How the hell does a window lie to you?

You know that moment when your brain starts pumping a cocktail of stress hormones into your bloodstream, and you begin to doubt your own thoughts, feelings, choices and desires?

It’s such a shitty place to be. Losing trust in your own judgment is one of those cruel tricks the mind plays on us.

Feels like a betrayal. Like you’ve been mentally hijacked.

My friend of has obsessive compulsive disorder, and when she finds herself in this untrusting state, she’ll actually ask a neighbor to check her windows to make sure that they are closed correctly, just in case her eyes try to deceive her.

Can you imagine not trusting yourself to that extent? How the hell does a window lie to you?

But each of us has our own version of this inner uncertainty. We think we want something in our lives, but we question the place that desire is coming from.

If this happens to you, here are a few things to think about.

One is that complete trust in ourselves is not always possible. We’re human. Doubt is proof that our faith has a pulse. And so, we should start by patiently forgiving ourselves for being imperfect.

Another thing is, we’re not alone. We’re not the first person to ever lose trust in their own desires. Particularly if we’re in some kind of pain. Whether it’s sadness, loneliness, emptiness, whatever, the pain is clouding our ability to believe in ourselves.

It happens to everybody. We’re not special in our suffering, and that’s a good thing.

Here’s something else. One of the reasons it’s so hard to trust our own desires is, it requires faith. We have to assume we haven’t been so brainwashed that we don’t know what they are anymore.

Which might not be the case. It’s quite possible that we’re the fish who doesn’t know they’re in water, and all those eloquent and seductive voices, both inner and outer, are working overtime to keep it that way. That might be the case.

And if so, see if you just can be with that without taking any action. If your feelings are unreliable and you can’t seem to exercise accurate judgment right now, so be it.

Remember, all emotions are weather patterns. All of them have a beginning, middle and end.

The clouds will clear eventually.

Are you trusting the flight of your life to a drunk pilot?

Ever think about making a living as a hood ornament?

Macgyver’s most memorable episode was when he was hanging out of car going eighty miles an hour, by his foot, while the communists chased him to the border with guns and army trucks.

His task, of course, was to transfer the power steering fluid into the brake cylinder before the car crashed into the fence and killed everybody.

Pretty standard day at work for that guy.

But even though this scene is exciting and hilarious to watch, it’s also a zen parable for businesses.

Because despite our amazing technological prowess and our ability to execute under pressure, in real life, nobody should be going that fast. It’s understandable that going fast is key to innovation, but speed is not sustainable as the driving force of the enterprise.

My old marketing director was a woman who clearly had a need for speed. Maverick himself wouldn’t have been able to keep up with her.

But while it was invigorating to work with her initially, over time, it became clear that everyone on the team was scared of her. You could hear the sound of their collective sphincters puckering in fear anytime she walked in the room.

Do you have a coworker like that? Somebody fond of making breakneck decisions based on instinct rather than rational thought?

Maybe you are that person. And if so, you’re not alone. The drift toward speed at all costs is a prevalent blind spot in the business world.

My recommendation is, see if your can force yourself to put on the breaks. See if, in world that is only moving faster and faster, you can gain some power by slowing down.

Startups are notoriously proud of their willy nilly gunslinger leaders that make haphazard decisions. But let’s not forget about the rest of the team, who is hanging out of the speeding company car by their foot.

It might help you create the necessary whitespace to take a breath and decide what the next right action is. Because despite what the rockstars of startup culture tell us, moving fast and breaking things is harder than it looks.

Try to move with great velocity when when necessary, but remember that getting shit done at the cost of sound, timely decision making isn’t efficient, it’s immature.

Don’t go too fast and lose appreciation of your company’s broader circumstances. As my yoga teacher likes to remind us, know when to use your voice, know when to use your silence.

What prompts you to go into action too fast?

The acid reflux of disgust at yourself

Sometimes something alien arrives and throws your whole paradigm out of whack.

Could be a piece of art, an email from a customer, or a simple conversation with a friend or family member.

But whatever that alien thing is, it swoops in and totally shifts the lens through which you view everything familiar. You see yourself through a new set of eyes, possibly not even yours.

And the scary part is, that alien thing makes you doubt your own habits.

Have you ever had this experience before?

It’s happened to me a few times. In my early twenties, a drunk friend spent twenty minutes one night telling me what a dumb idea it was to wear a nametag everyday, and that despite writing a cute book about my experience, it was never going to lead to anything substantial. Good luck trying to fall asleep with that song chiming through your head.

Later that night, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, doubts flooded my mind. Maybe this whole nametag thing was a big joke. Some fiction that I’ve been telling myself to overwrite my safe little reality. It’s probably time to rip off that goddamned sticker and pursue a more stable and traditional career. Otherwise I’ll be shacking up with my parents until middle age.

