Dec 202014
 

Being vegan has its perks. You enjoy the best food at the most unusual places with the highest quality. Ever seen a vegan McDonald’s? Exactly.

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I never thought I would be able to live without meat, cheese, and butter. Being vegan, though, has been one of the best and longest-lasting commitments I have made with myself. It is not always easy to maintain an animal-free diet and lifestyle but I can not imagine going back to feeling sluggish, needing more sleep, thinking slower, being less productive, and generally feeling lost in a malaise of borderline depression all the time. Something that has become common when I sit down to eat or share pictures of my vegan meals on social media is non-vegan friends saying, “Wow, that actually looks good!”

The surprise is genuine. I think most non-vegans (I was one, too) believe vegans eat a bunch of bland, gross, or tasteless cardboard-like “fake” meat… and lettuce. Lots of lettuce.

Prepare to have your non-vegan mind blown. Here is a dirty secret we veggie-lovers have been hiding from the world. Are you ready for this?

You sure?

Okay… here it is:

Dude, vegans eat like freaking KINGS. Kings!

It’s true. The only time vegans have less than amazing meals is when they are out with non-vegan friends and trying to find a compromise where everyone can eat happily (which actually means where everyone but the vegan can eat happily, but whatever… we’re used to it).

Here are three reasons we have it so good (and there are a lot more but I like to keep it simple):

  • Vegans eat crazy creative foods. Without the crutch of meat and cheese, vegans have to be creative about what they eat. Instead of old curdled milk fat and cow pus, we use crazy living healthy food like nutritional yeast for cheesy flavors. It’s awesome and twice as versatile; we use it in soups and salads, on pizza and macaroni, or on most anything else, just for fun. Instead of burnt pig flesh, we use a combination of live enzymes and soybeans to make something as dense as steak, called tempeh. We season it the same way and use it in many of the same dishes (there are tempeh burgers, tempeh bacon, and even tempeh steaks) except we enjoy a great deal more nutrition without that gross, heavy feeling at the end… you know, that feeling like you just ate a dead animal?
  •  Vegans enjoy better looking food that is healthier. Think about this: burger and fries. Brown bread, browned potatoes, with a dark brown patty of fat and ground up body parts. Take a look at your vegan friend’s plate. You see green, red, yellow, white, purple, orange, and even a little brown, too. We eat more fruits and vegetables, obviously, but that means we also eat more colors. An easy way to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals is to be sure you eat lots of colorful food (for example, greens like kale and spinach are great sources of protein, while yellow bananas carry potassium, orange peppers are loaded with vitamin C, white tofu has calcium, and purple cabbage is a killer source of vitamin A). Vegans eat lots of colors practically by default, but also we love finding new flavors. Once you start your vegan journey, you learn about a whole new world of flavors and foods you never imagined! Lychees, tofu, tempeh, seitan, nutritional yeast, kimchi, kumquats… all things that were not only not on my pre-vegan menu but also things I would probably have never heard of until I had a reason to explore outside my comfort zone.
  • Vegans eat the best food available. When you choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle, you can not help but learn about food. Once you gain knowledge on factory farming, how supermarkets work, food marketing, and quality standards while also learning about available local food, farmers markets, and organic farming practices, you can not help but eat better. You become a food connoisseur. If you have not noticed, most vegan food is the highest quality food you can find–GMO-free, usually organic, often locally obtained, cruelty-free (meaning no animals were harmed in the making of it) and produced under strict standards. Think about it. Anything certified vegan has to be treated special because it caters to a specific, food-educated audience. The food is handled on special, segregated equipment. It is made with special, high-quality ingredients. It is even prepared in special, non-harming ways. Imagine the fast-food burger flipper with no idea where the meat was assembled or even what animals it was made from before it arrived in a box of other frozen patties. Imagine the local vegan-friendly restaurant who buys their produce from the farm up the road, prepares the food fresh (because you know vegans don’t like preservatives and weird chemicals in their food!) and makes sure it is good enough for a crowd of picky eaters. You have to deliver the goods when the people you are cooking for know as much about the food as you probably know.

