, our Wills are nonetheless capable of directing flow now.

In the 1903 Self-help classic, As A Man Thinketh, James Allen tells us:

You will be what you will to be;
Let failure find its false content
In that poor word, ‘environment,’
But spirit scorns it and is free.

It masters time, it conquers space;
It cows that boastful trickster, Chance,
And bids the tyrant Circumstance
Uncrown and fill a servant’s place.

The human Will, that force unseen,
The offspring of a deathless Soul,
Can hew a way to any goal,
Though walls of granite intervens.

Be not inpatient in delay,
But wait as one who understands,
When spirit rises and commands,
The gods are ready to obey.

So, I implore you to “wait as one who understands” flow.

And when your spirit is ready to rise and command, things will begin to happen.

I think the problem is that we often want certainty. This is masculine thinking.

We need a balance of certainty AND trust in the uncertain. What we are talking about when we talk of leaping into the chasm or going with the flow, is entering the LIMINAL space. This is the threshold, the gap between what is and what WILL be.

In every rite of passage and throughout magic, witchcraft, alchemy, and shamanism, the liminal space is an important aspect of the transformation. Vital because it requires a trust in the unknown. I think of the liminal space as the necessary unknown. If you have taken a entheogen, you have been in the liminal space. You’ve leapt.

But a mushroom trip won’t make our dreams come true. We need a deeper, longer dive into the unknown.

This is a new year. It is the unknown. We are at the dawn of our desires, goals, and hopes for the year.

To reach them, we must go into the unknown, we must go with the flow.

It will carry us there.

If we can only trust It. This is the leap.

All we need do is trust ourselves, the universe, life.

Isn’t that what 2019 should be about? Flowing.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the heartbeat of the universe.

— Joseph Campbell

Artistry: Yung Lean ‘Agony’ Lyrics and Story

Wow. What a song. It reminds me of when I was 23 and I discovered Beirut. The talent is just that real. Realer. I’m older, deeper; I’m a more discerning curator. So, to find something I can just put on repeat, and be lost in while I work or write…. just nothing better.

And while I’ve been a Yung Lean fan since Gatorade days, his art has evolved to a level that’s just wow, to watch. So fucking inspiring.

Basically, there aren’t many Jonathan Leandoers. Or maybe there’s a lot of us, but we’re unknown. WE need more known. To become known.

And the best way to do that, is to feed off of the energy produced by our artistic peers. That’s what’s going to enable us to resonate at that frequency of creative expression.

This isn’t a song, this is a Goddamn Poem:

The story behind the song, according to Genius, is unreal (Are you are my brother Yung Lean?...):

This song is written about when Lean arrived back to his Dad’s house in Sweden after being in a psychiatric unit. The piano is purposefully out of tune to mimic the mental state of Lean at the time.

The last refrain is featuring a Icelandic children’s choir, recorded at the same time as the Stranger short film was recorded.

“Agony” is the most minimalistic song off the Stranger album: Lean is blunt and honest with his experience with psychosis and how this has affected his relationship.

As a bonus, I discovered this great cover by Brooklyn indie band Beach Fossils (Not as poetic as the OG, but it’s soothing AF in a Brian Wilson way) : )

Girlfriend also does something nice to my soul (Starts at 2:28):

And, interestingly, Yung Lean has released some really quality songs under his legal name: Jonatan Leandoer. Love this one, anthem.

p.s. It’s going to be a rich winter. I’m going to be publishing a lot more often, so, consider your inbox forewarned and unfollow if it’s too much.

And, for your pleasure, here are the lyrics to Agony:

Take a pill and go to sleep
I’m chasing witches in the street
I’m the last page in your book
Can’t write a song, only do hooks
Watching horses in the fields
The dragon rests in agony
When I’m afraid I lose my mind
It’s fine, it happens all the time
When I’m afraid I lose my mind
It’s fine, it happens all the time
Isolation caved in
I adore you, the sound of your skin
So many lies that I found
Blood, Heaven, I stick to the ground
So many times I realized
What I seek for is right in front of my eyes
I’m alone in a hole in the ground
A theater of dogs is still around
My furniture has come alive
I’m dancing with a candlestick tonight
Flying kites reaping outside my window
Smiles with fright
Isolation caved in
I adore you, the sound of your skin
Isolation caved in
I adore you, the sound of your skin
Isolation caved in
I adore you, the sound of your skin
And if you’re further curiosity, go to Genius for an unreal explanation of the song’s lyrics, line by line (It’s a lot deeper than you think…):
Also, this long form interview / write up on Yung Lean in the wake of his mental breakdown is pretty legit:

Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

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Data Dump: The Time is Now

I come here to do ‘word-processing’, to let my thoughts congeal into coherence – whereafter, I will feel I have achieved something important (For I will have); where I once journaled in lengthy prose, my notebooks these days are filled with jottings – mostly single ideas of varying yet significant importance. That said, the important stuff always goes here – and it’s not that I come here, to this space, with pre-formed ideas: I come here with a bug, an itch to write; for without writing, a mind like mine would go to waste: I need to dump the data somewhere.

Shall we?

I haven’t written prose style, like this, in awhile. But, in my experience, the longer it has been, the more personally significant my writing seems to be.

A lot has transpired; however, the details are not important – the exterior things were mere events; borrowing the stoic maxim, we can be reminded that, it is not things, but our opinion of them that matters.

I understand I possess a big future: I know this from my dreams and plans – what I call my ‘sense of destiny’.

So, here I am to claim it, to follow the dictates of a clean, bright soul, and in doing so, to release myself from the animalistic darkside I’ve so long been owned by.

As the former-slave philosopher Epictetus reminds us, “No man is free who is not master of himself.”

Only, my previous attempts at self-mastery were too small-minded – I didn’t possess the requisite conception of myself needed to level-up; frankly, I lacked an endgame big enough for me to get the balls rolling.

Now I know what I am, what I am to be. And it’s nothing shallow – it’s a real valid purpose for a valid life.

Those smaller end-games I played before were never meant to be won: they were just data, experiences I needed to live in order to aggregate understanding. As is said, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

My teachers are those who show me how to care for myself, how to live in ways I never learned, how to love myself and others. And it’s working.

Before getting this far in life, I was closed – my brain, my emotions, my attitudes and judgements were all automatic: unconscious.

Through my recent experiences and interactions, I’ve gained the ability to truly look ahead – and not just three or five years, but fifteen and twenty.

But this is not as simple as just re-writing my instagram (@wolfwaldoblack) bio; as I have learned (and forgotten), the journey must be lived.

But what does it mean to “live the journey”?

Your mind, your heart, must be open. Trust you must (Yoda voice).

As Gary Vaynerchuck once said, “People are the people who are going to help you.”

It’s taken me thirty-two plus years to trust people – to not be blindly naive. For we must learn to be wise as serpents and innocent [harmless] as doves. This means listening to the heart’s intuitive intelligence (Thank you HeartMath Institute).

However, in order for us to be aligned within and without, we need to follow some guidelines:

  • We must trust ourselves abidingly: Listen to your inner voice, no matter how faint it is.
  • We must listen to our instincts about others – no matter how much we would like to believe otherwise. People, like life, are complex – don’t reduce them to simplicities.
  • We must maintain health: without proper sleep, diet, self-care, and exercise / activity, we are not fully alive. These things connect us to ourselves as much as their absence disconnects us from ourselves. Live well to be well. Drink lots of water, eat real food, and get plenty of sun. Health is the greatest single investment you can make.
  • We must live the journey: understanding is not something unlocked all at once and then laid to rest forever; it is our curiosities we must follow, trusting we have what it takes to get to the next level. Trust the journey, trust the process.
  • We mustn’t let our fears impede or direct us – fear is often just the unknown; however, life is change. In the words of Heraclitus, “No man steps in the same river twice.” Be comfortable with change – nothing to fear in growth (Movement towards freedom).
  • We mustn’t lose the plot – the story we have built around who we are. Know your worth, believe in yourself.
  • We must surround ourselves with persons we would like to be like – not with those whom we break our own sacred trust in ourselves to be with. Get cliqued up. Build your team, no matter how slowly. Surround yourselves with those you can trust.
  • We must be secure in ourselves – insecurity is a type of madness in which the human being is no longer on their own side. Feel good about who you are, and the life you are living.
  • Appearances matter – do not be insecure but don’t be the Big Lebowski. Take care your appearance, take pride in your image – it’s the thing people who don’t know you will judge you on first.
  • Have a routine: as much as you loathe this idea (Based on past “routines” – see Navy), you need to establish a routine in order to build habits. Habits are what are going to take you to the top. Design a routine around your goals.
  • Set goals, from as near as today, through as far as you can envision. Your goals today should be taking you toward your goals for someday.
  • Set your own limits. The system creates small minded thinkers, and most families unknowingly raise their children to be small minded. It’s a cycle you can break. Be determined to set your ow limits.
  • Do not be an island. Do not isolate from the world. If you need help, get it. Count on those in whom your heart trusts to help you.
  • Don’t accept bullshit. People will throw all kinds of shit your way, but only what you can take – the bullshit stops with healthy boundaries.
  • Know your goodness. You were not born in sin, you were born a baby, then you were a child. Do not forget the goodness in your childlike heart – it’s still there.
  • Be self-sufficient. It’s good to have a network, but do not expect other people to do your work for you – or even to show you how. You are capable. Do not ask of another what is yours to do. Be self-reliant.
  • Be aware of what you feed your brain. There’s a reason it’s called television “programming”. Also, don’t watch the news – as Peter Diamandis taught me, the news is designed to activate the fear center of the brain – the amygdala – creating an addiction. Instead, follow the people / organizations that resonate with you. Or just live and don’t follow anything at all.
  • Chill out / cut back on social media. Social media is the new collective consciousness. It worships shallow, vapid people, and it feeds into the cycle of insecurity so many people live in. Want fame on social media? Do shit. Write the books. As the ancient maxim goes, to be rather than to seem.
  • Be there for your family. They need you and you need them more than you know.
  • Be resilient: don’t let a long day or being tired drag you down into a funk.
  • Be patient. Patience will get you there. Patience is like a wise oracle – it trusts what only the mind can see, for now.
  • Have fun – this is maybe the most important one. In the words of Bob Marley, “Lively up yourself and don’t be no dread.” Never underestimate the power of positive emotions.
  • And, lastly, follow your heart. Explore what you are called to. For me it was / is books. Everything else came from there.

This list is by no means exhaustive – but it’s what I need right now. I now rejoin life with a heart that’s a bit more free and pure. And with that increased freedom, my imagination will soar – and with it, myself.

Because the time is now. #ontrack

And I Am

I feel like journaling at the moment -something I sometimes do here but have done a bit more prolifically via pen and paper – however, like a young Leonard Cohen taking pictures of himself – aware of his (And their potential significance one day) – I think I might rather write here instead. After all, like Leonard Cohen – a man who also was once a young promising artist – I too will die. 

And death is life’s greatest gift: for what do we have to lose.

I recognize we live in a world of fairly unwavering thought. Even our bright minds in universities are merely cogs in a machine, albeit intelligent cogs. Nonetheless, people do not think for themselves. If they did there is no fucking way they would suffer the mental anguish they live through on a daily basis. Stress alone is it’s own weakness, its own form of insanity; for there is no such thing as stress, merely the belief we don’t have the resources to handle a given situation. And what a fucking waste of my humanity: to live lacking belief in myself. But this is what I was born to; this is what most of us were born to. 

But there are levels. And I know because I have been through so many of them. 

I have grown immensely: perspective, understanding, maturity, love, independence, humility, compassion – all the things that have made my heart stronger and more buoyant. 

And my philosophies are blossoming.

I am 100% free from the weight of religion, which, in the words of Pablo Neruda, is a collective neurosis. 

What I seek is to be free. And I feel I am. This is no doubt due in part to my deep and abiding agnosticism. But it’s not freedom from the collective neurosis of religion alone that elevates me to the level of emotional freedom I feel today. It’s freedom from much of the collective neurosis that comprises life. These automatic, ingrained reactions to life. 

Stoicism gave me much of my resilience, and I am a Stoic, but the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are not my bible. No book is. But I do stand on the shoulders of giants, carrying forward the intellectual presents from my spiritual grandfathers. 

These persons have had a great influence on my philosophy, character, and disposition:

  • Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca
  • Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton
  • Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalists 
  • Ayn Rand
  • John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts
  • Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas
  • Carl Jung, Marie Louis Von-Franz
  • Joseph Campbell 
  • Abraham Maslow
  • Victor Frankl
  • Kazimierz Dabrowski
  • John Gardner

Note: I had made a list of these persons in another draft, and there I wrote that, “If I hadn’t discovered these thinkers, I would be a scared little man.” How apt. 

This list is by no means complete, nor is it in any specific order; although, I would say, Jung, Campbell, Emerson, and Aurelius hold key positions in my mental cabinet – but each person on the above list has contributed immensely to my education, my philosophy. 

It’s important to note here an idea posited by Emerson in his 1837 speech The American Scholar. 

Emerson states:

“Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.”

The point here being that intellectualism ought not be devoted to the mere worship of ideas, but to their very creation. 

Having lived much of my young life a product of other people’s thinking, I connected deeply to the words of Steve Jobs in his 2005 Stanford commencement address:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I know what it is to have my own inner voice drowned out; I know what it is to live a servant to the ideas of society. Having blossomed mentally – in large part due to the aforementioned thinkers – into something worthy of being called an individual, I can say that I am never going back. 

The lyrics from Childish Gambino’s Not Going Back echo in my head:

Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz
I refuse to go back to not likin’ who I was

Because I do like who I am. 

I am on MY side. 

And I’ll soon have a buzz bigger than insects in Texas. 

And I am

Willow and Jaden Smith, Fuck Motivation, and a Healthy Self-Confidence

I’ve previously featured their father, Will, as one of my real life inspirations; so it’s no surprise to begin this entry tonight by writing about his two terrifically well-adjusted children, Willow and Jaden, whom I think are awesome.

In a word, they are that rare thing among people – individuals – those fine persons capable of thinking and acting for themselves, on their own behalf.

I had previously heard Jaden’s music before and thought it was good. I also greatly enjoyed reading the Willow and Jaden interview published by the New York Times, in which they talked about everything from the theory of relativity, to quantum mechanics, Prana energy, and nonduality – not particularly mainstream topics for musicians – leading Billboard to describe the interview as “totally bonkers” – an opinion that others were quick to follow.

I realize, however, that when people call something crazy, often they are describing something they do not understand – unfortunately, crazy gets taken at face value all too frequently and, as a result, people fail to question something that deserves a second look.

Thankfully, we who are seekers and thinkers have no problem giving crazy it’s fair due.

Excerpt from aforementioned NYT interview:

I’m curious about your experience of time. Do you feel like life is moving really quickly? Is your music one way to sort of turn it over and reflect on it?

WILLOW: I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.

JADEN: It’s proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe. It’s relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds. But it’s also such a thing that you can get lost in.

Read the entire Times piece, here.

Pretty abstract thinking for two teenagers (I think 14 and 16 at the time of the article).

Tonight, Willow caught my attention here, in a filmed interview/discussion with Chance The Rapper, as part of the Uncapped series by Vitamin Water and Fader Magazine. In the clip, I came across an interesting soundbite from Willow, containing a very Jungian sounding description of feminine and masculine dynamics (from 45 secs to 1:08):

“Having a brother is such an amazing experience, especially when you’re a girl – you’re just like yin and yang – like when you can really look at the masculine in him and the feminine, and then you can look at yourself and be like, ‘the feminine in you and the masculine’, you guys become one, and you can just like go back and forth – but that’s how it’s supposed to be with men and women.”

It’s great to hear someone in the mainstream spotlight who is still so young talk about the intersexuality of the soul, as described by Carl Jung in his writings on the anima / animus – an idea I didn’t discover until I was 27.

This prompted me to continue listening, and I enjoyed coming across the following soundbites as much as I did the first:

My mom’s favorite thing to tell me when I’m being really indecisive is, “Do you boo-boo, and nobody else can do you like you”, and that’s the best part about being unique and being on this earth. The universe is the unknown, “the uni-verse”, the “you-niverse” that’s within you, is unknown. Like how can you even know anything about the deepest parts of yourself.

And on the topic of hustle:

Hustle means to me that you have a goal, and you’re going to do whatever it takes to get to that goal. It’s not tunnel vision because you can see what’s going on around you, but, you know that like, you’re focused, you’re like I’m getting this and nothing’s going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life. 

One of the reason’s I enjoy Willow’s perspective so much here is that it reflects my own newly evolved views on reality, success, and motivation. Namely that, motivation isn’t a thing. Let me expound upon this briefly:

Fuck Motivation.

For a long time I thought I simply lacked motivation, and that motivation was the key to me believing in myself, which would be the key to my success – if I could just get motivated enough. But I was missing a key piece of the puzzle, which, in light of, I see now why I failed to succeed.

What I ended up grasping, which led me to a new understanding of how reality operates, is just that we can do anything. Anything we are capable of doing we can do. And our personal potential is the only limit to our capabilities, our reality. It’s hard to describe now how I felt before, but I just spent so many mornings listening to motivational stuff, just believing that if I could believe in myself enough, I could succeed.

