Back In Time

I challenge myself to find a valuable life lesson in every day. Then I share that lesson with you. This blog is our journal of lessons learned. Here is today’s entry…

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In our quest to build things we dream of in science fiction, we forget we have already built many of them in science fact.

We want to have time machines that transport us to the past. Ironically, we are also the only living creatures with a cohesive sense of the long-term past. We are the only creatures we know of who are able to look at fossilized bones or shells and draw conclusions about where they came from. We are the only creatures in the known universe capable of putting the pieces of history together and creating a cohesive narrative of what came before that led to now. Only we humans can ascertain how the world, life, even the universe, evolved.

Through observation, testing, and recording results, we have ascertained how Rome rose and fell. We are able to look back into the past and imagine what dinosaurs looked like and where and how they lived. We can follow the path of plate tectonics to envision what the land and oceans of Earth looked like millennia ago.

Only we humans can revisit the past and alter the course of any would-be future based on our knowledge of the known past.

We want to build time machines to travel to the past but we have already built time machines through the science of carbon dating, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, written language, cosmology, stories, art, etc.

No other creature on Earth knows Earth’s history–only humans. No other creature can speculate about Time, Space, Matter, or where any of those came from–only humans.

We do not need to build time machines to visit the past. We are the time machines.

 

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You Have to Experience It.

Live for the experience of living.

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Nicole has a knack I admire for seeking out new adventures. We probably did something I have never experienced before every day this weekend.

Left unattended, I gravitate toward building rituals and habits but I love adventure and new experiences (or even revisiting old experiences that I have not tried in many years). These two extremes, I think, are what have given me a reputation for being “adaptable” to many social environments while also still being strategic and consistent in my work habits and hobbies.

New experiences, in my opinion, are the core of what makes life worth living. Some adventures are better than others. Sometimes adventure leads to danger (real or perceived, social or ethical, physical or financial) but that is part of the game. As long as you are not intentionally causing damage to yourself or others, it is probably worth doing.

Especially if you are a young adult (but even if you are not), here is advice that has enriched my life and I hope will put you in the mindset of living a (mostly) joyful experimental life:

Live lots of places. If you have an opportunity to move, take it (or create one). There is no rule that says you have to spend your entire life within five miles of your current friends or family. Let the world be your family and make friends everywhere.  Every place is so different. I have lived places I have loved and places I have hated (and sometimes they were the same places) but I have never regretted a fresh start somewhere new. Living somewhere new, especially if you are on your own, is difficult but it teaches you self-sufficiency, forces you to leave your comfort zone and grow, and builds character. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself, if you ask me.

Explore. The first thing I do after settling in a new town, is explore it, mostly by foot. I try to find the nooks that hide the best coffee shops or the lushest parks. But exploring does not have to be saved for moving. Pick something you have never done in your own town and try it. Either way, just get out in the world and go somewhere you have not been. When fuel was cheap, me and a friend would meet every Sunday, pick a direction and just drive for 4 or 5 hours, seeing where the road took us. We always found cool places to eat, if nothing else.

Say “Yes” a LOT. People present us with chances to explore and experiment all the time but we are often so caught in our own routines and rhythms that we miss the opportunity. If a friend says, “Hey, I was thinking about trying (tennis, a new restaurant, rock-climbing, the museum, going to a roller derby, seeing a cabaret show, checking out a live jazz band, the ballet, yoga, etc…), just say, “Sounds cool. What time should I be there?” Even if it sounds like something you will hate, remember your mom’s advice about broccoli and try it anyway. My personal rule is, “I’ll try anything twice.” I figure the first time I am going to be nervous, not know what to expect, maybe feeling some trepidation. Whatever it is, even if it is a bad experience, I will very likely give it another shot in fairness.

 

Those tips work for me and I am reminded of them almost daily (Nicole really keeps me on my toes–I am almost never sure where the weekend will lead, but I am lucky to be in a new city now so every day is an adventure either way!). I hope living an experimental life works for you, too.

 

Today’s Lesson: Home is not so much where the heart is as it is where your feet take you. Go explore, wherever your are. Say “Yes” often and try anything twice before deciding you do not like it.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Moving Decisions I Hope Are Smart

Life is best when you court adventure and learning together.

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Moving from Grand Rapids to Tampa is a big change, but because Nicole and I value living an experimental life, we are also taking advantage of the experience to try a few crazy things. I am not sure if it will all work out for the best, but we will definitely learn from our little experiments and be able to apply the lessons to other areas of our lives.

A couple of the decisions listed we already know worked out well (or did not work out well) but I included them because we had no idea if they would when we tried them. So, here are 10 decisions we made before moving across the country that we hope turn out to be smart decisions.

1.  Get a local address. This was definitely risky. We sent Nicole down there with six months of savings. She found a roommate who was willing to rent half an apartment on a month-to-month basis. Although all signs pointed to her being a good roommate, we did not know until Nicole actually arrived there. However, within two weeks of job searching with a local address, Nicole landed a great job.

