Everything collapses and he lives with an alarming happiness

James tells us in the scriptures:

We are merely a vapor like a puff of smoke a wisp of steam from a cooking pot, which is visible for a little while and then vanishes into thin air. 
 
As such, why squander what time we do have being miserable? Life is about optimizing for joy, not climbing a ladder. 
 
Our goal is to take full advantage of, rearrange our life for, and modify our experience around, that which makes us feel more alive. Without justification, without shame, without permission and without regret. 
 
Allow me to list a few of my personal favorites. 
 
Laughing out loud at cheesy jokes until my face hurts. 
 
Taking pictures of reflective puddles on the street that most people ignore. 
 
Singing karaoke at the top of my lungs on the commute to work. 
 
Watching a movie and taking furious notes on the best lines in the script. 
 
Keeping a running list of ridiculous names of rock bands that will never exist. 
 
Ordering anything on the menu that has the word diablo in the title. 
 
Making whimsical purposeless art that gets trashed immediately. 
 
Stopping my workday to watch a music video that makes me weep. 
 
Indeed, true happiness often comes in small grains. Keep pulling your triggers for joy, as my therapist would say. Keep building a fulfilling life on the foundation of our true nature. Engage in the activities that are uniquely appealing to you. 
 
What if you stopped living life out of a sense of obligation and start optimizing for joy instead?
 
It may sound overly mathematical, but approaching fulfillment quantitatively is quite helpful. It’s a formula. We can literally train ourselves to spend as little time as possible on things we didn’t care about, that way we no longer have to feel guilty about spending time on the things that we do care about. 
 
The hard part is the permission. Being able to announce to ourselves, fuck it, it brings me joy. 
 
Not to mention the trust. Knowing that our happiness is the best gift we can give the world. 
 
But once we solve that equation, define joy for ourselves and seek it in our own way, life becomes a whole lot lighter. 
 
In weight and in spirit. 
 
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you the kind of person who always seems to wrest joy out of the most unfortunate circumstances?

Tonight the final curtain drops upon my short life’s precious play

If you’re not even around when people discuss your legacy, then what’s all the fuss about? 

Perhaps it’s time to call legacy for what it really is. Yet another denial of death. 
 
People torture themselves day after day trying to create notch after notch in their precious little legacy belt, because they’re afraid of not being remembered when they’re gone. It’s the specter of insignificance. Our complete inability to confront the impermanence of all life. 
 
And ironically, it’s making millions of us miss out on the very life we’re so desperately trying to preserve. 
 
We’re so focused on leaving a legacy after we die, that we’re forgetting to live our lives while we’re still here. Our ego is so obsessed with posthumous recognition, that we’re forgetting to access the miracle that is this glorious moment. 
 
Becker famously wrote in his award winning book that all humans use their ideas for the defense of their existence and to frighten away reality. They don’t want to admit to themselves that their life may be arbitrary, and their own way of existence may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. 
 
Eagleman has a related philosophy, which suggests there are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. 
 
Therefore, our thought experiment is as follows. 
 
What if there were no such thing as legacy? What if all we had was now? How might that change our daily life? 
 
Eisenhower, through various wars and battles, famously carried around the following poem in his pocket about an indispensable man:
 
Sometime, when you’re feeling important, sometime, when your ego’s in bloom. 
Sometime, when you take it for granted, you’re the best qualified man in the room. 
Sometime, when you feel that your going, would leave an unfillable hole.
Just follow this simple instruction, and see how it humbles the soul. 
 
Take a bucket and fill it with water, put your hand in it up to the wrist. 
Pull it out, and the hole that’s remaining is a measure of how you’ll be missed. 
You may splash all you please when you enter, you can stir up the water galore. 
But stop and you’ll find in a minute, it looks quite the same as before. 
Don’t think of this as the practice of nihilism, the trance of unworthiness or the cynical rejection of meaning.
Think of it as an invitation to liberation. A skeleton key to unlock extraordinary untapped aliveness waiting for you when you no longer have to worry about what lives on beyond you.
Follow this simple instruction, see how it humbles the soul.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Does your obsession with legacy improve your life, or distract you from living it?

The knight of abstinence is not the hero people worship and honor

Rubin’s book about being happier at home clarifies a crucial distinction between two personalities. Both have different answers to the following question. 

How do you deal with managing a strong temptation? 
 
Her research found that for some people, occasional indulgence heightens their pleasure and strengthens their resolve. They get panicky and rebellious at the thought of never getting or doing something. These people are called moderators. 
 
But the other camp of people are the ones who do better when they avoid absolutes and strict rules. Because they have trouble stopping something once they’ve started. For them, it’s much easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately. These people are called abstainers. 
 
Which category do you fall into? 
 
Personally, abstinence has always been my thing. Not necessarily by choice, it’s just how my brain is wired. Having just one just isn’t possible. Moderation simply doesn’t work for me. 
 
Unfortunately, most of the world doesn’t accept this approach to life. Mainly because we live in a culture that fetishizes moderation, shames monotony, celebrates cheat days, rewards temptation, scoffs at rigidity and insists on indulgence being a healthy and necessary part of a fulfilling life. 
 