But I didn’t.

No matter how much motivational stuff I listened to, deep down I just couldn’t shake my perspective, I couldn’t fool myself into believing I could have the things I wanted.

I, of course, realize now, and I can admit to myself now, that my goals were completely impotent, because I lacked the confidence in myself to be successful (As well as true, burning desire).

In hindsight, I think the motivational videos were keeping me stuck. They were perpetuating the idea that motivation is something we need from others, and they were perpetuating the idea that motivation is about believing in yourself – as if we should need a professional to teach us how, as if we shouldn’t naturally; as if motivation were an intermittent thing we needed to dose ourselves with, like caffeine.

No. Motivation is bullshit. Confidence is bullshit.

Not as ideas in themselves, but as we have come to understand them – as we have been sold on them – they are pure crap. Bullshit.

Motivation as something we can get from outside of ourselves is bullshit.

Confidence as something based on what others think of you, also bullshit.

Fuck your motivational speech. Fuck your opinion of me.

I do not need to wake up and tell myself “I can do it.”

I know I can do it.

I know that if it’s not impossible then it’s possible – and if it is possible, then I can do it.

This isn’t motivation, this is just fact.

Do not rely on motivation to believe in yourself. You don’t need it. You should believe in yourself because you are a rational being – you don’t need any other permission to believe in yourself. You exist. Your potential is a thing. Nothing else is needed…

Well almost. You need desire.

Motivation as inspiration is not a thing. Desire is.

My efforts to find motivation in a million and one different motivational speakers did very little for me beyond make me feel like I needed to keep listening…

It was only when I started to explore my why, that I became motivated in the true sense, in that I had a significant enough reason to take action.

Does a lion need motivation to hunt? No; she hunts because her hunger is strong enough to motivate her to hunt; her desire for food is stronger than her fear or her laziness.

Humans are the only creatures who are gullible and insecure enough to think that we need a reason for our reasons. Of course, don’t tell this to the motivational business. Lord knows how big the self-improvement business is. And it is a business. It serves a need. A perceived need.

Note: I mean how fucking egotistical do these motivational people need to be to think they are the one to deliver someone from their lack of belief in themselves by telling them how important it is to believe in themselves. I mean, I’m sure you guys mean well, but give me a fucking break – come on… fuckoouttahere with that snakeoil.

Do you think Warren Buffet is looking in the mirror in the morning going, You can do this Warren. Fuck no. He would see that as silly. He’s looking in the mirror and thinking of the best way to do what he’s going to do; he already knows he can do it, he already gets how life works on an action / reaction basis. He is beyond the idea of having to believe in himself, and, like so many other wildly successful people, he is not trapped by the false belief that he could succeed, if only he believed in himself enough. A man like Warren Buffet, or anyone pursuing their desires in a pragmatic and bold enough manner, knows that success is the result of action, not belief. Of course, I’m not saying belief isn’t required, but all that is needed is a healthy belief in one’s-self – something few people posses.

A healthy belief in yourself is simply an understanding that limiting your life because of a lack of belief in yourself is irrational. Period.

This, I assert, is the biggest difference between the way rich people think, and the way poor people think. And before you stop me and tell me money isn’t everything, let me just remind you of another difference between rich people and poor people: for them, in their game of life, money is just a way of keeping score. Now, I’m not saying that Avicci [Worth $60 Million
] is the best DJ in the world, but he doesn’t suck (listen to the whole song, not just the long monotonous intro, and tell me from 1:09 to 2:09 you didn’t get the feels), and to get to where he is today, he [Avicci] most surely possessed a healthy belief in himself.

And I’m not saying it [a healthy belief in oneself] is something someone necessarily gets from birth (Although, I do think wealth consciousness is a thing, often passed generationally, in the same way poverty consciousness is.) I think we all, and often the most successful people, have to find it ourselves. This is what the in the wilderness part of the heroes journey is about. It is, to paraphrase the immortal words of Joseph Campbell, entering the cave we fear, to find the treasure we seek. 

The cave is of course, our own darkness. But once we emerge from it (As wonderfully written and acted in this Awesome music video), no one can take our treasure from us. Once you have a healthy, rational belief in yourself, grounded in a pragmatic and logical understanding of reality – no one can take it from you. No one can tell you you don’t deserve something or that you can’t do something, because you see; you come to understand, that is just their opinion – their reality.

As I’ve come to see this year, life is a game of potentials – but it is won by wills. The human will, this is something innate and powerful. Only a poverty-consciousness stricken person would stifle their will because of a lack of a healthy belief in themselves.

If I could write a not to my younger self, I would say, forget believing in yourself, instead, seek to understand how reality works. 

There are no limits in reality (beyond the laws of physics).

The only possible limiting factor of your success is you. Period.

I look back on all those early morning walks on the beach, listening to Les Brown tell me “I am going to make it!“, and I realize I was caught up in a false paradigm.

Now that I understand how life works, how human potential is an innate measure of capability, I see that I didn’t need motivation. I needed desire.

Desire, dreams, the things you want deep down in the bottom of your soul, these are the only thing that can ever motivate you. Everything else is just noise. Somebody selling you on the belief that you need something you don’t posses.

And your confidence, how you feel about yourself, this is your right. The idea that what people think of you should influence your opinion of yourself, this is horseshit. The only excuse reason you ever need to be confident is your own desire to be happy. Period.

You’re like, I’m getting this and nothing’s going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life.

Reading the excerpt from Willow’s quote above, I get that she understands life like I do.

Because I’m getting this, and nothing is going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life.

And seriously, if you didn’t click the “Awesome music video” link, watch it now:

I’ve really come to understand that no external motivation can work for me. My motivation is my desire. And desire begins in the mind.

Bonus: Here is some food for thought desire for me:

p.s. Consider anything I’ve previously written on the topic of motivation usurped.

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Earl Nightengale quote

 

Real Life Inspiration: Ed Ricketts

I heard an anecdote recently in relation to John Steinbeck (Prayerhand-6god-emoji) guy pal (And total bad ass) Ed Ricketts (Add another prayerhand-6god-emoji).

EFRicketts_42
Ricketts, photo taken aged 43 in 1939.

Ed Ricketts is a man whom I deeply admire. He was, like all the people I admire, a stark individual.

“His mind had no horizons,” as Steinbeck wrote of him, or rather, as “Doc”, the Ricketts inspired beer-loving bohemian science-philosopher who cut himself out of the granite-like sardine-packing population of “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches.”

Yeah, Ed Ricketts was a fucking cool guy.

Perhaps one of the coolest who ever lived. Ricketts is most definitely one of my “spiritual grandfathers”. In fact, he inspired another spiritual grandfather of mine: the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

Essentially Ed Ricketts = Star Wars.

And if you get that reference, you might actually be kind of cool too.

If you didn’t, hold on tight.

So, the anecdote with Ricketts is that he basically learned how to like himself through others. He got the idea that if other people could like Ed, then Ed could like Ed.

So he did.

And from the myriad legacy he left, we can only surmise that his comfort in his own skin made it very easy for others to like him. And I can surmise this, because I know the opposite to also be true: having experienced how discomfort in one’s skin ultimately manifests itself in ways that strangely serve to push others away.

I actually, as a treat, just found the Ricketts anecdote, which is from perhaps the man who knew best knew Ed: Steinbeck.

The story is quoted verbatim from the philosophy laden ‘The Log of The Sea of Cortez’, Steinbeck’s 1940 month long inward journey with Ed, then aged 44, to the Mexican sea of the same name:

Once Ed said to me, “For a very long time I didn’t like myself.” It was not said in self-pity but simply as an unfortunate fact. “It was a very difficult time,” he said, “and very painful. I did not like myself for a number of reasons, some of them valid and some of them pure fancy. I would hate to have to go back to that. Then gradually,” he said, “I discovered with surprise and pleasure that a number of people did like me. And I thought, if they can like me, why cannot I like myself? Just thinking it did not do it, but slowly I learned to like myself and then it was all right.” This was not said in self-love in its bad connotation but in self-knowledge. He meant literally that he had learned to accept and like the person “Ed” as he liked other people. It gave him a great advantage. Most people do not like themselves at all. They distrust themselves, put on masks and pomposities. They quarrel and boast and pretend and are jealous because they do not like themselves. But mostly they do not even know themselves well enough to form a true liking. They cannot see themselves well enough to form a true liking, and since we automatically fear and dislike strangers, we fear and dislike our stranger-selves.

So, Ed is helping me like myself in the very same way that I can like an admire my friends – only, I get to be less critical of myself now. haha

Sadly, Ed died too young. But he made sure to live before he did. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You’ve really inspired me Ed.

