During the height of the pandemic a new bit verbiage emerged to describe being under lockdown and looking at social media feeds everyday. “Doom scrolling” is the term used to describe watching the world meltdown from your phone screen. The ice caps are melting, the penguins are dying, the oceans are full of trash, there is a raging mystery virus etc. holy shit was the news a depressing place to be. And then we ‘moved on.’. The optimism hit a bump and people began mentioning a return to “normalcy” although we weren’t quite sure what that might look like these days. Just as some grains of hope began to fall from the heavens, 20222 dragged us down into a tomb to beat our kidneys with old raggedy bowling pins. Russia has invaded Ukraine… Mass graves are being discovered, millions of people are fleeing to nearby countries, and inflation has come to grind the average American under a rarely understood economic jackboot. Things are looking desperate all over the world. Food prices skyrocketing, possible nuclear warfare, the stock market has been shredded to bloody bits and is now attracting flies. The Crypto bros are in desperate need of new underwear to survive the month, and home buyers are being squeezed by nosebleed prices plus higher interest rates.
So what is to be done?!
Right this minute? Not much. Remember this too shall pass. Off all the geopolitical situations I may read about on a daily basis I can control approximately 0% of them. I’m not saying become an apathetic shit head, or that we have no agency, but there askew things in your direct, intentional life that you CAN control and that will have a direct positive impact on your life. If the news is freaking you out and making you run for a Xanax drip….stop reading it for a while. Take a walk. Take a detox from social media…Take a Fucking breathe. A ball of anxious frustration about the possible future does you and those around you absolutely no good. Like I said before, this too she pass. Stick to your plan. If your plan needs to adapt, then make the necessary changes. I walked to a cafe here in Bogotá where I enjoy the chai latte, and they have an abundance of plants. I walked a mile or so, pondered a few of life’s damnable questions then sat down to unpack some of this shit through words. I know shit is crazy out there, but there are also unabashedly amazing things too. No one I know has been burned at that that stake for witchcraft lately, people are living longer, there is no Spanish Inquisition, we can cook food by frying fucking air…these things are giant leaps over our previous experience here on earth. Remember that before 1800 not a single country on earth had a life expectancy over 40. THINK about that. No grand parents and very few parents. You’d be more concerned with plague or famine anyway.
What I’m saying is you can still embrace optimism, and yield it like a secret super weapon. Optimism is like the force, don’t give into the doom. Become an optimistic Jedi.
Wow, here we are. I can imagine you, like me have had quite the year(s) worth of experience in my absence. My last post was January of 2020. I had shit to say but I simply stopped. I used to think of reasons, justifications, and all the rest. Then, some months in, the reality simply dawned on me… I didnt owe anything to anybody. Then the world imploded with Covid. I was on my way back from the Philippines when international air travel came to a stand still. I wrote personal things during the pandemic and built a bad ass reading list as I quarantined solo and did my part to come out of this pandemic okay. 60 or so books down things were looking on the up and up. A few choice elements of normalcy returned. I had 7-9 trips or so end up canceled over that time, and for someone who measures a real sense of time through excursion planning, the adjustment was quite real.
All of a sudden you realise that you aren’t going fucking anywhere. I hunkered down, went a bit stoic on it, and kept reading. I was working,still teaching, investing and keeping mostly sane. 2021 brought the defeat of Donald Trump and a kind of optimism that things might be headed in at least a *better* direction. I was finally able to leave the country a few times. Mini jaunts at first to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia. I needed those. I have a kind of pensive lust for the “road” as it were, and if not properly satiated, I may run amok like some depraved beast. August of 2021, 2 years to the date since I last assaulted Europe’s shores found my sorry ass wandering around Dublin, Ireland. A proper pint of the dark stuff, and onto Croatia we went. I kept thinking back to Sicily(my last Euro trek), I kept thinking back to the world before Covid, before masks, mandates and madness.
Croatia was bright, beautiful, warm, soaked in Aperol and oh so perfectly European. I didnt quite have my footing yet while there. after 2 years that felt like 20 away from the continent, this was a bit like an intro round. wobbly, excited, overzealous, and eager. Prom night like fumbling at the then guarded treasure that is serene travel joy. Finding my stride proved a bit more difficult than anticipated. Returning from my conquest of the Adriatic, I waited in anticipation for the next cheap fare to come along…and BANG! thats how I ended up in Spain. My ass currently going numb in this cheap hotel chair and rickety desk. the sounds of Madrid’s boisterous Saturday night rampaging through the window. My jamon drunk senses imploring me to get back on this saddle of writing. You see I actually packed a real hardcover newly released book on this trek. Blazing through about 90% of it on the plane over I arrived in Madrid hungry and deep in thought. That’s for my next post. Turns out i’ve got some things to untangle…and WordPress just billed me for another year.
I’m here in Lima, Perú. I’ve been at this for a while. In many respects I can consider travel my life’s work. People are constantly asking me for tips, tricks, hacks etc. mostly though, it’s the “how do you do it”?
I’ve packaged that response in multiple ways over the years and each time I do I’m reminded of the most vital ingredient.
Just do it. Start somewhere. Go somewhere. Go ANYWHERE. See as much of this insanely beautiful world as you can. You will not regret it.
From Nomadic Matt (nomadicmatt.com)
“We all ponder exotic locations and amazing adventures. We think of the trips we will take and the places we will meet.
