Bulldoze this perfectionist slum castle in the sky down to the ground of reality

Our feelings are not right or wrong, good or evil, positive or negative, legal or illegal. 

They simply are. 

There is need to rank and judge them, or even beat ourselves up for having them. Just because a rush of furious anger, unexpected morbidity or unexplainable joy runs through our veins, doesn’t mean the feelings police are going to bang down the door drag us to the station. 

And let’s not pretend those feelings aren’t there, either. When we deny that we feel something, it blocks our ability to deal with and move through that something. 

On the other hand, when we notice and name our feelings, try to see them more clearly, and if possible, understand why they might be part of our current reality, then we can develop a very real sense of emotional efficacy. 

Besides, it’s not like there has ever been a feeling that didn’t eventually go away. Emotions are weather patterns. Why not improve our meteorology skills in the meantime? 

The important word here is reality. Let’s go back to that for a moment. 

Somov writes in his inspiring book about perfectionism:

Reality is ever renewing, progressing from one state of completion to another, with or without us. Like a wheel, keeps turning, renewing itself in its entirety with every spin. And the best part is, we are not responsible for reality, reality is responsible for itself. 

Isn’t that liberating? How wonderfully comforting to know that whatever feeling we are feeling, that particular slice of reality is beyond improvement. Thank god. 

Reminds ME of a super helpful question to ask ourselves whenever that emotional rush comes in. What does this feeling want from me? 

Let’s start living that question today, we might live our way into the answer tomorrow. 


Are your feelings being judged and condemned, or experienced and expressed?

Avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks

Every television network has a department of standards and practices. 

 They’re responsible for the moral, ethical and legal implications of any program that the network airs. They’re the people who send out tens of thousands of hilarious puritanical memos like this. 

 Presenters please avoid exposing bare fleshy under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack. Bare sides or under curvature of the breasts is also problematic. 

 This makes total sense from an advertising standpoint. The museum of broadcast communications writes that since the thirties, networks have needed to protect their public image as responsible institutions that offer sources of reliable information and satisfying entertainment for the entire family. 

 They are the guardians of taste and decency. No buttock cracks allowed. 

 But human beings are not corporations. We have no choice but to be our own department of standards and practices. It can’t be outsourced or automated. The onus is on us to maintain our own sense of efficacy. 

 Especially during our most stressful times. 

 We certainly ask for help and solicit feedback from those we trust most, but at the end of the day, only we can make that call. 

 Weiss writes in his enlightening book about thriving that true resilience doesn’t require the validation of others. It means you are capable when necessary of working independently and listening only to your own judgment, without needing to validate against anyone else’s expectations, and without needing the support or input of others to sustain themselves. 

 In short, you are your own departments of standards and practices. 

 It’s a much freer and more satisfying way to live. Making decisions by committee might work for billion dollar institutions, but for actual people, there’s only one signature we need to keep moving our story forward. 

 Remember, there is always plenty of time to listen to your own voice. 

 If you want to show your butt crack on camera, then you go ahead and do it. 


What action could you take that would be a signal to your own spirit that your life is being lived well?

Put this dream out of circulation

All of us have obsolete things in our lives. 

Maybe a dream that once brought us joy, but now has fulfilled its purpose. 

Maybe an item that we made a special effort to acquire, but we no longer use. 

Maybe a career we wanted when we were different people with different needs, but no longer applies. 

Or maybe a relationship that was meaningful at a previous life stage, but has now outlived its usefulness. 

There’s no shame in any of these things. People evolve. Preferences change. Life spirals on. 

Where we get in trouble with ourselves is when we refuse to let go. When we waste an inordinate amount of time thinking about what no longer is. And when we’re unwilling to cut new channels in the terrain of self, uprooting strands that no longer serve us.

We can’t help but suffer in these moments. And unless we let the past die, we will never become what we were meant to be. 

My coach used to challenge me on this. He would often ask:

Do you want a life of obligation, or a life of desire? 

Not an easy question to answer. Because if we want to choose the latter, we have to yank ourselves out of the ever tightening noose of consistency. 

And it’s sad and scary to part with these obsolete things.