Thank You.

This past weekend I was up in Monterey (Guest of a girl I have been trying to date), and seeing the life-sized versions of Ed’s lab and some of his things, just really made me feel blessed. I’m just grateful to have found people I can admire and look up to in the ways that they too once looked up to their own little ambitious and upstart part of themselves.

Because I really am. I’m looking up to things that feel true in myself.

And it’s really nice. It’s nice to finally be at home with myself, where there are no horizons.

horizons
“His mind had no horizons.”

Last Night Lasts

I haven’t written anything in prose in awhile, but after a particularly fun evening spent in conversation with friends – old and new – I began to think about how it’s the singular experiences in life, and not the days, weeks, or even the years that change us.

It’s the people who change us.

Because if you live in a modern city, you will literally meet thousands of people across the span of your twenties alone. But of these thousands there will be perhaps less than 20 who will be remarkable in their own right. People whom you simply can’t ever forget and can naturally fondly recollect with a deep and abiding measure of genuine gratitude. Perhaps a teacher, perhaps a friend – perhaps someone beautiful with a kind ear and a bright perspective.

But oftentimes these game changing things aren’t pretty. Game changers come in a myriad of forms. My personal experience is that some of your deepest and richest spiritual insights will be discovered in your darkest places. And don’t worry about having to go seek the darkness in your search for the light; the darkness comes uninvited without fail. Life naturally contains challenges and you’ll have plenty. And my wish is not that you don’t have troubles, but that you discover the right lessons, insights, and messages that are contained within them.

And it’s all meaning. Perception is merely the filter. However, when you don’t understand the importance of moments and experiences as the life changing things that they are – you don’t harvest the richness that you are capable of evoking by merely remaining mindful of the power of life to touch you – to turn you on.

There’s a kind of alchemy that occurs when you interact with someone on an open and authentic plane. As Carl Jung once wrote:

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

Last night I spent the evening smoking hookah with friends. And I felt a glimpse of a feeling which Marie Louis Von Franz detailed in describing a “burgundy fueled dinner party” with Carl Jung and friends.

I knew that it would take me twenty years to digest what I had learned that night

And maybe it won’t take me twenty years to digest last night – but I’m in no hurry to forget about it, and I’d almost be happy if it did.

Here’s to hoping last night lasts.

Second Birth of The Soul

At a certain point every idealist comes to a crossroads, a place where he realizes he must choose between two burdens; he can either suffer the opinions of the masses, or he can suffer the world’s resistance to his own. He must now decide if his suffering – and his life – is going to be worth something. This is when he begins to delineate what he stands for, and in doing so – he finds that he has not only given his life meaning, but he has given himself his purpose.

For he now knows that to rise above the mire of the world, he needs only to give life to his passions – passions that until this day had lay in rumination, stirring beneath the ancient, unbroken soil of his soul. In this way, every heartbreak had opened him up, and every experience had given him the kindling he would now use to fuel his dreams. Dreams that no longer would rest in precarious wait, on the brink of an eternal sleep; dreams that would awaken to give light to the dark – showing all of the world it’s soul through his.

Lawrence Black, Nov 25, 2014

Volcano Keeper, Melita Safran
Volcano Keeper, Melita Safran

Post Publish Edit: Upon publishing this, I came to realize it was my 222nd entry.

Serendipity lives here my dear reader.

Opening The Door: The Patterns of Fate, Serendipity, and Happiness

I talk about serendipity a lot.

I just came across a post shared by modern day expeditionary, soul-searcher, and human philanthropist Dave Cornthwaite. It’s written by a man named Matt Ridings, and it tells the story of how he [Matt] felt compelled to reach out to Dave, and how the two subsequently became friends.

You definitely want to read The Patterns of Fate, Serendipity, and Happiness.

As much as I read – when it comes to online content, I’m underwhelmed the majority of the time. Not so in this instance. The big lesson is that Matt not only trusted and believed in serendipity, but he took action to listen to that feeling within him. This trust was the seed that intervened to open the door for fate to make it a reality. He soon was face to face with Dave over dinner.

I’m reminded of the obscure Steve Jobs interview where Jobs tells the camera about how most people don’t pick up the phone – they never ask.

This is really relevant to me because I’ve recently set a goal to become friends with my intellectual heroes. Not that heroes is the right word, but I think in the past I held these people up as somehow out of reach. Today, my vision and my goals are larger than ever. I know I’m going to need these people in my corner. I’m going to need mentors, I’m going to need to enhance my peer-set to align my relationships more closely with my mission, vision, and purpose.

Coming across a story like Matt’s is such a crystal clear reminder that we should all have the faith in serendipity to be confident that fate just may line up for us. The universe has lots of possibilities in store for you that you will never even open the door to. These limits you have are a human construct. If you’re going to take your life to the next level, you need to surround yourself with exceptional people, with passionate people. Don’t keep yourself on some sub-level below those whom you admire. They are passionate about what they do and so what they do to inspire people, and many of them would love to connect with someone who shares their passion and their vision.

While someone like Bill Gates or Elon Musk might be out of reach for obvious reasons, I bet if you wanted to reach out to and connect with one of Space X’s top scientists or to one of Microsoft’s top engineers you very well could. On a sad note, which I have to publish for obvious reasons, I was having lunch in Manhattan Beach two years ago and met two Space X Engineers who invited me to come by for a tour, and I never did : / – today I would not make that mistake. I know that when a door presents itself, I owe it to myself to open it and walk through if I can.

There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be reaching out to the people who inspire you. Not every person will reply, but those who do will make your efforts worth it to an exponential degree. This is how successful, no-limits people operate.

How many strangers have moved you in the last year? How many times have you been inspired? How many of those people have you reached out to. Do you have a dream? Who in your city has done something similar? Who do you want to be friends with? Read a book that changed you life? Fire off a letter to the author, start looking up email addresses, create opportunities, and for chrissakes, seize them.

If you trust in serendipity, you can recognize the patterns of fate, serendipity, and happiness that present themselves to all of us. If you don’t knock on the door, no one can answer it.

P.S. Watch this video from Dave Cornthwaite and envision yourself reaching out to someone like this and having dinner with them.

Real Life Inspiration: Prince Ea on The State of The World, Technological Disconnection, and Love

Note: I first want to preface this with the declaration that I do not subscribe to the cult of personality. Particularly, in a day and age where – as Prince Ea says: “Our role models today – sixty years ago would have been examples of what not to be”.

I simply do not believe in placing people on a pedestal (hero worship) because I believe that living things are inherently equal – and while that’s an entirely separate topic, the point I want to drive home to you is that you are as worthy of your love as your heroes are; you are as capable as they are. This is why I occasionally highlight some of my role models under the heading of Real Life Inspiration, because we should not worship people, nor compare ourselves to them, but rather – we should be inspired by their choices and their message, which should empower our own sense of choice and control over our lives. I’d like to think Prince Ea would cosign this message.


Hip-hop artist and poet Prince Ea grew up in St. Louis “I grew up in the worst part of the worst city in the world – statistically; the Eastside of St. Louis”. Having graduated with a degree in anthropology, Prince Ea said he combines anthropology with his music to provide social analysis. His messages are refreshing and they echo insights and truths that lie behind the facade of society – the deeper truths many people don’t see.

Where he is – his internal state and emotional resonance – that’s a beautiful place to be.

After gaining increased exposure with the following video on the state of the world, Prince Ea was recently featured on Glenn Beck, which can be viewed here (the video is completely non-political and focused on Prince Ea’s message of Love). The interview really showcases how grounded Prince Ea is. We can all learn from his messages. Below I’ve included three of Prince Ea’s best video’s to date. Pay attention to what he is saying.

Prince Ea on The State of The World

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as another video designed to go viral, but there are so many things he says that are just completely true. One of my favorite lines might be pride is at an all time high, humility is at an all time low.


 

Prince Ea on Technological Disconnection

This youtube comment a viewer posted to the video says it all:

It makes me sick to my stomach. Try MeetUp instead. Get out and connect. Touch each other. Look each other in the eye, and pay attention to the other person’s soul. 

We are electric beings that were meant to connect–not connect through electric devices but to each other by touch and proximity.


 

Prince Ea on Love

The lessons Prince Ea offers on love are brilliant. Many people never discover these truths, or only do after years and years of pain.

See, the truth is, we have forgotten what love is. Our ideas about love come from storybooks, romantic comedies, popular songs, facebook memes – and they all show this fuzzy romantic type of love, and as you are aware, in your own life, these ideas have led to more anxiety and pain then true pleasure [fullfilment] and happiness… because these ideas themselves are flawed, they are based on ownership and selfishness “You are my bae, my boo, my sweetheart; I love you – but only if you’re with me”. That’s a possessive type of love, that’s a love with strings attached, that’s an impure type of love.

