Today’s Lesson: Don’t Borrow From Tomorrow [141022]

There is a saying in Nicole’s local yoga community, “Don’t borrow tomorrow’s problems.”

James Altucher, one of my favorite speakers, says to “avoid time traveling”–either to the past or the future.

When we remind ourselves of the painful lessons we have learned in the past, it is important to remember the lesson but forget the pain. All of the dumb things we did we can not change. All of the tragic things that happened to us can not be reversed. The past has passed. There is no point carrying it around with us like unwanted luggage.

We do not have to suffer with anything we have no power to affect.

The same is also true, then, of traveling to the future in our minds. Dreading something that has not happened yet is also pointless. You might not even live to see it, even if it is something that might happen only a few seconds from now. You might be about to give a speech and suddenly have a heart attack. How dumb would you feel about dreading the speech if you unexpectedly had to deal with cardiac arrest?

The point is, the past has been written and can not be changed. The future has yet to be written and can not be known. Therefore, the only time to live in is the present. You have absolute power over the moment you are in now. You can choose to read the next sentence. You can choose to change the world. You can choose to go to sleep and hope to wake up again.

But the only time you can choose is now. Right now.

Choose wisely.

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: What Are You Waiting For? [141021]

“I’m not waiting for the right moment,” I said, rubbing my eyes.

I do not know who I was talking to. I don’t remember the conversation. I just woke up with those words on my lips, defending myself to an empty room.

Whatever the dream was about, the lesson is clear: don’t wait for the right moment. Past moments are gone. I can not change them. Future moments are uncertain. I might have a brain aneurysm and die before I finish this sentence. (Looks like I didn’t; got lucky, I guess…)

Given that the last moment is gone and the next one is uncertain, this means now is the right moment. So, if you were waiting for the right moment to do something… here it is.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Never Enough Time [141014]

“If you can not imagine how you would make an hour of time each day for meditation, then you are going way too fast.” –Peter Diamandis

 

The founder of X-prize, a very busy guy, said that on The Tim Ferris podcast and I have been thinking about it since I heard it.

You could replace the word “meditation” with “exercise”, “writing”, “family”, or anything else. The point, I think, is that if we believe we are so busy we can not prioritize things that are very important to our well-being, then we are doing it wrong.

I struggle with this because, of course, I would love to devote an hour a day to meditation, an hour to yoga, an hour to studying and practicing martial arts, an hour to reading fiction, an hour to reading about leadership, an hour to listening to music, an hour to socializing, an hour to writing, an hour more of sleep, etc… I think you see where I am heading.

I do not have a firm solution here, but I think the lesson is… our time is limited and we have to decide what things are most important and valuable to spend it on (instead of waste it on). If an hour of yoga is more important to you than an hour at the bar, then it might mean you do not sacrifice your mental and physical health for drinks with your friends (and maybe you have the wrong friends). Or, if time with hanging out with friends is more important than being up to date on your favorite show, then maybe you give up that show and enjoy hearing them tell you about it over drinks.

Time is like money, in that you have a finite amount of it and have to decide what is most important to spend it on. You can earn a little more by being healthful, mindful, and a little lucky. Unfortunately, though, you can’t save it and you can’t take it with you when you go.

 

Either way, we can probably be better at choosing how we spend our time while we are here.

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Time Keeps On Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’… [141004]

I think I accomplished more in that 2 hour time span than I did throughout yesterday. Sometimes I feel absurdly productive and sometimes I look back at the day and feel like I did not accomplish much of anything!

24 hours is 24 hours, right? Then why are some days are so much more productive than others?

“Time is crawling by,” we say, when it feels like we are not gaining any forward momentum in our lives. We say, “Time flies,” when we feel as if life is moving almost too fast to enjoy!

I have a crazy crack-pot idea that both statements can be true. When you think about it, Time is just something we made up. Hours, minutes, seconds… these are just arbitrary labels we gave to a phenomenon we do not understand very well (we do not know where Time comes from, for example, or why we can not easily move backwards through it, or why we can stop the motion of physical objects in space but still can not stop Time with them).

What if Time is elastic, like a rubber band? When it is being stretched taut, it takes longer to move from one area to another (“Today is taking forever…”) but when it is relaxed, it condenses. There is less space between points, then, and areas can be crossed swiftly (“Boy, today is zipping by!”).

Maybe, like a finger walking along a very big rubber band, we will eventually meet ourselves again, when we return to the point where we started.

