Life Style

Everyone struggles to find work-life balance.

That struggle has made me a firm believer in managing by results over location and I am helping our organization transition to a workplace where the “place” is not part of the “work”.

A team-mate told me his plan is to move to another state in a few years and he is hoping we have an opportunity for him in Georgia. He quickly added, “But, by the way you are leading the company, we might all be working from wherever we want by then. You might already be living there when I get there!”

I was happy to hear his confidence in me, but it also got me thinking… when we are no longer location-centric because of work, what might life look like?

For me, I imagine designing my life in the style that works best for me and Nicole. Maybe we use technology, like Airbnb (for timeshare living), Uber (to get around), and Skype (for team availability) to stay connected and on-the-move at the same time. Maybe we have temporary set-ups in the places we most want to live, planning each year ahead.

It would take some planning but we could always live in our favorite places while working the same job. Nicole and I could spend Summer in Grand Rapids–June, July, and August. Fall in Portland–September. Winter in Tampa–November and December, Orlando–January and February, and Miami–March. Spring in Savannah–April and May. The next year it could be Chicago, Austin, Key West, San Diego, Detroit, and Seattle. Then Hawaii, Costa Rica, Paris, Ireland, and Montreal.

The only reason to limit the possibilities of Work, Life, and Balance is for fear of the alternative: limitless possibilities. 

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You Have To Die Of Something…

Each weekday I write about a lesson I have learned in life and share it with you, so you don’t have to.

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“Well, you have to die of something,” or “When it’s my time to go then it’s my time to go,” or “You never know when your time is up,” and other variations are all ways of making excuses for poor decisions.

It is true that we do not know exactly when or how we might die, but hiding behind that fact as justification for being an alcoholic, or smoker, or junk food addict, or (insert bad life decision here) is tantamount to saying you want to kill yourself but you want to do it slowly and torture everyone you love before you go.

There are anecdotal stories (stories, mind you) of some distant relative who smoked their whole life and died when they were a hundred twenty. Or somebody who followed the perfect diet every day and died of a heart attack when they were twenty. Aside from those stories almost certainly not being true (or at least not accurate in the loosest sense of the word), if those people existed then they were clearly the exceptions, not the rule.

When my friends or family offer poorly constructed rationalizations for bad life choices, I think, “Why tempt fate to prove you are unexceptional?”

Instead, live exceptionally and make exceptional the rule instead of being ruled by your exceptions.

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Just My Luck.

Each weekday I share a life-lesson learned. Today’s lesson is about having “bad” luck…

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“That’s just my luck,” I thought. “I’m spending my vacation going back and forth to Orlando to take the dog to the vet. Just figures. Not the vacation I wanted…”

Then I remembered a few things…
I live where I choose to live, not where I happened to grow up or simply ended up.

I have a job, an apartment that more than meets my needs, a car of my choosing, and lots of toys like a smartphone, tablet, paddle board, and bicycle. I have a great partner in life, an old loyal cat, and a new lovable puppy.

I’m surrounded by things and people I love, I have the means and will to live a life I choose (not everybody has the luxury of being able to be vegan and spend almost every weekend at the beach).

Basically, I live a charmed life. A few unexpected trips to Orlando and the inconvenience of not having the perfect vacation is pretty minor compared to the joy of being somebody I love and living my life (mostly) on my terms.

It is definitely a better deal than I could have asked for and, my guess is, if you have the means to read this blog then your deal is also pretty damn good.

Our luck is not relative to our current situation. It is relative to our lives as a whole.

Or, put another way… stop whining. You don’t have it that bad.

 

 

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Don’t Count Your Blessings

I share a life-lesson each weekday. It helps me make sure every day counts. Hopefully, it helps you, too. Here is today’s lesson…

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I make enough money to afford a nice apartment on Tampa Bay. I do not live in a place where I wonder where the next meal is coming from or where there are boys holding machine guns on street corners. I have access to clean water. I drive a decent car. I have very little debt and a job I enjoy. I am fairly good-looking and I have friends and family who care about me. I can go on but you get the point. On whole, life is pretty good for me.