Ask yourself this question: who do you hate? It’s probably somebody you used to love right.

Thinking that somebody can fix you or that you can fix somebody else is just plain wrong. See, love is an inside job. In order to love others we must first love ourselves. We have to mature in a way that we can take care of our own emotional needs –  we can help ourselves – and that way, we accept the flaws in our partner because we have already accepted the flaws in ourselves.

There’s no more anger or controlling clinginess in this type of love, there’s a relaxed acceptance, there’s kindness, there’s tenderness, there’s vulnerability.

And when you are reflecting your true self, your true soul, you’re no longer reflecting anger, pain, your past failures, and your ego – that’s when love can blossom because the souls only expression is pure love.

And I think when two people, when two souls come to this understanding – that’s rare, that’s beautiful, and that’s something we should all strive for

So word to the wise, if you don’t know how to love, you will ultimately destroy it.

 

Sage, sage words. This is one of those instances where I get a strange sense of reassurance at the fact that someone else has independently arrived at the same conclusions I have. If you watched the Glenn Beck interview with Prince Ea, you’ll have seen Glen Beck ask Prince Ea, ‘Where is this coming from?’, to which Prince Ea answered:

It comes from inside, it comes from me looking inside of myself… It just comes from me sitting alone, and looking inward at what is the solution, what makes me happy, looking at the world, what makes me happy, and it’s love it’s peace it’s compassion, the most basic idea that permeate all religions – but not a lot of people seem to adopt; it came from me looking inside, from introspection. 

In my own relationship with inner peace and unconditional, abundant love, I too found this truth looking inward.


Be sure to follow Prince Ea on facebook and carry his message forward in your life. Be the love that you are – the love you wish to see in the world.

I’ll leave you with two more soundbites from Prince Ea (via Glenn Beck):

I’m an artist that wants to connect with people’s hearts because I think the individual is everything. If you want to change – if you’re in a movie theater and you don’t like the movie, you don’t go up to the movie and start beating up the projection on the screen – you go and change the film. So I believe that in order to have external peace, we have to have internal; peace in ourselves before any change is possible.

I honestly think that – that within everyone – that pure love, that pure consciousness is who we really are. I think that finding out who you really are is the key.

 

The Big Four: How The Navy Seals Effectively Combat Fear

Someone in my Stoicism philosophy group recommended this video to me and I am LOVING what I’ve learned about how the US Navy Seals (HOOYAH GO NAVY!) have integrated four specific cognitive behavioral techniques into their training program to help trainees combat fear.

Watch from 2:47 to to 18:30 – trust me, you’ll likely enjoy it – I certainly did! (the rest of the video did bore me though, and I did not care to finish it).

The following is transcribed verbatim from the video:

The techniques that we are most interested in are what I call the Big Four:

1. Goal Setting
2. Mental Rehearsal
3. Self-Talk
4. Arousal Control

 Goal Setting

Scientists think goal-setting works by assisting the Frontal Lobes. As the brain’s supervisor, the Frontal Lobes are responsible for reasoning and planning. Concentrating on specific goals lets the brain bring structure to chaos, and keeps the Amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, in check.

Mental Rehearsal

The second technique, Mental Rehearsal, or visualization, is continually running through an activity in your mind so when you try it for real it comes more naturally.

If you practice in your mind first and rehearse and imagine how you might do in these stressful situations, the next time, in reality, you’re faced with these situations – it’s actually in effect the second time you’ve faced it, so you’ll have less of a stressful reaction.

Self Talk

The third technique, self-talk, helps focus the trainees thoughts. The average person speaks to themselves at a rate of 300 to 1,000 words a minute – if these words are positive instead of negative, can do, instead of can’t, they help override the fear signal coming from the Amygdala.

The Frontal Lobes are always on, so it’s very easy to think about something difficult, something bad like I’m going to fail, what am I doing here, I didn’t practice enough. What you’re trying to do is you’re trying to replace those bad thoughts with good thoughts.

Arousal Control

The final technique, Arousal Control, is centered on breathing. Deliberate slow breathing helps combat some of the effects of panic. Long exhales in particular mimic the body’s relaxation process, and get more oxygen to the brain so it can perform better.

Breathing is a great focusing strategy, but you can only do it so much because in in response to fear your brain will get jacked up.

On it’s own, arousal control wouldn’t work – the Amygdala sends out such a powerful signal, it’s tough to suppress if we’re still feeling fearful – but combining the four techniques made a big difference to the trainee Seals pass rate, increasing it from a quarter to a third.


# end of verbatim transcription #

Author note: This blog is a personal blog, there is and will never be an agenda to anything I post other than my own personal desire to grow and express myself (and to benefit my family and my dear readers), and I state this, because when I come across something like this, I don’t just ‘blog it’ and forget about it – I make it a part of my life, of my mental programming, and I return to it, and I study it. I’m not sitting here typing this stuff up in an attempt to aggregate a search query from google, or to make  money. I state this because I hope that you, my reader, will not simply dismiss something you read here because of the abundance of free and purportedly helpful information available online. I know I sometimes make that mistake too, but it’s much easier for me to accept the value of something when I know there is no monetary or ulterior motive behind its production and publication. So, long story short – this is great stuff. The Navy Fucking Seals are using it with significant success. These concepts make complete sense and there is no reason why you too can’t transform your life with them. I know I plan on it.

Each of The Big Four techniques detailed above (1. Goal Setting, 2. Mental Rehearsal, 3. Self-Talk, 4. Arousal Control) has far reaching benefits beyond countering and calming the brain’s natural fear responses. These are major pillars of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I think this is an excellent framework. It’s unfortunate there isn’t more info available on the Big Four.

Edit: I found a former Seal trainee’s account of the Big Four, which provides additional detail and perspective, and I am publishing a quote of below for posterity’s sake:

THE BIG FOUR; KEYS TO MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Goal Setting Through Segmenting: All of us have heard of goal setting. However, not all of us do it effectively. Segmenting is breaking a large task into smaller, more achievable goals. Not looking ahead all the time at everything you need to do to achieve the task but staying in the present and looking simply at what you have to do today or before each meal. It’s like the old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Master Chief told us exactly how to break up the humongous task of getting through BUDs. “One meal at a time,” was our motto. Anyone can make it to the next meal. Once you make it to lunch then you focus on making it to dinner. At the start of BUDs, I focused on working from meal to meal but I also broke it down to even smaller parts during surf torture, long, cold swims, and brutal conditioning runs. “Just get to the next minute, the next sand bar, past this section of the beach,” I thought to myself. I also focused on a slightly bigger picture and set an initial goal of just making it to the end of each week. Weekends are rest and recovery time at BUDs and students are free to do whatever they please. Segmenting sounds like such a simple idea but how many of us use it effectively? I think as triathletes we can use segmenting over the course of our season, not just in an Ironman, to keep us focused, patient, and on a path to successful racing.

External and Internal Visualization: “Worrying is praying for something you don’t want. If you worry about it enough, it will happen.” Visualization is the antidote for anxiety, nervousness, and worry. In your mind, visualize yourself successfully going through each step needed to complete the task in detail through your own eyes (Internal). Then visualize seeing yourself successfully negotiating that same task as if you were watching yourself on video. Do this over and over. Go to a quiet place if you can, close your eyes, and visualize yourself internally and externally. When I was coaching, I used to tell cyclists that were afraid to descend at high speeds to focus on where you want to go instead of all the places you don’t want to end up. At BUDs I used this when we were waiting for our turn on the Obstacle Course. We had to negotiate all nineteen obstacles in under eleven minutes. Any obstacle that took you more than three attempts was an automatic failure. Failures were sent to remediation with more physical punishment as a reward. BUDs is hard enough. Avoiding extra doses of pain could mean the difference between passing and failure in another evolution in the day. Even though I knew I could negotiate each obstacle; waiting in line and not wanting to fail could cause unwanted anxiety. Visualization was my weapon against this.

Self Talk: Self talk is self affirmation. “Belief in yourself is the number one thing that will get your through BUDs. Believe in the program, training and where it will take you,” said Master Chief. Action (event), Belief (experience, prejudices, biases, stereotypes), Consequences (possible outcomes). Every task we encounter has these factors surrounding it. “Beliefs” are improved by self talk which equals a better consequence. All of us that compete have had a bad experience one time or another. A bike crash, being unable to finish a workout, bonking, gastric distress, cramps, equipment problems, or battling through an injury. These prior experiences can have a negative influence on a future consequence whether we realize it or not. Talking to yourself, believing in your training, your equipment, and trusting yourself to know what to do in the event things don’t go your way can mean the difference between success and failure. Every morning at BUDs, during the run to chow I would talk to myself as well as talk to God. I’d remind myself how hard I’ve worked to get to this point and that this day would soon pass. I would talk to myself during those cold two mile ocean swims and the dark four mile timed runs along the beach. “Just get to that buoy, just get to those rocks on the beach, you’re not cold” were things I said to myself.

