A Little Free Advice

There are a lot of people in this world, usually for a lot of money, to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. To tell you that your effort isn’t good enough. To tell you that if only you’d do things their way all your dreams will come true.

Well guess what? I’m here, utterly for free, to tell you that if you’re doing anything, you’re doing it right.

You see, we live in a society that wants all the shortcuts to success. We don’t want to have to slug it out, enduring failure after failure, before we find our groove and start moving. We want hints and tips and tricks and everything else that will push us past the person on the other side of us doing the hard work and time to hone their craft. We love shortcuts, we’re addicted to them as a society. There is a whole class of people making a living on tips and tricks alone.

The horrible, insidious, and ironic thing is that tips and tricks alone rarely take away the complicated, hard work the truly successful endure. Because the horrible, insidious, and ironic thing about tips and tricks is that they may give you some pointers about what vector to use to attack a problem but rarely will a whole book of advice pave your personal yellow brick road. You’re the one that needs to do the work, put in the hours, and figure out what will work for you.

Now at this point, let me lift my hands and testify. I probably could have put a decent down payment on a car with the money I’ve spent on advice and self-help books over the years.

Fitness books.

Happiness books.

Success books.

I’m better advised than the President of the United States.

And the common thread in all of these books is that if I strictly adhere to set of rules then my total success as a  Human being is assured. You may even gain some amount of limited success over the short term. In the end though, all the rules get really hard to follow. Especially if you feel like you’re forcing yourself into a situation in the first place.

The truth is that long term success is paved with our, sometimes, constant failure. Through failure we learn how to attain success. For ourselves. It’s a hard truth to come to understand. Help is great but in the end we have to figure it all out by ourselves, no amount of rules or advice ultimately not meant for us is going to help.

So this morning, if you’re getting down on yourself because you don’t feel like you’re trying hard enough; just keep trying. Expertise is a muscle built by even a little bit of exercise every day. As that muscle grows you will feel like accomplishing more and you can level up from there. Don’t let anybody tell you that what you’re doing is wrong or not enough. Some days just getting out of bed can be an accomplishment in this messy and complicated life. I commend you for that.

Keep fighting.

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Open for Business

It’s been a while since I said Hi.  I’m sure you all understand.  Work, home, commitments all conspire against us to do all the other things in life we do when we aren’t paying bills and keeping our families fed.  It’s been a good time though because it’s given me the chance to look back and look forward and understand some things that I didn’t before.  Things I may have sensed but not really had the time to contemplate or appreciate.  It’s funny how things are revealed to us.  Sometimes we sit in a quiet room for days trying to fathom some mystery of the universe and the answer comes to us in the midst of the busiest day we can imagine.

It just goes to show that one of the greatest skills in life we should try to cultivate is simply being open to what life presents us.  You never know when that still, small voice is going to whisper the answer or a truth in your ear.  We can prepare ourselves as much as we can through prayer, meditation, and introspection but the word will come when it comes; not before and not after.  We simply need the patience, perseverance, and preparedness to wait for it to happen.

Take a moment before you start the day and stop.  Ask yourself, “Am I open to the possibilities the universe has to offer me today?”  If you are, you will be surprised what is out there, waiting to enlighten your day.

New Paths

These last three weeks have been crazy personified.  The last month before a deadline is always that way.  Things to do that can no longer be delayed drag at your attention to the point that you no longer want to look at a computer after the end of your day.  Yet, in the midst of all of this, I learned an important lesson I can apply to my journey.

If you’re like me, you can find yourself heavily investing in something you believe is the right thing / the right way / what you think you should be doing to get to the outcome you think you want to achieve.  We not only fool ourselves that the path is correct but the end goal is as well.  It can be easy to believe that something will be your salvation and then work so intently towards it that you block out the real path and the real goal.

I learned all of this when I had to focus my time and attention on something I thought was the complete antithesis of what I wanted to achieve.  Being forced / forcing myself to be away from it for a while made me come to realize that not only was my approach wrong, so was my goal.  And as a bonus, I ended up making another discovery that pointed me down the road I now believe I should go.  Not bad for three weeks of flat out deadline work.

What am I trying to say?  I guess it’s this.  We need to be constantly open to the universe around us and what it has to offer.  It is our Human nature to get so fixated on something that we lose a whole world going on around us.  Be open to new paths and experiences even if they seem to run against the grain of what you want to do.

You might be surprised by the outcome.

A Common Thread

ThreadsI’ve wondered sometimes if there might be some congruency between living a Paleo life and living a minimalist life.  Both are essentially about rejecting the lives Western society would have us live in favour of something simpler, more in tune with a time our parents or grandparents might recognize.  A life where the pursuit of more wealth to acquire more things allows us to make some of the poorest decisions of a generation.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not some Luddite who wants to reject modernity as a whole and go out into the woods with my family.  I like my technology, my centrally heated house, and my truck; thank you very much.  I’m sure you might feel the same way as well.  What I do think however is that the society we have brought ourselves to is on the edge of almost being . . . farcical . . . in its scope and intent.   A society that only seems self-sustainable when we drive a lot, eat a lot, buy a lot, and consume so conspicuously that the 80s pale in comparison.  It used to be mass consumption was a practice reserved for the upper economic classes but now we can all do it with the right credit line.

Hmmm . . . what exactly am I trying to say here?

I think there’s a common thread, a unifying theory, that can lead us to the simplified life I think we all really want to live.  I think that common thread starts when we stay out of the centre aisles of the supermarket and take back the time our mothers and fathers took to make the meals we ate as children.  I think that common thread starts when we reject the notion that no, we don’t need the latest and great thing we’re made to believe we should have.  I think that common thread starts when we realize much of the pressure, agony, and angst we feel every day is visited upon us by ourselves participating in an unwinnable race we’re made to believe we have to participate in for our own good.

I think we need to start pulling that thread and see where it leads in each of our lives with honesty, grace, and humility.  It might mean spending more time with your family than your iPhone.  It might mean realizing that the only person that notices you work 18 hour days is you.  It might mean having the wherewithall to take back your time and your life for the pursuits that really interest you, really intrigue you, but have no monetary value.  It might mean making your supper instead of taking it out of the freezer.  It might mean realizing all of this stress isn’t really real; no bear is going to eat you, you will survive even what you most fear.

I’m sure there’s a starting point for you too and I bet you could identify it without really trying.  I think it’s a fair assumption that most people in Western society know there’s something wrong with all of this without really being able to describe it.  Pick that one thing that stands out in your mind and start from there.  Start from that common thread and pull it.  Let it lead you to where you want to go.  We all have the capacity to really lead the lives we want to lead but we first have to start ourselves on the journey.  And I’ll be honest with you, that journey won’t be easy.  Do you know how hard it’s been to try to reject a lifetime of eating habits and try to simplify my life in the last year?  Hard enough that I still struggle with it every day.  I’ll probably struggle with it most of my life.  I hope not but at least now I’m prepared to do it.

What’s the one thing you would change about yourself today if you could?  Why not make that change today?  What’s stopping you from moving towards the life you want instead of the life you have?  Start pulling on that thread and see where it leads.  You might be pleased with the results.

(Image: thanunkorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)