Oct 302014

How loud is your life? Consider the beauty of a quiet moment. Then consider how quiet it actually is…


Nicole went on a 5-day silent retreat. Other than functional talking (speaking if you have to provide instruction or alarm), there was no speaking at all. No electronic communication was allowed. The place was in the middle of the woods in northern Michigan and there was no children, television, or motorized vehicles (other than the ones they arrived in). It was five days of introspection, journaling, reading, or walking in nature, and not much else.

I have never done a silent retreat (it sounds maddening) but I still learned a valuable lesson through Nicole’s experience. When she went to bed, she could not fall asleep. She was unusually restless and somewhere around three in the morning, I asked what the trouble was.

She said, “It’s hard to sleep. It is SO loud in here…” We have sound-dampening curtains and do not own a television. We do not sleep with a fan or any white noise so, to some of our guests, it is exasperatingly quiet in our apartment at night. I was perplexed–so loud in here?!?

I settled back into the mattress and I listened to hear what she was talking about. At first, I could not hear a thing. The room was silent. After a minute of focus, though, sounds started pouring in. I heard the refrigerator whirring, the hollow sound of city traffic, the cat purring beside us, random creaking noises from the building settling, a dog barking somewhere far off, the rustling of the sheets every time one of us fidgeted, our breathing, my stomach gurgling… Soon I could not sleep either. It was too loud!

The funny thing is, on any given day, I am completely unaware of how much noise is surrounding me, and I mean noise that I can hear, see, smell, touch, or taste. There is so much information coming at us at once that sometimes it is a good thing to just find a quiet space and enjoy the silence.


Oct 292014

As the weather winds down for winter in Michigan, there are fewer days to enjoy a nice, warm walk on a sunny day. But what is a walk all about?


Personally, I do not like exercise for the sake of exercising, so it is very unlikely you will ever catch me in a gym, but walking is an easy way to fool myself into a healthy habit.

Today, I realized how much I enjoy a long walk. I mean really long, like I will walk until I am not sure if I will have enough energy to make it back to the car. I like to explore and walking helps me slow down enough to view the world in slow motion (compared to all the driving, flying, and even bicycling I do).

I paused for a few minutes under a big oak tree by the Grand River. I sat down on the stone steps by the water and closed my eyes for a minute. I could smell the autumn leaves, earthy and sweet, covering the sidewalk and rocks that dipped into the river. The tree was letting leaves go, too, and it seemed like a slow motion rainfall of yellow, red, and brown sails lazily making their way to the water, to sail off.

When you walk, don’t forget to pay attention to the world. Listen to as many sounds as you can process. Try to hear everything at once, and then try to focus on as many individual sounds as you can. Look under railings or up into trees and see what life is flourishing there that you would normally have just passed in your rush to work or your next social engagement. Inhale and try to identify each scent of the flora and fauna around you. Just take a minute now and then to get out of your head and be as much a part of the world as the tree you are walking by or the wind whispering to you through it.

Today’s lesson: walking is good for the body, calms the mind, and enriches the spirit when you do it consciously. Enjoy your day.



Oct 282014

How much time are you wasting trying to be perfect instead of trying to produce results?


This post is geared more toward fellow blogger (or blogger-curious) friends. If writing on-line is not your thing, you might want to skip this one (but there is a great lesson at the end!). We will get back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow…

I am dropping the comments section from my blog and (this part is more for other bloggers) no longer using meta keywords to draw traffic.

There are a few things I have done, or stopped doing, to make my blog more efficient and less burdensome on me. Since I have taken on posting a daily life lesson, I have begun to start thinking about blogging differently. I stopped adding dates to the blog title to keep it more “timeless” and less “timely“.

Now I am turning off comments. Have I lost my mind? Debatable, but not relevant to the blog. I am dropping comments for a few reasons. The main reason is simple… most of my readers do not comment on the posts. They comment or reply to my social media updates linking to the blog. Some people email me directly and my contact information will remain available in the “More/ About Me” section. One reader even called me at three in the morning one night and we chatted about a post until I had to get ready for work.

The other reason is I have found that most comments are made by people who, honestly, either did not read the actual article or did not understand the main content of it. Better to have those people talking to me on Facebook instead of cluttering the blog itself with comments. Finally, my blog is almost entirely editorial. I am not providing, in most cases, fact-checked peer-reviewed articles to debate. It is just me sharing lessons I learn each day or ranting about an injustice I perceive in the world. I love having open communication and hearing from readers but it does not have to be on the post page itself. That is what Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are for.