Arousal Control; 4 x 4 x 4 breathing: People can react to a stressor in different ways. For instance, if an individual perceives the stressor as a challenge to his/her control of a situation, norepinephrine, the “fight ” hormone is predominantly released. And, if the stress arousal increases and a possible loss of control is felt by the individual, then epinephrine, another “flight/anxiety” hormone is released. When the stress is prolonged and seen as hopeless, the individual becomes more distressed and feels defeated. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain. What follows is a cascade of hormonal pathways resulting in the final release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex (of the kidney). The HPA Axis (Hypothalmus Pituitary Adrenal Axis) is a term describing the connection between your brain, pituitary, adrenal gland in relation to stress. During times of stress, the pituitary gland releases cortisol and the balance of cortisol in comparison to other hormones (DHEA, Testosterone, and Estrogen) is high. An increase in cortisol naturally occurs during the day and is highest in the morning and later afternoons as well as in times of stress. In a healthy person, the balance of hormones fluctuates naturally throughout the day. During normal, healthy sleep levels of cortisol are low allowing the body to repair and rebuild itself. High levels of cortisol as a result of stress or over training inhibit this process. In addition to affecting recovery, high or prolonged amounts of cortisol reduces blood flow to the muscles as well as limit the amount of glucose that the body is able to use. It affects athletic performance negatively as in the flight or defeat response.

To combat this, Master Chief Guile introduced us to 4 x 4 x 4 breathing in which you inhale for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and continue to perform this rhythmic breathing for four minutes. This pattern mimics REM sleep patterns, controls arousal, and keeps the cortisol balance in check. I found this extremely effective while waiting to do the obstacle course and before “drown proofing” or knot tying. It allowed me to keep my heart rate down, kept anxiety in check, and helped me go into a stressful situation calm, relaxed, and confident.

Before a race, time trial, or for those with the fear of open water swimming 4 x 4 x 4 breathing is an invaluable tool to combat an increased amount of cortisol. It works just as well for a speech, an interview, or presentation.

These tools are the basics of mental toughness and how aspiring Navy SEALs learning early on what it takes to be the best at what they do. Whether you are gearing up for an Ironman, an important presentation, or simply trying to get through a stressful day give these tactics a try.”

Edit 2: Also found a great presentation on the topic that provides additional details, here

also, here: The Big Four Mental Toughness.

Future Reading: one of the things that is covered in the self-talk technique, is the concept of ABC (Activator / Adversity, Belief, Consequence), by Albert Ellis, who helped originate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Here is a great document on the ABC approach to stress reduction, which I plan on writing about soon.

P.S. Anyone else like how the Seals refer to visualization as mental rehearsal…. quite a paradigm shift for those using ‘visualization’ to set goals.

Napoleon Hill: Outwitting The Devil

Update: Jan 2017 – just going to leave this here: 

https://www.google.com/amp/paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-untold-story-of-napoleon-hill-the-greatest-self-he-1789385645/amp?client=safari

– Not to detract from the man’s work, but the above read was eye opening to say the least. Take what you will with a grain of salt, the entry below included.


tl;dr – I am incredibly excited about this discovery. I am buzzing with excitement. The 1938 manuscript Outwitting The Devil was released in 2011 and having come across it this evening, I cannot get enough. Scroll to the bottom for embedded audio.

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In my youth I first read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich, and I think I can trace a lot of my success in the years since back to that crucial stone in my path.

This evening, I came across something pretty awesome while watching youtube videos. And when I say awesome, I mean really awesome. I’m excited about this. I’m excited for anything that sparks a light within me capable of extinguishing fear, doubt, and worry.

What I came across was an audio version of an obscure Napoleon Hill manuscript, titled: Outwitting The Devil.

As the audio tells, the book was written in 1938, but wasn’t released for more than seventy-two years. Mind you, Think and Grow Rich has sold over 70 million copies worldwide – so why was this manuscript locked away for the better part of a century?

Wikipedia explains:

Just after the release of Think and Grow Rich in 1937, Hill began writing Outwitting the Devil as an explanation of why some were still seeing failure after following all of the steps in Think and Grow Rich. His wife, Annie Lou, did not want the book published because of the role the Devil played in it. When Hill died in 1970, the manuscript went in the possession of Annie Lou, who died in 1984. After her death, the manuscript went into the hands of Dr. Charles Johnson, who was Annie Lou’s nephew and president of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. While Dr. Johnson believed the book’s message to be powerful, his wife, Frankie Johnson, shared Annie Lou’s feelings and told Dr. Johnson that she did not want the manuscript published while she was alive. After Frankie’s death, Dr. Johnson passed the manuscript to Don Green, CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Sharon Lechter was then asked to edit the manuscript, and after several years of annotations and reviews, it was released in June, 2011.

While I am only one hour into the six hour audio, I’ve already gathered that the manuscript has an almost Jungian mythological quality to it – and this too would have likely made Napoleon Hill seem a quack had it been released during his lifetime.

And let me state, I enjoyed Think and Grow Rich, but compared to this, it’s a snoozer. Outwitting The Devil exceeds every expectation I could have had for it. The author [Hill] tells a story of his inner psyche and is at times vulnerable and human in ways he was not in Think and Grow Rich. The audio contains numerous passages that strike me as profound, and listening to it feels almost like a meditation, and leaves me with the same feeling I got reading Steinbeck for the first time when I was 12. It’s captivating.

In Outwitting The Devil I find a narrative written in sometimes beautiful prose, which goes far deeper than the superficial pseudo science and monotony of most self-help books – classics included.

Here’s a sample passage:

During my quarter century of research into the causes of success and failure I have discovered many principles of truth, which have been helpful to me and to others, but nothing I have observed has impressed me more than the discovery that every great leader of the past whose record I have examined was beset by difficulties and met with temporary defeat before arriving… this would seem to justify the conclusion that infinite intelligence has a plan, or a law, by which it hurdles men over many obstacles before giving them the privilege of leadership or the opportunity to render useful service in a noteworthy fashion. 

Now, I would not wish to again be subjected to those experiences through which I passed during that fateful Christmas eve in 1923, and since on that eventful evening when I walked around the schoolhouse in West Virginia and fought that terrible battle with fear, but all the wealth in the world would not induce me to divest myself of the knowledge I have gained from those experiences. 

Faith has a new meaning to me.

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

As someone who is interested in both philosophy and psychology, I absolutely love this material. As one Amazon review says of the recently released manuscript “It isn’t new age to me, but old age, and science and thought is [sic] just catching up”.

But Outwitting the Devil is not just about a philosophy of living or the psychology of fear and success – it’s also about spirituality, and contrary to the title – it’s more about the devil within yourself than it is about the existence of an evil deity.

As an aside: Personally, I do not believe in a devil, or a hell (beyond the one we are capable of creating on earth for ourselves) – but I’m glad I did not let the seemingly religious title put me off. The devil is merely a metaphor, and this is not a work of religious zealotry.

Listening to this, I am nothing short of enthralled. Easily one of my new favorite works of non-fiction.

Note, pay little mind to the Sharon Lechter woman narrating on occasion, many Amazon reviewers loathed her contribution and feel it added her own neo-conservative beliefs to an otherwise flawless work. I’m more than half-inclined to agree. 

Without further ado – I present to you:

Edit: When you reach the section where Hill ‘interviews the devil’, be prepared for a thrill! It’s as dramatic and Shakespearean as anything I have ever heard. Damn, this is good!!! What I wouldn’t give to see this made into a play…

Edit 2: it’s 1:25 am, listening to in bed, not sure I’ll be able to sleep! It’s increasingly clear why Hill’s family did not want this released. In one passage the Devil character warns that this book ‘if published the book would be banned from public schools’ and that Hill himself ‘would be hated’. Hill goes directly after both public schools and organized religion as pillars that ‘strip people of their ability to think for themselves’. Pretty unreal stuff to listen too. Hill unplugged from the Matrix back in 1938.

Update: I’ve published a follow up entry to this with lessons and notes.

Denzel Washington: “You Already Have it, Claim it.”