I don’t know. Just a crazy idea. Hopefully, no one snaps us with that rubber band, though. That would probably leave a mark…

Anyway, today’s lesson is, regardless of what Time actually is or how it works, one thing we do know is it is moving forward whether or not we do. So choose the things you are willing to spend your Time on wisely. Don’t let it pass you by!

 

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Where Is The Other Intelligent Life?

 

I like thinking about the universe and Humanity’s place in the scope of Everything.

My friends sometimes ask my opinion on big outer-space questions–maybe the most common question I hear is, “do you think there are aliens?” Of course, my friends mean, do I think there is other intelligent life in the universe?

Yes, is my answer. There almost certainly is other intelligent life, but the question actually implies an additional question. The implied part is “…And are they here?” That has a different answer, I think. The answer is no, and no we have not been visited before, and no, we almost certainly will never find other intelligent life in the universe.

Here is how I think about it: it’s a numbers game. The universe is infinite (or nigh-infinite, but close enough as far as we are concerned). There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there with hundreds of billions of stars inside each one. As you approach a number like Infinity, it becomes evident every possibility has an increased chance of becoming true–maybe even millions or billions of times over.

Think about it in terms of winning the lottery. Your chances of winning the mega-millions jackpot (matching the numbers of 5 balls, each numbered between 0 and 56) is one in 175,711,536. Not impossible, but certainly not very good. The lottery jackpot is usually shared between one, or a few, states. What if we had everyone on Earth playing for the same jackpot? The chances of you winning become slimmer (because there are 7 billion of us on Earth–many more than the population of a few states), but the chances of someone winning increase. There are 7 billion chances instead of just a few million (the population of a few states).

If the jackpot we are playing for is finding other intelligent life, then again, the chances of us hitting the jackpot are unfortunately very small, but the chances of someone hitting the jackpot eventually are very good.

The likelihood that all the right combinations of ingredients to create life have occurred before and elsewhere are high. The universe could be teeming with life. But we will almost certainly never find it, and it might not be a good thing if it finds us first.

The reason we will likely never encounter life is simple: space. The distance to even the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) is 4.2 light years. That means if we had the technology to travel 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light) then it would take us more than 4 years to get there. We, of course, can not travel that fast and with the best technology we have, it would take us hundreds of years, if not thousands. That’s assuming there is life anywhere near Proxima Centauri, and that we could find it or that it could find us.

Here’s the more logical issue, though: if space aliens developed the technology required to get here (technology we can not imagine yet, even if they were in our own cosmic backyard), then we would be of almost no significance to them. If they can get here, they will seem so far advanced to us we would not even be able to communicate. It would be like us trying to talk to amoeba. Not to mention, if they can get here, they will already have had the technology to study us from afar and may not even need to come. It is only our vanity that makes us think they would care enough to probe us or want to sit down for a chat or engage in war.

The same is true in reverse. If we develop the technology required to defy Time and Space and travel the cosmos at any significant speed, whatever species we encounter would seem, well, retarded. In fact, chances are if we have the means to warp space or exceed the speed of light, we have evolved beyond anything you or I would recognize as human. We would more likely be, at that point, a race of energy beings, perhaps indistinguishable from light itself. Our fragile human bodies simply could not endure faster than light travel so we would need something new.

It is not difficult for me to imagine (even within the next 100 years) a technology that essentially allows us to “upload” a personality (via brain-mapping, and then transfer of information) onto the world wide web for storage and then download the same personality into a different body later. We could potentially travel this way, carrying in our spaceship only the separate ingredients of a human body, to be assembled molecule-by-molecule when we arrive at our destination. That might even be thinking too small. If such a scenario becomes reality in the near future, we might stop thinking about the human body as an ideal form anyway. Instead, we might download our personalities to specialized robot bodies specifically fitted for the task of, say, surviving an atmosphere like that of Mars.

 

This is a very simplified view, but the main take-away is there is almost certainly other intelligent life in the universe, though we will almost as certainly never find each other. If we did, it would look nothing like it does in the movies.

Space aliens would not be interested enough to want to steal our resources (or if they were, the war would not last but a few seconds–there would be no hand-to-hand combat–if they have the technology to get here, we have already lost), and space aliens would definitely have no interest in anally probing hillbillies. Arizona just needs to accept that.

I love thinking about space aliens and being part of an even more enriching universe. I love sci-fi films; I never miss a space movie–but I also recognize it is only hubris that compels us to buy into conspiracy theories and make fantastic the unexplained.

