All writings herein serve to open up the world towards knowledge that matters, to piece together the greatest philosophies of living, and to expound ways towards
the path of freedom, happiness & choice.
It has been a long while since I’ve written something here. The main reason has been because there was no actual ‘realizations’ in my life which I deem as necessarily important. While it is ok for me to share much of the generic knowledge out there which people share, I found that my interest in posting something here on this blog diminishing as they don’t truly resonate with my heart.
Today’s a different day however as I stumbled upon a video which I think could be a conclusive means to taking everything we learned about awakening, enlightenment, consciousness or emptiness as taught by the greatest of religions and teaching it clearly to everyone.
You may not get an ‘aha’ moment today, but rest assured 1 year later, within 2 years, 5 years or even 10 years, this video will teach you something which you felt you needed to know.
Discover who you really are in this video “Letting Go” by Hale Dwoskin who teaches the Sedona Method:
I was 13 when I first heard the word “underachiever.” Mrs. Growe, my ninth-grade English teacher, used it to describe a student who had, in her opinion, failed to work to his potential. The student? Yours truly.
“Mr. Masterson,” she announced to the class, “is the classic example of an underachiever. He doesn’t complete his work assignments. He shows up late for class and then wastes his time daydreaming. As a result, he produces C work. From a child with modest potential, I would be happy with mediocre results. In his case, I am very disappointed.”
I was not surprised at the assessment. It was accurate. I couldn’t deny it. The female maturation process held my interest at that time. That and football. And goofing around with my friends. And just about anything else but schoolwork.
I wasn’t a good reader. And I couldn’t sit still during class. Much later, I discovered that I was suffering from a combination of dyslexia and what is now called “attention deficit disorder.” But neither Mrs. Growe nor I knew about such things then. As far as she was concerned, I was a perennial slacker. I shared her opinion.
At least once a year, however, I promised myself that I would “turn over a new leaf.” I sensed, as Mrs. Growe did, that I was not as dumb as my grades suggested. And I felt, deep down in my bones, that eventually I’d make a success of myself.
But before I could be successful, I had to change something very fundamental about myself. And that change began at the end of my senior year, when I woke up one day and realized I was disgusted with myself.
I was tired of being the perennial screw-up. I was sick of getting lousy grades and playing the fool in class. I wanted to become the person Mrs. Growe thought I should be. But it seemed to be too late. There was only a month to go before graduation, and it was obviously impossible to rectify four years of poor performance in so short a time.
Since my grades were mediocre, I had no chance of getting a college scholarship. And since my parents couldn’t afford to help me with tuition, I had no choice but to attend a local community college. The community college was happy to take my $400 a year, and would be equally happy to give me the Cs I had been earning in high school. But I wasn’t willing to live that life any longer.
I realized that, oddly enough, my lack of success was a benefit in disguise. I was about to put myself in an academic environment where mediocrity held sway – where I would be competing with other high-school screw-ups just like me.
What if I used the remaining time I had in high school to prepare for a new and better life in college? What if I directed my energy toward developing skills and habits that would help me succeed over the next four years?
And that’s exactly what I did. The Saturday after I made my big decision to change, I drove my ’56 Bel Air to Nassau Community College in Hempstead, NY. I gathered together everything I could about the school and the curriculum I was going to be involved in. I brought it all back home with me and spent the rest of the weekend carefully reading every pamphlet and brochure.
I was doing something I had never done in school: getting ahead of my competition by planning my success. In the next few weeks, I became a minor expert in that little college. I knew every course they offered, every major they offered, and every teacher who’d be teaching freshmen that year.
Taking the initiative to plan my success gave me a very positive feeling. I could actually feel myself changing. I was becoming – even before I began – a serious and committed student.
I realized that I would be starting college as a brand-new person. None of my teachers would have heard about my high-school antics, and none of my fellow students would be expecting me to be the class clown.
Starting college without the bad reputation I had established in high school was like a gift from the academic gods. I could walk into my new classes as an interested, enthusiastic student who was there to succeed.
And that’s what happened. I showed up for classes in September on time, prepared with the required texts. I sat in the front row and raised my hand whenever the teacher asked questions. I did my homework assignments and spent my spare time studying. Between attending classes, studying, and running a house-painting business on the side, I worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
By the end of the first semester, I had the reputation of being an A student. Throughout the rest of my college and graduate-school career, I never retrenched.
I sometimes think about what would have happened to me if I hadn’t finally become disgusted with myself. Or if I had failed to make those preparations that allowed me to turn over a new leaf.
It’s highly likely I would be grinding out a living somewhere, working a job I didn’t like, struggling to pay my bills and making futile resolutions – knowing I’d live out my life as a habitual underachiever.
The difference for me was the simple realization that if I didn’t change myself, my life wouldn’t change – not then or ever. I had wasted my high-school years making promises I never truly meant to keep. But I was tired of doing that.
Thinking back, I can see that there were several factors that allowed me to change in a serious and committed way:
- First, I had bottomed out emotionally. I had finally reached a point where I truly detested myself for not achieving what I felt was my potential.
- Second, I made a decision to change completely – to go from being a C student to the top of my class.
- Third, I recognized that I would have to change not just my work habits but the way I thought about myself. I would have to “become” the A student I wanted to be.
- And last, but not least, I took action immediately. I didn’t wait till September to make the change. I started right away by preparing myself to succeed during my final months of high school.
Have you made resolutions that you’ve failed to keep? Held dreams of success and happiness that you’ve failed to fulfill? Do you sometimes feel that, however much you’ve done, you are still, in part, an underachiever?
If so, there is good news. Your past behavior has no bearing on your future work habits. If you can change the way you work – even just a little – you can change the way you live.
Most people reading this will think, “I don’t need another motivational speech. What I need is a change of luck.”
I’m here to say that luck had nothing to do with the change in my life. And it needn’t have anything to do with whatever changes you would like to make in yours. Had I waited for luck to come to me, I might be waiting still. My life changed when I got fed up and started planning my success.
You, too, can change your life if you are: (a) dissatisfied with the lack of success you’ve had so far; (b) willing to make a big change – and not just a minor adjustment; (c) prepared to start working differently and thinking about yourself as a different kind of person; and (d) willing to start now by preparing yourself to succeed.
The best way I know of to do that right now is to read my book, The Pledge, from which this essay was excerpted.
One of my close personal friends and business associates, George Franklin, a business owner, took himself from bankruptcy to millionaire in four short years after following the same core principles in The Pledge.
David Kelly, an overworked South Florida doctor, went from working 80 hours a week and squeaking by to having a net worth of seven figures – all while slashing his workweek down to just 15 hours. He credits the techniques I later wrote about in my book.
Here’s just a small taste of what you’ll find in The Pledge…
- Why most people never realize their dreams. Two key factors that get in the way and how to avoid them.
- Crucial step you must take before you set another goal. Or you risk achieving the wrong goals and winding up miserable.
- Crucial connection between your self worth and your ability to make money. And a common, easily-avoidable mistake that ruins both.
- Take charge of your time and make more steady progress towards your goals. How to make sure you never let another day get away from you.
- Escape the tyranny of the urgent. How urgent tasks – both important and unimportant – burn you out and ensure that you never make progress towards your goals.
- Six simple steps you can take right now to become number one in your class, job, or outside interest.
Rather, wise guidances. Actions and change inspired by wise persons who understand how life is and how positive change can be accomplished.
If it’s religion what people need, why would anyone not be religious, and yet can be spiritual?
People are looking for someone who has attained what they truly are looking for in their hearts. And are hoping they can learn the way to do it.
If religions function in a way that limits a person’s heart from being truly opened, it can be better replaced.
Religious fanatics are persons who know the good that is taught, but don’t consciously understand them.
One can know how one doesn’t understand when meeting the person, one can’t sense his or her openness in heart. Anything that is otherwise is shown by someone who is knowledgeable, but has not understood the real lessons behind what the wisest have taught.
When the lessons are understood, the good will be done naturally and openly.
What most people are trying to learn is the way to happiness in the most natural way. Usually, it can be understood in seconds and with conscious practice, one may attain that happiness in more and more times in their lives. Results will be clear. Anything that withholds it from being understood swiftly and lengthens it unnaturally can be replaced.
