Time to Die, Part 2 (of 5)

If you knew you could never die, how would you live?

 

I believe death will be cured within a hundred years. That may sound optimistic but consider that we have already mapped the human genome and are closer to mapping and understanding the genetic structure of our brain. As computer technology progresses and storage becomes increasingly cheap and widely available, I think the day will arrive when we can essentially upload our consciousness and genetic make-up to the cloud.

Imagine just a little, further, though, that technology will be so powerful in just a hundred years that your mind and the details of your body are constantly and automatically being backed up on a server somewhere, wirelessly, without you having to do anything.

You step in front of a bus or drown in a swimming accident and your last data copy is instantly downloaded into a 3-D genomic printer at your home. You die, only to open your eyes and find you are completely safe, in a new, but identical freshly made body.

Crazy, right? But nearly every piece of technology required to make that happen exists in rudimentary form today. Cloning, Bluetooth and WiFi, data storage, 3-D printing, and DNA mapping are all here now. What will those technologies look like after being refined another hundred years?

I probably won’t live to see death disappear from humanity, but my little brother or his children or his grandchildren might.

What will happen when essentially no one dies anymore? Will we all live as cynics, losing the optimism brought on by appreciating the fleetingness of life? Will we move ever forward with unlimited time to learn and develop, or will we slide backward, knowing we can always get to important stuff later? How long will fearful religious zealots, corrupt politicians, and greedy corporate entities force us to keep death around when the technology arrives to eradicate it? How much will it cost at first and how long until it becomes affordable for most everyone? Will it be the end of money as a means of trade? Think about it; of what use will money be when time becomes unlimited? What will it mean for managing Earth’s resources?

I assert the future is not that far away. We should be thinking about it now.

Today’s lesson, then, is obscure but still buried in here: if you never had to die, how would you live? (And also, why aren’t you living like that now, anyway?)

 

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Living An Experimental Life

I’m fond of saying something I swiped from one of my favorite thought leaders, Seth Godin: “Fail big or fail often”. I tell my team members I don’t care which one they choose, but if they are not failing then they are not pushing themselves hard enough to find their limits. They are only staying in their comfort zone and not risking anything personally or professionally to really find out who they are. Of course, I give them a safe space to fail and provide air cover when needed.

It is an important distinction, failing by reaching out of your comfort zone to find your limits, but today I want to tweak that a little. Obviously, failing, by definition, has negative connotations. I am not trying to contribute to a philosophy of failure for the sake of failure (but using the word “fail” to illustrate what success looks like does make a dramatic talking point).

Instead, what I want you to consider is embracing a life of experimenting. When we experiment, we are not playing a pass/fail game. We are trying something new, reviewing the results, and either re-assessing and trying again, or adopting, tweaking, and moving forward.

When I realized this, I realized how much I have already embraced this idea and how much of my life revolves around experiments. I think experiments are important because they help define who we are. They help us learn what we are capable of and drive us to improve. I invite you to consider what you can experiment with in your life.

Here are many (but certainly not all) of the life experiments I have tried. Some of these I continue to practice. Some I have discarded. Some I am still tweaking and practicing. I encourage you to try some of these or create your own:

 

  • Being vegan. I did not start animal-free and I failed at maintaining a vegan diet many times before I got it (mostly) right.
  • Waterless showering. I tried using dry shampoo and some weird astronaut soap for a week. I made it three days…
  • Fasting one day a week.
  • Eating food with absolutely no added spices for three months.
  • Turning my whole wardrobe into a two color palette (black and gray) that I could simply mix and match without giving thought to what I was going to wear each day.
  • Only shopping at local merchants, no big box stores. This was a very worthwhile one. Highly recommend.

A full year of sleep experiments, including:

  • Going to bed one minute later and waking up one minute earlier every day until it affected me mentally and physically (turns out I only need about 4 hours sleep to function normally).
  • Sleeping on the floor with no pillows.
  • Following a Circadian rhythm (sleeping about 4 hours during the day and about 4 hours at night).
  • Taking a three-week vacation and logging how much sleep I naturally provided myself when I removed all time cues. I started a stopwatch when I went to bed and stopped it when I woke up to track how many hours I slept and I removed all clocks and watches from the house, plus moved my bed into the walk-in closet so I could not use the sun as a visual time cue. Incidentally, when I am left to my schedule and free to go to bed and wake up when I please, I average about 5 hours of sleep per night (and go to bed somewhere around 3:00am) and wake up completely rested (around 8:00am).

 

…and much, much more. I continue to experiment with my body, with time management, even with my blog (I recently turned off commenting and date-stamping posts and started focusing on publishing to my public profile, for example). I love experiments and living an experimental life.

