The Invitation

I talk a lot about my dogs.

Believe me, I know.

To me, dogs have a lot of simple pleasures figured out. And, like all living creatures, there are lots of wonderful things you can constantly learn from them. My dog, Clyde, taught me another lesson recently that I have found to be incredibly inspiring, so I’m going to share it here with you.

Plus you get to see a cute Clyde pic. So really, all around, you’re welcome.

My Clydie loves this one ridiculously colorful furball we have for him. He used to love a very similar furball we got that was all yellow. So I went to get him another and found this multi-colored one. We call the original “furball” and the other one “party ball.”

It’s his favorite toy. When we get home from being gone, he loves to show it off to us. He runs to get it and then brings it up with his tail wagging. If you throw it, h’oh boy game on. If you don’t, you might eventually find yourself with a party ball in your lap and a cute Clyde a few feet away with his tail wagging beckoning you to throw it.

It’s adorable.

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He doesn’t just grab it when we get home, though. He grabs it often. Even if I’ve been sitting and working for a while, he will sometimes come up and just hold party ball in his mouth and wiggle his tail inviting me to play with him.

If I get up after a long spell of work, the first thing he does is go over and grab party ball. He brings it over and gives me a look, inviting me to play with him.

I don’t always do it. In fact, most of the time when he grabs the ball, it is not play time. Sometimes I’ll throw it for a minute but then get right back to work. Sometimes I just throw it once. Sometimes I just acknowledge him with it and move on.

But, see, the thing is… Clyde doesn’t dwell in rejection. He dwells in possibility.

And, no matter how many times I don’t throw party ball, he always invites me to play every chance he gets. Because sometimes I do. And when I do, it’s awesome.

I adore his optimism. I adore his ability to not count the rejections. I love the fact that every time there’s a break, I get a small little reminder that there’s always time for quick play. Or at least, time can (and should) be made for a little whimsy.

He’s a wise little furry cutie patootie and I’m grateful to call him my baby.

 

 

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Wrapping Up My Year of Jesus

My birthday is right around the corner. Very exciting, indeed.

(If you’re not into astrology, that makes me a Leo and we love attention so feel free to wish me lots of happy birthday wishes because I will very much appreciate them. If you are into astrology, you already knew that.)

Anyway, this time about a year ago I decided I missed blogging and that I was going to commit to writing more. Though it took me a bit to settle on the general time of day and my favorite day of the week to let ‘er loose, I more or less held true on that commitment. I mean, I’m still here typing right now, aren’t I?

Oh, god, seriously, aren’t I? If I’m not doing that what on earth and I doing because I think I’m doing that… AHHHH!

I called this past year my “Year of Jesus.” I remember when I finished up the pictures and the post I was at an airport. The Philadelphia airport, I believe. At some point they all look the same. But I do know I was waiting for the others in my crew to show up so we could get rental cars and head off on our touring adventure.

This year, I’m sitting sipping (surprisingly bitter) coffee on my porch with my beautiful and newly-groomed pups around me. I have another solid 24 hours before I have to be on multiple airplanes and traversing multiple timezones for a prolonged period of time. I’ve somewhat purposely gone into my little shell to recharge before the trip.

So much has changed. But, then again, so little.

I’ve made a ton of small often incremental changes in my life. For several months out of this year, I was absolutely on top of my sh*t. But that motivation came from getting low and frustrated and feeling completely out of control.

I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve created some cool things. I’ve sold some project and completed others. I’ve failed and triumphed. I’ve probably made major decisions that will impact me in the future without even knowing it. I’ve ended relationships or cut off personal energies that don’t serve me anymore and don’t fit into the person I want to become. I’ve transformed completely yet so much has stayed the same.

I don’t yet know what I’m going to call this next year of my life. I was exited about 33 because of the whole Jesus thing. No matter what you believe, there’s got to me some sort of cool spiritual energy around 33 if that’s the age the stories of Jesus decided upon.

As I’m thinking about it, I was really excited for 30 because it was the start of a new decade. 31 was gonna be a rear up for 32 which I was beyond stoked for. And 33 was my spiritually transformative year.

But for this upcoming year, I don’t have a plan. I don’t have expectations. I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know what theme I’m going to approach it with.