It’s not religion what people need.
It’s the company of the wisest who can guide them in achieving positive change as soon as possible. The circle of people who can show them the wisest of ways to live and be happy at the end regardless of what reality brings. The people who can teach them how to help themselves, help others, and eventually help the world in the swiftest or most natural path possible.
I may be wrong in the end, but this is my opinion. Thanks.
P.S. One last thought: What religion would they have in the planet Mars, if there exists a civilization just like ours? What would they differ in teaching, and what would be similar?
To push it further, what religion would the civilization adopt in a planet outside of our galaxy, the milky way galaxy which already has billions of stars like our sun, if they exist? What would they teach that is similar, and where would they differ?
Perhaps the similarity will always be this: The best teachings would always not need religion to comprehend. They just need the guidance from those who are wise, in helping us understand, truly understand the core of being open and loving consciously, and eventually naturally, in everyday movements.
Each and every day, there are people all around the country and world who are living their dreams. Millionaires are made every day. Families are experiencing tremendous relationships. People are becoming more and more healthy. Lifelong learners are growing intellectually and improving their chances for success.
The fact is that living the life of your dreams is possible. People prove that every day. Someone somewhere is going to get rich, get healthy and improve their life. My recommendation is this: Let it be you!
Have you ever wanted to make more money? Have you ever looked at someone who has money and wished that it could be you? People think about getting wealthy all of the time, when only a small percentage actually does. But any of the masses could. Someone is going to start a business. Someone is going to make a great investment. Someone is going to begin the journey to great wealth. So why not let it be you?
Someone is going to decide to improve their relationships. Someone is going to enjoy love with their family. Someone is going to schedule some meaningful time with their friends. So why not let it be you?
Someone is going to go back to school to improve their life. Someone is going to become a lifelong learner. Someone is going to set a goal to read a book or listen to a CD each week for the next year. So why not let it be you?
Someone is going to look in the mirror and see that they need to lose a little weight and they will make the decision to become healthy. Someone will run their first marathon. Someone will join an aerobics class and improve their health. Why not let it be you?
I think that by now you get the point: Every day people are improving their lives. Whether you do or not doesn´t matter to those who do. They are going to do it, regardless. It is simply a matter of a decision being made. Let that person be you!
You may be asking, “Okay Jim, but how?” Well, let´s cover the very simple actions.
The first and most important is to make a commitment to work on yourself. Are you going to improve or stay the same? No matter what you have achieved, you are at a certain point right now. What you have achieved in the past is fine, but it doesn´t make a difference for the future. The decision about what you will become is made each day and every day. Each day someone is making the decision to better him or herself. Let that person be you!
The second is to make a plan. Once you have decided to become better you will have to have a plan. It doesn´t have to be a long, intricate plan. It can be simple. Save a dollar a day. Walk a mile a day. Read an article a day. That is a simple plan with achievable goals. Someone is going to develop a plan that will take them into the future of their dreams. Let it be you!
The third is to begin to act. All of the great ideas, without action, become stale and useless. The key to turning dreams into reality is action. People who have great ideas are a dime a dozen. People who act on their dreams and ideas are the select few, but they are the ones who gain the wealth and wisdom that is available. Someone will act today. Let it be you.
My encouragement to you is to stop looking at others who live the good life, wishing that you were as well, and instead begin to commit to your improvement, develop a plan and act on it. Someone is going to. Let it be you!
1930-2009, Author and Speaker
In the last 2 months, I have thrown myself into Tibetan Buddhism entirely to learn what it is about.
Fortunately to say, I think that Buddhism is a very good method for one who’s very attached to daily life to embark on the journey towards greater truth or spirituality.
The term spirituality as we have coined has always been seen as some airy-fairy thing. But more and more people everyday are coming into their senses with the more accurate view of it. To me, spirituality is something we’re interested in because it answers the questions of why we live, what can make us happier, and how we can live a life that is of utmost openness, fulfillment and joy.
Spirituality allows me to know the truth in everything, and determine how I should begin to live.
And one of the best ways for one to open one’s eyes to the clear perception of the world, to be aware of reality so that one can do something which affects it, is through meditation.
So recently, I’ve found out a pretty good video on meditation. In this video, you’ll learn about the kind of meditation which is dedicated towards the highest way – of mental quiescence and the understanding of consciousness and light.
In Tibetan Buddhism, one is taught to chant mantras as meditation to invoke certain energies that help one to improve in character, intelligence or just spirituality in general. Meditating in quiescence on the other hand helps one to realize the innate nature of reality and the Self and as such allows one to attain everything else which mantras may not be able to help with at some levels.
In Tibetan Buddhism, one is taught to focus on Compassion and the liberation of sufferings for all beings when doing meditation.
In the same way, may I kindly request that dear readers, please keep the same motivation no matter what kinds of meditation we do in our day to day lives.
There are a lot of ways to meditate. If we can take the best in all ways and do them as openly as we can, I believe the results would be of the highest benefit.
May you find the video to be as enjoyable, interesting or valuable as I’ve found it to be. Please kindly click on the “play” button below to start watching:
Today I’m going to share a really simple secret that can make your day instantly better. If you’re feeling down, it can make you happier, all day long.
It’s something I’ve been trying myself, with great results.
It’s three steps, and anyone can do them. This is an algorithm that can be repeated over and over, all day long. It starts with a basic assumption: that we are all human beings capable of goodness, of love, of pain, of broken hearts and passionate love. That we all have bad days, that inside our jaded exteriors is a person who just wants love.
It is based on my observation that we take other people for granted, and that we judge others and become irritated with them for almost no good reasons, and we expect everyone to make us happy or at least behave the way we want them to, and if they don’t, our day is ruined. That’s crazy. People are living their own lives, and aren’t trying to please us or act in accordance with our expectations, and once we accept that, we can be happy.
Here are the three steps. They might sound silly to some of you, but I urge you to give them a try. For just one day. Even just an hour. They are powerful, and they work.
1. Think “I love you, and I’m thankful for you” to every single person today. This sounds kinda silly perhaps, but it works. Seriously, try it. Look at each person you pass or encounter today, and think to yourself (as if you’re talking to the person you’re looking at), “I love you, and I’m thankful for you.” Try to say it with feeling. Mean it! Even to those you pass on the street, in the elevator, while you’re driving (you might only see them for a split second, from a distance).
2. Smile at that person, and look them in the eye. Many of us are used to not looking people in the eye, avoiding contact. But looking someone in the eye is acknowledging their existence and human-ness, and establishing a connection. Smiling helps pass your happiness on to others. Obviously you can’t do this if the person is far from you or driving past you, but when you can, apply this step.
3. If you feel comfortable, say it aloud to that person. Say, “I love you and I’m thankful for you.” You’ll probably only say this to people you know very well (though the bold among you might say it to strangers!). If you’re not comfortable with that, try to say it with actions instead of words. A simple hug, doing something nice, spending time with someone while treating them kindly, doing a favor without expecting a return favor, just being thoughtful. Obviously you can’t do this step with everyone you pass, but the more people you apply this step to, the better.
Try these steps, please.
Also know that I love you. And I’m grateful that you’re alive.
Just One Look – An experiment in the power of human consciousness to free itself from the fear of life.
Step 1: Learn to Move the Beam of Your Attention at Will
To begin, just relax for a moment, and notice the obvious fact that you have the power to move your attention at will.
As you read this, move your attention away from the text for a moment, and direct it instead to the feel of your breathing.
Notice the feel of your chest and belly expanding and contracting, and then bring it back here to this page.
Do that a couple of times so that you become familiar with what I mean by “moving the beam of your attention at will.”
That action of moving attention at will, as you just did, is all that’s needed to accomplish what I am asking you to do. The more you practice this simple act, the more you’ll become familiar with how it feels to do it. And the more familiar you become with the feel of it, the more skillful and direct you will be in the effort to move the beam of attention where it must go.
Step 2: Turn the Beam of Your Attention Inward
Now, use that skill to actually turn the beam of attention inward. Try to make a direct, unmediated contact with what it actually feels like to be you, just plain and simple you.