And then we abandon those dreams as rapidly as we thought them up.
We think of all the reasons why we can’t go. Why today isn’t perfect and we just have too many things to do.
Something comes up and our plans are put off until tomorrow as we wait for “the right time.” When we have more money, more time off, when things aren’t so crazy – then we can travel. We just need the stars to align a little more.
But, here is a secret: it will never be the right time to travel.
You’ll always find an excuse as to why today just isn’t the right day.
You will always have some reason to stay at home.
The idea that the stars will align and you’ll find the perfect day to step out of your door and into the world is a fantasy.
But tomorrow won’t be any better.
Tomorrow, there will still be bills to pay.
Tomorrow, there still won’t be enough money.
Tomorrow, there will still be someone’s wedding to attend or a birthday party to go to.
Tomorrow, there will still be planning to do.
Tomorrow, you will still second-guess yourself.
Tomorrow, you’ll still find yourself putting off the preparation for one more day.
Tomorrow, people you know will still sow the seeds of doubt in your head.
Tomorrow, you’ll find another excuse why you can’t go.
The perfect day will never come.
If I had waited for the “perfect day”, I’d still be waiting. I’d still be waiting for someone to come with me or for just a little more money.
Sometimes, you just have to take the leap and go for it. Ships aren’t meant to stay in harbor – and you weren’t meant to wonder “what if?” Because, one day, you’ll find you’ve run out of tomorrows.
And you’ll be filled with nothing but sadness and regret.
Before writing the first chapter of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling planned for seven years at Hogwarts. Harry Potter is one of the most read books of all-time.
Before creating the first Stars Wars movie in the 1970s, George Lucas planned for at least six films and started at episode four, rather than episode one. Almost 40 years later, the entire world continues to be excited with the release of a new Star Wars film. This would not be possible if Lucas hadn’t thoughtfully and largely planned ahead.
The principle is simple: Don’t just plant a tree, plant an orchard.
How different might Harry Potter have been if Rowling started the book without any intentions or plans beyond the first book? It may have just been a book about a boy who went to school and killed a bad guy. Perhaps, at the conclusion of that story, Rowling might or might not have decided to write a sequel.
Yet, by “beginning with the end in mind,” Rowling was able to direct and position the first book much differently. The first book, although amazing in itself, was a means to an end, clearly leading the reader to the next book.
Not only that but by having a long-term objective, Rowling was able to create a much bigger story. She was able to foreshadow to things the reader wouldn’t learn about for sometimes several years!
But she planted those seeds early and thoughtfully, and as a result, each book was a continuation of the next, rather than several disconnected and random stories.
Similarly, consider how different Star Wars would have been had Lucas created one film, without planning what would come next, or before! Vader may have just been “the bad guy,” not Luke’s father.
Very Few People Live like This
You are the writer of your own narrative. Yet, how often do you plan each year based on what you intend to do during the next year or the one after that?
What if, like Rowling, you were living this year based on what you intend to do in 1, 3, and 5 years from now?
It’s all in the setup.
Goals are means, not ends.
Everything you do is positioning. Are you positioning yourself to do AMAZING things in 1, 3, or 5 years from now?
I can already hear your mental wheels spinning.
But you can’t plan for the future! The real world isn’t Hogwarts!
Obviously, the world is changing fast. You can’t plan for everything. Hence, Tony Robbins has said, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
After setting his goals in several areas of his life (e.g., health, spirituality, finances, relationships, service, etc.), and for 1, 3, 5, and 25 years out, Assaraf’s mentor asked him, “Are you interested in achieving these goals, or are you committed?” to which Assaraf responded, “What’s the difference?”
His mentor responded:
“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You just do whatever it takes.”
Clearly, Assaraf’s life probably isn’t exactly how he planned it to be when he set those goals in 1982 at the age of 19. However, I’m confident those goals propelled him to where he is today.
He was playing and planning a much bigger game than most people and writing a much different story.
The Science Doesn’t Lie
If psychological science has found anything in the past 30 years, it’s that people with high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control radically outperform others.
Self-efficacy = your belief in your own ability to achieve your goals. Think “confidence.”
Internal locus of control = a belief that you, not external circumstances, determine the outcomes of your life.
External locus of control = a belief that factors outside of you determine the outcomes of your life.
The majority of the population have low self-efficacy and an external locus of control. According to several research studies, people with these two traits:
Reverse everything on that list for people with high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control.
Living a Consciously Designed Life
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” — Abraham Lincoln
Pulling it all together, here’s how it works:
You must believe YOU ARE IN CONTROL of what happens to you (i.e., internal locus of control)
You must believe in YOUR OWN ABILITY to make things happen (i.e., self-efficacy/confidence)
You must believe you, and only you, are RESPONSIBLE for the choices you make
You must have HOPE that what you seek will come about.
According to psychology’s Hope Theory, hope reflects your perceptions regarding your capacity to:
clearly conceptualize goals
develop the specific strategies to reach those goals (i.e., pathways thinking)
initiate and sustain the motivation for using those strategies (i.e., agency thinking).
From a spiritual perspective, hope is far more than wishful thinking. It’s a sense of confidence, even assurance, that what you seek is a foregone conclusion — what Tony Robbins calls, “Resolve.”
“Resolve means it’s done,” said Robbins. “It’s done inside your heart, therefore it’s done in the real world.” Hence, Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
Few people make committed decisions. Instead, they state preferences such as, “I’d like to be healthier and happier.”