It’s like throwing away old clothes from our closet. We know we haven’t worn that ridiculous red shirt in four years, but it just feels so comforting and nostalgic to have it hanging there. 

Yet another sign that letting go might be in order. 

People evolve. Preferences change. Life spirals on.

To grow, each of us must be willing to shed or undo elements of ourselves that no longer have a future.


What obsolete things are trapping you?

Moving on to more cheerful problems

Sanders, the hall of fame running back, spent ten years playing pro football. 

He earned dozens of rushing and touchdown records. 

But at the ripe age of thirty, taking time to sort through his feelings and make sure that they were backed with conviction, the fastest guy in the league decided to walk away. 

He took one good look in the mirror and said, it’s time for me to go. 

In his farewell speech he spelled it out beautifully: 

It was a wonderful experience to play in the league, and I have no regrets. I consider the players, coaches, staff, management and fans my family. I leave on good terms with everyone in the organization. But my desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it. I have searched my heart through and through and feel comfortable with this decision.

Simple mathematics. 

Naturally, broadcasters, critics and fans wondered about what he could have done as a player if he spent the next ten years of his career with a lot of talent around him. Barry might have been greatest of all time, they predicted. 

But the guy didn’t care. People’s expectations were their problem. 

He was done. Going out on top. Leaving in a blaze of glory. 

His story is an inspiring reminder that if our heart is not in something anymore, it’s okay to leave. If we can achieve greater fulfillment by moving onto something else, it’s okay to walk away. 

It’s not quitting, settling, giving up, wimping out, cashing in, or whatever other disapproving word our macho culture uses to demonize the pathetic losers who quit. 

This is about evolving. Moving forward. Outgrowing our origins. Living lager than our labels. Choosing to live a new story. 

There could not possibly be less shame in something like that.

Adams, the most widely syndicated cartoonist in history, wrote that the most important skill in success is knowing how and when to switch to a game with better odds for you.

If your desire to exit has finally become greater than your desire to stay in the game, if the hunger has been flushed out of your system, peace the fuck out.

Let go and explore other avenues of life.

You’re not quitting, you’re allowing to find it where it lives for you.


What game might have better odds for you?

We need a bank who takes joy as collateral

Fromm writes:

As long as anyone believes that his ideal and purpose is outside him, that it is above the clouds, in the past or in the future, he will go outside himself and seek fulfillment where it cannot be found. He will look for solutions and answers at every point except where they can be found, in himself. 

Proving, that meaning is made and not found. Joy is our responsibility, nobody is going to give it to us. We are the source of it, it’s not something that’s out there for us to acquire. 

Ask yourself this. How do you approach mundane and meaningless work? Do you avoid it completely, do it begrudgingly, or layer joy on top intentionally?

Motivation assessments suggest that people who approach it from the latter have a strong platform of emotional autonomy from which to develop their leadership capacity. Guided by their own set of rules and not affected by external forces, their internal local of control becomes the emotional anchorage that helps them remain firm, stable and focused in adverse or empty situations.

The good news is, this doesn’t require labor, merely bravery.

Joy, according the existentialists, is the emotional expression of the courageous yes to one’s own true being. It is the affirmation of that essential being in spite of desires and anxieties creates it.

Which means we can always do things that remind us who we are, that make us feel like ourselves, no matter what situation we are in. We can always take agency when doing uninteresting work and produce our own motivation. And all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be float away.

Barnum, the greatest showman and founder of the circus was once asked by a journalist, does it bother you that everything you’re selling is fake? To which he replied:

Do these smiles seem fake? It doesn’t matter where they come from. The joy is real.

We all do what we have to do to survive.


Do you give yourself permission to immerse in personal pleasures and private interests whenever you like?

You’re only as good as, wait, whose opinion?

Rogers, the great humanistic psychologist, pioneered the concept of unconditional positive regard. 

It’s the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what they say or do. 

Although this theory originally developed within the context of client centered therapy, the intrapersonal applications are just as important. 

Because in the deeply complicated relationship with ourselves, we can achieve unconditional positive regard as well. We can love ourselves anyway. 