Then again, right now I’m deeply interested in studying the Tao Te Ching and have been drawn to numerous stories and books about how to be present and simply trust in the flow rather than working against it. I’ve been actively trying to let my intuition take over while listening to the subtle movements around me and the opportunities that arise and how I feel while doing certain things to best determine how to be my happiest, most fulfilled self. And all of that study pretty much says the same thing: Slow down, be present, and listen… then let yourself go with it.

So maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s a year of flow. Of enjoyment. Not of taking off work, of course. But more of doing work that feels the most fulfilling. Letting go of judgments about work and choices and what happens to and around me. Simply deciding how I feel about something, trusting that, and leaning into it.

I guess the answer is there isn’t an answer. Now that the year of Jesus is up… I’m on my own. And I’m excited to see what I sage advice I have for myself.

Also, happy birthday to me.

 

 

Enjoying the Garden

I got a piece of advice recently that I’ve been absolutely obsessed with.

I don’t really feel like giving you the full context of how I got this advice. Not out of laziness. I think just out of boundaries. As my ongoing readers already know, I’m working on learning boundaries.

Anyway, I had sought out a person with more knowledge in a certain field than me and was asking them for help with various elements of something I’m working on. Yes. I can say that. That feels fine. And, it’s true!

This person was talking about a few creative projects I had been focusing on lately and they very casually reminded me of a wonderful lesson. They used a happy woman in the garden as the metaphor and told me that the woman in the garden isn’t out there yelling at her plants to grow faster. She’s simply taking care of their needs little by little. She’s not overdoing it. She’s not constantly replanting. She’s simply enjoying her time in the garden.

By nature, I am a very fast-moving person. I like to see results quickly. Even though I’m aware that the most dramatic changes in my life happened gradually, my natural personality likes to see something happen fast. And I’m sure living in a society that’s grown accustomed to immediate gratification at every turn certainly doesn’t help.

So the idea of a woman just enjoying time in her garden was so powerful to me. And the ridiculousness of her yelling at her plants to grow faster feels like it puts a mirror on my own actions and helps remind me to just be more pleasant and more present.

Yelling at plants is a waste of energy and goes against the natural order of nature. Why, then, do I insist on thinking that I, a human existing in nature, somehow can control my own circumstances and force them to go against the natural flow of nature? Like the woman yelling at her plants in the garden, all I’m doing is getting myself all worked up in a tizzy and frustrating myself while not allowing the plants to do their thing because I can’t just leave them be.

I’m not saying I do it all the time. But I certainly feel the impulse to do it often.

I’ve decided, then, to start simply enjoying my time in the garden. I can recognize the garden needs tending while not overdoing it while I also simply enjoy the seeds as they grow and stay present in the delights that the garden has to offer and the relaxation gardening can bring.

The feels good. That feels right. So that’s what I think I’m going to do.

The Power of Silence

When I perform, my favorite sound in the world is laughter or giggles or some sort of visceral response (ideally not a “boo”). I like to hear it. I like when everybody hears it. I like when people hear themselves.

I like that the organized noises I make with my mouth make other humans make noises with their body. It’s fun.

I don’t usually think of performing comedy like that. It’s a weird way to phrase it, sure. But I was thinking about it in the context of silence. Of pause. Of quiet. I was thinking about how I’m obsessed with responses. I want a giggle, even if holding off a little bit might get me a bigger laugh. Over the years, I’ve had to learn to pace myself more. To slow down. To enjoy the pauses. To…

…wait for it.

Sometimes when I see excellent performances, I’m reminded of how powerful pauses are. But over the weekend, I saw a show that was done by people who never actually spoke. I saw The Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. Without ever once saying anything, they made me laugh heartily for the full show (they did have a little monitor that spoke and a voiceover every once in a while to forward the bits).

It was magic.

Throughout the course of the performance, I often had to remind myself that they had said nothing. They communicated so much with their expressions and with the games they were playing and their physicality, that I was never at a loss for what was happening. And they relished in the silences. Maybe partly because they only exist in a curious silence themselves, the quiet doesn’t bother them. Or maybe cause they so trust in the show and in themselves that they know a little quiet is just a set up for a huge laugh. Whatever it was, it was pure delight.

There’s a ton of audience interaction in the show. The fact that they never once say anything makes the interaction even more satisfying. You know what they want without them actually asking it. And seeing people play along made my little imagination squeal with joy.