To quote Assaraf’s mentor, “Are you interested or committed?
5. You are MOTIVATED, even when life is difficult.
your belief that specific behaviors will actually facilitate the outcomes you desire
your belief in your own abilityto successfully execute the behaviors requisite to achieving your goals
If you don’t truly value the goal, you won’t be motivated. If you don’t believe you have an effective means of achieving your goal, you won’t be motivated. If you don’t expect yourself to do what it takes, you won’t be motivated.
This theory is known as “Expectancy Theory,” and it highlights that what you expect to happen often does. Hence the term, “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Interestingly, there is a related concept known as “The Pygmalion Effect,”which shows that what other people expect of you in large measure determines how well you do.
You have to ‘Be’ the right kind of person first, then you must ‘Do’ the right thingsbefore you can expect to ‘Have.’” — Zig Ziglar
Living a consciously designed life is completely possible.
Perhaps the most fundamental decision any person can ever make is this one:
You can choose to believe that the people who succeed, like Michael Jordan, for example, were born to become what they did
Or, you can choose to believe that at some point, they chose to become what they did
That is the most fundamental decision you can make about life as a human being. It is what some would call a “watershed issue” — whichever side of the equation you pick will put you down a course that will influence all of your other decisions, mindsets, and beliefs.
Do you believe you can choose what you become?
Or do you believe your course is set for you at birth?
Do you “discover” yourself or do you “create” yourself?
Whichever perspective you choose, your brain will go about finding any and all information it can to support that bias. As Dan Sullivan has said, “Your eyes can only see and your ears can only hear what your brain is looking for.”Psychologists call this “selective attention.”
What you focus on expands.
You see what you believe is real — and then it becomes real for you in a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Dr. Stephen Covey said, “You see the world, not as it is, but as you’ve been conditioned to see it.”
Making this shift starts by recognizing that for quite a while, you’ve been going through the motions. Your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and even desires are the product of your environment.
Thanks to a global world that makes information abundant, it isn’t hard to become exposed to other ways of life. However, you must realize quickly that most of the information online is complete trash. Which is why Basecamp Founder, Jason Fried, has said, “I’m pretty oblivious to a lot of things intentionally. I don’t want to be influenced that much.”
Once you begin upgrading your mindset and environment, and once your priorities and goals are clear — then you don’t want to be swayed or distracted by most of the low-level information out there.
A key strategy for making any jump is to, “Assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled,” meaning, you assume the posture, attitude, and emotions of the people operating at the higher level.
You affirm to yourself who you are and then operate from that affirmation. This may sound like “acting as if,” and it actually is.
But it’s important to realize that we are always “acting” in a role. All of life is acting. In every situation, you are assuming a character. You’re playing a role based on the other people around you. In some situations, your role may be an employee, while in others it may be a parent, or child, or friend.
In all cases, you are acting a part.
You can change your role.
You can change the stage.
You can choose to be different. But it must start in your state of being. Rather than operating subconsciously as the majority of people do, you must make a conscious decision about who you intend to be and where you intend to go. You must then BEHAVE from that decision. When you act from that decision, then you create the outcomes you are seeking. You will become the person you intend to be, rather than the person your circumstances led you to be.
Conclusion: Humility and Awe
“My dreams are my dress rehearsals for my future.” — David Copperfield
Does everything in life go exactly how you plan it? Of course not.
Here’s the principle: Expect great things to happen, be happy even when they don’t.
“Expect everything and attach to nothing!” — Carrie Campbell
However, just because things don’t go exactly according to plan doesn’t mean you aren’t in control. It is your decisions, not your conditions, which determine your destiny.
When you take up the responsibility to live your life according to design rather than the default, you will constantly be humbled and in awe. You’ll be blown away as you watch life unfold as you saw it in your head — as your physical world conforms itself to your thoughts.
You absolutely can live your life how Rowling wrote Harry Potter and how Lucas wrote Star Wars.
You can dream and live BIG.
You can live by design.
Your world can continue to expand.
But you must think further ahead. 2019 shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. It’s an obvious continuation of 2018.
Some days I feel old. Especially in airports. My ass is planted in a plastic formed seat in the small regional airport of Udon Thani, north eastern Thailand. 35 WiFi networks and none of them public.
Because fuck you. That’s why.
Time on the road can jade you just a bit. Cranky ass old people are a fixture of modern day life. As I sit here and embrace my inner cantankerous bastard, some glorious truths shine their benevolent rays of goodness light upon me…and I soften a bit.
Let me explain.
Am I a bit sore/tired? Sure. Why is that?
Well it happens to be because I averaged around 10 miles per day hiking all over the lower regions of Laos. The small yet charming south East Asian country being #72! and having evaded me (barely) this time last year. Now, this entire shot was just a bit over two weeks, and as it’s winding down, I’m absolutely elated. I’m grown man giddy. I have so much to write about, so many memories and sordid tales. Pictures, conversations, connections…the real shit that gets the blood flowing.
I know for many of us, we get lost in the worlds dumpster fires. Blind tribalism, shit strap politics, and overall doom and gloom.