There are times, though, when I forget all those things, or they do not matter in the moment. Like when I stub my toe. All those wonderful things briefly go out the window and I think only of the pain in my foot feel anger because of my clumsiness.

Or when my cat barfs on the carpet in the middle of the night. I forget how lucky I am and become irrationally mad at the cat for bringing some sort of injustice to my life. Or when something legitimately disturbing happens like a job loss or the death of a friend or the end of a relationship–all these problems pale by comparison to the challenges faced every day by other people with less fortunate circumstances (think children in third world countries, slaves, or prisoners of war–they wish they had something as easy to handle as a broken heart).

“Count your blessings” I am told, is sage advice. When we feel life is unfair, this adage reminds us to take stock of all the things we have going for us and be grateful.

I am not a fan of that advice, though. The problem is, when I feel frustrated or angry and I pause to “count my blessings”–sure, I recognize I live a charmed life–but counting my blessings makes me feel like an ingrate at that moment. I do not want to feel petty or ungrateful on top of feeling mad or irritated.

“Count your blessings” might be fine advice when things are going well but when you are feeling hurt or slighted, counting your blessings can make you feel worse. 

I will try these three alternatives instead:

     1.  Recognize and embrace change. “Life is fleeting” is also sage advice. That means nothing good lasts forever but it also means nothing bad lasts forever. Accept the situation for what it is and accept it is not the permanent way of things.

     2.  Feel it. Maybe the thing that bothers me most about the idea of counting your blessings is that it invalidates your feelings. I don’t know about you, but I can not keep my emotions buried. I can turn the volume on them down but if I try to ignore them altogether it just creates a ticking time bomb. Those emotions will explode out of me at some point and it won’t be pretty. Instead, I want to feel angry when I feel angry. I want to dive into it, let it simmer, and acknowledge that it is how I feel in that moment. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, hurt, or frustrated with the world. It is just how you feel in the moment (see point one–the moment will be gone soon enough). I should make a caveat here that you feeling angry is not license to exercise your feelings upon others. Feel angry. Don’t act angry.

     3.  Be willing to move on. Building off the first two points–things change and it is okay to feel feelings–I must also recognize the choice is mine to let go of those feelings when I am ready. For me, that usually does not take long because I am willing to let go and move on. Maybe not in that moment but I am willing to be moved, to change, to alter course. I do not like feeling angry, guilty, petty, sad, depressed, etc. I know, though, that I will feel those things at times. I do not, however, have to let them take the wheel and steer my life. That is up to me. I can give them control for a few minutes while I coast along, but I know, like juvenile drivers, they will crash us if I don’t take the wheel back. It is okay to let them practice driving so they learn to act responsibly but I am the only one licensed to behind the wheel. They can back-seat drive all they want.

 

To my knowledge, there is no cure for the injustices of life, no matter how great or small. Counting your blessings while dealing with one of those injustices, though, might only make you feel worse. Instead, recognize things change, your feelings are your feelings, and be willing to move on.

If you still want to count your blessings, go ahead, but maybe wait until you feel blessed to do so.

 

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Drop Your Pants!

Each day I look back and figure out what lesson I learned. Then, because I am slightly crazy, I broadcast it to the world via this blog.

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I like to experiment. That has led me to embrace some seemingly silly things that have had profound effects, and I am adding another one to the list: giving up my belt.

I have been belt free for a couple weeks now, actually, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to stick (I’m still not sure but I figure I can’t ignore it here since I write about my other experiments).

It turns out not wearing a belt might have some interesting effects, mostly for men. Belts tighten around the waist and constrict the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (yeah, I had to look that up, too–it’s a real thing). For some people, wearing a belt each day can actually cause permanent nerve damage.