I even got to go onstage and interact with them for a while.

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One of the Blue Men kept eyes on me as they wandered the crowd. I was cracking up at it and said, in my head, “Yeah sure I’m down to play if you all want.” I guess he heard it because before I knew it, I was having a bizarro Twinkie dinner with the three Blue Men onstage.

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I know I was the only one talking. Usually I was just cracking up or saying “okay, okay, okay, sure.” But at no point did I feel like I was the only one communicating. Without saying anything, they got me to (attempt to) light a candle. They got me to open Twinkie wrappers for them and then subsequently clean them up. They got me to bop my head along to some music. They got me to eat Twinkie bites with them and even feed them Twinkie bites. And they even fed me some weird banana stuff that I tried not to eat at first then was like, “Yeah, sure I’m down to play if you want” (which happened to be the very thought that likely got me onstage in the first place).

They took a picture at the perfect moment, of course.

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After the bit was one, they helped lead me offstage and two of them squeezed by hand twice as a signal that I felt like was a “thank you” or “good job.” Whatever it was, I just played along and continued to enjoy the rest of the show.

When the show was over, we were meandering in the lobby and one of the Blue Men ran up dramatically. He smiled and I said “Hello! I’m married but that was the best date of my life!” He smiled again (maybe it was just with his eyes? I don’t think they actually smile now that I’m thinking about it. Anyway, we took a picture and then he turned to me, covered his mouth and quietly said “That was amazing.”

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That’s all he said. That’s all he had to say. Because he had spent so much time silent, the power of those simple words were enough. I felt like my goal of being present and playful was achieved if this Blue Man was willing to break his vow of silence to let me know the energy was appreciated.

I thanked him profusely for the opportunity and the incredible work they do. He just nodded and continued pictures with the crowd that had formed around him. I then showed off my blue paint to my husband and threatened to leave him for the Blue Men.

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My point is, I’m a talker. Sure, I’m expressive and use my expressive face to get my points across and make people laugh. But talking is my security blanket. It’s the way I trust myself most to communicate. And getting laughs in response to what I’m saying makes me feel safe. Drama is terrifying to me because you don’t get laughs, you get silence. Things where you have to wait for a payoff are terrifying because you don’t get immediate responses, you have to wait in the delicious silence for the gratification.

I guess right now my life is in a bit of a silence. I’m doing things, but it’s not making enough noise to get the responses I’m comfortable with. I don’t feel validated in the ways that I get to feel when I’m onstage and throwing out jokes or listening to people laugh at something I’ve created. I have to just trust in the process. As an audience member, I enjoyed the silences. I wasn’t thinking “when’s the next laugh?” I was simply thinking, “This is wonderful I hope they keep it up.”

Maybe I should start thinking of myself as both the performer and the audience member in my own life. Rather than desperately needing the immediate validation, recognize that there are times when it’s necessary to relish in the quiet. Sometimes a little quiet for a good set up means a bigger response in the future. So just sit back and enjoy it.

And, of course, keep working.

 

Monk Mode

I’ll keep this short and sweet since I made some ambitious deadlines for myself this week that, at the time, I thought were reasonable. Now that I’m in the thick of it, I see now that they were somewhat unreasonable.

But, hey, I like a good challenge and all this stuff is creative anyway, so I won’t complain.

In fact, I almost skipped the blog this week. I have too much on the plate. But then I remembered that most of these deadlines are somewhat arbitrary anyway (people are reasonable and everything is negotiable, right?). It would be totally understandable if I missed one and if I skipped a blog. Who would even notice?

But I would know. I would notice. And when I make a promise to myself to get something done by a certain date, just like when I make a promise to myself to get something done for someone else, I follow through.

Even if it means I skip my hour-long yoga class that I love and do ten minutes at home just to stay sane.  I will write. Because I am a writer who does yoga. I am not a yogi who writes a lot. There’s a small distinction between the two, but an important one when it comes to where I focus my time.