I left that shit behind. I had no choice. This year certainly had its share of suck. Big epic balls of suck. But I’m still here, and I’m still standing. Pushing forward and stoked on what’s ahead. If it’s toxic, let it be. Don’t carry it around with you. Shits heavier than lead. Instead I’ve focused on making a difference, making my dent, and never giving in to the quiet desperation that seems so prevalent. Wrapped around all of this goodness is a fluffy, warm, slightly crispy pressed tortilla of stupendous optimism. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a feel fucking good burrito. The power of unbridled optimism feels weird at first, but then a euphoria settles in. It’s like a savage orgasm, only for your personality.
So my ass might be numb. I might be a bit sunburned. I may have believed my death imminent in the back of a tuk tuk today, I may feel a bit battered from vans, planes, boats, border crossings, and all the rest…I have longer pieces to finish and some logistics to sort…in short, I might feel a bit old in this airport…But I also feel the power of hope, and the concept that if I were to get creamed by a fruit truck next week, or my plane were to go down, I couldn’t be angry. I’ve been fortunate enough to jam on my dreams for over a decade now. I’ve pushed my self, my goals, and my ambitions farther than I ever thought possible. I’ve had a chance to love the fuck out of so many people. I’ve counted on and been saved by those same folks more than I should admit.
Seeing the world, sharing glimpses with you, and blasting ignorance in the pills every semester in my classrooms. Thank you for coming along, and helping me along the way.
Sage advice from a few years ago. Brent Crane from the Atlantic. I have noticed a definite trend that comes with trekking across the globe. These experiences change you. There is no real “going back”. After an authentic adventure, you, the traveler, have been changed. Hopefully for the best. Your mind has been widened. Your experiences have been emboldened. Don’t get we wrong, these adventures can take place 10,000 miles from home, or 10 miles from home. The distance isn’t the factor. YOU are the factor.
Let me know what you think.
How international experiences can open the mind to new ways of thinking
There are plenty of things to be gained from going abroad: new friends, new experiences, new stories.But living in another country may come with a less noticeable benefit, too: Some scientists say it can also make you more creative.
Writers and thinkers have long felt the creative benefits of international travel. Ernest Hemingway, for example, drew inspiration for much of his work from his time in Spain and France. Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in his 40s to branch out into screenwriting. Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote in his travelogue Innocents Abroad that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
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Subscribe today and get the September 2018 issue in professionally narrated audio.
In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.
“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerousstudies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.
In Galinsky’s latest study, published last month in the Academy of Management Journal, he and three other researchers examined the experiences of the creative directors of 270 high-end fashion houses. Combing through 11 years’ worth of fashion lines, Galinsky and his team searched for links between the creative directors’ experience working abroad and the fashion houses’ “creative innovations,” or the degree “to which final, implemented products or services are novel and useful from the standpoint of external audiences.” The level of creativity of a given product was rated by a pool of trade journalists and independent buyers. Sure enough, the researchers found a clear correlation between time spent abroad and creative output: The brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more consistently creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not.
The researchers also found that the more countries the executives had lived in, the more creative the lines tended to be—but only up to a point. Those who had lived and worked in more than three countries, the study found, still tended to show higher levels of creativity that those who hadn’t worked abroad at all, but less creativity that their peers who had worked in a smaller number of foreign countries. The authors hypothesized that those who had lived in too many countries hadn’t been able to properly immerse themselves culturally; they were bouncing around too much. “It gets back to this idea of a deeper level of learning that’s necessary for these effects to occur,” Galinsky says.
Cultural distance, or how different a foreign culture is from one’s own, may also play a role: Surprisingly, Galinsky and his colleagues found that living someplace with a larger cultural distance was often associated with lower creativity than living in a more familiar culture. The reason for that, they hypothesized, was that an especially different culture might come with a bigger intimidation factor, which may discourage people from immersing themselves in it—and no immersion, they explained, could mean none of the cognitive changes associated with living in another country.
Traveling may have other brain benefits, too. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an associate professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California, says that cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self. “What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self,” she says. “Our ability to differentiate our own beliefs and values … is tied up in the richness of the cultural experiences that we have had.”
Cross-cultural experiences have the potential to pull people out of their cultural bubbles, and in doing so, can increase their sense of connection with people from backgrounds different than their own. “We found that when people had experiences traveling to other countries it increased what’s called generalized trust, or their general faith in humanity,” Galinsky says. “When we engage in other cultures, we start to have experience with different people and recognize that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.”
This trust may play an important role in enhancing creative function. In a 2012 study out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found that people who “believe that racial groups have fixed underlying essences”—beliefs the authors termed “essentialist views”—performed significantly worse in creative tests than those who saw cultural and racial divisions as arbitrary and malleable. “This categorical mindset induces a habitual closed-mindedness that transcends the social domain and hampers creativity,” the study authors wrote. In other words, those who put people in boxes had trouble thinking outside the box.
Of course, although a new country is an easy way to leave a “social comfort zone,” the cultural engagement associated with cognitive change doesn’t have to happen abroad. If a plane ticket isn’t an option, maybe try taking the subway to a new neighborhood. Sometimes, the research suggests, all that’s needed for a creative boost is a fresh cultural scene.
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I have written about the benefits of a kind of “digital detox” before. Especially within the context of traveling. Like this; From Cartagena with love.
Stowing our devices from time to time allows us to be more connected to the moment, and especially to the people around us. Thinking about the process of building new habits, this recent post by Aj Jones struck a chord with me.
the full article can be found here: https://medium.com/s/story/the-digital-detox-is-dead-but-we-still-need-to-use-technology-more-wisely-31f7964a96d8
Jones argues that the detox is dead, and that instead we simply need to be more responsible with our technology use. What say you? Is the detox dead?