 

So today’s lesson is easy: learn about yourself or the world by trying new things, considering the results, and trying again or trying something entirely different. The idea is to learn. I hope you come up with some  great experiments of your own. Feel free to share about your experiences or ask questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr.

Have fun experimenting!

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Today’s Lesson: A Missed Kiss [141024]

I let her leave without kissing her goodbye so I could focus on catching up with work.

Nicole went to a yoga retreat and I let her slip out the door while I was on a conference call. When I arrived home, the place suddenly felt a lot emptier and lonelier and I realized I missed the opportunity to have a memory of that kiss.

My work is very important to me but I sometimes forget if the work goes away and I still have Nicole, life will still be good. However, if Nicole goes away and all I have is work, life will probably suck.

I feel like I re-learn this lesson (with all of my loved ones) a few times a year, so admittedly, I am still progressing on this one. The lesson, though, is to know the difference between what is an essential value in your life and what is just important.

Sometimes, your meeting can wait for a kiss.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Why You Should Pay More For Some Things [141015]

“But that’s DOUBLE the price!” the gentleman in line before me exclaimed.

The tailor was polite and explained, for the third time, that if he wanted his pants hemmed and available by the end of the day, it was going to cost extra for the rush service.

Eventually, he ponied up the cash and left shaking his head. I was next in line and explained to the tailor I needed the same service and would be happy to pay double. She looked at me appreciatively and said, Thanks for understanding. I’ll have it ready by 5:30 for you.”

I said, “Even double is not that bad a price here, and I consider the price fair. If anything, it is my punishment for not planning ahead and asking you for a big favor. I’m glad it is just double.”

By the way, she did a remarkable job, too. The pants look great and they were ready at 5:30 as promised. I never understand people like that first guy. The world does not owe any of us anything in return for our poor planning or general stupidity.

 

Plan better next time or just pay up and move on.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: The Cause of Half Your Suffering [141012]

My feet ache.

I feel tired and groggy.

I don’t have enough money to fix my car.

I hate looking at the scale each morning.

The house is a mess.

Work sucks.

My girlfriend is not talking to me.

 

We all have complaints. What we do not realize is they are usually only half-complaints. We like to focus on the effect but avoid the cause. I think that is because the source of our suffering is almost always the same: it’s us. At times, we all wait (or wish) for some superhero to swoop in and save the day and we forget that we are responsible for being the hero in our own lives.

If your life were a story (and by the way, it is–it is the story you tell other people every day)… would you wish to be the hero of the story of your life, or the villain, or the damsel-in-distress on the train tracks, helpless and crying for someone to rescue her? When we take responsibility for our lives and actions, we have access to knowledge and power to help us succeed. We see the other half of the complaint and accept the responsibility of our actions and our lives.

 

My feet achebecause I never stretch them or wear comfortable shoes.

I feel tired and groggybecause I stayed up too late and drank more than I should.

I don’t have enough money to fix my carbecause I spent it on clothes, put it on credit cards, and never save enough.

I hate looking at the scale each morningbecause exercising and eating right is harder than not exercising and taking control of my diet!

The house is a messbecause I put cleaning off until I absolutely have to do it.

Work sucksbecause I do not want to read books on how to be more effective, or I don’t want to ask for help, or I do not want to find value in my team, or finding a better fit somewhere else is too much… work.

My girlfriend is not talking to me because I am too stubborn to say I am sorry first.

 

 

If you are tied to the train tracks and hoping for someone to rescue you, are you going to wait for the train or start working on those knots?

 

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Today’s Lesson: Who Loves You? [141010]

Sometimes you do not hear the news you are hoping to hear.

You did not get the promotion you were hoping for, your manuscript was rejected, or it turns out that lump was not just a lump. Whatever it is, life sometimes throws you a curveball.

Some days are really challenging but I try to be detached from both success and failure. I do not let my successes become my reason for living and I try to never let my failures become my reason for not living. I choose instead to be defined on my merits and values as a whole person, not my hits and misses as seen by others.

No one likes bad news but we should not let a challenge bother us too long. We can not control the choices of those around us but we can always control our choices.

In other words, I think you define your successes (which also means you define your failures, so be careful which you choose and when). If you are not your biggest supporter, then you might be your biggest detractor and how do you suppose that will work out?

Today’s lesson is: Leadership and Courage are not defined by our available options but rather by choosing yourself when the world chooses someone else and ignoring the “no’s” you encounter.

Probably, the more times you hear “no,” the more likely you are actually saying “yes” to yourself.