The past few weeks I’ve been in what I consider “Monk Mode.” I’ve been getting up early, going to bed early, in a pretty set little routine (thanks to my puppers who really like to remind me that certain times of the day mean either walk or eating or playtime or porch time or pool time). I’ve been going to my yoga class in the morning (when possible), coming back and setting up the house the way I like it before diving into some focused writing. I have a quiet lunch at home while I read the entertainment trades and then take my dogs on a walk. I take a quick nap (I’m an excellent napper – 20 minutes to a totally transformed human), then have another round of intense writing or creating before Bonnie lets me know it’s time to feed and play with the pups. Maybe after they eat and play, I have another hour or so of creative time before they need a walk. After the way, I snarf some food then, maybe eek out a few more pages before I start my pre-bedtime relax mode.

And, at the moment, that’s it. I will change up the routine if people are in town or coffees must be had. But in weeks where I’m on intense deadlines like right now, I’ll only change it up to give me more time to write (sorry yoga, you got axed today). But I’m careful and thoughtful about when I change it up. I make sure there’s still plenty of routine available to keep me balanced even when I know one day will not be as productive as the others. So I don’t do coffees daily. And I don’t do drinks every night. I keep it balanced and protect the creative boundaries I need to continue to feel my best.

If I’ve ignored your text or been hard to pin down for a meeting, this is likely why. And I would apologize for it, but honestly I don’t feel bad. It’s called setting boundaries and I’m learning it and loving it and the people closest to me respect it, as I do their own boundaries.

So why am I sharing? What does this even matter? Those mundane details of your life mean very little to me, Briana (you may be saying and I’ll pretend you are so I can answer).

Well, here’s the funny thing about Monk Mode. I really like it. I’ve spent a ton of time traveling and on wonky schedules and all over the place. I haven’t had a lot of time or space in my world for routines. And, to be fair, I often avoid them because the wrong ones focused in the wrong places can make me freak out and feel stifled.

But this routine is a happy routine. It’s a productive little routine. Even though my weekends are all over the place and it’s more of a goal than a reality most days, it makes me feel like I’m focusing on and forwarding my career.

When I’m doing things outside of the routine, I’m working on my acting craft or taking meetings for my writing. I’m not immediately seeing the results of my work, but I know that doing a little every day and maintaining my focus will eventually help me to stay sharp. I feel inspired by the productive yet quiet lives of monks who spend much of their day devoted to the work they believe in, with small tasks and chores sprinkled in throughout their day. I don’t pretend that I’m a monk. But I do enjoy the quiet and focused time working (not to mention a good Belgian beer that some monks basically perfected).

This time of year can feel particularly tumultuous for me emotionally as I round the corner to another birthday and the age demons try to pester me about what I’ve accomplished with my life. But doing my best to stay in Monk Mode has kept them at bay. And has kept my own spiritual connection to both my more intuitive and more creative self even stronger.

Straight up Monk shit, yo.

 

 

 

Thinking Your Own Thoughts

I was on an airplane the other day having a hard time. I’m not a great flyer. The stress of nearly missing the flight did a toll on my body. I hadn’t slept much the night before. I was on a different timezone. The only food I had that day was hotel breakfast, coffee, beer, and some fried mac and cheese balls. I needed real food and space to move. My body was pissed.

I decided rather than trying to work or be productive on this late night flight where I felt like garbage, I’d just watch movies. I normally let a movie or a TV show on a flight be a treat rather than the norm. But on this flight, I needed to just keep my mind distracted from the various (understandable) whining happening in my body.

The only movie that looked interesting was “Leave No Trace.”

It was slow. The acting was great. The writing was refreshing. The cinematography was beautiful. And it was so different than so many blockbuster films I’ve recently seen. I loved it.

More importantly, it kept me from murdering my seat mate out of pure hungry rage. So that was nice.

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There was a line in the movie that stuck out to me and has been in my head since I heard it (the sign of a really good story). In the film, the father and daughter purposely choose to live on the outskirts of society, wandering in the woods and staying off technology. At one point, their circumstances change and they have access to more technology. The daughter, who has spent more of her life completely off-the-grid, is somewhat anxious about what this means for their relationship to each other and to the world. The father assures her that, even with the distractions presented around them now, they can “still think our own thoughts.”

That line resonated with me. I’m by no means anti-technology. I participate (albeit often begrudgingly) in social media. I have a phone. I take my laptop on every trip I go on.

But I’m part of that older millennial generation that grew up in our formative years without it. I spent a lot of time looking out windows, playing in my back yard, creating stuff for the fun of it.