Ellis, the peer and worthy successor of the aforementioned psychologist, summarized it beautifully in his book about rational emotive behavioral therapy:

The need to impress others and to win their approval, and thereby view yourself as a good person, leads to an obsession that tends to preempt a large part of your life. You’re seeking status instead of seeking joy. Instead, rate yourself as good merely because you are alive. That kind of egoism will get you into very little trouble. 

The question, then, is how much do you trust yourself? How much belief in your own efficacy do you really have? Especially when things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped?

See if any of the following examples apply to your life.

You trust that you are valuable even when you aren’t valued.

You trust that you are a good person who is worthy of joy.

You trust that your own best is enough for you, even if it’s not enough for others.

You trust that you are loved and respected in spite of your lack of achievement.

You trust that you are a worthwhile person even when behaving incompetently.

You trust that you tried your best in the moment even if the amount of effort you offered didn’t produce the outcome you had in mind.

That’s a complete picture of true unconditional positive regard for ourselves, and it’s difficult to paint. Because most of us use such situations to make global ratings of ourselves as individuals.

We based this score solely on our approval and performance, rather than joy and aliveness.

The good news is, trust is a muscle we can train. We can learn to talk to ourselves in a way that a therapist would talk to their patients.

With love towards, forgiveness for, and acceptance of our humanity.


What if you equate your sense of worth not with the outcome, but with your effort?

Forgiving yourself for being what you are

Are you about to embark on one of those soul searching quests? 

Perhaps setting off down a long spiritual path to find yourself? 

If so, here is my benediction for you. 

May you find what you’re looking for, but may you still love yourself if you don’t. 

Because despite your noblest intentions, there are no guarantees of enlightenment. Just like there are no inoculations from hell. That’s where the love part comes is. 

If you decide to take three months off from work traveling around the country, taking pictures of coffee stains, looking for a sign from the universe, it doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to come out on the other side a reborn soul. 

Transformation cannot be forced. It takes a long time. Thousands of hours of evolving and surrendering and accruing experience and education. And along the way, if you’re not willing to forgive reality for being what it is, and if you’re not willing to forgive yourself for being what you are, then you will come out the other side caked with resentment. 

Personally, my transition from being an entrepreneur to becoming an employee took four years just find out who was full of shit. Most notably, myself. Then another few years to actually get good at it.

Look, all people do is change anyway. It’s not like this hallowed self we’re looking for is going to stay the same. 

Harvard’s history department did some research on this. Puett explains it as follows:

There is no true self, and no self you can discover in the abstract by looking within. Such a self would be little more than a snapshot of you at that particular moment in time. We are messy and multifaceted selves who are going through life bumping up against other messy, multifaceted selves. Who we are at any given moment develops through our constantly shifting interactions with other people. 

Isn’t it liberating to realize that the self and the world in which it exists is chaotic and imperfect? 

This insight is helpful to remember before selling all our belongings and hitting the road. 

Maybe there’s nothing to find. 


How long should you look for something when you don’t know what you’re looking for?

With small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets

We have met the enemy and he is us. 

Adopted from an old wartime slogan, this message was famously used on a poster designed to help publicize the first observance of earth day. The goal was to help spread the message of environmental stewardship around the world, and it worked. 

Kelly, the cartoonist who died shortly after the posters were printed, offers context around his slogan: 

There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us. Forward! 

Turns out, he was not only preaching the preservation of our beautiful planet, but also the stewarding of the landscape within. Nurturing the relationship we have with ourselves. 

Because so many of us get in our own way. We become the saboteur and source of resistance in our own lives. There are endless examples. 

Maybe you’re addicted to a dysfunctional story about relationships, resulting in you feeling lonely. 

Maybe you find a perverse satisfaction in indulging in doubt about your own creative talents, resulting in you procrastinating. 

Maybe you’re more comfortable in your familiar state of misery, resulting in your inability to move onto the next chapter of your life. 

Maybe you sabotage your own good habits by making excuses not to do them, resulting in poor health. 

Whatever that thing is, you have met the enemy, and he is you. 

Now, although there are as many examples as there are people to personify them, there is one commonality. 