“Who amongst us hasn’t heard of the “digital detox”? In essence, the digital detox is the process of ridding oneself of toxins and unhealthy substances generated by prolonged technology use. In the past few years, digital detoxing has grown from an idea to a brand to, for many, a guide for how to think and live.
Today I’m writing to note that the digital detox should die, and for good reason.
Let’s get to the facts: There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that in our current era of TVs, computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, we overuse technology. These tools of technology have fundamentally changed how we communicate. Today, these tools function as essentials for completing everyday tasks at home and in the workplace.
The usage figures themselves are more than a little shocking:
For personal research, I’ve even used an online survey to assess how much technology people I know use per day, with over half of my participants reporting a daily use of over five hours.
This technology overuse is increasingly, though often indirectly, linked to conditions including stress, anxiety, social isolation, depression, and insomnia. All of these are known to contribute to burnout, but I predict that the digital detox is just the wrong solution to this problem of technology overuse.
Personally, I’m not addicted to technology per se, but I do use it to work remotely, stay connected with friends and family, and stream movies, which, in hindsight, may seem like a lot. I had noticed not long ago that through my technology use I had unknowingly developed a pattern of bad habits, a few of which I have listed below:
I would reach for my phone as soon as I woke up (about 8 a.m.) to check Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, emails, and LinkedIn.
I’d then grab my laptop from under my bed where I stashed it the night before, head to my desk, and start working. First, I’d respond to emails and messages, then make plans for the day, and finally begin my work (I do work from home quite often).
By 6 p.m. I would try and finish for the day, sit on the couch with the TV on for background noise, and then scroll through Facebook on my laptop while chatting with friends via WhatsApp on my phone.
At around 8 p.m., I’d grab dinner with some friends before getting into bed at about 10 p.m. Since I’d often struggle with getting to sleep, I would end up watching Netflix until my eyes were sore enough that they’d close on their own.
Almost every night for about a year on end, I would wake up at 3 a.m. and struggle to get to sleep again. This would mean that I’d watch more Netflix until my tiredness overwhelmed me, and fall asleep at about 5 a.m., ready to repeat the whole process for another day.
In short, I was exhausted all the time.
The image you probably have of me in your head right now is someone who looks a little like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and my friends may jokingly argue that this is a pretty accurate representation! But in reality I am a healthy, exercise-conscious person, and always have been. My current lifestyle contrasts with the 10 years of my life which I spent in an elite military unit where my office was the outdoors, and I would literally live for weeks at a time directly under the stars in places all over the world. It wasn’t until I left that career and became a full-time student at a prestigious U.K. university that I began to use technology for hours on end without a break, every single day.
In short, I developed these bad habits during my time as a student, and left them unchecked for so long that I carried them with me into my work life.
So what were the physical and mental effects of all this technology overuse? Well, physically I lost weight. The lack of sleep affected my eating habits and decreased my energy levels. My eyesight, which had always been 20/20, deteriorated. I began to struggle to see objects that were far away, simply because I was spending long periods staring at a digital screen only a few inches from my face.
Mentally, the effects were much worse. My confidence plummeted, and I stopped seeing friends and spending time with my girlfriend. I was exhausted all day, everyday, and used the little energy I did have just to stay on top of my work. I gradually became depressed without even realizing it, which only prevented me from stepping outside more and being around other people. In short, I came dangerously close to being burnt out.
It was at this point that I knew something had to change, so I reflected on my bad habits and tried to begin addressing them; not by detoxing from technology use altogether, but by trying to be more careful about my use.
Be in control of your technology use — don’t let it control you.
Gradually, I began to set boundaries and stick to them. I started going to the gym every morning and didn’t check my phone until I was done with my workout, learning in the process that the world is not going to end if I don’t reply to every email right away. I made a point of meeting and spending time with friends, just chatting and drinking. I now have a definite cutoff time in the evenings for when I stop using my laptop. I also only read in bed now, which has led to deeper, longer, and unbroken periods of sleep.
Very quickly I started noticing myself becoming healthier, happier, and having much more energy. This period of change differs from a “digital detox” the way we understand it today because I didn’t lock all my devices in a box and abstain from technology use altogether, or delete all my social media accounts entirely, or put myself at the metaphorical top of a mountain for longer than a weekend.
My experience teaches me that the “digital detox” needs to die because it is a fundamentally flawed concept. Three reasons explain this: First, the term “detox” has several negative connotations. It implies addiction and dependency, which removes your agency in decision-making and practicing sound judgement over your health and happiness. This, in turn, renders you subject to your digital addiction, unable to make clear decisions and take control without outside support.
Secondly, the idea of surrendering your devices, or deleting your social media and going cold turkey, is actually a rather oppressive and unnecessary approach. It almost creates a prison-like environment in which you can only control your behavior when your distractions are taken away.
Ironically, this in turn creates a situation in which you are rewarded with your devices or apps at the end of your detox period if you are good and obey the rules. If you delete your social media and abstain from using your devices, you get to use them once the detox period is over. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.
Thirdly, it implies that without outside support to motivate you, a detox is, by definition, difficult to achieve. This is wrong, and belief in this prevents most people from managing their technology use much better. For example, 65 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that periodically unplugging is important for their mental health, but only 28 percent of those actually report doing so.