This is weird, but whatever – you’re here and reading this so you deserve a fun little weird tidbit. I used to love to lay upside down on a recliner and imagine that the world was flipped and the ceiling was the floor and the floor was the ceiling.

Yes, really.

The point is, I spent a lot of time thinking my own thoughts. I let my mind wander. My brain grew up with the understanding that it’s important to be present and it’s important to formulate your own thoughts and choose to spend your time in ways you feel drawn to (rather than are accidentally addicted to).

Like many people my age, I was an early adopter of texting and cellphone technology. I’ve been on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram all almost since they started. I was even part of that generation that needed a college email in order to get a Facebook account.

Stories for another time.

The point is, I’ve let social media and technology interweave and change my brain and my lifestyle without much thought. And now that I’m realizing the repercussions of that, I’m trying to give it some thought. My own thoughts. Not the responses or reactions of other people that the web is inundated with.

When I heard that line from the movie, I realized that, out of habit, I tend to let my mind wander on other people’s thoughts and creations rather than letting it wander on my own musings and observations like it used to. I’ve swung the pendulum far too far in one direction and it’s time to come back the other way.

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A world without social media or technology isn’t a world that exists anymore. But I can choose to create a world that better balances its existence with my own priorities. I can create a world where I participate in technology but don’t let it control me.

I can choose to create a world where I still think my own thoughts.

 

Overthinking

I have a tendency to overthink. It’s likely the byproduct of an overactive imagination. I like to think. I like to let my mind wander and get lost in the worlds of could be’s and possibilities. It’s helpful when I really want to get the root of an issue or a problem that’s bothering me. And sometimes it can be helpful in thoroughly planning for the proper preparation of a major goal.

But it has a dark side. My overactive imagination can easily wander down dangerous dark alleys. I can often find myself certain that there’s some underlying issue to a minor problem either in myself or in a loved one. I can convince myself through overthinking that whatever excuse I’ve come up with that will keep me from doing the work I promised myself I would do is reasonable and valuable – and that I’ll certainly find time to do that work later in my schedule. I can overthink reactions and interactions and getting to action.

I overthink. A lot.

But because I’ve become aware of this trait, I’ve been able to harness it better. I can let my overthinking out to play when it comes in handy. When I’m thinking up the rules of an imaginary work I’m creating, I’ll let myself overthink. When I’m crafting a business plan for a new endeavor and want to brainstorm all the possible ways I can get myself to a new goal, I’ll let myself overthink. When I’m staring out a window on an airplane considering what I want to do with my life, I’ll let myself overthink (assuming the airplane isn’t turbulent…that’s a bad time to overthink). When I’m planning to pursue a major goal and I need to craft the foundation of a schedule that will allow for it, I’ll let myself overthink.

Part of the reason I let myself overthink is because later, when it comes time to executing all the things I’ve been thinking about, I can put my overthinking mind down and simply act. I’ll know that I already thought through all the possibilities and decided this was the best course of action. So I don’t have any more thinking to do and can devote all my time to action. Once the action is done, I can go back to the thinking and see how I feel about the action. More often than not, I’m happy I did the action and didn’t let my overthinking keep me from it.

Overthinking isn’t the same as listening to your instinct. In fact, I’ve spent much of my life trying to shut up my overthinking mind so I can get in better touch with my instinct and my intuition. I’ve spent years overthinking the “right” move rather than listening to what I wanted to do most. I’ve convinced myself multiple times that I didn’t need to do something because it didn’t make perfect sense at the time, even if I really wanted to (and visa versa). And almost every time I overthink something and don’t let my instinct have any say in the matter, I regret it.

I would say I “learn my lesson” but because I continue to do these things repeatedly, I’m not really sure I have.

The lesson I’ve really learned is that my personality and my mind enjoy tend to overthink. And once I know that, I can embrace it and watch out for it. I can start to hear the difference between simply thinking something through and overthinking myself out of something that would be good for me. Once I notice it, I can simply thank my imagination for its active work and let it take a little rest while I go ahead and do what my instinct is telling me I need to do.

This is part of the reason I meditate regularly. I appreciate guided meditations, but honestly some of my most clear moments have come with just simple music or (and often even better) silence. I’m able to let my mind just relax and know that the thoughts will pass as easily as they come. And that they’re just thoughts. The more I see them as noise, the more I can cut through to get to the more powerful instincts that will serve me better than any of the noise.