 

So there you have it.

Today’s lesson: If you have the perception that vegan-life is filled with suffering while grazing on wheat grass and hugging cows… you are missing out big time. When you REALLY want to find and enjoy the best food available and eat like royalty… have your vegan foodie friend take you out for dinner (and be prepared for some crazy delicious foods you never heard of)!

 

P.S. Shout out and special thanks to my Lantern friends who helped me bring this article to a close. Thanks!

 

 

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Dec 192014
 

Do successful people really feel motivated and inspired and have limitless energy all the time?

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Do you sometimes feel like a failure? There are moments when I am not grateful for what I have or ignorant of what I have accomplished while also being envious of what I don’t have and aware of what I have not accomplished. I sat down to consider what sometimes makes me feel like I am not doing a good job living my life. I think there are three big reasons. I wrote about Comparing Yourself to Others and Defining Success in Context. Let’s explore another one:

Lost (or never found) passion. 

Follow your dreams. Do what you love. Find your passion. There are many variations of similar trite phrases and heartfelt quotes meant to inspire people to pursue lofty goals based on personal intuition and emotion. The problem with the idea of following one’s destiny is that many of us, including me, are not so passionate about a single thing we will pursue it doggedly until we find absolute success or die trying.

It has taken me nearly three decades to accept this ubiquitous advice is plain bad. It provides no tools to find your “passion”. Most people do not have a specific, concrete dream they are interested in following. For example, I love music but not as much as Prince, who devoted his life to it. I love writing but I am not as passionate about telling stories as Stephen King. I want to do more than write all the time. I love living a vegan lifestyle but not enough to devote years of my life defending animal rights or trying to bring down the entire factory farming industry. I have strong emotions about all those things and many others but there is not one that lights me up so much I wish it was the only thing I could do the rest of my life. I do not wake up and go to bed every day solely thinking about any of those things.

There are people who are passionate about a single thing and that is good for them, I guess, but I see no reason for anyone to feel bad about not having the energy, time, motivation, inspiration, or wherewithal to devote large swaths of their life to a singular, primary purpose (when there are infinite things and purposes to explore).

 

Today’s lesson: You do not have to chase your dreams, especially if you do not have one or if you have too many. You do not have to follow your passion, especially if you are not that passionate about anything yet. Maybe you will find your passion. Maybe you will never find something you are particularly passionate about. Either way is okay. Just make time in your life to do things you love. There is no requirement for you to become a slave to your ideas or ideals. Do not feel guilty for being anything less or more than you are willing to be in this moment.

 

Dec 182014
 

Who is more successful… you or Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son)?

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Like most people, I sometimes feel like a failure. There are moments when I am not grateful for what I have or not cognizant of what I have accomplished but rather envious of what I don’t have and aware of what I have not accomplished. So I sat down and considered what sometimes makes me feel like I suck at living my life. I think there are three big reasons. Yesterday, I wrote about Comparing Yourself to OthersLet’s explore another one:

Defining Success in Context. 

Stories about success are prevalent in the media. I love to read stories of how people overcame obstacles and attained something they pursued. Unfortunately, sometimes I am so caught up in the stories of others that I neglect my own. I want something more, better, or different from what I have and the longer I want something or the further away it seems, the more I feel like I am failing at living my life. This is especially true if I see other people enjoying or attaining the thing I want, whether it is something small like owning a new product, or something big like a relaxing scenic vacation, or something really big like having a mansion on a private island and an exotic vacation home.

One problem with this mentality is allowing myself to have a skewed definition of “success”. Rather than judge my success on its own merit, I sometimes judge it by my perceived success of others. That would be fine… if it was not so frequently wrong. I do not know the lives of others and often they do not know their own life story that well. I suspect none of us do. After all, we are busy living our lives! This means I do not know the cause of anyone’s success. I only see the effect (and, really, only a small part of the effect because I am not involved in every moment of someone else’s life).

For example, who is more successful?