Sadly, the only space aliens we will likely ever see are the ones created by special effects and comic book artists.

 

But it’s still fun to imagine we are not alone.

 

 

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Do You Want More Time In Your Day? Try this!

 

We are consumed by what fills the space around us, and we are trained that every space needs to be filled. We buy junk (or if you prefer, mass-produced art, decorative furniture, and trinkets) and hold onto things for sentimental reasons, even if they no longer provide practical use.

Albert Einstein saw Time and Space as inseparable. He referred to them as a singular concept: Space-time (popularized in Star Trek as the “Space-time continuum“). It is easy to see Space and Time are the same thing (or so interwoven as to be indistinguishable) when you consider what happens when you take any action in space, such as walking across a room. When you walk across a room, time passes. When you lift your finger, it takes a moment to do so. It takes time even to blink. When you move through Space, you move through Time.

Unfortunately, we never seem to have enough time (space). We say, “There isn’t enough time in a day” to get everything done. I think the pressure of Time in our lives comes from the pressure of our space being too full.

My living room used to have nearly every niche, nook, and cranny filled. There was furniture, trinkets, pictures, decorations, shoes, a pile of mail on the table (that kept growing), a television, XBox, controllers, video games, stereo system, speakers, TV stand, a cabinet full of DVD’s, CD’s, and games, etc… a lot of “stuff”. All that stuff taking up all that space demanded time and attention–just dusting was an ordeal because there were so many little trinkets and decorations and piles everywhere that I would put off dusting and cleaning (or just dust the open areas around things). Just like molecules become more excited when you force them closer together, my life became busier (and I became more irritated) as more things took up my space (time).

I began a journey to simplify, de-clutter, and edit my life the way I edit my writing. I looked at all the stuff that took up my time and realized I was wasting a lot of my life. I thought of the sculptor Alexandros, who started with a slab of marble and removed every bit that was not the Venus de Milo until all that was left was his vision. I still work to edit my life and remove what is not needed or useful to my day until what is left is what is important.

Steadily, I chip away things that are not contributing to my being the person I want to be.

With my living room, I sorted through movies and tossed out the ones I don’t watch regularly or can rent online (no need to keep a physical copy of anything I can store and back up digitally). I stopped wasting my time playing video games so I could spend more of it experiencing my loved ones. I traded my TV and TV stand for a projector and the wall, and got rid of cable television. I have a couch and a table now; I don’t need much more furniture than that.

There are no pictures on my walls (I never look at them and visitors don’t know the people in them anyway). I traded my stereo system for one nice high-end bluetooth speaker that sits under the projector. As I convert my CD’s to MP3’s, I get rid of the discs. There is one candle and 2 coasters on my table; nothing more is needed. And there is a lot of empty space, of breathing room. I love it, and so do my cats, who use the empty space to romp around (ever notice how children are overjoyed by large, empty spaces? They understand that freedom and space gives us room to run, to play and create).

It feels good when I open the door and walk into a large, uncluttered area. There is not a bunch of stuff demanding my time. It is so easy to dust and keep things clean (saving time). I can clean my entire apartment, top to bottom, in less than an hour. I unsubscribed to every mailing and call list I could find and pay my bills online so I never have to stare at a huge pile of junk paper that will take more space (and time) in a landfill. I only have to check my mail once per week instead of every day. All the things that took up space for the sake of taking it up are no longer demanding my time.

It has been an adjustment and I continue to work to create space but I’ve been doing this a few years now and I have not regretted giving up any of it. It’s great!

Even this blog has become easier to keep up since I started looking at how I could create more space with it. I recently stopped using photographs in my posts. I spent more time finding just the right picture to fit the post than I sometimes did writing it. I pared down the links and removed a full sidebar. When you visit my blog, I want you to feel unhurried, to experience a moment of space-time and stay long enough to enjoy thought-provoking material you can share with others.

I wish employers took the same approach to work–focusing on creating space instead of always filling it. I hope one day I can bring the principle of Creating Space to the workplace and that it will eventually come from the top-down instead of from the bottom-up. I try to apply it as much as I can. For example, when I delegate a new assignment, I try to find something I can take away–this frees my team to focus on what is really important, instead of on things like reporting on what is really important. It encourages creative thinking and flexibility. I have yet to find an organization that says they do not cherish creative thinking and flexibility, yet, I have yet to find an organization that embraces such things as core principles (I have to give a special shout-out to my former ROWE colleagues here for pioneering the first step in the right direction, though–ROWE definitely creates space).