Some people don’t have an overthinking problem. I admire you. I like to be around people who just do it because they said they were going to do it, with very little judgment about the situation. I’m getting more like that, but it takes a lot of work on my end. It’s not a major shift, it’s an ongoing, small, subtle change that I’m committed to and see results of incrementally over time.

This morning while I was at the yoga sculpt class I wanted to talk myself out of going to (but didn’t), my teacher had us do a particularly difficult move at the end of a particularly difficult sequence. I hesitated and she yelled “Don’t think, just do it!” I know she wasn’t talking directly at me, but she hit the nail on the head with that direction.

To be fair, I already thought about it so I did throw my knee down for a one minute and took an extra breath. But I didn’t let myself stay down and think about it for too long before I forced myself back up to finish out the exercise.

Sometimes, it’s not about completely eradicating yourself of a certain trait or habit. That’s too much effort and asking too much of yourself. You’re setting yourself up to get frustrated, inevitably fail, and lose faith in your ability to transform in the future. Instead, as it was in this case, it’s about understanding you have a tendency to do something, recognizing it, and choosing to overcome it when it doesn’t serve the you that you want to become.

And of course when it does, let ‘er rip.

 

The Myth of the Life-Changing Moment

We have the pervasive story in our culture that is not only inaccurate, it’s destructive. We have this idea that in one given moment, everything can change. I get why we say it. And I get that there’s some truth behind it. But I’d like to at least challenge it because I think it’s unhealthy.

There’s a story about how the cast of Friends went out for drinks just before they began filming the show. The producers of the show told the whole crew that their lives would soon change. They were right. For many people, that’d be considered the life-changing moment.

In A Star is Born, Lady Gaga’s character (who cares WTF her name is in the movie itself, it’s Lady Gaga’s character) has a life-changing moment when she goes out on stage with Bradley Cooper’s character (again, I’m not going to take the time to look it up…okay I just remembered it was Jackson Maine but whatever, I’m sticking with Bradley Cooper’s character). He encourages her to sing her heart out. She does. She becomes a viral sensation and soon a superstar. All thanks to that life-changing moment.

But I believe that’s thinking of time as far too linear. There are a million small moments, opportunities, and choices that are made before that “life-changing moment” that made it possible in the first place. 

To take apart my own examples (which is why I used them in the first place), the cast of Friends didn’t have one night that everything changed. You could back up to the moment they auditioned for the show was a life-changing moment. Before that, the moment they got whatever representation that got them in the door of the audition was a life-changing moment. The day the decided to do the showcase or class or performance that got them noticed by that representation was a life-changing moment. The day they committed to becoming an actor was a life-changing moment. That time they had an intense rejection and considered quitting but didn’t is a life-changing moment. It could go on and on…

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Same with the character in A Star is Born. The day she sang was as much of a life-changing moment as the day she wrote the lyrics that Bradley Cooper’s character became enraptured by. The day she first started singing at the bar he met her at. The day she first started waitressing at the bar she’d eventually sing at. The day she met the friend who ushered Bradley Cooper into the bar and got him a drink so he’d watch her. The day she learned she liked to sing. These are all life-changing moments.

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The reason I find the myth of the life-changing moment so destructive is because I think it makes us spend our whole lives anxiously anticipating some big magic moment that really never comes because life is full of little magic moments happening constantly.

Sure, there are bigger opportunities that can exacerbate changes more dramatically – no denying that. But for the most part, those opportunities only come along because of a series of tiny decisions you make beforehand. And you’re only able to see and capture them because of the same series of tiny decisions you made up to that point.

We can never know where the magic will lead. So don’t miss out on the joy and excitement of the small miracles in hopes seeing a major one. The major one might feel even more joyous if you’ve recognized the small ones along the way.

Mother-bleeping Discipline. Learn It. Love It. Get Some.

At the end of last year, I went on a discipline binge. I got introduced to Jocko Willink through some general “research” about early risers I was casually doing on YouTube (aka I was going down a productivity rabbit hole) when I saw this motivational speech by a man who looked like a freaking statue of Hercules come to life.