Now, spas and boutiques offer more affluent clientele opportunities to digitally detox while partaking in their services, and companies prioritizing employee health have started treating their staff to bespoke packages or retreats in order to get them away from their devices for certain periods of time.
A more practical approach to the digital detox is to work with the simple fact that most of us do not suffer from a severe addiction to technology and do not actually need, or are not realistically able to, engage in a hardcore detox from it. For those who do suffer from an actual addiction to technology, help can come in the form of professional behavioral therapy, or a rehabilitative experience that promises the necessary services and support to address issues of addiction.
Instead of detoxing, many of the rest of us should get comfortable with the idea of detaching from our technology periodically.
Instead of detoxing, many of the rest of us should get comfortable with the idea of detaching from our technology periodically. Detaching means keeping our devices and social media apps, but using them only when necessary or within an ordained limit. Many of us, for example, don’t need to aimlessly scroll through our phones on a bus or train to help pass the time, since it is bad for our eyes and is almost always unrewarding. Instead, read a book and expand your mind. I’m currently reading The Worst Journey in the World — a true story about the early Antarctic explorers and Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated final expedition — which is pretty fascinating and inspiring stuff.
Unlike a digital detox where you either surrender your devices, delete all your social media apps, or, ironically, use an app to block all your other apps (a digital response to a digital problem?!) a detach requires you to make conscious decisions about when and how you use your technology. In this is a more powerful lesson which gives you the power to pull back at any time or context.
When you detach you are in control all the time. It is a mind game in which you play against you, and in which there can only be one winner in the end.
I challenge you to forget about detoxing and embrace the concept of detaching. Choose a time when you would usually use your device; for example, just before bed. Rather than pulling out your device to watch Netflix or scroll through the news, make the choice to read a book in bed. Instead of taking your laptop to a café to work or catch up on social media, make the choice to go for a coffee with a friend, leaving your laptop at home and putting your phone on silent, so you can really be in the moment without any digital distractions.
In short, be in control of your technology use—don’t let it control you. I think you’ll find, as I did, that you’ll be much healthier and happier as a result.”
if you’re going to try, go all the way. otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the way. this could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind.
go all the way. it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. it could mean freezing on a park bench. it could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. and you’ll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine.
if you’re going to try, go all the way. there is no other feeling like that. you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire.
do it, do it, do it. do it.
all the way all the way.
you will ride life straight to perfect laughter, its the only good fight there is.
I know, I know. Its been a month. A few days ago, I received a distressed Whatsapp message from a friend letting me know how much they missed my occasional posts. I have some projects in the works, but wanted to share something I came across recently that both made me smile, and inspired me to write more.
The below excerpt is from James Altucher. (www.jamesaltucher.com) I stumbled over his stuff a few months ago. I was struggling with some melancholic bullshit, and I hit the web hard to read through it, as I often do. One late night trek down the web based rabbit’s hole I discovered Mr.Altucher. Hes quite an eclectic character, but his stuff gave me a good old fashioned and much needed jolt of inspiration.
I want to be creative, I want to write, travel, and push myself as far as I can go.
“Back in college, Sanket and I would hang out in bars and try to talk to women but I was horrible at it.
Nobody would talk to me for more than 30 seconds and every woman would laugh at all his jokes for what seemed like hours.
Even decades later I think they are still laughing at his jokes. One time he turned to me, “The girls are getting bored when you talk. Your stories go on too long. From now on, you need to leave out every other sentence when you tell a story.”
We were both undergrads in Computer Science. I haven’t seen him since but that’s the most important writing (and communicating) advice I ever got.
33 other tips to be a better writer:
1) Write whatever you want. Then take out the first paragraph and last paragraph
Here’s the funny thing about this rule. It’s sort of like knowing the future. You still can’t change it. In other words, even if you know this rule and write the article, the article will still be better if you take out the first paragraph and the last paragraph.
2) Take a huge bowel movement every day
You won’t see that on any other list on how to be a better writer. If your body doesn’t flow then your brain won’t flow. Eat more fruit if you have to.
3) Bleed in the first line
We’re all human. A computer can win Jeopardy but still not write a novel. If you want people to relate to you, then you have to be human.
Penelope Trunk started a post a few weeks ago: “I smashed a lamp over my head. There was blood everywhere. And glass. And I took a picture.” That’s real bleeding. My wife recently put up a post where the first line was so painful she had to take it down. Too many people were crying.
4) Don’t ask for permission
In other words, never say “in my opinion” (or worse “IMHO”). We know it’s your opinion. You’re writing it.
5) Write a lot
I spent the entire ’90s writing bad fiction. Five bad novels. Dozens of bad stories. But I learned to handle massive rejection. And how to put two words together. In my head, I won the Pulitzer prize. But in my hand, over 100 rejection letters.
6) Read a lot
You can’t write without first reading. A lot. When I was writing five bad novels in a row I would read all day long whenever I wasn’t writing (I had a job as a programmer, which I would do for about five minutes a day because my programs all worked and I just had to “maintain” them). I read everything I could get my hands on.
7) Read before you write
Before I write every day I spend 30-60 minutes reading high quality short stories poetry, or essays. Here are some authors to start:
David Foster Wallace
All of the writers are in the top 1/1,000 of 1% of writers. What you are reading has to be at that level or else it won’t lift up your writing at all.
I go through three cups at least before I even begin to write. No coffee, no creativity.