For a time I didn’t believe in that spiritual spark, the one that fuels discoveries like this – and finding things like this, or rather – them finding me, was a rare occurrence; however, today I am back in the good graces of the universe, and my relationship with providence, with that spark which I call G-d, is once again a healthy one – a relationship of possibilities. As a result, that spark is continually presenting itself to me in the form of the right signs, messages, people, and lessons. I just can’t come across something like this at this time in my life and not feel a kind of humbling, awe inspiring gratitude. I wish the same for you my dear reader. Enjoy.

Note: There is a lot of good stuff in here. Certainly worth watching a few times, or saving to watch again in the future.

A Golden Brick in The Road: Steve Roggenbuck

Have you ever encountered someone who makes you feel like a blind-drunk imitating a master ballet dancer?

I have.

The resulting feelings are thus:

I’m breathless and deflated and rising like a balloon excreting it’s worth and I’m bleeding with all of the oozing of a soul that’s just seen itself in the full chiaroscuro of a hand held in front of the bright light that makes everything in the dark take a new shape.

Backing up a thousand days for a moment. I’m a tech entrepreneur with a background in journalism-lite and a pedigree of sweet-and-sour romances. The successes and failures in each of these has shaped me much in the way that the wind shapes the desert. I’m a product of my environment and my experiences and now I’m typing this because as an artist I’ve come to a Golden Brick in The Road.

A golden brick in the road is that thing/person/book/idea that you come across and upon finding it you’re never the same. It’s spiritual alchemy. Real world meaning – understanding given to feeling, feeling given to ideas, new ideas, new understandings, new questions; answers to unasked questions having lurked too long in the recesses of your heart. A golden brick in the road is a pirate’s telescope for the soul. We experience it and we see distant lands and possibilities that quiver in the wind like palms on the shore of our dreams.

Tonight, taking a break from menial computer labor [coding and design], I saw a post on facebook by The New Yorker highlighting a one Steve Roggenbuck.

As someone who writes poetry – and who pretentiously likes to believe I have the soul of a poet – I was intrigued by this self-described ‘internet poet’ because personally I tend to feel that I was born in the wrong era as far as being an artist; as I recently wrote as part of a short story I am working on:

There was no place in the world for men born in the wrong era. Troubled men, men with confused consciences and selfish empathies. Impulsive men, men with vices and opinions which caused suffering in equal measures to themselves and those foolish enough to love the idealistic fools, the artists; the reckless intellectuals.

Admittedly this was relatively biographical and while I’m sure I may end up regretting that admission, I just have to claim it because lately my identity as an artist has been wrapped up in the dark and brooding misery that almost all artists surely experience at one time or another. And it’s the misery of not feeling able to communicate the inadmissible truths: the Jungian loneliness of being full of feeling and having little medium to express it in a manner that others in turn relate to and validate.

Because how the fuck can I express myself with the full double rainbow of my tears and my fears and my hopes and my dreams in 2014 – how is that possible today outside of journals and academia and people who actively seek out and read literature? How will this be appreciated beyond the posterity of my potential progeny reading this in the year 2153?

Then tonight, as I watched this video suddenly all of that complex and frustrated emotion became rather illusory:

And watching another video of his, the impasse within me continued to dissolve:

What can I say, I mean, I think the characteristic quality of this golden brick in the road was that, like all golden bricks in life, it expanded my idea of what was possible. Particularly what I felt was possible with art – and while I may not be quite as Andy Milonakis / Lil B as some of Steve Roggenbuck’s art is, I’d like to think I’ve got a sort of David Foster Wallace / Phillip K. Dick / Hemingway / Terry Gilliam / whoknowswhothefuck vibe to my writing, but the truth is, I’m as unique and bizarre, and average, and different as you are, and I’m definitely full blown ENFP as far as personality types go – but the point is, that in a world where we have to have so many schemas for interacting with life (i.e., ‘who we are’ at work, ‘who we are’ at a bar with our friends, ‘who we are’ with strangers) it’s especially trying as an artist to try and create your art and to cultivate yourself as an artist in a manner that balances authenticity with integrity; because the danger isn’t in failing to create but in creating in a manner that fails to communicate who you are and what you want to say. If you fail to do that, you’ve failed as an artist.

What I found so endearing about the work of Steve Roggenbuck is that it felt fearless and to me that’s where real authenticity in art exists, in the ability of the artist to express himself honestly – despite expectations and styles and rules. That’s what makes Roggenbuck original; that’s what slapped me in the face tonight: the fear of my own failure to do so. Because the truth is, that like you, I want to be liked, I want to be accepted, but the real truth is, that in life, that’s simply not living; that’s being a puddle sitting in a pothole in the road and thinking the world was made just for you – and it wasn’t made for you to conform to, it was made for you to shape. So… what are you going to do? Be you.

The risk is not in the wrong people not liking you. The risk is in the right people not loving you.

Thank you Steve Roggenbuck for helping me see what it means to be a poet today.

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Check out Steve Rogenbuck’s website to follow him on social media and across the web.

Real Life Inspiration: Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan

Before beginning to type this I sat upright in my desk chair, remaining still as I felt the air from my ceiling fan softly caress the damp and cool tears which lay on my cheeks. I love to cry in the way that people who can’t cry do. As the Jewish proverb says, tears are soap for the soul. There’s just something renewing about them.

But before I knew it my tears had evaporated leaving a salty shadow in their place. The skin above my cheek bones adhered slightly to my hands when I finally wiped them on a dry face. But the cry had been good.

I cried for Marina Keegan.

In a rare moment of emotional cowardice I admit that it would pain me to type the details of her story. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff writes in his most recent column:

TWO years ago, Marina Keegan’s life brimmed with promise. She was graduating with high honors from Yale University, already a precocious writer about to take up a job at The New Yorker. She had a play that was about to be produced. She had sparked a national conversation about whether graduates should seek meaning or money.

But it wasn’t her accomplishments or potential that made the car accident that took Marina’s life such a tragedy. It was the fact that she viewed life in a light few have the courage to see it in. This she expressed beautifully in her writing.

Her Poem Bygones is perhaps my favorite piece of literary art in the world.

Bygones by Marina Keegan

I had a dream the other night that I was checking my email.
That dream sucks.

And woke to woes of seniors writing
love songs for tomorrow and
Tomorrow and the melodies
That flirt us forward, whispering
the next thing and the next thing
and – so we beat on
birds flocking south until we
circle round and realize maybe
maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.

Maybe we should build a cabin.
Or teach high school.
Or use our hands.
My palms are smooth as words –
Weak with fashion and double spaces.

I want everyone else’s club and job and class
The grass I sleep in always browner than
Than that around erasing dreams
To sit and breathe because you
Only bank for two years then it’s over
And twenty two is nothing new
It’s just another chance to build
For when we’re twenty three
And twenty four
And time begins to sell for more than
Any 9 a.m. to never.

We’re not stuck.
That’s the thing, we’re not stuck.
We owe no one our nothings.

Yale will be what it was,
Gothic dreams of lucky, of amazing
Not a staircase or corner office contract.

At home, I walk in forest fields,
Orange light and dry trees,
Becoming slowly sleepy,
And disgusted with my vintage shoes
And the thinness of my skinny pants,
my florals laughed at by the flowers,
whispering, hip. Whispering, there’s no
sidewalk that cares.

But let me tell you, I look cool at parties
And success sufficient to make men fall in love
As we smoke again and open wines
And text to leave because the here is never
Good and I heard that thing on Chapel was fun, well do you wanna leave soon?
Who’s there
Do you wanna leave soon?

I want to bake my blackberry into blackberry pancakes
And live wire-less,
With a husband who runs in the mornings
And lots of books
And a baby who I raise…
To be anything – or nothing
Because that’s okay too.
Because working in a bookstore and having babies
And nothing and being in love is okay too.

Ambition is a choice.
Ambition is a race we chose to run
So we could get here so we could
I don’t know so we could save poor
People or invent something or be in charge.

Last winter I slept in word counts
Face pressed to table tops until the
Snow came and the sun rose
And a man came in to vacuum the floor.

And I’d be tired.
Not just sleepy, but tired.
Tired until all I wanted to do was put on something
Acoustic and romantic and vacuum castle floors.

Why do I feel like I can’t do that?

I’m not sure anymore if I want
To schedule meals and be late
And delegate because that’s what
Good leaders do.

And I’m tired of justifying with tomorrow’s bliss, because
Yesterday’s tomorrow is today and
Someday the sun is going to die
And then the human race will end and
I’ll still be texting to see if that other party’s better.

Do you wanna leave soon?
No, I want enough time to be in love
with everything.

We’re too smart to sell our time
For cocktail moments of
This is what I’ve done
And summers lost for
Three lines on a document
That can’t contain the time
We got high on pancakes
And built a snow fort.