I started listening to more of his stuff and I was soon hooked. I bought his book on Audible, Extreme Ownership, and found it really motivating to listen to while I ran. I heard stories of modern warfare and these incredible physical feats overcome through drilling and discipline that helped me convince myself I could go one mile longer on my little fun run in paradise. I started talking about Jocko to whoever would listen. On film set I was on, it even became a joke among the cast and crew to “Get Some” (one of his favorite phrases) when you were feeling tired or low energy.

Though I had gone through plenty of phases of being an early riser before, something about reading that book and listening to that information at that time became a huge transformative step in what has been a wonderful past few months for me.

Here are the main lessons I’d like to remind you, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year and people’s motivations are likely waning.

First, discipline starts right when you wake up. You don’t judge what you’re doing as good or bad. You just do it. If you don’t want to wake up, that doesn’t matter. Discipline means you just choose to do it anyway. And when you do, it builds a tiny little muscle that can become a foundation for a much stronger muscle. Discipline isn’t some big choice you make every day. It’s not bench pressing 1,000 lbs when you walk into the weight room your first try. It’s showing up every day and slowly but surely increasing your strength and your confidence so you can eventually achieve what seems like superhuman strength. When, really, anyone could do it as long as they give the amount of work and discipline required. Don’t judge. Just do.

Well, maybe everyone can’t bench 1,000 lbs in their lifetime, but you get my point.

Oh and Jocko for sure can. I have no doubt. He probably does that as his warm up before eating an entire farm for breakfast. He’s a beast.

Secondly, there’s no point in complaining. It’s fine to get something off your chest. And it’s wonderful to be in touch with your emotions so you become aware when something isn’t serving you or when you may be in an environment where you need to make a change. But complaining doesn’t help fix anything and it wastes precious time and energy on absolutely nothing.

If you need to communicate something happened, communicate it. You don’t need to put all the judgements on top of it being good or bad. Zen philosophy would argue that nothing is inherently good or bad anyway, so the time you spent judging or complaining about some thing that happened is a total waste and doesn’t serve you at all.

If something happens to you, spending your energy complaining about it not only wastes that energy, but it can feel disempowering. Rather than realizing you have the power to do something about it, you act like you’re being productive when you whine and moan. Either you can do something about it to improve the situation for you – in which case figure out what it is and do so immediately – or you can’t – in which case you can’t so simply accept your new circumstances and figure out how to make the most of them. If something happened because of actions you took, own them. Blaming someone else or complaining about someone not stepping up again disempowers you. You are in control. You have power. You are worthy of being in control and having power over your life and how you approach the circumstances within it.

Things just happen. That’s what things do. There’s no need to waste your energy complaining. Once you accept this, you can reallocate that energy into fixing problems around you so that you can live a smoother, more productive existence. Until, of course, the next thing pops up. But deal with issues as they appear. Don’t worry about them or what might happen in the future. Understand that your current actions have repercussions down the line and everything that happens just is. It is what it is. No use in complaining about it so spend your precious short time on this earth complaining.

Jocko’s head is shaved like a monk. I don’t think that’s the look he was going for when he did it, but it’s the look I see. He’s a zen beast.

And finally*, you’re capable of so much more than you may currently believe.

I’m not sure this was a lesson that was outright stated in any of Jocko’s writing, but it’s definitely something I saw directly in his work and his stories. People who are willing to teach themselves intense discipline practices and who spend their time and energy devoted to bettering themselves and their world without complaining or blaming tend to start creating some pretty awesome lives. They slowly but surely start discovering that the world is more malleable than they may have previously thought. They begin believing that anything is possible and that they can achieve incredible new heights in their life, goals, and career simply through constant and consistent application of these efforts.

Our brains are conditioned to be a little lazy. It’s not their fault – it actually usually helps us as humans. We want to stay safe and we want to do whatever will require the least amount of output. If our brain had to exert a lot of energy in order to consistently do the involuntary actions it does to keep us alive, we wouldn’t have much brainpower left to thrive.

The second our brain wires something in as a habit or a learned trait, it becomes part of our hardwiring so that the next time we want to do it, it’s already ingrained and easier. This usually works in our favor. But when it comes to creating new habits – healthier ones to replace the old ones no longer serving us – it can get frustrating. Your brain will want to revert back to what it’s always said, thought, and done. It’s easier. Maybe at first the new habit will be easy because it’s novel and fun. But eventually, when your brain realizes it has to do some work to break the old synapses and replace them with new ones, it will rebel. It will begin to fight back to keep the old synapse alive so that it doesn’t have to do work to create the new one. That’s when you need to be aware and fight it.