When I say you, I don’t mean the thoughts that pass through you, nor the emotions that play in you, nor the sensations that rise and fall within you, I mean just you. You are that which is always here, try to look at that. Everything else comes and goes in you. You already know what you are, and what it feels like to be you, so you will surely recognize yourself when you see yourself in this way.
There is no need to try and stay there, resting in your self or any such thing. All it takes is the length of a heartbeat, so brief that you will hardly notice it. It really is that simple.
Repeat this as often as it occurs to you to do so.
There is no step three.
I call this action looking at yourself. If you will do just that, the day will come soon when all your disaffection with life will begin to depart, and with it the perception of your life as a problem to be solved, a threat to be destroyed, or the hiding place of some secret treasure that might bring you fulfillment and satisfaction at some future time.
This new year, do something different: stop setting goals.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then making resolutions for another year is a sure-fire way to drive yourself crazy. I did it for years, and it got me nothing.
Resolutions are pipe dreams, and goals are a waste of time. They are designed to trick you into believing all you need to change your life is a plan.
But plans don’t work. Life is too chaotic and busy. For most of us, it’s impossible to stick to a list of goals for more than a few weeks, not to mention an entire year.
So how do you change your life? By controlling what you can: your daily habits.
The Pointlessness of Plans
Most good things happen without a plan: friendships, falling in love, finding a job, and so on. If you want to make your new year count, you’ll need to be intentional — not by setting goals, but by making space in your life for what really matters.
This was how I was able to get into shape, launch a blog, train for a half-marathon, get a book deal, and keep my day job this year — while loving every minute of it.
Most productivity systems focus on beginning with the “end in mind” and setting goals to get there. Many are based on the assumption that in order to get what you want later, you’re have to give up what you want now. You work the plan, endure pain, and win.
But this is not the only path you can take.
I just finished one of the best years of my life, and most of it was completely unplanned. How did I do it? By creating new disciplines I actually liked doing. I wasn’t only fixated on the end results; I also enjoyed the process.
This is the secret to a healthy, productive life and to making an impact on the world. Create good, sustainable habits that you enjoy, and you’ll end up with a life you can be proud of.
Instead of Goals
There is an alternative to setting goals that will bring you closer to the life you want. Focus on a few practices you can enjoy doing on a regular basis. The trick here is consistency. These four helped me:
Get up early. When the world wakes up, distractions abound. If you are going to focus on creating a new life for yourself, you’ll need to find the time. The best way to do this is to work while others are sleeping. At first, I didn’t like waking up before the sun, but eventually my body adjusted and I began looking forward to the solitude.
Over-commit. The adage “under-promise and over-deliver” is a farce. It only propagates the status quo. Real difference-makers push boundaries. They test, prod, and poke until something gives. You can do this, too, by saying “yes” to more things than you’re comfortable with. Learn to stretch yourself. You might be surprised by what you’re actually capable of. Your confidence will grow, too.
Talk to strangers. Relationships are what make the world go round. This is true for your career, personal well-being, and inner life. When you meet new people, you make connections that can lead to all kinds of future breakthroughs. Even when it’s uncomfortable, reach out and introduce yourself to new people. The worst they can say is “no.” Fortunately, many won’t.
Practice generosity. Give away your time, money, services, and ideas. When you do this, you will get a lot more than you give. People will learn to trust you, and if you really help them, they will tell others about you. This will build your reputation, and you will have more friends than you know what to do with. And as the saying goes, what goes around really does come around.
After a year of doing these things, I ended up with a life I couldn’t have imagined or planned for. And I had a blast doing it. So I’m going to do it all over again, without setting a single goal.
The best year of your life is within reach — if you are willing to give up on the craziness of plans and instead focus on creating new habits. The first step is to begin.
Is it possible to have your passion also be your core source of income?
We seem to hear more and more stories of people reaching the promised land, but is it really possible for the everyday person? Or are those ‘lucky few’ just that— lucky?
After years of research I have good news for you…
I bet you there’s something you love doing that someone else would be happy to pay you for right this second. I might go as far as saying I’m sure of it.
But let’s start with a question.
Why is it that the people who succeed once, seem to have similar successes on future endeavors? Whether it’s fitness, entrepreneurship, career, relationships, you name it.
Success begets success.
What are the things that consistently allow certain people to build a business and living around the things they love most, but allow the other 80% of the world to continue to drag themselves, day in and day out, to a job they can’t stand?
Why can some people charge seamlessly from one creative endeavor and passion project to the next, experiencing all sorts of success along the way, while many others can’t take the first step to finding their passion, let alone building a career around it?
The steps aren’t foreign, they aren’t cryptic, or hidden behind some secret handshake. They aren’t complicated and in many cases not even that difficult. But yet they are still massively underused.
Why is that?
These questions have kept me up at night for years.
As it turns out, the answer is pretty simple…
The passionate people simply know what’s actually possible. They are crystal clear about the steps that work, so they don’t think twice in applying them to whatever the excitement of the day is.
The rest of the world doesn’t know the first move to distinguish up from down.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Living Off Your Passion Is a Right – For Everyone
For the past eight years, and more specifically the past three, I’ve lived and breathed passion. I’ve done case studies with hundreds of passionate workers around the world, conducted countless experiments and profiled 14 of the top experts on and off the web.
Not only have I been obsessed with how people find their passion, but also how the seemingly ‘lucky few’ (hint: it’s not about the luck) are able to push through to the next level and turn their passion into a career – as entrepreneurs and employees alike.
My goal was to combine the art of discovering your passion with the science of making money from it. I recently published the results and process into a self-study course called Live Off Your Passion.
The results were invigorating. But as it turned out, they were not as complicated and unique as one would think.
Living off your passion is more possible than most realize. We just have to condition it.
I wanted to share some of the most profound lessons with you all. If you follow the steps below, I’m sure you can monetize your passion in record time if you want it badly enough.
The 3 Sacred Steps to Converting Passion to Income
1. Separate passion from reality.
We must start with brainstorming your passion projects in a way that encourages success. Unfortunately most people do the opposite.
As humans, our immediate reaction to someone’s new idea (or our own) often is to figure out why it won’t work. I know, sad but true. The problem is that when you get critical of something the moment the idea comes up, it gets stomped out immediately. It might not even make it more than a sentence or two before someone else yells out the reasons it ‘obviously’ won’t work. Then you feel stupid and move on.
But if that idea were given say five or ten minutes of brainstorming whiteboard action, along with a solid dose of open, creative and non-critical discussion, it’s very possible that the idea would turn out to have some merit.
Imagine how many brilliant ideas get killed too soon due to premature criticism.
This happens with passion every day—even if we’re just doing it in our own head (which is the most likely and most dangerous case). A lot of times when we task ourselves to think of our passions we only allow ourselves to play in part of the sandbox. Since the end goal is to find something we can make a living from, we subconsciously discard the ideas that are totally off the wall. We stifle our creativity without even knowing it.
In order to have a fighting chance at developing world-changing business ideas or personal passion pursuits, you absolutely must separate the creative and the critical stages.
Brainstorm your most far-out dreams of passion careers you can think of. Then wait for at least a few days if not a week or more before you start to get practical and critical. Mark my words, for every wild idea you come up with, I’m sure there’s already someone out there making a great living off it (and that’s a good thing). More on finding them below.
2. Be the expert you already are.
One of the most common barriers keeping people from making money from their passion is the belief that you don’t know something well enough to get paid to teach it to someone else.
That’s just flat wrong – You know more than you think. Being an expert is purely relative and based largely on perception.
The crazy thing is once you find something you’re passionate about, you’ll likely realize it’s something you’ve been learning and improving upon for years and maybe even decades. You have more experience with your passion than likely 99% of those around you, simply because you love doing it.
If you’ve been on this earth for at least a couple decades, I guarantee you’re an expert at something. Give yourself some credit. Find what it is and find the people who desperately need your help. Combine the two and living off your passion starts to become a reality.
3. Do the impossible.
For decades, breaking the four-minute mile was believed to be scientifically impossible. Right up until Roger Banister did it in 1954. Then you know what happened? 16 more people ran sub four-minutes in the three years to follow.
We’ve been largely conditioned that it’s not possible to build a career around passion. So many people hate their jobs and many of us have decided to accept that as a fact of life. I did too, right up until I started meeting people who showed me another way.