I don’t have lateral femor-whatever nerve damage I am aware of. I am giving up my belt because it is one less thing I have to think about each day. I don’t have to pick what belt to wear and I don’t have to loop it through my pants or wrestle with how tight to cinch it today. It probably saves me no more than 10 seconds each day, but times seven, that is 1 minute and 10 seconds per week for the remainder of my life. If I live another 50 years (to a conservative 92 years old)… I just gave myself an additional 50.6 hours (or a little more than 2 days) of productive time for living!

The only practical reason for wearing a belt at all is to keep my pants up but I can not remember the last time my pants actually fell down and my belt saved the day. I think I would rather take my chances and have an extra 2 days of life.

Just in case, though, I tossed a belt into my work bag (but I haven’t needed it yet!).

All in all, I have to say… I think I feel a little more comfortable and a little more vulnerable (naked even) without it, but only when I notice it is not there. Funnily enough, no one else seems to have noticed it isn’t there either, which tells me I worried too much about the fashionability of my belts–apparently nobody cares.

Going belt free is working for me. What can you give up to make your life just 10 seconds easier each day, for an extra few days of living?

 

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Breakfast for Dinner?!?

Want to have more time to enjoy your evening? This is what we are doing and it is working!

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We work hard. We have hobbies. We have chores. We chase passions. We try to always improve ourselves. In short, like you, we are busy. Even though we have no TV, no video games, not even a lot of furniture (1 couch, 1 bed, 1 desk, 2 end tables, 1 dining table), we still struggle to find time just for us, just to relax each day.

I think 2 and a half hours of completely open leisure time is a good amount to have, but after work, making and eating dinner, taking out the trash, feeding the cat, getting ready for bed, prepping for tomorrow, etc… we typically have 45-minutes to an hour to do whatever we want.

If you know me, then you know I love efficiency and I am always seeking ways to do things smarter, faster, or with less effort (I like to automate tasks and create habits). Nicole and I realized dinner is a huge time-suck for us, so we are trying something new and so far, it is showing great results.

We eat cereal for dinner. 

It is not, admittedly, the best dinner but cereal–even junk food cereal–is still full of vitamins, easy to prepare, and tastes delicious. We typically avoid highly processed “food” but for a quick meal, cereal is tough to beat. We still want to be sure we are eating fresh foods and veggies, though (which we would normally have prepared for dinner), so we changed our breakfast routine, too.

Instead of cereal for breakfast, we make smoothies, but with a twist. We prepare our smoothies for the week on Sunday and freeze the ingredients in single-serve baggies (1-quart size). In each bag, we have broken or chopped 3 fruits, 3 vegetables, 3 nuts, 3 grains, and a scoop of brown rice protein powder–more than enough actual nutrition to make up for cereal dinners. In the morning, I drop a frozen bag of smoothie ingredients into the Vitamix, pour in about 3 cups of unsweetened milk of my choice (usually Flax or Almond-Coconut) and blend it up. I drink it before I head to work and it tides me over most of the morning.

The best part is, we have added around an hour to each evening, allowing us to walk, talk, watch Netflix, read, meditate, or whatever we want! Can’t beat that.

If you want to try this crazy experiment, here is what a couple of our smoothies might look like:

Always start with 1 banana and 1 carrot. It is hard to screw up the taste after that, and you get lots of great vitamins between those two alone, like Potassium, Fiber, and Vitamins A and C.

Smoothie 1 (everything chopped and placed in a 1-quart bag, to be frozen):

1 banana

1 peach

6 strawberries (whole, with greens)

1 carrot

1 handful of parsley

1 handful of spinach

A palm’s worth of sunflower seeds

A palm’s worth of raw pecans

1 teaspoon of chunky peanut butter

A palm’s worth of raw oats

A palm’s worth of chia seeds

Scoop of brown rice protein powder (or vegan protein powder of choice)

3 cups of unsweetened Flax milk (this does not go in the baggie–pour this in the blender in the morning)

 

Smoothie 2:

1 banana

1 carrot

Handful of basil

Handful of blueberries

Handful of kale

5 Mango slices (half a mango)

A palm’s worth of raw cashews

A palm’s worth of raw walnuts

A palm’s worth of flax seeds

A palm’s worth of hemp seeds

Scoop of brown rice protein powder

3 cups unsweetened Almond Coconut milk (don’t put this in the bag, obviously–pour this in the blender, in the morning)

 

Mix and match any of the ingredients. Trade spinach for a cucumber, or blueberries for beets, or parsley for cilantro. Experimenting with the flavors is half the fun. Each morning, I just grab a bag, the milk, toss it in the blender and I’m good to go. That night, a quick bowl of cereal (or sometimes, a bagel with vegan cream cheese–any quick breakfast really) will hit the spot and free up time.

Have fun with that life-hack. If you have more, comment on FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, or wherever you read this blog. Don’t forget you can subscribe to have each post delivered right to your inbox so you can archive and save it for reading later. Whatever works for you. I’m flexible.

Enjoy your breakfast dinner!

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My Current Experiments

Today’s Lesson: Try, try, and try again.

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I have written before about the importance of living “an experimental life“. I think one of the best things we can do to experience the most life has to offer is to be curious and experiment. You can experiment with big stuff or easy stuff. It doesn’t matter. The point is to change your life around, turn it upside down now and then, and find out who you really are. You might find what is necessary in your life by distilling what is unnecessary. I thought you might like to know 3 of my current life experiments, just for fun. I have a lot of experiments going on but here are three that revolve around better sleep (something many of us struggle with):

 

1. Giving up caffeine. I still have mixed feelings about this one but I can definitely say there have been advantages. I think this is only week three but I have had no lattes (my daily habit for the last 6 years or so), no soda, no caffeinated teas. I drink water, herbal teas, mineral water, and sometimes club soda, kombucha, or tonic water.

So far, I have lost two pounds over three weeks (nothing to do with the caffeine, I know, but the sugar in the lattes) and I am sleeping a little better, but to be honest, I have not noticed a dramatic difference. Still, a little better is still better. I have slightly more energy throughout the day (but again, probably not the caffeine so much as the missing sugar crash). Stupid Starbucks. I’ll stay caffeine free indefinitely but the results, I would say, are out so far on this one.

2. No screens for at least 30 minutes before bed, and no screens in the bedroom. This has been a tough one. Not only do I typically check my social media and email before bed, but also it is how I like to wind down. Nicole and I will snuggle up and watch an episode of something on Netflix or some YouTube videos right before bed. However, all leading research in the field points to screen time as one of the biggest culprits for sleepless nights, throwing off our circadian rhythm. Stupid evolution. We have also banned all other non-sleep activities (except adult play-time) from the bedroom.

We have a fun fill-in, though. We sit across from each other on the sofa before bed, and take turns reading a book to each other. One person reads while the other massages their feet, and then we switch. It is wonderful!

So far, I seem to be sleeping slightly (but again, not remarkably) better. This might also be due to the caffeine thing.

3. Waking up a half-hour later. This was a risky experiment but it has been paying off the most, so far. I normally wake up at 6am and leave the apartment by 7. Usually, I arrive to work with about 10 to 15 minutes to spare, depending on traffic. Personally, I find the thought of waking up before the sun disgusting and appalling and I can not believe that any human would do it voluntarily. Stupid society. Out of desperation and anger, I decided to draw a line in the sand. I had no idea how I would hustle fast enough to get out the door on time, but I was done waking up at 6.

I decided to set my alarm for 6:30 and see what happened. Turns out, I just do everything faster. It is a bit of a rush and I end up leaving closer to 7:10 now, but I have not been late yet (it would be okay if I was but I take it as a matter of pride to always be where I agree to be when I agree to be there). Oddly enough, I also wake up before the alarm goes off.