9) Break the laws of physics
There’s no time in text. Nothing has to go in order. Don’t make it nonsense. But don’t be beholden to the laws of physics. My post, Advice I Want to Tell My Daughters, is an example.
10) Be Honest
Tell people the stuff they all think but nobody ever says. Some people will be angry that you let out the secret. But most people will be grateful. If you aren’t being honest, you aren’t delivering value. Be the little boy in the Emperor Wears No Clothes. If you can’t do this, don’t write.
11)Don’t Hurt Anyone
This goes against the above rule, but I never like to hurt people. And I don’t respect people who get pageviews by breaking this rule.
For each single person you worry about, deduct 1% in quality from your writing.
Everyone has deductions. I have to deduct about 10% right off the top.
Maybe there are 10 people I’m worried about. Some of them are evil people. Some of them are people I just don’t want to offend.
So my writing is only about 90% of what it could be. But I think most people write at about 20% of what it could be. Believe it or not, clients, customers, friends, family, will love you more if you are honest with them. We all have our boundaries. But try this: For the next 10 things you write, tell people something that nobody knows about you.
Most people I know have strong opinions about at least one or two things… write about those. Nobody cares about all the things you don’t have strong opinions on.
Barry Ritholz told me that he doesn’t start writing until he’s angry about something. That’s one approach. Barry and I have had some great writing fights because sometimes we’ve been angry at each other.
Don’t forget that you are competing against a trillion other pieces of content out there. So you need a title to draw people in. Else you lose.
I don’t quite mean it literally. But if you know a topic gets pageviews (and you aren’t hurting anyone) than steal it, no matter who’s written about it or how many times you’ve written about it before. “How I Screwed Yasser Arafat out of $2mm” was able to nicely piggyback off of how amazingly popular Yasser Arafat is.
16) Make people cry
If you’ve ever been in love, you know how to cry.
Bring readers to that moment when they were a child, and all of life was in front of them, except for that one bittersweet moment when everything began to change. If only that one moment could’ve lasted forever. Please let me go back in time right now to that moment. But now it’s gone.
17) Relate to people
The past decade or more has totally sucked. For everyone. The country has been in post-traumatic stress syndrome since 9/11 and 2008 only made it worse. I’ve gone broke a few times during the decade, had a divorce, lost friendships, and have only survived (barely) by being persistent and knowing I had two kids to take care of, and loneliness to fight.
Nobody’s perfect. We’re all trying. Show people how you are trying and struggling. Nobody expects you to be a superhero.
18) Time heals all wounds
Everyone has experiences they don’t want to write about. But with enough time, its OK. My New Year’s Resolution of 1995 is pretty embarrassing. But whatever… it was 16 years ago.
The longer back you go, the less you have to worry about what people think.
Notice that almost all of these rules are about where the boundaries are. Most people play it too safe.
When you are really risking something and the reader senses that (and they WILL sense it), then you know you are in good territory. If you aren’t risking something, then I’m moving on. I know I’m on the right track if after I post something someone tweets, “OMFG.”
20) Be funny
You can be all of the above and be funny at the same time.
When I went to India I was brutalized by my first few yoga classes (actually every yoga class). And I was intimidated by everyone around me. They were like yoga superheroes and I felt like a fraud around them. So I cried, and hopefully people laughed.
It was also a case where I didn’t have to dig into my past but I had an experience that was happening to me right then. How do you be funny? First rule of funny: ugly people are funny. I’m naturally ugly so its easy. Make yourself as ugly as possible. Nobody wants to read that you are beautiful and doing great in life.
21) The last line needs to go BOOM!
Your article is meaningless unless the last line KILLS.
Read the book of short stories “Jesus’ Son” by Denis Johnson. It’s the only way to learn how to do a last line. The last line should take you all the way back to the first line and then “BOOM!”
22) Use a lot of periods
Forget commas and semicolons. A period makes people pause. Your sentences should be strong enough that you want people to pause and think about it. This will also make your sentences shorter. Short sentences are good.
23) Write every day
This is a must. Writing is spiritual practice. You are diving inside of yourself and cleaning out the toxins. If you don’t do it every day, you lose the ability. If you do it every day, then slowly you find out where all the toxins are. And the cleaning can begin.
24)Write with the same voice you talk in
You’ve spent your whole life learning how to communicate with that voice. Why change it when you communicate with text?
25) Deliver value with every sentence
Even on a tweet or Facebook status update. Deliver poetry and value with every word. Else, be quiet.
26) Take what everyone thinks and explore the opposite
Don’t disagree just to disagree. But explore. Turn the world upside down. Guess what? There are people living in China. Plenty of times you’ll find value where nobody else did.
Your idea muscle atrophies within days if you don’t exercise it. Then what do you do? You need to exercise it every day until it hurts. Else no ideas.
28) Sleep eight hours a day
Go to sleep before 9pm at least four days a week. And stretch while taking deep breaths before you write. We supposedly use only 5% of our brain. You need to use 6% at least to write better than everyone else. So make sure your brain is getting as much healthy oxygen as possible. Too many people waste valuable writing or resting time by chattering until all hours of the night.
29)Don’t write if you’re upset at someone
Then the person you are upset at becomes your audience. You want to love and flirt with your audience so they can love you back.
30) Use “said” instead of any other word
Don’t use “he suggested” or “he bellowed,” just “he said.” We’ll figure it out if he suggested something.