Is it any surprise how quickly people become judgmental, insecure and disapproving around abstainers? 
 
The knight of abstinence is not the hero people worship and honor. 
 
My favorite is when moderators explain to abstainers how it’s not healthy to take such a severe approach and they should lighten up and live a little. 
 
Thanks for the advice, but allow me to briefly explain how my brain works. 
 
By abstaining, you don’t have to spend a lot of precious energy justifying why you should go ahead and indulge. 
 
By abstaining, you accept your abnormality instead of trying to become a normal binger like everyone else. 
 
By abstaining, you respect your lack of desire and capacity for moderation. 
 
By abstaining, you take yourself out of the victim position in regard to substances around which you can’t control yourself. 
 
By abstaining, you draw an airtight boundary that guarantees your continued sanity and freedom. 
 
By abstaining, you experience complete relief from the craving you once tried to satisfy through compulsive restricting. 
 
By abstaining, you no longer have a thing to rebel against and can declare yourself free from that thing that used to control you.
 
By abstaining, you are no longer constrained by numbers, you are liberated by zero. 
 
It’s just easier for me. Abstinence requires no additional thinking on my part. 
 
Now, that may sound sad and boring to you, but it’s pure freedom for me. It’s a privilege. Abstinence is built on the foundation of my true nature, and it is a gift to be cared for and strengthened. 
 
And now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an entire box of chocolate cereal with my name on it. 
 
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How do you deal with managing a strong temptation?

My love will wear you down eventually

Carlin used to do this classic comedy bit about converting to a solar religion. 
 
Sun worship is fairly simple. There are no crucifixions, and we’re not setting people on fire simply because they don’t agree with us. There’s no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn, and we don’t have a special building where we all gather once a week to compare clothing. And the best thing about the sun, it never tells you you’re unworthy. Doesn’t tell you that you’re a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn’t said an unkind word. Treats you fine. 
 
George depicts the perfect model for our interpersonal relationships. 
 
Especially when the people we love are suffering. You know they’re hurting and it cuts you into a thousand pieces. You know their brain is not in a place where they can learn. And in that moment, what they need more than anything is for us to be like the sun. 
 
Meaning, don’t do anything to solve the problem. Just be the solution. Offer warmth and presence and love. Trust that they’ll get the insight they need if you just love them through this chapter of their lives. 
 
And trust that they will make it out alive, as long as you keep reminding them who they are along the way. It’s about all you can do. 
 
You have to resist the urge approach them from a place of fixing or consulting. Otherwise everything you say will just pass through them like a breeze. 
 
Yes, it’s painful to accept the powerlessness that love brings us. But lest we forget, this is the cost of love. It’s what our heart and soul signed up for when we decided to take the plunge. 
 
Be like the sun. As the great poet once wrote, let there be light, and let it begin with me. 
 
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you trying to take the journey for someone?

The dangerous conceit of putting our faith in our own hands

Kidman, in her stellar performance in the award winning racing movie, makes the following speech to her driver and then husband. 

I’m going to let you in on a secret that most other people know. Control is an illusion. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Not on a freeway, and certainly not on a racetrack with other infantile egomaniacs. Nobody controls anything. You’ve had a glimpse of that, and you’re scared. 
 
And who wouldn’t be, right? All human beings are control freaks. Forget about opioids, that’s our country’s most prominent addiction. 
 
But the good news is, just because control is an illusion doesn’t mean that we are victims. We may live in this dizzying and uncertain world, but we are not impotent in the face of it. 
 
If we are willing to confront the dangerous conceit of putting our faith in our own hands, then we have a real shot and becoming empowered and fulfilled human beings. 
 
Citrin’s research on resilience comes to mind. He found that most people misperceive and underestimate their ability to deal with such perceived lack of control and, consequently, it’s their thinking that needs to change. 
 
Running with that, here is a collection of absurd questions to assess your own relationship with the drug of control. 
 
Do you believe this world is truly yours for the enjoying, or do you see it as wearying burden that pins you down with obligations? 
 
When things go awry, do you take control of the process, or sit back and hope it gets better? 
 
Can you acknowledge that you actually have a role in your future, or are you submitting under the unseeing eye of some blind idiot god that you inherited as a child? 
 
All nihilism aside, empowerment, which is the ability to make decisions that influence the outcomes of our work, is our best shot at responding to our lack of control in this world. 
 
Because no matter how chaotic things get, each of us can grow to love the empowerment that accompanies being responsible for all our actions. 
 
The simple awareness that we can stop sitting on our hands and start getting them dirty to improve our condition, it really does make a difference. 
 
Bonhoeffer summarizes it beautifully in his book of sermons: 
 
Having peace means having a home amid the restlessness of the world, having solid ground beneath one’s feet, and though the waves foam and rage ever so wildly, they can no longer rob me of my peace. 
 
Control may be an illusion, but empowerment isn’t. 
 
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What one very small change could profoundly influence how your life unfolds daily?

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. 

LET ME ASK YA THIS…

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. 

 LET ME ASK YA THIS…

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.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…

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.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…

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.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…

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

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