2. Leave (almost) everything behind. Because we try to live simply, we do not own a lot of furniture, trinkets, or items full of sentimental value. Nonetheless, when we did the math on the cost to move all of our stuff, it was nearly the same or more than it would be to buy everything again. So we fit what we could in her car and mine and nearly everything else is being given away or tossed out.

3.  Buy all new stuff. Most of our furniture was nice looking but relatively cheap, Ikea-style stuff. The cost of replacing most of it is the less than the cost to take it all. The best part, though, is we do not need to replace all of it.

4.  Replace only what you miss. Of course, we do not have to buy one-for-one replacements for every item we leave behind. We might end up actually saving considerable money by only replacing what it turns out we really need or miss.

5.  You mail instead of U-Haul. What I can not fit in my car, I am shipping to us via UPS, FedEx, or postal mail. I am taking the heaviest stuff in my car and the light stuff will probably arrive a day or two after I do (about 10 boxes of varying sizes total). Even if the shipping costs $500 ($50 per box and most will cost less than that) it will still be a significant savings over moving everything (which ranged from $3,000 to $4,500)!

6. Taking my cat. Rainee, my one-eyed furry friend who I have taken care of for roughly 14 years now, hates cars. I mean, like, REALLY hates cars. She is terrified to leave our apartment and usually releases all of her bodily fluids and solids on me when I attempt to take her to the vet (she is even worse if I put her in a carrier). I am choosing to take her with me, not sedated, in the car. I could ship her, but she would not have the comfort of my presence, which is at least some comfort to her. I could give her away but we have been companions for too long and she is my responsibility (plus, she is really cute… sometimes). So we are just going to tough it out and I have no doubt it will build character for both of us.

7.  Donation over profit. We are giving nearly everything we own away, not selling it. I am ambivalent toward most charities so this is not an altruistic decision for me. I am happy, though, to offer something that was of value to me, to someone else in hopes they will find value in it, too. The other reason is simply because I hope it will expedite the move. I do not want to spend days watching eBay bidding or waiting for people to show up and browse my life’s belongings.

8.  Renting a luxury apartment. In our new home city, we are choosing to pay double the rent we are paying in Grand Rapids. This means, of course, less going out and being a little more budget conscious but (and I know this sounds cheesy) our favorite place is with each other, curled up in bed or enjoying a nice walk. It makes more sense to have more luxury at home and less outside of it.

9.  Upgrading everything new. As I mentioned, we do not have to replace everything we leave behind. That means we will need fewer things so we might be willing to spend a little more for better, fewer things. The idea, for us, is to have more space and fewer things, but the things we will have will be stuff we really want, not just stuff to fill the space for now.

10.  Living closer to work. We chose our new city strategically. We know the traffic in Tampa is ten times worse than traffic in Grand Rapids. We deliberated quite a bit over whether it would be better to live closer to the things we love to do (like the beach), or closer to where we go the most (like work), or closer to where we shop the most (wherever we can find a great vegan selection). In the end, we leaned toward being closer to Nicole’s work (because she landed a job first) but still within 20-30 minutes of everything else we think we will love.

 

So there you have it. If you are considering moving, maybe that list will help you. If not, I think there is still value in some of those decisions. I’ll let you know in future posts what panned out and what ended up being a bad idea.

 

Today’s Lesson: You can’t know the future but you can certainly plan for having one. Might as well set it up to be a great one!

 

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Leave It All Behind

Sometimes the best way to move on is to move out.

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After pricing moving vans, moving crates, and moving services for our transition to the Sunshine State, Nicole and I decided to do something that might seem drastic.

We decided to just leave everything behind.

Whatever I can not fit in my car is either being trashed or donated. It turns out the cost of moving all our clutter (everything from plates and storage jars to lamps, desks, and dressers) is about the same cost for us to just acquire new stuff.

The nice thing is, almost certainly we will not replace every item, one for one. I am betting we will find that many of the things we did not take with us we did not actually need. We will also find which things were really important because they will be replaced first.

As far as I am concerned, this is a great way to edit our lives to the essentials and shed the burdens of our pasts, our consumerism, and our former habits. Starting over is a way to build new habits, shed weight emotionally and (maybe even physically), and learn what parts of our lives are worth keeping. Mostly, though, it helps create space where there was clutter and invites to live our lives better (or to live better lives).

 

Today’s Lesson: Moving across the country can be costly but carrying your past with you can cost even more. 

 

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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: Roam If You Want To [140912]

Nicole and I were chatting about how long we have lived in certain places and came across an interesting fact:

On average, Nicole stays in the same place (home or apartment) for about 2 years. For me, it averages about 4 years.