31) Paint or draw.
Keep exercising other creative muscles.
32) Let it sleep
Whatever you are working on, sleep on it. Then wake up, stretch, coffee, read, and look again.
Rewrite. Take out every other sentence.
33) Then take out every other sentence again.
Or something like that.
Sanket didn’t want to go to grad school after we graduated. He had another plan. Lets go to Thailand, he said. And become monks in a Buddhist monastery for a year. We can date Thai women whenever we aren’t begging for food, he said. It will be great and we’ll get life experience.
It sounded good to me.
But then he got accepted to the University of Wisconsin and got a PhD. Now he lives in India and works for Oracle. And as for me…
Sometimes one must start the telling of grand adventure from the end. Images, words, experiences, all mash together in a stream of consciousness that runs in loop form within the mind. Do you tap this loop and pour it through a writing instrument, or do you let it sort a bit, and go from there?
Time to talk about Iceland, and the art of spontaneous adventure. Remember the back drop here A Note on Spontaneity As a friend and I booked $200 USD round trip tickets to Reykjavik for the weekend. We did this a bit over a week before departure. Now, Ive been to Iceland before, but I was mainly interested in WOW Air as an option. The Icelandic airline received great fanfare for publishing 99$ one way fares to Europe from the eastern United States a few years ago. If this proved a viable option, what a great addition to the travel toolbox this would be!
But c’mon. $200 flights? What is this, the international version of Spirit Air dressed in pink? Gross. No thanks.
But wait! I’ve had so many people ask me about WOW, that I decided to investigate for you. (I’m a nice guy like that) Throw in a stop in Reykjavik, a few hot dogs, a waterfall or two, and we have a weekend adventure! WOW now operates out of Chicago Ohare, as well as Detroit (DTW). These fares are cheap, come with limited baggage allowance and random seat assignments. Both ways we flew a moderately new Airbus A321 with a 3 +3 seat configuration. Both times I ended up in the middle. I was prepared for the flight from hell, but I have to say…this wasn’t bad whatsoever. The flight over was a bit warm. The staff proved courteous and efficient. I packed snacks and a water bottle, so I didn’t need to purchase anything on the 6 hour flight to Reykjavik. (water was priced at $3.25) which is similar to airport prices and not overtly horrendous. My backpack the SwissGear Travel Gear 597 Packed with weekend essentials came in at 14lbs or so. My bag fit easily, and caused no problems. We were set to land in Reykjavik just before 5 am.
Landed! and exactly what kind of trial run would it be if potential disaster didn’t strike?! Expectations exceeded for the flight over, and feeling a bit sweaty from the middle row passage over, I eagerly departed the plane and made my way to line for customs. The line is long, its 4:50 am, and i’m ready for a shower. I’m getting my proverbial ducks in a row for passport control and I go cold. Starting from my spine and soon radiating throughout my whole body cold.
Where the fuck is my passport??
My poor battered, beaten, and glory giving passport….sweet Jesus, I must have left it on the plane! I notify my friend and tear out of line, hoofing it back toward where we had entered the airport. Of course we cant get back there, So the “service counter” must be located in a panicked rush. (I’m telling this story, so that you know, even frequent travelers encounter snags of their own making…like my forgotten iPad incident from a while back) I find WOW air agents at the service desk, explain my plight, and knowing how cheap my ticket was expect sheer calamity… And I am once again pleasantly surprised! The agents were nice, chatty and understanding. I waited 15 min or so, and I soon had my passport returned, even with enough time to glance the Icelandic sun rise.
what a day of victory!
Shuttle into the city (the airport is 45 min away from the capital of Reykjavik)
and we are ready to go! Now remember, Iceland is a small country population wise, and are proud of their long Viking tradition. The Icelandic language is fascinating to hear, and is largely unchanged over the previous thousand years. We knew we were going to hit the city, and then soak up the jaw dropping scenery a shortish trek from the capital.
Savage nature abounds for this tiny and amazing nation. This weekend included mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, and even a Continental rift!
I have long thought of travel as therapy. I expounded more on this here 7 more days…Travel to soothe the soul Putting miles under foot, and absorbing these landscapes did grant me a sense of clarity. This trip was short, but I felt a sense of renewal by the time of the flight home.
How can one not marvel at such a sight? Standing here, experiencing the layers and complexities that exist in the natural world. This moment alone made the entire run “worth it”.
Words of course simply cannot do these landscapes justice. Just give you a teaser for what is awaiting you. You can even go back a few times, and be stunned each and every one of them.
A full day of exploring brought us back to the city for Fish n chips and few beers.
Thinking back over this weekend, There is a sense of accomplishment. I give final exams this week, and wrap up my 7th year in the classroom. I am unsure what lies ahead. This is the season of conclusion, and of course then by default also a season of beginning. You wake up in Chicago, Reykjavik, lose an hour, gain hours, etc etc. I woke up in Iceland, knowing I was leaving that day. That feeling of packing, of thinking over exit logistics. I’ve woken up in countless hotel rooms, apartments, houses, hostels etc, and known that feeling. This particular segment is over. the hope that there will be renewed adventure in the future, but feeling thankful you had at least one more go of it.
Nothing on the road is perfect, and expecting it to be so is rather greedy. Its all in the experience. I was quite impressed in the performance of WOW air, and no longer have a wary feeling about using them. Iceland as always proved thrilling and other worldly. Thank for coming with me once again.