For a few hours, that acid reflux of disgust welled up inside of me. All my cherished beliefs about my identity, my idealism and my independence suddenly felt so small, selfish and silly.

Who do you think you are? What are you doing with your life? Blech.

Just thinking about that night still makes my stomach queasy.

Point being, it’s no fun to feel disgusted by our your instincts. But apparently, it’s part of being human.

Next time this happens to you, take a moment to check in with yourself. Find a way to differentiate between yours and what’s theirs.

Pop a few antacid tablets. And try not to be too hard on yourself.

How do you feel when people treat your desires with disgust and rejection?

Decide that your own best is enough for you. 

Optimism doesn’t increase our success, but it does increase our field of vision, which is what allows us to better notice and build upon the opportunities that lead to success.

Cynicism, on the other hand, narrows our vision.

The reason it doesn’t seem to make anything better because we’re not in the mindset of looking for ways to make them better. It builds negative momentum, which only makes us better at being cynical.

And so, if we’re interested in forging a future of abundance, we have to change our default mindset.

Williamson writes in her book of miracles that when we think something isn’t good enough, then it never will be; but when we think something is wonderful, it will only get better.

Somewhere in there is the fine line between irrational positivity and strategic optimism, and it really does work.

During my stint at a particular advertising agency, my daily commute home from the office was riddled with insecurity. Walking away from that place made me felt like a failure. No matter how hard I worked, none of my concepts made it past the first or second round of edits.

Our creative director had a very specific, proven way of working, and it simply wasn’t welcoming to my writing style. All of my ideas were sentenced to the cutting room floor at best. Any bad result became proof that I wasn’t good enough.

After a few months of beating the crap out of myself and doubting my abilities, eventually the time came to shift my mindset. Because fear and doubt were building negative momentum, and it was taking a toll on my psyche.

Thankfully, a friend of mine set me straight with a useful piece of advice:

You need to decide that your own best is enough for you, even if it’s not enough for them.

This reframing of my situation gave me peace. It didn’t bode well for my future at that agency, as it quickly became clear that my contract wouldn’t be renewed. But changing my story about success helped rebuild my confidence in the meantime, and that equipped me to get proactive and find another job before the current agency kicked me to the curb.

Whew. Just barely made it out before the forces of negativity took me down.

All because of my field of vision.

It’s not magic, it’s math. Without optimism, you simply can’t notice the opportunities that might lead to success.

If you’ve been doubting your abilities lately, ask yourself where the voice came from that tells you that nothing you do is ever good enough.

It be an outdated piece of code that needs a software update.

What if you dropped the illusion that completing some task would make you feel worthy?

Lay dispute at the foot of these spurious claims. 

Mayo published a study about the comparative relevance of physical fitness on life expectancy.

Nearly half a million people were surveyed, and they found that fast walking participants lived longer than those who walked at a slower pace.

Turns out, if you want be around longer, try speeding it up while you’re on a stroll.

Who knew that walking a little faster might add years to your life?

Personally, I’d like to lay dispute at the foot of these spurious claims.

But it’s not for scientific reasons. My objection to the issue of walking faster is, it may increase your life expectancy, but it’s at the expense of your relationships?

Reminds me of my sophomore year roommate. Adam coached our college’s gymnastics team. He was barely five feet tall, but one hundred percent muscle. The guy walked faster than most people could run. Even our quick trips to the coffee shop or the dining hall were exhausting. Keeping up with that guy was an olympic sport in itself.

But it’s not like we had anywhere important to be. Nobody who is nineteen has anywhere important to be. And yet, my roommate seemed to have something to prove by how fast he walked. It’s like waking fast made him feel more important.

We get it! You’re the boss! You have places to go and people to see. The clock is ticking.

Kind of like someone with one of those giant rings with dozens of keys. What are they, medieval dungeon masters?

Point being, his fast walking took a toll on our relationship. It either made me not want to be around him, or made me anxious when I was around him.

Have you ever worked with somebody like that? A fast walking coworker who zoomed by your desk throughout the day like a stock car driver gunning for the lead? It’s exhausting.

Company executives are notorious for this behavior. They speed in the name of efficiency, but their manic stride damages employee relationship, since people feel like the boss has little time for them.

Every time team members hear that person’s shoes clippity clopping at a frantic pace, it sends a vibrational cue to the entire office that they are not to be interrupted.

Allow me to lay dispute at the foot of these spurious claims as well.

Slow the fuck down. Even when you’re busy. Especially when you’re busy. Do you really think that arriving at your desk seven seconds earlier is impacting the company’s bottom line?

It’s not. All that’s happening is, you’re going so fast that you walk right past the very people who need you most.