Listen carefully. The most crucial ingredient to loving your work and living off passion is to surround yourself with people already doing it. You must reverse the brainwashing. Spend time around enough people living squarely in their dreams, and living off passion not only becomes possible, it becomes probable. That shift in psychology will change your world.
My recent course, Live Off Your Passion, as well as my site, Live Your Legend, would not exist today if it wasn’t for the ‘crazy’ people I spend time with every day. Leo is at the top of that list. He and others changed my thinking from “making a living online, helping people while doing something I love, isn’t possible” to “I can’t imagine any other way to build a career”. Thanks to Leo and the rest of you.
Once someone knows the process and is convinced not only that it works, but that it is indeed possible, their creative and business potential becomes limitless. It’s just a matter of time before they turn the passion of their choosing into a full-blown career.
Start surrounding yourself with people doing the impossible. Don’t look back.
Who can you help right now?
Often the first step to living off passion, and the most realistic for those scared of the threatening income gap, is to start working with people one-on-one.
Remember, there are things you are better at (and enjoy more) than the great majority of those around you. There are also people actively looking for the expertise you have.
Find the right connection and you could begin making money from a passion tomorrow if you wanted to. It’s that powerful. And it’s that fast.
Need reassurance? Go do some research on some of the people charging folks and making a living from the skill and passion you enjoy. Are they all the next Steve Jobs? I doubt it. They just decided to focus their energy where they could help the most.
The great majority of people who have not been able to monetize a passion does not come down to lack of skill. It does not come down to lack of credentials. It does not come from lack of experience.
It comes from lack of creativity and courage.
Combine those two with something that makes you come alive, and the world will be beating your door down to give you their money.
Crossing the Chasm—From 80% to 20%
A recent study reported that as many as 80% of the people in the workforce don’t enjoy their job. And nearly 75% don’t know their true passion.
This is not a coincidence.
You don’t have to be one of them.
What would happen if we could reverse that statistic? Think about it for a second.
If we can begin building an income around the things that excite us, our work will no longer be something we loathe. It will be something we can’t get enough of. Which quickly becomes something the world can’t get enough of. If we can do that, we can literally change the world.
The all-important first dollar
The first hurdle in living off your passion is realizing it’s possible to get paid to do what you enjoy—to show yourself that you’re capable of helping people and they are willing to pay you for it. Whether it’s $1, $15, $100 or $1,000, the point is to make the massively huge leap from earning exactly ZERO from what you enjoy doing, to earning something. Anything.
People will find value in what you have to offer, but you’ll never know unless you start offering it.
In my years of passion research around the world, one belief has become a part of my core more than any other: If you can find something you’re passionate about, you can find a way to turn that passion into profit. I’ve seen too many examples of people living their dreams to believe anything else.
You just have to be willing to get a little creative.
So when are you going to join the 20% club?
You have the tools. The rest is on you.
(Scott Dinsmore is the founder of Live Your Legend, and the author of “Live Off Your Passion: An Unconventional Guide to Finding Passion and Getting Paid to Do Work You Love”.)
Today I did something shocking, socially unacceptable and so counter-cultural, it’s downright rebellious: I was still. To be specific, I put my feet up on the porch rail, leaned back in a deep chair, and sat in the afternoon sunshine for a while, accomplishing absolutely nothing.
Not exactly the picture of a revolutionary, is it? I know, but if you look a bit deeper, you might recognize that one action as essentially giving the finger to a powerful and ruthless dictator: the dogma that my busyness reflects my value.
Does the idea of sitting quietly, alone with your thoughts for a while make you sigh wistfully or squirm uncomfortably? Probably a mixture of both.
In my experience as a modern woman, we simultaneously long for and fear the idea of stillness. We tend to pride ourselves on how much we accomplish in a day, and so stepping away from productivity is a risk, as though we must prove the worth of our existence by never slowing down to pause. And yet, we long for peace and rest, to step off the treadmill of life occasionally and catch our breath. And so we allow ourselves an occasional “indulgence” in a piece of Dove Chocolate or an extra creamy Yoplait yogurt because their advertising gurus convinced us that it’s okay, you deserve it. And we’ll take our annual vacation, hoping to cram in all the R&R we’ve denied ourselves all year. But even those “treats” are usually accompanied by guilt, shame, and pressure to “maximize” the time.
And there’s another reason we don’t have time for stillness: I believe we avoid it because we are afraid of what we would find there. If I slowed down enough to really listen (to my spirit, my body, my mind), I might not like what it tells me. Or if I sat down to listen for the voice of God and sit with Him in the vulnerability of who I really am, what might He say to me? And so it is safer to fill my schedule with more work, more Facebook time, more music, more accomplishments than to slow down and be still.
But what if we weren’t meant to “make the most” of every day? To fit in the most activities, run the fastest and most efficient household, grow our business as big as possible, get the best we can afford, and achieve our utmost potential in every realm? Maybe doing more, faster won’t actually get us where we want to be…or where we need to be.
I am coming to believe that, if we want to truly live life, creating space for stillness is crucial. In spite of–and because of–all the pressures on our time, we have a built-in need for periods of quiet, rest and reflection. Although this may seem like just one more thing to fit in, I believe that if we will find a way to make space for stillness and reflection, it will reshape our lives. Just as the human body needs to inhale and exhale, we need times of work and times of rest, times to act and times to reflect. There is no shame in that. Many cultures have retained this rhythm in life, but looking at myself and around at our society, we seem to have forgotten the value in rest and reflection, condemning them instead as laziness, self-indulgence or worthless “navel gazing”. And I think we’re suffering for it. We don’t know how to just be with ourselves. And how can we offer much to others and this world if we aren’t even connected to our own selves?
So what are some ways we can reclaim stillness and rest in the midst of real life this week? It will look differently for everyone, and remember that it’s not about “what you do” but opening the posture of your heart and mind. In the stillness, you may find your mind racing to process thoughts that you haven’t been able to give your attention to, and that’s fine. Or you might want to acknowledge what you’ve been feeling lately and just sit honestly in that. Don’t try to solve every problem or reach a great conclusion during this time. If you aren’t sure what to think about and you want to connect to God, I encourage you to meditate on a favorite song or scripture that brings you peace and to rest in the knowledge that you are a beloved child of God (even if you don’t feel that you are). Here are a few ideas I’ve been implementing lately, during my experiment in living more slowly:
Sit or lie in a comfortable space for a while; even if you only have 5 or 15 minutes to spare, set a timer and enjoy simply being there.
If you’re waiting in line at the bank, store, or on the phone, reclaim that time as an opportunity to be still in your heart.
While at your job, work hard and focused for an extended period and then step away from your computer for a few minutes (such as 55 minutes on, 5 minutes off); studies have shown this actually increases productivity and decreases overuse injuries such as eye strain, back and neck pain, etc. If you can walk a lap around the building outside or go look out a window for a few minutes, you may find yourself rejuvenated and ready for the next big push.
Eat sitting down at a table; turn off your technology and taste your food; be aware of it pleasing your taste buds and nourishing your body.
Take a walk or jog outside and observe your surroundings; leave the iPod at home and listen; what do you see, smell, or feel?
Leave your car radio off on your next drive; is the silence uncomfortable for you? That’s okay; don’t try to fill it.
Do something the slow way; it’s far more convenient to buy bread from a store, but sometimes I like to take a few hours to bake a loaf of bread, kneading it by hand, letting it fill our house with its scent, and then eating it while still warm from the oven. Whether it’s baking bread, washing dishes by hand, or driving the scenic route, allow yourself to choose the slow way sometimes if it is more enjoyable and meditative for you.
Spend time just being with your child or pet. Ponder the simple wonder of a little one, pet your dog or cat for a few minutes, take a nap with your child. If you don’t have a chld or pet at home, observe the birds outside your window. The little ones have much to teach us.
Find healthy boundaries for “screen time”. I’ve found that if I’m still on my computer after 9pm, I go to bed later and grumpier than usual. So I try to shut down by 9 and spend the remainder of the evening in a more relaxing way. However that applies for you, pay attention to your patterns and find something that leaves you feeling more rested and centered.