 

Maybe not so interesting on the surface, but I am in my early forties so that is quite a bit of moving and it has had both positive and negative outcomes. The good part is I have a broad range of experiences to learn from and share. I have met people from many walks of life and have access to a level of learning I would never have achieved without travel. The not-so-good part is I have had a lot of fleeting friendships with a lot of people and moving so much has more or less trained me not to get too close to people emotionally. I am always available to friends and family wherever they are but I am not very good at proactively reaching out and keeping in touch with them (partly because I do not have long-standing roots anywhere–part of my family lives in Michigan, part in Texas, part in California, part in Canada, part overseas–my family lives all over, too!).

 

Overall, I think experiencing new cultures, scenery, and architectures is a great benefit worth undertaking but it is also good to always have at least one companion or friend that really knows you–sometimes a place to call “home” does not have to be geographic. It is just someone you love and you can share that anywhere, not just in your current town.

 

The world is REALLY big. There is no reason to spend your life in one tiny corner of it.

 


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Today The Lesson I Learned Is: Why American Airlines Sucks And How To Be a Better Lover (140801)

American Airlines seems to actively deter customers from choosing them. I’m not sure why they see customers as an inconvenient obstacle to running their business (my guess is a completely disconnected leadership team) but I am pretty sure they do.

I flew from St Louis to Grand Rapids on a roughly half-empty plane. I was in seat 19A (without a neighbor in the seat next to me) and nearly every other seat all the way to first class was unoccupied. Could I move closer and improve my chances of not missing my connection in Chicago? Sure. For an extra $30. Want to take a second carry on that’s bigger than a purse? No problem. $25. What if I wanted to board a little faster than everyone else and have a shot at securing overhead luggage space? Guess what? $20. Did I forget to add my frequent flyer miles when I booked my flight? Bummer; I’ll have to fill out a complete form but I can’t do it until at least a week after my trip ends. Better set a reminder.

American offers absurdly aggressive customer service. The entire boarding and check-in process is like visiting Facebook for any amount of time more than a few minutes. There are a couple of bits of important information but mostly you will be bombarded with a lot of irrelevant babble and a bunch of advertisements.

By contrast, United (who also would not win any customer care awards, but by comparison…) does a lot better. Their mobile app is not just a clunky link to their website but fully functional and well designed. You can change seats all you want almost up until you board the plane. There are no fees for a second carry-on and the advertisements are unobtrusive. You can change seats, add frequent flyer miles, and even choose which program you want to send the rewards to, all right from the app, which also provides an electronic copy of your boarding pass.

The lesson is this…

Think about where your business gets in the way of potential customers. What is the most frustrating part of buying from you?

You can apply the same principle to the rest of your life, too, like relationships.

Where do you get in the way of people who are trying to communicate with you? What do your loved ones know they can not talk to you about because they will get an earful or a heartache?

What is one thing you can do, now, to smooth the friction for people who want to do business (or pleasure) with you?

 


P.S. That was the end of the post, and it didn’t really concentrate on the art of making love as the title suggested, but it’s the same principle (well, mostly): reduce friction.

Also, in case you were wondering…

For me, I know the number one frustration for my customers is that they can not get a simple, straight answer with first time resolution when they have issues. Since I work for two companies with different rules, policies, and empowerment practices, this is an ongoing conversation (and frustration) for me. I am always trying to think of ways to make it easier for customers to buy from us.

In personal affairs, I know I can do better at correcting mistakes. It’s frustrating to be told you are wrong and I think I can be more gentle when I am correcting somebody by, for example, asking if they want my opinion before offering it.

Okay, your turn.

 

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Today The Lesson I Learned Is: Take Candy And Talk To Strangers (140731)

When I fly, I mostly keep to myself. I pop my headphones in and listen to podcasts or audiobooks and only answer questions if asked.

However, this time an older gentleman was feeling chatty and I suppose I was, too. We talked from takeoff to landing. Jim is a fount of information. Turns out he has lived in a few places I want to live and was able to answer many questions about them (FYI, droughts in San Francisco are not that bad and the ocean water temperature there is about 55 degrees year round–pretty chilly, might be off the list…).

Jim offered me a jelly bean–a jelly bean! What a great ice breaker. From that small notion, we ended up discussing favorite candies, business, family, farms, being vegan, we even pulled out a map and sought great places to visit.

I showed Jim how to put his iPhone in airplane mode and he taught me how to plant raised beds in SoCal (the secret is to make them dense, plant Marigolds because a lot of insects don’t like Marigolds, and have 1 or 2 lizards handy to eat the insects that do). Now you know, too.

Today’s lesson is: Sometimes it is nice to shut the world out and go “inside” for a while but sometimes it is also good to open up, listen with Attention instead of INtention; you will learn about the people and world around you that way.

Many of us have interesting stories to share, just waiting for the asking (and listening). The guy or girl sitting next to you might have a lot to say, but is  just out of jelly beans.

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