We’re not that young.
We’ve always been young
But now we’re not that young.

And the world is so beautiful.

And this is what we’ve got, you know? This is what we’ve got and we’ll just keep flirting forward, shrinking fonts and grays in love songs to future companies who may decide they want us on their team.

The middle of the universe is here, is tonight,
And everything behind is a sunk cost
Lost in our oceans and our oceans are deep.

So I went to Yale.
So I got good grades.
So we beat on
birds flocking south until we
circle round and realize maybe
maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.

Or the snow comes, and the sun rises, and the vacuum starts,
And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.

###

And this is why I cry yet again this morning. Only now I wipe my tears instead of savoring their chill on my face. Somehow, I just don’t feel worthy of such a small and curious pleasure in the light of someone who is such a personal hero to me. She deserved to be here not me.

She was a hero for baring herself so authentically in her art and a hero for being who she was – herself. She had confidence, character, and personal modesty as a Yale lecturer had said.

And yet, as a friend of hers told the Yale news:

“Marina was someone who looked at the world and knew it had to be changed, but at the same time saw there was beauty in it.”

She knew it had to be changed. And she walked the walk. Who knows how many students she saved from a life of drudgery and regret with her poignant anti Wall Street college recruitment views.

Standing outside a freshman dorm, I couldn’t find a single student aspiring to be a banker – but at commencement this May, there’s a 50 percent chance I’ll be sitting next to one. This strikes me as incredibly sad.

Marina represented the idea of being true to yourself rather than subscribing to societal dogma. As I prepare for my 29th year, (a formative time in the careers and lives of many men), I can’t help but feel her words are too strong not to heed. While not a Yale University graduate, I feel at this point in my life an equal sense of pull between my dreams (being a fantastic published author) and my desire for more secure success (my business, which I am not in love with to the same degree).

In thinking of Marina, I found myself writing this morning:

Broken hearts mend, regrets don’t.

While that may seem to be the kind of sentiment an angst filled teenager might share on facebook, I can’t help but look into those five words and feel a sense of both comfort and fear. What regrets am I willing to live with? This is the question few of us ever dare to ask but all of us inevitably must answer for.

What would Marina say to my life? What would she suggest I do with my dreams?

I look to her words and I feel I already know the answer:

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

Am I going to lose my sense of possibility? Am I going to circle round one day after running the race of ambition only to realize that maybe all that running wasn’t worth it?

I don’t want Marina Keegan’s legacy to me to be just a bleeding-heart story that I express my lament over before going about my day life. I want to realize that ‘Working in a bookstore and having babies and nothing and being in love is okay too’.

It’s madness that we live the way we do. Are we going to be another inmate in the asylum of society because we don’t have the courage to follow our dreams?

Who among us will listen to the beautiful words of Marina Keegan and do something about our lives because of it? What will people say about us when we die? So few of us would be content with the answer. And yet we beat on.

Note: The Opposite of Loneliness, a collection of essays and short stories from Marina Keegan is being released on Amazon tomorrow! (04/08/2014).

And remember, it’s never too late:

###

Also, Give this great Alan Watts audio a listen.

Real Life Inspiration: Ralph Smart

ralphsmart

It’s funny that just yesterday I published one of my Real Life Inspirations on Steve Jobs, and today I am writing about someone who is bringing a much different impact to the world but doing it with a similar message of freeing ourselves from the pre-programmed lives that society dictates for us.

I’ve just recently discovered Ralph Smart; however, had I found him sooner I don’t think I would have been capable of internalizing the simple and profound depth of his messages.

He is a Psychologist, author, counselor, life coach, and relationship guide.

But he’s also an alchemist and what I would deem a brain hacker, because he is helping others to free themselves and awaken to the infinite possibilities that exist.

I recently wrote about self-actualization and based on the videos of his that I’ve watched I get the sense that here is an individual who has discovered his potential and is living from his authentic-self.

Fortunately for the world, he’s broken free from the mainstream and is helping to raise the consciousness of others through his teachings.

As my own journey of self-discovery progresses I’m finding myself drawn more and more to the messages, signs, and lessons that are providing me the connection to clarity that is so essential to the experience of self-realization.

And the more that I walk this path, the more that I am faced with the inescapable truth that once you wake up to the matrix, there is no lasting inner-peace without breaking free.

I just purchased Ralph’s book, Feel Alive, which is available in e-book and audio format.

I am looking forward to listening to the audio version of Feel Alive as I walk on the beach in the morning.

I’m also going to be scheduling a counseling session with him and I’m looking forward to watching more of his videos, which are released every week on his Youtube Channel.

Here’s an excellent video from Ralph Smart, on loving yourself.

Update: Did a one-on-one skype with Mr. Smart and it was well worth it! Highly recommend.

Real Life Inspiration: Steve Jobs

jobs

Steve Jobs is an exceptional example of someone who lived his life according to his own code and left a permanent mark on the world in his wake.

I’ve read his biography, and I’ve watched many interviews with him, but today I came across what I believe to be a more rare glimpse into his mind.

I choose the following four quotes from the video, because they are precious gems that should be digested and internalized within each of us striving to find our way and succeed at realizing our full potential in life.

“The only thing you have in your life is time. And if you invest that time in yourself, in great experiences that are going to enrich you, then you can’t possibly lose.”

“We went and talked to the venture capitalists none of them would give us any money. One of them referred to me as a renegade from the human race because I had longer hair, yeah none of them would give us any money, and thank G-d because they would have ended up owning most of our company”.

“I’ve never found anyone who said no or hung up the phone when I called. I just asked. And when people ask me I try to be as responsive to pay that debt of gratitude back. Most people never pick up the phone and call, most people never ask – and that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You’ve gotta act. And you gotta to be willing to fail. You’ve gotta be willing to crash and burn, you know with people on the phone, with starting a company, with whatever. You know, if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

“So, the thing I would say is, when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is to live your life inside of the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money, but life – that’s a very limited life, life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you – and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually, if you push in, something will pop out the other side – that you can change it, than you can mold it, um, that’s maybe the most important thing; is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it. I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better ’cause it’s kind of messed up in a lot of ways. And once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

<br>Thank you Steve. The world was better for you having lived in it.

Real Life Inspiration: Jason Everman

My heroes are all modern renaissance men. The Elon Musks, the Will Smiths, the Donald Glovers, the Viggo Mortensens.

Those who have self-actualized and are living out their potential.

My favorite example of a relatively unknown person who I admire as an example of self-actualization, is Jason Everman, who according to the Columbia University website:

In 1987,  Everman—a commercial fisherman off the coast of Alaska—quit his job and moved to Seattle where he became the second guitarist touring worldwide and recording with Nirvana to promote their “Bleach” album and a bassist with Soundgarden on their “Louder than Love” tour.  He eventually outgrew the rock scene, and in 1994, he traded his pick for a rifle and enlisted in the U.S. Army special operations forces as a part of the 2nd Ranger Battalion.  Thirteen years later, Everman, 45, who has hiked the Himalayas and lived as a Nepalese monk, will graduate from Columbia University School of General Studies with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy on May 20 at 9 a.m. in New York City. 

j_everman

The way I look at it, life is meaningless. The meaningfulness is what you impart to it. 

– Jason Everman

Everman enlisted in the Army after being inspired by the autobiography of the Italian Renaissance man Benvenuto Cellini, who was a goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier and musician, as detailed in his autobiography, which is free on amazon for the digital edition

To learn more, you can read the amazing piece from the New York Times on Everman, here.

Real Life Inspiration: Will Smith

I’ve read four books this week.

I listen to audiobooks or inspirational videos while I work.

I eat, dream, shit, piss, and sleep my mission of living a life that’s tailor-made just for me.

90+% of my reading is personal development driven. Why? It works. I’m a better man for it; I love growth and discovery.

But it’s one thing to hear an inspirational author or speaker talk about success and self-actualization – but it’s an entire different beast to hear someone proselytize the same thing – for no other reason then the generosity of their spirit.

This is who he is and what he believes in. The passion is obvious.

The man is not going to the grave with the song still inside of him.

I’m posting this so that I can return to it and listen until I know it by memory.

Real Life Inspiration: Donald Glover, Renaissance Man

DGDonald Glover – AKA Childish Gambino is a true Renaissance man. He started writing for 30 Rock while still in College, where he wrote some of the show’s best lines.

He then left 30 Rock and moved from NY to CA, where he got an acting job on Community. An unlikely rapper, he started recording music and releases and performs under the moniker Childish Gambino. The man is currently writing a couple movies and has nothing but success laid out ahead of him. Definitely somebody worth admiring.

Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz, I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.

For another look at his music and the depth of his artistry, listen to Kids: