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Habits Not Goals

Gentlemen of no leisure,

As I sit here reflecting on 2016 and looking forward to my intentions in the new year, many thoughts pop in and out. We have all ran the gamut of health issues, work obstacles, and personal struggles (often if not always self inflicted) that are one of the many running ties that connect us. Our paths have crossed for a multitude of reasons, but in our current standing, DMR is not only a sounding board with no judgement, but a source of pride. In everything I have dealt with, or listened to, our Stoic Xanadu has provided a platform for discussion. My gratitude for this, and both of your insight, cannot be easily measured. It can, however, be felt and seen in the way we live our lives. To that extent with the first month of 2017 nearly at completion, here is where I stand on tackling the new year.

What should I stop doing?

Using (insert excuse here) as a crutch to not move forward and evolve. Be it fear, marijuana, health I constantly find reasons to avoid the things I need to do most. There have been good reasons for me to use these excuses. Ulcerative Colitis is at its worst so I cant go out and meet new people. My stomach feels off so its fine to just smoke and stay in tonight. While these may not seem like a big deal at a glance, over time they have pushed me into semi hermit-hood and has castrated many opportunities to grow. Whether meeting peers, finding a mentor, a girlfriend, a business partner, just saying “why not” and going can lead to amazing experiences and connections. With the health issue and reliance on weed, I know that I have missed out on these types of experiences. Last year went by in a blur. This month is basically over. Now is all we have and I need to be living fully vested in that moment. The life I want to create for myself will not be found through Postmates and Netflix, TRUST ME, I have the data to make that hypothesis a theory.

What should I continue doing?

Keeping a positive outlook and attitude throughout all situations. One of the biggest skills that I have refined from our work is keeping a positive outlook on life. The great irony in our group is that we all look at each other as goals we would like to have. Dan you have a wonderful family, and are a true entrepreneur. Rory you are rising fast in an amazing company, and are moving towards adding a lil Gallagher into the mix. I have the freedom to do whatever I want, the world is my oyster.

But in reality Dan may need to split the business, Rory is entering an unknown world with unknown outcomes, and I have the stomach to travel to Whole Foods and back. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but it is usually greener wherever you water it. I love that we each can view the exterior socially acceptable lives, as well as the nitty gritty real shit..WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. #VeryRare.

Knowing these truths, combined with the maelstrom of reality that is 2016-2017, I have been able (all be it with small swings up and down) to keep a smile on my face, and keep carving my way in the world.

What should I start doing?

Habits not goals. One of the many nuggets mined from our conversations, this one recently stuck out. I am constantly judging myself on where I stand, why have I not done something, and how far away from my goals I am. When you view things through this lens, it becomes a massive undertaking to even get out of bed and try. But DMR is about defaulting to action. Scared to get back into the blog because you haven’t done it in so long you think your time for success has passed; log in. Don’t like where your workout habits have been, but are too tired from the day to think; put on the sneakers and go. Tired of being lonely, but the thought of a Friday night in sounds like the easy way out, take a shower and put on your most obnoxious Ed Hardy shirt from a decade ago. WE GOING CLUBBING BABY.

My focus in the new year is to establish good habits. They will all tie into my goals, but the focus is on consistently sticking to habits that will create success. First habit hit with only a day left to go, but monthly posts in this bad boy are just the start.

-Matt

 

Bottled Up

So to kick off my first post of the year, I wanted to share this with you guys. There is a group called The Narrators that I have been following for about a year or so. By their own definition, The Narrators are an organization dedicated to promoting the art of true storytelling and providing community access to storytelling events. My friend put me on to them, and was pushing me to do a story. I decided to get out of my comfort zone maybe 8 months or so ago, and do one. The theme for the month was bottled up, and for whatever reason, it reminded me of my bottled up emotions from not being able to cry at my Grandfathers funeral. Below is the piece I wrote from that experience.

I stand there, surrounded by loved ones draped in obsidian garments. The crisp New York air cut through everyone but me. Shivers, tears, and unequivocal sadness abounded. But I felt nothing. As prayers were said and religious texts quoted, I saw the agony engulfing my mother and grandmother into deeper depths of sorrow. I stood there nothing more than a manikin enveloped in flesh. I couldn’t fucking cry. I wanted to cry, and I was pushing myself to.

I tried channeling my most loathed childhood recollections: breaking my arm slipping in the mud in front of my entire gym class, my failed fully vetted business plan to my parents as to why I deserved a boa constrictor as a pet, friends rounding bases with their girlfriends / as I / rounded the corner to the cash register buy more Pokémon cards / all were failed efforts.

Not a single tear made its way to my rosen chubby cheeks. I stared into the ground hoping no one could see the fraud I was. Loving grandson, apple of his eye…these thoughts were hard to fathom if his passing moved me no closer to the misery I could tangibly feel from my family.

This was baffling to me. I felt I was a sensitive and open person, NO I knew I was. With the wealth of knowledge, perception, and emotional wisdom acquired by a 15-year-old boy in a small Northern California town, surely I had the answers.

But there I stood emotionless. I knew it was not a lack of love or compassion. I truly loved my Grandfather. My middle name was in honor of his first. There were too many stories of his adventures, and our experiences for his passing to affect me this way. My eyes closed with fervor, desperately grasping at straws of memories to evoke heartbreak.

I jumped back to the reminiscence of Grandpa Chip and I’s most beloved pastime. It was a day like any other in the legendary town of Sun City West Arizona.

Truly the West Coast Boca Raton for elderly Jews / what it lacked in humidity / it made up for in dry heat.

With a dwindling AC unit and an adolescent boredom unmatched in its time, there was only one course of action.

“Lets go to the pool Matt”, he uttered under his pot-roast and potato latke laden breath. We were having left overs from last night and my Grandmother lovingly walks up, states “Matthew when are you going to lose some weight” and then proceeds to drop a veritable clash of titans between meat and starch somehow contained to a porcelain plate.

By the way just so everyone is aware, as my Grandma started to slowly lose her mind she would ask me only 3 things: A Holy Trinity of Jewish Guilt if you will

  1. How are you doing in School?
  1. When are you going to find a girlfriend?
  1. When are you going to lose some weight?

Nothing can break the anxiety of body issues quite like the guilt of a Jewish Grandmother. “Lets go Grandpa Chip” I exclaim, and we were off at the pace of retirement home speed limits, as the orthopedic shoe hit the gas pedal.

We had traversed the desert and made our way to the oasis in the senior center. Entering the locker room there was a dust and dampness only found in hospitals or retirement homes. I used to hate it, but now found comfort in the musk.

Chip loved to swim. I never asked why. Maybe it was to ease his joints, but I thought it was just something we always did together. We changed into our swim trunks, made our way to the edge of the grainy concrete, and dipped our toes in…

My eyes broadened and I came crashing back to brown and green ryegrass below my black dress shoes. The bereavement still abounded, so I shut them once again to dive into even deeper chasms of my minds eye.

My consciousness is blurry, but the feeling is somehow tangible. Sitting on my Grandpa’s lap he is thumbing through a book as I place fingerprints on his military medallions. He was a cartographer in World War 2. The honor and admiration I felt for him at the time was comparable only to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don’t know what his exploits were in the military, but he was a hero. I knew that…

My eyes open slowly as I am once again jettisoned back to reality. This has to be the one that will get the tear ducts pumping. If not now when??

When came and went as the service concludes, and we made our pilgrimage back to the car. The camel colored dirt powders our shoes, passing by graves gilded with kaleidoscopic flower bouquets to draw attention away from the bitter despair adorned by everyone but me.

In the car my uncle is fidgeting with the radio, complaining about the signal, and opining on past days of glory for the New York Mets. My mother and aunt seem to come to terms with the situation as each minute passes. My grandmother is shattered, the love of her life is gone, and now with daughters on each coast the deluge of utter loneliness begins to drown her.

I sit staring out the window analyzing the details of the suburbs. Cracked concrete waiting to be walked on in scorching sun adorned with Italian ice in hand. Brownstone apartments brush shoulders with Victorian homes like passerby’s inching their way through a subway stop. Cobblestone footpaths leading to porches that scream Americana, but denote the delusion they represent. There are so many things to ponder on. None more than why I couldn’t cry at my Grandfathers funeral. 

Hopes and Reality

After reading Ryan Holiday’s powerful books The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy, my interest in Stoic philosophy is at an all-time high.  Sometimes a quote enters your world at the perfect time, and last night I came across this beauty by Archilochos.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

How true, and what a freeing concept.  We can dream about success and achievement all we want, but the reality is – action is the only thing that gets us there.  In my business, I’m leading a group of young sales professionals who are building customer bases – but just as important – they are building themselves.

Visions of opening up new accounts, landing large Purchase Orders and breaking sales records are a daily occurrence in our office, but the only thing that will get us there is taking a hard look at ourselves as professionals, improving our abilities and then executing with those skills.

My takeaway – anytime we think or write or plan about our expectations, immediately look to what needs to happen from a training/self-development stand point and get busy in that department.

Do we really need more “support”?

Stretching without support

One of the fundamental equations of our self-narrative is: If I only had more support, I could accomplish even more.

Part of this is true. With more education, a stronger foundation, better cultural expectations, each of us is likely to contribute even more, to level up, to make a difference.

The part that’s not true: “If only.”

It turns out that every day, some people shatter our expectations. They build more than they have any right to, show up despite a lack of lucky breaks or a cheering section. Every day, some people stretch further.

You might not be able to do much about the support, but you can definitely do something about the stretching. It’s under your control, not someone else’s.

And practicing helps.

Life is Short: By Paul Graham

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Life is short, as everyone knows. When I was a kid I used to wonder about this. Is life actually short, or are we really complaining about its finiteness? Would we be just as likely to feel life was short if we lived 10 times as long?

Since there didn’t seem any way to answer this question, I stopped wondering about it. Then I had kids. That gave me a way to answer the question, and the answer is that life actually is short.

Having kids showed me how to convert a continuous quantity, time, into discrete quantities. You only get 52 weekends with your 2 year old. If Christmas-as-magic lasts from say ages 3 to 10, you only get to watch your child experience it 8 times. And while it’s impossible to say what is a lot or a little of a continuous quantity like time, 8 is not a lot of something. If you had a handful of 8 peanuts, or a shelf of 8 books to choose from, the quantity would definitely seem limited, no matter what your lifespan was.

Ok, so life actually is short. Does it make any difference to know that?

It has for me. It means arguments of the form “Life is too short for x” have great force. It’s not just a figure of speech to say that life is too short for something. It’s not just a synonym for annoying. If you find yourself thinking that life is too short for something, you should try to eliminate it if you can.

When I ask myself what I’ve found life is too short for, the word that pops into my head is “bullshit.” I realize that answer is somewhat tautological. It’s almost the definition of bullshit that it’s the stuff that life is too short for. And yet bullshit does have a distinctive character. There’s something fake about it. It’s the junk food of experience. [1]

If you ask yourself what you spend your time on that’s bullshit, you probably already know the answer. Unnecessary meetings, pointless disputes, bureaucracy, posturing, dealing with other people’s mistakes, traffic jams, addictive but unrewarding pastimes.

There are two ways this kind of thing gets into your life: it’s either forced on you or it tricks you. To some extent you have to put up with the bullshit forced on you by circumstances. You need to make money, and making money consists mostly of errands. Indeed, the law of supply and demand insures that: the more rewarding some kind of work is, the cheaper people will do it. It may be that less bullshit is forced on you than you think, though. There has always been a stream of people who opt out of the default grind and go live somewhere where opportunities are fewer in the conventional sense, but life feels more authentic. This could become more common.

You can do it on a smaller scale without moving. The amount of time you have to spend on bullshit varies between employers. Most large organizations (and many small ones) are steeped in it. But if you consciously prioritize bullshit avoidance over other factors like money and prestige, you can probably find employers that will waste less of your time.

If you’re a freelancer or a small company, you can do this at the level of individual customers. If you fire or avoid toxic customers, you can decrease the amount of bullshit in your life by more than you decrease your income.

But while some amount of bullshit is inevitably forced on you, the bullshit that sneaks into your life by tricking you is no one’s fault but your own. And yet the bullshit you choose may be harder to eliminate than the bullshit that’s forced on you. Things that lure you into wasting your time on them have to be really good at tricking you. An example that will be familiar to a lot of people is arguing online. When someone contradicts you, they’re in a sense attacking you. Sometimes pretty overtly. Your instinct when attacked is to defend yourself. But like a lot of instincts, this one wasn’t designed for the world we now live in. Counterintuitive as it feels, it’s better most of the time not to defend yourself. Otherwise these people are literally taking your life. [2]

Arguing online is only incidentally addictive. There are more dangerous things than that. As I’ve written before, one byproduct of technical progress is that things we like tend to become more addictive. Which means we will increasingly have to make a conscious effort to avoid addictions—to stand outside ourselves and ask “is this how I want to be spending my time?”

As well as avoiding bullshit one should actively seek out things that matter. But different things matter to different people, and most have to learn what matters to them. A few are lucky and realize early on that they love math or taking care of animals or writing, and then figure out a way to spend a lot of time doing it. But most people start out with a life that’s a mix of things that matter and things that don’t, and only gradually learn to distinguish between them.

For the young especially, much of this confusion is induced by the artificial situations they find themselves in. In middle school and high school, what the other kids think of you seems the most important thing in the world. But when you ask adults what they got wrong at that age, nearly all say they cared too much what other kids thought of them.

One heuristic for distinguishing stuff that matters is to ask yourself whether you’ll care about it in the future. Fake stuff that matters usually has a sharp peak of seeming to matter. That’s how it tricks you. The area under the curve is small, but its shape jabs into your consciousness like a pin.

The things that matter aren’t necessarily the ones people would call “important.” Having coffee with a friend matters. You won’t feel later like that was a waste of time.

One great thing about having small children is that they make you spend time on things that matter: them. They grab your sleeve as you’re staring at your phone and say “will you play with me?” And odds are that is in fact the bullshit-minimizing option.

If life is short, we should expect its shortness to take us by surprise. And that is just what tends to happen. You take things for granted, and then they’re gone. You think you can always write that book, or climb that mountain, or whatever, and then you realize the window has closed. The saddest windows close when other people die. Their lives are short too. After my mother died, I wished I’d spent more time with her. I lived as if she’d always be there. And in her typical quiet way she encouraged that illusion. But an illusion it was. I think a lot of people make the same mistake I did.

The usual way to avoid being taken by surprise by something is to be consciously aware of it. Back when life was more precarious, people used to be aware of death to a degree that would now seem a bit morbid. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t seem the right answer to be constantly reminding oneself of the grim reaper hovering at everyone’s shoulder. Perhaps a better solution is to look at the problem from the other end. Cultivate a habit of impatience about the things you most want to do. Don’t wait before climbing that mountain or writing that book or visiting your mother. You don’t need to be constantly reminding yourself why you shouldn’t wait. Just don’t wait.

I can think of two more things one does when one doesn’t have much of something: try to get more of it, and savor what one has. Both make sense here.

How you live affects how long you live. Most people could do better. Me among them.

But you can probably get even more effect by paying closer attention to the time you have. It’s easy to let the days rush by. The “flow” that imaginative people love so much has a darker cousin that prevents you from pausing to savor life amid the daily slurry of errands and alarms. One of the most striking things I’ve read was not in a book, but the title of one: James Salter’sBurning the Days.

It is possible to slow time somewhat. I’ve gotten better at it. Kids help. When you have small children, there are a lot of moments so perfect that you can’t help noticing.

It does help too to feel that you’ve squeezed everything out of some experience. The reason I’m sad about my mother is not just that I miss her but that I think of all the things we could have done that we didn’t. My oldest son will be 7 soon. And while I miss the 3 year old version of him, I at least don’t have any regrets over what might have been. We had the best time a daddy and a 3 year old ever had.

Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short.

The Power of Vulnerability

At a recent leadership retreat, I was treated to this video by Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability.  Such a powerful message – and delivered in a light, humorous manner.  This is a great way to show the power of love over fear.  Pay special attention to her spotlighting the modern human’s need for ‘numbing.’

Everyone I watched this with took something unique away.  What was your experience?

What are you competing on?

What are you competing on?

It’s pretty easy to figure out what you’re competing for—attention, a new gig, a promotion, a sale…

But what is your edge? In a hypercompetitive world, whatever you’re competing on is going to become your focus.

If you’re competing on price, you’ll spend most of your time counting pennies.

If you’re competing on noise, you’ll spend most of your time yelling, posting, updating, publishing and announcing.

If you’re competing on trust, you’ll spend most of your time keeping the promises that make you trustworthy.

If you’re competing on smarts, you’ll spend most of your time getting smarter.

If you’re competing on who you know, you’ll spend most of the time networking.

If you’re competing by having true fans, you’ll spend most of your time earning the trust and attention of those that care about your work.

If you’re competing on credentials, you’ll spend most of your time getting more accredited and certified.

If you’re competing on perfect, you’ll need to spend your time on picking nits.

If you’re competing by hustling, you’ll spend most of your time looking for shortcuts and cutting corners.

If you’re competing on getting picked, you’ll spend most of your day auditioning.

If you’re competing on being innovative, you’ll spend your time being curious and shipping things that might not work.

And if you’re competing on always-on responsiveness, you’ll spend your time glued to your work, responding just a second faster than the other guy.

In any competitive market, be prepared to invest your heart and soul and focus on the thing you compete on. Might as well choose something you can live with, a practice that allows you to thrive.

-Seth Godin

Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety

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From The Art of Mental Training by D.C. Gonzalez:

“Anxiety can only exist when one allows one’s thoughts to wander from the present moment and to an uncertainty of the future or some remembered failure of past.”

Similarly, from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle:

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”

In other words: when anxiety creeps in or you are experiencing a bout of the dreaded Sunday Scaries…take a moment and observe what your thoughts are focused on.

From Tolle: “You are projecting yourself into an imaginary future situation and creating fear, but there is no way you can cope with such a situation because it doesn’t exist.”

Stay present.

Freedom and Responsibility – Seth Godin

Which do you want?

Freedom is the ability to set your schedule, to decide on the work you do, to make decisions.

Responsibility is being held accountable for your actions. It might involve figuring out how to get paid for your work, owning your mistakes or having others count on you.

Freedom without responsibility is certainly tempting, but there are few people who will give you that gig and take care of you and take responsibility for your work as well.

Responsibility without freedom is stressful. There are plenty of jobs in this line of work, just as there are countless jobs where you have neither freedom nor responsibility. These are good jobs to walk away from.

When in doubt, when you’re stuck, when you’re seeking more freedom, the surest long-term route is to take more responsibility.

Freedom and responsibility aren’t given, they’re taken.

Check out more from Seth here.

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