A couple weeks into the new year, your motivation may be failing and you may or may not have cultivated the right mindset to have the discipline to follow through on whatever your ambitious resolutions were. And your brain is most definitely putting up a fight not to replace the old habit because that means it has to work harder than it wants to.

Fight back. Recognize what’s happening and recommit to the you you want to be. Don’t settle for the you now if it’s a you that isn’t satisfying. You don’t need some major external change to make a minor internal one that can lead to more dramatic future changes. You just need to know, and maybe sometimes be reminded, that you are capable. Resistance is natural. Choose to commit.

As a dedicated yogi, I have to throw in that it’s totally fine to listen to your body. Nobody is asking you to go to incredible extremes immediately. Even though my beloved Jocko is all about the word “extreme,” I do believe it’s totally fine if your body is telling you it cannot to listen to it. But I would encourage you to have a conversation with it. Get honest and get in tune. Is it telling you to stop because it doesn’t want to? That’s different. Is it telling you to stop because it’s scared? That’s different. Is it telling you it wants to stop because it’s not ready and you’re going to break something? In that case, listen to it and learn how to improve so you can get a little closer to your goal in the future.

Get in your own version of Beast Mode, whatever that may mean, and make Jocko proud.

Oh also sometimes I call him my best friend and life coach. He would hate that if he found that out. I’m not doing it to make him hate me, I’m simply trying to manifest someday meeting him and having a positive interaction. Shoot for the Jocko moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the Seals.

Now quit reading and go out and get some.

*There’s plenty more that I discovered and glean (and continue to glean!) from his book Extreme Ownership and his podcast, Jocko Podcast and his various interviews (not to mention his Ted Talk). But these are the few I boiled down for simplicity sake. Jocko says simplicity is the key to good communication (another thing you’ll learn from him!). So as part of a my tribute to him, I’m keeping this short and sweet in three simple main lessons.

 

 

Quiet Time

I’m not always great about finding time to do the things I love. For whatever reason, they tend to be the first things that get pushed by the wayside when I get busy.

Writing is one of those things. And in some ways, as you can tell by my more inconsistent posting, it’s fallen a little by the wayside.

Part of that is genuinely time. As I promised not long ago, my schedule is dramatically changing. While I’m still writing and creating, it’s taking different facets. I’m also juggling a few things at the moment that will all hopefully shake out soon so that they don’t all have to be juggled at once because one of them will take off. But until then, my time is even more limited.
So I’ve had to get smart about the free time I have available. I’ve had to learn to combine certain things I enjoy doing to make sure I’m always getting the most out of every activity. And that has meant combining two things I love that I don’t make enough time for right now- exercise and meditation time.

I know it’s the norm anymore to bring music with you to workout or run. It really can help pass the time. For a long time, I’ve enjoyed listening to podcasts, stories, audiobooks and lectures while working out. It keeps my imagination stimulated while I get my sweat on.

KIDquiettime11 2But lately, I’ve been in a bit of stimulation over-drive. For good reasons. So I’ve had to shift my focus. Now, when I’m running or lifting or yoga or whatever-ing, I leave the music at home. I don’t even bring my phone with me. I don’t want the distraction. I want to just enjoy the sights and sounds for a short period of time and let my own thoughts take over. Those thoughts, as I know from my (unfortunately sporadic) meditation, like to run wild. But as long as I breathe and keep a mantra, whether it be “just to that car” or “I feel good” or “I trust myself” or “don’t look weak to the passersby,” I can get through it. And when I get back to my apartment and I finally start letting the world back into my headspace, I find I’m much calmer and more in tune and in touch with what’s going on around me.

Plus, sometimes I even say “hi” to another runner. Or pet a giant loveable dog named Hero and have a conversation with the owner because I was open and not distracted by my podcasts.

That being said, I still love my podcasts.

But too much of a good thing, even imagination stimulation, can be detrimental to your mental. So don’t go mental. Be sentimental. And get quiet.

Not super proud of how I ended this but, heck, it’s been a while so cut me some slack.