Lack of trust. 

That’s typically how people get in their own way. 

If you are burdened by ricocheting doubts, switch your brain to this. 

Rush to affirm rather than dismiss your chances for success. Point yourself in the direction of possibility rather than failure. Show some compassion to your inner landscape rather than depriving it of the fuel it needs to flourish. 

And when the nagging clouds of doubt continue to rain on your religious parade, accept that you’re readier than you think you are. 

Everything you need is already inside of you. 

Who you already are is enough to get what you want.


How could you create a version of yourself that you have no reason to doubt?

Most people can get used to anything if you do it long enough

Hawk, the greatest skateboarder in history, gives the following advice to entrepreneurs:

Take pride in what you do, even if it is scorned and misunderstood by the public at large. 

That’s been one of the great frustrations of wearing a nametag every day. Some people just don’t get it. They may never get it. And although it’s not worth burning any calories to justify my idea, here goes nothing. 

Wearing a nametag all the time is not ironic and sarcastic, it’s literal and earnest. 

Scott is my real name, and the goal is to use that piece of information to meet people.

It’s not trying to be cool or funny, it’s sincere and useful. 

Even if people are suspicious about my motives when they first meet me, over time, the nametag usually grows on them. 

Because it’s one less thing to remember. 

Besides, most people can get used to anything if you do it long enough. 

Next, from a psychological standpoint, the nametag is not a prop for me to hide behind, it’s a pure and vulnerable expression of my true self. 

Reminds me of support group I once joined. At my first meeting, two of the members insisted that I took the nametag off during our weekly get togethers. They said it was a disruption to the integrity of the container of the group. 

Christ, get over yourselves. It’s just a sticker. 

Here’s another misunderstanding. 

Wearing a nametag is not a plot or a street hustle, it’s a way for me to give myself away. 

This one surfaced once I started living in a big city. People see me wear a nametag at a party or a bar or even walking down the street, and they immediately contract into a defensive posture. 

You’re wearing a nametag? Wait a minute, what’s your angle? What are you trying to sell me? 

Dude. Nothing. Relax. It’s a sticker. 

And lastly, it’s not some grandiose piece of performance art or political statement, it’s a tool for provoking joy. 

It’s always entertaining when people give me way too much credit. They assume far too complicated of a strategy behind this quirky social experiment. 

It’s simple. Nametags are fun. They make people friendlier. They make life more interesting. 

Isn’t that enough of a reason to wear one every day? 

The good news is, after twenty years of walking around with this sticker on my shirt, I no longer feel hurt or attacked when someone misunderstands me. 

Definitely annoyed. But that’s the price you pay when you stick yourself out there. 


What have you done long enough for most people to get used to?

We hypnotize ourselves with these small things

Here’s an interview question that’s never been asked before. 

Tell me something you don’t have an opinion on. 

Share an issue or concept that takes up minimal if any space on your personal hard drive. Something that’s neither here nor there for you. 

This is not an easy task for most of us. In a world where people seem to have nothing better to do with their time than constantly excrete opinions on every goddamn trivial issues, the prospect of saying nothing about anything is terrifying. 

Let me get this straight. You mean the entire planet doesn’t have to know my view on every chickenshit issue? You mean throwing my two cents into the political mix isn’t needed to tip the scales towards a sweeping cultural overhaul? You mean harassing as many strangers as possible with my spiteful tirades about the new iphone isn’t useful? 

That’s a relief. Participation is not mandatory. You don’t have to have an opinion if you don’t want to. You officially have permission to rest your tired brain. 

Besides, nobody even listens to anybody anymore anyway. 

Even if you did have an opinion, it wouldn’t be noticed, much less, heard, much less understood, much less agreed with. 

Society has evolved into one gigantic transcontinental monologue, and the species most in danger of going extinct is a little creature called empathy.

And so, imagine being the only person in the room who actually had nothing to say. The only person happy not to have an opinion on everything anymore. 

It’s sublime treat. 

Remember, the heart has limits. Can’t care about everything. There are only a finite number of things that can fit into our emotional and intellectual bandwidth. 


How does your life change when you no longer have to do that?

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