You might not live as long, but at least your relationships will thrive while you’re here.

If people can’t come up to you, how will they ever get behind you?

Loose threads, false steps and slips of the tongue.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your experience is a dream, a memory or a lie.

Like when you wake up from a nightmare feeling convinced that the event really happened to you.

Or when you’ve fantasized about a person so many times, you actually have to stop and ask yourself, wait, did we really meet up in that hotel room, or was it just my imagination?

What about when you’re recounting your favorite childhood memory and it suddenly dawns on you that it was only a recurring dream and not a real story?

Then there’s my personal favorite, telling the same lie so many times, you literally forget what happened to you in the first place.

It’s quite the disorienting, paranoid feeling. You start to wonder if reality is just an elaborate illusion.

Yikes. An indistinguishable boundary between fact and fiction? That’s scary stuff.

Nolan’s movies expertly address this concern. Dicaprio’s character, at the end of perhaps the finest film on dreams ever made, realizes that he’s living in his own subjective reality. But once he’s reunited with his children, he doesn’t really care anymore if it’s a dream, a memory or a lie.

Because at that point, all levels of reality are valid. He accepts the world placed in front of him, rather than questioning or challenging it. He accepts his emotional catharsis at face value and doesn’t care whether it’s based on fact or fiction.

It sounds like a soothing place to be, but the journey to getting there cannot be an easy one. There are some mighty big questions to answer.

*What if fantasies expressed truths about ourselves that were impossible to arrive at in our real lives?

*What if sleep was just a memory consolidation process in which experiences from the day were reorganized into a more efficient form?

*What if the fiction we told ourselves overwrote our reality, resulting in the time continuum being disrupted, creating this new temporally valanced sequence, resulting in an alternative reality?

There is simply no way anybody can know for sure.

Hell, each one of us could be bringing alternate timelines into existence with every new memory we create, lie we tell, or dream we have.

Maybe the best we can hope for is to sit back and enjoy what’s on the screen.

What is one experience that feels like an alternate reality to you, but seems like the truth to everyone else?

Watching yourself do everything you ever disapproved of

Being colorblind doesn’t have a huge impact on my daily life.

My reds and greens may be a bit off kilter, but other than the occasional fashion faux pas, and one or two traffic light homicides, it’s not something worth obsessing over.

In fact, my inability to discern certain colors has led me to ask an important question.

What if everything in my life didn’t have to match perfectly?

It would be cleaner, but then again, consistency for consistency’s sake isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Think about your last job. Odds are, it wasn’t perfect, right? And you couldn’t bring one hundred percent of your authentic self, right?

Big deal. That’s just a little colorblindness. The real question you have to ask yourself is:

Could you do the work without wanting to kill yourself every day? Could you deal with the people even if every last one of your interests and values were in line?

Awesome. Then that’s good enough.

As noble as it feels to congratulate ourselves on having high standards and not compromising, the reality is, the colors are rarely if ever perfectly congruent.

It’s like my mentor used to say: You don’t have to love the thing, only its consequences.

Because if the work enables you to live a fulfilling life, then does it really matter if the alignment is imperfect?

Interestingly enough, there is generally no treatment to cure color deficiencies. Although optometrists report that a contact lens on one eye can increase the ability to differentiate between colors, nothing can make you truly see the deficient color. It’s just something that you learn to live with.

Jobs are kind of the same thing. You operate with as much honesty and integrity as you can afford. You do what you have to do to make it okay with yourself. And you put yourself in unison with the imperfection of the world.

Trusting that the fabric of the universe is not going to unravel just because you spend eight hours a day as someone with a slightly compromised constitution.

It’s just a job. Your identity is not dependent on merely one of your choices in life. And nobody is going to tell you that you’re a huge asshole for trying to make a living.

This is what maturity affords us. The chance to secretly shake our heads at the sweet naiveté of our youth.

When was the last time you did something you swore you’d never do?

The longer it takes to complete, the better quality it must be

There’s a popular study that polled two thousand workers about their daily schedules.

One question was, if you had to state a figure, how long do you think you spend productively working during work hours on a daily basis?

The results of revealed the average answer to be just under three hours. In a typical workday, that nets out to less than forty percent.

Are you surprised by this number?

Not me. If you’ve ever worked in an office before, three hours makes perfect sense

First of all, most people give tasks more time than they really need. Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, is a very real thing. If people have a week to complete a task, that’s exactly how long it will take.

Secondly, most employees spend the majority of their workday on bullshit. Checking social media, reading news, chit chatting with coworkers, eating, drinking and smoking, attending pointless meetings, playing on their phones, searching for new jobs and so on. People only stay at the office for eight hours because social pressure and the industrial revolution have conditioned our workforce to believe that eight hours is the right amount of time.