 

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Detour Ahead [140909]


On my way to work, I was rerouted almost 3 miles off path by an accident that closed down a bridge.

 

The funny thing is, I had never been down the side roads the detour led me on and they were some of the prettiest roads I have seen in the area, with hilly archways of trees over the roads and some beautiful ponds and grottos. At first, I was angry at the delay, but I quickly became enamored with the landscape and beautiful weather. I rolled down the windows, enjoyed the scenery, and followed the line of cars navigating around the accident.

 

Sometimes life gives us unexpected detours. Ride them out. They may lead somewhere more interesting than where you were headed.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: When It Rains… [140826]

I checked the weather before I left our apartment… no chance of rain until late evening.

It is nice to leave all the windows open this time of year and since there was no rain predicted and we live on the third floor, I opened up everything and left for work. In the middle of the afternoon our city was treated to a brief, but torrential, thunderstorm. Needless to say, things did not bode well for our open home.

Sometimes, no matter how much planning you do and how sunny things look, the unexpected happens and Life rains on your parade (maybe even literally). When it does, you can waste your time being mad at life or you can grab a towel and soak it all up.

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Today’s Lesson: Attitude Is a Choice [140818]

Today I woke up after a restless night, grumpy and impatient, with a list of chores and tasks ahead of me.

It took me about 30 minutes to remind myself that I am alive and that means I can relish in being grumpy (for a bit) and then I have a whole day ahead of me to embrace my life and center on joy and contentment.

I showered and shook the grumpiness off. I decided I was going to have a great day instead of a bad one. So I did!

Some of us go through life thinking the world happens to us, instead of realizing we choose our world.

I could have stayed grumpy and irritable all day and that would have ensured everyone else was, too. Instead, I chose to appreciate those in my life and honor my integrity of character.

Regardless of what is going on around you or what the present circumstance is, your attitude is your choice. Remember to choose well.

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Today The Lesson I Learned Is: Size Does Matter. (140803)


I had a pretty depressing moment at 4:00am. While I was scrubbing cat barf out of the carpet, it hit me that everything in my life led to this moment: cleaning cat barf at 4am. That was the biggest thing going on for me.

I have been feeling frustrated about work, about where I am with personal goals this year, and, honestly, about where I am with life goals. There are, for all of us, I think, days when we feel like we can not win for losing, when anything we do right seems to come with a “Yes, but…” I was having that kind of day and the day hadn’t really even started yet–it was 4 in the morning and I was only awake because I heard the cat puking.

Of course, there was no sleeping after that, so I had plenty of time to think (and Nicole graciously chatted with me for a while even though she had to be up in a few hours). I thought about how that moment came to be and if that was what I think my life should have amounted to just then (admittedly, this was pretty indulgent, and thankfully rare, self-pity)

I came to see a lot of my frustration has been centered around accepting the expectations of other people rather than setting my course in motion. There are two things I realized I can do (and so can you) to move forward in life:

1. Think smaller. Minimize, or even ignore, the important stuff. You read that right. When you think about it, you will see that everything is important to someone else’s agenda. You know it is important to them because they asked you to do it. Note, though, this “important” stuff was not important enough for them to do themselves and that means those things are not necessarily important to your goals, success, or motives either. If they are tasks you have to do (like, to keep your job), then do them, but do not waste one second more on them than is necessary to simply mark them “complete”. Then concentrate instead on the REALLY important things–the things only you can do to build your success–the things you would not ask someone else to do… because that’s your really important stuff.

2. Think BIGGER. I spend a lot of my life reacting to life. Something happens (my boss gives an assignment, my cat barfs on the rug, my car breaks down, etc.) and I react (have the assignment done on time, clean the rug, save up for repairs, etc.). Instead, I can start working my idea muscles to put me in the driver’s seat of my life. Rather than waiting for my boss to give me an assignment, I can create an experiment on my own to drive the company’s success. I can move to a place with hardwood floors next time so hairballs are much easier to clean and not such an inconvenience, and why do I live where I need to drive a car anyway? But I can think even bigger than all that–those are just some initial steps to taking over my lifestyle design.


On a side note, there is a lesson in every day, and that is what this blog is about, but even I have to laugh a little when I realize I just pulled two big epiphanies from cleaning cat barf at 4am. I guess that definitely falls under the “Think Bigger” category!

My next mission is to shorten these posts. I bet I can find lessons that will fit into one or two short paragraphs each day so I can spend more time on my other really important stuff. That falls under the “think smaller” category!

 

Think bigger. Think smaller. Own your life.

 

 

 

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