…The son of a wealthy, famous actor who goes into acting and has a hit movie, thanks to the proximity of resources, time, and support to chase his acting career. OR…

…A homeless, recovering alcoholic who has lost everything, but faces and eventually overcomes her addiction, working her way back into lower-middle class society and settling down with a supportive family in the suburbs?

The actor’s son started with a network of people at his disposal to help him. With a little luck and moderate talent, it would be nearly impossible for him to fail. He might have an expensive house, fancy car, and a lot of money, but I would not consider someone who started at the top and stayed there more successful than someone who started at the bottom and made greater progress against greater obstacles. The irony here, of course, is the recovered alcoholic who rebuilt a life from nothing will likely look at the celebrity as an example of success.

 

Today’s lesson: Success is not a tangible, rigidly defined product to attain. Your success is different from mine. I do not know what you overcame to be where you are and you do not know every experience that defined who I am today. Remember, your success is relative to you, and only you. Ultimately, the single act of taking a breath is a success: it is the profound accomplishment of life itself over death. When you realize that, you realize everything is pretty much a win from there.

 

Dec 172014
 

How successful are you compared to Beyonce?

***

I sometimes feel like a failure. There are moments when I am not grateful for what I have or not cognizant of what I have accomplished but rather envious of what I don’t have and aware of what I have not accomplished. I certainly know others who have “woe is me” moments from time to time. Feeling like a failure is agonizing so I sat down and considered what sometimes makes me feel like I suck at living my life. I think there are three big reasons and today I want to explore one of them:

Comparing myself to people I have created fantasy stories about. 

Sometimes I think of successful celebrities and the stories I have read or heard them tell about their success. I have heard sports stars and rap stars and movie stars talk about rising from poverty or broken households and overcoming adversity by practicing relentlessly, sacrificing sleep, friends, and wealth to do what they loved until they became the best in their field. In my mind, I imagine them having limitless energy and commitment to perfecting their craft over years, while diligently working their way up the ladder of success, motivated and inspired every moment of the way. I think they might sometimes imagine it happened that way, too!

Of course, that is just a story I made up to fill in the gaps of all the years and moments I was never there to see. I was not there to see the bouts of self-loathing or the day their more-talented friend broke an arm and was unable to show up at practice… which was the same time the talent scout did. I was not there to see the lucky moments, the support from others by chance or circumstance, or the frequently random dumb luck that led to a life that looks great from the outside (but maybe is not so great when you actually live it). Not having lived a second of their life, I have created an entire life for them based on my fantasy of the story I would like to write for myself.

The truth is I have no more insight into the real lives of others than they have into my life. I sometimes misjudge myself by comparing my story to the stories I create or accept about the success of other people.

 

Today’s lesson: Stay in your own story. When you compare your life to people you think have it better, you are setting yourself up to only see your failures. Instead, look objectively at your own life and count your successes based on their own merit rather than on the stories you create about others.  

 

Dec 162014
 

Do not judge lest ye be judged… hey, wait a second. Did you just judge me for judging other people?!?

***

James Altucher, one of my recent favorite authors, makes a great point that I have heard him repeat a few times on his podcast: “If everyone wanted world peace, there would be world peace.”

Such a simple and compelling and depressing and poignant sentence. We are, as a society, addicted to judging others. The simple fact is, as James eloquently points out, not everyone wants world peace. If everyone thought men and women should be equal, then men and women would be equal. If everyone wanted to end racism, then racism would end.

The reason we can not all just get along is because we are all different, with different values, beliefs, ethical quandaries, and moral boundaries. This is as much a good thing as a bad thing. If we were all the same, then there would be nothing and no one to value. Life would be homogeneous and infinitely boring. The reason we can identify what is good (something like equal rights) is because there is enough diversity to distinguish what is not good (cases of social injustice).

 

Today’s lesson: Diversity is good and judging is also good, but as with most anything, the Aristotelian view holds true: “everything in moderation.” (Incidentally, distinguishing the importance of Aristotle’s lesson over that of all others is also a judgment…)