I love it when you cancel on me

No, seriously. I absolutely love it when you cancel on me! I don’t care whether you are canceling lunch, a meeting, a golf game, or anything else. I don’t get bathed in the giddy/happy endorphins like dopamine very often but when you free up my time by telling me “you can’t make it” I get a huge adrenaline rush. There is really no better feeling than a guiltless way of getting part of my life back.

I don’t care if you are someone I love or a friend or a business associate. My future self always hates my past self for making plans with you. I made a commitment at some point and it sounded like a good idea because I wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of that decision until some time in the future. Now that the future is here I don’t want to do whatever it is. Most of the time I don’t want to do it even if it’s something I enjoy – because well – everything is such a damn hassle. I’d much rather sit home reading a book.

Want to make me happy? Call and tell me somethings come up. I really won’t care. I don’t need an excuse or an apology. In fact, you can bet your ass I am silently celebrating and getting ready to let out a raucous “Hell Yeah!” as soon as we get off the phone. So don’t feel bad. If you’re a good friend you’ll make plans with me and then cancel them just to make me happy. So the next time your lack of thoughtfulness and planning requires that you cancel our plans just know I love you for it.

Choosing Freedom, Embracing Anxiety

You are trapped between a desire for freedom, independence, and autonomy and the comfort and routine of safety and security. Freedom, by definition, means constant, mindful choosing. Freedom means all your decisions mean something. Freedom comes with responsibility.

The freedom to choose in every moment – how you will react, what you will do, what values you will choose to uphold, how you will think – and the responsibility that entails causes extreme anxiety for most people. When there is no one to blame but yourself…there is no one to blame but yourself. Your mental farm is devoid of scapegoats.

Your alternative is to cede your decision making authority to others. To seek safety and comfort under the veil of someone else’s willingness to embrace freedom. Should they choose incorrectly, it’s not your fault. You can complain and then return safely to the status quo lifestyle you’ve built. You can remain in that job you hate because it’s easier to stick with the same routine, even in misery, than to use your freedom and choose a different path. A path that may come with discomfort and uncertainty. One that could make a meaningful difference in your life or could make it worse. You’d rather not choose and not know than risk anything on the possibility of a brighter future.

In order to truly feel alive you must embrace the anxiety that comes with freedom. Acceptance of the weight of personal responsibility is not easy but, as with exercise, the more you do it, the easier it will become. You will learn to love anxiety because it means you are alive, you are choosing, and you are scared. You will begin to accept the weight of your decisions and lean into them, as a buffalo charges into a storm, rather than run from them and let the world around you decide for you.

In the end, isn’t it better to be alive with anxiety and freedom than to be dead while your alive without them?

 

I choose to live small

I am not a saint, nor a celebrity, nor an Egyptian pharaoh. I am not a president, nor a professional athlete, nor a musician. There will be no statues built in my honor. I will not be a member of a Hall of Fame. Grand monuments will never be built for my followers. And all of that is okay.

For all the positive benefits technology has brought us, the narrowing of distance between 7 billion people comes with its consequences. Within a matter of seconds we are exposed to the atrocities of the world. We see or hear about everything that goes on.

This exposure causes some base yearning to help, but we cannot help all those people. This exposure gives us ever more opportunities to compare ourselves to others and find fault in our appearance, our beliefs, our values, or our material goods. There is a constant striving for more. Where once we could be unique in the small sphere of our community, now we try to find ways to be unique among a cadre of 7 billion of our “closest” friends.

I choose to live small.

I would like to think I have the courage to be ordinary. Sure, I would like to be seen as unique, mysterious, and original, but it is a fools game to think that I have control over any of that. I can only act in as authentic a manner as I can – the rest of you will decide my place in history, or not. One of man’s worst fears is to die without leaving some legacy. I am trying to get over that fear by realizing that legacy has never been within my control. I can contribute, but I cannot judge.

I choose to live small. I choose to impact those closest to me as best I can – family, friends, coworkers, strangers I run into. I give energy to my immediate physical surroundings – the people, the places, the things. I write. I comment. I help when and where I can. I have to constantly remind myself that if I stretch too far I will break and be no good to anyone. I choose wise and virtuous over rich and famous. I am not perfect, and that is hard to accept.

I am but a tiny speck of stardust in a vast and unforgiving universe but I will do my best to do what makes me proud. That usually starts with focusing on what is around me here and now. Perhaps, if I do that well then my tiny contributions will ripple through space and time, and that is all one could wish for.

 

Quote

Louis C.K. – On Authenticity

“When you thwart what’s real about you in order to keep creating content for financial need, you’re just not gonna make it. You’re not gonna keep going. You have your number. It’s very dangerous to be liked by more people than should like you. It’s bad for them, and it’s bad for you. There’s gonna be a shock down the road for them, or you’re gonna dilute yourself and take yourself to a place where you can’t live with who you are. I think that you make an honest account of who you are and you live with the results. The results will be appropriate to who you are… If you’re saying things just to piss people off, then I don’t know why do it. If you’re saying things just to please people, that’s a short-lived victory. But if you just say the things you believe, and the things you like to say, and that mean something to you — if you stay close to the gut — then everything will work itself out.”
~Louis C.K.

Now Serving – Slices of Jeff

As I reflect further on my past blogging experiences I realize that my hesitance has never been about a lack of creativity or something to say. My hesitance has always been about which part of me I want or need to share. For all the uses of the internet, the dimensionless compression of people into tiny slices of themselves makes it extremely difficult to connect on more than a single plane at a time.

If you’re like me, then most of your internet consumption involves searching for a topic, hashtag, or genre to read. You find interesting people saying interesting things and while many of them sprinkle bits and pieces of their personality into their writing much of who they are gets lost in translation. When you communicate with someone face to face you may be discussing sports or science or psychology but there are unsaid things garnering equally as much (and in some cases more) attention. The way you dress, your body language, the rhythm and cadence of your voice, the slang you use, and the place you happen to be all create an experience that has many more inputs than simply reading a blog post or tweet or even seeing a picture. That adds depth to almost any real life communication. That depth is usually hard to find online.

There are certainly elements of someone’s internet communication style that shed light on who they might be as a person but those elements are much easier to manipulate. While I can lie to you in person, if you are intuitive you will see right through me. Intuition plays a role on the internet but its much more difficult to measure and connect with people without the personal space filter.

I know that lots of people blog because they want to get their thoughts down. It’s a way to clear their mind. It is in some way cathartic. I never really had that desire. My inner life and thoughts are very rich, always weaving a new web as new information comes in. I never felt a need to write for the sake of writing. No, I write really for two reasons. One, because I am afraid I will forget some of the more important thoughts I’ve had or intellectual connections I’ve made. Second, because in some way I’d like to think I can connect with real people. I struggle with how to do that when I am limited to a medium and method that constrains me to basically one topic area per post. I want to find people with whom I have things in common but I don’t want that commonality to be the only thread holding a relationship together, however limited that might be online.

As a financial advisor by trade I consume lots of information about investing, personal finance, etc. day in and day out. But I have a vast set of interests. Sure, investing is interesting, but I love to discuss psychology, physics, philosophy, biology, sports, outdoors, humor, family and many other things that strike my fancy. I am the person who will read about quantum mechanics one day and the mating habits of ticks the next. I love to learn.

I have no idea what I will write about today or tomorrow or the next but I know I will write about something at some point. If you find something interesting then I hope you will stick around to read more, leave a comment, or ask a question. Connections are always welcome.

Update: earlier this year I decided to start publishing a weekly email newsletter. It’s usually a very short read, only taking a couple of minutes. It contains a plethora of different things; quotes, quips, jokes, philosophical questions, books, links, and observations of mine. At least in this way each touch can contain more flavors. Check it out: jeffhowardz | facts of my existence newsletter.

Doing the “Work of Life”

I first heard the term work of life while watching the Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel in 2012. Kevin Costner (‘Devil’ Anse Hatfield) made reference to the work of life in talking about getting back to basics of everyday living during the war between the feuding families. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to the phrase but it’s kind of stuck in my mind.

What exactly is the work of life? If you Google the phrase you won’t find much in the way of discussion about it. I simply take it to mean all of the daily tasks and chores we must perform in order to simply survive. Things like cooking, cleaning, maintaining our homes, etc. Of course, the types of things included in the work of life in the 1800s is dramatically different than the work of life in the 2000s.

The reason this is relevant to my philosophy of life is pretty simple. Modern day conveniences are slowly removing the need to do the work of life. In times past the work of life was difficult and time consuming but at the end of the day we felt peace and fulfillment over a job well done. With each passing year improvements in technology and advancements in convenience are creating a world where we have to do less and think more. That may sound great on the surface but is it really?

Here we go again

Welcome to the 20th, or 25th, or 31st iteration of my blog. I’m sure I am not the first to have struggled with how to manage my online identity – or lack thereof. Over the course of the last 15 years that identity has taken many shapes. The cycle goes something like this:

  1. Get bored with whatever I am reading, watching, or building in the physical realm.
  2. Feel a need for social interaction and expression via the internet.
  3. Convince myself that people might actually care what I have to say.
  4. Further convince myself that what I have to say is in some way unique and beneficial to those who might read it.
  5. Go through manic phase of excitement, thump my chest like Tony Robbins, and start a blog account.
  6. Realize that before I blog I need a purpose that will be the common thread that brings me together with the minions who will suddenly start following me.
  7. Confound myself with what that purpose might be, as my interests are vast, my knowledge deep, and my inner life very complicated.
  8. After deciding what that purpose is, I obsess over the proper blog “theme”, pictures, icons, and look and feel that will express that. After fumbling through hundreds of looks I settle on one, customize it, and begin the process of writing.
  9. I spend the first two weeks writing about all of the things that presently interest me, you know, those deep insightful things. The ones I was thinking about while becoming bored with everything mentioned in #1. I write and write and write.
  10. Then I sit back and wait. Build it and they will come they say (James Earl Jones haunts me with those words). But they never do.
  11. I check page views, links, likes, tweets, and all manner of other indications that my little corner of the internet universe means something to someone, to anyone, other than myself.
  12. Sometimes there is a trickle of interest. Other times there is nothing. Sometimes the only interaction I have involves the comment spammers we all know and love. You’ve “arrived” when the porn star spam bots start trying to take over your comments.
  13. Several weeks pass and I have made no new friends or acquaintances, no one has commented or said anything interesting, and quite frankly I am not even sure anyone has read or will read any of what I’ve written.
  14. So I decide to stop and stop I do. The blog drifts off into nothingness. Out of mind, out of site.
  15. At some point I forget I even did it until a year later when I get the domain renewal notice. Then I reflect and ask myself what the hell I was thinking and vow to never blog again….that is until I get bored.

I am now bored. So what the hell, let’s give this a go again. Eventually I may have minions. It’s more likely though that in 1 year I will be receiving a domain renewal notice and say to myself – you idiot. Not again.