This is the most dramatic of the experiments so far, in both action and results. Just waking up on my own 10 or 15 minutes later than when my alarm was set makes a HUGE difference in how I feel for the rest of the day. Less “fogginess”, less anger, less pouting, more energy, more efficiency (I love efficiency!), and no real loss of time. It’s crazy.

 

So there you are. Quick update on some of my current little life experiments. What are you trying, or what can you  try, to keep yourself in the mindset of living an experimental life?

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She Makes Life Easier

Today’s Lesson: Find the person who makes living itself a pleasure.

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I tried to run my own business a long time ago, and failed. Miserably. I was unable to do it alone and that is a lesson I never forgot.

When I needed a tax accountant earlier this year, Nicole was on it. I didn’t ask. I didn’t whine about not having one. She just anticipated my needs, and acted.

When I hurt my foot, suddenly a book about foot health showed up and Nicole massaged my aching tendon while reading to me. I never miss an appointment because Nicole knows my calendar better than I do and she lets me know when I should show emotion and ask about my friends (I tend to forget social grace stuff), or she reminds me to call my family, or be patient with stop lights. Nicole keeps me on track and focused and she supports nearly any effort I make to improve, often jumping in with me.

I asked my dad one time, what was it about Mom, that kept them together for so long? He thought about it and said, “She just makes life easier. She makes living easier. She sees what I miss and takes care of it.”

It is not a burden to remember to ask a waitress something the next time she visits our table, but Nicole will already know the question and ask for me before the waitress is too far away. The big things, the little things. Those are the moments where she just makes life easier.

It is a two-way street, by the way, but it doesn’t feel that way. Making life easier feels more powerful than taking out the trash or remembering to open doors.

I don’t want to run my own business now but if I did, I know I would have a rock-star partner. Even better, though, I know I have a powerful ally in life–and living is just easier.

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In the Grand Theme of Things

Today’s Lesson: Watch for patterns.

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It is funny how sometimes you notice recurring themes in your life. Your friend, seemingly out of the blue, asks if you remember an obscure story you both had to read in fifth grade. Later that day, you see the same book prominently placed in a window. A couple of days after that, you hear on the news that same story is going to be made into a movie. Before your friend brought it up, you had not seen or thought about the book since fifth grade. Suddenly, it seems like it is everywhere.

I do not know that patterns ultimately mean anything, but I do think the universe is vast and nigh-infinite, which means nearly anything can happen anytime. Regardless of meaning, I think there is sometimes a significance to patterns. Often, they are what I rely on to write these posts. I look back at the day and try to find the common theme that seemed to thread it together.

Here is a fun experiment. Think of your life as a book. Then, find the patterns over the last few years to figure out the theme of this chapter, and give it a title. I think my title, currently, might be, “Changes”.

What would yours be?

 

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That’s Life

Today’s Lesson: Life is coming at you and it will never let up. Who are you going to be about it?

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Maybe the best advice I have ever received came from a quirky French guy named Alan. He was a Landmark Forum leader (basically a high-end Life Coach) and, among many nuggets of wisdom he shared, was a gem that has never left me.

It serves as a regular reminder for me whenever I face what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. When I do not know what to do or where to turn, I hear Alan’s accent sharing what sets heroes apart in the world. I don’t remember if he said it exactly like this, but it is pretty close. Alan said:

“You know the saying, ‘Shit happens’, yes? Well… that’s it. Shit happens. Life happens. There is nothing you can do about that. Life is going to happen no matter what. It’s not going to stop happening until you are dead. It’s not going to be easy on you today because it knows you are having a bad day. Life is not going to spare you bad news until tomorrow because you are having such a good day and it does not want to ruin it. No, it doesn’t care. It’s Life.

Life happens. What can you do? You can’t stop it, can’t pause it so you can catch your breath and think through it. It’s happening now. Always now. It’s happening, happening, happening. That’s it.

Life happens.

The only power you have–this is very important, listen–the only power you have is in choosing who you are going to be in the face of that.”

Life happens. The only power we have is in choosing who we will be when faced with the tough parts. 

Thanks, Alan.

 

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