My rule of thumb is (whether looking at furniture or looking at my career) if I have not worn it, touched it, or looked at it in six months, then it must not be that important. I can always buy a new one if throwing it out was a mistake, or go back to reporting on an old metric if it turns out it was needed, but I see no reason to let my apartment or life become a storage facility for mementos. In fact, I am able to live in a much smaller and cheaper space because I don’t come with a lot of baggage (and the money I save contributes to time for me to spend doing things I enjoy in the space of my life!).

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to have more hours in a day. Instead, I challenge you to stop thinking about how to create more time and instead look around your life (everywhere–your house, hobbies, work, car, etc.) and think about how you can create more space.

There is an easy way to create more time in your life and, to me, it is so simple it is profound:

 

Create more   s   p   a   c   e  .

 

Try it. See what happens and let me know about it in the comments if you have some success or if you need help getting started.

 

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Why Daylight Savings Time Needs To Die

 

This is a thought experiment, for fun (well it was fun for me, anyway). First, I need to establish the context of the experiment, so here is a brief, but fascinating, history lesson about Time…

Rail Time or “-ish” Time?

Prior to 1883, people had a different relationship to Time than we do today. You could walk into a Jeweler’s Shop, for example, and ask the time. The Jeweler might have said, “It’s 2:30.” You could then cross the street to the bank and the Banker may have looked at his watch and told you, “It’s 1:45 on the dot.” Then you could go next door, right away, to the Grocer and ask the time. The Grocer may have said, “Just turned 2:00.”

The Jeweler, Banker, and Grocer would all have been correct. Of course, that would seem odd today, but it was normal and not even inconvenient, then.

2:30-ish was good enough for the needs of most people, but after 1883, everything changed.

So what happened that made people come to agreement on what time it really was and why were they so misaligned before 1883?

The Railroad happened.

Prior to the advent of the rail system, towns were not necessarily connected in any way that required synchronization. Time was arbitrary because people in Ohio, for example, did not need to be in sync with people from Pennsylvania. Even towns geographically close to each other adhered to different time zones. Most people and towns set their watch by the sun’s location in the sky. For example, when the sun was at the highest point in the sky during the day, it was “noon”. Depending how good your eyesight was or how well-made your town’s sun-dial was, “noon” could be anywhere between 12:00 and 1:00. A town 400 miles away would  have a different “noon” than your town’s noon. It did not really matter because no one was on so tight a schedule that minutes counted so much as hours.

When railroads began connecting towns, however, time differences became a tremendous source of irritation for engineers. If an engineer was to leave Dayton, Ohio at “noon”, how would he know when to leave? The Jeweler would have showed up a half-hour late, the Banker 15 minutes early, and the Grocer might have just made it. Each passenger in each town was using their own approximate measurement of time.

The rails created a unifying effect. Eventually (but with much resistance) people began setting their watches to “rail time”. In 1883, the railroads adopted five standard time zones to replace the multitude of local times. People reluctantly accepted “railroad time”, even though it meant “noon” was not quite when the sun was at its apex in the sky in many locales.

 

The Fun Part

 

Okay, that was the context. Now here is the thought experiment:

 

Let’s look out 30 years and ask, what if ROWE truly is the status quo? If most everyone is producing in a Results-Only Work Environment, how might our concept of Time change (if it changed at all)?

 

Would we inadvertently return to a relaxed way of life, where “-ish” Time is good enough? Would we return to telling our children to “be home before dark” or “when the street lights come on” instead of giving a firm curfew time?

 

Time, being somewhat arbitrary and abstract to most of us, has a unique ability to expand and contract. Have you experienced an hour “fly by” when you are engaged in something meaningful or fun? Does the day just “crawl” when you are stuck performing grueling, mindless tasks that bore you? How might your perception of Life transform if your perception of Time transformed?

 

This is just an experiment. There are no right or wrong answers.

 

How would you meet your friends to catch a movie? Would it matter if they were a half-hour late? Would you care if you felt like you had “all the Time in the world”? What if the movie started late; would it matter? How might a leisurely meal be, if each one stretched to two-hours of laughter and  conversation? What would it be like to never be stuck in rush hour traffic, angry with how much “time” it takes to get home, or to work?

 

In other words, what if, after we threw our traditional, centuries-old concept of Work out the window, we also threw our traditional, centuries-old concept of Time Management out the window?

 

 

How interesting. Think about that, and get back to me about 2:30-ish.

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