For those of you that do not blog, after you type each post, you can enter in certain words to help readers find that particular post if they search on Google or other sites. So, for today’s post I might add meta keywords like, “comments, social media, blog, michael salamey” to help raise my ranking in search engines for this post.

However, it turns out that meta key words have almost zero impact on search rankings now and can sometimes put you in Google’s potential “spam” category if you flood your keywords to try to appeal to their rankings regardless of your actual content.

I sometimes spend five minutes trying to tie the right keywords for each post. I would rather spend the five minutes creating better content. If I have compelling content that people share often, I will not need the help of keyword shortcuts. Google and Facebook are far more interested in a blog that gets distribution than one that has a lot of hidden words behind each post!

All of that brings us to today’s lesson: don’t carry unnecessary burdens. Remove the obstacles that make your passion a chore. Remember, it does not have to be perfect anyway. I blog for fun and to help others, but even if I was doing it to drive income, the time spent on the parts with the least amount of value will provide greater return if I let them go than if I keep carrying their weight.

…And, besides blogging, how many other areas of our lives can we look into for the same lesson?


Oct 272014

“Work smarter, not harder” is great for work but what about the other areas of your life? How can you Live Smarter, Not Harder? Here are a few tips…


I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make my life more efficient. I am practicing being minimalist. I use Netflix instead of DVD’s. I ritualize my morning routine to make it as quick as possible (for example, my wallet and keys go in the same spot every night so I do not have to spend time looking for them in the morning). I have my laptop, tablet, and phone in sync so I can blog anywhere when I have free time. I only use combined shampoo and conditioner to save time in the shower. I even prep my work clothes for the week on Sunday night so I don’t have to think about what I will wear during the week.

Here is another trick I have learned: having red wash cloths, dish mats, and hand towels makes kitchen-life easier. It hides pasta and ketchup stains and adds a splash of color to the counters. I have 7 wash cloths that I rotate through the week. That way, I don’t have to think about how many days I have used one or worry about it mildewing. I just replace it each day and put the old one in the wash.

I care about all this efficiency because the less amount of time I let details take up, the more time I have to spend on important things, like writing, work, or enjoying time with loved ones.

Today’s lesson is: remove clutter to free time.

Automate what you can. Say no to tasks, food, things, and people who will not help you become better (which means you might have a smaller circle of friends but that is okay because your main priority is you) and focus your time instead on the important things.


P.S. If you do not know what the “important things” are for you, feel free to borrow my four priorities: Philosophy, Physical Health, Family, Freedom… in that order.


Oct 262014

Notice anything different?

I decided to stop attaching the date to my blog titles. This is a big deal to me because I have a few rules about my daily posts. For example, they are always lessons I have learned myself through my experience, rather than just something I heard and am sharing, and I add the date after each title for easy tracking and to show it is happening daily.

Rules are great… until they are not, which is today’s lesson.

When a rule no longer serves its intended purpose or becomes ineffective, there is no need to keep enforcing it out of fear of change or tradition (because that’s what we’ve always done).

For example, I am surprised by how many companies make employees hide tattoos and piercings. I do not choose to express myself through body ink or modification but I am aware I live in a society where many people do. I have also never thought twice about buying something from someone who looks different from me. I don’t care if my barista dresses like a clown and has pony tails down to his knees. I care if he makes damn good espresso. In a way, companies clinging to old “because that’s the way it’s always been” mentalities reinforce stereotypes and encourage discrimination.

I doubt any business owner had that in mind when she started her own company. She probably thought of doing something innovative, challenging norms, and taking over the world! Somewhere that gets lost and someone has to step in and pioneer us forward again. However, in our own lives, we do not have to wait for the rulebook makers to catch up. We can spark the change ourselves.

With adding dates to my posts, I realized two things. The first is there is a search widget on my home page that allows anyone to sort my posts by date. The second is we live in a society of immediate gratification. Most people do not look past the first page of Google search results or expect a restaurant meal to take more than a few minutes to be prepared and delivered.

We have a bias when we compare articles or products. If we see something is a few years older than something else, we suspect the older thing is not as good as what is current.

So removing the dates will help my posts stay relevant.


Maybe I’ll get a tatoo, too. (Don’t get your hopes up, Nicole…)