Observe ‘Sabbath’. Dedicating one day a week to step back from your work really flies in the face of our “non-stop” culture. Though we don’t do this every week, Seth and I try to accomplish our errands and household chores on Saturdays so that we can have a day of rest together on Sunday. It takes some coordinating, but has always felt like an incredible gift when we actually have a full day for rest and reflection.
I offer these up as ideas. But I’d love to hear from you:
What helps you to be still and what have you found to be the biggest challenges in creating that space for yourself?
Motivation is a resource that seems harder and harder to come by these days. You’re mired in malaise, you’re unexcited after a slump or a break, you’re in a dull 9-to-5 routine.
Any of these sound familiar?
If so, you’re not alone. I’ve been in these kinds of ruts, often, and sometimes for embarrassingly extended periods. While it doesn’t happen much these days, as I’m excited about everything I do, I’m no stranger to the rut. I was stuck in one for a couple years once, until I felt the rut wasn’t something I was in, but was me.
What is the way out? How do you start along this way if you don’t have motivation to start with?
I’ve found that the best way out of a rut is with the smallest step possible. But that step can result in more than you realize.
What if that smallest step is to announce a major challenge? In my recent past I’ve announced 30 days of yoga, writing a novel in 30 days, and some grueling physical challenges. In years past I’ve announced that I’m going to run a marathon, do a triathlon, start a blog, give up my car, give up meat, and so on.
Here’s the thing: the first step wasn’t to take on a major challenge. It was simply announcing it. And announcing something is really really easy. Doing it is much harder, but once you’ve announced it, you have some momentum, and you’re committed to a direction. Making the announcement only takes the moving of your lips and some hot air, or the typing of your fingers while your email program is open, and let’s face it, you do those things even when you’re in a rut.
What if the moving of your fingers or some hot air is too big a step? Can you take an even smaller step? Sure: you can simply ask, “What if?”
What if you took on a challenge? What if you cleared the clutter from your desk? What if you went outside for a brisk walk? What if you quit your job and headed for southeast Asia with nothing but a small backpack? What if you started a blog about your biggest passion? What if you decided to paint a picture or snap a photograph every single day for the next month? What if you did 5 minutes of yoga each morning? What if you tossed out your to-do list and only did 1 important thing each day before doing the less important tasks? What if you proposed your dream project to your boss? What if you stopped asking permission and just started doing what you’ve been wanting to do? What if your life was a blank slate and you could fill it with only the things you love? What if you could change someone else’s life? What if you tossed out all your excuses? What if you were grateful for what you have, instead of complaining about what you don’t have? What if you tossed out your goals? What if you let go of your expectations? What if you got rid of everything you had?
What if is a very easy step.
Take the easiest step you can imagine. Once you start moving, you’ll feel unbelievably better. Once your foot touches ground, you will feel the power of the earth, you’ll feel the power of motion, you’ll feel the rut moving behind you. That one step — it’s a doozy.
They don’t need to take up too much math or science time, maybe just a single two-hour class for each, covering two a year. Plant a few seeds and leave them alone. They’ll grow, in in the minds of certain kids where the conditions are right, and their progress will be gradual but unstoppable.
These skills aren’t easy. I suck at most of them, but I know they’re all I really need to know how to do. Simple introduce them and they’ll lead a person to anything else he needs to know. In me, the seeds have germinated, no question about that. I am gradually getting better at them. They take years, so I wish I’d started in grade school.
1) Letting people misunderstand and dislike you
I used to really believe that somebody getting the wrong idea about me was some kind of problem that had to be fixed. This is the kind of fear that would prevent me from, say, renting “Heavenly Creatures” because everyone knows it has Kate Winslet’s boobs in it and the Blockbuster girl would think I’m renting it only because I’m a huge perv and not because it’s a good movie. It’s a tiny example, but that’s a genuine wall I built there. One of thousands.
It takes an enormous amount of energy to try and manipulate people’s knee-jerk impressions of you, and it makes you into a fearful, pandering creature. It’s completely impossible anyway, and there’s so little to gain even when you pull it off. Instead of someone getting a baseless negative impression of you, they get a baseless positive one.
The amount of pain suffered in vain by people trying to be liked by everyone is unimaginable. It drives people crazy. It makes people kill themselves.
Make no apologies or explanations for what you want, and let the unknown faces dislike or distrust you. Study your fear of leaving bad impressions, and practice doing what you want anyway. I bet you’ll become not just more comfortable, but more likable.
Elaine Benes: Who cares if she doesn’t like you? Does everyone have to like you?
George Costanza: Yes! Everyone has to like me!
2) Talking to strangers
School taught me strangers were at worst bad people, and at best irrelevant people. It took me a while to recognize that they were indeed people at all — that they have family members and friends to whom they are not strangers. It took even longer to realize that I am a stranger.
They had an explicit rule about it: Don’t talk to strangers! Stranger is clearly a pejorative word, and they told us to use that word to describe anyone we didn’t know. And don’t let them talk to you!
I am still getting over the idea that people I don’t know are “strange.” Some of the most rewarding moments of my life have happened while breaking this rule.
Kids can still be taught to keep themselves safe without instilling such a damaging view of the casual passer-by.
Imagine if nobody regarded anybody as a stranger, but instead just a person they didn’t know. You can’t have wars without strangers. For that and other atrocities, we need a group of people so alien and blank to us that we don’t care what happens to them.
After all this time, all its coverage on Oprah and in religious texts, forgiveness is almost uniformly misunderstood. It does not mean you are okay with what has been done. It doesn’t even mean it doesn’t bother you any more. Forgiving is deciding you will no longer attempt to justify hate or anger, because you know they are damaging to you and your life.
Those feelings will still appear now and then, maybe always, but to forgive is to decide you are done indulging in them. That means no more revenge fantasies, no more nasty remarks. Finally it can begin to recede in your mind.
I’ve experienced a lot of resentment in my life. I’ve mulled it over, wished, fantasized, rehearsed confrontations and diatribes in my head, but I have never once found any true benefit to justifying resentment. All of it is out of control, all of it is painful, all of it is addictive.
There is a comforting feeling in hatred. We imagine it protects us from getting hurt again. This fantasy gives us a spike of relief when we feel powerless, but there is no real power in it. It’s as helpful as thinking about food when you’re stranded on a remote island. Resentment feels good in a bad sort of way. It’s pure mental junk food, only it makes you powerless instead of fat.
4) Letting your moods come and go without trying to force the bad ones away
Oh wow, what a revelation this was. I was 22 before it ever occured to me that bad moods are completely normal and do not indicate that my life has gone wrong.
Bad moods seem to have hallucinogenic properties. They make you misperceive and misinterpret reality.
I’ve described bad moods as “a nasty drug that hijacks your thoughts and robs you of your intuition and perspective.” You simply don’t have access to your higher capacities while you’re in a bad mood — empathy, wisdom, objectivity and patience. They take a vacation, and they’ll definitely be back. So in the mean time don’t do anything that depends on those faculties: don’t make any decisions about your life, don’t make any statements about who you are (to yourself or anyone else), don’t criticize others, and don’t insist that you must feel good right now.
Refusing to bear the odd bout of bad feelings is what drives people to the most desperate behaviors: addictions, blame, bad relationships and crime.
Good moods are much easier to deal with and don’t require any remedial action. But it’s worth remembering that they inevitably give way to not-good moods. So if you suddenly don’t feel so hot, don’t take that as a signal that things are going wrong. It’s just a change in the wind. Moods move like weather: there are patterns, bad conditions are inevitable, and any given cell is always on its way out.
5) Doing things you are afraid of
I’m slowly learning that the best response to fear is curiosity. When the thought of doing something makes you uncomfortable, all that means its consequences are unfamiliar and unpredictable. That might be good. It always means there is some seriously new ground that can be broken right now.
Of all these skills, this is the one I’m worst at. Yet I keep discovering the same encouraging thing whenever I do it — once you walk right into it, the fear part gives way pretty quickly. It’s like a thin shell you thought was a wall. The rewards are always way closer and more accessible than I think.
The sequence unfolds the same way, nine times out of ten. One moment it’s “Oh man I am never doing that.” Then you take that first step — and it literally is a step, a movement of the leg. You watch yourself moving into it in the first person and the mind is saying “Holy shit, this is it, I’m nuts.” Then you’re in the middle of it, saying what you need to say or doing what you need to do. Then you realize you’re on the other side, making things happen in a place you thought was forbidden to you. Then you’re giddy and grateful the rest of the day.
In the cradle of civilization, almost anyone can heed almost all their fears yet still survive in reasonable comfort. So some people never make a point of this.
Although I sometimes wish it weren’t true, this seems to be law:
How often you do things you’re afraid of is a reliable barometer for how quickly you’re becoming a more capable person.
6) Watching the moment unfold as it will and letting go of your need to control it
Whenever I even mention this idea, people panic. “But we can’t just let things happen! What if terrible things happen?!”
The truth is your life is a steady stream of mostly unpredictable stuff, and there is ultimately very little control to be had over it, other than what you do in response. The best responses are always conscious and calm.
We can learn to be smarter about the risks that we take, but most of what fate has in store for us could never be predicted. Once it’s happening, it’s happening. If you need to do something about it, you still can. But your action doesn’t have to arise from this place of rejecting reality. Planning, preparing, insuring, deciding — all of it can be done at the same time as you let happen what is indeed happening.
You won’t be able to let it all go at once, but it’s amazing what happens when you give yourself a mission to do it for five minutes. Can you let everything unfold as it will for five minutes? Sure you can, and it’s exhilarating. If something happens that has you itching to react, let it be, and when the five minutes is up, you can get right back to trying to stop the world from turning, if you think it’s worthwhile.
7) Noticing attraction and aversion as soon as they appear
We’d all like to think that we’re driven primarily by wisdom and rational thinking, but the truth is the majority of our actions come from very short term attractions and aversions that happen mostly under the radar in the moment. These are the greatest forces driving your life, and if you’re not aware of where they’re leading you, nobody else is either. Trust them at your peril.
This is how we “end up” in careers we don’t like, suffering from compulsive behaviors, or getting into debt. We don’t choose these outcomes consciously, we just follow the little trail of cookies throughout life, and they can lead us to dark places. It’s a simple, thoughtless mechanism designed only to get us from birth to procreation to death, and it drags us along kicking and screaming over rocks and coals, if we’re not aware of how it works.
There is so much to gain from noticing the feelings of attraction and aversion the moment they arise, thinking about what you’re really looking to cling to (or escape from) in that moment, and making sure your action is conscious. No matter how we rationalize our motives, if you observe them you’ll invariably find they almost always consist of a pull towards some kind of promised gratification, or a push away form some kind of promised discomfort.
Imagine if you could feel these pushes and pulls acting on you, then decide what’s actually in your best interest, then do it.
Mastering it is the work of a lifetime, but all you need to do is notice what it feels like when attraction arises, and notice what it feels like when aversion arises. Know what “cookie” it is you’re attached to here, and when it’s no good for you, defy it and see what happens.
‘What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.’ ~C. S. Lewis
Changing your life can seem an incredibly tough and complicated thing, especially if you’ve failed a great number of times (like I did), found it too hard, and resigned yourself to not changing.
But I found a way to change.
And I’m not any better than anyone else, not more disciplined, not more motivated. I just learned a few simple principles that changed my life.
I’ve written about them many times, but realized they’re spread out all over the site.
Here is how I changed my life, in a nutshell.
The four lines you’re looking for are at the bottom.
How I Started Running
In 2005 I was sedentary, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make exercise a regular habit. At the end of 2006, not only was I running very regularly, I finished my first marathon. These days I can run a half marathon race at the drop of a hat, have run several marathons.
How did I do it? I started with just 10 minutes of running a day. I focused not on how hard it was, but how much I enjoyed the movement and the outdoors. I increased slowly, until I could run 15 minutes, then 20, and later a couple hours. I was grateful for every run I was able to take.
I got healthier, fitter, slimmer, happier.
How I Started Eating Healthier
In 2005 I was overweight, and addicted to junk food. I ate fast food, chips and cookies, fried meats, anything fatty or sweet or salty … and I had no idea how to change. Today, I am 70 lbs. lighter, I eat almost all whole, real foods (almost nothing processed), I eat a sweet treat now and then but am happier eating healthy food.
How did I change? I started with small changes like drinking more water, eating more fruits and veggies, cooking at home more and preparing my lunches for work. One at a time. I gradually improved my diet, eventually cleared my fridge and pantry of junk, and stopped going to fast food places. I found healthy foods I really loved. I was grateful for every delicious healthy meal I ate.
I felt better about myself, trimmed down, and feel great every single day.
How I Got Out of Debt
In 2005, I was way over my head in debt — it was so bad, I had creditors calling me, and I would ignore my phone calls. I struggled to make it paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes didn’t even make it — I had to borrow money from friends and family. It was one of the most stressful times of my life. At the end of 2007, I celebrated with my wife Eva when we paid off our last debt and were free!
How did I do it? I started one little change at a time: I started cutting back on expenses a little, saving a little at a time, paying off the little debts and then the bigger debts, found some breathing room, and saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I gradually changed my financial habits and got into better shape. I was grateful for every debt paid off, every dollar saved, every inch of breathing room.
I’m debt free and will never go back. It’s the most liberating thing ever.
And On and On
I was planning on writing the same capsules for how I decluttered and simplified my possessesions, how I started focusing and accomplishing more, how I turned my passion into a living, and so on … but the truth is, the story starts to repeat itself.
I used the same principles, over and over. More on that in the nutshell below.
And Then I Gave Up Goals
About two years ago, I started to give up goals. Just as an experiment.
It turns out, I could still accomplish the same kinds of things, but I just didn’t plan it out. Instead, I just followed the same principles (more on those below). They still work, even without goals.
People say I can give up goals because I’ve already accomplished a lot … but the truth is, I can give up goals because I have learned a few things that work, and realized they work with or without goals. And if you follow these things, you can change your life, with or without goals.
The Nutshell Principles
So what are the principles that changed my life, repeatedly?
If you read the brief stories above, you already know:
1. Start very small.
2. Do only one change at a time.
3. Be present and enjoy the activity (don’t focus on results).
4. Be grateful for every step you take.
In programming, this is called an algorithm. It’s a series of steps that you can apply to make any change, no matter what your situation.
Life can be a huge struggle, most of the time, and for years it was a struggle for me.
I’ve gradually been learning what causes that struggle, and what works in making life easier, better, smoother.
Life can feel effortless, like you’re gliding along, if you learn to swim smoothly, to glide, to stop fighting the waters of life and start using them to buoy you up.
I stopped thrashing and fighting, and started gliding and enjoying the swim.
I’ve written a new book on this topic, called The Effortless Life, which I should be publishing digitally next week. Some interesting things about this book:
It was written publicly, on a public Google Doc, while the world watch. That was tremendously fun — normally writing is a solitary act, but with technology I was able to make it a public act.
I allowed the world to edit it, as I wrote. That was incredibly scary, giving up control as a writer. When I was done, I had written it in a blur, as everyone edited it … and so I had no idea what changes had been made. I thought I should figure out what changes were made, and whether to keep them or not … but then I just decided to go with the wisdom of the crowd, and kept it as is.
It’s a compendium of some of the most important things I’ve been learning recently. It builds on some of the things from my previous books, The Power of Less and Focus, but takes them further.
I will allow readers to buy it at any price you like. I will set up a donation model — pay what you think it’s worth, and what you can afford.
More about this later. For now, I thought I’d share a few things you can do today, to make life feel more effortless.
Take what you want from this list. I find these things work, but your mileage will vary.
1. Do less. This is my productivity mantra, and it’s counterintuitive. I actually don’t believe in productivity, but instead believe in doing the important things. Do less, and you’ll force yourself to choose between what’s just busywork, and what really matters. Life then becomes effortless, as you accomplish big things while being less busy.
2. Having less is lighter. Start asking yourself if you really need everything you have, or if you just have it out of fear. Start to let go of what you have, so it doesn’t own you. And then, as you have less, you feel lighter. It’s wonderful.
3. Let the little things go. People who struggle often fight over little things. We obsess over things that don’t really matter. We create resistance instead of letting things glide off us. Let the little things go, breathe, and move on to the important things.
4. Clean as you go. I haven’t written about this for a long time, but early in the life of Zen Habits I wrote about the habit of cleaning as you go. Instead of letting the cleaning pile up, put things away when you’re done. Wash your bowl. Wipe the counters clean as you pass them. Sweep up dirt when you notice it. By cleaning a little bit at a time, as you make messes, cleaning up becomes a breeze, and it’s never difficult. By the way, this applies to everything in life, not just cleaning.
5. Make small, gradual changes. Most people are too impatient to follow this advice — they want to do everything at once. We have so many changes to make, but we don’t want to wait a year for it all to happen. As a result, we often fail, and then feel crappy about it. Or we don’t start at all, because so many big changes is intimidating and overwhelming. I’ve learned the hard way that small changes are incredibly powerful, and they last longer. Gradual change leads to huge change, but slowly, and in a way that sticks. And it’s effortless.
6. Learn to focus on the things that matter. This is implied in the items above, but it’s so important I have to emphasize it. Swimming (or any physical activity for that matter) is best done when you do only the motions that matter, and eliminate the extraneous motions. Stop thrashing, start becoming more efficient and fluid. You do this by learning what matters, and cutting out the wasted activity.
7. Be compassionate. This makes dealing with others much more effortless. It also makes you feel better about yourself. People like you more, and you improve the lives of others. Make every dealing with another human being one where you practice compassion.
There are moments when other people just set you off, and you lose your patience.
It is the downfall of many of us — coworkers, children, spouses, other drivers, irritating people on the subway — they can grate, they can anger.
And it can ruin your day. You clench your jaw, you replay imaginary arguments in your head, or worse, you snap. And then you feel like crap.
How can we find the patience?
I will admit that I’m no saint. Just like everyone else, I get annoyed, and I will say things in a less-than-kind tone. I’m learning.
Here’s what helps me:
First, I learn to be aware of the emotions that rush up from nowhere.
I learn to accept those emotions as perfectly fine.
And I watch them, but don’t act.
I will talk to those emotions, like they’re a little child: it’s OK to be mad, but breathe. Talk to the other person, after you’ve calmed down, about the problem.
And then I breathe.
I remind my childlike emotions: other people are different, and that’s good. Celebrate humanity and all its glorious varieties. When people live and work together, there will be friction, and that is a part of the mix of humanity.
I remind: life is too short to waste my days in irritation and anger. Don’t let other people’s problems become my own.
I then give thanks. Gratitude solves all problems. I am grateful for having this friend, or stranger, in my life, and I’m grateful for the chance to even be here, and for the incredible life I have.
I talk to the other person, when I’ve calmed down, with compassion. I respond with love. It often will melt the other person’s jagged edges, and things will go better.
Patience isn’t an easy thing, but the alternative is much worse. Love will triumph if you let it.
And then he started using words like nyingma and shentong and I became more interested in my beer than anything else. Zen is a neato thing to talk about but depending on who’s doing the talking, it can get a bit too stiff for me.
But I perked up when he said the most rewarding thing he’s ever done in all his years is to sit and contemplate his own death.
I was in an expat bar in Chiang Mai on trivia night and an informal lecture had broken out. Half the room was shouting out answers to sports history questions, and the other half was gathered around a once-American philosophy professor, listening to him talk about Zen. I was trying to do both.
We chatted on the balcony later, and I asked him about what he said about death. I drank and nodded as he talked and smoked cigarettes.
“When you’re sitting there long enough that you finally see that unbroken line between here and your grave, that you really are that grave every bit as much as you are sitting here… you’ll never feel as free as that.”
The night was long (three bars long) and full of conversations, but that’s the one that was in my head when I was nodding off that night, and in the shower the next morning.
For the next few weeks I kept having these spells where I’d see something super ordinary — a stranger yawning at a bus stop, or something — and I’d get the sensation that I was looking back on it, as if I was visiting it from a place where that doesn’t happen.
It culminated on a beach in New Zealand a few weeks later. I had another spell, and realized what was happening. I was being repeatedly overcome by the simple fact that I was here. That doesn’t sound like an astonishing revelation, but it was, and that had something to do with being simultaneously being aware that I will one day not be here.
Understanding those two insultingly simple facts — that you’re definitely here, and that you will definitely one day not be here — combine to form something beautiful. The professor called it anicca but we can call it impermanence. It’s irrefutable, and we kill ourselves trying to refute it all the time. Things change constantly, and when you insist they don’t, you suffer. When you can learn to go along for the ride, ordinary moments become compelling.
The professor’s death-contemplation hobby is certainly worthwhile, but it’s just not something many people are going to do. Too formal, too weird, too Buddhist.
But you can experience the beauty of impermanence in a much easier way, every time you’re in the presence of people you’re close to. I’ve written about it before, when this blog was much smaller, but it’s such a reliable way to create that staggering kind of gratitude that I can’t recommend it enough.
When you’re with a group of people who are important in your life, take a step back and look around at what’s happening, and consider that there will be a time when these people are gone.
Life is a solo trip, but you’ll have lots of visitors. I say this a lot and always will. Your life is one long unbroken experience, and you’re the only one who’s there the whole time. Visitors will come in and out of your experience. Most of them are short-term and you won’t notice when they’ve made their last appearance.
In fact, even with the long-term visitors, it’s rare that your last moment with a particular person is one in which you’re aware that it is.
Every relationship you have is a chance overlap that begins one particular day and ends on another. You have little control over when either of those bookends appear. There is nothing worse than having nobody important in your life, yet we easily take for granted that this precious, fleeting overlap is happening right now in the room with you.
There are probably hundreds of acquaintances that you haven’t thought about since the last time they were right in front of your face, and maybe that was years ago. Those bit players are gone in the truest sense, but the people who matter are the people whose absence you can feel when they’re gone. The person who’s no longer beside you when you wake up. The pet whose nails you no longer hear clicking on the hallway floor downstairs.
One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to learn how to feel that feeling while these people are still here.
Here’s how I put it before:
When you’re with your spouse, significant other, a good friend or a close relative, picture the moment, in all its mundane detail, as if you’re looking back on it from a point in life where that person is no longer around. No need to imagine any upsetting explanations for their absence; the part of your life that includes that special person is just over, and you are happy to have been with them while your lives overlapped.
Observe them as if you’ve been shipped back from the future, to see them once again on an ordinary day, with absolutely no reason to take it for granted.
You just have to recognize those moments in which you’re with another person you know and love, and for most people these happen constantly. Then consciously take a step back, and watch the moment as if it’s a memory.
There’s no feeling like it when something ordinary is happening, and everyone’s being ordinary, and yet in your private mental space you’re seeing it all from way down the road, after these wonderful people are gone. An ordinary moment, adorned with such irreplacable people, is so rich and perfect that you’d give anything to be right back in the middle of it. And then you realize that you are.
It’s surprisingly easy to just watch the outside world do its thing for a second. You might be alarmed to realize that the world would carry on just as freely without your particular brand of opinions and witty comments. Believe me — and I mean this in the most encouraging way possible — it doesn’t need you at all and you’re lucky to be here.
It doesn’t need your friends either, but it seems to be accommodating the lot of you, for the time being anyway. So see all you can while the door is still open.
(Him: I’ve actually gone past the stage where I’m interested in voicing out anything regarding religions. But sometimes, it’s quite interesting to stir things up a little. This post is not meant to be an advice, or argument, or opposition. Rather, it’s meant to provide food for thought. Enjoy.)
Q: Why God has created such a terrible world, full of sufferings and struggle?
A: You should ask God. I cannot answer on his behalf.
Q: How should I ask him?
A: If you have found out that there is God who has created all this, you must also know how to reach him and ask him.
Q: Every religion believes in the existence of God. Are you saying that you don’t believe in his existence?
A: I am saying that the religions who have told you that he exists, must have told you the way to speak to him.
Q: My religion says God speaks to me through my conscience.
A: What is conscience?
Q: An inner call that tells me what is right or wrong. If I am going on a wrong path, it stops me.
A: Stops you as in holds you or just informs you?
Q: It informs me that this is wrong but still leaves the choice with me and allows me to exercise my free will.
A: Since when were you hearing your conscience? Was it there when you were 2 or 3 years old?
Q: I don’t remember.