Lastly, although working smarter not harder has a huge return on investment for the organization, it comes with a social cost. Because within any team dynamic, efficiency isn’t as appreciated as people might think. Employees are very competitive, cagey and comparative when it comes to total hours worked.

The silent assumption is, the longer someone’s task takes to complete, the better quality it must inherently be. Which means the people who produce significant output with minimal wasted effort are perceived as slacking, cheating or inhuman.

Wait, who is this complete psychopath who is organized, relaxed and efficient every day? Asshole probably meets proper screen time, sleep and exercise guidelines too. Screw that guy. He’s not going to steal my promotion. Better stay at the office until ten tonight, even though my work was finished around lunch.

Point being, it’s a lovely gesture when companies tell employees that they don’t care what time they get to the office, as long as they get their work done. But that’s more for paper than practice.

In reality, even if you only need three hours to accomplish your tasks, you’re probably going to have to stick around for the full eight.

Better find a project to keep you busy, or at least preserve the illusion that you’re actually working.

If you had to state a figure, how long do you think you spend productively working during work hours on a daily basis?

I’m so done with you

Seinfeld was once asked how he felt about death.

His response was:

Dying is going to be fantastic! Think of all things you’re done with.

What a beautiful, liberating concept. Because is there any sweeter sensation than being done with things? It’s the best.

You just feel so light and free and complete.

Note, for my usage of the word done, it’s not the classic definition of finishing something finite, like being done with your sandwich or being done with your assignment at work.

No, this is about being done with something in the sense of, you’ve let go. You’ve surrendered. You’re no longer interested in something.

And the best part is, you’re not feeling any pressure, guilt, fear or need to put forth any further effort.

Like being done with staying at concerts until the very last song. Or being done with walking fast just to keep up with pedestrian traffic. Or being done reading, watching or listening to any form of the news. Or being done with killing yourself during workouts. Or being done trying to make strangers love you.

It’s just over.

Doesn’t it feel glorious? Like exhaling a long held breath when that happens?

The irony is, despite the quotation from the zen master of comedy, you’re not dead, you quite alive.

And that’s the bliss of letting go. It’s an act of mercy toward ourselves.

Hawkins wrote an inspiring book about letting go. His research found that surrender was the surest route to total fulfillment. When people learned to utilize the mechanism of surrender instead of the mechanism of effort, they were significantly less prone to stress.

Imagine how much fun and joy is waiting for you on the other side of letting go.

What are you done with?

Psychological arthritis that can’t be remedied

Here’s a statistic that blows my mind.

Fifty percent of people cannot touch their toes.

Isn’t that sad?

The hilarious part is, the person who commissioned that research study is the chairman of a global fitness franchise, so the data might be a bit biased.

Nevertheless, the issue of flexibility, or lack thereof, is a critical one to discuss. Not only because it can lead to life threatening circulatory problems, but also because it can make you a pain in the ass to deal with.

The other day my friends and I asked the woman sitting next to us at the bar if she could scoot down one seat to make enough room for everyone. She looked at us like we we’d just asked if we could sneeze in her soup.

Reluctantly, she slowly moved down one stool, sighed loud enough for everyone in the bar to hear, all while shooting daggers at us the whole time.

What was that about?

Maybe she was superstitious about her favorite seat. Maybe her butt fell asleep and she didn’t want to move. Maybe she was in a cranky mood and any interruption would have sent her into an emotional tailspin.

My theory is, she was simply an inflexible person. Somebody who can’t touch her toes, figuratively speaking.

Do you know somebody like this? A coworker who can’t cope effectively with complexity and change, even in the smallest measure?

It’s curious how people might get this way. It’s like their brain just stiffens the moment anything challenges their current universe, causing a sort of psychological arthritis that can’t be remedied.

Personally, yoga has dramatically increased my flexibility in the past fifteen years. As someone who loves routines, rituals and regiments, practicing the postures has helped me slow down and accept what reality teaches me, rather than expecting the world to adapt to my speed.

Doesn’t mean I’m as flexible as the rubber man in a carnival sideshow, but my ability to adapt to sudden changes rather than always insisting on consistency has improved by a factor of ten.

Working at startups has also developed this trait in me. You kind of have no choice when you work with a scrappy team. One week you’re going gangbusters shepherding a new initiative, then one of your coworkers gets recruited to a competitor, and now it’s all hands on deck until further notice. So much for that cool project you were excited about.

But then again, what’s the alternative? You jump in where you’re needed.

Whereas a younger and more stubborn version of me might have gotten bent out of shape in the face of changing priorities and conditions.

As stuck in my routines as I like to be, it actually feels better to swivel flexibly than suffer stiffly.

Plus it’s better for my hamstrings.

When was the last time you touched your toes?

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