A: My child is 3 years old. Sometimes when he doesn’t like someone, he asks them to leave and in gross words, asks them to get out (laughs). It becomes quite embarrassing for us, but he doesn’t mind. It is okay for him. There is a child in our colony who pushed another child from the slide and he was seriously injured, receiving some stitches. Can you do such a thing?
Q: Would it be your conscience that tells you not to push a small innocent child, that this is a sin?
Q: So, it seems God doesn’t speak to 2 or 3 year old children, he only speaks to grown ups like you. You know why he has chosen to speak to you and not to that child? Because that child doesn’t know anything about God right now, or his rights and wrongs. But now his family will start that training. They will tell him, this is right and this is wrong. This is God and this is the way to reach God. Then slowly, as he grows up, God will start speaking to him as well through his conscience. When he will choose a path that doesn’t qualify as God’s path, per the training given, his conscience will tell him, don’t do this. This is not right. But is it God or is it the training that is speaking to him? To me, your conscience sounds more like knowledge fed in since childhood by your parents and society, than God’s voice.
If you really want to listen to what existence wants to say to you, then this “you” will have to disappear. Completely disappear. This “you” is incapable of understanding anything. Because this “you” is already full of ideas, beliefs and knowledge fed in by parents, society and an education system. How can something that is already full, receive anything?
Can you take your father’s call while you have in the ear plugs of your iPod? You will not hear the bell ringing because you will be so occupied and possessed by the music playing. The knowledge given to you is like that music and the iPod is your mind. This mind is already full of ideas and beliefs about you, about God, about religion, about right and wrong. There is no way to communicate to you. Even right now, whatever I am saying, you are busy taking notes of it. Half of your attention is on the words spoken and you are trying to recall if you have missed anything. In this process, you are missing what is happening right Now. You are missing where these words are leading.
(Someone suggested the questioner to keep the notebook aside.)
Q: What should I do then?
A: Leave God alone. He is not doing anything to you. The God that you know of is the God that has been taught to you. You have no first hand information about him. The God you know is the proprietary of religions. They fight amongst each other to claim their ownership on him. They each tell you that “this” is the way and put the others down. We are taught religion and its way, we are not taught God. How can anyone “teach” you God? God cannot be taught. Teaching implies words and words themselves are helpless here. How will they help you?
“God”, is a very small word. It cannot even attempt to explain the vastness that it is supposed to point to. If I fill a vessel with ocean water and bring it to you, it will not give you the slightest idea of what an ocean means. To understand it you will have to see the ocean. When you actually see it, only then will you know what an ocean is. Why it is called endless and why it is called vast? Looking at the vessel, you will not know.
All the scriptures, religions, teachings are like vessels. They cannot give a slightest idea of the magic that holds this universe. Every vessel has a different shape and it has molded the ocean in its own shape, thinking this is how the ocean looks and this is what it is. Vessels are claiming that they know the ocean. They are fighting with each other and in the process, they are going to break each other down. Let them do that.
If you want to know this magic that you call God, just open your eyes. Look around. You cannot miss the magic, if your eyes are really open. It is in the sky, it is in the earth, it is in the trees, it is in the moon, it is in the stars… It is everywhere. It is in the coming and going of these breaths. You are looking for the magician so you are missing the magic. Stop looking for the magician and you will see him in the magic itself. He is not separate from the magic. He Is the very magic.
Do not look for him in any particular place and you will find him everywhere and in everything.
(Him: Tarun Sardana has an upcoming new book called “I am Not Brahman”, according to the newsletter from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights by Editor Jerry Katz. Whenever it comes to things that carry religious connotations, many people tend to get slightly sensitive. I’d suggest however that my dear reader, give the message in the story a try. It may bring you on a roller-coaster ride that will shock you, or amaze you, or disappoint you, or enrich you, or strengthen you depending upon where you are right now in life. For me, the teachings from the Hindhu or Buddhist religions on how to live, to be open, or loving, and unconstrained is what I actually value. Maybe that would appeal to you too.)
Living the best of yourself, regardless of the results. That is all that matters. Kurt Kobain: “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person that you are.” Billions in the world have brainwashed us with the way we should live. That we should have or achieve exactly this, or that, before we are truly seen as worthy of who we are. And yet, that doesn’t have to be it. In fact, life may be more about this – doing what you want as the best you, because life doesn’t necessarily always work out exactly as we’d want it to. However, if you live this way, you could at least be happy knowing that you have lived independently, solely, out of the best of you, and who knows, in the future – it’s exactly when you’re living like this, that life works out exactly as the way you’ve always envisioned it to be.
It’s been some time since I’ve actually had the desire to write.
Why? Because I’m personally learning life all over again.
When I started this blog, I had in my mind all intentions to discover the truths about life and live everyday sticking to them.
But what I eventually realized is, there is really no one particular way to live in order to be happy.
In fact, if you want to live happily, it’s better to choose to live as many ways as you can embrace throughout the day!
It’s more like this:
The moment you think you’ve learned the greatest about something, that you’ve reached an end of the road on a particular path, life would hit you in the butt and point your eyes in another direction. When you look in the new direction, you find out that it’s a much more, progressive path, and you go “Aahhh… that’s the way” – but the thing is, once you seem to reach the end of that path, life hits you once again in your butt and shows you what you’ve actually missed on the previous path, making you scratch your head, wondering what it is you’ve actually learned. New directions, new paths, new discoveries.
Usually, what we’ll actually learn is to just live.
Yep, all these ideas, concepts, bla… bla… they’ll all just serve one purpose:
To send people to hit on enough walls, fall enough times, hurt them enough, so that people’s eyes would be opened, they’ll be able to pause and see things consciously once again, and they can look at life with a clarity that’ll allow them to make new choices that aren’t automatic but chosen, out of the self.
And that’s when you can live happy.
By choosing to live happy.
Yep, expecting to be happy isn’t going to turn out nice.
Being able to live life happily is a CHOICE.
A decision, to live as happy as you can no matter the circumstances, the situations, or whatever happens!
It sounds like a damn cliche.
But shit, stop for once.
Instead of reading this piece, understand it!
If you don’t agree with the above, it only means you gotta hit on more walls.
And that’s not a bad thing, because look – you could only experience pain because you’re ALIVE.
ALIVE and BREATHING, a beautiful thing especially when you think of all the things it can offer, when everything you do is done out of your choice!
It’s like playing an awesome game, life is. Whatever you do is like an experiment. You do this, you get this result, you do that, sometimes you still get this result! And yet you keep doing it, and sometimes, a miracle happens, something surprising comes as a result, smiles are exchanged, laughters fill everywhere around you, it’s Stunnin’. Curiosity is exchanged with satisfaction. Efforts are exchanged with fulfillment, or sometimes, a slightly prolonged one perhaps with tons of painful and suffering experiences worth making a movie out of for entertainment in between. Imagine how beautiful everything is, especially when you can really live happy and look on the brighter side, all the time!
That is why sometimes my best friend and I, we’d have conversations about experiences, people, or just things. And all of them, though they might not be the greatest, prettiest, classiest, or most amazing of their category in the eyes of most people in the world, we’d still take up our glasses, make a clank and say the same thing everytime, “Perfect.”
Not perfect because of the level of public judgement in their category, but because we see them as natural and perfect as they are.
Now if you think you haven’t understand this clearly, please go up and read the above once more. It’ll be worth it, because life lived from this point is the most neutral and fair of all. You aren’t hindered by the games of the mind, and won’t easily be swept along blindly by the floods and waters of life. Even when you think you are, you could actually, with a snap of a switch of perception, put yourself in a powerful enough position that makes life perfect or beautiful again.
Something like this: Being reprimanded by your boss right in front of your face can actually make you smile (do it just inside your brain of course), because you’re reminded that it’s only because you’re alive that you can experience this seemingly horrendous image in front of you. Sitting on a chair feeling bored, you could suddenly see things the happy way and slow down your pace even further, feel your breathing, see the beatitudes of boredness or just entertain yourself with the littlest or dumbest (in an adults’ perception) of things like a baby would, even if it means singing or just laughing out of nowhere. Yes it’d seem dumb if you read the above through the ego. The point here is though, that if you wanna be happy, forget judgment and just be so. If not, if you wanna be pissed off once in a while, to be hurt, to beat yourself up, you could also choose to stick to that big ass ego for a while.